For some people, the first sign of autumn is the tang of smoke in the air from the first fire in the woodburner of the year.
For others it is the sight of caribou antlers strapped to the top of trucks and SUVs making their way from the hunting fields to Anchorage.
For others it is the ever darker mornings.
For me it is quickly coming to be the first XC running meet of the season as my kids become more and more involved with the sport.
I've read a number of articles about XC and the fall traditions it invokes. And I'm starting to get that. The excitement of mass starts. The muffled pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on loamy soil. The damp air with just a bit of a chill to it. The effort that is apparent on the runners' faces.
I love it. And for us, XC season also announces berry season. See, a few years back, when two of my kids were in middle school, one of my kids was a bit too focused on the fact that there were linden berries along the course of an XC race rather than the race itself. As such, we ended up heading out to that venue after the fact to pick berries. Now we have the tradition of once XC season starts of heading out to pick berries. It is just the fall thing to do.
If I knew a bit more about identifying edible mushrooms, this would be the time of year to do that as well. All announced by the XC season.
And the XC season, in the past, has always made me want to pick up running again. I like the idea of running trail and most XC races up here have a community race following where anyone with a desire can run the course. I've started running recently, but haven't yet run a community race. I think I may next weekend when we are in Soldotna for the meet there. Why not, right? I'm fairly certain I wouldn't come in last. And to my mind, that's all that matters.
The more I run the more I think that I might just have to give some of the mountain races my son is doing a go next year. This means that I'll have to run through the winter to keep my fitness up and to continue building my cardio and climbing muscles. I'm half tempted to continue keeping the 'burban parked in the driveway through the winter and picking up a treadmill for the garage to make it easier to get runs in on those days when the dark and the cold make it discouraging to go outside for a run. I've also vaguely alluded to building plyo jump boxes for the kids to use in their training. So I suppose I could do that as well and just turn the garage into our own spartan gym.
I know my son has big plans and goals for XC, track, and mountain running and having a gym might help him on his way to achieving those. The girls...they have some goals as well, but aren't quite as self-motivated as the boy. He's a bit of a freak that way.