Sunday, February 28, 2010

Track and Personal Character

Hey Guys!

I don't want to get sappy over this but I think we all share a sense that runners tend to possess many of the better qualities of human character. I can think of no better example than the teacher who took the lead in stopping the shooter at the Littleton, CO middle school this week after he opened up with a rifle and wounded two students. This man is a hero and clearly prevented what could have been another Columbine tragedy. He's a track coach!


Glad To Be Back!

Hello Everybody!

Sorry for the extended absence from posting but I've had a few new medical issues to deal with and been somewhat preoccupied. Thankfully, all is currently well on the medical front.

I started posting comments about coaching high school runners last year. Since that time, much has transpired and will offer a recap.

Although I ran cross country I was really a quarter miler. For me, cross country was a conditioning season and I focused my best efforts for winter and spring track. Now that I'm an old man and a father, I have had the unique opportunity to not only observe but actively participate in my son Greg's development as a track athlete. Greg is now a high school senior. This will be his last year of competitive track as he will be attending American University next fall and will not pursue intercollegiate athletics. He plans to find a running club (certainly not a problem in Washington DC) and ultimately pursue a marathon while adopting running as part of a healthy lifestyle. But for now, he is focused on making the coming spring track season his best ever and we are well on the way to making that a reality.

Those of us from the east experienced winter track as a full and complete season. Not the case here in Ohio. There is a loose grouping of indoor meets but winter track is not a sanctioned sport. Since I retired over a year ago as a result of my medical issues, I have found a new (and unpaid) career as a high school coach. I finally convinced our head coach that winter track was an invaluable component of the yearlong training cycle, especially for the 400m. As a result he agreed to let me develop and implement a training program for our half dozen or so quarter milers (including Greg) and we are both excited about the potential. These guys train as a separate unit within the track team. I should add that this is the first time Hudson Ohio runners have had a comprehensive training program for the quarter. I have adapted Clyde Hart's quarter mile training program with obvious modifications. Hart is the long time Arkansas coach famous for training and developing Jeremy Wariner and LeShane Merritt, the current World and Olympic 400m champions. If it works for them, how bad can it be for us?

Greg and a couple of the guys ran cross country as a conditioning season. This included pre-season summer running plus a modified distance program during the fall season. In September I began interval workouts two days a week. We started with longer intervals i.e. 600's, 400's and 300's to build stamina and develop pacing. Speed work consisted of 200's and 300's with times progressing from moderate to faster. We also added weight work and core development on a consistent and regular basis.

By November we picked up a couple of additional runners who were playing football and integrated them into the program after two weeks of distance work. We've been adding a number of well known workouts to the mix including step ladders, fartlek and a lot of hills (long and short). We are also in the midst of a 5 meet indoor "mini season". The weather was mild through December and we were able to train effectively outdoors. That changed in January with all the snow we've had including another foot this weekend. Fortunately, we have access to the Kent State University Field house and do our speed work twice a week on a great indoor 300m track. We still do distance runs outside twice a week and are able to get in hills most Fridays.

Throughout the season, the guys have not only gotten stronger and faster but we've developed a unique "espirit de corps." These guys are totally into the program and they are among the hardest working and best trained athletes in Hudson High School (OK, I'm bragging!) It's almost like we have emerged as a separate and elite unit within the program. Our head coach is delighted with the example we're setting for the rest of the team. After two meets, the 400 times are OK but not great, mid 53 seconds. But the goal is not to go low now but to start the outdoor season in great shape and to peak at the right time of the year as we hit the spring post season.

Do we have lofty goals for the senior season? Absolutely! This is one of those years when our overall team depth is light. For better or worse, we don't have the numbers of guys coming out this year that we've had in the past. Because we're spread so thin, it will be tough to put together strong relay teams consistently. For this reason, (and I'm talking as a father and a coach) Greg's best chances for success will come in the open 400 and not the 4x400 relay. Fair enough as this is how is was when I was a high school senior as well.

Our 400 record is 49.8. Greg's PR from last year is 51.8 on a relay leg. Is there a chance for Greg to go low and make a try for under 50? I'm trying very hard not to set unrealistic expectations but I think he has a pretty good shot, maybe 50/50. Physically, I think the tools will be there. The level of physical conditioning is there and I think a lot will come down to the psychological aspect in addition to some luck. But with a strong field on a fast track, good weather and the right kind of mental preparation, who knows?

For me, this year has been a dream. I feel incredible lucky for Greg to embrace the program and my direct involvement. He has recently expressed his regret that we could not have enacted this type of training program since his freshman year. But circumstances did not allow for that and what makes it work is my ability to fully commit to the training schedule. The other assistant coaches are all teachers and are not available to devote the time. Since this is "pre-season work" I also suspect they don't want to commit either since it's outside of what they are paid for. I've been at this since September. As a volunteer, I'm doing this for the T-shirt but I am not using this to criticize the other teacher/coaches.

I am thrilled to be able to take a direct hand in giving Greg and the other guys the best chance of achieving their best potential as runners. I'm also thrilled to be able to connect with my son in a way few other parents get a chance to do. And I'll also cop a plea to living a vicarious connection with my own high school experiences as a track athlete. It's going to be an interesting and exciting season and I can't wait. I'll try to post more regularly on our workouts and progress as the season develops. For now stay tuned!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

1975 Maryland Marathon

This was the first year Bill McMullen brought a bunch of his teammates to a post XC season marathon. See if you can locate the other former SUNY-B runners.

Tony Waldrop

Click on the title for an interesting piece about the one of the greatest milers of all time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Binghamton Runner Cracks 4 in the Mile!

Erik Van Ingen, after a disappointing finish in last fall's NCAA cross country championships, set a milestone this season by cracking 4 in the mile indoors! (Click on title of post to link to the article).

Now, I am really inspired to crack 5 in the mile this year. How hard can it be?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Update

This is my 28th winter in Charlottesville (if I count the two years in the early nineties when I was living in Chicagoland but kept close tabs on Charlottesville) and it is by far the worst Charlottesville winter that I've known. It's not just the amount of snow, or even the number of times that it has snowed, its the temperature. Typically during winter in Charlottesville we have many nice, sunny days. Snow usually doesn't last long, even when there is a lot of it, because it usually melts within a week of falling. But this winter sunny days above 42 degrees have been rare. Our first big snow came about a week before Christmas. About six weeks later, just about when most of it had melted, we got another big snow.

My running has been almost nonexistent. In early January, when I was in Las Vegas for four or five days, I had hoped to run everyday. However, the fact that I was in very poor running shape combined with all the walking I did each day as I visited thousands of booths at the Consumer Electronics Show limited me to one run of about two miles. I think there were about two days in mid January when the snow had melted off the track and it was above 40 degrees and I did run on those two days. Last week I was in San Diego for three days and I had my running shoes with me, but I was battling sciatica.

All is not lost though. I have done quite a bit of exercise bike ridding. I ride 45 minutes/day and am planning on starting to increase the time and intensity of those workouts. I am planning on buying a road bicycle once the weather is good enough to ride outside and then hope to start training with the eventual goal of doing an across-the-country. No timetables have been set. Our good friend Chris Lennon has invited me to join him and his wife on a trip riding almost 300 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in June. I think that good sense will prevail and I turn down this opportunity. As much as I would enjoy the challenge, I just don't think I can properly prepare. My concern is that this trip could potentially be such a negative experience that it would discourage me from the bigger goal of the across-the-country ride. So for now, I am not making any decision and will see how things look as Chris's trip gets closer.

I am looking forward to both biking and running and wish it would stop snowing and get to a reasonable temperature. If I wanted to live in a climate like this I'd be in Buffalo (sorry Mark).

I was planning to compete in a 200 meter footrace this spring. Stay tuned for more on that...

Winter Ski Training Continues

The snow has not been heavy, but sufficient to continue some cross country ski training over the weekend. I did 2.5 miles Sunday, and a full 5K today at a local park with some decent hills. Today's pace wasn't bad....about 11:43 per mile. It was inspiring today, going out cross country skiing immediately after watching the Olympic 15K freestyle cross country ski race. Of course, bit depressing that the pace for 15K on hills was close to 4 minutes per mile!!! (about 34 minutes for 15K), compared to my paltry 11:43 per mile. Of course, mine was the traditional style (non-skating), so maybe that's where the difference lies.....................


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter Interlude

As you all know (the many, many readers of the this blog), I've been on a winter break of sorts for the past few weeks. Partly due to cold weather, but also a switch in my evening grandson babysitting duties. Overall, I think my body needed the rest, and I'm doing some weight workouts for upper body strength. I did run once last week, and then cross country skiid 30 minutes on Saturday. I ran Sunday to start the week out, about 4 miles, easy 8:45 per mile pace. I hope to run tonight, and will try to consistently either run or cross country ski 3 to 4 times per week now. I am still taking it a bit easy, as I find that my body works better when it has at least a couple interludes between "seasons." WHAAAT seasons, my wife would say!