Running the Rocky Mountain Shootout was, for me, an eye-opening indication of the talent of the CU women’s cross-country team.
I was a track and cross-country runner in high school, and as a member of the CU Triathlon Team, I compete several times a year in multisport events. I had confidence going into the race that “I wouldn’t finish last,” but beyond that, I had no idea what to expect.The Shootout was a new experience for me. I hadn’t run a cross-country race since high school, I had never done so at altitude, and I had never raced the 5.8-kilometer distance. Most significantly, I had never raced against competitors at the collegiate level. I was thankful to be running unattached with nothing to lose, and I hoped to be able to use the race as part of my triathlon training.
I felt fast for the first mile or so, but vicious side cramps derailed my pace around mile two. Most of the CU cross-country women had been ahead of me from the start, but one by one, runners from smaller Division II schools began to pass me. I resisted the urge to walk, but at the end of the second climb of the notorious Jawbone Hill, I pulled over to the side of the course, nauseous from the effort. I managed to get going again a few seconds later and eventually finish the race in 67th overall, but my time of 24:49 was nothing to brag about compared to the race’s top finishers.
Looking over the results later that morning, I saw that CU’s top finisher, freshman Carrie Verdon, ran almost four minutes faster than me (21:03). In fact, CU’s top-five runners all had times under 22 minutes, and CU took the women’s Division I team title by a long shot. Taking into account the altitude and the course’s difficulty, the times recorded today were impressive to say the least. Verdon’s first collegiate effort did not disappoint, and she should be one to watch for the rest of the season.
I am honored to have had the chance to race against these talented women, and I can’t wait to see where their collegiate careers take them. As for me? I’ll take the race for what it was: a painful, character-building and extremely humbling experience. I’ll hang my race number on my bedroom wall and proudly tell the world that, in a race among “real” collegiate cross-country runners, I did not finish last.
Photo credit: (CU Independent/Jessie Van der Linden)