TRAINING: Cross-Country Starts

I hosted and participated in a great session this evening, the first of a series of Wednesday cross-country sessions, I’ll be hosting in Marlay Park for the next month and a half (until darkness conspires against us). Jason attended the warmup, being on his rest week as he was, so he can cover for me as I’m away a few Wednesdays in August and September on travels.

I have adapted the Lydiard programs “Progress Calibration Runs” to cross-country, so after a lengthy warm-up and a set of running drills and strides, it was time for the main session: five kilometres of tempo running on a grassy figure of eight. Route consisted of a 200m run-in and then three laps of about a mile.

During cross-country training, Lydiard allowed for a small dose of anaerobic training even during the build-up because athletes needs a reasonable anaerobic capacity much earlier (the Novices starts in early October and the season does not finish for the senior runners until late February and early March). The soft terrain tends to limit the anaerobic stress compared to track workouts, which also makes it a bit easier to allow for this exception without compromising overall fitness.

So a small crowd consisting of Amidou, Kevin, Jeff and myself set off. I felt duty-bound to lead out and give people an idea of the pace. The idea is to not approximate real race intensity at all in the first weeks but to slowly crank up the pace as you get fitter. Trying to be a hero the first time out, leaves you taking more out than in.

Amidou took the lead as expected early enough, broke a gap to our trio and showed why he has been in such fine form of late. I eventually drifted to the back and here it showed why the company can play such a fundamental part in quality training – particularly for cross-country which is all about running against the man and not the clock. I settled into a stubborn strong pace and just focused on keeping the gap to the same level and run a solid time to start off with.

After the long lay-off from quality training, my body had a bit of a shock from Sunday’s long run and by Tuesday, I replaced the scheduled ninety minute run with a short jog and a long core synergistics session at home. It became apparent that my sore throat had weakened me a bit as I really struggled through a session that I’d normally be able to put some serious effort into but by Wednesday morning I felt bright again, the niggles seemed to have settled again, so the grassy run seemed to be on.

Runaway Amidou could relax while he watched the rest of us come in within five seconds or so of each other. Coming weeks will have bigger crowds and each of the following sessions will have a “little twist” to simulate the race conditions in cross-country ever more closely. The first twist: A 200m sprint start before settling into the rhythm. Why is this needed? Go to a cross-country race and find out…