Friday, September 26, 2008

Moorestown XC from 1966

I got an email from Chris Barr, a graduate of Moorestown in 1966. Here is a great description of the team back then:

"Although we were second at the Bridgeton Meet [our equivalent of the So. Jersey All-Group Meet] and fourth at states, we were seven individuals. That 1963 team eventually had one sub-12:20 runner, two sub-12:30 runners, two sub-13:20 runners, one sub-13:40 runner and a sub-14:00 runner for Moorestown's 2.5 mile home course [one senior, two juniors and four sophomores]. I don't know what mileage the others ran over the summer; but, I remember I put in about 21 miles/week [3 miles a day, seven days/week]. Each day I ran about as hard as I could, developing a 600 yard drive at the end of each race. It may be age catching up to me; but, I do not remember ever being passed during the last 600 yards my senior year. I remember the Edgewood coach telling me my sophomore year, that if you are in shape, winning is 90% desire. That credo won many a race for me. In hindsight, I regretted not sharing this with my teammates."

Three sub-12:30 is roughly equivalent to sub 16:50 at Holmdel today. Pretty darn good team...

Thanks for the memories!

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Batch Meet

Cinnaminson has a good XC team. They beat our Moorestown team this past Tuesday in the first batch meet of the season 26-29.

They were led by Todd Campbell, who was only 1 second off Steve Grabowski’s 16:19 course record. Ben Friedman (M) ran the whole way on his shoulder before Campbell broke away in the final 600 meters. Friedman ran a 16:27 – good enough for 3rd best on the all time list (actually 4th now), ahead of Jon Anderson’s time from 2002.

They went our in a 5:25 first mile, then Campbell picked up the pace for a 5:04 second mile. This stretched the field out and gaps developed in 3-10th place.

Steve DeLuca (C) has made a big move forward this year (Holmdel best of 18:10 last year) and ran a 16:50 for 3rd place, ahead of Dave Ringwood (M) at 16:53. Alex Matteson ran a nice race at 17:05 – all top 20 times on the all-time list for a course that goes back to 1995 and has seen some fast runners.

Todd Campbell (C) 16:20
Ben Friedman (M) 16:27
Steve Deluca (C) 16:50
Dave Ringwood (M) 16:53
Alex Matteson (M) 17:05
Dylan Tooher (C) 17:13
Damien Clayton (C) 17:16
Brandon Greenwood (M) 17:38
Ian Dill (C) 17:42
Ryan Wolff (M) 17:45
Joel Robinson (M) 17:46
Sam Weintraub (M) 17:47
Tyler Ems (M) 17:55

The good news for our Moorestown team is that we had 10 guys set PR’s of over 1 minute from last year – most of those coming from runners who had made a more serious commitment and did a lot of summer running. Of the 64 total runners we had compete, there are 51 PR’s (many of them coming from new runners establishing their first race time at 5K.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Relaxed Running

After Usain Bolt won the Olympic 100, setting a World Record, I heard so many people comment “think how fast he could have run if he had not eased up”. I take the counter view – think how much slower he would have run if he was running tight?

Go to any high school (or college) cross country meet this fall. You will see the people who finish at the top look relaxed when they run and the further back in the pack you get, the more the runners seem to labor. Certainly part of this is explained by conditioning. But each runner is running at their maximum – I doubt Bret Johnson is not trying as hard as the guy who finishes 100th in the race. Yet Johnson will look light and easy, with a relaxed facial expression, limber arms and fingers as he blazes up the final 200 meters of grass on Holmdel.

I wrote a blog that form does not really matter. I think what matters more is the efficiency and focus of energy into the effort of moving your body forward. Clenching a fist, scrunching up your face, tensing of any muscle does not make you move forward any faster. In fact, it saps energy from your body. It uses up valuable oxygen on the wrong muscles, and can cause a chain reaction that makes your stride tighter and less efficient.

Back when I was in high school I got into Transcendental Meditation a bit. It is a technique to teach your body to relax and become more aware of yourself. One day during my junior year of track, I did an experiment to try to transfer some of the things I had learned from TM onto the track. I had noticed that the best runners really looked very relaxed and I felt that maybe if I found a way to relax, then I would be able to run better.

It was a dual meet against Catholic Central, and they had a great two miler. I decided my strategy would be to forget about everything else in the world and just focus-in on staying right behind him and zeroing in on his feet. For about 7 laps I was able to keep nearly a total concentration on his feet and forget about everything else and become very relaxed. He dragged me to a 20 second PR and got me close to the magical 10 minute mark.

I still use TM methods when I am running in a race. I close my eyes a bit and actually slow by breathing and breathe more deeply. Focus on making sure my muscles are relaxed – the shoulders loose, the hands unclenched, the stomach just breathing in and out.

Maybe Bolt could have run a 9.65 that day, but I doubt he would have enjoyed it as much…

Pack Running

Running in packs is something we pride ourselves in at Moorestown. It is something I learned at Bucknell from Coach. He had one philosophy above all else – “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Every runner in every race always has questions going thru their mind “can I keep this pace”, “geez, this hurts”, “maybe I’ll run harder and better next week”. Running in packs helps to get rid of these questions.

In 2005, we had Dan Rinehart, Eric Holaday and Ben Leonberg as seniors who really adapted to that strategy of pack running. They were all about equal in capabilities, yet each had different strengths. They would run together the first couple of miles of the course – using each other as a guide post of where they were in a race. It is always easier to know where you are in the big races at the end of a season if you have your buddies around. They pushed each other to performances (all were sub-17 at Holmdel) that were better than they could have achieved alone. The last mile (and sometimes the last 400 meters) would decide who was better that given day.

I had a similar experience in college with my roommate Lee Edmonds. “Eddie” and I were about the same level of runner coming into Bucknell. Coach put us together as roommates – in my mind he saw something in each of us that would feed off of the other. Eddie and I tied about 80% of our races in college and probably split the rest. Eddie would always start off slowly, but we would always be together by the mile point. There was something comforting about him sliding up next to me “Hey Bic”, “Hey Ed”. If any of those little voices crept into my head about wanting to slow down, I was able to fight them back primarily with the thought that I did not want to let Eddie down.

We also used this to our competitive advantage. I remember running the ECC championships at Belmont Plateau. Mike Glavin of St. Joe’s was right on our back coming up “Sure Kill” the big hill that goes above the Schuylkill Expressway. We worked the hill pretty hard and when we got to the top he was still there. I said in a voice loud enough so he could hear “Ready to go now Ed”. We heard a grunt behind us as we pressed on the flat area at the top of the hill for only about 200 meters and broke free.

I was up at Bucknell this past weekend. While Coach is gone, the team still uses the pack mentality when running. Helping to feed off of each other. Encouraging each other to reach new levels. And making the achievement of those new levels meaningful.

We’ve adopted Coach’s quote for the Moorestown team. We’ve also added another one – “Why run hard? For yourself. For your team.”