Recently we could read on Let’s Run that Hellen Obiri will skip the XC World Champs in Bathurst (Near Sidney, AU). She would like to focus on her Olympic Goals. I think it is a bad idea.
We can see this decision from many athletes. They get too specialized. Specialized for entire or multiple seasons er even for life. I am a marathon runner, I am an ultramarathon runner, I am a 10km to half-marathon athlete and so.
There is a tendency though. Once you box yourself into a type of runner thing, you will stop improving and will start having issues. Not gaining critical speed, not developing power, increasing injuries, having your mind flatlined.
Cross Country is exactly the opposite on it’s own already. Each course is different. This means different race dynamics, different weather, variable underfoot conditions, number of turns, hilly or flat courses, wet or dry, mixed surface events and much more.
It is not only racing what makes the difference. It is only a small part. Specific training to get ready of the harshness of the XC season, what makes this big macrocycle that beneficial.
Normally an athlete have a July wind down, an August deep base, than regular base of September to November. Than XC specific training and racing starts to be in tip top form towards February / March and sometimes early April. Depending on the athlete you are, towards the end you might start working on critical speed to transform into a track athlete and continue training differently, or just “cut” a little earlier and restart with another 45days of different kind of base.
Either ways, no matter what your further goals were, you would still enormously benefit from the strength, power, lower leg resistance and the habit of wearing spikes ! I mean, it just launches excellently well the track or road racing season. It makes you super tough. When you hit those very first interval sessions dialed towards your 800 / 1500 / 5000m season, you’ll feel like unbeatable, unfatiguable and unkillable ! This is a fact !
You lifted weights ! Did many different kind of hill reps. Completed long trail runs. Trained and raced in minimalist shoes on uneven surfaces. You were out in the cold, rain, mud, snow and icy wind. Became a tough Zatopek like running soldier.
Do not skip XC season ! Even if there were no races, do not skip it ! Train like you would have trained. Do not enter your favorite event specific training cycle right from November. It is too early. Burn-out and crashing is highly likely !
Train like a real champ. Get a pair or better 2 pairs of XC spikes. Get some cones to measure out certain distances on race specific terrain. Run !