Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sucking Air

          Last week Seattle got a snow storm and the city pretty much shut down. Which was fine for me, instead of going into work at 5:15am on Wednesday I went in at 7a.m. Although I grew up in Montana the first time I have ever experienced a snow day is while living in Seattle. If you YouTube videos about Seattle drivers you will find a great deal of them making fun of Seattle drivers in the snow. It is quite comical but is not all their fault. The roads are usually not plowed, salted, or sanded and the streets are narrow and the hills are steep, add to that people without four or all wheel drive and a very limited experience in the snow and you get quite the fiasco. During that snow storm I had to take Levi to the Airport for Reno Pole Vault Summit and I discovered driving in the snow is like riding a bike and I had plenty of experience living in Montana and Idaho so it was an uneventful trip. It was actually nice since there was hardly any traffic on the roads. I dropped him off Wednesday night and was disappointed I wouldn’t be going to support him but as it turns out it was probably for the best seeing that the next day I woke up with a bad cold. I wasn’t scheduled for work until Monday since I was originally supposed to be in Reno so was able to get a lot of rest.
          It started off as an annoying sore throat and then turned into a head cold and settled into my upper respiratory tract by Sunday. I managed to get my workout in Friday but noticed I was breathing like I was at altitude and my muscles were burning by the end. On Sunday I was supposed to do a long run. I noticed easy running didn’t really bother me but my coach insisted that I take a day off and so I missed my long run. 
          Why is it so hard for distance runners to take a day off? Logically I knew it was not going to hurt my fitness, in fact, it would probably help me recover from my cold sooner but I still questioned it. I have been getting a lot better at listening to my body and my coach but old habits die hard so my first instinct was to revert to the “old” Lois and question this whole day off thing. It is good I have such a supportive network of friends and family because they always give me the right advice. When I am forced to take an unexpected day off I end up calling my dad, or talking to my husband or other family members for advice and they are always there to keep me sane. So I enjoyed my day off and got a lot done around the house.
          I have a race coming up Saturday so this whole being sick thing has also messed with my head a little bit but so on Tuesday I went to the indoor track to do a light workout, just some 1000s and 400s. I hit every pace I needed and was under pace for most. My breathing was a little more labored but the strangest thing? My calves were very sore. I hadn’t done anything to get them that sore before a workout and I am betting it is due to being sick and dehydrated I am sure. It just goes to show how much harder your body has to work when it is sick so it is always best to let it rest.
          I will be taking it easy the next few days before I race the mile at the UW Invitational this Saturday. The nice thing is I already have my mark for USA’s so I do not have to run for any time. I am just racing to race and get sharper. The way I look at this whole cold thing is it is training me for USATF Indoor Nationals that will be held in Albuquerque, NM, at altitude. I will be sucking air there just like I am with this cold right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Identity

            Every athlete is unique, track athletes, some may argue, are especially so. In this sport we have a wide array of athletes ranging from ones who simply love to run long distances (most people cannot comprehend this), others who will lift massive amounts of weight all in the hopes of throwing a heavy metal ball as far as humanly possible, and the even crazier pole-vaulters sprinting full speed while carrying a long flexible pole down a runway then planting it in a metal box and launching their bodies 18+ feet in the air with the hopes of jumping over another bar, then free falling to the mat below…each track athlete is unique and a bit crazy to do what they do but one thing we all have in common is our whole identity in the sport is wrapped up in numbers.
            When you go to compete at a meet you are asked to enter your mark or best time from the past year. You put your name on the entry form but really you are not a name but instead are defined by your most recent PR (personal record). A race director does not see John Doe but John Doe 3:53 miler. These little numbers will make or break John Doe’s chances of getting into the big meets, the fast heats, or even the chance to compete at all. Now John Doe may have run a 3:53 mile but if that was over a year or two ago, forget it, make way for the new numbers!
            When you talk fans or other athletes everyone wants to know your numbers. Before a race you want to know who you are up against and you figure it out by these numbers. Workouts are a good indicator of fitness but they do not “define” you as a track and field athlete. The numbers put up in competition are what count.
            I am a very unique individual and I know there is so much more to me and all of my fellow track athletes than simply our PR’s, but when you get right down to it, these are the things that matter for sponsorships, travel opportunities, and race seeding. Without a low enough (track events) or high enough (field events) number you can become nearly invisible in this sport. It is very competitive and the ability to continue to achieve new identities is what will keep you alive in this game. This may seem somewhat depressing but it is not. In fact it is what helps us achieve greatness and accomplish things we may never have thought possible. If you asked me 10 years ago if I thought I would be where I am at now in my sport I would probably have thought you were just playing the supportive mom role of “you can do anything!” and would have shrugged it off as that. Ten years from now I may be thinking the same thing. Who knows what the future holds? But by chasing our own numbers we start to bring ourselves closer and closer to the limits of our body. Many people never the chance to do this because they either lack the courage or do not believe in themselves enough to think it possible. It takes a lot of dedication and there is a risk when you put your whole heart into a goal, invest so much time into it, make huge sacrifices and have to overcome many obstacles with the hopes of achieving something many deem for you to be “impossible.”
            But that is also why I love this sport. By chasing the numbers I am learning more and more about myself and becoming the person I want to be whether I reach those magic numbers or not. I am not afraid or too proud to try. In junior high my number for the mile read over 6:00. In high school my identity for the 3200m was 12. In college I brought my 3000m self to just under 10. And now this past weekend at my first indoor meet of 2012 I have established a new identity in the 3000m and have already opened up the door for me to compete at USATF Indoor Nationals later this season.
            I am excited for the future and the new identities I may uncover along the way. I encourage all of you to strive to become the best version of yourself this year whether your new identity takes you to London to compete at the Olympics, gets you over that 18 foot bar, or helps you to complete your first 5k. We all have new identities waiting to emerge and we should never give up our pursuit of challenging ourselves to make them reality. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Who is this Runner?

          As a child I always had dreams of going to Nationals, the Olympic Trials and maybe someday, the Olympics. It has been a dream but I always felt it was a long shot. Growing up I loved to run. I ran my first 5k in the fourth grade after seeing my parents and older brother run races and I thought it looked fun. I immediately fell in love with the sport. I was a multi-sport athlete in high school competing in volleyball, basketball, cross country and track but running has always been my passion. I saw some success with my running in high school. I won two cross country titles, won three team championships, and hold school records in the 1600m and 3200m but I was by no means a running “phenom” or prodigy. After graduating as Valedictorian from Manhattan Christian High School, I received both an academic and athletic scholarship to attend Idaho State University. My running, hard work, and perseverance would now allow me to be able to have a very affordable college experience. My times and fitness kept improving every year, it was slow at times, but I was gradually bringing my times down while staying injury free. I never compared myself to others but always stayed positive and kept working hard. By the time I was a senior at I.S.U. my times had significantly improved and I ended my career with the school record in the 3000m (indoors), Distance Medley Relay, and the second fastest time in the 3000m Steeplechase. I received the Big Sky Conference Scholar Athlete Award, Cross Country MVP, the Academic Athlete Achievement Award and graduated with honors.
My college career ended on a very positive note, but instead of hanging up my racing spikes, I decided to keep pursing my childhood dreams and see just where this running thing would take me. With a lot of hard work and dedication who knows how much I can improve? A few months after graduating from I.S.U., I had major surgery to correct a swallowing disorder. It took me over a month to get to the point where I could simply jog more than one mile without having to stop. Going from running around 70 miles a week in college to barely being able to finish one mile was definitely a new challenge for me. I did not get discouraged or give up. I started back slowly and by the outdoor season was running really well, faster than I ever did in college. In fact I made a 21 second improvement in the 3000m Steeplechase and I made it to USA Nationals. It was a huge accomplishment for me. Going to USA’s and competing next to my running “hero’s” was amazing. It felt unreal for me to now be competing against these “professional,” elite athletes. A part of me wondered, “Do I really belong here?” But I was there; I made it, so yes I did belong. After my first experience at USA’s I made it a goal to make it again the next year in 2010. Suddenly my dream of the Olympic Trials and possibly the Olympics was starting to become a reality. I made it again in 2010 and 2011 and now have set my sights on bigger goals.
I want to be a contender in the 3000m steeplechase at the Olympic Trials in 2012. I do not want to simply qualify for the meet but be a force to be reckoned with at the meet. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me but I am ready for the challenge. I have been preparing for this the last couple years, working on staying injury free and getting stronger. I even did a Marathon last fall in Chicago to work on my strength and get my body used to some intense training loads. I finished my first marathon in 2:49:31. The next season I set a personal best in the steeplechase of 10:07, which is the USA A standard.  That same season I set PR’s in the mile, 3000m, and 5000m. I ran my first indoor meet of 2012 and ran a PR in the 3000m which qualifies me for USATF Indoor Nationals at the end of February. I am in a good place physically (no injuries) and mentally (I have a goal set in my mind and I will not back down from the challenge) and I am ready to break out onto the scene in 2012.
          I currently work part time at Sound Mind and Body Gym and Wells Fargo bank, and write a weekly blog for’s G Series Pro Elite Tribe. I also have a small sponsorship with PowerBar, Club Northwest and Brooks ID. It has taken me many years of hard work to get where I am at and I could not have done it alone. Because of this I try to give back as much as I can. For instance this past fall I served as a volunteer Coach for Girls on the Run of Puget Sound and in June of 2011 I volunteered with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Program as a Coach. These experiences have been very rewarding and I do my best to serve as a good role model for younger athletes. You never know what the future holds and because of this I am going to seize every opportunity I can to accomplish my goals and help promote healthy lifestyle choices and active living for all people. A piece of advice I try to live by is to seize each day and make it an adventure. Don't think you have to wait until tomorrow or until you have more money or weigh less to live the life you dream of. Start now, today, this instant, and the other things will follow.