Reflecting on long season – standing at 800m start of WCC Conference Championships
As we embark on the 2014 Fall Cross Country season, I thought I would write a short, long-overdue retrospective of my younger son’s 2014 Middle School Outdoor Track season. He started off the track season with two huge PRs (read here and read here), running the 1600m in 5:27.11 and the 800m in 2:32.45 in the first meet, significant improvements over his indoor track times. His goal was to lower the times to 5:20 and sub-2:30 by the end of the season.
My son was able to confirm his 1600m PR with a 5:27.99 at the WCC Conference Championships (where he doubled with a 2:30.33 in the 800m) and lower his 800m PR to 2:30.06 at the Connecticut Middle School State Championships (after running the 1600m). His assessment (accurate but nonetheless painful to hear from a 12-year old) was that the season was “flat” despite working hard and staying healthy. What I remind him (and myself) is that the times are an output from a process, and that we have to evaluate the process and what we learned in the process.
So what did we learn? My son participates in a middle school running program, which is focused on the “average” runner, and although the Coach worked with my son, the program lacked an “elite” peer group to challenge, motivate and benchmark my son. He ran a half-dozen high school practices, with the same experience – no peer group as he was not quite fast enough to run with the “fast” group and too fast to run with the “slow” group (running workouts solo). The middle school running program also differed from our overall training approach, which is more aerobic, higher volume (lower intensity) to focus on long-term development, and instead is an approach with lower volume and higher intensity (more anaerobic). At the conclusion of the season, my son expressed a desire to go back to what has worked well in the past and focus on long-term development.
Although not (yet) reflected in the results but something we will continue to focus on during training are race strategy and tactics that his Coach worked on during track season. Learning how to race a fast race for time vs. a slower, tactical race for finish place, how to start well and control the race from the start, how to run mid-pack and make a move to kick in the later stages of a race, are all things my son learned that he will perfect over years to come and will be important throughout his middle and high school running (as well as college if he continues).
A long season ended with the Junior Olympics (Connecticut Association meet) on June 22, with my son running another double, this time 1500m in 5:09 (estimated) and 800 in 2:31.44 for 4th and 3rd place, respectively. This qualified him for the Regional JO’s, which he did not attend because of vacation plans. Although timing for the JO meet was fully-automatic timing (FAT), my son finished the 1500m in about 5:09 (5:31 converted to 1600m) but the official results show 4:54.01 (not accurate!). Having run the 2014 JO’s in the 13-14 year-old age group (as a 12 year-old), my son will run in the same age group in 2015 and set himself the goal to win both events.