Only in its third year, the Charlotte Running Club’s Winter Classic 8k is becoming one of the winter season’s most prestigious racing events in the area. This year, once again, it was the North Carolina state RRCA championship 8k cross country race. A state championship race always attracts fast runners, but in addition to that the CRC is challenging other running clubs in the state to compete in a relay (with all runners going at the same time) for the fastest total time of their five fastest runners. The team that wins gets to keep the “trophy” — a big ol’ World Championship Wrestling belt — until next year’s race. Last year the CRC won it, but this year the Asheville Running Collective showed some serious speed with their top five runners finishing in the top 10 overall (1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th).
A bit farther back in the pack there were the people like me who would be content to just compete among the others in our own age groups, or with family and friends, or just to compete with our own personal previous race times. Speaking of family, I was pleasantly surprised when my son Dave told me that he and his wife Erica were both going to run the race. It was their second race in as many months and they both had fun and had considerably faster times (pace per mile) than in the 5k they ran a few weeks ago. I’m elated that they seem to be discovering the appeal of running and racing.
As for me, I was just wanting to get back into a race of some sort. I had missed several weeks throughout December and January and had only run the Frosty 50k relay in all of January, and since it was a relay it didn’t really seem like a race to me. Besides the Frosty 50, which is also run on an unpaved path, the Winter Classic was my first actual cross country race. I’ve always been happy running on pavement and the few times I’ve ventured on trails in training it’s been less of an enjoyable experience for me than the roads, and the last time I actually ran on a trail I did a face plant about a mile into the run. The course for this race held at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte is considered to be one of the better cross country courses in the state and there are a lot of races held there throughout the year. If there had been a road race somewhere I’m sure I would have done it instead, but this was the only show in town so I decided to give it a try. It was a little muddy in a few places but other than that it was smooth running and I enjoyed the change of scenery from what I’ve been used to with road races.
As is often the case, Bob Nelson and I chased Butch Holt throughout most of the race for 1st place in the old guy competition. Butch actually turned 65 recently so he’s no longer in the 60-64 age group but we’d still like to catch him, and in this race the big prize among the 60-and-over crowd was the Senior Grand Masters RRCA state championship award. To make a long story short, I finished 34 seconds in back of Butch and about a minute ahead of Bob. We all had a bit of a surprise though when we found out there was a 61-year-old ringer from New York who just happened to be passing through and beat Butch by about a minute, taking the RRCA Senior Grand Masters award back to New York with him. I was happy with my time of 34:24, which was a 6:55 pace, especially since I hadn’t been racing in a while.
I had done a few training runs at McAlpine before and didn’t think I’d like racing there, but it really was a lot of fun and I hope to do this race in the future as well as some of the other races that are held there. The CRC did a fantastic job organizing the race. The food was great (pizza, hot chocolate, and lots more), there was a raffle drawing with a lot of good stuff, the age group awards included gift certificates to TrySports in addition to a nice mug, the shirts were nicely designed long-sleeved T-shirts, and there were several CRC members along the course taking hundreds of photos in addition to the official photos by Treasured Events of Charlotte.
Because of doing a lot of little things right (photos, food, raffle, etc.), this race got a total of 114 points in my race rating system, which I think is the highest score I’ve given any race.
Age Group: 2 of 7
Overall: 75th of 264
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 27:25 (77.31%)
* RACE RATING *
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
2 – Course Scenery: (0)bad (2)pleasant (5)extraordinary
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
5 – Finish line: (0)mediocre (2)not bad (5)very good (7)spectacular!
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no
2 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes
2 – Posted promptly online: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website: (0)no (1)yes
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
2 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
3 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes *(RRCA)
5 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes *(RRCA)
5 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
5 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
5 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0)no (2)yes (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals
8 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
7 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
0 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
2 – Design: (0)not good (1)not bad (2)nice (5)beautiful!
0 – Material: (0)cotton (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
2 – Prices: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
5 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (2)yes (5)lots of free pics!
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Dedicated race website (0)no (2)yes
2 – Results or link to results posted on website: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
2 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes *(Resolution Race Series)