Friday, March 30, 2012

March Madness

March Madness is in full swing, which means TV in recent weeks has been dominated by NCAA basketball. And sandwiched between the onslaught of exciting bracket-busting action there are NCAA commercials. Maybe you’ve seen them: soccer players juggling while playing violin, basketball players dribbling while carrying out chemical reactions, swimmers transforming into photographers while emerging from the water, tennis players donning work boots mid-swing. Each commercial is narrated with a version of the same line: “There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports.” Count me among them. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still chasing my running dreams.

The best adjective I have to describe my life is “busy.” My current “something other than sports” occupation is as a PhD student in physiology, which means that I have a to-do list that is perpetually growing and there is no such thing as a “typical” day at work. When I’m not in the lab, I can likely be found eating, sleeping, or training. I have learned that flexibility is critical for my training to be effective. Though I don’t have a fixed time of day for my workouts, I do have a schedule of runs and strength training that I follow over a course of weeks and months. Sometimes the schedule has to be adjusted due to my work (spending all day on my feet doing experiments is not conducive to a good track workout) or the wonderfully-unpredictable Colorado weather (when the wind severe is enough to blow soccer goals over and onto the track I am forced to re-think those 400-meter repeats). But I have found that if I approach my training with a longer-term perspective, I am able to train at a high level while balancing my academic obligations.

Over the past several years, my running aspirations have transformed enormously. Upon completing my college career, I was less than satisfied, but ready just to run with no expectations. I did long, slow trail runs in the mountains and didn’t even think about getting near a track, let alone a race. Eventually, my competitive spirit re-surfaced, along with a desire to push my limits and discover my potential. And hence my graduate student-athlete lifestyle emerged. In choosing this lifestyle, I may be missing out on things like happy hour, watching TV, and pulling all-nighters. But I think it’s worth the sacrifice…

I may not be a professional athlete, but I am nevertheless incredibly thankful to be able to pursue my running ambitions post-collegiately (and thanks to BRC/adidas for the support!).  The past year has been marked with several amazing running moments, and I am excited to keep training and see what the next few years will bring.

Change of Direction

Lots of neato stuff going down.

So back when I got back from USA XC I wrote a bunch of stuff about how great it was to be "coaching" myself! Well...ignore all of that. A few weeks back I had the great opportunity to get to be a part of the American Distance Project that was started up here in Springs by Scott Simmons and Renato Canova last summer. I will admit that back when that got off of the ground RIGHT when I was leaving to go to the so-called Running Mecca of Boulder, I had to grit my teeth a little. I was like, "Crap. I can't believe it. We've never had a training group in Springs EVER and right when there is one I'm going somewhere else to find one. Go figure."

But stuff has a weird way of working out.

Lots and lots of some ways I feel like a freshman, being well behind Ali and Adrian in most runs, the freaky part of that is that my mileage is a lot higher than it was, but nowhere near their's, and nowhere near where it'll probably end up being, but thus far I am pleasantly surprised that after an initial freak-out phase where my mind was boggled from looking at the training schedule, it's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Ali has said to me more than once, "All you can do is try!" Which is true. Try something first, then freak out later if needed. Not only that but I've gotten to learn a gazillion things that I never would have really thought about doing on my own. No, on my own I really got pretty good at running about 60 miles a week and that was about it. In any case, I feel ridiculously fortunate, without any spectacular PR's to my credit, I know that there are not too many coaches and awesome groups like this that would take a chance on someone like me. I am SOSOSOSOSOSO thankful to have Scott's knowledge and guidance to point the way and a such a great group of honest, motivated people to emulate.

Running has a lot of "one-percenters". That's been the biggest thing I've figured out so far. I've learned a whole new slew of drills, figured out that bloodwork can actually be pretty relevant, and thanks to a recent visit to biomechanist guru Jay Dicharry last weekend in Virginia at UVA-Charlottesville along with Ryan Bananahands Hafer (who lived up to his namesake by consuming 5 bananas in a single day on the way home), I know a lot more about my (lots) of weaknesses and, more importantly, how to fix them.

As an aside here, Charlottesville is an awesome town. Besides Bananahands and I having to share living space in a hostel with a gentleman whom I am almost certain was a serial killer (although he claimed to be merely a government spy on a volunteer basis) it was a great trip!

So while the laundry list of running stuff seems ever-expanding, it's all good stuff and I'm really excited to see where things will be in a few weeks, a few months, and a ways down the road.

Payne Train OUT.