Last Lap by Mike Housley – April 18th, 2017

Toronto West Running Club

The winter has come and gone and suddenly it is Spring and we are on the track. One of my recurring themes to my group is how quickly the weeks pass and once again we are facing the main racing season of May and June.

Did you do all that you wanted over the winter months? If not, you can’t really make it all up in the next two months. Our sport rewards consistency over the whole year, and it is the rare athlete who can make up for missed training by training harder in these next two months. But for those who have been consistent over the last few months, the rewards are within reach!

Now the focus must be on racing speeds. Times in practice do matter, so listen to your coach as they tell you what speed the intervals are to be run in.

Work on even pacing. A 400 that is intended to be run in 70 seconds needs to be run 35,35, and not 33,37.

I will write more on this next month, but as the racing season starts, set your goals and go after them!

Last Lap by Mike Housley December 30th, 2016

Rock Climbing Xmas party

As we close out 2016 and turn to 2017 several thoughts come to mind.  First of all, we are happy with and proud of our first year as a new club. We set out to create a new middle distance club for the west end of the GTA offering a high standard of coaching and competitive opportunity, and we feel our vision has come true so far. But this is just the beginning, and 2017 beckons with a new set of  goals and challenges.

Our sport is relentless. Training and improvement is a 12 month process (with planned breaks) and last years success does not guarantee this years’ results. Even Melissa Bishop and Andre deGrasse cannot coast this year and expect to be right where they finished off last year.

A U.S. Olympian once said that he loved running because there was no hiding or excuses in running-the guy that works the hardest usually wins. I often allude to that statement myself in a slightly different way; that unlike rep hockey or soccer,  no coach is cutting a deserving athlete for subjective reasons; if a runner who was previously far behind his teammates improves and wins big races, no one suggests that he or she shouldn’t have won. Just the opposite, we congratulate the athlete and the coach for a great job.

This note is aimed primarily at our older athletes. I will never suggest that the youngest kids have to work harder. I just want them to learn to enjoy running and to come to learn that training harder is fun on their own. But for the older athletes, the reality is that a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudge is needed!

I mentioned to my own group that this year’s senior OFSAA cross country champions, Martha MacDonald and Andrew Alexander started 2016 without any certainty that they would be this year’s champion. Neither of them would have been considered the favourite. But what both of them had done was to achieve a steady improvement over the past couple of years leading up to a big breakthrough this year. And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that both of them increased their training significantly in order to achieve this breakthrough.

We can do the same, but it starts with the commitment to train harder and smarter. Its really up to you the athlete!

Happy New Year to all, and in particular thank you to the Club Executive for all your hard work this past year.

Last Lap by Mike Housley September 6th, 2016

Cross-country race

In the running world Sept.1 or Labour Day is really our new year’s day. It is the official start of cross country season and the start of all the plans, hopes and dreams for the coming year-both cross country and track.

And just like on New Year’s Day we often make promises about how much harder we are going to train and compete. The question is, are we going to follow up on our resolutions or let them slip away?

Following the New Year’s Day analogy, its better to make reasonable and achievable goals rather than extreme ones. If you ran 4 times a week last year-set a goal of 5. If your long run was 8k-set a goal of 10. For the older kids, lets run 80k a week up from 60.

But most important is the promise to yourself to train more consistently and not be sidetracked by other matters, including school! There is a large body of evidence that elite athletes are usually good students because they learn to manage their time efficiently.

My group is sick of hearing me say this, but I will say it again to the larger group;  a school assignment is no excuse for missing practice! Practice must be put on the calendar as a non optional event.  Eat, sleep, run, school, Each one is every bit as important as the other.

By now some of you might be thinking, “why is he sounding so hard on this?  Surely he can’t really expect high school kids and younger to be so serious about sport.”

My only response is, Penny Oleksiak seemed to manage it all pretty well at age 16 !  We can too.

Last Lap by Mike Housley May 15, 2016

US Olympic Trials

I read a great preview of the U.S. women’s 1500m Olympic Trials today and one fact jumped out at me- all the big stars are 27-31 and even older.

The two leading Americans are Jenny Simpson (29) and Shannon Rowbury (31). They are both ranked in the top 10 in the world are are medal threats at the Olympics. They also both ran their best times just last year, which is at least 10 years or more since they graduated from high school.

Now, both of them were big college stars, and in fact Jenny Simpson was a high school star, but my main point is that here they are, running their best times all these years after high school and university.

As I have written before, this is a perfect example of taking the big picture approach. Each year they get a little stronger and a little faster, and are able to train just a bit harder than the year before. As good as they were in university, they are now much better.

The same example exists in Canada. Our best women runner is Melissa Bishop, who is 27 or 28 this year. Melissa was a very good university runner from Windsor, but no where near world class. She kept running because she loves it, and was following her dream, and last year ended up 2nd in the world at 800m!

So the lesson is clear- there is no urgency to being your very best. Take the long road, enjoy training and racing and see what happens!

Last Lap by Mike Housley – May 8th, 2016

The first races of the Spring have taken place and I am hearing some concern from athletes about who is beating whom, and whether or not they will qualify for the City finals in elementary school or metro finals for high school.

 First and foremost, your main competition should be with yourself! Aim to improve your best times and don’t worry about the other kids.

Whatever your time in your favourite event is now, think of how good it will be if you improve 2-4 seconds every year for the next several years!  Remember, we are in this sport for the long haul. And some people improve at different rates than others. When my daughter Kate was in grade 9, the girl that won the OFSAA 800 was so impressive that I did not think my daughter would ever beat her. (and I am an optimist!) But the very next year my daughter did beat her! More importantly, my daughter continued to improve over the years and enjoyed 8 years of success and satisfaction from running right through university.

That is what I hope for all of you.

And a small note to parents; be careful to not put too much pressure on your child. Even a good faith comment like “I thought you would run faster today ” can sting, and make your child worry that they are letting you down.
Good luck in your next race!