Only 73 days left

So for my senior project I decided to run a marathon. For some reason I actually thought that would be a good idea. I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I decided this.

Now I’m not saying it has all been bad, but I am now entering into my seventh week of training and I’m really ready to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love exercising, but there is something about it loosing its appeal when you have to stick to a specific schedule everyday.

Wednesdays have become my favorite days. Why you may ask? Because I have every single Wednesday off. Not one Wednesday in my 16 week training plan do I have to run. Just having one day off might not seem like much, but to someone who is running around 30 plus miles a week, having one day off is amazing.

Only 73 more days of running left.

I can do this.

Dreams Fulfilled

The OVS Cross Country Team (left to right): Coach Apple Alvarez, Tracy Zeng, Ally Feiss, Gilim Bae, Sunny Chang, Winnie Chang and coach Fred Alvarez — Photo by Momoe Takamatsu

When I was in high school, a time so long ago my students will assure you dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was a pretty fast runner.

I ran cross country and track all four years, and eventually got IMG_2656fast enough that I was able to run Division I cross country in college. But for as fast as I was in my high school years, I was never the fastest on my team, not to mention my league.

I was a middle-of-the-pack runner, good enough to earn a varsity letter three out of my four years, but not good enough on my own to earn a post-season CIF berth, the holy grail of high school sports in California. And my high school team, filled with runners faster than me, was never fast enough either to qualify collectively for CIF.

That was the dream for every member of my cross country team, and one that for me had obviously gone unfulfilled for decades.12208743_747617005343947_8825205504728621762_n

Until this past weekend.

On Saturday, for the first time in Ojai Valley School history, our girls’ cross country team competed in the CIF Southern Section preliminaries, a race that drew more than 3,000 high school runners from across Southern California.

Decked out in their new OVS jerseys (thanks Mr. Floyd!), my five girls toed the line against 148 other runners from 22 schools, nearly every one with a larger student population than ours. My runners were nervous. I told them there was no need to be.

IMG_4572 (1)Because as far as I was concerned, we had already won. Our victory was just getting to CIF, for being a team that sweated and bled and cried together to accomplish a goal that at the start of the season seemed unattainable.

I told them not to worry about how they placed, or how the team finished. I told them before they started to have fun, and to remember to look up at some point during the race and remind themselves where they were, and what they had accomplished together.

And I told them this: I have never been prouder of any team I have coached, and no team I have coached has ever displayed more heart.

These girls this season gave me a great gift. Yes, I finally got to go to CIF, only three decades later than planned. But there was more to it than that. I got to see these athletes develop a power they never knew they had, the power to come face-to-face with adversity and keep moving forward.

Junior Gilim Bae was the top runner for OVS, running a personal best at the Riverside course — Photo by Momoe Takamatsu

I got to see a group of girls – three from China, one from Korea and one from Ojai – make the always mysterious transformation of going from strangers to friends to sisters. They will have this bond the rest of their lives.

Through a flurry of fortunate circumstances, I got to coach the team this year alongside my eldest daughter, a talented young woman as smart as she is dedicated to the teaching profession. Her star is rising, and I beam with pride. My heart nearly bursts when I think of the role model she provided these high school runners this season.

And I got to forge deep friendships, the kind that will last forever. In a world where so much goes wrong on a daily basis, a world where the spotlight shines too often on misery and the prospects of doom, what these girls achieved this season was commendable, and should be celebrated.

What greater gift could there be? Thank you girls for a phenomenal season. Go Spuds!

Freshman Tracy Zeng (left) and junior Winnie Chang gut it out on the Riverside Cross Country course — Photo by Momoe Takamatsu




A Different Type of Family


Ever since I became involved in sports I had always thought of CIF as the place where the best of the best go to compete. I never thought in a million years I would make it there, especially for cross country.

Photo Credit: MomoeTakamatsu

This past weekend, my high school girls’ cross country team (only consisting of five members), our two coaches and a few key members of our support group, made the long haul to Riverside, California. It was an all day event, starting from the early hours of the morning and not returning until well after the sun had gone down. The traffic was horrendous, the dust was suffocating (leaving us with the worst “runner’s cough,”) and the pain felt never ending.

I would do it all over again.

This is a memory I will cherish and I will always be grateful for being given this opportunity. The traffic, coughing and eternal pain, pale in comparison to the memories we made that day. The girls, some I knew from years before and some I just met this year, are now like sisters to me. All the long practices, blisters, sweat, tears and countless times of feeling like our chests were going to explode or we were going to lose our lunches, brought us together in an unexplainable bond.

Photo Credit: Momoe Takamatsu

Running has changed me and made me into the person I am. It has taught me so much more than just how to breathe or use my arms to make it up a hill. It has done more than just help me get into shape. It has been tough and very painful but it has taught me a sense of commitment, strength, and family.

I would have never experianced any of this if it wasn’t for my coach.

Our coach shared with us after the race that we were the first team he’s ever taken to CIF. When he told us how proud he was and how much growth he’s seen in us, it brought tears to my eyes. I have been running for him since my freshman year. I am now a senior and this past race was my final one. This man that I call a coach, teacher, advisor, and friend is the most generous and inspiring man I know. He has been there cheering me on and encouraging me more times than I can count. He is like a second father to me, pushing me to the point that I want to yell back, but always knowing what’s best for me, supporting me to no end. Turning my jersey in means so much more than just an end to a sports season. It is an end to that chapter in my life, but not an end to the friendship that was made. I know that will always be there and he will always be there, cheering me on at the finish line.

Photo Credit: MomoeTakamatsu


When it Hits…

P.G.P. something also known as the Pre Game Poop.

If you’re a real athlete, then you’ve definitely had a run in with this situation once or twice.

For those of you who don’t know (the non-athletes), the P.G.P. is no joking matter.

It doesn’t happen during just one certain sport, it is all, it doesn’t affect just one type of athlete, it is all. The athletes who experience this range from inexperienced high school athletes to professional athletes.

It is a stomach-wrenching sensation that plagues many athletes right before they set out for competition. It can hit at anytime, but the most common time for it to set in is about five minutes before starting something that won’t allow any stopping to use the bathroom. This sensation will hit and you will make a mad dash for the bathroom at the last minute. However, once you actually get through the long line (due to other people that are experiencing P.G.P) you realize that you actually don’t have to go to the bathroom and it is really just your nerves acting up.

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