Week of Training December 7 – 13
||Long Run, Surges
||Drills and Strides, Core
||Drills and Strides, Core
||Travel to PA
While I had a race at the end of the week, this week was used more as a training week. For the first half of the week I was running normal volume, and it was only near the end of the week that I pulled back for the few days before Club Cross Country Championships.
The High Line Canal in Littleton. Great place for a long run!
Sunday I headed to the High Line Canal to do my long run. The trail is basically a flat dirt road, so with some surges mixed in, I was moving well by the end. But with that said, I made a conscious effort to not run as fast as last week.
Since I had a good long run, Pete decided to move my workout to Wednesday so that I could have an extra day to recover. This made the next two days were just easy running days. On Wednesday I headed to Chatfield Reservoir for my workout. There is a trail there that is well groomed and rolls a little bit. I wanted to get some up and down since the workout was a Fartlek.
Workout:11min, 5 min rest; 3 x (3, 2, 1 min), Half rest, 1:30 between sets
The workout ended up being just all right, nothing really to write home about. I did not really feel stellar, only managing to run just under 5 minute pace for the workout. I was not trying to push it as the race on Saturday was much more important than the workout. Even though the workout was not what I knew as I was capable off, I was satisfied with the effort and gave me some confidence coming into the weekend.
Thursday morning I woke up feeling pretty terrible. I had a headache, thought I was possibly getting sick, and the most troubling thing was that my Achilles tendon was sore. I have never had any Achilles issues before, so this was a worrying development. I ended up just going out for a very, very easy 10 miles, hoping that everything would feel better. Unfortunately nothing really did, but later in the day my headache and possible cold cleared out, which removed some weight off my back. But with having felt so good a few days ago, to feeling absolutely terrible, my confidence was shaken. Now I just had to focus on getting my Achilles ready for a hard cross country race in two days. I traveled from Denver to Bethlehem, PA afternoon and evening, dosed up on ibuprofen.
The next day I ended up meeting the rest of the team at our hotel, as they had some travel problems and had to drive up from Philadelphia. After everyone had arrived, we headed to the course for our preview. I always like running the course the day before. It gives me a feel for what to expect on race day. The impression that I got from the famed Paul Short course was that it was perfectly suited for my style of cross country; there was rolling hills to find a rhythm, but it was smooth enough that I would not have much trouble with footing. This combined with the fact that my Achilles feeling better, I was looking forward to the race.
One good thing about cross country races, is that they usually start in the late morning or early afternoon. None of this getting up at 4:30 so you can be awake for a 7 am start time. Given the later start time, I was able to get up and do a short shakeout in the morning. The weather was supposed to be pretty chilly and windy, so we stayed in our warm hotel room for as long as possible, and shortly before our warm up, drove over to the course. During the warm up, I was not feeling that great. My Achilles was quite sore and did not loosen up for the first 10 minutes, but by the end, I was hardly thinking about it! We did our customary prerace drills and strides, and before I knew it, everyone was being corralled to the starting line.
Craziness of a 600 person start!
The gun fired and after the stampede of nearly 600 runners (largest in Club Cross history) had settled, I found myself in good position, right off of the leaders. I maintained in the top few for most of the first few kilometers, even leading at some points. While I was feeling relaxed and confident, I was wary because unlike the roads or the track, things can turn sour very quickly in a cross country race. Around the 3km mark Jake Riley, who was my teammate just a few weeks ago in Japan, hammered the first big downhill. His move opened a gap, as he caught the whole pack a bit by surprise. While I am not confident on my downhill running abilities, I counter that by my ability to run the uphills well. It must be due to the numerous hills that we run at Moses Cone!
Jake and Me battling it out mid-race!
Photo by Michael Scott
Every downhill Jake would attempt to break away from the group only to get caught soon after, but after 5km mark, the course had a significant portion of downhill, and when Jake took off. I went with him. I was thinking that with so much downhill, I could use him to pull just far enough away from the group and I could push up the hills with a mile to go and pull away for the victory. All of the surges that Jake had made whittled the lead group down to nine. Right before the hills, the chase pack caught us and at that point I was starting to feel the effects of 5 miles of hard running. Being stubborn I still tried to follow my prerace plan and surge the last mile, so I decided to go for broke. My move did not really break anyone in the pack, only give them someone to chase, and with a kilometer to go I was out of gears.
Over the last 1000 meters, I watched the leaders pull away from me. Just as many races over the last year have gone, I was unable to kick over the last 1km, but I was not slowing down. Into the finishing stretch, I knew that the more people that I passed, the more likely that I would earn a spot on to represent Team USA at the BUPA Edinburgh Cross Country Race in January. This propelled me forward and I ended up passing one person to finish 8th. Now looking back at the race, hindsight is 20/20, I should have stayed with the pack and conserved more energy not trying to battle the wind with Jake. But since I tend to be a more aggressive racer, I was willing to take that risk earlier in the race.
The team aspect of cross country is the thing that I miss most about running in the collegiate system. Some of my favorite memories from Western are being out on the grass with the team. Now after college, there is hardly any time you can race for a team title (the notable exception being the Gate River Run). Racing Club Cross Country this last weekend brought many of those dormant feelings back. For nearly the entire race, Andrew was right next to me, just like my teammates and I would do at Western. Having a teammate next to you is a boost like nothing else in running. It makes you dig deeper than had you been racing alone. Combined with the team aspect, cross country often leads to great performances.
Photo by Michael Scott
Also from the weekend we walked away from the race with the team’s fourth Club Cross Country title! This was the main goal for the weekend, especially after loosing by 1 point last year. Even though only Cole and myself were the returning members of last year’s squad, getting redemption was very much a team affair. We all joined ZAP Fitness so that we could be in an environment where we have a team to support each other. So winning this title was fantastic.
I walked away content with my race. Beyond winning the team title, it was a step in the right direction. It was my first good cross country race in three years. Since I graduated from Western, all the cross country races I have run have been mediocre, and have turned me off from cross country. While my performance over the weekend would have not been good enough to achieve my goal of making the World Cross Country Team in February, it was a positive step towards that goal. Now I get respite from traveling, which over the last few weeks, is all I have been doing. Never being in one place for more than a few days. I headed back to Colorado to train in the foothills of Denver, getting ready for the BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country Race on January 10th. After that I head down to Tallahassee with the rest of the team and prepare for a great race in Boulder on February 8th.
Photos by Michael Scott