In August Tracksmith invited seven men and seven women to our inaugural cross country camp in New Hampshire. They arrived as strangers, but after a weekend of shared workouts and intense recovery, they left as friends, teammates and competitors.
Fall is descending, cross country is coming. We’ll see you between the tapes.
It‘s a scene any college or high school cross country runner would be familiar with: arriving at pre-season cross country camp with a sleeping bag under one arm, fresh legs and a head full of trepidation. Was the work I put in over summer enough? We’ve got three days to find out.
Ravine Lodge sits at the base of Mt Moosilauke in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 2.5hrs from Boston. The lodge is owned by Dartmouth College and is maintained by undergraduates in return for class credits. It’s a back to basics kinda place, perfect for the needs of a back to basics training camp. We joked that it’s BYOB – as in bring your own bedding. Fresh, clean mountain air, perfect roads, fields and trails and stunning scenery all add up to make Ravine Lodge the perfect place for a team to train, bond and build for cross-country season.
Our seven women undertook their long run first thing in the morning of their first full day in the White Mountains, before the late summer heat really hit. Graded forest roads made for the perfect transitional surface after a spring and summer spent on the road and track.
16 miles at 6:28/mile. Not bad guys – not bad at all.
Our men’s group ran their long run after the women and ran straight into a rain storm. They didn’t seem to mind – if anything, it seemed to make them faster. It made a refreshing change to the 95deg heat they were expecting.
The use of post-run ice baths has been the topic of some debate over recent years. Sure, they can help control post run inflammation, but is that something you really want to do? Maybe not on a day-to-day basis, but when you’re halfway through a hot and humid training camp, nothing feels as good as cooling off in the crystal clear stream that runs right behind the lodge.
Training camps are as much about bonding as a team as they are about training. Just don’t expect much conversation before the main course is served.
Camps always come as a shock to the system. Where else would you run this much, this competitively? Even the best prepared athletes can struggle, as muscles and tendons object to the sudden increase in volume and intensity. Icing sore ankles, knees, quads and calves is essential for some if they want to be up early tomorrow for the planned co-ed relay.
The second full moon of the month was just the excuse James needed to run to the top of Mt Moosilauke at midnight, with just a headtorch and the moon to light the way. He had 17 miles under his belt before dinner, so why not throw an extra six into the mix? After all, running is about adventure as well as racing, and you can‘t come all this way and not see the summit.
Lace up early enough and you can smell the seasons changing. It might be August, but at 5am, with the sun hovering below the horizon and a thick layer of mist covering the football field, it feels like fall. Get used to it – it will be here soon.
The advantage of having your workout done before breakfast is that you get to spend the rest of the day in the sun, shooting the breeze, working on your pre-season tan and giving sore muscles a chance to recover. In the warm glow of at a job well done, the memory of that early alarm call doesn’t seem so bad after all.
All good things come to an end. Tomorrow it‘s back to the real world of squeezing training in around work and family and all the other stuff that’s a necessary part of modern life. Camp may be over, but the memories will live on – sore legs will make sure of that. As will the rich vein of form they’re likely to hit when cross-country season starts in earnest.