To achieve athletic goals requires improvement over past performance. Improvement requires consistency in training. Consistency is possible assuming an athlete is healthy. Learned that from youth coach Mick Grant. Simple? Read on!
My 12-year old son has several goals for this cross country season, and he built a solid aerobic base over the summer to train and race hard this fall. He was runner-up at both the Wilton XC Invitational on September 13, and the Brewster Bear Classic XC Invitational on September 20. Then he became sick.
Actually he did not feel well 2 days before the Brewster meet, and ran when we should have discussed holding out. He faded late in the race, which was a sign that he was not 100%. Three weeks later he was much better and easily won his home XC meet on October 8. He was excited to race the best middle school runners in New England at the Wickham XC Invitational on the famous and challenging Wickham Park course on October 11. We woke up at 6 am to drive 1 1/2 hours to Wickham, with a steady downpour and temperatures in the 40’s dampening the excitement. He ran well and placed 31st, but again faded late in the race. Although my son changed into warm and dry clothes immediately after the race, he was sick again the next day. Again, we should have discussed holding him out because of the risk of a relapse.
We learn from mistakes. And all is not lost. My son and I discussed – and he agreed – to miss a home meet and the Conference Championships (latter was held on October 27). His goal was to race the Connecticut Middle School State Championship at Wickham on November 1. We watched the weather all week, and the forecast was bad. It was deja vu with rain, wind up to 20 mph, and cold temperatures in the 40’s. He decided not to race. Instead we ran an easy 6 miles in Waveny Park dressed in layers, followed by a hot shower, stretching, and a hot chocolate. Looking at the States results, he could have placed in the top 20. But we decided that to improve, he must train consistently, and to train consistently, he must be healthy.
Although he has achieved running success, it has been a frustrating season for him, and he has learned that a runner must take care of his health and his body. And that sometimes there are short-term sacrifices to achieve long-term success. Next up are Junior Olympics on November 16 at White Woods Memorial in Litchfield, Connecticut, and if he qualifies, JO Regionals in Augusta, Maine. He will be healthy and ready.