Random Running Ramblings: Overnight XC Trips

The Start of the Great American XC festival, a popular overnight meet for teams from Georgia over the years

Random Running Ramblings

by Coach Christie

              Early in my teaching career I had a column in the school newspaper called Random Ramblings. Now I've been asked to resurrect the column, but with an obvious focus on running.  This request comes from leadership at the very top of the Cross Country/Track and Field food chain (I can only assume Phil Knight contacted Coach McClay directly, asking for my writing). I can neither confirm nor deny that I will be writing while wearing shoes with carbon fiber plates in them, so you will have to decide how my writing compares to historical columns.

              It's the time of season where teams are going on overnight trips.  As a runner, these are the most fun trips of the season. As a coach, these are the trips where you hope to avoid any runners behaving in a way that necessitates a phone call home to mom and dad. "Uh, Mrs. Smith, I need you to come pick up Johnny. While his teammate was asleep, he shaved his head." Thankfully I only have minimal experience in my 24 years of coaching with something like this happening on a trip (the misbehaving, not the shaving). 

              First, there is the bus ride. If it's on a charter bus, then you are set. Comfy seats, air conditioning, maybe watching a movie. A word of warning to coaches: be very careful what movies you allow on the bus, because you could find yourself having to endure multiple High School Musical movies, with the entire bus singing along.  I had to deal with this on the way to Great American one year and I was one impromptu musical number away from prying the bus door open and deciding to live in a North Carolina forest. Also make sure runners know they should not show up for the bus ride already wearing their spikes, as one of my freshman boys did one time.

              Then there is the course preview.  If the first mile passes by the 3rd mile mark, then inevitably you have a team member who says "That's the fastest 3 miles I've ever run". I had a college teammate who did that EVERY time, for 4 years. Another fun part of the course preview is that if you have new runners who are improving rapidly, they might actually almost run a PR the day before a race. That happened to me once, with a runner I ran the course preview with. He proceeded to destroy his PR the next day.

              Dinner, room checks, and lights out should hopefully be uneventful, but runners, please use good judgment.  Case in point: one year the night before the Berry Invitational one of my runners decided to see how many rolls he could eat. He conquered something like 15-20 rolls that night, and basked in his apparent victory. However, the next day he realized he had been deceived, and that the rolls were just biding their time until they could lay waste to him.  I guess Pre's famous quote "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" does not apply to pre-meet roll eating.

              Finally you arrive at race day, the whole reason you came on the trip. It is filled with all kinds of exciting and interesting imagery.  The smell of the fresh cut grass. The fog lifting as the sun comes up.  The disgusting portojohns (seriously, when will portojohn technology advance? Let's pump some millions into that. We need portojohn scientists working around the clock on this). 

              Once the starting gun goes off, we arrive at the moments us coaches love. The scramble to our various vantage points to cheer on our runners.  The excitement of someone finally getting the start they need.  The urgency of mid-race instructions that we hope will be taken to heart. The wide-eyes of disbelief when a runner crosses the line with a certain time displayed. These are the moments that make Cross Country meet days so magical.  The sight of a runner revisiting their ill advised breakfast? Not so much.

              Wherever your team is going the next couple of weekends, whether it is an overnight trip or just a cross town low key meet, I wish you no drama, no serious injuries, short portojohn lines, and appropriate food consumption.