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U Sports athlete profile: Getting to know Russell Pennock

The national triathlon team member with a talent for running is a podium contender for this weekend's U Sports Cross-Country Championships

Russell Pennock
Russell Pennock
Photo via Calgary Dinos Athletics.

Russell Pennock is no stranger to endurance sports. The fourth-year kinesiology student (third year U Sports eligibility) at the University of Calgary may be best known for his exploits on the national triathlon circuit.

The Calgary native has represented Canada on multiple occasions as a triathlete, but a spot running on a Canadian national cross-country team still eludes him. Coming off a second-place finish in the 5,000m at the 2017 Canada Games in Winnipeg, Pennock has been on fire this season. With a victory at the Stewart Cup on Oct. 28, a regional event which features teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, he’s poised to contend for the individual title this weekend (Nov. 12) in Victoria at the U Sports Cross-Country Championships.

We got a chance to ask Pennock a few questions.

AC: How has your training been going over the last few weeks?

RP: Training has been super consistent this whole season, which I think is the most important aspect of preparation for cross-country. It’s been week after week of consistent and intense workouts with a really strong group of guys who can push each other day in and day out.

AC: After two strong showings at the U Sports (formerly CIS) Cross-Country Championships, you had to sit out last year due to injury. Have you taken a different approach to your training to avoid hiccups this year?

RP: I’ve been doing a lot more cross-training on the elliptical this season, so instead of doing double runs in the day I’ll elliptical in the morning and run in the afternoon. Also, I’ve added a strength/core component to my training program, which has helped stay injury-free.

AC: Being a triathlete, do you still train on the bike and in the pool during the cross-country season? If so, do you find that dividing your training time between different sports serves as an advantage, or a hindrance to your running?

RP: This season and over the past year I’ve had a pure running focus. In the summer I would bike maybe once a week and swim two or three times, but for the fall I’ve just been running and cross-training on the elliptical. However, in past seasons when I have been doing biking or swimming along with running, I find that the biking is really good at putting some strength in the legs. I also find swimming helps keep my legs loose when the run mileage starts increasing.


AC: You have run on strong Calgary Dino teams as a rookie and a sophomore with fast runners to chase. Now that it’s you who is counted on to be the top scorer, do you feel extra pressure?

RP: There definitely is a bit of extra pressure since it’s so important that everyone runs to their potential in order to get a team medal, but I know what I’ve done this year has put me in the best possible position to perform as well as I can on the big day and our team is confident in everyone’s ability to put it together when it matters.

AC: What are your goals for the weekend?

RP: As an individual I’m looking to make the FISU [World University Games] team coming up in 2018 [in Switzerland] and to land on the podium as well. As a team, we think it’s realistic to come out of U Sports with a medal, it’s something we’ve talked about since the start of the season and every practice we’re training with that common goal in mind.


Getting to know Russell

PBs: 1,500m – 3:52, 5,000m – 14:24, 10K – 30:25
Facial hair: The filthier the facial hair, the better (and faster)
Cross-country spikes of choice: New Balance XC 700 V4
Pre-race meal: Anything with a ton of carbs
Favourite pro runner: Andrew Butchart
Pump-up song: 5 hours by Deorro
Hard with hills, or fast and flat? Hard with hills
Who are you looking forward to see at the U Sports Championships? If Alex Cyr isn’t going be there, either Angus Rawling or Samuel Poher


Alex Cyr is a St. FX alumnus and a runner for the Windsor Lancers who writes when he can’t run, and runs when he can’t write.