Sunday, October 07, 2012

Well, That Was Humbling!

For the last few years Michael from the club had tried me to get into cross country running. However, every time there was something else on on the weekend of the local XC race and I always made my excuses. However, this year no distractions arrived and for once I actaully ended up on the start line in Killarney.

Before that, there were still some workouts to do. After Tuesday's evaluation I did 10 easy miles on Wednesday and then more hill sprints on Thursday. Following feedback from last week I shortened the sprints to about 12 seconds each, and when I felt a litle bit queasy after 7 I left it at that. It certainly wasn't as bad as last week's wave of nausea.

Friday is quickly becoming the day where I try to run a bit faster. Last week's workout had been affected by the strong wind but there were no excuses this time round. I took it easy over the first two miles, sped up to a pace that felt sustainable and left it at that for the next 8 miles. In the end I was slightly annoyed that I had missed sub-7 pace only by a few seconds, but it reflects my present state. I never looked at the watch, and sprinting the last mile might have resulted in a sub-7 average pace but would have falsified my present condition. Since I still remember running the same workouts 30-40 seconds per mile faster only half a year ago, it showed just how far away I am from getting my pace back. A year of ultra running will do that to you, apparently.

And so it came that after a few easy miles with the club on Saturday I found myself right in the middle of Kerry's cross country runners on Sunday. The presence of George, Simon and Rob (jnr), amongst others, ensured that I never had to worry about a top finish, so at least there was no need to worry about that. The novice and under-18 races were held together, and there were loads of kids taking off like a bat out of hell. I was going off at a much faster pace than anticipated myself, but I was basically left standing by half the field.

I was sure that a few of the kids would come back to me during the next 6 laps, but no such luck. I overtook one over-optimistic runner towards the end of the first lap (or was it the second?) but was caught by one gentleman shortly before half time, and for the rest of the race I was basically running on my own, which at least saved the rest of the field from having to listen to my laboured breathing.

The only somewhat noticable event was the marshall telling me “3 laps to go” after 4, with me desperately hoping that he had miscounted rather than I, which luckily turned out to be correct. I was clinging to the hope that I would not be lapped, which thankfully came true, but I think I wasn't too far off that either and another lap might have done for me.

Just before Bangor I had done a 10K and George had finished about 2 minutes ahead of me, so he certainly should not have been so far ahead after 6k of XC. My avg. HR had been 177, close to what I would expect to see, so it definitely wasn't for lack of effort, just lack of ability of the road runner with the additional inability to move the legs somewhat fast. I suppose it would have had to go on for 100 laps rather than 6 for me to become competitive!

And so, suitably humbled, I'm heading back onto the road.

3 Oct
10 miles, 1:14:03, 7:24 pace, HR 152
4 Oct
8+ miles, 1:05:23, 7:55 pace, HR 146
   7 x hill sprints
5 Oct
10 miles, 1:10:22, 7:02 pace, HR 158
6 Oct
14+ miles, 1:49:35, 7:44 pace, HR 143
7 Oct
am: 5 miles, 38:42, 7:44 pace, HR 135
pm: 6 miles, incl. Kerry Novice XC race
Weekly Mileage: 75+


  1. Good read Thomas. I wouldn't be too discouraged. That was only your first attempt and by your own admission you're not in your best shape. Martin Fryer gets thrashed in any big local cross country event but he doesn't shy away from racing them (when he's not winning ultras). Cross country racing is good training - most of the great marathoners have a strong cross country racing background.

  2. I've found my leg speed is embarrassingly slow. I know it's a side effect of long running but I now feel nostalgia for the odd 6:20 mile.

  3. XC races are tough, especially with soft ground as every step can be energy sapping. My view of XC races effect on the body is that will tend to stress the concentric power generation during the later stage of stance over the eccentric loading that occurs early in stance, it's a bit like running constantly uphill all due to ground yielding underneath you.

    With all your road running your body will be used to fine tuning muscle activation so that you efficiently store energy on landing that you can return during toe off - this will make you fast and efficient on roads.

    For a training stimulus I would guess that an XC race will provide a good work out for your ability to generate power on each stride, push your heart and lungs without overloading your muscles with the more damaging eccentric loading associated with fast road and downhill running.

    So a bit like training out on hill routes, adding XC races will probably help you progress if used in the right way.

  4. Try not doing 15 miles and resting the day before the XC race next time and you'll fly it!