Saturday, October 29th:
My goal was to help Julia feel sharp this week. After two weeks of racing on Libertyville's course, I knew that her legs might be feeling a bit flat. While I love that course, it is certainly a challenge, and I did not want its cumulative effect to leave her leg-dead. We drastically cut back the mileage and just focused on feeling fast and loose.
During the warm up, I could tell that Julia was nervous, but I figured that would fade once the gun sounded. After all, she had gone to the line of the 4X800 by herself all spring, and she was used to the pressure of being the first leg of that race. Doing dynamic, I could tell that the nerves were still there, but you girls did a great job of keeping her focused on the race and surrounded by love. As the gun sounded, I was ecstatic as I watched her navigate the crowded and narrow starting line; not only was she following our plan perfectly, but some of the other runners from her box inexplicably moved out of her way to give her a clearer path! Unfortunately, just as we were all about to turn to find our spots on the back part of the course, I heard the starter's pistol sound repeatedly: someone had fallen, and the field was being called back. My heart sank. It would be difficult to produce the same start a second time. I could tell that Julia was not pleased either, but she shook off the setback and took a deep breath. Thankfully, her second start was nearly as good as her first--she cleared the crunch of runners and was on the perfect line to avoid course hazards!
As we all raced to the other part of the course, I kept thinking how proud I was of her for handling the recall with such grace. Issues like that can really rattle a runner, but I was excited to see her exhibit the grit necessary to deal with the situation. When I saw her again, she was in a solid position within the race. Compared to the Warren girls and a few others from our Conference, I was really pleased with her efforts in the first mile. Her mile split was outstanding, and I was looking forward to watching her shine on the downhill portion, where the plan was to catch five on each "zig" in order to really stay focused and attempt to go negative on the latter half of the course. As I watched her round the corner of each section, I could see that she was struggling. Her aggressiveness was gone from her stride and eyes, despite her girls getting in her face at every possible turn.
After the race, Julia shared that she felt out of shape during the race--like she had taken two weeks off of running. I knew immediately that her second and third miles were on me. Finding the proper taper for each runner is a tricky formula. In my efforts to mitigate the stress of Libertyville's course, I had pulled back the mileage too much. Thankfully, I can use this knowledge to make sure she feels sharp for end-of-the-season goal races for track and all of next year, too. For this race, though, I am sending a big apology to Julia, though. She did say once or twice during the week that the taper felt too easy, and I should have adjusted things then to help her feel the best she could for race day. Clearly what does not work for one runner, does work for another, though. Collin ran the race of his life on the same workouts and earned his ticket to State--the first ZB qualifier in 40 years!
Overall, I am so proud of Julia's efforts; she showed grit at the start, ran an outstanding first split, and still battled in the latter stages of the race, despite how she was feeling. She also continued our streak of sending women to the Sectional. I know that she will use this experience to become stronger as a runner and leader for upcoming season. I am also proud of our team support--we had bees on every corner of the course; no doubt that the boys and Julia felt the linked love during their entire races. I am really proud of the spirit of this team, and I know that returning runners will take what they learned from the day to make the team that much stronger next year.