Train like a Sabercat: Track distance running

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Train like a Sabercat: Track distance running

Boys from the track distance team running in their race

Boys from the track distance team running in their race

Olivia Doro

Boys from the track distance team running in their race

Olivia Doro

Olivia Doro

Boys from the track distance team running in their race

Olivia Doro, Editor in Chief

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After spending a week of morning practices with the boys’ swim team at Fossil Ridge High School, I honestly thought I could conquer anything. When the track and field team okayed me to train as a distance runner for a week, I was pumped being an okay runner myself. The only preparation I had done for the day was listening to my gym playlist and drink plenty of water, I had no idea what I was in-store for.

Before practice everyone grouped up with their friends and talked until the coach came up and everyone sat down, then they did announcements and shoutouts. During this Coach Waters introduced me to the team and when he said I was doing distance for the week, the entire team laughed at me. I had joined one of the toughest groups in track to run with for a week, which I found out would push my mental and physical strength on the first day.

Once on the track, we did team warm-ups then distance split off for a 10-minute warm-up run before getting into our practice. After the warm-up run, we were split into three groups, I was in the latter of these groups, where we would run a 400 meter with a minute break then a 300 meter followed by a four-minute break before doing it again. We did four sets of this, which the rest of the track team cheered and shouted for us from their practice areas around the track. It was weird being so far behind everyone else but having so much support and enthusiasm while I ran, on day one I realized that A) anyone who thinks track is easy I dare you to run with them for a day and B) that no matter if I was 100 meters behind I would have an entire team cheering me on.

It seemed like I could not run anymore when I finally crossed the line after my last 300, and as the top groups finished up their final two sets of 400-meter then 200-meter the group I was in cheered them on from the field. Then once they were done we set out on our five-minute cool down run before heading to the weights room. The strength training we did was like what I did in the gym, but it felt easier somehow working with a group of girls who no matter what were supporting you and pushing you to do better. We did bench presses, lifted, step-ups, V-ups, Russian twists, and these weird push-up/sit-up mix thing in circuits of usually 3 sets of 8-reps. Once we were done we stretched it out, and then by 6:08 P.M. I was in my car on my way home.

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One of the girls I was running with at practice, Ava, competes in the mile

Day two I woke up sore all over but was looking forward to the lighter 20-minute run workout at practice that afternoon. Arriving at the field I was easily out of place because the entire team was in uniform for picture day, which took almost an hour to wrangle up all the athletes and coaches onto the bleachers for about five minutes worth of picture taking and adjustments. Then the team switched into practice clothes and we split up into different events for warm-ups, different from the group warm-up we had done the day before.

Following our stretching the distance team split up into A, B, and C groups and went on our different timed runs. The group I ran with was the group that would be competing on Wednesday, March 27 at the junior varsity meet, which meant a lighter 20 minute run before doing strides. Strides I found out was a running exercise across the length of the football field, running at a higher pace but focusing on form and taking bigger strides. Each group did 4 sets of strides, down the football field and back was 2 sets with a nice rest at the end of each. Following strides, we went off the field and stretched it out before rolling our muscles out.

This was the end of the practice for everyone, except those of us who stuck around to play volleyball. Not real volleyball, just a game played with a volleyball. The object of the game was to hit the ball away from you before it bounced twice, whoever was closest to the ball after it hit the ground twice was out. It sounds easy, and it kind of is, but it was weirdly fun to feel apart of a team again and just have fun. Everyone ran around slapping the volleyball at people and we played it three times before heading home.

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Another one of my teammates, Addy, runs the mile event as well

Wednesday my legs were sore, and it was near impossible to walk without pain, but I did not have to run that night because it was meet day. When the meet began I had never seen the Fossil track so busy before, other than when they hosted Special Olympics. People were doing pole vault, shot put, discus, long jump, high jump, and all sorts of running. Hurdles were quickly set up and taken down as different events took the track, and everyone seemed to be doing something. Athletes stretched, practiced hurdles, and the athletes who were not competing timed the events. Meanwhile, I photographed and waited until I got to watch the girls I was training with to run their events before leaving for the day. At this point I only had two days left to go and one more meet, then I had trained like a track and field distance runner.

 

After the meet Wednesday I found out that my head distance coach, Coach Danielle Cook, who is eight months pregnant is running in the Olympic Trials next year. This made me feel even more ridiculous for being so slow and being so sore only after two practices. Going into practice on Thursday my legs hated me and my abs hurt when I sneezed, but I was so excited to go running. We did our usual group huddle and gave shoutouts to the athletes who had PR’d (beat their personal record) at the meet the day before. Then everyone split up into their events and distance began their usual distance warm-up before heading out on our different timed runs.

The group I ran with went for a 35-minute run, in which I was so far behind and my hamstrings kept tightening up. Instead of being all alone, the assistant distance coach, Coach Keaton Schelir, matched my pace and ran with me. Although I was dead last in my group the girls still let me know I was doing great as they passed, while Coach Schelir kept my pace, the company alone helped me to keep going, no matter the pain in my legs or how much I wanted to stop for a minute. As my lungs burned and legs were slowly tightening with every step, finally we were back at the track.

Once back we did strides again before heading to the gym, it was in strides when I realized how badly I needed to roll out my legs after practice. The gym workouts were in pairs and I worked out with Addy, starting with our medicine ball partner workouts. First, we did med ball tosses and squats, then med ball plank rolls, and finally med ball Russian twists. We did all of those in 3 sets and reps of 10 and 15. Once done with our partner workouts we grabbed different med balls to do 3 sets of 8 med ball throws, then it was time for the band workouts. Clamshells and donkey kicks with the bands in reps of 10 and 3 sets, and finally, I got to roll out my muscles. Everything got put away then we stretched it out before grabbing a roller and rolling everything out.

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Homestretch

While that is the technical aspect of what we did, this was also the day at practice when the girls I ran with said I was a part of the track family now. Then on Friday morning while talking with Mr. Ben DeGear, I realized I had never felt more a part of a team than I had with only a week on the track team. The coaches and athletes were more supportive than any team I had played with since my move to Colorado and I was devastated I had not been running with them earlier, and that I could not stay.

Friday my muscles were not nearly as sore as the day before, thanks to the 3 cups of Epsom salts I had soaked them in the night before. Practice that day was my last one, which was a bittersweet feeling to run with. It was a rainy day and while out on our 20-minute recovery run, it went from a drizzle to a steady fall.  Once back we did our six strides, and then it was done. I had run like a distance runner with track and field for a week.

Later that night I would also go to watch Coach Cook and Coach Leohr’s fantasy league teams compete in a dodgeball game, losers coach got a pie to the face. Although Coach Cook would get one, her assistant coach would be saved when the MVP of the week decided he wanted to see Coach Leohr pied. The kids who had played and those who stayed to watch stepped outside the wrestling room and gave the coaches a tin full of whipped cream to the face.

Following my week of training, I left work early on Saturday to go and see the varsity team compete against all the district teams and about eight other teams. French Field at Rocky Mountain High School had never been so packed, kids were on the track, the infield was covered with kids warming up for their events and cheering on their teammates, and the jumpers and throwers were in their areas. It was almost overwhelming how much was going on and how many people there were. I stayed and watched the team vault, jump, and most importantly I watched one of the girls I had run with compete in the 2-mile.

I spent almost 3 hours at the field but it went by in the blink of an eye, just as the week had gone. While I loved track, I have never trained as hard in my life or put my body through such a mental and physical test before. From overcoming the urge to stop to learning what it is like to be a part of something so incredibly supportive, it was an experience that made my last semester at Fossil so memorable. Never before had I been to a track meet and always had believed the stereotype that anyone can join track, that it is the easiest sport to compete in. After a week of training with just the distance runners I learned that the sport pushes your body and mind to the max, it was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. Four practices and two meets later, I have a newfound respect for track and the dedication, hard work, and teamwork they put into everything they do.