Cross Country

John Richardson Player Journal

Throughout the 2004 season, John Richardson, a sophomore on the University of Kentucky cross country team, will record a player journal. The entries will appear below.

September: 7 | 13 | 20 | 27
October: 4 | 11 | 19 | 25
November: 1 | 8

November 8, 2004
Possibly one week left in the season. I use the word possibly rather loosely. Unfortunately we are not the same team as last year. Our chances of qualifying for nationals are slim, real slim. Though my chances of qualifying as an individual are also slim, I have not ruled out the possibility. I have been running really well lately and my confidence is back to the level it was before my ten days off. It is going to take an effort I am not sure I am capable of in order to qualify, but that is what cross country is all about, testing yourself and running at a level you are not sure you are capable of.

This past weekend Georganne (Way) and I hosted recruits. I genuinely enjoy hosting. Hosting responsibilities do cut into my free time but for the most part it is fun. I like it here at UK and I enjoy telling people why. This school as so much to offer and is easy to talk about. I hope that the recruits decide to join my teammates and I at UK.

With the possibility of only one race left in the season, there sometimes comes added pressure. Sure the stakes are higher than in the previous races, but that doesnít mean that it is going to take any more of an effort to do well. Just like at the SEC meet, all we can hope for is our best effort. Regionals, just like every other race, is a race against our potential. We are inexperienced, and six of the seven us have never raced a 10 K, but that is no reason to give up prematurely. This is the first of a couple South Eastern Regional races for our team. Even if we do not qualify for nationals this year, we will gain experience and hopefully qualify next year, starting a streak of consecutive trips to the NCAA meet that we hope will continue long past our careers at UK.


November 1, 2004
This, the first trip of many to Fayetteville went well. We stayed at a nice hotel, ran pretty well, and didnít get stuck in the airport for eight hours. This was the first SEC race for JT, Andre, Chris Long and Stephan. Chris Millisor and Andrew ran their freshman year but did not run last year. The SEC is arguably the best conference in the NCAA, and the conference meet is always highly competitive. Due to our inexperience in big meets it would have been easy for us to psyched out and lose our competitiveness in the midst of such high caliber athletes. Though we suffered from inexperience, we did not lose focus of what we wanted to accomplish.

The night before a big race we usually have a team meeting. Our team meeting this weekend was held in Coach Weberís hotel room. During this meeting Coach Weber gave the best definition of cross country I have ever heard. I have probably heard him say this before but, it hit home on this particular night. He explained that cross country is a race of you versus your potential. In a sense you are racing against how good you can be, the other competitors in the race are there to help pull you along. I went to bed that night eager to race the next day.

Before the race on Saturday Andrew and I said something to the guys in our pre race huddle. We said that there was no reason to be afraid. Afraid to hurt or afraid to fail, we were in a low-pressure situation. I sensed some of the guys were nervous but that was to be expected, it was the SEC Championships. We had been working hard the last two weeks and practices had going great. I had a good feeling the guys were going to do well. Andre had another great race, as did ďThrillisorĒ. No one had a bad race, which was great and I think everyone knows that there is always room for improvement. Thomas Morgan told me last year that you can be happy with your race, but to never be content.

I was pleased with my effort in the race. I went out more conservatively than I had in the past few races and was able to finish very strong. I think I passed about 20 guys in the last two miles. Also, I was a lot less nervous this race. I credit Coach Weber for my relaxed attitude. Focusing on myself, and my struggle against my potential allowed me to focus on what I needed to be doing and not on what place I was in or how far back from the leader I was. I am going to apply this approach in my future races. Also, Iíve realized that in a race it doesnít take any more than what you give in practice to do well. In fact, a lot of times practices can be harder than the actual race.

Now that SECís are behind us we have one meet left. Regionals is in two weeks, plenty of time to get some more hard work in. For everyone but me this will be the first regional meet of their career, and their first 10 K. I know we will be nervous but with the support we have, and the hard work we have put in, I know it will be another great weekend for the wildcats

October 25, 2004
Now that the dust has settled from our Keystone state adventure, all eyes are on Fayetteville Arkansas and the SEC championships. I really canít believe how fast this year is going by. Now, the end of October is crunch time. We need to get it done next weekend. From middle school on to high school the league championship was always an important meet on the schedule. Now that I am college it is perhaps the biggest and most important meet of the year. Throughout this year I have been putting enormous amounts of pressure on myself to do well. Last meet I was too caught up in placing and time that I lost sight of the essence of cross country, competing and struggling against yourself.

Though I still put pressure on myself to do well, my views have changed a little. I now am putting pressure on myself to compete to the best of my abilities, to challenge myself against my self-doubt. Before I was trying too hard to make a big splash that I lost focus of how to do it. In a sense I was running with out a purpose, nothing was really driving me except goals that may have been unattainable or farfetched. Running to the best of my ability and giving it everything I have will undoubtedly lead to a finish I probably never would have expected or dreamed of.

We leave on Thursday for Fayetteville. As we a team we have not really talked about a goal for the weekend. But, as young as we are, we know this will not be our last SEC championship race. We hope to challenge ourselves and get the most out of this awesome experience. The SEC is one of, if not the best, athletic conference in the country. We are going to be facing some of the top runners in the nation, but we will hold our own. I am confident that everyone racing this weekend will perform to the best of their abilities, and as the quote on Coach Weberís desk says, ďIf a man does his best, what else is there?Ē Wish us luck.

October 19, 2004
Another race is in the books. This weekend we matriculated to Penn State University for the Penn State National Invitational. There were over 30 teams in the race and over 250 runners. The course, although in terrible condition from the rain, was laid out nicely and was a true cross country course. It had up hills, down hills, sharp turns, and differing terrains. As a team we did all right. There were however a few really good races. The Portuguese Sensation Andre Silva was definitely the man of the weekend. He ran pretty awesome, as did another freshman Chris Long. I was not too pleased with my race. I never really was competitive. I was going through the motions instead of testing myself and pushing my limits. I think Iíve been putting too much pressure on my self. I need to relax and let good races happen, they cannot be forced.

The race may have been the main event of the weekend but unfortunately it may have been overshadowed by an unlucky turn of events. The following is a play by play of what happened on Sunday, our expected day of return to Kentucky:

4:45 am: The team, sleep walks to the vans, and departs to State College Airport for our 6:00am flight to Cincinnati.

5:50-6:05am: We board the plane and anxiously await our departure back home. State College was nice and all, but we wanted out of there. At 6:05 our Captain told us that the machine that de-ices the wings was not working and that it would be at least 30 minutes before we were able to leave the airport. Upon hearing the news of the broken de-icer Andre replied, ďAndre is not riding on this plan.Ē (State College Airport is not very big.)

6:20am: We move our bags to the main section of the airport, and stake claim to a fine piece of State College Airport real estate. Many of my teammates lay on the floor hoping to fall asleep, while Jonathan Thomas, Chris Millisor, Andrew Thompson and I play wall ball in part of the terminal. The game suspends indefinitely after a sleeping Beth Heimann is hit in the face with the ball.

7:00am: We are told that it could be anywhere from a couple hours to three days before we can get off the ground. Most of us laugh of the thought of being there any more than a few hours. Itís an airport there has to be more plans. Andrew and I went for a walk out to some field across the street. Pennsylvania is a pretty in the fall.

8:30: Millisor and I have a paper airplane-throwing contest. I won. The self-proclaimed ďthrillisorĒ claims he knows how to make some secret blunt nosed circular disc that his grandpa taught him but the blue prints seem to escape his memory.

9:00am: Three hours past our expected departure time and still no real idea of what is going to happen next, we are given five-dollar compensation passes from Delta to use for breakfast. Let me tell you, five dollars goes a long way in an airport.

9:30-11:00am: What happens during these hours is a little unclear to me. I was really tired and a bit disoriented. I think Millisor remember the top-secret plans but the disc didnít work. Also, I ate a cookie and got a cookie smoothie. Neither was very good. A bunch of people slept. Amber, the sweet media relationís girl that accompanies us on our trips, was working out the best deal for our return departure. She really went above and beyond her call of duty during the whole ordeal. If it werenít for her we may never have left the clutches of that airport.

11:15am: We are finally told of our fate. We are spending another night in Pennsylvania, and taking a 7:50 flight to Philly tomorrow morning. Great, we can finally leave the airport.

12:15pm: We are still in the airport.

12:30pm: We leave the airport for our hotel.

Iíll sum up what happened the rest of the trip. We went running and nearly stepped on a snake. Couldnít eat at Olive Garden. Ran up the bill at Outback. Nearly puked from over eating gluttony. Woke up at 5:30. Sat in a plane on the ground for two hours in Philadelphia. And arrived late into Lexington.

Even though nothing really went perfect on this trip I had a great time with my teammates. It was a trip that I will always remember. Over the years I will probably forget that I ran 26:50 in the race or that I was 67th place. But I donít think I will ever forget the extra 30 hours I spent with my teammates in State College PA.

October 11, 2004
I wasnít happy with how I practiced last week. I felt sluggish on most of the runs and I just wasnít feeling strong. At the beginning of this week I made it a priority to have a good week of training. I was determined to work hard and stay focused. All in all I was very happy with how the week panned out. It was a relatively high mile week but at the same time it was very intense. The hard work we put in this past week will definitely pay off this Saturday at Penn State.

On Tuesday we did a workout that I had never done before. It was somewhat like a fartlek, but a little different. It started with a 2-3 mile warm up to the wooded loop (the place where we do most of our cross country workouts) then, without stopping, we proceeded into a mile at race pace. After the mile we went right into a mile at steady run pace. The rest of the workout went, 1200 / mile steady, 800 / mile steady, and finally a 400. I really liked this workout. It was nice to finally do something at a very fast pace and I also think it was very beneficial. The mile steady runs definitely simulated a cross country race. I badly wanted to slow down and recover but pushed myself that so by the 400 I was pretty spent. I had to practice early and do the workout by myself due to STA 291 test, but was told by the other guys that they had good workouts as well.

I have come to the conclusion that college Saturdays will probably be the greatest days of my life. Nothing is greater than getting back from practice on a Saturday morning turning on College Game Day and eating cereal, all the while knowing that you have nothing to do for the rest of the day. Saturdays in the fall consist of football, food, and a lot of fun. We had a home game this weekend. Home games are always fun and I am very impressed by many UK fans devotion to a team that breaks the hearts of fans like its going out of style. As we went out for our morning run on Saturday there were people already tailgating, hamburgers in hand at nine in the morning. Alabama beat us but the loss didnít keep me from having a great weekend.

We have a race coming up on this Saturday at Penn State. I am very excited and confident that the team and I will perform at a very high level. Everything has been going great lately and I know we are all very eager to show off our hard work. It will be our first 8K race of the year, but I do not think it will affect us negatively. We have put in the necessary work to be able to handle that distance and our coaches have prepared us well. Wish us luck!


October 4, 2004
This school year is flying by. It is funny how you donít realize how fast time goes until itís already behind you. This season will be over before I know it, and Iíll be fifteen credits closer to graduating in just a couple months. I hate looking at time that way, but thatís just the way it is, the future is quickly approaching. This week, just like every other week, I did a lot of thinking. Iíve come to determine that I enjoy simple things. On Monday I ran with Chris Long at the arboretum. We spent most of the run talking about future plans and our ideal life. It was a rather deep conversation for a run but very interesting nonetheless. We both concluded that it would be best to live a simple and humble life. As Chris put it, ďI want a job that I can work outside with my shirt off.Ē

Most of the best things in life are relatively simple. By simple I mean inexpensive, easy, and low key. For example hanging out with friends is way more enjoyable than buying a new CD or DVD. I think that is why I enjoy running so much. Running is probably one of the simplest things in my life. If I could, I would be a running bum. In a quest to keep my life simple Iíve decided to give up material possessions for an entire year. The things I really want; happiness, a successful running career, and an education are all more important to me than any material object could ever be. I think if I focus on those things Iíll be a much happier person and a much better runner.

It is easy to fall into a rut when training. A few bad days in a row can mean the end of a season. The last couple of weeks havenít gone quite as well as I had hoped they would. It would be very easy for me to fold my cards and simply go through the motions for the rest of the season. In fact, there were probably a few runs over the last week that I did just give up. Fortunately I was able to notice this, and have done a few things to stop it. I have identified my goals for this season and for the track seasons, and as I said before Iíve decided to simplify my life and focus on what really makes me happy.

The team is really coming together lately. We have formed a really tight bond and our training has improved because of it. It is much easier to get motivated knowing that seven of your teammates and friends are just as excited about running as you are. We do not race again until October 16th, two weeks away. But like I said time flies by. For the next two weeks I need to stay focused, keep it simple, and enjoy college life. Iíll be graduating before I even realize I left high school.

September 27, 2004
What a great weekend. Traveling with the team is always fun but this trip was especially memorable. We left on Thursday and arrived in San Francisco later that night. On Friday we took a bus tour of the city. I had been to San Francisco before, when I was in third grade, but never really got to view the city. The city is amazing and I definitely want to go back for a longer length of time. After the tour we left for our hotel in Palo Alto. Upon arriving in Palo Alto we went for a run around the Stanford campus. What a campus. It makes sense why they get so many top-level recruits, the campus is absolutely beautiful, and the weather is perfect. I donít think I saw one cloud the entire time I was there. After the run we showered up and walked around down town Palo Alto. The night before a race I usually like to have a good meal. It could be pasta, chicken, or even a steak, it doesnít really matter, it just has to be good. On this particular night we opted to eat at a nice Italian restaurant. The rest of the night was spent relaxing in the hotel.

We woke up early Saturday morning to do our morning shake out walk/jog. At 8:30, right when I woke up, I turned on ESPN 2 to find that the UK game was on TV. It is really cool to be almost two thousand miles away from school but still be able to watch your team play. After the shake out walk/jog, we finished watching UK lose and then went to eat lunch. I normally get very nervous before cross country meets, and I usually have trouble sleeping the night before, but this time I wasnít very nervous. There were a couple of reasons why I wasnít nervous this time. First off, we were running 4K as apposed to 8K, I feel more comfortable running less distance and also we were not running first thing in the morning. Our race wasnít scheduled until 4:55.

We arrived at the course a little less than two hours before our race. Now I was nervous. Warm ups went well and as I was putting my spikes I felt good, I was ready to go. The start of the race was hectic, lots of elbows and a lot of pushing. I maintained fairly good positioning through the first mile, and was right about were I had planned to be. During the race I felt pretty good, but I knew I wasnít running as well as I planned to. Missing those 10 days two weeks ago set me back a little farther than I had originally thought. I finished pretty strong but I could tell I wasnít running like I was four weeks ago.

After the race we ran back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. Some of us found this really great pizza shop that had pictures of surfers and surfboards on all of the walls, it reminded me of home. After dinner we walked around a little bit and then went to bed. We were all spent, and we had to be up at 4:00 a.m. to catch our plane home. The trip was a blast and I thank the coaches for allowing us to see San Francisco and for taking us out west for a really competitive meet.

I donít know how to feel about the race. I am not mad about it but at the same time I am not pleased. The race left me very unsatisfied. It is hard to let races go, especially when you wish you could run it over again. When thinking long term, this race has hardly any meaning and could easily be forgotten. But right now, I want to run it over again. I know I could finish better that I did and want to prove that I am better than 23rd place. But I know that will come later. Right now I need to think about the future and the rest of the season. The team did pretty well. Now that our first race is behind us, we need to focus on the next few weeks of training and then on ahead to rest of what looks to be a really good season.

Go Cats!

September 20, 2004
Returning from time off after an injury is the most frustrating time to be a runner. You want to quickly return right to the point where you left off, but you canít. You have to slowly work your way back to where you were. If you come back too quick, youíll be back in the training room instead of on the roads. My return back after my ten-day hiatus was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.

My first day back was pretty simple and easy. Even though I was running again, I still felt very unsatisfied. I wanted to do more. I was able to control my self and retired the run after about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is hardly a warm up when I am in shape, but for this, my first day back, it was all I needed. Coach Weber said it would take a couple days for my legs to come back and my fitness to fully return. It took about three.

Thursday we ventured out to Keeneland Horse Farm for a split run. I was only running the first five-mile section; the other guys ran another two-mile section after the five. The day before I had an awful run, one of my worst runs in the last four months. I remember feeling as though I had never known what running was and I was being subjected to some kind of hideous torture. I was not too worried however; I was confidant in my training and that I was strong enough to return to my old form. I was optimistic about the split run at Keeneland. I ended up feeling pretty good. I finished right with Andre (Silva) in a time a lot faster than I had expected to run. My confidence was on the rise. The next two days were great and now feel right at the same point I left off, ready to roll.

Saturday morning was probably the best group run I had ever been on. About six or seven of us all stayed close together for our entire nine mile run. Usually someone breaks off or people fall back, but not on this day. It was a very promising run, and it bodes well for our meet coming up this weekend. I am not too nervous yet but as Saturday approaches I am sure I will be. I havenít run in a Kentucky singlet since November. I feel added pressure this year too. Now I am no longer a freshman, nor am I fighting for a spot on the team, I am leading the team. Also weíll be running at Stanford, the Mecca of collegiate distance running. I feel more anxious and eager than I do nervous though. Running the 4K race will suit my middle distance prowess more than an 8 or 10 K would. Wish us luck.


September 13, 2004
Man, what a long week. Last Friday before the Woodford Trials my knee was a little sore. I contemplated running and not telling Coach Weber about my knee until after the race. Then I figured that wasnít a good idea, so I told him. I ended up not running Woodford and as I write this havenít gone on a run since last Thursday. Fortunately my knee feels much better and Iíll be able to run on Monday.

I donít know what triggered the knee to start aching. It would be easy to say I ran too much or overtrained but I donít think thatís it. Maybe I twisted it doing a loop at the arboretum? I donít know. All I do know is there is nothing worse then wanting to run and not being able to. Iíd rather be punched in the face than miss practice. Thankfully both my coaches were real supportive and assured me that this is only a minor setback and Iíll be right back where I was in a couple of weeks.

If overtraining did cause my knee to get sore I guess I could see why. I ran a lot in August. I averaged 61 miles a week and one week I ran 75. Itís amazing how accumulating mileage can be addicting. When I would add up my mileage in my running log it was almost like I was adding up the money in my checking account. I was getting greedy and I wanted more mileage. Summer training is like putting money in the bank, but when you are running itís easy to forget that too much at once can cause more harm than good. This little ordeal has definitely taught me a lesson about over training.

Throughout this week my main concern was that I was going to get out of shape. It was pretty silly of me to think that but I did. I was worried. I thought my summer training was in vain, and I was going to have to redshirt. After a couple of talks with Coach Weber and Coach Gondak, it was clear to me that I wasnít going to lose much fitness, and a week is not a lot of time to miss. For some reason it is hard to think rationally when you are confronted with an injury. The worst part about this whole thing was that my running enthusiasm went from the highest it had ever been to very low in one day. Thursday I was on top of the world and then Friday I thought I was done.

Iím glad this week is finished and my training is going to resume on Monday. I missed the feeling of flying down the road and forgetting about everything else, the feeling of wanting the end of the run to come near but at the same time wanting that feeling to go on forever, I missed joking around with my teammates for the first couple miles of a run, but what I missed most was once the joking was finished and we started to get serious on the run, and everybody is trying to throw on a surge. Thatís when running is the most fun. Iím glad to see everyone is running well. The freshman are running great are going to fill in some of the gaps that were created by graduation. The future is bright for UK cross country.

September 7
Wow, school has started. I must say though I really enjoy fall in Kentucky. It is a lot warmer here in November than it is back in Jersey. I am from Ocean City, a shore resort with a lot of summer excitement. Ocean City has shaped me into the person I am today. Growing up along the beach changes you, the ocean becomes part of who you are. There are days when I would give anything for head high surf and beaches instead of horse farms. But that wouldnít be Kentucky would it?

Now a sophomore, with one year of college behind me, I feel prepared for my biggest year yet. Not just athletically or academically but all around, I feel prepared to make it happen. Iím not sure what I mean by happen, but itís going to be good. The last two years have been successful years for me I suppose. My senior year of high school culminated with a Penn relays title, state titles in the 1600 and 800 and an All-American certificate in the 800. Then last fall I along with my Wildcat teammates competed in the NCAA cross country championships. What an experience that was. There is nothing more humbling than running a 5k PR in the middle of a 10k race and being in the back of the pack. The only real setbacks Iíve encountered in the last two years were red shirting my indoor and outdoor track seasons. But Iím over that now; itís going to be sweet competing as a freshman this year. Also this year bodes well because of the investment I made over the summer to enhancing my running career. Before this summer I had only run two fifty mile weeks in my entire life. This summer I ran nine straight weeks of over fifty miles. Like I said before, I am prepared to make it happen.

September has always been one of my favorite months. The weather is still warm, I am still excited about school, but most importantly itís cross country season. I consider track to be my better season, but I have always enjoyed cross country. The closeness of a cross country team is unlike that of any other sport. No other athletes bond like cross athletes do. There must be something about those long ten mile runs or maybe itís the mile repeats, whatever it is, it creates a strong force that I have been part of for the last nine fall seasons. Nine seasons, it hardly seems like that long since I first toed the line.

After two weeks of practice itís pretty clear that our team is young and inexperienced. And compared to last yearís team we have a long way to go. Last year was a great year for UK cross country, but the next couple of years are going to be even better. We only have two juniors on the team, the rest are freshmen and sophomores. This yearís freshmen have already shown they have the ability to contribute immediately. We are already looking ahead to rest of this season, particularly the SEC meet where we hope to improve on our 4th place finish from last year, and ahead to regionals in North Carolina. But also we are looking ahead to the next couple of seasons and aiming for success no other Kentucky team has ever accomplished.


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