Thursday, January 23, 2014

How do I get into the Olympic Training Center?


The Olympic Training Center would be a wonderful resource for me and my teammates, but how do we get in?

I remember being a tourist at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as a kid on family vacation.  I was awed by the facilities, the fact that the people who lived there got to play sports all day, and my proximity to many current and future Olympians.  As an aspiring professional hockey or soccer player, I wondered if my athletic pursuits would ever bring me to the OTC. 

Flash forward to this past summer, when I was searching for a new training set-up.  One situation I considered was running with Juli Benson, coach at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  I loved Juli, I felt free on the mountain trails, and my body clamored for the desert climate.  Since Juli doesn’t have a formal professional training group, the largest obstacle to moving to Colorado Springs would be figuring out the financial side.  How would I pay for training and racing expenses, such as flying to races, on top of daily living expenses?  Juli said the Olympic Training Center should be a good resource for me, especially since I had run the world ‘A’ standard in the steeplechase and had the 12th-fastest time in the world that year.  As she spoke of dorms, food, weightlifting coaches, massage therapy, in-house doctors and chiropractors, the possibility of moving to Colorado became much more realistic (The OTC Athlete web page has not been updated since 2011, but this link is where resources are supposed to be listed: http://www.teamusa.org/For-Athletes/Olympic-Training-Centers-and-Sites/Colorado-Springs/Athlete-Services-and-Life-Skills).  I sent a message to USATF to ask about the application process, either for the fall or for 2014.  I didn’t hear back, so I wrote again.  This time I was told I could pay $17/day to use the weight-lifting room at the OTC.  I was disappointed, since I thought this resource was intended to support emerging athletes like me, especially those with limited financial backing.  I ended up accepting a great opportunity with the Brooks Beast Track Club, so I let OTC questions go.

Jump in time to this past fall.  My coach, Danny Mackey, was trying very hard to figure out how he could coordinate an altitude training stint for the team this coming February and March.  Brooks is being very generous with our team budget, but it is very expensive to fly a team to a training location and lodge it  for two months.  Danny figured that an excellent way to provide altitude training for the team would be to stay at the Olympic Training Center.  Three people on our team should have been able to stay for free, since we had run world ‘A’ standards this past year, another three or four should have been able to stay for free under ‘emerging elite’ status, and the team could have paid the daily rate for the other team members.  I’ve had many friends stay at the center, and I was excited to see who else would be there in the late winter and to train in Colorado.  Danny asked for permission to bring our team, waited, asked again, waited, asked again, waited, and finally got the answer that, no all of us were denied funding. 

I’m confused about how to access these resources.  My teammates and I seem like exactly the type of athlete the OTC is built to support.  We are some of the best athletes in our events in the United States; few of us have made a World or Olympic team yet, but we are very well capable of doing so.  The USATF web site makes it sound like the OTC is a major part of its athlete development program and that it is available to elite athletes (http://www.usatf.org/groups/HighPerformance/AthleteDevelopment/OlympicTrainingCenters.asp).  It would be one thing if the training center was full with other qualified athletes, but I have heard there is plenty of space, and other training groups have stayed there in the past.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Transition to Seattle

Seattle; the Emerald City.  A.K.A. the “Queen City,” “The 206,” “The City of Goodwill,” and the “Rain City.”  When people ask how Seattle compares to home, I tell them, “It’s a similar feel to Minneapolis, but denser and with better weather.”  And then I made a list of what I like and don’t like about Seattle, because, as my strengths-finder questionnaire found, I am an “Achiever,” and I like making lists.

Pros:

·         The Team:  It’s pretty rare to have a distance training group where everyone is down-to-earth, free of drama, healthy eaters, and bring a positive presence to work-outs.  I’ve been so lucky in my professional career, in that I’ve had two situations where this is the case: Team USA Minnesota, and now Brooks Beast Track Club. 
 

·         The Coach: Danny.  I was worried about his age (he’s much younger than most of the professional coaches) and he’s married to Katie (which could potentially make team dynamics weird), but he is the best.  He knows his training theory and kinesiology, and he is constantly reading anything he can get his hands on to learn more.  Anything he is not an expert in, he asks for help with from his friends and experts in the field.  Danny wants to be there for everything we do so he can observe, correct, and get feedback from us.  He explains his reasoning behind everything he assigns to us, and if we forget, he tells us again.  I appreciate that Danny is open to answering questions from his athletes. On top of everything, he is super fun to hang out with. 

·         The Weather: Sure, it can rain, and freezing rain during a work-out isn’t ideal, but Seattleites were going nuts when it got down to 30 degrees before I left for Minneapolis over the holidays.  One woman I met told me she had the warmest winter jacket ever, and I was like, “umm, I have a Patagonia down jacket that goes down to mid-shin and has a hood.  And I left it in Minnesota because it doesn’t get cold here (I know people from Alaska are thinking about their triple down jackets that encapsulate their whole bodies).”  After running through snow storms in high school and especially college, I think 30 degrees as a low is pretty darn tropical.  I can handle the rain over crazy Minnesota winters any day.

·         Brooks Headquarters: I didn’t realize what an asset it would be to live by the headquarters.  I really enjoy knowing the people we work with at the corporate office, being able to give feedback about product, and getting free lunch when we run from the office.  Anyone who know me, knows I am especially pumped about the free lunches. 

·         Roommate: When decided to move out to Seattle to join the team, everyone had either found housing already or had a significant other they were moving with.  I thought I would have to take a gamble with Craig’s List, but John Holton, who ran the 400m at Minnesota, ended up moving out here a few weeks before I did, and needed a roommate.  He is a cool guy, understands crazy runners, and makes some delicious deserts.

·         Music: Seattle has a long history of developing prominent artists.  Ray Charles’ early career developed here, Jimi Hendrix was born here, and Seattle is home to grunge and some it’s most famous musicians: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains.  Most recently, Seattle has been the residence of talented hip-hop artists Grieves and Macklemore.  I can’t wait to explore more.

 

Cons:

·         Biking: I imagined metropolitan areas of the Northwest as utopias for biking as transportation.  Not the case in Seattle.  Since the city is so dense, hilly, and has a complicated road infrastructure from being build next to water, there are some places where there is no shoulder.  Biking to and from my house is scary because I have to go through a couple busy intersections with no shoulder.  On my way home, I’m always pedaling as fast as I can up the hill, but I’m still usually holding up traffic for a couple minutes. 

·         UW Facilites: I was probably spoiled by being able to easily access the University of Minnesota indoor and outdoor track with my Team USA Minnesota teammates, but it was an awesome situation for everyone.  My teammates and I got to use the space and keep up with the University of Minnesota athletes, while they got to see what life was like for us as professional athletes.  Unfortunately, that same relationship is not in place here, so we aren’t able to use the facilities.  Bummer.

·         Volunteering: I love that so many Seattelites are excited about volunteering, but I haven’t been able to start working with a sexual violence center yet.  I’ve loved staying connected to social work and social justice through volunteering while being a professional athlete, but I am having a hard time getting plugged in here.

·         It’s just not home: I miss my friends, family, and pug!