This winter is my first cross country season. I ran a race at the end of November after being sick for two weeks. That race had gone about as you might expect, I suffered and finished in the slower quart of the 60 odd people that took part. Since then I had not gotten around to running a second cross country race. I figured I really should give it another shot before the season ended and belatedly decided on the Grote Prijs Electro 80, held not too far away from me. Due to my late decision, I opted for their short course option (2765m) rather than the regular one (around 10k). I figured that would be easier to plan in.
Two weeks out from the race, my week had been a bit stunted. There were a few long flights and I dropped some runs. I had planned it as a down week already anyway, so did not mind too much. I figured I would rather be safe than sorry. In the end I ran just shy of 60 km that week spread over four runs.
The week before the race I was quite jetlagged and took it easy in the first part. On Friday I felt alright enough again and did a Threshold workout totalling 33 minutes at pace. Two days later I managed my long run alright too. 100 km total for the week.
The week of the race I wanted to still reach around 100 km. I also did not really decide to take part in the race till about three days out. Thursday I did a 8×400m Repetitions workout. The race was Sunday and I decided to just cut up my normal long run into “warmup” and “cooldown” parts surrounding the race. Those legs would also work as a means to get to the race location which is about 7-8 km away. The girlfriend was nice enough to bike along to carry my stuff. 98.5 km for the week.
Goal and Strategy
A lot more fast people show up in the club scene, so there is not even a hint of podium ambitions in these races for me. I just wanted to ensure I did not get caught up in the crazy sprint at the start of your average cross country race and then just run my own race from there.
The line-up was not too big, only 32 people toed the line. I placed myself a little on the outside. The start goes uphill and I still caught myself going a bit fast the first 10s of meters. I noticed early enough though and reeled myself in. I quickly found myself behind mostly everyone. About 200m in, I was 30th of 32, not that I realised it at the time.
As we neared the top of that starting uphill, I had found an effort level that seemed alright. In a cross country race and with undulating terrain, pace will only tell you so much, so I ignored it throughout the race. I quickly noticed not everyone had taken a calm start. I slowly began overtaking some heavier breathers. This did not always go easily, the path is pretty narrow in a lot of places. I made do and used the moments of being stuck as a quick breather.
About halfway through I found myself behind a group of four and a very narrow turning path. No hope of easily passing. This lasted close to 100m and I was getting too annoyed with being stuck. At some point there is a narrow sideways edge of rock next to the already narrow path we were running on. I took the opportunity, but fucked up some and twisted my right ankle before passing a single guy. I briefly swore and went for the gap anyway. In a few steps I was past the four and racing away. The adrenaline was helping me along. Another 100m further the path widened enough to easily pass. Of course.
I was alone for a bit, but eventually caught up to another person about 500m from the finish. I hung behind him for 200m as we went downhill, he was going too fast to try to overtake on this path and I got a slight breather. After that we turned and went uphill again. He sped up and I had no answer to his acceleration. He dropped me.
As I turned into the final 100m, I heard some noise behind me and figured someone was approaching. I pushed out a final sprint and held the two people off.
Strava. It took a while for the results to be available, but eventually I found out I was 15th out of 32. Neat, made 10 euro (+ a 5 euro coupon) that way. They pegged me at 9:29 over 2765 metre. That would be 3:26 pace. Went quite a lot nicer than my first attempt at cross country. First place finished in 8:12, third place in 8:30. Top 10 would have required a 9:09.
I felt the twisted ankle though. I managed to run home, but cut it shorter than I would have liked. It acted up for another week after, so I had to be careful not to turn it oddly. It did not affect my running at least.
This might be my final cross country race of this season. Rather than finding a third one, I have my eyes set on a 3000m in an indoor meet. I will probably end up having to run that as a time trial given the pace of the competition, but I am eager to give it a try. I have never before raced indoor or a 3000m.