I'm up in Mammoth with my team this week. The weather is pitch perfect and so far there hasn't been a forest fire to destroy air quality. Being a coach in the modern age means a list of duties and obligations my high school and college coaches would never have dreamed of adding to their to-do lists.
I took the team to Mammoth last month. We've gone every year since 2006 for a week of high altitude training. It's medieval the way I push the kids, running twice a day for a week on mountain trails that are never flat, and in fact always seem to go uphill. For the seniors it's a getaway they look forward to all year, second only to our Hawaii trip in terms of getting away from parental supervision and hanging out with friends. But it's not so easy for the freshmen.
It is only July, and yet I am already feeling the nerves of November. My cross country team just finished its fourth week of training. These summer workouts are when the championships of autumn are won. I normally coast through summer, cursing the twelve weeks between the first day of training and our first September meet. But this season is different.
If you follow my Twitter feed (@martinjdugard), you’ll have seen a recurring photo of my office white board counting down the days to the State Meet. It's always 154 days from the first day of practice to that last Saturday in November. Right now the number is at four, which means State is getting close.
There are thirty-seven days to the State Meet. Five weeks and change. Take away Sundays, which cross country's local governing body has declared "no practice" days, and we're down to thirty-three days to get better. Consider that we'll have at least two recovery days per week, and that lowers the number to twenty-three chances to improve.
I try to keep these missives non-topical in order to give them an evergreen quality. But last night's loss by the men's U.S. national soccer team to Trinidad-Tobago needs to be addressed. The immediate sense of confusion is that America will not have a team playing in the World Cup next year — not that anyone will miss them. They are three and out at best, a nice sideshow to the real competition.