Spectator Report: USATF High Performance Distance Classic (#OxyHP)

When I heard Twitter chatter between Oiselle Team Manager Kristin Metcalf and a few other runners about heading to Occidental College to spectate at a track meet, I just had to butt in to the conversation and invite myself to the party. After all, the event (the USATF High Performance Distance Classic– or, #OxyHP) was only three-ish miles from my apartment and seemed like a great opportunity to meet cool people I kinda-sorta-basically “knew” from Twitter, give my industrial strength cowbell a workout, and watch elite runners do their thang.

Arriving at Occidental College’s Jack Kemp Stadium on race day, I bought my ticket and happened to bump into Oiselle Team runner Anne Riggin. She introduced herself, presumably because she knew right away I was headed to join the Oiselle crew by the looks of my sweet threads. (For the curious reader, my OOTD included the Lesko Bra, Scantron Tank, Distance Shorts, Feather Spike Bag, & an Oiselle temporary tattoo because why not go all-out O in a situation like this.)

My track meet essentials: cowbell, cookies, Picky Bars, Flyer Club Fan Card.

My track meet essentials: cowbell, cookies, Picky Bars, & Fleshman Flyer Club Fan Card.

Anne and I joined Kristin and Sarah Boone (OUAL), both of whom I’d talked to– virtually, at least– for a while, and settled in for an evening of fangirling.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about track. I ran the 200m and 400m (and did some long-jumping for good measure) in 8th grade, but my knowledge now-a-days is rudimentary at best. Not wanting to embarrass myself at the meet, I studied up on Oiselle’s very own FanGirl Series and Googled “steeplechase.” I still have a ways to go, but when it gets down to it, a fangirl is a fangirl is a fangirl… right?!

On the track meet docket– from 800m to 5k– were six elite members of Oiselle Team (Haute Volée, as they’re known en français): Kate Grace, Lauren Wallace, Amanda Mergaert, Amanda Winslow, Lauren Penney, Laura Carlyle, and Lauren Fleshman. Holy feminine-fierce! And that was just a handful of the athletes set to duke it out on the track on a hot-hot-hot day in L.A.

track meet

These ladies were flyin’ so fast, my poor iPhone 4s could not keep up.

Around and around that oval they went. The birds of Oiselle Team seemed to fly by. These may have been distance events as far as track is concerned, but the longest race was over in just 15 minutes and change. One of my favorite moments? Oh, just that time Kate Grace seemingly effortlessly pulled in front of the lead pack of her 800m heat to finish first. As Sarah noted, it was almost as if Kate was thinking during that last 100m, “Don’t worry, guys, I got this.”

Let’s take a moment now to appreciate the fact that after the race Kate did a full-on workout:

Kate Grace

A blurry Fast K8 doing strides.

And also, while we’re at it, all the sinewy men in short shorts:

Rawr.

Rawr.

Overall, the decibel level of the crowd may have been underwhelming and the commentary shmeh. (Perhaps we should have streamed Flotrack‘s commentary?) But the company was great and it was impossible to not get caught up in the excitement of runners putting it all on the line(s of the track) in each event, as we reminded ourselves just how darn fast they were racing.

From their solitary warm-ups to faces of utter fierceness just before the finish line, these hard working and genetically blessed professional athletes were a sight to be seen…

…sometimes up close and personal, LIKE THAT TIME I MET LAUREN FLESHMAN.

Meeting Lauren Fleshman

#SisterHero!

Yes, she is as awesome in person as she exudes on the internets. And although she was bummed at having to pull out of her event due to Achilles tightness (robbing us of the opportunity to see her famous abs IRL), she was super-freakin’-cool. Genuinely happy to meet fans. Strong woman. Smart athlete. A fan of PB&J. Track Attack Pants Model. I hope to have the opportunity to spend time with her again!

From front to back (and side to side), it was such a great night of spectating. As the evening came to a close, it was comforting to know that even pro runners with insane abs ate the cookies I brought in what is now my proudest snack mom moment to date. I left the event filled to the brim with a renewed love for the sport and determination to continue fighting to fully recover from injury and get back to racing. A big “thank you” to  Kristin for letting me jump on the track meet party train! (Check out the full meet results here.)

 What are your favorite track meet memories?

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4 Things I’ve Learned (So Far) During Injury Rehab

After completing two marathons, a handful of half marathons, a 10k, and a bunch of 5ks– and falling hopelessly in love with the sport while doing so– I found myself injured in the middle of training for my third marathon. That’s an old story now given that the initial injury occurred almost three (!) years ago. A bunch of sports medicine doctors and four physical therapists later, I sometimes wonder why the heck I haven’t given up yet. (I’m still not completely sure, but I definitely could never say “I quit.”)

But, one positive that has come out of the experience is: ya live, ya learn. During my time as a injury rehabber (and hopefully soon-to-be healed runner), I’ve garnered many lessons, including:

XTERRA Malibu Creek 6k Trail Race

Hamming it up before my last race in May 2013. Though training volume was iffy at best, I felt good enough to run… but pain came back in full force post-race.

1) Be relentlessly optimistic.

This is easier said than done, but is essential to not going crazy. I traveled to the 2011 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco about a month after my training was sidelined by injury to watch friends who were racing. I was hurting both physically and emotionally. There was some family stuff going on and I could have really used a good run. But, somewhere along the way, I realized that I would heal and I would return to running. I had to. Through the ups and downs, this crazy sport has become a part of my soul. Optimism and hard work (see #3) would bring me back.

My optimism has been tested through the physical therapy set-backs and successes (and there have been many). I’ve been frustrated and desperate more than a few times. But, I always seem to return to an especially helpful mantra: dwell in positivity. Believe healing will be achieved (positive thought) and do everything in your power to make it happen (positive action). Plus, it just sounds warm and fuzzy.

Tattly Temporary Tattoo

A reminder from Tattly to be relentless.

2) Work hard because what you put in is what you’ll get out.

Dragging myself through four rounds of physical therapy, I learned that injury rehab is what you put into it.* Putting in the time every day to complete the prescribed exercises (no matter how dull they’ve become), reminding myself that I will only recover is if I do the work, is key. My exercises are focused on ankle, leg, glute, and hip strength and, when I’m feeling motivated, I add abs and arms and Lesko’s Dirty Dozen to round it out.

Do all exercises that don’t involve running suck? Yes,  but they are a necessary evil. Three months into it, I am stronger than ever and (all fingers and toes crossed) closer than I’ve ever been to recovery.

(*Side note: another important element is finding a physical therapist that knows what the heck they are doing. *cough* Not Kaiser Permanente *cough*. But I digress…)

3) Rest won’t magically cure chronic injury; fixing your body’s weaknesses and imbalances will.

Perhaps this is a gross generalization and I’m not a physical therapist, but I have learned a thing or two from all-the-physical-therapy and Jay Dicharry’s Anatomy For Runners (a must-read for all). Weaknesses and imbalances can cause so many freakin’ running injuries, including mine.

For example, my 3rd physical therapist ran out of ideas when his inadequate strength training program (which my 4th instructed me to “never do again”) failed to work. His next idea was about to put me in a boot. Thankfully, I moved on before this approach was broached because I’m sure this would have exacerbated my injury.

And what about other extras I like to spend my dollars on, like SuperFeet, all the compression gear, all the rolling implements, etc.?  They can be helpful, but they don’t replace the need for pure brute strength earned through an appropriate progression of exercises.

Lesson learned: educate yourself as much as possible, be a critical thinker, and put your recovery in the hands of a kick-ass professional who works with athletes and knows how to diagnose root causes of weakness and develop a tailored recovery program. And, if you’re not injured, nip those weaknesses in the bud with some hardcore pre-habbing… trust me, it will save you $$$ down the line.

Spectating at Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon 2014

Spectating (and giving out free high-fives) at the Surf City Marathon 2014.

4) Stay involved in the sport (if it makes you feel good).

After one of my first experiences spectating at the Nike Women’s Marathon after my injury (see #1), I was nervous to go back to do so again when friends were running again in 2013. I learned, however, that a sign, a cowbell, and a spectating buddy can make a world of difference and turn a sub-par experience (silently watching people run) to a killer one (actively participating in positively boosting the environment of the race). Knowing that I made at least a few runners’s experiences a little bit better made my day in San Francisco.

Since that day at NWM, I’ve found that volunteering is the next best option to racing. Staying involved in the running community– from working a massive water station at LA Marathon to a stocked-to-the-brim aid station at a small trail race– has helped keep me motivated with an eye always trained on the target (full recovery and return to racing). Of course, it’s hard not to get a bit jealous, but there’s nothing quite like witnessing people race their hearts out.

What have you learned from running injuries that should be added to this list?

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