Tuesday @ Lake Forest:
After a strong performance at the JT Invite, I was hoping that we would not have a flat race; thankfully, everyone looked sharp at Lake Forest, despite soggy conditions. Our pack got out well, with directions to work with one another and lean into the reality of racing in the second half: it hurts.
Kelsey was our first finisher, looking comfortable in the early pace and catching several girls in the second half. When she finished, she reported that the solid time felt easy, and that she knew she could and would go faster in the next race. Audrey was our next finisher. Her task was to stick on Kelsey's hip through mile two. Post-race, she explained that her stomach bug has been persisting, and that it made it difficult to fulfill her goal for the day. She did promise that she would work on getting well and would attack the goal in the next race, which I cannot wait to see! :) Maya was our third finisher for the day. Prior to race day, we had a good talk about her goal to "lean into" her races more. She knows that despite her shin pain, she has more to give her teammates. I appreciate that she wants to do more for the team (and herself) as well as her honesty. Honest evaluations are the first step to true racing! I promised that I would video her race to see if we could improve her form to help reduce her shin pain. The good news is that the video reveals that she is overstriding just a bit. Overstriding is when your foot lands in front of your body rather than under your your center. When you overstride, it puts stress on your lower body because that action (pulling your body rather than pushing it) is not an efficient way of moving. Multiply that problem over the course of 3 miles, and you end up with unhappy shins, achilles tendons, and/or hamstrings. At a glance, Maya's form looks amazing: she certainly has the best arm-swing on our team, and from the front, she looks very symmetrical. From the side though, I could see that she was reaching a bit, especially on her left side. That unevenness explains what she has been reporting--that she feels off-kilter as she runs.
Overstriding cannot be fixed overnight, but there are several things we can do (because she is not the only one with this problem). Here are two drills you can use to start becoming more body-aware: 1. Overhead arms while running. We did a bit of this over the summer, and I want to go back to it. During a warm up or on a run, this is a good reset to force yourself to be more mindful of your lower body. Simply extend both arms over your head for 20 seconds to reset your upper body and force your lower body to keep you upright. 2. Check out this pre-run drill to help you feel your foot under your center of gravity. Click here to watch. Make sure you take your time with each step to get the pattern right!
After Maya, we had two breakthroughs. Natalie and Kaila worked well in tandem for the whole race, switching lead and working on Lake Forest runners. Natalie broke away with a great kick, catching a few girls in the last straight and earning a new LPR. Kaila was close behind, coming within one second of her LPR--territory she hasn't seen since before her knee surgery. These racers show that when we work together, we can do great things! Karen was only steps away from a lifetime PR, too. She really embraced the race, working hard in the last loop and kick to show off her fitness. I was excited to see her race well, and I know she still has more to give; I look forward to seeing her race at home on Monday. :) Katelin rounded out our top 7 with a solid race and pulled Lesly and Julien with her. These two juniors stepped up big today! Lesly has been battling some hamstring and knee issues, but that did not stop her from racing hard and setting a new LPR. Julien looked incredible today, dropping a minute to earn a new LPR, too! These two looked much more like their Oshkosh selves--taking risks and working through difficulties. Nice work, women! Marisa, much like the women ahead of her, had another strong race. After looking great and earning a medal at JT, Marisa matched her season PR by racing smart at Lake Forest.
There was a little gap, and then Angie and Delilah were our next bees to finish. These two looked great today; Angie looked more like her real racing self, matching her SPR, and Delilah used her frustration from JT to step up and run a new lifetime PR. These two worked hard throughout the race and had great kicks to seal their races. Nice work! Bri, Loula, Jenna, and Kelly were not far behind. This was certainly a day of teamwork, and these four pushed each other at different points, whether up close or from afar. They raced well together, pushing Jenna to match her SPR. :)
Jayla was our next bee, finishing close to her SPR and pulling Naiomi to match her LPR! Nice work, women! Bianca and Jenni were next and working hard and running great races. Bianca ran a nice SPR, looking aggressive throughout her race. Jenni, who was right behind her, had a huge breakthrough today. Not only did she run a lifetime PR, but she did it by simply listening and executing. She asked for some tips to get out of her rut, and she used all of them: getting out a bit harder than usual; working on arm swing past the hip; focusing on passing people in the middle miles; and trusting herself and her training. It all added up to a big drop of nearly a minute. Great work, Jenni! Aubrianna was just a little away from Jenni. Although she had a bit of an off race, she helped pull Illyana to close to her LPR, distracting her from her angry ankle in the mucky conditions. Nataly earned a new LPR today, running through a tight hip and focusing on racing hard. :) Zowie had the biggest drop of the day with a huge race. After admitting that she was nervous about racing again, we talked about trusting her fitness and giving herself a chance. She did so and dropped nearly seven minutes from her previous best, illustrating just how much the mind matters to performance.
And that's where I would like to end this blog--with the mind. While I was battling the plague, I spent some time reading a book called Amazing Racers (you are welcome to borrow it once I am done). One of the pages I folded over discusses the role of the mind in racing, and I could not stop thinking about the passage, especially while watching the best racers on earth in the World Track and Field Championships this weekend:
"Sport scientists claim that even the world's best runners rarely put forth an effort equal to what their bodies can truly achieve. Coaches urge their athletes: 'You always have 20 percent more to give.' Few runners really believe that; fewer still act on it" (Bloom xix).
In our final weeks of the season (it's closing fast--we race Monday, Saturday, and then it's Championship season...most of you have three races left of the 2019 season), I would like to focus on that 20%. When you are racing, most of you believe that you simply cannot go faster, that you are giving all you can. The key to unlocking that last 20 percent (which, let's be real...that's a ridiculous amount of time. For those of you working through the math, that's 4:00 faster for a 20:00 race. Think about that!) is twofold:
1. Believing in all the hard work you have done so far.
2. Having a real purpose in your race.
Your logbooks are designed to help you wrap your brain around #1. If you go back through all the miles and workouts, surely you cannot ignore that you have put in the work. This team has not shied away from work this summer and fall.
Your "why" needs some work. When I asked you to describe your "why" at JT prior to the race, many of you struggled to articulate your purpose. And I get it...many of you are new to this sport, and you are finding your way this season. And the rest of you? Well, you have continued to run because you found some success in the past, and you like the team. If we are going to unlock that last 20%, we have to dial into the "why" with more clarity. We have to lean into our team as a whole. We have to live the joy we have for each other after the race when we are debriefing on the bus while we are racing. I know that we can. I have seen you proudly brag about each other's achievements. I have witnessed as you have helped a teammate through a tough workout or moment. I know you love each other, and I know that most days, you love running (let's be real--others have not made it to this point in the season, and you have). But how far do you want to go? Are you willing to admit that there is 20% more to give? Are you willing to lean into the pain of racing? Are you willing to let the linked spirit of this team be your purpose when the race gets tough?
Your answer should be your race on Monday. It's our last home meet of the season. It's a great opportunity to showcase your knowledge of every turn. It's the perfect chance to show your dominance on our home turf. It's the right time to make a statement about who you are...about what the team really means to you...about what kind of story you want for the end of the season. Remember--our seniors said their mission was to shape this team in to a family of elite student-athletes. And elite people let their actions speak. I hope to hear you roar.