Blog - JH Cross

Tuesday July 25, 2017

WOW! Has it really been that long since I've written a blog post for cross country?

To say that I'm excited about the upcoming season would be an understatement!

We have the pieces to do very special things this year, on both the boys and the girls side.

Really happy with the progress we made during track season, and ready to carry it forward to the state cross country meet and beyond.

You've put in the summer do you want to be remembered this season?

Trail Run - Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Sunday October 9, 2016


- A view or attitude towards a situation or event
- A feeling or emotion

After 24 hours to relax and reflect on Saturday's sectional meet, I think both definitions of sentiment apply.

Did we qualify for state as a team? No. Does one race define our season? No.

Did we make progress towards our team goals?  Yes. Is there more work to be done? Yes.

Some of you have probably read my analysis in the Ford County Record by now, and I want you to use Saturday as motivation. We have been blessed to qualify almost every year on the boys side, to the point where our guys almost thought it was automatic. IT IS NOT AUTOMATIC just because you wear a jersey that says PBL - tradition is difficult to maintain year in and year out. Remember, this is a Grade 6-12 program. Be ready when the moment arrives...whether that's this year, next year, or at the high school level. Coach Franckey and I work together to get teams to buy in, care about each other, work hard, and be successful. Qualifying for state is a part of being successful, but it's a part of a process that is much greater than that.

Our guys ran well, but we got beat for those state meet spots by 3 very good teams. 

The sectional landscape at the junior high level is looking a whole lot more like the high school sectional reality these days. You have to have experienced runners with big-meet experience who can execute a race plan. You also have to have 5 pretty darn good scorers. The days of qualifying with a team of a few studs and a few duds are over. Again, can't fault our guys in the slightest...I think 6 out of 7 guys ran their PR. We're a year away...I want the 6th and 7th grade boys to be hungry for what we can accomplish next year.

Ladies, those 3 qualifying teams will all be in the Top 12 at the state meet next Saturday - that's my prediction. 

Quite frankly, Clifton and Peotone would have probably qualified out of Sectional B, C or D in the northern part of the state. We had a great pack that battled through some injuries and illness in the last 10 days of the season. Herscher, Olympia and Tri-Valley had stronger packs than we did. Again, I can't begin to explain to you the competitive shift in girls cross country at the junior high level. When I started in 2008 with Coach Brehm, we had a girls All-State runner (20th place in 12:40). 12:40 in the 2015 state meet would have placed 55th. 

The talent pool is deep in 2A, and we're still trying to get things figured out. 14:00 is solid, but it's not nearly as competitive as it once was. We have to change our perception of what's possible if we want to have a pack next year that keeps that 1:00 to 1:30 split from 1st through 7th, but does it in the 12:30 to 13:30 range. You all have the ability! I think many of you were involved in a LOT of activities during this fall, and we wore down a bit at the end of the season when things mattered most. Again, we still ran well and I'm very proud of you all, but I can guarantee you I'll be looking for ways for us to improve next season.

Workouts, meet schedule, summer running club, practice routines, and all other aspects of the program will be evaluated.

Are you ready to take the next step?

Friday October 7, 2016


The day we've worked for has finally arrived, and we're ready to go after our goals together.

Remember the 3 things I told you on the very first day of practice:

1) I care about you
2) I'm proud of you
3) I believe in you

Do what we do. If we do our best, that will take care of the rest.

Sectional Squad will report to my office at 8:30 AM, Girls Race at 10:00 AM, Boys Race at 10:45 AM.

Go Panthers!

Thursday October 6, 2016

Thursday Turnover

Today's focus was on leg turnover work - running for shorter intervals at faster than race pace.

Jack Daniels (the exercise scientist and coach, NOT the drink) has been researching distance runners' oxygen consumption, blood chemistry and response to fatigue since the 1970s. His Daniels Running Formula is a standard textbook for many endurance coaches, and one of the suggested readings for the USATF Level 2 Distance course.

Late in the season - what Daniels calls the championship phase - one of the quality workouts is a Rep Pace (R) session. Daniels also has Tempo (T), Interval (I), Easy (E), Date Pace or Goal Pace (GP), and various other workouts based on your effort level or a percentage of your Mile PR, but that's a discussion for another blog post (or several).

Rep Pace (R) is running that is faster than race pace, but controlled. For example, we have an athlete running 42 seconds for 200 meters as his rep pace, which comes out to 11:12 for 2 miles, which is faster than his PR. Similarly, a lot of our ladies have a Rep Pace of 50 seconds for 200 meters, which is 13:20 pace. The goal is to feel fast, relaxed and confident in each rep. We did 1600 meters worth of rep work to simulate a fast opening mile for Saturday's race. When we stay under control and at race pace, it will seem much easier to maintain than each individual Rep Pace 200 did. Start stringing together a 200 at a time near Rep Pace but a little bit slower, and you're on your way to a big PR. 

We had both the boys and the girls teams able to run even faster than Rep Pace with short race today, which is a very good sign. It means you've got some juice in the legs. I know we finished feeling good and not tired, which is the key at this point. I also know we have a few little injuries still bugging some of you. We'll go easy tomorrow and give it our best shot on Saturday - it's one of the reasons why we have alternates. Next man up or next woman up be ready just in case.

Just in case you needed the reminder:

8:30 AM - Report to JH
9:20 AM - Girls Warmup
9:45 AM - Girls to Starting Line
10:00 AM - Girls Race
10:05 AM - Boys Warmup
10:30 AM - Boys to Starting Line
10:45 AM - Boys Race

We've simulated this schedule in our warmups the last two days, and we'll walk through it again tomorrow just to lock things in. 

It's 9:22 PM...You should all be in bed! Sweet dreams of a sweet race at sectionals! 

Wednesday October 5, 2016

Spiked Up and Psyched Up

"That's all we have to run today?" - The Sectional Team

After 4 meets since last Tuesday, YES, it's time for a little focus on recovery. An easy two mile jog on the high school course (take notes 8th graders!) and some strides are a great way to dial things back a bit after a season's worth of training and racing. 

I don't like to use the phrase "peaking" that you see in old Tudor Bompa periodization literature (huge sports science reference there) - I've never been a huge believer that you can suddenly, magically run better than your fitness level. You have to trust the training that got you to the starting line in the first place.

I do like the term "sharpening and freshening" first coined by Arthur Lydiard in New Zealand back in their heyday of middle distance and distance running in the 1960s and 1970s: Peter Snell, John Davies, Rod Dixon, Dick Quax, John Walker, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee to name just a few. After training through most of the season, it's time to feel fast, fresh and relaxed. Know that you're ready to race.

Lydiard was a huge believer in building an aerobic base (your weekend mileage and warmups/cooldowns), running at least one time trial effort a week (our mid-week races), and developing leg speed (short, fast strides). At this point, all of those components have combined to bring us to our maximum level of fitness. From here on out, it's simply a matter of planning for mental and physical preparation.

Physical Preparation - My dinner tonight = Fish, Green Beans with Almonds, Cheese, Apple, Milk. Some good protein in there to help with muscle recovery. My bedtime tonight: 9:00 PM. After a good breakfast, I'll hydrate with water and Gatorade tomorrow, along with school lunch and a good pasta dinner and another good night's rest. Eat, sleep, repeat on Friday. I learned the value of preparation early in my coaching career by watching one of the best (Monticello's Steve Schroeder - state cross country, 3200 meter and 4 x 800 relay state champion). Steve trained well, ate well, hydrated well and slept well. You should be doing the same. 

Mental Preparation - NEW SPIKES. Well, not really new, but new to you. I got the idea for a spike inventory from Jeff Butler, a good friend of mine and a very successful track and cross country coach at Monticello High School. Coach Butler made sure that athletes had spikes they could borrow for the big, important meets. He also made sure to remind the athletes that school record holders and state medalists had worn those spikes before the latest group of athletes. It's a powerful psychological boost. When you look fast and you feel fast, you run fast. Thanks to donations from former runners and some great closeout deals from First to the Finish (great work by Mike Viano and his staff there!), we have plenty of inventory for athletes who grow out of an old pair, can't afford a new pair, or just have never had the opportunity to have a pair of racing spikes. 

It's like Christmas morning for cross country runners...I love seeing the kids eyes light up.

I'm really confident with where we're at right now, and the team should be too. Both the boys and the girls teams have a shot at qualifying for state, and both teams have specific race plans and strategies to get the job done. One Team, One Dream, Believe. If you tell yourself that you're good enough to race against anybody, you usually are.

The hay is in the barn. We're two miles out from the barn. Let's race our way to the finish and see how the horse race plays out.

Tuesday October 4, 2016

Panther Power

"Hold on tight to your dream.
When you see the shadows falling.
When you hear the cold wind calling.
Hold on tight to your dream."

- Electric Light Orchestra

WOW...a HUGE Thank You to everyone who helped out today at the PBL Invite. 2 hours, 584 runners and 4 races later, we pulled off a nearly flawless meet in excellent weather.

Many of our team members had PR times for the home course, and many of our Top 10 sectional squad did so after a solid workout on the hill yesterday. We're right on schedule folks - an easy three days to recover and get healthy and we'll be ready to roll on Saturday. We'll do our best, because that's what we do at PBL.

I know we're a bit tired. I know it's been a long season. But I also know that we have a chance to be great on Saturday, and that's all we could ask for. Focus on our team goals and the task at hand. Do what we do.

Monday October 3, 2016

A Golden Opportunity

“Every morning you are handed twenty-four golden hours. They are one of the few things in this world that you get free of charge. If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t buy an extra hour. What will you do with your priceless treasure? Remember, you must use it, as it is given only once. Once wasted, you cannot get it back.”  

- Billy Mills, 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist in 10,000 Meters (Only American to ever win the 10,000 meters)

Today was the last day of practice for everyone on our team. It was an important day to recognize all of the hard work that each and every one of you have put in since August 8th. We we go one, we go all. What we accomplish is done together. I am incredibly proud of our progress, and I'm excited for the two races we have this week - one for a PR at the PBL Invite, and one at the Sectional Meet with a state meet spot on the line.

We split up into two different groups. One group did a snappy session of 6 x 400 meters on the Hill. When you guys and girls hit your race pace time and start asking early if you can run again before your rest is even up, that's a good sign that we are PREPARED and HUNGRY. The 10 x 100 strides crew also showed quite a bit of zip in their workout, and it was entirely student-led as I kept one eye on them and one eye on our 400s crew.

Having been a part of this program as an athlete, volunteer and coach since 1998, I've seen my fair share of great accomplishments AND great "what ifs." It's those missed chances, the things we could have done differently, the kids we didn't keep in our program from grade 6 through grade 12, the injuries that hurt us at the wrong time, and the plain bad luck on occasion that drive me to work that much harder to help our kids be great. Whenever I get tired or things don't go our way, I remind myself of just how great you kids are, and just how lucky we are to be Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

As I reminded the kids today before practice, this will be the last time that this team will ever be complete, whole and together. The 7 guys and girls who go to the line on Saturday represent us all. Some of you will choose other sports, some of you will move on to the high school level, some of you will move away, some of you will move in a different direction, and some of you will stay committed to the end. I am so incredibly blessed to have been a part of the transformation of so many of our young people on their journey from 6th grade to Senior in high school. I can't wait to make that journey with you all. I can't wait for you to be a part of the high school track and cross country program that Coach Franckey leads at PBL High School.

I am old enough to remember life before PBL...just barely, but I do. It's hard for our kids today to imagine, but we could be anything but PBL right now, and anything but an outstanding cross country program.  Paxton looked at consolidation with any number of suitors in the late 1980s - Rankin, Cissna Park, Ford Central (ask your parents), and Gibson City among them.  How different it might have been for us as a school district, and the same holds true for our cross country program. Without the guidance of Fred Guyot and Mike Brehm, our high school and junior high programs wouldn't exist today. Our alumni are the foundation...we're building on the tradition. Don't EVER forget that.

A piece of advice from Coach Guyot as we head into the sectional as underdogs:

"Sometimes it's nice to be able to lay in the weeds and see what you can do."  - Fred Guyot

Saturday October 1, 2016

Solid Saturday

Third meet of the week, so we were running with a couple of races in the legs already. I wasn't expecting spectacular PRs from everyone, although just about everyone put together a solid race. It was a very workman-like effort, and that's the vibe of our team. We don't have superstars...we have folks that go to work every day and try to get better.

Girls Varsity - 9th Place

Disaster averted. Considering that about half of you were on the ground after the first three steps, I thought you did a nice job of working your way back into the pack. You didn't panic, but our pack wasn't quite as tight as in past meets. I want our 6th grade crew to be ready to roll the dice on Tuesday and Saturday next week. Get out a little quicker and you'll find that the older girls aren't going to run away from you in the 2nd mile. Veterans, you have to clear the way at the start...if you fall asleep at the wheel, we'll be stuck in a bad spot.

Boys Varsity - 8th Place

Our Top 3 had excellent races. However, as you notice from the results, it takes five! At this point you might as well go out in sub-13:00 pace and hold on for dear life. Feeling comfortable and thinking we can pick off half the field by going through the mile at 14:00 pace won't do us any good next Saturday. Our course is flat and fast - it's not like Kickapoo last year where our veterans could take advantage of their 5th or 6th career race at Kickapoo and take advantage of the mistakes of teams that had never seen the course. It's going to be a horse race at the sectional, and it's time to turn the horses loose.

I think both our boys and girls teams can finish anywhere between 3rd and 6th place at Sectionals. Where do you want to be?

Friday September 30, 2016

The team had a great practice this morning to prepare for tomorrow's Monticello Invite.  Bus leaves at 7:00 AM!

Coach had a great practice this afternoon setting up for the PBL Invite on Tuesday. Looking forward to some great races from all of you!

Thursday September 29, 2016

"Ridin' the storm out, waitin' for the thaw out." - REO Speedwagon

The rain is falling hard here, so I'm glad we got the race done in time!  Good work overall. A dual meet is short, simple and low-key. We get good work in and get ready for a great day on Saturday at Monticello.

Mahomet-Seymour is a very solid Class 3A team. Their student-athletes are not allowed to do cross country and another sport...we don't have that luxury. We weren't at full strength today, but having students in multiple activities strengthens our school and our community.

Our kids are in speech, show choir, jazz band, student council, Lego League, and girls basketball in addition to cross country, but we make it work and get the job done. The team is progressing nicely, and our best times are ahead of us. 

Remember that when you eat bacon and eggs in the morning, the chicken was involved...the pig was committed. Make a commitment to yourself, your teammates, and your team over the next week and a half. Eat right. Hydrate right. Sleep right. Get homework turned in. Focus on the task at hand.

There will be the rest of the school year for all those other activities I mentioned...there will not be another cross country sectional meet after October 8th, and there won't be another state meet after October 15th. Prepare accordingly. Do what we do PBL.

We've ridden out the storm of being way too busy doing other things for most of our season. Take a deep breath and visualize your best possible cross country effort during the time we have left. Your coaches and your teammates will thank you for it.

Tuesday/Wednesday September 27 and 28, 2016

Double Trouble

The parents in the audience might know the musical group at the top - Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble. Kids, if you want to hear some really good, raw, rhythm and blues with some rock and roll mixed in, look them up. The second picture is the northern portion of a double rainbow that appeared at the end of morning practice today - directly over the junior high school building. 

It was a great way for our dedicated Lego League morning crew to finish up what will (hopefully) be their last morning practice of the season (and coach's last day of pulling double practices!). It's a bit of a grind, but the AM and PM schedule provides opportunities for all of our student-athletes to be successful, and that's the key. Sacrifices have to be made for the good of the team, and it has worked out well in both cross country and track and field over the years.

What does Double Trouble have to do with our cross country? I think we have two very solid teams that could cause some trouble for our sectional opponents...IF...we shore up some weaknesses. It's the Genesis (pun intended...again kids, go ask your parents) of any great musical group or team. You can't make great noise if you don't have all the parts covered - drums, bass, lead guitar, vocals, keyboards, and maybe even a harmonica in there for good measure. We're finding out a little more of what we're made of at each race, and particularly the following:

Ladies, we have a PACK. Which is AWESOME. Our split between the 1st and 5th runner was 48 seconds on Tuesday. I almost had Double Vision (another musical reference) with all the gold jerseys I saw finishing one right after the other. NOW, there was a very, very good Herscher team with a pack about 30-45 seconds ahead of us. That's our race ladies...close the gap! Herscher beat us by almost 50 points today, but remember, they were 12th in the state last year for a reason. If we can cut that point differential in half, we've got a chance to do what we haven't done since 2010. Keep improving one meet at a time!

Gentlemen, we had a 1:51 gap from #1 to #5.  Our biggest Achilles heel is having too many teams' #2, #3, #4 (and sometimes more) men in front of even our #2. We've got to Shake It Up (musical reference again!) if things are going to change. Herscher, Iroquois West, Tri-Valley, Clinton, and Stanford Olympia are all very strong teams from top to bottom. It will take a great effort on our part if we want to be in the mix for a state qualifying spot. Tomorrow's race plan against Mahomet-Seymour will simulate what we need to do in the first mile to be competitive. I know a lot of you had surprised looks on your face when I mentioned the first mile pace, but we have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones and at least give ourselves a chance at Top 25 spots in the sectional field. 13:00 won't do that, and we know it. Get after it Panthers!

Tomorrow - 4:15 PM - Home Meet (one race)

Friday - 6:30 to 7:30 AM Practice

Saturday - Monticello Invite - Bus Leaves 7:00 AM  

Monday September 26, 2016

Monday Momentum

Hard work on the track
Quarter mile repeats for all
Big race tomorrow

By request, I'm starting off the blog post with a running haiku.  Believe it or not, I took college courses in poetry, film, adaptations of Shakespeare, and literature.  To use the English/Language Arts metaphor, our final chapter has yet to be written. We have 3 meets this week to finalize the Top 10 for the sectional roster (7 of the 10 will represent PBL at the Sectional). 

As a team, we all have the opportunity to set our personal bests by the PBL Invite next Tuesday. To the younger runners, it's your chance to gain valuable experience for the future. To our 8th grade veterans, it's your chance to make an impact for our team, both this year in a bid to qualify for state, and for 4 years down the road at the high school level. The lessons you learn on our team this year will put you in a position to be successful, on the cross country course, in the classroom, and in life.

We didn't start off practice very well - way too much talking and goofing around. However, I think it was a sign of extra energy and excitement as the season comes to a close. Once we hit the track, I was very impressed by our effort. We got after it. Each group hit their target times, timed their own rest, and held each other accountable. When we focus on running and taking care of business, the sky is the limit.

Meet tomorrow at Durham Park in Onarga. Sectional opponents Iroquois West and Herscher Limestone will be there. Will you be ready?

Friday/Saturday September 23 and 24, 2016

Spartan Races

The junior high team had a fantastic showing at the St. Joseph Invite, with 10 medals overall. The high school crew had a similar result in their Saturday morning road race, putting 5 girls and 5 boys in the Top 100 at the SJO Spartan Classic. The Classic is one of the biggest meets in downstate Illinois during the high school season. I love having the opportunity to see coaching friends from all over Central Illinois, as well as athletes from other schools who we've competed against for what seems like forever - friendly competition is good! It's also a great test to see where you stack up, and we did well on both levels.

Why do I mention both races? Because we're a 6th grade through 12th grade program! The lessons you learn at the junior high level will carry over to high school racing, from the Spartan Classic to Sectionals, and Dawson Lake to Detweiler Park.

We set a bunch of new PRs. I want to give the team credit for adapting to some course changes and a very condensed warmup schedule (before the 6th grade race especially). Many of you weren't used to such a narrow start and a large race of just 5th and 6th graders, but you handled the situation like vets!

Speaking of vets, I am very, very proud of the effort by our 7th and 8th grade girls squad. Last year, we had 0 medalists in this race for girls. Today, we had a very tough pack of 3 girls that held on to Top 20 spots. We had almost an identical sequence in the 6th grade girls race. When we hang together, we'll be a very strong squad. As I've told the girls, we may not have anybody in the Top 10 or 15 of the sectional, but we can have all five in the top 35-45 overall. If we do that, we'll be just fine. All we can ask for is a chance to be in the mix.

On the 7th and 8th grade boys side, it was nice to see our guys get out a little quicker the first mile to put themselves in the race. Every place matters in the last 800 meters, and some of you need to go through the gears on your way to the finish. We have a few guys trying to make it all up in the last 200, and you can't rely on that in the big meets. Go for home and don't give up your place in the last 800 meters. Our pack has to get in together...the Linus Blanket Strategy (go ask your parents on the Charlie Brown reference). 

We have a BIG week coming up. Meets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will determine the final Top 7 rankings for the sectional team. For team members NOT running in the sectional, your last meet will be the PBL Invite on Tuesday October 4. Be ready to be great!

Wednesday/Thursday September 21 and 22, 2016

Homecoming Hijinks

"When the cat is away, the mice will play."

It's been a GREAT last two days of practice for our team. Some of you are quite literally hitting your stride at just the right time - looking forward to some very fast times at St. Joe this afternoon.

To recap...

Wednesday I showed the team a nice Workout Wednesday featuring the University of Washington cross country team doing a set of 300s similar to the set of 200s that we did in practice. A few key takeaways: Easy warmup, Easy cooldown, Executing the purpose of the workout, Staying relaxed and fast, Not overdoing the strides. Obviously athletes at that level are doing much faster paces for each rep, but the concepts are very similar. In fact, the U of W team did the workout 2 days before their NCAA Regional Meet last year, just like we're doing our 200s leg work two days before a big-time meet for us. It's the time of year for us to start feeling fast - still getting good work in, but feeling good at the end of the workout and ready to race.

Thursday morning went very well. The 10-10-10 was a perfect way to start the day. I'm sure breakfast also helped motivate the runners, but it was a very snappy practice. We were focused, on task, and ready to roll. I appreciate the business-like approach to meet day prep. The kids finished up breakfast and I headed off to Chicago for the day to the Illinois Municipal League conference on behalf of the City of Paxton.

After a long day, I came home late. And apparently I had a few visitors even later than that!

I had to smile when I opened the door this morning. It took a coordinated effort and some good throwing skills to get that amount of toilet paper distributed in my back yard! As long as the kids have fun and there's not any damage, I don't have a problem with it. Nothing quite like free homecoming decorations.

Good luck to everyone on Friday and Go Panthers!

Tuesday September 20, 2016

"For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."

- Rudyard Kipling

It's a jungle out there folks - and it probably felt that way on a warm day at Kickapoo as your ran up the hills and through the woods.

I was VERY happy to see us race well today. I know we had tired legs the last half mile from yesterday's workout. It probably cost us a few places today, but it will make the difference on Friday when those places mean the difference between getting a medal and going home empty-handed.

The boys team did a very nice job of keeping a pack of 3-6 guys challenging each other every step of the race. Our girls also had a great team pack effort for really the first time this season. Congrats ladies! As I've told many of you, we've had 7 or 8 girls show the ability to race near the front for PBL, and today it showed. Some of our veterans made a rookie mistake - getting stuck in traffic and trapped in the back half of the pack on a narrow course. Learn from that lesson and put it to good use at the St. Joe Invite. 

If you're going to place in the Top 20, you'd better be in the mix for the Top 20 after the first quarter mile. Do you have to be in the lead? NO. Do you have to be with a group that will push the pace? YES. We did a much, much better job of putting ourselves in the conversation in the 20th place to 40th place range. This will be key territory in the sectional also!

As the team could probably tell, I was a bit fired up today. As I told the boys, we came here to run like Kick, not like Poo. They got the message. We've all put in a lot of hard work and long hours during the season...I'm going to hold you accountable at the end so that we can meet our goals as a team. You deserve it - please don't sell yourselves short. Make the most of the opportunity.

An Editorial Note:

For the most part, we have displayed excellent behavior on the bus to and from trips. However, I feel the need to remind the team:

- Girls and boys sit in separate seats during bus trips at Paxton-Buckley-Loda
- 8th graders who sit in the back of the bus and ignore coach's instructions will find themselves in the front
- If we act silly and can't handle the privilege of personal electronics, those devices will be OFF for the entire ride before a meet
- Seats will be assigned by the coaching staff as needed, without warning, comment or discussion

Monday September 19, 2016

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

400s on grass may not be everyone's favorite, but they sure do get the job done ladies and gentlemen. We will work hard today, Tuesday and Wednesday for the pay off on Friday. The fast races will be at the St. Joe Invite, not at Kickapoo or in practice. One of the girls team members noted that the workout wasn't very fun, and quite frankly, she's right. It's difficult to maintain the physical, mental and emotional stamina necessary to have a great interval workout. 

Not everyone is going to have a great workout for the same reasons that not everyone will have a great race. The weather, the course, nutrition and hydration, mental focus and a host of other variables all have an impact on the outcome. There's a reason why runners drop out of even Olympic races - everybody has those days, everybody gets that way. Control the controllables! Our job as a team is to fight through the tough ones knowing that tomorrow is a better day. I talked briefly at the end of practice about taking care of our bodies. We have A LOT of ladies right now dealing with asthma, light-headedness, and general tiredness. WE HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES. We also have to step up and train to the best of our ability, even when we're not feeling 100%.

Eat well. Sleep well. Hydrate well. Train well. Race well. Recover well.

One topic that I should have covered with parents at the very beginning of the season and didn't: The Female Athlete Triad. Growth and development creates all kinds of potential issues for girls athletes that a lot of their guys counterparts don't have to deal with: Anemia, Eating Disorders, Osteoporosis, Menstruation issues, etc. 

There's a reason why most college women's track/cross country programs test their athletes' blood iron levels 3-4 times per year. Monitoring iron levels can provide key information about energy levels, bone health, and overall fitness. We don't have the financial resources to do that at this level, but I would encourage our female athletes to get their ferritin levels (blood iron deficiency) tested before next season. If not, please make sure that you're getting plenty of healthy sources of protein and iron (See Nutrition Section of our Team Info Page).

As I reminded the team, my first USATF class was in Youth Development....long before endurance, sprints/hurdles/relays, jumps or throws. At the end of the day, I'm a youth development coach. And I feel in some ways that I've failed you. You need to be better educated about the impact that nutrition, running, and physical growth have on your body. Calcium, Vitamin D and Iron are ESSENTIAL ladies. Make sure you're getting the energy you need and proper sleep each night.

Friday September 16, 2016


A great time was had by all at our annual banana relays. There were drops, smashes, and several unfortunate fruits that didn't make it through the 20 minute relay session, but the kids had fun. We had a lot of sore legs after Lake of the Woods on Thursday, but most athletes realized after the warmup that a few strides (in disguise as a relay) are a great way to get rid of some of junk that we've built up in our legs after a tough week of practice.

We had a nice discussion of about the different groups on our team at this point in the season.

Some of us are taking a shot at running in the Top 7 for the first time in our careers. Some of us our veterans with multiple sectionals or a state meet experience under our belt. Some of us are new 6th and 7th grade runners who have things figured out for a mile or a mile and a half, but haven't been able to put it all together. Some of us aren't in the top half of our team place or time-wise, but still have ample opportunity for PR improvement. Some of us are struggling a bit with grades and need to stay eligible! It's kind of like all the great ways to eat bananas: Banana bread, banana splits, bananas foster, etc.

No matter where you find yourself at in the Banana of Life, we can all work together to get better. Just like we did in the Banana Relays. It's fun and everybody benefits.

I'm writing this blog post on Sunday morning after the Paxton Swine & Dine Festival - a BIG event in our community that takes a lot of different groups cooperating to pull it off smoothly. See the photo below in case you missed it!

OUR TEAM has a big event 3 weeks from today - SECTIONALS. Let's work together to pull it off!

Thursday September 15, 2016

"Ain't that Tuff Enuff?"    

- The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Yes, that's yet another 1980s music reference to kick off a blog post. 1986 was a good year :)

The general consensus from our team was that Lake of the Woods ranks as our toughest course yet this season. The competition - Mahomet, Mt. Zion, St. Joseph - wasn't too shabby either. It was a tough race, and I'm pretty pleased with our results. The girls pack stuck together well, and we need to work with each other to move up in the race at Kickapoo next week. The boys had some nice individual races, but are still trying to figure out a way to get our #2 thru #7 in together when it counts.

I don't know about you, but it's been a pretty tough week of training, and you should be proud of it. Lots of us (coach included) have been battling allergies, asthma, possible strep throat, stomach flu, etc. I'd rather deal with it all now than the week of sectionals or state. My 2009 guys can vouch first hand for that - Sectional Champs who ended up 19th at the state meet instead of with a Top 3 trophy finish due to Swine Flu. *Editor's Note: We skipped the traditional rolling down the belltower hill. Sorry, but that's just a risk of West Nile and Zika virus that we don't need to take! There's a reason we brought bug spray!

We are right on target for an excellent race at the St. Joe Invite next Friday. In talking with Coach Plotner, St. Joe is going through the same thing as us right now. "We had a really rough week." - direct quote from Coach Plotner. Everyone is training hard, knowing the dividends will pay off when it counts at sectionals and state.

I'll have results up shortly.'s time to see where you rank on our team for a Top 7 sectional spot! COMPETE!

Wednesday September 14, 2016

Hokum Karem

Say what?  The Hokum Karem is a cross country relay race developed by J. Owen Huntsman at Wabash College in Indiana. Coach Huntsman wanted an early-season meet to test his runners fitness, so he came up with the idea for a two-man team to alternate running 3 x Mile (6 Miles Total for each group). Whether he invented the term or borrowed from old Native American terminology is up for debate, but the concept itself has stood the test of time.

Wabash College has been hosting the Hokum Karem since 1952. Numerous high schools in Indiana picked up the concept over the years, and the most famous examples in central Illinois include the old Manteno Conditioner and the current Bishop McNamara Conditioner - both relay formats set up by long-time coach Ken Klipp (a college teammate of Coach Brehm's at EIU). We have even done our own version - the Panther Parrlauf - at PBL High School for the last few years. What did it look like for our runners today on the hill?


That's 4K worth of work ladies and gentlemen! 4,000 Meters = 2.5 Miles. Good tempo effort by everyone and a great way to prepare for tomorrow's meet at Lake of the Woods. Our student council crew rolled into practice at 4:00 and got the job done. Thank you making it work without complaints.

Remember, we're looking to COMPETE against Mahomet, St. Joseph and Mt. Zion. The times aren't nearly as important as the places. This is the #2 meet in our countdown to determining a Top 7 by the Sectional. Everyone has a shot at a sectional spot. Take yours!

Girls Race at 4:00 and Boys Race at 4:30. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday September 13, 2016

I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help
You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
- Bruce Springsteen, Dancing in the Dark

We had a lot of tired runners today after yesterday's 400s workout.  Running tired was expected - it's all part of the training plan geared towards doing our best at St. Joe, Monticello, PBL Invite, Sectional and State. We have 5 big meets in the last 5 weeks of the season. Today was not one of those meets.
The biggest value of today's home meet and Thursday's run at Lake of the Woods is a lesson in competition. Tri-Valley, St. Matthews, Corpus Christi, Mahomet-Seymour, Mt. Zion and St. Joseph are all opponents this week.  All of them are very strong teams that are put on the schedule to challenge us. We won't be running our fastest times at this week, but we will be furthering your fitness so that you can get a glimpse of what's possible.
As that philosopher Bruce Springsteen put it, "You can't start a fire without a spark." Each workout we do from now until the end of the season is adding a little more fuel to the fire of an awesome 2 mile race. Training prepares us for racing, and racing prepares us for training.
Here's a little science for some of you.
Monday (Q1, Hard, Neuromuscular) - 6 x 400        
Tuesday (Q2, Hard, Neuromuscular) - Meet               
Wednesday (Easy, General) - Hill Hokum Karem
Thursday (Q3, Hard, Neuromuscular) - Meet
Friday (Easy, General) - Banana Relay
Saturday (Easy, General) - Recovery Run

Q1, Q2, and Q3 are the three hard workouts in each week of training (Daniels Running Formula)
Alternating hard/easy days is a classic method of distance running (Arthur Lydiard and others)
Neuromuscular/General is a way of training energy systems (USA Track and Field Coaching Curriculum)

No matter which scientific method you subscribe to, the plan is in place. Trust the plan. Hang tough when you're tired. There is a balance to everything we do, and today was one of the tough ones.
Important Fact #1 
Today was the first meet that we will use to track our Top 7 average for the Sectional and State Teams. 
Important Fact #2
18 of 24 Boys (75%) ran an average of 26 seconds faster than the first meet of the year
7 of 13 Girls (54%) ran an average of 28 seconds faster than the first meet of the year
Important Fact #3
YOUR EFFORT is the spark your teammates need to do their best each race. Work Together!

Monday September 12, 2016

"Eureka! Eureka!"  - Archimedes

(from the Ancient Greek word εὕρηκα heúrēka, meaning "I have found it")

It's a late-night blog post after a trip to Eureka to watch a former student play some outstanding volleyball. As always, very proud of her. In the nine years I've been teaching and coaching, I've been lucky to travel all over to support some great kids...from the Big Ten Championship swim meet in Bloomington, Indiana, to cross country and track meets throughout Illinois, and countless volleyball matches of the club and college variety. It keeps me young :)

I think we had a Eureka! moment of our own in today's workout. Can't begin to tell you all how impressed I was by how we got after it on the 6 x 400 intervals. The athletes stuck to their pace, timed their own race, and got the job done with no complaints. More importantly, I think we started to realize what we might be capable of as a team. 6:00, 7:00 or 8:00 mile pace doesn't seem so far-fetched when we break it down into 400 meter sections, and that's a very powerful thing. To feel what the race will feel like, to know that our effort will have to increase, and to know that we can handle the physiological demands of a 2 mile race is super important over the next few weeks.

It's starting to come together folks...let's keep it together. Remember, when you eat your breakfast of bacon and eggs in the morning: The chicken was involved, the pig was committed. We have athletes who are super-busy with other activities. Let's hang tough and get through the next 3 weeks. I'll be with you guys every step of the way, I promise you that.

Here's a nod to Coach Franckey's alma mater:

Friday September 9, 2016

"I want to know, have you ever seen the rain? 

- Creedence Clearwater Revival

We started off practice with an analysis of where we sit as a team with half of our season left.  As I pointed out to the boys and girls, we're in the middle of the pack right now among the teams in our sectional. We've seen Tri-Valley, Clifton and Iroquois West, with Peotone, Herscher, and Olympia waiting in the wings. Our effort has been great and our improvement as been great, but we'll have to continue to make great progress if we want to be in the Top 3 to qualify for state as a team at sectionals.

Dodging rain drops was a key part of our practice routine today. We did some core work and standard warmup drills inside, then hit the North Loop of the course for a 10:00 warmup. I think we've hit on something with doing our warmups by time instead of distance. I get asked a lot how much time is left, but for the most part, the kids have adjusted well. Often times, we end up running further on the way back for the last 5:00 than we did on our way out for the first 5:00 minutes.

Our 3-Person Relay on the hill was a hit today - I let the kids choose their own teams, which may explain some of the enthusiasm. Very similar to early this week with our 10-10-10, we ended up doing 10 x 200 with a short rest in between. Today was about hanging tough on the uphills and feeling fast and relaxed on the downhills. All in all, a good day.

Get your miles in this weekend and be ready to roll for Monday's track workout.

Good luck to our High School cross country team at tomorrow's PBL High School Invite. Girls race at 9:00, Boys race at 9:45. Go Panthers!

Thursday September 8, 2016

"Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run, Oh Thunder Road sit tight take hold, Thunder Road"

- Bruce Springsteen

What an awesome way to wrap up the first half of our season! That's right folks, we'll be finishing our 5th week of practice on Friday with a nice hill workout. It's getting "late" in our season, but we can still make huge strides between now and October. Have a sense of urgency, trust in the training plan, and keep up the good work. Today we hit the roads in search of some fast times, and tomorrow we'll get back to business, hopefully with no thunder in the forecast. 

Congrats to a TON of our team members who raced their way to PRs today against some tough competition from St. Matthews and Tri Valley.
As you can see below, we're headed in the right direction. We'll discuss in detail how we stack up against Tri-Valley (a sectional opponent) at tomorrow's practice.

Boys vs. St. Matthews on 8/23  (SM 42, PBL 65),   Girls vs. St. Matthews on 8/23  (SM 25, PBL 84)
Boys vs. St. Matthews today     (SM 39, PBL 44),    Girls vs. St. Matthews today     (SM 24, PBL 73) 

My challenge to all of you is to run the same time or faster on grass for the PBL Invite, Sectional and State Meets.

The question is, how will we get there?

It's fun to fly on the roads...believe me, I've raced enough 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and River to River Relays over the years to enjoy every minute of road racing. The STRENGTH that we will need is going to come from several different sources. 

1) Intervals (DIRT)  *The Science of Coaching* (simplified)

D = Distance of the run 
I = Interval of the run 
R = Rest between runs
T = Time for each run

6 x 400 @ 1:30 with 3:00 Rest 
D = 2400 meters total, I = 400 meters, R = 3:00, T = 1:30

2) Hill Work

Our weekly hill workouts will continue to be a staple of the training program. Hills are speedwork in disguise. Hills are weight training in disguise. Hills are mental toughness training in disguise. There is no disguise for you to wear on THE HILL - you can't go run and hide. You just have to run hard and know that it will make you better. Hill training is all about efficiency and effort.

3) Tough Courses

My veterans know that Lake of the Woods and Kickapoo State Park are two of the best cross country courses in the area. There's a reason they consistently host some of the best trail races around. They are pure, tough mud and guts running at its finest. As the saying goes, there are "horses for courses." Let's embrace the opportunity we have to see two great courses.

Wednesday September 7, 2016

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

- Robert Frost

It was a bit dark this morning for cross country practice, but we had an excellent 10-10-10 workout. Before the workout, we had a heart-to-heart conversation as a team. We have the promise (potential) to become a great team by season's end, but in the meantime, we have many miles to go and promises (responsibilities) to keep. As I told the kids, I was happy with the effort, but I wasn't very happy with the preparation and the results of yesterday's mile race. Yes, it was hot, but we had some folks not pay attention to details on the warmup, and I pointed out that our opponents all did a solid mile warmup and mile cooldown long after we had all left. It's the little things that will make the difference in the next few weeks, and I thought this morning's warmup was a lot better on all accounts. Can we do this as a team with 60 runners when Coach can't always lead it? Time will tell.

What is a 10-10-10 workout? 10 minutes jog, 10 x 100 strides, 10 minutes jog. It's a standard pre-meet workout in our junior high and high school programs. We're at the point of the season where all of our team members should be capable of continuous running without stopping. The 100 meter strides are also a great way to prepare for our first interval workouts of the year, which will begin next Monday and continue for the next four weeks - the heart and soul of our season. It's racing season ladies and gentlemen.

The workout is taken from Joe Newton's excellent book The Long Green Line. For those of you who don't know, Coach Newton has coached 50+ years at York High
School in Elmhurst, leading the boys cross country team to 26 state titles during that time period. It's a phenomenal record because Coach Newton is a phenomenal motivator - the Dukes of York routinely have 200+ boys on the cross country team every year.

Thank you to all the parents for bringing in the athletes early on short notice. We had to adjust due to the heat, but we're ready for a great race at Dawson Lake

One Race at 4:15 PM. PBL vs. Tri-Valley and St. Matthews. Tri-Valley is a sectional opponent, so prepare accordingly!

Remember, out of class at 2:00, bus leaves at 2:15. I expect quiet, respectful behavior on our bus rides, or you won't travel with our team.

If you are going to ride home with someone other than a parent/relative/guardian you MUST have a signed note turned in to the JH Office in advance!
ALL team members will ride the bus to the meet. Parents can sign their child out to ride home after the meet is over.

Tuesday September 6, 2016

"It ain't the heat; it's the humility." - Yogi Berra

The weather can humble the best philosophers among us, even the great Yogi Berra (kids, go ask your grandparents).

With temperatures around 90 and a heat index of almost 105, today was a case of playing it safe. The time for letting it roll will be at Thursday's meet on the road course at Dawson Lake. 
I would never put any of you directly in harm's way just for a race. There are more important things in life.

Most of you probably felt like this after today's race: Sitting, silent and spent.
(Keeping with the heat theme, this is a photo from In the Heat of the Night - great film!)

Image result for in the heat of the night

One of the key takeaways from today's 1 mile race is the importance of getting out well and putting yourself in the race. If you don't get out in the pack, you end up on your own with a very difficult task in front of you. The second major lesson learned is the key to pack running. When we run with our teammates, we can be a tough squad to beat. When we don't, we make it tough on ourselves. I'm proud of everyone's effort today under some very difficult conditions.

Practice Tomorrow

Option #1 - 6:30 to 7:30 AM
Option #2 - 6:30 to 7:30 PM

Choose whichever time works best for you. We get out early from school at 1:00 PM.

Results will be posted on the website later tonight. Stay cool and stay hydrated.

Friday September 2, 2016

"Believe in your job - all honest work is sacred."

Our runners can look at our team mileage sheet and see just how much work they've put in so far this season. Practice effort is the best way to improve our meet effort as a group. We are 4 weeks into the season - the halfway point for many of you. Believe it or not, the Monticello Invite is 4 weeks from Saturday, followed by the PBL Invite on October 4. In mid-September we'll start the Top 7 Matrix to see which runners earn their spots on our Sectional and State teams. More details on that TBA.

Tuesday will be a nice test with a host of smaller schools, then Thursday is our first away meet of the season at Dawson Lake. As my veterans know, this road course is flat and fast. More importantly it's the first checkpoint for me as a coach to see just how close we are to achieving our goals at the end of the season: State qualifying teams for both the boys and girls.

Today was a fun change of pace from the practice grind. The kids enjoyed the first DQ Run of the season. Ice cream was had by all and the newcomers got "Punked" by the head coach. The infamous Swirl and Hurl wasn't quite so bad after all. Thank you veterans for playing along with my annual Labor Day prank. We were a little bit squirrley on the whole, but that's to be expected. Big thank you to my dad for driving our injured runners over to DQ and back.

Remember to get in a 3-mile run on 2 of the 3 days this weekend. Spend quality time with your family. Relax and recharge. Then let's come back ready for some big improvement in the last half of the season. Go Panthers!

Thursday September 1, 2016

"A person's a person, no matter how small."  - Horton Hears a Who

It's 5:30 and I'm writing up the blog post with the meet results already posted. That's a great feeling isn't it? Getting done early means more time to eat with your family, do your homework and sleep!

GREAT JOB GIRLS! You beat Uni High by a score of 28-29. Remember, low score wins! Not only that, but 28-29 is the closest possible score in a dual (two-team) meet. We had to have great contributions from our #1 runner all the way through our #7 runner, and we got it tonight. Our 6th and 7th runners pushed pack Uni High's #5 scorer just enough to make the difference. Every place and every point matters!

We talked yesterday about needing to close the split between our #1 and our #7 - the closer we are together, the harder it is for other teams to put people in scoring position between you. Today girls, you had 2:01 split between 1-7 compared to a 2:52 split for just 1-5 on Tuesday. Very proud of all of you for the great effort in practice. We'll keep figuring things out race by race, and keep improving. 

GENTLEMEN. You got your first taste of being in a race with very solid frontrunners. Those 3 from Uni High are some of the best in the area for a reason. Coach Mynatt does more with less at both the JH and HS level than any coach I know. Uni High doesn't have an outdoor track and has to run from their school on the north end of campus to the U of I XC course on the south end just to practice each day. Yet, they compete with the best year in and year out. Again, an example of us scheduling the best competition possible. 

Iroquois West is new to the JH and HS cross country scene in the last few seasons, but get used to them boys. IW is a conference rival and will be in our sectional. We have work to do if we want to finish in the Top 3 and earn a state meet berth. Let's take a page out of the ladies book and start closing the gap #1-7. However fast you are running, run faster.

*Note: Iroquois West's tradition in distance running is anything but new. Reo Rorem (Gilman) holds their HS 2-mile record of 9:00. Yes, you read that right, 9:00 for two miles.

TOMORROW = DQ RUN. Let's enjoy it!

Wednesday August 31, 2016

"Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I could see the city light, Wind was blowing, time stood still." - Peter Gabriel

Image result for solsbury hill

Solsbury Hill, Somerset, England

We spent some time today climbing hills - both literally and metaphorically.

I reminded the team to read yesterday's blog post and we had a nice chat about building relationships. As I told them, this is not a 7 day, 7 month or 7 year process. The cross country and track and field kids who ran for us in the past are still listed on a note card on my desk that I look at every day. It's a list of about 25 student-athletes, and it takes a lot of time and effort to text, call, email and check in on them, but it's nice to have "my own kids" to see grow and succeed. It takes a very long climb up a very long hill to build that level of trust and respect, but when we do, we see the big picture.

On THE HILL we got in a great ladder workout. Our ladies really brought their A game today - I think the partner warmup will be something we use in the future. I was very impressed by several packs that got after it on the hard sections and stayed together well on the easy recoveries. The classic 1 cone hard, 1 cone easy, 2 cones hard, 1 cone easy, 3 cones hard, 1 cone easy, etc. is a nice workout after a tough meet. It's all based on effort, getting a feel for running fast down the hill, and good continuous easy running to build a base.

The weather for tomorrow looks excellent. Time will not stand still for us, BUT there should be a nice wind blowing out of the north to cool you off and give you a little extra push to the finish line. Let's focus on keeping the walking to a minimum, pushing each other to maintain our pace, and staying together in our packs/workout groups. I want to see a long gold line of PBL runners put themselves in the race and compete!

Thursday will be ONE RACE at 4:15 pm. Boys and Girls will run together, and we'll separate out the finishers at the end. 

Friday is a DQ RUN. Be ready for the world-famous Swirl n' Hurl afterwards. 

Saturday/Sunday/Monday - Run 3 miles on 2 days, with 1 day off.

Tuesday August 30, 2016

“Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.”  

- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Why do we do what we do?  We do what we do for each other. The sweat and hard work from yesterday's workout paid off in today's meet, with numerous PRs and great efforts by all of you.

Congrats to the boys on their first victory of the season. Clifton is a sectional opponent, Jefferson is a 3A school, and Rossville, Next Generation, and Champaign St. John are some new faces. It's nice to have a little variety of meet to meet - it can get tedious with 5 home meets in a row on our course, from a coaching, competing and comraderie standpoint. 

Ladies, we need to find a way to come together as a group. It's okay to show others how you feel. It's okay to be nervous/tired/scared. It is NOT OKAY for us to be in tears before the race even starts. In the big picture, how we run a 2 mile race doesn't define us - how we conduct ourselves, how we treat others, and how we deal with adversity does matter. Do your best. Do it with character and class.

At practice tomorrow, I'm going to show some photos of our 2009 and 2010 girls TEAMS. They were great, not because they were all great runners but because they were all GREAT PEOPLE. Friendship is a tremendous thing - cherish every moment of it. I will always be ready to do anything for those 2009 and 2010 ladies - including, God willing, to walk a few of them down the aisle in the absence of their fathers. You girls are my daughters for the season, and it's time to start treating your sisters with kindness. 

Our parents and community continue to come out to support us. Let's show them our gratitude for their support in the way we run. One Team. One Dream. Believe.

Monday August 29, 2016

"This is the biggest band you'll find, it's as deep as it is wide, Come on and join together with the band."  - The Who

We are blessed with the full spectrum of interests, activities, and abilities on our cross country team.  Tonight we had one of best workouts of the season, and everyone played their part. The boys and girls split up into ability groups - some just in pairs and some in groups of up to 10 runners. We made a nice loop of the last 400 meters of the course, with jogging, sprinting and some water breaks in the course of a loop. 

In case you haven't noticed, I've tricked you into more and more continuous running to build up our base. I'm also starting to build up your interval distance - today it was 6 x 400. We'll move up to 8 x 400 of race pace work by the end of the season...strap on your shoes and get down to business.

Do the right thing. Do your best. Do it with a positive attitude. Do it with character and class.

There are 60 of you and 1 of me. We're in this together - success depends on trust, and trust builds success. Do what we do.

1) Meet Tomorrow

Girls 4:00, Boys 4:30  (NOTE - Time Change!!!) It will be a little warm, so prepare accordingly. Sprinklers and water bottles out in full force. Hydrate!

2) Activities and Eligibility

You are more than welcome to be a part of speech, show choir, student council, Lego League, girls basketball, etc. BUT remember that your first responsibility is to your team and to your teammates. The only way to be our best is to show up at all practices and meets, ready to roll. If you have a conflict, please contact me for alternative practice arrangements.

3) Focus and Commit

The 2nd third of our season is upon us. Let's make it a great next 3 weeks! We're learning how to race now in preparation for the last third of our season - 3 weeks of invitational/championship races (St. Joe, Monticello, PBL, Sectionals).

August 26, 2016

"TEGWAR - The Exciting Game Without Any Rules" - Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

The parents and grandparents will notice another classic movie reference to start off the blog...the kids will notice NO RULES?!?!

Today was a very low-key version of TEGWAR or TAGWAR, more accurately.

We did our normal meet-day warmup, then turned the runners loose on the North Forty for a round of tag, followed by some jogging, followed by tag, followed by jogging, etc. Not sure if the 6th, 7th or 8th grade girls and boys were able to catch their teammates fastest, but I'm very sure that I felt very outnumbered in the Team vs. Coach round of tag. Believe me ladies and gentlemen, that's a great problem to have. Outnumber me 60 to 1 every year and we'll continue to have an awesome program.

There's still a little speed in these Old Coach legs of mine, but it's not as easy as it used to be!

Let's see who we can run after and "tag" it in Tuesday's race. It's time for us to move up in the game!

August 25, 2016

"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did."

- Newt Gingrich

*Disclaimer: This is not a blog post about politics - the quote fit our scenario quite nicely, regardless of where you align on the political spectrum.*

It was Thursday. We were tired. We ran well anyway. 

The hard work that we're already doing will pay off in another 3 weeks. It takes the human body 21-28 days to adapt to a training stimulus. We're 3 weeks into our season. Your body is being asked to do things it hasn't done before or at a level that it hasn't done them before. Once we adjust, we'll add new workouts to the training plan and reap the benefits of perseverance. 

Courage is knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. (Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird). I knew that we probably wouldn't win today, and I planned it that way. Our biggest races are October 4 (PBL Invite) and October 8 (Sectionals). We plan our training accordingly. We see it through to the end, every year.

I saw a lot of courage and perseverance from a very young squad today. It's been a tough first week of school mentally, physically and emotionally for most of us, coach included. 

I am extremely grateful for all of the parents and alumni in the PBL XC family that have helped things run smoothly at our first two home meets. I couldn't do this without you.

Tomorrow: TEGWAR Workout

We'll go easy and have some fun on Fridays. Looking forward to PBL vs. GCMS tomorrow night. 

August 24, 2016

"Out here the nights are long, the days are lonely.
I think of you and I'm working on a dream,
I'm working on a dream."

- Bruce Springsteen

Today was another edition of what we like to call in the business "Workout Wednesday." 

Being the track and field/cross country geek that I am, one of my favorite things to watch is a video series on Flotrack that features awesome workouts by some of the best distance runners and teams in the country - really talented college and professional athletes.

Our version of Workout Wednesday is almost always The Hill. The veterans knew what to expect, and the new folks got their first taste. Our standard 3-man relay is a whole lot tougher when you're at the bottom of the hill looking up and thinking, "How am I going to run that by myself?" But then you realize during that 200 meters that you're tougher than you thought, your teammates are there to push you, and coach has the sprinkler and the high fives out in full force. Is it a difficult workout? Yes. Does it prepare us for the rigors of 2 miles? Absolutely. 

Cross Country *Believe it or Not*

Runners on the Old Old HS cross country course (1973-1989) actually started their race at the bottom of the hill - talk about rough beginnings!

Runners on the Old HS cross country course (1989-2005) had to run up the hill 4 times over the course of 3 miles, with the 4th time being the finish.

Old Man Coach (yours truly) ran when the JH Course (1998-99) included 3 times up the hill in the 2-mile course.

2 Questions

Who do you think of when you run?

What dream are you working on?

August 23, 2016

"You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run."

- Kenny Rogers

Great job Panthers! Your first meet of the 2016 season is in the books. We can walk away from it knowing that we gave our best effort. We all know that we have lots of running ahead of us. And we're holding a lot of very good cards on this team - we'll play them when the time is right.

Remember Your Assignment for Tomorrow:
  • One thing you did well during the race
  • One thing you still need to work on during the race
You guys warmed up well, you competed well, and you encouraged well. Huge Thank You to all the parents that helped make things run smoothly. The team didn't know this in advance, but there's a reason why we schedule great competition: It prepares us for the Sectional and State Meets.

Crescent City - 4th meet of season
Madison Hamilton - 9th place girl @ 2015 IESA Class 1A State

Franklin - 3rd meet of season
Class 3A Team

Holy Cross - 2nd meet of season
12th place girls team @ 2015 IESA Class 1A State

St. Matthews - 2nd meet of season
Boys State Champions @ 2015 IESA Class 1A State
5th place girls team @ 2015 IESA Class 1A State

I need to work on a few things:

1) Timing Issues

We had a printer stopwatch error. Never happened before, and will never happen again.
Sorry boys, I let you down. Our warmup was a bit rushed also gentlemen. Easy fix.

2) Team Cooldown

Unless you have another sports practice or a family obligation, we cool down as a team.
It's a crucial part of both our recovery and our team-building. Check in with me. Check out with me.

3) Post-Meet Pickup

Home Meets - We should be done by 5:30 at the latest. It might be easiest to pick up athletes in the north lot by the JH Gym. Parents I leave it to your discretion. 

Away Meets - Parent Sign Out Sheet. Notes to ride with another parent/relative must be turned in to the JH Office in advance.

4) Post-Meet Priorities

Family. Food/Water. Homework. Sleep. In that order.

August 22, 2016

"It's just another manic Monday." - The Bangles

Wow! It was a very busy first day of school. I know Coach Franckey and I were in scramble mode to get everyone's technology up and running as efficiently as possible today. 
The tech department process is something that we've worked on since the beginning of the summer - very similar to building a cross country team. 

All of your hard work during summer running club and the first two weeks of practice will show in tomorrow's meet. It's our first opportunity to show how much progress you've made. It's you and your teammates against the clock. Don't worry if you're running 1 mile or 2 miles. Don't worry if you have to stop and walk a little to catch your breath. Don't worry if you've only run our course 1 time in warmup. You will be just fine. Plan for trust and trust the plan.

Things to Improve On from Today

Sometimes a workout doesn't go according to plan. We had a 5-man relay on the North Loop, and coach bit off more than he could chew. I shortened up the running sections and the team seemed to adjust well. As I told them, you have to be willing to try new things, with no guarantee that they'll work out. Our effort on the North Loop will make the difference down the road. It's a tough half-mile section of our course, and everybody has to run it twice. We need to own it - that section is PantherLand.

Things to Build On from Today

We had a very good conversation today about putting everything we need for a meet together in advance. Also, we talked about the need to fill up each other's "meet bags" when we meet as a group. Encouragement, positive attitudes, and being helpful can go a long way...teammates are carrying a lot of invisible struggles with them to practice every day. It's my job as a coach and our job as a team to lift them up. Really proud of our team for how well they worked today and for how well they listened and followed directions. We're headed in the right direction ladies and gentlemen.

August 20, 2016

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”  - Winston Churchill

We had a Fast Friday and Super Saturday!  BUT, we've been awfully wound up the last few days before the start of school on Monday.

For those parents who attended our Practice/Picnic/Pool Party, a huge Thank You!  You'd probably agree that Churchill's quote above applies to our group.

When we choose to talk and go off on our own agendas instead of staying on task, the whole team suffers. Let's come ready to go on Monday at 3:30.

Now, for a quick recap. We had 7 girls (44%) and 19 boys (51%) run faster in their mile time trial this week. Great job team after a very tough week of training! Some of you had very tired legs and just missed setting new PRs. Let's see if the girls can have a better percentage of PR improvements between Tuesday and Thursday meets this week. The weather should be nice for both, and a soggy course should make things fun!

For those of you who've never raced before, here's how it works. Dismissal at 3:12. Change into uniform in locker rooms and LEAVE YOUR STUFF in the locker rooms. 8th grade leaders will take team from JH gym to our warmup/team meeting spot by the HS greenhouse at 3:30. Girls always warm up first. We usually have separate races for the girls and boys (this week), but occasionally we will run both squads together if the meet is small. Check the schedule to see our competition, but this first two weeks is us against the clock. Let's see where we stack up. Warmup leaders will go through the normal routine. Boys start warmups when the girls race starts. We all cooldown as a team after the boys race.  We'll go over our course and the meet day routine at Monday's 3:30 practice after school.

Here's a few photos from today. Enjoy your last weekend before school starts!

August 18, 2016

"Gotta catch'em all" 

Pokemon Go fever made an appearance during today's circuit workout. I hope all of the energy and excitement we have carries over into tomorrow's mile time trial. Let's make it a Fast Friday!

August 17, 2016

"We are climbing Jacob's ladder...Every round goes, higher, higher." - Traditional African-American spiritual

As many of you know, I taught US and World History for many years before my current job in the PBL Technology Department. The song lyrics come from a version of Jacob's Ladder featured in the 1990 Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Great music + Great history = Great film. One of my favorites.

Jacob's Ladder is also the name of a famous workout that the St. Joe Ogden high school cross country team does every year before the SJO Spartan's very impressive to say the least. It's good to have friends in the coaching ranks to bounce ideas off of, and Coach Retz (HS) and Coach Plotner (JH) at St. Joe are two of the best in the business.

Today we talked about the concept of a ladder workout in cross country. One loop around Pells Park was divided into 6 sides. We split up into groups of similar ability levels and got to work. 1 side jog, 1 side walk. 2 sides jog, 1 side walk. 3 sides jog, 1 side walk. You get the general idea. What our athletes may not have realized is that 6 sides of running is an entire half mile of running without stopping. At 6:00 mile pace, that's 3:00 minutes of work...just like our 30/30 workout from the day before. If we can break our race into 3:00 chunks and battle away, we'll be just fine by the end of the racing season. Some of our groups went up to 3 or 4 sides of running and then back down the ladder - 3, 2, 1. We're all at different points in our job is to adjust our workouts to what's best for each individual whenever possible.

Now let's use the ladder as a metaphor. We had 4 runners of the week for last week (2 boys and 2 girls). All four had great attitudes, great workouts, and great efforts in the mile time trial. Was it our 4 fastest on the team? No.  Did they all deserve to be recognized? Absolutely. 

When you are the runner of the week, you've moved up a step on the ladder of development. Help teammates push to the next level.
If you're not the runner of the week, focus on what you need to do to keep improving.  Take the next step up the ladder! 

Bonus Track Nerd Post:

A few examples of ladder workouts from track and field that you might see in the spring (HS athletes):

- 1H, 2H, 3H, 3H, 2H, 1H           (H=Hurdles, working of establishing hurdle rhythm)
- 10, 20, 30, 40, 30, 20, 10         (A classic workout for sprinters, focusing on block starts)
- 150, 200, 200, 150                   (Very good speed endurance for a 400 meter specialist)
- 600, 800, 1000, 800, 600        (Nice workout for a middle distance runner - especially 1500 and 3000 steeplechase)

August 16,2016

"Simple ain't easy." - Thelonius Monk

Run easy for 30 seconds, then run hard for 30 seconds. Sounds simple right? It is in theory, but it's a bit tougher in reality, as our athletes found out in today's workout. By elevating our heart rates, recovering, and then repeating the cycle, we're teaching our bodies to be more efficient. 

The concept of speed play (fartlek) by alternating fast & slow goes back a long way, to the Swedish distance running tradition of the 1930s and 1940s - Gunder Hagg and Arne Andersson being two prime examples (see picture below).

Where does the 30/30 workout come from? SCIENCE. Coaching is the ART of putting the science TOGETHER in the right sequence. The 30/30 workout comes from a study conducted by Veronique Billat, who is a French runner, coach and scientist. She is one of the best exercise physiologists in the world. Dr. Billat found that one of the most effective ways to improve a runner's VO2 Max (how efficiently they use oxygen while running) is to run at 100% of VO2 Max (race pace) for 30 seconds, followed by 50% of VO2 Max (jogging recovery) for 30 seconds, until the athlete can no longer maintain the pace. We're not quite ready to go that far, but the kids did a fantastic job in their first 30/30 workout today.

After a solid warmup, we ran sets of 30 seconds easy and 30 seconds hard for 3 minutes, followed by a set of plyometrics (basic jumps) to work on power and strength for the finish of our races. Again, line jumps, scissor jumps, star jumps, etc. aren't fancy, but they get the job done with 10 seconds of really high quality effort followed by 10-20 seconds of rest. Two rounds and about 10 minutes later, workout complete.

August 15, 2016

"Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains."  - Bull Durham (1988)

"You improvise, you adapt, you overcome." - Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

I hope the parents reading this blog will appreciate my 80s movie quotes...athletes, take film appreciation as your guided study course at least once during high school. My American film study course in college was one of the best classes I've ever taken!

We did a great job of getting in weekend mileage. Nice job team! The extra miles over the weekend are key to our success in the later half of the season. When you work your way up towards running 3-4 miles without stopping, it will make you much stronger to race a shorter distance of 2 miles. As an added bonus, you also move one step closer towards the goal of a 150 Mile Club t-shirt.

Today's workout was a classic on the Pells Park road loop. We used Friday's mile time trial results to put the team into groups of 3. Each 3-man relay worked together to complete about 4 or 5 laps total (8-10 runs of roughly 150 meters each). You should feel fast, relaxed, and under control during these workout reps. Distribute your speed evenly throughout each run - avoid stop and go tactics or Usain Bolt and then a walk. 

We're working on pacing for not only the whole 2 mile race, but for parts of it at the same time: 

1) First mile pace  2) Second mile fatigue  3) Last 400 meters finish

*Good leg speed is required for us to race well as a team. Let's get after it during relay work!

As for the rainy weather, I thought we handled it very well. The kids were excited to get out and have fun during the warmup. We adapted well to warmups in the pavilion. We kept up the intensity during the workout. As I told the team, you reminded me of two really awesome groups from 2012: A great high school workout (12 x 400 during the remnants of Hurricane Isaac) and a great state meet (2 guys under 11:20 running through 2 inches of water on the junior high state meet course).

Pictures below from the 2005 Nike XC Nationals meet at Portland Meadows in the fall of 2005. As you can see, it was epic.

Great example of watching the best athletes take care of business. Enjoy the Olympics tonight!