Every year the High Desert Runners sponsor a series of Cross Country races at Pelona Vista Park. Personally I have been competing in them since 2002…. probably. I have results dating back to 2004 at Pelona Vista but I remember running at least two seasons of races in the field (that used to be there) across the street from Vons – Rancho Vista Blvd west of 30th.
Back then everyone parked in the field area across from Rite Aid. The course made a loop in this field and then proceeded northwest into the area where now there are houses. It had some rolling hills and then a real doozy on the way back. In 2004 we moved to Pelona Vista… but it was different. Everyone parked in the lot at the south end of the park. The race began in the open space south of the actual park. It made a big loop counterclockwise up over the big hill at the south east corner of the park. It ran down into the south end of the park and then looped back over the hill and back around to the finish.
After a year or two we had to cease using the open space – private property, I imagine, and the races moved wholly into the park. It has had many different forms over the years but the last 4 or 5 have been pretty much the same using our two loop course starting and finishing at the north end of the park.
The race series got started a week ago, but I was at a teacher’s conference and was unable to make it. Julian Guerra created this video about the Summer Cross Country Series. The first minute or two are interviews, but after this there is some awesome aerial footage of the race….. and he even got a couple of my Hillview girls in an interview afterward!
I always have a great time at these races for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is a great opportunity to see friends and former students. With almost 20 years of running in the AV I am acquainted with many runners.. some you only see at races, and some only at these summer races. With many of the high schools in attendance there are always a bunch of my former runners there. Yesterday I spoke with a few of them – one a junior in college studying to be a Physical Therapist… I introduced him to Karl. Another is a senior and is having discussions with Cal State Monterey. Another is about to start her freshman year at the University of New Mexico. Of course a few of my current runners are there as well…
The other fun part of the series is the annual competition with the other guys in my age… 50 something is a tough division. Brumwell has turned 60, and so has Mark Hershey… but there are still a number of worthy competitors. Joe Kim, Erik Ruble and David Weary come to mind. A couple of others that are usually ONLY around for the summer series are Adam Conaway and Jan Bercik.
This time, Joe, David and Erik were not there (Erik doesn’t often make it for the summer races) but even so it was my intention to try to avoid the competition… after all this would be my 3rd race in 36 hours…. hmmm, perfect training for Hood to Coast. My legs were a little tight and sluggish from the previous day’s 10K and 5k. Jan asked me my goal and I told him about the races and told him my goal was to start conservative and see what happens.
I started a little farther back in the pack than I usually do and went with the flow. Normally I am fighting for position the first half mile of the race, but not this time. I went with the crowd into the basin and up and over the Rayburn hill. Going into the first loop I was a little surprised to see that Jan, and Adam and Mark Hershey were all 20-30 meters ahead of me. I resisted the urge to chase and just tried to maintain my pace. The first mile went by in about 8:15. Going over the Rayburn hill the 2nd time Jan slowed way down and I went by him. At first it seemed that Adam and Mark were pulling away but as we crossed the wash over to the second loop I noticed that they were back to 30m ahead… Mark 10m ahead of Adam.
Continuing through that 2nd loop I felt like I was gaining ever so slowly. At one point I passed a teen girl and she commented and encouraged me to go get them… I said I was trying. Going through the wash I tried to surge and the others must have let up. Coming out of the surge I was right behind Mark who had been passed by Adam. Mark noticed me and tried to stay ahead but I got by him pretty quickly. Next there was a the little downhill.. again I surged and Adam let up, I went by him. Going over the Rayburn hill the 3rd time I figured Adam was right on my heals so I kept pressing. At the top I had the chance to glance back and I saw I had 20-30m on him. Rather than focus on what was happening behind me I turned my focus on the two younger guys right ahead. We ran through the gate and started our kick. Of course my kick is not much to speak of and I was not gaining on the two ahead of me, but when I crossed the line and looked back I had maintained or improved on my lead!
I happily took my card and put my name and took it to the box where they sort out age group winners! What? There was already a card in the 50-59 Male box? Turns out we have a new guy. James Turner is out for a year or more working aerospace from Tennessee… He likes trail races… He was around 2 minutes ahead of me…. oh well… Still it was great to earn points for a 2nd place finish…. higher than I finished all last year! My time was slower at 24:53, but given the heat and the races the day before… I will take it!