- NAU Men's Cross Country 2008
The 2008 Northern Arizona Men’s Cross Country team is composed of a diverse group of individuals. Athletes on the team hail from as far away as Finland and Australia. The team’s fastest member, Dave McNeil, traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia in order to run for the Lumberjacks. His compatriot, Ben Ashkettle, also made the trip to run for the Lumberjacks. Within the United States, the Lumberjacks can claim representatives from Illinois, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oregon, and California. Surprisingly, only three men from Arizona are listed on the roster. Despite the many backgrounds that make up the team, the Lumberjacks are united by a common goal, to run well at an elite level. The Lumberjacks are currently lead by head coach Eric Hines and assistant coaches Seth Watkins and Andrew Carlson. Coach Hines began his career as an assistant coach at NAU in 2001. In 2003 he left NAU to coach for Southeast Missouri State. When NAU began looking for a new head coach in 2007 Hines gladly returned to Flagstaff. Seth Watkins also had ties to NAU before he began coaching. From 2002 to 2006 he was a stand out member of the distance squad at NAU. His accomplishments while a Lumberjack runner include winning three conference championships and one regional title. Coach Carlson is the newest member of the coaching staff. However, his resume is perhaps the most impressive. After a successful collegiate career, Carlson exploded onto the professional running scene in 2008 when he won the US 15,000 meter championships and place second in the 8,000 meter national championships.
Schedule Of Races
Every summer the Lumberjack runners begin to march along the long road to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) National Championships. In personal meetings with Coach Heins, each athlete discusses their goals for the season. Based on this meeting, Coach Heins devises a workout schedule that will prepare the athletes for the coming season. A standard program will call for easy running at 50% of peak mileage beginning in early July. The runners will then increase their mileage weekly until they reach 90% of their goal mileage by the middle of August. Although most of the summer running is meant to be run at a comfortable pace, several long steady-state runs are included in the last weeks of summer. This allows runners to work on aerobic fitness without placing too much stress on their bodies.
Provided that the athletes have followed their summer training plan, a less relaxed training regimen begins at the start of the school year. The early season training focuses on developing the athletes’ ability to run at a moderate pace (faster than comfortable, but slower than race pace) for long periods of time. This type of fitness is important because of the grueling nature of a 10,000-meter race. Several types of workouts are used to achieve this goal. The first of these workouts is the long progression run. This training session is the longest run of the week. Ideally, it will make up 20% percent of a runner’s weekly mileage. The run begins at a moderate to easy pace in order to allow the athletes to warm up. As the run progresses, speed increases. If run properly, the last mile should be one to two minutes faster than the first. The second workout employed in this stage of training is the lactate threshold (LT) run. A typical LT run is six to eight miles long and is run within the range of 5:45 to 5:00 per mile. This may seem to be a slow pace for collegiate level athletes, but due to the decreased levels of oxygen at 7,000 feet, the workout is sufficiently difficult. The final workout of this training block is a continuous hill circuit. This session is comprised of three periods of exertions within a 2200 meter loop. The circuit starts with a 600 meter stretch of hard running up a gradual hill. This is followed by a short period of active recovery in which the runner should not slow down past 7:00 minute mile pace. The next portion of the workout is a 100 stretch over flat ground. This section is run all out and designed to build speed. The final partition of the loop is a 300 meter stretch up a steep hill. The loop is repeated five to six times or until the runner is too exhausted to continue at a respectable pace. (E. Hines, personal communication, September 2, 2008)
The second stage of training is designed to develop speed while maintaining endurance. As in the first stage, the team uses several specific workouts to achieve this goal. Although several LTs may still be run, the tempo run is the primary continuous workout of this phase. A tempo run is a type of workout that ranges from three to five miles run at faster than race pace. This workout teaches runners to function while their legs are rapidly filling with lactic acid, a compound produced by muscles when they are forced to work without oxygen. This ability is key in championship races when runners rapidly increase the pace in an attempt to break the will of the competition. The interval component of this training block is significantly different than that of the first session. The hill workout from the first block contains very little slow running and no standing rest. This is because the primary goal is endurance not speed. Now that speed is a more important goal, intervals increase in speed and standing and jogging rest is allowed. An interval workout in the second phase of training is usually composed of repeats of 1600 to 800 meters run at faster than race pace with about two minutes of rest after each repeat. When running mile repeats the team generally run six repetitions, while the half mile may be repeated as many as ten times. This workout develops leg speed and lactic acid removal. (E. Hines, personal communication, September 2, 2008)
The final phase of training prepares the team for the team for the final push at the conclusion of the season. Every action is made in preparation for the final three races of the year. The Big Sky Conference and Mountain Region meets are both crucial in the team’s journey towards the National meet. In order to qualify for the national meet the Lumberjacks must accrue a competitive number of points at large meet throughout the season. In preparation for these important competitions the team’s training continues to change. Most runners on the team drop their weekly mileage to allow their legs to rest. The total length of workouts also drops and even more attention is paid to speed. The major workouts of this stage are compromised of repetitions of 400 to 600 meters with full recovery. At this stage of the season the team becomes less focused on running demanding workouts and shifts their focus to staying healthy and uninjured. (E. Hines, personal communication, September 2, 2008)
(1) http://nau.newtier.com/index.php?module=pnNews&tid=17(2) http://www.nau.edu
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