On Saturday NAU held its annual season-opener at the George Kyte Classic at Buffalo Park. Buffalo Park is home to many past, present and future NAU Cross Country workouts and it is fitting that we open up our season there each year. The meet is always very low key for us — we don’t run most of our best runners and the ones that do generally treat the race as a tempo run. Since I had not ran a race since November of last year (excluding the summer triathlons) I wanted to at the very least treat it as a race and maybe push it a little harder the last mile or so.
Unlike years past, with torrential rain, Saturday was very dry and hot. I tried to keep hydrated before the race and even took a Salt Stick to make sure my electrolytes were topped off as well. We started with our usual warm up 1 hour before the race with ~15 minutes of easy jogging and then looked for shade to stretch under. 20 minutes before the race we did a 3 minute LT (about 5:30 pace) to really wake the legs up. A few strides and we were ready to go.
I got off to a terrible start by nearly landing flat on my face on the gravel. My teammate Andrew Belus lent a quick hand and was there to do what teammates do: pick each other up (couldn’t help myself). I quickly regained my balance and worked my way to the front of the pack, and then settled into a comfortable pace. I checked behind me to make sure Tim Freriks and red shirt freshman Daniel Filipcik were behind me. The goal was to be about 5:15 at the mile and we passed the 1 mile mark right at 5:15.
The course is made up of two roughly two-mile loops and a mile loop. At the end of the first lap, Andrew, Tim and I were still together at 10:37. From there we slowly strung apart. By this point there were only two guys ahead of me. I closed in on 2nd place towards the end of the 2nd lap and came through in 21:18 (10:41). 2nd place opened up a gap on me at this point and I think he was motivated by the gap between him and 1st place narrowing considerably. Unfortunately I fought with myself about whether to really push through the pain and race it, or keep it somewhat under control. Despite my inner conflict I managed to catch 2nd place with about 400 to go. It was clear he was more prepared to do battle than I as he threw in a big surge that I decided not to try to cover. Congrats to him for fighting; shame on me for letting up. Oh well, it is early. (Plus, didn’t Coach say “tempo?”)
Everyone was quite a bit slower than last year, which, collectively as a team, we have blamed on the hot temperatures. I finished in 26:22, 22 seconds slower than last year. But no worries. If workouts compared to last year are any indication, we will all run much faster in the near future.
Next up for some of the Lumberjacks is the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, CA on the 18th. For those of you who have been following along for a while, I had a great race there last year and even led the darn thing until finally surrendering the top three spots to my teammates. This year I will not be racing, but will be there to enjoy the 16-hour round trip bus ride and team bonding. One week later we will be in Palo Alto, CA for the Stanford Invitational — a meet I haven’t raced since high school. I’m really excited to return to Northern California to see the #1 ranked team in the country (we are ranked #3 by the way) and to set a big PR in the 8k.
I almost forgot to give a shout out to my parents for coming out to watch me race this weekend! I love it when they come to visit (eating at good restaurants is one of the many perks)! Please take a look at my Dad’s great pictures from the meet below.