December 2018

As I sit down to write this last Coaches Corner for 2018, I think back to the beginning when I started this column, March 2011, with thoughts of spring.  As we head into winter, thoughts of spring being a few months off, I find myself at a bit of a cross roads. When I started with the column, Gretchen and I were leading Wednesday night workouts once a week, and I had a steady gig coaching cross country, track and field, and sometimes winter track.  Now, seven years later I still have those irons in the fire, but have added our youth programs with Valhalla, Thursday Night jack Murphy runs from SMS in the summer, Monday Night Grind at Mascenic and all the work I do with Runner’s Alley and New Hampshire Cross and New Hampshire Track and

All these endeavors take time.  Often I find myself at the keyboard typing away articles at 4am, setting race courses before school starts, having practice right after school and scooting over to Peterborough for an adult track workout.  Thankfully for me my family is involved with running almost as much as I am so I am able to cram in some family time on occasion when our schedules match up. And while I enjoy all the different things I get involved with (I do very little anymore that I don’t WANT to be doing!) something has to give.

This will be my last monthly column for the Monadnock Milers. I know over the years some of you have read at least some of the columns I’ve written and for that, thank you.  I’ve enjoyed practicing the craft of writing through these columns, but I’m running short of ideas (I’ve written over 80 of them!) and more importantly, time. I still hope to contribute some material from time to time when something I’ve written for NHCC or NHT&F might be a nice read for the Milers.

I’m also handing over the reins of the Jack Murphy runs to the ConVal coaching ensemble to perpetuate the goals that Jack had for the running community of the greater CV area.  Lance Flamino has been looking to start a summer cross country race series and it only seems appropriate that Jack’s name be a part of that. I can’t speak to any of the particulars regarding Thursday nights in Peterborough but you’ve been left in good hands.

After discussions with my family and the best way to stay involved with the Miler community, Gretchen and I decided the one thing we’d still like to be connected with is Wednesday Night track workouts for at least the coming 2019 year.  Gretch likes the idea of at least one night a week dinner in Peterborough.

We’ll still be around town, hitting the roads in the trails in much the same fashion we have in the past, supporting local races and offering our own special “Valhalla style” events to all the Milers like usual.  But by reducing the requirements that Thursday nights and monthly writing had on me, I’m a bit more free to offer more of the unique stuff that sparks my interest.

It’s been a fun ride and it’s not over yet.  While I expect to pretty involved in the Monadnock region running scene, I plan to have one foot on the brake for a change, slowing down enough to enjoy the scenery.

I’ll see you out there.

November 2018

Well, after a summer of hot, difficult weather, the fall/winter weather has certainly descended upon us over the last few weeks.  Some sleet, lots of wind and even a touch of snow has befallen the region in the last week which can only mean one thing, cross country championship season.

Here’s how the locals faired.

Boynton, girls - 11th, boys - 5th

JRMS, girls - 10th, boys - 28th

SMS, girls - 14th, boys - 4th

Conant, girls - 13th, boys - 10th

ConVal, girls - 2nd, boys - 5th

Mascenic, girls - 7th, boys - 1st

Yesterday, my boys team captured their sixth team State Championship ever, and my seventh (including the girls) over my eighteen years of coaching.  My top guy, Landen Vaillancourt, came in second to defending champion Jeffrey Allen, and we, the defending champs, beat out Jeffrey Allen’s team by two points.  While we were the favorite, the Campbell Cougars made us work for every step of this one. Our top two were better mathematically than their top two (seven points to their twelve), they packed things in nicely, and if it hadn’t been for our #3 and #5 guys beating out their #4 and #5 guys by one place, we would have lost by two. (Mascenic - 2-5-16-19-21, Campbell - 1-11-14-17-22)

Hats off to Campbell for their tremendous run.  If you read the form charts, Mascenic was the cream of Division 3, with Kearsarge and Trinity nipping at their heels.  However I viewed Campbell as a dark horse, quietly building up momentum over the last few weeks. I felt comfortable in our matchup with the other teams but wasn’t sure what the Campbell kids were ready to do.  Challenge us is the obvious answer now.

I tell my kids to focus on their own races, make other teams beat you, and if you do, you’ll often win anyway.  And that happened yesterday. Campbell were trying to beat us. They said as much in the Rankings Reveal on Thursday.  And ultimately, I think that might have been what did them in.

My kids know in championship racing you need to pass as many other shirts as you can.  Campbell had their top five in front of our #3 man one mile into the race. They knew they had to get in front and stay in front if they were going to contend.  My guys were somewhat oblivious to where they were standings wise at that point but I was sure to tell them. Over the ensuing miles my guys inched closer to their main pack (with Landen battling Jeffrey all the way to the finishing stretch) closing the gap and bringing us closer to our  goal of winning the meet.

But it wasn’t until those final steps, the few strides by Dakota and Josh, that sealed the deal for us.  I barely got to see Dakota and Josh’s finishes, and in some cases it was too close to tell who beat who, but I knew the guys had run their best races.  It wasn’t until Campbell was called up for the runnerup award that we knew we had accomplished what we set out to do.

Those guys, especially the ones that were on the winning team last year, are going to cherish this one.  They worked hard all season, and had to work exceptionally hard yesterday and deserve the win. My captains worked extremely hard to make this happen, dragging the team on their backs at times. Campbell certainly deserves some of the credit, making it an honest race, pushing my guys the entire race, for 4,999 meters of it.

See you out there.

Race Opportunity - VRC’s Friends of Mascenic Cross Country “Alumni” race, Sunday, November 25th, noon, Mascenic HS cross country course, 171 Turnpike Road, New Ipswich, NH, soupapolooza to follow at 36 Fairbanks road

October 2018

As I write this column, I’m less than 24 hours out from hosting our homecoming meet, followed the next day by the Viking 5K, and then the Boynton home meet on Monday.  The last couple nights, sleep has come to me fleetingly, as my mind goes over the event planning and the long list of things I need to remember. Along with this comes the wrinkle that just over a week ago my high school boys team got pummeled, coming in fifth in a meet we’ve won the last three years, and beat by two teams in our division.  Stress, while not the overbearing kind, is definitely in full swing as of late.

I wouldn’t say I’m a stressed out guy.  I am good at directing my efforts where they need to be in order to get things done.  But I do usually have a lot of irons in the fire, things to juggle, and the list of things to do is constantly cranking through my subconscious.  While it doesn’t keep me up at night, when I wake up, regardless of the hour, the list starts cranking through my head.

I can’t imagine what I’d do without my daily run.  So far in the last 9 months I’ve only had 25 days off, and if luck stays with me, I’ll have less than 40 days of no running this year.  Not only does daily running help keep me sane, it also keeps my body moving, ever active saving me from just crashing on the couch at the end of the day.

For sure, not every run seems like a blessing.  I’ve trudged through my share of crappy running days this year.  I’ve had a nagging achilles injury that simply won’t go away until I decided to take some real time off.  I also broke my big toe again this summer, leading to the only two days in a row off this summer. Some days this winter were brutal because it was so cold.  Some days this summer brutal as it was too hot.

But the mental benefit, being able to clear my head, is immeasurable.  Requirements at school, trying to get all the work in at the farm in the few hours I had, all the running related tasks I take on while everyone is enjoying some summer down time, these things would churn me into a pulp if I didn’t have running to straighten me out.  Nothing like a long run in suffering heat to reduce the tension created by that long list of responsibilities. If the sun and miles don’t kill you, neither will the things on the “to do” list.

As I get older the role running plays in my life morphs.  While challenging my best performance used to be the focus of my endeavors, challenging the responsibilities of life, and beating them, is the main goal now.  To not let life requirements win against my desire to get out there and test myself.

I don’t like that I’m no longer looking to push my physical limits however I’m satisfied that I still get the opportunity, or more accurately, make the opportunity, to get out there and get my run in.  Maybe it’s simply an act of defiance, my push against the background of time. But I’m happy to make that choice and that I can make that choice.

Life isn’t simple.  The requirements of life can get pretty complicated and convoluted if you let them.  Time slips through your fingers stacking up regret after regret. However there are things in your life that can be simple, like the simple act of running.

See you out there.