track and field

Making Moves

 

It is Monday afternoon, a workday. The weekend is over. I am sitting in a coffee shop. The chatter of people around me is soothing. Put me in a library and I am distracted by the eerie quite, but put me in a coffee shop and the background noise allows me to focus. I can get lost in my work. A coffee shop is where I wrote my 350-page dissertation. I would arrive around 7:30 in the morning and stay until lunchtime when I would go for a run. Then I would come back around 2:00 in the afternoon and stay just past dinnertime.

In all the moments that I found myself in a coffee shop, writing, I only became distracted once, and that was to watch the Boston marathon. Immediately following the finish I was inspired, no propelled, to go for a run. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done that day.

Here I am again, in a coffee shop, where I do my best thinking and writing. I am writing to you about what’s next for me. My last blog outlined my experience as a free agent. Although I am mostly optimistic and excited about what’s ahead, I am also nervous with anticipation. All this anxiety makes me ask irrational questions that I don’t know the answers to like “What does my future hold?” and “What place is the best place?”

I have known about my situation for about 3 months, which left me actively searching for a new coach for about 2 months. I called everyone I knew for advice that I wasn’t going to follow. “What would you do if you were me?” I would plead. I learned that people have strong opinions. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to follow any one person’s advice, I wanted to know their ideas, thoughts, and opportunities. I wanted to know the criteria they would use to make a decision. Talking to people is the best way I solve problems. So I talked.

Word got out that I was searching for a new place to train. I was blessed with some amazing opportunities. I found myself in the best scenario possible. Every team, coach, and track was a good option. But this also made the decision one of the more challenging decisions I have ever had to make. Fortunately, I was not alone in the decision process. Every thought about what I was going to do next year was filtered through Daniel. Although I didn’t think it was possible, I fell in love with Daniel even more throughout the process.

I’m moving to California. No, I am moving to Texas. No, I am staying in Eugene. I tried to imagine myself in each place. I listened to my feelings. I created a 15-column spread sheet. Then I distracted myself. I jumped off cliffs. I swam in lakes. I went on epic road trips. Ultimately, I told myself that sometimes you just have to take risks and figure it out on the way down.

photo

So here it is, my risk. I am moving from one OTC to another. I will be training in Chula Vista with Joaquim Cruz and his team at the Olympic Training Center. Eugene will always have a piece of my heart, which makes the move even harder. I am thankful for the support and hospitality of the Eugene community, and can’t wait to be back competing at Hayward Field. I do not know what the future holds but I am looking forward to finding my stride in San Diego.

Thanks for reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

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

IMG_2560

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”

What’s Your Buddha?

 

We all have desires.  We set goals, make commitments, and chase dreams with hope in our eyes and passion in our hearts.  Every journey begins with a possibility – enjoyable yet challenging job, money to live comfortably, healthy children full of love and joy, and time to spend with friends and family.  We don’t think about the suffering and hardships before they happen.  In this way, we are reactive beings.    

 

Three weeks ago I had a tough loss.  I placed last at the US indoor track and field championships.  Leading up to the race my indoor season was full of promise.  I was coming off back-to-back wins.  My training was at its finest.  I could not have predicted what happened next.  When the women in my race started to run faster my body had a different plan. Where was my energy?   

 

It was like preparing for a trip to France.  I googled French cuisine.  I mapped out the best tourist attractions.  I even bought the Rosetta Stone to learn French.  I was prepared for the vacation of my life in France.  But when I got off the plane the pilot informed me that I had landed in Ireland NOT France.

 

We often do not prepare for unintended circumstances (just ask the Government).  Imagine predicting the outcomes before the event takes place and then imagine this prediction as negative.  That’s like saying, “I am going to lose this race before the gun goes off” or “I am going to get a divorce before the wedding vows are said”.  Psychologists refer to this type of “before” thinking as negative self-fulfilling prophecy.  You think about the negative outcome before the event takes place. Then the once untrue belief becomes reality.  Negative self-fulfilling prophecy comes unnaturally.  It is more natural to think about the positive outcomes and then to be reactive when a bump in the road occurs.  I challenge you to embrace our reactive nature for this is your Buddha.  

Buddha blog image2

Everyone has a Buddha.  Sometimes more than one Buddha at the same time.  A Buddha can be a person, place, thing, or event.  A Buddha can be an external problem or internal conflict.  A Buddha is the opportunity to learn, grow, and reflect.  Ultimately, a Buddha challenges you to be mindful of suffering and hardships and to turn it into compassion, wisdom, and generosity.  A Buddha is when you land in Ireland after you prepared for a vacation in France.  Although Ireland is just as beautiful as France, you have to learn Irish cuisine, visit Ireland’s greatest attractions, and learn a new language.  

 

[check out this award winning documentary on the Buddha]

 

The US Track and Field Championships was my Buddha.  It gave me the chance to be mindful of the disappointment and anger surrounding such an unexpected loss.  It gave me the chance to strengthen my mind and to find joy in yet another loss after months of training and preparation. This was not my first Buddha and this will not be my last.  I love how we are reactive beings because it gives us the chance to find out what or who our Buddhas are.  By finding your Buddha, your mind finds equilibrium. When your mind finds equilibrium, you find joy.  I will share more of my Buddhas as I continue to “find my stride.”  If you are feeling brave, share your Buddha.   

Thanks for reading!

The Good: 3 Things I Learned While Training On My Own

 

This 3-part blog series is happily titled: The Good… The Bad… and The Ugly… of Running

 

Part 1: The Good of Running shares 3 things I learned while training on my own.

 

In 2010 I finished my college eligibility and was left wondering (like the other 3% of athletes who turn pro Source: Business Insider) Do I want to keep training? If so, where will I train? Who will I train with? And will I have a coach?

 

If you are reading this blog then you already know that answer to the first question was YES!  The next series of questions were a bit more challenging to answer.

 

The first year as a pro was rough.  My college coach gave me a few workouts, but for the most part, I was making things up on the fly.  I was running but not hard. I was eating but not well. I was sleeping but not enough.  I ran 2 races — 2:12 and 2:20 something for 800m.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: if I ever run over 2:20 I NEVER look up the results, so I always run 2:20 something.

 

After a disappointing first year out of college, I knew I needed to change my approach to training, especially if I wanted to call myself a professional runner and not a recreational runner.  So I found a coach, Ben Rosario.  Although he lived in a different state he told me exactly what to run everyday, and he held me accountable.  I found a training partner.   Although he only trained with me for 3 months it was the best three months of my life.  But he left me to get his master’s in mechanical engineering at Stanford.  WHAT THE HECK?  I guess I can’t blame him for moving on.  That left me training on my own.

 

Here are the top 3 things I learned while training on my own.

 

1. Run one day at a time

I went into professional running with one goal in mind – to be the best runner in the world – but I failed to focus on the steps that get you there.  Like any other day I arrived at the track to do a workout. But on this particular morning when I got there I started crying.  I waited 30 minutes to calm myself down, but when I went to warm up I started crying again.  The other thing on my mind was school and trying to be the best student in the world.  I thought there was no way I could do both at a high level. I thought I had to quit one, so I could focus on the other.

These “best in the world” goals had to change and inevitably evolved into – be the best runner and student I can be, today.  My new live-in-the-moment mindset served as my framework for setting intermediate goals.  When I arrived at the track I would close the door to the classroom; and vice versa, when I arrived at school I would close the gate to the track.  I focused on one task at a time… eat a good breakfast, read a journal article, or go for a run.  This allowed me to maximize my happiness and enjoy the journey.

 

2. Say “I think I can” when running up a hill

I think it is safe to say that most athletes are competitive people by nature. I am no exception.  There is always someone who will run faster than you and there is always someone who will run slower than you.  Comparing yourself to others can lead to negative self-talk, bitterness, and can be detrimental to your self-esteem.  Running on my own helped me learn the importance of strengthening my mind and “filling my basket” with self-confidence and self-efficacy.  It gave me the opportunity to practice positive self-talk during a hard workout or running up a hill.  Just like the Little Engine That Could who said ““I think I can” when he was traveling across treacherous mountains to his destination.

 

3. Run through the finish line

Courage is hard to find and everyone is searching for it.  I have yet to meet a person who does not want the quality of bravery.  I would argue that courage is the most in-demand quality a person can have.  I committed to running professionally right after college when the decision was easy, there were no hardships, and everything was looking up.  Over the next year running on my own became increasingly hard.  I often thought about giving up.

 

Then I looked up the definition of courage

 

cour·age

noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\

the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

 

And the definition of commitment

 

com·mit·ment

noun \kə-ˈmit-mənt\

a promise to do or give something

a promise to be loyal to someone or something

the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something

 

Commitment IS NOT the act of making a decision when the decision is easy. It is the courage to make a decision when the decision is tough.  I became inspired by these definitions and courageously committed to professional running.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

Artist of Balance

Three years ago I asked my coach, “What are my options after collegiate running?”

I believed I could make the Olympic team one day, and I wanted to see how far I could push my mind, body, and sprit towards that goal. Like many semi-professional runners the resources are limited, so I enrolled in the PhD program and committed to the student-athlete lifestyle one more time.

I quickly learned that my new lifestyle as a student-athlete was not going to be the same as my last one. Below is a brief recap of the past 3 years.

Year 1:

  • I learned that I love research and that I was going to make it a lifelong career.
  • I learned that my first year was going to be a learning curve. I often got sick from studying late into the night or from an intense workout.
  • I consulted with my family to create an effective immune support supplement.

Year 2:

  • I learned how to balance a career in research with a career in running.
  • I worked on an amazing research team (SCI), completed my PhD coursework, and worked as a early interventionist.
  • I competed at the 2012 Olympic trials.

Year 3:

  • I learned that the art of balance was far from mastered and that it required me to continue to practice perseverance. Year three was composed of many emotional and physical achievements as well as challenges.
  • I competed at the 2013 USA championships and 4 days later I defended my dissertation.
  • I co-founded a company, AmPurity Nutraceuticals LLC, and an immune support supplement, ZAMboost.

Three years ago when I began this journey, I did not think becoming an artist of balance was possible. I remember one run in particular, I told my dear friend, Anne Shadel, with tears in my eyes, “You can choose to either give running 100% and perform at your highest level on the track, or you can give school 100% and perform at your highest level in the classroom. But you can’t give each 50% and expect to perform at your highest level in both.”

Anne, determined to change my mind, said, “Yes you can.”

From that day forward I use each day that God gives me towards becoming an artist of balance. To me the definition of an “artist of balance” is a person’s ability to give each one of their passions equal amounts of time and energy so that each passion remains an active, enjoyable, and a valued part of one’s life. Please share your definition of an “artist of balance”.

artist of a balanced lifestyle

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading, Shannon 

 

bal·ance
ˈbaləns/
noun
  1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
    “slipping in the mud but keeping their balance
    synonyms: stabilityequilibrium, steadiness, footing More

  2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
    “overseas investments can add balance to an investment portfolio”
    synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism, equal opportunity; More

verb
  1. keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
    “a mug that she balanced on her knee”
    synonyms: steadystabilizepoiselevel More

  2. offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.
    “the cost of obtaining such information needs to be balanced against its benefits”
    synonyms: weigh, weigh up, compareevaluateconsiderassessappraise,judge More

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
 
husky-workout-photo
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!