Loving XC and Training Update

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La-dee-da, just skipping along through the woods. Credit to Ray Cloutier for the perfectly timed shot just before the finish line.

I’ve mentioned more than a few times that my running life didn’t start until my post college, boring adult life, necessitated a change in interests. I’ve often wondered what I missed out on by not running in the high school and college years. I usually console myself with the idea that I’d probably be burnt out by now, or by assuming that the person I was then wouldn’t have excelled or enjoyed in running much anyway. On the topic of cross country though, I thoroughly missed out; who I was then, who I am now, irrelevant in comparison to the pure fun that is cross country racing. There is no way I wouldn’t have loved this at any point in my life. It’s much more of a party atmosphere than other road racing and much more of a team sport, at the club level. That being said, I am so happy that I’ve found it now! As is often the case, trying something new and out of my comfort zone led to a new favorite activity. I’ve been volunteering as the assistant XC coach for a local DIII college in addition to racing XC myself this fall and both activities have increased my love for running and the XC/Track and Field community in general. It’s been a lot of fun working with and helping train the kids and supporting and helping them at races. And as I suspected with my own racing, XC is surely my strongest department, having grown up running through the woods and hiking.

After hitting a new personal best over 5k in the first race of the USATF-NE XC Gran Prix, yesterday was another solid breakthrough! The last two weekends I raced road 5ks in brutal hot weather, so my plan going into the 8k yesterday was to try an run at close to the same pace as those races and hope that my effort level would be sustainable, given the more comfortable temps and mild course. ( for the TLDR crowd: It was!) Before I break down the race though, I’ll briefly share what my training has looked like over the past few weeks.
Week of Monday Sept 15: Ran 7 times with one day of doubles, one race and one day off with a sore back. My workouts were on Tuesday and Sunday, the latter was a race and a tempo workout. Tuesday I ran 5 sets of (1×1200, 2×400 on hilly mixed loop) pacing the college guys (the 400’s were definitely all out, around 70 seconds on dirt in trainers) Sunday I ran a muggy and hot 5k in the morning at a 5:18 pace, PR for me. Legs didn’t feel too fatigued considering I had run almost 14 the evening before and ran 4 that morning to warm up. After my cooldown and some lunch I drove back up to Lexington, MA and ran a second workout consisting of fartleks. Started with an easy 1.5 and than ran 800 on, 800 off, 400 on, 800 off and repeated until mile cooldown for 8 miles total and 17.5 on the day, ended the week with 71, lighter mileage due to the missed workout.
Week of Monday Sept. 22: Ran 8 times with one day of doubles, one race and zero days off. Workouts on Tues, Thurs and Sunday. Tuesday paced college guys again, this time the workout was 1.6 miles hard tempo around Chestnut Hill Reservoir followed by 6×200. Ran first set in 5:33 pace for the 1.6 and 30 seconds avg. in the 200’s, second set was 5:30 and 31 sec avg. for the 200’s. Ran 1.2 easy before running a final solo 1.6 at 5:19 pace. 11.5 total with warmup and cooldown. Thursday was a big one too, 2 sets of 1×800, 2×400 hard on grass and 4×400 tempo on long hill with jog down recoveries, 11 miles total. Sunday was a 90 degree miserable 5k, but I still managed to run a 5:22 pace on the slightly long course. My afternoon workout was much better though, ran 1.2 warmup followed by tempo 8.5 (6:05 avg.) and 1.3 cooldown for 11 total and 19.3 on the day, with 80 miles for the week.
Week of Monday Sept. 29: Ran 8 times with one day of doubles, one race and zero days off. Workouts on Tues, Thurs and Sunday. Tuesday 2 mile warm up + dynamics (as with every Tues/Thurs workout) followed by 15 minute tempo from 6:00 down to 5:45 pace. Than 3×1200 hard, 1×1200 med and 1×1200 all out. Ran 7.5 as a long cool down. Thursday was one set of 4×800, 4×400 and 4×200, on the second set I only ran the 4×800 as my hamstring had start bothering me. Sunday was the aforementioned 8k XC race with a 5 mile tempo as the evening workout, 19 total on the day and 85 for the week.

Western Mass Distance Project XC Festival
Now, to go just a bit deeper into the race yesterday. I carpooled down to Holyoke with some members of the Sisu Project (cliff notes: super fun, super cool) I ran about 3 miles to warm up and did some easy dynamics before the race. Started off at goal pace for once, rather than going too hard and told myself to stay focused on running fast and ignoring everything else. First few miles ticked off really well and I still felt like my breathing was controlled (5:20, 5:21, 5:24) Mile four I did briefly lose focus a bit, but thought of Dennis Kimetto and Emanuel Mutai at Berlin and the big engines that they are, their hearts and lungs and told myself I was a big engine and also reminded myself to run tall and swing my arms well. That helped me tuck right in behind Matt Germain from Sisu again and try to stay with him as we were picking off a few others. Mantra’s for me aren’t something I plan out or practice, but if muttering in my head about being a big engine and thinking of Kenyan world record holders helps me run faster, I’m not going to stop it. Mile four was a 5:29. The last .97 I was able to increase in pace and find another gear finally, something I’ve been trying to work on very hard. Despite two of the only hills on the course (bumps really) I managed to get back to a 5:15ish pace and kicked up the hill at the end through the finish. Official time was 26:41.3, Avg. pace of 5:22 I’m psyched to have a good time to work off of in future 8ks and what would have been a definite PR for 5 miles, had it been .03 more. Looking forward to Mayors Cup in Franklin Park on the 26th and a well deserved little break from racing until then. I know Franklin Park will be a bit tougher course, but I’m hoping that the next couple weeks of training go well and I work towards another PR anyway.

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