After losing some of the motivation required to maintain the running volume for ultras, I decided that I needed a bit of a change. Therefore I signed up for the Athletics Victoria winter XCR season, which is comprised of a combination of cross country and short road races. I will start the season slightly out of shape and without any training towards shorter distances, but will now focus my winter training to set new fastest times on shorter distances I have never (or rarely) raced before.
My previous cross country race took place while I was in primary school, with a distance of 3 km. Strangely I ran a loop of the park where that race was held just yesterday.
My first XCR race took place at Lardner Park, offering two 4-km cross country loops with a number of ditches and a fence jump. Despite being an off-road event the vibe was very different to the trail races I am now used to. In trail races runners will normally congratulate someone overtaking them. In contrast I noted how aggressive other runners were when overtaking or turning corners.
Descending the final hill of the course I crossed the start/finish line knowing exactly what was coming in lap 2. I pushed the pace on the first climb of the second loop and continued to overtake runners as I cleared ditches, jumped the fence once more, and then ascended the final climb. A final downhill sprint took me across the finishing line.
The sobering aspect of competing against some of the fastest runners in the state is that I ran flat out to just sneak into the top 40% of the open men’s field. It will be interesting to see how much I can improve as the season progresses, as I hopefully work my way into good form and complete some specific speed training.