October 25, 2019

An Exciting Ending to Cross Country Season

Good grief, I had no idea just how drained I would feel once cross country season was over. This was a long season for me--starting in early July instead of late August--and the first season coaching without Renee. A lot to handle!

I could have done just the bare minimum required to get the kids ready for their races in September and October, but you all know that when I take something on, I tend to put all of my energy into it. And that's WITH my bipolar meds, hahaha.

So, I poured my heart and soul into this season, and I'd consider it a success! The kids had fun; I enjoyed having a smaller team, so I could concentrate on each individual more; and the kids all improved their running strength. And so many of you were super generous by donating prizes from our Amazon Wish List. I can't even tell you how much the kids LOVED spending their points on fun rewards.

The Wednesday before last was our sixth of seven races. I wrote a previous post about Aaron, who'd been on the team since he was in second grade (longer than anyone else) and I loved coaching him and seeing him improve his running each year.

I wrote about the super exciting win that he had at our first race--coming in first place overall, and beating his competitor of the last few years, "Ferris". Ferris beat him at every race by just one place, and for the last couple of years, I've given Aaron the goal to "beat Ferris" that season. It happened at the first race this year!

So Wednesday's race was bittersweet for me, because it was Aaron's last race on my team. He wasn't going to be able to make it to our very last race on Saturday, and next year he'll be moving on to middle school. We hadn't run this particular course in a few years, so I couldn't remember it very well, except that there was a fairly large hill about 3/4 of a mile into the 1.1 mile race.

Unfortunately, this course is not one that I can go from one spot to another to watch (as a large loop, there isn't enough time). So, I chose to go to the one mile mark so I could yell to the kids to give their final kick to the finish line.

At the race's start, I was standing behind the whole crowd of kids, so I couldn't tell who made it to the front when the starting gun went off. I basically just had to go to my spot and wait until the kids came down the hill out of the woods until I could see anything. I was dying to see how my team was doing. We have white shirts, and they are easy to spot amongst all the colors. I was watching the opening of the woods, waiting for the lead runners to come through.

Finally, there were three kids that emerged, and Aaron was in the lead! I was SO excited (and surprised, actually--there was some VERY tough competition at the races this season). He had about a quarter mile to go. Aaron gives every race all that he has, and sometimes that's enough to carry him to the finish line; other times, he doesn't leave enough for a final kick at the end. I actually got kind of emotional when I saw him in the lead, knowing it was his last race with my team.

When he got to where I was standing, the gap was closing between him and the runner behind him. I started yelling like crazy (I'm sure that the parents who take videos of the races hate me!) that the person was right on his heels, just look straight ahead at the finish and give it everything he had.

I couldn't see the actual finish line, which was so frustrating. I saw the gap between Aaron and the runner behind him closing more and more as they got toward the line, and then I had no idea who won. I thought I saw the person with a red shirt get in front of him at the last second. I didn't want to leave my spot to find out, because I wanted to cheer on the other kids on the team, so I just had to wait it out.

Finally, I saw Aaron and his parents walking toward me from the finish line, and he held up his place card--with a #1 on it! I was so thrilled. He'd won his first and last races of the season--a great ending for his season.

I wish I could say the same for my team's final race on Saturday, but the race director made a huge mess of it. I already wrote about that disaster.

Even though it was our last race, I wanted to have one last "race" of our own--a timed mile at the track, just like I had them do at the first practice. As always, I don't care about the kids' race times nearly as much as I care about having them improve their own times. So I like to do the timed mile to see how much they improved over the season.

Afterward, I planned on getting pizza for everyone while I handed out certificates I made. The weather ended up being horrible on Tuesday, which was a bummer. It was super windy and it started raining. Running in the rain would be fine, but having pizza on the picnic tables outside by the track was not going to be fun. Although, the rainbow before the run was cool!

I called the rec center and asked if we could go inside for pizza, and thankfully, they said we could use their party room in case of bad weather. As I got set up for the run, I was super excited to see what Aaron's timed mile would end up being, because it wasn't under the realm of possibility that he could run a sub-6:00 mile, which nobody on our team has ever done before. When he showed up, he said that he'd been sick for the last couple of days, so he wasn't going to run. What a bummer!

The weather wasn't on our side, with 20 mph wind gusts, but the rest of the team did the timed mile anyways. For about half of them, it ended up being their fastest mile of the season. And every single one of them improved their original mile time by a significant amount! Bryce, who just started this year, improved from 12:12 in July to 7:39 in October! That's crazy.

It was bittersweet that it would be Andre's last season with me as well. He's gotten to be quite the distance runner--this season, he ran over 100 miles! He likes to focus more on distance than on speed, but he even improved his mile time from 8:28 to 7:27, which is awesome.

We ended up going inside for pizza (a good choice, so we weren't freezing and wet outside). I handed out their certificates--which I had so much fun making! I gave each of them a personalized "certificate of..." by thinking of what they did best that season or what goals they met, and things like that. I also gave each of them a spreadsheet that listed all of their miles, points, and race times for the season.

The kids (with the help of their parents) were super generous, too--a couple of parents paid for the pizza; I got flowers from a few kids; Andre's grandma made me a pumpkin roll(!), and Harper actually got the team an exciting gift--a tent for next year! We will finally have a home base at our races, just like all the other teams (and a place to hang our banner). I was a super fun last day.

When I got home, it was like the life just drained right out of me. I was SO exhausted. All of the build-up of the season--all of the time I spent working on practice plans and keeping track of mileage and points (for our awards system), going to practice three days a week, and then racing once a week-- seemed to just fall off my shoulders when I walked in the door.

It may not seem like volunteer coaching is much as far as time and energy, but all of that, plus spending Sundays at Eli's baseball games for two months, I just felt like I never had any time off. It was hard to find time to do anything for myself at all. Eli has a tournament tomorrow and Sunday (all day), but after that, I plan to take a week to get my house back in order, cook dinner every day, and relax a little. Fall is so busy, and then it all ends so suddenly.

Today is the last day of my fourth week of getting back to running with my 3-3-3 plan. If I have time after Eli's games tomorrow, I'll write my recap of that for the week. I honestly didn't think I'd stick with it this long! The cross country kids inspired me :)


  1. Sounds like a great end to the running season! The kids are so lucky to have such a fun and involved coach :) Enjoy your well deserved break!

  2. I really enjoy reading about your adventures as an XC coach. My daughter just finished her XC season at the Virginia State meet yesterday and it was so bittersweet for me. She's a Sr, and I'll miss XC meets so much next year. It's such a wonderful sport and I love how passionate you are about your team.


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