Growing up, it was very difficult for me to find a place where I fit in, and like many of you, I found that place when I joined xc.
July 28th, I got a text from an unsaved number (which turned out to be Mr. Winters), asking me if I wanted to join XC. I didn't know much about him aside from complaining to him about my "ankle problems" and XC was a foreign concept to a hurdler like myself. Either way, 12 hours later, I found myself at Black Rock Sanctuary. The first thing I noticed was how tightly knit the team was. Although it was reassuring, it was also daunting. As I awkwardly walked over to mutual friends, Big Al and Becker, the shock on their faces was pretty evident. After all, who would've expected little ol me to join the team. Even though I was "officially" on the team, it didn't immediately feel that way.
As I started running my first lap, my lack of experience and uncoordinated breathing was distracting; and on top of that I had to put in 5x the effort just to keep up with my group. It wasn’t until a barrage of claps and cheers from my teammates that I started to feel a part of the team.
I think throughout life it was really easy for me to make surface level connections or go through the motions without it meaning anything. I also think it took strength and courage to confide in a group of people that you just met, but after seeing how great the team was I decided to jump in head first.Whether it was pasta night, hitching a ride in the BBC (Big Black Cherokee) or dodging Joey's farts on a long run, I fully wanted to do it all. After only a couple days of practice I felt fully submerged into the team and the culture that came along with it.
As I became more involved in running I started to take notice of what worked and what didn't and after only one season I learned so much and wanted to share some tips that brought me success...
1) !!RACE DAY IS SPECIAL!!
Whether it be a pasta night or an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner I like to acknowledge the importance of race day the night before. Packing your bags with a good snack, trying on your uniform in the mirror, and packing the correct clothes to wear to the meet will make all the difference. Acknowledging the race's importance and packing the night before allows you to have more time and energy the next morning to focus on the difficult task ahead. When race days roll around, visualizing the race, listening to pump up music, and talking to a fellow captain about what should happen when the gun goes off, are one of the many ways to get mentally ready for a race. A special pre-race routine will most likely lead to a special race.
2) !! ACKNOWLEDGE THE PAIN!!
Workouts, conference meets, invitationals and sometimes even practices are gonna hurt. You can do all the stretching out you want but in order to run a race or distance you’ve never ran before there will be a recognizable amount of pain involved. When thinking about a race and visualizing it I think it’s important to keep in the back of your mind what your body will feel like during it. The 1st mile relaxed and steady and the 2nd and 3rd mile most likely feeling like a slow death. For me and hopefully others, leaning into the pain will give one an advantage in a race and help mentally prepare for what’s to come. On the other side of the pain is a time or race you've never run before
3) !!LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!
I know for many there is an urge to run the extra distance or keep going faster and faster on runs. While it is amazing to strive for better, you must listen to your body whilst doing so. Running hard when it matters and keeping the easy runs easy allows for the body to heal and recoup after a hard workout or race. Proper rolling out and stretching are key to allowing your body to reset and recharge in order to keep you pushing. If listening to your body means running a shorter distance, or laying on the couch on Sunday then DO IT! It’s easy to take your body for granted when everything is working and nothing hurts as opposed to when everything hurts due to not allocating enough time and energy to roll out and stretch. When race day rolls around THIS is the day where you’ll be experiencing mental and physical discomfort. With stretching and rolling out your body will be fine and it’ll be up to you mentally if YOU are able to push through the shallow breaths and negative thoughts to the finish line. Your mind will quit 100 times before your body ever does. Feel the pain and do it anyway.
4) !!CHERISH IT!!
Even after only one season I have learned so much and came to appreciate all the love and support that comes with being on a team. I can say with confidence this is truly one of the only times I felt a part of something bigger or a time where I had a voice. I guess I just want to say Thank You, thank you for the laughs, the hard races, the WWE, the relays, the support and most importantly the memories. Please please please don’t take it for granted and whether it be three years or three more days of practice stay in the moment and recognize how lucky you are.