Sunday, July 12, 2020

Catching up with Santa Rosa HS coach, Carrie Joseph

Today we catch up with Santa Rosa High School Cross Country and Track and Field head coach, Carrie Joseph. She has been coaching the very successful cross country and track and field teams at Santa Rosa HS along with Doug Courtemarche since 1997 until she took over the reins of both programs in the last few seasons.  Joseph competed at the University of Michigan and is a mighty proud Wolverine alumnus. Her twin sister Tricia who also caught the coaching bug is an outstanding assistant coach at Menlo School. Over the past three years, Joseph has also coached her daughter Lael in both sports and will be joined by younger brother Adam in the fall. Thank you to Carrie for answering my questions below. I know many of you will enjoy reading what she had to say as much as me.

1) What was your own running experience? How did you get your start into running? Highlights and proudest achievements during your competitive period? Did you participate in any other sports?
I had your average 1970s/80s suburban midwestern childhood -- a lot of untethered free time biking around, dabbling in sports (tennis, soccer, swimming, basketball).

A very observant 4th-grade teacher (shout out to Mr. Seidenkranz) noticed that my twin sister and I were faster than most of the boys (even older ones) in the school, and he encouraged us to give age-group track a try.  We ran unattached at summer meets and were introduced to the world of marathon multi-day meets (without sunscreen or understanding "hydration").  When we moved from Minnesota to Ohio in middle school, we joined a very well-known age-group club called the Kettering Striders (future Olympic LJer Joe Greene was a member. I watched him do 20 ft "pop up" jumps -- plus he was ridiculously nice too... too bad he chose Ohio State though...).

I really hit the jackpot at Centerville High School though. Our high school coaches, Rita and Criss Somerlot, are Hall of Fame coaching legends in Ohio, and they have also managed or coached many US teams (including the US Olympic team in Athens).  CHS regularly fielded teams of 200+ (and they still do, now coached by their son), and the Somerlots created a culture of excellence and commitment that I had never really experienced before.

Highlights --
April of 9th grade -- Breaking 60 seconds in the 400m (well, it was a relay split, so...) and jumping 17'11 1/2" (quickly followed by the lowlight of blowing out my ACL the next week...).  

2nd place as a team at the Ohio HS State Champs (Class AAA, now Div 1) and having to book it from Columbus to Centerville in time to graduate!

4th place in the 4 x 800m relay in the Championship Race at Penn Relays for the University of Michigan.

Indoor Big 10 Champion and 7th place at NCAA Championships 4 x 800m relay member and also school record holder (fun fact -- the school record has been retired and will never be broken because they now run the DMR indoors)

Scoring member (#4) of 13th place team at NCAA Cross Country Championships in 1991 (hosted in Tucson, AZ).  Very proud of that contribution as I'd never run cross country in high school.

2) You have a twin sister (Tricia on the left in photo) that participated in different track events than you (I believe?). How did both of you end up competing in the events you chose and how competitive were you two against each other?
We were both jumper/sprinter/hurdlers on the age-group scene until I blew out my knee in 9th grade.  I think it's fair to say that we were competitive with each other but not in an unhealthy way (but let's just say I was a tad faster...).  We certainly made each other better athletes ("iron sharpens iron" as they say). My injury was particularly bad, and I needed 4 surgeries over the course of 2 years (including a then ground-breaking cadaver ligament replacement -- this was 1985).  So Tricia kept hurdling and jumping and I transitioned to being a long sprinter. I really didn't come back to full strength until my senior year in high school, and we were able to race on the same relay teams. Tricia placed in 4 events at the Ohio State meet (the only girl in any division to earn that distinction that year).

She went on to become a top heptathlete in the ACC at the University of Virginia (3rd place one season if I recall) and also long jumping and doing both hurdles. I gravitated eventually to the 800m (well, when I walked on at the University of Michigan, they told me that was really my only chance of staying on the team).  Trish and I now have some very spirited debates about which event is tougher: the 400m hurdles or the 800m.  It's OBVIOUSLY the 800m. DUH.

3) Who were the coaches that had the biggest impact on you as an athlete and what did you learn from them? 
Rita Somerlot by far. She was my high school coach at Centerville and later coached at Ohio State (I have forgiven her for that ...).  I still don't know how she organized practices with over 100 girls.  She was a master motivator who made everyone feel special.  I still have handwritten notes from her that would arrive via an office TA during the school day.  She would have typed up split sheets (even 4 x 100m splits!)  and motivational re-caps the day after every meet. She was tireless, devoted, and deeply knowledgeable in every single event. She taught me to believe in myself.

Current Michigan Head Coach James Henry saw my potential in the 800m (thanks?), but Sue Foster was my event coach at Michigan. She was a multiple All-American at Michigan and only about 10 years older than most of the team. She captured that "approachable authority" coaching style that really resonated with me (and a style I try to cultivate too). We are still connected via social media and I hold many, many dear memories of her (especially kicking our butts during workouts). I was a lowly walk-on but she never made me feel like it. She taught me that I mattered.

When Sue got pregnant with her 2nd child, Mike McGuire stepped in and took over the program and is still in charge of the Women's distance squad. He had a very different coaching style that was initially hard to transition to, but ultimately easy to accept and adjust to because his results speak for themselves. I challenge anyone to find a more consistent and dominant mid-distance team than Michigan over the past 25 years. Mike is able to identify "blue-collar" grinders and elevate them to national prominence.  (Classic example, my teammate Jessica Kluge was a 5:10/2:17 high school runner who eventually ran 2:03 and was also a XC All-American... fun fact: her daughter Anne Forsyth was Big 10 Freshman of the Year in XC for Michigan). Mike taught me that hard work and commitment to a methodical process are how an athlete reaches her potential.

4) What led you to coaching and what was your first experience? What else do you do aside from coaching? What are some of your biggest challenges as a coach?
After college, I discovered that I liked being in the orbit of teenagers and earned my Masters of Art in Teaching at Duke, where I helped out a local high school track team during my student teaching. I also felt like my love of track and field was still untapped.  Coaching seemed to be a natural extension from my role as a high school English teacher. (Plus there was all that extra $$ as a high school coach!!).

I moved to Cleveland with my husband who was in medical school, and I landed my first real job as a teacher/coach at Olmsted Falls High School. I had wonderful mentors there, especially Rae Alexander (mother of current pro/Oregon Duck Colby Alexander, who was just a toddler back then!). I also took careful note of how she managed life as a coach/mom.

Aside from coaching, I spent nearly 20 years teaching HS English, and I retired from teaching 4 years ago.  In addition to coaching, I currently help kids with the college recruiting and admissions process.

Biggest challenges as a coach .... every year and season presents new and unique challenges. Recently, the biggest challenge has simply been trying to complete a full season. The last 3 cross country seasons have been impacted by a series of devastating fires, forcing us to suspend our training right in the middle of our competition phase.  We lost 26 instructional days.

The 2017 Tubbs Fire, which destroyed over 6,000 structures in Santa Rosa, also took the homes of 10 athletes on our team at the time (and on our current team, at least 6 more). It's hard not to get emotional thinking about the challenges these kids have faced, especially knowing we will face the same threat every fall. I will never forget tracking down our athletes in those early chaotic days after the Tubbs Fire -- I was trying to figure out where they had found refuge, what resources they needed, and if they needed a new uniform.  Every athlete who had lost their home had miraculously grabbed their uniform as they fled their homes that terrible awful night.  What a testament to their commitment to our team.

And now it looks like this season will be at the mercy of not just the winds, but COVID-19. Rising seniors on my team have also dealt with two active shooter lockdowns as well.  These kids have learned to take things in stride (pun definitely intended) and I have no doubt that whatever Mother Nature or human nature throws at them, they'll rise above it all and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

5) You have coached with Doug Courtemarche (my interview with him HERE) for many (23!!) years. How would you describe Doug to somebody that doesn't know him and why do you feel you both worked so well together as coaches?
To the uninitiated, I usually explain Doug like this: He is 1/3 Gandalf, 1/3 Dumbledore, 1/3 Yoda ("YoDumbleDalf" or "GanDumbleYo"?). Doug is the guiding light for not just Santa Rosa HS track/cross country, but the North Bay region. First and foremost, he is a relentless optimist. He sees the best in people and finds ways to bring out that "best."  In a sport that requires athletes to endure pain and embrace suffering, a sport that requires a long-term outlook and incremental progress, who doesn't want to be around someone with a smile, a sunny disposition, and an unwavering belief in you?

I started coaching with Doug in 1997 right after Julia Stamps graduated and Danny Aldridge left to start up the Maria Carrillo HS program.  Even though our numbers were small (maybe 20 kids total...), I could tell that the kids on the team loved Doug and would run through a brick wall for him if he asked them to.  So as a young coach, I paid attention.  His guiding philosophy is "It's all about the kids." And fortunately, Doug was not territorial about his coaching boundaries and basically started letting me (and a volunteer assistant, Sean Fitzpatrick, who later coached at Sonoma State and was extraordinarily helpful when my coaching focus was blurred by having two children) design our training plans very early on. I think Doug and I worked so well together because I valued and appreciated his intangible qualities: Doug's lack of ego, his flexibility, and energy, his meet management wizardry, his treatment of the kids, I could go on and on. In turn, he valued and appreciated me.

Side note: I am currently pushing through a proposal with Santa Rosa City Schools to name the SRHS track the Courtemarche Track.

6) Looking back at your time at Santa Rosa, what have been some of your biggest highlights and proudest achievements for your athletes and teams? 
In a general/abstract sense, I am proud of our program every time I see growth and progress, whether it's on a macro level (the growth of our team numbers over the years or winning team pennants) or on the micro-level (individual PRs or mastering hurdle mobility drills lol).  In cross country, I love seeing athletes make that transition from runner to racer.  I'm proud whenever kids make the connection between commitment/persistence and personal achievement.  I'm also proud when I see alumni out on the local trails, still putting one foot in front of the other, or connecting with them on social media and seeing what amazing people they've grown into.

Besides team championships (most recently the 2019 NBL and Redwood Empire Girls Track and Field Champions), the biggest highlights for me are when school records get broken or kids break into our Top 10 List for Track and Field or the Top 50 List for Cross Country. When I look at the years of the performances on these lists, there are fewer and fewer marks from before the year 2000. What better concrete proof of growth and progress can there be?

7) What are your expectations for your runners during the summer? Any running camps? Any fun traditions at camp?
Our typical Slurpee Runs, Pancake Runs, and other summer shenanigans have given way to checklists, temperature guns, masks, and social distancing. We were allowed to start meeting with our team under very limited circumstances in mid-June, and the turnout has been excellent (60 different kids, with 40-45 usually showing up). We typically use the summer to establish not just an aerobic base, but to establish routines, traditions, and team bonding. This has been really challenging given our new limitations, but I think we are making headway and the new runners are starting to buy into what our team is about.

It was a crushing blow to cancel our annual cross country camp at Humboldt Redwoods State Park -- a camp that has been ongoing for 30 years, a camp that nearly all team members will say is one of the highlights of their high school life.  We usually have 45-55 athletes, plus 10 or so alumni counselors, and we are in tents and cooking for ourselves. We follow the same training schedule every camp, so seasoned veterans know how to handle the balance between work time and playtime.  The main event is the Grasshopper Climb, a 7 mile, 3000 ft ascent that about 1/2 of the kids run and 1/2 "mule" (power hike carrying food and water to the top). The school record last year was toppled by our mountain goat Andrew McKamey.  I truly believe he was going to crack the 60-minute barrier this summer... but perhaps he will get a chance at it as an alumni counselor.  Our Camp "Talent" Show is also a highlight; being an arts magnet school, we have some truly talented kids (singers, dancers, actors) who strut their stuff... but more often than not the acts are short on talent and long on confidence (Doug is still King of the Snorting Contest... don't ask...).

COVID-willing, we will be offering a "camp simulation" in a few weeks that will cover the 3 main efforts of camp: a drop-off run, a mountain climb, and a 2-mile time trial.

8) Who have been your coaching mentors during your own coaching career? 
So many to choose from... Besides Doug, we are lucky to have a deep well of coaching knowledge up here in Sonoma County:  Danny Aldridge (Sonoma Academy), Luis Rosales (Piner), Greg Fogg (Maria Carrillo), John Anderson (Rancho Cotate) to name just a few of the long-timers whom I've gone to for advice over the years. I bug younger coaches like Melody Karpinski at Montgomery, who has a more "millennial" handle on things like team communications and newer trends. I love picking the brain of Peter Brewer (I call him the "Doug of the East Bay") and of course you, Albert!  Your website and commitment to our sport are so inspiring! Other mentors...My sister and I talk track ALL. THE. TIME. (ask our children... they know it's true...). My fellow SRHS track coaches are also amazing resources: Paul Troppy is the go-to guy for all things throwing, and Jim Veilleux is the godfather of girls pole vault in California (the USATF even honored him as a "trailblazer"). My new assistant cross country coach, Eric Bohn, actually coached with Doug for a couple of seasons in the mid-90s and was the top road racer in the area for a while (a sub 2:30 marathoner). I value his input and perspective tremendously. And last but not least, the late great Bob Shor -- starter extraordinaire, old school curmudgeon, dedicated track nut, and champion of age-group youth track.

9) What does a typical week look like for your runners? Any morning runs? Typical weekly mileage? The distance of longest run for your experienced runners? How often do they do strength work? 
Getting the training groups calibrated by experience, training age, and fitness level takes a few weeks.  Like most big teams, we've got kids who can compete in college and kids who can only run a few minutes at a time. Every run or workout is scaled/modified in a way that (knock on wood) doesn't discourage or injure the newer runners but is also challenging enough to make them see the value of a hard effort.

Our week usually incorporates one hill-oriented workout, one tempo effort (or fartlek for the newer kids), and one long run -- with the intermediate days being recovery or moderate runs.  Older runners who want to bump mileage will incorporate morning runs 2x/week.  Weekly mileage will vary from 15-20 miles/week for the rookies to 40-45 miles/week for the most experienced. I am not a huge proponent of really high mileage for high school kids due to their developing bodies, etc., but every once in a while I have an athlete who is ready for more.  I have rarely had a girl regularly run 40+ miles/week.  I understand the physiological reasons for this high risk/high reward approach but also encourage cross-training as a way to get more miles in.  Distance runners typically carry very heavy academic/extracurricular loads, and I would MUCH rather have my athletes sleep more and focus on self-care than run an extra 5-10 miles/week. I have had some pretty great runners thrive on a moderate-to-high dosage of mileage with minimal injuries (Luca Mazzanti, 4:15 1600m, 5th place at the D2 State Meet in XC and current Captain of West Point's XC team, comes to mind...).

Our long runs for the most experienced runners usually range from 8-12 miles, but I will allow kids to go longer if they communicate with me about their plans and it makes sense with their current level of fitness and experience.  We are fortunate to have Annadel State Park in our city limits, with over 50 miles of trails and a lot of elevation gain.  I also live adjacent to the park, so my house is often ground zero for these forays.

Strength work usually takes place in the form of bodyweight routines.  I've been focusing more on hip mobility and yoga routines in recent years too.  We want to encourage kids to be athletes, not just runners.


10) You have coached your daughter Lael (showing off juggling skills to the left) for the past three years. What have been some of your highlights and/or funny moments from getting to coach your daughter? Any advice for other coaches who may be coaching their children in the near future?
My daughter Lael will be a senior this year, and my son Adam will be joining us as a freshman this year, so I get to coach both kids now! Coaching your own child has its difficulties, but the rewards easily make up for them. I knew early on that I would have to draw a pretty firm line between being in "coach mode" at practice and "mom mode" at home.  My kids are both very insistent on making sure there is no sign of special treatment, and I probably go even further to make sure that doesn't happen. I can also pick their brains about practice logistics and use their input. I feel so lucky and privileged to have a front-row seat to watch their development not just as athletes, but as people too.  I'm sure I'm not the only coach who tells their team that what they learn from cross country can be applied to all other facets of their lives.  I've got proof -- I see it every day.

In terms of funny moments or highlights... My kids have been going to our annual cross country camp since they were babies, and they have been roped into more "talent" show acts than they can probably count (When Adam was 7 he tried to dethrone Doug as King of the Snorting Contest-photo to the right... bad idea). Then there is the Joseph Family "Four-Headed Alien" act (not going to divulge the secret to that act though...).  I have also always juggled while reciting original Haikus as my "talent", and starting about 4 years ago, Lael started joining me in my juggling act.  We had big plans for this year's act, but we will just have to keep sharpening it for next summer's camp.

Advice for other parent/coaches? I say embrace both roles if both you and your child feel comfortable doing so. Keep the lines of communication open and understand your child's perspective and feelings too.

My children have grown up in the world of high school track and cross country, and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a better group of teenagers for them to be around and observe. Coaching them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

11) Your teams repeat several workouts during the season. Can you explain the logistics of those workouts and how often do you do them during the cross country and track and field seasons?
We repeat 2 different "benchmark" workouts: Cobblestone and Michigan.

Cobblestone (named because of the trailhead parking lot we use) is the brainchild of the great Danny Aldridge, and it involves 3 parts: a fast 800 (on a service road in the state park); 4-9 hill repeats (~250m gravel climb and challenging); and a mile time trial back on the road. I have run this workout many times, and I can attest to how hard it is.  But it's designed to be a confidence-builder.  Some of the times these kids run on the mile TT are just incredible -- and it's AFTER the hill repeats!  It provides them with proof that they can push that "final mile" of any race they run. We keep track of all the kid's times and # of hill reps so they can map their progress over the course of 4 years.  We do it once in mid-September and a 2nd time in late October.

The Michigan is a staple workout from my college days, and it was created by Michigan coaching legend Ron Warhurst. It has been adopted and modified by many other college teams over the years, and I introduced a watered-down "high school" version to the team shortly after I began coaching at SRHS. It is designed to mimic the ebb and flow of a cross country race: aggressive start; settle in; surge; settle in; kick. We start with a 1600m on the track faster than 5k pace;; ~ 1 mile off-campus @ tempo pace; 800m on track very fast (the goal is to hit the same pace as the mile); ~ 1 mile off-campus @ tempo pace; 400m all out. The rest between all intervals is a 300m jog (mainly determined by the entry/exit locations of the track) so there should not really be any stopping. We also modify the volume for newer/rookie runners (shorter track volume or shorter off-track loops). Note: the college version has considerably more volume. Like Cobblestone, we record all the times and archive them. We run the Michigan in early October and then usually during the 2-week break between league finals and the NCS meet.

12) What would your advice be for a new coach taking over a team especially during these uncertain times?
Be patient and methodical as you build your program. It's ok to start small. You don't need huge numbers to have an impactful program.  Find the local "Doug" in the area (someone experienced, knowledgeable, and willing to share ideas) and pick his/her brain about practice logistics, communication methods, and training locations. Soak in as much wisdom as you can from your fellow coaches. Develop a good working relationship with your Athletic Director so he/she sees your commitment and value.

Stay positive and upbeat with your kids. Cross country and track are not sports for the weak. Remember that kids who have chosen to come out for your team are taking a courageous step.  As opposed to sports where athletes could theoretically run around on a field, never touch the ball, and still take credit for a win (or loss), cross country/track forces athletes to be front and center with their effort and performance. There is no hiding place. It takes courage and guts to run (jump, throw, vault, hurdle, etc.). In cross country, every day (even the "easy" or "recovery" days) might be really challenging and hard for some of the kids on your team. Believe in your athletes and make them feel like their efforts matter. Make them feel like they matter.

Coaching is both art and science.  Find a happy medium as you develop your training philosophy. It is important for athletes to know the "why" of your methods, and you can explain the science behind a threshold workout to a captive audience. Some will eat this science up, but most of your athletes will be recreational-level runners just seeking a way to test themselves.  Crafting a training regimen that attracts kids who willingly put themselves in discomfort and distress, writing a workout that tests them physically and mentally but leaves them with a self-satisfied smile and more confidence -- that's more of an art.  When all is said and done, build a program that creates athletes who will see running as a valuable pursuit and a rewarding source of joy as they move through the phases of their lives.

Anything else you would like to add. 
I want to give a shout out to my parents, Vern and Patty. I think they initially found age-group track bewildering but devoted many, many hours to supporting our development as track athletes (even though they had 3 other kids too!). My mom even missed her college graduation to take me and Tricia to a track meet in Iowa! They will be the first to tell you that they became track nuts and eventually attended every Olympics from 1984 - 2004.  I see them in every parent who volunteers to help run the finish line, who brings popsicles for end-of-practice fun, who makes sure their kid doesn't miss the team bus, who brings coaches easy-to-eat food at meets we host because they know we don't have time to eat, who returns long after their kids have graduated to work our meets, who endures the tremendous ups and downs that kids experience in a practice/week/month/season of track or cross country. Parents are the super glue to every team I've coached, and my parents were (and still are) my super glue.

Side note: Vern recently turned 85, and he has been a top-ranked US track age-group athlete since his early 70s (He is very excited to be in a new age group this year!)

Thank you very much for your time, Carrie.

Santa Cruz’s Raymond Brookman running down a dream | Men’s cross country

The CCS D-IV cross country champion came from a low-income household; he was accepted into prestigious MIT and will run for Engineers.

You can check out this awesome article at this LINK. Best wishes to Raymond.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Catching up with Coach Thomas "Tinman" Schwartz

Today we catch up with one of the premier distance coaches in the United States as well as the head coach of the Tinman Elite, Thomas "Tinman" Schwartz (photo courtesy of team website). I have enjoyed listening to him sharing his knowledge with many coaches on our weekly coach's meeting online. You can read more about Tinman on his bio on his team's website at this LINK. You can also check out his website at https://runfastcoach.com/Thank you to Tinman for taking the time to fully answer my questions. The following is reserved intellectual property and should not be copied, transmitted, or used in any way that limits author rights.

1) For those of us that don't know, how did you get your Tinman moniker? 
I was born in Menomonie, WI, which (for many years) had the Tinman Triathlon…a shorter version of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Thus, my nickname is associated with my birthplace, which, to me, still has many positive memories from my younger years.

2) What led you into running and what other sports did you participate in aside from XC and TF?
I participated in many ball sports as a kid and through high school. For many years of my youth, baseball was my favorite sport.  My second favorite was basketball; third was track and field, and cross-country and the fourth was football. Success as a 7th-grade cross-country runner motivated me to become a good (fast) runner, yet I did not stop playing other sports until after graduating from high school. I fell in love with running because it was such a positive sport.  The coaches, athletes, and even their parents, were upbeat, supportive, and interested in the pure simplicity of running.   Early, it was clear to me that the more I worked to improve, the more success I had, as measured by the time it took to run the race distances. The dedication factor was the central tenet of improvement; not referees, not whether coaches would put you in the game; not how big you were or to whom you were related! Not your last name, how much money your parents made, or whether you were in the popular group. It did not matter in the sports of cross-country or track and field.  Faster is faster, and there is no way around that point!

3) Looking back at your own running career, what are some of your proudest achievements and in hindsight, learning situations that have made you a better coach?
The proudest moment of all was my high school team qualifying for the state championship in cross-country. No previous team from my school (Forreston High School in IL) ever went to state. We placed 7th in the state meet, but we were 10 points out of 2nd place. It was a close one!  And, I think we might have placed 2nd or 1st had it not been for some unfortunate circumstances. One was my best friend Loren, who was running with cancer in his leg. A week after the state cross-country meet, his leg was amputated. Imagine how much better he could have run with a healthy body.  Loren suffered greatly through numerous chemotherapy treatments and surgeries and took his last breath at age 21, which was devastating to me. I still miss him. He was my buddy, and I will always recall his sense of humor and his positive way of framing the difficulties of life. The learning I gained from running was how important it is to be passionate about your sport, the value of inspiring others to greatness, and do your part to helping the team succeed or bond.  Loren did that for my teammates and me, and so I try to do that for runners, coaches, and their support cast. If I do nothing in the sport but help others, I will be satisfied. I learned that I do not have to be an Olympic champion to inspire others to greatness.

4) Who were the coaches that inspired you as an athlete and what lessons did you take away from them?
Mr. McMorris was my first great coach. He was smart, passionate about helping kids achieve success, and related well to people. He was the one who told me that I was one of the more passionate kids he had ever coached and that I would run through a brick wall if that would make me a better runner. I saw him just two years ago when I went back home with my brother to clean out the home of my (deceased) parents before selling it. Mr. Mick, as we all called him, age 86, walking with a cane up his driveway, turned when he heard my voice, a voice he had not heard in 30 years, and exclaimed, "Schwartzeeee!" (he always added the letter "e" to my name in an exaggerated way.  I greeted him and asked how he was doing, and he said he was struggling to move like he used to, but that is how it goes. Then, he paused and said, "You were always one of the greats! You had the stuff champions are made of! I never saw anyone fight harder for a win than you did!"  Honestly, I still cannot believe he remembered my name, voice, or face. He coached hundreds of kids over the decades. The critical point I am making is that Mr. Mick made people feel important. He recognized what made them personally tremendous and made sure to tell them.  I also learned from him that nothing replaces distance runs for building fitness as a runner. He taught me that intervals could shape a runner quickly, but the key to success is to build endurance, which is not a quick fix. He also taught me that trying hard is not enough in sports; you need to have an optimal technique for transferring your fitness to high levels of performance. Since my adolescent days, I have centered my focus on two main areas: better methods of building endurance and better means of generating improved technical efficiency that leads to lower energy costs.

The other coach who greatly influenced me was Dr. Phil Esten, who coached and taught at The University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. Right away, Coach Esten recognized that I might be able to contribute to the team in ways other than running. He saw that I had a passion for reading research and for questioning conventional training approaches. He was an unconstrained man: he would change his strategies when a person provided a good rationale for making changes to the standard practice. Coach Esten let me write training in the team's preparation by the time I was a junior in college.  As a senior, he allowed me to coach the team's steeplechase runners. At the conference meet, they placed 1st, 3rd, and 8th place in the conference meet - and it may be worth noting that our conference has the most NCAA DIII qualifiers in the nation. To me, Coach Esten's encouragement to pursue my passion for the sport through coaching altered my life for the better.

5) What led you into coaching and what did you do to prepare yourself for your first coaching experience? What else have you done aside from coaching? 
As mentioned above, Mr. McMorris and Dr. Phil Esten, who were my coaches, motivated me to become a coach.  To prepare myself, I dove into coaching in 1989 and never looked back.  Extensively, I studied exercise science via formal education (undergraduate and graduate, and all three levels of USATF coach education and certification program, as well as the IAAF Level 5). I have made it a point to read a lot of books on running and exercise physiology. I have talked to a plethora of coaches whom I respect, for they have great insights from which to learn.  In the last four and a half years, I have worked on a Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance (an old-school term for Exercise Physiology or Exercise Science). Once the COVID dissipates and our country returns to normalcy, I'll be allowed to collect data for my dissertation research.  Then, I can analyze the data and write conclusions to answer my hypotheses related to aerobic and anaerobic differences in human running performance, as demonstrated by changes in power and speed over time and distance, as well as gender and experiential differences.  Aside from coaching, I worked for many years as a radiology technologist and public-school physical education teacher.

6) You have a fairly unique training philosophy. How did you arrive at that philosophy? Was there a eureka moment or was that as a result of years of experience and research?
No one moment magically generated the basis of my philosophy. The main facet of my philosophy is to keep the ball rolling (KTBR).  I suggest, look at any sport, and it is noticeable how teams that do well in the championship portions of their post-season have momentum on their side.  Organizations that do well in the early part of the season - winning every game or every race using maximal effort - can lose momentum and have little success in the latter parts of their regular season. In some ways, the fable of the Turtle and the Hare represent sports.  The Turtle, who is slower but steadier in the early going of the race, tends to do better at the end of the competition by not burning up all the energy too quickly. 

In terms of training, I am a believer in the idea of multi-dimensional training with a lean toward aerobic development and skill acquisition, at least for runners competing in events lasting more than 3-minutes. I also believe that it is nonsense and erroneous to think people can develop only one form of fitness at a time.  Conventional phasic training models, as described in standardized (formalized) coaching education programs, need to be adjusted to match the reality of how people generate better performance capacity.  In my view, the main flaw in sports pedagogy relates to the model of multiple energy systems. The model is false because muscle contraction occurs strictly from the catabolism of ATP.  Thus, we have an ATP system. Accepting this to be accurate, we then must come to terms with the reality that it is nonsense to train various "energy systems" separately. Therefore, single workouts can integrate different intensity levels. The basis of my Integrated Training System (philosophy) explains how we have just one energy system. Thus, blending various intensities into single workouts is not only possible quite useful. Furthermore, the practice of integrating multiple work intensities into one training session simulates the demands of racing in which runners go out fast, settle back, surge, put in long sustained efforts, and then kick. Additionally, it boosts motivation for variety is the (mental) spice of life.

7) You are certainly passionate about the history of the sport of distance running. Where did that love of the sport begin? 
I think my love of the history of distance running formed through my interest in knowing about how our sport evolved in terms of performance (times over distances). I wanted to understand why we adopted specific methods and how they changed over the years. To me, the evolution of knowledge is formed layer upon layer.  If we know where we came from, know the gains we have made, and know the sticking points in our progress, we can formulate better ideas about how to move forward to make improvements. To me, this is the basis of development in both social and scientific domains.  I am fortunate to have been in the right place and the right time to see great people compete, read about the ideas of great coaches, and to have read research articles of great exercise physiologists. The latter people took the science route to examine phenomena and uncover the truth. In that regard, and from their inspiring work, I have made it a point to keep learning.  I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it is to want to know more, want to understand why, and have a desire to develop better strategies. When I read about famous coaches and what they learned in their situations, I imagined being in their location and facing their specific challenges. Imagination is the foundation of all great discoveries; it seems to me.  Imagine what could be. Imagine how to travel to that place in space or time. Let us think about the rope to which we hold tightly.  Question: Is it possible that we are in a stalemate of no progress?  Indeed, we feel secure, and from that, security develops complacency. Letting go of the fear that we could drown, we instead navigate the oceans of life and discover the beauty of far off lands.

8) Aside from your own coaches, who are the coaches that you have studied and collaborated with that have had the biggest impact on you?
I have studied the writings of several legendary coaches of the sport. Arthur Lydiard, Percy Cerutty, Gosta Holmer, Franz Stampfl, Dr. Herbert Reindel, Dr. Woldemar Gerschler, Ernest Van Aaken, Mihály Iglói, Bill Bowerman, Bill Dellinger, Harry Groves, Frank Horwill, Harry Wilson, George Gandy, and Pat Clohessy. I have studied the works of great sprint coaches in track and field. I have studied the works of great cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, and speedskating coaches. I have read thousands of research articles written by brilliant exercise scientists, sports psychologists, and biomechanists. I have read the works of great thinkers outside of sport to acquire different perspectives and question my thinking of how to solve problems. I have studied the works of great philosophers, for example, and found some of their insights to spot-on to what humans think, feel, know, and understand (or do not understand). It is clear to me that we have much to learn. It is clear to me that we have so little that we know. It is clear to me that questioning the doctrines we accept so quickly is the best, and perhaps only, way forward to greener pastures where life, vitality, and renewal are possible.  We must not allow limitations. We must not be afraid to fall. We must accept that life in our world is not constant and that the law of entropy encompasses our days and ways always.  All "things" decay without the input of new energy. Stay comfortable, and you will be left behind!!

9) When you put a training plan together, what are the key components that have to be present? How do you break up the blocks of training? 7 days? 10 days? Another length of time? How far back must you start from your goal race? What are the key nonrunning components that have to also be present?
I need to know the history of an athlete, the race schedule, vacation times, constraints such as no running on Sundays or working a part-time or full-time job, and so on before forming a training plan. The fitness and experience level of the runner/athlete is an important consideration.  I use cycles of training, rather than phases. Typically, I create two or three-week cycles that include the various components needed to build layer upon layer of fitness. I "buildup" a runner toward the goal event rather than assign isolated training in phases. Most runners (1500m to the marathon) should train for the 3k to 5k event most of the year.  It does not take much specific training to sharpen a runner for the 1500m when they have high fitness in the 3k-5k. In my view, it only takes about six workouts to be ready for a 1500m/1mile race if you have solid 3k-5k fitness. The same goes for the 10k - if you are fit for the 3k-5k, it takes about six workouts to be ready for the 10k.  A marathon runner should train for the 5k-10k most of the year and then switch (about 12-weeks before their event) to longer runs with quality that prepares them for the marathon race.  It is a bad idea, in my opinion, to train for the marathon year-round. You lose too much power if you only prepare for the marathon.  Nonrunning components include strength training, flexibility training, rolling out tight muscles, and any other therapies that facilitate the KTBR philosophy. Much depends upon how much the runner can afford. Epsom salt baths, elevating legs, and rubbing in Arnica gel can be low-cost therapeutic interventions if your $ resources are low.

10) What are the biggest errors that you see high school coaches make when it comes to coaching distance runners?
(1) Reducing training volume (mileage or minutes) during the race competitive season. The conventional model taught by organizations such as USATF is to build a base of miles before the race season, then reduce mileage while increasing the training intensity. The model is often not practical for most runners who compete in the 5,000m event. In contrast, the model works well for sprinters (100-200m runners) and long-sprinters (400-800m runners) who need an extremely high level of anaerobic capacity and speed. The model is generally ineffective for helping distance runners perform well at the end of the competition season.  Remember, the 5,000m race is highly aerobic - 94-97% depending on the duration of completion (the greater time to complete the distance, the higher percentage of aerobic energy contributes to the overall performance).
(2) The second major mistake of coaches it failing to individualize training volume, pace, and intensity of runners.  Consider the five main factors, as follows: (1) years of running experience, (2) year of sports participation experience, (3) prior training experience (think mileage/minutes and intensity), and (4) fiber type profile of the runner, and (5) maturation of the runner (both biological and emotion/cognitive age). Chronological age is not nearly as relevant as how physically mature a runner is and how mentally (problem-solving) and emotionally mature the runner is in terms of how well they handle the training, instruction, and pressure.

11) What do you feel has been the biggest change in training in the past 20 years and can you predict a trend that elite distance coaches seem to be headed toward that could revolutionize the sport?
A reduced amount of racing is the trend I have seen over the years. When I was in high school, we raced at least twice per week. That was a recipe for limiting the development of runners. Mainly, the way to have team success back then was to build a bi aerobic endurance "base" in the summer.  Once the cross-country season started, it was challenging to increase the amount of distance running kids could do.  They were too tired from racing frequently. Now, primarily due to budgetary constraints, the number of races is about one per week at most high schools. Fewer scheduled competitions help runners improve to a higher performance level.  They can build aerobic fitness throughout the competitive cross-country season more quickly than they could if they were racing twice or three times per week.

The use of critical velocity (CV) training (about half-hour race speed) as a regular tool for developing aerobic fitness is another significant change (for the better) in the sport.  In my view, CV training has revolutionized physical preparation training, especially at the lower developmental levels (middle school and high school years).  The introduction and of CV as a central training method was my focus on the internet starting in the year 2002/03.  Since those early years, the acceptance of the CV idea has worked its way into the conventional thinking of many high school coaches who are committed to developing their athletes to be state champions and NXN team qualifiers/contenders. It is noteworthy that some university coaches are using CV training as an integral tool, although not the only means, for developing their runners to high levels of aerobic fitness. Examples of programs that use CV include Northern Arizona University and the University of Portland.  The impressive coaches of these programs are committed to integrating any effective training method that makes their teams successful at the NCAA Championship level.  The coaches do not sit on their laurels and stagnate.  They adopt effective practices without concern for what the critics think. They care more about their athletes and programs than they do about the naysayers who find fault and ruin the image of the sport.

The relevance of CV-type training in the development of aerobic stamina - as measured by the speed at which lactate threshold occurs – is fundamental to my theoretical construct that emphasizes aerobic fitness development. My model stands on the shoulders of Arthur Lydiard, the long-ago great coach who constantly talked about the importance of developing cardiovascular fitness. While his method centered on running lots of distance/mileage, my approach emphasizes CV training as a time-efficient conjugate that improves aerobic fitness but takes it one step further.  In my theoretical model of aerobic fitness training, the issue with the distance running model is it is too general, and it falls short of developing bundles of fast intermediate (Type IIa) muscle fibers (motor units).  The power required of steady-paced distance running is insufficient to activate the Type IIa muscle fibers unless a runner goes far and thereby depletes the glycogen (store carbohydrate) levels of Type I (slow-twitch) fibers. That is, only when the glycogen levels are low will the Type IIa fibers be activated at a slow or moderate pace or power.
In contrast, running at roughly half-hour race speed or power activates the Type IIa motor units immediately.  Thus, the Type IIa fibers become trained to use available oxygen to generate ATP (the energy currency of muscle contraction).  The better the ability of the Type IIa fibers to use available oxygen, the better the strength of the runner to sustain a medium-fast to fast speed. The above is central to my CV theoretical model, but there is more. This brief description is merely an introduction to the model. The underlying phenomena of how energy reforms (ADP to ATP), how the motor units are activated and engaged, and how fitness develops, is both complex and fascinating.

While VO2max training (think 2-3k race speed) plays a role in the training plan design, the use of CV-type training is more longitudinally impactful.  The intense nature of VO2max work tends to limit how many weeks in a row it can be performed in practice before exhaustion halts progress or causes performance decline.  It is my observation that about 5-6 weeks of VO2max training is all athletes can handle. In contrast, CV training has far less fatigue, and therefore this workout can be run most weeks of the year.

Sadly, a significant change in the sport over the last 20 years is the immense amount of negativity on the internet by individuals who are jealous of others or individuals who are mad that they cannot experience success like others.  In either case, the negative individuals ruin the sport by maligning other runners or coaches. The internet and social media critics on the internet degrade running by belittling coaches and athletes who are trying to make the sport great – like the top-tier sports of football, basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, and rugby.  As a sport, running will never compete with the top-tier sports until the critics are washed out by the people who care about the running becoming great.  We need the public to perceive running as a professional sport, one that has parents encourage their kids to participate because the sport has a great image; has high standards of excellence and quality people.  We will never acquire large amounts of money in our sport until the image of it improves. Right now, running is perceived by the public as an amateur sport. Also, the public does not see running as relevant because it is not a team sport, or at least it is not imagined as a team sport by the public.  We must make the sport of running viewed as a team sport if we are to make our sport top-tier. The money will flow into the sport if we find ways to make running more team-oriented. Once cash flows into the sport, more people will join, and more opportunities will become available for athletes and coaches. It is necessary to get rid of jealous critics!

We can make our sport more publicly recognized in the USA if we put on events like the Ekiden relay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekiden) or add more distance relays to track events – especially open events that are beyond the university level.  For example, the Prefontaine Classic could have the distance medley relay, the 4 x 800m relay, or the 4 x 1-mile relay.  We certainly can have cross-country relays too. For example, we can have 5 x 1-mile cross-country relays or 3 x 2-mile relays.  Maybe we make the cross-country scoring system better understood by the public?  We show how cross-country is a team sport. Why not innovate? Why not be in the 21st century?

Thank you very much for your time, Tom! Albert

Moh Ahmed and Shelby Houlihan set North American 5k Records! || Portland Intrasquad Meet II

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Longtime coach Borg to pass reins of YHS cross country, track program

One of the most successful coaches in Northern California is stepping down from her positions at Yreka HS. Pam ran for the Cindergals in the 1970s and her boys' XC teams won two state XC titles in 2011 and 2013.
https://www.siskiyoudaily.com/news/20200707/longtime-coach-borg-to-pass-reins-of-yhs-cross-country-track-program

Here is an interview I did with Pam in 2011.
http://www.crosscountryexpress.com/2011/10/catching-up-with-yreka-hs-coach-pam.html

Monday, July 06, 2020

Catching up with Dougherty Valley coach, Stephanie Bambury

Today we chat with Dougherty Valley coach, Stephanie Bambury. She has been the Cross Country and Track and Field coach for Dougherty Valley ever since the school first opened in 2007. During her 3rd XC season, Bambury led her girls' team to their first section title by winning the North Coast Section Division IV race. Since then, DV has won 3 additional section titles in Division I (2 boys and 1 girls) and has qualified to the state meet consistently since that first section title in 2007. They have also done well on the track with the likes of Lucas Badcock (1:57.79/4:12.77/9:18.08), Neil Braganza (1:59.22/4:13.17/9:15.72) and Helen Guo (2:20.70/5:07.38/10:55.38). Bambury also ran at Lynbrook HS and qualified to the state meet in the 1600 in 1991 as she helped lead Lynbrook to the team title. You can check out a video of that race HERE.

1) What was your own running experience? How did you get your start into running? Highlights and proudest achievements during your competitive period? Did you participate in any other sports?
 I was originally a competitive swimmer and state cup winning soccer player. My first season of cross country was my senior year because girls swimming was a fall sport at the same time as cross country. I attended Lynbrook High School and there was no cross country coach so my parents asked a friend to coach me. Mark Frise was the Homestead HS coach but was not coaching at the time. In my first year of cross country, I won our league meet and took 4th in CCS Div 3 to go to State. I was 47th in the state that season (photo below to the right). Mark Frise was my assistant coach for several seasons at Dougherty Valley. I ran track all 4 years of high school. I was 2nd in CCS in the mile my freshman year with a 5:07.0. I was a 4x400 runner as well as a state meet qualifier. My Track team my freshman year won CCS with 7 girls on our team.

2) Who were the coaches that had the biggest impact on you as an athlete and what did you learn from them? 
I did not have a distance coach while in high school. Mark Frise was the first running coach I ever had and he was amazing. His knowledge of distance running was excellent. I was lucky to have him coach me to the state meet in my 1st season. Unfortunately, I broke my collar bone in the last soccer season of my high school career so my senior year track season was not so great. Mark taught me to have patience in my races and to know the course so I would be able to make my move at the right time. He taught me that it was supposed to hurt and how to mentally push through the pain. I credit him with helping me get my scholarship to St Mary's and being a D1 athlete.

3) What led you to coach and what was your first experience? What did you learn from that experience? 
I have been coaching my whole life! In high school, I recruited 4 basketball players to the cross country team so I could have a team of 5 and score at meets. I coached them on the days I was not running with Mark. In college, I was a youth swim coach. My St Mary's Coach resigned mid-season and I helped coach the other runners through the season. My first high school coaching job was at Wilcox High School with Walter VanZant. He was a great role model, completely dedicated to his runners. That season I learned Hank Lawson was coaching at my alumni Lynbrook and needed an Asst. Coach. I coached alongside him for 3 amazing seasons. Hank was my biggest coaching influence. He showed me how to set up a successful season, how to connect with athletes, and how to be an amazing coach. I am the coach I am today because of him. He continues to be my biggest coaching mentor. In 2015 I was awarded NCS's Coach of the Year award, I credit that to Hank and how much he has taught me about coaching.

4) How did you end up at Dougherty Valley? What else do you do at the school besides coaching?
When my husband and I relocated to the East Bay from the South Bay, I spent 3 years coaching at Foothill HS and Amador HS before Dougherty was opened. I was hired by Denise Hibbard as the first cross country coach at Dougherty. Our first season we had 15 runners on the team (photo below). It was a very new experience for me. I was just happy to have all 7 runners in a race cross the finish line! As the years went by our program grew and so did the talent on our team.

5) What was your experience during the first year? Who were the athletes that really bought in and helped you establish your program during that time?
There were many athletes who have helped shape our program. One of the earliest was Jonathan Javier. He was one of my first highly dedicated and focused athletes. His love for his team and the sport was new and different for our program. He was a huge influence on the younger generation on how to be a "real team". The girls on my 2009 team that won NCS were all great influencers for the girl's side. They were very team-oriented and great supporters of each other. Neil Braganza put DVHS on the map at the higher levels by placing in the top 10 of State D1. His dedication and hard work showed our team how to push through injuries and that hard work and focus really pays off. Jake Echner has been the biggest team influencer so far for our boy's team. His ability to bring the team together under a common goal was life-changing for our program.
6) Looking back at your time at Dougherty Valley, what have been some of your biggest highlights and proudest achievements for your athletes and teams? 
There are a few biggest achievements I am most proud of. Winning NCS Girls Div 4 in 2009 when the school was less than 5 years old was one of the biggest. Being named Coach of the year in 2015 was another. But I think most of all starting a program from scratch with a school full of kids who were relatively unhappy to be there and turning it into what it is now is my crowning achievement. (If you include track: winning DFAL 2 years in a row was pretty cool too).

7) What are your expectations for your runners during the summer? Any running camps? 
This summer has been challenging for everyone. Yes, I really hope all my athletes are running every day, but I am unable to check in with them or meet with them. We do not know if or when we will have a season. Everyone is waiting for CIF to make their announcement on July 20! Holding our breath is exhausting! I really do not want my seniors to miss out on their last season!

8) Who have been your coaching mentors during your own coaching career? 
Hank Lawson has been my biggest coaching mentor. He showed me how to push kids to their limits while having fun and making everything challenging and interesting. I love his funny hats at races and how much he cares about his runners. He is an amazing person! I would not be the coach I am today without his influence.

9) What does a typical week look like for your runners? Any morning runs? Typical weekly mileage? The distance of the longest run for your experienced runners? How often do they do strength work? 
In a typical week, my runners are doing 40-45 miles. I do not believe in higher mileage for HS athletes, their bodies are not developed for it yet. Let them ramp up in college. In the past few seasons, some of my most talented athletes have tried to increase mileage and it has resulted in injuries and peaking too early in the season. We do double days on Mondays with speed on the track at 5:45am and distance in the afternoon. We try to do all road runs on some or all dirt to save on knee and shin injuries. DVHS is lucky to have so many trails right outside our doorstep. We do hills every week and more speed towards the end of the season. Our longest runs are 10-12 miles and we try to incorporate strength and core 3-4x a week.

10) Since your running days to now, what are the biggest changes that you have seen in cross country and track and field (positive and negative)? 
I think the biggest challenges kids face these days is the balance of running and school in their lives. I do not remember being as stressed in school as my athletes seem to be. I wish they would stop and realize this is the best part of their lives and savor the moment. I want running to be a life long sport for my runners. I want them to be healthy and well balanced.

11) What would your advice be for a new coach taking over a team especially during these uncertain times?
To new coaches: remember to focus on the kids who want to be coached, and don't let the negativity of those who want to complain get you down. Take pride in watching your athletes improve and always look for ways to reach your kids. No one is perfect.

12) Anything else you would like to add. 
I sure hope we get a season this year!!

Thank you very much for your time, Stephanie!

Podcast featuring former St. Joseph Notre Dame runner Cooper Teare

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Results of Independence Day Show Down Sub-4



John Lester now has 1:48.26/4:05.46 PRs. Here is a comparison to some of the all-time greats in California as far as their 800 and 1600 PRs.

Jon Stevens Mission SJ 1:48.56/4:07.19
Dennis Carr Lowell, Whittier 1:48.6c/4:07.3c
Michael Stember Jesuit 1:49.29/4:04.00
Isaac Cortes Great Oak 1:50.20/4:04.01
Brian Wilkinson Merced 1:49.50/4:08.13
Jantzen Oshier Trabuco Hills 1:51.3/4:00.83
Louie Quintana Arroyo Grande 1:50.2/4:06.1
Coley Candaele Carpenteria 1:50.87/4:06.26
Mac Fleet University City, S.D. 1:50.31/4:02.90y
David Mack Locke, L.A. 1:50.2y/3:50.8i (1500)
Jeff West Crenshaw, L.A. 1:48.2/3:50.9i (1500)

Friday, July 03, 2020

Last Workout Before Sub-4 Mile Attempt


MileSplit will cover the race which will start on Saturday, July 4th at 8pm at this LINK.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Most iconic cross country courses in Northern California and California?

Please share in the comment section below, the cross country courses that you believe are the most iconic in Northern California as well as in the entire state. We are looking for 3 mile and 5k courses.

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