The Little Things . . .

a Going the Distance newsletter

Late August 2022 || issue #118
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XC Issue

Cross-country is the focus of this issue of The LIttle Things. It features interviews with Molly Kiley and Mike Brown.
The next issue will feature two all-sports athletes.

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Molly Kiley

[Molly is a senior at Andover High School in 2022-23. She began in the GTD program when she was 6 years old. Among her running accomplishments – won the Merrimack Valley Conference title in XC, indoor mile, and outdoor two mile; D1 indoor state title in 2019 and 2022, and 3rd at D1 XC states. Molly is a member of the National Honor Society.]

GTD: Molly, you began training in Coach Braz’s summer program in Andover at least as early as 2011, when you were 6 years old. What do you remember from those early years?
Molly: The earliest memory I have is of the relay races that the youngest group would do, and how much fun everyone had with those. Then, I remember progressing each year into the older age groups, which became more challenging. I definitely remember needing to work harder at GTD practices than for any other sport, but that’s what I liked about the program.

GTD: You didn’t choose running as your sport until high school. How did the switch happen?
Molly: In the spring of 8th grade, the High School hosted a fall sports informational meeting for incoming freshman. I went into the meeting with the intention of trying out for soccer, but decided that I liked the team environment of cross country better, surprising both myself and my mom with that spontaneous change of heart.

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GTD: Tell us about your running in high school.
Molly: There are different aspects of both cross country and track that I enjoy. Cross country is fun because there is less of an emphasis on running certain times-- everyone is mostly out there to compete with each other (especially since there can be so many runners in one xc race). In track, I tend to like the 2-mile the best, but I love that there’s always a chance to try faster, shorter events to work on building speed.

GTD: The 90+ minute sessions have phases, and each day is different, and each week is different, and progressively more challenging. What drills and segments did you really like? Any that were not your favorites?
Molly: I like the plyometric exercises we do quite often because they are a good way to build strength and endurance without doing as much mileage. There are also some drills we do on the fields that imitate parts of a cross country race, which helps me visualize pushing through when it gets tough in a race. I do not think there is a segment that I dislike. Even when it is not fun in the moment, you always feel accomplished after the session.

GTD: How do you keep your focus during the sessions?
Molly: I definitely imagine racing during the sessions to keep me motivated. Oftentimes the coaches don’t tell us how long an element will take, so I try to picture being out in the middle of a course when I feel tired and it is hard to keep pushing.

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GTD: How do you handle nutrition on Braz Camp mornings?
Molly: It’s different for everyone, and I have a sensitive stomach so I eat something small that has carbs for energy (like a granola bar) in the morning before Braz Camp. Then I focus on refueling after the workout.

GTD: The last phase of each training session is devoted to core work, flexibility, and strength. Tell us about it.
Molly: The time allotted to doing core, hurdle mobility, and strength work is super helpful to be able to run faster and prevent injury. I was having problems with my hip flexibility at the end of sophomore year, which affected my stride and performance in races. After the following summer at GTD camp, my stride had improved and I was able to take over a minute off of my 5k PR. The core and strength work may seem tedious, but the benefits motivate me and my teammates to continue it throughout each season.

GTD: What is the most important thing you learn from the summer program?
Molly: Aside from getting into great shape for the upcoming cross country and track seasons, the summer program helps me to develop mental strength to use in races. Having these challenging workouts teaches me how to stay strong mentally when all I want to do is give up. I think that a lot of the discipline required to perform well in distance races is exercised at GTD camp.

GTD: How would you describe the program to a runner who has never done it, but might be interested?
Molly: The program is difficult but rewarding because you can see your progress each week as you are able to complete increasingly more challenging workouts. With that, it is not intimidating if you are a beginner because there is a large group of runners at all different levels, so you won’t feel alone. I would recommend it to anyone who is motivated to becoming faster and stronger.

GTD: What are your plans for the upcoming fall, winter, and spring sports seasons
Molly: I want to continue to be competitive at dual, conference, and state level meets in the fall, winter and spring seasons. This fall, it looks like we have a good cross country team as many girls have been attending Braz Camp this summer. Therefore, I think that it will be fun to be more competitive as a team this year. I want to leave senior year feeling fulfilled with my times, but also be able to look back at the memories made in all three seasons.

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Nothing flat, smooth, or easy . . . x-country = life

[Many runners, especially older runners, have never run a xc race. As part of this Little Thing's xc focus, your editor remembers below his xc moment.]

During an interview at a men's college, the Dean of Admissions gave me a manly and somehow disturbing grin and said -- "no skirts here!" And why was I even interviewing at a men's college? Teenagers rarely have a clue. I certainly didn't. But later when the Dean asked if I'd like a tour of the campus, I said "no thanks."

I was reminded of the Dean's comment after finishing a 5K cross-country race in Dover (NH). It wasn't "skirts" that were missing -- in fact there were plenty of women in this race. What was missing was the nice running surface most of us are used to.

No road or track. Just cow pastures and root-infested trails in the woods, and slippery wooden bridges. And little ravines and holes in the ground, and sharp turns and steep hills both up and down.

No, nothing flat, smooth, or easy.

Was it fun? Absolutely.
Was it hard? Absolutely.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.

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Mike Brown

[Some athletes focus on their sport before they reach high school. Mike Brown found his focus in his senior year at Andover High School. As we see in Mike's story, it's never too late.]

GTD: Mike, when did you start running?
Mike: I began running my freshman year, joining the XC program at my high school. I never took it too seriously, vowing to keep it “casual” and just to have fun with friends. However, I learned I wouldn't be able to be a casual runner in this sport and still have fun. I saw people similar to me, pushing through these barriers, running at times I never could’ve imagined running. I started thinking, “Why couldn’t this be me too?” With things happening in my personal life, along with being motivated to become a more fit guy and just better myself overall as a person, I started putting more work in. Of course this happened way later on, at the beginning of my senior year. It took me a while to mature, and realize what I should be putting my energy and time into. I didn’t want to waste any more potential that I may or may not have had.

GTD: How much running did you do in high school?
Mike: I did a lot of running throughout high school, but I definitely favored track and field over XC. I developed a passion for more mid-distance running, as I found myself wanting to run faster and for a shorter period of time. It started with my coach telling me they needed one more for the 4x800 relay at indoor states. At first I really hated the idea of 2 laps of gritty running. Somehow though I ended up loving it, and the 800m was really all I ran my senior year through the winter and spring seasons besides a stray 1 mile or 2 mile race for some variety.

GTD: Tell us about your decision to train in the Braz Camp xc program this summer?
Mike: One of the best coaches I’ve ever gotten the chance to work with, Sue Kiley, told me she would be a coach at this camp. I had also met Coach Braz at the All-States outdoor meet, and I had been aware he was a great coach. It seemed like an easy decision, but it also meant a 30-40 minute drive 3 days a week, for a program that started at 8am. I considered another camp right down the road from me, but decided I wouldn’t be getting the best training I could if I went there. With that being said, I ended up doing it. Now in the last week of camp already, I can easily say I have no regrets.

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GTD: As a runner new to Coach Braz’s xc program, what were your expectations before you started? Was it what you thought it would be?
Mike: My expectations were that this would probably be the most vigorous training plan I’ve ever been on, which I liked. I thought the camp would be a lot of the same, hard workouts, but I was wrong about that. There is so much variety in the workouts, different every day but always getting a super good sweat in. About a month in I began feeling more fit, and confident in my training. It’s a great feeling leaving the camp in the morning knowing what you’ve just accomplished.

GTD: The 90+ minute sessions have phases, and each day is different, and each week is different, and progressively more challenging. What drills and segments did you really like? Any that were not your favorites?
Mike: My favorites so far have been the steady/tempo pace on the field, as it really simulated a XC race. It’s fun to run with the guys going at a fast pace, and knowing you can hold the pace is a great feeling. Going to the hills in the morning is also super fun, yet difficult at the same time. You know that once you complete that workout you’re going to feel super accomplished. I’ve also enjoyed the Plyometric workouts we’ve done, and most recently a 3.5 mile tempo which was very rewarding to complete.

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At 6' 4" Mike is easy to spot in the crowd of xc runners.

GTD: How do you keep your focus during the sessions
Mike: I like to think about a race situation, when I’m really fatigued and just want to stop. Building mental toughness is a huge role at camp, and without you realizing it will help you when race time comes. With that being said, I definitely space out during some workouts. I will clear my mind, and try not to think about anything else besides that workout in that exact moment. Sometimes it helps me to take deep breaths, and realize the work you’re putting in is all a part of your plan to get faster.

GTD: How do you handle nutrition on Brazcamp mornings?. It’s the heat of summer, you’re starting at 8am and you have 90 intense minutes of work.
Mike: I’ve never been the guy to eat a lot before a run, especially since the heat can mess with your stomach sometimes. I’ll have 1 waffle with peanut butter on it for a little volume, along with a cup of coffee to wake me up a little. I save my big meals for post workout.

GTD: How would you describe the program to a runner who has never done it, but might be interested?
Mike: If you have goals to become better at running, you can definitely get the help you need at Braz Camp. Everyone starts somewhere. You can come in at any level of running, and come out more confident and fit then you were months prior. It’s also a great community of runners who just want nothing more than to just be better. You can find guys to compete with and guys who can make you faster. If you work hard, you’ll see results.

GTD: What are your plans for the upcoming fall, winter, and spring sports seasons?
Mike: This fall I will be attending Umass Amherst as an Economics major, but I don’t really know what I want to do yet. As far as running goes, it’s a competitive school. My main goal this past year has been to become a better runner, and to get fast. I’m going to continue doing that for a while, whether I get a spot on the team or not. I will be exploring many different options, whether that is to take on a role where I’m needed on the team and build up from there, or if I score a practice team spot, and can train and work my way up from there. Either way, my ultimate goal is to be able to train with some guys better than me, so I can feed off of them and work my way up the ladder. The training will continue, the hard part is just getting there.

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Was it really xc? Does the path in that apple orchard look like a track?


What Did It Look Like? (xc edition)

There was a lot running in the xc program. And a lot of work to help prevent injuries and strengthen the entire body. Call it the Edge.

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See this hill? You'll get to know it. Don't pick the apples.


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