Tuesday is famous in these parts for being the day of the tempo run. As mentioned in the last blog, a tempo run is a “comfortably hard” effort, which is a vague way of saying that the effort level should be right in between your race pace and your easy run pace. The problem is that, in early August, when few people are in top form, making it hard to determine with any degree of accuracy what one’s current race pace is. And if you don’t know your current race pace, it can be a quixotic task to find your tempo pace. It should also shock no one that most high schoolers, nay, most runners in general, have a tendency to overestimate their own fitness level, leading to disappointment when they inevitably don’t’ hit their times.
ANYWAY, we awoke on Tuesday morning to the sound of rain pattering off the roof of the Round Hearth. This was accompanied by the collective sighs of some 75 campers as it dawned on them that they would be doing their tempo runs in some seriously inclement weather. Despite this obstacle, the campers were in high spirits as they boarded the bus to Stowe HS. After warming up and doing some dynamics, the first three groups stepped onto the dirt Stowe HS track and proceeded to crush their tempo run, finishing with mud-covered backs and water-logged shoes but with the immense sense of accomplishment that can only come from a job done well. The second half of camp arrived on the scene about an hour after the first, with similar results. Some of more notable tempo run accomplishments were Gilmar B’s 17:30 (goal time 17:30), Mike St. G’s 18:00 (goal time 18:00), Joe Niski’s 19:30 (goal time 19:30), Courtney Russo’s 24:03 (goal time 24:00) and Karina Crowley’s 23:48 (goal time 24:00). Overall, while there were a few campers who had off days, the vast majority was well within range of their times for the tempo. To view the times, please click on this link: Tempo Results (note that, due to the rain, getting the times down was something of a struggle. If we missed yours, we sincerely apologize!)
The campers returned to the Round Hearth and felt much better after a hot shower and a hearty meal. As the rain continued to pour down upon us, the camp watched McFarland USA, a film starring Kevin Costner as a cross country coach attempting to bring together a rag-tag group of runners and lead them to the California state championship. Despite the plot being very well-worn territory, the movie was well acted and an interesting look at how Hollywood views cross country and the ending, though, predictable, was rousing and inspirational.
After the movie, Co-Director Fran Cusick gave a presentation on How to Become a Better Runner. The first half of his talk focused on the role of the brain in running. Coach Cusick discussed the “Central Governor” theory of fatigue which states that the brain slows down the body in order to protect it from harm. This is evidenced by the fact that many people, with the finish line in site, will go from looking like death to sprinting to the finish line. Thus, getting faster is in some ways a matter of learning to override your brain’s natural instincts. You can do this through positive self-talk and visualization, among other techniques.
The second half of Coach Cusick’s talk centered on the pacing problems that plague most high school runners. He cited a statistic that every single world record set above 800 meters has been set using an even or slightly negative split. In other words: good runners get faster at the end of the race. At the high school level, the vast majority of runners employ the ill-advised strategy of going out way too hard, struggling through through the middle portion of the race, and then hanging on until the end. This is not in any way optimal! So if you’re a high school runner, or really any runner at any level, and you are matched up against someone of relatively equal fitness, one of the ways to beat them is with a more even distribution of energy. To view the somewhat disorganized talking points, click here: Speech.
After the speech, the campers received their shoes, which is always a thrilling moment. This year we got the Saucony Kinvaras, one of the best running shoes on the market. This typically chaotic process actually went very smoothly this year thanks to the efforts of counselors Isabelle and Eva (thanks guys!). As always, there were a few people who needed to exchange their shoes for a new size. If you’re one of those people and you’re reading this, your shoes should be shipping out by Thursday and you should have them by next week.
After getting their shoes, the campers unwound with some games, activities, and general downtime before having dinner and then heading to Ben and Jerry’s for some ice cream. Some highlights of the trip to B and J’s included a heated debate over the difference between a frappe, a milkshake, and a “shake” and Counselor Kevin C. eating some ice cream off a table (don’t worry, he didn’t eat the parts that actually touched the table, just the top).