Monday @ Home: We talked at length about protecting our course. We practiced on our "Twilight Zone" loop the week prior. We ran finishes to help imagine finishing strong. On race day, you all took care of business. There were some great performances for the day:
Julia nearly broke 23 for the first time, running a gutsy race. Jo finally broke 21 by running with her team in mind; she looked aggressive and focused for all three miles. Anna ran her fastest race of the season, coming in at 30:05, probably due to the honesty of her workout on the course the week prior. Kayla had a superb race, showing that she really understands running by dropping over 2:00 minutes to earn a new PR of 26:06! Ivory also had a great PR for the day--dropping 48 seconds to a new PR of 28:12. Carmen had an aggressive race, particularly in the last mile; accordingly, she earned a new PR of 23:19. Odalis also brought home a PR for the day because of her strong finish. Taylor also shaved off a few seconds in order to earn a new season PR. Ashley N. made an impressive breakthrough into the 23s with her 1:30 PR. Emily also joined the 23 club with a 30 second PR. Finally, Michelle also ran a tremendous PR for the day by running a great race from gun to tape! Overall, we looked MUCH more in-tune with the race today--nice work!
Saturday @ Sterling: We went into the meet with the right mindset, but the race did not go as planned. Our times were not off by too much, but I was honestly expecting a bit of a breakthrough at the meet. The busride to and from the meet were effective team-wise, and I anticipate more from this group very soon.
Saturday @ Wheeling: According to Coach Hughes, the mindset of this group was not as focused as usual. Unfortunately, that didn't change when the gun went off for most of you. The reports I heard from your mouths revolved around being psyched out by the course. I encourage you to remember that every race matters--each should be treated as a gift! Julia certainly used the right mindset; she earned a new PR of 22:55 and showed that she wanted to become part of the Varsity team. Steffany also rose to the occasion in order to drop 15 seconds to a new PR of 24:16! Ivory also had a PR for the day; she dropped 18 seconds to finally break 28! Nice work to these three women! Let's refocus for next week and take care of Conference.
This week we only had one meet at Lakewood. I was hoping that we would attack this familiar course. Many of you ran very well for the first mile, but our finishes were not where they need to be. Jacqueline's mom was kind enough to record the finish...not a single one of you caught an opposing runner in the final stretch. Not one. This lack of aggressiveness is a problem. As Coach Rios pointed out on Saturday, you need to want to be the best...you need to want to catch your opponent. In that final stretch, EVERYONE is tired. You need to do a gut check and think about your teammates...you need to dig deeper and find a way to pass...you need to show some grit. At the start of this season, you all amazed me when we did that tough workout at David Park. You rose to the occasion and destroyed the "dessert" mile. At Warren, you women raced with guts and focus...
At this point in the season, I know you are tired, and I know you are feeling the life stress of school, jobs, family, friends, etc. Your job for two and half hours after school is to focus on the task at hand. You must put aside the other distractions, and give your teammates your all. You must give YOURSELF your all. Otherwise, why are we here?
Shout outs to Iman, Michelle, and Kayla for all running PRs at Lakewood. Keep it up, ladies!
Let's defend our course on Monday...let's get back to who we really are...
I can't wait to see you race!
I have spent most of this afternoon and evening deep in thought: after a solid week of practice, and an even more solid start to the season, why did I feel so crabby about the results from the JT Invite today? I have come to the conclusion that it's because of today's tone.
We intentionally ran a challenging, hilly workout on Tuesday in order to help arm you against Grant's course. We worked on negative splits on Thursday to encourage you to believe in the second half of your race. We backed off on the mileage on Wednesday and Friday in order to let you get your legs back for race day. We enjoyed a visit from Lorie Reid, talked about being strong, had not one but TWO people share "bee inspired" ideas on race day. And I invited you to take a RISK through the blog. And with all of that armor, I imagined that you would rise to the challenge of the day.
In the Frosh/Soph race, the performances were solid. Most of you had times that were within 60 seconds of your season bests. More importantly, as you exited the chute, you immediately shared tips for the next racers: you wanted them to succeed where you had struggled. As a group, however, you did not have the same spark as in the race at Warren. The Varsity race, the outcome was the same: no one looked particularly sharp, and the performances were much slower than I anticipated. The Open women looked slightly more aggressive, but only Iman was able to earn a LPR for the day.
So where do we go from here? It's easy to ride the bus home from a meet like the Warren Invite--the performances were stellar, mood was euphoric, and the team was bonding. But as I said on the bus after Grant, real character is shown when you DON'T PR. My hope is that you will embrace the following:
1. I know that racing is difficult, but we need to work on our internal and external dialogues. If a negative thought pops into your head, you need to admit it is there, then take a deep breath and remind yourself, "I am stronger than that thought." And if it won't go away, then come talk to me or ONE teammate. You cannot allow that thought to win, and you cannot allow it to poison the team. Negative comments on the bus, on the warm up, or on the line do nothing to help the team. Let's commit to keeping our mindsets positive! (By the way, this is a good way to live life in general ;))
2. I do not expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to give maximum effort at practice and meets for your teammates. We are in this together, so let's promise that we are going to empty the tank for each other. #irunforthem #beelinked
3. The way to build confidence in any endeavor is to celebrate the great and acknowledge the stuff that needs work. In the positives and negatives, I need you to be honest.
I look forward to some positive, selfless, honest racing on Monday! :)
Wednesday @ Home: First of all, I would like to give a shout out to the whole team for your assistance in making the meet flow smoothly. You were all eager to pitch in, and I heard the phrase, "D...what else can I do to help?" repeatedly throughout the day. THANK YOU! :) Special thanks to the crew who came back to school to help unload all of our gear--your dedication and kindness do not go unnoticed! In terms of the actual race, I was impressed by how organized you all were preparation-wise. When I walked over to the starting line, you were ready to rock and roll--thank you! In all honesty, though, the race itself looked a bit flat to me. Yes, there were many personal bests on the day (Janelle, Julia, Steffany, Ivory, Ashley N. Michelle, and Heidi), but as a team, our racing did not look as sharp as it could be. In the final mile, and specifically in the final 400, we allowed too many Libertyville racers catch us on our home course. Now that you all have some race experience here, it is my expectation that we will better defend our home next time. Congrats to Lainey for earning a spot on the board with her performance! Let's take her lead and destroy the board in October!
Saturday @ Warren Invite: Well shame on me for my pre-meet speech on the bus; what was I thinking to set a limit on what you could and would do on this course? I am SO proud of the attitude you all shared as you toed the line on this muddy course. I did not hear a single complaint about the conditions. Instead, as we circled up for each breakdown, I was thrilled to hear you encourage your teammates to embrace the mud and seize the opportunity to pass "princesses" in the final muddy stretch. THANK YOU for your gritty attitudes! :)
The Varsity started with the right mindset. I was impressed with your starts--your mile one times are getting closer to what I believe you are capable of. Nice work! As a group, our mile two drop off is still too significant. In order to run Varsity times that will be competitive, as a group we need to take a RISK in mile two. Most of you dropped 50 seconds or more in your second mile. Lainey (who had a huge PR) and Jacqueline (who is still going out too slowly in the first mile) were the two exceptions. I want this part of the race to be our focus at JT. Let's do it! Now for the congratulations: Lainey broke 20 for the first time to set a huge LPR of 19:32; Jo came frustratingly close to breaking 21 and set a LPR of 21:08; Shayla broke 7:00 for her first mile which allowed her to set a big LPR of 21:22; Justine also broke 7:00 for her first mile but struggled with her shins for the remainder of the race; Jacqueline set a BIG LPR of 21:46; Karyn broke 7:00 in her first mile to set a SPR of 22:16; and Monica ran her fastest first mile of the season and ran much faster than on our home course. Overall, I was happy with the tone this group set for the day. Nice work, women!
The Fresh/Soph women were next, and they fed off the energy of the Varsity races. Damaris got out FAST for us, breaking 7:00 in a race for the first time! Way to take a risk! You all followed suit, trusting your training and being aggressive to the first mile. I was impressed by the surges I saw all of you using, especially in the loop near the school. As you came off the turn from the swamp area, SO many of you accelerated into the little loop before the hill. And the hill? I watched the twins and Heidi attack that hill with ferocity. Nice work! Overall, this group raced extremely well--producing EIGHT LPRS: Damaris, Janelle, Julia, Heidi, Carmen, Emily, Steffany, and Michelle. Taylor earned a SPR, too! Most of the drops were substantial--nice work, women! Props to Damaris for placing 49th to earn a medal. :)
Finally, our Open women were not to be denied a chance to shine today. Even though the course conditions deteriorated with each race, and there was a delay before the race began, this group remained cool as cucumbers. Every single woman earned an LPR in this race--outstanding! They executed a perfect start--angling directly to the first flag. Throughout the race, each woman used the course to her advantage. My favorite part was watching the finishing kicks. As I emerged from the woods, I saw Tianna on the second-to-last stretch. She was already in beast-mode, moving up on sleepy competitors who were waiting for the final stretch to kick. Despite having a sore arch, Ashley N. went to sprinter mode to catch other runners in the final stretch. Sam ran a tremendous race, shaving 47 seconds from her best from Conference last year--outstanding! Kristina kicked with enthusiasm when I let her know where her time was at, which allowed her to break 30 for the first time this season! An Anna, despite a fussy achilles, ran her first "even" race which allowed her to PR by almost 1:30! Beautiful!
Overall, I was thrilled by the progress at this meet. You went into the race with the right mindset which produced amazing results; you took a big step toward truly racing! Moving into this week with only one race, I need you to think about the "Warren Effect." Going into the race, you felt comfortable because you have either raced here or at least have seen the course. That comfort probably allayed some of the pre-race jitters. Then, thanks to me (before the bus speech) and veteran teammates, you assumed you would run fast because this is known as a fast course. These expectations allowed you...PUSHED you to take risks. You assumed you would be fast, and then you were. For our workout on Tuesday, I need you to assume the same so that you will take the RISK to run faster than you have before. And for the invite on Saturday...assume that you are fast...assume that you are ready to PR again...assume that if you take the RISK, it will pay off. Let's go!
We had two racing opportunities this week, the first of which was at Warren. Since it is an odd year, the girls race first for Conference races; unfortunately, we were a bit rushed learning the course and getting warmed up. The weather was kind during our race, and the course was in pretty solid shape. At the gun, we did not get out very fast, and we certainly did not run the tangent to the first flag; we need to get smarter about running straight lines in races! After a slow start, we started moving up in the race. Most notably, Lainey went from the high teens to finishing in third overall. Most of our pack moved up, but not as dramatically. The number of PRs was pretty impressive during this race: Janelle, Steffany, Carolina, Tianna, Carmen, Helen, Emily, Lainey, and Ashley W. Additionally, Kayla completed her first 3-mile race as a ZBXCer! :) After our race, the clouds opened up, and we were drenched within minutes. I am most impressed by the way we handled this obstacle. When I arrived in the field house after the thunder, I was pleased to see our whole team circled up, stretching and counting. We are getting MUCH better about handling the "little things" that denote dedicated teams. Nice work! Equally impressive was the assistance you provided to the boys after their race was postponed. We are truly becoming linked! Keep up that giving, supportive mentality!
On Saturday, we had the opportunity to race at Wauconda's course again. Shout out to the F/S women who put up with my lack of reading skills and showed flexibility during their prolonged warm up. The F/S squad started things right! We earned 10 Lifetime PRs in this race: Janelle, Julia, Heidi, Steffany, Juliana, Carmen, Emily, Jessica, Iman and Michelle. Taylor earned a Season PR, and Ivory completed her first 3-mile race as a ZBXCer! Nice work, women! This young group showed that they are starting to understand race tactics. Post-race, we talked about getting stuck in a line in the woods, when to kick, and how to use downhills to our advantage. I can't wait to see this group race again!
Varsity took the F/S words of advice and ran a smart race. Although we got out a bit too slowly, again, we "grew" into the race. I could tell that there were some heavy legs in this group, thanks to the killer workout they completed on Thursday. Despite this factor, Justine earned a Lifetime PR, and Karyn ran a Season PR. More importantly, she raced pain-free for the first time in months. I was impressed by this group's desire to debrief post-race; I believe the race and the discussion will help us as we head into a great week of racing on our course and Warren's!
Finally, the Open women enjoyed, in my opinion, the best weather of the day. Anna completed her first 3-mile race as a ZBXCer, and we had four Lifetime PRs: Tianna, Ashley N., Kristina, and Odalis. Additionally, Ashley W. and Sam earned Season PRs. I was really happy to see Kristina feeling healthier and racing hard, as well as Tianna returning to her summer form. Ashley N. is going to be a force once she kicks this cold, and Ashley W. ran with courage despite her irritated Achilles.
On the day, we earned a total of 15 LPRs and 4 SPRs--not a bad day! If we can continue to grow each race, we will be unstoppable! In the meantime, I encourage you each to reflect on this week and set some new goals for our two fast courses this week. Both races will provide great opportunities for more aggressive starts--something I know we need to work on. The workout Thursday PROVES that you are fit...now you need to be willing to be uncomfortable during the race so you can show off your fitness. Let's go!
Wednesday, September 2nd @ Lake County Invite: The temperatures soared this week, and we worked hard to stay hydrated. Despite this preparation, our energy level did not match the enthusiasm of Deerfield. While this course is a favorite of many on the team, it is slightly more challenging than the flat course at Deerfield and the times showed it. That being said, several Zee-Bees earned LPRs today! Freshie Emily earned one by dropping 22 seconds from her previous best while freshie Iman showcased a great kick and an impressive 2:02 drop! Heidi also earned an LPR for the day by 8 seconds. The following Bees finished their first three mile race ever: Jessica, Carmen, Odalis, Ashley N., Juliana, and Michelle. Nice work, women! :)
A few thoughts as we head into our next week of racing:
1. Let's not take any races for granted. The season goes by quickly, and it's so easy to write off a race because of difficult conditions. Smart runners seize every opportunity to improve!
2. Let's apply our practice 300s to race day. You are stronger than you think you are! Don't be afraid to kick earlier in your race.
3. Great races are not born out of fear. As I debriefed with people on the bus, I kept hearing the same excuse: "I was afraid to go out too fast." On race day, flip through your log book on the bus. Take pride in your consistent hard work, and believe in that training. When you step to the line, remember that all of those workouts are IN you...and shut down that negative dialogue in your head!
A few reminders for the upcoming week:
1. Don't forget to keep working with your partner toward BINGO! The prizes are bigger and better this week!
2. Double check your grade status as our first grade check of the season will be on Wednesday, September 9th. Our academic goal is to avoid having any study sessions; each woman must do her part to make this goal come true. If you are struggling with any of your classes, let me help you find the right resources to succeed!
3. Use this long weekend to recover. Get some rest, do something fun, and catch up on your homework.
4. Don't forget to order your 2015 ZBXC Gear before 9/8. Click here to order, and be sure to double-check your email confirmation. We will NOT reorder clothes later.
Thursday, August 27th: @Deerfield:
We started the year off right with a dual against Deerfield. We have A LOT of newbees who did not run this summer, so I was cautiously optimistic in the 2.25 mile race. Karyn led our team from gun to wire; although I know she wants to be faster, this was a good first step in getting her back into running. The surprises of the race were the feisty duo of Juliana and Carmen. Running in their first race for the team, both ran with guts! Whenever I saw them, they were willing to throw in a surge to try to pass an opponent. Michelle and Odalis also completed their first races as ZBXCers in fine form!
These women set the table for our 3 mile "varsity" race. Nearly every single bee in this race set a lifetime or season PR. More importantly, I witnessed tremendous efforts from every single racer. Lainey race with tenacity, earning an LPR of 20:30, taking second, and leading our team. I enjoyed her gutsy start and her focus throughout the race. Jo was our second finisher and nearly broke her LPR. More importantly, in the late stages of the race, she showed her true self by outkicking an opponent. If she continues to show guts at the end of the race, I know that time will drop even more! Since our SPPM at Wadsworth a few weeks back, Shayla has been on fire, and this race was no exception. She set an LPM of 21:44 and looked like her season goals were on her mind for each step of the race. Justine also set an LPR and looked focused from gun to wire! She ran a 22:03 and finished with a great kick! Jackie rounded out our scoring 5 with an LPR of 22:41; I really believe she can help bring our pack closer together with a stronger start to the race, and I can't wait to watch her figure that out in the next race! The surprise of the race was Damaris running 6th for us in a sweet time of 22:42; what a tremendous effort for the first race of her career! I loved her focus and willingness to take a risk and go out hard in the race. Our 7th and final official varsity runner for the day was Alexia with a huge LPR of 23:14! Clearly her hard work this summer is paying off; for some perspective, she ran 22:22 last year at Deerfield on the 2.25 course!
Monica's summer focus also paid off in her race at Deerfield; she set an LPR of 23:32--a significant improvement over her 26:45 at Deerfield a year ago! Janelle looked great in an LPR of 23:48...nearly a 2:00 improvement over last year's best. Helen looked super-strong (and healthy) with an LPM of 23:58; that time tells what she will be able to do now that she has figured out how to keep her hip in check!
Overall, our other finishers looked very strong today, with Julia, Heidi, Carolina, Kristina, Iman, Steffany and Emily finishing their first XC races ever as Zee-Bees! Special shout out to Ashley for helping Kristina get through some tough spots in her race; Kristina said she wouldn't have made it without Ashley's veteran-fueled inspiration.
While I was TOTALLY stoked about the times and efforts during the race, watching you all work as a TEAM was most impressive. Not only did you look out for each other before, during, and after your races, but you also acted as an important support system for the boys during their race. If we continue down this path, I KNOW that the 2015 season will be both fun and successful.
I am proud of the character of this team!
Want to keep track of your stats this season? Go to www.athletic.net, type in your name or Zion-Benton, and click on XC. You can look at our team stats or the numbers for any individual. :)