Didn’t I say I don’t like cross country?

Yesterday was the USATF Cross Country 8k Championship race at Natirar Park. This wasn’t on my race calendar earlier in the year (because it’s a cross country race), but now that I am the RVRR 40s Men team captain I felt some obligation to be there.

It was a beautiful morning, and a scenic location, so of course I didn’t take any photos. Maybe next time I’ll get my act together on that front, but thanks to the magic of the internet, here’s a picture taken by Marvin:

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A friend recently posted a review of some Inov-8 shoes he had worn for a cross country event (I’ve got find that post and link it here…). I knew I didn’t have the right shoes for a cross country race and perhaps that’s been part of my problem in the past, so I bought a pair of the Inov-8 Bare Grip 200s.

The shoes are tight compared to my other zero drop shoes, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, but they really did look like they would offer the promised grip on the grass and elsewhere. My first mistake of the day was not wearing the right socks. When I changed into these shoes at the park the socks I was wearing made them feel too tight. I made the choice to wear them without socks. As the race wore on I could feel the blisters forming, but it never got to breaking point so that was lucky. If you’re looking for a zero drop cross country shoe, this is definitely the one to choose.

Despite my priorĀ feelings towards cross country, I enjoyed this race. This was even more surprising given the nasty hills (that you had to do twice) and the nasty winds. I found myself in a small group mostly running together with small gaps opening and closing again on the hills (for me in particular, I would make up time up the hills and lose some down). I also had the goal of trying to catch a friend who had opened up a lead on me early on and seemed to be increasing that lead for the first half of the race, only for me to start closing the gap slowly in the second half.

In the end I didn’t quite have enough left to close the gap completely and finished a few seconds back.

Surprisingly, my time was my fastest 8k race. The only other 8k I have raced was the Ashenfelter Classic, which is on the road. My Garmin only recorded 4.8 miles on this course, which may be because it’s been acting strangely lately, but it’s not usually that far wrong. Perhaps that’s why it was faster?

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This is what running is all about

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There’s something about the Runner’s World Half and Festival weekend that seems to embody what running is all about. Not that there aren’t other races that do the same, but for some reason this one really resonates with me. I don’t think there’s one thing you can pinpoint that makes it this way, perhaps it’s all, or some of: the location, the friendliness of everyone involved (even going alone, it’s easy to fall into conversation, which, for a quiet person like me, is quite amazing), the size of the event (not too large, but by no means small), and the people cheering along the course. I didn’t really pay much attention to the talks and other expo related events, but I’m sure that’s another positive about the event.

Following on from yesterday’s brief post about the 5k and 10k, today was the Half Marathon. Running all three events is called the Hat Trick (and yes, you get a hat). It was colder today, but I was out there once again in my singlet and kilt (although with some longer and thicker clothing underneath it today). A couple of people said they were cold just looking at me, but it didn’t seem too bad – it was really only the wind that made it cold (and it did get very windy… and cold). Quite a few people were staying inside until as late as possible to avoid the cold – at least there are plenty of options for that.

I had a plan to stick near the pacer with the 1:40 finish time goal, and after confirming with him that he would be running consistent splits (the first half is more uphill than the second), I settled into a rhythm just ahead of him. I passed the first mile clock at 7:32, so slightly ahead, but there were hills coming so it seemed reasonable, and the pacer was not far behind still. That was the last time I looked back to check. The pace felt good so I just tried to stick with it.

I was running without my Garmin because it died yesterday morning before the 5k, but I didn’t really miss it. I like to know my splits and sometimes like to know whether I’m on pace, but the race had clocks at every mile, and I’d just run by feel in between. It transpired that my pace was pretty consistent. There were some minor fluctuations from mile to mile, presumably due to the hills (they tried to maintain that it was less hilly than last year, but I don’t believe it was much less, if at all), and I passed the mile 8 clock at 1:00:02 for an almost perfect 7:30 pace. From that point on there were a few more rolling hills but it was mostly down towards the finish again and I was able to pick up the pace despite some minor concern about how my calf muscles would hold up as they were feeling the strain from yesterday. I passed mile 12 at almost exactly 1:29, so had averaged 7:15 for those 4 miles. I pushed on to the finish increasing my pace and taking back a few more places (including at least one who had just passed me in the prior mile) and finished with a time of 1:36:40 (which implies my last mile and a bit was a fraction faster than 7 minute mile pace). This definitely makes up for my poor showing at the Liberty Half last month.

After the finish I grabbed some food, and found a spot near the finish line to see others coming in. This isn’t something I’ve done enough before, and I really enjoyed watching all the different people as they came in. You could really see so many different race stories in their faces – those who were so happy to have either finished, or to have finished within a certain time, those who were struggling but still (hopefully) feeling that sense of achievement, those who were pacing others to achieve their goal, those who had “taken it easy” and were still able to sprint (and I mean, really sprint) that last bit, the guys who were running together when one turned to the other to challenge for a final race to the finish, and so on. This is what running is all about, and why I am very happy to consider myself a runner.

As I wandered back to get my bag and my bike (I cycled the 5 miles or so from the hotel both mornings to get to the start), someone congratulated me on a great race especially on the hills. I told him I seem to do okay on the hills. He had been behind me, and told me how he was happy to keep me in his sights, but when we got on a hill he’d look up and I’d be gone again. I’m pretty sure my forefoot strike and fast cadence are what can drive me up the hills well.


Runner’s World Half and Festival

I had so much fun at this event last year that I’m back again this year to do the hat-trick again (5k, 10k and half). As I’ve been running less, my plan was just to take it slow and enjoy, but there’s something about being in that atmosphere that pushes you on, so this morning I ran the 5k and 10k faster than I intended.

Last week I ran a 5k and a 10k but over 2 days. Last week’s times were 20:31, and 42:22 respectively (which got me 2nd place overall, and 1st in age group respectively). Not my fastest times by far, but far for the amount of running I’ve been doing.

Today I managed a 20:23 5k, and 43:17 10k (an hour or so after the 5k), and got myself 2nd place in age group in the 10k (4th in the 5k).

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Tomorrow I will definitely be taking it easy in the half.