I am honored that I had the opportunity to travel with the boys to support Collin in his quest to break 15 and earn All-State honors. This trip has been amazing for so many reasons. Of course, just having the reason for such a trip is just awesome. My heart has been racing ever since the gun sounded at the Sectional! And much like my feeling about the chemistry of you girls this season, I was able to witness the closeness of the boys' squad--they simply love each other (even when they bicker), and they are incredibly proud to help Collin toward his goals.
I'd like to share with you a few key learnings from the trip. First, this was the loosest I have seen Collin all season. Let me explain. At the Warren Invite this year, I saw Collin sitting in our team tent during the beginning of the boys' frosh/soph race. I asked him why he wasn't out cheering, and he replied that he was worried about yelling and running around too much before his race. He was torn between his duty as a captain and his seemingly inexplicable superstition about using up his breath by cheering. When I encouraged him to compromise and simply clap for his boys, he looked scared but willing to give it a shot. And in race after race, I watched his face in the final mile as he mentally beat himself up for letting the leaders go. And after races, I watched him puke his nerves, a phenomenon that was new to this season. But from the start of our journey on Friday, something was different about Collin. As the band played and the ZB Nation clapped enthusiastically, he smiled and took in the experience. On the bus, he played DJ and laughed with his team. He told me stories about his family's roots. He reflected on the season. And when we practiced at the course, he looked easy and light. As we explored Peoria, he laughed with Lincoln and "reached Valhalla" at the shoe store. He even smiled while the reigning Detweiller record holder talked endlessly about himself, and later smiled while enjoying bread at Avantis. In the morning at breakfast, he looked rested and relaxed and in the moment. On the bus ride to the course, he lost himself in music and enjoyed the "100%" with some DMX. And at Detweiller? He was business and happiness. He did not let the bustle of the fans or the starting line phase him. During his strides, he looked at ease.
When the gun sounded, he got out hard, enjoying the freedom of one of the outside boxes. He went out with the leaders and simply let himself race. After the first 400, I had him in the top 10, and after the first mile, he was still working hard with that top group. And for the first time all racing season, he looked like he was eembracing the race. He looked tuned in and happy. His first mile was fast, and he ran a lifetime PR at the two-mile. What impressed me most was the difference between this year and last: when he got out hard last year, he panicked when he saw the times. This year, he let the success buoy his spirits, and he worked even harder. For the first time all season, he kicked hard with 400 to go. As I raced back to the top of the course to see Collin's time, I knew he was close to breaking 15. When I finally caught up with him and heard that he knew it was close too (he saw the clock tick over as he crossed the finish line), I was impressed by his post-race demeanor. He was not on the ground puking. He was not shaking his head or running his hands through his hair. And he was not pouting or ignoring all the people who supported him. He simply walked down the hill to the bus with his boys by his side. It was beautiful.
And after he got his warm ups on and cooled down, it was a perfect ending to see the video board flash his new lifetime PR: 14:59.88. It was beautiful to hear his team and family erupt with joy--one runner's effort celebrated by an entire group in a moment of shared happiness. That is what team is all about!
It was only as we headed out of the park that I realized for the first time that Collin had not puked post-race. When I turned around to ask him about it, he first asked, "What? Do you think I didn't race hard enough?" When I replied, "No! That wasn't my point at all!", he simply said, "I just really tried to keep calm today." It showed, Collin...it showed!
I am so proud to be a ZB today. Not only was I impressed by Collin's ZB history-making effort--no other ZBXCer has qualified for State twice--but I was also elated to see the extensive support of our ZBXC family. I was thrilled that Kelsey and Maya found a way to be there to witness the day (and I was equally excited by their thoughtful, heartfelt text responses when I asked them what they learned from the day), but I was also stoked to see that it was a priority for future leaders like Steff and Victoria to be there, as well as up-and-comers Charmaine and Crizaber. And what more can I say about Alexia's dedication to this team? To drive a car of fans speaks volumes about her commitment. And Takyra? After an incredible summer of hard work, it broke my heart that Takyra was not able to race this season. What soothed that hurt, though, was her thoughtful role as a manager. Her genuine joy as she reported each PR this season, as well as her thoughtful reflections on not-so-good races, shows her true knowledge of this sport. I cannot wait to see her race this spring!
I'll end with saying that this cannot be the end. I came home more hungry than ever for the girls to have the same experience as the boys. And while Collin made history as an individual, I have a sneaking suspicion that the girls team might make some history as a team in the near future. And for that...I cannot wait. :)
So incredibly proud of this team and this season!
After a great week of practice, including a strong run at the course on Wednesday, I knew our two freshies were ready to race. Mother Nature, now tired of cooking us to death on race day, decided to turn the thermostat down. We witnessed the first snowflakes of this season during our drive to the course, and we felt more of them during the warm up and race. Kelsey and Maya seemed undeterred by this latest weather twist, however, and took to the business of warming up like business as usual.
On the starting line, I was excited to see what our bees would do. At the gun, they both got out hard, and I was happy with their placement by the 800 mark. Kelsey was a the back of the "front" group in about 33rd place, and Maya was further back in her more conservative and successful-for-her way. The turn going down the hill was especially muddy, and I could see both bees adapt to this unsure footing without too many problems. However, in the second loop, I could see the experience of the pack do some work on our newbees. Both lost some of their initial ground, despite fast first miles. I am pleased to report that Kelsey and Maya kept their heads in the race, however. They both had good last miles, using the final downhill to their advantages, and using the fans to help propel them to great kicks. Kelsey finished in an impressive 19:07--only seconds off of her previous best on a much quicker Lake Forest course. Maya finished in a solid 21:37, a bit off of her previous week's work, but she seemed to come away with a new appreciation of what it takes to be successful at this level.
I was happy to watch these two embrace the support of their team, and I am proud of how they conducted themselves under the pressure of a speedy race. I know this race knowledge will help them grow as leaders for next year!
Shout out to Avedis for a great effort in the men's race, and Collin for nabbing the last individual spot to advance to the State Meet for the second year in a row--an honor NO OTHER ZBXCer has ever accomplished. I hope you returnees have watched Collin and have learned from him. He has started a new tradition of greatness that I do NOT want to let die.
After placing 7th at Conference, we knew that we had a big task ahead of us if we were going to advance to the Sectional as a team. What pleased me was the confidence and focus of our week of training. On race day, we looked and felt confident, too. We knew that our mission was to take advantage of the great course and racing conditions, as well as to strive to fix the gap.
We got out hard, and I was really pleased with our placement as we emerged from the first loop. Our mile splits (Kelsey 6:02; Maya 6:27; Julia 6:35; Cynthia 6:46; Taylor 6:53; Steff 6:56; and Janelle 6:59) were aggressive and fast! According to our fab timers, our 1-7 split was only 57 seconds--beautiful! In the next loop, you all worked the course to catch people, and I was happy to see that none of you panicked over the fast pace; instead, you leaned into the race and worked for your girls. You all ran your last mile like you meant it--no regrets. I was also happy to see you all switch gears with 800 to go, and I was pleased with your kicks in the final straight. The numbers were good: Kelsey ran a new LPR of 18:58, breaking 19 for the first time and making her the fastest freshman in ZBXC history; Maya ran a big race to earn a new LPR of 20:53, matching Bailey Lippeth's freshman PR--the previous fastest ZBXC freshie (I have to fact-check that, but I'm pretty sure I'm right). Taylor ran a new season PR of 21:50, despite this course being longer than Warren's from the previous week. Julia was only seconds away from her time the previous week. And Cynthia, Janelle, and Steff all ran solid times for the day. More importantly, as I walked over to the finish area, I could see your faces, which told the story of the day: you ran without regret.
Although the team outcome was not what we had hoped--we ended up 8th--we were much closer to our competition than the week before. We raced well against an increasingly strong Round Lake team, and we were closer to Warren than at Conference (in fact, they made significant moves on us in the last 800; had we held them off, the score would have been even closer). There are several bright spots from the day.
As I walked over to the finish, I overheard Julia tell Maya as she hugged her, "I'm so glad it was you...I'm glad it was you." I can only guess that this beautiful statement was in response to Maya's surge in the final moments of the race when she overtook Julia. That statement made the bittersweet news of Maya's advancement to Sectionals all the more impressive to me. Julia went from not even running as a freshman to growing into the captain of a very young team. In what ended up being her final race, she celebrated the kick of her teammate because she knew that point would be ours, and in that short sentence, she conveyed more than I ever could as a coach: the team matters more than the individual--the chain is stronger when the links work as one. And her words were not empty: she followed them up with actions as she supported our two Sectional Qualifier freshmen through practice all week, despite the nag of calf injury. And she was not alone. All of you--Julia, Janelle, Steff, Cynthia, Taylor, and Diana--you all showed these freshmen what it means to be a team. Last year's team, although I loved them dearly, had not yet transcended to that level of selflessness during Sectional week. They did help this year's seniors understand their role as ambassadors of our values, though; this year's team has exceeded my expectations in that arena for sure. And that is why I tweeted that this race is a signal of a new era in ZBXC greatness, brought to you by the leadership of our twin captains and encouraged by this unexpected and amazing team.
I am getting a bit misty-eyed as I type this because I honestly cannot contain my emotion about this season. You have heard stories about Kristen and Bailey and Kimmy. You have read about others who have run for the ZB name. You have learned about the Courage Award and the history of links and the many who have run before you. I have had the pleasure of coaching some amazing people and teams--a few faster, and many slower than this group. I honestly cannot remember a time when the chemistry felt so right. I honestly cannot remember a team so selfless. I am so incredibly proud of this group, and I am sincerely sad to see the team portion of the season come to an end. There were plenty of seasons when we finished and I felt that business was unfinished. You all have given me a sense of ease, though, because you simply get it.
I cannot wait for Polar. I cannot wait for track. I cannot wait to work with you to make even more incredible memories. Thank you for a beautiful season!
I cannot wrap up this post without saying how proud I am of Kelsey and Maya. You two have endured the pressures of running Varsity as freshies with grace and grit. We are honored to watch you race next week at the Sectional! Let's mark this as the start of a new era!
What a weird three days! Warren was this year's host for Conference, and they attempted something new--to host the meet at the new course at CLC. There are many positives to this choice: CLC is a neutral site, so no school gains a "home course" advantage; we would be able to watch year-to-year growth because we could compare times on the same course each year; athletes would get a chance to race on a flat and fast college course; and we eliminate the problem of the costly and uncooperative forest preserves who do not seem to want us racing at their parks.
On Friday, Coach Anderson and I headed over to CLC to scout the course and watch our alums from the class of 2017 race at their own conference meet (Michael, Freddy, and Jackie). The weather was great--hardly any wind, and no rain to speak of. Our bee alums took advantage of the conditions and raced well for their respective teams, helping the men's and women's squads win conference for CLC! As we watched the races, a few course issues became apparent. First, the starting straight is short--perhaps 150 meters--before a tight turn. This was an important note; we knew our bees would need to get out hard to avoid being pinched on the first turn. CLC fixed the problem of a narrow path after that first turn (according to the Warren coaches, the CLC coaches were outstanding about revising the course to make it more race-friendly!). The course also requires runners to cross pavement twice; on either side of the pavement, the grass was not great, so longer spikes were likely needed to deal with the muddy conditions that would undoubtedly form in the predicted storms. Finally, much of the course was away from fans and coaches, so it would require mental fortitude from our runners, something that is hopefully developed by this point in the season. My only other concern about the course was that it is a full 5K--3.1 miles. A slightly longer course would make it more difficult--but not impossible--to PR at the end of the season. A PR would certainly mean more on a 3.1 course, but I knew it would be more difficult.
We knew that rain would be an issue on race day, but we were hoping to dodge the lightning. Unfortunately, during the warm up for the first race (girls varsity was switched to the first race to try to get the varsity the races in on the freshest course), we were sent to the fieldhouse to wait out the lightning and make a decision about racing. After some deliberation, the coaches decided it was best to move the meet to Monday. While I know you were all ready to race (THANK YOU for having the right mindset about the conditions--ALL WEATHER IS ZB WEATHER!), I was happy to hear that we would have a chance to race at Warren's home course instead. There was no way to close off the road where runners crossed during a busy Monday afternoon at CLC, so we were awarded the chance to run on a fast Warren course (assuming it handled all of Saturday's rain). I was really pleased with your flexibility that day--you were ready to race, but you were also ready to handle the delay--nice work!
When we arrived on Monday, we were stoked to feel the beautiful weather and see a very fast-looking course. I was excited to see our Varsity take the the line to see what they could do. The first 400 meters were FAST. Some coaches reported that the leaders went out in 70 or faster while the front pack came through in 74 seconds. The first mile and the finish times reflected the same: Manetsch and Chody both went sub-17 while the third and fourth finishers were in the mid 17s. This speedy start took me (and our pack) by surprise; while our girls followed our plan, it left them in the back portion of the smaller race (only 8 teams--much smaller than the recent Sterling and Wheeling Invites), and I could see a bit of panic on the faces of our runners. That being said, we still came through the mile quickly (Kelsey 6:18; Julia 6:27; Maya 6:43; Steff 6:54; Janelle 6:54; Taylor 7:04; and Vic 7:11), and our runners worked hard in the latter half of the race to catch some of the girls who paid the price for the fast start. What I was most happy about were the finishes in this race. We are finally finishing like we mean it, and I could not be happier! This groups ran well for each other, and the outcome was two LPRs and two SPRs. Steff finally put the physical and the mental together today. After several great workouts that predicted she was able to race faster, she dropped a big 1:03 to earn a new LPR of 21:17. Janelle reacted to a challenge I presented her; I told her that I knew she was battling through her leg injury as best she could, but that I had to put my fastest seven on the line for Regionals. Although that is a tough conversation, we needed to have it because Conference could have been her last race. Janelle reacted the way every coach hopes: she took that honesty as motivation, and fought for another week of racing by giving her team every ounce of her grit. Throughout the race, she worked to fix the split, and she was rewarded with a new LPR. Julia also stepped up for her girls today. Although her calf has been tolerable, it has certainly affected her ability to shift when she wanted to. She looked strong and smooth today, though, pushing past the pain and embracing her mindset of "don't be a baby" while fixing our split. That grit earned her a 34 second season PR. Taylor also looked incredibly strong today after a good conversation about her role on Varsity. She stepped by working that second mile and pushing to fix the split; she earned a 33 second SPR and helped our team tremendously! Our 1-5 split was 2:24, and our 1-7 split was 3:23. We looked solid as a unit, but we ended up 7th in a very competitive team race. Our conference continues to improve, and we must push to grow at the same rate that those around us are! I know that we will use this race as fuel for Regionals next week. I cannot wrap up this conversation without giving Kelsey a huge shout out for earning All-Conference honors by placing 21st. We have not had a woman earn All-Conference since Kimmy Figueroa took 10th place back in 2013; nice job ending the drought!
The women in the Open Race are the big story for the day. Of the 22 racers, 21 earned an LPR or SPR. Yes, you can argue that the course is slightly short (2.95 miles), but .05 does not account for the amount of time you all dropped. .05 of a mile is about 80 meters. During a 3-mile race, that accounts for, at most, 20 seconds. Before the race started, I could feel your confidence and energy, but I had no idea that you would tear it up the way you did. As a group, we got out hard with Cynthia leading the way. After having to miss our meet on Saturday due to her sister's quinceanera, I kept Cynthia in the Open Race. Her initial reaction to this choice was not a happy one, but much like Janelle, she used it as fuel to break out of her rut. When I saw her for the first time, she was sitting in the top ten of the race with a huge smile on her race. Every time I saw her, she was moving up in the race with a look on her face that said, "Never underestimate me. I am limitless!" I enjoyed watching every step. Not only did she prove to me that she deserved to be in the line-up for Regionals, but she also proved to herself that she was faster and stronger than she previously thought. Cynthia earned a 7th place medal and a new lifetime PR of 20:45, dropping 42 seconds from her previous best. It has been quite some time since we had a medalist in the Open Race; thanks for ending that drought! Carmen and Angie were not far behind her, running fast first miles and looking aggressive for the whole race. Carmen, despite recovering from being sick, ran an incredible race. She was our #2 runner the whole way, looking much more like Oshkosh-Carmen with that determined look on her face. She finished with a new LPR by dropping 29 seconds--her first time sub-23! With about 300 to go, Angie looked elated when I read her the time, and she took off for a great kick. She earned a new, sub 23 LPR by dropping an amazing 1:41 from her previous best. That kind of improvement makes a statement about her ability to contribute to Varsity next year. Naya also had a tremendous start, running a great first mile and looking aggressive in her passing throughout the race. She dropped a huge 1:24 because she was racing without regrets, looking much more like the Naya of early summer. Her new LPR of 23:25 is a huge accomplishment! Klyde was not far behind, inspired by Naya's moves. She keyed off of Naya's energy to earn a new LPR of 23:32; she dropped a tremendous 2:09 by staying awake for the entire race. Incredible! :) After not racing for a while, Noel made me smile with her gutsy race today. Not only did she pull on Naya and Klyde, but she also pushed through her doubts to earn a new LPR of 23:57. She dropped a whopping 3:13 today. I will not accept anything less than this level of effort from her in the future now that she and I BOTH know what she is really capable of. The same can be said of Aja, who had the biggest time drop of the day: 4:03. Aja was our last member to join the team, and the training and mental preparation have finally come together for her. She got out harder than she ever has, and she ran negative splits in order to run a new LPR of 24:03. I cannot wait to see what she can do this winter in basketball and this spring in track! Kate's race made me wish that I had met her earlier. Not only did she have a similar experience to Aja with training and mindset melding in one race, but she also had an incredibly gritty start. After a great time trial the week before, she knew she could get out hard, and she did by going sub-8. Her risk paid off with a drop of 1:30 and a new LPR of 24:37. Delilah ran a very different race to get to the same LPR time. She ran negative splits by passing people with authority and kicking hard at the end of the race to to drop a huge 2:55! I cannot wait to see what she can do with sustained training! Sarah M. was not far behind in a new LPR of 24:44, dropping a big 2:16 and beating her advisor's current PR! Like Kate, Sarah earned this time by taking a risk in the first mile and putting herself with people who would push her throughout the race--nice work! Diana rounded out our sub-25 group today with a gritty performance. Although her finish time does not reflect her hard work, Diana has had a tremendous season, starting with an impressive summer of increased mileage, and continuing through the season of continued growth.
Our pack in the 25s have never been there before. Elyssa led the charge with a gutsy first mile and an incredible kick. She dropped 2:11 to earn a new LPR of 25:28! Karen was not far behind with a big drop of 2:09 and finishing in 25:36. She did so in much the same manner of Delilah--she was passing like crazy in the woods, and she kicked hard with 300 remaining. Sarah D., after missing many meets due to injury, ran a strong rae with her teammates. She worked well with Delilah and Daz in the first mile and pushed in the final kick to earn a 24 second drop and a new LPR of 25:42. Crizaber, despite a season of battling arch issues, looked impressive today. Not only did she drop a ton of time (1:19 for a new LPR of 25:53), but she also passed people with passion. She looked like a woman on a mission for the entire race! Jayla, after missing several meets due to issues with her arch, looked like the Jayla of the early season. Not only did she get out hard, but she shared the same focus as her teammates, passing people in the last mile to earn a huge drop of 3:22--the third biggest of the day--and a new LPR of 25:54. Our upper classwomen did not want to be left out of the PR fest. Alexia ran her strongest race of the season when it counted; not only did she look focused and strong, but she also enjoyed her last XC race as a ZB, dropping 24 seconds to earn a new SPR of 26 flat. Daz was not far behind, looking powerful despite her sore hip, to drop 1:32 and earn a SPR of 26:12.
We had two women in the 27s--neither of whom had been their before, either. Charmaine and Lindsey pushed each other throughout the race. Not only did they work through some mental blocks, but they also showed what it means to be true runners today! Charmaine dropped a big 2:55 while Lindsey dropped an equally impressive 2:44 in order to earn LPRs within seconds of each other: 27:39 and 27:43 respectively. These ladies earned these new times by getting out harder than they ever had, and celebrating each breakthrough with more toughness. Addy was our next bee. Although her finish time was not a PR, she looked more like herself in this race after dealing with some knee issues. She looked aggressive from the start, and she keyed off of Charmaine and Lindsey to help herself push to a race more like what she envisioned. She finished without regrets, which is what I always want! Ashley was not far behind her, earning the second biggest time drop of the day: 3:30! She earned a new LPR of 30:17--impressive considering where she started in August!
Overall, there are some important trends to note from this race. Post-race, it was simply beautiful to watch you all celebrate each other. You all congregated back at the tent, hugging one another with joy over all of the successes. Without even looking at the clipboard, you knew that you had done something special TOGETHER. As a coach, there is nothing more I can ask than for you to work hard for each other, and then appreciate that achievement together. I did not want that moment to end! I am also so encouraged by the leadership of the juniors and seniors from this group--you showed the newbees how to bee great, and they responded to your example! I cannot help but feel the momentum of this young group; if you freshies and sophies can keep the energy that the juniors and seniors have shown you, this team is going to enjoy a reawakening! I simply cannot wait for Polar and Track to begin!
I also need to take a moment to talk about the Sportsmanship Award. The North Suburban Conference created this award six years ago to recognize individuals who truly understand our sport. Let's be honest--most runners are incredible people. You cannot be part of this sport without possessing some pretty impressive traits, right? But the purpose of the award is to recognize those who go above and beyond to exhibit kindness and act as ambassadors for the sport we love. When Anderson, Franklin, and I met to discuss this coach-awarded honor, we agreed that you all have the love of the sport and the team mindset. But when we thought about who looked out for you all...who selflessly offered rides, who checked in with each of you before and after races, who taught you about the sport...well, Alexia was the obvious choice. At first, Anderson and I were worried that it would seem weird to award Alexia two years in a row; we did not want it to seem like an insincere nomination. Upon further reflection, we realized that earning this award twice says a lot about Alexia's character. This was not a new awakening--her mindset has been in the making for some time. Despite the setback of her hip surgery, Alexia found ways to show her teammates what being a ZBXCer is all about, and I could not be more proud of her contributions to this team. Congratulations and thank you for your commitment to this family!
Disclaimer: This is a long blog. I have a lot of good stuff on my mind!
When we returned to school on Saturday, there was a beautiful rainbow over Lake Michigan. It's vibrant colors stood in stark contrast with the dark storm clouds that had marked our entire drive home. After the last bee got in her car, I enjoyed an even more spectacular sky for my drive home. It was as if the sunset was too amazing to be hidden because even though the west was gray, bright pinks and oranges painted the eastern sky and highlighted the ashen clouds. It was simply breathtaking. As I stared in awe, I could not help but think about how our country has endured tragedy after tragedy in the past few weeks, from natural disasters in Mexico, Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico to the unnatural calamity in Las Vegas. And while these events are terrifying, they also allow us to witness one reality of life in America: that we come together to help one another when the going gets tough. Watching donations and reinforcements poor into disaster-stricken cities, not to mention lines of every day people waiting to donate blood, helps soothe the hurt of watching innocent people suffering. Beautiful scenery--like where we get to race all the time, or a stunning sunset, or the quiet of an early run at morning practice--helps rejuvenate our souls. But humans crave more than just nature to bring us joy. Although many people pursue the superficial highs of acquiring expensive "stuff" like clothes or cars or phones, or getting attention through likes or retweets or streaks on social media, or even finding temporary escapes through alcohol or drugs...true happiness comes when a person feels genuinely connected to others...when a person feels important to another through honest, hard work and a shared vision. THIS is why I love cross-country. There is nothing so pure as the dedication required of a season and the mindset required during a race to bring forth the best in us and to bind us to one another.
All summer and season, this past week, and this weekend in particular, I was able to witness up-close and from afar that very phenomenon. Over the summer, I saw glimmers of what we could be: The dedication of our small group was outstanding, and Oshkosh helped start a spark of that love and commitment to the team; Coach Anderson and I revelled in the fact that the group at Osh felt closer than any before. Once the season started, the injection of new faces helped our team grow, and I have been impressed by how quickly many of the newbees have embraced our team mindset. As we head into this final week of full-team racing, I encourage you to reflect on the beauty of being part of a team. I challenge you to help that beauty multiply by reaching out to your teammates that you know of, but do not know as well as you should. I implore you to lift each other up with your words and actions...to revel in each other's beauty and greatness. I expect you to let your final full-team race of the season speak to how you feel about your team. "Self-transcendence," as Steve Magness and Brad Stulburg in their book Peak Performance, can be achieved when you divert your mind from the discomfort of a situation (in our case, the pain that is inevitable when racing) and focus on a higher purpose: your team, a family member, or anyone else who really matters to you. Check out this excerpt from their book here for some inspiration.
This weekend, I already saw some glimpses of this spirit of finding beauty in what we do. It started on Friday morning when Angie and Klyde asserted that they wanted to take on the challenge of running in the Varsity race at Wheeling. And it was multiplied by Carmen's encouraging words that I will paraphrase here: that running in the Varsity race was a great opportunity to push oneself by keeping the right mindset. And as I discussed my expectations for Wheeling, I could feel the positive energy of the group, which heightened as we hit the dark and quiet of the streets for our run. After 7th period, I could feel the same positivity as we assembled on the spirit bus and as you read the Sterling letter. And with each "Remember When," I could feel you appreciating the funniness of this team as well as reflecting on how we need to work harder on getting to know one another. As we ran the course, I felt at home, and I hope you did, too. The easy banter of a group on a mission is so energizing and reassuring, and your natural observation of go-zones was simply awesome. And once we were dry and warm, a new warmth spread as I was listening to you create goals for our upcoming race. I loved your insistence upon fixing the split and mapping out the go-zones for complete clarity. ;) It was impressive to watch. I felt confident as I set my head on the pillow, and I allowed myself to dream big.
And the next morning, I was buoyed by texts from Franklin and Anderson as they asserted the positivity on the bus. And I rejoiced in the quiet calm of pinning on bib numbers and relaxing on the bus pre-race. And I smiled at the selfless, thoughtful text from Alexia as we prepared on the starting line. And I celebrated with you as Anderson sent me a pic of Klyde and Angie on the starting line for the Varsity race. And I could barely contain myself as I watched Kelsey emerge from the woods right on plan, with Maya only steps behind, and Julia only steps behind her, and Janelle only steps behind her. And I was speechless as I watched our pack of Cynthia and Steff and Vic push harder than they had in the past to fix the split. It is impossible to explain the elation that occurs when you can see people shifting their words into actions. Every time I saw one of you, I saw you scrapping, using the course to your advantage, trying to get ahead of the next pack. And I was glowing by the team response after the race...first as we helped Tay and Di with their awesome races, then as those two actually raced, later as we took pictures and laughed and ate, and finally as we did some brief analysis on the bus ride home.
This race was not without learning opportunities, however. While our start and our kicks were the strengths of the day, our middle mile continues to concern me. Despite the rain and wind, the course was still fast, as illustrated by Madison Marasco's time of 17:30 (Schaumburg) as well as Katherine Olson's time of 17:44 (Dekalb). There were several runners in the 18s as well as the low 19s, so the course clearly handled Friday's rain ok. So if the course is fast, what is holding us back? Clearly you all were invested in our team goals. Clearly, you all believed in the moment that you were giving maximum effort. I will refer to the Jocelyn Barajas (class of 2017) for some insight. During the spring, she was on a quest to break 6 minutes in the mile. It took her longer than we anticipated to break this barrier, but once she did, her first words to me were, "What was I waiting for? That was not hard." Often, part of our brains are committed to a goal, but we allow other parts of our minds to set blocks...to listen to the body during the race and agree about pain and fear of falling off.
I am going to use Maya's race (with her permission) as another example of this mental-physical connection. At Lake Forest, I asked Maya to run close enough to Julia to see every blond wisp of hair on her head...to be able to smell her shampoo. She went out hard and felt good and was able to reach this first-mile-goal with relatively little discomfort. This success helped her build more mental confidence mid-race, and she was able to push through the physical boundaries that once held her back. She broke 21 seemingly easily (we know that there is a tremendous amount of effort involved, but when your mind is right, it looks simple), and she felt positive the whole way. After that success, I challenged her to push more at Sterling. I told her to go out even harder and keep Kelsey in her sight, bringing Julia along with. Maya dutifully went out HARD, and I was so stoked to see her taking a risk. Although not next to Kelsey, I knew she could see Kelsey for the whole first mile, and Maya was rewarded with a speedy 6:25--30 seconds faster than her time trial on Saturday. At that point, she still looked strong and confident; when I asked her about it later, she reported that she was proud of her first mile and felt good, much like Tuesday. When she emerged from the woods again, she had fallen off Kelsey, but she still looked ok. I could tell that she was not as confident (you women would be amazed by how much your face reveals your mindset), but I was not concerned yet. As she headed into the woods for the final loop, with about 1,000 meters to go, I could see that Maya was in trouble. Her breathing was shallow and rapid, and her legs looked like they had no strength. I encouraged her to breathe deeply, but she almost seemed incapable of hearing me at that point. When she emerged for the final 400, I could see that Maya was in distress. Her legs looked barely capable of holding her up, her eyes were glazed over, and she seemed to be going backwards. Moments after she passed me, she collapsed.
I have witnessed runners experience this problem over the years. Shayla (class of 2017) had a few bouts of what I call "spaghetti legs" during her years as a runner. We at first thought there was a physical catalyst, but after a lot of checking, we realized that it originated in the mind. I have also watched too many runners experience this phenomenon at State, which reinforces that mental source due to the high-stakes nature of that race. Let me explain. When you run, your body demands more oxygen than when you are at rest. Simply, your muscles require oxygen in order to perform. During the race, you face many mental challenges. Perhaps a specific goal that you want to pursue feels out of reach. Or maybe a girl challenges you, and you cannot respond. Weather, hills, an unexpected pain in your stomach or leg or whatever...there are a million factors that can take your mind by surprise. In that moment, you make a choice: to try to respond to the challenge or to ignore the challenge.
Let's look at the "respond" choice first. You might be able to muster some energy or mental grit to respond and work through the challenge. If you do, you get a mental boost and feel better about yourself. If you cannot, however, (and that DOES happen sometimes...sometimes you are faced with a competitor who is simply faster, or your reaction time is not fast enough to match a competitor's surge, or you have a physical problem that cannot be overcome simply by grit...it happens) your brain feels like you tried (thus preserving your "gritty" view of yourself), and you continue with your race.
What if you simply choose to ignore the challenge? This seems black and white, but there is the complication of ego. At this point in the season, you have all bought into wanting to have a tough mindset, so the "ignore the challenge" choice feels like punking out. Your ego does not want you to look bad, so your mind races to try to fix the situation. This can cause a stress-response in your body: your heart rate increases even more, and your breathing must catch up. The problem is that you are already taxed physically because of the race, so it is all too easy to slip into a shallow, rapid breathing pattern.
When I spoke to Maya after the race, she said that she felt like her mindset was strong, even as Kelsey pulled away from her. This is good news because I want you all to keep a positive mindset and flexibility if your plan does not unfold perfectly. Unfortunately, you can still have a stress-response even if you are trying to respond to a challenge. This spiral seemed to develop at the 2-mile mark for Maya, a point when the body is already under tremendous race-stress and has nearly the highest oxygen demands (the highest being the very end of the race). Unfortunately, this creates a bad spiral--as the body gets less oxygen due to the bad breathing pattern, the muscles start to cramp up, including the diaphragm--a muscle that helps control the opening and closing of our lungs. When the diaphragm cramps, it further complicates breathing, which makes the whole situation worse. The muscles cramp further due to lack of oxygen and our human instinct to survive. Our brain screams, "Whoa! If you are not going to give me enough oxygen, I'm shutting down the whole system!" The brain sends signals to the muscles to cramp so hard that they can no longer function...aka spaghetti legs.
So what can we learn from Maya? There are several lessons:
1. It is imperative to run the entire race like your team needs you. You never know when a teammate might fall or have a bad race, etc. You have to run like you are our #1 runner each race to help lift the whole team.
2. Look at her reaction during the race: despite being in physical distress, she kept trying to fight for her teammates until she was physically unable.
3. Look at her reaction post-race: once we got her breathing back to normal and some fluids in her, she started feeling better. She had the choice to go home with her parents, but she decided to stay with her team. I think this is due two two factors. First, her teammates were incredibly supportive of her right after the race. The twins both took great care of her, and the others did not judge her--they simply wanted to help her feel better. Second, despite being a freshman and relatively new to running, she was strong and smart enough to realize that the whole trip mattered, and that she would miss out on some important moments--pictures, seeing her teammates get medals, yummy lunch including ice cream, and a very revealing game of Two Truths and a Lie on the bus ride home.
4. Her reaction today: I asked her if I could write about the experience, and she gave me the green light because she "could learn from it." Talk about a gritty, growth-mindset response! This kind of reaction is where true growth comes from--being humble enough to want to learn, and being wise enough to ask for the feedback!
5. Breathing matters. I know this sounds trite, but it is easy to forget that breathing is something we CAN control. We cannot control the weather, our competitors, the course, the world. We can control how we react to it. That stress-reaction can occur in a variety of situations: if you have to give a speech for class; or if you are in a car accident; or if you are faced with an uncomfortable conversation with a friend. All of these situations cause our bodies to react instinctively to protect us. You CAN override that reaction by forcing yourself to take slow, calming breaths. The best way to do so is to practice relaxed breathing in non-stressful situations first. Before you go to bed, spend two minutes in a deep-breathing pattern. Lie on your back, close your eyes, put one hand over your heart, and your other on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose, and feel your belly rise; pause for a beat, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. After five breaths, you should already feel a difference in your body. As you follow this cycle, try to simply focus on the feeling of the breath as it cycles from your nose to your lungs to your belly and out of your mouth. It is normal for our minds to try to think during this process. Just acknowledge thoughts as they happen, and then return your focus to breathing. After two minutes of this rhythmic breathing, your heart rate should lower, your body should feel relaxed, and you should feel ready to drift off to sleep.
Once you have mastered this two-minute cycle, then try it when you are stressed. It could be before a test or before a race or during another stressful situation. See how the breathing makes it easier to make clearer choices and remain grounded. If you want more information, google "watching the breath." You will find countless videos and articles about this meditation technique. One more quick note--many researchers attribute the idea of the runner's high in part to the rhythmic breathing that running creates. Exercise releases endorphins, too, but they do not explain the runner's high alone. :)
Ok, so I know that was a long tangent, but it was an important one! I'd like to focus on a few more beautiful moments from Saturday. First, I was really excited by a few other racing details. When I saw that Maya was in distress with 1,000 to go, I told Julia that Maya needed her help. She was already having a good race, but her immediate response (despite having a stomach bug since Wednesday) was to shift gears to step up. That kind of reaction is how we fix the split! When Vic, Steff, and Cynthia caught Maya, they kicked like mad to help lift the team. Every time Janelle passed me, she worked to fix her shoulders and re-catch her teammates. Post-race, the girls immediately shifted to helping Maya feel better as well as prepare Diana and Taylor for their races. They spread out to help in the tougher spots of the course, and were elated to see their teammates race so well. Speaking of Tay and Di--these two were beautiful, too. After the radar indicated that bad storms were on the way, the race directors combined the genders for the open race, but pushed the start time later to give the boys time to prepare. This could have been stressful, but our two bees took the change in stride, and their teammates helped keep them focused and warm. At the gun, Tay and Di got out hard, and I was stoked to see Taylor emerge from the woods in the mid-20s place-wise with Di only steps behind! They used the boys in the race to help push to great mile times: Taylor with a 7:08 and Di with a 7:15! Heading into the woods, they worked hard to pass people. Going into the woods for the final time, Taylor was in 21st place. Not only did she pass several packs of boys, but she also passed 3 girls to finish in 19th and earn a medal. With 1,000 meters to go, I told Di that she was in 30th and would have to work hard in the woods; she reacted immediately by picking up her pace! Unfortunately, her kick could not withstand a late surge of another girl, and she ended up in 31st. That being said, these two took tremendous risks in their races, and I was impressed by their grittiness. :)
As I looked at the results from the race, I was pleased that we took 15th out of 22 teams (better than our finish last year with a much more experienced team). There is a particular story that is noteworthy within the results. We tied point-wise with my alma mater, Conant. The reason we "beat" them has to do with fixing the split. If you look at our two scores head-to head, we lost the early part of the race. Their #1 beat Kelsey, and their #2 and #3 beat Julia and Steff. BUT, our pack of Julia, Steff, Cynthia, and Vic all beat their #5 runner. And even though Janelle was not satisfied with her race, her effort was important to the team outcome. As our #6 runner, she beat their #5, pushing their team score up. She also beat their #6 (they only had 6 runners, too). Never underestimate your power to help the team and fix the gap. If this had been the regional, Janelle's efforts, as well as that of the pack might have made the difference between us making it out as a team and only individuals getting out. Food for thought! (Check out the picture at the end to see what I mean).
The bus ride home also made me happy. You insisted on finding out about our split, and Vic and Tay asked many follow up questions after everyone else left. I can feel a shift with this group. Let's keep the momentum going this week, ok?
I can only go by the reports, but it sounds like a solid day. Angie and Klyde took on the challenge of running in the Varsity race. Although their times were slightly off of their races lately, they looked aggressive and had great finishes, each catching a few runners in the end. Nice work, women!
In the open race, both Jayla earned the lone LPR for the day, dropping 4 seconds, despite the hilly course. As I look at the other times, I am concerned that too many of you let the mental challenge of a hillier course get in your heads. Charmaine, Aja, and Kate seemed to be the only ones in the right neighborhood time-wise. I want to talk with you about it in person, though, before I jump to conclusions!
Let's have a great week in order to have a great conclusion at Conference on Saturday!
Thanks for reading all the way to the end. Can't wait to see you all at Van Patten tomorrow! :)
We finally got a break weather-wise as we headed south to Lake Forest's perfectly manicured course. After a fabulous predictive workout on Saturday, I could not wait to watch you all race; I knew that you were ready to race fast! Women, you did not let me down. During the warm up, I could feel the confidence among you, and I appreciated your willingness to hear my suggestions for "fixing the split" and smiling. :) After the gun, I watched you all attack the first loop and mile. As you approached the bridge for the second time, I was elated to see you taking BIG risks. Maya, Carmen,Delilah, Sarah M., Daz, Jayla, Karen, Charmaine, Lindsey, Aja, and Ashley all had impressive first miles that translated to PRs. As our runners rounded the second loop, I was inspired to see you work turns hard as well as that small hill near the school. In the final loop, I watched you encourage each other as your passed by the tennis courts: a simple thumbs up, a nod, a smile. These small but important gestures acted as reminders of our mission--to fix the split. I am excited to report that our team split on Tuesday was 13:57, compared to our split at JT, which was 16:18. What a big improvement! Our 1-7 split at JT was 3:34, while it was 3:12 on Tuesday; again, we had big progress! Our 1-5 split at JT was 3:25, while it dropped to 3:00 on Tuesday. We are moving in the right direction, and I want to make this area our focus for the remaining meets.
There were many gritty moments in races I would like to highlight from today. Kelsey looked stronger today as she worked diligently to catch Lake Forest's #2 runner; her race was fairly even, but I know that she can work on that second mile to help get her times back to where she was a few weeks ago. Maya took a big risk today to earn a big PR. She has been working hard with Julia in workouts and meets, and today she took that confidence and used it to get out harder than usual. Her splits (6:38, 7:05, 7:02) illustrate a focus on the second and third miles. If she can continue to work hard like this, she will be able to help our team goal of fixing the split. Nice work, Maya! Taylor had a nice recovery after a tough race at JT. Not only did she get out hard, but her splits were much more even (7:08, 7:55, 7:27) than previous races. She also had a strong kick for the day--keep it up, Tay! After an incredibly strong performance at our home course, Diana came back with an equally impressive race today to prove that she is mentally tough. She trusted her training and got out hard with Taylor and then kept her splits sub-8 (7:08, 7:57, 7:53). Awesome effort! Angie had a breakout day by getting out hard and closing with grit. If she can get that second mile to be more in line with the first and third, she is going to say goodbye to the 24s, too! Impressive work, Angie! Like Di, Naya had strong back-to-back performances at home and at Lake Forest. Not only did she get out strong, but she also looked focused and gritty throughout the race. Excellent return to the strength I saw this summer! Klyde continues to improve her racing tactics, learning from each race. She ran sub-8 for her first mile and made a great move in the final 800 in order to earn a new LPR. Although it was not a PR, Alexia had another strong race because she kept her mind focused in a positive place and looked determined to catch people the entire way; her last mile was the fastest, which seems to work really well for her. If she can bring her second mile down a bit, she will be able to work on bringing her overall time down and help her team fix the split. Kate is in the same boat when it comes to the second mile. She has mastered the first and last; if she can work through that discomfort of the second mile, her times will continue to drop! Sarah M. and I had a good talk on the run on Monday; she used that feedback and stuck with her teammates like glue! The result was a much more "awake" performance, and a significant time drop! Delilah struggled early on, but she worked to correct the problem, running a speedy 8:36 final mile and kicking like mad. That type of mid-race correction is tough to do, but it is the hallmark of smart racers! Daz, only a second off her lifetime, worked hard to ignore her hip and knee pain in order to stay with Sarah M. for the first mile and pass LF girls in the second half of the race. Elyssa was only steps away from that pack at the start, and she ran strong in the second half to earn a new LPR! Karen had a break out race, showing that she really "gets" what it means to work through the pain by sticking with a pack she does not normally race with!
I am happy to report that our focus (as well as some cooperative weather) resulted in some outstanding times. This is an important lesson: focusing on performance goals like go-zones, working the second mile, and staying relaxed (smiling) lead to great outcome goals like time drops. The following women earned season PRs at Lake Forest: Julia by two seconds; Taylor by five seconds; and Carmen by ten seconds. Great work, women! Your focus and concern for your team resulted in individual success! We also earned a whopping 13 Lifetime PRs at Lake Forest: Maya dropped an impressive 41 seconds by focusing on working with Julia and pulling on Kelsey; Diana has joined the 22 club by dropping 25 seconds through a gritty race; Angie has said goodbye to the 25s by improving by 31 seconds through a strong start and continued focus; Naya continues her improvement streak with another gritty race, dropping 3 seconds; Klyde looked focused and fast at the finish with a drop of 17 seconds; Kate had an outstanding outing by getting out hard and dropping an impressive 55 seconds; Delilah had a rough start but never gave up, running a great second half and kicking like a beast for a drop of 11 seconds; Sarah had an outstanding day by staying focused on working with her team to drop 25 seconds; Elyssa took a big risk to get out hard and earned a new LPR by an impressive 1:39; Karen followed Elyssa format, running an impressive first mile and dropping a huge 1:49; Charmaine, not to be outdone, has figured out that her teammates make her even better, and she dropped 1:12; Lindsey worked hard with Charmaine and made her own time-drop of TWO MINUTES; finally, Ashley keeps marching toward her sub-30 goal by dropping a big 1:20 today. Overall, these drops represent continued hard work and more understanding of the demands of racing. I am so impressed by these improvements! Let's keep supporting one another on a quest to get stronger as a team!
On the bus ride home, I felt great about our progress as a team, and I cannot wait to see what we can do at Wheeling and Sterling!
@Shiloh Woods vs. Mundelein and Stevenson: I know many of you begged to differ, but the temperatures felt more manageable on Monday; unfortunately, the mercury rose again on Tuesday, leaving us with another hot race day. Our energy felt good coming out of the pre-race breakdown, and I looked forward to seeing some great racing. You did not disappoint. We faced an ever-improving Stevenson team (who looked impressive despite holding out their top runner, Isabelle Sparreo), and a young but strong Mundelein squad. We got out well as a group, and at the "Sectional Loop," I was impressed by your willingness to put yourselves in the race for real, but I knew that times would not be super-fast.
My favorite part of the race was watching you all work the Twilight Zone. It was fun to watch you all own the part of the course that we have worked so hard this summer and fall. Without exception, I witnessed you pick it up by the duck pond go-zone, and I SO pumped as you all rounded the corner back into the woods just beyond the volleyball courts, because you all took that turn as an opportunity to shake up your pace and race. This kind of mid-race focus is what created gritty outcomes today. I am proud of you all for taking a risk!
While I was proud of our collective effort, I'd like to highlight a few particular racers from today. First, we had FIVE women pop LPRs today: Naya by 42 seconds; Delilah by 4 seconds; Jayla by 1:28; Karen by 1:27; and Ashley by a whopping 2:20! These women were able to drop time despite the warm temps--so proud of you all! Maya, Janelle, Diana, Kate, Lindsey, and Charmaine were all within 15 seconds of their lifetimes today. Again, to be that close to a lifetime in these conditions is impressive!
As I mentioned at practice, what I really want to focus upon for the remainder of the season is gritty racing. As we roll into the championship part of the season, times matter less and places matter far more. While you all raced well, there were a few people who really stood out to me today. First, Steff looked much more like the racer I know she can be today. She surged well in the Twilight Zone, and she had a great kick. Nice work! At two points, Diana looked stronger than she has all season: crossing the street just before the 2-mile, and coming out of the Sectional Loop for the last time. Coming down that hill, I saw a confidence in her eyes and a determination to catch some more runners going into the final kick. That focus and hunger is what every coach wants to see! Naya took a situation that could have blocked her from having a good day or race, and she turned it into fuel for a lifetime PR. She ran very even splits, but she did so because she had a laser-like focus for the entire race. She looked much more like the Naya of early summer: assertive, goal-oriented, and strong. Alexia, like Naya, turned a negative into a positive. After a tough race on Saturday, Alexia put her mindset back where it needs to be. She had a calm and business-like demeanor about her, and it allowed her to respond to the race as we both know she can, rather than let the mental side stifle the physical. It was a delight to witness! Jayla continues to improve with each race as she learns about her capabilities. She got out HARD and challenged herself to run with Karen and Crizaber. Despite an early-season setback with her feet, she has been using each race as an opportunity to prove her fitness and grit, and I appreciate the way she treats races with respect. I have to give a final shout out to Janelle for her gritty race today. The Mundelein coach came up to me post-race and asked about her; she said she was impressed to "see someone with all that tape push so hard." I could not agree more; as I watched her in the final sectional loop, I was almost breathless--I was stunned that she was able to will herself to race so hard for her team. And after she finished, I thought about the journey she has been on as a runner. To paraphrase her own words, she is not the same person she was as a freshman, when she barely understood what running was really about. Despite injury and surgery and countless other reasons to give up, she has given her all to this team. It makes sense that Victoria passed the Courage Award on to Janelle this past week.
I ask that you consider all of their mindsets as you prepare for your next race. If you are not getting chills when you are on the line because you are happy for the opportunity to race, then you are missing the point of our sport and our team. If when the gun sounds, you are not thankful that you have air in your lungs and blood surging through your heart, then you need to rethink your mindset. If you are not spending the entire race trying to catch one more girl or help your teammate pass one more pack or use the course to your advantage, then you need to think of these women.
A few other things on my mind:
1. I cannot tell you how impressed I was by our collective effort in the workout on Saturday. You all simply ROCKED the workout. You worked so well together, and I am so impressed by the times you were able to run. If you apply that same team-mindset to the next races, we are going to look amazing!
2. I am concerned about some of the nagging some of you are experiencing. After your run or bike ride today, please stretch well. Check out this video for stretching your psoas; it's a muscle that connects from your spine to the front of your hip. If it gets tight (which it is in most people due to the amount we sit each day), it can cause problems elsewhere, including shins, knees, and hips. Be mindful as you complete each stretch. Finish up with lots of water and great meals today. Help your body recover from yesterday's tough effort! Click here for the stretching routine.
3. I am impressed that we are doing so well academically. There can be NO breaks, though. Keep being attenditve in class, planning ahead for homework and studying, and balancing your assignment completion with a consistent bedtime. As always, if you need help, please see me, one of the other coaches, or one of the seniors. We want you to do well in your classes! :)
4. Last, but not least, bee on the lookout for how your teammates are doing in workouts and meets. Let's lift each other up and give specific, positive feedback when it is due! #linked4life
5. I will hand out invitations to Sterling on Tuesday.
This marks week two of unseasonal temperatures. I am impressed with how well you have all done with hydrating and replenishing all week. Made easier by having a "bye" for our conference duals during the week, we were able to properly prepare for the hot temps on Saturday at the JT Invite. Mid-week, the Grant coach emailed to inform us all that the meet would be moved up by an hour and the order of races changed in order to avoid the hottest temperatures of the day. Since the course is new to us this season, we wanted to arrive early to scout the new locale. As we walked and ran the course, we were all pleased to see a true XC course, full of hilly opportunities to work on different racing tactics than we used at the flat Warren course last week.
Varsity Women: Thanks to the schedule change, this group enjoyed the easiest (although not easy) weather of the day. At the start, we got out well and looked great going up the hill for the first time. Kelsey was our first bee to emerge from the woods, and she was sitting in the low 20s place-wise. Julia, after getting out stronger than she has in past meets, looked confident and peppy--much more like the Julia of sophomore year. Maya was our third bee, looking strong, but a bit further back than I would have preferred. That being said, I would rather a more conservative start considering the weather; I cannot help but wonder if she knows how strong she is, especially after her amazing 1000s workout with Julia on Tuesday. Taylor, Cynthia, Steff, and Vic came through within steps of each other. Again, while I appreciate some patience on a hot day, this quad is significantly underestimating their collective and individual strength. Their times in the mid to upper 7s for the first mile does not match their true capabilities!
After the two-mile, Kelsey had moved up significantly in the race, putting herself in the low teens with a great opportunity to break into the top ten of the race. Much like many of her other successful meets, her ability to run even splits (6:39, 6:41, 6:39) allows her to make impressive moves on her sleeping competitors. By the race's end, she had secured the 10th spot overall (and a medal) by staying focused and kicking with authority. Julia ran more evenly today, which allowed her to match her finish time from last week's much easier course at Warren. If she can apply this same mindset to our home course on Tuesday, I know that her time, place, and overall race will be more in line with her long-term goals for this season. I need to give Julia a shout out for her impressive kick today; she used her speed strength to finish like I know she can! Her efforts earned her a ribbon today! Maya was our third finisher today. I was proud of her desire to move up to the Varsity race for the additional challenge today; I was also proud of her progressive kick. She looked strong coming into the finish field, and changed gears with every turn--nice work! Taylor eventually broke away from our group of four to be our fourth finisher on the day. Her splits were relatively even, and her kick was solid (although last week's was more impressive). Vic, Steff, and Cynthia all finished within seconds of each other. While they all had great kicks and ran even splits, I need all of these women to take the risk to TRULY race on Tuesday. I was really pleased to hear Steff speak up, and all of these four nod in agreement as we talked about our day in the locker room upon returning to school. Overall, I see so much potential with this group--I cannot wait to see what they come up with goal-wise after our talk.
Frosh/Soph Women: Last week, these women set an aggressive and positive tone for the meet when they all PRed at Warren. They attacked this race with the same mindset, but the warmer temps definitely stifled their attempts at another time drop. There were several moments that stood out during this race, however. First, Klyde's gutsy start was inspiring; she ignored her healing ankle and really went strong. Angie, too ran an aggressive start. Most impressive was Karen's start, however. Not only did she break her mile PR (8:53), but the look on her face was intense! She looked like she was on a mission and was not afraid to take a risk. The other two starts that stood out were Crizaber's (she looked great after nursing her arch issue this week) and Jayla's (her first three-mile race of the season after dealing with some issues with her feet!). Both these women threw caution to the wind and trusted their training--nice work!
Angie ran the most even race of the day, while Jayla did a great job between mile two and three. Crizaber had the best kick of this group, but Delilah and Ashley were not far behind in that department! Elyssa was affected least by the heat, with her time being closest to her PR. The big shout out needs to Karen: she earned the ONLY LPR of the day on the women's side. She did it by starting aggressively and working hard through the middle segments of the race--nice work! I continue to be impressed by the mindset and progress of this group, and I cannot wait to see them race at our home course.
Open Women: Our final group of the day faced the worst of the heat, but they did so with the best mindsets! During their warm up, they looked relaxed and focused, unphased by the rising temps. At the start, they got out strong. After the first loop, Di looked amazing in the top seven, and Carmen was not far behind. Naya was working hard behind Carm. All three women had great first mile splits, with Diana running the most even race of the group. Our 4th bee was Kate, who keeps improving by leaps and bounds each week. Not only did she run an even race, but she kept scrapping the whole way! Daz was not far behind her, using Kate's energy to propel her to a strong race. Alexia and Addy rounded out our group and looked focused the entire race. Out of this group, Di, Carm, and Kate all earned ribbons for their outstanding efforts. As I watched our girls on the hill and then heading into the woods, I was impressed by how EVERY SINGLE ONE allowed herself to be "coachable." They listened to their cheering teammates and coach, and used the positive suggestions to take action at that moment. ALL of you worked hard around the flag that took you into the "zig-zag" section leading into the woods. On the final loop, I saw Di pass a Lakes girl, Carm catch a pack, Naya reset her cadence, Kate catch a pack, Daz zoom the tangent, Alexia work to reset her breathing, and Addy work on her cadence. I was so impressed by the grit of this group while attacking the hill as well as the finish. Although the heat did not permit the times to reflect their efforts, I was very pleased with the mindset and approach of this group as a whole.
For the coming week, I invite you to do some soul searching. We gave out links this week, completed a Darwin run, and witnessed Vic passing the Courage Award to Janelle. As of this writing, we have completed six weeks together as a team. Where do we want to go from here? Do we want to continue focusing on individual PRs and supporting each other individually, or will this team truly come together as a united force? I have seen glimpses of what we can be: Oshkosh was the most cohesive and productive trip we have EVER had; many alums have come back to offer support (Karyn, Shayla, Jo, Lucas, Helen, to name a few!); the chemistry with this group is outstanding; and the new kids are hungry to learn from the veterans. What are we going to do with all of that energy and opportunity? Will we start TRULY racing for one another? Will we feel that authentic linked spirit? Will we dare to trust one another with big dreams? Will we trust ourselves enough to break out and accept the cost (temporary pain) for greatness (permanent pride)?
I invite you to show me your collective answer this week.
We knew it would be hot, and Mother Nature did not disappoint. Our Frosh/Soph women enjoyed the coolest weather of the day, and they did not waste this opportunity on the newly reconfigured Warren course; FIVE of the six racers earned new LPRs, and the sixth ran a heck of a gritty race. Maya was our leader, and she went out much faster than at Lakewood on Tuesday. That being said, she was still able to make her last mile her fastest, and by my count, she caught at least 25 runners between her first mile and the finish. That kind of mental grit is what racing is all about! Her tenacity earned her a new LPR of 21:37--great effort, Maya! ANgie was our second bee. She went out aggressively, but her middle mile dropped off a bit too much. She refocused for her last mile and had an outstanding kick, earning her a new LPR by 23 seconds. Great job! Sarah M. had the most impressive breakthrough out of this group. As our third bee, she ran an impressive first mile and very even splits throughout the race. She dropped a whopping 1:43 today in order to earn a new LPR! So proud of you, Sarah! Delilah was not far behind her, breaking into the 27s today, also. While her splits were a bit more uneven, she was able to drop 1:10 for a new LPR! Great effort! Elyssa ran an outstanding first mile today and had an inspired kick. She dropped another 8 seconds after an impressive effort on Tuesday to earn another LPR today. Klyde was our final bee. Although her ankle is still not 100% after Tuesday's sprain, she gritted out the race to run with her girls--her mindset will help her get back to her previous performances shortly, I know! Overall, I am incredibly impressed by this group. Let's keep learning and improving as a unit! :)
Our Varsity has been reeling from a nasty respiratory bug and injury this week, and I knew that we would not be at 100% today; I was anxious to see what we could do despite these obstacles. Kelsey was our first bee with a slightly more reserved start compared to Tuesday. She ran a very even race, with her first and last splits matching, which earned her an impressive LPR of 19:03. Her focus during the second mile allowed her to move up considerably in the race; at the 1000 mark, she was in the upper 30s, and she finished in 15th. These numbers are important--Kelsey is simply slowing down LESS (her second mile was only 9 seconds slower than her first and third) than the people around her because she is laser- focused in the middle, difficult section of the race. Her finish is an important lesson, too. While I did not get to see it, I heard that she was caught by a pack in the final stretch. In the stadium, the turf quieted her competitors' footfalls, and the roar of the crowd would make it difficult to detect them anyway; herein lies the lesson: the kick should happen no matter what. It should not be dependent upon catching someone or holding someone off. At the Sectional, the final stretch is usually lined with people at least 3-4 deep, and it is impossible to hear warnings of approaching runners. The kick needs to be automatic! This is a lesson that EVERYONE should absorb! The other important lesson is that even, aggressive racing results in fast times and medals. Congrats to Kelsey on earning a medal for her 15th place finish on a challenging day in a challenging field! Our second bee was Julia, coming back from the nasty plague. While she was definitely still feeling the effects of her illness, her second and third miles were nearly identical. If we can start lowering those two, she will be running the times that we both know she is capable of. It was good to see her back racing, and she worked hard to ignore her lingering illness. As our third bee, Taylor had an outstanding breakthrough today. After an inspiring speech on the bus, she practiced what she preached on the course. Not only did she run a 39 second season PR, but she just looked gutsy the whole way. Her splits were more even today, and I know that she will continue dropping time. She worked extremely well with an improving Cynthia who looked strong in her second race back after a calf tweak. Watching these two work together was outstanding. If they can start pulling on Julia, we will be back to a stronger pack! Steff looked the strongest she has all week after catching the worst of the plague. While I know she is not where she wants to be yet, her first mile indicates she is getting healthier; I know the other two miles will come back when she is able to actually process oxygen normally. Janelle tenaciously finished as our 6th bee today, despite a nagging leg injury. Her first mile shows where her heart and mindset are at. If you did not see her race, then you missed a great opportunity to see what the mind can do. I know that when we get her feeling better, she will make our whole squad stronger. In the meantime, she needs to keep the positive mindset that got her this far, and she needs help from her fellow bees during this process! Vic rounded out our varsity 7, finishing despite briefly passing out at the 400 mark (she too has been a victim of this respiratory bug). When she came to, she said that two workers were trying to get her off the course, but she insisted on finishing. When she is healthy again, this tenacious mindset will help her make our team as strong as we know it can be. Our first mission needs to be health. Our second mission continues to be mid-race aggressiveness. Let's go!
Our JV women dealt with the hottest weather of the day. By race time, it was 88 with a "real feel" of 91. Considering it was in the 60s for most of the week, this dramatic temperature spike was difficult to adjust to. That being said, this gutsy group was outraged to hear that the race officials--after sending two kids to the ER via ambulance--decided to shorten the JV races to 2 miles. While other runners cheered, our women asked if they could just run the third mile anyway. I think you women know me well enough to know how much your reaction and mindset mean to me. You truly get our purpose: to grind through whatever conditions are sent our way. And grind they did! Our first bee was Diana. In her post-plague-come-back, she looked aggressive and feisty. Her first mile was great considering the conditions, and I look forward to seeing her get stronger as she regains her health. Carmen was only 10 seconds behind Di; she looked more like her summer and Oshkosh self today. Not only did she have a great first mile, but she also had a fabulous kick--great work today! Naya was our third bee for the day. Her immediate reaction to the "2-mile" announcement was "All out! Two miles all out!" She did not disappoint, running a gutsy first mile and finishing with an impressive kick. Kate, in her best first mile to date, looked outstanding in this race. Every race she figures out something new about her abilities, and I cannot wait to see what she does at JT this coming Saturday! Daz was not far behind Kate, running an outstanding first mile and gritting through her knee pain in the second. Her kick was outstanding, and her positive mindset was evident with every step--nice work! Alexia was our next bee. Despite ongoing shin pain, Alexia ran an impressive race today. After the mile, I gave her the option to pull out, but she reset and kept grinding. When I saw her again, she was working to pass sleeping competitors. Her kick was the best of this group; she started opening up before the 400 mark, and looked outstanding on that long stretch into the stadium. Excellent work, Lex! Our final bee for the day was Addy, looking strong after a knee issue. Despite the heat, her time was significantly faster than Tuesday, and I can't wait to see her run a full 3 at JT. Overall, this group's mindset was outstanding--not only did they welcome the challenge of the heat, but they also handled the curveball of the distance change with grace and grit. If you learn nothing else from this race, learn that adjusting to new situations is a really important trait in a great runner (and human!)
Overall, I was impressed with the character of this team today. I saw you look out for each other post-race with water and shade and ice. I watched you cheer on your teammates with gusto. We are starting to really come together as a true family; when you can call each other sisters in running, you earn a new purpose in your racing. You no longer give in to fatigue or pain so easily because you are running for something bigger than just yourself. Let's continue the work of finding the greatness in one another this week. Is anyone able to host a pasta party this Friday? This is another chance to come together!
One last note--even if you were obsessive about rehydrating on Saturday, you are probably still a bit off-kilter. Make it a priority to work on re-balancing your body this week. On Monday, please make your water bottle your best friend. Consider a Gatorade or other sports drink--you need to get electrolytes back in your system! Also focus on fruits and veggies--their micronutrients will help your body replenish what you lost and mitigate the swelling that comes with tough race conditions. You also need to get some sleep to help your body recover. We are lucky in that we have a bye-week within our conference: no weekday racing this week. Let's use that opportunity to focus on a great workout on Tuesday on our course and on continuing to nurture our health with great hydration, wise nutrition choices, and smart bed times.
Have you checked out www.athletic.net yet? It is a great tool! You can see your progress this season as well as that of your teammates. Check it out!
We had a bittersweet day today. While we had many successes (SEVEN Lifetime PRs and one Season PR), we also had too many women out sick and hurt. We raced first, and our small group looked good at the start. Kelsey got out hard--much faster than she has started all season. Her gutsy first mile (6:08) will definitely help in the long term, but cost her in the final mile. That being said, she still ran a solid race and looked very competitive against LZ's top girls. Maya was our second bee for the day. She looked a bit too conservative in the first and second miles, but woke up to work hard in the final mile, her fastest of the day. Taylor was our third finisher, and she continues to improve each week. Her race was gutsy, and she earned a new season PR by 4 seconds. Cynthia was back in racing action; while her time was not where she wanted it to be, it was certainly great to see her back in the race. She worked hard to knock off some rust, and I know her effort today will help her with Warren on Saturday. Carmen also returned to racing today, rounding out our top 5. She had a great kick, and like Cynthia, needed to kick off some racing rust. I look forward to seeing an even stronger race on Saturday from her!
Our LPR list begins with our sixth runner, Angie. not only did she drop 22 seconds overall, but she also had an outstanding kick from the 300 mark. Nice work! Alexia and Kate were our next bees. They worked in tandem for the entire race, pushing each other to greatness. Kate's efforts to stay with Lex helped her earn an 8 second LPR, and Lex's efforts to stay with Kate helped her work through an ongoing injury. Aja was not far behind with a whopping 1:05 drop to earn a new LPR of 28:04! She looked like a different woman compared to her first time on this course only a two weeks ago. She also finished with a more confident kick. Great work! Delilah also earned an LPR--hers was by six seconds. She, too, had an outstanding kick from the road--great job! Elyssa dropped even more time (an impressive 46 seconds) to earn a new LPR. She keeps improving each meet, and I can't wait to see what she can do on Warren's speedy course. Klyde was our next finisher, and surely had the grittiest race of the day. After falling in the woods and spraining her ankle, Klyde finished thanks to her tenacity. While she was not happy with her swollen ankle or her time, her grit is to be commended. Addy, Crizaber, Karen, and Sarah M. all struggled with some tweaks today, but I know that they will come back stronger in the next race. Lindsey had two PRs in one race today. She ran an impressive first mile and PR of 9:41, and finished with an overall LPR by dropping an astounding 2:21! I am so impressed by her progress! Ashley, not to be outdone, also dropped an incredible 1:44 in order to earn her own new LPR.
Overall, this group worked hard, but we were unable to beat LZ or Waukegan due to extensive sickness an injury. We need to work hard to get healthy. Wash your hands. Don't share water bottles. Eat right. Respect your bed time. You can do it!