Building up, winding down—Getting in to peak shape is a process for cross country runners
As the WAC Championships near, the Vandal cross country teams begin to focus more on speed in their training and cut back on mileage as they get to the “easy” part of their never-ending training cycle.
They’ve run thousands of miles so far this season, and it’s about to culminate into the most important race of the season so far.
But for the Vandals, one of the most important parts of cross country training is the summer running before the season begins.
“Cross country is a long build up,” Idaho senior Jeff Osborn said. “Most of us come off of track and take about a two-week break, and then start back up in June.”
Osborn started his summer running 50 kilometers (more than 31 miles) per week and built up to 120 kilomoters (more than 74 miles) per week, in addition to cross training (biking, swimming, etc.). He said some runners — such as top men’s runner Barry Britt — can get up to 160 kilometers (more than 99 miles) in a week during the summer.
“The work that they put in the summer on their own is essential,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said. “That really kind of forms the big base for what I like to say is ‘the training that allows you to train,’ so when they get here, they’ve got all that running behind them and we can do a little bit more specific work.”
Phipps’ training philosophy involves breaking the training up into four six-week cycles. The athletes continue to build up running volume when they reach campus, but as soon as school starts, the training gets tough with both high volume and high intensity training for the first six weeks of the season. This year, Phipps added more mileage than usual for his runners.
“This season was different than last season because (Phipps) was really hard on us for the first six weeks … even when we were racing he wasn’t easing up on our training very much before the (meets), just to really get a good solid base in … The training that we did six weeks ago is going to fuel us now,” junior Alycia Butterworth said.
She said last season, the Vandals started to “plateau” a little too early in the season. They weren’t getting worse, but they may have stopped improving too soon.
This year, Phipps made sure that wouldn’t happen again with even harder training in those first six weeks. Unfortunately, that also meant early season results may seem disappointing since the focus is on training hard rather than being completely recovered for the early meets.
“It’s a little bit de-motivational, but being coached by Phipps for the past two years, I trust his training scheme completely because he has never done us wrong,” Butterworth said. “I’ve improved every single month, every single season since I’ve been here.”
When the Vandals compete in the WAC Championships on Oct. 27 in Ruston, La., they’ll finally be able to show how their hard work has paid off, and they’ll be doing it on the most important stage.
“I feel really good with the way we are performing in practice and our fitness level,” Phipps said. “We haven’t shown exactly how good we are yet. I think we’ve shown glimpses of it along the way … but I feel really good and really confident going into conference on both sides.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org