Wow. It has been a whirlwind of a cross country season for me. I would have never in a million years pictured myself at the Footlocker Cross Country Championships in San Diego California. Actually, I would never even have pictured myself running in Long Island to get there, nor would I have pictured myself placing at the District III and PIAA State Championship meets. I am still trying to process all of this information in my head.
First and foremost, I would like to thank my wonderful coaches; Coach Jim Boyer and Coach Josh Foulds. Although they have only coached me for one season and this was their first year coaching, they couldn’t have done a better job. Their workouts were perfect for our team and they really pushed me to become the runner I am now. Coach Boyer was always upbeat and was always encouraging. Sometimes I would struggle with confidence before races and he was always there telling me that I could do it! Coach Foulds was great at figuring out workout paces and was amazing at cheering! He would make sure that he was at every part of the course cheering the team on, even if he had to dive through thorn bushes or cross a river. Coach Boyer couldn’t make it to San Diego and I really missed him. Coach Foulds came to watch me run though! We had a lot of fun in California! I would also like to thank my family; my mom, my dad, and my sister Morgan for always being there for me and supporting me throughout the entire season! The Boiling Springs Cross Country team is amazing!! They are like family to me. Running cross country is definitely a hard sport so you really need to be around fun and upbeat people to make it enjoyable!
The Hotel Del - Photo courtesy of Meredith Speakman
Post State Meet:
I was very pleased and surprised with my finish at the State meet. I had been surprising myself all season so this really wasn’t anything new. I made it a goal for myself to get into the top ten, although I was secretly hoping to get into the top five. I knew that getting into the top five at states was going to be very difficult and I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t make it into the top five so I stuck with placing in the top 10. After placing 4th at the state meet, I definitely knew that it was worth a shot to drive out to Long Island during Thanksgiving break to get in a last good race of the season. My coaches thought I should give it a shot too. I thought that race was going to be my last, but once again, I surprised myself.
My training for Regionals was strategically planned out by my coaches! These workouts proved to be very successful for me!
Nov. 7th and 8th - Off
Nov. 9 - 30 min run on Appalachian Trail
Nov. 10 - 50 min
Nov. 11 - Progression run, 2 miles out easy, 2 miles back at threshold pace, 1 mile at race pace on the track, 20 min cool down
Nov. 12 & 13 - Off and shake out run
Nov. 14 - 50 min
Nov. 14 - 40 min
Nov. 16 - Regional race simulation: mile on track in 5:40, 4 x 400 loop on (Boiling Springs home XC course) Bowtie Hills in 6:14, 2nd mile of our home course backwards in 6:14, 20 min cool down
Nov. 17 - 40 min
Nov. 18 - Mountain Rd: Out 3 miles, came back negative, cool down 1.5 miles
Nov. 19 & 20 - Off and shake out run
Nov. 21 - 45 min
Nov. 22 - 40 min
Nov. 23 - 1200 (87 pace), 2x400, 2x200 fast
Nov. 24 - (Thanksgiving) 30 min
Nov. 25 - pre meet 20 min and 4 x striders
The Northeast girls team at Friday's course tour - Photo by Don Rich
I was very care free going into the Regional race at the Sunken Meadow’s course in Long Island, New York. It was Thanksgiving weekend and I had just enjoyed a terrific feast at my aunt and uncle’s house in Jonestown, Pa. Although I was having a good time, I was still thinking about the race that I was going to be running in two days. Coach Boyer’s famous quote for me was, “the hay is in the barn.” By that he meant that I have done everything I possibly could to prepare myself for this race. My training was there, I was in my best shape, and there wasn’t anything else that I could do but go out and race my very hardest! My coaches said that all there was left for me to do was run the race and see how I could do.
Initially, my goal was to make it into the top 24 because the top 24 finishers received medals. I had no idea that I would make it to the national meet in San Diego!! I guess I thought there was a very slim chance, maybe if some of those elite runners ate too much stuffing and pies at thanksgiving! Walking the course on Friday was interesting. The scenery around the course was absolutely gorgeous, but thinking about running on the course seemed like death. Cardiac Hill definitely lives up to its name. When I was at the line getting ready to race, I told Coach Boyer and Coach Foulds if I make it, great; if I don’t make it, not a biggie. I felt that I had a pretty successful season so far and I wasn’t going to be upset on whatever the outcome of my race was.
Coach Boyer and Coach Foulds agreed and told me to run like I had run all season, nice and relaxed. I did exactly that. I felt very comfortable throughout the entire race and I ended up finishing 9th, qualifying for nationals. Yet another surprise!! I don’t really remember much about the race because it went by so quickly, but after I was done running, I knew I had run well.
P.S. My family and I ate at this amazing Italian restaurant in Long Island Friday night before the race. It is now one of my favorite restaurants!! It is called Branchinelli’s Pizza. I got the stuffed manicotti which was to die for! It comes with an assortment of warm fresh-out-of-the-oven breads and I finished off the dinner with a cup of real Italian gelato! YUM!
Post Regional Workouts:
Nov. 27 - Off
Nov. 28 - 30 min
Nov. 29 - 45 min
Nov. 30 - Progression Run: 2 miles out easy, 2 miles back at threshold pace, 1 mile on track in 5:40, 2 mile cool down
Dec. 1 - 40 min
Dec. 2 - Race simulation: (minute jog break) hard 400, 2x1000 at 87 pace, hilly 400, 1000, hilly 400, rolling hills 800, 15 min cool down
Dec. 3 & 4 - Off and shake out
Dec. 5 - 40 min
Dec. 6 - 6x400 starting at 85 sec and dropping to 75, 45 sec rest interval, 15 min cool down
Dec. 7 - 40 min
Dec. 8 - 30 min
Dec. 9 - pre meet 20 min and striders
Day 1: Thursday, December 8th
I was so happy that my mom, dad, and sister were all traveling with me to San Diego! I don’t know if I would have gotten there in one piece if it wasn’t for them because I am completely clueless when it comes to traveling. Coach Foulds flew in on Friday night so I didn’t get to see him until Saturday morning right before the race. We stayed overnight in a hotel right near the Baltimore airport on Wednesday night because our flight left BWI early the next morning.
The flight was fun, I love flying! I made sure that I drank lots of water on the plane because being on an airplane tends to dehydrate you and that was the last thing I needed going into the national meet! After seven hours of flying, we finally landed in the San Diego airport. I hopped on a shuttle with some of the other athletes that was headed for the Hotel Del Coronado. The weather was absolutely perfect! I still couldn’t believe that I was in California in December! I was truly stunned when we got to the hotel. I had never been in, rather yet, stayed in such a beautiful place! The outside of the hotel was decorated and the landscaping was incredible. The Christmas tree in the middle of the hotel was huge. I was led to the game room by one of my chaperones. This is where we checked in, got our room keys, and were given all of our bag full of goodies! When they gave me my backpack with everything in it I was awestruck. Tori Gerlach was in the room with me at the time and told me I was going to go crazy when I looked in the bag. I went ballistic. They gave us everything from a backpack to shoes to jackets and shorts. It was like Christmas morning only a couple of weeks early.
Meredith Speakman, Tori Gerlach and Angel Piccirillo at the Northeast Regional - Photo by Don Rich
I gathered up my luggage and went to check out my room. My roommate hadn’t gotten there yet. Once again, I was stunned at the beauty of the room! The beds were so soft and comfortable. I knew that this was going to be a trip of a lifetime. My roommate came while I was unpacking my stuff. My roommate was Sophie Chase, from Virginia. She was one of the bubbliest and most welcoming people I had ever met! She ran in nationals last year so she gave me a lowdown on what to expect, what the course was like, and how to race. She was a lot of help!! After I unpacked all of my things, Angel (Piccirillo), Tori, and I decided to go down to a little café and get a bite to eat. Angel and Tori were so much fun to hang out with during the week. I thought it was so cool that three Pennsylvania girls made it to nationals!
In the afternoon, we went on a group run and were introduced to all of the Olympians and professional athletes that were staying with us. We already knew that Adam Goucher was there because we discovered that he was a couple of rooms down from us in the hotel. We secretly spied for a little! Jen Rhines was our Northeast girl’s counselor. She was so sweet and is an incredible runner! Suzy Favor Hamilton was absolutely hilarious. She came up to me and gave me a kiss!! I felt honored to be around all of these genuine and incredibly talented individuals. After the run we went to dinner and took part in the scavenger hunt! During the scavenger hunt, I really got to know all of the northeast girls. I loved being around every single one of them and they all were loads of fun! Although we didn’t win the scavenger hunt, we had soooo much fun! I was extremely exhausted from my long day so I slept very well that night.
Speakman at the course run-through on Friday - Photo by Don Rich
Day 2: Friday, December 9th
I woke up Friday morning nice and rested. The hotel provided us with a buffet breakfast which I loved! My favorite breakfast to eat before races or runs is pancakes or waffles with peanut butter and maple syrup. Although no one can top my mom’s pancakes and waffles, the hotel came pretty close. That morning, all of the runners boarded the buses and we were headed to Balboa Park to walk through the course. Balboa Park was absolutely gorgeous! At that point, I decided that I wanted to move to San Diego and live there for the rest of my life. The course didn’t seem too bad when I was jogging it because the hills at Sunken Meadows and the Pennsylvania States course seemed more difficult than the hills here. I did take notice that the course was very curvy with lots of turns. The course was so cool because it had flags everywhere, the start line was painted, and there was a huge TV screen. I felt like a professional athlete!
Speakman being introduced on Saturday - Photo by Don Rich
The athlete introductions were a lot of fun. I was mentally preparing myself and visualizing for the race at this point. After everyone was comfortable with the course and got a nice pre-race run in, we boarded up the buses to go back to the hotel. Back at the hotel, we had a delicious lunch of sandwiches and salad. There was a magician performing mind blowing tricks and two artists were drawing caricatures of the runners! I was tempted to go run around, explore, and soak up the sun, but I thought it would be wiser for me to chill out and rest up for the big race the next day. Dinner was very yummy! We had pasta and fabulous deserts. I thought that the Foot Locker cookies were the cutest things so I kept a couple for a souvenir! After dinner, there was a panel discussion question and answer session with the elite runners that were staying with us. I was in awe of their accomplishments. It was very inspiring!
Day 3: Saturday, December 10th
The day everyone has been waiting for, RACE DAY!! I woke up and had my favorite breakfast- waffles! I wasn’t too nervous because I just came to have fun, race hard, and gain lots of experience. I just wanted to do my best. All of the runners loaded the buses and everyone seemed relaxed and in the zone. I listened to my ipod and tried to stay relaxed. When I got to the course, my parents and Coach Foulds were there to greet me. Coach Foulds warmed up with me and provided me with encouraging thoughts and advice on how to go about running the race.
The introductions were very exciting and it was fun standing at the line with the girls that I had gotten so close to in the past couple days. The gun went off and everyone was literally sprinting. Although I was a bit disappointed with my place, I was happy about the spectacular season I had. I couldn’t really be upset because I never in a million years expected to be at the national meet in the first place. All of the girls I had raced against were incredible athletes and I felt honored to be running in a race against them. This was all new to me, and I loved it! I know I will never forget this race and the experience it has given me.
Speakman finishes her Foot Locker race - Photo by Don Rich
Coach Foulds and my family picked me up off my feet and were proud of me regardless of how I raced. I was relieved that the race was over because now I knew that I could have some fun! That afternoon, my family, Coach Foulds, and I went to La Jolla Beach. La Jolla is one of the prettiest places I have ever been to in my life! There were seals and sea lions laying on the rocks and pelicans flying all around. We walked along the beach, explored through the caves, and played around in the tide pools. Again, I couldn’t believe that I was in such a beautiful place!
We got home from La Jolla and it was time for dinner. It was great because we got to dress up and the northeast girls got ready together. The food at the dinner was amazing and the awards ceremony was a lot of fun as well. I couldn’t believe that I was surrounded by such incredible athletes and that I actually became friends with them! After the banquet, the parents were asked to leave and it was party time!! The dance was unforgettable! I got to dance with the winner of the boys race, Edward Cheserek! How cool?!?!?!! After the dance was over, we all hung out until three in the morning just walking around, exploring, and talking! I had sooo much fun with the Northeast Girls aka: Beasts from the East (Hannah Oneda, Angel Piccirillo, Tori Gerlach, Laura Leff, Alexis Panisse, Catarina Rocha, Abbey Leonardi, Caroline Kellner, and Holly Bischoff)!!! I will never forget the friends I made at Foot Locker. Foot Locker was an experience of a lifetime and it really showed that with hard work and dedication, you can go anywhere and do anything with your life. No one, not even I, would have guessed that I would be at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego, but God had a plan for me. I really enjoyed my time there because I wasn’t just running; I was meeting new people, gaining experience running with incredible athletes, and having loads fun. I can’t say enough positive things about my trip. This trip has motivated me even more now for track season. I am super excited!!!
I would just like to end by thanking all of my friends, family, and everyone who encouraged me and believed in me this year! Good luck with running and follow your dreams, nothing is impossible!
My Favorite Pasta Recipe: (From the recipes of Carole Speakman)
Walnut and Roasted Ham Linguine
• 1 lb. whole wheat linguine
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
• ½ lb. cooked ham, thinly sliced
• 4 cloves garlic, or more to taste
• 2 shallots, chopped
• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the linguine, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook and stir in the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, and cook until the nuts give off a toasted smell, about 2 minutes; stir in ham slices, and cook the mixture until the ham is hot and beginning to brown, about 5 more minutes. Lightly toss the pasta with the ham mixture in the skillet, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. ENJOY!
Thursday sunset photo by Don Rich - B&W Cover Photo by PhotoRun