Entry 5 - Trueman and Ryan: A 2011 Penn XC/T&F Blog

November 9, 2011 (John)

Hello everyone, this is once again John Trueman, writing to provide you all with yet another update on my freshman experience at Penn.

While the cross country season ended just shy of championship season for me, I cannot argue with the coaches' decision to have me take time off earlier than others. I soon discovered that this past week of no running was a blessing in disguise, as I managed to finally get my legs back under me! I took the opportunity to rest, eat properly, hydrate, and receive treatment from the awesome training staff at Penn. One of the great benefits of attending a school such as Penn is the chance to take advantage of many treatment tools not readily available in high school. I was introduced for the first time to "stim" treatment by Emily, the cross country trainer, for my sore legs. This treatment felt like pins and needles when I was using it, but afterwards, combined with the rest, I am happy to say I am now back to 100% fitness again!

Following this rest, my first week back in training has begun, and I am grateful to add that it has been extremely relaxing. I have run low mileage, and have not yet had to complete a workout. The lifting has begun to increase in intensity, and although I am not yet comparable to Hulk Hogan in size, I feel much stronger towards the end of runs, a sure sign that the efforts in the weight room are paying off.

Outside of track I had an exciting weekend, as I got to witness my first homecoming at Penn. Coming to Penn from a small, suburban school, I am not used to the huge amount of school spirit and fan base that we have here. The football game was awesome, and I got to see some of the guys honored at half-time for their accomplishments on the track, and also for having the highest average GPA out of all the men's sports teams at Penn! This is quite an incredible accomplishment, and I hope I can continue to work hard to make this a recurring honor for our team.

I also managed to head back home for a couple days to watch some of my old high school friends run in their respective cross country district championships, and I must admit it was weird how young everyone looked going back, even though I am not much older than them myself! This weekend is the NCAA regional contest for our cross country team, and while I am sitting this race out, I want to wish everyone running in this race good luck, and once again, GO PENN!

-John

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November 1, 2011(Ryan)

Passion.

People often ask me and other runners, "Why do you run?"

For many, the answer to this question is indescribable. There are too many reasons, many that words simply cannot do justice, and then some that we as runners do not even know. You either have an answer and live your life based around that answer, or you will never understand.

This Saturday's race at Heps exemplified this passion that runners have for the sport.Conditions at Princeton were the worst I have ever seen a race run in - knee-buckling wind coupled with rain that turned to freezing rain-to sleet-to full on snowstorm made for a hypothermia-inducing (not an exaggeration at all) race.While the team may not have had our best performance, watching the squads leave everything they had out on the course was inspiring, to say the least.

After years of being part of the top group on my high school's team, watching that race was also humbling. The Ivy League is quickly turning into one of the most competitive conferences in the nation. If I want to compete with these guys, I'm going to have to put in the work and live like an elite athlete, even if I'm not one yet.

And so begins the rebuilding phase for this winter.The winter can be one of the most difficult times for a runner, with dark days, cold temperatures, and just plain old not wanting to go outside.Coming from DC, I've seen some harsh winters (re: Snowpocalypse of 2010), so hopefully Philly's won't be too painful - literally.The winter is a time many runners get injured, including myself in years past, due to the harder ground and colder muscles.If there is one thing I know about running, it is that to reach your potential you have to have consistent blocks of training stacked on top of each other, and time off from injuries can kill this development.A huge goal for me this year is simply staying healthy, and this winter will be a big test to whether I can keep this goal a reality.That question of "Why do I run" will likely wander into my head at some point this winter, probably during a miserable run in freezing temperatures, and the memory of the race at Heps will be there to fight that thought out of my cold brain.

As far as non-running life goes here at Penn, I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of this whole college thing.After bombing a couple midterms, I think I've learned how to study for my classes.My routines are in place and I'm getting used to the endless list of chores that need to be done without a wonderful mother to do them for me.Most of all, I'm starting to appreciate all the opportunities going to school here at Penn has to offer, be it from those the university offers itself to the location within walking distance of downtown Philly, and I can't imagine being anywhere else for my college years.Being in an environment that both challenges and entertains you is essential to performing your best, and I am so glad I found that here at Penn.

Keep doing what you do,
Connor Ryan

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OCTOBER 24, 2011 (Trueman)

Hello everyone, John Trueman checking back in, and once again it's that time of the week for the freshman blog to make its presence on Penn Athletics, and more specifically, the Penn Track and Field site.

The past few weeks have been extremely tough for me, both on and off the cross country course. With midterms come late nights and hectic evenings, and, as a result, my sleep patterns were thrown into shambles. Training has been painful, as I have been dealing with discomfort in both my calves, brought upon by the intimidating hills of Van Cortlandt Park a few weeks prior. While I will not be running at the Heptagonal Championships this year, I have had the privilege of training up until the most important race of the season with some of my newly discovered best friends.

Our training this past week consisted of a killer Tuesday workout of 20x400m with 60 seconds rest. We had all run this workout earlier in this season, and the drop in the average time per repeat of our workouts is a true testament to the leadership of our coaching staff. As I recognized the purpose of this workout was looking more towards building my strength for meets that are months away, this workout proved a tough mental task for me, but throughout each repetition the encouragement and demands of all the coaches forced me to get through it, and by the close of the workout I felt I had broken through one of many mental barriers I will face throughout the coming seasons. Friday saw us do some moderate threshold work, and while I completed it, it is safe to say that it was jointly agreed upon that I was in need of some rest! I know this may sound ridiculous, but running at the collegiate level makes college food taste outstanding, and perhaps it is the thought of the looming Hill dinner that gives many runners, myself included, an added desire to finish the reps as FAST as possible. That being said, some individuals have been outstanding these past couple weeks, especially Mike Kiley and George Dickson, and it is clear our team is ready to make a statement at Heps next weekend.

Outside of the running scene, the team has been very busy bringing in recruits for visits. It has been my pleasure to host many nationally known runners and show them what Penn is really all about, beyond the obvious fact that this track program is where every runner should want to be. Seeing the seniors attend these official visits makes me reminisce on my own selection process, and while I miss the excitement of phone calls and paid visits by coaches, I cannot stress enough that I made the perfect decision.

As I mentioned before, I have just completed all my midterms. It cannot be understated that the midterms were tough, as the onus is on you to find the time to study and do the required readings, but good time management, combined with last-minute cramming, saw me through the week alright! Following the completion of my midterms, many teammates and I, including John Foye and Matt Chylak, were pumped at the arrival of FIFA 12 for Xbox 360. This game has led to many heated, fired-up evenings of gameplay, as we battle it out on the virtual soccer field.

Finally, looking forward, I am getting exciting for many upcoming events. First and foremost, the Ivy League Championships are this Saturday at Princeton, and I encourage everyone to come out and support the guys in their attempt to achieve the goals we laid down earlier in the season. Conner Paez returns to campus for the week, and although he is unable to run with us, his road to recovery is an inspiration to us all, and having him cheer on the guys Saturday will surely motivate everyone to run to the best of their abilities. Halloween is this weekend, and as I am on my week off of training, I will use it as an opportunity to get rest, eat properly, and try to get refocused for indoor track and (finally!) shorter events on the track. I wish everyone good luck during their championship season of cross country, and GO PENN!!!

-John Trueman




OCTOBER 16, 2011 (Ryan)

Connor Ryan here, signing on for my first blog entry. It’s been a while since John’s last post, and in that time a good amount of running, lifting, and more running has gone on here in Philadelphia. I’ll do my best to fill you all in on how life as freshman on the Penn Cross Country team has been.

I’ll start with this past weekend, during which the team split up and ran at two different meets—the Penn State National Invite and the Princeton Invitational. After a more than disappointing Paul Short two weeks ago, both squads knew we had to redeem ourselves with solid efforts. Since we arrived here in August, Coach Boldon has stressed how running for Penn is larger than any of us; at both races, we ran like it. While I was not at Penn State, word on the street is overall everyone ran the hardest they could on that day - all you can really ask for in any race. The course was a muddy, hilly mess - a true cross country course. Junior Mike Kiley ran a great race and was the first Penn runner across the line, but only 43 seconds separated him from our fifth man, a solid spread. At Princeton, we were treated to a much more flat and dry experience, with the only natural difficulty being a brutal wind. Gus McKenzie led the way, running his first race in over a year due to a myriad of injuries. Spectators told me the emotions got the best of him in the last few meters, as he crossed the finish line in tears. As far as my race went, while I would have loved to have been eight seconds faster and been under the 27-minute barrier, I was pleased with my 27:07 effort. A true testament to the training and coaching we have here at Penn, this weekend’s time was over 70 seconds faster than my first 8k this year.

With Heps in two weeks, this weekend was a much needed morale boost, while also being a wake up call. By this point in the season, everyone has worked out their routines for race mornings, and how to prepare themselves best for the battle that is a cross country race. Everyone knows that as well as we have run so far, we can all go faster, and in two weeks time we’ll be looking to upset a few schools.

I also wanted to talk a bit about balancing running and schoolwork, as this is one of the biggest challenges freshmen athletes face. Doing both is never as easy as doing either on their own, but so far it has been more than manageable. College is a time when people figure out what is important to them and into which pursuits they want to put their efforts. As long as you make the right choices, getting all of your work done is just a matter of being able to manage your time well.

Other quick notes about transitioning to college life: food here at Penn is surprisingly good - thinking about the post long run Sunday Brunch at Hill Dining Hall has got many a runner through the last five miles of a 16-mile morning. The dorms, while noisy as times, are social and offer an awesome place to live and meet other freshmen. In high school, I barely ever lifted, and for the most part just ran miles and workouts. While the weight training and drills we do have at times made me consider purchasing a wheel chair to spare my sore legs, they have made me a much stronger runner. College running ain’t easy, but if you want to run fast you have to put in the work.

Until next time,
Connor Ryan



SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 (Trueman)

Hello all, my name is John Trueman, and for the next year, you will be hearing from myself and Connor Ryan - members of the cross country and track & field teams at the University of Pennsylvania - about our freshmen experiences on the squad.

The first couple weeks have been hectic and crazy to say the least! When I arrived on campus, I was anxious and nervous, really not sure what to expect. We started cross country camp on the 26th of August, with a meal prepared by our two wonderful assistant coaches, that consisted of pasta and salad. The following day we had our first tempo. Coming from a small high school, I was not completely sure how a tempo with so many guys on the track at once would go, but it ended up going very smoothly, and a really good experience for the incoming freshmen. The night before, Coach Boldon had stressed the importance of coming prepared to train hard, and as we stepped onto the track, the intensity and focus on the task at hand was immense. All those who were healthy hit the required time, and as a reward, we received our Nike shoes, courtesy of the University (kudos to Coach Martin for his great taste in colors for our shoes!). The rest of the week, including New Student orientation, was an incredible experience, with the men's team all growing very close, and the freshmen class especially becoming best friends.

My biggest fear coming to the program was how often we would have to run in the city, as the stop-start aspect of crossing streets never appeals to a runner. However, thanks to the University, and the willingness of our coaches to drive, we take a van to Valley Green, Valley Forge, or Mount “Pleasant” (ironic our workout location is called this), nearly every day. In this way we can get to softer surfaces, workout hard, and our chances of staying healthy and preventing injury are greatly increased. This also gives us an opportunity to learn more about the coaches on a more personal note on the ride down, and more specifically, their taste in music. To give you an example, Coach Martin's taste in music ranges from Lil' Wayne to Duran Duran's “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and by the end of these rides, many of us wish he was as good a singer as he is a coach!

The culmination of all these events, inevitably, was our first meet. We had all logged many miles, and we had quickly become a tight-knit group of individuals who were ready to run for each other. Taking a Coach bus to the meet was perhaps the moment of realization for me when I realized I was no longer a high school child, subjected to a small, 10-seater yellow Springfield Township bus, but I was, in fact, a University of Pennsylvania competitor. We arrived at Van Cortlandt park for the Fordham Fiasco in plenty of time, and looking around, I could not figure out the hype over the difficulty of the course. However, when the gun went off, I quickly realized that this was primarily due to the fact that the hills were hidden by woods, fooling all first-time runners there into thinking the course was simple. Although we wanted to run well, we had a plan set in place, which would leave many of us outside of our comfort zone early on, and at the mile-marker such a plan meant that I was in the lead with Mike Cunningham, something most freshmen would never dream of having happen. The race went very well for most of us, and although the hills left me sore for days after, I finished knowing I had given my all, and made the step up mentally from the 5k to the 8k. My finishing time of 27:29, though slightly disappointing on paper, made me very happy, as I had put everything into it, and realized I had represented the University to the fullest of my ability.

Reflecting on my performance and others at the meet, I cannot reiterate enough that the coaching from Coach Collins, Boldon, and Martin are among the best in the nation, and I believe in the next six weeks, if the team continues to work hard, we will all make huge strides individually, for each other, in order that we can contribute to something larger than ourselves. To everyone reading this who is a runner, I wish you all the best this season.

Lastly, thanks to my roommate Connor Jaramillo for the awesome pics from the meet, to make this first race for me and the other freshman very special!

Goodbye for now,
John Trueman
Class of 2015