No vacation for runners

Summer training: Rather than taking a few months off, many runners use the time to prepare for the season.

Cross Country

September 02, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

For almost two months this summer, Lauren Capone traveled with her relatives to Europe and visited countries like Italy, Spain, England, Germany and France.

And in between visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Buckingham Palace in London and the Vatican in Rome, the Towson High junior made time to log about 30 miles of running per week.

"It wasn't even a thought to me not to run," said Capone, who won a Baltimore County championship in cross country and placed fifth in both the Class 3A state and North region meets last year. "It's part of what I do."

Capone's passion for training during the summer is symbolic of a growing number of cross country runners who approach the summer not as a time to bathe in air conditioning and watch television, but as the final stage to prepare for the cross country season in the fall.

The way some runners view it, intensive summer training can spell the difference between being a leader or a follower.

"What keeps me out there is the knowledge that the best kids in the state and the country are doing what I'm doing," said Annapolis senior Will Eden, a two-time Anne Arundel County titlist who ran at least eight miles a day with just a handful of off days during the summer. "You have to be willing to do what no one else wants to do."

Cross country is one of a handful of sports that places a high value on conditioning and logging mileage. While there is no rule of thumb on how much training a runner should do, taking an extended amount of time off can usually set back a runner.

Starting the summer with easy runs totaling 20 miles a week and increasing that mileage incrementally helps runners develop a base for the fall season, said Dulaney coach Chad Boyle.

"I encourage my athletes to compare summer mileage to saving money into a bank account. The more miles you put in the bank, the better chance that you have to excel in October and November," he said.

"And I always remind them that championships are won in June, July and August, not in November. There is no other sport where that is more true."

Which is why a runner like Liberty senior Aubrey McNelis stepped out of her family's cabin on a four-day cruise from Miami to Mexico at 10 every evening to run on an outdoor track on the ship's upper deck.

"You lose a lot when you take a few days off," she said. "I didn't want to have to go back and end up doing a lot less mileage than I was doing before."

Some runners don't just limit themselves to trotting through their neighborhoods or racing up hills. River Hill junior Sergiy Zubko got his training in by preparing for triathlons.

Although he spent more time on a bike and in the pool than he did on running trails, Zubko said the cross-training helped him.

"Your heart gets stronger, your legs get a lot stronger," he said. "You just get an overall improvement in your strength and stamina."

Many coaches who stress the importance of summer training require their runners to maintain mileage logs to chart their progress. Others send occasional e-mails to encourage their runners.

Loyola coach Jose Albornoz, for example, e-mails his weekly running totals to his runners.

Anyone who has not exceeded his mileage begins the fall season on the junior varsity.

"At the first day of practice, you can tell who ran and who didn't," said South Carroll coach Rob Pennington. "You've got to do your homework over the summer and pound the pavement."

There are some coaches, however, who prefer quality over quantity. Westminster's Dave Cox said he recommends to his runners breaking up long-distance days with a light day that includes some work on hills or a set of sprints.

And he always tells them to take off two days a week.

"Those rest days are just as important as training days," he said. "In high school, I think it's very appropriate to ease into it during the summer."

Capone admits that she can be obsessive about running.

Even while she was in Europe, she could not get away from breaking out her training shoes and running through, say, the Borghese Gardens in Rome.

There were a few adjustments she had to make in Europe. In Spain, the afternoon proved to be too hot for running and the sun didn't set until about 10 p.m.

Worried about his niece running around by herself, Capone's uncle followed her in a car in Spain and bought a bike during her runs in England.

"It's really important to me," Capone said of running. "It doesn't feel like work to me. I had amazing runs because of the scenery."

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