September 11, 2015

First cross country practice

Well, yesterday was the first day of cross country, and it went very well! (In case you missed it, I am coaching cross country for the second, third, and fourth graders at Eli's school.) I was nervous going into it, because Renee and I really had no idea how many kids were going to show up. She'd gotten a list of people who were interested in joining, but only got confirmation from 11 out of 33 kids. I was counting on about 11 kids to actually show up, so when I planned out our activity for practice, I wanted to choose something that would be good for that number of kids.

I got to the park early, so that Renee and I could discuss our game plan and get organized. Most of the kids hadn't yet signed up, so we still had all the paper work to get done, too. Once the kids started showing up, I couldn't believe how many people were there! Things got crazy really quickly. The plan was to have the first practice be a parent information meeting and fun running activity for the kids--but it was much less organized once we saw how many people showed up.

Renee started collecting paperwork, and I started trying to gather all the kids into one spot to start an activity. I wrote each kid's name on a wooden stick (like a popsicle stick) and passed those out to the kids (there were 24 kids total). Then we went into a large field, and I explained a little game that we would play. The goal was to gather as many of the sticks as they could by playing a modified version of tag. To collect sticks, they had to tag someone; once that person was tagged, they had to hand over their stick (and any others they may have been holding) to the person that tagged them. So, basically, they wanted to tag other people but avoid being tagged themselves, collecting as many sticks as possible.

After I yelled "Go!", they all took off chasing after each other. I set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes, and then we'd see who had the most sticks after the time was up. It was funny to watch--at first, the kids were running their hardest, and then gradually, they started slowing down until you could see they were just exhausted. And there was still about three minutes left on the timer! I called them all over, and there were only three kids who had sticks--one girl had 12, so she won; one boy had 10, and another boy had 2.

Renee did the whole parent meeting while I was doing the game, so I'm not sure exactly what she went over, but I think she just did an introduction to what cross country is and what they can expect. The kids took a water break, and then I gathered them over to the start of the path that winds around the park. The path is 0.38 miles long (I had Noah run it before practice with my Garmin on, so he could measure it).

I wanted to get a starting measure of where each kid was as far as their speed. I told them to run it as fast as they could, but not to race against other kids--just run their personal best as individuals. With that many kids, I had to get creative as far as writing down their finishing times. I waited at the finish line, and then as each kid crossed, I gave them a number in order of when they crossed. Meanwhile, I had the stopwatch app open on my phone, and as each kid crossed, I tapped the "lap" button, which marked their time, but kept the clock running for other kids.

When the first boy came through (Renee's son, Speedy McSpeedster), I told him "1" and then his time corresponded with the time next to lap 1. Later, after all 24 kids had finished, I had to go through and ask them which number I gave them at the finish, so I could write their names next to their times. It was a complicated process, but I'm not sure of an easier way to do it! Anyway, now I have their times for that lap, and we can use that as a progress marker. Every couple of weeks or so, we can have them run it again, and we can give them incentives to try and better their time.

The kids were exhausted after that, between the tag game and the fast lap. We let them rest for a little bit, and then to end practice, Renee and I walked them over to a grassy hill, where we all ran up together. Then we did a little chant at the top, and practice was over.

It was completely exhausting mentally, because there were SO many kids. But now that we know what to expect, it'll be easier to make a good plan for practices. We'll probably split the kids into two groups, so Renee can take one group and I'll take another, and we can switch activities halfway through.

Anyway, I'm very happy with the good turnout we had, and I am excited to see what happens with this season!

I had a garage sale today, and I was happy to make about $200 doing that. I got rid of a lot of stuff that I didn't want laying around my house anymore. Tomorrow is Nathan's first ultra marathon! It starts at 6:00 am at Hell Creek Ranch in Hell, MI. My mom and I are going to meet at Nathan's house at 4:00 in the morning--yeesh!--and then drive up there with Nathan and Kendall. So, I'll be setting my alarm for 3:00. I hope my brother knows how much I do for him! ;)

I was hoping to find Nathan's giant cardboard head to carry while we spectate, but I have no idea what happened to it after his marathon last year. Instead, I'll just make a couple of signs. I'm really excited to watch the race, because I've never seen an ultra marathon before. Today, the 100-Miler and 100K runners started their races; so, tomorrow, I should be able to see the 100-Milers running on the same course as Nathan. They'll actually be running for several hours after Nathan finishes his 50K! Nathan texted me this picture from the starting line of the 100-Mile race...

That guy is running the 100-Miler in full fireman's gear! I can't even imagine running 100 miles, but to do it in that? Wow. After the race, tomorrow we're going to Anson's for pizza (Nathan's favorite after his long runs).

On Sunday, the wave pool at the Metropark has a dog day, where they open just for dogs to swim in the wave pool. It's the last day that the pool will be in use before closing for the season, so I think it's awesome that they have a day just for dogs! I'm going to bring Joey, because he's obsessed with swimming, and I'm sure he'll have a blast.

I'm not sure how much of a chance I'll get to write this weekend, but I may do a quick update. Have a great weekend, everyone!


  1. Sounds like you did a great job for the kids and the parents on the first day. Congrats. My daughter had her first 5k race for CC tonight. Out of 20 some teams her team finished 5th...this is the first year the girls V/JV are running 5k's so its very interesting for sure! (previous length was 2.5 miles...amazing what a difference even a half mile can make for some...when racing...)

  2. Our coaches hand out numbered cards at the finish and then the kids don't have to remember, just show the card. I'm sure you have a plan, but just for reference our kids do intervals one day, hills one day, and run the course one day. If there's another practice, it's coach's choice.

  3. What a fun and exciting weekend. I love that the wave pools last day is doggy day. Joey seems like such a happy pup. If you could, take a video. I'd love to see the 'action'.

  4. Sounds like the cross-country practice went well! I'm sure you will, but encourage those slow kids to stick with it. I had a few bad cross-country practices when I was a kid and hated being last so I totally quit and didn't run again till I was an adult! At that age I didn't realize that I'd improve with practice, I just thought I couldn't run.

  5. Please post pictures of the dogs in the pool! They have so much fun with that - can't wait to see them. Thanks for a great blog.

  6. Have you seen the movie McFarland USA? Its a great cross country movie about where a team starts and finishes. Great job on helping get the kids and parents involved! Sounds like a lot of fun!

  7. Great, thanks for sharing this, you really helped me!


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