Running With the Buffaloes

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I had my second dream about the blog last night. I think it's safe to say that I'm obsessed. It was a variation on a recurring dream I've had for years in which I keep trying to dial the phone and I can't get my finger to push the right buttons - but in this version of the dream I kept trying to write down my web address to give to someone and I couldn't manage to write down the right letters. I have no idea what a dream like that is supposed to mean because I'm not good at analyzing dreams - I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that it means I need to cultivate some hobbies other than just this blog.

Now on to today's book -
Today's book was suggested by my brother Chad who is a gym teacher/track coach/cross country coach - in other words, the exact opposite of me, a person who is so uncoordinated that I can barely master walking without getting injured. He told me that this is the only book he's ever voluntarily read in his life - and when someone tells me that I feel compelled to read the book - I also spend about 20 minutes trying to fathom what a life without reading would be like, but I just can't wrap my mind around it. And similarly he can't wrap his mind around why I love to read so much. When we were children he would introduce me to his friends by saying, "This is my sister. She likes to read . . . for fun. No one's even making her do it." I feel the same way about sports, "This is my brother who likes to run. . . and no one's even making him do it."

Today's book; "Colorado-based cross-country runner Lear follows the University of Colorado cross-country team, the Buffaloes, through its 1998 season, one with many high points but also marked by the tragic death of one of its team members in a bike accident. The University of Colorado's cross-country program is one of the best in the country and, unlike most major cross-country powers, relies mainly on locally born athletes. The book minutely details the training and coaching techniques used to produce a team that is a constant contender for the NCAA championship."

The only sport I know anything about is baseball, and it's been so long since I paid any attention to the sport that the details on that have become a bit fuzzy. So reading this book required me to look up a lot of running phrases that I was unfamiliar with (which would be all of them). It reminded me of when I was in elementary school and I would try to read books that were really advanced for my age - and I would make a vocabulary list for myself, look all the words up at the end of each chapter and then go back and read the chapter over again after I had written out the definitions of all the words - in other words, I was a dorky kid, the kind who inflicted learning on myself. Here are the words/phrases I had to look up (or call my brother about) while reading this book:

  • redshirting - each runner on a cross country team has four years where they're eligible to compete, and so if the player gets injured or the couch doesn't think they're good enough to compete for some reason they can redshirt that player - and the player will be able to practice with the team but not compete and that year won't count against their four years - this only happens with college teams and not high school - (I hope I didn't mangle that description too much - if I did, someone feel free to correct me in the comment section)
  • steeplechase - an obstacle race where the runners have to jump over hurdles and the last hurdle is the water jump, which consists of a barrier followed by a pit of water - (Reading about the steeplechase made me want to play the Super Mario Brother's video game for some reason. Fun fact about Angie: I was briefly obsessed with the Nintendo in the late 80's, a fact which my own mother doesn't even remember. What's wrong with her, doesn't she know she's supposed to have every detail of our lives memorized? Okay, so maybe I should let her off the hook considering she actually knows what color my eyes are and what year I was born, two facts that have completely escaped my dad).

Mid-way through reading the book I called up my brother to get his thoughts on whether he thought the book helped him as a coach. He said that it was eye opening to him to see how much harder college teams have to work than high school teams - and that he thinks it helped him to read about the philosophies the coach in the book used (crap I can't remember the coach's name right now - clearly attention to detail is not my strong suit). I found it eye opening as well to see how much work goes into a cross country team (not that I have anything to compare it to) - but I always thought, What's the big deal? You show up, you run, end of story. So I found out that it takes a teensy bit (or a lot) more effort than that. And to end the entry on a really sappy note, I found it really inspiring to read about the kids on the UC track team who overcame so many obstacles (the death of a father, the death of a teammate, making it from living in extreme poverty in Mexico to a scholarship on a college Cross Country team) in order to make it to where they were.