Saturday, 15 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Facing Cross Country

Cross Country. These two words either bring joy to someone or sheer dread. For me it is the latter. Don't ask me why but for some reason me and cross country have never really hit it off. I think its the extremely competitive nature of it, the field of performance and the fact that is involves mud and hills. My running club take big pride in being part of the Met League which consists of a set bunch of races taking place in the winter months. As members, we are encouraged to try it out as it is a great deal of fun. The social aspect certainly is for me (and the post race cake) but the idea of running in the actual race makes me so nervous.

Despite my dread and misery for the event, I do drag myself along to at least one meet in the league as really, cross country is one of the best forms of training. The short distance (women races normally vary between 5-8K) means speed is required and notching up a gear or two over hills and muddy terrain makes the challenge even more beneficial to your endurance, strength and speed.

I recently made my one off appearance at the second fixture of the league which was based in fields and woodlands in Stevenage. I strategically chose this one as a) I didn't have other plans that day and b) it's the flattest course of them all. I very much had my tail between my legs too as I didn't actually get round to taking part in the league at all in 2013 so I was very nervous at returning to give it another go.

I guess you could say my main fear of cross country is that I might come last, which I know sounds ridiculous but I find the field of ability is so much more elite to what I'm used to in my local 10Ks and parkruns that really, I feel quite daunted. I have learnt from the past races that I have taken part in (my last was the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill which was the hardest run I have ever done!) that positioning yourself near the back is a good starting point (unless your an absolutely whizz at XC of course). This allows me to pick people off as I go through the course, meaning I never get overtaken and the feeling of passing other runners is a great confidence boost!

So, positioned at the back of the pack at Stevenage the gun went off and I started off nice and easy running around the outer edge of field, which involved short steep hills. I managed to keep with a fellow club member and decided early on that my goal was to keep her in close sight. After the first 1K in the field we then entered some woodland which was really pretty to run through. The terrain wasn't that muddy but was soft enough to need spikes. By the time I popped out the other end of the woodland to complete lap two, I actually was feeling really good. With my trusty Garmin notifying me of the distance by the time I was back in the woodland I had reached 5K and I knew with my last kilometre to go that I had the energy to push it. Advancing forward, I passed my team mate and powered through the woodland as fast as I could. As I was reaching the end, I could feel my core begin to tighten - I knew my body was working so hard. The final straight involved popping out the woods, heading down a steep grassy hill to a 50m sprint finish. I came out in a group of five and managed to overtake three of them on the final stretch, crossing the finish line 132nd place in a time of 29.06.
(me in action (no: 763) coming into my second lap at Stevenage)
Now 132nd may not sound great but for me, well, I was bloody chuffed! Out of 180 runners, by starting at the back I had managed to overtake around 40-50 people throughout the 6K distance. Not bad considering I am no cross country lover. But that's what surprised me more - I actually really enjoyed the race! A first for me. By being a little strategic and planning how I was going to tackle the route, I was able to reserve energy, keep my pace steady and run it controlled. Much better than my tactic before which was to bolt off at the start to get a good position to then crash 2K in, with a painful stitch and tired legs.

Overall, cross country is in fact enjoyable, if you run it right and realistically. Plus the post race cake and biscuits makes it totally worth it! I aim to make my next appearance in February. When are you heading out for it?

Lipstick Runner.

No comments:

Post a Comment