For this week's personal running reflection I interviewed Evan Burns (Burnsie), class of 2019. This might be my favorite interview yet and is a must listen for every boy on the team. Burnsie's first 5k at Albemarle was a 31:04 and by the end of senior year he had run 16:55 and 9:52 for 3200m. It's the biggest improvement I have ever seen in the sport. This was a gradual improvement over the course of his 4 years at Albemarle, and what made this journey so special for Burnsie was the ups and downs he had to deal with to get there. It was far from a smooth journey. From a femural stress fracture to a torn meniscus to being an alternate at 2 state cross country meets, Burnsie had his fair share of heartbreak and disappointments. And with each of these heartbreaks, he came back stronger, physically and mentally.
This interview is a deep dive into Burnsie's career at Albemarle and how he was able to improve that 14 minutes and 9 seconds. It has things all of you can grab on to and relate to. I know it inspires me!
Burnsie is still running and training for road races whenever they start back up again. I feel so lucky to still be coaching him. I know his best days in running are ahead of him in the marathon!
Personal Running Reflection with Evan BuArtist Name
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Burnsie after his breakthrough 1600m at the Jefferson District Indoor Champs his sophomore year
Personal Running Reflection with Coach Resnick
by Coach Resnick
Coach Resnick with his older brother Mike
I like running. I’ve liked running for a pretty long time, but I wouldn’t say forever. This is going to be my best attempt to trace back my personal history with the sport! When I was a kid, I was a soccer player who was just a little bit faster than everyone else on the soccer field. I also really liked playing TAG and Capture the Flag (still do). But in middle school and high school I started to fall a little more in love with running by joining the school teams and such. One reason my interest grew was that I got to see others compete and succeed. Either on TV or in person, what had always seemed to me to be a means to an end, became an interesting and fun sport.
Personally, there were some hurdles that running needed to overcome in order for me to really like it more than all the other sports. One of the biggest problems with running for me was that there were no real stars in the 1990s. There were no Ronaldos on the track. Nor was there an Emmitt Smith or Penny Hardaway or Chipper Jones. There were some brilliant runners, don’t get me wrong. But running had some issues that included a lack of public fanfare, great performances erased by doping, and the biggest problem for me, no big male American distance running superstar!
As my final middle school year came to end, a short teenager from Northern Virginia began to build the bridge that I needed to cement running as my favorite sport. I can remember it quite vividly. It was Memorial Day weekend 2001. My family got home from the beach (we lived in Hawaii then, so we practically went to the beach every weekend) and I was relaxing on the couch with my brothers watching sports in the late afternoon. My older brother, who had a pretty decent high school running career, wanted to watch a track meet. I had a bowl of popcorn and I didn’t mind what was on TV, as long as it was exciting. The Prefontaine Classic, probably the biggest meet in the country every year, had one more event on tap, the Bowerman Mile. Quite possibly the fastest milers ever assembled in America were lined up to start the race, with one exception. Alan Webb. He was just a senior in high school and did not have anywhere near the accolades to be facing off with the world’s best competitors. Obviously, I got excited because as a younger person then, I could relate to Webb in just age. Well, 3:53 later, the rest was history and I was bought in.
My high school career was fun, but nothing special. I was lucky to learn a lot about running from my older brother. Somewhat uniquely, I also learned a lot from my younger brother, who challenged me, often beat me in workouts and races, and later went on to run in college. There were state meets and overnight trips, but the main thing that sticks out to me was practice. The sound of the bell that ended the school day. Even today when I hear that bell ring, I picture myself racing to the field house, lacing up my shoes and freeing my mind from everything else in the world. At least until I went home to do my homework. That’s why I love getting out to Panorama around 4 PM, lacing up the shoes and just going for a run with you all. Definitely my happy place. I also got to meet one of my mentors, who happened to be one of my coaches in high school, Coach A. His charisma, energy and all out love of running has had a huge impact on my life.
Coach Resnick's 12th grade track pic
Coach Resnick with his brothers and dad after a local race in 2010
My love of the sport came close to an addiction when I started working at Ragged Mountain Running Shop in 2006. My older brother worked there while he was at UVA, so I applied and was able to get the job and became fast friends with the whole Lorenzoni fam. Learning the ins and outs of shoes and other running gear and the companies that make them both only fueled the fire that got me focused and kept me running through college and after. In college I was much closer friends with Audrey (Coach’s older sister), because we were the same age, so it was pretty wild that when I met the “Legendzoni” himself, Adrian, and as you may have heard before, it was on the back half of the Charlottesville Ten Miler course that I hung onto his high school track team finishing a long run. From then on, I knew there was something special about that guy ;).
After college, I worked about 10 different jobs before ultimately going back to graduate school to become a teacher. You probably think 10 different jobs is crazy, and you are right. But the one thing that got me through each monotonous, boring, or straight up awful day, was running. Ending a double shift, driving through horrendous Northern Virginia traffic, or crashing on a buddies couch was always made so much better by finding a cool trail, new park, or just some road I had never run on and trying to go as fast as I could.
Eventually I figured I could dabble in some longer distance running and built up a base for a marathon. This coincided with me starting as a volunteer assistant at a high school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I would wake up in the morning before work and get a run in. Then jet out of the office, restaurant, classroom (wherever I worked that day) and get to practice to double up. While also at the same time, learn what it was like to tackle the sport from a coach’s perspective. This is where I learned to listen, and it has become one of my favorite things to do in the world. There is nothing greater than hearing the random stories, sometimes more exaggerated than real life, of a teenager 45 minutes into an hour plus run. It also made quite the difference in my own running because the mileage piled up. Although I don’t think I’ve ever run over 60 miles a week (maybe the weeks with 22 or 23 mile long runs), distance sure does add up quickly when you are running more than once a day.
It was during this first coaching stint in 2011, I ran my first marathon at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC and did well. My reach goal was to run under 3 hours, but I would’ve been happy under 3:15. Interestingly, I didn’t tell many folks about my reach goal because it's a pretty serious time and I didn’t think I would be taken seriously. Sometimes I do regret this, but telling folks you want to run 3:15 and really wanting to run 3 hours isn’t that big of a difference in a marathon! Anyway, running a marathon requires lots of preparation but also planning in order to reach your goals. Luckily I was able to grab a couple of pace bracelets at the expo for the race the night before which were lifesavers. I grabbed two, one for 3:15 and one for 3:05. Crushed a pizza the night before. Ate a baggy of Cheerios walking to the race. Met up with my Dad who ran his first marathon at the same time. Then the gun went off and I ran dumb. Probably 8:45 first mile. Way too slow, but fine, I had 25 to go. Then low 8 minutes for the second mile. Still slow, that’s like a 3:30 marathon. Stopped to take a pee in the middle of the third. Each mile
kept getting a little bit faster from mid 7 minutes to low 7 minutes. I caught the 3:15 pace group, which had about 100 or more people running together who had that goal pace. But I continued to just feel so good. Eventually, around mile 10 I realized I was having the race of a lifetime and I needed to lock in within some and shut my mind off. There was a woman running for the US Army team, who ended up getting top 10 in the women’s race, and I ran about 5 miles with her before breaking away and catching the 3:05 pace group. Wow my reach goal was actually becoming a reality! I realized I was feeling too good and about halfway I picked it up a little more and started breaking into the upper 6 minute mile range. At about 22 miles I crossed an enormous bridge (it turns out that was Interstate 95, which they shut down for the marathon so runners can get back across the river from DC to Virginia, where the finish is at the Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington Cemetery. My legs felt like bricks. Not just like one or two bricks. Bags of bricks. Then I realized that I needed to run like my last three miles in just about 9 minutes a mile pace to break 3 hours and I was so happy. The end of the race is straight up a hill and I ended up reaching my goal and breaking 3 hours with just under 2:56! I was really lucky to have family and friends cheering me on all along and throughout the city for what continues to be my marathon PR. One day I would like to train and possibly beat that time and my doctors think my ankle is almost healed enough to do it!
Times passed and I have run a few more marathons, a few half marathons, and plenty of races in shorter distances. I was lucky enough to move back into Charlottesville and soon got to get to know Adrian a lot better. Having taken a year or so off from coaching, in 2015 he asked if I could help out at Albemarle. As running is my natural happy place and I am so glad I get to share that with you all now, I said of course!
One of my favorite running weekends EVER was the second weekend of November in 2017 where I got to witness one of the best planned and prepared groups of young guys go and achieve their goal. After working hard with Coach Adrian and Coach Cantone for months to get this crew as ready as they could to win the state championship it was amazing to see such a plan come to fruition. Running faster than I ever have, in conditions harder than most would even go outside in, that Albemarle High School team not only accomplished their goal, but helped many of us adults accomplish a long time goal of helping lead a team to win a cross country championship. And what was even more amazing is that group of runners woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning to drive an hour and a half to Richmond and cheer me on in my most recent marathon! Although the time I ran has left me wanting to run another, the way I finished that race is unlike any feeling, even running sub 3, I’ve ever had before finishing a race. You may have seen the pictures, but when I wasn’t at my greatest, the boys hopped in the race illegally, got right there on the course next to me, and helped me get to the finish line in their street clothes. It was almost like being at practice, after school, turning off my mind from everything else in the world of the performance and getting down to the natural action of running.
That has brought me full circle to where I am now. Not only do I love running, but I can help kids like you start to like running. Then one day you will like it a little more and a little more until you get the chance to not only succeed yourself, but then find more happiness in watching others succeed too. You may even fall in love with it. And that my friends, is my personal running reflection.
Personal Running Reflection with Zach Coffman
This week's personal reflection comes from Zach Coffman, a 2012 graduate of Albemarle. As you might have guessed Zach is Coach Coffman's son. Zach was a captain on our 2011 team that finished 2nd at states. He then attended the Naval Academy and now is an infantry officer in the Marines. Zach has been known to show up to practice and treat the boys to his famous "Coffman Core".
This a great inside look on how the lessons of cross country can be used later in life, and in this case in a life in the military. Thanks Zach for sharing!
by Zach Coffman
What Cross-Country Taught Me
My running career began with one thought in mind, to improve my conditioning for spring soccer try-outs. After my first cross county practice freshman year, I felt a draw to the sport. The decision to follow that call and to join the Albemarle High School Cross Country Team became the single most significant decision of my life. The lessons and experiences that I gained from four years of cross country changed me as a man and has had a direct impact on who I am today. I have done my best to narrow down what I have learned into two quotes from Retired Head Coach, Buz Male. They are “Commitment to excellence” and “Can do easy.” I carry these thoughts with to this day.
I graduated from Albemarle in 2012 after being Co-Captain, with Ben Deal and Adam Visokay, for the 2011 season, where we ended the season as State Runner-ups. A month after graduating, I began Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy. I commissioned from the Naval Academy in 2016 as a Marine Corps Officer, later to be designated as an Infantry Officer. Today, I am stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The first quote is easy to understand. In cross country, a “Commitment to Excellence” means simply that, you have to be devoted to exceeding the standard, that every day a decision has to be made to take a step closer to your goal. When the time came for a long run or recovery day, it would have been easy to gaff it off and cut corners. It is easy to cut corners when no one is looking, but that is not a “Commitment to excellence.” Having integrity to do the right thing when no one is looking leads to excellence. I brought this idea forward into my time at the Naval Academy. In college, it is easy to cut corners because you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to make sure you are doing the right thing. You have to make the conscious decision to put in the effort and time that is required to succeed, whether that be in sports or school. When I graduated, I wanted to become a Marine. This meant I needed to improve my overall fitness and get the grades needed to graduate. This meant early mornings in the gym and late nights in the library. Excellence can only be achieved through applied pressure over time, not in one night cramming for a final or one big workout. Cross country instilled in me the discipline I needed to succeed in a life outside of running. The pursuit to achieve excellence in life is never ending, just like in running, you can never settle for good enough.
The second quote has stuck with me the most “Can do easy,” means to have no excuses and to get the job done. I thought about this quote before some of those really hard workouts, like 1200 repeats from the top of Cardiac through the finish line. Before these work outs started, anyone could come up with an excuse why they wouldn’t be able to perform at their maximum potential. Buz taught us that upon receiving any task (or workout), your mentality shouldn’t be to find an excuse why it shouldn’t be completed or how hard it will be, but rather to take ownership of the task and to complete it quickly and aggressively. I carried this idea forward into my life as an Infantry Marine. I have tried to apply the “Can do easy” mentality into everything I do. Whenever I have received a task or mission, I take it on head on, searching for a solution instead of an excuse, and finishing the job. Running showed me to never fear even the hardest workout or race. Most importantly, it taught me to never make an excuse.
Zach encouraging plebes in 2015 at the Naval Acadmey
It is hard for me to summarize four years of cross country into two quotes. When I say I wouldn’t be the man I am today without cross country, I mean that in my heart. Don’t take a second for granted. Tradition Never Graduates. Go Pats.
Zach “MC” Coffman
Personal Running Reflection with Coach Alba-Cantone
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” - Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode III
The dubious cinematic quality of the 2nd Star Wars trilogy notwithstanding, this quote strongly resonates with me when I think about the effect that running has had on my life.
I originally thought I would just roll out a litany of my failures as a runner and talk about how I learned from them. However, upon further reflection, I realized that this precisely has been my biggest struggle as an athlete and as a competitor.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love competition. I LOVE it. But, I never handled it super well as a kid. When I was younger, I was the one who would challenge my dad to an arm-wrestling match every month just to see how much stronger I got; I was the one who would stomp off the soccer field and cry every time the team down the street beat us. I remember “losing” to my mom in a bike race across our church parking lot. Nevermind the fact that she was a grown-up and I was six; I just couldn’t understand how my Huffy couldn’t match speeds with her road-racing bike. I really tried my hardest, so why did I fail? She then gave me a valuable lesson on up-shifting on a bike, and I, with tears streaming down my face, resolved to never use first gear again.
In my mind, you either won, or you lost. You were first, or you were last. I didn’t care about the guy who finished Top 10 at the Master’s. I only cared about the champion. It didn’t matter to me that I captured my dad’s Queen in chess, and our game lasted 30 minutes longer than usual. I only cared that I lost. This not only was a wildly unhealthy way to view competition, it also did not endear me to...well, anyone really.
by Coach Alba-Cantone
Running completely changed that for me. I started running competitively in 8th grade; our middle school team had just started up, and I took the sport rather quickly. In other words, I was 5’ 7” and 120 pounds. After one 3 mile race, I truly, with no real basis, thought I was America’s next Olympic medal hopeful. Because finishing a distant 4th to Ben Deal in the middle school race at FUMA naturally equates to a gold medal...right? I felt that as long as I didn’t get injured, I would be a sub-15 guy, go to Foot Locker Nationals, and run for Colorado. I’d then get a shoe contract and spend the prime of my life ripping miles at Mags and cashing checks.
Well… yeah...about that. As I transitioned to high school running at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, I found that I wasn’t the hotshot I thought, but rather, just a pretty good runner. I wasn’t the fastest guy on my team, and I definitely wasn’t the fastest guy in the state, despite what my recovery pace might have indicated. This, at times, was really hard for me to process. I wasn’t winning, hardly at all. I credit my high school coach for keeping me grounded in reality; he knew how to bring the best out in me and my teammates. So, even when I fell flat on my face, Coach Jones would lift me up. Even when I felt invincible after a good workout, Coach Jones would bring me back to earth. He knew that our team could be special if we kept our noses to the grindstone and sacrificed for each other.
Charging down the home stretch at 2011 States
We won 2 state titles in a row my junior and senior year, with the 2nd coming in dominant fashion. We won by 81 points, the highest margin of victory in VISAA history, and our average time would have won every private school state meet, regardless of the year. I never won a single individual state championship in high school; my 15 year-old self would have been completely gutted by this statement. But by this point, I had completely stopped caring about my individual achievements. I ran not because I wanted to be faster than everyone else, but because I wanted to be able to look my teammates in the eye and honestly say I gave it my all for them.
This transformation, once again, came from Coach Jones. He demanded that we keep a healthy and team-focused perspective. Yes, we won private school states, but how would our top 7 hold up against the best of the best at Nike Regionals? Yes, you ran your high school PR of 16:05, but you took a wrong turn and your teammates went with you, so let’s not get too excited. We could have had 3 or 4 sub-16 runners. Yes, you blew up in this workout, but your teammates really ran well. That’s something to celebrate!
Slowly, with many missteps along the way, I began to learn that success and failure are not two opponents battling it out for ultimate supremacy. Rather, they are two sides of the same coin, two partners engaged in a curious dance. Running is full of little wins and losses; no time on the clock can tell the whole story, as much as we’d like it to. There is no such thing as absolute failure or absolute success. Learning this helped me be more humble in victory and hold my head higher in defeat.
I didn’t go running with the Buffaloes in college; I ran for the club cross country team at UVa and loved every second of it. I decided to get my Master’s in Teaching, with the dream of coaching at my alma mater. However, fate had other plans. I was sitting at my evening lecture, and some dude even skinnier than me sat down and introduced himself.
“Hey man, you know my brother, Alec. I’m Adrian Lorenzoni.”
5 years later, I’m starting my 13th season coaching at Albemarle and loving every second of it. It is a beautiful thing to do what you’re passionate about every day of the year. Throughout the amazing victories and at times, stunning defeats, my favorite part of coaching is helping all of you navigate the highs and lows with maturity and humility. And totally nerding out over Star Wars. My wife just doesn’t appreciate true cinema.
Personal Running Reflection with Coach Lorenzoni
by Coach Lorenzoni
Why I Coach
Placing first in the Discovery Dash
As your coach, I ask a lot of you. And one of the biggest and most difficult asks is that you communicate clearly to me. Not just about how you are feeling physically, but also how you are doing emotionally when it comes to your running. I know this can be a lot and I'm always so proud to see how much all of you grow from your freshman to your senior year. It makes me so happy. To help you understand why I am the coach I am, I am going to give you a journey through my own running. I warn you this is a long one as I have been obsessed with this sport for as long as I can remember. It's also a little intense, but if you know me, that makes sense
I think my love for running really started with the Discovery Dash, which was always the highlight of my year growing up. I first ran the Discovery Dash as a 5 year old, finishing 16th in the 800m race with a time of 4:33. I know that finish fueled me for the next year. Whenever I got a chance to race in gym class I would use it to test myself and prepare myself for the next year’s Discovery Dash. As a 6 year old, I accomplished my goal and won my race at the Discovery Dash with a time of 3:45. That was the spark I needed. Very soon after this I got a taste of racing the mile with the mostly downhill Bruce Barnes Mile at Pen Park (the old course). As a 6 year old, I ran 7:35 and finished dead last. Now I had some new motivation. I was going to look forward to this race each year so I could race all the adults. I also was never going to finish last in a race again.
My parents quickly realized that their 6 year old son was getting way too serious about this running thing. They knew that if I kept racing as a young kid, I would begin to mentally burn myself out before I got to the fun racing in high school and beyond. They made a rule and told me that I could only race two races a year. Of course these two races were the Discovery Dash and the Bruce Barnes Mile. This meant that I would take advantage of every timed mile in gym class and I would spend weeks counting down the days to these races. Sometimes I would even sneak out of my house and run my ¼ mile long driveway multiple times to prepare for the races. My parents signed me up for every other sport possible, trying to get my mind off running. I played soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, lacrosse. You name it, I played it. But I knew that by the time I was in 8th grade, I would give all those sports up and start running for the high school team.
I had my normal sport idols, like Michael Jordan and Mark McGwire. But what wasn’t normal was my obsession with athletes like Michael Johnson, the 200m and 400m 1996 Olympic Champion. As a 7 year old, I would hide behind my couch during his races because I was too nervous to watch. After seeing that he won gold, I would go out to my basketball court and run circles around the court. Daydreaming that I was Michael Johnson, winning the Olympic gold.
In my mind, these dreams weren’t crazy. I mean my mom was one of the best high school runners in the country back in her day. She even held the national record for the 2 miles for a couple weeks. She then ran collegiately at Michigan State and ran the marathon post collegiately. She won the Marine Corps Marathon twice and even ran 2:38 for a marathon. That's a 6 minute pace for 26 miles! In my young mind, my mom was one of the best women runners ever and there was no reason why I couldn’t be just like her. I just had to wait until high school.
By age 10, I had won the Discovery Dash a couple more times and had brought my Bruce Barnes Mile time down to 5:54. But somehow, some other 10 year old was running 5:30 in the same race. And to make matters worse, his name was also Adrian. It was hard for me to wrap my head around this. Oh, how my parents were right. As a 10 year old, I was way too intense to be running any races…
The intensity really began to build for me the next fall. That November I took my first trip to Great Meadows for the Virginia State XC meet. My brother was a 10th grader on the Western Albemarle team who was racing to win their second straight state title. That day, I got to see my future school win a team state title, but what really got me excited was watching Alan Webb, a senior for South Lakes, run 15:03. He was America’s next big hope and who was better to idolize than that. Later that year, Webb set the national high school record with a 3:53 mile. But the reality was that it wasn't just Webb I was idolizing. I had grown up around the sport with my parent’s putting on races like the Ragged Mountain Cup, so I had been idolizing local greats for years. But after that day, the dream had reached an all time level. Like Webb, I was going to win state titles and I was going to be one of the all time greats.
The 2000 Western Albemarle State Championship team
Racing in the 3 mile race at Fork Union as an 8th grader
At this point, I was just going through the motions with the other sports, because I was getting so close to my 8th grade year. The year I would finally be allowed to run year round for the high school team at Western Albemarle. That summer before my 8th grade year I jumped right into the training. It was the dream. I was even invited to Western’s running camp, which is usually only for the team’s top 12 runners. I was the first 8th grader to get invited to camp and I couldn’t have been more pumped. My first race was the Ragged Mountain Cup and I finished 2nd in the JV race, running one of the fastest 8th grade times in Western’s history. My next race I ran 18:54 for the old 3 mile course at Fork Union. It was a great start, but then things started to not go the way I envisioned it. I was finally a part of the high school team but something wasn’t right. I wasn’t winning any of the middle school races and in some races, I actually was pretty far back. I was even losing to 8th graders from my own middle school, Jack Jouett, who were racing for Albemarle. Things got even worse that spring. I had convinced one of my best friends to come out to indoor track and turns out he was really, really fast. Now, I wasn’t even close to the fastest 8th grader on my team.
Just like that, my confidence and even my dreams were shot. I know that sounds crazy but I was not the same athlete who came into 8th grade year, chomping at the bit to race anyone and everyone. I was someone who had put themselves mentally in the middle of the pack.
I’m going to be honest with you. By senior year, I could have been more committed. I did run everyday and was always incredibly excited for the team, but I was also burned out mentally. I was definitely not as bought in as I could have been. My commitment was a far cry from all of you! My coach obviously saw this too and he pulled me aside at camp and asked if I was ok with the team not voting for captains that year. The reason was he was worried I would be voted a captain. Man, that did hurt, but part of me knew he was right. And, that’s what hurt the most. Not only had I not become the runner I had dreamed of becoming since 1st grade but I wasn’t even going to be captain of my cross country team. I did make the top 7 that year and raced at states but ended up being our 7th finisher. My time was 18:48, only 6 seconds faster than my time for my first 3 mile as an 8th grader. Anxiety, doubt, and fear had taken control of my running.
For some reason, things started clicking during indoor track. Maybe that’s because I didn’t care nearly as much. Halfway through indoor I did have my second hernia surgery, but I was back by outdoor and had my best season ever. I finished high school with PRs of 2:05, 4:37, 10:11, and 17:13. Great times but very far from those dreams I had growing up.
Don’t get me wrong. I still loved high school running. I progressed and was a solid performer for our team, floating in and out of the top 7 for my last 3 years. I did have my injury issues. Early on in my freshman year I was diagnosed with a hernia. This is something that I ended up having to have surgery for in 10th grade and again in 12th grade. This had a negative effect on my confidence. By junior and senior year, it was no longer just my best friend that was beating me but it was many teammates from the class two years behind me. What was weird was that I was not only more than fine with it, I had become their biggest fan.
On the line at the Region II Meet my senior year. Our top 4 finishers were sophomores. Ran my H.S. PR (17:13) that day.
At the 2012 Olympic Trials with family & friends
Then I was done. I stepped off that track that last time at the outdoor regional meet and put my running shoes in storage. It might be hard for you to believe, but I didn’t run more than 10 times over the next three years. I was so mentally done with the sport that I had to take a break. I still followed it from afar. I went to the 2008 Olympic Trials with my family and loved every second of it. My older brother started coaching at Albemarle in 2008 and I would get intermittent updates from him. But I never, ever saw myself going back to the sport. I was going to become a structural engineer and live in a big city. That was going to be my life.
The summer before my senior year of college, I was going on a trip out west to visit graduate schools. My brother and dad tagged along and we all decided to run the San Francisco Half Marathon when we were out there. So, that summer I began to get back into running so I could run that 13.1 miles with my dad. But after that race the shoes went back in storage again. I just wasn't quite ready. Things did start to change for me a year later when I was in graduate school at Virginia Tech. I had all these new friends and they were so much more active then my college friends. So, slowly but surely I started running again. One of my best friends in graduate school, Eric, had run for Illinois and was a volunteer assistant coach for the Virginia Tech cross country and track teams. We slowly started talking about running more and more. And I slowly began to realize how much I missed it. I was going to get back in shape.
The summer after my first year of grad school I went back out to Eugene, Oregon with my family for the 2012 Olympic Trials. I left that meet knowing I had to get back to the sport somehow. I had a semester left in graduate school but I began to admit what I knew all along. I did not want to be a structural engineer. I was working 70 hours a week in the lab and I was not happy. I kept talking to Eric about running and my roommate at the time had just finished student teaching at a local high school. I realized I was jealous of the life they were both working towards. Then the Olympics happened and I remember spending all my free time watching every single race. I was back being that 7 year old watching Michael Johnson. I no longer dreamed of being that great athlete but I knew I wanted to be involved in the sport somehow.
2012 Albemarle team (my first year coaching)
Just a week or so later I had quit grad school. I had made the decision without knowing what I was going to do next. I just knew the career in engineering wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something different. I moved home and started working at my family’s running store. But I knew I needed something more and I really felt like I should be helping coach at my alma mater, Western Albemarle. I told my high school coach I was thinking about it and he was so excited. But once my bro, who was still coaching at Albemarle, heard about this, he did everything in his power to convince me to come to Albemarle and work with him and Buz. For me, it was an easy decision. To work with my best friend every single day. I was in.
Well, that was the single best decision of my life. I fell in love immediately. I was a volunteer that entire first year, but I did not miss a single day, except for one outdoor meet. What really pulled me in was how tough these high school athletes were. They were everything I dreamed of being in high school. That first year, I had zero authority, and was more there to hangout and run with the boys. Every time Buz asked me if I had something to say to the team I would shake my head and look away. My biggest fear in life was public speaking and even Buz wasn’t going to force me to get over that.
What was very interesting is I still had no desire to be a head coach or even a paid assistant. I loved my role so much, especially because it involved no public speaking. The science behind training was an enigma to me as I had never thought about why we did certain workouts in high school. I had just done everything blindly. So, the idea of being in charge seemed like it would be a disaster for many reasons.
At that time, Buz was just coaching cross country and my brother was coaching indoor and outdoor track. But then my brother decided to step away that summer as he was trying to start a family. All of a sudden I was a paid assistant for cross country and the distance coach for track. The first thing that happened in cross country was Buz forced me to speak. I was terrible at it and the team knew it. They ironically cheered every time I spoke, which frustrated Buz to no end. Then came track. I was completely in charge. I remember telling some of the seniors from my first year coaching that I was taking over for Alec, and they just laughed. They could not visualize me being in charge. All they had to say was “good luck…” First thing I had to do was learn everything I could about training. I read, watched, and listened to everything I could get my hands on. I devoured it all and realized I couldn’t be more obsessed with learning all the science. I also slowly got more comfortable with public speaking.
Around this time, I realized I wanted to be a teacher, which meant I needed to go back to school and take a step back from coaching. So, that next year I was back being a volunteer assistant. During that year, I found out that Buz was retiring and that I was going to be the new head cross country coach. Like before, this had not been a goal of mine as I was so happy being the assistant. That being said, I did feel excited to take on the challenge.
At that point it was clear that coaching was going to be a part of my life forever. What did I love about it? I loved helping kids fall in love with the sport. I loved helping them gain confidence. I loved trying to make their training and racing fun. But more than anything, I loved helping athletes get over their anxieties and doubts. My goal as a coach was always to help kids believe in themselves more. I wanted to help any high school versions of me that were walking around! This desire fueled me.
When I found out I was taking over the boys cross country program, I quickly realized I needed to have core values that the team’s culture was based on. Like before, I started reading every book I could get my hands on, but this time they were not about training but about general coaching. I started to get into the psychology of coaching and I kept coming back to why I never had the running career I dreamed of. The obvious reason was I had zero confidence. But why did I have zero confidence? The main thing was that I was scared. I was scared of failure and as an athlete the anxiety from this controlled me. So, my number one goal as a coach was to help build my athletes up so they could approach this fear and tackle it head on.
My first issue was that I was never completely disciplined enough, especially later in my career. So, discipline had to be one of the core values. I also never communicated with anyone about why I was anxious or scared. I just held it all in. So, I knew I had to get my athletes open to communicating. They had to trust me. Communication was going to be another core value. Obviously I never believed in my training or myself. I needed to build a culture that kids could grab onto and believe in. Belief was another core value. I also never had a positive attitude about my ability. My attitude was actually pretty awful. I never focused on myself and how I could be better each day. I compared myself to everyone else and I thought of any reason to bring myself down. So, everything in our program had to be about learning and moving forward in a positive way. So, positivity was another core value. And that brought me back to courage. The goal was that if my athletes bought into all these other core values that they could approach their running with a level of courage that they never knew they had. The biggest hurdle would be building a culture where bad races and “failure” were not only accepted but welcomed.
My passion from coaching has come from my own “failures”. And you know what’s crazy? I would not change a thing about my high school running career. Zero. Because I can tell you this. Those 5 years have made me the coach I am today. My goal as a coach is to work as hard as possible so I can help all athletes, especially those that struggle to get the most out of themselves. This goes from the brand new runner who does not believe he is an athlete to the senior who is trying to win a state title. I will do everything in my power to support them and help them become a much more confident human being. It’s what drives me each and every day!
The photo below might be my favorite photo from my entire life, as crazy as it sounds. Why is that? Because it perfectly represents why I coach. Everyone single Albemarle athlete in this photo, 10th grader to alumni, is completely bought into what we are trying to do as a program. This group is the most disciplined group I have been around. They are amazing at communicating where they are at with their own running and in life. They always work on making sure they are moving forward in a positive manner. They completely believe in the program and always work on believing in themselves more. But more than anything, they have endless amounts of courage. This specific group dealt with heartbreak and failure in it's most extreme form, at least for a group of high school runners. They lost the state meet in the last 50 meters when they were the heavy favorites. How did they respond? By not backing down and working for 12 months to come back better than they ever imagined they could. And they backed that up with the most dominating team performance in 5A history. That is why there is so much joy in this group, from the 10th graders to the alumni. Every single person felt what went into this process.
This is why I coach.
Love you all so much!
The team my first year as head coach.
The moment the 2019 team found out they were state champions
Personal Running Reflection with Zach Gentry
This week's personal reflection comes from Zach Gentry, a 2015 graduate of Albemarle. I have not logged more miles with an athlete than I have with Zach Gentry. Zach's last 3 years of high school were my 3 as an assistant coach and my goal was always to be fit enough to last at least some of his workouts. Zach finished 2nd in the 3200m at the 2005 Indoor state meet and was a part of the 2014 4x800m state championship relay.
by Zach Gentry
Zach winning the 2014 Seeded Race at the Great American XC Festival
Halfway through his senior cross country season, Zach was a favorite to win the 5A state title. He had just won the Seeded section at Great American with a 15:35. Sadly, Zach never was able to replicate the form he showed that day, only to find out after the season that he had lyme's disease. Zach made an amazing recovery to finish 2nd in the 3200m during indoors but sadly his medical struggles continued through outdoor.
Zach went on to have a great collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma.
Zach gives an inside look into his struggles during his senior season that continued into his time at Oklahoma. He discusses how he overcame these and how his running career has had a lasting, positive impact on his life.
The greatest lessons you take from this sport often aren’t known until after you’ve crossed the finish line and gone home to replay memories in your head from a hard-fought race. When Coach Adrian reached out to ask me for a reflection on running, I wanted to make this point clear. My time running at Albemarle and beyond wasn’t just made great by the wins, but all the in-between points and even some L’s I took along the way.
Albemarle Cross Country represents a major turning point in my life. As a freshman in HS, I came in three days to official practice in late August, coaxed by my closest friends to come hang out with them and run a bit after school. I had never run outside of gym class or “fun-runs” (having played lacrosse all through middle school) and was worried I wouldn’t be allowed to join the team late. But my friends vouched for me to Buz Male, who reluctantly gave me a shot that August afternoon. We can both look back and laugh at how far that scrawny lacrosse player has come since.
As I began to train with the older guys on the team that year, I quickly fell in love with running and all that it represented; “a commitment to excellence.” While everything was earned through hard work and dedication to the sport, that commitment was a pact between a close-knit team that supported me every step of the way. I fell in love with running not just from pushing myself to the limits, but through the countless miles training from sunrise at Panorama Farms, the long raucous bus rides to and from meets, and all the ridiculous memories we made as a team along the way. The lessons imparted on me by Buz and Coach Adrian, and the friendships I forged, will last me a lifetime.
Zach fell in love with the sport as a freshman during the fall of 2011. He was an alternate on the state runner up team.
While the first few years of running cross country and track were rosy, I quickly found out how tumultuous this sport can be. After steadily gaining momentum from years of consistent training, Buz and I saw my senior cross country season as an opportunity to take the leap to the next level: aiming for top marks at States and reaching NXN. My training hit a fever pitch, wherein I logged my highest mileage and began to mirror workouts that former teammates who went on to run in college had hit. Buz urged me to be confident in my training; all that “hay in the barn” meant I was ready for something big. By October, I shaved 30 seconds off my 5k time and won my section at Great American in Raleigh. And that was my peak.
Not three weeks later during my recruiting visit to Virginia Tech, I fell extremely ill: head-splitting migraine, fever, aches and chills. My running began to suffer in the weeks that followed, as I no longer had the energy to compete. By season’s end, I managed to gut out a 5k at NXR that stood 3 seconds off my best, but I was heartbroken. My opportunity had come and passed without me realizing my goals.
A month later I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which checked all the boxes as to why I had felt so crappy that fall. Instead of being mindful of the circumstances and leaning on my support system of teammates and loved ones to get me through, I was inconsolable. I went on to what I considered at the time a lackluster track season my senior spring as I recovered from Lymes. Thankfully, I was given a look by the University of Oklahoma and my soon-to-be coach, Jason Dunn. And I saw college as an opportunity to put my senior year mishaps behind me and realize my potential as a runner.
Yet, much like my senior year at Albemarle, my time at Oklahoma had a fair share of ups and downs. While I relished in the opportunity to make a name for myself on a team at OU that was 15th at NCAA’s my freshman year, I quickly learned that there are many things that are out of your control at the college level as well.
After my first season racing in a Sooners uniform, my coach retired. Instead of staying open-minded, I struggled to keep my training consistent under new leadership that I didn’t mesh well with for the next couple years. I struggled with chronic anxiety and stress that wouldn’t relent. It wasn’t until my junior year that I decided to address my mindset, taking time to cut myself some slack and reflect on the positive opportunities before me along with my loved ones and teammates (from Albemarle and OU) who had my back. I dug in and focused on the steeplechase, where I looked to be a contender at the Big 12 Championships.
Unfortunately, that never happened. Before reaching that meet in 2018, a broken kneecap while steeplechasing at the Penn Relays caused me to shutter the season. Yet again, I found myself sidelined by something completely out of my control. But this time, despite the anguish this caused me, I was well-equipped to overcome this setback.
Over the next year, I rekindled why I began running in the first place. Now was the time to test myself. Each day I focused on what I could do in the moment, be it PT drills, meditating, eating right, or finishing out the last rep of a hard workout. When setbacks came, I patiently focused on what I could impact and stayed positive. My diligence and hard work showed. I set PR after PR that year and finally reached the conference meet in May, where the stage was set on our home track at OU to do something special. I finally made All-Big 12 in the Steeplechase, capping off a comeback a year in the making at my final track meet.
Perhaps the most important lesson Buz Male ever taught me continues to ring true today (more than ever now as we stare down Covid-19 and a messy fall ahead). “S*** happens…and it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many you get back up.” You have a conscious choice in how you approach your life and the challenges you face, both internal and external, each and every day.
-“Attitude is everything.” Be mindful of your circumstances and learn from failures, setbacks, or “just plain shitty luck.”
-Always keep why you started at heart.
-Lean on your teammates and loved ones to get each other through. Pack mentality because you’re in this together.
Being told by sources that this 1200m workout is now referred to as "The Visokay” . I ran this workout as a tune-up for Great American my senior year. When I toed the line, the work I had put in gave me confidence I’d win.
Workout: 3x1200m w/ 3 1/2 mins rest, 1x800m
Splits: 3:45, 3:40, 3:34, 2:15
(This gem comes from the archives of one Mr. Adrian Lorenzoni, the keeper of records and master of spreadsheets)
Personal Running Reflection with Ryan Thomas
This week's personal reflection comes from Ryan Thomas, a 2014 graduate of Albemarle. Ryan might be the most talented runner I have worked with at Albemarle. As a freshman, Ryan finished 1st in the 9th grade mile at New Balance Indoor Nationals with a 4:26. By sophomore year in high school, his PR for the full mile was 4:13.85. Though Ryan has an endless list of accomplishments from his time at Albemarle, including 2 individual state titles, it was the leadership he brought everyday to practice that was the most important. During his 4 years running cross country, the team finished 3rd twice and 2nd once! He also anchored the our 4x800m to the 2014 outdoor state title. No way the boys were going to lose that race with him running 1:52!
by Ryan Thomas
Ryan winning the 2013 Albemarle Invitational. Only Albemarle boy to do this since 2003
Ryan went onto a very successful career at Columbia where he won 3 Ivy League (Hep) titles! His 5k PR is now a crazy fast 14:00!
Ryan had the unfortunate circumstance that his senior indoor and outdoor seasons were my first two seasons in charge of the distance programs at Albemarle. At this point everyone knew I really had no idea what I was doing. I remember when I told some alumni that I was taking over for my brother, Alec, they actually giggled. Ryan was my guinea pig and he knew it, but that being said, he couldn't have been nicer and more supportive. So, thank you Ryan for being the best and helping me through those first two seasons. I couldn't have asked for a better leader to help me through the process.
Read Ryan's personal running reflection below and check out an example week of summer training from college.
When Coach Adrian contacted me about writing this article, I struggled to decide what to write. For me, the experiences that I had at Albemarle High School on the boys cross country course meant the absolute world to me. Perhaps it’s a little cliché, but some of my best friends in life are still former teammates from my time at AHS.
Albemarle Boys Cross Country was such an important part of shaping who I was as a person. I came in my freshman year as a young kid who was perhaps a little too sure of himself. At Districts, I saw two of my teammates being interviewed by the Milestat.com guy at the time, Brandon Miles, and so naturally I walked over to him and introduced myself. Coach Buz and my teammates never let me live that one down. There’s a fine line between cocky and confident, and boy was I towing that line.
As I spent more time with my teammates, especially the older ones who became my training partners, I learned how to approach the sport differently. Sure, I could be confident when I stepped up to the line to race. Our motto, emblazened on the back of our neon yellow t-shirts, was “This right here is our Pretty Boy Swag.” So you know, when we showed up to a race, everyone knew it was Albemarle. Oh, and I guess the candy canes helped too. So yes, we had a swagger to us collectively as a group – but perhaps the slogan on the back of the shirts that Buz handed out was more accurate of the team. It said “Commitment to Excellence.” At the end of the day, it was the work that we put in collectively in the days, weeks, and months prior to the big race so “the hay [was] in the barn” (another Buz-ism) and we could go out there and race.
I had a fair amount of individual success at Albemarle, but the memories that matter most to me will always be the ones shared with my teammates. Few things bond people together better than adversity and hard work.
Most of my favorite memories looking back now 6-7 years removed are actually the training runs. The summer mornings showing up to the Farm, dew still covering the grass, sun barely above on the horizon, as me and my closest friends started our morning run.
My choice for where I wanted to run in college was heavily influenced by my experience at Albemarle. I wanted to find a program that had a culture like the one I cherished in high school. I settled on Columbia University after seeing how close the men’s team was on my official visit.
2013 Albemarle team at State Meet. Finished 3rd
Injuries plagued me for my first two and a half years at Columbia. There are definitely a number of different factors involved, but looking back, I think I was too focused on trying to “prove myself” every single day to my coaches and teammates that I never let my body recover. I was a little too focused on my teammates who were outstanding runners in their own right. I would hammer out a run in the middle of the week during mid-season just to show that I could. Over the summer, I would log long runs that were impressive, but ultimately self-destructive.
Eventually, my coaches sat me down for a talk. They thought I still had potential, but I needed to learn how to dial it back from time to time in practice. Not every run or workout was a competition with the other guys on my team. Most are not. Eventually I learned how to be the senior leader of my 5k training group. I had won my first Ivy League title during my junior year outdoor track season and it was an unbelievable feeling.
My senior year Ivy League Outdoor Track meet, however, makes me the most proud. For reference – and I know it might be hard to appreciate without experiencing it first hand – but the Heps matters. No other track meet that I’ve personally been a part of matches the type of intensity that everyone brought to Heps, seriously. You brought you’re “A” game, and then some. Team rivalries mattered more than anything there, and when you went to the Heps, you were counting on your teammates to back you up. Nothing meant more to me than being able to score for my team at Heps.
Throughout my senior year, we had four guys in my training group: Brian Zabilski, Kenny Vasbinder, and Lucky Schreiner and myself. Our cross country season came up a few points short of capturing the Ivy League title to Princeton. In what came down to a dual meet essentially, Princeton, our most-hated rivals in the Ivy League, edged out the victory on our home course. I won the individual title, which was nice, but the feeling did not quite match the team victory I experienced in my sophomore year on that same course.
So heading into my final Outdoor Track season in Columbia Blue, my training group set out with something to prove. We wanted to show everyone that we were the best distance squad in the Ivy League. I’d say we proved it that weekend. Brian and Kenny went 1-2 in the 10k on the first night, edging out some Princeton runners, and then Lucky and I followed it up with my second Ivy League Outdoor 5k title and Lucky’s first time scoring at Heps when he placed 2nd. It was easily the happiest moment of my collegiate career.
Ryan hugging Columbia teammate after they finished 1-2 in the 5,000m at Heps!
Now that I have hung up my spikes in retirement, I miss my experiences at AHS and Columbia. I would not trade those memories for the world. Running for two programs – with coaching staffs and teammates that I cared about so much – brought the best out of me, and not just on the track or the cross country course. From what I can tell, Adrian’s doing a great job of continuing the legacy of Albemarle Cross Country. As Buz always liked to say, “Tradition Never Graduates,” and I certainly hope that’s true. As a washed up alum now, it makes me proud to see results that Adrian sends me but it makes me even happier to hear him talk about the way that the boys on the team now care about and support one another. Who knows, maybe once it’s safe to go outside and see people in large groups again, you all might inspire this washed up alum to show up to a race or two. I don’t think I could still fit into my candy canes anymore – and trust me, no one wants to see that – but I bet I still have a few AHS XC shirts laying around somewhere that I’d be proud to put back on for a weekend.
Once a Patriot, Always a Patriot,
A View Into Summer Training Into Senior Year of College – Maine Training Trip Week
Monday – Easy Day : 10 Miles in 66 minutes (6:36 pace)
Tuesday – Workout : 15 Miles Total (3 warm up, 10 mile tempo, 2 cool down)
10 mile tempo in 55:40 (5:34 pace)
Wednesday – Medium Long Run : 13 miles in 1:31 (7 minute pace)
Thursday – Easy Run and Circuit/Core : 8 miles in 55:00 (6:52 pace)
Friday – Workout : 12.5 Miles Total (3 warm up, 6.5 mile fartlek, 3 cool down)
Fartlek - 5:32 pace average, 10 minutes on, 3 minutes off, 12 x 1 minute on, 1 minute off
Saturday – Recovery Run : 5.5 miles in 38:00 (6:54 per mile)
Sunday – 17 Miles in 1:45 (6:10 per mile)
Personal Running Reflection with Adam Visokay
This week's personal reflection comes from Adam Visokay, one of Albemarle's all time greats! Adam's high school PRs were 8:56 for the 3200m and 4:13 for the 1600m. He finished 3rd at XC States and won two 3200m state titles in outdoor and indoor track. He qualified individually for the Nike Cross National Meet where he finished 10th in the country! He finished runner up in the 2 Mile at New Balance Indoor Nationals, only finishing behind Edward Cheserek who is considered maybe the most dominant distance runner in NCAA history.
by Adam Visokay
Adam outkicking two opponents in the last 400m of the AAA XC State Championships
He ran for UVA, where he was All ACC in the steeplechase and All American in the 10,000 meters. After graduating from UVA he had one more year of eligibility which he used at Syracuse. Syracuse is one of the best distance programs in the country! In college, he had PRs of 7:54 for 3000m, which converts to around 8:30 for 2 miles, 8:43 for the 3000m steeplechase, 14:07 for the 5,000m, and 29:11 for the 10,000m
He now runs professionally for the Reebok team which is based here in Charlottesville. His event is the steeplechase and he has brought his PR down to 8:34. His main focus right now is making the Olympic team for Great Britain, where his mom is from!
On top of all that, Adam is one of the nicest people I know and I know was an amazing teammate to all his Albemarle teammates in high school. Sadly, I started coaching the year after he graduated but I have heard endless amazing stories from my brother and Buz.
Below is Adam's log from a recent week of training with some reflection.
You can keep up to date on Adam's training through his Instagram, @avisokay!
I flew to Charlottesville from Seattle on my 26th birthday (March 11) for what was supposed to be a 6 week training camp to sharpen up ahead of the outdoor racing season. This was the time of year where we could finally start ripping some fast track intervals and seeing the fruits of all of those long weeks of strength building workouts. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans.
I was only training with my Reebok team for a week before my coach decided to shut things down due to the pandemic. He canceled practice so that we could observe social distancing and changed our training program back to the type of stuff we do in the Fall (high volume low intensity) since we don't need to be race sharp any time soon.
With this type of training we are really only emphasizing one hard day per week, while maintaining our speed with drills, strides, and short fartleks. Any single day of training that I am doing right now I could have done in college, and even perhaps during my senior year in high school. But a younger me would have needed to dig a lot deeper to do it. A younger me would have needed more rest, more recovery. I have such vivid memories of struggling so badly on longer tempo runs when I was younger. A bad long run would wreck my confidence, only for it to be restored once again by an interval session on the track the following week. I had to redefine what I considered successful training.
Sometimes, it is purely about hitting the split, no matter how you feel doing it. But more often I have found it is about learning how to listen to your body and know when to push and when to relax. So, compared to what I hoped to be doing this time of year, my training is very boring. But putting it in a different context by comparing it to how I might have felt doing the same things as a younger athlete has helped me appreciate the beauty of consistent training. If I were giving advice to my younger self it would be to have patience, trust your body, listen to your coach, celebrate the abundant minor consistencies and don't spend too much energy concerned with the outcome of any single race or workout. Do it because you love it.
Adam with his Syracuse teammates after they won the 2016 ACC XC Team Title