Monday, December 29, 2014

Staying Motivated While Getting Fit


I did a workout today.  I didn’t run far, or fast, but I did run.  My brother, who I’m usually able to push in a workout, was kind enough to jog alongside me as I was huffing and puffing.  Getting outside and working out on the ground has been a long time coming since I figured last spring my hip had been hurting all year from a torn labrum.  It took three months for me to get surgery, and another 3 months until I could start running with my full body weight. 

I have had a hard time getting motivated when I am so out of shape and the future is uncertain.  Am I going to be able to get back to my pre-injury fitness?  How soon?  If I don’t run fast this spring, how am I going to get funding for training the following Olympic year?  How am I going to pay for medical support and travel? 

You may already be happy with your level of fitness, but if you are struggling, here are my tips for staying motivated when you are feeling discouraged:

1.       Get People to Work Out with You: I’ve conned all sorts of people into running with me on my easy days and workout days from the people I usually run with to long lost friends while home in Minneapolis.  On workouts I either do a shorter set and less reps of the same workout (60 sec hills when Katie Mackey  and Brie Felnagle are doing 80 sec hills) or just hang on the best I can, knowing I’ll fall off quite a bit (5-4-3-2-1 with Elizabeth Yetzer).

2.       Run on the Alter G: Anti-gravity treadmills are becoming more and more accessible.  Many physical therapy offices are getting them for patients returning to walking or running.  The Alter G allows you to run/walk at a selected percentage of your body weight.   For example, my first run back was a 8:30 pace at 75% of my body weight, for 25 minutes.  This allowed me to run without the full impact of my body weight. 

3.       Practice imagery of Long-term Goals: My fitness is so far away from where it needs to be in order for me to accomplish my goals, I sometimes just want to quit.  My goals seem impossible to attain, so why try?  I’ve been practicing imagery, sometimes laying down and sometimes running, of me racing the steeplechase at major meets this spring.  I get excited because I love the feeling of racing strong, but it also allows my mind and body to reconnect with why I’m going through the hard, unglamorous work of getting back in shape.

4.       Switch Up Cross-training: I need to cross train, even while transitioning back to running, in order to keep my body healthy.  Too much running too soon would likely end up in another injury.  I supplement my running with low impact aerobic fitness.  I get bored always going to the elliptical machine, so I make sure to switch it up with cross-country skiing (while in Minneapolis), swimming, and biking.  These other activities take me more planning, but it’s worth it not to go crazy in the gym.

5.       Keep a Training Log: It’s easier to go out for another work-out if you know you are improving.  Keeping track of your mileage and work-out splits will let you see how things are improving.  Maybe you were able to run 5 extra miles this past week, or you were able to cut your 400m splits by 1 second.  Either way, I get motivated by numbers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Injury and Weight


After injury, surgery, and recovery, I’m not surprised I weigh a bit more than my training and racing weight.  I usually race between 128-133 and train between 133-136, but over the past couple months I haven’t been able to shake 148-150.  I know it is healthy to gain a few pounds in the off season, but I don’t feel comfortable being so far off the weight I feel good training at.

I was really motivated to drop some of the extra fat in preparation for getting back to running, but, so far, my body is not budging.  I completely cut out sugar for 4 weeks (quite an accomplishment for me) and tracked my calories. When nothing happened, I got pissed and stopped being so strict.  Not much happened.  Then I got re-motivated and did a juice cleanse for a couple days.  I dropped a couple pounds, but then my weight gradually returned to where it was.  Urggg.

I think the hardest part is trying not comparing myself to other runners.  I feel heavy compared to the women I race against at when I’m weighing in at 130, let alone 150.  I know other women also gain weight , but it never seems as drastic as me nor is it as hard to get off.

I know my body is smart, and there is probably a reason it’s holding on to weight. Such as needing to recovery from surgery….  So, I went and checked in with a nutritionist at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.  She reminded me I’m still at a healthy body weight and having a higher body weight helps your body recover faster.  Weight should come off as I start to run more, and my body remembers there are reasons why it is helpful to be lighter.  But I can also help myself out by minimizing processed body and the empty calories in alcohol.

Being disciplined but not freaking out is the balance I will need to work out the next few weeks.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Juicing!

Bringing in a new kitchen appliance is a huge deal in the 300 square foot condo I share with my boyfriend.  Recently, after a few months of persuasion, I finally convinced the boyfriend it would be worth the space to buy a Breville “Fountain Crush” Masticating Slow Juicer.  I have TMJ (I grind my teeth at night when I’m stressed out and it has messed up my jaw), and it’s hard for me to spend a lot of time chewing foods such as raw carrots, celery, and other hard vegetables are tough.  Having lots of fresh veggies is really important to your health for many reasons, but I’ve become particularly concerned about getting rid of free radicals in my body as I’ve heard about so many young, otherwise healthy people getting cancer.

Juicing seems to be one of those things that sound like a good idea, but many people end of buying one and only using it a few times.  It takes some time to prepare the vegetables, put them through the juice, and then clean the juicer.  I’d say about 20 minutes per batch I make.  I’ve heard people say they feel like they are wasting a lot of food, but it depends on the food (greens have almost no waste, carrots have a lot) and what you do with the leftovers (compost, cook).  Another issue is cost.  Even with some good deals at the Farmer’s Market and Trader Joe’s, it’s expensive to get quality ingredients, but it’s a lot less expensive than buying them at the supermarket.

Here are my favorite four recipes so far:

Green Lemonade:

·         1 Head Romaine Lettuce

·         4 Leaves Kale

·         1  (1/2 inch) Piece of Ginger

·         1 Apple

·         1 Lemon

The original recipe calls for 2 apples, but I’m fine with 1

Apple, Carrot, Ginger:

·         2 Apples

·         8 Carrots

·         1 (1/2 inch) Piece of Ginger

Just like it sounds.

Beet Basic:

·         2 Beets

·         2 Carrots

·         1 Apple

·         1 Orange

·         1 Stick Celery

·         1 (1/2 inch) Piece of Ginger

Watermelon Delight:

·         2 Cups Watermelon

·         ½ Cup Raspberry

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Uncertain Future


I am in a frustrating and uncertain place in my life.  I’m injured, and I was told this week I will not have a contract with Brooks next year.  I am feeling betrayed, frustrated, anxious, and irate, so I’ve avoided writing anything on my blog.  However, my wise high school coach, Zhao, has encouraged me to keep a record of my recovery, so my goal is to try and do a better job of processing this journey, regardless of how much of a drag it may be to read.

Recovery from hip surgery is still going well.  I’m able to walk around, bike, do few pull-ups, and PT exercises.  I want to be very cautious in the healing process, but I am aching to physically challenge my body.  When I feel something in my hip, I am always asking myself, “is this soreness of pain? Is this helping my body or hurting my healing?” Sometimes it’s really hard to tell, so I’ve just been stopping when I’m not sure.  I ignored pain for way too long this year, and ended up wasting a year of competition.

In terms of the future of my running career, I want to keep training for at least two more years.  If I heal, work hard, and have some luck, I will have a shot at making the Olympic team in 2016.  A lot of steeple women had awesome PR’s this year, but I believe I can compete with them. 

How am I going to get access to the resources I need to for training?  It sounds like Brooks may create an un-paid position on the Beast team for me.  I could move again. I could support myself in Seattle or Minneapolis.  I do not know what the best possible combination of support and resources is at the moment, but I am searching for something that will give me a real opportunity at making the Olympics.

                                      I got to go to lots of weddings this summer...

                                                 I went to a cool Chihuly exhibit.

                                   And my mom sends me cute pictures of her pug.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hips Don't Lie


Surgery went well.  I got the tear in my left labrum stitched up with nylon thread and then attached the thread to my bone with plastic anchors.  My femur bone was shaved down in order to make subsequent cartilage tears less likely.  I’m in a lot less pain then I thought I would be, and I’m already greatly reducing the pain pills I need to take.

                                                           Ahh, flowers from Grandma Mavis

When I left the hospital, the surgeon told my mom they see a lot of tears in people who grew up playing hockey and soccer.  Check and check.  Earlier a PT told me children who sat with their calves splayed out were more likely to get tears.  Check.  The surgeon also said I have a slightly shallow socket for my femur, making the tear more likely.  Check.  These facts, together with not being allowed to sprint in training the three years before joining the Beast team, makes a little more sense to me why I got in this predicament just from sprinting uphill.

I’m scared.  I took a big chance moving to Seattle and joining the Beasts.  I’m so glad I make the move, but I left behind a mostly comfortable situation, surrounded by an extremely supportive community and friends and family.  Because I hurt my hip and took so long to figure out the injury, I will have accomplished nothing over my one-year Brooks contract.  I will compete through 2016, and I know I can come back strong and be a contender at the next Olympic Trials, but Brooks has no obligation to resign me.  If they don’t, they may allow me to continue training with the team, but I’ll have to work a lot more than I do already.  If they want nothing to do with me, I could look for another group to take me on, and move again.  I could return to Minneapolis, but without the support of a training group.  None of these options are ideal, but there is not anything I can do at the moment to set myself up better except concentrate on recovering well.  So far, I’m doing just that by laying in bed and thinking too much.

                                               I got to see the Chihuly exhibit the day before surgery

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Next Up: Hip Surgery


My lackluster season finally makes sense.  I’ve been running with a torn labrum in my left hip since early November.   Now that I know the diagnosis, I remember how it happened: sprinting hills at practice for the first time.  I don’t know if it happened because it had been so long since my body had done an all-out sprint, or because my hip bones are shaped such that they are more likely to cause a tear (I tore my right labrum when I fell during cross country ski practice my junior year of high school).  But I remember thinking, “I tore something in my hip.” However, it didn’t hurt too badly, and I chalked it up to adjusting pains of a new training system.  As I continued to train, my body adjusted my stride to minimize the pain in my hip.  As a result, I felt a lot more acute pain in the muscles in my hip, hamstrings, and lower back, rather than the deep aching pain in my hip. 

As runners, and especially at a high-level, we need to be good at handling pain.  High pain tolerance and management is a great benefit for pushing your body in workouts and dealing with sore muscles and minor aches and pains, but becomes a detriment when you push through a more severe injury.  Now I’m kicking myself for not recognizing this as the kind of injury that I needed to figure out before I continued to fight through an entire year of racing.

I finally recognized my problem as most likely a labrum tear after a couple weeks into my running break.  My agitated muscles had enough time to settle down and stop hurting, but I continued to have pain deep inside my hip.  Now I’m facing another type of problem: trying to get my hip taken care of with high quality care and efficiency.  With the limited amount of money I make, I get insurance through Medicaid, and it had been a long, drawn out process to get the medical attention I need.  It has taken five weeks to meet with a doctor for permission of an MRI, take the MRI and then see a sports medicine doctor for permission to see a surgeon.  Now I am waiting two more weeks to meet with a surgeon, and who knows how long it will be until a surgery date.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thinking About Young Runners


This past weekend, Brooks hosted 135 of the most talented high school runners in the country for the PR Meet.  Everyone was blown away by the times the youngsters ran.  The winner of the girl’s one mile, Sarah Fenny, ran 4:39, my PR in college, and a time that auto-qualified me for the DI Indoor National Championships.  The rest of the field were not far behind.  Fans, coaches, my teammates, and I were all speculating about how this great leap in achievement has been possible, especially for high school girls.  And is it sustainable?  I think this article from Running Times does a great job talking about some of the reasons why high school girls are running so well: http://www.runnersworld.com/high-school-racing/why-are-these-teens-so-fast?cm_mmc=Twitter-_-RunningTimes-_-Content-HighSchool-_-FastTeens

As for sustainability, it will remain to be seen.  A lot of the runners I met this weekend seem to be in a good place; they have a healthy attitude towards training, resting, and eating.  They look strong, and, most importantly, they are having fun.  But, I worry the opportunities that are helping these girls run so fast, will also limit some of their long-term success.  High school running is starting to mirror the "professionalization of youth sports" seen in many other activities.  Professionalization of youth sport is characterized by year-round, intense training, frequent national and international competition, and a great emphasis placed on winning.  I experienced this professionalization in soccer, a sport I played year-round through my freshman year of college.  I met, and played with and against, some of the most talented players in the country.  Some of them burned out during high school, others while playing in college, and some had to give up soccer before they were ready due to severe, reoccurring injuries.  And some continued to love and flourish in the sport throughout and after their club and school careers.  I think soccer would have been sustainable for more of them (and for me) if professionalization hadn’t happened so early on. 

The risks of professionalism can be even greater for distance runners.  As the Runner’s World article discusses, one of the risks of focusing solely on distance running at a young age, particularly for young women, is the temptation to eat too little.  While there are advantages to having some weight to throw around in sports like soccer, hockey, and basketball, it may feel like a disadvantage for runners to carry “extra” weight around.

As runners who have made it through high school and college, and who are now flourishing on the elite level, my teammates and I were asked what advice we would pass along to the PR Meet runners.  This made me think of a blog post I recently read from fellow Minnesotan and Big 10 runner, Hanna Grinaker.  I like her post because she talks honestly about some of the easy pitfalls of competitive running, and she does it without being preachy.  You can under-eat, over-train, and ignore solid training advice and still achieve remarkable success in the short-term, but in order to be successful in the long-term, you have to be healthy and train with intelligence.  (http://www.fitgingersnap.com/2014/05/07/how-to-get-injured-in-5-easy-steps/):

How to get injured in 5 easy steps.

 

Heading into my 5th and final year as a Badger, my victory lap if you will, I had big goals. What other way do you wish to end your athletic career than by finishing at the top? To be considered one of the best? To feel like you have given everything you possibly could back to a program who has given you so much?

It all started in the summer of 2010. My spring track season had been less than stellar so through a few meetings with Coach and a lot of self-talk, I headed home to the northwoods of Detroit Lakes, MN to dedicate myself fully to my training. I wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t go out with friends. I wouldn’t have any fun. The point of that summer was to mold myself into the best athlete I had been up until that point. But, if you wanna make God laugh, tell him your plans….because the summer of 2010 and the start up to my last season as a Badger was anything but what I had hoped it would be.

I got injured. Badly. I got injured so bad I didn’t run a step for 8 months. I didn’t race for another two years. Wanna know how I did it? I made 5 HUGE mistakes in my training and the way I was treating my body. If you wanna get injured like I did, just follow these steps!


 

1. Under fuel.

The competitive nature and strong discipline that can help make a good athlete GREAT was also the biggest piece of the equation leading to my demise. Simply put, I didn’t eat enough. Not only was I not putting enough calories in my tank just to supplement the incredible amount of activity I was doing each day, I was not giving my body enough calories to promote proper recovery. Instead of building on a solid base each day, I was digging myself further into the ground. Slowly but surely, I came to discover that an underfueled athlete is a slowed and weakened athlete. If muscles lack sufficient and proper fuel, performance is impaired. And while at first there might just be some early fatigue, as the fuel deficit worsens, actual loss of strength and muscle size can occur as the body catabolizes skeletal muscle in order to fuel essential body functions. With that progressive loss of muscle, the bones are not well supported. I think the only way my body knew that it would get a break from the way I was treating it would be to literally break itself. In my last cross season as a Badger (2 weeks prior to the Big Ten Championships), I fractured my pubic ramus and tore my hip flexor away from the bone, thus sidelining myself from the sport for (what the doctor’s thought) would be an indefinite amount of time.

 

2. Overtrain.

Overtraining is such an arbitrary term and frankly, I hate it (and this is exactly what got me into trouble in the first place). Doing more for the sake of doing more was my first mistake. I looked at what my competitors were doing and had the belief that if I only ran more miles, and at higher intensities than they, I would naturally be better. But more time logged on the roads doesn’t doesn’t always equate to better performances, and this couldn’t have been more evident to me than on race day. I was one of those athletes that was a world-beater when it came to practice, but when race day arrived, I was so spent from training, I literally tanked when it counted most. I should’ve learned the value of QUALITY over QUANTITY. I should’ve realized that by doing what I’ve always done, I’d get where I’ve always gotten. I realize now that Hanna the athlete performs better on less miles. Yes, LESS is BEST.

 

3. Do not take rest days, or easy days, or anything but hard days.

This piece of the puzzle goes hand in hand with the second item on the list. In addition to doing too much, I also was working too hard. I thought that rest days were for wimps. I thought that when other athletes would take their rest days, I would gain an advantage because it was just one more day where I was working and they were not. BUTTTTT, we don’t actually get fitter when we’re on the road. What we really do in hard workouts is apply a stimulus that elevates our heart rate, breaks down muscle fibers, causes the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and generally tells our body that the status quo won’t cut it anymore. The “getting fitter” part – the body’s response to that stimulus -comes afterward. While you eat and rest, the body gets to work repairing tissue damage, strengthening the heart and other muscles, restoring depleted fuel reserves and getting better at transporting oxygen throughout the body, making itself a little more efficient and stronger than before. Then we go out and do it again. The resting part of the puzzle is what allows us to stack up those little adaptations one on top of the other so we progress in our training. Common sense, no? I agree, but I was a stupid athlete then.

 

4. Don’t listen to, or trust your coach.

Because I wasn’t seeing steady improvement throughout my career, I needed someone to blame. Obviously it wouldn’t, it COULDN’T, have been my fault. I was training like a dog. I did everything my coach asked of me. You know what the problem was? I was doing MORE than he asked of me. Coaches do what they do for a reason. Most of them have been athletes themselves (like my coach had been–and he was actually really good too), so they know what works and what doesn’t. They have that 20-20 hindsight vision that so many young athletes lack. But being the hard-headed, always-wanting-to-grind-it-out athlete that I was, I didn’t listen. And I paid for it.

 

5. Take everything you do very seriously and here is the key point: Make sure you are never having fun. 

I made running my sole identity. I made it a business. I made it out to be SO much more than it should be. I think we are most successful when we are happy, and when you take everything so gol dang seriously, how the heck can you be happy?

Are you pounding your head against the wall yet? I bet you think I’m an idiot. Well, yes, yes I was. But I’m a little older, a little wiser, and a whole lot cooler now.

I hope you’ve appreciated my “how-to” guide to getting injured, and for the love of all things Holy, please avoid making these mistakes yourself! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Backing Away From Burn Out

Have you ever felt so burnt out doing something you love, your body rebels and your mind aches to go through even the most minimal efforts required for that activity?  By the time I raced Pre at the end of May, I was getting dangerously close to running myself into this type of burn out.  There are several reasons for this, but none are an easy fix.  My hips hurt on every run, taking the joy out of the movement.  My form gets especially bad when I tried to run fast. My back arches and my knees circle out to compensate for my tight hips, and it's hard to create much power.  As much as I love a Seattle, my team, and the support I get from Brooks, it has been a harder transition I thought leaving Minneapolis.  I get homesick and miss the community I spent my life building.  On top of that, Danny's training, while exactly what I want, is a lot different than in the past, and it's taking my body a long time to catch up.
 
I know how long it can take to heal from full burn out because I've experienced it before.  By the end of college I never thought I would want to run competitively again.  Halfway through my third year of college, depression hit me hard. It took me a long time to get better, for many reasons, but I came back for my fifth fall of school ready to end my collegiate career with a bang.  Unfortunately, I got mono and had to finish competing that cross country season half asleep and having trouble breathing around my massive lymph nodes in my throat.  With two full years of having to force my body into over-racing while mentally and physically exhausted, all the joy was gone from running and especially competing.  

After racing Pre, I knew I was heading back into this black hole. I'm lucky to have a coach who understands how detrimental this could be.  Danny could have forced me to grind it out until nationals and beyond, but he knew it would hurt me long-term.  I know the consequences of racing poorly and having to stop early; my contract could not be renewed in January, I could be asked to leave the team, and I won't get the support and funding from USATF that I got this season.  But it's so much better than re-living my experience in college.  While it's scary not knowing how, exactly, I will support myself running through 2016, it's worth it to be able to do it right.  And it's worth checking in with myself to make sure I want to do it.
 
I'm taking a couple weeks off of my usual training to let my mind, my body, and my spirit recover.  If everything returns to full strength, I know I can be a contender to make the Olympics in 2016.  If not, I will be disappointed, but I will know I gave it my all while doing right by my health.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Surrounded by Success and Failing: Shanghai Diamond League Meet


Going into Shanghai:

                I was really ecstatic about getting into the Shanghai Diamond League meet earlier this year.  What an opportunity to race against some of the best steeple women while getting to see Asia for the first time!  I knew it would be a tough meet to perform well with travel being so long and the time change being so drastic.  I have a hard time racing a three days after getting to Europe, and that’s only a 7 hour difference.  But since it is a non-world championship year, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to practice running well under difficult circumstances.

                As the meet approached, I was not as enthused.  Everything has been a bit off for me since moving to Seattle.  I love the training, the coaching, and the team, but my body has not clicked.  My hips ache almost every time I run, which makes it hard to enjoy running on a daily basis, even if I’m in good company.  My workouts have not been going well, and I knew it would be difficult to be on my ‘A’ game at Shanghai. 

At Shanghai: 

                I left Seattle at noon on Wednesday, and took a direct 12 hour flight into Shanghai.  I landed on Thursday at 7:00 their time.  I love Diamond League meets because I do not have to be stressed out about any logistics once I land.  Once I got through customs, I was led by meet workers to customs.  Once I passed through customs, I was led by other meet workers to a car.  From the car, I was driven through the city to the hotel, which is attached to the stadium.  The driver showed me where to check in with more meet workers who prepared me for check in with the hotel.  I was discombobulated with the huge time change, but managed to get to my room, run on a treadmill with a Chinese soap opera playing on my personal tv, eat a mixed Asian/Western dinner, and get a massage.
                                                                                             Stadium and hotel

                The next day I ran through the neighborhood by the stadium.  I had a difficult time comprehending the amount of smog in the air.  I couldn’t really tell the difference between clouds and smog; the sky looked like a puffy gray blanket.  When I breathed in, it was usually a mixture of air pollution, car exhaust, and cigarette smoke.  There were high rises and swarms of people everywhere. 
                                               High rises in the neighborhood around the stadium

                Later in the day I decided to go exploring.  I took the subway to downtown Shanghai.  The subway was clean, air-conditioned, and easy to use (especially since all the signs were translated into English).  In the downtown area, I explored People’s Park, a quiet, relaxing green space, and People’s Square, a small concrete area with statues celebrating the common worker.  I went to a contemporary art museum, and looked around a couple department stores. 
                                                                       People's Park
View from People's Square.  I thought the giant George Clooney posture was an interesting sight next to the sculptures celebrating Communist values.
                                                        Artwork from Modern Art Museum
                                                                     Artwork from Modern Art Museum

                The rest of the weekend involved a lot of down time at the hotel, interrupted by eating with the other athletes.  The meet did a good job of trying to provide food everyone would enjoy, a difficult task when feeding people from around the world.  Breakfast involved pastries, congee, omelets, and a buffet of hot food ranging from sausages (which looked like little white hot dogs) to pancakes.  Lunch and dinner always involved a salad bar, lots of fresh fruit, a pasta bar, and a buffet of Chinese food and a take on Western food.  I usually stuck with fried rice, steamed asparagus, salad, and some type of Chinese-prepared protein. 

                The race was a huge disappointment.  I did not feel great warming up, and I performed even worse.   Granted, the conditions were not optimal.  We raced at 8:45 pm, long after I started getting sleep in the evenings.  Meet officials rounded us up half an hour early, but didn’t give us any room to continue warming up, or any hurdles to use once inside the holding room in the stadium.  A Chinese runner who entered the race with a 10:12 PR tried to get in the mix of the African pack, and ended up getting in my way a couple times over a water jump and barriers.  But, even with these less-than-ideal circumstances, I was very embarrassed by the time I ran.

Returning home:

                I’m trying to get a few things figured out with my body and mind, and I’m trying to decide if I will race at Pre.  I’ve been accepted into the field, but I don’t want to run if I’m going to be too far off my PR. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Runner Wisdom: Clerc Simpson

Because I am surrounded by so many knowledgeable and inspirational people, I decided I would start interviewing some of them in order to share their experiences. 

The first person I interviewed is Clerc Simpson.  Clerc ran Division I at Lamar University, a small liberal arts school in Beaumont Texas.  She ran well, and she continued to run post-collegiately under Juli Benson (Air Force Academy).  However, when Clerc and her college sweetheart, Ewan, decided to get married, Clerc had to find a job with a more stable income in order for Scottish Ewan to stay in the country.  Clerc took a Guru position with Brooks.  She is so friendly, organized, and passionate, she quickly rose through the ranks to be a Brooks sales rep in Minnesota (where I got to know her).  Clerc started running more seriously again, in spite of crazy, chaotic hours, and long days on the road.  Being a sales rep at Brooks is the type of job no one leaves.  Especially in the past few years as Brooks shoes have been taking over market share, and now are the best brand seller in specialty running shoe stores.

This past summer, Clerc had to make a tough decision.  She was offered the sales rep job for Brooks in Louisiana, her dream job since she grew up in, and her family still lives in, Louisiana.  However, she also knew she had unfinished business with elite running.  In the end, Clerc left Brooks, and their offer of her dream job, in order to see what she has left on the track.  She and Ewan moved to Colorado Springs in October, and, in spite of a couple injuries, Clerc is already killing it on the track.  And she has much more to do.

How did you know you wanted to return to professional running?
After moving to Minnesota for Brooks in 2011, I was blessed with getting to know so many wonderful ladies that inspired me and reminded me why I loved to train and compete: YOU- JAMIE CHEEVER, Elizabeth, Heather and Gabe. I started training again for “fun” on top of working a lot and began to feel the joy again in racing and training. I was grateful for PRS. I was grateful to race and I was grateful to run. I started to run better than I ever had with a perspective shift.
We all know things are smooth sailing when we are running well, so I waited until I had a bad race to see if this is truly something I want to do full time. I had that race and to be honest, it made me want this more. It was then that I knew and I made a phone call to Juli and asked her if she would coach me. She said yes and we moved back in October.

You were making a good salary as a Brooks sales rep. Why was it worth it to you to give up a secure financial situation for the financial insecurity of professional running.
I was once heard, that-  “If only” are the saddest two words in the English language. I want to live my life so that I don’t have to say these words. Running is a metaphor for life in so many ways and it is like my dad always says, “You don’t take money with you when you go. What you leave behind is the difference you make in other’s lives.” I hope to inspire young Louisiana kids to know that we can be successful distance runners as well and on a larger scope that it is never too late to follow your own arrow.
Leaving my career as a sales rep with Brooks was not an easy decision and one that I would have only done for the sake of this path. I really did love my job and the company. Lucky for me, I still get to wear that bright yellow singlet on the track.
 
How is your transition going so far this year? (From working full to part-time, moving, having Juli around)
The transition has went well so far this year with the move from Minnesota to Colorado Springs. Going from a challenging full time job to a part time job took some transitional time. I thrive on being very busy, but I am putting all of that extra energy into doing all the “little things.” Minnesota winters made me tougher and I now I have a whole new sense of what cold truly means, but this southern girl will take the more mild Colorado winters any day. I also enjoy the challenge of altitude and the awareness it imposes upon your senses.
 
Indoor season was my first season back. It went well overall and I was able to run a PB in the 3k and anytime you have run faster than you ever have before, it is only right to be thankful.
My coach, Juli Benson, is a rockstar- enough said. She is a coach, mentor, friend, and confidant all rolled in one. I feel blessed every day that I get to work with her. To top it off I have two great teammates, Violah Lagat and Chelsea Reilly, and I get to train at the Air Force Academy. The AFA cadets make us feel part of their team and training with them has a great way of putting life in perspective.
 
The trails in Colorado are to die for. It is impossible to have a bad day when you look up at the front range and Pike’s Peak in all its glory and majesty.
 
What are your goals for this year? You running career?
My ultimate goal is to line up in 2016 with a legitimate shot at making a US Olympic team. As for this year, my goal is to continue to improve at every aspect of this lifestyle and focus on the big picture. More specifically, I want to make a US final this summer and hopefully that will lead to some personal bests across the board. At the end of the day, I want to walk away knowing that I saw how good I could be and whatever that means, that is what I’ll take. J

What wisdom do you have to share with younger runners?
When I was 22 and moved to Colorado the first time around to train and pursue this opportunity, I made the critical mistake of not celebrating the PRs and successes as they were happening. I chose instead to focus on how fast EVERYONE ELSE was running and because of this I was not able to be happy with my own improvements and path. I was never able to appreciate running faster than ever before, because all I could see was that it was not the Olympic A standard or not as fast as other women.
 
My biggest advice would be to enjoy successes along the way. Enjoy every PR no matter how small it may seem. I think we get caught up in these huge lofty goals that we set for ourselves. We forget that there is a beautiful journey along the way that we get to experience. This journey allows us to become the best version of ourselves both on and off the track.

College PRs:
800- 2:11
1500/Mile- 4:23/4:41
3k - 9:32
5k- 17:15
 
Now:
800-2:08
1500/mile: 4:18/4:38
3k- 9:12
5k- 16:07

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kicking Off the Outdoor Season at Mt. Sac


I’m racing a 1500m this weekend at Mt. Sac.  The race should be a lot of fun – low pressure, quality field, and gorgeous California weather. Also, Brooks is sponsoring the event, and our sports marketing team put together an awesome athlete tent area filled with gold sunglasses, airbrush tattooing, and giant plastic cheetahs.  I can’t wait to get a few tattoos and tell my dad I got more real ones.

At the same time, I’m feeling pretty insecure going into this outdoor season.  I knew moving and changing programs would be a big transition for me, but I don’t think I understand how long it would take for me to adjust.  I really enjoy the city of Seattle, the team, and Brooks corporate, but it’s taking my mind longer than I thought to really come to terms with Seattle being home.  Even more discouraging for me is it seems to be taking my body a long time to catch up.  My hips are usually sore from trying to reincorporate speed and drills back into my routine.  I’ve had some pretty good workouts, but I don’t feel like I am smashing them, like I was at this time last year.  But, then again, I peaked last year at Payton Jordan, so perhaps it’s good I don’t feel like I’m on top of the world yet.  Either way, this was the year to take a chance and make a move, and I’m glad I did.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

OTC Steeplechase Workshop


This past weekend, I had the opportunity to fly to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California for a steeplechase performance workshop with my coach, Danny.  I was very excited to have the opportunity to work on my steepling technique.  I did not get a lot of technique help during college, or in my first three years as a professional athlete. 

I was not let down.  My Saturday started by meeting with Iain Hunter, a professor at BYU and bio-mechanist.  He had videotaped my steeple race at USA Outdoors and created a report showing how my take-off, hip height, and landing compared to the range they found to work well for the best American steeplechasers going over barriers.  After reviewing the report, he videotaped me going over hurdles and water jumps. 

                Next, I did a functional movement test with a doctor and physical therapist with St. Vincent’s.  They were able to pin point my biggest weakness in running, my lower back caving in when I get tired, after a few tests.  I was given few exercises to do every day in order to strengthen my back.

                I was then able to go over the videotape with Danny and Iain, and I got a few pointers about how to improve my form.  This was followed by a meeting with a nutritionist, a meeting with a sports psychologist, and a presentation by Iain to all the steeplechasers who attended (Amber Henry, De’Sean Turner, and Matt Cleaver).

                The next morning I was able to practice hurdling while trying to incorporate the suggested changes with Iain and Danny.

                I got to catch up with University of Minnesota track alumni, Liz Podomonick, who made the world team in the discus last year, and moved into the training center this fall.  She has a great set-up – healthy prepared food always available, beautiful weather, easily accessible training centers, and in-house coach, medical services, massage therapy, nutritionist, and sports psychologist.  The hardest part for her, and everyone else, I’m sure, is going back to dormitory style living.  She has to share a small room with another athlete, which is difficult returning to in your late 20’s!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Title IX Conversation


With the U.S. 15k championships happening a couple week ago, I was reminded of my experience there last year.  Surprisingly, it isn’t the grueling miles of the race nor the hospitality of the elite race coordinator, Richard Fanin, which stand out in my mind.  Rather it is a conversation I had with the honored speaker and guest of the weekend, Craig Virgin.

It all started when I was eating breakfast the day before the race, and Craig sat down at the table.  After a few pleasantries, Craig decided that making disparaging comments about Title IX would be the next logical step in a conversation with two female professional runners and their male friend.  Craig said something along the lines of "not being able to believe that Title IX was still a law," and being disgusted by "the crazy old women who made sure no one touched the legislation."  

 I tried to keep my composure as I told him he should be more aware of his audience because without Title IX and the "crazy old women" who make sure it stays intact, my friend and I would not be at this race."  
Craig went on to tell me, “of course he supports women's athletics! He has a twelve year-old daughter, for goodness sakes! And she runs! But, it's not fair women's running has 18 full scholarships at the Division I level compared to 12 full scholarships on the men's side.”  

 "No," I replied, "of course that's not fair if you just look at those numbers. But it's not fair men have 80 full football scholarships to women's zero football scholarships."  
“But we can't take away from the money sports! No!  That's not an option!” Craig slung back.  

“Most college football programs don't make a profit, and why do they need 80 scholarships and 120+ players in their roster when NFL teams operate with rosters half that size?” I asked. It was about this time Richard sensed trouble was afoot and stepped in to make jokes.

I understand Title IX is a touchy subject.  In a sport where talented athletes are often under-funded, it is hard not to get angry that female teams have more access to scholarships.  If you want the same number of scholarships, work for a change in how funding is distributed.  I love my male runners, and I want them to have every chance at succeeding as student-athletes as I do.  But, you need to look at the bigger picture, and that should not take resources away from women, who are still only funded one dollar for every two dollars spent on men’s collegiate athletics.  It is 2014, and the concept of Title IX, that women should have equal funding in federally funded programs, should no longer be controversial. 
Most importantly, I'd never have been on a large poster if it weren't for Title IX.




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Albuequerque by the Numbers


12 Beasts and 1 Coach,

Living at 6,800 feet above sea level,

In a 4,500 square foot house

With 5 bedrooms

1 microwave, 1 stove, 1 refrigerator.

1 flooded basement, and

1 porch overlooking the city of Albuquerque.

49 days away from Seattle.

3 days of freezing cold in Iowa, and

46 days of amazing sunshine in Albuquerque.

4 cases of the flu (a.k.a. The Plague), and 2 cases of Bronchitis.

Thus far, 15 group dinners made,

3000 paintballs shot,

$600 won at the Sandia Casino,

1 wedding in San Diego for Angela Bizzari.

And countless naps, Epson salt baths, movies,

Games, arguments, and, of course, good times.