The Little Things . . .

a Going the Distance newsletter

Mid October 2019 || issue #83
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Shannon O'Connell

[Shannon graduated from Peabody High School in May, 2019, and started her freshman year at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, in September. She ran cross country, plus indoor and outdoor track at Peabody and plans to do all three seasons in college. In her first two college xc races she was 2nd on her team. In her third she ran 18:55 at the Keene State Invitational to smash the Colby-Sawyer xc 5K record.

Successful runners are those who overcome challenges – injury, illness, hills, and don’t ever talk about the weather. Shannon writes: “I would say my best race was spring state relays of my senior year This was my first time racing since I found out I had anemia and had to slow my training down for a bit. I started to feel much better and I pr’ed in my race that weekend! This was a mentally good thing for me because I was really struggling with running for a while.”]

GTD: Shannon, how many summers have you trained in Coach Braz's summer program?
Shannon: This summer was my third summer of training with the Going the Distance program. I went to Peabody High so Coach Braz was my high school coach for my junior and senior year for all three seasons. Having this summer program is really the best because I know training will be consistent and Coach Braz knows my capabilities.


GTD: In previous years you trained in the program’s HS groups. Since you’re running in college this fall, you were in the college group, with a combined college / GTD program. How does this work?
Shannon: Coach Braz worked with my running schedule from my college coach to fit in with the GTD program. I still got to do everything my college coach wanted me to do, while getting in even more. The college group would start at 7:45 so we could be done with our runs in time for our stations after our run. We would have some type of dynamic warm up then we would run as a group. We would usually have different runs every day but I never had to do a run completely alone.


GTD: The last phase of each training session is devoted to core work, flexibility, and strength. Tell us about it. What did you like and didn't like.
Shannon: After our runs we would do stationary flexibility work combined with strides. Then we would do ankle bands, long bands and medicine balls to increase strength. We would also do hurdle drills after each session. My favorite part of working out is core so I would force my friends to do it with me every day. Then we would sometimes lift in the weight room after we were done stretching. All of the drills are important for injury prevention and are a big part of being a successful runner. Sometimes after a long or hard run the drills were a little exhausting but I didn't mind doing them.

GTD: When you’re doing the “running” parts of the program, do you ever “visualize” a xc race?
Shannon: Yes, when I do things like hill workouts I imagine hills during a race. I think that it gives the workout a purpose and motivates me more.

GTD: When you race, do you have routines that you always do to prepare, leading right up to the start?
Shannon: The night before a race I typically try to have a lot of protein and vegetables and some carbs like pasta or rice. Then the day of the race I try to have a lot of water and electrolytes if it's going to be hot. I would always wear the same uniform because I felt like it was good luck. My high school teammates and I made it our thing to wear funny crew neck socks so I would always have pizza socks or avocado socks to race in. I would do a short warm up jog maybe an hour before the race then I would do a dynamic warmup and a few strides on the starting line. Then right before we start I have to do a few jumps, I really don't know why but it makes me feel better. Before races I get a lot quieter because I really like to focus on what I’m doing and try to visualize the race.


GTD: Sometimes when it’s over, runners think about those moments in a race where they lost focus (and time). Did you have any of those “lost moments” in Braz camp? Perhaps when you may have just gone through the motions during a core session, other times?
Shannon: I think sometimes while we did hurdle drills I wouldn't really complete them to my full effort. Usually we do hurdles as our last station so by then I'm tired and it's easy to just go through the motions of doing them without really getting the benefits of the drill.

GTD: Many athletes get serious about what they eat. What are your thoughts on nutrition?
Shannon: I think that eating a healthy and balanced diet is important to be a good runner. I try to eat as healthy as I can but I also don't pass up the opportunity to get ice cream.
As I started to increase my running my junior and senior year of high school I started to lose weight because I was underfueling. During the end of my senior year my running hit a wall and could barely run for ten minutes without using up all my energy. That's when I went to the doctor and found out I had anemia. Coach Pete was also one of my high school coaches so he was a huge help with increasing my calories and making sure I was eating enough to support myself. I think it's important to have some type of protein or carb source after a run to replenish so I would typically make a protein smoothie after GTD sessions.

GTD: What are you studying at Colby-Sawyer? Long-range plans?
Shannon: I am a nursing major but I’m not sure what type of nurse I want to become. I think I want to become a traveling nurse for a few years so I can work but also get to see new places. Eventually I think I want to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.


We had a large and talented group of college women in this summer's GTD xc program. Shown here (left to right) are Sarah Freeman (Bryant), Ali Barrett (Trinity), Shannon, Vic Lombardi (Stonehill), Marissa Farago (Franklin Pierce).


Kitty Mannion

[I’m Kathleen Mannion but I go by Kitty. I am in 3 varsity sports, soccer, swim, and track & field. I go to Lynn Classical High School. My sophomore year I helped my team make playoffs for the first time in years. My swim and track team won the all city tournament we have in Lynn. I won the Ram Award for soccer my sophomore year. I am ranked #1 in the class of 2021. On Sundays I’m a Catechist (Sunday school teacher) for 4th grade students. I play club soccer throughout the year. I have a sister Molly who plays soccer, basketball, and track at Classical, a brother Patrick who plays basketball and baseball at Essex Tech, and a brother Rory who is in elementary school.]


GTD: Kitty, how many summers have you trained in Coach Braz’s summer program? What got you started?
Kitty: I have done this program for 2 summers now. My freshman year I was a swing for soccer and one of the things I needed to improve on was my fitness. My sister and her friends had done this camp the year before and had amazing results, so I did it as well.

GTD: Did the first summer make a difference?
Kitty: The first summer completely changed me as an athlete. I went from finishing 3rd to last in the 2 mile at tryouts my freshman year to finishing 4th. Not only had I built up endurance, but my speed improved as well. After my first summer I became a starter as a sophomore and that was in large part due to this program.

GTD: You're a soccer player. The GTD program is a conditioning program. Do you do anything soccer-specific in the summer?
Kitty: I play club soccer and practice with them early on, I also play in the District Select Program up in Lancaster, and played in the Bay State Games.


GTD: While it isn’t a “running program” there’s a lot of quick movement, both on the track and the turf field, with “obstacles” (rope ladders, cones, hurdles). Tell us about these drills. Are there ones you like better than others?
Kitty: There are a lot of drills we did at camp. Most of them worked on explosive speed and quick movements, but we did them continuously which helped with endurance. In the drills with quick movement the coaches would make sure to show us how to do them properly for injury prevention. The drills would vary each day and got harder as the program went on. Personally, I love ladders because it helps with quick feet for soccer.

GTD: In addition to the speed and agility we work on, you have 90 minutes of mostly steady “work” with some short water breaks. How does this prepare you to play soccer?
Kitty: The short breaks help me get accustomed to how the season is. During soccer I don’t get subbed out much which means less breaks, so it makes the transition into soccer easier. It also has helped me stay hydrated, knowing that I won’t get water all the time.

GTD: It’s a progressive program over the 6 weeks of onsite sessions. It gets more challenging with each week. How does this work for you?
Kitty: The program gradually getting harder helps me stay focused. Each week of the program you get better, and the difficulty increasing each week helps you be better than the last. The first day is always the worst, but if you did the last day of camp at the level you were the first day of camp, it’d be so much worse. When I’m working, I always feel the need to be challenged, and if I’m not challenged I won’t want work. This program always keeps me challenged.

GTD: The last phase of each training session is often devoted to core work, flexibility, and strength. Tell us about it. What did you like and didn’t like.
Kitty: I’ve never been good at core, it’s my weak point. Having a dedicated time of day 3 times a week really did push me to work on it. It’s my least favorite part of each day, but I know for me it’s the most important. Having a strong core helps with balance, which helps me because I fall a lot.


Kitty (far left) with her teammates on last day of the summer program.

GTD: How do you handle nutrition on Braz camp mornings? It's the heat of summer, you're starting at 9am and you have 90 intense minutes of work.
Kitty: I don’t like eating right before a workout, but if I didn’t eat before camp I’d probably pass out. Usually when I wake up I’ll have either an apple with plain toast or a Belvita breakfast bar. It’s enough to put me through camp.

GTD: What’s ahead for the fall season? Do you do a sport in the winter and spring?
Kitty: Coming up is my favorite season, soccer. We’ve been moved into another part of the NEC where we’ll face harder teams. In the winter I do swim and in the spring I do track and field.


Kitty recruited her teammates to join her for the 2019 GTD summer program. From the left -- Eliza Correnti, Katie Dunn (goes to Fenwick, from Lynn), Kenzie Mclaren, Ava Correnti, Kitty Mannion, Mary Collins, Jess Page


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Previous Issues of The Little Things

Please go to this link for previous issues of The Little Things.


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