Although it has been several months since the heavy rains flooded sections of Lake County, Warren's course has still not fully recovered. As a result, we received a free chance to race at home on Tuesday. (Don't worry--they have figured out a solution for the Blue Devil Invite next Saturday; the course is flatter and ends in the football stadium). Going into this race, we had beaten Warren at Deerfield (although I suspect they were not at full strength), and we had lost to Libertyville at Lake County and the Rebel Invite; Libertyville's #1 runner won both of these competitive races with ease, so I knew that we would have a challenge on our home course.
Our mission was simple: run the first mile for the team; use the four "go zones" in the second mile to help work on our splits; and focus on being competitive in the last mile.
Here's what I saw:
Our first mile was solid. We got out well across the board! Our top runners ran solid splits in the mid 6s to 7s. Realistically, Janelle, Cynthia, Vic, Steff, Di, and Taylor can and should go out sub-7. Let's make this a goal for our Tuesday meet. Our next group--Naya, Sarah, Klyde, Crizaber, Kate, and Alexia were all in the 8s for the first mile. Nearly everyone in this group ran a PR, and it is in part due to their aggressive starts. Addy, Sarah M., Delilah, Noel, and Elyssa all had aggressive starts as well which resulted in LPRs for all of these young runners! Finally, Aja, Charmaine, Karen, Lindsey, and Ashley all got out much faster than in the past, resulting in some dramatic time drops for new LPRs.
We had several bees who either went negative for mile two (Kelsey), or did not drop off more than 20 seconds (Vic, Cynthia, Taylor, Alexia). It MUST be our goal to make this list grow in the next race. Please look at the split sheet below to see how you did split-wise. Slowing down more than 20 seconds during mile two signals a need for more focus during this segment of the race. This is the toughest part of the race: your legs are tired, the finish is not yet in sight, and your mind is screaming to your body to slow down. You must decide that you are going to override your brain. There are many techniques we have discussed to work through this struggle: think of a song lyric that is up tempo, use pre-determined "go zones" to pick up your pace, count your steps, focus on a person to catch, focus on a person that you will dedicate that mile to, think about your goal and acknowledge that the temporary pain is worthwhile to reach that goal. I challenge you to try one or more of these during mile two on Tuesday.
I have mixed feelings about our final mile, and specifically our final 500 meters. Yes, most of you brought your split back down for the final mile, but please know that it is not a true mile (it's actually .98). I stood near the "Sectional Loop" and watched you all enter that section and finish your races. Far too many of you missed the small downhill opportunity that leads into the 400 mark. At this point, many Warren and Libertyville girls were using that section to their advantage and making moves on us ON OUR HOME COURSE. Again, this is an area that we need to learn from and improve upon. When we are back at our course, we need to own that section. In the meantime, I need you to think about how we end our runs--we either do a workout where the last interval is supposed to be the fastest, or we do strides on the track. Both of these are meant to remind you that you can run fast when you are tired. You need to start believing that and putting it into your races, too! Again, make this a focus on Tuesday!
Yes, we have work to do, but we also have many successes to celebrate from this race. First, we had SEVENTEEN LPRs and TWO SPRs. That means nineteen out of the twenty-six racers made a huge improvement--that is outstanding! Checkout the split sheet below to see how awesome your teammates are and to see your own splits. Second, Addy, Sarah M., and Delilah all broke 30 minutes for the first time. That is an awesome breakthrough! And finally, Kelsey ran an outstanding race by running negative splits each mile, and earning the #2 spot on our all-time Top Ten Board for our course. This did not just "happen." Kelsey had a race plan, and she followed it; the plan did NOT involve times. Instead, she focused on running with Libertyville's top runner and using the "go zones" during mile two. The result was a speedy time and a great finish. Don't forget about my story about Kristen Whiteside--hard work over time pays off. Don't limit yourself goal-wise, and don't assume that big races like Kelsey's are just "easy for other people." Every great race and every success story is the result of mental toughness, dedication, and focus. Every single one of you is capable of those three traits. So let's go! :)
This is a busy week with two races and two morning practices. You MUST commit to getting rest so that we can be successful. Tuesday we are at Lakewood (our second shot at this course) against a strong Lake Zurich team and a feisty Waukegan team. Let's not underestimate either team, and let's use our knowledge of the course to improve our racing skills. Wednesday is an early release day at school, so we are going to run in the morning so that you can all go home at 12:40. Sleep is key here! Coaches will provide breakfast Wednesday. We will push our workout to Thursday this week, and conclude our training with morning practice on Friday morning. Saturday is at Warren's updated course at the O'Plaine Campus, which should be fast. Frosh/Soph races at 9:00 (3 team trophies and 1-10 medals); Varsity at 10:20 (5 team trophies, 1-10 individual trophies, and 11-30 medals); JV/Open at 11:40 (3 team trophies and 1-10 medals). Please let your fans know that there are NO dogs allowed at the course. This year's race t-shirt is sky blue and costs $15.
F/S and JV Women: It's Wisconsin, so GPS watches were not allowed. And it's Wisconsin, so they combined F/S and JV into one race...a 2.5 mile race. When we came up to practice on the course, you all had the chance to hear my views on 2.5. Since we would not be able to earn any 3-mile PRs today, we focused on race tactics. Most women discussed keeping up with a specific teammate, passing a certain number of people, or keeping a consistent pace. When the gun sounded, I knew that this group was ready to go. Although this group is young, each runner has made great progress in the past two weeks. I ran up to the 1.5 mile marker (this course is frustrating in that it is not coaching or spectator friendly) to see where where our bees were at in relation to the competition. Taylor was our first runner in the race, and she came through the 1.5 looking confident. She immediately worked to pass more people as I encouraged her on. Angie had an outstanding race today as our second finisher. She ran a consistent race and she had an outstanding kick. Naya was our third bee; while she didn't look quite as crisp as she did at Lakewood, she still battled through the hills and showed that classic Naya focus. Sarah D., Daz, and Klyde fed off each other throughout the race and finished within seconds of each other. This kind of teamwork is what I am looking for--never settling to simply run with a teammate and instead challenging each other to improve. Crizaber ran a very consistent race and looked strong as she finished 7th for our team. Alexia was our 8th bee. Her last half mile was outstanding and bodes well for our race at home on Tuesday. Kate had a huge day as our 9th bee. Not only did she significantly improve her pace over Wednesday, she also had a great finish; her time indicates that she will do well on our flat course! Noel was our 10th bee for the day; like Alexia, her last half mile was impressive! Aja, Elyssa, and Delilah worked as another great pack, helping each other improve over Lake County. They finished within seconds of each other and seem to be learning a lot. Addy and Sarah M. worked well in tandem. They finished within steps of each other and looked impressive in their kicks. Charmaine, Karen, and Lindsey worked together for big portions of the race until Charmaine and Karen pulled away in the last half mile. Ashley rounded out our team for the day, running a much improved pace over Lake County. This part of our pack is making big strides!
For our home meet, I need this group to focus on the following:
1. Starting strong--the first mile is flat and has long straightaways. Use them to help you keep an even, aggressive pace.
2. Focus in the woods. Use the marks to do a fartlek during mile 2 in order to stay awake.
3. Finish strong. I want to see amazing kicks for the last 400.
Varsity Women: Just like the Frosh/Soph and JV women, this group's mission was to focus on racing tactics. After a strong start, I headed to the 1.5 mark again to check our progress. Kelsey was our first bee, and she was sitting in 28-29th place. She looked great coming down the gradual hill and was actively passing runners as she flew by me. By the time she popped out of the woods, she had moved up to the high teens, running an outstanding last half mile split of 2:57; overall, her splits were very even. She finished in 17th overall and earned her first high school race hardware--way to go! Julia was our second bee in this race. At the 1.5 mark, she looked focused; unfortunately, her 2 mile split was too much of a drop from her first. This will definitely be a focus area for Tuesday, and I know that she will step up to defend our home course. Maya had another great outing as a varsity runner--this time as our third finisher. She ran a pretty even race and looked excellent as she finished. I continue to be impressed by her poise during difficult sections of the race. As I predicted during our summer hill work, she handled this hilly course like a champ! Despite an irritated calf muscle, Janelle was our fourth finisher. At the 1.5 mark, she was pushing to work up to Maya, and she was focused on fixing her form. While her last 800 was strong, her middle mile is definitely the area to be improved. Just like her sister, I know that she will work on this section at Shiloh on Tuesday. We have worked hard in that section all summer, so I know her confidence will be high! In a much stronger race than Lake County, Vic rounded out our scoring 5. Her pace was much more consistent, and her finish was strong. I am hoping that she will take some risks on our home course on Tuesday; she needs to remember that she is Oshkosh strong and capable of so much more! This race proves her strength! Cynthia was not far behind Vic, finishing as our 6th runner. It was good to see her back in racing form. Her start was strong, as was her finish; that middle mile needs more focus. She can work on it with the twins on Tuesday. Steff was not far behind Cynthia. While she did not look 100%, she definitely looked stronger than Lake County. Her last 800 was strong. If she can work with Cynthia to move up to Vic in the second mile, she can run more like the real Steff! Di was our final runner in this race. Like many of her teammates, her first mile and last half were right on target. If she can keep working on the second mile, she will be more competitive for her team.
Overall, this group looked better than Lake County, but I am not satisfied yet. In order to prepare for our home meet, I need these eight women to do the following:
1. Count your summer miles and reflect on the total. This number is who you are: a dedicated, hard working runner who made a big investment this summer. That base matters.
2. On the starting line, remember that your summer running number wasn't just for yourself--it was for your team. Dedicate your first mile to your team.
3. Once you hit the mile mark, pick one person to dedicate that mile to. Every "go" zone, push for a 30 count for that person.
4. Once you hit the 2-mile mark, think about yourself. Remember all the hard work you put in, and let yourself shine in that last mile. Feed off the energy of the crowd and your team. And for the last 400, kick like mad.
A few pro-tips for everyone:
1. Check out athletic.net to track your progress this season and to see how you stack up within our team and against other schools.
2. Let's keep working on 8 hours of sleep this week. Homecoming or not, we need to keep working on recovery.
3. As the temps get cooler, remember that you can wear a base layer under your uniform. It should be solid black.
4. Let's help get the school pumped for Homecoming Week. Dress up and bee part of the celebration! Come to room 152 at 7:45 to get a team pic each day of Spirit Week.
I cannot wait to watch everyone race at home for our own homecoming! How bad do you want it?
Varsity Girls: We were allowed to run up to ten women in this race, but we ran the eight who were ready to take on this challenge. (Side note to Cynthia--I know your heart and mind were ready, but it was the right choice to give your leg another few days to rest). On the starting line, I knew that the warmer temps and humidity would play a factor in the race since we have been so spoiled all summer with easy weather, with the exception of the long run last week. Our plan to start conservatively and then work later was born out of that concern. After a fine start, I worked my way over to the 800+ mark to check our progress. Our pack had not formed as I had hoped. Kelsey was our first bee through the mile and looked strong and focused. Julia was not far behind, but unfortunately, was not able to match Kelsey's moves during the second mile. Janelle and Maya worked hard in third and fourth, while Steff, Di, Vic, and Tay were a bit further back. The mile markers were not accurate, so I'm not going to talk about specific splits. The trend I noticed was a lack of focus in the second mile from our veterans; Kelsey and Maya made big gains in the second mile, however. Kelsey moved up nearly 20 spots during this stretch of the race, and Maya caught many, including Janelle. Their focus during this stretch of the race resulted in lifetime PRs for each freshie. Kelsey broke 20 for the first time; she was also the first freshman to finish the race--great work! Maya's only other official 3 mile race was Bee Linked back in July; she bested that effort by nearly three minutes...amazing! My hope for this group is that we can work on the following goals in the upcoming meets:
1. Improving our 1-5 and 1-7 split. We are stronger when we pack together.
2. Mental grit in mile two. We were great at this during the summer, so I know we can get it to happen in races.
3. Race for each other. Staying accountable to teammates will improve individual and team performances.
Open Girls: This group had the advantage of slightly cooler temps as the sun began to set. They also had the chance to compete in a coed race--a great opportunity to beat a boy! Our pack looked good at the start, and I was happy to see our bees looking strong at the 800 mark. Starting the second loop, Naya looked determined to catch people, and at the kick, she had a laser focus. She was our first finisher for the day. Klyde, Alexia, and Angie worked together to help each other. Angie had one of the best kicks of the day! Daz, in her season debut, was not far behind with Sarah; they both had solid performances on the day. Noel and Crizaber were next for our team, with Gen only shortly behind them. I know that when her back feels better, she will move up to help our pack. Addy looked much stronger than her Deerfield performance. She was followed by Delilah, who had an outstanding kick. Aja was not far behind, who finished her first race as a ZB! Sarah and Elyssa finished strong, followed by Lindsey and Karen working in tandem. Ashley was our final bee for the day, finishing her first 3-mile race ever!
Overall, I know this young group will continue to improve as they gain fitness and confidence. Their performances were a great starting point--now we can just work on getting more competitive. My challenge to this group is as follows:
1. Work on a positive mindset before and during the race. You have all improved so much in this area already, but staying positive when the going gets tough will help improve each runner's time.
2. Work on passing people in the second half of the race. It will help you to avoid slowing down when you are tired.
Unlike most years in the past, this Deerfield Triangular was marked by cool breezes and easy skies, making conditions for our first meet of the year more than cooperative. I am happy to report that our team seized this great opportunity and earned some impressive performances.
2-Mile: Only one of our competitors in this race has any high school XC racing experience, so I was elated to watch them warm up, ask questions, and compete. As we warmed up and discussed the course, I could feel the nervousness in the group; once the gun sounded, however, I knew that they would be ok. The group had a great start, listening to my advice to start conservatively and then work to catch other runners. Maya was our first through the mile with an impressive split of 6:49. Sarah "Blue" D. wasn't far behind, working hard to run a lifetime PR in the 2-mile. In her XC debut, Crizaber looked outstanding as our third runner for the day, running a smart second half of her race. Noel also looked strong as our fourth runner, finishing with a great kick. Kate rounded out our scoring five with a strong kick as well. Despite some arch issues, Jayla looked focused throughout her race and finished strong. Elyssa ran an outstanding first mile, and finished by closing hard on Jayla in the final loop. Delilah ran a strong first mile as well and showcased an outstanding kick to the finish. Karen looked outstanding in the last loop, catching several runners before the kick. Freshie Sarah courageously tackled this race after only a few days of practice, and looked great doing so! Lindsey, after a strong start, finished with a nice kick. Ashley courageously finished her first race with the help of her teammates. I am proud to report that this very young and inexperienced group embraced a ZB racing tradition: not a single runner dropped to the ground or acted dramatic at the finish line. Each woman gave her all, and then walked out of the chute with her head held high. This is the kind of strength I expect from every race; we are NOT drama queens--we are runners! Overall, there were A LOT of lessons learned in this race. During Saturday's workout, I could see the growth already! My biggest goal for this group is to start working on more even splits. Many of you had over a minute drop between the first and second mile, with the exception of Maya. Take note of her finish place--her ability to run only 14 seconds slower in her second mile illustrates her fitness as well as her mental strength; those two assets translate into a great time and finish! We will work on pacing, and you will only get stronger as we continue training. I know that this young group will be ready for their first 3-mile race on Wednesday, and I cannot wait to see it!
3-Mile: Although we were not at full-strength due to the twins' absence for their brother's wedding, we still looked great as a team. Twelve women toed the line for us in this race, and I could feel the nervous anticipation of the gun; once it sounded, I was really proud that our team followed our race plan: start at PPM pace and then race the second and third miles. Kelsey, Steff, and Cynthia looked great running three-across during the first part of the race. Kelsey emerged as our leader, running negative splits in order to chase down several Deerfield and Warren runners. She took 3rd overall after a gritty race, running 6:47, 6:48, and 6:35. Like Maya in the 2-mile, even and negative splits are the way to a more competitive race! I'm really proud of Kelsey's second-half mindset; she kept working to pass people when she was the most tired, and she was rewarded with a 6:35 split and a lifetime PR! Cynthia ran pretty even splits, but her middle mile (7:17) is where Kelsey pulled away. She was able to bring it back down to a 7:14, but I know that these times will continue to fall. That being said, Cynthia also ran a lifetime PR of 21:27--nice work! Steff was clearly still feeling the long run during this race, while she went out in a nice time of 6:50 with her pack, her middle and last miles-- 7:58 and 7:52--is uncharacteristic of her training this summer. I know she was disappointed by her time, but she earned a new lifetime PR by 7 seconds; even with a sub-par performance, she easily bested her best sophomore performance. I know that she will look fresher for our meet on Wednesday--she already looked much stronger during Saturday's workout. Vic was our next finisher, running a solid race, especially in the latter stages. Her splits were all in the sevens, with her second being the slowest. Watching the race, her second mile looked fast, as she was consistently passing people. She moved up significantly within our team, and helped rally her teammates. Her final time was a lifetime PR by over a minute (1:14) and significantly faster than her Bee Linked performance this summer. I know that she will continue to improve as she gains more experience. Taylor rounded out our scoring five with a great season PR of 23:12. She looked positive the whole race, working well with Diana to catch Warren and Deerfield. That middle split of 8:15 was her only weak spot, but I know that she will work on it, as evidenced by her strong work on Saturday in both segments of the workout. Diana ran with Taylor for most of the race, starting with a very strong 7:12--an impressive open that will eventually become part of what she does without the second mile dip. She smashed her Bee Linked performance and set a new lifetime PR of 23:23--over a 2 minute drop from her sophomore year. If these two keep working together, I cannot wait to see what they can do to help our Varsity squad! Carmen rounded out our Varsity Seven for the day, running a season PR of 24:21. She looked focused the entire way, especially during her sprinter kick! Like her teammates, she needs to work on her focus during the second mile (8:38) in order to drop her time to earn a new lifetime.
Angie and Naya worked together during the middle of the race, working to pass Deerfield runners. Angie's improvements since last year are a testament to hard work and dedication. During track season, she learned how to race and improved her fitness. Her finish time of 25:48 smashes her freshman PR by over 5 minutes and her Bee Linked effort by almost 3 minutes. Her kick was outstanding, and I cannot wait to see where she goes this season! Naya did not let Angie go, finishing only a second behind her. Naya is starting to look sharp again, and I am excited to see how much she improves in the next race; attacking that second mile will make huge difference and get her back in the neighborhood of her LPR. Klyde ran her first ever XC race and looked positive the whole way. Her fitness is improving, as proven by her solid last mile split. Like Naya, if she can tackle that middle mile with more focus, she will see huge drops. Alexia looked sharp in her first XC race since her surgery. Like her teammates, her middle split is hurting her overall time. Her experience will help her focus on that weak spot, and I anticipate a stronger middle mile at Lake County. That being said, her time was outstanding for her first XC race back, and I cannot wait to see where she goes this season! In the absence of the twins, her leadership today was invaluable; with so many newbees, her veteran experience helped make the meet go smoothly. Adellie was our final bee in the 3-mile race. In her ZBXC debut, she ran a lifetime PR despite a missed turn on the course and a resulting back track. Thankfully, Lake County is a well-marked course, so I look forward to getting good data split-wise for her on Wednesday! As is, her middle mile looks to be the trouble spot for her, and it will be the focus for Wednesday.
Overall, this group created an outstanding starting point for this season. We lost to a very deep and experienced Deerfield team, but we bested Warren by two points, thanks to Kelsey's strong performance up front and the grit of our other runners. Cynthia, Vic, and Taylor all beat their matching runner from Warren, and Diana "pushed" up Warren's score by beating Warren's scoring #5. That kind of teamwork is what it will take for us to do great things later in the season. On Saturday, I already saw efforts to continue improve; not only did our teamwork look amazing, but the mental grit in the second half of the workout was impressive. Everyone hit or beat their targets and looked sharp doing so. Nice work, women!
For this week, please remember my advice about sleep. You no longer have the summer luxury of an afternoon nap to supplement your recovery; you must commit to a habit of going to sleep at the same time each night to help boost your immune system and aid your recovery as we head into a week with two significant races. I'm going to be preaching about sleep all season, but it is a hidden commitment; you have to make the smart decision when no one is looking. #beelinked
I am proud of this very young team, and I cannot wait to see what we can do this season!
After a great summer of dedicated running, I am excited to see what the 2017 holds! Check in here after our first race for more details about our progress. :)