GEAR

MAS­TERS CROSS COUN­TRY

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENTS - BY LUCY SMITH

Fall 2015 XC Run­ning Ap­parel

AF­TER MONTHS SPENT rac­ing on con­crete and as­phalt, go­ing onto the trails for cross coun­try run­ning can be a valu­able com­ple­ment to your late-sea­son rou­tine. Trail run­ning pro­vides a men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenge for ath­letes. When I was train­ing and com­pet­ing as a full-time triath­lete and duath­lete, I would look for­ward to cross coun­try sea­son as a way to fo­cus on run­ning for part of the year. With only a few run spe­cific weeks af­ter the last triathlon, I could use the sig­nif­i­cant strength I had gained through cy­cling to my ad­van­tage on trails. I love to race, and run­ning cross coun­try gave me a chance to ex­tend my sea­son with­out the risk of burnout. The op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus solely on run­ning also re­newed my sense of prow­ess as a run­ner, which is a strong psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage. Fin­ish­ing with a killer run is one of the most re­ward­ing as­pects of triathlon and triath­letes should do all they can to set them­selves up for a con­fi­dent fin­ish.

In Canada and the U.S., cross coun­try rac­ing gen­er­ally starts in late Septem­ber and runs through late Novem­ber, mak­ing it a per­fect al­ter­na­tive for late-sea­son train­ing. There is usu­ally a sched­ule of races (found through your pro­vin­cial run­ning as­so­ci­a­tion web­site) for elite and age group ath­letes, with qual­i­fiers and op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tend the Na­tional Cham­pi­onships as ei­ther an open or mas­ters ath­lete (40+). Shortly af­ter the Na­tion­als, the Xterra Trail Run World Cham­pi­onships hap­pens on Oahu, Hawaii, a tough 21.1 km event that in­volves a sear­ing mile-long climb at the 16 km mark as well as breath­tak­ing views. Xterra worlds is sig­nif­i­cantly longer than most stan­dard cross coun­try races, which are usu­ally eight to 10 km for mas­ters, but for triath­letes (es­pe­cially those com­pet­ing in the 70.3 dis­tance), is a per­fect com­ple­ment to the train­ing you’ve done all year.

Run­ning cross coun­try also helps de­velop bal­ance and agility, foot and an­kle strength, as well as down­hill and up­hill run­ning strength.

Run­ners get good at adapt­ing to change of pace and heart rate and be­ing smooth over var­i­ous sur­faces like long grass and gravel.

One of the big­gest ben­e­fits to cross coun­try is learn­ing to sus­tain dis­com­fort and ef­fort. Un­like triathlon, where you run a con­trolled pace off the bike, care­fully mon­i­tor­ing your heart rate zones, cross coun­try is closer to an all-out ef­fort. If your coach has ever told you that you need to em­brace the “hurt” a lit­tle more, cross coun­try will teach you this. Cross coun­try races are typ­i­cally mass starts and very fast, re­gard­less of the dis­tance. Com­mon among lo­cal cour­ses is a 100 m of grass field fol­lowed by a nar­row track. This means get­ting into po­si­tion be­fore the bot­tle­neck is cru­cial. Even at Xterra worlds, the start is a crazy 100 m of down­hill be­fore a se­ries of leg burn­ing and un­re­lent­ing hills over the first 5 km.

To switch to cross coun­try at the end of a triathlon sea­son, I sug­gest mak­ing run work­outs your fo­cus, but con­tin­u­ing to do two to three rides a week in­clud­ing one longer one of two to three hours. The other rides should be re­cov­ery rides of 60 to 90 min­utes be­tween run work­outs. Start train­ing on trails and sur­faces that mimic the races you want to do, so lots of grass, gravel paths and for­est trails.

If noth­ing else, run­ning cross coun­try makes you tougher. Con­di­tions can be down­right aw­ful (think snow, rain and mud) giv­ing ath­letes an op­por­tu­nity to rise to the oc­ca­sion and de­velop re­siliency.

FOOTWEAR

For trail run­ning I rec­om­mend get­ting a good light­weight trail shoe. I have tested out many trail shoes, and the best ones are light, flex­i­ble, have great grip and have a good rock plate build into the mid­sole. The rock plate re­ally saves the day, as you can run con­fi­dently over stumps, roots and rocks with­out wor­ry­ing about get­ting in­jured through the sole of the shoe.

For rac­ing reg­u­lar cross coun­try, a pair of cross coun­try spikes is rec­om­mended for grass or win­ter con­di­tions, as the pin spikes screwed into the out­sole of the shoe pro­vide grip and con­trol on slip­pery sur­faces. What­ever shoe you choose to race in, make sure you try it out in train­ing be­fore you race, and make sure you triple knot the laces… the un­der­brush and con­di­tions make loose shoe laces the bane of the cross coun­try racer.

Life­s­port coach Lucy Smith is a top mas­ters run­ner and a five-time Cana­dian Cross Coun­try Cham­pion. Fol­low her: life­s­port­coach­ing.com

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