XC Season - Endless Opportunities

I love this time of year - the air starts to turn crisp, the sun begins to set a little earlier, and the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange. (At least that's how I remember the start of fall in Davis... sadly, San Francisco's seasons are funky - Indian Summer, anyone?) At any rate, as summer turns to fall, butterflies flutter in my stomach and I become both nervous and excited for the months to come. Awaiting me is my favorite time of year - cross-country season!
Throwback to 2006 - Beginning of sophomore year XC at UCD
Across the country, thousands of runners are beginning their XC seasons. At high schools and colleges from Hawaii to Maine, runners flock to practice, eager for the new season to get underway. Last week the USF campus burst to life as the USF Dons kicked off their fall campaign. When the team gathered for the first meeting of the year, the hallways of War Memorial Gym buzzed with excitement. The energy in the room was palpable -- cheerful chatter amongst the returners as they caught up on summer news; nervous banter among the freshmen, eager to make new friends; happy reunions among teammates and coaches. I fed off the team's energy - tired from an 80-mile week and weary from a summer training mostly on my own, I was thrilled to welcome the team back to campus. Even at early morning practice, the energy remains high and serves to make my morning runs all the more joyful :-)

No matter your sport, new seasons bring new beginnings. The opportunities before you are endless; the uncharted course of the season allows for big dreams. For XC runners, August is the month of optimism, where anything is possible. August is full of hope, dreams of section titles, conference championships, and more. 
Davis High XC, with Dad and brother Brendan
I fondly remember XC seasons of years past. Whether at Davis High or UCD, the beginning of the season always held so much promise. Coming off a summer of solid training, the months ahead were full of potential - potential for greatness and for your biggest hopes and dreams to become reality.

With teammate Amy before our first XC race in the Aggie uniform
As a freshman, I'd dream of making the varsity squad. As a sophomore, I'd hope to be a scoring runner during the championship season. Injured during my senior year of high school, I wished to simply be healthy enough to compete at the Section Championship. Season to season, team to team, the specific goals would change, but one thing remained constant: I hoped to represent my school well and wear my team's jersey with pride.

Entering my senior XC season at UCD, I allowed myself to dream big - with visions of qualifying for nationals, I dreamed of racing in Terre Haute, Indiana at the NCAA Division 1 Championships. No one in Aggie history had ever qualified for this meet and in the competitive West Region, making it to nationals was no easy feat. Sometimes, the nagging little voice inside my head said, "You only ran 11:27 for 3200 meters in high school - you don't belong in Terre Haute!" Still, with every mile, every repeat, every core session, I nurtured this dream of representing the Aggies at nationals in November.

Sometimes it's scary to dream big - what happens if you don't achieve your goal? Is it better to be safe than sorry, better to aim lower so that you can easily reach your goal? No way. The dreams most worth chasing are the ones that scare you a little. The night before Regionals, I was scared shitless (pardon my French). What was I afraid of? Failing. Not qualifying. Ending my career as an Aggie and never getting to put on the uniform again. All the hope and optimism from August was gone, replaced by doubts and nerves. I was a wreck.

The day of the race, as I stepped to the line, I was so scared I was practically in tears. And then, in the final minutes before the gun went off, I saw Aggie Nation run by, waving the giant UCD flag. Aggie Nation is a horde of Davis fans, alums and current athletes alike, who come out to cheer bedazzled in Aggie blue and gold, waving banners and signs, blasting horns and pounding drums. Aggie Nation is the epitome of Aggie pride - folks who love their school and love their team. Seeing Aggie Nation and feeling the love and support of my family, friends, and teammates, I reached a sense of calm. In the brief silence between the words "Runners set!" and the gun, I knew that I was about to make my dream a reality. 20 minutes and 24 seconds later, I did.
Qualifying for NCAA's, XC West Regional 2008
So, fellow XC runners, as you begin your fall seasons, dream big! In August, the possibilities are endless... Nurture your dreams, put in the work, represent your school well, and run with pride. Who knows where you'll be in November!