Another cross country season is upon us and no one is looking forward to it more than me. To get everyone in the cross country mood, I will visit twelve teams over the next two weeks and write about the early season practices. I am going to sample what it is like to work out with each school. I will run on your routes, your roads, your trails, and your tracks at your pace and tell the rest of the mocorunning readers what it was like.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Churchill had a typically large team, but being the first day of practice, some of the fastest runners were still vacationing as I suspected might be the case. I got the impression that the absence of Zach Weinstein and Will Conway meant today's workout would be just a bit easier than it would be otherwise.
Runners broke into three groups based on their own choosing: a 30 minute group, 45 minute group, and 60 minute group. The 60 minute group decided on the Stapleford Loop, a route that I was later told many team members did not particularly like.
A group of six runners and myself trotted down Gainsborough Road, a neighborhood street, and turned right on Bells Mill Road. The pace was conversational at first, maybe a little faster than 8 minutes per mile.
I held near the back of the small pack and spoke with one of the seniors on the team, Justin Rheingold. When asked of team goals, he didn't hesitate to tell me that Churchill was aiming to win states. As a secondary goal, the team wanted to perform well at the Nike Southeast Regional meet after the regular season.
Later after practice, Coach Bettis confirmed these goals. For a team that finished second in the state and sixth in the NXN region last year, and returns a majority of the team this year, the goals are more than reasonable. Athletes and coaches alike acknowledge their strong competition, and they know they will need to come together as a team to succeed.
As strange as it sounds, the Churchill girls will just be looking to qualify for states this year. They graduated four of their top five girls from last year's team and will need some new runners to step up. As of now, they are not quite sure who that will be.
About a mile into the run, the road inclined upwards and it became difficult to maintain a conversation. I was good and warmed up when I reached the top of that long, steep hill.
Turning left onto Stapleford Hall Drive, we came upon quintessential Potomac, Maryland: multi-million dollar homes with fenced-in grassy plots of land. Gated driveways stood between us sweaty runners and each four-car garage.
We turned left on Democracy Blvd and ran single-file along the side of the road. To complete the loop, we turned left back onto Gainsborough Road. The runners seemed to not notice picking up the pace on the long gradual uphill back to the school. Psychologically, it may have been tougher for me because I wasn't exactly sure where I was. They ran on Gainsborough Road so often, it was explained to me, that they hardly even recognized it as a hill. We were less than half a mile from the school.
We returned to the school in about 44 minutes as the 45 minute groups were finishing their run. We tacked on about 14 more minutes on a neighborhood loop they called Small Square.
I stopped my watch at a total time 57:46, probably about 7.5 miles.
Monday, August 16, 2010
It was the second practice of the day for the veteran B-CC runners. In sharp contrast to their morning practice, the sun was beating down intensely on the runners as they gathered in front of the school at 6:30. The thermometer in my car read 93 degrees at the beginning and end of the workout, but there would be relief as the sun set throughout the evening run.
The morning practice with the newcomers on the team was a mile warm up followed by a very easy run-through of their 5k home course. The path of their course in Rock Creek Park is reportedly severely impeded by fallen trees from recent storms. Their first and only home meet is against Richard Montgomery in about a month and they are hopeful the paths will be cleared by then.
Coach Young counted upwards of 45 runners in the morning practice, but the evening practice consisted of only 15 runners: 11 girls and 4 boys.
The group departed the campus at an easy pace and stuck together for the first nine minutes. After briefly running down a neighborhood street, we hopped onto the Capital Crescent Trail heading northeast towards Connecticut Avenue.
We all stopped and did dynamic stretching drills in a patch of grass for a few minutes before starting the run. At this point, the boys took off and rapidly separated from the girls. I guessed the pace to be close to 7:00 per mile, pretty intense if you ask me, given the heat.
We came up on another runner who was running a pretty quick pace himself. He was high school age and Coach Young asked him if he wanted to join the cross country team. He was a hopeful soccer player, but it seemed like he might be interested in joining the team if he got cut from soccer.
To my relief, we turned around after just over ten minutes. It was about nineteen minutes including the slow warmup mile. The four boys seemed to handle the pace just fine and returned back to the school in about sixteen minutes. It was about five miles in 35 minutes including a slow first mile.
Coach Young didn't tell me much about the goals of the team this year because he wanted the athletes to make their own goals and he wanted to hear from them what they wanted to accomplish. The girls are pretty deep and return most of last year's team. The boys graduated a few runners and get a few runners back from being injured all of last year. They are looking for someone to step up and run strong in the #5 spot, and they have a few hopeful candidates.
Upon returning to the school, Young asked the athletes if they had considered their goals any further. Both the boys' and girls' teams acknowledged they wanted to qualify for the state championship (the girls took the last qualifying spot in the region meet last year and the boys missed qualifying). The girls half-jokingly said that they wanted to qualify with the second-to-last spot. The boys thought that it was feasible to not only qualify for the state meet, but finish in the top seven at the state meet.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Come November 13, there will probably be some journalists who want to describe Einstein High School's cross country season as a fairy tale, but a quiet storm has been brewing at Einstein for the past three years. When Eric DaSilva took over the Einstein program in 2007, most of the runners wanted to play Frisbee during practice. Today, a group of seven guys doubled for a 13 mile day.
Morning practice consisted of 3.5 easy miles on their home course. Everybody stayed together. In the evening, newcomers ran 45 minutes, a second group ran 60 minutes, and the veterans who put in miles over the summer were assigned an easy 9 miles. After a half mile warm up and drills, the groups dispersed.
We wound our way south through Kensington neighborhood streets, down Kensington Parkway, under the beltway and out onto Connecticut Avenue. We turned left onto the Capital Crescent Trail exactly where I ran yesterday with the B-CC team. We looped through Rock Creek Park, ran by the Mormon Temple and completed the loop by jumping back on Kensington Parkway and returning the school. The pack stuck together and clicked off near-perfect 7:45 miles according to DaSilva's GPS watch. The 9 mile run was completed in about 70 minutes.
The Einstein boys want to win the 3A West region title and see themselves as contenders for the 3A state title this year. Surprised? Don't be. Einstein is a talented team with a good attitude. I don't just mean they are good "for Einstein." They are a very good team, period.
Milo Johnson was the team's number one runner last year before getting mono. Nick Simpson and Ben Withbroe were the two most talented freshman in Montgomery County last cross country season and both are back (Withbroe missed all of spring track due to injury but he is back and reportedly better than ever). Andrew Ceruzzi took over as the team's top runner during track, clocking 9:46 for 3200. Alex Hevey ran 17:45 as a freshman two years ago and is back in action this year as a junior.
You can call it a Cinderella story if you really want - Einstein certainly has not won anything notable in decades, but the runners at Einstein expect a successful year in 2010.
The Einstein girls' team has not been blessed with the same talent as the boys' team in recent years. As of now the team has five girls and they may have seven by the start of the season.
Shoutout to Ziv Dreyfuss.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
It was apparent that the QO guys read my high praises for the Einstein team that I wrote yesterday. When asked what he wanted to accomplish this year, Conor Spaulding quickly replied, "Win states." He then added, "So Einstein is pretty good..."
Maybe it will be Quince Orchard, or Einstein, or Linganore, or Damascus, or some other team that wins the 3A state title this year. The state meet is a long time from now. This was just a dreary, rainy day in August to knock out some miles and get ready for the first meet.
The morning practice consisted of 40 minutes of core work in the gym while the rain poured outside. The runners got in 20 easy minutes of running on the track when the rain lightened up.
The rain pretty much stopped as the team warmed up at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds at 6:30 PM. The air was much cooler than the past two days with temperatures in the mid 70's, but a mist hovered over the soccer fields and the humidity felt high.
The assignment was 40 or 50 minutes. We took off on a hilly paved trail that weaves through the soccer fields. The pace was probably around 7:45 per mile. After nearly a full loop around the complex in fifteen minutes, we turned onto Schaeffer Road to finish off the out and back run. The road was hilly and fairly scenic. At one point we had a pretty good view over a large foggy farm with houses in the distance. One group turned around after 20 minutes and the rest turned around after 25 minutes.
Conor Spaulding and Evan Laratta are the top two runners on the team and are hoping to get under 16 minutes in a 5k this season, possibly at the Paul Short Invitational. Backing them up will be James Ryan, Michael Borton, and Alex Moores. Pelkey said they all busted their butts over the summer. They also plan to get contributions from Drew Lehner who ran a pretty good mile last spring but has never run cross country.
The QO girls are looking pretty good, too. QO always seems to have one star runner at the front of the race every year, but that probably will not be the case this year. Catherine Panasenkov, Jade Lebrock, and Shannon Wagner lead the way and Pelkey says that they will really need to work on pack running to succeed. Developing strong #4 and 5 runners will be a season-long task, but it is my opinion that the girls' 3A west region title is pretty much up in the air at this point. QO may have as good of a shot at winning as anybody.
The return run was just a bit slower than the run out. I stopped my watch at 51 minutes - probably a little over 6.5 miles.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
That Chris Miller kid...he showed up thirty minutes late, he was winded on the hills, and all he talked about was monster trucks. I wouldn't expect much from him this season. I'm just kidding. He is an awesome kid who is going to compete for the county title this year, but he is definitely looking forward to seeing some monster trucks after practice today.
I arrived thirty minutes late because of an accident on the I-270 spur, so I was surprised to see the entire varsity Northwest team still waiting at the meeting place. Two minutes later Chris Miller arrived wearing a pair of work boots. He had been busy with other jobs and drove to the wrong end of the park. No one was bothered by it and it saved me from missing the practice entirely.
In the morning, the runners ran from Northwest High School to Quince Orchard High School and back. That's about an eight mile run and Coach Muehl said the top boys did it in 50 minutes. That sounds pretty fast (6:15 pace?), but I wasn't there for that so I could be wrong. Whatever the case, the evening run would be a very easy 45 minutes in Black Hills Park.
The trails at Black Hills are very twisty, hilly, rocky, and in some cases narrow. The terrain forced the pace to be slow - certainly no faster than 8 minute miles. By the time we finished the 45 minutes, I doubt we ran much more than 5 miles, just by nature of pack-running on those rocky trails.
Runners from other schools had been telling me conflicting stories about Chris Miller. Someone had told me he broke his foot at running camp. There was some truth to this as he thought he may have had a stress fracture for a few days, but he is fine now. I had heard from someone else that he is an awesome shape. This also appears to be true. I also heard that he smashed his face in doing a flip at running camp. While maybe exaggerated, this was also absolutely true.
Chris was the first ever mocorunning cross country freshman of the year three years ago and he has steadily improved each year. He is the top returning finisher from last year's county championship meet and he ran outdoor track for the first time this spring, getting his times down to 4:27 and 9:44. But cross country is where he always excels.
Teammate Bobby Sonken explained that he and Chris ran a lot more this summer than they had in previous summers. Sonken's brother, Joey Sonken was third on the team in a time trial that they ran in the monsoon Wednesday morning. Jacob Brennan took it easy today because he is recovering from an "accidental" two hour run last weekend.
Another former freshman of the year, Britt Eckerstrom, was the lone female running with the top boys today. She hardly broke a sweat with the easy pace and chatted with the guys the entire run. She looks fit but undersells herself and claimed that she didn't run many miles this summer. Somehow I doubt it really matters and I expect we will see the 2008 county champ back at the front of the pack again this year.
Coach Beth Muehl also likes to undersell the program and insists that they really aren't making goals at this point. "We try to place top five in the county every year," she says.
Since she wouldn't say it, I will assert my own opinion. I think this year's Northwest girls team should be aiming to win the county, region, and state title. Their top five tonight (in no particular order) was Eckerstrom, Christine DiNardo, Sarah Sekscienski, Kai Santangelo (who would clearly be killed first in a horror film), and Eileen Ser. Sula Ndousse-Fetter is currently nursing a knee injury and should not be expected to race for the first few weeks of the season. That is a veteran lineup that will be tough to take down.
Friday, August 20, 2010
On the eve of the first scrimmage, Sherwood runners ran four or five miles in the morning and had a quick shakeout practice at 5:30 PM. The sun was still beating down on the runners at 95 degrees. The evening practice consisted of about a mile warm up, drills, a 1.5 mile tempo run on the track, and about a mile cooldown.
A 6:30 mile pace was assigned to all of the boys and a 7:30 mile pace was assigned to all of the girls. For some of the top boys, a 6:30 mile is a slow trot, but for others it was a fast pace, so it was interesting watching the pack try to stay together.
Runners took turns leading the pack. The boys were actually behind the pace for the first three laps and then picked up the pace quite a bit on the fourth lap to come through the mile in around 6:15. On the fifth lap the pack really started breaking apart and the coaches yelled to pull it back together. Interestingly, the pack did seem to tighten up for a little while longer without slowing the pace. Most of the boys finished the 1.5 mile run close to 9:15, well under the prescribed time of 9:45.
There were only six girls at the evening practice and five of them had no trouble hitting the prescribed pace. In fact they pretty much nailed the pace every lap and came through the mile in 7:31. They picked up the pace over the final two laps, and like the boys they finished under their prescribed pace of 11:15. The pack of five girls crossed the line together in just over 11 minutes.
Kyle Tockman, one of the top runners on the team, said the workout felt like walking to him. It was just preparation for the first race tomorrow and that is what they will be trying to do for the first half of the 5k at Northwest - keep a pack together.
The outlook for the Sherwood boys this season is good. Tockman said he is hoping for top 5 as a team and individually at the county meet and top 5 or 10 at the state meet. They have a pretty good top four in Jackson Reams, Tockman, Alex Popeck, and Vik Siberry (Siberry and Reams were not at practice today). There are a number of guys looking to fill the final varsity spots including but not limited to Steven Johnson, Connor Welch, and Nick Johnson who is a junior transfer from New York who ran a 2:04 800 as a sophomore. If nothing else, Nick Johnson should certainly help the 4x800 relay later in the year.
The Sherwood girls have a strong team for their size, but they just don't have very many runners this year. Kelly Kendall chose soccer over cross country and Olivia Mahlmann is out indefinitely with an injury. So there were six girls at practice and apparently there are not many that were absent. Abby Iacangelo, Theresa Russell, Amanda Tomlinson, Ariel Mahlmann, and Gillian Tosatto along with Tyler Barnard and Jackie Weiss who were absent will make up a good pack that hopes to return to the state meet this year.
Saturday, August 21, 2010, 7:00 AM
Tom Arnold let his team sleep in this morning. Instead of the usual 6:00 AM practice, the group assembled at the Lake Needwood Boathouse at 7:00 AM.
After drills and stretching, the runners ran to the gas line easement, also known as "the grand canyon." For new runners, it was about a mile from the boathouse. Experienced runners looped around the lake for nearly a three mile warmup.
Today would be a hill workout, or as Arnold described it, speed work in disguise. The long steep hills would drive the runners into oxygen debt and work the anaerobic system. Those who practiced with the team all summer were accustomed to this type of workout. Arnold predicted the newbies would be sucking wind.
Two large hills formed a "V" and were connected by a small wooden footbridge. One side of the "V" was estimated to be about 200 - 250 meters long. The other hill was a little longer at about 300 - 350 meters and briefly leveled off in the middle before sharply ramping upwards to the top.
Strangely, not a single person asked how many hills they were assigned before beginning the workout. To start a difficult workout and not know when you will be finished is a foreign concept to me, but the runners on the Good Counsel team apparently knew better than to open their mouths. Arnold had an idea in his head how many hills each group of runners would do, but prefers to watch and listen to the athletes. He tells the athletes in the middle of the workout how many they have left.
The top group of guys did ten hills and the top girls did eight. Many of the newbies did six. Jack Riely, one of the top runners on the team, reported the shorter hill took about 35 seconds to climb and the longer hill took about 55 seconds. At the top of each hill, the packs of runners were "breathing like freight trains" as Arnold put it.
A discussion of the best teams in Maryland is not complete without including Good Counsel. Despite losing their top gun, Kyle Graves, they return every other contributor from last year's team that finished second in the WCAC and fifth at the DC-MD Private School Championships without Jack Riely. John Lynagh, who ran a 4:43 1600 as a freshman, is running cross country for the first time as a junior. Main contributors this year in no particular order should be Jack Riely, Michael Fitzgerald, Allen Meringolo, Nathan Brockett, John Lynagh, and James Henriksen.
Arnold said that the initial time trial results were the best he ever had for a Good Counsel team dating back to the 1980's. He left it up to my imagination as to what they are trying to accomplish this year.
The Good Counsel girls are not expected to be very strong this year, especially after graduating WCAC 3200 champion Katie Koenig. Their likely best runner, Erin Britt, is currently set back with injuries. Even still, coaches are optimistic about the girls, saying that the group of newcomers this year is better than it has been for several years.
Saturday, August 21, 2010, 9:00 AM
A seventeen second top five spread is every coach's dream. That is exactly what the Wootton boys pulled off at the 4A West region championship last year when their top runner finished in 18:15 and their fifth runner finished in 18:32. Unfortunately, the pack was too far back and Wootton missed qualifying for the state championship for the sixth consecutive year.
Wootton has turned the page and a new story will be written this year. A strong pack of boys returns this year and they are determined to make it to states no matter what it takes. Today I witnessed a sample of the hard work they have put in all summer to make it happen.
A half mile warm up and drills were followed by a long run. Mirroring my experience with Churchill seven days ago, runners were broken up into 30, 45, and 60 minute groups. The 60 minute group set off towards the Rio Entertainment Center.
The pace was relaxed, starting off around 8:00 per mile and gradually picking it up on the return trip. I estimate we ran about 8 miles in 61 minutes. Adding in the warm up and cooldown, it was a 9 mile day.
Like with most teams, the Wootton runners picked my brain about which teams are looking good as they made plans for who they need to beat and how they are going to do it. Wootton is also in the unique position of moving up to division 1 this year. It could be a shock going head to head with the best teams in the county, but their opponents may be equally shocked when they get a taste of Wootton's challenging home course. Although today's run was mostly flat and on concrete, Wootton doesn't shy away from hills, which prepares them well for Watkins Mill and Hereford later in the season.
I learned that Northwest wasn't the only psychotic school that did a time trial in the monsoon last Wednesday morning. Wootton did a two mile time trial in the rain that showed that they will once again have perhaps the tightest pack in the county. Joshua Trzeciak outkicked David Levine and Kenny Wohl this time, but the lead runner could change in any given race. Michael Janowitz, Handson Wu, and a healthy Will Severynse give the pack more strength.
Karen Cohen and Hilary Gelfond ran with the 60 minute group and for the most part stuck with the boys until the boys started hammering home. The girls team is experiencing life after Jessie Rubin, but Cohen is stepping up nicely into the lead role. Her work ethic and leadership has eased the transition to this new-look Wootton team.
Of course they also graduated Andrea Maxwell and Amy Levine so there are other holes that need to be filled. Coach Redmond is confident that they have the pieces in place to continue to have a successful season and return to the state championship. Gelfond is a soccer convert and is running cross country for the first time. She put in some miles this summer and will be one of the top runners on the team. Rounding out the top five should be Madeline Rico, Kirsten Schroeder, and Christine Chang.
Upon returning to the track, the athletes went through an intense core workout session that lasted at least twenty minutes. Core workouts hurt like hell but turn runners into warriors later in the season if done consistently.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
People are often surprised when they learn that I went to Gaithersburg High School. I think that means that I hide my "bias" pretty well, but the truth is that if the Gaithersburg track program didn't get me hooked back in the winter of 2000, there may not be a mocorunning.com as we know it.
I've made it back to check up on my alma mater just about every summer in the preseason. The one thing that hasn't changed after all these years is that Gaithersburg remains perhaps the most diverse cross country team around, a distinction that is embraced by Coach Tolbert and the Gburg program.
Today's practice was a mile warm up, drills, an easy six mile run for the top group, almost five miles for the middle group, and two miles for the beginners. Each group closed the practice with core work. This easy day came after a two mile time trial yesterday and will be followed by a hard hill workout tomorrow.
It was about as nice of an August evening as you could ask for. It was overcast with temperatures in the mid-70's and low humidity. We took off through Old Town Gaithersburg, over the train tracks, and out past Lakeforest Mall. We ran down Montgomery Village Avenue. The middle group turned around at Mid-County Highway. The top group turned around at the end of Lake Whetstone.
Coach Tolbert thinks the boys' team has a better chance of making states this year than they did last year. The time trial showed that Shane Stepek and Trever Reed are the leading two runners on the team by a good margin followed by Kaifa Boyce and Ramiz Ahmad, who put in a lot of miles over the summer. They have a freshman who should be a contributor this year. I didn't catch his name but I heard he knocked out two miles in about 12:45 on the grass. That should put him close to sub-20 right off the bat.
I don't doubt that they could take on any cross country team in a pickup basketball game this year. They have a few basketball players on the team that could step up onto the varsity team later in the season. As for their claim that they are the team with the snazziest style, the most polished abdominal muscles, and the hottest free-styles, I will believe it when I see it.
A group of eleven guys in the top group finished the run easily. It was about six and a quarter miles at 8:00 mile pace.
The team has three girls who are race-ready now and a few more that are developing.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Over the years, I have been on many group runs where some skinny, cocky distance runner brags about his skills with the ladies, but everyone knows he is full of it. Eric Ortiz from Magruder High School is not one of those guys. Eric Ortiz does not brag. He just gets results. Charging up a hill with no shirt on and his green mohawk spiked six inches in the air, a young lady screamed that she loved his mohawk. On the return trip, Ortiz asked for her name and said he would hit her up on Facebook. She quickly yelled out her name as he ran away. It was slick, but it's unfortunate that Coach Timm is going to make him shave the mohawk.
Ortiz is a varsity-hopeful on a Magruder boys' team that should be more tightly packed this year than in the past few years when Nicolas Escobar was one of the leaders in the state. Dagmawi Abebe, Daniel Abdool, Patrick Ochoa, Sebastian Arrazola, and Michael Pasti hope to work together to improve this year and return to the state championship. They were sixth at regions and ninth at states last year and the five names mentioned above all have varsity experience.
After a mile warm up at Lake Needwood, the first thing that I noticed during stretching and drills was that there was a good turnout of girls on the team. Gabriella Arrazola, Shannon Oleynik, and Julia Abramova are the top returners, but Coach Timm explained that about seven new freshman girls joined the team this year and he expects at least one or two of them to contribute right away. The large turnout of freshman does not come easily as Coach Timm recruits heavily from Redland and Shady Grove middle schools in the spring. A team that I thought might be taking a step backwards this year immediately moved up on my mental leaderboard just due to shear numbers.
Stretching and drills were followed by a long, easy run. Groups ran four, six, or eight miles. Tomorrow will be a speed/hill day for Magruder before another easy day and a scrimmage at the Agricultural Farm Park on Saturday. The Magruder versus Wootton boys on Saturday will be interesting to watch with two pack teams across 1.5 miles (I don't plan to be there, unfortunately).
All groups set off around the lake which took the top group about twenty minutes. We then departed down the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail. Coming out onto Old Baltimore Road, we made a right turn up towards Rockville High School. It was on this hill that Ortiz made his first encounter with the groupie on the sidewalk. We hit Rockville High School at forty minutes and returned home.
The run ended at 60 minutes and we are calling it eight miles. Practice ended with eight strides in the grass and twenty minutes of core.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I currently live in Arlington, Virginia. Every time I return from an excursion in MoCo, I pass by the Iwo Jima World War II Memorial. On Tuesday, there was a full moon over Washington DC. I am not a particularly artistic person, but I dabble in track & field photography and I wanted to see if I could get a good shot of the statue after dark. One of my lenses has a max aperture of f/1.8, which is excellent for shooting under dim lighting. If these soldiers were actually moving (or pole vaulting), my camera wouldn't be able to handle the motion under lighting this dark, but statues tend to stay still long enough for me to get a decent shot.
My MoCo Preseason Tour is almost over and I visited less than half of the public schools and only one private school. It does not mean that I hate the schools that I did not visit. In a dream world, I would visit every school in the county on a thirty day rotation year around, but real life constraints make that impossible.
As the tour progressed, athletes on all the different teams had a lot of questions for me about my background and the website. I generally keep this website about the athletes, but while I have your attention, I thought I would write a passage answering some of the frequently asked questions I have fielded over the last two weeks and explain how I have gotten to this point.
I was late to the internet high school sports boom in the early 2000's. I rarely visited running websites until Gaithersburg (my former team) made a run at a cross country state title in the 2004 fall season. It was my sophomore year of college and I discovered high school running websites that made it easy to track my old team. During the 2005 fall season (my junior year in college), I began posting on high school running message boards, and honestly I became a little obsessed. Coach Tolbert put the bug in my ear about starting my own website. At first I dismissed the idea, but the idea grew on me and I started teaching myself basic html and web design.
By the beginning of the 2005-2006 indoor track season, I launched mocorunning.com and expected it to be dismissed by the harsh crowd that frequented the existing running websites. To my surprise, mocorunning was embraced by a small fan base. I was encouraged and continue to develop the website for a growing fan base to this day.
The number one question I get is whether I make any money from the website. Mocorunning.com was never about making money. When I started buying camera equipment and racking up serious miles on my car, it became necessary to find ways to supplement the money put into the site. The google ads and a partnership with Georgetown Running Company help maintain the site at nearly a break even operation. There is not really any profit to speak of. I support myself entirely through my profession. Mocorunning.com is simply a hobby on the side. That is a common misconception. I maintain the website in my free time because of the support and encouragement of thousands of athletes and their families.
People ask if I do EVERYTHING on the website and the answer is yes and no. Everything on the site is maintained and administered by myself. A majority of the original content is produced by me, but hundreds and hundreds of people have provided help and support over the years and I couldn't begin to name everyone. I gladly accept contributions in all forms at all times and greatly appreciate all the help that I receive. It especially would not be possible without the support of all the great MoCo coaches.
While at Gaithersburg High School, I started as a wannabe baseball player that joined indoor track as a freshman to get faster for baseball. I was a sprinter at first and I remember being taught how to get out of the blocks by Jay Colbert who tied the 55-meter county record that year at 6.3h. In hindsight, it was embarrassing because I was not worthy of his attention. I had no potential as a sprinter. He surely would not remember me today, but he was the first track athlete that I was awed by.
After getting cut from the baseball team, I returned to spring track and was converted to a hurdler. After getting beat by most of the girls in the hurdles, I decided that I would quit marching band (saxophone) and be a distance runner in my sophomore year. Three years later, I fought my way onto the varsity squad as the seventh man on a team that placed fifth at the cross country state championship.
I ran for four years at Catholic University, a division III program in Washington DC, and eventually made the top five with a 5 mile PR of 29:30. Our team was not great that year, but I had a lot of fun. I did not go to very many high school meets during the first two years that I operated mocorunning. I was busy running for Catholic and relied almost entirely on others to provide me with results and meet summaries.
By the time I graduated from Catholic, I had an engineering job lined up in Alexandria, Virginia. I bought a car, rented a condo and moved out to Alexandria near Thomas Edison High School. I was lucky that I missed the recession by a year. Most of my engineering classmates and I got good jobs right out of college in 2007. My job begins early in the morning which allows me to leave early in the afternoon to attend certain high school meets during the week. I still have the same job today, but I've moved to a more convenient location in Arlington, Virginia. The geography of where I live and work should explain why I am hesitant to trek out to meets in Damascus and Poolesville on a regular basis, but occasionally I make the trip out that way. I usually get to the Maryland line in under twenty minutes, but traffic is unpredictable after that.
Two years out of college I found myself fifteen pounds overweight and slow as a sloth. In 2009 I re-dedicated myself to running and trained for the Marine Corps Marathon. It was my third marathon (I did two while in college) and I ran a 3:27 PR. This year I have a modest goal to go under 3:20 in the Marine Corps Marathon.
The finish line for the Marine Corps Marathon is at the base of the Iwo Jima World War II Memorial.
Friday, August 27, 2010
In Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Beatrice asserts, "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man."
The Great Ke$ha once said, "I like your beard."
Nick Regan has a beard. I also have a beard. Both beards are equally epic in my opinion. Nick Regan's mother would prefer if he did not have a beard. My mother would also prefer if I did not experiment with my facial hair. Our mothers clearly are not fans of Shakespeare or Ke$ha.
It came as a pleasant surprise to me that Walter Johnson ran a two mile time trial today. I couldn't ask to get a better look at the defending boys and girls county champions.
The WMAL towers in Bethesda are on a large open plot of land nestled in the corner of I-495 and the I-270 spur. There is a path around the perimeter of the field that is approximately a mile and a quarter long. The trail is mostly hard packed dirt or trampled grass. There are some inclines, but I would classify it as a relatively flat loop.
Josh Ellis and Nick Regan both ran personal best times for two miles. Ellis looked fit and smooth in clocking 9:49. Regan tried to chase him down and finished in 9:52. Alex Willett, Scott Sheehan, and Andrew Jesien followed in about 10:10 with Scott Sheehan nearly outkicking Willett at the end. The number five high school runner was Robert Brown in 10:21.
This type of course caters to Ellis's speed. I suspect that he will lead the team on most of the flatter courses such as Gaithersburg. Despite finishing 35th at last year's county championship, I see the 800-meter county champ as a serious threat to take the cross country title in his junior year.
Regan was skeptical that the course was a full two miles. Coach Tom Martin insisted that it was a full two miles and that he walked it just prior to the time trial. There is potential that some of the athletes could have chopped off five to ten meters at the turn around point if they hugged the turn tightly.
Willett said he was having a bad day.
Martin explained that Brown has been running for four years now and has always been injured. Now he is doing everything right and has a good strong base from a healthy summer of running. Most teams would like to have their #1 runner running a 10:21. For WJ, he is #5.
Clearly the WJ boys will be trying to threepeat this year as county, region, and state champions.
As for Jesien, he said he has not run in three weeks after an awesome summer on the track. He traveled to Europe and clocked a personal best 3:39.68 1500m. His running future is somewhat up in the air, but he is going on a road trip to California in about a week and he seems to be relaxing and figuring it all out.
If the 800-meter runner Josh Ellis had the advantage in the boys time trial, you can guess who had the advantage between Camille Bouvet and Anna Bosse in the girls time trial. After coming through the first mile in about 5:45, Bouvet ran a personal best two mile time of 11:35. Like Ellis, she could be deadly on that Gaithersburg course in October. Bosse was not far behind in about 11:50. That is a pair that will be fun to watch this year.
Coach Martin predicted that his number three runner would be two minutes behind the top two. He was pleasantly surprised. Olivia Stern came in about a minute behind Bosse in around 12:50. Misha Klassen was a few steps behind her, and Maria Moersen was a few steps behind her right around 13:00. Moersen had painful open sores on her heels as a result of the new spikes she was wearing that were sold to her by Sean O'Leary.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I returned to the WMAL towers in Bethesda for Whitman's two mile time trial on Saturday morning. The two mile course that Whitman used was different from the course that Walter Johnson used yesterday. Whitman ran their entire time trial counter-clockwise around the fields while Walter Johnson ran most of their time trial clockwise before reversing directions for the final half mile. Both courses were said to be two miles, but exactly how comparable the times are, I don't know. You can never really compare times unless teams race head-to-head. Whitman had the advantage of temperatures in the mid-70's as opposed to WJ's time trial in the mid-80's yesterday.
Anna Ryba led the girls' time trial from start to finish. She came through the first mile in just under six minutes and finished in 12:04.
Alexandra Phillips was second in 12:21. Those with good memories remember when Ryba and Phillips were the top two freshman in Montgomery County two years ago. Phillips spent the past year in France but trained all year. Now she is back at Whitman, and 12:21 for two miles is a nice place to start.
There was a gap after Phillips, but from 13:31 to 13:43, Whitman packed in four more girls. Caroline Elmendorf outkicked Caroline Guiot for third. Guiot is another junior that has been missing for a while. She was strong as a freshman but has been injured. She is healthy now and cautiously optimistic.
Elizabeth Frank and Katie Seevers rounded out the top six.
Laura Elmendorf, who ran 12:10 in the 3200 as a freshman last year, will also run cross country this year but was not present today.
After the top six in today's time trial, a steady stream of seven girls came in between 14:00 and 14:40. It showed more depth through 10+ runners than I think I have seen from any girls team so far.
In the boys time trial, Steven Goldberg took a large lead from the very start. He pushed the pace while Nick Adams chased after him. Goldberg finished first in 10:46 while Adams finished in 11:03. Llewellyn Smith worked his way up to Adams over the second mile and finished just behind him in 11:06. Nicolas Gay finished in 11:16 to hold the top four pack to within thirty seconds. Thomas Ryba, Isaac Rubin and Eyal Hanfling, three sophomores, rounded out the top seven between 11:54 and 12:05.
It is a new look Whitman team after the departure of Andrew Palmer and Brandt Silver-Korn, but those who are still with the team are excited about this season. The boys want to see what they can do as a unit. Coach Hays says that the goal is always for both the boys and girls to make it to the state championship.