It’s got to that time of year when it’s time to say farewell to Cross Country for another year. Whilst this season has been my strongest cross-country season yet by far, I am glad to be coming off the mud and onto the road. It’s nice to have different focuses for the year, but I now feel ready to do some speedy racing and focus on improving my times.
So, how does XC racing compare to road?
One of the main differences in racing cross country compared to road racing is the preoccupation with time. When you are racing XC you run as hard as you can for X amount of km and focus on position. Time is irrelevant in cross country as no two courses are the same, and NO course is completely flat, therefore you can’t compare your times across races (especially if it’s proper British cross country). It is much more important to focus on position and effort in cross country. Give it all you have and dig deep. It is tough, but it’s worth it at the end!
In contrast, time is a major part of road racing. Whilst position does come into play, and some races are more tactful than other, the main focus is to improve your time over the distance you are focusing on. If you are working towards a specific time you may wish to pace the race in a particular way. Whilst I do not pace myself according to my watch in road races, and just give it all I have from start to finish, some people find it better to work with their watch to achieve the time they are chasing. Road racing allows you to put your hard speed work, and winter miles to the test, by allowing you to see what times you can produce. As the season goes on you are constantly working on improving your times.
Whilst it is fun to work towards achieving PB’s on the road and track, it is great to have the cross-country season to break up your goals and give yourself another focus. It can be mentally tiring chasing PB’s constantly, therefore changing your focus can be vital to ensuring you go into the summer season feeling refreshed and determined.
How do I prepare?
Training in preparation for Cross country, over the road and track does tend to vary. Whilst the winter involves lots of tough hill session and longer reps, the summer months see the end of hills, and an increase in speed work. Whilst there is no dramatic change in my overall weekly mileage, the specific sessions I do change significantly. I will also do more faster reps, to try and get the speed back in my legs for track. Throughout the summer months, races are more frequent, therefore I will naturally do fewer long sessions to allow my legs to recover before/ after races. In the build-up to a race I will focus much more on quality, rather than quantity, especially if I have quite a few races in one month.
My pre-race preparation for Cross country, road and track is pretty similar. I have the same pre-race breakfast, do the same warm up, and get my mind focusing on the task ahead. However, I do find myself adopting a different mindset in the buildup to XC and road races. Having struggled in the past, especially with cross country, I constantly remind myself of my strength. Cross country can be a killer, and whilst I love hills, you can’t always prepare yourself for the toughness of the course ahead. I find it so important to keep reminding myself that I am strong enough, and I do have the ability to perform well in cross country. Whilst I do tell myself I am strong enough when it comes to road races and track, I find I am able to get in the zone and block out what is around me much easier as I am less worried about the actual course itself, it is more a fact of telling myself I can race as fast as my mind lets me.
There are loads of other things that make XC, road, and track races very different, but these are the ones that I find the most significant. oh, and of course, the fact there is NO MUD on the road or track!!!!!!
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!