OTCE

Frequently Asked Questions

Last week I was inspired to write a FAQ page when I attended a local high school track meet.

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I’m in the middle holding the starting gun. My photographer wasn’t allowed to get any closer.

My FAQ page is unique because these questions came straight from the high school athletes, themselves.  Their questions were funny, serious, and best of all, authentic.

 

It had been nearly 6 years since I attended a high school track meet.  Maybe I forgot about the do-it-for-fun attitude or maybe these kids are one-of-a-kind, but what I do know is HOLY COW! These kids were impressive.

 

I have never seen so many competitors give high fives, hugs, congratulatory messages, and smiles at a single track meet.  In the boys 3k there were two runners neck and neck the entire race.  When they crossed the finish line they gave each other the biggest hug that lasted so long, it got a little awkward. In the girls 800 the winner waited nearly a minute until every runner was done.  Then she proceeded to give each one a high five. I can’t make this kind of comradery up.  It was awesome!

 

After the track meet, I spoke to nearly 200 high school athletes.  They had by far the most thoughtful, yet, challenging questions I have ever heard.  I was genuinely surprised. Their enthusiasm and creativity was every speakers’ dream!

 

What is your favorite non-running event?

This is a no-brainer, the heptathlon.  It was my calling until I didn’t develop muscles for the shot put. I love the speed and power these athletes have to bring to every event.

shot put

This is a picture of me throwing the shop put in the heptathlon at the USATF championships. I was in 8th grade and weighed about 90lbs / 41kg.

What drives you?

This question is a hard not only because it’s ever-changing but also because it seems to get more and more prominent with age.  I have been asked this question at least 4 times in the last month! I am starting to wander if it’s because I’m 26 approaching 29 by the time the 2016 Olympics come around.  The biggest thing that drives me is emotion!  I love the feeling after a hard workout. I love the feeling of giving a race everything you have… win or lose.  But most of all I am in love with learning and this journey teaches me something new every day like how far I can push my body until it breaks and how many hardships my mind can endure. What can I say? I’m an emotional runner.

 

How do you stay focused in a race and not get distracted by all the noise around you?

This one’s easy, I focus on the girl’s “butt” in front of me.  If it’s a big butt then I think, “you better not let this big butt beat you.” Every runner is different. Every race is different. And depending on the runner and the race it’s important to find something that works for you.  Sometimes I break the race into parts and focus on one part at a time.  In the 800 I break the race into 2 parts. Then I assign each part a different strategy – pace one / race one.

 

Have you ever been scared of losing your sponsorship after a bad race? And how do you deal with that pressure?

I’m the type of person who worries about this sort of thing a lot.  Fortunately, this neurotic-type behavior has forced me to learn a few strategies along the way.  First, I acknowledge that worries are a natural part of “finding your stride”.  Second, I work hard to push them out of my mind because there is no room for worry and doubt.  This is something I am constantly working on to get better.

 

Have you ever finished a race and thought, “that was a waste of my time”?

Just last month I had this feeling. I went into the biggest race of the year, the USATF indoor championships, undefeated, but when the gun went off I finished in last place.  Despite this disappointing performance, I walked off that track that afternoon with more grit and determination towards the future.  I knew in my heart that my passion is track and field, and that I have a lot more in me.  Lucky for me the odds are in my favor. Every athlete experiences what I like to call the 1/3 rule. This means 1/3 of your races will be awesome. 1/3 of your races will be okay. And 1/3 of your races will SUCK!  That was one of my SUCKS and next time I will race either out-of-my-mind or just okay.

 EVERY ATHLETE EXPERIENCES WHAT I LIKE TO CALL THE 1/3 RULE

What’s your favorite meal before a race?

5 hours before a race I enjoy a toasted bagel with PB and honey, yogurt, fruit, and tea. Then about 2 hours before the race I fuel up with a Powerbar® and a big glass of water because they’re easy on my stomach.

 

 

Have you ever hit a wall during a race? And if so, how do you push through to the finish line?

This is why practice is so important.  When I’m about to hit a wall in a race I focus on running on “hot coals.” In practice we do agility drills on “hot coals,” so that way in a race our mind automatically pictures “hot coals” and our body automatically reverts to agility drills.  If I find myself struggling in a longer race then I focus on a point about 2 feet in front of me.  I say over and over “I can make it to that spot.”

Quick disclaimer: The OTC elite does not run on “hot coals.”  Instead, this is one of our visualization techniques. 

 

Thank you for reading! Happy “Finding Your Stride”

Running and Running a Company

 

The story starts…

3 years ago, I called my mom with, yet, another fever.  At the time I was living in Columbia, Missouri working on my PhD in special education and training for the Olympic trials.  The next day I was driving to St. Louis for an appointment to see one of my mom’s doctors.  The verdict!  My white blood cell count was below the normal level.  It seems my lifestyle as a professional runner and student was compromising my immune system.  But how could this be? I was eating healthy, sleeping plenty, and taking my vitamins!

This compelled my mom and I to search for a supplement that could boost my immune system.  We found one with a little of that and one with a little of this, but we couldn’t find one with a little of everything.  We decided to ask my dad.  Fortunately, my dad has over 30 years of experience as a research biologist and is the founder of a successful biotechnologies and life science company.

We spent the next year researching and developing a formula based on clinically studied ingredients at clinically studied doses.  We knew we could deliver the first comprehensive immune support supplement to the public.  The products on the market just weren’t as effective as our formulation.  We also knew our product was unique enough to stand out above the noise with a specific message, we wanted to make sure we were giving everyone’s body a fighting chance!

Then in 2012 I co-founded AmPurity Nutraceuticals with my family and a team of very talented researchers and medical doctors. In 2013 we released our first brand, ZAMboost, the immune support supplement behind it all. So what’s it like running and running a company? It’s above and beyond my wildest dreams and expectations!

AmPurity was born because of my passion to live an active, healthy, and well-balanced lifestyle.  If you would have told me three years ago when I was in my car headed towards St. Louis that I would be the president of a nutraceutical company I would have thought you were crazy.  Running has always been a part of my dream but running a company was not a part of that plan.  

Now, I spend every day learning how to connect with the public. I meet super smart doctors and health professionals. I bring samples of ZAMboost and our other science-based products to grocery, pharmacy, and supplement specialty stores. I call store managers, attended health and fitness expos, and the best part, I meet people like you interested in taking steps to improve your health! Meeting you is when I realized I had a real company. 

Then for a few hours a day I forget I have a company, and I focus on my second life as a professional runner with aspirations of making the 2016 Olympic team.  I moved to Eugene 6 months ago to run for the Oregon Track Club elite.

I am having a blast challenging myself, learning, and growing alongside AmPurity and the OTC elite! None of which is possible without the support of my friends, family, coaches, and super fans, like you!  

Thank you for reading!

3 Tips to Solving Problems (From a Runner)

My blog is about how running promotes personal growth in an array of different areas.  Last month I invested in a life coach (I like to refer to him as my business mentor).  He suggested blogging about how to solve a problem.

I like to start every day with a little make-up because my motto is: “if I fail at something, today, then at least I look good, today.”  So I painted my face and went searching for problems.

At approximately 11am I found my first problem: running for sustained periods of time.

 

PROBLEM: How To Run for Sustained Periods of Time (from an 800 meter runner’s perspective):

Sponsored by OTCE and BSSC, I was given an amazing opportunity — testing my VO2 max.  For anyone who does not know what this looks like, I have provided a picture.

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In scientific terms VO2 max involves exhausting your aerobic energy system while measuring the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during exercise.  But I like to describe VO2 max as running in place until you cannot run anymore while wiping drool off your snorkel-like mouthpiece.

Surprisingly, this test allowed me a lot of time to practice solving the problem — how to run for sustained periods of time. Please keep in mind the following describes my every action and thought throughout the 2-part test.

 

Part 1:

The pace started at 8:30 min/mile pace and every 4 minutes the pace increased until the treadmill propelled me to 5:30 min/mile pace.

The scientist: “I am going to start the treadmill. Jump on when you are ready.”

Me: Wow, this treadmill is moving awfully fast. This has to be faster than 8:30 min/mile pace. [jump on] WOW! that was deceiving. This is definitely 8:30 min/mile pace.

The scientist: “3 minutes remaining”

Me: WHAT? I have only been running for 1 minute. This is going to be a long test.  To help this go by faster I need to start implementing some strategies. Strategy 1… counting. 1, 2, breath in, 1, 2, breath out, 1, 2, breath in, 1, 2, breath out. YES! This strategy is definitely slowing down my heart rate. 

The scientist: “I am going to speed up the pace”

Me: Need a new strategy.  Strategy 2… think positive thoughts. Shannon, great job swinging your arms. Not working. I need another positive thought. I know! Pretend you are on a trail… in a park… Pre’s trail… no… MKT trail.  Look at the pretty trees passing by. Oh! look at that runner with her dog. This soft ground is so nice. Much better.

The scientist: “I am going to speed up the pace”

Me: This trail thing is not working anymore. I am going to need to pull out all the tricks. [look around] I see a line. Shannon, focus on this line. Pretend you are running a fast workout along the inside lane of a track. [look around] NO! Shannon, re-focus on this line. Rememeber, you are running a fast workout around the track.

 

Part 2:

Although the pace was set at a steady 6:25 min/mile pace, the gradient increased by 1% every 1 min. Objective: stay on the treadmill for as long as you can.

The scientist: “You’re doing great, Shannon. Ready to begin part 2?”

Me: I wonder if the scientist is required to say I am doing a great or if he really thinks I am doing great? I think I will go with the latter. [give the scientist a thumbs up]

The scientist: “I am going to start the treadmill. Jump on when you are ready..”

Me: Maybe I won’t jump on. [jump on] Don’t fall… pump your arms… don’t fall… pump your arms…”

 

TIPS On How to Run for Sustained Periods of Time (from an 800 meter runner’s perspective):

Tip 1:

Breathing is not only vital for your existence, but it also helps you sustain an uncomfortable pace for a long period of time. I used a 2-count, but use a method that works for you. Breathing can often help you avoid hyperventilating, and calm down your emotions and thoughts so that you can solve any problem.

Tip 2:

Visualization is an important technique that many athletes use to improve their performance.  I use various visualization techniques to teach myself mindfulness, how to be present in the moment as well as how to increase my confidence during a workout or race.  Try it!  Set a goal and then create a mental image of you achieving that goal. This way when you are working towards that goal you know what it feels like to succeed.

Tip 3:

Sometime not thinking at all is a helpful strategy.  The second part of the test lasted a total of 9 minutes; however, time seemed to disappear.  I credit this phenomenon to that fact that I forgot to think.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined this experience as “flow”.  Flow occurs when you are completely absorbed in an activity that you momentarily forget about everything except that activity.  You can achieve flow by choosing a task that is challenging, yet, realistic.

 

Testing my VO2 max allowed me to practice all three tips. Following the test I felt a sense of exhilaration and enjoyment from the act of stretching my mind and body to their limits.  These strategies – breath, visualize, and flow – are key to sustaining not only a run but solving any challenge at hand.  I challenge you to practice these strategies during your next easy run, routine business meeting, or easy activity, so that way when a true problem is present you are well prepared. Practice makes perfect!

Remember, you do not need to have your VO2 max tested to practice.  Please reply with your experiences.

Thanks for Reading

 

Cite: Flow: Csikszentmihalyi, Harper, & Row (1990). The psychology of optimal experience. Global Learning Communities.

 

 

Training update: Growing at your own pace

 

Week one… just trying to keep up. Week 2… just trying to keep up. Fast forward to week 8… still just trying to keep up.

 

I am in the middle of my eighth week of training with the OTCE.  Pinch me because I am still in shock that I am training with the OTCE. I feel blessed to be a part of the fastest, most driven, and hard working group of women I have EVER met.  My teammates include Olympians, US Olympic trails qualifiers, and NCAA champions.

 

In college I ran about 30 miles per week.  Last year I bumped that up to 40 miles a week and was introduced to tempo running.  To long distance runners tempo running is when you zone out at a fast pace and finish at an even faster pace.  To everyone else (including 800m runners) tempo running is not a part of our vocabulary and zoning out is unheralded.  So every time I attempt to run this foreign pace it looks something like this:

 

Going out way too fast (what? I felt good).  Reaching half way and taking a harmless 30-second break to catch my breath because I went out too fast  (side note: my coach usually did not know about these breaks… so let’s try to keep that secret between you and me).  Attempting to “zone out at a fast pace” which is obviously not working, so finally, finishing at a slower pace than I started.

 

I think it is safe to say I have a tiny aversion to tempo runs. Do other runners have similar problems with tempos? When I describe my problem to my long distance teammates they promise me that it will get better. SO YOU ARE TELLING ME THERE IS A CHANCE

 

Currently, I am starting my second year of tempo running. However, this time when I start to hyperventilate I remember to count to two when I breathe in and again when I breathe out.  PROGRESS! Despite my incremental growth in tempo running, I have been introduced to a new training outside of my repertoire… repeats that are longer than 800m.

 

One of the benefits to training on your own is the opportunity to learn how to grow both mentally and physically at your own pace.  However, when I was thrown into the mix, with a group of women who were much stronger than me, I was a little discouraged.  My grow at your own pace mindset became scrambled.  Fortunately, I have trained on my own, I have won a few races, and now, I know how to pace myself.  My new challenge isn’t repeats longer than 800m, tempo running, or even, trying to keep up. Instead, my new challenge is utilizing my previously acquired skills and focusing on growing at my own pace.

Thanks for Reading

 

Eugene to Rio has Officially Begun

 

The part of my blog titled, “Eugene to Rio,” has officially begun.

I have relocated to Eugene to run for Nike’s Oregon Track Club Elite (OTCE), work at the University of Oregon, and launch ZAMboost in the Pacific North West region.

The first OTCe practice started 2 days ago. I am surrounded by an amazing, fast, hard working, and talented group of young women. And wouldn’t expect anything less.

Finally, the move is beginning to feel real. I received my University of Oregon employee ID number, yesterday.  I am fortunate to be a part of a spirited research team of smart, beautiful women who are truly an inspiration to me. Being surrounded by all these strong women will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I am taking it all in. And hopefully I can get some guest bloggers soon.

The 2,000 miles from Missouri to Eugene was quite the haul, literally. See Photo Galleries and Videos for more!

I wrote the remaining portion of this blog while I was on the road. This was my first road trip that encompassed more than 1 full day of travel.  In fact, this road trip took 6 days, altogether. Anyone who has been in a car with someone for that long knows that it is imperative to stay mindful and that you will learn a lot. Let’s recap on what I learned while traveling with Daniel Quigley.

1. Applesauce needs to stay in the cooler or it will end up warm and runny.

Dan spilled applesauce all down his shirt. So he had to drive without one.

Dan after spilling applesauce on his shirt.

2. When in Yellow Stone Park…

A. Wild fires are no big deal to the forest rangers so I need to calm down.

B. Tents are not fire resistant.

C. The earth is alive and well. This park is beautiful!

3. Sunsets while driving in the middle of nowhere NEVER get old.

4. Wyoming spend their summers fixing roads and winters closing roads. Gravel highways are no fun for a moving truck.

5. Remember to travel with a roll of toilet paper. Rest stops are scarce in the Wild West.

6. Driving a moving truck can be scary when…

A. Getting passed.

B. Turing Right.

C. Driving over bridges in Colorado. When was the last time Colorado made their bridges the same level as the roads?

D. Starting at sea level, winding up 8,000 feet, and then when you get to the top of this mountain realizing you have to go down. So asking Dan to drive down for you while you close your eyes and pray.

 

I feel like Dan and I were a couple of pioneers flocking West in search for gold, but in our case, instead of gold, we are running for the mecca of all professional running groups.  Dan has a job teaching engineering courses at Lane Community College and I have a job researching at the University of Oregon.  Together we will be working on launching ZAMboost in the Eugene and Portland areas so make sure you keep up with new locations and promotional events on my website or ZAMboost’s website. Especially for the upcoming cold and flu season.

Thanks for reading, Shannon