Monday, February 7, 2011

USATF Cross Country National Championships

Saturday I ran the USATF Cross Country Championships.  The 12K course was about the same as three years before in 2008.  While it might seem trivial to many Trail Ultra runners, the course wasn't quite as fast as it looked...  With a lot of rain this winter the grass was some what soft, there were a couple boggy spots and due to the men's open race being the last race of 5, the turns were less than fast as well and a bit muddy on a few.  The course had a few small (20' maybe) hills and quite a few sharper u-turns.  With all that said, it certainly was still a pretty fast cross country course.
Two years ago at US Cross

The competition is always phenomenal, with the best young distance running stars always in attendance.   This year's race was particularly good due to location and the fact that next year won't have a world championship (every other year is the rumor) to follow.  The first 30+ runners are pretty much all full-time professional runners with the 30-70th place runners usually consisting of a combination of semi-pro, sponsored and team affiliated young runners.
Last year at US Cross in Spokane

I have done the US XC championship race every year since 2004.  My performance each year has really varied, as I have gone from being younger and still fast from running in College, to just winging the race with not much training, to the last year or two running a bit better, but still not quite to my potential due to skiing, the time of year and not having a dedicated training focus for the distance (marathon).  This year, was certainly no exception (with regards to specific 12K prep) as I have been running long, slow mileage in preparation for Trail Ultras.  I realized leading up to the race that I had not run longer than two and a half minutes (600 to 800M repeats) at a pace faster than maybe 6:45/mile since late November.  Despite my lack of pace specific training for a 12K, I am quite possibly more "fit" than ever.  Needless to say, I was uncertain of how the race would pan out.
US Cross 2008 also in SD

The two weeks leading up to the race I had a muscle stain each week... last week was a muscle (something Gnu) just above and under my knee cap, which resulted in nothing more than 6 miles a day.  Two weeks ago I spent nearly half my mileage on the elliptical due to a strain on my tibia posterior, with the rest of the mileage easy and flat.  Not sure how this factored into Saturday's race, but I'm just happy all my muscles were healthy Saturday!

I began the race conservative, as always, but still faster than my overall average pace.  After the 1K, I didn't get passed the entire race.  The first 2K ended up being about where I wanted it at 6:20 something.     I went through the 5K in 16:31 and the 10K at 33:50.  In hind sight, I feel I probably lost around a minute to 90 seconds by not "racing" with or against anyone from about 4K to 10K.  I passed a few people, but was sort of by myself, slowed down a touch and allowed myself to get comfortable, not good.  I picked it up a little on the last 2K loop and finished, according to the clock, at 40:19, but the results have me at 40:32 (5:24/mile pace), who knows.
1st Place Men's and Women's AF Team 2011

Overall I felt more comfortable during the race than I have in past years, partially due to my training, partly due to fear of not knowing if I could hold a faster pace and lastly, not having my whole head and heart in the race.  I have been eating, breathing, thinking and training Trail Ultras.  Everything from having no problem sleeping the night before, which never happens for me, to overall lack of mental focus and having a solid race strategy... I didn't quite realize my potential Saturday.    

The AF team was victorious over the Army, Navy, and Marines for both men and women.  Our AF team has two full time pro-athletes, the Army 3 and the Navy and Marines don't have a professional athlete program.  I was the 5th finisher of 8 on the AF team, 57th overall, Levi (lives in Boulder and I train with him sometimes) was 3rd on the team and 48 seconds in front of me.
I've linked the results page on the right side of my page.
AF Team Takes 1st at US Cross last year

Overall I am pleased with how my body responded to the race Saturday.  I am certainly encouraged and have validated that my running body is very fit.  I am very excited for the next few weeks of training before the USATF 50 Mile Championships/Nueces in Texas, March 5th!



  1. You and me both trying out some fast races lately. Good job.

  2. Nice work Michael..I ran the Cross champs in Boulder in 2007, and was 90th, which I thought was pretty good for an ultra guy. Man it hurt so bad, but I didnt get lapped, which was nice.

  3. Jason, I might have a change of plans for the trip down to Texas and could possibly be flying. Let me know if you still want to try to work something out to split costs. Send me an email with your travel plans..

  4. Jason, CONGRATULATIONS on winning the USATF 50mile Trail Championship in Rocksprings Texas yesterday!!! ... that's my son, the Dad!