Seebo's Run

A running commentary on my training and whatever else emerges from that.

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Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Email from Mike

Ed. note - I got this great email from Mike, whom I mentioned yesterday as the closest thing I currently have to a coach. Mike, you'll probably see this here so I'll say thanks and that this is very helpful advice on this weekend for a cross country novice (cross country, for the uninitiated, is substantially different than road racing). I post it because the wisdom in it is worth sharing with everyone other than the Chester County folks, who should kindly refrain from reading past this point. ~sm



Thanks for the compliment in the blog, but you are coaching yourself, I am just happy to help in any way possible. I have said it before, no one can coach an athlete without watching that athlete perform in training and competition (not necessarily all of them), in order to visually assess how the athlete is responding to the training program.

Just a few observations about X-C I wanted to pass on for the race this weekend, not sure it was part of my reminiscences a few weeks back.

Besides the fact that cross-country is about position, sometimes you see courses with funnel starts. What that means is that there is a penalty to be paid for a slow start, because you end up behind people that cannot run as fast as you are in shape to run, yet because of the narrowness of the course, or the difficulty of the terrain (in woods, or on bad footing), you cannot pass them as quickly/easily as you would simply do on the roads. This problem is even more acute in more competitive races where the ability levels of the runners is closer together. What it means is that sometimes you need to really get a good strong start and get a good position when the course narrows.

I am not saying it never happens, but it is not typical for guys starting out near the end to simply start picking off the whole field when it spreads out. Most of the time, after 1.5 miles of a 5 mile race, there are not extreme changes in position.

One of the good things about being on a team is that you can see each other and try to use each other as markers for where you are, where you want to be.

Remember that generally, the shorter the race, the more extensive the warm up. You really do not need to run as a warmup for a marathon, as the average pace feels almost like walking in the early going. It is different for a shorter race where it takes some effort to go from a standing start to your average pace for the entire race. The goal of your warmup is that you are ready to hit your average pace right after the start of the race without any shock to the system.
When I do a good warmup, it consists of about a mile of easy running, but then another mile where I am actually running a bit faster than the first mile. Then any stretching that I need to do, stretch back, legs, do some stretches to prevent side stitches, windmills (clockwise and counter) with each arm to make sure arms are loose and relaxed. Then accelerations back and forth just prior to the gun. What each runner needs is different, you really need to figure it out by trial and error. I do know that I did not warm up very well in HS and a lot of college, and by my senior year in college, when I started doing a serious warmup, I was a better racer.

I used to watch Sydney Maree (US record holder for many years at 1500, 2000 3000 and 5000 meters) spend almost a whole hour warming up (including stretching) before a lengthy track workout (Syd used to sometimes do 16 X 400 meters with a 100 meter rest, he was probably doing the 400's in 60 or a little faster).

This is really an individual thing, but the general rule of more warmup for a shorter race distance tends to apply.

One thing that tends to happen more in X-C and rarely in a longer distance race (like a 13.1 or 26.2) is what they call "oxygen debt." You definitely would have experienced it in any mile/3000 race on track, maybe even 5000 on roads, though you probably would not really experience it for a race as short as 800 meters. You are running hard enough that you are using oxygen up faster than you can take it in. Yet, you are running long enough that you cannot just run anaerobically (without oxygen) as you can do (theoretically) in a 100/200 meter race. Most likely to feel this way on hills, and maybe just after.

You do not need to be the first man up to be a good hill runner. You need to get up smoothly, without being completely out of gas at the top so that you can take advantage of the end of the hill and run the succeeding flat or downhill fast. All kinds of advice out there on how to run hills. My guess is that all the hills you do in training have forced you to find an efficient running form up hills. When I am running them well, I tend to shorten my stride, lean forward a little bit, and focus on picking up my feet, I think there is a little extra flexion in my ankles. Definitely will use my arms in a vertical motion, at a camp I once went to when I was 16, they talked as well about thinking as if you are grabbing an imaginary rope that is just in front of you as you go. The more hills I have been doing in training, the better I tend to run them in races.

You should be fine in this regard. Your workout today is just further proof that you are in good hill shape.

Good luck this weekend, save the caramels until after the race.

P.S. I think DeMar died from stomach cancer-no joke.


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