Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Most Professional Professional

When I was a wee young collegiate athlete, I dreamt of being a professional athlete. “I’m going to be the most professional professional.” I thought. “I will be pretty much be running like a marathoner, lifting like a running back, swimming like Michael Phelps, and recovering like (Insert something that recovers thoroughly),” I thought.  Which, I obviously didn’t think this through properly, as that would have resulted in a deformed human with thunder thighs, overdeveloped traps, skinny calves, and the energy of a koala bear. Regardless, without school in the way, I knew I have time to do everything right, and therefore, was going to do everything right. And therefore, was going to break the American Record.

But that’s not how it has turned out so far. This got me to thinking: is college running better for a running career than professional running?

In a lot of ways, for a lot of people, Yes, it is.

Why some people do better in the collegiate system:

      1.     Some bodies physically are suited for the sport of college running opposed to professional running. I know what you are thinking, “But, Phoebe, that’s just stupid because they are the same sport.” Wrong, my friend! In collegiate running you have to be at 90% for 9 months. A lot of people cannot physically handle this. In professional running you have to be at 100% for 3 months. Not only that, you have to peak very well because the competition is much deeper in the professional field. These are very different in terms of training. Different athletes do better in each system. I call it the Tim Tebow Theory. The same sport at a different level is a different sport. 

      2.     You have a team! Yes, I know, I have a great team now, but when I line up, no part of my result affects my team. This is very relieving to some people. But other people (me included) thrive on that pressure. It’s like your chance to be the one who catches the winning touchdown pass (or what I imagine this is like, as I have only touched a football once, and it was embarrassing. So it’s probably more like being the one to open that jelly jar that no one could open.) Being the hero is fun. Cheering on your teammates while they become the hero is even more fun.

Plus being in the trenches all working toward something—like gagging the Gator Chomp, or eating Pig Sooie for breakfast—just makes y’all feel like bad asses.
      3.     You don’t have distractions. Well, to be more exact, you don’t have a social life. If running is M. Night Shyamalan movie, a social life is the spoiler. Your social life? It mostly will consist of passing out with your backpack on. Sleep > Party.  And that’s why practice becomes your social life, and therefore, the most enjoyable part of your day. And every once and a while you’ll get “wild.” Remember those high school days where a night out meant Ice cream and charades and going to bed at 9:30? That’s what “wild” is as a collegiate athlete. Sometimes you get so wild that laser tag is involved. And it’s awesome.

      4.      Working hard becomes the norm: You wake up, workout, learn, workout, eat, and sleep. That’s it. You just handle it all without thinking because you have no other choice. Plus, if you don’t handle it, your coach will call your parents, threaten your scholarship, and make the team do bear crawls while you watch from your wall sitting chair position. And then no one on your team will like you. What I’m saying is: don’t skip practice.

      5.      You blindly follow the successful elders. When I entered into college I was the slowest by 30 seconds in the mile. This meant that I could have a 20 second PR, and I’d still be the slowest on the team by a significant margin. So where a 5:00 min mile would technically be “fast,” it wasn’t fast anymore. 4:45 was the new fast. This seems crazy to have a 5:16 miler walking around getting all bent out of shape not running 4:45 at the local dual meet, but that blind ignorance is the best performance enhancer. One time I watched Sarah Bowman Brown run 4:40 at the end of mile repeats. I thought, “Well, she ran a bunch of miles at sub 5 min pace. I can probably at least run one.”  (I even used the fact that both of us have quite large calves as biomechanical proof as to why I could run a 30 second PR). I thought this because I was probably an idiot freshman. You have to believe it before you do it. And sometimes, to believe it, you have to have no clue that human limits are even a thing.

The problem with being a professional, is you are elder. You have no one that totally revamps your idea of “fast.” Your ignorance is gone, and your limits are in plain sight. The question is: how do you become stupider?
By going back to the college ways, probably.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Runner Types!

It seems to me there are 2 types of runners (Well. This isn’t really true, but let’s face it, playing which-group-of-people-is-my-group-of-people is fun.): 
1. Those who find stress stressful 
2. Those who find boredom stressful

1. THOSE WHO FIND STRESS STRESSFUL.  (We can call these people “TWFSS” for short). These are the Cat-runner personalities

     Traits of TWFSS group:
They value relaxing.

These are the people that work hard so they don’t have to work hard. An ideal vacation would be lying on a beach sipping Pina coladas and not getting caught in the rain. 
Imagine them as cheetahs. Cheetahs laze around until it’s time to work. And then they run faster than any creature in the entire world, catch some grub, eat it, and veg out trying to stay stress free until the next mealtime.

They are loads of fun unless they are overwhelmed.

Perks of being TWFSS
These people are usually laid back. They get through life using what I have just-now-this-second coined the “punctuated productivity method.” They are stressed, work hard to fix it, usually get overwhelmed while trying to fix it, and then return to a long period of homeostasis (Which consists of Netflix and nap-nap time, mostly.)

Common Problems of TWFSS:
They get overwhelmed at the small tasks. Especially if said tasks that cut into Netflix and nap-nap time. Those tasks are interfering with the job of being a professional runner! They do not compartmentalize their stress easily and let it affect their running.

Advice for the TWFSS:
Try not to let those unexpected problems throw off your mojo.
Compartmentalize some of that stress—don’t let it affect your workout!
Don’t overcommit to activities.

2. THOSE WHO FIND BOREDOM STRESSFUL. (TWFBS). These are the Dog runner personalities. 

Traits of TWFBS:
These people are the ones who go backpacking as a “vacation.”

I imagine these runners as Australian Shepherds (dog).  I was watching my friends Shepherd. It did this weird thing where it just did laps around the coffee table. I thought it was having some type of meltdown. Or a short circuiting of the brain and was stuck running in circles in my living room for the rest of its life. I called friend to apologize for breaking her dog. Apparently this is “normal” for the dog when it gets bored, and I was to give the dog tasks. That way the dog wouldn’t get stressed out from the boredom. 

Perks of TWFBS:
These are your go-getters.

They are intense, insanely hard to get a hold of, and may be viewed as “space cadets” since they are bouncing around from idea to idea.

If these people were a workout, they’d be 20x400 at mile race pace with 1 min recovery. (Meaning: They go hard, they don’t stop, and they don’t seem to notice how tiring the workout is).

Common Problems of the TWFBS:
If they do not find ways to be productive, they self-destruct. They will create problems just to fix them.

Advice for the TWFBS:
SCHOOL! And/or a career outside of your life as a professional runner!

It may seem like you are not taking your running career seriously if you have “distractions” like school…but sometimes distractions create balance.

And that’s why going to Pharmacy School is the best decision I could have made for my running career. I am that Australian shepherd (figuratively, not literally. I don't do laps around my coffee table).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Will You Be My Training Group?


I get this a lot question a lot. And considering I just make serious life decisions all willy nilly and this has seemed to work out, I think this makes me an expert in helping you make life changing decisions!

Answer these simple questions. And don’t answer them with how you want to be, answer them with how you actually are.  For example, I want to enjoy really deep movies, but I don’t. I enjoy those crappy, superficial, mind numbing movies. Like 28 weeks later. And this is embarrassing for me when people are all like: Hey Phoebe. What did you think about the character development in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? And I have to say: Well. I fell asleep for the middle hour and a half. And then turned on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
But I know this, and have accepted it, and now excuse myself from any super deep movies. Especially ones with subtitles.

    1.     Do you want a training partners?
Really think about this! There are serious perks to training solo. You get a guaranteed individualized training plan. You can tailor workouts to how you feel. You get one-on-one time with a coach. You don’t have to worry about your ego being destroyed on days you don’t feel well.  If this is you, that’s great! You want to choose a team that lacks people in your event specialty.

Personally I find that being on a team is awesome. Mostly because I am an emotional basketcase solo. I can make a 6 minute mile feel hard without people to witness said mile. I need bodies around me to keep me relaxed. Not only that, but who the heck would I talk to during the day if I didn’t have teammates? I’d probably be at home, alone, discussing religion and politics with my dog.  If this is you, that’s great! You want to choose a team where there are other people with your stats or stats slightly better than yours.

    2.     Do you jive with the team?
There are two times in your life where you get to choose your family. The first: Marriage. The second: Your team. Could you spend weeks with them talking about your deepest secrets in between games of Charades? These people become your lifelong friends. Most college kids have college friends. And then the college friends turn into college memories. In running, these college friends turn into your adult friends. The type of adult friends that you tell your deep dark secrets to in between games of charades.

    3.     Do you jive with the coach?
Your coach not only is going to (hopefully) make you ridiculously fast, but they are going to be with you as you grow up. Running exposes all your personality weaknesses. It forces you to be patient--mostly by being incredibly frustrating at times. It forces you to let go of that intense ego of yours. You coach is your personal cheerleader and advisor during this process.
Also, coaches see it all. So you have to be comfortable enough to have really embarrassing and/or hard conversations with them. Like, “Hey coach. I am having explosive diarrhea, and need to miss today’s practice.” Or “Hey coach. I got mad at Sally, and punched her in the face in my emotional rage.” They see you at your best and worst. So make sure it’s someone you are okay with doing that.

    4.     Do you believe in the training system?
Hey! If you believe doing 1000 pushups is the key to success and your coach thinks that doing one pushup would lead to your demise as a runner, you should probably reconsider that plan. 

    5.     The environment.
Most of the environment is dictated by your coach and training partners. But the other part of the environment, i.e. the trails, the track, the facilities, the training room, the city, and the weather, should be taken into consideration. Do you hate cold winters and treadmills? Minnesota might not be your jam. Do you have one of those bodies that in hot humid climates shrivel in dehydration while you run geriatric pace? Florida will probably be your mortal enemy.

Quick list of questions to ask on a recruiting visit!

1.     Where do you run?
2.     What is a typical day like?
3.     Are a lot of people on your team injured? If "yes" ßRED FLAG
4.     Do you hang out a lot outside of practice?
5.     Do you train together as a team?
6.     Do you get along with your coach? If the majority says “no”, ßRED FLAG
7.     What are the coach’s training philosophies?
8.     Why do you think I would be a good addition to this team?
9.     How bad is the winter/summer?
10. What are your interests outside of running?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Pick a Karaoke Song!

This seems unrelated to professional running. But it’s not because professional runners love karaoke. Plus, we are almost good at it.

The key to karaoke: Picking a good song.
I, personally, have a knack for picking the WORST songs. And therefore, I am an expert on knowing how not to pick a song. And therefore, because of the transitive property, I am an expert on how to pick a good karaoke song.

Common Pitfalls:

      1.     Know your song! Not just know part of it. Or just know it when it comes on the radio. Be able to sing it a cappella right now this second. Related note: Know the version of the song you are singing. Just because you know all the words to Gin and Juice because of that Gourd’s cover does not mean you can do a good Snoop Dog impression.

      2.     No instrumental breaks! There is nothing more terrifying than rocking out during a karaoke performance and looking up to your lifeline teleprompter, and it says “50 bar instrumental break” Interpretive dancing usually does not go over well. Example: "Dust in the Wind" Kansas

      3.     Female pop groups should be avoided. I too, love reminiscing about the days where we would get together and perform Wannabe for my Beanie Babies. “AND I KNOW all of the rap part by Scary Spice!” I would chime in. These memories are best left as memories. I don’t care how good of a Ginger Spice you are, 5 overly excited girls together singing Spice Girls sounds like a bunch of screaming chickens.

      4.     Alanis Morrisette should be avoided. She sings off key. You singing off key trying to imitate Alanis Morrisette singing off key sounds like you are on stage whining about your really bad cold. The same can be said for Katy Perry.

     5.     Michael Jackson warning. I get it. I love every song that has ever come out of MJ’s mouth. The problem: almost all Michael songs have a 2 minute segment consisting exclusively of “yeah!”s. And every MJ song come with an intense urge to dance like MJ. Newsflash. No one can dance like MJ except MJ. If you don’t believe me, film yourself dancing and watch it. You will be shocked at the difference between what you think you look like and what you actually look like. While background music can hide bad singing, it can’t drown out those bad dance skillz. That being said, I have seen a few good MJ performances. Usually by a man who clearly spent too much time practicing in the mirror.

      6.     “One Week” warning. You don’t know the words to Bare Naked Ladies “One Week.” Don’t try it.

     7.     Don’t pick YOUR favorite song. Just because it’s YOUR favorite, does not mean it is everyone else’s favorite. I’m looking at you, Arcade Fire fanatics.

      8.     Don’t Stop Believin” must be timed perfectly. Think of it as the Queen of Spades in the game of Hearts. The queen secures victory if played perfectly. If mistimed, it will bite you. This is the song that should be sung and only be sung just before everyone gets too drunk to function as normal human beings. This is a trump song and guarantees success as long as it is not sung too early or too late. Everyone F’in loves Journey! If you are the second person to sing it during the night, you are a bad person and should be banned from karaoke.

Things that guarantee success:

      1.     Songs with a range of less than half an octave. These will make you sound like a profesh singer, no matter how bad you are. Everyone can sing Jingle Bells. Example: “Sweet Caroline” Neil Diamond
      2.     Songs the audience will sing along. Even the worst singer in church gets drowned out by the masses. The same is true for karaoke. Crowd participation covers up bad vocals! Example: “Country Roads” John Denver
     3.     One hit wonders are usually gold mines.  Example: “Africa” Toto
     4.     The songs of the 80s were written for karaoke. They are easy to sing, promote crowd participation, are upbeat, and unite a group of drunk people like no other. Example: The Cure, Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper.
      5.     Oldies are crowd pleasers. They don’t start the party quite like the 80s ditties, but everyone can sing along to a good ole Beatles jam.

Weird tips!

    1.     Don’t scream in the mic. We can hear you fine.
    2.     The less people the better. You know what they say: 3’s a crowd.    
    3.     Practice Practice Practice. In the mirror. In the shower. With a video camera. In the car. Really have no shame here.