Blog

Thursday October 4, 2018

“We have had a good time while we were young, but it is in the nature of Time to fly.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Our moment has almost arrived. Time flies...

The boys had their best workout of the year today. Great pack running, guys running hard for each other, every guy in the line pushing the next guy to stay with the pace.

I think 8 x 200 on the XC course might become one of our go-to sectional prep workouts in future seasons. It took your coach a whole season to figure things out, but we've found something that works very well and gives you guys confidence. Mission accomplished.

The girls squad took a split squad approach to today's workout. The XC-only girls did the full workout and the basketball ladies did a significantly modified version.

To the basketball girls with soreness and some nagging injuries: 1) Relax 2) Recover 3) Refocus

Trust the plan that's gotten you here. Know that we are ready to run our best on Saturday. You have put in the work. The hay is in the barn and our job is to stay healthy for the next 36 hours. Hang in there and keep it together!

Wednesday October 3, 2018

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

Amelia Earhart


I've slacked a bit on the blog the last few days...PBL Invite and Sectional Meet prep will do that to you.

THANK YOU to all of the parents, staff, coaches and high school team members who helped make the PBL Invite a success. We can't run a meet of that size that smoothly without an army of great people. You are a FANTASTIC crew! They say it takes a village to raise a child, and with you our invite is in good hands for the future!

In the last two meets, we've seen the strongest teams in our sectional: Unity, St. Joseph, Mt. Zion, Monticello, and Heyworth.

Today we spent almost the first half of practice reviewing this week's schedule, highlighting tomorrow's workout, and discussing our major competition for Saturday.

As some parents and alumni know, I develop a sectional scouting report every year for cross country and track and field. It is very rare for me to share that information with junior high athletes - too much information is usually too much to think about. However, for our boys team, I did remind them of Heyworth and Mt. Zion's times from PBL and Monticello. We don't run races on paper...as Amelia pointed out, the fears are paper tigers. We need to match up man for man and see if we can fight our way to the third team spot. Unity and St. Joe have been the class of this sectional all season. This is a three team match race (Heyworth, Mt. Zion and us) for one spot at the state meet.

On the ladies side, we will also shoot for the third team qualifying spot with a combined approach. Our top three have a very good chance as individuals if things don't go our way, so they will run their "usual" just like Tuesday's race. 4, 5, 6 and 7 are all hungry for a new PR race, and Saturday is as good a day as any. Our younger runners have been on a roll lately, and they have agreed to work together to get as close to 14:30 and 15:30 as possible by using a buddy system and pushing the first mile. If Unity, Mt. Zion or St. Joe slip up, we'll be waiting to surprise them.

I care about you. I am proud of you. I believe in you.

Let's have a great week. Go Panthers!

Friday September 28, 2018

10-10-10 Run with some Dairy Queen for good measure. Nice work!

Thursday September 27, 2018

FANTASTIC workout at Eastlawn today!

We split up into two groups. One group helped with food backpacks and then ran their 400s. One group started with 400s and then had some extra time for the cooldown.

Maybe we should make it a habit to do some workouts at Eastlawn. I liked the effort today!

Wednesday September 26, 2018

Homecoming Bingo Scavenger Hunt. 24 items in 30 minutes on the PBL Campus. Simple. Solid. Fun.

Stole this workout wholesale from the head coach at Decatur Saint Teresa High School, then modified the locations to fit our team's run.

There are a lot of really great cross country/track and field coaches in Central Illinois, and I've learned a lot from them over the years. Always learning. Always improving.

For tomorrow:

  • Food Backpacks @ Eastlawn
  • 400s Workout @ Eastlawn
  • Monticello Meet Info Sheet

Tuesday September 25, 2018

Mile Time Trial on the Course - The Plan on Paper vs. The Plan in Reality

Not something everyone was excited about, but still a pretty good effort. There is always one workout a season that I'd like to have back for a do-over, and today's might be it. Nothing the team did wrong, it just wasn't quite the right fit for us, and that's on me.

Like it or not, we have to be ready to run the course at the sectional meet, so you might as well learn to attack it. We race the home course several times for a reason. In all likelihood, the PBL course will be hosting the sectional meet in at least one of the three years that you're on the JH XC team.

We rested several basketball girls who have sore shins, ankles, etc. today just to be on the safe side. The sectional meet is the goal at this point, and sometimes less is more in a training cycle.

Most of the team wasn't thrilled with their time, but I reminded them that the XC course (1 miles) is warmer, windier, slower, and longer than 4 laps (1600 meters) on a track. We need to get out of comfort zone more than anything. We have to be willing to find out what it's like to hurt. Race position and pacing strategy are crucial to our team success. Learn from the effort and work for excellence.

We've historically had a meet on this Tuesday, so having a whole week between St. Joe Invite and Monticello Invite is new for both the athletes and the coach. We needed a change...as the veteran girls will tell you we've struggled recently with this week in the season in the past. 7th/8th girls have 3 basketball games this week and 6th grade girls have 3 basketball games next week. We need some flexibility in the XC schedule in order to stay healthy and be ready.

Thoughts for the Future:

Option A: Mile Time Trial

Option B: 3/4 Mile with Equal Rest + 400 Meter Finish

Option C: 2 or 3 x 800 with 4:30 Rest

All of these can accomplish the workout goal. It's up to us to find out what works best for the team. Keep that in the back of your mind for 2019. Training is a science and an art. We make changes, we evaluate, and we come back with alternatives that will help us accomplish the ultimate goals: 1) Improving throughout the season 2) Being in championship form for sectionals/state

Monday September 24, 2018

If you want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything. It's no good just thinking about endurance and not to develop fine speed. - Arthur Lydiard

We had a solid 20 minute run today, followed by 6 x 120 yard sharpeners on the football field.

What is "sharpening"? It's a training term used by Arthur Lydiard to describe a point in the season when we want to focus on leg turnover and finishing speed. These aren't all out, but they're close to 95% effort with recovery of 2 to 3 minutes. 120 yards is long enough that our athletes can work through the closing gears that they'll be using in the finish of a race. It's also a good way to practice good running mechanics - arm drive, knee lift, and tall posture.

Lydiard coached very successful athletes from 800 meters up to the marathon, and I've always tried to sprinkle in ideas from New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain's golden age of running from the 1960s through the 1980s. It worked then, and it still works today.

Friday September 21, 2018

Posting this late because I went with my family to the Illini game on Friday night...great game for 3 quarters!

Much like the Illini, we are a work in progress, but we found out a lot about our team today.

When there is hardware on the line, our team steps up. Congrats to the 8 of you who earned medals for finishing in the Top 20 of your race! We need the competition. We need to get our of our comfort zone. We need to get in a sectional mindset.

As I do every year, I've been looking over results from your sectional opponents. We have a very tough task ahead of us - Unity, St. Joe, Mt. Zion and Monticello will be coming to Paxton on October 6 looking for a qualifying spot for state.

What are we looking for? A solid race? A PR? To beat someone you haven't before? To make the top seven? To qualify for state?

I gave you goal times today and most of you achieved them. If it was a shock to the system, that was intentional.

WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN AND GO AFTER THEM.

Looking forward to an awesome next two weeks! Go Panthers!

Thursday September 20, 2018

This morning was a classic 10-10-10 workout to prepare us for great races and fast times at St. Joe tomorrow.

Thank you for all your hard work during morning practices this season! Keep it up!

Wednesday September 19, 2018

Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought the Banana Relays involved team members running around in banana suits, but I think the team still had a lot of fun!

We had some extra time for a team movie after practice today. Finding Nemo is one of my favorites - lots of good stuff in that film.

Marlin asks Crush how he knows his son is ready to "fly solo" in the East Australian Current. Below is his response, and it's so true.

Our team is ready to step up, run fast, and take ownership of their success. As I tell my high school athletes (especially in the field events in track): When the stakes are raised, my job as a coach is to take more of the blame and less of the credit. As we get closer and closer to the championship phase of the season, RELAX.

Take a deep breath, trust your training, and know that your team supports you. We will win and lose together. We will race well and not so well together. We will spend time and make time together (almost an Eagles cultural reference there).

How fast we run doesn't define us or our season. We are defined by our growth as people and the growth of our team as a program. Remember that when you race over the next three weeks.

Tuesday September 18, 2018

"Running down a dream, going wherever it leads." - Tom Petty

Tom Petty and Steve Winwood at the United Center is one of the best concerts I've ever been to...ask your parents kiddos!

If the sectional meet seems like a far-off dream, today was a reminder that it's closer than you think and you're more prepared than you think!

Last week most of you had one of your highest mileage totals of the season, plus a race at home and a race at Mahomet.

All of that effort is starting to pay off this week, and we will continue to unload a bit on the training side of things as we head into the St. Joe Invite on Friday.

You ran with the groups you ran with during Monday morning's 400 workouts for exactly a meet like this one.

You were given a race plan, place targets, and pack instructions for exactly a meet like this one.

You practiced focusing on a specific opponent in a heads-up match up for exactly a meet like this one.

We ran very well today at Onarga, and we got to see some schools that we don't normally see. I think the competition would have been even better if Bourbonnais and Bishop Mac hadn't had to cancel, but I think there's also a lot to be said for learning how to win meets as a team.

A couple of key takeaways:

  • The "Big 3" for the girls should have more confidence in getting out hard and taking control of a race
  • The 6th grade girls pack knows that sometimes they can throw my literal instructions out the window and go racing
  • Our open race crew knows that a 20 minute or under race is possible, even when we're running on tired legs
  • The boys team knows what a PACK means now! Congrats gentlemen on your best #1 to #5 split of the season. Finally!
  • The boys pack needs to take the next step and BATTLE FOR SPOTS...we were in the mix with Pontiac and let them off the hook.
  • ALL of you should be ready for a PR race at St. Joe on Friday


Monday September 17, 2018

"And whence they came and whither they shall go

The dew upon their feet shall manifest. "

- Wallace Stevens

Another beautiful morning for a cross country workout...and a good morning for a direct conversation about the focus we need to have over the next three weeks.

Some of the team noticed that I was a bit grumpy (didn't have my usual morning practice coffee). I was very open and honest about my feelings. Each of the last three years as head coach, it feels like I've had to fight, scratch, claw and battle my way to hold the team together to sectionals and the state meet. At times, it feels like I'm doing most of that work when the team should be taking ownership. In fairness to the team, some of the forces at play are beyond their control.

We're all busy. We all get tired. We all lose sight of the end goal.

My challenge to the team was simple: How good do you want to be?

How do you want to feel when you go to the starting line of the sectional race in three weeks?

I think the message was received, because we had an excellent set of 400s on the track. Stay healthy, happy, hungry and humble these next three weeks. Keep building. Keep working. Keep fighting. We'll get to the sectional together, and then take our shot.

Friday September 14, 2018

Recovery Run + Team Dog + Watermelon = A great practice!

It was a warm one today, but the team had fun!

No, I didn't get a dog. One of our many unofficial team mascots (Mrs. McDermaid's dog Tucker) joined us for a jog and then impressed the kids with his ability to drink five bottles of water in less than two minutes when we finished.

The team finished up with some watermelon, which was a favorite for many. Foam rolling and stretching was a KEY part of our recovery routine.

I also reminded the team that they need to HYDRATE this weekend and all of next week! We will be training and racing in summer temperatures! Prepare accordingly!

Thursday September 13, 2018

Lake of the Woods is a great course. With Kickapoo no longer on the schedule, it's also one of the last pure tests of cross country running that we see each year.

"It is cross country" was the standard response from Coach Geerken when we had negative comments about course conditions in high school cross country.

The beauty of the sport is that some runners are just better as "tough mudders" - over hills, through the trails, in the rain, etc.

John Treacy (see below) is a great example that comes to mind on the international stage of cross country racing (look him up boys and girls).

GRIT is a competitive mentality that we have to have. From summer running, to cross country, to winter running club, to track and field, and through the cycle again. Training is measured in progress from cycle to cycle, month to month, season to season and year to year.

EMBRACE PROGRESS, not times. We have 7 years to build you into fantastic cross country/track and field athletes. More importantly, we get to spend that time building you into fantastic human beings who are part of something greater than themselves.

Regardless of how things turn out at the end of the season, there's no other group I'd rather have running this season than you. Make the most of our time together.


Wednesday September 12, 2018

25 minutes steady run + 4 strides. Simple. Basic. Recovery.

We're flushing the legs after yesterday's race and putting a little bit of juice in them for racing in the future.

I think we've gotten away from doing fast, snappy strides. That's a coaching mistake on my part - we need to know how to finish fast because there will be plenty of very talented teams who can close the deal at the sectional. Luckily for us, we've still got time to work on arm drive, knee lift, and gear changes. These are things that you'll hear Coach Franckey stress A LOT at the high school level, and we have to lay the foundation here at the JH level.

THANK YOU to team members who have been helping out with the Panther Mile. HUGE momentum for our program at the younger grades - we had over 65 kids in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade who have participated. The Panther Mile will run on September 26. Be there to cheer on your future teammates!


Tuesday September 11, 2018

"Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't."

Another cultural reference in a quote...this time it's a nod to an old Almond Joy commercial.

Sometimes we don't have our mojo in a race, but we have to go out and race anyway. Today was one of those days.

It was a little bit warmer and St. Joe is a very, very good team. We know this. It's not going to change anytime soon.

We cramped up a bit, didn't get a good first mile in, and didn't keep a very good pack together.

However, we learned from it. Very good, thoughtful conversations after the race with the team. Ready to move forward and keep improving. End of story.


Monday September 10, 2018

It's been awhile since we visited our old friend The Hill.

Why now? Because we need the work. We're four weeks out from the sectional, which means we've got a few more hard weeks of training before we enter the championship phase of our season.

Our goal isn't to run fast this week - it's to put in good workouts, compete against some tough opponents, and trust that the hard work will pay off down the road when it's time to run fast, win medals, and punch tickets to the big dance (the state meet).

Really solid effort from our morning and afternoon groups today. A lot of the team commented that they felt like they worked really hard in a short amount of time. 12 to 16 x 200 on the hill in 20 to 25 minutes is a pretty simple way to run a 3-man relay and get in some quality work. Nice job Panthers!


Friday September 7, 2018

"Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains." - Bull Durham

We got a 15 minute rain run in before retreating inside for color tag, volleyball, 4-square and wall ball.

It is RARE for us to have a "free day" so to speak, but the weather conditions were pretty awful.

When the weather is at its worst, the memories are at their best. Ask any of our high school athletes, and you'll find that they talk about the workouts and races when it was cold, wet, windy, rainy, hot, etc. even more than they talk about running a PR, winning the conference meet or capturing a sectional title.

Ask any of my guys about Hurricane Isaac 400s in 2012...it was epic.

Thanks for being tough and adapting today team. Looking forward to a great next few weeks!

Thursday September 6, 2018

"Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." - Wyatt Earp

Today was a FAST race for us on a great (and short) road course of 1.95 miles.

What I apprecaiated even more than the fast times were a couple of things:

1) Every team member ran the course is less than 20:00

2) We ran together as a pack (maybe guys vs. girls should happen every race!)

3) Compete. Compete. Compete.

The weather ended up being pretty much perfect, and I know the vets were probably motivated by all the food at the end of the race. Big thank you to Coach Roberts and Tri-Valley for being great hosts and to Coach Rose of St. Matthews for running the whole course and keeping you honest (the crazy guy with the beard in the back who was there for encouragement the whole time).

We will return the favor on Tuesday - We are hosting Tri-Valley, St. Joseph, Beecher, BCC, and St. Malachy.

Expect each race to have about 100 runners, which will simulate the size of the setional race in a few short weeks. Be ready!

Wednesday September 5, 2018

Another solid morning practice in the books! We backed off quite a bit today. Blue Warmup with some new stretches and core exercises, then an 8-8-8 (8 minute jog, 8 strides, 8 minute jog).

The team will be out of class tomorrow at 2:00 and the bus will leave at 2:15.

We discussed the course, race strategy and goal times over breakfast this morning. Excited to see what we can do tomorrow!

Tuesday September 4, 2018

Bread and butter workout this morning: 400s on the Track.

It took a couple of reps for us to dial in, but the team did an excellent job of grooving in race pace.

Thanks for coming in early before the weather got too hot. The work will pay off with some fast times in the weeks to come.

Dawson Lake on Thursday. Be ready to race!

Friday August 31, 2018

Halfway There

Hard to believe it, but we've reached the halfway point of the season. It's been 5 weeks since we started practice, and it's just 5 weeks until the sectional meet in Paxton.

Hope you all enjoyed the Dairy Queen run today. Have a great weekend!

Thursday August 30, 2018

I don't know if lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but I do know that the meet scores from today were a very, very rare phenomenon.

Girls Team Scores

PBL 36

Uni High 36

*6th Runner Tiebreaker (PBL = 13, Uni = 16 - PBL wins)

Boys Team Scores

Herscher 36

Uni High 36

*6th Runner Tiebreaker (Herscher =15, Uni = 20 - Herscher wins)

Your old coach has seen a few tiebreakers over the years (and even two in one meet like today), but never two tiebreakers to determine boys and girls winners with the exact same team scores. Not sure what the odds are of that happening, but maybe I should buy a Lotto Ticket tonight (for the first time in my life).

Incredibly proud of the way our team executed the race plan today. We had a few guys who really pushed the first mile, and it made a huge difference in our Top 5. Several other boys team members cut 45-60 seconds off last week's race. On the girls side, it was a strong second mile and some great finishes that gave us the victory. Super pack running from both the vets trio and the 6th grade trio. Two ladies on our squad completed two miles for the first time this season, and looked good racing it! Victories over Uni High and Herscher are a nice accomplishment. Let's keep the momentum going!

Wednesday August 29, 2018

"You know a lot of people go to college for seven years." - Tommy Boy

Our first REAL day of school. I'm sure it was a bit of a struggle for some of you to make it from 8:00 to 3:15 without an early out, but you powered thru!

Team Discussion Topics Today:

  • Homework/Grades/Eligibility
  • Team Colors to Race Against Tomorrow
  • 21st Annual Swirl and Hurl

Dry land is not a myth (Waterworld cultural reference for you Kevin Costner fans out there - go ask your parents!), and neither is the Swirl and Hurl!

Dairy Queen + Running = Wait and Find Out!

Rookies, ask the veterans. They have plenty of stories to tell you about Swirl and Hurl.

Nice job today during the Bingo Circuit. 18 minutes of easy running, some core, and a good lesson in why bingo is a game of chance, not choice.

Tuesday August 28, 2018

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." - Leo Tolstoy

We can pack a lot of great training into just an hour's time, especially when we have athletes who are motivated by breakfast!

The team's task today was to take a goal race pace (faster than last Thursday's meet) and run it for 6 x 300 on the track with 2:00 rest.

Times and recoveries varied by group, but the effort did not! We were DIALED IN and CONSISTENT on almost every single one of the six reps in all five groups. That's quite an accomplishment for a young team, but this is a team that trains well and loves to compete. I was very impressed by the workout and so was Coach Franckey when we discussed it this morning after team breakfast.

Where did the goal times come from? Daniels Running Formula (running science from one of the best exercise physiologists in the world). There are no "secrets" in cross country coaching. In fact, if I gave out the goal times for each of our groups for the 300 meter repetitions, other coaches reading this blog could use those times to see what our goal race pace is. I'll keep the St. Joes of the world guessing for the next six weeks or so, but we're coming for your guys and girls team Coach Plotner!

Our two most powerful warriors are patience and time. Keep building each week Panthers! We're working on a sectional masterpiece.

Monday August 27, 2018

GREAT workout this morning team! Thanks for coming in early and getting your work done before it got too hot.

See you tomorrow at 6:30 for practice, followed by breakfast.

Friday August 24, 2018

"I knew I shouldn't have canceled s'mores." - Coach Pacey

Sorry for the early cancellation of s'mores. It turned out that the rain stayed away during the football game and we probably could have made team s'mores night work after all.

Never fear, there will be a couple of opportunities in the future to partake in some snacks and bonfire time during Friday night home games. Details TBA.

Today's workout was simple:

  • 10 minutes + 10 Strides + 10 minutes

Part recovery run, part leg speed, part feeling relaxed. I stole the workout idea from the late great Joe Newton, the longtime cross country coach at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. Mr. Newton is hands down the most successful high school coach in American history. I can't say that I would ever have our kids do some of the workouts and mileage that York does, but if we can take some things that work for us, that's great too. As Joe Vigil once told me at a USA Track and Field meeting, "Do what you can, where you are, with what you've got."

I'm very proud of the team we've got, the work we've done so far this season, and where we're out as a program moving forward. Go Panthers!

Thursday August 23, 2018

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." - Yogi Berra

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give our first meet a 7.5 score. Solid, but not spectacular. Part of the learning process in cross country is learning to trust where you are in your training plan. The veterans know very well that we're not trying to run our fastest times of the year in the first few home meets. Faster times will come, but we have to put the work in first. We have 7 weeks until the sectionals, and some of you are just starting to feel like you have a base underneath you. The really running is only beginning. There's a lot more in the legs than what we've accomplished so far, and that's a very exciting possibility.

So where are we going? Right now we're starting a two-week block of training that will be geared towards our first away meet of the season at Tri-Valley (Dawson Lake). The meet at Dawson is our only true road race on the schedule, and it's a very fast two mile (or just a little short) course for our runners. If you can run fast there, you can plan to run even faster on grass for a full two miles on our course at the PBL Invite and/or Sectional Meet when it counts.

Speaking of the sectional...here's a quick scouting report:

  • Unity, St. Joseph, Mt. Zion, Monticello

4 very strong teams in Central Illinois that we'll need to be ready to compete against in October.

As a team, we reviewed a few patterns in the results, a pacing strategy for the boys first mile, some team math for the ladies squad, and a discussion of our split time. Our team score is our first five runners, and both the boys and girls teams had a 2 minute gap between those five runners. That's a big chunk of time for other teams to score lower points than you, as we found out the hard way today.

Lots of encouraging effort and some good pack running forming though, so keep up the good work! The field size (125 boys and 90 girls) was intentional - it mimics the size of the sectional meet. A fast time is nice, but in a meet that size, time is irrelevant. Place is everything, and we got a much better free for racing, pacing and placing today.

Wednesday August 22, 2018

"Athletic development is based on the development of fundamental movement skills before sport-specific skills." - Vern Gambetta

Today was an athletic development day featuring jumps, med ball throws, sprints, core work, skips and hops, Dodgeball, Wall Ball, 4-Square, etc.

We put in some really good work on Monday and Tuesday, so we didn't "have" to get in quite as much running as we might normally the day before a meet.

As I've told the team many times this year, a smaller squad gives us a chance to experiment with some training ideas that we've never used with a larger squad.

We'll take what works (pizza) and throw out what doesn't (spaghetti). Lesson learned from tonight's team dinner! Be ready to race tomorrow!

Tuesday August 21, 2018

GREAT work on The Hill today team! Each training group was given a pace for the 200 meter hill (40 to 55 seconds depending on ability), a set amount of rest (1 minute) and a set number of repetitions (8). We started off practice talking about strengths, weaknesses, and communicating with our teammates, teachers, parents and coaches.

Some team members mentioned that they have a hard time finishing workouts or they felt the legs lose some juice in the last part of Saturday's race. Very good information to know...we can change the training plan accordingly!

Very rarely do I do this, but I added 2 more hill 200s on to the workout for a total of 10. The veterans will tell you that we usually error on the side of too few reps instead of too many, but the team looked good and it had a purpose. Sometimes you have a little bit more left than you thought, and you need to be able to find it in the last 200 to 400 meters of a race. That's exactly what we did in today's workout. Cruise/groove your race pace until you feel comfortable with it, then add a couple of reps at the end to practice it when you're tired and need to focus.

I mentioned to some of the team that our 1980 high school boys team often did 400s on the same hill we ran on today. That group would usually do anywhere from 12 to 20 x 400 meters...a very tough workout for high school athletes! The last rep wasn't always the last rep...Coach Guyot often added what the guys from that team called a "Killer" - a final 400 to simulate the last 400 meters of the state meet in Peoria. Rick Evans loved those 400s (he ran low 11s for the 100 in track)...Craig Stockman (9:35 two-mile runner) wasn't as much of a fan, but they both got what they needed: A lesson in finishing.

Monday August 20, 2018

Good work today Panthers! We got our long run mileage in for the week and we didn't get rained on!

We need to make it a habit to get to a minimum of 30 minutes on a junior high long run day. We're still working towards that, but today our groups completed 20, 22 or 25 minutes based on ability.

Veterans, let's get the weekend runs in the 35 to 45 minute range and keep them there for the next month or so. We'll back off the last 3 weeks of championship season.

Rookies, can you finish the 30 minute challenge? I want to see ALL of you running 30 minutes without stopping before the end of the season!

Your racing legs will thank you!

Saturday August 18, 2018

"I was living to run and running to live." - Bob Seger

Making the most of the EXPERIENCE is the KEY, in cross country and in life. We did a very good job of that at today's first meet.

This meet was a first for all of us. The earliest meet in PBL JH XC history and the first time that our squad had competed at the St. Matthews Invite.

Why?

a) Post-Season Preparation

If you made it through today, you can handle running in any meet we run for the remainder of the season. I am incredibly proud of the toughness that our team showed today. You warmed up and raced hard, but more importantly you did it by taking your own initiative. Remember, my job is to build you up, encourage you, plan your training, and support your success. Along the way, I have to step back, let you take ownership, and be a guide, not a guy who gets in the way of YOUR running.

Here's a list of schools I saw today, and there are probably a few more that I left out.

1A Schools in Attendance:

  • St. Matthews, Judah Christian, Normal Epiphany, Decatur Catholic, Next Generation, Holy Cross, Bloomington Corpus Christi, Champaign St. John, Effingham St. Anthony, Villa Grove, Crescent City, Decatur Catholic

2A Schools in Attendance:

  • PBL, St. Joseph, Williamsville, Rantoul

3A Schools in Attendance:

  • Champaign Edison, Champaign Franklin, Champaign Jefferson, Urbana, Mahomet-Seymour, Decatur Jefferson

b) XC Invite Competition

Our ultimate goal is to reach the ultimate of cross country invitational meets: The State Cross Country Meet eight weeks from now. Like most fancy parties, it has a very exclusive guest list. In fact, it's by invitation only. You have to be invited (earn) the right to run there.

The more we can challenge you to face the best Central Illinois has to offer, the better chance we will have of seizing the moment and qualifying for state.

Your goal as a team should be to run in the state meet. Whether that's this year, next year, or 4 years from now at the high school level, we need to work towards the goal.

We got quite the introduction to cross country today, and I want you all to embrace the atmosphere and the challenges of a big race.

c) Building for the Future

Last year's 8th graders will run the first 3-mile race of their high school cross country career at, you guessed it: St. Thomas More next Saturday.

If there is any meet, course, or workout we can run that will prepare you for the high school program, we'll run it.

If there is any tradition, team-building activity, or approach to building our team culture to prepare you to contribute to an outstanding high school program, we will lay that foundation at the junior high level.

We begin with the end in mind.


Friday August 17, 2018

Final Countdown

Are you excited for our first meet tomorrow? I sure am! We had a nice, short, fun practice this morning. The athletes were able to request their favorite tunes during warmups and we had a nice walk-through of our warmup procedures for tomorrow. Nice job team!


Thursday August 16, 2018

"When you're hot, you're hot, And when you're not, you're not." - Jerry Reed

We came out of the air conditioning after school and the sun came out with us! Today's original plan was for a longer recovery run on the cross country course, but we cut things a bit short. No group went longer than 18 minutes today, and there were a few stops for water and the sprinkler along the way.

In hot and humid conditions, your pace per mile can actually be the equivalent of 30-45 seconds faster. An 8:30 mile today was probably work about an 8:00 or 7:45 mile under normal conditions. We have to be careful to keep a recovery run as a recovery run, especially with our first meet coming up on Saturday.

Yesterday's workout on the track looks like a brilliant move now (sometimes you coach long enough to be lucky). We had cloud cover, a breeze and some sprinkles yesterday. The weather certainly abandoned us today. The excellent work that we put in yesterday will pay off...if we had tried that today the wheels would have fallen off in a hurry.

As I've told the kids for the last two days, consistency is key. We may have a lighter day here and there or a day when we're just not feeling it, but we can still get some running in and keep up the momentum in our training plan. We'll reset with a simple workout tomorrow morning and be ready to race for the medals on Saturday in Champaign.

Power through that second day of school!


Catch Up Blog Post - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday August 12-14, 2018

"I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework." - Lily Tomlin

I hope that your experiences so far this season have given you a lot more to think about than just running. We are building a team that care about and is committed to each other. The end goal of creating an XC family is the reward for some time doing our homework (workouts). All good teachers have a plan, and most good teachers are able to talk to their students about that plan in advance. I got a bit sidetracked earlier this week, so here's a recap.

Monday - Lydiard Hill Circuit

Speed + Strength = Hills

Arthur Lydiard is one of the giants in coaching in our sport, and his influence is still being felt today. Kinda cool when you consider that most of his athletes (Murray Halberg, Peter Snell, Barry Magee and John Davies) won their Olympic medals for New Zealand in the 1960s. Track Nerd Stat: Peter Snell's 1:44.3 for 800 meters in 1962 is still the New Zealand national record, and it was run on a GRASS track.

Lydiard believed that his athletes should build up their fitness with lots of runs on hilly terrain. The hill circuit is a classic combination of fast uphill running or bounding, a downhill jog recovery, some flat tempo running, and some wind sprints to finish off each set. We didn't use all the pieces of the circuit, but we did get 20 minutes of work in, which totaled about 8 x 80 yards of hills and 8 x 200 meters of jogging.

Tuesday - 110s

110 yards seems like an odd distance, but it's a distance that we've used for strides for a very, very long time. Athletes in the past would have done almost all of their workouts based on English distances (110, 220, 330, 440, 880, 1320 yards). When we first started the XC program at PBL Junior High in 1998, your coach was on that team. As part of our warmup EVERY day, we did 6 x 110 yard strides up the hill with a jog recovery down. By the time we stepped to the starting line at the state meet in 1999, we had two years worth of turnover and finishing speed in our legs. It paid off with a 5th place finish for our boys team.

Wednesday - Harry Potter Sorting Hat

Choice and chance are two very powerful forces in the world around us. Instead of the various houses in Harry Potter, our sorting hat was filled with 8 pieces of paper: 100, 200, 300, 400, Hard, Good, Build Up, Fresh/Easy. The athletes drew 8 sets of cards. For example, 200 + Build Up was one of the intervals.

Using words to describe our running is pretty powerful stuff. Sometimes we have to be able to run on feel, not with a watch. This is an effort-based interval system, which was mastered by Bob Schul to perfection in his 1964 Olympic win in the 5,000 meters (still the only American to win the 5,000 meters and he ran 37.1 for the last 300 meters on cinders). One of my former high school athletes used this system to run 10:02 for 3200 meters as a senior, and Bob Schul actually called him to discuss the training methods for about half an hour!

Why this workout?

1) Changing Paces

2) Changing Distances

3) Learning Racing Feel

Friday August 10, 2018

"Time after time." - Cyndi Lauper

We wrapped up a successful second week of practice with a 4 x 400 workout on the track. Before we even started I stressed a teachable moment: Eliminating distractions. With youth football, cheerleading, several practice visitors, and a few new teammates, it was quite easy to lose focus. They needed some redirection from me, but for the most part the team mastered the task. We won't normally have that kind of commotion at our practices, but it's very good practice for some big meets later in the season. Find a way to block out the noise, put blinders on, and go out and do your job.

The task at hand was a success. With a stopwatch and target time in hand, almost all of our team was able to improve upon their mile time from last Friday in some very hot and difficult conditions this evening. CONSISTENT lap times were CRUCIAL to complete the time that was asked for. Lesson learned for many of you. I keep stressing to the team that we are training and improving a little more each week. Next Saturday's meet will tell us a lot about what we're capable of. We'll be ready to compete. We'll be ready for the championship phase of our season when the time comes. Vets, think back to the long track season (10 weeks total) and when you ran your best. Trust the plan.

Some team members asked if any of our meets will be run in relay fashion...unfortunately that's a track only thing for us at the junior high level. There are some great examples at the high school and college level, however. The Manteno (and now Bishop Mac) Conditioner puts together partners from about 15 schools. The partners alternate running 1 mile at a time until they have each run three miles, and the lowest time wins. Coach Ken Klipp (a college teammate of Coach Brehm's at EIU) has put on the meet for nearly 40 years. A similar meet is the Hokum Karem at Wabash College in Indiana, which is a meet that was started in 1962! Our high school team at PBL has run a Panther Parlauff relay for the last several years as the opening meet of their season as well.

I'm looking forward to meeting with our parents and cross country family tomorrow for the practice/picnic/pool party.

It's a great day to be a Panther!

Thursday August 9, 2018

Steady as she goes...

A command to the helmsman to observe the compass direction on the present heading, and maintain that course.

Steady Runs are an Important Part of our Training:

  • They build aerobic strength
  • They make you a more efficient runner
  • They help us develop mental toughness for the demands of racing
  • The aid in our recovery from hard workouts
  • They allow us to do more work in the future

Wednesday August 8, 2018

"I'm working on a dream." - Bruce Springsteen

How much work can you get done in 10 minutes? A lot if you know what you're doing and trust exercise science. Lots of research from someone much smarter than coach (specifically French scientist Veronique Billat) shows that alternating hard and easy runs is an excellent way of improving running fitness.

In her studies, Billat found that runs of 30 sec./30 sec., 60 sec./60 sec. and 3 min/3 min alternating hard running (vVO2 Max in science terms) with recovery running were the most effective. We stuck to the 30 second progression for our version of Workout Wednesday on Winter Street. 8 x 30 seconds is a great workout for our team to practice at faster than mile race pace, get the heart rate up, become more comfortable at faster speeds, and develop some efficiency and pacing strategy.

We did an excellent job of making each 30 second run a consistent hard effort - not too fast, not too slow, but just right. Being able to run your race and not anyone else's is a key skill to have at any distance, but it is especially true of a 2 mile race. Tomorrow we'll get a long run in, which will prepare us for Friday's time trial workout.

Tuesday August 7, 2018

Tonight's practice was a good one. We gave the team a glimpse of a couple of possible new warmup routines (Orange and Green)...yes there are more colors in my repertoire than just blue and gold! Some of the new runners found themselves in new groups with our veterans so that we could work on pack running and team building.

Each group was given the task of a steady 15-20 minute run, with a few breaks as needed. Some got more of a break at each set of cones than others, depending on their skill set. What skills you ask? Why Rock, Paper, Scissors skills of course! Nothing like a little friendly competition to make recovery runs more interesting.

When the dust settled, Peyton was our Rock, Paper, Scissors team champion. No prize money. No trophies. Only bragging rights. All hail the king.

Monday August 6, 2018

We spent some of this evening's practice working on our REO Speedwagon warmup...also known as riding the storm out. Cultural reference #2 for this season!

Super proud of the way the kids adapted to the weather, stay focused, and were ready to roll when the rain/thunder/lightning had passed. We will always play it safe before risking a workout in inclement weather.

The veterans noticed that we added a wrinkle to our 200s workout today. Instead of working for a certain number of reps, we worked for a total amount of time. This method is a carry over from this weekend's long run assignments, which were 20-30 minutes depending on ability level. For the 200s, the kids were able to use a stopwatch to check their pace targets. Any amount of running, from race pace to old man jogging, counted as workout time. Any walking between reps was used to flush out the legs, but didn't count towards total running time. Most of our groups hit their 10-12 minute target for total work time with an elevated heart rate.

Look for a circuit workout tomorrow for a little bit of recovery before hills on Wednesday. Stay dry everybody!

Friday August 3, 2018

"It is the brain, not the heart or lungs, that is the critical organ." - Roger Bannister

Nice job on today's mile time trial. Lots of work still to do before our first meet, but I'm excited about our team's effort so far.

Enjoy your weekend and see you Monday!


Thursday August 2, 2018

"Be quick, but don't hurry." - John Wooden

Coach Wooden's quote is a perfect way of looking at cross country. Of course our goal is to be quick in a race, but it's the steps we take in the process that count.

We're not in a hurry to improve right here and right now. We are taking the season one workout and one week at a time, trusting that being quick (having a purpose and putting in good consistent effort) will win out in the end over hurrying (trying to take shortcuts along the way in our training plan).

Instant improvement would be nice, but life doesn't work that way. I want you all to be prepared to run your best tomorrow. A quick mile time trial not only helps determine what's work and what the next step is in our training, but it also gives us a glimpse of your potential in a two mile race in the future. The temptation will be to compare yourself to your teammates, great athletes of the past at PBL, or even yourself at this point last year. The main thing about the main thing is the main thing. Last year was last year because it was last year. Don't be in a hurry. Don't rush to conclusions based on tomorrow's results. We're in phase one of our training. There's still a lot of work to do and a lot of progress to be made. Let's see how far we've come in the first week!


Wednesday August 1, 2018

"I feel the need...The need for speed!" Maverick & Goose, Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun. Hands Across America. The birth of Coach Pacey. Yep, 1986 was a pretty good year. Now let's get this blog post back on topic!

Today's workout was definitely more speed-focused than yesterday's recovery circuit. Gold Warmup and our Running Drills are a bit more demanding, but that was intentional. As a wise old track coach once told me, if you're not sweating, you're not warmed up. We need to prepare our bodies for the workout ahead. I thought we did a nice job of learning some new drills, competing in Heads vs. Tails, and completing our first timed warm up of the season.

We partnered up and let The Dominos (minus Derek) guide us for a fartlek workout. For those of you in last year's 8th grade social studies class, Derek and the Dominos is a cultural reference...look it up!

A domino of Six and Two meant six cones run hard and two cones with an easy walking or jogging recovery. We ran five or six laps on the park road with a new domino for each group on each lap for a little variety in our speed changes. As Michael Buble once sang, I guess it's half timing and the other half's luck. Overall, the team put together a nice effort. We're making progress. I hope all of you are looking forward to Friday's first time trial.


Tuesday July 31, 2018

“The dice of Zeus always fall luckily.”

– Sophocles (497 – 406 BC)

Sophocles knew what he was talking about...sometimes life is a roll of the dice. Today's workout presented each of our team groups with a scenario: How many cones do we have to run to? How many core exercises and/or which ones should be do? Who do we take points away from? Do we risk our points or stay with what we rolled?

The teams that didn't win after 20 minutes of running will tell you that it all came down to luck, and theirs was bad! As I told the team at the beginning of practice, our training plan is anything but a roll of the dice. It is a plan for every day from now until the end of the season. Will we have to improvise, adapt and overcome? Absolutely. But we should always trust the plan to get us where we want to go, which is the state finals race at Maxwell Park in October.

Take the chance out of the equation. Eat right. Hydrate. Get some sleep. Help your teammates. Do your homework. Listen. Follow Directions.

Don't leave the little things to chance. Doing the little things rights will lead to big things in the future, for you and the team.

Tomorrow's Workout: Domino Fartlek!


Monday July 30, 2018

"There's something about Christmas time, Something about Christmas time, That makes you wish it was Christmas everyday."

- Bryan Adams (go ask your parents who he is)

The first day of practice is like Christmas in July. It's a day that I look forward to every year. I'm excited to watch our team grow this season, and I'm looking forward to seeing athletes work towards their potential - in running and in life. The relationships that you build this year will always take priority over results. You have a whole high school (and possibly college) career to reach your ceiling.

Each year is a little bit different, and I stressed to the team that we'll be "sharpening" our training a little bit at a time throughout the season. We'll start as a dull pencil and hopefully end up a very fine-tuned writing machine, metaphorically speaking. It won't always be easy and it won't always look the prettiest, but we have to trust that the end result will be the right tool to get the job done. Please see this year's team letter for more of my take on the yearly theme.

A very busy year of teaching and coaching in 2017-2018 has given me a much clearer perspective for the 2018-2019 season: Quality over quantity in all that we do.

I hope the team is ready to take advantage of an excellent opportunity to build our program. The experience that we have this year will have an impact - both at the junior and the high school level - for a long time to come. Let's leave a mark, whether it's in pencil, pen, blood, sweat, tears, emotions, relationships, or expressions. Let's embrace doing some new things in training, in teamwork, and in taking care of business.

Make it a great first week!