Tag Archives: Cross country running

Book Review: Once a Runner

Once a Runner Cover

John L Parker’s Once a Runner is a cult classic for runners.  And I would throw my hat into the ring on this one.  The worst thing about this book is that it made me want to run more than I could at the time.  Don’t read this book while you are recovering from an injury or you might try to sneak in for a run.

Parker bring his imaginary runner, Quentin Cassidy, to life.  It brought back many memories of college life.  Our antics were different, but we had plenty of weird traditions and antics.  I roomed with 3 other guys from the cross-country team senior year and we had a great time – those bonds are amazing and long-lasting.

This book sat on my Amazon Wish-List for quite awhile until my wife got it for me for my birthday.  I quickly finished this book which intermixes fictional characters and stories with real life hero’s such as Frank Shorter.  Quasi-villian John Walton was based off of John Walker (according to Wikipedia).

I’m sure many of us dream of running a sub-4 minute mile but Cassidy is actually really close before, stupid southern small town politics get in the way and almost ruin his career.  I won’t give anything away but he puts in some killer miles and some killer workouts – 60 x 400 with 200m rest.  The Trials of Miles is brutal, even for an elite athlete like him.

I highly recommend reading this book and getting re-inspired to “pound the pavement” and reach your goals.  I’ve not heard a bad word about this book.  What do you think of it?

[tags] Book Review, Once a Runner, John Parker, Running [/tags]

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Cross-country skiing (skating style) in Einsie...

Image via Wikipedia

Do runners really have an off-season?? Does any athlete really have an off-season???

“Off” might not be the best word to describe what happens between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Maybe down time or to use a more technical term: periodization.

Periodization is often used in the triathlon world to help them focus on the three different sports within their event.  Runners also sometimes use the term in training, such as a base period, a hill period, and a taper period.

Webster defines the off-season as:

a time of suspended or reduced activity ; especially : the time during which an athlete is not training or competing

If you tear it apart and redefine it as: a time of reduced activity or a time during which an athlete is not competing, then we can have a real off-season. Most athletes of all makes and models probably don’t take more than a few weeks off with out any physical activity.

In college we would take 2 weeks off at the end of cross-country and then start base-building for track.  Then when our track season ended we took 2 weeks off and started the process all-over again for cross-country.  In our program we had some flexibility but that was the expectation and you suffered the consequences for your action or inaction!

So what does all this babble really mean to you and me?  For the most part we should be doing some type of cardiovascular workout all year long.  Lots of research has shown that two-three weeks is a safe amount of time to take off without any real detriment to your overall fitness.  For some of us, after our fall races we’ll take some time off and then bounce back up and run all winter long.  Most people cut back completely on their running.  I think the key is to find a nice balance during the winter down-time.  It is important to keep the cardiovascular system strong and healthy all winter long – so any type of cardio work is a must.  This is a good time to let your legs, feet, hips, or whatever to completely heal.  Use the bike, elliptical, or row machine.

I ran through the winter last year, trying to avoid the dreadmill at all costs. I was training for an April half-marathon so I needed to be running as much as possible.  Beyond running though winter is a good time to pick up some other activities – here in Minnesota many runners cross-country ski to maintain fitness.

This winter I am really going to focus on building my strength.  During our down-time, off-season, or winter period it is a good time to focus on the other important aspects of running.  Things like a strong core that can really improve your running form and stamina.  Or what about flexibility?

YES!! This winter I am going to work hard on my core and maybe hit some weights at the gym.

I have all the equipment I need at home to work on my body’s core.  I just need the focus and determination.

Will you help hold me accountable?  I haven’t decided on what exactly I will do, but just the idea of work.  It will probably include push-ups, maybe even 100 of them.  Stay tuned for more details…

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Race Review: USATF-MN 10k

This race served as the USATF-MN Cross Country Championships.  As with collegiate championships this year it was a 10k.  Fitting for the mid-November race, it was cold and snowy when I awoke.  By the time we got to the race course, another golf course, the snow had stopped falling but the ground was very wet and soggy.

The course was 4 laps meandering around the golf course hitting a few good sized hills each time and rarely more than a couple hundred yards of flat terrain.  Knowing the course would be hilly and wet I secured a new pair of cross country spikes. They did a good job for me.  I didn’t slip and fall and I don’t really remember sliding at all while climbing the hills.  The Nike Zoom Waffle XC 7 did an excellent job.  With the waffle it is only a 4 spike bed. My toes hurt a little bit from jamming but I think that is due to the hills and I should have cut my toe nails!

Each lap was 2,500 meters long and the only distance marker on the course was the 1 mile mark.  So if you wanted to do that math that’d be 1600 meters which means that each lap after passing it you had about 900 meters to get to the finish line.  This was helpful on the last lap.  I felt really good at the start and went out with a few guys from my team.  We sorted around a little and ended up with a pack of 3 until about midway into the 3rd lap. At that point I started dropping back a bit.  I tried not to let them gap me too much and we all finished within 20 seconds of each other. It was a little disheartening to see Chris pull off the course in front of me during the 3rd lap as I was starting to get tired, but I struggled on and it looks like he’ll be ok.

I didn’t have much of any kick at the end but the finish was also kind of uphill. The cold made it a miserable day. On the way home a bank thermometer said “32” so it was right around the freezing mark for the run.  Most of us ran in long sleeves and shorts.  Once you got moving your legs weren’t too cold, until you stepped in a puddle or something! There was no precipitation for our race, it was snowing/sleeting for the women’s 5k.

The course had 2 bad spots.  One was over a 90 degree turn around a tree that was on the edge of the rough. The other was a hairpin turn around 500 meters to the finish.  Both of these caused me to slow down a little, even though I tried running them a little wide.

I finished the race in 43:09 which is 6:57 pace. (That is faster than last week’s 6:59 pace for a shorter run!) I was 6th on our 3rd place team and 32nd out of 39 overall.  The winning time was 33:23 by Christopher Erichsen of Collegeville TC.  As I was coming around the hairpin turn on my 3rd lap I saw the gator in front of the leaders and vowed not to let myself get lapped.  (I didn’t!) Our women’s team placed 4th in their 5k (which was 2 laps of the same course, run after our race).

[tags] USATF-MN, Cross Country, XC [/tags]

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Race Review: Rocky’s Run 8k

The Rocky’s Run 5k & 8k brought back a lot of college memories for me.  I’ve done a lot of trail races since college, but this is the first “cross country” race.  So many things about it were similar to a cross country meet.

Location – a golf course, we ran on a few golf courses throughout my career, most notably the Notre Dame Invitational.

Format – this event was a 5k and 8k.  The women’s USATF race was the 5k and the men’s was the 8k – just like in college.  NCAA men run a 10k championship race, my alma mater was NAIA so we stayed at the 8k all year.

Weather – this was like an early season race, warm and sunny! My first collegiate 8k was at Purdue on an extremely hot morning.

Team – This was part of the USATF Team XC series.  We cheered for our female teammates (and Kirk who ran the double so he could score in the Grand Prix) and they cheered for us. All of the other factors heightened the team feeling.

Ok, but what about the race? This was my hardest workout since Twin Cities so I pretty much had no expectations going into it.  When you have no expectations you can come out happy! I ran a 34:40 which is just at 7 minute pace and we actually cut off a little piece of the course.  How does a golf cart mislead the race leaders?? I finished 44/87, just missing the top 50%. But I was a 1:20 faster than the average!

The course was fairly hilly, nothing major but lots of little ups and downs that wear on you over 5 miles.  The course had a lot of turns and made numerous loops (see picture).  Since this was my first year here I had no idea where in the world we would be going next, except for seeing the string of people ahead of me, occasionally.

I think I may have been a little dehyrdated.  The sunny conditions took some out of me.  The nicest thing though was how short the race felt compared to the marathon. And the rest of the day I wasn’t sore or tired.  What a nice feeling.  It did help that I had an hour to lounge around after the race talking with Nathan and Mike, while we waited for AAA to retrieve Nathan’s car keys for him!

Another little highlight of the morning was the fact that the Rocky’s Run raises money for the University of Minnesota’s Women’s Cross Country Team‘s scholarship fund. After the 5k it was announced that their Varsity team won Big Ten Championships! You can read more about the story of Rocky here.

[tags] Rockys Run, University of Minnesota, XC [/tags]

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Favorite Runs

Enjoy changing scenery? Like the soft surface of trail running? How about seeing wildlife on every run?

Those are all experience you can have at one of Central Indiana’s best running spots. Mounds State Park, in Anderson has a little bit to offer every runner. Mounds may be one of the smallest state parks at only 280 acres, but there are still enough trails to please most runners.

The biggest problem with Mounds is that there isn’t much flat trail to run on. So whenever you get hurt you have to cut Mounds out for a little while. I personally run a 3 or 5 mile loop (or some combination) whenever I run there. I know of runners who have completed 20-milers out there! Yuck! There are probably 6-7 decent size hills with names like K-Hill, Cinder Block, and Step Hill. Many people do interval workouts including one of my favorites the Spaghetti Bowl. It is hard to describe each hill or workout, or even the courses, but here is a good map of the trails. The trails are described in this brochure (pdf) available at the gatehouse.

Mounds is home to the Anderson Road Runner’s 26th annual 5 Mile Run the Mounds. This year it also hosted the DINO Series 5K and 15K races. It is also home to Highland High School and Anderson University’s Cross Country courses. Needless to say, in the fall it is a busy place with high school and college runners everywhere!

I would encourage every runner to spend some time at Mounds. I’ve seen at least one deer each of the times I’ve run out there the past few weeks, including a doe and 2 fawns! My recommendation is to take it easy the first couple of times out there and like any training slowly build up mileage and intensity. It can be a brutal run, but it is so fun.

There is a small entry fee: $4 per carload M-Thurs and $5 Fri – Sun and Holidays. Or get a State Park pass for $36.

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