Sometimes it is better to take a step back and think about what changes could improve performance rather than continuing to do the things that don’t produce the desired results. Sometimes one is put in a position to take a timeout and analyze. Such was the scenario with my 16 year old son, a passionate runner with a tremendous work ethic (but limited raw talent), whose performance had flattened over the past couple of high school seasons.
Hobbled by a series of injuries during his high school sophomore year, including an IT band injury at the beginning of his 2012 outdoor track campaign, my son’s times had improved only modestly since his freshman year. Going into his junior year, he felt pressure to perform and invested heavily in his 2012 summer training, running almost 700 miles over 12 weeks. He ran well early in his 2012 cross country season, unfortunately he was the 8th man and missed qualifying for the varsity team (perennially one of the top teams in Connecticut and often in New England). His teammates showed substantial progress during the season, and my son dropped to 12th man by the conference meet, running in the junior varsity meet. Not what he had anticipated as he put in the work during the summer.
The final, crushing blow came during indoor track time trials, with a stacked distance squad competing for few slots, and the 1 mile time trial not my son’s forte. He missed the last spot on the team by 2 seconds. He was devastated. His coach told me that it was a heart-wrenching decision not to include my son on the team, but perhaps there was a silver lining. An opportunity to step back, reflect, and rebuild.
While my son continued training with his indoor track team, he was not allowed to compete at high school meets (he was afforded the opportunity to manage and attend meets, and earn some money toward his college education). And his training program was modified to focus on rebuilding his aerobic base after a taxing cross country season and focus on peaking for the outdoor season. The coach recommended that my son compete in a couple of open track meets, both to measure progress and to stay motivated during the cold Northeast winter.
Over the past 16 weeks since November 1, he ran almost 900 miles (average about 55 miles per week), with 4 weeks at 60 miles. Each week included a weekly long run of 10-12 miles. He put a lot of money in the bank, and made only two withdrawals: He ran the 3000 m at the Armory Youth Holiday Classic on December 22 and again at the Armory Youth Meet on February 18 (for both open meets he competed unattached). No further races are planned until his outdoor track season.
The results are positive. My son ran a 11:20 for the 3200 m in his last 2012 outdoor track meet (after recovery from his IT band injury), and at the February 18 Armory meet, ran a “relaxed” indoor 3000 m in 10:11 (10:56 when converted to 3200 m). That is a 24 second PR from outdoors to indoors; most runners are satisfied if they can open their indoor season with the same time as their last outdoor season. Watching him race, I think he could have run the equivalent of 10:50 at the Armory meet, which would have been a 30 second PR. Now he needs to continue building his aerobic base, stay injury free, and gain speed and racing fitness for the outdoor season. My son would need to cut 40 seconds off his converted Armory time to meet the current Connecticut state qualifying time of 10:15 for the 3200 m by the end of his 2013 outdoor season.
What this shows is that when given the opportunity to reflect, analyze and correct, every runner has options. I am proud that my son – while initially devastated because he was not a member of the indoor track team – seized the opportunity and with the guidance of his coach put together a rebuilding campaign that produced positive, early results. And equally important, restored his confidence and brought the fun back into his running.
2012 Southern Connecticut Conference Cross Country Championships: warming up with the team
Start of the high school boys junior varsity race
Running in the pack
Struggling late in the race
2012 Armory Youth Holiday Classic: waiting in the holding area before the start of the 3000 m
Moving up each lap of the 3000 m…
Passing yet another runner…
Attacking to move up…
Lapping the slower runners in the heat
Finishing the 2012 Armory Youth Holiday Classic 3000 m
2013 Armory Youth Meet: Looking relaxed during second Armory meet on way to 10:11 PR