Tuesday, September 13th @ HOME:
This day was pure heaven from start to finish. It began with Janelle, Steffany, and Freddy's tremendous help loading up the Spirit Bus during 8th period. These three had all the stuff on the bus before I could finish changing into ZB gear. Not only did they work quickly and efficiently, but they embody the true spirit of championship-mindset team: selflessness. They could have said that they had homework or something else to do, but these three bees gave up their study halls to make the coaches' jobs much easier--thank you!
That spirit of team continued once we arrived at the course; it was all-hands-on-deck setting up the course, cleaning up garbage, and generally getting things done. Every time I turned around, someone was asking how to help. That spirit of shared work makes my heart sing! THANK YOU! By 3:30, everything was done, and we could focus on the task at hand: racing.
The men had a great start which undoubtedly inspired our races. When I headed over to the starting line to check on you all, I was impressed to see everything happening as it should, but what impressed me more was the demeanor on your faces: I knew you were ready to pop great races. The breakdown gave me chills; I could feel the great energy in our group, and I couldn't wait for the gun to sound.
Our top runners ran smart for the first 800--we were packed up comfortably in about 15th place, looking comfortable and ready to pounce. By the time we exited the "sectional loop," we were already making ground on some of the LZ pack. Our mile splits were outstanding: our top five were all sub-7 and looking very comfortable. Our next pack (Taylor, Karyn, Kaila, Janelle, and Steffany) were all in the mid 7s and working well to help each other, too. We had a nice group all in the 8s (Helen, Carmen, Victoria, Emily, Sam, and Daz) who were looking aggressive and focused, too. And the remainder of our racers all ran in the low-to mid 9s for the first mile (Kristina, Naya, Alyssa, Deisy, and Meghan). Overall, I am really pleased with the first mile; you are all showing restraint and confidence in your training!
While I did not get to see the whole thing, I did enjoy watching much of the Twilight Loop. Not only did I see some significant moves in this section, but I also witnessed the confidence gained from our workouts there--nice job transferring your workout to a race! In the final loop, I was amazed by the grit displayed by every single one of you. Many of you battled with other runners to maintain or gain positions. Many of you battled to run even splits. Many of your had outstanding kicks. For the first time every, Jocelyn ran in the 6s for all three miles--amazing! She finished the race as our first bee with a lifetime PR of 20:35 after a significant illness. Her outstanding effort moved her up a spot on the Top Ten Board. Julia was not far behind with an outstanding kick and a 34 second lifetime PR! She worked extremely hard to collaborate with Jo throughout the race, which undoubtedly helped both of their times as well as our team score. Mary had the strongest kick I've seen from her ever, running a season PR by 31 seconds! Jacqueline was only steps behind, running a lifetime PR by 27 seconds! And Lainey did battle with three LZ girls for the entire last mile, kicking hard for her girls to earn a season PR of 32 seconds. I cannot say enough about this top five--I was going nuts watching them grit out the race for each other. This summer's hard work showed through a tiny split of 42 seconds between 1 and 5. Although LZ edged us by 5 points in the team score, I simply cannot wait to see what happens as this group continues to get stronger together. Who will step up to join them? Many of you have the potential!
Taylor ran a great race as our 6th bee, earning a season PR by 14 seconds. Karyn was only steps behind, also making progress this season to earn an SPR by 25 seconds! Kaila looked strong near these two, running only seconds off her LPR. And Steff (starting to get sick) also ran within seconds of her LPR. And Helen was close to this group, finally looking like herself again by shaving a whopping 3:01 off her season best to earn a new SPR; it's great to have you back, Helen!
Victoria ran an LPR by 2 seconds as a tribute to her grandfather. What a great example of finding inspiration despite a difficult situation! Emily was only seconds behind Vic, earning an amazing new LPR by 38 seconds! Great growth, Em! Carmen took inspiration from both of these women, shaving 1:11 off her previous season best, and kicking like the strong woman she is to a new SPR!
Speaking of SPRs and LPRs...the next group threw down: Sam dropped 56 seconds for a new SPR; Naya looked completely focused as she chopped 3:07 off her previous race to earn a new LPR; Kristina worked with Naya to drop 1:55 for a new LPR; Daz was only steps behind to drop 1:08 for a new LPR; Alyssa finished with a strong last mile to drop 46 seconds on her way to a new LPR; Deisy, despite shin pain, dropped 8 seconds for a new LPR; and Meghan rounded out our day with an 11 second drop for a new LPR.
Out of 22 runners, we had 11 lifetimes and 7 seasons...THAT is the kind of focused racing we need to bring to every race. Start with confidence, race without regret, and finish like you have faith in your training. Store this one in your mind as a victory of body and mind! This kind of race is the one that you should draw upon when the going gets tough.
Before closing, I just want to reiterate how impressed I am by the teamwork from the day. While Anderson, Hughes, and I did battle with the scoring system, you all TOOK CARE OF BUSINESS. The course looked great, rides were handled, and you all made me extremely proud to be your coach. Thank you! What an outstanding evening! :)
Saturday, September 17th @ Blue Devil Invite:
I knew it would be hard to replicate the energy of Tuesday's meet (and Wednesday's workout--nice job, by the way) at this meet, but I was counting on the magic of this course to help bolster your confidence. There is something so manageable about this course; I don't know if it's the fact that you can break it into loop segments, or the lack of hills, or the abundant shade...all I know is that our bees usually bring their best to this meet.
Our F/S pack started the day strong for us. Kaila started (and ended) strong with a sub-7 first mile. Motivated by bling or pride or both, her last mile ended up being her fastest, which earned her a ribbon for 24th place out of 234 runners, AND a new lifetime PR by 1:31! Nice work! Steff also earned an LPR for the day after a speedy start and a fastest last mile; she dropped 56 seconds at this race! Emily was our third finisher, running awesome negative splits--her last mile was a minute faster than her first--to earn a new LPR by 1:50! Carmen dropped 1:49 to earn a new SPR (again). Vic ran a solid race to finish within seconds of her LPR, and Diana soldiered through being sick to run a solid race. Overall, this group set a great foundation for the day--nice work, women!
So this next paragraph is going to feel like a contradiction...and that's because this race was just that. At the starting line, our women looked ready, but just after the breakdown, I felt like there was more nervousness than readiness, especially compared to our race at home only days before. I take responsibility for not saying something at that point to alleviate this situation, because I think that nervous-energy took away from our racing-sharpness a bit. Jo and Julia got out HARD at the start, sitting around 40th in the first 800 and running a fast first mile (6:22 and 23). While I like this aggressiveness, they both paid the price in the second mile, slowing by 57 and 66 seconds respectively; this kind of middle-of-the-race lag affects the mind because we are used to doing the passing in mile two rather than being passed. That being said, going out hard like this is called race-shocking. It is hard to go out that fast in workouts because workouts do not create the same kind of adrenaline and oomph that racing does. By going out this hard in the race, both of these women have now had a shock to their systems, and their bodies will be forced to adapt. After about 7-10 days, that "shock" will be part of their training, and that pace will no longer feel as rough to manage. So while that risk did not allow these two to finish where they wanted time or place-wise, it will pay off in a week or so! :) Additionally, Jo was able to bounce back for the last mile to run a 6:36; this shows that she was able to refocus and prove her fitness; this refocus enabled her to earn a new LPR by 28 seconds. Julia was able to do this to a lesser degree (she dropped back down to the high 6s for her final mile), but that first mile stress is "in her" now; I know that Julia's competitive drive will push her to bounce back at JT with better 2nd and 3rd mile results!
Mary, Jack, and, and Lainey started a bit more on the kind of pace that we have been running, so the second mile wasn't as big of a drop off, but it was still slower than on our course this week. This makes me think that the nervousness on the line took its toll on this group at this point of the race as well. All three came back down to the 6s for the final mile, which is good, but I know that this group has a bit more to give. And here comes the contradiction: criticism aside, Mary dropped 25 seconds to earn a new SPR; Jacqueline earned a new lifetime PR and went under 21 for the first time; Lainey earned a new SPR. I guess my point is that I'm greedy; I know what our top five is capable of, and I'm pleased but not satisfied yet. ;)
Taylor and Shayla (coming back from sickness) rounded out our Varsity racing today with solid efforts: each ran their last mile as the fastest and ran pretty even splits. Taylor earned a new lifetime PR by a whopping 1:18, and Shayla shaved off 31 seconds for a new SPR. Again, great growth from these two, but I am hungry for more! :)
The open race was our final race of the day, and the SPRs and LPRs kept coming ! This group endured the warmest temperatures of the day, but they were not to be deterred! Karyn was our lead runner with an aggressive first mile. Like Jo and Julia, her first 800 aggressiveness certainly affected her second mile, but the benefit will come in a week or so. She was able to bring her last mile down, earn a 24th place finish out of 212 racers, and set a new SPR by 29 seconds! Tianna was only steps behind Karyn at the finish, running her last mile as the fastest and earning a new LPR by a whopping 2:38! Way to go Tianna! Ashley, after feeling a bit off at the beginning of the meet, buckled down and raced hard today; she dropped 3:18 to earn an SPR of 23:04! Helen was not far behind, looking strong and finishing with an LPR by 43 seconds! Nice work! :) Despite nursing an irritated hip all week, Sam ran her last mile the fastest and earned a new LPR by 2:06! Outstanding! Takyra was not far behind, earning a new SPR by 29 seconds. :) Naya destroyed her very young LPR by 33 seconds and had an outstanding last mile--it was her fastest by 53 seconds! Alana, Alyssa, Kristina, and Meghan all worked together at different points to push through the last mile. Alyssa ran a lifetime PR by 1:13, as did Meghan by an amazing 2:05--outstanding work, women! Odalis shaved some considerable time off her season PR--a crazy 4:03! Nice work!
Overall, our efforts at Blue Devil were great. We are growing each race, and we are helping each other get there. This week affords us an opportunity to get in some quality work early in the week, and then race on a NEW JT course. For those of you who raced there before, it looks like it might be easier--it is now a loop that gets repeated 3 times, which allows for more coaching and cheering and fewer opportunities to fall asleep. It also looks like a lot of the previous twists and turns have been reduced. I look forward to everyone bringing their grit to the workouts this week as well as our next racing opportunity!
Before I sign off, three things:
First, don't forget that the deadline for ordering clothes is TONIGHT at midnight. Go to www.americanoutfittersltd.com to order your 2016 ZBXC gear!
Second, I challenge you to ponder the following question (to be answered at the start of practice tomorrow): what makes a great team and teammate?
Third, there is an volunteer opportunity to give back to the running community on Friday, October 14th at 6:00 pm. Mrs. Batz, teacher at Kenneth Murphy, is in charge of the Full Moon Run in town. The proceeds go to Cory's Project, an organization that provides support to families dealing with a child who is going through chemotherapy. Please let me know if you will be able to attend. Time commitment: arrive at 5:45 to get organized, cheer on the runners until about 6:45! You can arrive earlier to help set up, or stay late to take stuff down and/or cheer during the awards. Please let me know ASAP!