Category Archives: pro athletes

It’s My Body and I’ll Billboard If I Want To

As my post on Thursday alluded, it’s a rough time for endurance sports. Perhaps some of this comes from the insanity associated with chasing after and keeping sponsorships, most of which have performance requirements tied to them. When you have to perform to pay the bills, it’s not a huge leap to see why people might be willing to bend or outright break the rules.

That’s why I find this letter by Nick Symmonds incredibly timely. As he says, major contracts are few and far between (and increasingly a thing of the past). As such, many of us cobble together sponsorships to support our running. When we race, we want to acknowledge the companies who support us. We want to make sure everyone knows which products we believe in and count on. As the rules are now, however, my body isn’t my body at USATF events. The Nuun tattoo I wear to thank that company isn’t allowed. If I want to recognize a sponsor in addition to my team, I essentially have to rely on pre and post race gear to get the word out. It’s not that this doesn’t work: I spent 2 hours after the Craft Brew race answering questions about Nuun thanks to my trucker cap and tattoo. But it would be nice to have my singlet adorned with the logos of the companies that got me there.

In nordic skiing, for example, athlete uniforms reflect all of their sponsors. This year, for example, the US women have white uniforms that have nordic related sponsors like Craft Performance, Fischer and Rossignol next to non-nordic specific sponsors like Visa and Subaru. The other nice feature of the U.S. Ski Team is that although there are team specific sponsors (Craft, L.L. Bean and others), athletes can also personalize their uniforms and hats with other sponsors, such as their boot maker or fuel company.

I’m not saying I want to look like a NASCAR rig. I neither have that many sponsors nor the intention of making my quads a billboard. What I am saying (and what Symmonds is saying) is that athletes should have the opportunity to recognize all their sponsors on their race gear without penalty and that companies should have their logo readily visible on the athletes they so graciously sponsor.

What do you think the solution is? Should USATF be able to dictate what athletes put on their bodies? Where do we draw the line on bodies as billboards?

A Day in the Life

The first week of living like a pro was actually rough. I don’t do “slow” or “rest” well and I struggled to feel like I should be doing something instead of resting on the couch or napping. Now that I’m getting into the routine and my workouts are getting more intense, I’m welcoming the rest and flexible schedule. I’m still not someone who can nap but I’m getting better at laying down on the couch for an hour in the middle of the day. I’m also surprised at how fast the days go by. November is going to be here quickly. Here’s how Tuesday (workout day) and Wednesday (recovery day) went for me this week:

TUESDAY

7:30 Wake Up. Walk and feed the dogs. Bagel with sunbutter, half a cup of iced coffee and water. Answer coaching emails while I eat and digest.

8:30 Out the door for my workout. 3 mile warmup to the track then 16 by 400 at interval pace.

10:00 UVM gym for lifting. Squats, deadlifts, walking lunges and calf raises.

10:45 Home. Make a Monkey Shake and chug down while the dogs romp in the backyard.

11:00 to 1:00 Research Time. I’m doing a reading month on obstetrics after disaster, an awesome mashup of my past career and my present.

1:00 to 2:00 Netflix/partial nap on the couch.

2:00 Errands before practice

3:00 to 5:00 Drills, 4 miles with the team and beach abs after. Pear and poptart on the drive home.

5:30 Huge bowl of pasta with beef and all the garden veggies that were ready.

6:00 to 8:00 More research time.

8:00 to 9:00 Couch/Netflix.

9:00 Hospital Loop walk with the dogs.

9:30 Strict bedtime. This is the hardest part of the day because it still feels so early to me.

WEDNESDAY

7:30 Wake up. Hour hike in Centennial Woods with the dogs. Legs tired but okay.

8:30 Huge egg scramble and coffee for breakfast. Convince self to move from the couch with a Herculean effort.

9:30 to 1:30 Research time.

1:30 to 2:30 Couch nap/Netflix.

2:30 to 6:00 Out to MMU to coach. Drills + 7 miles + striders with the team. Definitely feeling more wiped out than I was in the morning. Legs pretty universally dead.

6:00 to 8:00 Coaching emails then research time.

8:00 to 9:45 Visit with Katherine! Way late on my bedtime but worth it as Kath gave me one of her amazing pep talks about how I will run 1:15 because that’s “just how I work.”

There you have it! A snapshot into the glamorous life of full time training, at least for me.

Welcome to Phase 3

It’s a Phase 3 kind of week around here. Joe, the MMU girls team and I are all starting Phase 3. Phase 3 is a Jack Daniels phenomenon (the acclaimed physiologist, not the booze), the goal of which is to optimize the components of training that apply to your event of primary interest.

For the girls that I coach, this represents the transition from general fitness to 5K specific speed. We spent the bulk of the summer running easy miles and climbing up mountains (literally) around Vermont to build as big an aerobic base as we could muster. In the past few weeks, we’ve started basic workouts to remind our legs that in fact, we can move fast. Starting today, we’ll move to workouts that prepare them more specifically to race a 5K. This includes intervals, tempo runs and full speed work. We’ve also revamped our drills to improve form and will spend a day a week working on tiny details like how to run downhill, how to pass and how to run tangents.

For me, the transition to Phase 3 always feels like the beginning of “real” training. I know I’ve been training for months but Phase 3 always feels more real because workouts become more traditional in terms of repetitions and effort. Daniels also states that phase III is usually the most stressful in terms of quality training sessions and I would have to agree. That stress is one of the reasons that Will didn’t have me start Phase 3 until I had a week of sleep under my belt. Other changes for Phase III for me include aiming for 10 hours of sleep a night, emphasizing rest when I’m not running and no alcohol until Philly. Giving up beer and wine isn’t a big deal, but I’m definitely struggling with the new rest schedule. I’m not a great sleeper and I’m definitely bad at relaxing. By Thursday last week, I texted Will to ask what I’m supposed to do between workouts. His response? Sit on the couch. Thankfully I’m doing a reading month and have lots of interesting obstetrics articles to catch up on, but sitting is still tough.

Are you a Daniels person or do you follow Higdon, Pfitz or another plan? What parts of training are you best at? And what do I start watching on Netflix?!?!

Week in Review 6.15.15 to 6.21.15

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d start with two stories about my dad and running. When I was in high school, we went to the New England Running Championships, which was a big deal for me. I remember toeing the line and being terrified that I’d be last of the 400+ runners or that I’d get trampled. Incidentally, I did get run in to a pylon about 100 meters into the race but was none the worse for wear. I do distinctly remember running by my dad somewhere on the course and being absolutely BULLSHIT that he wasn’t cheering for me. When I finished, I sputtered to my mom about it, who informed my enraged 14 year old self that he hadn’t been able to cheer because he was choked up from seeing his former 30 week preemie out there running with the best in New England. I gave him a little more credit after that…A few years later when I was really getting back into running, my aunt and I ran a 5K in Maine while my dad cheered. I was winning the whole thing by quite a solid distance and as I came down the final hill, ran by my dad who just gave a fist pump to the sky as I passed by. It remains one of my favorite running moments. So Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thanks for all the years of standing on the sidelines cheering.

Monday: Recovery 7 in the pouring rain. Ab circuit with Will in the afternoon that I whined straight through.

Tuesday: 9.5 mile run with 6 by 200 at the end. Felt horrible to start but warmed up pretty well.

Wednesday: Recovery 7 at night. Kicked myself the whole time for skipping my morning run.

Thursday am: 4 mile morning easy run so I could stretch before the day.

Thursday pm: 3K race on the track! Hoped to run around 11 minutes but 20 mile per hour winds and heat decided none of us were running as fast as we hoped. Ran an 11:20, felt totally in control and most importantly had zero hip pain. 5.5 miles for the evening. Legs afterward.

Friday: 7 mile recovery run.

Saturday: 9.1 mile run with Joe on THE most beautiful Vermont summer day.

Sunday: Inexplicably amazing 16.25 mile run around Spear and Dorset Streets. It was humid with a dew point of 65 yet I felt amazing. I’ll take it.

Total Miles: 65

Another encouraging week! I had some very tired legs on Thursday and Friday but felt poppy again by the weekend. I got a few days of circuit work in with Will which is hard but definitely paying off. Even more importantly, my hip has totally settled down and I’m moving well. Adaptation week ahead (and the last week of Pediatric Clerkship) which will be a nice change.

Finally, in great news, Nick Symmonds continues to kick ass and support athletes. While lots of athletes talk a big game, Symmonds is unapologetic about helping others develop in track and field and relentless about calling out the BS that has become rampant.

What We Can All Learn from Super Bowl XLIX

I love sports. And I REALLY love football. My first choice is college but I’m a Boston sports fan and have been rooting for the Patriots since I was old enough to toddle around my grandparent’s yard in South Boston. Needless to say, I’m thrilled (stunned?) with the outcome from Sunday. We had a ton of people over and it was a blast to watch the Patriots win again. As I’ve been reflecting on the game, two major themes emerged for me.

1. Coaches are human and by and large, believe in their athletes far more than the athlete does. In the last seconds of the game, Pete Carroll made the very questionable call (or his OC did) to throw the ball instead of run it a yard to the end zone. I’m not an NFL coach but that is a call I would never have made, just given the potential for a pick. I’m also not Pete Carroll and while I was watching an interview with him, it became very evident to me that to Coach Carroll, throwing it made all the sense in the world. Why? He trusted his players to get it done. When it didn’t work out, he took full responsibility for the error and accepted the immense criticism from “experts” all over the world. I had a similar situation at the State Meet this year, where I was forced to make a difficult call about who should run, what was fair and what our goals were for the season. Even before the meet, I took enormous flak for my decision. After the meet, however, was the worst I’ve ever felt as a coach, not because my call didn’t turn out as we’d expected, but because some athletes and parents were downright awful. I cried for a solid 24 hours when I finally got home and it took weeks for the sting of that to wear off, but from where I stand now, I’m happy I made the call that I did. As much as we like to try, coaching is not all science. There are general principles, of course, but you can never discount heart, soul, chance and rookies like Malcolm Butler.

2. It ain’t over til it’s over. I tell my athletes this ALL THE TIME but until it happens to them (either the Seahawks or Patriots direction), they never believe me. It’s this logic that led to the common coach refrain of “Don’t look back!!” and “all the way through the finish.” At a recent race, my top JV boy was in second coming into the final feet of a hill climb. He was solidly in second, but didn’t have a chance of catching first with the real estate left. At the bottom of a small downhill, however, 20 feet from the finish, the lead skier crashed and my skier sailed by to win the race. Last week, I watched another one of my skiers finish her drive 3 seconds too soon and barely get her binding across in time, a mistake that would have taken her from 3rd to 6th in less than the front of a ski binding. We could all use a remind, however, be it in the middle of a workout or the dark miles of the marathon, that nothing is over til we cross the finish line and by and large, competition is nothing if not unpredictable.

Bonus theme: Why were the commercials so darn sad? I teared up multiple times throughout the night and almost missed the outrageous GoDaddy commercials. I adored the #likeagirl commercial, however, and the explosion of women posting their #likeagirl photos across social media. Good stuff.

What struck you about the Super Bowl?

My Kind of Sister Hero

There’s been a lot of talk of sister heroes recently, attributable in large part to Oiselle which uses the term frequently in print, on product and in interviews. Among the most commonly talked about “sister heroes” are Oiselle runners Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman and now Steph Bruce. All of these women have had exceptional running careers. All are also mothers, which lends to much of their mass appeal. And while all are interesting to me in their own right, they aren’t really my sister heroes.

Much of this comes out of watching the New York City Marathon on Sunday where yet again, the announcers totally missed the mark. Speaking off scripts and clearly undereducated about the sport (a shame, since a few of the announcers REALLY should have known better), the conversation focused on how tough a day Kara had or how disappointed Deena must be while entirely overlooking the two Americans who really showed their stuff: Desi Linden and Annie Bersagal. One announcer even went so far as to say that Bersagel “didn’t have her best day” despite her being 2nd American and battling horrendous winds for 26 miles. They didn’t bother to mention that Bersagal is unsponsored and legitimately works a full time job as a lawyer. They didn’t bother to mention how brilliantly Desi ran, tucked in the lead group and just quietly working away.

Bersagal and Lanni Marchant, another attorney-pro runner are my kind of heroes. It’s often frustrating for me to look at my training opportunities and race performances and wonder if it would be different if my life wasn’t centered on surviving medical school. Women like Bersagal and Marchant give me hope that it is possible to work full time and be successful at running as well. Yes, there are many concurrent sacrifices (such as zero social life) but one doesn’t have to live at altitude and live the pro lifestyle to be a top runner.

Who are your running heroes? Anyone else watch NYC this weekend?