Archive for the ‘cross country’ Category

>An article I wrote for the high school newspaper about our Cross Country team: (I’ve removed the last names of the team members)

The Aztec Cross Country team started practicing in July, when the temperatures are over 110 degrees. Because a cross country race is three miles long, the team builds up their endurance and stamina by increasing their running mileage up to eight to 10 miles. That is all at one time. In order to beat the heat practice starts really early all summer long. While the rest of the high school is enjoying their summer break by sleeping until noon, cross country runners rise at 5:00 am, run for a couple hours, do some drills, and strength work. Most will admit that a nap is involved sometime after that.
In order to build strength for running, hill training is incorporated into the workouts.  For example, one day the team will run to the top of the Bump and Grind. On another day, they will run from College of the Desert up to the Palm Desert cross. One of the favorite workouts consists of hill repeats in the “Valley of the Champions.” A favorite of the coaches, anyway.
As the season approaches, speed training is incorporated into the workouts. This can be 800 meter repeats on the track, or an interval workout on the roads. They basically consist of the runners pushing themselves as hard as they can for the given distance. It is very, very hard.

Another important aspect of cross country training in the desert, is to incorporate some heat training.  After all, the first DVL meet is held in mid-September, when temperatures can hit 110 at race time. So, practice is moved to the afternoon, and, slowly at first, the team becomes adapted to the desert heat.

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand how cross country teams score. It is not as simple as win/lose. Three all league meets are held. This year, all seven teams in the DVL compete against each other at each meet. The races are scored by adding up the numbers of the placement of the first five runners. 
In addition to the three league meets, the team travels every Saturday to a variety of “invitational” meets and competes against schools from all over the country. On October 23, the Aztecs will participate in the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational, the biggest cross country meet in the US and will compete against the best high school athletes in the country.

This year, the boys’ varsity team consists of captain Connor, who has been putting up some impressive numbers this year, setting a personal best time, and finishing sixth overall at the first DVL meet. Co-captain Sanket has been setting personal records as well. Other returning varsity runners include Jordan J., Luke, and Blake. Jordan R., is a promising newcomer who has already taken minutes off his race time. Jerry, Matt, Stefan, Chris, and Nick have had solid performances which point to a promising future for the team.
The girls’ varsity team is captained by Alex, who also leads the Aztec girls on the field. She has taken minutes off her race times from last year and finished 9th overall in the first DVL meet. Returning runner Jazmine has been impressive as well, improving her times from last year. Newcomers Ana and Morgan improve at each race, and they are supported by Taryn, Joelle, Raquel, and Tessa.


Our High School is proud to host the second DVL meet on October 13. We will be racing at Civic Center Park and we hope that you will come out and support the team and your school.

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>We had our first cross country meet of the season last Saturday, the Palm Springs Challenge. Obviously, running in Palm Springs in early September is the most challenging part of the event, where temperatures tend to be in the 90s by 9:00 am on their way to the low 100s.

During the week before the event, the weather forecast looked promising, with highs in the 90s and lows in the 60s (where’s my jacket?). As so often happens, though, as the event grew closer, the forecast grew higher, so that by Saturday morning we were expecting a high of around 104. It was nice and cool for a while. With the first race going off at 8:00 am, the varsity girls teams were able to enjoy mid-seventies. It heated up quickly after that though.

Wow, I just realized I wrote two paragraphs about the weather. Time to move on and talk about the event, but let’s just say, the heat wasn’t anything we haven’t been training in for the last three months.

The Palm Springs Challenge is a fairly small invitational event, with about 10 teams competing this year. We’ve been coming here for the last four or five years. Because it is close, we save money on transportation (important these days for any school sport that isn’t football). Plus we have an opportunity to “scope out” our league competition. In addition to Palm Springs, three other schools out of our seven school league were at the event. And as much as I complain about having to run in the heat, it is actually good for the team. We live in the desert, we train in the desert, so we have to race in the desert. (They will get rewarded in a few weeks, we will be in Huntington Beach on October 16 and we always head to the beach for a couple hours after the race).

The girls’ varsity raced at 8:00, followed by the boys at 8:30. For those who don’t know cross country, the race distance is three miles (sometimes 3.1–it depends on the course). For those who know a little about cross country, or who ran on the east coast over hills, through trees, and jumping over streams, running in the desert is a whole lot different. While our high school is fortunate to have a race course at a local park, most schools’ courses basically run loops around the campus. This means lots of turns and lots of concrete.

As coaches, Alan and I were pleased with our team’s performance at their first meet. There were a couple of standout performances, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Running and racing is all about training properly and peaking at the right time, so we expect to see that improvement over the next several weeks. Our first league meet, which is a cluster meet of all the schools in the league, is in a week.

Wish us luck.

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>Just a quick update on my last day of vacation. I packed so much into the day you will think you’re reading a report of the whole vacation!

The day started early, as usual. I have been lax in taking my dogs running lately. Ironically, I run a lot less during cross country season, as do my dogs. I have to head out early to practice (I don’t take the dogs with me, we usually run near home), most days I am coaching the workout, not participating in it. The exception in our long run days and the summer “Bump & Grind” workouts (two miles up/two miles down–a real butt kicker). Because I am usually in a hurry to get to these 5:30 am workouts, my poor dogs get short shrift, lucky to even get a one mile run before I leave.

So with no cross country practice on Monday morning (first day of school), I was able to run three miles with my dogs. They would have been happy to run longer, but I also had a bike ride planned and there is a limit to my athletic capabilities.  In any case, they loved their run, as seen by their happy faces below:

By now, it was about 5:30 am.  Next up, my bike ride. After quickly changing clothes, checking tire pressure, eating a little breakfast, I was out the door by about 6:00 am for a 25 mile ride. Remarkably (because it was August 30), it was only about 68 degrees outside, chilly when you’re used to high temperatures around 105. I enjoyed every moment of the ride. When I finished up, before 8:00, it was still in the sixties, a rare pleasure in the desert. It was just a beautiful day for a ride.

All this time that I was running and riding, Alan was busy working up weekly programs for his clients. Monday is his busiest day, and, with his grandsons in town, he was hoping to get done early so we could go play with, um, visit them. My plan, after my workout, was to shower and get ready to go visit the family. Since Alan wasn’t ready, I decided to add an extra chore in:  Shampooing the dogs. Some of them, anyway.

This is a little personal, but here is how I wash my dogs. I take them, one at a time, into the shower with me. I don’t actually turn on the shower part, but I take them into the bathtub and wash them. And I am, well, ready for my shower while I do it. Which means, I’m naked.

So first, I take Penny, my Dalmatian, then Sassy, my terrier mix (her picture is above, after the run). Then the two little dogs, Lily and Olivia. The other two will have to wait until next weekend. Everybody smells wonderful (including me, since I finished my shower after the dogs). Unfortunately (or not), I didn’t get any photos of all these activities.

So, by now it was about 9:30 in the morning. As I said, I wanted to make the most of my last vacation day. Shortly afterward, Alan finished up most of his work and we headed over to visit the boys. We brought two of our dogs, the little ones, Lily and Olivia, all clean and fresh-smelling, with us.

We spent a couple hours with the kids and Lisa, their mom (our daughter-in-law). Alan had some work to finish up, so we headed home for lunch, but with an invitation to come back later for dinner. Since this was another opportunity to see the boys, and we’re crazy about Lisa, we accepted. We brought the dogs with us again, but as you can see below, they were all moving too quickly to get a good picture.

After a nice evening, we finally headed home, late for us. I probably could have used one more day to recover, but, all in all, a wonderful last day for my vacation.

Oh, just to finish up, here are some more kitten pictures (I can’t help myself, they are so cute).

Back to work!

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>I’ve been on vacation for the last week. Without any travel plans, my goals were to: 1) Relax 2) Get in some serious house cleaning time 3) Relax 4) Get in some serious cycling/running time 5) Relax.

Now, I realize that items 1,3, & 5 may not mesh very well with items 2 and 4, but somehow, it all came together very nicely.  It helped that we took a quick one day trip to Encinitas, and that the weather this past weekend has cooled down to almost freaky temperatures (I mean, 93 degrees at 3:00 pm on August 29? That has to be a record of some kind!).

Anyway, it turned out to be a nice, relaxing, yet productive staycation. Here are some of the highlights:

Over the course of my 10 days off, I managed to get in four bike rides (plus tomorrow, I hope).  Nothing spectacular, just early morning rides, about 25-30 miles each, managing 43 miles yesterday because the weather was so much cooler. I mentioned how nice this weekend is, but just a few days ago the high temperature was almost 120. With relatively high humidity. In weather like that, I’m always afraid to get too far from home, knowing that by 8:00 it can shoot right up over 100 degrees.

I also managed to get in four runs. Most notably, I finally made it to the top of the Bump and Grind (I usually have to leave early to go to work). That was last Tuesday, the day that hit about 120 degrees. While I was running, at 6:00 am, it was only about 90. Of course, I’m not alone out there. In addition to about a million hikers, we have the cross country team training on those hills. They are in a lot better shape than I am, let me tell you. I’m sure that being a lot younger has nothing to do with it. We also got to run along the coast in Encinitas. That was wonderful: cool, damp, and foggy. I know they’re hating it at the coast, but Alan and I loved it.

Our last run up at Pinyon Pines–time for school to start and get down to real racing!

My turn around spot in Cardiff-love it!

Some of the kids before the run this morning. It was about 68 degrees, cold for us desert rats!

During my last few runs, I was noticing some knee pain.  Not good. I attributed it to the extra running that I was doing. In fact, my knees hurt during the entire six mile run in Encinitas. My coach’s brain finally kicked in though, and I realized that it was probably time for new running shoes. I don’t put in a lot of mileage anymore, so I don’t track my “shoe mileage” as closely as I used to, but after a little calculation, I realized that I was overdue for new shoes. Well, since we were in the San Diego area, and since I’m a lifetime Roadrunner VIP member, we opted to stop by Roadrunner Sports on our way home.

The nice thing about being a VIP member is that you get 10% off every purchase, free shipping (and you get it like almost the next day!), secret specials, etc.  The bad thing is, they can look you up and tell you how much you’ve spent on running shoes over the last 15 years. Yikes!

I was fortunate to find the deal of deals on my new shoes. I’ve been running in Asics Kayanos for years. At Roadrunner, you can usually pick up “last year’s model” or even an older version, for a significant discount. Which I did…Kayano XI for $70 a pair (buy two and receive $10 off). Nice. The latest, Kayano XVI, is going for $139. Score!


On Thursday, we drove to Encinitas. We really had the best of it all. The day was warm, sunny and clear. The beach was not too packed. For the first time in about four years, Alan and I hung out at the beach. It was great, although after a couple hours of sun, I was ready to check in to the hotel and shower off the sand.
In the old days (before we bought our bikes), Alan and I could be found 
on weekends right here, about 50 yards south of the lifeguard station.

For dinner that evening, we headed out to Roxy’s, a funky, little cafe/bar restaurant that has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. I ordered the Falafel Plate and Alan had the Avocado Burrito. Both were delicious (and huge!).
While we were eating, we noticed huge crowds wandering along the Coast Highway. In fact, I’d never seen that many people in the evening in Encinitas, and I’ve been going there for a long time. It turned out that it was The Taste of Mainstreet, one of those events, really targeting locals (why it’s on a weeknight), where they pay so much and get to wander the streets and taste the samples from the participating restaurants. Nice deal (not so much for vegetarians, though, so we stayed where we were).
When we woke up the next morning, the weather had changed. As I mentioned above, it was cold and foggy, perfect for our run. Having no inclination to head back to the beach, we instead headed over to Nytro, followed by B & L, both bike/triathlon stores, for a little wishful dreaming (Cervelo P4 TT bike, only $10,999 at Nytro–or something like that).

Poor quality (phone photo), but it gives a good idea of the bike porn available at Nytro.
We had lunch at the Lotus Cafe, another veg friendly restaurant in Encinitas. I had some delicious lentil and vegetable soup, then went with the falafels again (none in years, then twice in two days, what’s up with that?). I didn’t get a picture this time, but it was good, although the sauce they served with it was not vegan. I made do with the hummus, though. They tell you all this on the menu, though, so it takes some of the hassle out of ordering. (In spite of all the falafel over the weekend, I still had a Middle Eastern craving when I got home, making my own “chicken” shawarma for dinner last night.  Yummy!)

Our timing back to the desert was perfect, with the cool down letting us be outdoors and enjoy the last weekend of my vacation even more. All in all, I accomplished almost all my goals over the course of my staycation:  I rode, I ran, I relaxed. And the cleaning?  Well, not so much. Oh, well, at least I had my priorities straight.

I’ll leave you with a video of one of our cross country runners.  His name is Chris and I am told that he is the best dancer in the school.  He gave us a little performance this morning after practice:

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>We have had an extremely mild summer here in La Quinta. Seriously. Two weeks ago,when I wrote about swimming and splashing with the new-found grandsons, the high temperature that day was only around 102 degrees. In August! And, it truly was a dry heat.

Well, all that has changed. It still isn’t extremely hot (okay, some would say 108 is extremely hot), but, man, has that humidity jumped up the scale.

So that brings me to this weekend. Saturday we headed out for ride a little before 6:00. It was already about 90 degrees, not sure what the humidity was, but the air was thick. Our usual route starts off with a two mile downhill along the wash near our house, then we make a u-turn and head up the wash all the way to the top, about three miles. Fairly gentle grade, about 4-6%. I tell you, it was like being in a steam bath. Even downhill was awful, but climbing? Ugh! My asthma, seldom a problem when I’m riding a bike, kicked in, forcing us to ride back home to pick up an inhaler. Once out in the open, the air seemed to lift a little, but it was still pretty miserable. I managed only 30 miles, finishing up soaking wet with sweat and totally beat.

 So pretty, and yet, so ugly.

This morning was no better. We met the cross country team for our long run at 6:00. The plan was to run to the cross, about an eight mile run, mostly on trails, with considerable climbing. I gave myself a break and didn’t even try the big climb up to the cross. I still ran six miles this morning (although I admit I took a couple walking breaks during the last mile–just too miserable out there today).

This picture is from last year (since I didn’t make it this week)

On another note, one of the feral cats in our neighborhood had kittens several weeks ago.  They are very cute (of course), and are amazingly “human-oriented.” When they’re old enough, we will get them neutered and hopefully find them homes. The main plan is to catch “mom” and get her spayed. In the meantime, we’re happy that, even though she won’t let us touch her, she is allowing her kittens to be in our yard and allowing us to handle them. They actually run to us when we walk out of our front door!

Anyone want a kitten?

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>Okay, it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Really. I’m not going to swear it won’t happen again. I’m just going to recap the last two weeks and move on. Really. Alright, I’m going to try to post more often. And I do feel bad when I don’t write. But, I’m just TOO. DAMN. BUSY.

In a nutshell:

Cross Country season is finally over. I always have mixed emotions, because I love coaching, I love the kids, I really love everything about the whole experience. But, I am also happy to have my life back, say so long to the kids for a while, and, um, clean my house, ride my bike, run my own runs, have some free time. So, yes, I’m happy it’s over. But, next July, I will be excited that it is starting all over again, with some new kids and new experiences.
The team did pretty well. The girls finished fourth in the last meet and fifth overall for the season (even though they finished fourth in the previous meet, go figure, but I guess it’s the way the points add up). I was very proud of the team, especially a couple of girls who pulled out all the stops, finished strong, and had their best performance ever. The boys, who were plagued with injuries and illness most of the season, finished sixth. Every member of our team has heart, though, and each one gave it their all. I’m proud of each and every one of them.

Oh, I had a birthday last week. 52. Enough said.

Well, maybe I’ll say a little more than that. My husband took me out to a lovely restaurant that will always prepare a nice veggie dish for our pleasure. We sat out on the patio, where it is designed to look like a desert hillside, with waterfalls flowing. It was really pretty. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can kind of see the full moon in the background, which was pretty cool.

Lily and Olivia are doing great, as you can see in the picture. Fully integrated into our pack. They are such sweet dogs and so full of fun and life that they energize the older, bigger dogs. Yes, it tends to be a little hectic around our house, but we love it.

I did complete my October century. I had hoped to ride two in October and two in November, so that even though I won’t have a real Century a Month, I would at least have 12 centuries for the year (assuming I rode one in December). Well, it didn’t happen, but I’m not sweating it. I just want to get back to having time to ride (more time now, hopefully, since cross country is over), keep up my endurance, and, most of all, enjoy my time riding. So, if I ride a couple centuries over the next couple months, that is fine. Great even. But if I don’t, that’s okay too.

I am starting to think about goals for 2010, but that will be for another post. (hint: I’m thinking to double my effort.)

Of course, I’m full of talk about how much time I will have now. That’s all it really is, talk, because here in the desert, we’ve entered what we call “the season.” What that means to me as the fitness director of a country club fitness center, is that I am going to be really busy for the next six months. Did I say really busy? On top of that, I still see a few private clients after my regular work hours, and guess what? They’re back! So, a couple 12-hour days a week.

The difference, though is that I have a little control over my schedule, so I really can plan to have time to run and ride. Most weekends off, too (during cross country season most Saturdays are spent at an invitational meet somewhere in Southern California).

So, we’ll see. In spite of my best intentions, you may not hear from me for a while and my next post may be titled “In a Nutshell, part 2.”

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>I wore arm warmers on my bike ride today for the first time in months. I felt like celebrating this morning as I pulled them on. At about 60 degrees, it was nowhere near real cold, but after weeks of lows in the eighties, it felt downright chilly as we headed out at 6:30.

I wore my arm warmers for the entire three hour ride!

The forecast was for a high of 81 today. Of course, there is a bad to go along with the good: there was also a wind advisory in effect, with gusts of up 50 mph predicted. Sigh.

As we began our ride, though, the wind was mild, the air was cool, and all was good in the cycling world. We followed our normal route, deciding to ride east of La Quinta, where there is light traffic, open roads, and lots of beautiful desert scenery. I had some hope of riding a double loop and completing my first (of two) centuries for October, but as time went on the winds picked up, which put a damper on my enthusiasm. Smothered it completely, actually, so I rode the single loop, about 43 miles for the day.

My Ironman, leading the way as usual.

Saturday, we took the Cross Country team to the Yucaipa Invitational. It’s a fun meet, close to home, well run, good course. The kids did well on a tough course. One cool item: All of our girls received medals! That was running in three separate races (Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Freshman), in the small school division. The boys got quite a bit of hardware as well. I’m so proud of all of them!

A few of our Freshman/Sophomore Boys.

Our only Freshman girl. She looks great!

Varsity Girls know how to pose! (They run pretty well, too)

Now, that’s a hill.

Next week, we’re off to Huntington Beach for the Central Park Invitational. It is one of our favorites, because, well, it’s at the beach. Like we did in San Diego, we will take the kids to the beach after their run, while we walk up Main St. looking for a Veg friendly restaurant. Wearing jackets. Brrrrr!

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