Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Cross Country

My cross country baptism went quite well considering! It's hard to know how hard I raced as pace comparison with road racing goes out the window when you have to deal with shin deep mud, cratered surfaces and bog holes. At least I headed off the biggest potential problem by buying a cheap pair of spikes the day before. The 7km mens course was three and a half laps of undulating terrain around a farm just south of Bandon GAA Club. As it was a club only event the various clans congregated together at the start line, each group noticeable by their club colours (a charged atmosphere). My warmup consisted of a half mile run to break in my new shoes and saturate my feet and socks to acclimatise them to the task at hand. I forgot how much animal compacted clay has the capacity to hold water, even on hills. My strategy was to start conservative and take it out at a steady sustainable pace, which worked out pretty well and gave me confidence as the race progressed. The first half lap was all about getting used to the terrain - letting go on the down hills and plugging away at an even effort on the uphills. I settled into an even pace/effort and appeared to find my placing ,which when looking back after half a mile was certainly closer to the back than the front. However I plugged away and didn't really mind the energy sapping nature of the surface. While the hills were tough I appeared to be steadily gaining places - one or two runners would surge forward when I came on their shoulder but slow down later as my steady pace caught up and passed them. There was no point in tactics that early in the race. The first mile passed in just under 7:30 pace as we approached the end of the first lap. My biggest worry was my ankles which were working hard as they flexed to support me on the uneven surface. My legs felt great and my heart only came under pressure on the tough uphill sections. Mile 2 also came in at about 7:30 pace - so at least I was maintaining my pace. Halfway through the second lap there was a gap of about 60 yards to the few runners in front and I thought that unless they were going to fade (which I doubted) I was not going to reel them in. However they got closer as the lap progressed and I recognised one of them as Paud from the club. I eventually drew alongside him with just over a lap remaining, encouraging him to come with me. Mile 3 just under 7:30 pace again. I pulled ahead of Paud heading into the final lap. There were 2 guys about 30 yards ahead but I was not gaining despite the fact that one would reduce to a walk on parts of the uphills but start up and pass out the other guy on the downhills and that is how they finished. While I was gaining on the 2nd guy I was not going to catch him by the finish line. Mile 4 had gone by in a little over 7:30 and I was comfortably ahead of the next guy. However with about 200 yards to go I heard the spectators cheer for the guy behind not long after I had passed them and Denis Looney from the Club, who came to support, told me to "watch my back". That was all I needed to put in a strong surge over the last 100 yards to keep my position - if only I had surged earlier and been prepared to embrace a bit more pain I might have caught the guy in front. I crossed over the line in 33:03 for the 4.46 miles the Garmin measured (07:25 pace average with the last half mile at 06:53 pace). A few Eagles were waiting for me at the finish line so I don't think my contribution was enough to make the team results (first 4 in each category - Intermediate, M35 & M50) if one or two were under 35 I may be in the M35 results, in which I think Eagles were third so maybe.......... The M50 team came in second and the Eagle women's team did very well taking first and third individual spots ( I think there were 4 in the top 6 or 7) and winning the team event. Thanks to Denis, Andy and Liam (Coach) who came to offer support and encouragement, much appreciated. One benefit of racing on Sunday was that we were told to ease back on Tuesday's track session covering 3 x 2k with the 7:00 pace group as opposed to the 6:20 group while everyone who didn't race had to do 4 x 2k. - I'm beginning to see the benefits of coaching, certainly a more objective view on training. Wed 11th Nov 2.5 miles in 19:49 (7:56 pace - Treadmill) Fri 13th Nov 7.29 miles in 59:40 (8:11 pace @ 137 HR) with 5 x 1 min Fartlek & 5 x 15 sec hill sprints. Sat 14th Nov 11.73 in 1:36:10 (8:12 pace @ 138 HR) Sun 15th Nov 6.05 miles in 49:34 908:12 pace @ 156 HR) with 4.46 miles in 33:03 (07:25 pace @ 164 HR)
Recovery Week #3 - 36 miles Tue 17th Nov a.m. 2.5 miles in 19:49 (07:56 pace treadmill) p.m. 6.04 miles in 50:15 (8:19 pace @ 139 HR) with 3 x 2k in 8:36/42/28


  1. Interesting. My main worry for cross country would not be the surface but the possibility of getting lapped!

    Have you made any plans for spring yet?

  2. Hey Grellan , check out my race report!


  3. knee deep in mud....sounds like you got to appreciate how the guy in the photo on you blog feels!!!

  4. We dream of shin-deep mud! All we're likely to get is ankle-deep dust.

    For a first XC event you did well Grellan - nicely paced, and good to hold off the opposition near the finish. Now that you have the spikes, try them at the track :)

  5. Yeah looks like you had a solid first outing over the mud, ewen you can have as much English mud as you like, i'll only charge you a shipping fee :]

  6. Thomas the laps were long enough to avoid lapping. I'm pretty much committed to the Barcelona Marathon on 7th March (flights were too cheap to resist & Adrian booked them over a month ago - still haven't signed up though). Still thinking of connemara as well - although time is running out.

    Diarmaid, welcome to blogsphere.

    Ewen, I've never raced on the track however the club is planning on some 3,000m races in the new year - would I need spikes for them?

  7. Hi Grellan

    That sounds like a really interesting race. It almost seems like you would have to throw your usual expectations out the window with that kind of terrain. I do think it is amazing how you were so consistent with your pacing. I need to find a way to do that myself as that is certainly the most efficient way to run.

    Take care and congrats on a great result and placing.