Monday, March 15, 2010

Cross Country Regionals Race Report

What a strange race this was. The course was insanely icy, snowy and muddy. It was the regional finals (the West Zealand championships) but, because of the wheather I presume, some of the top teams didn't show up. The guy I had narrowly beaten twice, and been beaten by once, earlier this season, wasn't there. Peter, a young fast guy from our team wasn't there, either.

I had planned on running in spikes but the first (and last) half mile was on a sidewalk, so I chose my trusted Salomons. This turned out to be a big mistake. I warmed up on the course and practiced ascending and descending a few of the worst hills. The legs felt really good.

At the gun, I found myself in a small pack. Some of the runners wore spikes and had to run on a tiny dirt strip between the road and the sidewalk. Every 50 feet, there was a tree that they had to avoid. I felt smug in my Salomons for that first half mile, and was able to enter the narrow trail section in first place. The first long hill had good traction and I got a little gap on the the other runners. With these conditions, drafting wasn't a consideration and I assumed some people would fall and possibly bring down other runners, too.

I had the lead for about a mile, honestly thinking I could win the race. Behind me, though, I could hear the clickety sound of spikes in ice and, sure enough, I got passed by a guy, who jokingly informed me that I should have worn spikes. I tried to stick with him, but couldn't. In addition to his spikes, he was also fast. On the other hand, while trying to keep up with spike guy, I got a comfortable lead on everyone else.

He beat me by 20 seconds and there was another good minute down to number three. On paper, a silver medal in the regional cross country meet sounds good. But I have taken second and third at the other meets this year, and this one seemed to be the weakest field. My training has been erratic these last few months, because of the amount of snow on the ground. Tons of quantity but little quality. I was hoping for a solid indicator of the shape I am in, but didn't get one.

We are doing a 10K next weekend on a, presumably, fast route. I have never done this race before but it's competitive and I expect to be able to find a good sub-35 minute group to draft behind. That's a loose goal, anyway, although I really don't know what to expect. Compared to last year, where my first 10K of the season was, like 34:45, I have done no speed work at all. My weight is about the same and I have run way more miles this year. We shall see.

Sunday, I watched the Girl in a big 15K race in Copenhagen. I had been drinking rather heavily at my brother's birthday party the night before, so it was easy to assume the martyr role and agree to babysit. Thankfully, the route looped around a park with a little playground, so we could watch the Girl run by several times.

She did well, and she deserves it. She is still a novice runners, despite being so fast. Still used to setting PRs, she was disappointed that she could only lower her 10K PR by 30 seconds - in a 15K race!

I watched her come by at 4 and 6 K. Just outside the top 5, she was gaining on the women ahead of her. I thought she looked calm, but, as it happened, she got a little too excited passing and being re-passed by another runner. I have seen her do this, when we run together and she gets passed by a woman. She will go from a leisurely jog to an all-out sprint to get back ahead.

When I saw her again at 14K, she looked very tired. Several women had passed her and two more were lurking right behind her. I ran over to the finish, to watch her come in a few minutes later, sprinting against one of the women.

All in all, she got a huge PR and there is definite room for improvement. She has done speed work this winter, no doubt, but these have been mile repeats. When we go on the track in April, she will get much faster still. Her racing skills also need fine-tuning, and it's fun to think about how much she could improve if she learned how to draft and bide her time. Most of the women, who beat her, are much older than her and, obviously, smarter racers. They know how to sit in packs, especially when there is wind, always taking advantage of the men racing around them.

I think the Girl is a little too used to ultras, where the dynamics are so much different. In a shorter race, when one is racing so close to the maximum capacity, your whole race can be ruined by the oxygen debt created by a single surge. Drafting is also very important in fast races; I have tried to teach her, but she gets nervous running too close to others. Even in track races, where a tight pack of runners is going her exact pace, she prefers to sit a few yards behind on her own.

But my plan with her is working. It's still the early season and she is already setting PRs. By the end of the season, she will have PRd at every distance she races at. Yes, on a day like yesterday, it's fun being her coach.

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

We're in the same boat, with not being able to adequately judge what shape we're in - it's so hard early in the year!

Coaching your wife will be fun right up to the point where she runs one bad race: trust me, it'll be your fault (whether it is or not).