Soleus? More like soLAMEus



NAIA XC National Championship 8K

November 18, 2017

Ft. Vancouver National Historical Site

Vancouver, WA


Level, Goal, Completed?


A+: All-American, No

A: 25:30, No

B: Sub-26, No



Training


Been great. I've had a little variance in performances in workouts, but the trend for the season has definitely been faster. Workouts that made me think I might be All-American shape (25:15 or faster, most years) were:


  • 3.5 weeks out - 10x800m @ 2:20-2:25, 2:00 rest - felt really good on this one. Everyone had a designated "hammer" 800, mine was number 7. Hit 2:24-2:25 for most of the first 6, then 2:17 for 7, then a 2:27 and closed out with a 2:20. Led the group with a 3:47 1500 guy for most of the workout.

  • 2.5 weeks out - 5x1 mile @ 8k pace, 2:00 rest - felt like garbage on this one. Stayed at 5:12-5:15 for all the repeats but I felt absolutely awful. Felt the lactic acid building up by the second one, by the third one I was just putting my head down and doing everything I could not to fall off the pace. Wound up being a good mental exercise, and I knew if I could hit 5:1X-low on a really bad day I was in good shape.

  • 2 weeks out - 15 mile LR @ 6:09 average - Basically just a really stupid fast LR with one of our top guys, but I was feeling amazing. We wound up coming through the last two miles in 5:3X despite wind and hills. Realized afterward that I'm definitely in better shape than I ever have been; I'd just run faster than my old MP as a comfortably fast pace on a post-race LR.

  • 1ish week out - 4 mile tempo, 15k pace to 10k pace to 8k pace - last full workout of the season, decided to make it a good one despite some wind. Splits were 5:31/5:21/5:17/5:08, and I felt like I could have gone another mile at the end.

  • 5 days out - 1 mile, 3:00 rest, 2x800m w/ 2:00 rest, 2x400m w/ 1:00 rest, 2x200m w/ 1:00 rest - Coach said start at 5k pace for the mile and get faster, so I did and it all felt easy. Splits were 5:03, 2:30, 2:26, 1:11, 1:08, 30.8, 30.1. Product of an 11 mile LR on Sunday so legs were extra fresh, but I was very happy with it.


The week of Nationals we had no mileage goal, mostly just slightly shorter easy runs after the workout Tuesday.



Getting There

We left OKC Wednesday morning, took a plane since it would have been a very long drive. Arrived in Portland around 12:30, got our bags after like an hour (lots of baggage claim issues), then ate Subway and went to the hotel. Went for a nice easy hour long shakeout around Salmon Creek Park, about a mile from the hotel. We were all in love with Pacific Northwest running; the rain was just enough to keep us cool once we got rolling, the air felt so fresh, and the trails were beautiful. Got back, had someone pick up Applebee's, watched Hacksaw Ridge (intense), went to bed.


Thursday we previewed the course, which was a beautiful example of a classic XC course. 2k loop that we'd run 4 times, huge pine trees along the sides, a few hills, a couple muddy patches (although nowhere near as many as we thought there'd be considering the amount of rain they'd gotten), even a few trees smack dab in the middle of the course. Worst part was a ~250m long hill that started about 400m from the finish. It started shallow (~2% grade) for the first 150m or so, then got super steep for 100m (13% grade) before hooking 90º left for the last 150m. Absolutely sapped your legs, then Got a feel for where we could surge, where to kick, etc., then left to get lunch at Panera before going to the hotel. Hung out for a bit, hot tubbed, napped, went to dinner at a local pizza place. Super tasty. Sat in the bar area because I'm an adult now.


Friday was pretty chill, just had to get our run in before lunch at Subway next door to the hotel. Had the team banquet at a Hilton in downtown Vancouver, they had a pasta buffet and it was absolutely everything I dreamed it would be. Legit the best meat and alfredo sauces I've ever had. They had a couple former national champs come for a Q&A session that honestly kinda sucked, the only halfway interesting question was what they did to stay mentally strong after an injury. Most of the questions were stuff like "waffles or pancakes?" from guys who think they're funnier than they are (stupid XC runners, am I right?); the girl still managed to make her answer to waffles or pancakes last like five minutes though. Got back to the hotel around 8, had a brief team meeting, went to bed early.


Race Day


felt a bit of tightness in my left soleus but it seemed to loosen up with stretching after a couple miles. Did some drills to stay warm, headed to the line for check in at 10:15. Uniform was white shorts and a snazzy looking black singlet with a big, blocky, white O on the chest instead of the usual blue or white singlet with white or blue OCU on the chest. Being ranked 6th, we knew we might have people watching for our blue jerseys, so we wanted to go for the sneak attack.d 40s with no wind and partly cloudy skies. I saw my aunt, uncle, grandpa, and cousin as I was getting ready for my warm up, they had driven out to watch me race which was awesome. My aunt's a photographer, and she said she'd snap a couple pictures when she could (samples at the end of this report). Started to warm up around 45 minutes out (race was at 10:30), I felt a bit of tightness in my left soleus but it seemed to loosen up with stretching after a couple miles. Did some drills to stay warm, headed to the line for check in at 10:15. Uniform was white shorts and a snazzy looking black singlet with a big, blocky, white O on the chest instead of the usual blue or white singlet with white or blue OCU on the chest. Being ranked 6th, we knew we might have people watching for our blue jerseys, so we wanted to go for the sneak attack.


The Race: First 2K

Gun went off right at 10:30, everyone took off. Our box was almost right up against the flags, but in a good way. The first turn was a slight right, so as long as we got out fast we had a great spot. I did not get out fast enough (even though I came through the 800 in 2:26) and wound up right in the thick of the crowd. First mile was 5:02, although I had my watch set to 2k splits (goal was to never go slower than 6:30 per lap) so I didn't know it at the time. Hit that first hill, it was draining but I was fresh enough that it didn't take too much out of me. Watch beeped at the 2k, 6:23 for the lap. Announcers... announced... the top three right about here, our fastest guy (Mark Shaw, went sub-30 at the Chile Pepper 10k earlier this year, gave Alex George a run for his money on his home course) was in third.


Laps two and three

I tried to surge a little to catch some bodies that would surely be slowing after the adrenaline of lap one, but I felt a twinge of tightness in that left soleus and eased off. Regardless, I knew I needed to come through 5k in sub-16 if I wanted a shot at that 25:30. Hit mile two in 5:20 and tried to gradually settle back into 5:0X, but my dumb calf just refused to loosen up. Over the course of the second lap, it got to the point that I wasn't able to push off of my left foot; every time I did, it threatened to go full cramp on me. Made the hill much more painful than it should have been. Lap two was 6:37, and my calf was getting tighter every stride. Third mile was 5:25, and by the 5k (16:20) it was completely locked up. Not quite cramping, but I couldn't dorsiflex and pushing off was out of the question. Third time up the hill was miserable, and since I had to do all sorts of tweaking to my stride to run uphill with that calf it took way more out of me than it should have. Hit lap three in 6:54, and I knew basically all my goals were done. Only goal was to tough out the last lap without getting passed too much.


The back half of lap three, as the calf was really starting to mess with me

Lap four

Fourth mile was a miserable 5:38. Managed to get back down to 5:20s on the gradual downhill in the first half mile of the loop, hit the smaller hill that marked about 1k left and tried to surge up it but my soleus started to cramp. Tried to use the hill to stretch it out instead so I could start to kick at 800m out, and I did manage to loosen it up enough to pick things back up temporarily when the downhill started. 400m left, the last hill started. Calf tightened right back up as I tried to drive up the first part, then the hill started and it went 100% f-you mode. Shouted a bit and tried to just block it out, but it was a pretty consuming kinda pain. Did everything I could to keep from getting passed after turning the corner and heading into the finishing chute, but I got caught by three or four people. Being seventh man it wasn't the end of the world, but it still sucked since I'm usually the one doing the passing at the finish.


Finish


Came through in 26:42, immediately dropped to stretch out the leg and low key screamed (but like it was for sure a deep, manly scream) as I shifted my weight onto my left foot. Held that for about two minutes until I could walk again, found teammates. Consensus was that the course was tough, only three guys were happy with how they ran, which included Mark who WON THE NATIONAL MEET. He ran one of the smartest races coach had seen in a long time, didn't panic when the favorite got a 30-40m lead on him during the second lap, reeled him back in by 7k, then dropped him in the last 800m.


Post-race


We cooled down while cheering on the girls and waiting for our results. They looked good, our best woman (Aminat) has dominated her races since she started running at OCU (only XC loss was to the future DI national champ at last year's Chile Pepper), so she won by a comfortable margin. The team race looked like it'd be dang close, with three or four teams in the running for the win (including our women). We wound up having to wait until the women's race was almost over for men's results to be posted, then another hour after that for women's results. We both got third; podium finishes, and nothing to shake a stick at, but the women were a little disappointed since they were going into the race ranked first. The men aren't complaining since we were ranked 6th and British Columbia (who also won the women's race) won with 41 points, even if we'd all run 20 second PRs we wouldn't have touched that.


Went to the awards ceremony, where we got the trophy for second overall combined score (men + women, beat by UBC) and Mark and Aminat got their individual trophies. Men and women both got 3rd place trophies, and we all got plaques. All-Americans (three guys and two girls) got medals and plaques, then we headed out. Our celebratory lunch was something real special: Wendy's, Baconators and Frosties for all.

Thoughts


.Amazing season, disappointed with how the last race went but I'm overall satisfied with the last four months. I had some serious progression, and if everyone sticks around for next year, we've got two more seasons with the exact same guys. We could get back to back titles in the next two years, which is awesome. Definitely looking forward to upping miles in the offseason and getting to it during track. Still not sure if I'm doing the 800 or the marathon though, so that's fun.


Photos


Looking pensive as heck post-race

The squad with a couple adoring fans

Three generations of McKinley men

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