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