|Season opener of the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix (photo: Gunnar Roll)|
|Registration for the UC Santa Cruz XC Challenge|
Knowing what I was getting myself into I lined up right at the back of the Opens Men's event, which turned out to be very accurate self-seeding. From my vantage point I observed a distinct lack of running store pushed paraphernalia; compression socks, fuel belts, GUs. Just mostly skinny guys in club singlets. There was no chip timing and the awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd were announced very shortly after I stumbled over the finish line. The winning guys ran up and down the gravelly incline in around 5:15 min/mi pace. I boasted of a negative podium after the race (3rd last). There were no bars, cookies, hot chocolate at the post-race refreshments table, just some sports drink, cut up oranges and banana. I'm not sure if that explained why most around me were so skinny but I wasn't hearing any complaining.
|Masters Mens race|
While generally devastating for the ego, the Pacific Association Cross Country Grand Prix is a great reminder that, when you strip it away, being a good runner has a lot to do with, well, running. With races from August to November in locations from Santa Cruz to Sacramento and in between, lots can be learned by joining a PA USATF club and surrounding yourself with these athletes both young and old. Just don't expect to hear many inspiring stories about running changing lives. From the hot pace I suspect most of them started running at high school or college and just never broke the habit.