Tuesday, August 25th @ Warren
**Note: It was my intention to have this up sooner, but I have been battling internet issues this week. Thank you for your patience!**
At the start of March, I remember pausing before walking into Rockford's beautiful, new indoor track. I looked around at all the people and thought, "We probably shouldn't be inside with all these people..." And despite the foreboding feeling in the back of my mind, we had an incredible day with outstanding performances. We seized the gift! By the following week, I knew that we would not see each other for a bit. I had no idea it would last this long, though.
I need to give you all kudos for what you managed between March and this first meet. When it felt like the world was upside down, you kept running and posting and supporting. When you were not able to be in that mindset, you admitted it with honesty. You have navigated one of the most difficult periods in recent American history with grace and courage; from an out of control pandemic that forced us into eLearning to the repeated trauma of our country's original racist sins, you all kept putting one foot in front of the other. And like any good distance runner, you will keep doing so...one step, one breath at a time. Take a moment to own your toughness; although this year is not traditional, the lessons you are learning are not traditional either. You are going to be some tough cookies!
This week, when Coach Anderson talked about the tragic death of Jacob Blake and the ensuing protests and unrest, I made a comment that was not fair: I said that I was counting on your generation to get it right. And while I still believe that your generation already is and will continue to move us forward when it comes to healing our country, it was not ok for me to put all of that pressure on you. All of us--from great grannies to babies--all of us must do our parts to keep our country's promises true. All of us must strive to find the humanity in one another. All of us must speak up so that everyone may feel safe, heard, valued, and loved. That needs to happen in our homes, on our team, in our classes, and out in public. So please accept my humble apology for passing off such an important job to your generation. I promise to do my part too. :) If any aspect of our current landscape makes you feel overwhelmed, my door is always open. Shoot me a remind message or text. Ask to talk at practice or after. Sometimes just getting the words out helps. Bueno?
When we had our first day of practice a few weeks back, I did not know what to expect. Would we get any newbees? (Lookin' at you, Mia, Riley, and Keeley!). Would the vets of XC all return? By the end of that first official practice, I reminded myself of the two lessons I always preach: that being nervous is good--it means you care; and that beeing in the moment matters. That first practice was a delight. It felt good that we were moving forward into the real season. It felt good that newbees trusted us and wanted to try this XC thing we love. It felt good to see everyone together.
So as we climbed off the busses on Tuesday, I tried to remind myself not to worry about the new "racing" format. I tried to remind myself to ignore the rude heat that tried to stifle us in the stadium. And when I saw the boys' coach from Warren--Coach Dawson--I tried to remind myself that despite his uphill battle with cancer, he was out there doing what he loves. What a great reminder to bee in the moment!
It felt surreal to watch Warren "race" without us, and even more bizarre to look at our line of bees in a spaced-out line waiting to approach the start. But once Maya was on her way and you each had your moment at the line, I felt like I was home. Watching you all shine despite the heat and "racing" conditions made my heart sing.
When I saw Maya emerge from the woods, I could feel the right energy! She looked smooth and determined with Audrey and Kelsey not far behind. On each loop, I was thrilled to watch them within eyesight of each other. They accomplished what I had hoped: they helped each other run great races. Kelsey finished with a speedy 19:18, about 30 seconds ahead of where she started the season last year on Deerfield's course. Whew! Audrey was our second finisher, and she was also 30+ seconds ahead of last year's debut! :) Maya rounded out our top three with a great finish. Last year, she ran the 2-mile race at Deerfield, and her 2-mile split was only seconds away to that finish time! Overall, these three looked fantastic, and I am excited to see how they improve over the season. :)
Our next group of runners also looked beautiful today. I intentionally put Marisa at a later start in this group, knowing that she would have the chance to work up to her teammates and then pull them along. She did this perfectly, running about 3 minutes faster than her Deerfield debut last fall and seconds away from her lifetime PR. I loved watching her confidence and control! The "surprise" (although not really if you have watched her work this summer) of the race was Jenna. Not only did she hold off Marisa for quite some time, but she shared the same confidence and strength. She ran nearly 3 minutes faster than her Deerfield race last fall, and she did it with a smile nearly the whole way. So proud of the growth out of this duo! Not far behind was Riley in her ZBXC premier. :) It was so exciting to watch her challenge herself in this much longer race (the last race I saw her run in track season was a 400), and then still kick like a true sprinter at the end. I know that Riley is going to keep improving dramatically as she figures out this sport, and I cannot wait to see her race on Saturday. Natalie was not far behind; these two definitely played off each other's energy. While the time is not quite where Nat or I would like it to be (yet), I was so encouraged to watch her race. Without Kaila at her side and Andrew in her ear, I was not sure what she would do today; so I was over the moon that every time I saw her, she was focused and pushing to keep in Riley's sight. This kind of growth is what we need as she steps into her role as an upperclasswoman on this team. :) Overall, this top seven looked so good. I cannot wait for the next group to challenge them!
I'm going to be honest, this next group has been pushing each other so well in practice, I did not know who would take the lead. Illyana definitely made a statement today, catching two of her teammates and pressing hard through the heat and the finish. She dropped over 2 minutes compared to her race at Deerfield last year; this fact is not shocking at all considering her growth during track, her dedication during the early phase of the stay-at-home orders, and her grit this summer. I'm going to say it here now--I know that Illy can get into the low 25s, and soon. Awesome work today! In her first race as a ZBXCer, Mia took second in this pack, finishing in a strong 28:07. Her splits were pretty even, especially considering it was her first race. Like Riley, she is just going to get stronger as she learns more about the sport, and I cannot wait to see it! In an interesting twist for this format, Jenni and Blanca ended up with the same finish times despite starting three people apart. I was worried about all of you in this heat, but Jenni and the toastiness are just not friends :) She did a fantastic job of resetting at each mile and working through the stadium section, which helped her cut a minute from her Deerfield time last fall. Mindset matters! Blanca had the same grit, catching peeps ahead of her and working the go-zones hard. This constant push helped her improve by 4 MINUTES over her debut last year. What?! Just like Illyana and Jenni, Blanca worked her butt off all summer, and it is showing--proud of you! Julien was our next finisher. Her time does not reflect her grit today. After a tricky summer that required her to be away from the team for a bit, she is starting to look more like herself in practices now. This race was an anomaly for her, and I know she will bounce back even stronger. What impressed me most was that despite the fact that the heat was definitely TRYING to get to her, she kept her impeccable form and finished strong. Proud of you, Julien! Aubrianna was our next finisher. While she was making great progress in the winter/spring during track, some time away this summer is reflected in her time. That being said, Aubrianna has made incredible progress over the last two-plus weeks! From a rocky first day to this race, her fitness is coming back quickly. That's why it's important to never forget that your base is in you...you just have to wake it up! :) I know that she will look even sharper at Deerfield this Saturday. Our final bee for the day was Nataly. Like Jenni, I was on the lookout for heat-related distress with Nat. She had the right mindset, though, and she looked strong throughout the race, including a nice kick! With some cooler temps this Saturday, I anticipate that she will be able to destroy her Deerfield record. Overall, this pack was impressive today!
Although we did not compete directly,the meet is still scored like a real race. You can click here to see the doc and compare how you did versus Warren. You'll see on the third tab that they nabbed us in a score of 23-38 for Varsity (first 7 runners) and 15-50 for JV (next 7 runners). If you want to get better as a runner, it's important to see how race scoring works, so I invite you to look it over and think about how we could improve as a team. I also invite you to start setting some goals for the race at Deerfield this Saturday. Like Warren's course, Deerfield's is flat and fast. You will also have the advantage of direct competition rather than the staggered start. Here are two keys I would like to work on: 1. Using go-zones more consistently. I felt like you were solid on this today, but I would like to see a more marked shift at Deerfield (we can pick where they will be together); 2. Treating this race as the gift that it is. Now that you know how staggered races will feel (and let's be honest--it was made slightly easier by a repeated mile loop...we won't always have that same connected feel in upcoming races), we have to embrace the beauty and fun that is real racing.
Hydrate, think fast thoughts, and I'll see you Friday morning!
Quick notes about Friday morning practice and Saturday's Meet:
9:00 AM Girls Varsity 3 miles
9:35 AM Boys Fr/So 3 miles
10:10 AM Girls JV 3 miles (I may put a few of you here...we can talk about this)
10:50 AM Boys JV 3 miles
11:20 AM Girls Open 2 miles
11:55 AM Boys Open 2 miles