Club XC Diaries
Spokane, WA: The days were short, earth frozen, skies grey, and air biting. This could only mean one thing: time to throw down at Club XC Nationals. There is much to report, so hold on to your hats and buckle up baby!
Fifteen PRTC members traveled to Spokane (pronounced Spo-Can) for the championship race beloved by post-collegiate cross country enthusiasts everywhere. The team boarded planes in Philadelphia and New York to begin their journeys to Washington State. Many flew through Denver including Kevin and Colin who had nothing but rave reviews for the airport’s food scene. Kevin’s egg & cheese sandwich was declared delightful. It’s chief selling point was the tasty bun coated with a mystery flavorful sauce. Colin lavished similar praise on the breakfast burrito he found en route to his connecting gate. He noted the potatoes were crispy and expertly spiced, the eggs generous, and the beans cooked just right. Both runners bestowed a rare 4.5 stars (of 5) on their meals.
Elsewhere in the world Alec and Kieran flew into Seattle where they chanced fate with some pre-race exploring, hiking, and a trip to Mount Rainier. They even found time to stage an elaborate photo shoot in the woods to document their upcoming line of lifestyle athletic wear. Stay tuned!
For his part, Chris Hatler was so excited for the race he arrived at the AirBnB a full 7 hours before the official check in time. Fortune smiled warmly upon him as he was able to access the house. He promptly busied himself forming a friendship with the in-home robot Alexa, touring the neighborhood, and watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix.
The men’s and women’s teams trickled in throughout the day. The first wave touched down in Washington in the early afternoon. This crew found themselves waiting far too long for a pair of rented vans. As they waited, the weary travelers discussed hunger levels, utilizing a scale of 0 to 10. 0 was billed as post-Thanksgiving-feast-level hunger, and 10 rated as a hunger equivalent to being willing to eat your own arm. Despite the quality fare consumed in Denver, hunger levels were alarmingly high, hovering at 7.5 to 8.
The team powered through this adversity and made the decision to venture out to Plantes Ferry Sports Complex to preview the course. Chris Hatler was picked up by the men’s van while the women headed straight to the park. We speculate that the hashtag #storiesmadeinminivans debuted at some point during this time. Unfortunately, the authors of this submission are not privy to any additional information as they were restricted to the men’s vehicle.
Ravenous after previewing the course and picking up race packets, the women declined the men’s offer of dinner at the house and instead opted to check out Spokane’s culinary scene. Their visit to Luigi’s was declared a rousing success. Chicken Parm and other Italian favorites were devoured. Meanwhile, the men roasted salmon, fried chicken, sautéd asparagus, boiled pasta, and listened to soulful takes on classic Christmas tunes. Cooking methods and supplies were suspect, but the results spoke volumes. Mission accomplished.
Team members continued to materialize at the AirBnB throughout the night. Everyone chose rooms (Kristen and Erica self-selected much envied closet and floor space) before watching Sixers highlights, Arrested Development, and a John Mulaney stand up special to relax. Most everyone went to bed early, excited for the upcoming big race.
PRTC awoke to chilly temperatures Saturday morning. Eggs, bagels, oats, and a variety of other items were consumed during the long wait for the race to begin. Various members did shake out runs and otherwise busied themselves with pre-race routines. After the women departed for their race, the hype level got turned up to a ten. Metallica, Death Grips, and Rage Against the Machine were played at high volume. Sufficiently pumped, the men jumped in the van and made their way to the course.
The women's race kicked off promptly at 12:45, after the six members of PRTC executed a nearly perfect all hands in pre-race chant of "PHILLY". First time with no practice was deemed a success. As expected, the race went out blazing fast as the top runners from across the country looked to put their best foot forward. Amid a competitive field of 271 athletes, Christine led the way for PRTC with an impressive top 75 finish. Despite not feeling great during the race, she powered through with a respectable finish.
Kristen ran a strong race and came through 2nd in for PRTC at 22:46 for 156th. She was soon followed by a string of teammates which propelled the team to a 23rd place finish. Racing cross country for the first time in seven years, Stephanie arrived 10 places after Kristen, good for 166th and a solid showing as she returns to competing. She paced herself well and ran a smart race, picking off runners in the later stages of the race. Next in was Abby, who secured 171st with her time of 23:03 to wrap up an impressive fall season. Her strong race was an easy highlight for the group, especially as it came just a few weeks removed from an injury scare. She wowed coming into the finish as she chased down multiple runners with a strong kick. Lauren was next in for the team, finishing 216th and claiming the 5th scoring spot as Erica followed just 4 seconds behind for 219th. The pair both reported to feel off from the beginning of the race and never quite found their element, especially after going out too hard.
Despite being exhausted and wanting hot coffee and hot showers, the women rallied quickly to find their belongings and cheer for the men's team and snap photos of them.
As the women’s race reached its conclusion, the men were busy taking vanity shots of themselves posed in front of the van and selfishly involved in pre-race warmup routines. Completely forgetting their manners, nearly everyone missed out on the opportunity to cheer the women on. They instead focused on jogging a few miles, engaged in vigorous stretching, and attempted to keep pre-race jitters under control.
As the start-time drew perilously near, Chris Mateer stepped up in a big way, taking on the role of official men’s team cat-herder. These duties involved tracking down Duriel who was busy getting in strides when the team was supposed to be checking in, and reminding Colin that he was still wearing his warmup shirt just seconds before the gun went off.
The race was one to remember. Chris Hatler reportedly took to the course like he had been shot out of a cannon. Duriel started out a bit less aggressively, although he soon found himself leading the team. Kieran also went out ambitiously, and ultimately placed ahead of Hatler with a very good result. Behind them, Chris, Alex, Colin, Alec, Kevin and Max charged along, with ambitions of pulverizing turf and thrashing Garden State and Pacers Running Club. While they achieved the former, the later will have to wait until next year.
Race highlights included a stellar run by Duriel, who applied the advice of Coach Lake at his alma mater of Brown University: “Always be passing.” This strategy is appealingly simple, yet challenging to execute, especially for a runner who finds himself chasing down professional athletes. Duriel nevertheless applied the principle convincingly, unleashing a dominant performance that landed him forty-fifth place. This great result was especially remarkable as this was his first XC race in 8 years.
Kieran rolled through the finish just over a minute after Duriel, with Hatler hot on his heels. Chris remarked post-race that he was, “pleased to represent PRTC and Philadelphia on the national level” and “really enjoyed seeing people from across the country come together to celebrate the sport of cross country.” The other Chris occupied the fourth slot on the men’s team. He commented his race was, “a best-case scenario result" and was happy to meet the high standard he had set for himself. Alex came through with a big effort and scored points for PRTC as the team's 5th man ending his successful fall season on a high note.
Colin's 34:07 placed him just behind Alex. He was thrilled to make a repeat trip to Club XC Nationals after making his debut in the event last year in Lexington, KY. Alec finished in just under 35 minutes and placed 316th. Kevin was excited to cross the finish feeling healthy (if out of shape.) Max immediately commented the distance was long as he finished his effort. GPS and anecdotal evidence suggest he was quite right in this observation.
The men enjoyed incredible on-course support from the women’s squad even though they had failed to watch their race. Fortunately, the women held no grudges. They positioned themselves at all corners of the course, and shouted their best encouragement throughout the race, helping their teammates push through dark moments.
After the race, the team gathered back at the house to cut loose. They enjoyed some of Spokane’s finest pizza and some classic post-race beverages: frothy IPAs and Rolling Rock. Abby kindly shared blessings for our home and Hanukkah with us while we were assured that the celebratory party atmosphere was appropriate for the holiday.
Feeling refreshed, the team turned their attention to bonding over games. After interest was lost in “Bungle” (a rather one-dimensional game involving an oversized dice), they turned up the heat with a fiercely-contested game of Cheers to the Governor. As the rules started to pile on, Alex established himself as the most-itinerant member of the team, and Abby adeptly put on display her vast knowledge of colors and countries. Meanwhile, the in-home robot friend that Hatler had gotten to know so well on his first day at the house became a disputed entity, with team members shouting things like, “Alexa, play Back Street Boys,” “Alexa, play Enrique Iglesias,” “Alexa, play Sk8er Boi,” and “Alexa, play Death Grips.” Needless to say, the playlist was eclectic and, at times, disorienting.
From there, the team headed to the official USATF-sponsored post-race party at the Spokane convention center. There, they mingled with other running nerds and tested out their ping-pong skills. During one game, Duriel bumped into a passerby while chasing down a stray ping-pong ball, only to realize that the dude he bumped into was Alan Webb. We’re happy to report that Duriel exchanged pleasantries with the legendary miler, who advised Duriel he has a bright future ahead of him as a runner while noting it only gets harder as you get older.
As the official after party began to break up, athletes were ushered out the door. Max led the team on a fruitless walk around Spokane in search of Fast Eddies. He was summarily fired from his role as his orienteering yielded poor results. At long last the happening area of Spokane was located. The late arrival to Fast Eddies barred the team entrance as the establishment was at capacity. PRTC instead opted to begin the bar craw at Globe. The rest of the evening was happily filled with dancing at discotheques, drinks at dive bars, food truck tacos, and Spokane’s finest biscuits.
The team parted ways the next day, storming the Spokane airport. The women (plus Kieran, Alec, and Alex) departed at a disturbingly early hours. The remaining men embarked on runs, cleaning, and coffee expeditions before dropped off the last van.
If the Denver airport was the land of milk and honey, the food in the Spokane airport left much to be desired. The return trip started out well enough, with the late departures reclining in rocking chairs, and Mateer crushing chicken nuggets and french fries at record breaking speeds. But things quickly took a turn for the worse as Kevin and Colin took their chances with Quiznos tuna melts. The soggy, lukewarm product earned a review of 0.5 stars. Their prospects became even more grim as they realized that they were both in the last group to board the plane and had middle seats. Bummer!
Relief was achieved as the pair returned to the promise land of Denver. They were once again supremely pleased with the airport’s dining options. The choice of dual burritos paid dividends in their quest to regain happiness. Crisis averted!
Kristen, Abby, and Christine remain on the West Coast where we hope they are still enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest. This travel diary was jointly written by Colin and Kevin during a few long hours in the sky. Editing and additional insight provided by Chris and Lauren.
USATF Club XC Championships conveniently returns to Pennsylvania next year. The race will be held on Lehigh University’s course in Bethlehem. We are exited to put up an even bigger showing in our home state for 2019!
Lastly, we want to say a sincere "Thank you" to our sponsors Philadelphia Runner and Diadora as well as all who supported us in making this trip possible.
PRTC Women: 23rd out of 32 teams
Christine Eisenberg: 21:33 (80th)
Kristen Niedrach: 22:46 (156th)
Stephanie Fulmer: 22:52 (166th)
Abby Cember: 23:03 (171st)
Lauren Kelly: 23:52 (216th)
Erica Long: 23:56 (219th)
PRTC Men: 23rd out of 50 teams
Duriel Hardy: 30:52 (45th)
Kieran Sutton: 32:00 (108th)
Chris Hatler: 32:25 (142nd)
Chris Mateer: 33:50 (242nd)
Alex Predhome: 33:56 (253rd)
Colin McGrath: 34:07 (269th)
Alec Brand: 34:54 (316th)
Kevin Brandon: 35:34 (347th)
Max Krall: 36:53 (382nd)
Full results here.
Cheers to the Governor
1: Shake hands with and introduce self to next person up.
2: Drink with left hand.
3: Name a country (no repeats, and Africa isn’t a country!)
4: State a color (no repeats)
5: Point at Colin (Colin Drinks)
6: Switch seats with someone else
7: Nose goes (loser drinks)
8: Say the first letter of your name
10: Raise glass (everyone drinks for 10 seconds)
11: High five person to left and right at same time
12: Pick a new song for Alexa to play
13: Say “Reverse” (direction of game changes)
18: Tell Chris how handsome he is
19: Insult Max
20: Cheers to the Governor! (Make a new rule)
Upcoming Runs, Events, & Races
Tuesday: Franklin Field for track work. Arrive at 6:15 for warmup or 6:30 for the start of our workouts.
Sunday: Long run at 9:00 AM from Lloyd Hall.
December 15th, 2018: Belmont Slammer (Philadelphia, PA) 10 AM
Have you not raced the Belmont 5k course enough? Have you had a bad season and want to take it out on your friends? Do you need a good warm up for the PRTC variety show?
Well, come out to the first annual Belmont Slammer. A winner-take-all (for each gender) 5k race over the most iconic course in the city. Entry is one item valued between $5 and $10. It can be a $5 bill and some quarters, a 6 pack of Cream Ale, or that old Smash Mouth CD on the floor of your car. Everything goes in a bag and the winner gets everything in a bag. Is the bag an award or a curse? We'll see.
This will not be timed because times don't matter in cross-country and everyone has a Garmin anyway. Confirm your attendance on the Facebook event page here!
December 15th, 2018: PRTC Variety Show / Holiday Party at the Bodega (7:30 PM)
February 23rd, 2019: Fireside Frostbite 5 Miler (Ambler, PA)March 16th, 2019: Adrenaline 5k (Haddonfield, NJ)April 25th - 27th, 2019: Penn Relays (Philadelphia, PA)April, 28, 2019: Revolutionary Run 5 Miler (Valley Forge, PA)May 5th, 2019: Broad Street Run (Philadelphia, PA)
* Denotes USATF Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix Event