Getting the Band Back Together
There should be a law mandating that meet directors post results within an hour of two of the last race. In the absence of said law, I find myself hitting the refresh button over and over on the Dyestatcal website, fervently wishing that this time I will be rewarded with a long list of results. These will then be parsed and parsed again, until I know what every one of my runners did -- and what they're capable of doing. I've got a team that is short on experience (boys) and still rounding into form (girls). Knowing how their times stack up against the competition will help me mold their training for these next dozen weeks.
Not that I'm complaining. The morning started well before dawn. Orion twinkled over my house as I picked the paper off the driveway and pointed my truck down Alicia to the race course. Starbucks was just opening when I wandered in, where I bought yet another paper to scan some of the local football scores, and then raced on down to the course. After setting up our team canopies and organizing our race day compound, I plugged in the ear buds and went on a lonely walkabout.
I don't know what it is about listening to your favorite music as the sun finally breaks the horizon over a distant mountain, the air smelling like dew and the last gasp of summer, but the sense of calm was immeasurable. This coaching thing is a dog's breakfast of emotions, many of them having to do with the theoretical. In theory, if my athletes run the right kind miles over the summer, eat the right kinds of food, and get the proper sleep, they will run to the best of their ability. That theory is put to the test on the first day of racing. It seems odd to seek validation through the hard work of others, but I desperately needed to know this morning whether or not my summer training plan had worked. And so it was that I walked and walked, even as I knew that the team was arriving and wondering where I'd gone off to. It was a time of loud music, prayer and solitude -- in just the right proportions to bring about focus and a sense of purpose.
And then there they were: most of my forty-two runners (the ACT had the rest in their grasp) stood before me int their brand new uniforms, gawking at this great gorgeous sprawling carnival known as a cross country meet. Team canopies and runners and parents and a thousand different colors of uniform dotted the landscape. I have often called cross country season "Christmas in Autumn." And while summer still claims the seasons for another two weeks, I believe that is a technicality. This is September. This is cross country season. And I felt the same giddy sense of wonder this morning that I felt as a child on Christmas morning.
My girls team reminds me of a rock band that took a long break from the road and is just now getting back together. They have traveled far and wide this summer, sometimes training together and sometimes not, but they are fit and fast. So as the first gun of the season fired, there was nothing more I could do. Just had to sit back and watch them race.
The boys team is more of a wild card. Lots of new faces, including my own son, who is growing tall and fast and confident in a way that sometimes makes me forget that I am a coach on race day. To see him charge past, confidence in his eyes and a punishing pace to his stride, makes my throat catch.
It was all done by noon. I'd run so much around the course during our eight races that I sweat through all my clothes. A lunch of comfort food, a cold refreshing shower to rinse off the trail dust (and admire the runner's sock tan), and then a nap, because I spent every last bit of nervous energy out on that course.
What did I learn today? I learned that I have a team. Not just a random assemblage of high school kids, but a great group of motivated young athletes who can push. They did the uniform proud today, and made me feel just a little whoosh of relief that the summer training seems to have gone alright. Lots of work to do in the weeks to come. Lots more pre-dawn wake-ups on Saturday morning, and of exhorting (ok, yelling) my runners to push harder and dig deeper.
But today was a great start. We're getting the band back together with the girls, and forming a new one with the guys. It's all good.
Now if I can only find those results.
Keep Pushing... Always