Laying the Foundation for Success at Cross Country Camp
I spent last week at Point Reyes National Seashore, in West Marin Country, at the UC Davis Cross Country camp. This was my eighth year attending camp. There are some traditions that are exactly as they were when I attended my first camp as a freshman and others that have changed greatly over the years. Some of those changes are simply due to changes in logistics, but others have changed as the blend of personalities in the program shift. In some ways camp is always the same, but because the personality of the team changes from year to year, it is also always different. Out of the eight years that I have spent in the program as an athlete and now as a coach, this year was definitely my favorite camp thus far.
Last year we introduced a run that quickly became dubbed “the monster long run”. It begins at the trailhead for Sky Trail and immediately climbs a mile into dense forest. The trail narrows and is often very muddy in spots, and after the fairly long uphill out of the parking lot, it makes for a tough start. After the initial ascent, Sky Trail drops dramatically down to Coast Trail, which runs along the cliffs above the water. Once on Coast Trail you can finally get rolling into a nice rhythm all the way back to the hostel where we stay. For athletes not ready to bite off the full loop, they stop there after approximately 13 miles. The rest of the group embarks on a two-mile, grinding climb from the hostel back up to the vans at the start of Sky Trail. In all in the loop is only 15 miles, but it takes me over an hour and fifty minutes, which is slow going compared to type of training we get done in Davis and Sacramento. Last season the run felt like an epic adventure. For a number of people it was the longest they had ever spent on their feet in one run. There were some wrong turns made, some bonking, and one person literally crawled in. Some people loved how hard it was; some hated it. Needless to say, there was a high level of anticipation for the run this year. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to the challenge, but no one was underestimating the task that was before him or her. As a result, the run turned out to be almost anticlimactic. Everyone got the job done, but there was nothing dramatic or epic about the experience. We just ran. And when we were done we refueled, stretched, got back in the vans, and spent the day relaxing. I won’t say it was easy, but it certainly didn’t fit with the memory everyone had built up after the previous year’s long run.
In a lot of ways the essence of the entire trip was embodied in that run.
In past years I have felt like camp has taken a lot of energy (as a coach and an athlete) but this year was easy. The teams worked hard, but in general the routine wasn’t dramatically different from how we have become accustomed to training and living at home, and by the end of the week it didn’t feel like anyone was ready to go home. In general the week ran very smoothly and I credit it to the great dynamic this group of athletes has. In the time that I have been an Aggie I’ve been able to witness the program evolve tremendously. In the past three years, specifically, the team has developed a culture in which enjoyment is found in discipline, consistent work, and most importantly, being successful. As a coach in the program and as an athlete that has continued to compete at a high level, I know I have contributed in building this culture, but the energy I gain from being immersed in such an environment far surpasses the energy I put into helping create it. What I do on a daily basis suddenly doesn’t seem as big a deal as I could make it out to be, when there are 36 athletes around me, training with their own purposes, holding each other accountable to goals, and making each other better every single day. While my races and goals are different than theirs, I feed off their collective energy and together we lay down work, day upon day, week upon week, year upon year, in our quest for success. As much as I am looking forward to the races I have ahead of me this fall, I am equally eager for the cross-country season to unfold and to witness the fruition of the work the Aggies are putting in now.