Friday, 22 February 2013

Mud, glorious mud

Finally I've got a few minutes to write about last Saturday's Southern Cross Country at Parliament Hill.

Pre-race much of the talk was about whether the orginal event shoudl have postponed from January because of the weather and what effect it would have on the strength of the fields. Without having visited the course on the originally race days its hard to say whether postponement was the right decision, however getting the race back on even with reduced fields was definitely a good call - once races miss a year its very easy to miss more and slide into oblivion.

For those unfamiliar with the Southern its a throw back to the old days when championship cross country races were 9 miles. In recent years the international 12km standard has been adopted for our regional and national championships but the Southern stuck with the old 9 miles - one of the few occasions when failing to move with the times is a good thing ! This makes it a real test, especially as the hilly course can get pretty muddy in places.

On the start line I was having some good banter with Ben Noad and a few of the other more 'experienced' runners at the expense of the low mileage/interval trained runners who were about to suffer for their lack of real endurance. Whilst club mate Frank Tickner put on a demonstration at the front of the race I had probably my best XC race for years as I worked my way through the field from about 50th at the top of the first hill to 30th after 1 lap, 19th after 2 laps and eventually into 14th place a stones throw behind my old sparring partner Huw Lobb who had a good day in 13th place as he also prepares for a spring ultra marathon.

The trick on a course like this is to manage your effort, saving energy through the mud and big hills so that you can use on the faster parts of the course. And of course controlling yourself on the first of 3 big laps so you have something left for the last lap otherwise you can easily find yourself treading water in the thick mud in those closing miles.

Reflecting on what has contributed to a better than usual performance 2 things stuck out for me. I've been doing more longer hilly runs this winter as I gear up for my first 100km race in the spring and that definitely gave me a strength in my legs that has been missing since my last full marathon buid up in 2009. And the second thing has been getting to grips with cross-country skiing this winter which seems to have had a positive impact on my glute and hip flexor strength and mobilty enabling me to run through the mud like I could 20 years ago - more on the cross country skiing in a future post.

And if you are reading this having also run on Saturday and your legs are still tired then you are not alone ! While I felt great at the finish its fair to say that my legs have been pretty battered all week and are only just starting to feel right again. Looking forward to nice supercompensation from the effort :-)

Long live the 9 mile Southern at Parliament Hill !

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