It's mid July and cross country programs all over the country have begun their season training by now.
That includes us down here in Texas.
Whether that is good or bad, early or late, or exciting or down right miserable, it is what it is.
This is the sport we love and to be good and prepared, you've gotta do what you've gotta do.
While the youth across the nation are all working on their fitness and getting their mileage for the upcoming season, it's just not all quite the same route to the top for everyone.
Texas is just a little bit different. It is a special place. Conditions here are a bit different than others.
Summer Training Challenges
First and foremost, the heat can not be overlooked when you discuss Texas. The weather down here is absolutely brutal. Many of you all may be used to the climate here, but I'm originally from Illinois and I'm still adapting (Even though, I moved here in 2001).
Many teams hold their practices in the mornings. I try to get my runs in the a.m. as well. At 6:30 a.m., It is 85 degrees and super humid and those are good days. Some days have been in 90s by time I finish my 45 minute runs. When that's the case, the rest of the days will no doubt feel like those inside an oven type day.
Concrete And Hard Surfaces
Many programs near the larger Texas metropolitan areas have to rely on running on streets and sidewalks. I've never been the biggest fan of running on hard surfaces, but hey what can you do about it?
Too much running on hard surfaces can be dangerous. There is no give when your body pounds on it and the body has to absorb that contact. Constant attention to injury prevention has to be exercised. That means ice bags, buckets, or BATHS!!!!! Consistent changing of running shoes can assist in injury prevention.
Sprinklers And Morning Dew
One of my least favorite things to experience during my morning runs are sprinklers. Have you ever had sprinklers come on during your run through a residential neighborhood or park? Maybe they've already been on for a while and the entire sidewalk and the street are wet. I mean, I'm already soaking wet from sweat in direct result of the punishing Texas sun.Yes, the sprinklers do provide relief form the heat, but I hate wet socks and shoes. Still, concrete isn't conducive to long term health for a season, so it is what it is.
When you run in the morning, it is so humid that even having grass areas to run on will get your shoes wet. The grass always had dew on it, so it's make a decision....stay on the concrete or grass.
Back to the trails, every once in a while I love to get out and get some good scenery while I run. There are a wide variety of natural environments in various parts of this huge and wonderful state, but trust me you've got to be careful. From personal experience, you can go down the wrong path sometimes and we all know that once you've gone so far down a path you can't turn back. The natural habitat of Texas can throw some unexpected loops in a runner's direction. I've hit some trails where you see a snake or two. The movie "Indiana Jones" had quite the effect on me mentally, so when I see one snake, I feel like there are more...several more around. Needless to explain, that I'm not a snake lover!
That's not really too big of a deal for me, I can get passed that. It's the Alligator things down here. I've never seen a real life alligator until I moved here and I don't really need to see any more. I have a fav spot that I like to get some trail running in that I see several "beware of alligator" signs throughout several parts of the trail. I bet that's not a norm for many other states. Needless to say, the pace on my runs pick up in those areas!
And if it's not snakes or alligators, there are other creatures to keep an eye out for when running in Texas. There are scorpions in parts of the state as well as coyotes and other four legged animals I probably can't out run.
I bet the teams in New York, Illinois, California and other areas have their own obstacles to get their fitness and mileage in for their cross seasons, but it's not like Texas.
In November, NXN time will come. Texas and the South Region will once again be over looked. It's going to happen. Nobody goes through what we go through and they shouldn't. We'll make the sacrifice them and for the sport. It is nearly impossible to replicate the NXN race day conditions down here, but It's ok though. Not everybody can win NXN and Heaven forbid the national race have to be in hot and humid weather on a hard and fairly flat 5K course -- conditions that the northern states can't replicate to train for and perform in.