It’s been two weeks since our cross country season ended and I’m not sure that a day has passed where I didn’t think, “What could we have done differently…what could we have done better?”
I always think that the best time to review the season is when it’s the most fresh in your mind, and for me, that was the seven hour drive home after the Conference Championships in October. Because I had been sick leading into Conference I chose to drive myself to the meet to spare the team from catching whatever I had on the chance that I was contagious…this afforded me a lot of ‘windshield’ time through the endless plains of west Texas.
Our first goal, every year, is to win the Conference Championship. When that didn’t happen I knew that we’d have a nearly impossible task of trying to qualify for the National Championships. This immediately set my mind to running through what we had done and who we had become over the previous year.
Just a year before we had dominated the Conference, and while our Conference merged and doubled in size over the next year we should not have had that much of a drop off. But, as I looked back over the course of the year there were a lot of cracks that I could see forming in the foundation of who we were and in how I coach.
We were a team that suddenly became very young over the last year. Great runners were graduating out of our team and while we knew it was coming, we hadn’t prepared well enough to be missing so much experience and leadership.
This sudden youth movement also meant that we were a team that was not training at a very high level in regards to volume. When you’ve had years and years of experience and older runners the training volume is very high…so, when that is gone and inexperience floods in, most likely you won’t be training at that high of a level.
For example, in 2018 (just a year ago)…my top seven boys averaged around 95 miles/week, while my top seven ladies averaged around 60 miles/week for their high weeks. This fall, the averages were 67 miles/week for the men and 41 miles/week for the ladies at their highest. We are talking a difference of 20-30 miles/week for the my top seven men and women in the amount of volume they were running.
With the lower mileage, I also made the mistake of removing one of our key workouts. Throughout the years, no matter how many miles per week my team was running, we always ran progression runs. Typically every other week we would go out to Kiest Park and run 6-10 miles progressive for the women and 8-14 miles progressive for the men. For some reason, mainly over-analyzing, I removed this key session from the training recipe this season.
And finally…if you know me, then you know that I love tempo running. Unfortunately, after a struggled attempt at a tempo run this year…I basically removed them from the training. Primarily out of a fear of ‘wasted’ days…but primarily because I tried to take the short-cut of running faster repeat sessions to hide what we were struggling in. This is a major mistake…and probably the biggest that I made this season. Bob Larsen (Meb’s coach) once said, in regards to workouts, “If we just ran tempos and nothing else that we’d probably run pretty fast.” I wholeheartedly agree.
So, there you have it. That’s my reflection. We were young (inexperienced), not running very much, and neglected the tried-and-true sessions that we’ve always relied upon. But, the thing is, I like this TEAM and I like the makeup of this TEAM and while I don’t want to make any predictions…you just watch, I can almost guarantee you that we’ll be one of the most, if not the most improved teams in the Conference and in the Region next year.