Monday, August 31, 2020

Amador Valley's Hope Bergmark with 17:02 Time Trial 5k

Amador Valley rising senior Hope Bergmark was the 2018 NCS Cross Country Division 1 champion at NCS as she led the Dons to the team championship. That season, she also won the Mt. SAC Invitational individual sweepstakes race as her team won that race as well. A little over a week ago, Bergmark ran a 5k Time Trial which you can view below in which she finished in 17:02.

Coach Steve Nelson - Unleashing The Winner Inside

A podcast with former Mt. Pleasant and current San Jose City College coach Steve Nelson. You can check out Coach Nelson's accomplishments at this LINK in which we have highlighted some of the top coaches in California history. You can find the podcast with Coach Nelson at this LINK.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Galen and Nolan Topper shine in Saturday 1600m Time Trial

During the summer, the website ranked Bellarmine as the 3rd best team in the nation behind only Newbury Park and Great Oak. In my own rankings which you can check out HERE, you can check out the NorCal team and individual rankings which have Bellarmine as the top team in NorCal and Nolan and Galen Topper as the 2nd and 4th best runners in NorCal. I actually had Galen at #3 behind his Bell teammates but didn't have the proof yet to keep him in that spot. Yesterday, Galen and Nolan along with Advait Krishnan of Evergreen Valley and Kevin Andrews of Los Altos followed former St. Francis runner JP Garcia to impressive early-season 1600m times. You can watch their effort below.
Galen Topper 4:13
Nolan Topper 4:15
Advait Krishnan 4:21
Kevin Andrews 4:25

Friday, August 28, 2020

Live races on YouTube going on right now! (from Michigan)

Click the link which will take you to YouTube and their live feed.

Possible cross country courses for the winter?

With our Cross Country season being pushed back to basically the winter, we have to think about what courses might be available if we get a super rainy season. The courses that typically come to mind during a regular season like Crystal Springs, Toro Park, Baylands, Hayward, Willow Hill etc. might not be available. 

If that is the case, what other courses could be used during those rainy days? Please include your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Catching up with Wilcox coach and CCS Time Comparisons wizard, Walt Van Zant

Today we chat with Wilcox HS coach Walt Van Zant. This 2020 season, Coach Van Zant will be coaching the Wilcox HS Cross Country team for the 37th year. He was chosen as the CCS Cross Country Honor Coach in 1996. Along with his excellent coaching, Van Zant has also contributed to the section with his yearly Comparisons and CCS Predictions which he started in 1998. The voluminous work that Coach Van Zant puts into both lists is tremendously appreciated by many coaches, athletes, and parents and we all hope that we can have a season starting in December so that he can start crunching those numbers once again. A broken wrist definitely did not stop him last year as he continued to share his work with all of us.

1) What was your own athletic experience? Highlights?
I attended St. Ignatius HS in San Francisco, graduating in 1957.  I had a job selling newspapers on a corner in the Haight-Ashbury district for several years, including my freshman year.  I got an academic scholarship at the end of my frosh year.  So, I quit my job and decided to go out for XC and track.

St. Ignatius did not have great XC teams or distance runners when I was there.  So, I was able to become their #1 distance runner by the end of my soph year.  My best mile time in high school was 4:45.  That was the longest event that we were allowed to run in the old days.  Milers were also not allowed to double.

I had a scholarship to attend USF but at the last moment, I decided to attend San Francisco State because USF did not have a track team and SF State did. That was one of the best decisions that I ever made.  I enjoyed my 4 years at SF State.

My event at SF State was the 2 mile with a best time of 9:56 in my junior year.  I won my share of dual meets in both high school and college.  I was our top 2-miler in my soph and junior years.  Two outstanding runners transferred into our school for my senior year – Bill Morgan and Ray Batz, who were much faster than me.  I did not train with the SF State track team during my junior and senior years because I had a job at the post office.  I squeezed training time in between classes.  All of our meets were on Saturdays.
Running wise,  the most significant part of my life was joining the West Valley Joggers & Striders (WVJS) in 1969 (George Sakkestad photo above). I frequently ran with Ken Napier (4:11 miler on a dirt track and a great guy to be around) after work each day for many years and met and ran with many other good runners, all of whom were great guys and gals to be with.  After I had Achilles tendon surgery at age 39 to remove a heel spur that had slowed me for about 5 years, I trained well (had 60+ mile weeks for at least 2 years and had 40+ bests of 2:11 for the 880, 4:46 for the mile, 10:27 for the 2 mile, 2:45:57 for the marathon, and 6:43 (8:03 per mile) for a 50-mile race(age 47).  A few weeks later, I ran the first 25 miles of a 50-miler at 7:00 pace and then crashed but still staggered to the finish.  A few weeks later, I injured my ITB and was unable to run the Western States 100-Miler – a fortunate stroke of good luck because the temperature can get up to 100 degrees during this race and I do not like heat.  I still run 5 times a week at a pathetic pace at age 81.

2) Who were the coaches that had an impact on you? What did you learn from them?
In high school, I had 5 different coaches in 6 seasons (3 XC and 3 track).  They were nice persons but I now know were not knowledgeable about distance running.  I doubt that I ran more than 10 miles in a week and I did not run in-between seasons.  So, there was not much impact from those coaches.

I had several more coaches in college at San Francisco State.  Walt Bohem was the best coach (had him for one year).  He was one of the top distance runners in the Bay Area for several years and was the best coach that I had.
In summary, I had one outstanding coach – Walt Bohem and I learned a lot from runs with Bill Morgan and Karl Griepenburg. (Editor's note: Karl's son Bjorn ran at Petaluma HS and I interviewed him in 2008 which you can find at this LINK.)

3) What was your main profession and what led you into that field?
I planned to become a forest ranger when I started in college but after taking an aptitude test during my freshman year, I changed my mind and decided to become an accountant.

My first and only employment was with the IRS – first as a revenue agent (audit tax returns, starting with individuals and working up to large corporations), then I worked as an appeals officer (attempting to settle cases before they go to court), and finally, I became a manager of appeals officers.  I also got my CPA certificate while working at the IRS. When I got my job with the IRS, it was strongly suggested that I stop running because I was so thin (6-2 and 135 pounds).  So, other than an occasional run, I did not start running again until I was 30.  Incidentally, don’t become an internal revenue agent as you will become very unpopular with your customers.

4) You started coaching at Wilcox HS in 1984. How did you end up coaching at Wilcox and what was your experience during that first year?
I live 3 miles from Wilcox HS.  All of my daughters attended that school and I attended most of their XC and track meets.  My oldest daughter, Becki, graduated from Wilcox in 1984 but just before my 2nd daughter started high school in September 1984, the Wilcox coach transferred to Santa Clara HS.  So, I took over the Wilcox job with the help of a very good runner in our club – Carol Stroud.  Neither Carol nor myself had any prior coaching experience. We just used the workouts for our runners that we had been running ourselves except that we lowered the mileage. I also in subsequent years attended many clinics for track events and distance running.  I also received helpful tips from Hal Daner of Gunn and Paul Jones of Palo Alto.

Our first few years were difficult.  We had very few girls and about 10-15 boys during the first couple of years.  The middle schools in our district had no XC program (and, still do not have a XC program) and I had no way of coming in contact with incoming students.  I think that during my 2nd or 3rd year of coaching that I went and talked to all of the PE classes and I talked to some of the track runners about trying XC.  And, at some point, I started visiting the two middle schools that fed into our school and got their PE mile times from their PE teachers.  I would then send recruitment letters to the sub 6:30 boy runners and sub 8:30 girl runners).  So, I gradually built up my numbers).  I was a believer in high mileage for my runners but most of the time was unsuccessful in getting them to even run 40 miles per week.  The late Homer Latimer (Leigh HS) was very successful in getting his runners up to 70 miles per week back in the 1970s and I believe that one year he had 10 runners break 10 minutes in the 2 mile.  He was also a great motivator and one of the top long-distance runners in the area at the time that he was coaching.

5) How difficult was it juggling working for the IRS and coaching at the same time?
Getting to practice on time was rarely a problem.  My boss let me start an hour ahead of time and leave an hour earlier.  When we had a meet, I would take an hour or two of vacation time.  Getting to Becki’s meets in earlier years was more difficult as sometimes I had to be in other parts of the country when I was in the large-case program.  My training dropped off a lot after I started coaching.

6) When do you remember starting the CCS time comparisons? What was the reason you started doing those? How much work goes into maintaining those lists?
I think that I started my comparisons lists in about 1998.  Prior to that, I made up a list for myself but at a smaller level.  I started my present system because sometimes I disagreed with the newspaper rankings.  I asked Hank Lawson (left with Walt in photo) whether he wanted it and he said yes.  I also decided to call it “Comparisons”.  I do put my comparisons in my ranking order but sometimes I make big mistakes and most of my rankings are judgemental.  So, in order to avoid wasting time arguing with coaches and parents, I just call it “Comparisons.”  Also, in recent years, I’ve sent my comparisons to some coaches before they are posted and ask them to vote for the top teams and to send their votes to Hank Lawson.  I do not want to see their votes.  As far as I know, Hank is the only one that sees the individual team rankings. Obviously, I see their cumulative votes and that is when I sometimes discover that I made a big mistake in my ranking.

7) What have been your primary resources in finding all the data? What is the most time-consuming part of putting the time comparisons together?
I look at Hank’s results, your results, results, and other posted results.  I try to do this during the week but a lot of this gathering comes on Sunday because of Saturday invitationals.  This is probably the most time-consuming task along with entering the top 7 times for teams on a worksheet.  If a team is obviously very weak, I will skip them.  Some teams have different top 7 runners every week, including some who are so slow that the coaches must be pulling them out of the classroom at the last moment in order to have a team.  Other teams, such as Bellarmine, have so many good runners that I do not know where to stop.  Their #50 runner or maybe even farther down on their list could make the varsity on a lot of teams.  Also, ranking teams at the division level takes awhile.  Another problem is when key runners are missing from a team.  Are they gone for the season or just for that week?  What do you do with teams that obviously loafed for a meet because the meet was a mandated meet by the league and the meet has no bearing on the league standings?

8) Along with the time comparisons, you have also done the CCS predictions before the actual races. First of all, how did you come up with the course conversions? After the meet is over, do you go back and compare your predictions to the results? For the most part, do most teams finish about where they were predicted to finish? Throughout the years, any standout individuals and/or teams that just crushed it at CCS?
As a general rule, I use the times run at the league finals and the CCS each year to come up with differentials between courses.  I have analyzed these times for several years and in general, these differentials have not significantly changed.  So, I keep using the same differentials.  If I know that a course was run on a hot day or a very rainy day, I ignore it.

I concentrate on which teams make it to the State Meet as compared to which teams I predicted would make it to the State Meet.  I compare how I do each year. In general, a high percentage of my picks make it to the State Meet.  Last year 19 of the 26 teams that I picked to go to the State Meet made it.  In general, teams run consistent with their league finals times at the CCS meet  So, I should have a high percentage.  There are always a few exceptions.  As an example, last year the Gunn girls ran much better at the CCS meet than at their league finals because they added two outstanding runners to their league-meet team.

9) As a coach, what have you learned from doing the data over many years?
A lot of times the data does not mean anything.  But, other times I can show it to my runners and show them that they have a chance to qualify for the CCS or State meets and show them what they have to do in order to make that goal.  Also, sometimes runners want to know what they have to do to do well in an invitational and the Comparison list will give them that information.

10) During each season, how many emails do you get telling you that you are under or over ranking their teams? Any "I told you so" emails after the CCS meets?
I seldom get this kind of email. But, when I do get this type of email, I will consider it in my next Comparison list.  I do not recall receiving any “I told you so” emails after the CCS meet.  One good friend of mine tells me that if I under-rank his team that he uses it to get them more motivated.  I told another coach who was upset that he did have a good team (because he did) that I thought that the other teams above him were better.  Sometimes, I just plain make mistakes.

11) If we end up having a season, how difficult will it be to do the CCS Time Comparisons this year? Have you started on your lists already?
I have not yet started on my comparison list this year because it takes a lot of time and I do not want to waste the effort for nothing.  Also, I am in charge of a running club and have a few things to accomplish very soon.  So, I will not start on Comparisons for a few more weeks.  My guess is that we will have a season.  I understand that some vaccination projects are onto their final experiment round.  So, I think that we will be ready to go by January 2021.

Thank you very much, Walt!

Monday, August 24, 2020


Former Sacred Heart Cathedral and Duke University runner Shannon Rowbury. She won multiple state track titles in HS and has already been a 3-time Olympian in 2008, 2012 and 2016. You can check out the article at this LINK.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Memorial service for Jim Hume, longtime Peninsula track official and coach

A reminder that Jim's memorial is today at 11am. It's coming live from the Crystal Springs course at this LINK. There was a newspaper article earlier this week about Jim which you can find at this LINK.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Frank Hunt, Aragon cross country coach, showing no signs of slowing

From SM Daily Journal, August 19, 2020 by Nathan Mollat.

81-year-old Frank Hunt has spent 20 years as a high school running coach

Frank Hunt started his running career like so many others — as a New Year’s resolution.

More than 40 years later, Hunt is still running. Not only still running, but imparting a lifetime’s worth of information and training to hundreds of high school cross country and track & field distance runners as a coach at Burlingame and Aragon.

“I was at (a New Year’s Eve) cocktail party in 1978, weighed 179 pounds, and felt good. We decided we should get in shape.”

The following Monday, a small group showed up at the track at Capuchino to begin their new workout regime. By Friday, Hunt was the only person in the group left.

And he has kept showing up, logging countless miles. He has coached with and run with collegiate All-Americans and Olympians with his corporate running teams. He has run several marathons — including the 1982 Boston Marathon — and has simply made running a part of his life.

“I liked being out there (running),” Hunt said. “So I kept going. By February (of 1979), I was (running) 2 miles.”

Now at the age of 81, Hunt’s coaching career is about two-third of the 37 years he spent in banking and finance with Bank of America as he has spent the last two decades coaching runners at first Burlingame and now Aragon. Hunt had already established a successful banking career when he got into running. Never in his wildest imagination did he think he would have this kind of second chapter in life.

The fact he had a second chapter at all was almost by sheer luck. At the age of 61, after having already spent more than 20 years running and with tens of thousands of miles under his feet, he started experiencing pain in his shoulder that would radiate to the middle of his back as he warmed up for his workouts. After a short rest, he would continue his workout and feel fine.

When he went to see his doctor for his annual physical, Hunt was given some sobering news.
“I had 95% blockage in one artery and 100% blockage in the other,” Hunt said. “I had been running for 20-something years. How could this be? He said, ‘If you hadn’t started running, you would have had an event in your 50s and you wouldn’t even be here.”

Hunt said the doctor told him that his years of running had developed new capillaries that allowed his heart to pump blood around the blockages.

Hunt has certainly taken advantage of his second chance, having spent the last 20 years helping develop some of the best cross country runners to come out of the Peninsula Athletic League, a position he almost fell into by accident. It all started when he was recruited by then-coach Mike Fitzgerald to run at Skyline College as a 60 year old. Hunt enrolled in school to be eligible and went through the summer training session. In the last session, he hurt his knee, costing him the opportunity to run for the school.

Instead, he joined the coaching staff. At the time, Fitzgerald has set up three different training sessions — morning, noon, and afternoon. He put Hunt in charge of the 8 a.m. and noon sessions.
When he had his heart surgery the following summer, he returned as an assistant at Skyline — and also started helping Burlingame cross country Steve “Obie” O’Brien. He spent eight years as an assistant at Burlingame before heading to Aragon. He spent his first seven years as co-head coach with Bill Daskorolis and has been the sole head coach since Daskorolis retired three years ago.
Hunt said there are two things that keep him coming back to coach. One, is the energy he gets coaching high school kids. Keeps him young, he said.

His other goal is wanting to get the best out of his athletes. Whether they are state-level runners or first timers, Hunt gets a kick out of seeing his runners get better as the season went along. He said of his greatest joys was seeing a student-athlete who could not complete two laps of the track at the beginning of the season run a sub-7 minute mile by the end of the year.

“That, to me, was a major success,” Hunt said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some good athletes. The biggest [thrill] to me is to watch improvement.”

It’s his competitiveness that Hunt wants to bring to his team. While getting the most out of a runner is the ultimate goal, he also wants to see his teams perform when the starting gun sounds. He’s proud of the fact that he has taken at least one runner to the state meet every season during his high school coaching career and helped qualify both the Aragon boys’ and girls’ teams for the state meet for the first time in school history, in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

But Hunt believes its his own love for the sport that allows him to bring the energy necessary to coach kids who could easily be his grandchildren.

“I’m constantly trying to learn the latest (running) tips and what’s going on around the country. … If I don’t feel I’m giving them the best I’ve got, I wouldn’t be there,” Hunt said. “If I ever felt I was holding a kid back, that’s the time to step away.”

But now is not that time. While he has certainly slowed his own roll — he said he averages about 8 miles a week after logging 40 to 70 miles at his peak — Hunt plans to be coaching when the season is tentatively scheduled to begin in December and will be out there as long as the school still wants him and his body allows.

And right now, his body still allows him to be out there.

“I didn’t think I’d be here (coaching high school runners) for 21 years now,” Hunt said. “How crazy is that?”

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Catching up with Saugus coach Rene Paragas...

Saugus coach Rene Paragas announced his retirement yesterday. Here is my interview with Coach Paragas from July 22, 2008. During his tenure, his teams won 10 state titles (9 girls and 1 boy) and made the podium (top 3 finish) a combined 19 times. 
What school fielded the best girls' xc team in CA in 2007 (and 2006 for that matter)? The answer is a clear and definite one and that is Saugus HS. They broke 7 course records during the '07 season including the CA state meet team record by 32 seconds. Their lone loss was at the Nike Team Nationals (NTN) race as they finished 2nd to one of the best girls' team ever, Fayetteville-Manlius HS. They will once again be the favorites to win their 3rd consecutive CA state meet division I crown as they return 4 out of their top 5 girls from last season.

The following is an interview with their coach, Rene Paragas (Santa Clarita Signal photo) as he was gracious enough to answer my questions. Enjoy!

1) How did you get your start in distance running and tell us a little about your competitive time in the sport?
I started running in junior high school PE. I wanted to break 5:00 in the mile. Never did though. Got down to 5:11. In 1994 I graduated from Hart HS in Santa Clarita with a best of 1:55 for 800m. Then went on to El Camino CC where I made the state meet two years in the 1500m with a best of 3:55, before finally earning a degree at Cal Poly Pomona. I was pretty much injured my whole time at Cal Poly.

2) What led you to choose teaching and coaching as your profession?
In my early days of running, I wanted to have good XC teams and I used to try to convince my friends to run, organize Saturday workouts, design training programs for myself. I guess that's where I first had the desire to coach. As I got older I realized that teaching would be the best profession for me and my degree (history) if I wanted to coach at the high school level.

3) What do you think are the biggest changes in the sport of cross country that you have seen between your competitive time and now?
People are training harder. Mostly running more miles. When I was running there was a big push for lower miles and cross-training. Now it seems to me, people have made it more simple and are simply running more. And then there are the year-round club sports that are making it very difficult to get kids to run. Soccer, volleyball, etc. There were more multi-sport athletes back in the '80s and '90s.

4) Who are your coaching mentors that helped you become the coach that you are today?
My own coaches: Thom Lacie, Dave Klinger, Gene Blankenship, and Dean Lofgren.
Plus I'm a big fan of Jack Daniels and Arthur Lydiard.

5) How long have you coached at Saugus HS and did you coach anywhere else before?
This will be my 5th season of coaching the boys at Saugus and 4th with the girls. Before that, I worked at a JHS where I coached a small group of middle school kids for 3 years.

6) What was the state of the program when you took over? What kind of changes did you make and what did you keep status quo?
When I took over the boys program, they had finished in the bottom two at league for 4 straight years, had only 13 boys on the team, and only one of them could break 5-minutes in the mile. We had 3 freshman recruits that first year. But the biggest problem was a culture of losing and apathy. That was my biggest challenge. Trying to get those kids to believe that they could compete with anyone. I tried to change everything I could to break away from the past. The same was true for the girls when I started coaching them the next spring in track. I wiped the slate clean and tried to build from the ground up. Many of the girls did not like that approach and we faced some difficult challenges.

7) Can you identify a runner(s) that helped elevate Saugus to the level that it has reached today?
Shannon Murakami's success during the 2005 track season really helped. She and her parents believed in me, allowing her to train at the level she needed to. Plus one of my first freshman boys was an awesome recruiter. He got his friends out the next year to run and they would go on to win two league titles.

8) What do you think attracts students from your school to come out for xc and track? What do you do personally to get students to come out for your sport?
It's extremely difficult to get kids to come out to run at Saugus. Saugus has long been known for its apathetic student body, not only in athletics but in academics as well. My biggest role is trying to change the culture of the student body in my own class. Trying to get them to have their own opinions and care about something. Heck, anything! In the 3 years that I have taught at Saugus, I've only been able to get 3 kids out of my class to run and it is not for a lack of trying either. I would say that one out of every hundred kids I talk to on campus even gives the sport a try with maybe half staying on the team.

9) What workouts do you consider as keys to the success of your program? What does a typical week look like for your team?
The key to our success is long term aerobic development. We don't mortgage our future with doing too much interval work. Every season is based on trying to increase our aerobic base for future years. The best way to do this is long runs and threshold work. Listed below is a late August/ early September week of training.
Sunday: 3-10 miles very easy OYO
Monday: 5-7x mile Cruise Intervals
Tuesday: 90-120 minute LSD with surges
Wednesday: 60-minute recovery run
Thursday: 20min Track Tempo with 200m Reps afterward.
Friday: 60-minute recovery run
Saturday: 8-10 miles on hilly trails at a high aerobic pace

10) Describe the training area around Saugus. Positives and negatives?
Saugus is paved over. There is a branch of the Santa Clara River that runs through our town for flat running, but the rest of the area is hilly.
The positives of training in our area are that we have hills, a large grass park about a mile from our school, an all-weather track and a flat paved bike path with no signals that go on for 5-miles.
The negatives is that it is hot, hot, and hot! Just about every day is over 90 degrees in our area until October with many days in the 100-105 degree range. It's also difficult to find runs that are not all pavement.

11) Tell us a little about your teams' NTN experience from the past two seasons. How do you get a team to compete well in the tough SS, the state meet, and then NTN over a short span of time?
I'm not a big fan of NTN. If I could, we would skip that meet altogether. But the girls want to run there so we do. The main goal of our program is to win the state meet and it showed our first year at NTN. We were cooked and sick by the time we got to Portland and ran awful. Embarrassed by our performance, I changed a few things to make sure we ran respectably at NTN. But to answer your question, you don't. It's just too many hard weeks of racing in a row. I felt we ran sub-par at NTN again, but well enough to get second. We just tried to focus on being tough, because physically we were dead by the time we got there.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Nah, I'm good.

Thank you very much for your time, Rene!

Monday, August 17, 2020

National pre-season XC rankings posted on Tully Runners

You can check out the boys at the following link. Bellarmine, Jesuit, Campolindo, and De La Salle are all ranked or mentioned.

You can check out the girls at the following link. St. Francis Mountain View girls are ranked 17th.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Bruce Grant, legendary Marin track coach, dies at 91

If you look back at the history of NCS, you will see the Coach Grant's teams (girls) won the first two possible section titles in 1974 and 1975. His teams also had similar success in track as well. The Tamalpais track is still named after him and he was still coaching in his 90s at Terra Linda. Thanks to Albany HS coach Craig Stern for forwarding the link. RIP Coach Grant.

Catching up with Coach Thomas "Tinman" Schwartz

In case you missed it, Rheinhardt Harrison ran a 4:01.34 mile last night at the Music City Distance Carnival. The significance of that performance is that Harrison is a rising junior in high school which means his time breaks the sophomore classes record previously set by Edward Cheserek at 4:03.29. Harrison is also coached by Tinman so it seems timely to move this interview back to the front page.
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 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 ( 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

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Podcast with Amador Valley HS coach Jason Oswalt

You can find that podcast at this LINK.

You can also check out my interview with Coach Oswalt which I did during the spring at this LINK.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Catching up with former College Prep and current Pomona-Pitzer runner Ethan Ashby

Today we chat with former College Prep (NCS) runner Ethan Ashby (Photo courtesy of Mark Ashby). During the 2019 cross country season, Ashby was the 4th man on Pomona Pitzer's NCAA Division III National Champion team. It was the school's first national XC title in history. In fact, this was the first trophy that they had ever won at the national championship race. Ashby graduated from College Prep in 2017 and had PRs of 4:31.35 and 9:35.36 on the track and was a 4-time participant at the California state cross country meet. As a senior, Ashby led his College Prep teammates to a BCL East title over the Cooper Teare led St. Joseph Notre Dame team.

1) What sports did you do before high school? Any running experience?
I did a number of sports before HS. I started playing soccer and tennis as a kid, but I was never very good at either. But when my older brother went out for XC in HS, I decided to start running with him. I started running in 7th grade and haven’t looked back.

2) When you started out in HS, who were the leaders on the team that you looked up to and set the culture for the College Prep team?
There were a lot of great leaders on our squad... guys like Tris Dodge and Alex Glavin come to mind because they provided the blueprint of how to be a serious, successful runner. I remember being added to a Facebook group the summer before my Freshman year called “Crew Love” (named after the Drake song), where all the Varsity guys introduced themselves and said that they wanted to make it to State that year. CPS hadn’t made it to State in several years, and the guys were really motivated to change our fortunes that season. When we learned that we qualified at the NCS meet, I remember our captain at the time, Matt Romer, crying tears of joy. It sort of impressed on me and the younger guys the importance of what we just accomplished. I think that year was sort of a culture shift because our team ended up qualifying teams to state for the next 6 years!

3) At what point in your high school career did you make the transition where running was important to you?
Running was pretty important to me from the get-go. I was a serious runner by the time I was in 8th grade, and when I visited CPS, I was impressed with the guys and the coach, Jack Coakley. So the team actually factored into my HS decision a little bit, to be honest.

4) What were some of your HS highlights and proudest achievements in both XC and TF?
The one that comes to mind is the BCL league championship meet my senior year in XC. St. Joe’s had joined our league that year, and we had a back and forth rivalry going with them. I think I made binders for each guy on our Varsity squad, with pictures and times for the guy on St. Joe’s that they needed to shadow and beat. It honestly felt we were planning a hit. Our plan ended up working out and we came out on top! We went bananas after that. My biggest T and F highlight was probably breaking 10:00 in the 3200m in my sophomore year. I dealt with bad iron-deficient anemia during my freshman year and considered leaving the sport. Coming back the next year and breaking 10:00 (I think by like 0.01 second) was really validating of all the hard times I went through the previous year. (Photo courtesy of College Prep)

5) Who were your high school coaches and how did they motivate you and what did you learn from them?
I had a number of different coaches throughout high school. Jack Coakley was XC coach for most of my time at CPS, and he took a really patient and thoughtful approach to training us young athletes. I think that set me up for success at the collegiate level since I finished high school injury-free and ready to make strides in college. I’ll also shout out Kiet Tran and Janice Prudhomme, who were our track coaches for a couple seasons: they were super knowledgeable about training and made me become a more detail-oriented athlete in my training. (Photo courtesy of Mark Ashby)

6) When do you feel like you made the decision to run in college? How did you go about selecting Pomona College? Where there other schools that you seriously looked at before choosing Pomona?
I think the fall of my senior year. I felt like I had more I wanted to accomplish, and I really wanted to see how far I could push myself. Pomona was really the perfect fit for me on a number of levels: they had a studly, fun team, excellent academics, and the SoCal environment just felt like a place where I could be myself and flourish. I wanted a small liberal arts experience, so I ended up mostly applying to places like Pomona, Carleton, and a bunch of the NESCAC schools. But Pomona was #1 in my heart from the outset.

7) How was the transition going from HS to college running? What was the hardest part of running in college as a freshman? Is there something you wish you could have done differently in HS that would have made that transition easier?
It was an adjustment because CPS was a low mileage program, and Pomona-Pitzer is a 7-days-a-week, higher mileage program. But I handled the mileage pretty well and was starting to see a big jump in my performance (especially in the spring, where I ran 15:04 in my first ever collegiate 5k). But I ended up incurring a femoral stress fracture halfway through my freshman track season from a combination of the steeplechase and not listening to my body. That halted my momentum during my freshman year, and it took me around a year to fully get back from that. So it had its ups and downs for sure. (Brian Sibanda photo above)

8) Last fall, your team won the Division III national championship. At what point in the season do you feel that the national championship became a possibility for you and your teammates? What were the reactions of your teammates and yourself when it was announced that your team had won?
We lost the best runner in program history that year to graduation, so it was supposed to be a "rebuilding year" for us. But a lot of guys made a big jump that summer and by the beginning of the season, we knew that a podium finish was a possibility for our squad. But we hoped for a fourth or third-place finish... but outside our forever-optimistic coach Kyle, we never dreamed of winning! At Nationals, I crossed the line, laid down on the ground with our guys, and all of us were like “damn that was a good race for me”! But we had no idea where we had finished. My teammate, Dante, and I left the finishing chute and Coach Kyle grabbed us, and he couldn't speak. In that moment, I remember feeling a wave of shock and incredulity: a “what the heck just happened” kind of feeling. Once we learned that we had won, we screamed ourselves hoarse, tackled each other, and basically celebrated the whole way back to the hotel and Claremont. My parents also flew out to the meet, so it was super special to share that moment with them too. It was honestly one of the highlights of my life! (Photo courtesy of Pomona-Pitzer)

9) From HS, favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC course? Favorite XC workout? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF workout? Favorite long run? 
I always loved the Stanford Invitational in HS, because it was cool to be around such great collegiate competition. My favorite course was probably the State Course just because there’s so much lore surrounding it. My favorite XC workout: I always loved our long repeat sessions at Dwight Derby dirt track in Berkeley. Sometimes we'd be treated to a nice Berkeley sunset at the end of our workout. My favorite track meet was NCS Class A my junior year because they played smooth jazz music and they had an Espresso machine. What a classy affair! My fave event in Track was the 3200 hands down. As Jack Coakley would say: "8 laps of pure pleasure". My favorite workout in track was probably some of the workouts we did at a Chabot College- especially longer repeats like 1000s or 1200s. My favorite long run spot in HS was Iron Horse Trail because it’s just so darn flat.

10) From your own experience, what would you tell HS runners who are determined to compete at the Division I level but might have a better experience at Division II or III school?
I have loved my experience in D3: I've had a fantastic academic experience, made some of my best friends through the team, and accomplished some cool things athletically. I was definitely interested in the mystique of running D1 at some point in high school too, but I learned pretty quickly that “D1” is just a label. Obviously, the top-tier of D1 is a whole different ball game, and if you want to be a professional runner, going to one of those elite programs is your ticket. But at Pomona-Pitzer, we’ve gone to a lot of big meets and buried D1 teams, some of which I was once infatuated with running for back in high school. I’d remind high school athletes that D1 has no magic recipe for developing runners... in fact, I think D3 and D2 programs are generally going to take a more active interest in your development than a lot of D1 programs. So I'd encourage athletes to choose a school for the academics and the coach, rather than the label. Pomona's excellent academics and our coach, Jordan Carpenter, really fit the bill for me.

11) During this uncertain time, what has kept you motivated to continue to run? 
Running is a great outlet to get outside and get the stress out. I think it’s been great for my mental health, so it’s almost become an important self-care ritual for me. (Photo courtesy of Mark Ashby)

12) Anything else you would like to add.
Hope everybody is staying safe right now! I'm going to be living and training in Park City, Utah this fall, so DM @loosebois on IG and we can link up for a run!

Thank you very much for your time, Ethan. AJC 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What is your motivation to run now?

With the impending cross country season still, months away, what is your motivation to get out the door and complete your daily runs/workouts? What is something that your coach has done that has motivated you to keep training? 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Catching up with former Bella Vista HS star, Harold Kuphaldt...

Bringing this interview back to the front that I had posted a few years ago.
Today we chat with former Bella Vista HS runner, Harold Kuphaldt (picture to the left courtesy of this BV Track).  He graduated from high school in 1982 with PRs of 4:05.54c (1600m.) and 8:51.99 (3200m.).  He won the Sac-Joaquin Section cross country individual championship in 1981 when it was one division and pre-state meet.  Bella Vista HS won the SJS team XC championship in 1980 and 1981.   He finished in 2nd place at the Kinney National Meet when all the best runners raced each other to determine a true national champion.  He was also a 2-time SJS champion in the 3200m. in 1981 and 1982.  In 1981 he followed his victory at the section meet with a 5th place at the CA state meet, running 8:54.78.   His senior year, Harold won the state 3200m. crown running his PR of 8:51.99 and outdistancing one of the legends in CA running, Camarillo HS runner, Eric Reynolds.  Harold continued his running career at the University of Oregon and ran for Olympic medalist, Bill Dellinger.  You can see some of his collegiate success below which included a sub 4-minute mile.  Harold has joined the coaching ranks at his old high school and will be inducted in the Sacramento Running Association Hall of Fame in January 25th.

1)  What sports did you play in your youth?  How did you get involved in running?
I did not do any other organized sports, other than running, and I didn't start running until I was 12 years old.  My sister Patty started running on the very first girls' cross country team at Bella Vista high school in the fall of 1976.  I knew I had some talent for running based on my performance in the presidential physical fitness six-minute run test in grade school, so, I decided to give it a try. I started training in January of 1977 with my sister and the girls at Bella Vista high school.

2)  When did you first realize that you were a pretty good runner?
My very first race was the California 10 (10-mile race) in Stockton California.   I believe that race is still run every year.  I was 4' 10" and 75 lbs and had been training for 8 days before the race.  I ended up beating my sister in the race and ran 69 minutes and some seconds.  Afterward, my sister's high school coach Ralph Blount told my mother that she should encourage me to keep running because he thought I had some talent.

3)  What were some of your high school highlights and proudest achievements in both XC and TF? 
Several accomplishments come to mind as my most memorable.  Topping the list would be:
1.  Winning the high school state 3200m title in California in 1982.
2.  Finishing second at the Kinney nationals (Now Footlocker nationals) in 1981.
3. Placing 6th in the Steeplechase in the 1984 NCAA Div I championships and helping my team win the NCAA team title in front of our home crowd.
4.  Running my first (and only) sub four-minute mile at the Twilight meet in Eugene, OR in 1987.  Not necessarily in that order.

4)  Tell us a little about your high school coach and how he helped you develop as a runner.  What did you learn from him that you carry on to this day?
I was blessed to have an excellent high school cross country and track coach by the name of Dan Greenwald.  He coached at least six or seven runners who made the All-Northern California teams for high school cross country.  I learned so much of the fundamentals of training distance runners from him including: periodization of the training cycle and how to peak for the big meets.  He had a knack for recognizing when I was having an off day in training and changing the workout in such a way that I could have some success.  I definitely try to do that in my coaching today.  He was, and is, a good friend even to this very day.  He always tried to make running fun and I definitely try to incorporate that into my training plans today.

5)  How did you end up choosing the University of Oregon?  Tell us a little about your college experience.  Highlights and proudest achievements?
When I was running in junior high school I ran for a club called the Roseville Gazelles. One or two of my teammates followed the University of Oregon program very closely. They would bring articles about Alberto Salazar and Rudy Chapa to meets and tell me how they wanted to run for the University of Oregon.  That planted the seeds for me that ultimately lead to my decision to attend the University of Oregon.  Of course, my visit to the University of Oregon and receiving a personal call from Alberto Salazar sealed the deal for me.

I absolutely loved my experience at the University of Oregon. It is everything that you would imagine it would be to run in a stadium where the fans are incredibly knowledgeable and love just distance runners.  The first time I put on a University of Oregon singlet I literally had chills running down my spine thinking about the legacy at U of O, of which I was now a part.  The friendships that I made on the track and cross-country teams at the University of Oregon I maintain to this day.  This past June I took my son Scotty to a University of Oregon track and field alumni reunion in Eugene while attending the NCAA championships in Eugene.  I was, once again, reminded of how cool it is to be part of the rich legacy that is the University of Oregon.  I was able to meet and introduce to my son Ashton Eaton, Andrew Wheating, Terry Williams, Dave Taylor, Jim Hill, Pat Tyson, and many many more including, of course, my coach Bill Dellinger.

As for the highlights of my running career at U of O, I already mentioned two big ones.  I would also add running in 6 NCAA championship meets (3 in Cross Country and 3 in track) and making All-American twice was pretty cool.  I am very proud to have won the "Emerald Award" as the outstanding senior scholar-athlete at the University of Oregon in 1987.  But honestly, my best memories are of the many hours of training together with my friends and fellow warriors on the track and trails around Eugene and pushing our bodies to the limits just to see what we were capable of doing.  Finally, I would say running in front of the Hayward Field crowd in Eugene is an experience I will never forget!

6)  Who was your coach at Oregon?  What did you learn from him?
My coach at the University of Oregon was Bill Dellinger. He was/is a legend in the track and field world. He is an Olympic Bronze medalist in the 5000m in Tokyo in 1964 and coach of so many legendary distance runners.  I don't think I would make Bill's top 30 list of all the great distance runners he has coached.

I learned a lot from Bill.  First and foremost, there is no substitute for hard work!  He would say "You can't do anything in a race that you haven't prepared yourself for in practice".  We would try to take the components of a race that we wanted to work on ... Such as surging in the middle of a race when you are already feeling tired ... and simulate them in practice ... Only make it even harder than a race.  The famous 30th avenue drill at Oregon is an example of this training.  I definitely try to incorporate this philosophy into my current training plans.  I remind the kids why we are doing the workout, and what the main goal is for the workout.  I often will relate the workout to real race situations.

Bill Dellinger was a big believer in tempo runs and I definitely bought it to that approach.  I think you can gain a great deal of fitness with minimal risk of injury by incorporating regular (almost weekly) tempo runs into your training schedule.

7)  What is your current occupation?  How long have you been doing that?
I am a physical therapist currently working with Interim home care which is a home health agency. I have been a physical therapist since 1988.

8)  How did you get involved in coaching?  What is your current position at Bella Vista HS?  What are some of your biggest thrills in coaching?
My friend and former high school track teammate Dave Unterholzner has been the head track coach at Bella Vista HS for many years.   Ever since I moved back to the Fair Oaks area in 1996 he has been trying to get me to come and help with the distance program.  At the time my boys were very young and I was traveling a lot for my job.  Despite my love for coaching and for distance running, I did not feel I could justify the time away from my family at that time.  Then, as my kids grew up and started to get into sports they gravitated towards soccer and baseball.   I began coaching both baseball and soccer to be involved with their activities. I loved coaching but, to be honest, I do not have the same passion for baseball and soccer as I do for running.  Then, when my oldest son Adam was a freshman at Bella Vista HS he surprised me by making the decision to start running cross country in the fall of 2008.  I decided to help out where I could.  My biggest frustration was seeing how small the distance program was at Bella Vista.  I think we only had about a dozen runners between both the boys and girls program in 2008.  Back in my days at Bella Vista and throughout the years that all my brothers and sisters ran at BV, the distance programs were strong on both girls and boys side.  It seemed to me that the program had taken a huge step backward.  In 2009 I agreed to help Brett Sargent (a teacher at Bella vista who had a son who was a good runner and a new freshman at BV)  take over the Boys cross country program.  I assisted Brett with track and cross country until last spring when Brett stepped down and I took over as the head of the boy's distance program.  This fall was my first season as the head boys cross country coach at Bella Vista.  I also helped to recruit Melanie Cleland to take over the girl's program in 2010.

My biggest thrills so far in coaching has been watching this program grow back into relevance again in the high school running scene.  This year I had 39 boys run cross country and we had about that many girls run this year as well.   That is approaching 80 athletes ... A long way from the 12 or so we had in 2008.  We are now competitive at all levels.  The Bella Vista boys cross country team made it to the State meet in 2010 and 2011 and just missed making it in both 2012 and 2013.  It was also really cool to coach the boys that broke one of my school records at BV HS (I shared with one of my brothers and two other boys) for the 4x1600m.

9)  What do you remember about your high school training?  Weekly mileage?  The distance of long run?  Workouts?
I wasn't very good at keeping training logs throughout my running career. As a coach now, I regret that.  I used to keep logs for short periods of time and then stop.  I have a few of these partial logs covering portions of my high school training.  Based on these partial logs and my recollections of my training I would say I ran between 50-60 miles per week in high school.  Lots of long intervals and hill repeats and very few, if any, tempo runs. My long runs were in the 10-12 mile range.  I would say my high school running career was characterized more by the quality of the work I did than the quantity.

10)  From your HS experience in the late 70s and early 80s to now, what do you say are the biggest differences that you see training wise? 
I will say today's coaches probably spend more time focused on running mechanics than the coaches in the 60's, 70's an early 80's.  Also, we use more dynamic warm-ups and active stretches, rather than static stretches in our warm-up routines.  I also think that there is more consistency between coaches than there used to be.  I believe that the ease at which information is shared between coaches in this information era is a big reason for this increased consistency.  It is much easier to gather "best practices" from the coaching community and this has reduced the number of programs with coaches that are really into bizarre and ineffective coaching methods.

11)  From your own coaching experience, what do you wish you could have done differently with your own training?  What about current runners?  What should they be doing that you did in HS but are not?
I wish I had kept better logs my running career.   I think keeping good records of what you do for your training and what results are produced is important.  It is pretty easy to distort your own memories about what you did and use that information to make poor judgments about future training plans.  I also think I could have benefited more from doing some tempo runs in high school.

I am a relatively new high school coach and certainly don't feel qualified to make to many judgments about what other coaches or athletes are doing.  I feel like I am still developing my own approaches and philosophies to high school coaching.

12)  Anything else you would like to add.
One thing I am passionate about is that you have to find a way to make it fun for the athletes.  This will not only attract more athletes and better athletes but will keep them coming back year after to year.  This is the key to high school coaching in my opinion.

Thank you very much for your time, Harold!  AJC

Here is a link posted by Hank Lawson that has video of the 1981 Kinney race (pre-Footlocker) which was won by current Los Altos HS coach Charles Alexander.  Kuphaldt finished in 2nd place.

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