Off The Beaten Path With David McDonald
Sept. 24, 2010
Hey Bruins, My name is David McDonald and I am a junior on the cross country and track team. I'm here to give you all an inside look into all the work we runners put in on the roads, trails and race courses.
Two weeks ago an oversized team of eleven men consisting of six returners and five freshmen took home the team title at the Cal State Fullerton Season Opener. Despite a pace-bike error in the opening mile, resulting in the the lead pack, made up of mostly Bruins, taking a wrong turn, the mens team as a whole competed well and placed ten men in the top 20. Most impressive was the strength of the incoming freshman class. Dustin Fay out of Lake Arrowhead, CA, displayed great fitness as he was the top freshman finisher in the meet following the footsteps of senior brothers Dylan and Spencer Knight, as well as redshirt-freshman/transfer Nohe Lema.
Just a few days after our success at the Season Opener, the team met up with the rest of the incoming and returning athletes and left Westwood for the notorious Mammoth Lakes, a training hotspot for high school, college and professional distance runners. Since our season is just beginning, the main focus of our training is to log high mileage paired with long, stamina based tempo runs and repeat workouts. While in Mammoth most men logged near or above 100 miles for the seven days we were there. In a typical day we ran twice a day, usually splitting the runs by going eight to ten miles in the morning and four to five in the afternoon. Most impressive is the infamous "Big Smokey Loop" which is where we complete our long run. "Big Smokey" is a 14-mile loop through thick trees, mountains and sandy roads where a runners mental tenacity and dedication are always tested. Off the roads and trails Mammoth is the main core of our team bonding opportunities since we all live together for eight days. The activity of choice for the Bruin cross country team is the board game "Go-Home" in which two teams of two face off against each other in an effort to move your four marbles around a cross shaped board and get them safe before the other team. It is a game of teamwork, smart decisions and a whole lotta luck! After eight days of endless miles, hills and beautiful scenery the team loaded up our university vans and set off for the 300 mile journey back to UCLA.
Once back in Westwood there was no rest for the tired troops, everyone shuffled (slowly) into their new dorms and apartments for the school year. Three days after returning to the City of Angels a crew of seven men departed for San Diego to compete in the SDSU Aztec Invite. After hours of traffic, a twilight run through Balboa Park and team dinner at Olive Garden we finally retired for the night at 11:30 pm friday night. Saturday morning was all business for the Bruin runners. The starting gun shot off at 9:30 am in which the Bruins raced straight to the front of the pack to control the race. The Balboa Park course was nothing short of challenging, monster hills and shifty footing proved for a race in which only the strong survived. Thankfully Coach Forest's emphasis on pushing the hills and always keeping a positive mental attitude resulted in my mind as a great advantage when facing the HUGE hill four miles into the five mile race. Once again we took home the team title edging out Northern Arizona and Long Beach state. Myself (4th) and freshman Jacob Wood (9th) led the bruins out front followed by Mohammad Charara (13th), Daniel Rosales (14th) and little Joel Ambo (19th) wrapping up the scoring runners. We then raced home to prepare for a small team tailgate at the Rose Bowl to watch the Bruins take down #23 Houston 31-13 in our first chance to see a football game this year.
As the last 20 or so hours of summer wind down the thoughts of endless reports, studying and sleepless nights with our heads buried in text books and laptops, I can only feel excitement for the rest of the upcoming season. Preseason races are now over and the regular season commences this Saturday at the Stanford invite in which the scoring starts for the entrance bids to the National Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana November 22nd. So if you see a pack of men in distinctively short-shorts running down Bruin Walk feel free to yell a good luck or even a "Run Forest Run!" in support of the Bruin cross country team. That's all for now, time to go run...again.
Special Shout Out to the Birthday Girls of the womens cross country team - Allie Lopez (Sept 23rd), Taryn Pastoor (Sept 24th) and Sierra Vega (Sept 24th), and also to men's team member Mohammad Charara (Sept 24th).
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