Mail Bag: Question on difference in form in CC compared to Track.

I've gotten some questions about my comment on the cross-country race that my running form/mechanicsdon't suit that type of race. First we will go withthe simple explanation that I am a rhythm runner and atrack type runner. This means I run best when I getinto a particular rhythm with my stride. This can'toccur on a muddy/hilly Cross country course because the course and thus my stride is always changing. Another thing that comes into factor is the ground. With mud I lose a lot of the force because I don't getthat nice rebound effect of a hard surface (like atrack).

That should satisfy most, but I know many are lookingfor a complex/scientific explanation. Since I'm lazyand don't feel like going into a big spiel onmechanics (maybe later), I'll give way to a recentarticle that I read that basically asks the questionof why certain athletes can run faster/slower compared to their track times. It's by Renato Canova and was published in New Studies in Athletics. Here are thepertinent excerpts in regards to mechanics and CC:

"The first quality that needs to be investigated isthe elastic reactivity of muscle fibres. As we know reactivity can be invoked when there is a firmsupport. On a very hard surface, the amortization phase of the running stride, the subsequent loading phase and then the elastic response are totally dependent on the athlete's muscle fibres, since the running surface absorbs little or no energy at all.This situation favours athletes with high elasticity and allows them to enhance technical efficiency, reduce energy cost and so maintain high speeds forlonger periods. When the running surface is elastic, for instance in the case of indoor tracks built on raised panels, the amortization phase is longer, the reactive response is delayed and its intensity reduced. Efficiency is not reduced, however, because the surface itself returns the stored elastic energy,thus creating a rebound effect on the touch down foot.

The situation is very different when, as is often thecase in cross-country races, the running surface absorbs energy but is not reactive. The foot sinks into the soft, muddy surface and elastic strength, both from the athlete's reactivity and the soil'srebound effect, becomes ineffective. In the case ofmost middle distance runners, a high muscle reactivity corresponds to a low general strength level, because the elastic component of the muscle is more developed than the contractile component. Consequently, the better class athletes tend to be handicapped, as opposed to athletes having greater strength and less elasticity - those who use a "low", almost "pulling", action."

California trip

Well I learned a couple of things this weekend.

1. I am not a "mudder." I actually already knew this, but it was confirmed this past weekend. My running style doesn't suit mud very well. I lose too much with each stride.

2. I definately did not have enough hill work for this XC race. This I kind of expected. I am okay on hills but not great. I tried to run on hills and do some longer hill work leading up to this race but living in Houston and having to commute 45min to classes 3 days a week limited my trips out to the only park (20min drive) around that has any substantially long hills.

Other than that, the race went okay. It was just frusterating because I would fly past people on the flat, and then fall back on the hills. So it was like I was running a fartlek for 10k, which is not a lot of fun.

Besides that, the trip was fun. It was good to get in a big competitive field and mix it up and have some fun. Also, my running form was good throughout (well not for mudding, but for what I'm working on which is flat/track running). I also had a nice kick which was mostly due to the fact that the last part was flat and I could finally open up some and go. Breathing recovered very quickly after, so that was a good sign. Although my legs are pretty beat up and sore, plus I got a couple nice spike marks, including one that got my on the shin bone. It'll probably take a couple days to get back to normal. That means easy days for a while now.

Back to training now and figuring out where to go and race during track. The plan is to mix it up quiet a bit this year. Try some 800s, 1500s, miles, 3ks and a 5k. Just have fun with it. So I'm looking forward to that! No idea where I'll be racing though. Looking around for meets I can get into that will be good and competitive, so if you got any suggestions let me know.
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