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.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Baseball Could Teach Track a Little Something

Last week, I went to a baseball game (Mariners, DUH, because I root root root for the home team). I don’t even like baseball, and I still paid $7 to sit in the nosebleeds and cheer. As I sat eating my hotdog and getting the scoop on the latest baseball gossip from my baseball guru friend, Karl, I was thinking about why baseball is so successful and why track is so “boring.”

I came up with a few ideas.

   1.     Baseball is a team sport. It is a lot easier to get behind a team than it is a player. Year after year, star players come and go, but the team doesn’t change. As an I-only-go-for-the-hotdogs fan, keeping up with star players sounds like a lot like work. But I can always have my team: The Mariners. And I can root for them with knowing almost nothing about baseball.

   2.     EVERYONE played baseball. It’s the thing to do.  Go play catch with your dad in the front yard to get ready for the Saturday game. At the game parents would obnoxiously cheer from the sidelines (side note: dad did less “cheering” and more “PHE! Quit picking the flowers in outfield!” He was also shirtless). And then afterwards you’d grill out at the local park and reminisce about that time you hit a line drive straight out of the park to secure your team as the 8-9 year olds Division II Town Champions.

   3.     Food is involved. I don’t know about you, but when I hear baseball, I think Food. Not just any food, but the best food: Hotdogs, Ice cream, Pretzels, Peanuts, and Beer.

   4.     Singing is encouraged. That Peanuts and Cracker Jacks song, Hey batter batter batter SWING, and general heckling of the batter. Everyone likes cheering.

   5.     Jumbo Tron. Everyone’s life goal is to take a selfie of themselves taking a selfie on the jumbo tron. This goal cannot be achieved without said jumbo tron. I squeal with excitement just thinking about me being out there for the rest of the Mariner’s fans to see.
   6.     Gimicks. There is no downtime in baseball, just time for weird games with the audience. Spinny bat races are always a crowd pleaser. And everyone goes gaga for a free T-shirt, regardless of the size or aesthetics.

   7.     Baseball Caps. This marketing ploy is brilliant. It’s simple, useful, classy, and says: I’m-a-for-real-fan-because-I-spent-money-on-apparel. Plus you can collect them if you don’t show monogamous loyalty to one team.

How do we apply this to track? Track is more constant entertainment than baseball. Horseracing and Nascar are wildly popular. It is not the fundamentals of the sport, is the sporting event itself that is the real problem.

   1.     Make teams. Elite track and field should have teams. These teams should have a home stadium where half of their meets are held. This team should have a color and mascot that doesn’t change. Simple is better for the non-runner-nerd fans. We are starting to see teams forming with the Nike Oregon Project, The Bowerman Athletic Club, and The Brooks Beasts—these teams just need some hype and identity.

   2.      Everyone runs track. But it doesn’t have that nostalgia feeling because youth track meets are a nightmare. I love track, but I would rather pull out my hair than sit through a 6 hour disorganized shit show of 1000 heats of the 100m. Make youth track the enjoyable thing families do on Saturdays.

   3.     Get food involved. Everyone loves an excuse to eat food and drink beer. Just like hotdogs and baseball are a happy marriage, track needs a hand held food to claim. And, no, a Kale chicken wrap, does not cut it.

   4.     We need track cheers! Like the “Whoop! Whoop!” but more of them.

   5.     Jumbo Tron. There should be a jumbo tron in every major stadium, and fans should be on it. Plus I’ve heard kissing-cams are excellent relationship starters.

   6.     Gimicks. Winners should give out T-shirts. Why isn’t there a MPH radar detector on the track? And the crowd should be allowed to try to run top speed past the radar detector, so they can test their skills against the pros. And a Granny shot put toss—where you have to throw a shot put granny style--sounds fun.

   7.     Apparel. Accessories seem to be more successful, but hats and scarves are taken. We may have to settle for singlets.

   8.     Road Races. With increasing participation in road races, we should capitalize on this. Every meet should start with a general public road race. Winners of each age group (plus friends) get to cheer from the infield.

Lastly, like all sporting events, it should only last at most 2 hours. It should not be amateur hour out there.

I just want everyone to love track like I do.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Running Bad ≠ Bad Runner

The number one question I get asked is: Have you been to the Olympics?!
What they are actually asking is, “How good are you, really? Professional huh?”

I sometimes say, “I was in the Olympic…(trials)” Just so they can understand that I compete on that level. But that’s when I am on an airplane and want no words, just sleep.

Other times I go into the whole spiel:
“Well. They determine the Olympic team by having a race a month before the Olympics. Top 3 go. Except this is way overly simplified, and there are 100 other stipulations that go along with this—One time a coin toss was involved.”

And they say, “Oh! What place were you?!”
And I say, “5th by less than an arms reach to 3rd” as I choke back some tears and feel my heart shatter.

Then I get the “Oh my gosh! Were you heart broken!?”
I immediately think: Look lady, I just spent the better half of my life preparing for those 2 minutes. Of course I was heart broken. 

But this got me to thinking. Why does not racing how you want hurt so bad?
How do I describe this kind of pain to a non-runner?

As a professional runner, your life is consumed by it. You live it, breath it, want it. It is a 24/7 job. It is a kick ass job, mind you, but it is still constant. It becomes a part of your identity. I am Phoebe, a professional runner.

The problem is when you make results synonymous with your self worth. Or when you can’t separate the job from the being. I like to think I have a great perspective on this, and I still struggle with it sometimes.

So here’s what running bad makes you feel like. I know that it is ridiculous to feel this way. It’s kind of like when you haven’t eaten in 4 hours and you stub your toe and you immediately get mad at the table that made you stub your toe? And then you realize that being angry at the table is stupid? It’s like that. This is the initial feeling of running bad before you talk yourself back into reality.

Point blank: running shitty makes you feel like a shitty person. In most things in life, the harder you try and the more you work, the better the result. Running sometimes works like this and other times it doesn’t. (Luckily these bad times are just sometimes, and if you wait long enough, and keep grinding, it eventually flips to your favor.)

When it is not going your way, you feel like it’s your fault. You feel guilty that you aren’t your best. You feel like you are lazy. Or not trying hard enough. And you have quantifiable data to show exactly how lazy you are. Right now I’m 4 seconds lazy because I am 4 seconds off where I want to be. It’s like the results are reflective of your intrinsic being or something. And that a bad result is going to expose your secret personality flaws.

You feel embarrassed. Because you are obsessing about those 4 seconds that prove to yourself that you are lazy, you assume that the entire running world is also coming to that conclusion. Everyone on Earth who cares about track now knows that you must be lazy. (Realistically though, no one is even noticing.)

You feel the need to justify to yourself and others why you are running slow. You're mind has completely glitched. 

You feel like you aren’t worthy of your sponsor. What are they paying you for? To not win? I don’t think so.

If you do happen to feel like this, here is my advice:
1.     Remember: IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. It’s just running.
2.     Expectations (especially your own)--Throw them away. They are only holding you back.
3.     Have regular people (not professional runners) as friends (DON’T WORRY, I have some slow friends you can borrow if you need some)
4.     Every runner has felt this way. If they say they haven’t, they are probably lying. Or haven’t had a set back. Yet.
5.     Don’t get discouraged. If you keep working, be patient, and stay committed to improvement, you will get there. The laws of probability say so.
6.     Your feelings are justified. Failure hurts, but it makes success oh so sweet.