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Runners Roost hosts cross country panel

Ben Zywicki shares stories of running cross country at Colorado's School of Mines.
Ben Zywicki shares stories of running cross country at Colorado's School of Mines.

CU Alumni Dathan Ritzenhein quickly took to an early lead at the Cross Country Championships held in Boulder February of 2007. Fellow alums Adam Goucher, Edward Torres and others like Abdi Abdirahman gave chase. But Alan Culpepper, 34 years old at the time and nearing the end of his career, didn't take the bait and sat back running his own race for the first two laps of the 2k course. He recalled, "Its different at sea level, where I was at that level and I could go with the leaders, recover and go again, but this one I intuitively just didn't, I just knew having trained at altitude, I knew I couldn't go any harder than I was going."

Cross Country Panel at Runners Roost

By 5k Alan had slowly closed on the leaders and passed Ritz to take the lead and hammered the last 2 laps to secure his title of National Champion.

"I had been to a lot of cross country nationals, at a lot of great places. Pete [Julian] (the Race Director) worked really hard to get the momentum behind this. The whole course was full of people, it was unlike any other race."

"I look back and it was one of those top 4 or 5 on the list of all the races, it was the support I felt, not just for me to win, but the support of understanding what we were doing and elevating us. They appreciated what we were doing."

To celebrate the return of the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder Feb 15, Runners Roost Louisville hosted a panel discussion on cross country running. Led by Competitor Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Brian Metzler, the panel included Olympian and 2007 Cross Country Champion Alan Culpepper, 2013 Team Cross Champion Laura Thweat, 3 time Olympic Marathon Qualifier Patrick Rizzo and 4 time D2 Cross Country All-American Ben Zywicki.

Metzler led the panel through a variety of questions teasing out nuggets of wisdom on how to run and to enjoy running cross country. Following are quotes from the panel.

For me cross country is a great equalizer, you have everyone out there with marathoning, road racing, track everyone's strengths come together in cross and you are running to see who the best out there. - Laura Thweat

One of the things I like about it is you have adverse conditions and its not about time. I don't do as well on the track where I have to hit a certain split on each lap - its all about who can put it together that day. - Ben Zywicki

The athletes that do well in cross country, are the ones that recognize, that don't let the elements, whatever you have to deal with, bother them because everyone has to deal with them. There is a mentality that goes with it, not everyone's natural mechanics do well on road, vs track vs mud. There are really good athletes that do well in all of them and its a matter of approaching the dynamic of 'I know I am going to be doing this' [flailing his arms around] the entire race and you can't let it frustrate you, you just have to let it go. In 2007 Pete wanted us to go through this ditch and it turned out to be a mud bog, and there were people losing their shoes and people scampering up. Every lap you would see people coming out of it like shaking their head - well thats just part of it. - Alan Culpepper

Something I would encourage you if you are running the event is just to tune in to your effort, this is unique to altitude. - Alan Culpepper

I had my fair share of blowups - one particular year in Durango - if you go out too hard at altitude it really sucks. - Ben Zywicki

Cross country is a different sport. I don't care how fast you ran on the track, it's dirt, it's grit, you are going to be slipping sliding and when I'm slow and you're fast you are going nowhere faster, It really is a great equalizer. - Patrick Rizzo

Its not about how fast you run, but how well you compete. With yourself and with others. - Patrick Rizzo

Its such a cool experience, its such a different type of racing its a blast. you throw the clock out the window and race against the course and your fellow competitors and it just brings running back to its purest form. so if you are on the fence, do it, especially here I think that the course will be phenomenal, it's going to be a great environment, tons of people will be out there You will regret not doing it - Laura Thweat

Races start Saturday morning at 8 am at the Flatiron Golf Course with the Master's Women 6k, followed by the Masters Men 8k, Junior Women 6k, Junior Men 8k. At 11:30 a.m. the Senior Women will race 8k and at 12:15 the Senior Men 12k will finish off the championship races. Join in the fun following the Senior Men's race in the 4k Community at 1:15 p.m..

Find out more at The championship races will also be aired live on or follow along on twitter with hashtag #BoulderUSAXC.

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