Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I Won Through Sports


Today I am blogging to Rally for Girls Sports. I am reflecting on what I've won through playing sports; how they've impacted my life. I'm not even sure words can fully describe how much sports have impacted my life, but I'll give it a shot, because I believe in this cause so much!

I'm going to start out this entry with a poem forwarded to me by my Mom and Aunt, written by an eighth grader. It eloquently describes my favorite sport and my passion... running!


“Running”

Waking up.

You open the window and the sweet morning air gushes into the room.

The sunlight peers over the horizon and glistens on your face,

Embracing you, reminding you it is good to be alive.

As you crack open the front door the cold air enters the house.

You go for your morning run, bouncing off your toes as you skip down the sidewalk.

You are alone.

There is no one to judge you or tell you you’re not good enough.

It is only you and the road.

The road, hard and black, seems as though it is speaking to you. Complimenting your form and encouraging you to keep on running.

As your feet hit the pavement you thank God you are able to run.

It is truly a gift.

You thank Him for today, for waking up, for giving you a family that loves and cares for you,

And as you complete your run, you thank Him for giving you the energy to take that first step.

You thank Him because you know; you know in your heart that it is a treasure

To be

Alive.

I think what I love most about this is how it stretches beyond running. That's what I really love most about running, and all sports for that matter. The lessons they teach you beyond just the field of competition. It has taught me the values of hard work and dedication, perseverance, and teamwork. Running in particular gives me an opportunity to reflect on myself as a person. As was noted in the beautiful poem above, as you're pounding the pavement, finding that wonderful rhythm (although yes, of course there's those runs where the rhythm never comes!) there's time to think about the things you're most grateful for, time to reflect on anything and everything that pops in to your head.

Sports have provided me with self-confidence and a feeling of belonging--my teammates are my extended family!

Sports have given me SO many highs, and plenty of lows, too, teaching me to deal with the good and the bad, just like it is out in the "real" world.

Above all else, sports have always put a smile on my face. Both on and off the court/field of competition. Having just completed my collegiate running career, what will I take away most from having competed hard for 4 years? The team dinners, the after-Conference parties, training camp competitions, the Nationals banquets, and plenty of fun overnight hotel stays. I will most fondly remember the times I spent with my teammates-- again, my extended family. The camaraderie in sports is in my opinion, its greatest gift of all. It's why no girl should ever lose out on an opportunity to play sports. There's no better way to meet people and to learn to work together. And hey, one more great thing about sports? Its benefits to your health! Keeps you in tip top shape both physically AND mentally! Heck, running can even give you a NATURAL high! :) Doesn't get much better than that.

I guess I can't pinpoint an exact list of all that I've "won" through sports, but I do know without them, I simply wouldn't be ME! I wouldn't be living my joyful, highly content existence. Sports are my passion, and forever will be, and I sincerely hope every single girl in this country and even in this world can have a chance to participate in some sort of sport and experience the thrill of competition. Every girl most definitely deserves the opportunity to smile, laugh, be challenged, and be rewarded by the world of sports. I know I'm certainly incredibly grateful they're such a huge part of my life!

With Title IX, sports for girls has come a long way in the past 25 or so years. My generation of girls have so many more opportunities to be involved in sports than their Moms did. My mom has told me numerous times how much she wishes she would have been able to be a part of a real sports competition. (I want her to walk a 5K sometime soon so she truly can experience it!) For this, I think all of us women can and should be grateful. We've come very far, but we still have work to do; got to keep the momentum going! So, please visit the National Women's Law Center now to learn more about how you can help continue to expand the possibilities for women and girls in this great country!!!


Thanks to SPORTS for making me in to a happy-go-lucky, fiercely competitive, KnightRunner! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflections

4 years as a Green Knight athlete (KnightRunner!) has now officially come to a close. Even though it's been a week since my final race, it still hasn't quite hit me. I'll never don a St. Norbert uniform ever again! Whoa. Luckily I keep the quote "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" near and dear to my heart -- that's what will continue to get me through as I move on with life beyond college athletics!

I recently wrote a pretty detailed recap of the Nationals race and some reflections from it for D3Sports.com. I think it sums up a lot of what I wanted to write in this entry, so please take a look at it HERE.

While I'm disappointed I didn't become St. Norbert's first Cross Country National Champion, I'm satisfied knowing I gave everything I had last Saturday. I ran until my legs were ready to give out. I was able to end with my best Nationals finish ever. It was a very fine finish to a spectacular 4 years. I am so, so incredibly happy I made the decision to come back for my final season of eligibility!

I want to take this opportunity to remember to thank some very special people that have helped to make this season extra special as well as those who have helped to make my entire college career the best 4 years of my life.

To my Coach: you know me inside and out, and you helped me reach higher and higher than I ever thought possible. You always had the right things to say to motivate me and strive to get better day in and day out. You dealt with my various idiosyncrasies and had faith in me through and through. I can't even begin to thank you enough for how much you've impacted my running... and most importantly, my life! And as I continue to pursue running, even though you may not officially be writing up my workouts, you'll always be my Coach. :)

To my Parents: My Number One Fans. Without a doubt. I think they maybe missed one or two meets TOTAL throughout my four years as a Green Knight. Heck, my Dad even made it to all my basketball games my freshman year when I sat on the bench! They're absolutely amazing, and I know I would never be where I am today without their unwavering support. I may be slightly biased, but I don't think there's better parents out there. :) Same thing goes for my two brothers. They're both football players at heart, so watching cross country and track is NOT very exciting for them, I know, but they come and have supported me no matter what, and for that I am incredibly thankful. (silly side note... watch the background of this video ... those are my 2 brothers acting ridiculous. totally sums up what I have to deal with on a regular basis ;) )

To my Teammates: I don't know what I'd do without you. I came to the team as a basketball player and was so nervous I'd never fit in. You made me feel welcome right away, and I became part of a family where we could all count on each other to pick one another up after tough races and to give huge hugs and congrats on those great, PR type of races. We've had so many good times... FINALLY bringing home a Midwest Conference Team Title...and what we'll probably remember most--the good times outside of running... the team "functions": the post-Conference parties, Ugly Christmas sweater parties, and many other amazing gatherings. It's going to be tough moving on without all of you, but I already look forward to stalking results of your incredible successes and to staying in touch... because just as Coach Augustine will always be my Coach, you will always be my teammates. :)

To my Twitter pals: Steve, who drove 20 hours to watch me race in Iowa, Amanda who I've looked forward to meeting since the moment I began talking with her in June -- it was amazing to FINALLY meet you both in person and I know in meeting you both that I have friends for life! There's also so many countless other runners who have provided and continue to provide me with support and kind words on basically a daily basis! It's been so much fun to be a part of such a great community of runners, to be able to share and relate to both the highs and lows that are associated with being a passionate runner.

Meeting Steve & Amanda for the first time together in person!

Thanks also to many other friends and people from back home in good 'ol Delavan. Always great to get the honks and smiles when I go back and run up and down the streets at home. :)

Beyond the thank you's, I guess I just wanted to re-iterate how much FUN I have had the past four years. It's been a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but the smiles have FAR outnumbered the frowns! Because of the joy and contentment running has brought me, it has been solidified that it will continue to be a part of my life for years and years.

First, I'm going to pursue something I've dreamt about really since the first time I made it to Nationals. I'm going to try the world of post-collegiate running. I want to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I know it won't be easy, but hey, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take"... so I'm not missing out on the opportunity that's in front of me. I'm going to go for it with all my heart while I still can. I've only been at this thing for about 3 years, so I'm confident the best is yet to come!

My blog will continue to be here to document my journey as a post-collegiate runner. I'll have to modify it a little bit as I'm no longer Knight Runner, but I can promise you that same passion will still be present in my writing (and in my tweets!). I'm looking forward to your continued support as I pursue this dream... and I again highly encourage all of you to take a chance of your own and chase your passions and dreams, no matter how big (or small!) they may seem!

I'm going to end by re-posting the quote in my D3sports.com article, because I just love it so much and think it captures exactly what Division III and competing for "the love of the game" is all about:

"It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart. We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don't even know.

We don't practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent. We don't lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor. We don't run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO. It's a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand. Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us. You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first. We don't sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions. When we miss a kick or strike out, we don't let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans.


But the hurt is still the same. We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students. It's about pride - in ourselves, in our school. It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim ... college athletes."

Till next time... Happy Running!
~(Forever) KnightRunner :)

** Quick note: for a complete photo gallery (courtesy of my wonderful Dad!) of Nationals, visit our Smugmug Site!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Final Countdown

So here I am... in the midst of my final week as a collegiate runner. (and you probably have the song by Europe strumming through your head right now).
It's certainly bittersweet, but at least for this week, I'm doing my very best to make it more sweet than bitter :) I'm absolutely focused on staying positive... and of course on all those little things - lots of rest, good nutrition, getting a massage, and taking time to mentally visualize my race plan.

I've decided I'm going to save the reflection time for after the big meet. I'll be more ready to look back on an amazing four years at that point. Right now, my sole focus is on having my best race... EVER... on Saturday.

I have put in the miles... 80 per week for most of this season. I have put in the strength work, I have pushed through tough workouts, I have gotten up early (6 am practices twice a week, baby!) I know I'm in the best shape I have ever been in. Now, with mental preparation, it's time to go out, run my race, and accomplish a goal that has been on my mind for so very long.

I am ready to push myself beyond where I ever have before. It's going to take that to reach my goal; and I guess, no matter what happens on Saturday, I want to be satisfied knowing I left absolutely everything I had out on the Max Cross Country Course in Waverly, Iowa... because there are no more NCAA races for me. This is it. It's now or never! A quote from one of my favorite Youtube videos (a little cheesy at times, but I love it!)) which, to me, represents the opportunity that lies before me this weekend:

There’s no second chances. There’s only this moment, and then the next one. A test you can only take ONE time. And ONLY one time. If you see an opening, TEAR in to it. If you get a shot at victory, make DAMN sure you take it. Seize that moment. That moment is a crossroads. Everything you want will collide with everything standing in your way. The only difference between making history and being history, the ONLY thing you can count on at any given moment is…. YOU. It’s You vs. Them. It’s You vs. No. You vs. Can’t. You vs. Last Year. You vs. Statistics, You vs. the Odds. You vs. History. You vs. 2nd Place. The clock is ticking… let’s see what you got.

Have I dealt with plenty of setbacks in my career? Sure. Was it tough losing last weekend's race by 5 measly seconds? Very. Do I still have plenty of doubters? Of course. But none of that matters now. This week is about focusing on the here and now. "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted-One moment-would you capture it or just let it slip?" (thank you, Eminem)

"Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster woman, but sooner or later, the woman who wins, is the woman who thinks she can."

I BELIEVE.

Here's to a phenomenal last week as a KnightRunner. There will be plenty of laughter, plenty of tears. I get to share it with an amazing coach, and an amazing teammate - Mandy Whipple - who qualified for the meet as a sophomore! My parents will be there to cheer me on no matter the outcome. My amazing friend, Steve, is even coming all the way from Boston, and I will finally get to meet SteeplCreepr. And I will walk (or maybe crawl?) away from the course in Iowa with a smile on my face.

Don't worry, Eminem, I plan on capturing this moment for all it's worth. I'm not gonna let this one slip.

"Sure I am as this day, we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not about over strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us." -Winston Churchill

“….I firmly believe that any man’s finest hours – his greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” –Vince Lombardi

Bring it on, Iowa. This KnightRunner is more than ready for ya. :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Makin History!

I made a bold guarantee in a blog post earlier this season... and I'm proud to be able to say we were able to fulfill that guarantee, as yesterday, for the first time since 2003, the Green Knight Women's Cross Country team became the MIDWEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS!!! It was a very special day... one that I will most definitely remember for the rest of my life :)

To be a part of a TEAM championship is something I have dreamed about since the moment I started running here at St. Norbert. Winning the team title yesterday meant so much more to me than anything I'll ever do individually. To watch this program build up and grow to where it is now is simply incredible. We continue to take ourselves to new heights, and I am just so grateful to be a part of it all!

Just about all of us PR'd on a course that was relatively fast but not super flat, so we continue to see just how much progress we've made even within this season! 4 out of our top 7 runners are freshmen, which also shows the poise we have within this team. To be able to step up the way they did at a meet they've never even been a part of before is phenomenal. I can't say enough about all my teammates' work ethics... we are one extremely hard workin bunch of ladies! :) And what's perhaps the best part about distance running? HARD WORK PAYS OFF! In the form of a Conference Championship - the year 2010 forever etched on our Schuldes Sports Center wall, the memories forever etched in our minds :)

My Coach was finally recognized as Coach of the Year, which to me, is a long time coming. He's been here 4 years now and has obviously taken this program to new heights. We're definitely not done climbing yet, either! I hope we crack the National Top 35 poll this next week as a result of our great showing within our Conference, something that has never happened in the history of SNC Cross Country. And although our Midwest Region is probably the toughest region in all of DIII Cross Country, we'll have a shot at making it to Nationals as a team, and that's something that hasn't even ever been talked about for us. That's the kind of changes that have been going on around here -- and again, I am just so very grateful to be able to be a part of it all. And even when I'm gone (wish it wasn't so very soon!), I have so much faith that this program will continue to head up and and up and up. The sky's truly the limit with this program under the reigns of Coach Augustine!

I am so, so proud of each and every one of my teammates... and have never been prouder to be a Green Knight! This season has been absolutely spectacular thus far... everything I've ever dreamed of - and MORE! And in two weeks, I know we'll be ready to put ourselves in a position to make even more SNC CC history at the Regional meet. Can't think of anything better than having my Green Knight family in a box of our own in Waverly, Iowa on November 20th. :)

I loved our fans, I loved our performances, I loved everything about the day. Forever an awesome, awesome memory. I can't wait to make even MORE memories within this final 3 week stretch of what has already been an amazing 2010 cross country season! It was a phenomenal feeling to go out on top of the Midwest Conference (being it was my LAST Conference meet ever!)... and now it's time to focus on an even greater goal. My 4+ year journey as a KnightRunner is nearing its completion... but don't worry, I'm saving the best for last.

:)

"Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."

"A goal is a dream that has an ending. " -- Duke Ellington

"Sure I am this day that we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win,
victory will not be denied us.” -Winston Churchill

WAY TO GO, GREEN KNIGHTS!!!!!!!!!

Click HERE to watch an interview from yesterday's meet with my coach, and then with me on winning the Championship! Especially love the beginning of my Coach's interview ;)





Please visit my Dad's SmugMug website to view more pictures from the Championship meet! I tried to upload several more to my blog but I think the pictures are too big in size as it wasn't quite working right!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

That Fine Line

A couple of weeks ago, I started feeling some tightness near the back of my knee. It was an odd pain, and it worried me a lot! So I went in to see the trainer, and he diagnosed it as basically a muscle strain. Lucky for me, by icing and backing off a bit on my straight running mileage - getting in to the pool one day, biking a bit more than usual - the pain has pretty much gone away.

The aches and pains of training, though, got me thinking about the fine line I myself and most other runners (especially those w/ high mileage!) train/live/walk(run) on. Knowing how much is too much is something that has taken me so long to come to grips with. Finally, nearing the end of my collegiate career, I have *mostly* come to grasp the concept of being SMART about training and about life as a runner. At the beginning of my running career, overtraining was practically my middle name. I was seeing gains, so I just kept doing more and more and more. Finally, over time, I have learned that if you cross over that line, that is, if you start overtraining, it's going to come back and bite ya in the butt.

I'm not writing this entry today to dwell on my past. Plenty of things I did as a runner in the past couple of years were stupid, but is there anything I can do about that now? No. Live and learn and move on, and that's what I'm doing this season. I finally requested the help of our strength and conditioning coach to make sure I'm not doing too much in the weight room. I finally heeded my coach's suggestion to listen to my body. (I am SO thankful everyday for how patient he's been with me!) I asked my Mom to make me a cookbook of recipes to have on hand so I can continue to improve my nutrition- eat balanced/get enough of the fuel I need to perform at my best! I have stuck to a strict foam rolling regimen and try to get bi-weekly massages to help with recovery. I have learned that once you get to a certain level, it's paying attention to the little things that truly matters to ensure you can keep making gains.

So am I perfect? Have I learned it all as a runner? Psssh, not even CLOSE! But have I matured as a runner, and even as a person, within even the last few months? I certainly like to think so.

When I ran that race at Stanford, ran against Division I competition, ran a huge PR, and even witnessed Lisa Koll make history with that 10K, that fire inside of me, that passion for running, began to burn brighter inside of me than ever before. That passion for running is certainly brighter and more present than it's ever been, and I look forward to continuing to FUEL that passion. (Yes, Steph Perleberg, I'm following your advice! ;) ) I love the challenge running brings every single day. I love all the websites devoted to running and the community of runners on Twitter, on blogs, on Facebook, that can continue to be a part of my life and again, fuel that passion. I love my teammates and the way my final cross country season has gone thus far. (***Sidenote: St. Norbert Women's XC team is ranked in the USTFCCCA Midwest Regional Rankings for the first time EVER, debuting at #8!) I am blessed beyond belief to be able to have so many ways to fuel my passion for running, and as I previously stated, I cannot wait to continue on the path I stumbled upon 3 1/2 short years ago.

I've found myself thinking a lot about my future lately, but again, I am taking the advice of many wise folks and doing my very best to focus on the present, the here and now. As I stated in my last blog post (which sadly was a month ago!), I have a team very capable of winning Conference and going beyond that, to qualify for Nationals. We're making history this season, and that alone is more than enough to put my focus on this team, right here and right now, Fall 2010!

Back to the title of this post, that fine line, I guess I just wanted to express my continual battle with crossing that "fine line" -- that inner voice that tells me, "you need to do more to get ahead!" Even though I have matured in the past few months, it's still a battle I face and probably will continue to face forever more. It's just my nature! (the "if a little is good, a lot is better" mentality is sort of a family-inherited way of thinking :-/ ) BUT, by focusing my attention on things like my internship, on stretching more instead of doing more cardio, and on spending time with roommates and teammates instead of more time in the weight room, I have become smarter and believe that I can continue to stay on the right side of that "fine line." I know this feeling, this passion I have for running right now is a feeling I don't ever want to go away, and I believe a big part of this special feeling is because I have matured/gotten smarter as a runner and as a person.

Sorry if parts of this post have gotten redundant; I guess I just want to make it a point that I'm proud of how I've matured, especially in the past few months, and how it's been a long journey since I first began running but that I cannot wait to see where this journey continues to take me.

Till next time... Happy Running -- don't forget to heed @stephmperl 's (yes, please follow her on Twitter, she's amazing!) advice to FUEL THE PASSION ... and please, stay on the correct side of that "fine line". Listen to your body - it'll get you much farther in running, and in life!

Stay positive, my friends! Here's some quotes to go along with my post today :)

"Don't frown. You never know who may be falling in love with your smile!" :]

"Good things come slow - especially in distance running."
- Bill Dellinger, Oregon coach

"If someone says, 'Hey, I ran 100 miles this week. How far did you run?' ignore him! What the hell difference does it make?.... The magic is in the man, not the 100 miles." - Bill Bowerman

"I run because it's my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I'm going where I'm going and I'm already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise...it's a consistent reward for victory!" -Sasha Azevedo

"You must listen to your body. Run through annoyance but not through pain." - Dr. George Sheehan

~Jenny... a.k.a. KnightRunner :)

Race Update: Private College Championship at our HOME COURSE in Green Bay this weekend!!! Should have a very good shot at sweeping the meet (as in, both men & women should take home the team titles!!!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life On the Run

It's been a crazy busy start to this XC season thus far! I've wanted to write so many times prior to this, but at least I'm finally getting a chance to now :)

The start of the season really honestly has gone about as well as it possibly could have! Our women's team won our home opening meet, the Tom Barry Invitational, for the first time in 7 years - and we not only won, we dominated. Our closest competitor was our alumni team sitting 60+ points back from us. We had 6 runners finish in the top 10, and all went under 21 for the 5K. Our freshmen are fantastic-- and what's impressed me most so far is how mentally tough they are!

I was able to re-claim my course record, which was broken last year, with a time of 17:40, a PR by about 30 seconds for a 5K on an XC course. It's so much fun to PR!

Then, this past weekend, we went down to Northern Illinois. It was only the second time ever where I did not give everything I possibly had in a race. It felt so strange going to the starting line knowing I wasn't going to speed off as fast as I could as soon as the gun went off. But, I've come to learn now more than ever, with this being my final collegiate season, that distance running requires A LOT of patience! If I want to be ready to run my very best in November, why risk it racing all out in every race in a season? I helped two teammates become somewhat comfortable with 6:00 pace/mile -- it's a pace they've been apprehensive about, but I led them to a 6:02 first mile and they survived just fine. I know they're capable of running 6:00 averages, it's just going to take a continuous reminder and boost of confidence for them to breakthrough and do it. I'm confident they'll be there come the end of October and in to the REAL Championship season! :)

I ended up winning the race with an 18:09 for the 5K, racing the last 1.1 miles. It was fun to beat some D1 competition as the Badgers sent down many of their runners. It was a great feeling to pass people up in the last mile or so -- definitely not something I'm used to! Ultimately, though, I was happy to help teammates gain needed confidence and to experience a different type of race- because it is good to switch it up now and again. (this is a concept that has taken me a while to accept - used to be completely opposed to change!!)

This weekend we don't have a race; just a hill workout. I guess I shouldn't say "just" -- we have a couple of killer hilly trails! Yes, in Wisconsin there are in fact hilly trails! It will be good to use this week to really get some quality training in and then be ready to prove we belong in the Midwest Regional rankings when we take on many of the region's best at the Augustana Meet on September 24th. I'm a little disappointed we're not headed back to Griak, just because that's such a HUGE meet with a lot of tradition, but we're going to get plenty of competition at Augustana, and with the amount of freshmen we have on our team, it's important that they see the course prior to regionals to again be able to prepare mentally for what's to come!

Probably THE biggest goal I had when I first began cross country/track & field here at St. Norbert was to be a part of a Conference Championship team. This is it - this is my last chance to fulfill a huge goal! The best part is that I am more confident in this team than any other I have been a part of. We have amazing talent, and barring any injuries, we will be Midwest Conference Champs on October 30th. I know that's a bold statement to make, but I've seen what we've done already, the commitment in practice, in the weight room, and I know this group, on both the men and women's sides, are ready to take the program to new heights!

Outside of running, I started 2 new internships - one with a junior league hockey team, the Green Bay Gamblers, which will be a game day type internship, and one with a local parks and recreation department. Both will provide me with good experience as I look to pursue a career in sports management!! Still haven't fully decided if I'm headed to grad school in the fall of 2011, but I am at least taking the GRE in October to keep my options open!

I am also the sports editor of our college newspaper, which has thus far been a lot of fun. I really love writing about sports and to have the opportunity to design the entire sports section in our paper is awesome! I think that writing is something that's going to have to be a constant in my life, even if I'm an athletic director someday -- I know I'm still going to want to find ways to report on sports as well as channel my thoughts! The position has truly helped me realize how much I love to write!

Speaking of grad school and all that, I am constantly challenged with the thought to take it one day a time. When I'm sitting at my desk at my internship, I find it very easy to daydream about where I'll be even say, 2 months from now. It's not that I'm not enjoying where I'm at right now, it's mostly that I'm someone who needs a plan. Not having a "plan" for after this cross country season scares me quite a bit. BUT, I just have to keep reminding myself that I need to be savoring the little time I have left here at St. Norbert and as a college athlete! And moving forward I will do my very, very best to continue to soak it all in. I've had SO many former collegiate athletes tell me that thought, and I know I owe it to myself to get everything I possibly can out of this season. There's time to think about the future after November 20th. Until then, life is a day-by-day process. Gonna need some reminders from ya'll on that thought, though!

Big workout tomorrow morning. Time to get some much-needed rest. That's one thing I HAVE had time for so far this season, and it's helped me feel considerably better. I've resolved to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I've done it most nights, and SURPRISE! I don't fall asleep in class, and I don't feel nearly as run-down as I did most of last semester. Only taken me 4 years to figure that out. Finally starting to wise-up in my old age! :)

Found this quote tonight while meandering around on the world wide web: "The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way."

Be optimistic -- try and look at the glass as half full -- make the most out of each and every day! If there's one thing I pride in myself it's my unwavering optimism. (have you not noticed how many times in a given message I use a smiley face?!?) You've just got to look at the bright side of life! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and all those wonderful cliches. I challenge you all to be more positive. An optimistic attitude can take you SO far in life :)

Live life with a smile on your face, and when running, and life, gets you down, just look to make the most of a tough situation. And when in doubt, Twitter me (@knightrunner22) and I'll find the perfect quote to brighten your day :)

Till next time... Happy Running!

-Jenny... a.k.a. KnightRunner

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Team

So it's begun... SNC CC 2010. :) My final season as a Green Knight!

Camp has been going on for nearly 3 days now, and haven't sat still much at all. Exactly the way I like it!

Today was definitely the most fun day thus far. We traveled a little over an hour north of Green Bay to Clark Lake in the Whitefish Dunes State Park up in scenic Door County. Two of our freshmen are from the Door County area so they were able to guide us on some AWESOME trails. It felt so good to get on woodchip/gravel trails, off the pavement, and away from campus and the same old sidewalks! It was an absolutely gorgeous day -- about 72 degrees and sunny.

It's been a lot of fun getting to know all the freshmen - there's 28 of us total and 17 of those are freshmen! They're an incredibly talented group and are obviously going to be vital to our success this season. We lost just one girl from a season ago to graduation (Kim, you'll be very missed!)- so we have 8 returning ladies and I know we have a very, very solid chance at winning Conference and maybe even going beyond that -- if we can stay healthy and continue to develop our freshmen!

I love the sport of cross country because the TEAM and camaraderie are so much a part of it. While yes, ultimately running is an individual sport, the opportunity to get to Nationals as a team is what fires me up more than just about anything! Imagining running at the National meet with my entire team at the starting line alongside me is the ultimate dream. While I know that will be an extremely difficult task, especially with our tough Midwest Regional, it's definitely a possibility. It's a huge reason why this week of Camp is crucial to develop chemistry/synergy and a feeling of trust among one another!

Of course, looking at the season, I have a lot of individual goals as well. It still hasn't hit me that it's my last collegiate season, and I really don't think it will till I cross that finish line for the last time in November. But that's exactly why I'm going to keep taking it day by day, week by week, meet by meet, so that I can savor the little moments, like today in Door County! It was our first time taking a training trip, and it was such an awesome experience -- hope they do it for years to come!

I'm extremely excited for our annual home meet, always the first weekend in September - the Tom Barry Invite. All alumni are invited back and actually scored in to the meet. It's in honor of a former SNC athlete/coach, Tom Barry, who died of a heart attack during a road race in the early 1990's. It's always fun to chat it up with the alums, and then of course, to beat them all! ;) These first few meets are going to be a great feeling out process for all the freshman (there's 9 freshman guys!) and as a Captain, I know the meets prior to Championship season are a perfect chance to help calm any worries anyone may have and to continue to build team morale that will very much be needed by the time late October/November rolls around!

I do best leading by example, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to be more vocal and to listen to the needs of all my teammates! I'm not going to be around much longer, and I want to do all I can to help this program continue to build on the successes of recent years! I had a ton of fun chatting with them today and having good times, but I know it's going to be even more crucial for me to be there when things aren't going so well -- when the workouts get really tough, and when studying and the stresses of school really start showing up. That's when I'm going to be ready to step in and help us all get through the tough times together. Getting through tough times together is a huge key to achieving success! Those tough workouts are what are going to make us stronger than anyone else when the season really starts to heat up.

And so, as we're more than half way through camp, I know we've got a ton of success headed our way this season if we can keep up what we've started thus far :) We've got a lot of great work ethic and plenty of time to work up to where we need to be on October 30th for the MWC Championship and beyond. I know we can push each other to achieve more success than many think is possible out of this group!

SNC CC 2010: Determined to Dominate! ... & WITHOUT LIMITS!

I'm going to try and post a meet-by-meet recap, so check back in often throughout the season! Our schedule is on one of my pages at the top of my blog. Just click on the tab that says "2010 XC Schedule."

Here's to a great season -- watch out for the St. Norbert Green Knights!

Best of luck to all competing in cross country this fall. What an awesome sport.

Happy Running!
--KnightRunner

The 2010 SNC Women's CC Team :)

SNC CC 2010 Group Photo in Door County!


And finally...Some awesome quotes on teamwork:

"When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality." --Joe Paterno

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.--Henry Ford

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” --George Shinn

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why?

I was recently interviewed by Dave Tiefenthaler, the creator of a great running website, Tips4Running.com.

One question in particular really struck me, mostly because I hadn't ever really stopped to think about it before: Why do you enjoy running so much?

I'm a big fan of asking why. I think understanding the reasoning behind what goes on in this crazy world of ours is crucial to developing as a human being - to gain knowledge and to be able to form your own views/ideas/opinions. I'll never say no to a little kid who continues to ask, "why?" because I think that little kid represents an inquisitive way of life we all need to buy in to! One of my favorite quotes (yes, I know I have a lot of "favorites" ;) ) is "it's what you learn after you know it all that counts." (John Wooden) The smartest people in this world simply never stop learning and acquiring new information... never stop asking "Why?"

So it is with this thought that I delve in to the question of WHY I love to run.

For the purpose of brevity, here's what I told Dave in my interview:
It’s the “runner’s high,” it’s the constant improvement and goal setting that can be made, it’s the connections made with other runners who share the same passion for the sport…. I think I could go on and on. Basically, I feel that running, along with God, family, and friends, fulfills me as a person!

However, never one to be short-winded, I couldn't help but feel like my answer was incomplete.

With my passion for running, I can't believe I'd never really thought about/addressed this question before. This was honestly the first time I'd straight up been asked that question! I can imagine with all the raised eyebrows and blank stares I've gotten from people (can't count the number of times I've wanted to yell, "TAKE A PICTURE!") just in my own hometown that many have wanted to pose this question to me long before this, but surprisingly it's never really come up.

So... over the past couple of days as I've been out on my runs, I've taken some time to... really dig deep to get to the answer in its entirety!

I love and have loved a lot of things in and about my life. I love God, my family, my friends, my dog... and I have loved sports for a very long time. Prior to St. Norbert, throughout all of high school, I absolutely, positively loved the sport of basketball. I spent endless hours in a gym honing my jumpshot. But, there was always something about it that... ate at me. Like I was always searching for more. Never once did I feel content about where I was at in my basketball career. And that became especially true as I began as a collegiate basketball player at St. Norbert. Suddenly I was quite honestly in over my head. Sitting on that bench that season made me come to the realization that there had to be something more out there for me; something that could reward me better, put a smile back on my face more often, and give me a much greater feeling of contentment.

Running. It became my escape from the basketball court - it was a refreshing break from the screaming of coaches and the stresses of being in over my head. It got me through that disappointing season because, as I quickly began to realize, it brought me happiness! When I got out and ran, it didn't matter that I had failed to step on to the court for even a single minute earlier. It was something only I, myself, could control. And I liked it. I really, really liked it.

By the end of basketball season, I was up to running for about an hour at a time. I never knew how far I'd run or even how fast -- I'd simply go by feel. Looking back, it's very refreshing to note this, to know that I fell in love with running in its purest form - not even a watch many days, just a t-shirt, shorts, and a pair of running shoes.

So why would I ultimately decide to put the sport I was in love with through all of high school on hold for-- running ? Well, the next big reason is the success that would follow as a result of the hard work I put in -- continually running, day after day. I medaled at our Indoor Conference track meet about 2 weeks after basketball season was over with. It was at this moment I knew I'd found a sport where I could finally get out of it what I put in to it. And I LOVED that feeling.

The other part is at that Conference meet, I realized I was with a group of people like me. I instantly found myself able to fit in to their conversations and relate to who they were as people. I finally felt like I belonged at St. Norbert! And I LOVED that feeling.

And now, looking back at the "beginnings" of my running -- now nearly 4 years ago!! -- makes me smile. I've had my fair share of ups and downs throughout my running career thus far, but remembering how that fire/passion for running was first lit makes me set aside all those troubles and simply recognize how much joy it's brought in to my life.

And in 4 years, that like of running I found during basketball season, turned in to a love, and then a passion. I started meeting more runners like me via Twitter (shoutout to @steeplcreepr & @sastewart11 who I've formed an unbelievable connection with!), sharing experiences and feelings with them -- and that became another reason why I love running. I truly believe runners have a connection with one another unlike any other athletes in any other sport!

How about that constant challenge running provides? As a goal-oriented person, I love that running is there everyday to present a challenge. Sometimes that challenge can just be to lace up those shoes and get out the door! But there's always a better time or a longer distance you can look to build towards. Running is without limits! "Running is a big question mark that's there each and every day. It asks you, 'Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'" :)

Then there's that feeling, that only real runners know -- that runner's high. It's that burst of energy you somehow get at the end of a long, long run... it's that feeling you get in the middle of a race that helps you beat someone you never thought you were capable of beating. It's that incredible feeling you have as you finish your run or race or workout -- a feeling of euphoria that can't even really be put in to words! It's not something that happens all the time, but when it does, it's the perfect reminder of WHY we run. :)

So, there's a more complete answer as to WHY I love to run. I love the freedom, the simplicity, the high, the people, the challenges, the successes, the happiness, the contentment, the improvements, and the life lessons associated with running. And there are some others too -- the cool gadgets (Garmin watch!), the ridiculously expansive and seemingly endless array of running shoe & gear choices available, the awesome flurry of websites devoted to fueling your passion for running that have popped up over the last couple of years (see this Running Times article!) and the obvious health benefits associated with running... but these, to me, are added bonuses. When you talk about the LOVE of running, it all goes back to those first few months I began running -- when I ran because it felt good, and because it helped me meet people I could actually relate to. I love running because it has fulfilled me in a way I never knew possible. And it will continue to be a part of my life for as long as possible.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on WHY you love running. Leave me a comment below, shoot me an e-mail at knightrunner22@gmail.com or tweet me!

Till next time... Happy Running. Don't ever forget what made you fall in love with this terrific sport. :)

~KnightRunner

Some great quotes on why we run (you didn't actually think I'd only provide only one or 2 quotes in a blog post, did you?? ;) ):

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable."
-Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile

"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."
-Oprah Winfrey

"You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement." - Steve Prefontaine

"I always loved running...it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." - Jesse Owens

"I run because it's so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought." --Arthur Blank

"Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too." --Richard O'Brien

I'd also love to hear your feedback on the interview I did with Tips4Running.com! View the interview in its entirety here. Thanks again to Dave, creator of Tips4Running, for asking to do the interview! It's an honor to be featured on such a great website/resource for runners!



Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tales of a Rejuvenated Runner

So I've been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now... promised a few people I'd share at least a few of the exercises and things I've learned through these dog days of summer training... that have truly left me feeling like a brand new, rejuvenated runner!

To be honest, I ran basically my entire second half of my outdoor track season in pain. My hips and lower back were in a constant state of hurt. I never complained or was very honest with my coach about it because I didn't want to have to back off or worse yet, miss an opportunity at Nationals. The frustrating part is that it most definitely caused me my ultimate goal of winning the 10K. I think what it did do, though, was finally make me realize I had things I needed to address -- getting proper recovery and finding the CAUSE/root of my recurring IT band and hip irritations.

Luckily I have a National Champion teammate that I could look to as a resource. See, her entire previous freshman track season, my teammate (Emily) had such horrible shin splints that she could barely even get 2 workouts in per week. She would run maybe twice a week and go to the pool or bike the other 5 days! We all knew she was incredibly talented -- she was just being held back to the extreme by her shins. She had seemingly gone to just about every sports medicine doctor on earth to try and see what she could do to "cure" her shin splints, and many told her she would need surgery. She didn't settle for this diagnosis, though, and finally she was introduced to a guy at Bellin Health in Green Bay that led to her own rejuvenation as a runner. Her problem was really quite simple: little to no glute or core strength. She was lacking in strength in the two most important areas of the body for a runner. She began doing the exercises they gave her, day in and day out, and pretty soon those debilitating shin splints were... poof, gone! It was an awesome discovery, and needless to say, an absolutely incredible transformation as she went on to win the DIII Indoor 800m run!

So, as I finished a somewhat disappointing track season, I was ready to do just about anything to get out of the stupid pool and get back to running miles upon miles WITHOUT pain, as I absolutely love to do. I made an appointment at Bellin and went through what they call "Movement Chain Assessment." Here's what Bellin's website says about the assessment (http://www.xlplaylarge.com/index_intro.htm) : "The assessment is a comprehensive analysis of the body’s ability to perform efficiently. They utilize Dartfish Software Technology to videotape posture and biomechanical movements, in addition to measuring flexibility and hip strength. Upon identifying any muscular imbalance or weakness, an athlete is provided with a personalized instructional sheet and DVD with specific exercises to improve these areas."

The biggest eye opener was watching myself do a squat. I basically couldn't do one. The trainer recognized this immediately and explained to me the evident imbalance of my quad and glute muscles. I have always had extremely strong and well-defined quad muscles, dating back to my basketball and soccer days-- and I had thought I had done enough single leg squats and things of that sort to keep my glutes fairly strong. Boy, was I wrong! The trainer explained my glutes were always inactive during my runs, so my IT band was overcompensating for the lack of strength in my glute/hip region. That's why stretching and foam rolling only helped alleviate the pain to a certain extent. I had finally gotten to the ROOT of the problem!!

I also discovered through the analysis that my calf muscles were so wound up that my ankle joints were almost completely inflexible. Another thing they noted was how tight my upper back/shoulderblade area was. Probably the number one thing people have yelled at me during races is to "relax your arms!" I have always run with a very tight upper body, and haven't understood why it always seems to be so tight. Well, it was explained to me that the lat muscle connects all the way to the hip, so the tightness in my lats was causing my hips/IT band to become even more irritated! Again, here I was finally getting to the ROOT of the problem.. and the best part is, they were then ready to give me solutions to the problems I had endured all track season.

It has now been 9 weeks since I went through the Movement Chain Assessment. I can honestly say I have had the best training period of my entire career because of it -- it's not just that I've run more miles, it's that I FEEL better than I ever have, every single run, every single day. I FEEL so much stronger.

The best part of all this? The exercises are pretty simple. I think the biggest reason more runners and athletes in general haven't done stuff like this is it is somewhat time consuming. It takes a day to day commitment, something many runners aren't willing to do. I have several teammates who have started this program and end up not keeping up with it, because it seems they have the philosophy that just going for runs takes up too much time in itself. What I have realized more than ever this summer is when you get to a certain level, it's the little things that matter most - the day to day stuff - that will help you continue to see gains.

Here are the most basic corrective exercises I have done this summer:
  • Glute Bridges - start with double leg, progress to single leg
  • Side lying clams (back against wall)
  • Lateral leg raises (with back against the wall)
  • Band work -- angled steps (forward & backwards), lateral steps, monster walks, jumping jacks, & shuffle short steps (forward, backward, & lateral)
I have also majorly amped up my core work. The strength and conditioning coach at St. Norbert has given me some stuff that just plain hurts so good! Here's a little sampling of some of the core work I've done:
  • Front & side bridges - 60-90 seconds x 5-6 throughout the workout -- single best core exercise for runners!!!
  • Medicine ball chops & swings -- angled and overhead (chop is start high and go low with medicine ball, swing is start low and go high with the med ball)
  • Overhead slams with med ball - start with a med ball over your head and slam it to the ground back & forth on each side
  • Walking side-to-side rotations w/ med ball - take a step, swing the ball laterally (side to side)
One other aspect of my training I've really focused on is stretching and FOAM ROLLING! Dynamic stretching before a run and/or weight training workout (especially backward lunges/lateral lunges/side-to-side shuffles) and then foam rolling (visit http://www.tptherapy.com and order one of their Trigger Point foam rollers RIGHT NOW!) has helped me feel more energized during workouts and recover faster after they're done.

A quick side note is that these exercises are not a cure-all for all runners. My biggest recommendation is that you find a program similar to Bellin's in your area where you can go and get your gait/movement analyzed and get corrective exercises tailored to your specific needs as a runner! It's certainly revitalized me, both physically and mentally, and I'm confident it can do the same for any runner looking to take it to the next level.

So here I am, less than 3 weeks from my final collegiate running season. I can't wipe a smile off of my face -- life is so good right now. I know I can't possibly continue to feel this good all the way till November, but I'm trying to take it one day at a time, because as I said above, it's the little day-to-day things that have to be committed to in order to see gains in the coming weeks, months, and even years! I'm extremely excited for my future and what this season will bring, and that future is much brighter thanks to the day-to-day changes I've been able to make throughout this summer!

I've still got a lot of improving to do, but I've never been more inspired, more spirited, or more enthusiastic about both running AND life than I am right now :)

~Some amazing quotes to sum up my summer and my life at this moment:
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it. ~Buddha
  • Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that...Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
  • Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring: all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo Buscaglia
  • Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day.
  • If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm. ~Vince Lombardi
  • The impossible can always be broken down into possibilities.

If you have any others to add, let me know... because in case you haven't noticed, I'm a HUGE quote person. My wall in my dorm room is covered with dozens and dozens of quotes. Can't ever get enough of 'em!

Till next time... Happy Running.

And... don't forget to smile :)

-Knight Runner

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Trip to Runner's Paradise


So here it finally is... a blog entry. I've been gone from my blog for far too long, and my apologies for that! It's not intentional... I absolutely LOVE writing, especially about running. I think it's just I need to make more time for it, and from here on forward, I will! :)

Enough about that... on to what really matters... and that is sharing with all of you my experiences in Runner's Paradise - a.k.a. the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., specifically Eugene, Portland, and Seattle!

We descended upon Eugene - TRACK TOWN USA - on a Thursday evening... unfortunately too late for a run, but we did stay at the Valley River Inn, which is where so many elites have laid their heads to rest before races at Hayward Field :) I got up the next morning and headed out for an AWESOME 9 mile run on the Willamette River Trail (which ran right past our hotel!) and then, of course, on to the woodchips of Pre's Trail. I absolutely loved the gorgeous view of the river and the peacefulness and tranquility (AND softness!) of the entire run. The next day, my good feelings continued as I ran a 12 mile tempo on Pre's trail and surrounding trails at 6:37 pace! :) I felt like I was floating as I ran on those woodchips; and imagining Pre along with plenty of his teammates running through that exact area (probably not nearly as well groomed, but that's ok ;) ) honestly gave me chills. It was such great motivation and obviously aided me in running what I believe is the fastest 12 miles I have ever run!

The whole area where Pre's Trail is - in Alton Baker's Park - is such a runner's dream. Paths not even suitable for bicycles, only runners. This is something I've never actually experienced before! It was awesome :)

The same day as my 12-miler we finally made it on to the University of Oregon campus and to my surprise I was able to walk right on to Hayward Field! It was such an unbelievable rush of emotions to me as I stepped on to that track. I forced myself not to run on it at all, because I want the first time I run on that track to be for a LEGITIMATE race. I have a true goal to make it there for a real race someday! Nonetheless, even standing on it, imagining the roar of the crowd as you approach the finish line was again enough to give me chills. So many Olympians and world record holders have graced the stadium with their presence - and there I stood among it all! It was pretty crazy how deserted it really was. We missed the Pre Classic by just 5 days, which is disappointing, and tough at the same time because it meant all the Oregon Track apparel was sold out at the bookstore! Luckily I managed to snag a small "Stop Pre" t-shirt which was all I truly wanted anyways!

I think I could've spent my entire vacation in Eugene - as it was I only hit up one of dozens of trails within the city. Unfortunately, I'm the only runner in my family, though, so the rest of my fam was ready to move on and see other things. I just told myself that only means one thing -- I'll have to get back to Eugene again soon. (see my big goal listed above!)

Ooh, and one quick side note about Eugene-- I wanted to be sure to run in the best trail offered there, so using my resources on Twitter, I asked a variety of pro athletes, mainly OTC athletes, where in their opinion is the best place to run. It was really, really fun reading each of their responses (and, yes, every single runner I asked answered me back!), and quickly realizing Pre's Trail is the Best of the Best!

So, from Eugene we made the trek to Portland. On the way there we drove on up to Mount Hood, which was stunningly beautiful, and fun to see snowboarders in July! It's always awesome to get to the top of a mountain and be able to look out at the world below. The view is so incredible, and to be able to just sit there and quietly reflect is an experience I wish I could have more often. I don't take enough time in my life to sit and relax in a serene atmosphere; which is why I think moving somewhere with mountains will probably have to be in my future :)

Sunday was my long run day, and I was lucky enough to again tap in to my Twitter pals and get directed to an AWESOME trail called Leif Erikson Drive in Forest Park near downtown Portland. It was a soft, gravel, gradually inclining trail with plenty of bigger rocks that at times made footing a bit interesting! I didn't quite realize how hilly it was going to be until I started - woman who I talked to prior to the run said the course is "relatively flat." Psssh... you can tell I'm from Wisconsin... it was the hilliest long run I've ever done! Fortunate for me, it forced me to slow down... I'm notorious for running my long runs much too fast. Another fortunate thing was the way back down -- pretty much completely downhill - phew! I definitely would not want to do my long run there every week, but it felt so good to again run with nature - no cars to try and avoid, no irritating people yelling "Run Forest, Run" out their car window... just me and the woods surrounding me! I know it sounds corny/cliche, but I really felt so free out there! Trail runs are going to become a staple in my training for sure.

That next day I was supposed to do a tempo run on a flat surface after all the hills I had done during my long run, so I headed off to Nike's Beaverton headquarters thinking I'd have a nice, easy, flat 4K loop! WRONG! It was an awesome little course - woodchips all the way around... but it was NOT flat. I guess I should've realized Nike's not going to make their trail easy! But remembering Nike's "Just Do It" motto, I managed a 6:40 pace overall for about 8 miles... and had Chris Solinsky pass me not once, but twice! It was just Chris and me on the trail for most of my run, which definitely made me smile. Two Wisconsin runners just gettin some mileage in. One happened to run an American record 10K... no big deal! Haha! It will be a run I'll remember forever. Oooh, and their track is SUPER sweet. It's hidden in the "woods" - the infield is all trees/forest, so when you're running workouts there, it's basically like a trail, but in the shape of an oval. I think I actually wouldn't mind doing 400 repeats there! ;)

From Portland we headed North again to Tacoma. I think my whole family wishes we would've stayed in Seattle - Tacoma was a bit... past its prime. I found a flat trail along the waterfront that had a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier in the distance, though, so it ended up being okay. And the one day that we did get to Seattle, I was able, again with the help of a Twitter buddy- the University of Washington's track announcer, Paul Merca - to find the Burke-Gilman trail which goes right through the heart of the campus! It was nice and flat and definitely opened my eyes to the reality of biking commuters! I was passed by too many bikes to count, all absolutely whizzing by me! It was a bit frightening at first, but I tried my best to stay out of their way. As I approached the main part of campus, there was a huge car traffic jam on the highway, so I understand the need to commute by bike!

By the next day, it was already time to head back to Wisconsin. As I ran along the waterfront at 6 am, it was time for reflection. I thought about all the gorgeous scenery I had the opportunity to see (Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls), all the track history I was able to finally see/experience in person (Hayward Field, Pre's Trail, Pre's Rock), and the fact that it never even rained one single drop the entire time we were there visiting! I thought about my future - about how running on Pre's Trail just felt so natural - how much the whole experience affirmed my aspirations to continue to keep running competitively - at an elite level - for as long as possible! Being in an area where literally thousands of elite runners have stepped foot on tends to put you in that frame of mind ;) I also thought about how anxious I am to run with people at my talent level or better, who can push me day in and day out. There's only so much running by myself a girl can take! I can't wait to surround myself with people who are as passionate as I am about running.

Yes, I thought about all of this on a 6-mile run at 6 in the morning. I then brought myself back to reality, calmed myself down a little bit, and remembered I have to first focus on the here and now. The truth of it all is that I'm scared to death of life post-collegiately, of anything but my college running routine, but I have to put those fears aside for now and live up the opportunity that has been given to me to be able to finish out my collegiate eligibility in cross country this Fall! One thing is for sure... I will pour my heart and soul in to my final XC season - give the kind of passion and energy that has always filled the seats of Hayward Field in Track Town USA. I will finish my races with pure guts, as Pre always did, and what about fulfilling my goal of winning a National title you might ask? Well, that's simple... I'll... Just Do It. :)

Whoever's out there reading this, I don't care if you're a runner or not... get your butt to the Pacific Northwest! It's one, if not THE most beautiful places I've ever visited... it's a place you may be able to read a lot about... but it's just not the same until you can see it and experience it for yourself.

And, quick sidenote... if you can, get there with your family. Family vacations seem to be happening less and less these days. Yes, every single member of my family certainly has our different interests, which cause plenty of conflicts, but the bottom line is I wouldn't be where I am without their love and support, and getting a chance to experience all this amazingness with them by my side was more fun than I can even begin to describe. I'm so incredibly thankful for them; they put up with waiting in the hotel room while I finished a run or a lift and put up with me when I got crabby because I had to wait till the afternoon to run one day :) They (for the most part) understand my passion for running... and so I come back again to say...I am SO blessed.

I think that's all for now... I've certainly written enough :) Thanks so much for reading of my adventures, and as I said, I will be updating this thing much more frequently from now on, so keep following me as I continue to mature as a person and as a runner!

Till then, Happy Running... may you find the happiness and contentment that I found on the top of Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, in standing at the bottom looking up at the gorgeous Multnomah Falls, and in running in the footsteps of a legend on Pre's Trail.

-- A Very Inspired KnightRunner :)

Here's a couple of pictures from my adventures to Runner's Paradise. Catch more breathtaking pix in my Facebook album HERE.

My Mom & I at Hayward Field... :)

Running on Nike's trail at their Headquarters in Beaverton...


Mt. Rainier...















And one more quick sidenote... I am going to be working on the layout of my blog - trying to get it wider so it's easier to read!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Dairy State Passion for Track & Field :)

So I'm bored here sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane to head back to WI after spending almost a week here in Cleveland, OH for the 2010 NCAA DIII Track & Field Championships. It's been a fun experience, and Cleveland really is better than most people think it is when you mention the city. Got a lot of "ouch, you have to go THERE?" when I told them where Nationals was, but we stayed in a nice hotel and Berea (where Baldwin Wallace College is) had a lot of restaurants and did a very good job hosting! Other than not enough food at the banquet (which, ironically was the biggest banquet facility I've ever seen...) it was a very fun, positive Championship experience overall!

That being said, as I was sittin here bored, I was looking at local news coverage of Nationals back in the state of WI, or rather, pretty much the lackthereof coverage! I decided to compile a list of all the athletes from Wisconsin colleges that became All-Americans, both state school and private schools (which just so happened to be only St. Norbert,Carroll, and Concordia).

On the men's side, there were 27 Wisconsin All-Americans out of a possible 176 (44 events with 8 All-Americans each). This was about 15% of all possible AA's. Here they are:

100m: Kendall Wade UW-Stout, 7th
200m: Wade, UW-Stout, 6th
400m: Aric Hoeschen, UW-La Crosse, 6th
800m: Adam Lang, UW-Stevens Point, 3rd
10,000m: Kevin Hall, UW-Eau Claire, 8th
400m Hurdles: Ben Zill, UW-Oshkosh, 2nd
3,000 steeplechase: Chris Wirtz, UW-Eau Claire, Champion
4x100 Relay: UW-Oshkosh, 5th
Carroll University, 7th
UW-Platteville, 8th
4x400 Relay: UW-La Crosse, 4th
Carroll University, 5th
Long Jump: Kellen McCrary, UW-La Crosse, 2nd
Isaac Vasquez, UW-La Crosse, 7th
Triple Jump: Vasquez, UW-La Crosse, 6th
James Simms, UW-Oshkosh, 8th
Discus Throw: Sean Larson, UW-Stout, Champion
Shaun Davis, UW-Whitewater, 4th
Lewis Prior, UW-Oshkosh, 5th
Shot Put: Kyle Scofield, UW-Stevens Point, 2nd
Andy Novak, UW-La Crosse, 3rd
Pete Delzer, UW-Oshkosh, 5th
Bill Warren, UW-La Crosse, 8th
Hammer Throw: Larson, UW-Stout, 4th
Javelin Throw: Brock Solveson, Concordia University of Wisconsin, Champion
Decathlon: Solveson, CUW, 4th


On the women's side, there were 24 Wisconsin All-Americans out of a possible 176, or about 14% of overall AA's. Here they are:

100m: Camille Davis, UW-Oshkosh, 7th
200m: Davis, UW-Oshkosh, 5th
400m: Natasha Arnold, UW-River Falls, 7th
800m: Emily Schudrowitz, St. Norbert, 6th
10,000m: Jenny Scherer, St. Norbert, 4th
Megan O'Grady, Carroll University, 5th
3,000 Steeplechase: Stephanie Perleberg, UW-La Crosse, 3rd
Hannah Humbach, UW-Eau Claire, 4th
4x100 Relay: UW-La Crosse, 3rd
4x400 Relay: UW-River Falls, 4th
UW-Platteville, 6th
UW-Stevens Point, 8th
Long Jump: Ashton May, UW-La Crosse, 2nd
Triple Jump: May, UW-La Crosse, 2nd
Shot Put: Jecel Gerner, UW-Oshkosh, 2nd
Holly Ozanich, UW-Oshkosh, 4th
Ellie Sitek, UW-Oshkosh, 6th
Discus Throw: Sitek, UW-Oshkosh, Champion
Brittany Frederick, UW-Eau Claire, 2nd
Hammer Throw: Ozanich, UW-Oshkosh, Champion
Sitek, UW-Oshkosh, 5th
Javelin Throw: Amanda Trieloff, Carroll University, Champion
Pole Vault: Hayley Suckow, UW-Eau Claire, 3rd
Heptathlon: Jenna Starck, UW-La Crosse, 7th

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that Wisconsin is quite dominant on the DIII Track & Field scene!!! If you take all 176 All-Americans and divide that by the 48 contiguous states, you'd find that if each state was represented equally, they'd own 3% of the number of total All-Americans. Wisconsin has over 5 times that percentage of athletes represented!

I was recently told the WIAA (Wisconsin's High School Athletic Association) State Track & Field Championship, held in the first weekend in June, has the 3rd best attendance of any meet in the whole nation. I believe it! There is definitely a passion for the sport in this state and I hope we can continue a tradition of excellence! Must be all that milk and cheese... strong bones helping us run, jump, and throw very fast, high, and far! ;)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Nationals Realization

I have been reflecting on Thursday night's race. After watching my teammate miss finals for the 400 meters yesterday, and a few other senior athletes at Nationals miss Finals in their respective events, I truly am recognizing that no race, season, or year can ever be taken for granted when it comes to running, or any sport, or even life really. You have to be thankful for what you have at that point in time, because there are NEVER any guarantees. I wish I could've come to realize this a little earlier in my career -- it would have saved me quite a few "pouting" type moments where I was way too harsh on myself and didn't savor what I had just accomplished. I have a tendency to compare times from last year to this year WAY too much when in reality, as I said, a lot of things change in a year, some that can't ever be explained or prevented. In my case, I felt FLAT on Thursday night, and I think part of it may have been my IT band injury. It has been very frustrating and has resulted in a LOT of time spent in the pool -- probably too much time in there. My eating habits are also quite atrocious-- not eating enough and going on binges of, among other things, Life cereal, at times. So, I need to get my nutrition figured out -- need to eat balanced so that I can get the most from my body ALL the time. I need to have a smart summer of training where I give my body a chance to recover.

I am SO thankful for the 8 times I have accomplished All-American status. It's an accomplishment I never ever in my wildest dreams could've imagined sitting on a bench in a St. Norbert basketball uniform my freshman year. Remembering that again helps me gain perspective and realize, hey, I've come pretty far, and that I need to be appreciative of what I have accomplished and not be too disappointed with missing out on that National title on Thursday night.

All in all, I of course REALLY wish I was running that 5K today, like I did last year, but I can't compare last year to this year, because there have been a lot of changes. And I think NOT running the 5K this year has helped me recognize the changes I need to make to be a better runner, and person :) By NOT running the 5K, I have learned a couple really valuable lessons, that I believe, in the long run (no pun intended ;) ) will give me a chance to take my running to that next level... perhaps to that National title I've always been seeking in my final XC season this fall, or perhaps beyond that in to the world of post-collegiate running. We'll see... only time will tell, and between now and then, I'm going to give my body a few days BREAK from running, because it desperately needs it, and then get ready for a spectacular and SMART summer of training!!!!! :)

Oh, and I cannot wait to cheer on my teammate, Emily Schudrowitz, in the 800m finals today!!! She was the 2010 NCAA Indoor Champ in the 800 & I definitely believe she can make it a sweep by winning it outdoors today! :]

A few great quotes I found... can you tell I love quotes? ;)

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present. ~Babatunde Olatunji

Life's a journey, not a destination. ~Aerosmith

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. ~Abraham Lincoln

Till next time... Happy Running!
~Jenny, aka KnightRunner
(couldn't be prouder to be a Green Knight!!!!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's CONFERENCE week!

Hey Everyone!

Well, I should be studying right about now, as tomorrow starts the first day of finals week, but I'm feeling particularly reflective today, so I think it's a good time to write in this thing since it's once again been a month since I've last written!

I started off the day with a nearly 2 hour "long run" in the pool. It's a brutal thing to have to do - very boring and monotonous, but the one good thing about it is all the reflecting I can do while going back and forth. I thought about a lot of stuff in that pool today. I thought about how I got started running and the journey I've had as an athlete here at St. Norbert. I thought about injuries, and how I've been so very fortunate to not have many at all compared to a lot of runners I know. I thought about how I'm going to get past the somewhat recurring IT band problems I have been having, and that I can't let it frustrate me too much no matter what, because as my Coach put it, if I check out mentally, then it's all over.

That's just not me. I don't check out mentally. I am going to stay strong through whatever it really is that's wrong with my IT band. I'm going to be smart with it and keep taking it one day at a time. That was another thing I reflected on in the pool today. How valuable it is to live in the present! I can try and compare my times to last year, or I can look ahead to Nationals and think about how I'm going to perform there, but what does that really do for me in the here and now?!? Absolutely nothing! I've got to do what I can to help myself now, which today was going to the pool instead of running outside, and studying for exams so I can do well on both of them on Monday and Tuesday of this week!

Feeling like I wanted to do even a little more reflecting, I decided to take about a half an hour walk along the Fox River Trail in Green Bay after I got done at the pool. It was so gorgeous and so peaceful! After a disappointing steeplechase race last night in about 42 degree weather, I was very frustrated with how I raced and how my IT band has continually been tight the past couple of weeks. Well, by the time I finished walking outside this afternoon, I was truly ready to move on. Again with the living in the here and now -- what good is it going to do for me to dwell on last night's race? I've got a race to prepare for again already on Friday at Conference, and that matters a lot more than last night's race ever will. Would it have been nice to PR and provo? Of course it would have been. But life isn't always going to be easy, so I take a little bit of time to "pout" (as my Coach puts it) and then move on. Today is a new day!

Phew, does it ever feel good to get some of those "thoughts" out! This is why I love blogging!

Oh, and by the way, if any of my "followers" have any advice on dealing with IT band issues, besides stretching and icing, I'd really appreciate it! I have had 2 appointments with a chiropractor thus far for the Graston Technique, and it really hasn't done anything. My guess is it needs a little more time to go in to effect, but needless to say, I'm not a very patient person :-/

Off to study for exams - hopefully I'll be able to finish out the semester with a bang! Leaving for Conference down in Jacksonville, Illinois (7+ hour drive, woo hoo!) on Thursday morning at 7 am. Got a lot to accomplish before then, but it's still super exciting to be able to officially declare it's CONFERENCE WEEK!!!! :) Amazing how fast this season has gone by! Oh, and graduation is on Sunday. Whoa. I'll worry about that AFTER exams and a successful Conference meet! :)

Hope ya'll have a great week... be positive, smile and laugh often, and live life to its fullest each and every day!

Remember, “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” So find your passion and get after it! :)

Till next time...
~KnightRunner

P.S. -- Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there... and to MY mom, YOU'RE THE GREATEST!!! Don't know what I'd do without you! Love you so much!