August 2018

Just this past week I had the opportunity of a lifetime and spent a week in Alaska with three very good friends.  We hiked, white water rafted, they fished, and just ventured around Alaska seeing all the natural beauty that this country contains.  And that’s quite a lot. I had the best intentions of running every day but fell short due to some unforeseen circumstances that I derived from our swim test for the rafting.  While the damage to my quad curtained the depth of my running I still got to get out and run, albeit maybe a little less than I would have liked but it’s tough to complain when your in Alaska.

The three runs I did get in, not only were fantastic, but as I look back on them I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.  The first run was a seven miler out on the Homer spit. The city of Homer, home of the Time Bandit from the TV show The Deadliest Catch, has a five mile spit that extends into Katchemak Bay.  Loaded with boat slips, shops, and fishing charters, it also hosts a bike path that runs most of the length of the spit. While the road going down the spit was loaded with RVs, I didn’t pass more than one runner and half a dozen bicyclists.  I passed pockets of lupine and fireweed in bloom, old wooden boats, new sailing vessels and fishermen coming with their catch. With the snow capped mountains of Katchemak Bay State Park as the backdrop, the surreal surroundings I was running in was absolutely jaw dropping.

My next run happened in the town of Soldotna, half way down the Kenai peninsula on the Tsalteshi Ski Trails behind Skyview Middle School.  Soldotna is the hometown of Allie Ostrander, the baby assassin who runs for Boise State and is the current and two time champion for NCAA Division 1 championships.  While she ran for Kenai HS, she developed a race series in Soldotna to help protect the Kenai river and more purposely, the salmon that live in it. I had hoped to be able to run in one of her summer series runs but the one day I was not in Alaska was the day of the series.  The rolling hills and twisty-turny terrain would have made for an excellent run but my busted up quad had me simply running the “Wolf” loop, which was lit for the ability to ski during the very long winter nights.

The third run didn’t actually happen in Alaska, but during our 16 hour layover in Portland, OR.  With time to kill I was able to get out and run a loop in Forest Park, a ridge line wooded city park with over 80 miles of trails and no automobile encounters.  I had hoped to see a local elite out on the trails as many pros call Portland home and use the park for training runs, but we saw none. Still rough from the rafting accident, we kept the run to a hilly three mile run.  With many switchbacks, cutbacks and steep ascents and descents, I felt the shorter the better on this one as we still had a five hour plane ride to take us back East.

So while I didn’t get out as much as I had planned or wanted to, the runs I had held some significance in my small little world.  I make never get to run with Allie, or some pros in Portland, but I was able to see where they train, and get a sense of what makes them them.  And that is worth something.

See you out there.

July 2018

The dog days of summer.  We tend to think of this phrase and relate it to the temperatures outside being hot and oppressive.  So hot, dogs that would normally be out prowling around just lie around trying to stay cool. I certainly thought that’s what it meant and was leaning towards using the new found heat and our lack of acclimatization to it as the main point of this coaches corner.  So as I write this on June 21st, the first day of summer, I looked up the meaning.

And it has nothing to do with heat, or even dogs for that matter.  It dates back to Egyptian and Greek times and the stars of the night sky.  It refers to the ancient Greek calendar and the dog star, Sirius. The dog days are the days the dog star, Sirius, rises in the night sky, this year between July 3rd and August 11th.  For the Egyptians, the arrival of the dog star often meant flooding both a destructive and restorative process. For the Greeks however, the time period often meant drought, famine and hardship, so Sirius kind of got a bad rap while providing a timeframe for worry warts to start planning on.

While not quite time for Sirius to show up in the night sky, my “dog days” have started already.  The kind that the first interpretation of dog days, those hot, difficult summer days we usually envision. Once school gets out I begin my second career as a farmer.  Rewarding work for sure however the “change of pace” comes with difficulties regarding my running. Much more physical than my job as a teacher, the adjustment from being out in the field, walking upwards of ten miles before noon (often carrying bulky things), the first few weeks of “summer vacation” is spent trying to get used these new physical demands and having my running suffer for a short period.

Eventually I get used to the new demands and my running levels out.  Getting in workouts is easier and not being exhausted all the time makes training a bit more pleasant.  But I have to go through that period before I feel like myself again.

The other interpretation, the one grounded in Greek and Egyptian mythology about destructive forces, is it’s usually sometime in July that I end up with some sort of accident that puts a major damper on my running.  A number of years back I had a nasty turn of events with a 2 ton tractor, a large tire and me being in its path that set me back about a month. That was followed the next year by a mysterious locking knee leading to a broken elbow and six and a half weeks on a stationary bike (another name for a torture device) and “aqua running.”  Two years ago saw me blow out my right ankle but stepping on an easily avoidable ostrich egged sized and shaped rock that I somehow didn’t avoid. And last summer making a field goal attempt style kick to a non moveable boulder I somehow didn’t see hidden by three wispy pieces of grass with the result being a broken big toe.

Don’t get me wrong.  As a teacher I CAN’T wait for school to be out and being on summer vacation.  However there is a bit of trepidation when I lace up for my run wondering if it will be this run where the summer bad luck will befall me.

Maybe this year will be the year I make it through unscathed.  I certain seem to have no control over bad luck so I might as well throw caution to the wind.  No matter how much I try not to focus on it, I still seem to let the concept creep into my subconscious  until it’s also showing up in my conscious state. I vow to try to ignore it but time will tell whether I can forget about it or the injury bug just stays at bay.

I’ll see you out there.

Coaches Corner June - 2018

Well summer is finally here, I’m just over a week away from school being out and I find myself behind writing the Coaches Corner this month.  May has been the culmination of a lot of irons in the fire for me, with the track season winding down, school winding down, our local running program finishing up and the one race on docket happening over Memorial Day weekend.  

The month came to a satisfying end with two excellent outcomes from two very different races 24 hours apart.

The first was my Mascenic 4x800 meter team won the Division 3 State Championships title.  Made up of one freshman, one sophomore, one junior and one senior, the boys took the race by the throat from the start, opening up a substantial lead from leg one, and held that all the way to the finish.  Having the boys go all in on a team title was rewarding, as we tend to go after individual titles in the spring and focus on the team title for cross. Each guy did their job, and their excitement was recognizable.

The second was at the Pinelands Trail Festival the next where I was slated to run the 25K.  The race went well for me, and while I didn’t set a PR or anything, my latest rash of injuries were kept at bay and I was able to finish strong and felt really good.  But that’s not the satisfying part.

Also entered in the 25K, along with my wife, a bunch of friends and former runners, were my two kids and a friend of theirs.  As an eleven year old, a twelve year old and a fourteen year old, they were noticably the youngest entrants in the race. Under trained and overwhelmed, I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t see them “done” when I came through the finish area.  The race consists of two loops, one of 16K and the other 9K, and I almost thought I might get done the 9K and they’d be there, finished after 16K.

But no, the report was they had come through the exchange zone 18 minutes before I finished and were out on lap two.  I figured I had about and hour until they finished so I relaxed for a while, changed my shirt and my shoes, and headed to the food tent to get some vittles and head out towards the finish to cheer the girls in.

As I turned from grabbing my refreshments I practically ran smack dab into my oldest daughter Victoria.  Before I could think I blurted out “What are you doing here?”, amazed she had already finished. She looked a little bewildered and said she had just finished.  When I asked about her sister Amelia and her friend Gracie, she said they weren’t far behind. I rushed her along so we could go cheer the girls in, took three steps and ran in to them as well.

Not only had they not slowed down over the last brutal 9K, they had smiles on and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Both events gave me cause to stop and reflect about their performances.  While in some ways the accomplishments are similar. Both were running events where focus and determination were important.  Both were a testament to all the time and effort they had put in as athletes leading up to race day. But in many ways they were vastly different.  One race was done in just over 8 minutes, while the other took more than three hours. One was about owing to your team mates to push as hard as you can, the other about sticking together  and helping each other no matter how hard it gets.

Seeing the same satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment on the faces of the athletes from these vastly different events was the same.  Both “teams” had set a goal, brought all their collective nerves, confidence and running history to the table, and in the end, were victorious. 

While individual success eludes me and my own running these days, I get the opportunity to share my experiences with my younger athletes in an effort for them to benefit from what I’ve learned over the years.  And there are times I get to have them share their experiences being successful with me.

See you out there!