06 November 2009

Quiet Week After the XC Big Finale

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Sadly, my mileage total for the week is a virtually non-existent one mile. And I admit, I didn’t even measure that, so it might have been short. And I didn’t even pen a blog posting. But a down week now and then isn’t a bad thing, a cool down, since it came after a big one.

The week prior was in all truth, pretty exciting. The kids' team I coach at my daughter’s middle school capped off their season with two meets in a week. In their first meet of the week, a dual against a local charter school, well, they lost again. In fact, they’d lost every meet before then as well this year. In fact, if I were an NFL coach, I’d have been canned after the first week or two. But the reality is, I was more proud of them that Monday than ever. They came up short on the team score, but every single one of them came up on the winning side of their personal performances. In a season that lasted a mere five weeks – and that included practices, where we could only meet a couple times a week at most, it’s hard to really make a difference in their fitness levels. But it worked. They all got faster. Some by a bit, some by a lot. They all got the lesson that this is a life sport, and can be a ticket to good health forever. At least I think they did.

A few days later we trundled all the way to far off Worcester for the Central Massachusetts Catholic Conference Championship meet. Remember, these are middle school kids, and we do this on zero budget, so to get them to a real live invitational style meet was, well, as we say here in New England, wicked cool for them. Two hundred kids from eight Catholic schools. And an absolutely perfect fall day. Cool, sunny, brilliant colors along side Lake Quinsigamond, simply perfect.

And they loved it. They truly had a good time, when they weren’t inflicting pain on themselves during the race. These kids have really shown heart, and that day was no exception. On the starting line, we noticed that one of the boys had written himself a note on his hand earlier in the day. Next thing you know, half the team was writing inspirations to themselves on their hands like “Don’t stop!” and,“Left, Right!” – reminiscent of the famous blonde joke where they take away her MP3 player and, lacking the continuous mantra of, “Breathe in, breathe out,” she passes out.

And then a really cool thing happened.

They didn’t lose. For the first time this season, they didn’t come in last.

No, they didn’t win, not as a team (don’t be silly). But they came in sixth of the eight teams. They beat two teams. I guess Coach gets to keep his highly paid job (note to humorless IRS agents: that’s a joke). I’ve said all year that it’s not about winning, it’s about fun and fitness. But not coming in last was a sweet cap to the season, on top of the sweet cap of three individual medalists.

Our top boy, who’s won everything he’s looked at since the second race of the season (and really only didn’t win that first race because, in my view, he didn’t know he was supposed to) ran away from a hundred other boys to win the whole thing. Powerfully. With four tenths to go, as he passed me, I warned him that Number Two was closing slightly. The burst he put on up the final hill would bring tears to any coach. Psychological devastation. Number Two knew he was beat. And Nick cruised home to gold.

Perhaps even more pleasing was Meaghan’s second place age group medal, both because her upward trend through the season made it completely deserved, and because we weren’t expecting it. When they passed through the 6th, 5th, 4th places in her group, we figured she hadn’t medaled. Then the announcement of second place. Shock and awe. Justice served.

And tops on the pleasing scale? Without question, Ethan’s age group medal. He’s just in 5th grade, but this kid easily had the biggest heart on the team. Kids like him are why people like me enjoy this job so much.

All of the kids on the team gave me great joy to have the chance to work with them an influence their lifelong view on fitness just a little bit. I say thanks to all of them.

So, what about that one mile week for me? Well, it was good to have last week’s happiness to carry me over, because I’ve been rather bummed personally. Early last week I yanked a tendon just north of my right ankle. How? Dunno, just one of those things. Running along with a surprisingly and pleasantly fast co-worker, bang, funny pain, a couple dozen strides, it was gone. But over the next couple days, it was clear I’d done something. I tried to run through it for a few days, but by the weekend realized it wasn’t going to heal with continued training. So I’ve been on forced furlough for a few days. This morning I hit the roads to see how it was doing, and it wasn’t doing all that well, so after one lonely mile, I’m back on the couch for a couple more days. Not debilitating, mind you, but with no big races looming (that upcoming Thanksgiving 5K is not what you’d call high pressure), there’s no point in forcing the issue. Let it rest. Have a quiet week.
And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where it’s been quiet this week.

Shout Out to That Pesky Butterfly: Check out the comment on my last posting where Sean, from the Police Chase 5K back in September, checked in from – where? – Columbia. No, not the town in Maryland, the country. Thanks for the note, Sean! The calf is fine these days, replaced by the ankle, as noted. Aw, it’s always something… With your posting I can now claim readership on three continents! Drop me a direct line at secondlap@comcast.net so I can send you that spreadsheet.

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