Category Archives: cross country

2016 In Review

As cheesy as it is, I enjoy the exercise of looking back over the calendar year. It is a natural time to reflect and reboot which is a valuable process for everyone in every aspect of their life. To start, I reviewed what my goals were for 2016. (Here’s 2015 in review, just for fun…)

  • Gain More Race Experience: Relatively successful numbers-wise and from a diversity perspective. I raced on the track, the trails and the roads and learned some important lessons along the way. My favorite races were the Rivah and the 10,000. My most disappointing race was the Rock’N’Roll Chicago Half Marathon.
  • Continue to Build Strength: Mixed success. I absolutely didn’t do four sessions a week although I did get back into the practice of doing some strength before bed every night (usually squats, core and pushups). I also went on a streak of doing Body Pump this fall which was an excellent improvement until my schedule got busy.
  • Address hip/lower back pain: Nope. I did yoga approximately 8 times this year and whined about my back for the remaining days.
  • Maintain my fitness base: Yes and no. I technically maintained a decent fitness base with a lot of obstacles but I didn’t get near 55 miles per week most weeks this year.

My mileage total for 2016 was 2,216 (42 miles a week). For comparison, 2015 was 2,654 (51 miles a week), 2014 was 2,282 (43 miles a week) and 2013 was 2,303 (44 miles a week).

The other big change for me in 2016 was the incredible opportunity to represent Skechers Performance. The beautiful thing about this partnership is that I get to run in awesome shoes (seriously, you should try them, landing at Skirack in 2017) but that I also get to connect with other Skechers athletes around the country who push (and pull) me. I can’t wait to see how this brand grows in 2017!

I would be remiss to not mention an incredible running moment that had nothing to do with my own running but was an absolutely epic moment. As I talk about all the time, coaching cross country is one of my proudest achievements and although results aren’t ever the only goal, watching my team race their legs off to come in second in Vermont was an unbelievable finish for my coaching career (for now).

Finally, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you for reading and engaging on this blog. I am always blown away that people care about this blog enough to read and comment and truly hope you know how much I appreciate your support and interest.

What was your 2016 in Review? Have you set goals for 2017 yet?

Weeks In Review 10.3.16 to 10.16.16

October 3rd to October 9th

Monday: First Day of TAing, so off day by the time we left.

Tuesday: 8 miles early with Carl.

Wednesday: 7.5 miles with Will plus core.

Thursday: 8 mile fartlek workout. 5 by minute hard, minute easy. 5 by 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy. Great early workout minus the person who stole my headlamp!!

Friday: 5 mile run at Mills plus a 3 mile course walk.

Saturday: 4 mile run around Franklin Park.

Sunday: 3 mile course walk while volunteering then 4.5 mile run and Body Pump in the evening.

Total Miles: 37

October 10th to October 16th

Monday: 6 mile run with 2 by 1.5 miles at tempo pace. Almost embarrassingly sore from changing my squat and lunge weight on Sunday.

Tuesday: 4 mile recovery run.

Wednesday: 4.5 mile run.

Thursday: 7.65 mile run after a long day.

Friday: Big zero. Too much going on between TAing and Homecoming. We won Best Homecoming Float, though!

Saturday: 8.5 mile workout on the Hardack Course. Progressive warmup then 8 by minute hard, minute easy. Coaching sprints after the workout felt harder than usual…

Sunday: 7.5 miles easy through Intervale with Carl.

Total Miles 38.2

Feeling a little bit like my life is currently held together by duct tape and post-it notes. I’m TAing Anatomy this month which is a huge amount of fun but also takes a ton of time between dissections, teaching and studying for the next day not to mention holding office hours. Almost as soon as it started last Monday (the 3rd), I realized any hopes of big mileage this month are just shot. Between TAing and coaching, there isn’t enough time for my own training and that’s something I’m working on being okay with. After all, next year is likely to be similar (if not worse). I’m working on being grateful for the runs I do get in and trying to let go of days when my runs are short or non-existent. I also need to work on accepting that my house is going to be dirty and my to-do list a little longer than normal. Maybe next week…

First years have an exam tomorrow which makes tomorrow a marathon day. Hoping to get up early and get at least 30 minutes in on the treadmill before heading in for the whole day. On Tuesday, I’m off so will do the workout with the team and hopefully set myself up for a reasonable remainder of the week.

Week in Review 9.5.16 to 9.11.16

Monday: 7 mile run with 3.5 at tempo-ish with the team then mini-legs.

Tuesday: 6 mile recovery run around the home course. The heat is really hanging around!

Wednesday am: 8.2 mile run on the Causeway.

Wednesday pm: 5 mile run with the team. Both runs SO hot and humid.

Thursday: 4.5 mile normal run and Body Pump!!

Friday: 13 mile long run with Erin.

Saturday: 5 mile easy run with Will in Maine on the Eastern Trail

Sunday: 8 mile regular run around Old Orchard Beach with striders at the end.

Total Miles: 56.7

Another decent week of training. One would think that after 6 years of coaching, I would know the best way to get my own workout or run in around the team, but it’s still a struggle. I occasionally trip myself up because I think “well if the team is running 7 and I only need 8, I can just add on.” If I’m organized and no one needs anything, it works well. If I’m less organized or an athlete needs something, I wind up short on miles.

I am SO excited that I got to Body Pump this week. I forgot how much I love that class and am going to keep working on going to as many as I can fit in a week. My next hurdle is convincing myself to 1) try a yoga class at Campus Rec and 2) try a totally out of my comfort zone class to mix things up.

It’s still incredibly hot for September in Vermont up here; our home race last Friday was 86 degrees and humid. It’s finally starting to cool off in the forecast so I’m looking forward to feeling better as that happens. Still looking for some fall races to test fitness and have some experiences but it seems like most races are falling on Saturdays which makes it hard with Invitationals.

Week in Review 8.29.16 to 9.4.16

Monday: 7 miles while running around after the girls doing their tempo run.

Tuesday: 11.3 mile long run. First long run in a while, felt good to be out there!

Wednesday: 4.5 mile recovery run.

Thursday: Interval workout on the treadmill in Chicago. 2 mile warmup then 5 by (.25 at regular pace, .25 at tempo pace, .25 at interval pace, .25 at recovery pace) and 2 mile cooldown for 8 miles. Legs after.

Friday: Step 2 Clinical Skills Board, so I took this as a scheduled off day. 7 miles prorated.

Saturday: 7 miles easy on the Essex Invitational Course. A few sprints across the course to cheer.

Sunday: 8 miles on the rail trail in Cambridge.

Total Miles: 52.8

Total August Miles: 176

Happy with the way this week went and enjoying the slight increase in flexibility offered by the 9 day schedule. I knew I had to travel (back) to Chicago to take my last set of Boards on Friday (yay!!!!) and had the option of doing my interval workout on Thursday or Saturday. Since Race Days are always crazy and I feel strongly that the team should get 100% of me, I opted to do it on Thursday on slightly less recovered legs. Totally the right choice!

One of the things I’m currently working through is what shape I want my running to take this fall. I had initially had a thought that I’d start working towards a winter marathon but I’m starting to back track on that. Residency applications are due this week and this fall will be full of travel for interviews. Although I am happy to run in lots of places, it might not be the best set up for a good performance when I’m trying to balance all of that. On top of that, this will (sob) be my last year coaching and honestly, I’m happiest when I can give all my attention to coaching and not be distracted by my own running. I’ll keep chewing on this over the next few weeks but stay tuned!

Product Review: Skechers GoTrail Ultra 3

Disclaimer: I’m a Skechers Performance Ambassador, which means that I receive an annual stipend with which to purchase Skechers gear as well as free gear and shoes to try throughout the year. I used my annual stipend to purchase these shoes. The review below represents my opinion as well as technical specifications provided to me by Skechers. 

Dave had been bragging for a while that the GoTrail Ultra 3 was an incredible shoe so with my quiver full of road training and racing shoes, I added this shoe in anticipation of my upcoming New England Trail Championships and Loon Mountain Race in July. Despite coaching cross country, I am generally NOT a big trail runner. However, between the combination of finding my zen on trails recently and this shoe, I’m starting to think I might like to be.

GoTrail Ultra 3

From a technical perspective, the GoTrail Ultra 3 is the heaviest, most cushioned shoe that Skechers offers but has moderate structure so it still moves well with your foot, which is a must on technical trails. It has an aggressive sole with lug rubber knobs and a wide footprint for stability with the incredible bonus of a drainable outsole. Basically, there are holes in the sole that drain water after stream crossings or intentional puddle jumps. Finally, it features the same seamless upper that all Skechers shoes have, making it extremely comfortable despite being a technical juggernaut. It weighs in at 8.8 ounces, which Will informs me is not heavy for a shoe at all. I’m a princess about such things, however, after years of running in 4 to 6 ounce trainers.

What I like most about the shoe is that it is cushioned enough to really let you rip on technical trails that are littered with roots and rocks. I’m not a tender foot but I HATE when you step down on a root on your arch and get that singe of pain/stretch. Except for the gnarlyest roots, I didn’t feel anything sharp in these shoes but still had enough maneuverability and feedback to move confidently over trails. They do feel extremely cushioned when you’re on pavement but as long as most of your run or race is on dirt/rough terrain, it shouldn’t bother you.

The other thing I really like is the grip offered by the sole. It has big, rubber lugs with tiny rubber nubbins in the middle of each lug that operate like suction cups.  Like I said above, I don’t consider myself a proficient trail runner but have been working really hard to improve my skills, especially on downhills. As I’ve gotten more used to running on trails, I’ve been able to rely on the soles of the GoTrail Ultra 3 to really grab on, regardless of whether the trail is wet, frozen or somewhere in between. Because the shoe boasts a comfortable, flexible upper, it bends with your foot, no matter how awkward your landing. Because of this, I think this shoe is a great introductory trail shoe for people like me who are still learning how to navigate trails without coming to a complete stop when things get technical.

Virtually rookie proof...

Virtually rookie proof…

All in all (and with the caveat that I’ve only owned a couple of pairs of trail shoes), this shoe is a great addition to your collection if you’re looking for a hard working trail shoe that can accommodate and boost even a trail rookie.

Recently Read: Sportsmanship (?) and the real purpose of coaching

In the last few years, there have been some high profile “assists” at the end of races, including last year’s Division I championships. The debate over these assists reignited when an Iowa runner was disqualified for helping another runner across the line long after he had finished. The runner was not his teammate. Twitter exploded with arguments that it was sportsmanship, while others argued that it was unnecessary. Honestly, I don’t know where I stand on this. As a coach, I would never help my athlete across the line. There are medical professionals there and as happened this weekend, when one of my athletes crossed the line and collapsed, she was scooped up by the officials in the finishing area and I met her in the medical tent. Also as a coach, I’d be pretty upset if one of my runners stopped or slowed her own race to assist another athlete in the last hundred meters of a course or if she ran out of the finishing chute to help someone. Way out on the course? I’d leave it up to her to use her discretion. If someone is in significant danger, no race finish is more important. And neither is a DQ. My impression, however, is that most of these scenarios are athletes who are just bonking. We’ve all been there or at least close. Crawl in, recover and figure out how to race smarter in the future.

What do you think about this? Do you see the proliferation of these assists as an example of sportsmanship? Do you think the Iowa runner should have been disqualified?

My Athletic Director shared this article last week and I thought it just hit the nail on the head 100%. Running is a little different than other sports because in fact, many girls will go on to run as a hobby even if they hang up their spikes. I have never coached with the idea that winning is everything. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I have minimal respect for high burnout (but high win count) programs like Fayetteville Manlius or even programs in the state of Vermont. As I said to an athlete today, when we all back up, the State Meet doesn’t matter. What matters is that we learned to work as a team, to support and push one another and appreciated all the amazing things our bodies can do.

Does this dad/coach nail it? What do you think about the part where he talks about knowing his child could handle the disappointment of missing a penalty kick?

Week in Review 10.26.15 to 11.1.15

Monday am: 15 miles with 8 at marathon pace. Ended up being 6:23 pace, so I was psyched with the effort.

Monday pm: Drills, 1 mile warmup then legs in the weight room.

Tuesday: 6.5 mile recovery run.

Wednesday am: 9 mile recovery run in what turned out to be miserable weather.

Wednesday pm: Drills, 1 mile warmup then striders.

Thursday: 400s on the track. Given the crazy wind on the home stretch, rotated start points around the track. Goal was 85, result was pretty dependent on Mother Nature. 84, 83, 84, 83, 82, 85, 82, 83, 85, 84, 85, 85, 86, 85. Legs felt totally awesome but it was admittedly frustrating in the wind. Legs afterward.

Friday: Unplanned rest day (I planned to take it on Saturday) courtesy of the dogs, who accidentally knocked me down in the driveway. Knocked the wind right out of me and banged me up pretty good but after laying there for a few minutes panicking that they had broken my leg, I determined that I was mostly okay.

Saturday: 4 miles in the early morning before we headed out then another 4 around the States Course. Amazing day for us, with some great teamwork and some stellar individual performances too. We beat Burlington by 1 point to qualify for the New England Championships, which was our team goal for the year. Doesn’t get better than that!

Sunday: 8.9 miles with striders.

Total Miles: 65

Total Miles for October: 282

The upside of a flexible schedule is that I can push my long run to tomorrow since my legs (and body and soul) are tired from yesterday. The downside is that it makes me feel like I’m messing up my training because I’m not following some arbitrary schedule. This downside is obviously all mental – my body doesn’t care that tomorrow is Monday. Still, it irks me!

Besides my fall on Friday, this week was actually a great week of training. I’m starting to feel really strong and am continuing to improve in workouts. I don’t have a lot of “big” work left before taper, which will start the week after next. My long run tomorrow will be long: 2 hours 15 minutes with 5 by mile at tempo pace and 8 by 200 hard at the beginning. With the tempo miles, this will be about a 17 mile effort. Later in the week, I’ll do my long run on Friday because I’m headed to DC this weekend to see my best friends for our Friendsgiving. I’ll be running while I’m there but it’s much less stressful when I don’t have to get a 2+ hour long run in.

Week in Review 10.12.15 to 10.18.15

Ah, an adaptation week at last. Par for the course, I actually felt worse than I did during my full volume weeks but I know recovery is necessary.

Monday: 6 mile recovery run with Acadia while the girls did their workout. Acadia is running for Vassar so I was thrilled to get 45 minutes with her to hear all about college and her new team. Arms after my run.

Tuesday: 6.8 mile normal run.

Wednesday: 7 mile run, including a trial of my new Night Runner 270 shoe lights. I ordered these as part of a Kickstarter campaign and finally got to try them out. Full review coming soon but they were awesome!

Thursday: Tempo plus speed on the track. 5 by mile at tempo pace (5:57, 6:06, 6:12, 6:10, 6:13) followed by 4 by 400 at R pace. The 400s felt clunky at best but the miles were awesome. I definitely went too fast on the first one because I felt so good but was more honest about tempo effort for the other four. I was helped in this effort by the wind as it got pretty breezy on the track by the time we were done. 10 miles total. Legs after.

Friday: Off day, prorated at 6.8. I did jog around our home course for the race but kept it as minimal as I could. Amazing team day with every runner posting a season’s best and many posting huge lifetime bests.

We're so lucky to have a team parent who is a photographer! Me in my element.

We’re so lucky to have a team parent who is a photographer! Me in my element on Friday, watching my girls kill it.

Saturday: As Will said, it was like I had an oscillating fan on me on the track. Got a 4 by 1200 workout in between the snow squalls (yup!) and really battled the wind. The goal was 4:15 but I came through at 4:20 each time, which was a little over a second lost per lap. The Daniels SMART calculator estimated 32 seconds lost per mile given the wind speed so I’ll take it! 8 miles total with legs afterward.

Sunday: 13 mile long run with Will and Amy. Pretty chilly out and was actually really tired, so I was glad it was a short long run.

Total Miles: 58.2

As I wrote earlier in the week, I really am feeling better now after three weeks of liquid iron. Easy runs are back to normal and my workouts are happening at the paces I expect although I’m still really anxious every time I start one. My sleep hasn’t been great lately but I think that’s more to do with Will starting surgery and waking up at 5 am every day. I usually fall back to sleep but it feels more disrupted than normal.

The week ahead is back to normal volume (65 to 70) with a big marathon pace effort next weekend. We’re into Phase 4 now which means that after my regular workout efforts, I have to remind my legs how to be fast. Tough task as the weather gets colder and I’m at the peak of training!

7 Reasons Why Your Daughter Should Run Cross Country

I may be a bit biased, but I think running cross country is one of the best things your daughter can do to develop as a person. When I design a season, my plan includes workouts but it also includes all sorts of hidden objectives. Here are the seven things I hope each season I coach accomplishes…

  1. Introduction to a lifelong activity. In a time when we are bombarded with messages about inactivity, obesity and lifestyle diseases, learning to love running and movement is an investment in her future health.
  2. Time management. Daily practice, weekend meets, summer runs. All of these commitments teach her how to balance her time long before she goes to college, holds a job, raises a family and/or participates as an active community member.
  3. Goal setting. Cross country is objective in many ways; time elapses from the start to a defined finish and you earn a place with every finish. Through formal goal setting activities and informal statements about goals for each race, girls learn to set appropriate goals, work towards those and celebrate when they or their teammates reach those goals.
  4. Body acceptance. Go to a road race or a cross country meet sometime and observe the body types participating. Tall women, short women, girls with tiny legs, girls with strong legs and everyone in between. Cross country is one of the only sports where people of literally all abilities cross the same start line and the same finish line.
  5. Self awareness. During our summer training camp, one of the lessons I emphasize is learning to set limits for yourself. The freshman are blissfully unaware of what I’m talking about while the juniors shift uncomfortably because they are all too familiar with the overwhelmed feeling that comes with high school these days. Before school starts, I give permanent permission for athletes to take the day off when they feel that they need it. This may be because they are sick or it may be because they have too much homework or are feeling too stressed to be focused on the team or the workout. In five years, this has never been abused and in fact is rarely used but exists as a reminder that none of us can do it all all the time.
  6. Public speaking. Regardless of future plans, the ability to be articulate in a public speaking setting is critical. A team setting with girls you consider more like sisters is a safe place for young women to practice these skills. I introduce it by asking different athletes to lead drills or cool downs. We practice it after almost every race where we sit in a circle and go over what we did well individually and where we could improve. (This also gets at the goal of personal accountability.)
  7. Open conversation. This is one place where I see cross country leap ahead of other sports, all of which offer varying degrees of the first six objectives. Unlike a team sport where you are focused on drills or running plays, we spend a lot of time just running together. To pass that time, we talk. Sometimes we talk about small things like our favorite gummi candy (we all hate the giant gummi bears, FYI). And sometimes we talk about big, serious issues. These issues bubble up naturally and I’m always astounded at their insight and observations about the world around them. Below is a sampling from the last week. When was the last time these were offered up at your dinner table or in the car?
    • The Common Core/overtesting (an athlete has a sibling struggling with the former and finds herself frustrated with the latter)
    • Cultural appropriation (we’ve been really into A Tribe Called Red but worried that playing the songs at States could be construed as such. Thankfully, A Tribe Called Red has spoken frequently and passionately about this and welcomes everyone to enjoy their music as long as they don’t “objectify, fetishize or mock Native tradition.”)
    • Racism (a classmate made an offensive comment about an ethnicity. Discussion around whether it was intentional or a reflection of ignorance ensued)
    • Gender identification (how do we adjust our language to accommodate everyone)
    • Pressures of social media (This is constant. Be reassured, your daughters do an excellent job of policing one another about appropriateness and are generally well aware that all the things portrayed on social media should be taken with a grain of salt.)

In a time when teenagers are overloaded with all the things they “should” do to be competitive for college, it can be tempting to cut cross country or other sports from their to-do lists. Before you do, however, consider all the hidden objectives that all good coaches (in all sports) tuck into the 90 minutes we spend with your kids each day.

If you ran cross country, what did I leave out? Where do you have your best conversations? 

Week in Review 9.14.15 to 9.20.15

Monday: 7.2 miles of recovery plus 6 striders on the grass. Hip work afterward.

Tuesday: 6 by 1K repeats (3:40, 3:44, 3:45, 3:45, 3:44, 3:45). Legs totally dead and a super frustrating workout. Leg lift afterward.

Wednesday: 7.1 mile recovery run. Lifted arms.

Thursday am: 13.1 miles with 2 by 2 at Tempo Pace. Was supposed to do 3 by 2 miles but when I went to start the third, I almost couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. Essentially jogged home.

Thursday pm: 3 miles warming up with Erin before her 3K.

Friday: Scheduled Off Day. 7 miles prorated. Lots of activity setting up our school fun run.

Saturday am: 5 miles plus 6 striders bright and early.

Saturday day: 5 miles of running plus 3 miles of coursewalking at the Invitational. Legs cooked at bedtime. Girls had an epic day with JV winning and Varsity in third.

Just want to bottle this happiness!

Just want to bottle this happiness!

Sunday: Downtown 10K in 38:33, a 5 second PR and the win! Much more in my race write up but a perfect example of why going out with caution and racing smart always pays off. In this case, literally, with a $125 prize.

A little stunned at the finish.

A little stunned at the finish.

Total Miles: 67.4

Before this morning, this week was one of the most stressful in all of my running life. I don’t totally understand what’s going on with my running and it’s so frustrating to feel like I’m doing all of the right things and having nothing really work out. Finally made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow morning to get my iron levels checked, among a few other things, and will see a sports dietitian on Thursday to see what suggestions she has. Having a good race today is a huge mental help, however, as I felt like the first 4 miles were extremely easy and that changing gears wasn’t that difficult.