Wednesday @ Lake County Invite:
The energy on the bus was great as we took sharpies to arms to assert our positivity for race day. Varsity was up first, and we had the luxury of racing 10 athletes. I was so excited to see what we could do; unfortunately, Waukegan's course makes it difficult to watch the race unfold. :) At the mile, I was excited to see our placement overall, but I was concerned that we were racing alone rather than packed up. There were gaps that we did not make up later in the race, and this will definitely be a goal to work on in future weeks and races. That being said, each woman was racing well because she was tuned into the race. The best part was watching our women work the switchbacks mid-race. Everyone was responsive and working hard to eat while others slept. Natalie had the best mid-race work; she caught Kaila in the final mile, and they worked well together through the finish. Although I did not make it back over the bridge to watch kicks, I was pleased to hear about great finishes, especially Kelsey's! Overall, I was really happy about this race because it showed our potential. Everyone took the "elite talk" seriously and put their intentions into action during the race. It produced four LPRs (Audrey 20:12; Natalie 22:04; Katelin 23:31; and Julien 24:44). It also resulted in three SPRs (Kelsey 19:07; Maya 20:40; Karen 23:25). Other highlights from the race: Maya ran negative splits and looked fantastic on the hills; Elyssa took on the challenge of Varsity with grit, despite her hip acting up a bit; Kelsey was All-Lake County with an impressive 8th place finish; and all those SPRs and LPRs represent locked-in racing. As a team, we finished in 9th place out of 14 teams, an improvement over last year's 10th. More importantly, I saw a spark of what we can be this season! I was so hyped after this race, and could not wait to see how our women would fair in the Open.
When we did the breakdown for the Open Race, I could feel that the energy was right; what a difference a week makes! Although there were some nerves, they quickly dissipated after the gun. At the mile, I was so happy to see our bees working in groups and challenging themselves; in fact, Illyana ran a lifetime PR at the mile and ended with a lifetime for three miles, too! Like Varsity, this group SLAYED on the switchbacks. Near the two-mile mark, I witnessed Jenna smiling and whipping past sleepy runners down the hill. Loula and Marisa's partnership worked well for passing, too; they challenged each other as well as anyone in front of them. This kind of teamwork was the trend in this race, and that kind of hunger resulted in 13 LPRs (Bri, Loula, Kelly, Naiomi, Illyana, Blanca, Sarah, Stacy, Sam Natly, Jamaya, Alexandra, and Fatima) and 11 SPRs (Marisa, Angie, Delilah, Jenna, Jayla, Melannie, Ixa, Jenni, Ashley, Bianca, and Joceline). What struck me most was our conversation on the bus. Jamaya's sheer joy over her race and the ensuing comments about loving THIS course (this makes me proud, but I must admit it shocks me...this is a tough one) helped cement our team. It was a thrill to hear your pride in one another, and I know we will grow significantly from here.
Once I got home and looked at the numbers, I could see our next goal: to work on mid-race splits. With a few exceptions (Maya, Bri, Natalie), everyone's second mile was at least 30 seconds slower than the first. For those of you who are new, these splits will get stronger as your fitness improves. For those of you who ran this summer and are veterans, these splits will get better as your mental grit improves. That second mile is tricky and requires intense focus and specific tactics that we will work on in the coming weeks. Overall, I was on cloud nine as I drove home on Wednesday, and that energy persisted when we honored one another with links on Thursday. Keep looking out for greatness in each other!
Saturday @ Rebel Invite (Parkside):
After Wednesday's energy, I was worried we would suffer a slump this Saturday. I wrote off the quiet busride as a product of an early morning. When we arrived and started our warm up, I was happy about the vibe from the Open Women. We ran the back loop and talked about opportunities on the turns and hills as well as the point where kicks should start. LIke Waukegan's course, Parkside's hills make it difficult to see many points of the race. I saw you all past the mile mark, and I was elated at your progress. I watched great form down and up the hill. In particular, Delilah powered up the crest of the hill to get to make contact with the next pack she would pass. Nice work, Delilah!
When I found Coach Agee near the finish, she reported the same sort of grit: everyone was working the hills hard and pushing one another. The best part of the race was the incredible kicks. Agee and I were stationed before the finish line crowds, and we were stunned by the intensity of each woman's gear shift. Arms looked incredible, eyes were locked in, and the leg turnover was impressive. Although EVERYONE had a great kick, a few stood out. Crizaber, after battling knee pain all season, looked stunning in her final kick. I wish I could have seen how many girls she caught in total, but the three she blew past near me were shocked! Alexandra came out of the woods side-by-side with a girl from a blue and white school. Both runner accelerated, and they battled for the entire stretch! Although the other runner bested her, this is by far the hardest I have seen Alexandra push. It was so great to see her looking gritty and engaged in the race!
There were several highlights from the Open Race beyond the kicks. Aubrianna, after a difficult race at Lake County, looked incredibly strong. Her mile splits were even, and she bounced back like a champ from a mid-race stomach evacuation. Many of you ran much more even splits compared to Lake County: Angie, Delilah, Jenna, Melanie, Kelly, Ixa, Aubrianna all had a 35 second or less difference between miles one and two. And Blanca? She ran negative splits! Additionally, this crew did a beautiful job of looking out for their teammates in the ensuing races. I am proud of you all for helping your teammates stay focused on this difficult course!
Like Lake County, we were lucky to have 10 entries again in the Varsity Race. Due to Katelin's illness and Elyssa's hip, Bri and Julien stepped up to help our varsity crew. Like the open race, we agreed that times did not matter, and we would instead focus on fixing the split. The energy was weird during dynamic, and we worked to fix that before the gun. As I headed to the woods, I kept thinking that they would fix it, and as I saw Kelsey emerge in 10th place with Audrey only 10 seconds behind, and then Kaila looking amazing on the hill, and Nat looking strong not far behind, and then the trio of Karen, Lesly and Julien looking amazing and in striking distance of each other, and the same for Marisa and Loula working in tandem like beasts, and then Bri looking amazing down the hill and gritty as she got back up...well, I was thrilled to say the least! And as I headed to the kick stretch, I was met by Agee who was equally stoked. She reported that all of our racers were working the hill and looked tuned in. Yes! So it came as a surprise when our bees came around the last turn just looking flat. It wasn't a lack of effort...it was more of a lack of spark. With the exception of Kaila and Julien who actually shifted gears as we yelled, everyone else acted as if the finish was nowhere in sight. The splits reinforce what we saw with our eyes. Although the final mile split includes the "point one" of the 5K, there is still too much of a slow down between two and three.
Here is the great news: I am really proud of the first two miles of this race. We did a much better job of not dropping off in the second mile, especially Kelsey (12 seconds), Audrey (22 seconds), Kaila (28 seconds), Natalie (16 seconds), Lesly (30 seconds), and Marisa and Loula (both 35 seconds). We still have work to do here, but I am really happy with this progress! Additionally, we had two medalists in this race: Kelsey (9th) and Audrey (18th). Congrats to these two women! This is the first time we have had two medalists at this meet, so that progress is important. As a team, we took 7th out of 14 teams, an improvement over last year's 8th place finish. And that was without Maya and Katelin. You can see why I am going to keep pushing you this season; I know what we are capable of! :)
This course is by far the most challenging of the year. The first hill requires courage and patience. We took care of that. The remaining sections of the course are technical and demanding. Post-race, Kelsey said that the last K was brutal; while that comment initially surprised me, I understood it upon further reflection. While the Open Women were able to kick with purpose in the shorter 4K race, they also enjoyed cooler temps. Post-race, Jenna said that she could feel the lifting workout in her legs, and it makes sense that the longer race, coupled with the effects of warmer temps and lifting might take a little zip out the kicks for 5K racers.
When we got together to talk post-race, the weird vibe was back again, and I could see that individually, people were not satisfied. We talked about what we did right, which is important to remember. 3/4 of the race was REALLY good. We will learn from the 1/4 that wasn't and we will grow! Here is the plan of attack:
1. Tuesday, we are going to work on pack racing. We need to continue to develop our ability to work with each other because ultimately, this will be the key to success in later races this season. More to come here.
2. Thursday, we will get after some Paavo 400s. We are ready for a new stimulus, and this workout is always a great confidence booster. The workout also develops consistency as well as strength.
On our bus ride home, I was happy that Ixa started us off with some good news. Her spirit has been infectious this season, and it seemed fitting that her had would go up first. I am proud of you all for witnessing and sharing the greatness in each other. Let's keep that spirit and mindset as we work this week and defend our home course.
I need a redoubled effort on the following wellness pillars this week. We have a full week of school, and this tends to be when people start getting sick. You have the power to protect your body, so please, make these items habits:
1. At LEAST EIGHT HOURS OF QUALITY SLEEP. You cannot find an article that says that sleep is unimportant to general health and specifically to athletic to performance. Want to race faster? Set a bedtime and STICK TO IT. Our bodies and brains like patterns! Still don't feel rested with 8 hours? Make sure your sleep is GOOD. Put your electronics away at least an hour prior to bed, make the room dark and cool, and save your bed for sleeping only. Don't do homework in bed; your brain might start associating your bed with stress or work!
2. EAT EAT EAT. Although that is Delilah's phrase for racing (and a great one, at that) I mean it literally here. Your job is to fuel your body throughout the day. Is your fridge empty? Don't let that be an obstacle! Offer to go grocery shopping with or for your parents. Show them you are committed to fueling your body rather than just complaining! When you shop/cook, think about the rainbow. You want to eat brightly colored foods that come right from the earth, not from a factory. Not sure what to eat? Variety is key. Here's a sample of what I ate on Thursday:
Breakfast: orange juice, slice of watermelon, Superhero muffin (has carrots, zucchini, eggs, almond flour, oats, dark chocolate, butter, and spices--homemade! Let me know if you want the recipe--they are delicious!). (Rainbow colors hit: orange, red, green)
Morning snack: Homemade trail mix: walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, dark chocolate chips, craisins. YUM! Nuts have good fats that help you recover from workouts, plus protein that helps build muscles. And they are yummy.
Lunch: English muffin with peanut butter and fig spread, carrot sticks, hard boiled egg. See how I am working on protein again? Peanut butter and eggs are amazing for runners. (Rainbow colors hit: purple and orange)
Post-practice snack: Apple (Rainbow colors hit: red)
Dinner: Pre-made spinach and cheese ravioli, and bagged salad (sweet kale--it's delicious and full of good stuff: kale, brussel sprouts broccoli, radicchio, cabbage, sunflower seeds, and craisins). This dinner took 10 minutes to make. I boiled water for the ravioli, put a little butter and romano cheese on it, then assembled the bag of salad. Super easy and inexpensive--about $10 and served two people. (Rainbow colors hit: green, purple).
3. WASH YOUR HANDS before you eat. Whether you go to New Tech or Main Campus, you are sharing a space with A LOT of people. Don't make it easy for germs to get you! Simply washing your hands before you eat can make a big difference!
Let's have an elite week, Bees! Take care of class, home, and running! :)