Linda Dean didn't have much of a clue. Only once before had she participated in an organized run or walk (at the Spokane (Wash.) Bloomsday Run), and she hadn't been an onsite spectator at any such event.

Columbia CrossingWhat: A 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run and walk across the Astoria Bridge.

When: 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 for walkers and runners

Where: Event begins in the Megler Rest Area in Washington and ends near the Red Lion Inn near the Port of Astoria

Cost: $20 until Sept. 30, $25 thereafter

More info: (503) 325-6311 or (800) 875-6807, or visit online at

(www.greatcolumbiacrossing.com)Yet Dean, an employee at the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, is coordinating this October's Great Columbia Crossing, the annual run and walk across the Astoria Bridge that's scheduled for Oct. 10. And doing a fine job of it, depending, she says, on the experiences of everybody at the chamber.

But then the "Crossing" always has welcomed newcomers since its inception more than two decades ago. Whether you're a Crossing novice or a seasoned participant, here are some oft-asked questions, and subsequent answers, to help you prepare for the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) interstate footrace and walk from Washington to Oregon.

Is it too late to begin training for the Crossing?

No, but you had better start soon. And slowly, by walking or running two to four times a week for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each time. Solicit training advise from friends who have completed one or more Crossings. Better yet, accompany one of those folks on a training walk or run. But don't try to cram too much mileage into the month prior to the event. And if you don't exercise regularly, consult with your physician before beginning any training program.

What type of training should I do?

Whether you're walking or running, you need to be able to finish. So you should walk or run six miles or more at least a couple of times before event day. I advise walkers and runners to incorporate three workouts into their weekly schedule: a variable-pace walk or run lasting 40 to 50 minutes, during which you elevate your heart rate numerous times for a short distance, then recover by slowing down, but never stopping; a 30- to 35-minute tempo walk or run, with the last half at or near projected race pace; and, a relaxed-pace walk or run lasting 75 to 90 minutes, typically on weekends.

Should I have a time goal?

It's fun to formulate a time goal and attempt to make it happen. Just be certain your goal is realistic. Beginning runners, for example, should not expect to average six minutes a mile. For physically fit walkers, averaging 15 to 20 minutes a mile is an attainable goal. For most participants, the goal should be to cross the finish line with a smile on their face.

Should I alter my eating habits?

No, unless you consume lots of junk food. Runners and walkers need lots of carbohydrates for energy. If you adhere to an Adkins-type diet, make certain you're ingesting enough carbos. On the day of the Crossing, eat a normal breakfast approximately three hours before the 9 a.m. start. Don't risk an upset stomach by sampling foods you're unfamiliar with. Plus, you will not be running or walking a marathon, so there's no need to eat as much as possible.

How should I pace myself?

Ninety percent of training is performed slower than race pace. Work out too hard and you'll leave your best efforts on your training routes. Resist walking or running at a fast clip day after day. Allowing your body enough time to recover following a hard effort is as important as the training itself.

What does "tapering" mean?

Tapering means lessening your training load the week before an important event. Nothing you can do the week before the Crossing will help you more than a well-earned break from hard workouts. Resist the urge to engage in last-minute training heroics. Instead, stretch and walk or run at an easy pace on Thursday and Friday, then do no training on Saturday. You'll wake up Sunday bursting with energy and ready to put forth your best effort.

How fast should I run or walk during the event?

Many Crossing newcomers believe they should begin quickly and stay fast for as long as possible. Bad tactic! Instead, plan to walk or run at a slightly quicker pace than you've practiced in training. Most seasoned competitors strive for "negative splits" - that is, they aim to complete the second half of the event faster than the first half. Admittedly, that's a tall order in the Crossing, because the second half of the course includes the uphill section of the Astoria Bridge. Still, the sanest strategy for runners and walkers is to start slowly and finish fast, rather than the reverse.

What about last minute stuff? What should I do the night before the Crossing?

First of all, relax, but take care of the details. On Saturday evening, set aside the clothes, shoes, water bottles and any other essentials you'll need the next morning. Try to anticipate any possible problems. Do your shoes need new laces? Do you have enough milk in the refrigerator for your Sunday breakfast cereal? Have you made arrangements to meet friends before or after the Crossing? Try not to leave things to chance; then you can concentrate all your energy on performing well.

Richard Fencsak is co-owner of Bikes and Beyond. His column appears the second and fourth Thursday of each month in The Daily Astorian.

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