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Coach Kedge
Blog #5

by Adam Kedge
Albuquerque NM

Adam Kedge, whose Albuquerque Academy Chargers returns to NTN Finals for the third time in 4 years (7th in 2006 and 10th in 2004),
responds to those who said Blog #4 gave away his secrets about the course at Portland Meadows race track.

Wednesday, November 28th

The secret race plan

Well I’ve been catching a little flack from some people about my latest blog. Look at me, now I’m blogging about blogs. A couple of people commented that I was “giving away my secrets” to racing the course. I never knew I had secrets.

Go back and look at my most recent blog on “The NTN Course”. I omitted a few things. As a matter of fact disregard the whole thing. Just for you, here is the secret plan.

Course overview

The course is generally flat with a few rolling hills. It runs 2 and ½ laps around the infield of Portland Meadows and the surface is a mixture of grass and dirt. Each lap has a series of 4 whoop-de-do hills that are no more than 12 feet in height. Each lap also has two sets of 3 hay bales. The hay bales are not stacked and spread out about 6 yards from each other. If the course was dry it would be firm and rank as easy to moderate in difficulty.

Despite what you may be seeing on the Weather Channel, the weather will not be a factor. We all know that some of those TV stations are filled with propaganda. Besides, the Weather Channel is run by people that they have an east coast bias, just jealous of the sunny and warm Pacific coast. The reality is Portland is in the middle of a drought right now, the course will be firm and fast. The temperature should be a cool 72 degree. I even recommend you bring your sun block! Before the race you may want to pour a bottle of cold water over your head to keep your core temperature down.

The 1st kilometer

The start is on the east side of Portland Meadows infield. It is wide enough for every team to line up 5 – 7 of their runners on the front line. It runs counterclockwise and nearly flat for the first 250 meters until there is a slight uphill and a sweeping left turn. At turn #1 you want to be in a tight pack with your teammates. Take turn real tight and accelerate into it.

Last year about 15 – 20 people fell down because they tried to go wide and had to make a sudden turn back to the pack. If by chance you do fall down, don’t try and get up right away! Take your time to shake yourself off and let things thin out a little before you get going again. Once up, sprint at all out speed for at least 400 meters.

Once again the key on the first turn is what you do going into that first turn to stay out of trouble. Remember, sprint, sprint, sprint. At this point you may feel like you are hauling , but you are not hauling fast enough. If you don’t have at least a 40 meter lead pick it up some more. We all saw the video from NTN-1 of the young man that was winning at 200 meter mark. He pointed at the NTN star and then proceeded to tear up the rest of the field for at least another 20 – 30 meters. If I remember correctly, he blew everyone away that day.

In kilometer 1 the course by-passes the hail bales so the runners don’t have to worry about going over them in a huge pack. If you can, while you’re racing, sneak down to the hay bales and jump them a few times on the first lap just to get some practice.

The rest of the 1st kilometer is a mad scramble with a lot of effort put into getting little gains for position. I recommend a 110% effort early on. It’ll pay off later in the race. You’ll need it.

The 2nd kilometer

The 2nd K starts around the finish area of the home stretch of Portland Meadows. It works its way around the first turn, back towards the infield, and then finishes up back at the start area. Included in the 2nd K will be “the lake” with the drought this winter you don’t have to worry about that. There will be no mud or free standing water. If by chance there is any moisture at all, avoid it at all cost. Your spikes are new and you want to keep them clean and dry. One year I asked the hotel concierge for a laundry bag and he said they were out.

As a runner you’ll come to the conclusion somewhere in the 2nd K that it seems like everyone is hauling. They are! Don’t fall into that trap. Anything faster than 7:00 minute miles and you won’t feel the endorphins. This is nationals and you want to have a good time. Keep your cool and implement the race plan I’m giving you.

After the lake are the Whoop-de-do hills. By attempting to jump from one crest to the next you can gain a lot of ground. Making the leap is about tempo and balance.

After the first set of hills it is time to start racing. The sprint / walk method is the best way to run fast. Sprint for all out for as long as you can and then walk until your heart rate gets back to normal.

The 3rd kilometer

The 3rd K basically repeats the 1st K but runs a little lower on the bottom turn of the track. It is here where you go through your second set of hail bails. I’ve talked with a couple of national caliber skateboarders and they gave me a couple of pointers. Big air is the key. The more altitude you can get the better. Think sick-nasty. Finish off with a little splash, a good twist and a quick leg kick.

During the 3rd K you are going to realize that you can’t see the teammates that you are used to being around. Don’t freak out! They are just shaking off the late night and are recovering from the relay race they had in the corridor last night. Stay positive and hold things together.

The 4th kilometer

The 4th K retraces the 2nd K but things are stretched out more. Here is where good pre-race planning kicks in. We all know that a good soak in the hot tub is the best way to prepare for a race. If a 5 minute soak is good a 50 minute soak is 10 times better. Hopefully you did your job last night and got nice and loose.

This K is critical from a momentum standpoint. You should be thinking about your big finish and must take it easy for a while so you have enough energy to look good on the finishing stretch. I talk to my kids often about how important it is to look good. Our goal is to pass as many as possible in the last 100 meters.

During the 4th K, and the whole race for that matter, take the turns wide, remember that last thing you want to do is get mud on that uniform or those new spikes. Don’t freak out if you are in 80th and you’ve never been in 80th place before. The video crew is good at getting a shot of everyone. Besides if you are moving too fast it just blurs the picture.

The last kilometer

From near the start area one last time to the homestretch is crazy. The upper level places are likely decided by now but anything from 4th to about 104th is going to be won on guts. In XC we call it guts but in reality it is a combination of Power Bars and Monster drinks. They are specially made for athletes and the more of them you can consume before the race the better off you’ll be. Hopefully, your coach is buying them by the case.

The final K is huge. NTN is a different beast. Every team here has depth and what used to be your team’s battle cry of “it takes 5 to win” is common place. Your team’s great 5th man is battling with 22 other teams’ great 5th man and 5 or 6 teams’ 6th and 7th man too. In reality, we all know that “pack-time” is what wins races. If by chance you happen to get ahead of some of your teammates, wait for them at the last turn and make sure to all come in together. The team that runs together over the last K is the team that is going to be standing on the podium. Sprint, smile, and wave, Grandma is watching on the computer from home. Last fall there were 4 of us teams that had post race interviews, find someone with a video camera.

Good luck and I hope the overview helps.

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