Off The Beaten Path With David McDonald Of Men's Cross Country
Sept. 27, 2010
Hey again Bruins!
I'm back again for round two of "Off the Beaten Path" and an update on this past week's action.
The cross country team is quickly rising up from the ashes of past seasons and showing no sign of slowing. This last week has been some of the best running I have seen on this team in the last three years. In the past, we have always had standout runners such as 3:59 miler Laef Barnes, brothers and 2012 Olympic Trial qualifiers Drew and Kyle Shackleton, All-American Austin Ramos and the legend himself, Marlon Patterson. Unlike years past, we now have a very solid group of young and experienced men. Our Mammoth training trip gave us some hint of the results to come, but last Tuesday morning gave us a better picture of what this season could look like. After a solid workout consisting of 4x1- mile at 4:30 to 4:40 pace on a tiny, muddy path around Westwood Memorial Park we began to understand how strong our team really was. With young guns like Dustin Fay, Zack Torres and Pablo Rosales always emerging near the front, the usual scene of the Knight twins taking charge and a huge pack of men following right in stride gave everyone endless confidence to fuel our minds and bodies for the upcoming test in Palo Alto. We were only a couple short mileage runs away from being back in a race situation. As soon as school had started it was already time for us to fly off to Nor-Cal for the big season opener at Stanford.
We made a quick 24 hour trip up to Palo Alto, CA to square off with some of the best teams in the nation: Stanford, Northern Arizona and Arkansas. Being runners we know that every day is a challenge to see who can force themselves into the highest level of pain without breaking and the Stanford Invite is one of the best places to test this will to win. With a 3:30 flight out of LAX we landed just over an hour later and immediately after checking in to the hotel we were off on a run around the campus. Stanford may have big trees and open space but, of course they haven't got a single thing on good Ol' Westwood! Following practice we had a nice dinner at El Fornaio. Unfortunately, since us runners love our carbs, no restaurant can ever keep up with our bread consumption and like starving dogs we always hover over the bread basket impatiently awaiting the next delivery! With the site of clean plates that once held pizza, pasta, ravioli and all types of carb-loaded dishes it was time to head back to the hotel and get our minds right for the following morning's race!
Seven AM came all too early just like it always does but, as per two of Coach Fo's (Forest Braden) big three rules "no whining and no complaining" we did it with joy! Just like every runner has a different stride or race style, every runner has a different pre-race ritual. I for one like to have a cup of coffee loaded with sugar and cream to get my energy levels up, listen to my music and avoid thinking about the race at all by carrying on as if it were any regular day. Others like Zack Torres, like total privacy and headphones glued to his ears in order to get his mind right for the big event... to each his own. The Bruins prepared and left for the Stanford course around 9:00 am. Despite some parking problems the short trip to the course was over as soon as it began. The Bruins were now ready to get down to business. As per the plans in all our heads, we did just that.
Bam! The gun went off and 12 (9 in UCLA uniform and 3 unattached) Bruins in all raced down the starting line heading for the first turn, which is always a sketchy one considering 250 runners all fighting for position have to narrow down into a 15 meter wide ally of flags. Just as we planned most of the team raced to the front of the pack to get away from any possible collisions. For those of us who got caught further back in the pack I can only describe it to you as being locked in a sea of people with no control over where you go and what's ahead of you. It's like a roller coaster with no seat belts and the possibility of pot holes and fallen runners, obstacles that can definitely ruin someone's day. The race stayed very tight up front until about three miles in when the runners were finally in position. Junior Dylan Knight did an awesome job leading the team and running with the front pack for a large percentage of the race, showing no fear of jumping into a fast pace on a rolling course. Nohe Lema and I carried on just a couple seconds behind him and our depth showed again as all nine uniformed Bruins finished within a minute and fifteen seconds of each other. Freshman Pablo Rosales and junior Spencer Knight rounded out the five scoring runners. Zack Torres and Jake Matthews followed closely behind them as the "pushers" or the runners who try to displace other teams scoring runners. All in all the Bruins competed very well against three of the top 20 teams in the nation and now we prepare for a journey to Notre Dame, The Land of the Irish, in an attempt to take down some ranked teams and let everyone know that UCLA Cross Country is here to make a statement. But, now it's time for the Bruins to rest and do some "tuning up" for the upcoming week in which Kent Morikawa, a key runner to the Bruin pack will return to the racing scene after a week of rest. Hope everyone is enjoying being back in Westwood and I'll leave you with a quote from the late, great JW!
"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming"
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