I'm probably not your typical poster here but I'm hoping you folks might be able to help. I grew up playing mostly power sports, hockey, rowing and soccer, and I am definitely built like a sprinter (muscular top and bottom, 5'7", 138 ... I am female). After playing soccer in college, I started running distance just for fun, about 45 miles a week, doing fartlek runs for any speed work. My fastest 5k on a road course was 21 minutes so not really very fast, but I didn't really train consistently either. About seven weeks ago, I decided it'd be fun to try training more seriously with a track team working on sprints. Since I had a good base built up, the coach decided to have me concentrate on the 400. The fastest time I ran for a 400 was 60 seconds, with my 400m repeat workouts being about 1:15 on average (for 6 total).
I really love both sprint training and distance training, but unfortunately, between full-time grad school and part-time work, I can't commit to training with the track team in the evenings. I am limited to working out first thing in the morning and have about an hour and a half M-F max, and unlimited time Saturdays when I can do my long runs (I can't train Sundays because of work). In the last week and a half, I've gone back to doing distance running with a mix of hard 1 min on, 1 min off intervals on Monday, and 40 min @ steady state pace (7.20 min/mile), T, W, F an easy 8 miles and Sat an easy 10 miles, with the last 20 mins at marathon pace (I'm not sure what this is but just under the steady state I would imagine).
I know these times for the 5k and the 400 aren't particularly fast (I should also say I'm 34 years old), but they're okay and would seem to indicate that I can handle both speed work and distance work pretty well.
Racing wise I'm interested in xc in the fall and trails in the spring and summer (where my strength can hopefully help rather than hinder me!). I've never raced before in my life so I really don't know what 'long distance' distances I'd be good at. We have a couple of different trail series where I live. One series has two races either 5-6k or 10-15k; the other series has races that are 25k, 50k. I think ideally I want to use any training and racing I do in the spring and summer to gear up for xc in the fall.
So my questions to all of you are: 1. is it possible for someone built like a sprinter (with a good endurance base to begin with) to transition to become a good distance runner (by that I mean sub 18:00 ... remember again I am a woman); 2. I am a very strong and powerful runner so how can I incorporate this into training to maximize my potential to race faster i.e. what is the trick to taking that speed and power and stretching it out into endurance ... or is that possible; 3. what distance of trail races (or any other races) should I focus my spring and summer training on to peak for xc in the fall? Thanks all and sorry for such a long post.