Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feeling at Home on the Track

Karen London absorbs the wisdom of Jack Daniels,
TRF coach emeritus

Veteran runners can forget how intimidating the track can be for people who are new to the experience. If you haven’t run on the track before, it might feel foreign and even uncomfortable. It’s common to feel confused about all the activity and to find it miraculous that everyone else seems to know what to do when it seems so chaotic.

As in any culture, there are rules and norms of behavior that only make sense if someone lets you know what they are. This track “etiquette” concerns following guidelines, which is the way to avoid sudden swerving, unplanned stops, and collisions. Here are some basics about the expectations on the track:
  • Taking the growth of TRF membership into account, all workouts are run counterclockwise on the track, using all available lanes.  Before practice or when the group session is complete, runners can warm up and cool down going clockwise in the outer-most lanes.
  • From the time you arrive at the track, be aware of its usage. Always look both ways to make sure you are not jumping out in front of anybody. Nobody wants to interfere with someone’s workout, or worse, cause an injury.
  • At all tracks, Lane 1 is saved for the fastest runners. Because we conduct workouts with so many members of varying goals and abilities, we ask that runners who are typically passed by others position themselves outside of Lane 1. However, if you are being passed, do not change lanes in an attempt to get out of anybody's way--it is more likely to cause an accident than staying where you are. This TRF-specific policy is different than at most other tracks, where the proper etiquette is for the runner who is passing to yell "Track!" to indicate to a runner who is being passed to move to an outside lane. At TRF, we find it safer for everybody to remember to position themselves in the proper lane from the start and to hold their positions if somebody needs to pass.  
  • Pay attention to instructions from the coaches at the beginning of each workout to understand which lanes are being used for what purpose. During Step Into Running sessions, for example, TRF members will typically be directed to use lanes 1 through 5, while Step Into Running participants will use lanes 6 through 8 for run/walk workouts. Again, the faster TRF members will use lanes 1 and 2.

Find your happy pace and place on the track!

  • There’s another part of good organization that goes beyond which lane people are in. At the start of each interval, the fastest people are at the front, medium-speed people are in the middle, and everybody else lines up behind them. It’s so important for safety that those of us who are not super fast don’t start too far forward. Crowding is a bigger issue at the start of each interval than later on when our different speeds cause a natural spacing as we get strung out along the track. As a back-of-the-pack runner, I sometimes have a perfect view of the trouble ahead of me that can cause a risk for injury as faster runners are forced to swerve around people or pull up short, all of which can cause unnecessary collisions. If you find that you need to pass people early, start further up next time. Conversely, if people are going around you by the first turn, starting further back next time is advisable. Where to start must be evaluated through the workout and adjusted.
  • We stagger the start when we run our fastest, shortest intervals. Starting in two groups, 10 seconds apart, makes it easier for everyone to run at their proper pace for the entire interval. Both groups contain people along the entire continuum of speed within the club, and we still line up with the fastest runners at the front. 
Despite the large numbers of people we run with on the track, problems are rare, which is a credit to everyone’s understanding of the culture of the track, including Team Run Flagstaff’s special style. Though it’s a common complaint that etiquette is largely ignored in today’s modern world, on the track, good manners still prevail.

Karen London is a member of the Team Run Flagstaff board of directors.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Coach's Corner: The Journey Continues

Coach Shayla competing at the
Stanford Invitational. (Photo credit:
2012trackandfieldphoto.com Randy

Team Run Flagstaff! There are so many great things happening right now, you’d have to be crazy to not get involved!

Tonight at 6 p.m. will be our first night at Buffalo Park with the Step Into Runners. During my time with Team Run Flagstaff, Step Into Running has made it a wonderful experience. It is sometimes hard on Tuesday nights to get to know everyone on the track and with the numbers becoming larger it’s hard to keep up with everyone. Running and walking around Buffalo Park with different people each week has been a blessing of encouragement for the rest of my week. Everyone has his or her own story and journey they’ve taken to where they are today, which is always very interesting to get to know! If you have free time I really encourage you to come out and meet these new runners.

My life has been crazy the past few months. Time has flown by. I had an extremely successful indoor track season where I placed fifth in the 3,000 meters at the USA Indoor Championships. This past weekend I was in Palo Alto, CA to race my first steeplechase of the season at the Stanford Invitational. I ended up second in the race and have the second-fastest U.S. time this season. The biggest feat of the weekend though was only getting one foot wet while jumping the 12-foot water barrier! 

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you. My time here in Flagstaff seems to be close to an end. At the beginning of May I will be moving to Park City, UT to train at altitude while being closer to my coach, among other things leading up to the Olympic Trials, beginning June 21. You all have made my time in Flagstaff SO worth it and have helped me find another family away from my own. Thank you SO much! I’d love to have you all follow my journey on my blog or via twitter!

Shayla Houlihan is a Team Run Flagstaff assistant coach and is training for the steeplechase at the 2012 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

For the Love of the Forest

Maureen and Rob Hall in 1986

In the spring of 1987 two good friends from New York (let’s call them Maureen and Rob) arrived in Flagstaff to seek, well, to seek nothing really.  We just were here for a visit.  We had no idea that Flagstaff would have such an impact on us as to have us form a mutual and immediate agreement to move across the country and settle here.   We camped in the forest as we sought jobs and housing.  Neither search was easy, but the accommodations in the trees were superb.  If it hadn’t been for the minor detail about needing money for food, we were perfectly content to continue our life in the forest indefinitely.  We had the luxury of traipsing all over the city in search of homes and jobs and all over the forest for contentment.  The area we finally decided to live in was in Timberline. 

Over the course of the next 25 years we lived in various homes, held various jobs, lived separately and together, but always we were in the Timberline area.  That was home to us.  We knew “our” side of the mountain intimately.  We knew individual trees.  We named our favorite hiking destinations.  We walked our dogs daily. We rode our horses up to Schultz Pass tank in the summer.  We had our own wonderland of cross country skiing in the winter.  We knew where to go when one of us said to the other, “I’ll meet you on: ‘Sally’s path,’ or ‘Mikey’s trail,’ or ‘Lover’s Lane.’”

We were not runners when we moved to Flagstaff, nor were we lovers.  The forest was a source of where these seeds of desire where planted in our beings and where they took root.  The deer hill trail and the Waterline road were only a couple of our favorite and easily accessible trails for running.    I was happy enjoying my Shrub Oak running status, while Rob was practicing his Ponderosa Pine endurance.  Our love for each other deepened and our veneration of the forest never waned.  We married and bought a house with a view spanning from Mt. Elden to Sugar Loaf, and we never took it for granted.

Three days before the Shultz Fire, Rob remarked how dry the forest seemed.
 The view alone was inspiring, but the need to be outside and in the forest is almost a necessity.  Running fulfills this requirement beautifully.  We both were training for Team Run Flagstaff’s Snowbowl Hill Climb on the morning of June 20, 2010.  We were heading out the door to drive up to Schultz Pass tank and run the Waterline road, as we discussed the night before.  On a whim, I asked Rob if he minded if we changed trails and drive all the way across town and run up Elden Lookout road instead.  We did, and saw other TRF and NATRA runners on the road. It was the longest run I had done in quite some time and although I was ebullient about the distance I had just covered, I was also weary and looking forward to a nice rest once we got home.  Driving back through town we spotted the smoke and sped home.

"Goodbye my beautiful forest. 
I mourn your loss as you spread your ashes over my house.
 I will celebrate - and guard - your new fragile life."
A deserted campfire and relentless wind are a powerful combination in their destruction.  My pleas to the forces of the wind to take my house and leave the forest went unheeded.   A week later a torrential rain fell on the burn area and the mountain wept rivers of ashes and boulders through the surrounding neighborhood areas.  Countless millions of trees were destroyed.  Untold numbers of animals were killed, injured or displaced. At least one human life was claimed.  Our hearts were broken.

I vowed to the forest that I would protect and nurture its rebirth.  Now, almost 2 years later, a great opportunity by the Forest Service has opened up.  The Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest is inviting volunteers to help replant the Schultz burn area.  I would also like to invite anyone who would like to share in this opportunity to help plant these seedlings of hope.   I would like to give back to the forest the peace and love it germinated in us.  I will plant with the hope that this new generation of trees will take root and become strong so that future generations of people will love, cherish and abide harmoniously in their presence.

The Flagstaff Ranger District of the Coconino National is hosting a volunteer event each Saturday in April – 4/7, 4/14, 4/21 and 4/28. Volunteers interested in signing up for one of these events should contact Brienne Magee at the Flagstaff Ranger District by calling 928-527-8290 or emailing bmagee@fs.fed.us.