Pre-Nats: Team Success and Teams of Oxen - 10/25/08
It's been a great couple of weeks here on the farm, headlined by our trip to Terre Haute, Indiana for Pre-Nationals. Being an Illinois boy myself it was good to get back to the good old (deliciously flat) Midwest and get a little taste of fall. It was of course more exciting to run in my first really big college meet. Going in our team goal was to come home with the W and we achieved that by getting out hard early, settling in and then closing hard. We had all 7 of our guys in the top 25 at the 2k mark and though we lost a little ground in the middle stages I think pretty much all of our guys moved up in the last 1k to win the white race with 77 points. My race was pretty satisfying as well as I took 4th in 23:37. This was by far the fastest I had ever gone out in a cross country race as Elliot Heath and I were in 4th and 5th place leading the giant pack through the first K in 2:37. While Sam Chelenga was up front dominating from start to finish Elliot, Garrett Heath, and I settled into the front pack and just tried to stay at the front of it for as long as we could with Hakon Devries, Jake Riley, Brendan Gregg, and Justin Marpole-Bird only a few places back. Just after the 5k mark is a sharp downhill that our coaches kept telling us to use so I used it, perhaps a little aggressively, and went into second place. I felt a little uneasy knowing that a pack of 20 really good guys were just off my shoulder with 3k to go. I managed to hold onto 4th place coming into the final straightaway (which is massively long). I was trying to hold off Andrew Lewith of Iona with about 200 to go when Garret Heath decided to hitch up his team of oxen and come flying by about 5 guys, myself included. I got a boost from that and managed to rally and pass Girma Mesecho of Auburn just before the line. I think the race really demonstrated the depth and potential of our team as well as the strength of working together with teammates.
There was another important victory on the weekend, but instead of being on the course this one was a moral/grammatical victory. Coach Dunn has a habit of saying "upwards of" when he means, "at the most". So he'll say, "we going to do upwards of 5 intervals" when he means we're going to at the most 5 intervals. Now this was highly confusing lingo to us because as anyone with a knowledge of directions and prepositions will tell you "upwards of" means more than (I mean "right of ______" does not mean everything to the left of and including _____". Now after bringing this up to him a couple of times and being rebuffed we finally had vindication in the Chicago airport when an internet search revealed that the idiomatic use of "upwards of" does indeed mean more than. `Twas a glorious moment
If you want to watch our Prenationals race you can view it HERE
Ben Johnson Moment of the week:
Ben on the Karate Kid: "The first karate kid was awesome but then he gets fat in the second and third ones... he can't even fight... Mr. Myagi is just like `Dragonfly, grasshopper, don't fight'... then in the fourth one its a girl... I mean come on"
"Karate Chop!...Potato chip!" -Ben
First Couple Weeks on Campus - 10/7/08
This Sunday completes the third week that we have been on campus here at Stanford. The last few weeks have included New Student Orientation, the first day of classes, and the Stanford Invitational which was my first collegiate cross country experience. It's been a lot of fun and a little weird to be a part of the whirlwind of freshman activity while being an athlete. The latter comes with responsibilities that the former sometimes doesn't accommodate very well and that has meant that I've had to miss out on some of the cool stuff that's going on constantly (and buy a pair of earplugs). Still it's been an awesome couple of weeks (probably because I haven't really had to do homework but I choose not to think about that). It's also been really cool to see that the team has still stayed really together after Mammoth. We have huge freshman class and we were able to preserve the togetherness that comes from living together for two weeks and transfer it to a new setting. One of the cool things we do as team is go have brunch in the dining halls after our long runs on the weekends. It's pretty awesome to finish up a 15 miler and then go gorge on eggs, breakfast potatoes, smoothies, waffles, pancakes, etc. Some people, however, take it a little far: One of my teammates literally ate himself into a catatonic state at the first first brunch of the year. He was so full after he walked out of the dining hall that he decided he had to lie down outside at the edge of one of the fountains. He was found half an hour later by some teammates dazed and confused with a pained look on face as he was trying to do something with his phone (he doesn't quite remember what). Who knew large quantities of food could be so dangerous?
Chris making his collegiate debut.
The team has also been running really well too. We've put in a lot of good training and I think some of that early fitness showed at the Stanford Invite. We were able to get out fast as a team and then use our great pack to put three guys in the top 10, another four guys in the top 15, and we BEAT CAL. What really excites us about the race is that we know when we go to big meets like Pre-Nats and Nationals (knocks on wood) we are going to be able to work together in a pack of teammates. For me the race marked a number of firsts: my first college race, my first time in the Stanford uniform, my first 8k, and my first time ever riding my bike to a cross country meet. All of those firsts contributed to a lot of uncertainty and extra nervousness before the race (except the riding the bike thing, that was just cool), but it went really well. I got out solidly maybe just outside the top 10 and then worked with my teammates to move through the pack to my eventual finishing position of 3rd. I was definitely not expecting to finish so high so I was hella* pleased with the race. I'm even more pleased with the fact that I know that I am not truly race ready yet.
Benjamin Johnson, who ran unnattached at the Stanford Invitational
Ben Johnson Moment(s) of the Week
So I promised last time that I would try to share some Benjo moments with you guys every time I write this blog. If I fail to do so it won't be because Ben didn't provide any material (there are oodles daily) but for my inability to communicate it effectively via the Internet. This week there were tons of you had to be there moments and couple pretty good ones that are fit for print. For those that don't know Ben I just ask you to imagine him in these stories exactly as he is in the above picture. The first is a pretty typical Ben scenario. We are sitting eating lunch one day talking about something, I'm pretty sure it was cross-training. I said something to the effect of "I kinda like pool running". Ben gets this big grin on his face and says as sincere as can be, "I know this really isn't on topic but I like ice cream, I think I'm gonna go get some" then just gets up and walks off. The second occurred at a team barbeque just recently. Some people were making fun of France for the benefit of Laurynne Chetalat (who is French) and Ben started to feel sorry for Laurynne so he defended her by saying, "Hey France isn't such a bad place, I mean that's where they filmed Ratatouille." He then went on to vehemently defend his claim for a number of minutes all the while grinning from sun block covered ear to sun block covered ear.
*apparently people from California use this word as an adverb so I'm trying it out
Mammoth - 09/19/08
Hey everyone, my name is Chris Derrick and I am a freshman on the cross country team here at Stanford. I went to Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL where I ran track and cross country for four years. I've been asked to periodically update this blog with info on how my first year here is going so I'll start this off with a description of our two week long Mammoth Lakes training camp...
I've spent the last two weeks developing unreasonable expectations for what life in college will be like. After tidying up some formalities on campus the team drove in vans up to Mammoth Lakes for our preseason camp. For the last two weeks we've been staying in condos, running the high altitude trails, playing cards and ping pong, and just living the dream. Our card game of choice was this game called chop. I won't really get into how to play but the important thing was that I had the 3rd most wins on the team (I also had the most losses but we don't need to talk about that). Playing cards was one of the things that the team gelled around and I think it became a part of the team personality that quickly developed. The team so far gets along swimmingly and everyone is pretty much on the same page as far as goals and workouts are concerned. I really enjoyed working out with team and getting the chance to work together with the other guys. It's been a while since I could tap into that kind of "synergy" (as the great Jims Dickerson once put it) and I'm excited to continue doing it for the rest of the season.
Another great resource to tap into was the legacy of the Stanford distance program. Olympians Ryan Hall and Ian Dobson both graduated from Stanford and now train up in Mammoth. Ryan was not in town at the time but Ian came by often to do easy runs, play cards, or offer advice. It set in a very clear and substantive way the possibilities and legacy that await us at Stanford and its exhilarating to be a part of "The Machine" like they were.
On the whole the Mammoth trip was a tremendous chance to get some really good training in and get to know my teammates before school starts. And whether I was eating a habenero pepper, making a fool of myself for our freshman skit, or getting destroyed by Elliot Heath in ping pong, it was a blast.
On one final note I've decided that when I can I will share a Benjamin Johnson moment in the blog. For those who don't know Ben he is a Footlocker all-American from Albuquerque, NM and is also a freshman this year. I would describe Ben as a red-headed Dave Wottle (especially when he wears his USA running hat) with a perpetual smile and a hilariously dry, "who me?" sense of humor. While Ben cracked me up many times on the trip by far the funniest was at a team dinner one night. We were all sitting around socializing and eating on the patio. Ben was to my right sitting next to two upper class-men who are dating (and shall remain nameless). One of them happened to be picking at the other's plate when all of a sudden Ben reaches over starts going to town on the plate. Its owner, mystified, turns to Ben who is innocently eating his pilfered meal and asks him what he is doing. Ben responds, "Oh I thought everyone was allowed to, she's doing it to".
The whole section just busted up laughing but Ben keeps it serious the whole way through, adamantly staying with his justification. I don't really know how well this will translate to blog form, especially for those of you that don't know Ben but I can assure you it was hilarious.