A Week in the Life of an FGCU Men's Cross Country Runner
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | by Jonathan Lanning

Junior Jonathan Lanning (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Military Academy) gives an inside look into the week leading up to the Commodore Classic in Nashville, Tenn.

Saturday, September 10th
Today is a long run. How long is a long run? Well, if you run for pleasure you’ll probably determine anything around eight miles is far enough. If you run to compete for a D1 cross country team, you’ll run fourteen to sixteen miles. Today, Dillon McGee and I were in the latter and ran sixteen miles. There isn’t much to say on how to run a distance like that. You lace up your shoes to run down the miles, or the miles will run you down.

Sunday, September 11th
The seventh day and the seventh run of the week. This means five miles around Ben Hill Griffin on my own. Running with a team is a very social and you tend to speak your mind to pass the miles. On a day like this, you tend to think to yourself to pass the miles. Monday, September 12th

I woke up to my first alarm which I set for 5:31 AM. I always set two alarms, which happens to go off when I’m all the way across the room getting ready. By 5:45, I’m in my car and heading toward Estero Park for 6:00AM practice. It’s dark outside. The sun will not rise to greet us for another hour yet, but fitness waits for no one. Coach breaks down todays run by group: “Group C has six miles, group E has eight. I don’t have anything else to say, so have a good run.”

Dillon McGee and I start out on our distance of eight miles. He and Argeo Cruz are in group E with me, the highest mileage group. Training groups aren’t categorized by ability necessarily, but by a number of factors like age and the ability to handle higher mileage. Some run well on fewer miles, some on more miles. None the less, Dillon and I group up with the guys to begin our run, and end up running most of it with Shane Deeley until he breaks off to finish his six miles. After, the team assembles for strides and core. 8 brisk sprints up and down the center field constitute our strides, which serve to adapt our bodies for upcoming workouts. Throwing water pumps in the mix makes everything come together to make us stronger runners. Water pumps are done by one runner holding his partners foot, while he dips down on one leg in a running like motion. Our core session involves every team member, girls and guys, picking an ab exercise for the team to do. We finish up at around 8AM; two more hours of training to better our bodies.

Tuesday, September 13th
One of the challenges of running long distances is trying to find a hospitable terrain that won’t provoke any injuries caused by running mile after mile. Estero Park has a mix of grass and hard packed dirt trail to be the perfect place to go for our workout. Today is ten minutes hard, 5 minutes easy, followed by another ten minutes hard. After, we are to expect three, two minute fast, two minute easy intervals. The men’s team assembles underneath the pavilion at 6:00AM, ready for the two mile warm up. Drills follow after the spritely two miles, and we’re ready to take on this workout head on. Quickly after we begin, we settle into our groups that most closely resemble our order in our races. I stay with Chris Rudloff, and Sanders Payne; two of our most gutsy runners. The first ten minutes go by fast, and we feel good. The five minutes of easy running in between settles our nerves for the next ten. Soon, we’re off and running, chasing down the clock to finish strong. I finish feeling comfortably challenged, but still up to run the next set of two minute fast intervals. We all stick close together as a pack on these; emulating the race “pack running” mentality. Today was a good day. Today was a quick day.

Wednesday, September 14th
This morning, we meet at the OSC complex, ready for our respective distances. C group is assigned eight miles, while E group is assigned 10. We trudge our way into the first mile, and eventually work up to a respectable pace. As always, I run alongside Dillon McGee for the final two miles after the other groups have already finished. It was a good run; no jarring soreness or stiff legs. The team finishes up with the routine ab workout and drills to call an end to morning practice at around 8:00AM.

Thursday, September 15th
The team finds itself back at Estero Park for 6:00AM practice. The agenda: a twenty five minute tempo. The men’s team and I begin our routine two mile warm up, and then proceed to run through the pre workout drills. Coach informs us that the tempo should be “comfortably hard.” We organize ourselves, and line up to begin the run. Once we begin, we again settle into our race positions. The longer sustained effort helps us to prepare for the upcoming race in Nashville this Saturday. Positions shift back and forth, as we feel out the middle minutes of the effort. We finish feeling race ready. Excitement and team morale is high, and I can only hope the training we are doing will show results this weekend.

Friday, September 16th
At 4:30, I wake to get my things together for the flight to Nashville. The team vans arrive at Alico Arena and in a matter of minutes we are on our way to the Fort Myers International Airport. The flights literally fly by as I take advantage of precious sleep while on the plane. We arrive in Nashville, and head out to lunch at Panera bread. The rest of the day is wrapped around seeing the course, and resting up for tomorrows race. After some initial confusion, we do eventually get to the right course and survey our racing conditions. A long, flat stretch that winds around a hill is our start. We would not be able to see the whole course due to time constraints, but the common feeling around the team is “we can handle it”. The team goes for dinner, and we head in for the night. The one hour gain in time grants us welcome extra sleep for tomorrow’s race.

Race Day, Saturday, September 17th
The Nashville weather was perfect for racing this morning. An approximate sixty five degrees, the air is cool and crisp. The team does a shake loose; a short run to help shake out the stiffness. Fellow Junior Matt Crowe and I head with coach to Star Bucks for some morning coffee. Shortly after at about 7:00AM coach picks up the rest of the team, and we make our way to the races. The meet is hosted by Vanderbilt University, and we see the flags are set up around the course. The finish line is clearly marked now, and I try and visualize the finish. Trying to keep nervous energy away, I save my excitement for the race. The men’s team gets together for our warm up at about 8:00AM; the race starts in forty five minutes. On our warm up, we see what the backwoods kept from our short view of the course; a massive hill which we will run up twice during the race. Back at the start, the jackets and sweats come off and we’re ready to get this race started. The men’s team comes together again to unite in a common prayer which I lead. After I have had my say, Shane gives us a few words of his own. “Dear Lord, please send us guardian angles to protect us and keep us safe during our race.” I am proud that he didn’t hold back his blessing.

At the line, we do our strides and calm our nerves. Colleges from North and South, Cincinnati, to our own FGCU assemble to race each other to the best man. The gun goes off, and our pack moves amid the claustrophobia that is the beginning of a cross country race. Soon up ahead, a small bridge nearly brings foot traffic to a crashing halt. Small steps are taken, elbows are jostled, and backs shoved as we try and break free. After a precious five seconds, we exit the trap and try and catch the front pack again. I find myself accompanied by Chris, and we hang together for the first mile. Argeo Cruz and Sophomore Gilbert Chemoai are leading us, and soon they run far within the lead pack. Matt Crowe isn’t far behind them. The first mile goes by at around five minutes and ten seconds. It feels good. Chris and I carve through runners and pick up the pace, on our way to the first charge of the mega hill. I temporarily gain some ground on Chris, and let my feet fall as quick as possible down the other side. Soon after, Chris is right there with me. Together, we run past mile three and we are soon greeted by Sanders. We can always count on Sanders to use his own oxygen to say something motivational to help us out: “Let’s take this hill, boys.”

Though Chris is able to respond to the call of Sanders, I feel my strength start to feign. I stay close behind, thinking “they’re hurting just as much as me,” as I hang behind, holding on. Every stride down the hill tears at the quads and calves. It is almost more painful to experience the wreaking power of gravitation pull, than fighting one’s own weight up a hill almost one hundred feet high. Around the bend, another hill confronts us; it serves as a small slap in the face after the last one. Sanders and Chris gain ground as their figures start bounding off toward the end of the race. Eight hundred meters to go, and I feel spent. I want to catch up to my team mates and keep the points tight. With only four hundred meters left, Chris has run away from striking distance. I hope I can connect with Sanders, but it has to be now. Like a car, runners at times only have so many gears. Today I have none left. Today, I fail to shift into my most valuable ability as a runner: my fierce speed.

The finish clock reads 27:34 as I stumble across; shortly after Shane comes across at 27:39. The team finds each other, and we exchange the usual flimsy post-race handshake. As a team, the results are as follows. Gilbert just managed to edge out Argeo, for their respective 26:00 and 26:01 finishes. Matt Crowe finished at 27:08, Chris at 27:15, Sanders at 27:23, followed by myself and Shane at our aforementioned finishing times. Our team place was 10th, right behind Vanderbilt. Though I wasn’t satisfied with my time, I am excited for my team’s work ethic. I know we can pull it together, and hopefully when we come back to this course at conference time we’ll have the tools of experience on our side. One more week down; six to go.