Monday, February 26, 2007

Runner's Roost Shout-Out

Hey, Gotta get up to Runner's Roost! Very, very, very helpful with everything we needed for CHS track. Even hooked old man Seppala up with a new pair of kicks! Watch out, 5 minute mile, I'm coming to get ya!

Friday, February 23, 2007


Check out this link! Especially the last sentence in the third paragraph.

The "Trough"

A lot of athletes were pretty tired yesterday during the work-out. Complaints of very sore muscles, no pick-up, and out-of-shapeness were all hard. Let me try and explain why you felt that way. Because it was expected.

We are in a "trough" cycle of our training. That means we are in a training cycle where our legs are tired and a little broken down. On the inside, our muscles are spending most of their energy getting stronger and recovering, not spending that energy to go fast. In addition, a lot of us had a good long weekend of rest, with little running, which further caused our legs to feel "dead."

So, if you felt this way during Thursday's work-out, relax, don't worry about it! It was a work-out designed to try and snap some life back into your legs. Many of you "broke through" and felt better as the work-out went along. That is great!! All of you will feel fast today, which is even better!

But, prepare to get your butts kicked in Speedball today!!!

The Beauty of Gossip & Weekend Practice

So, one parent tells another parent that my blog is ripping on kids for not participating in winter track. Not only is this false, (you can go back and look it up, my personal ethics prevent me from deleting anything after it has been posted), but even if I did say it, so what? It's my blog, it's my opinion, right?

For the record, I assume kids that don't do winter track are busy in something else. That's all.

However, the real odd part of all this is that neither parent actually had read my blog. (I mean, if they had, they would realize that I do not rip kids that don't do winter track.) One person heard it from another, who heard it from another, who might have read the blog, and might not of. And the parent who heard it second or third hand, decides that the posting is inappropriate in some way, and then tells other people his/her thoughts.

The lesson in all of this is: Before you make an opinion of something, get all the facts! Otherwise, when the truth comes out, you might look very silly and short-sighted.

In other news, practice for this weekend:
One day is a 60 minute run on the Cherry Creek Trail on your own.
The other day is cross-training.
Be ready for Spenst Hill x 6 on Monday!!! It will be a very intense work-out!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Missing Practices II

Well, yesterday's turn-out made me happy, to say the least. Our work ethic is still there, which is good. In addition, Coach Hawk and I solidified the attendance policy, and it will be enforced this year!


We expect you to be at practice everyday, dressed and on time. Our practices begin at 2:55 with a brief team meeting and end approximately at 5:00. If you are kept after school by a teacher, administrator or another school related activity you must bring a note signed by that teacher or administrator to be excused for being late. You may not leave practice until dismissed by your coach.

Missing Practice/Meets Policy:

PRACTICE- If an athlete has an unexcused absence, the athlete will not be able to participate in varsity or non-varsity competition that week.

The only excused absences are when an athlete is not in school that day, when the athlete has a signed doctor's note explaining the absence, or if the athlete has pre-arranged the absence with his/her coach.

Injuries and illness does not exempt you from practice.

As always, communication with the coach is key, exceptions can and will be made, but only at the coaches’ discretion.

MEETS- If you have an unexcused absence from a meet, you will not be permitted to compete in the next two meets. Two unexcused absences from meets will result in dismissal from the team.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Missing Practices

I was pretty fired up about this yesterday, but by today I have calmed down. I am going to try to make it short and sweet.

Texting me the afternoon of a very difficult, but important practice, with a lame excuse of a runny nose, is not appropriate on this team. It does not sit well with me at all. I try to assume the best, but it is difficult to do. Missing practice for any reason at all is inappropriate in my book, but I understand my book is not the one everyone reads. However, since this is voluntary practice until next Tuesday, there is nothing I can do about it. (Except fume silently.) However, I expect zero complaining from athletes in May if they are not racing up to their standards. Every practice is important, missing even a few in February might result in sub-standard performances.

Once next Tuesday hits, though, the rules change slightly. In my humble opinion, missing practice for any reason does not cut it. If you are sick, show up and I will send you home. If you are injured, show up and help the team in another way. If you have a lot of homework, too bad. Manage your time better. If you have try-outs or practice for another sport, than you are telling me track is not important to you. If there is a ACT session, or something that is a one-time only occurrence, than the rules can be bent. But, that would be the coaches decision, not the athletes.

Consequences for unexcused absences are as follows: (In my mind the only real "excused" absence is one that comes with a doctor's note.) You don't race that week. If you are loaded down with homework and you need to skip the long run to get it done, then you should miss the meet too, and get ahead of your work. If have a runny nose and a scratchy throat on interval day, then rest up during the day of the meet as well. As a teacher, I have homework as well. I get sick as well. And I still will be at practice. Unexcused practice = no racing that weekend, no matter who you are, no matter what race it is.

This is why my consequences might seem harsh, and why I am still a little livid about this. I have planned every single work-out, from January to May, in order to get you as fast as possible for the Regional Championship. I have four disciplines I am accountable for, with about 50 kids under my watch. Every single work-out has a specific reason for being it is, for being as intense as it is, for being as long as it is, for being where it is. When kids miss a work-out for a negligible reason, and then expect me to adjust my schedule, (as well as the schedules of 49 other kids) that is simply unacceptable. I have too much on my plate to make up 50 individualized work-outs every day. It is impossible. I pride myself on coaching the hardest working team in the state. I will still work hard, I would only hope that the athletes will work hard as well. The system I have devised works, I simply will not change it all around for a few achy, sniffling athletes.

So, either trust me and my judgment, or not. Doing your own thing will simply result in you not racing. I have direct control over that. Following my direction will result in you racing very fast. I have control over that as well.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pictures from XC Nationals (in reverse order)

Second Place Overall

Mr. Chaparral placing an important call

In the Distance

Dani and Coach Hawk

Good background

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Buddha is Back!!

Well, it's official.

Coach Laster is the assistant distance coach for the 2007 track season!

He will be at practice on Wednesdays, and at the meets on Saturdays.

Listen to his knowledge:

"When chopping wood and carrying water, just chop wood and carry water"
--Buddhist saying on being engaged

Monday, February 5, 2007

On The Importance of Hills

Many moons ago, on a night similar to this one, I couldn't sleep at all. No, not because the hated Colts had just won the Super Bowl, but because I was sick with this weird skin rash.

It's a gross story. Skip way ahead if you're easily grossed out. My house-mates and I had taken in this stray cat. We named him Big Mac, cause he liked Big Macs, and it was the summer of McGuire and Sosa. Anyways, the cat slept on my bed, and I contracted scabies from it! (Yes you can contract it from sheets and stuff, get your mind out of the gutter!) I couldn't get any sleep at all by the time the mite manifested itself later in the fall. (The cat had run away by his time.) I was up all night, every night, itching and scratching. Some nights I would fall asleep, but wake up with open wounds I had carved into myself. It was pretty disgusting, my girlfriend at the time was on my case constantly to go see the doctor, but I was in college, who could pay for a doctor?

Anyways, where does this all lead, other than to constant ridicule from all three people that read this blog? Well, it leads to the story of the one hill practice I missed in my entire college ski career. And the work-out that inspired me to create Spenst Hill for the distance runners at C.H.S.

Every Tuesday, in the fall, the ski team at UNH would jog over to Beech Hill. It was a 15 minute jog to get there, but about a 30 minute jog home. (It wasn't an easy work-out, I tell ya!) The hill was unpaved, with a rocky jeep road that led up to a water tower. There were three paths to get to the top, we usually concentrated on the south path. Once there, our coach would put us through the most grueling workouts I could ever imagine. Long 10 minute intervals of constant bounding, short bursts of power hops, endless repetitions of skate bounding until you had the technique perfect. It was a Tuesday tradition, from the 30 minute sit-up routines at the top to slapping the gate at the bottom before you started your next sprint up the hill. I actually loved Beech Hill, it was a test of fitness, to see if you could hang with the big boys, to see how you were progressing. It was "ski-specific", which made sense to me. I liked work-outs that made sense. Still do.

So, during the fall of my "outbreak", I show up at practice having not had more than a few hours of sleep a night in about a week. The weekend's training sessions were rained out, but that extra rest didn't help me at all. I looked like I was a ghost. I don't recall if my coach said anything before we began the jog over, but the next thing I really remember is lying in a heap at the bottom of the hill after just one interval. I guess the lack of sleep, the constant turmoil of scratching & itching, and the stress of having some weird disease finally got to me.

Now, in high school, if an athlete collapsed, you would have a coach down there immediately, plus a trainer, and a cell phone, etc. etc. Not that way in college, though, especially for a senior male. My coach was halfway up the hill, I didn't even think he noticed. My teammates were continuing the work-out, ignoring me, so I really had no choice but to haul my scabied ass up, and bound up the hill.

Halfway up, there was a rock where my coach always stood to offer critique, to cajole us on, to coach, essentially. When I got to the halfway rock, he pulled me aside, literally, by the arm, and said, "You're done." I had never heard that, so I kind of laughed, and said something along the lines of "Yeah, I know I look like sh*t." and tried to take off to finish the interval. "No." He still had my arm. "You're done." And he motioned for me to take a seat next to him. And with that, I didn't finish the first hill workout of my career. I was devastated, embarrassed and pissed off, all at once.

There is a silver lining to this tale, however. While sitting next to my coach, watching what he did and what the athletes did, and rally focusing on what was going on in the workout, I learned how truly important hill work-outs were. I mean, I knew they were important, but I never really knew why. I had never noticed it before, but there were so many things that went into a successful hill work-out. Everything from length of intervals, to form/technique, to recovery time. It was a complicated recipe, to say the least! It was sitting there, next to my coach, trying not to scratch my arms off, was where I fully realized that concept.

Which leads me to the real point of this post, why do hill workouts? Why do Spenst Hill? Especially when the track is flat? Three reasons: strength, form, mental toughness.

Strength: Spenst Hill is perfect for developing explosiveness in your running muscles. Explosiveness is very critical in racing, as the pace can change at any time, surges are common, and a race is often won or lost with a finishing kick. Hill work also develops your overall top speed, by allowing your muscles to work harder for longer. Getting up a hill quickly requires a high power-to-weight ratio, meaning you need to be very strong, but not very heavy. Ask Haile Gebrselassie or Lance. That is the ideal build for a successful distance runner. Light and strong.

Hills also provide the opportunity to build strength and power without a big risk of injury from over-use. Instead of having unnatural weight on your body to help stress your muscles, you have the pull of gravity.

Finally, hill work is an efficient work session. You get a lot of bang for your buck physiologically. Spenst Hill stresses your muscles in so many different ways, ways that would take much longer if you were in a gym or on the track. I know Spenst Hill seems long, but it is actually a short, efficient work-out!

Form: Form is so overlooked in distance running. "Right, left, right, left; running is easy!" I hear people say this all the time. ("Then why do you suck at it?" is my silent mental response.)

But, just like any sport, correct form is a free way to getting faster . Correct form requires no extra oxygen, no extra strength. It doesn't make you more tired, it requires no superfluous energy expenditure. Poor form is readily exposed on Spenst Hill. It is also easily corrected on Spenst Hill. If athletes can concentrate on form, even though we aren't technically "running", then those form adjustments will automatically be transferred over to the track. Solid foot plant, proper arm swing, correct ankle angle, these are just some of the "little" things can be ingrained into your brain on the hill. Then you don't have to think about them when you are racing, they just come naturally!

Mental Toughness: The unknown ingredient in a racer. The one thing that can make or break a season. Some people like to say that you either have mental toughness, or you don't, that you are born with it. Hogwash, I say. Mental toughness is something that can be developed, just like any other aspect of racing.

This is why I like Spenst Hill. On the days when it is freezing cold out, or the cold North Wind is rushing through, or when we have a record high temperature that day, we are still heading out there. Make the conditions tougher than they already are. Bring it on! Make it dusty and dirty, make it make it slippery and icy. The conditions and the work-out can;t be too tough, in my opinion. Because this is where you train your brain to succeed. You can train your brain to get you through this tough work-out, knowing that no one else is out on the hill, and that the track will never be this tough. You have to practice being tough, you have to convince your neurons that you can do anything, you can beat anyone, because you are putting in the time doing the toughest work-out around. The body will go wherever the brain takes it. Hills simply make you tough, and you can't name one good runner who doesn't do hills regularly. You just can't.

So, the three people reading my blog, on Monday afternoons, come on out to Spenst Hill, behind C.H.S. We will be there, just like we have been for four years, training hard, training smart. Just don't run us over if we are lying in a heap at the bottom of the hill!

One more thing, I finally got those scabies cleared up. My coach sent me to one of his college buddies who ended up becoming a dermatologist. He didn't charge me, but he gave me this pink cream I had to smear over my entire body every day for a week. Not fun. But, it killed the scabies, although I think the whole ordeal killed my relationship with my girlfriend too!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Random Thoughts

Wow, lots of ideas running through my head this morning, let's see if I can get them all onto "paper" before I forget them.

I am glad that my blog is more widely read. Got a comment from an opposing coach yesterday who says he reads it, and seems to appreciate it! I need one of of those "hits" counters.

On my interval charts, I got a little freshman who is rapidly ascending past my experienced seniors. The only reason is that the little freshman has been racing, while my seniors have been skiing. Lest we forget, this is a track team, and you will be on the varsity team, the Mt. SAC team, the Regional team, based on your mile results, not your slalom results. I love skiing as much as the next guy, probably more, but in everyone's life, some form of sacrifice must be made.

Hopefully, my receiver is coming tomorrow. This has been such a hassle. I will be very glad when it is finally here.

Some of these kids at the indoor meets, the ones who are running times that are consistent with the times the traditional powerhouses run in mid-April. Don't you get the feeling that speed work in January is a little early? I mean, even the best runners in the country only have two to three good races a year.

Name two members of the Boston Red Sox, and call Coach Laster. Trust me, it is worth it.

I am not watching the Super Bowl today, I am still hurting over the Pats loss two weeks ago. I didn't watch any of the Marlins-Yankees World Series either. I think Peyton Manning works for the company that sold me my receiver.