Wednesday @ Lake County (Waukegan Sports Park):
Our Varsity squad was up first. Although we were small in number, these five women had the proper mindset heading into the race. Due to last year's restrictions, Riley never raced this course, but she took that lack of info in stride. At the starting line, our five looked ready to embrace the challenge that this course provides. At the mile, everyone was in a good position with Audrey leading the way for our team, followed by Marisa and Riley running seconds apart, Katelin not far behind, and Natalie not far behind her. The mile is the end of the "easy" on this course. Mile two features a significant climb that requires mental toughness and physical strength. When I saw our bees coming across the top of the course, they were working on recovering and attacking the second half of the race. As our bees worked the switchbacks, I was impressed by their effort on the downhill segments. Each runner looked open and strong, working to pass sleepy runners. I could see that the hill had taken a little pop off their steps, though, as they did not look as locked in as they did the previous week on Deerfield's flat course. I pulled Natalie right before the 2-mile mark. Although she was disappointed that she could not finish, the fact that she got that hill and tempo work in is really important for the latter part of our season. By the time I saw our girls back at the bridge, they were looking more ready to tackle the last half mile. According to Coach Washington who was at the finish, all four had strong kicks (I forgot to teleport to see it...), and I was happy with the efforts of these five women. Post-race, they seemed less enthusiastic than at Deerfield, which is understandable: There is something about the first race of the season that is difficult to replicate! Audrey ran an excellent first mile and had a good kick. Marisa ran a course PR as did Katelin. And Riley looked great despite it being her first outing and finding the course "really hard." Our Varsity mission this season is straightforward: to learn from every race while having fun. Now that everyone is looking I am looking forward to see this group re-run the course next week!
The Open Race featured many newbees! Seven out of our eleven racers had never tackled the course, and three ran their first ZBXC race today: Estrella, Abriyannah, and Adrianna. The starting line was packed since the open race was co-ed, but our bees handled their business well for that opening stretch. At the mile, I was stoked to see that Lauren was the first girl in the race! She was all smiles as she zoomed by. Brionne was our second bee, looking strong. Aubrianna came by third with an incredibly gutsy first mile! I was so excited to see her so far up in the race. :) Illyana--in her first race of the season--looked focused. It was good to see her back in racing mode! She was leading Sofia, who like Lauren, opted to run in the open today. Blanca was not far behind, also looking impressive in her opening race of the season! She was followed by Nataly who had a nice opening mile, end Estrella who seemed to be handling the uneven ground and hills despite her hamstring issue. Abriyannah came through with great form (she is going to be GOOD when she gets more fit), followed by a zooming Melanie (inspired by her teammates' cheers, she flew around the bend onto the bridge!).
When I caught our crew again coming down the hill, Lauren had increased her lead as the first woman in the race. She looked smooth on the switchbacks and had not backed off the pace. The rest of our crew was doing a great job of listening to fans for inspiration and using gravity's free energy on the downhills. By the time our bees were at the 1/2 mile to go mark, I was impressed to see that Sofia had moved up during the second mile, and that Nataly was running a really even race. I waited to see Melanie before I headed to the finish, so I did not see our final kicks. Coaches Washington and Hamilton reported that we really took care of business, though! With a half mile to go, Melanie was about 150 meters behind a Round Lake runner. I encouraged her to work on him, then darted to the finish area. When Melanie emerged from the woods, I could see that she had caught the guy and was mounting a bigger lead! Unfortunately, she missed the final flag and had to go back to get it, giving the Round Lake runner a chance to catch her. What was great was that she did not let this setback get her down: she kicked mightily and gave the Round Lake kid a fight! When I look at the results, I am proud to see that Lauren ran such a solid race. Not only did she take Coach Hamilton's first 800 advice to truly race, but she did so while having fun the whole way! Brionne looked impressive, completing her first full 3-mile race of the season and finishing 1:20 faster than her effort at Bee Linked (a much flatter and faster course). What a huge accomplishment! Sofia was our third finisher, looking impressive in her first hilly course effort. Illyana was fourth for us. What made me most happy about her race was her mindset. She has been understandably nervous about her knees the last two weeks. She really embraced the weather and racing opportunity and led like a true senior. Her presence undoubtedly helped Brionne and Sofia as well as our newbees in the race. She also looked strong on the downhills each time I saw her! Aubrianna was our fifth bee for the day. While her first mile certainly stands out as an impressive accomplishment of the race, her tenacity in the tougher sections also impressed me. I know that she is going to continue to get fit, and she will be able to make that first mile pace stick throughout! Estrella made her racing debut on this tricky course. Despite a tight hamstring, Estrella really embraced the race! She has a starting point now, and I look forward to watching her grow this season! Her mindset has certainly shifted from when she began as a freshie, and I like where she is headed! Blanca made her season debut after dropping her sis off at college last week. It was great to see this senior racing again! Not only did she run significantly faster than Bee Linked, but she also looked confident the whole way! She is definitely getting better at looking up during the race, especially on the downhills. Nataly was close behind Blanca with a really impressive effort. She ran FASTER on this tough course than she did the week before at Deerfield! :) She is also way ahead of herself from last year. Congrats on a great start to the season, Nat! Abri B. was our next finisher. This woman has great form and seems to be getting stronger each week. I know that she is going to make some big drops when we move onto other courses. With a little patience and courage, she is going to be a great asset to this team! Congrats on your first race, Abri! Adrianna is an old soul, but this is her first XC race after joining us in the "summer" season for track. She did a great job in her first XC race! Like Abri, she is going to just get stronger as the season unfolds. I am confident that she will leave the 30s behind quickly as she learns this new sport. Congrats on your first race, Adri! :) Melanie made her 3-mile debut today. I am excited to see her feistiness mid-race; she has been using the Darwin surges in her races which is fantastic!
Overall, we had a strong day. We have so much promise. If the newbees keep believing in themselves and allow the veterans to share their wisdom, I am excited to see what we can do as a running family this season! Thanks to all the timers who helped out today. The times help us see how we are doing in the race pace-wise!
Saturday @ Rebel Invite (Parkside)
As we drove up to Kenosha, I kept thinking about a conversation I had with some of the veterans about Parkside a few weeks back. I was surprised to find out that they did not like the course; for some reason, I was under the (mistaken) assumption that our team enjoyed the challenge that Parkside's course offers. I was hoping that everyone would embrace the opportunity of the day, despite the hills and rain.
As we exited the bus, the rain stopped, and the mood of our group felt good. We got our camp set, and the open women started their warm up while Varsity walked the course. I was surprised to see Illyana return to camp, claiming that the course was different than in the past. Yes, the initial hill was the same, but now we were heading to the western half of the course rather than the part that is closest to the road. Could this be what changed everyone's minds?
Our open crew looked both nervous and excited as we headed to our starting box. Included in this group was two newbees to racing: Aniya and Leilani. After the gun, I watched our bees head up the hill with courage. Coach Hamilton was at the top to encourage our pack along, and I didn't see them again until the almost 2 mile mark. Estrella was our first bee through looking so strong! She looked more open and assertive than at Waukegan--a big improvement in only her second race! She did a great job of keeping her pace relatively consistent (9:17/9:40/4:07) and using the course to her advantage. Nice work, Estrella! Our second bee for the day was senior Nataly J. She got out so well, going sub-10 despite the hill for the first mile! Like Estrella, she kept her pace pretty consistent (9:42/10:12/4:18). More importantly, she has done a really nice job of working on her knee lift so that she is stronger in her races. Proud of you, Nat! Abri was our third bee, looking great! She keeps getting stronger every race. She got out her fastest today in 10:49, despite the hill! I know that as she works at it, she will get that second mile down (12:28) as evidenced by her last half (4:47). Keep up the great work, Abri! :) Sheila was not far behind. Like Abri, she is improving with every race and got out well: 10:55. She did a great job of staying positive and kicking at the end of the race--proud of you! Adrianna was our next finisher. She did a great job of working on her team mindset today, working to support her team after the race and showing everyone how serous she is during. Great job, Adrianna! In her ZBXC debut, Aniya had a great day! She bravely tackled the hill and really listened to her teammates' advice in the second mile. She did a great job of kicking at the end, too. Proud of you, Aniya! :) Melanie did a great job of racing the people around her. She kept surging to work with a girl from another school. Her kick was great, too! Our final bee in this race was Leilani in her ZBXC debut. Although she was nervous before the race, she did a great job of initiating her new shoes :) She worked the downhills and stayed positive the whole way. I can't wait to see what she can do on Waukegan's course this coming week!
I was allowed up to 10 in the Varsity race, so we had eight who took on the 3.1 challenge: Audrey, Lauren, Riley, Marisa, Katelin, Sofia, Illyana, Aubrianna, and Blanca. When we headed to the line, I could tell that there was a lot of nervous energy. It definitely came out in the shape of tears for Illyana and Sofia as the countdown sounded. When the cannon boomed, our pack refocused and attacked the hill with wisdom; without exception, they were able to run their second mile faster than the first: Audrey 6:28/6:24; Lauren 7:00/6:38; Riley 7:10/6:48; Marisa 7:07/6:39; Katelin 7:52/7:43; Sofia 8:45/8:31; Illyana 9:17/8:40; Aubrianna 9:57/9:37; and Blanca 10:00/9:52. I don't have mile 3 splits due to my mistake--I was near the true 3 mile, but I was watching the hill rather than the clock (my bad, bees!). More important than the final splits, though, is the way these runners finished. It was so much fun to watch our bees COMPETE in the last section of the race. Cresting the final hill, our bees attacked the downhill, using its energy to fuel their final kicks. It was simply awesome to watch!
After being frustrated by her performance at Lake County, Audrey rocked her race today! Not only did she stay focused the whole way, she caught a runner in the final stretch, finishing in an impressive 7th place with a course record for herself. Proud of you for bouncing back, Audge! :) Lauren was our second bee today. Much like Lake County, Lauren wore a smile every time I saw her today. She cruised down the final hill and ran a great time--great job, Lauren! Riley was our third finisher thanks to a ridiculously fast kick. She took that last hill seriously and went to sprinter-mode in the final stretch. Proud of you for continuing that kick mindset, Ri! Marisa was only seconds behind Riley--they, too had a great kick! I'm so impressed with Marisa's leadership in this race. They pushed Lauren to go after the initial hill and they paced Riley during the middle of the race. Honestly, I have a feeling that this threesome is going to change up the order all season, and I am ALL FOR THAT. Teams that don't obsess about which number each runner is are stronger because they are focusing on racing other people rather than their own teammates. I'm really excited about what these three can do this season! Katelin was our next bee and rounded out our scoring 5. Kate looked so focused and fun this race. Not only did she work the middle of the course well, but she had an incredible kick, too, hunting down at least two people in the final stretch (Colin said 4?). Our 6th bee was Sofia. She looked strong in the woods and did a great job of attacking the final 200. Fantastic work, freshie! :) Our final three bees had some of my favorite races. Illyana was our #7. Not only did she look fantastic today, but after her race, she declared that she "needed that." All I know is that she was assertive and gritty today, and it was good to see her racing with pride. Aubrianna, like Audrey, was not happy with her race at Lake County. Aubrianna, like Audrey, set things right today. She got out well, worked the middle of the race like a champ, and fulfilled one of her race goals: to have a great kick. She attacked the final down hill and zoomed to the finish (check out the pic on our Twitter!). I'm proud of her for letting herself have the kind of race she could be satisfied with. Great work! Finally, Blanca Blanca Blanca! Right after the 2-mile, she lost a brief battle with gravity, sliding along the dirt trail. Rather than having a pity party, Blanca hopped up and--in her own words--had fun for the rest of the race. When I saw her cresting the final hill, I didn't notice that she was missing skin on her arm, knee, and shoulder...I just saw Blanca racing without excuses. She attacked the hill and the final stretch like a champ! Shout out to Marisa for getting Blanca to the trainer's tent to get cleaned up.
Overall, I am really pleased with our progress. Honestly, I did not see a single bee let the difficult course affect an in-race mindset. And our post-race shout outs show me that we are getting better at recognizing greatness in one another. It was awesome to watch! :) Let's keep this positivity going as we head back to Waukegan this week.
FYI, we have a shortened day on Wednesday. Please plan to either stay at school to do homework OR bee back at school for our 3:30 bus (by the PAC).
Also, we didn't get a chance to talk about the Rainbow Challenge! I hope that the sheet helped you to simply bee more mindful about working fruits and veggies into your diet.
Let's have a great week! :)