As December rolls in, the Cross Country season rolls out. The finale took place on Saturday November 26th in Kingston, Ontario with 9 races unfolding. Out of those 9 races, over 1000 athletes competed between ages 8 (Community 2.5k) and 84 (Masters) to take home the rights to be called Canada’s champion. Conditions were ideal at Fort Henry; cool, calm, cloudy, and muddy. This gave us all an opportunity to really spice it up.
Coming into XC Nats, I desperately wanted to make the World Cross Country team, having to place in the top 6 with places 7-10 having an outside shot. The training from July to November 1 had gone smoothly with most workouts hitting their proper paces and seeing consistent progress every day. Running was really enjoyable during that time period, maybe the most enjoyable it has ever been. Out West, we have a great cross country series that is put on by Matt Norminton (Running Room) called the New Balance Alberta Cross Country Series. It coincides with the ACAC race schedule. From late August to the middle of November, this series provides athletes with an opportunity to race in cities all over the province (2016 races took place in Grande Prairies, Edmonton, Vermillion, Camrose, Calgary). The races can often be overlooked as they don’t provide fast race times, resulting from our rather challenging courses. When I ran at SAIT, the Alberta Cross Country series set fire to the current flame within, so I’ve spent most of my fall supporting these races.
At the end of October, we had our Alberta XC Championship called Stewart Cup. It took place on the same weekend as the BC Champs and two weeks before Ontario’s Champs (incase you were too occupied filling Trackie discussion topics with how sick BC and Ontario is). The Stewart Cup flips between Calgary and Edmonton every year and is competitive with athletes/University athletes from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta taking part. I managed to win this race last year for the first time, so I entered again to repeat as champ. A couple days after Stewart Cup, I was hit hard with food poisoning that left me bed-written for 4 days. Over that four day span, I seriously considered calling the season quits as my body weight dropped almost 5% and every muscle group felt fried. The illness was a shock to the system, taking a good 2 full weeks to finally feel recovered. Although the illness sucked at the time, bouncing back to have a really strong showing on race day makes for a much better story than not participating at all.
Lets get to the race. After a relaxed morning of rocking out to Linkin Park and watching Space Jam, we were off to Fort Henry. Our race was the final of the day, starting at 3:30PM.
Once the gun sounded, everybody took off in a sprint. I had the far outside corner, a good spot to prevent any physical battle in the opening 400m. After the first KM, I was sitting comfortably in a pack of many, almost too comfortably. That’s when I pushed ahead to take the lead. Luc Bruchet jumped up with me, Sami Jabril joined, and it remained that way until the 2.5KM mark. A few more guys joined shortly after we went through the first lap, with Luc, Ross, Andy, Matt taking off shortly after. I cooled the jets for the next 2.5K loop, got in a comfortable rhythm, and let the race plan take control of my race.
From the 5K mark to the 8K mark, I was in large chase group that included Evan Esselink. Both of us wanted to make the World’s team, so sticking with him to make ground on Matt, Andy, Ross and Luc was the best case scenario. After 5 and 6KM’s, Luc had a big lead on us. I thought there was little chance of catching up to take a win, but crazier things have happened, like the 2016 Cavs coming back from 3 down to win the NBA Championship. We caught up to Andy at the 8KM mark, picked up the pace through the back side of the course and continued to make ground on Matt, Luc and Ross. Evan and I started to pull away from our chase group along the stretch before the big U turn. It was at that U turn that I decided to lay everything on the line for a fast final KM.
200m after the U turn, I managed to catch Matt, putting me in 3rd spot. Over the rise for the final 2 turns, I noticed Luc wasn’t too far ahead and Ross was in the same area. At that moment, every reason why I run filled my mind and all I could think about was my family and friends back in Calgary, so I took the final two turns more aggressively than I did previously and gave everything I had up that hill. We charged up the hill and through the finish. I ended the race in third at 29:56 and hit the goal of making the World’s team. In March, we’re heading to Uganda!
Placing well in Kingston was more than just getting on that World’s team, to run well was to prove that a little bit of belief, hard work, and consistency can go a long way. It was for the kids with ambitious goals that continue to believe what they do will make them better. It was for every current and future SAIT Trojan XC athlete. It was for our fantastic Calgary running community. It was for those that continue to overlook my abilities and for those suckers that didn’t have me in their Prediction Contest (not sorry for busting your bracket). Most of all, it was for everybody that continue to support my outrageous dreams and ambitions. Thank you.