Into the Woods

What a NON-typical practice and meet are like for a WCA cross country runner


Ava Hollmann

The symbols associated with a cliche WCA cross country runner.

It’s Monday morning, and as YouTuber Cody Ko says in his “Epic Morning Routine” video, “Rise and Grind.” At 5:00 a.m. sharp, I wake up ready to run. After devouring some energy gels, lacing up my bulky trail running shoes, and strapping on my headlight, I head out the door to do my easy early morning run of ten miles. It’s so refreshing to be up this early – to head out into the pitch black, then return in time for the sunrise. I’m basically a farmer.

After I get back to my house and shower, I carbo-load with three bowls of pasta, each with syrup on top. I always use syrup in the morning- cheese and spaghetti sauce are reserved for lunch and dinner. I then pack my lunch, which consists of more spaghetti, five bananas, more energy gel, and a gallon of chocolate milk. Gotta get those simple sugars in!

Now ready for departure, I drive to school for my morning lift, and unfortunately, share the weight room with the football players. They are embarrassed that I can deadlift more than them, but I play it cool, barely avoiding eye contact and a smirk. I’m too humble to flex like that.

Eight hours later, it’s time for the real deal – afternoon practice. From 3:20 to 5:00, I run my favorite workout – 12 mile-repeats around the school. Then, until 5:30, I do a bodyweight strength routine, which includes 100 consecutive pushups, 1,000 crunches, and 200 squats. Gotta be a skinny (and ripped) legend.

After I finish practice, I down five Gatorades, three Clif Bars, and a bag of spinach. As far as I can tell, my stomach is a bottomless pit that constantly needs filling; the grind doesn’t stop, and neither does my metabolism.

Once I get home, I do homework for about an hour, despite the fact that I have five AP classes. To me, school can wait; my parents only pay nearly 20k a year for me to be in peak athletic shape. Proceeding homework, I plunk my into an ice bath for 15 minutes, not just grinning and bearing it, but reveling in the pain. I love the feeling of chilly numbness. After that, I eat my third rationing of spaghetti, and finally, head to bed. It’s only 7:00, but I need at least ten hours of sleep. Anything less would be detrimental to my pristine health.

The next morning, I wake up refreshed and revved up for meet day. Throughout the day, I prepare by visualizing every turn, hill, and exact pace for the whole race. Without thorough mental preparation for at least several hours preceding the race, my physical efforts will be completely fruitless. Weeks of hard training? Who cares. Previous success in meets? Meaningless. Mind over matter, people. Mind. Over. Matter.

Once on the bus, I listen to my “epic pump up jams” playlist, which includes bangers such as “Barbara Manatee” by Veggie Tales, “Roar” by Katy Perry, and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Genre variety is key in hype music. 

When we arrive at the meet, I hop out of the bus, staring hopefully out at the course that is a dense forest. A 5k in the middle of the woods is what every course is, so this, in addition to mud puddles and small streams, is nothing out of the ordinary. 

After warming up, my team and I line up at the starting line, then lurch forward into the woods once the gun goes off. 3.1 miles later, we are mud-soaked, bloody, and high on endorphins. Despite no Blue Crew able to watch us run, it’s still nice to know that they know we exist at all. Because for the past three years, the boys and girls’ teams have competed exceptionally well at the district and state meet levels, so why wouldn’t they prioritize us over other sports like football? It’s really just comforting that they, or anyone at WCA, even give us the time of day.