As a freshman, Frank Pittman has made quite a start in men’s cross country. The former Gatorade State Boys Cross Country Runner of the year and Marist graduate has already notched two ACC Freshman of the Week awards. Pittman sat down with the Technique to talk about his early success.
Technique: How did you originally get into cross country?
Pittman: Actually, I got into cross country through my dad because he ran cross country all throughout high school and then all throughout college. So he wanted to, I guess, not force me and my brother into cross country because then we wouldn’t like it, but he almost enlightened us. He took us to our first AAU cross country practice when I was in sixth grade.
The first year or two, it was absolutely awful because when you’re that young, your legs aren’t used to the pounding. I would always dread going to cross country practice. After a little bit, I started to get good, and it just started to feel really good to run and it was almost like you were just floating. Not nirvana, but it just feels good to run now.
Technique: What are some complexities of the sport that the average person may not know?
Pittman: Well, there are certain paces that correspond to a certain percentage of your effort, and those percentages fall into different energy systems.
If you’re going for eighty percent, that’s very aerobic, and you can do that for a long time, but the farther and farther past eighty percent effort that you go, it becomes more anaerobic and you start to generate lactic acid.
Technique: Are there any strategies that go into races when you’re competing against other runners at a meet?
Pittman: So when you’re in a race and somebody gaps you, it’s so much harder to maintain that same pace after somebody has gapped you when you don’t have contact with them. It’s mentally easier to run with somebody, and even on top of that, you can be running in a pack, but if you don’t have any teammates there, it’s a lot harder to motivate yourself than if your teammates are there.
Technique: How has your experience been at Tech so far?
Pittman: I’ve really liked my time at Tech so far. It is pretty tough; it’s very hard to balance everything. You need to weigh the pros and cons, like, “Should I stay up late to finish this homework assignment, or should I get some sleep for the 6 a.m. workout tomorrow?” So it’s a lot of that, but I still have a life outside of athletics and academics which keeps me sane, so that’s good.
Technique: What adjustments have you made to your running from high school to college?
Pittman: I guess in terms of the race, it is a pretty big jump because you go through the 5k mark, and it’s just instinct to think that you’re done because you’ve been doing that for four years, but then you have to remind yourself that you have two more miles to go.
It’s just like, I don’t want to do this, but after a certain point in the race you just realize you’re going to do it. So you start to get motivated to finish. In terms of training, I’m doing less mileage than I did in high school.
I like that part of it because I feel a lot fresher for the 8k, and also we don’t race as often in college … In high school we’d race every weekend, but now it’s just once every three weeks.
Technique: How do you feel about being named ACC Freshman of the Week twice now?
Pittman: First time, I was kind of surprised because it was at the [Roy] Griak Invitational in Minnesota which is one of the hardest courses in the country, so my time was really slow. I don’t know if I was the only ACC freshman racing that week … it feels really good to get that honor, but I was surprised.
Technique: Who’s your favorite person or team to run against?
Pittman: I haven’t really gotten the lay of the land in terms of college quite yet, but racing against my old high school rivals. There’s Steven Cross at FSU; he’s a really good cross runner. Aidan Tooker — he’s at Syracuse right now, I’m not sure if he’s red shirting or not. … Then Jeremy Brown at UNC and a bunch of other people that I’ve gotten to know through the years.
Technique: What’s your favorite course to run?
Pittman: It’s definitely going to be the Wakemed Soccer Park where ACCs is this weekend. I always just seem to have a really good race there because I raced there like every year in high school. It’s a great course.
Technique: How do you feel individually and about the team going into the ACC Championships?
Pittman: I’m really excited to race at the ACC Championships because it’s a fairly competitive conference. We have Syracuse and NC State and then a bunch of other schools that are just as competitive as we are. …
After the Crimson Classic, our last meet at Alabama, Coach Drosky told us that we need to start running as team more. I think if we do that at ACCs and everything clicks, we’re going to have an awesome day.