Frequently Asked Questions

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


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.


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”

How to Maximize your Love for Learning


I am getting ready to open the outdoor season this weekend at the Missouri Relays. I am racing the 1500/800 double. The 1500 is definitely a distance that is out of my comfort zone. It requires great concentration. On my training run, today, I calculated every possible split to accomplish a personal best (under 4:27).  I am anticipating this opportunity to practice and develop my concentration skills but to fully prepare I need to make sure I maximize my growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that practice, determination, and hard work can improve skills. Choosing to have a growth mindset rather than a static mindset can help you create a love for learning and maximize your creativity and productivity.

Q: What tools can I incorporate to have a growth mindset?

A: Schedule mental breaks throughout your day.

This past week my goal has been to get into a routine. When I listening to my mind and body, I know it is telling me that I am out of sync.  Every workout has become a “blue-collar day.” As I check off my workout from today’s list, I go to the next thing on the list… writing my dissertation.  Every individual has to learn how to balance his or her passions with other passions. To do this I schedule mental breaks.

Training is more that merely running. It includes running, recovering, nutrition, and MENTAL REST.  Metal rest is necessary for maximizing learning, creativity, and productivity.  A part of getting back into a routine means I need to build mental rest into my training.  Here is my typical schedule:

–       Morning run

–       Savor breakfast and make it a time for mental rest

–       Go to work at a coffee shop and when I start to feel my creativity and productivity diminish, go to a different place to work

–       Go to work at my office

–       Take 30 minutes to an hour to eat lunch with a friend and talk about everything and anything not related to work and training

–       Afternoon run

–       Read a book that is not Once a Runner by John Parker or Learning Theories by Dale Schuck. Leave the running books for before a big race and the textbooks for work.

Now, it is your turn to foster your passion for learning and to maximize your creativity and productivity. Remember a crucial part of this process is to schedule in mental rest. Please reply with ways you take a mental break.

Thanks for reading, Shannon


A wise woman recognizes when her life is out of balance and summons the courage to act to correct it, she knows the meaning of true generosity, happiness is the reward for a life lived in harmony, with a courage and grace. – Suze Orman

Preparing for a Big Race: 2013 Husky Classic

I am writing this blog one week after my 800m indoor opener. The Husky Classic in Seattle Washington was going to be my only big race this indoor season. For this reason, I titled this blog “Preparing for a big Race”


Going into this race I decided to divide my training into 2 components:
  1. Physical Preparation
  2. Mental Preparation
Physical Preparation
I didn’t know what type of shape I was in because my fall training had been so inconsistent (i.e., one week I was running 30 miles per week and the next week I was running 50 miles per week). Fortunately, leading up to the race I was able to string together a few solid workouts.


husky-mirror-imageMental Preparation
I knew I needed to prepare myself mentally for this race, so I took a page from my positive psychology book. I set a realistic goal that I thought I could hit in Seattle. Then I wrote it on my bathroom mirror and imagined myself running it everyday.
husky-race-day-outfitRace Day!
First, I needed to decide what I was going to wear because its important to feel good and look good on competition day.
As I stood on the line wearing my neon yellow jersey, I knew I did everything I could to prepare for this race (mentally and physically). I was racing among some of the best runner in the World.  I told myself what I tell myself before every race, and that is “you are going to win.” During the race I waited for my opening, found it, and finished in the lead!


I am so thankful for the opportunity to train everyday and see my hard work in action. Thank you Ben Rosario  and Big River Running Company  for making this dream possible.  I just finished a down week (i.e., 40-minute runs and no workouts) so that I can reboot and get ready for the outdoor season. Although I do not have anything written on my mirror right now, I am excited to prepare for my next big race.

Thanks for Reading!

Racing Cross Country

Middle distance runners, like myself, often need road racing or cross country to maintain the competitive mindset during the off season and to enhance the base training phase.  So my coach signed me up to race the USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. I was excited about this race because when I was in 5th grade I raced in Lexington at the USATF junior cross country championships and WON! The junior race was held at this beautiful horse park. However, this was not the horse park. Imagine my disappointment when I pulled up to the course to find out it was not the horse park I once raced on and that it had been rained on for the past 2 days. There was not a dry, smooth, or flat area in sight.

Nonetheless, I approached this race like any other race… I was there to race and give it my all to win. I went out in 5:09 for the first mile. I found myself in 1st at this point. I was surprised by how comfortable I felt as such a quick clip, especially because cross country was not one of my strengths.

**A few facts about my cross country days**

  1. I won the Missouri cross country state championships when I was in high school (but I had no boobs and weighed 98 lbs).
  2. I ran 2 cross country races in college
  3. It has been 3 years since my last cross country race
  4. I like to race half miles not 6ks

But there I was in the lead. How does this story end… I’d like to say I WON! Which is how I like to approach every race I start. Luckily,  I held my composure and finished in 100th place. I did run two personal bests that day: (1) fastest first mile in a cross country race, and (2) fastest overall 6k time. Racing in the mud at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships was FUN and to me that means I WON!

On our way home from the race I wrote my proposal for my dissertation, submitted it to my advisor, and got approval to start researching this semester. Overall, a very successful weekend.


Thanks for reading, Shannon