“Every time I suffer I am a better man because of it.” ~ Lance Armstrong
I have a new found respect for trail running. Particularly trail races. Today I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 10k in Bellingham with a good friend. It was no joke. Basically for me it was an hour long WOD. Kind of like “Murph” without pull-ups and push-ups but the trail pounded my body anyway. It was a beautiful course, highly challenging, fast and constantly winds it way up and down. I think I prefer this type of running to pavement.
The course description was “Elevations bounce between 200 and 2,500 feet, but do not include any huge, sustained climbs. Rather, the course is always heading up or down. Traverses of broken ridgeline require nimble feet while highly technical sections demand mountain goat skills. Overall, an impressive trail-running test that delivers a balance of fire roads, single track, and double track”.
I would agree with all of that description except the part about not including any huge, sustained climbs. If you say a section of a mile and half of steep, sustained, hill climbing midway into the race that induces the effect of having just completed 100 squat cleans doesn’t count as huge and sustained then you must be one of the people who ran the marathon and ultra marathon distance!
That said I wanted to write this post really to share some observations I received and my reflection on how CrossFit benefited me. Previously being a more disciplined runner that tried to keep my running schedule and weekly mileage consistent I have recently found less time to run daily or to run far. I have relied more on CrossFit for the cardiorespiratory endurance benefit it provides knowing that it would serve me well when needed.
I finished well with a time that for myself was pretty satisfying (40th place out of 179 runners at 1:01). I was smoked at the end of the race with pretty tired legs from the pace coupled with the pounding of flying down sections of trail to try and either catch my running partner or briefly keep him behind me. He easily beat me by a minute and was a very respectable 33rd. The difference between us is he doesn’t CrossFit but is a long distance runner. He most recently was training for a marathon and had up until a couple weeks ago been logging very heavy mileage preparing for a race. I was not. This is not to take anything at all away from him as a runner. Actually it’s the opposite. He really dominated the race well. He is runner that excels in longer distances. The fact that I could keep up with him is a testament to CrossFit knowing I have been relying on running from WOD’s sprinkled with the occasion 2-4 miler here and there.
Which is what leads me to the point of this post, CrossFit works. It specializes in not specializing. It prepares you for a wide range of physical challenges. It’s ability to increase your functional fitness and work capacity such that you can tackle a race, a sport, or physical challenge is amazing. The effect the daily WOD has on your mental toughness is powerful. CrossFit prepared me well enough as an athlete that I was able to accomplish this race today with minimal running preparation and to do it competitively. When I needed it today it was there.