Monday, April 28, 2014

The One with... The Grapes of Wrath Theory

This post has been sitting in my draft box, stuck in purgatory, for the last month. It took reading Phoebe Wright's blog post this morning (and a few not so subtle texts from my sister) to post mine.

In recent months I have rediscovered the importance of having a mantra (and on certain days mantras). A mantra reminds us we are strong, refocuses and motivates us, and reassures us it will be okay. If you tell yourself something enough you begin to believe it. If I told you the last nine months had been the hardest of my life, I would be thinking simultaneously hard is an understatement. Without a lot of detail here are highlights: my first season ending injury, put my sister's 21year old cat and my dog down within a week of each other (they were soul sisters, they just didn't know it yet), and lost a parent. Let's be real, those first two are very small elephants in my room compared to that last one.

I am quite certain JD's, my college coach, favorite book of all time is Grapes of Wrath. "If this were Grapes of Wrath, this is just the first chapter" was a staple soundbite on our team. Occasionally, he would lend out a copy just to remind you how bad could be worse, and how worse could become terrible, within a chapter. I dubbed it "The Grapes of Wrath Theory"- it could always be worse.

I was in Seattle when I found out my dad had, very suddenly and extremely unexpectedly, passed away. JD was at my hotel within minutes. I vaguely remember saying, "I don't think your Grapes of Wrath theory applies here", only to instantly hear, "if this is Grapes of Wrath, this is the first chapter". He was right. It was heartbreaking, devastating, and so many other adjectives I have yet to come to terms with, but it could be worse. I would head home in the morning to a house filled with friends and family. My siblings and mom would be there. I could still get up and go for a run everyday. It did not make it hurt any less but, telling myself "it could be worse" made my pain a little more bearable.

How do you begin to move past such an unexpected tragedy? What do you tell yourself when you wake up thinking you had a terrible dream but it is actually reality? When people give you the saddest eyes? When you have a terrible workout? When things just seem to be going wrong everywhere? You find the mantra that reminds you of your strength. You tell yourself everyday "it gets better". You constantly refocus and quietly motivate. While always keeping in the back of your mind "it could be worse". You tell yourself something so many times you begin to believe it.

My current situation is a tad more extreme than most daily troubles, but the lesson (one of many) can be applied to everyone: Find your mantra. Tell it to yourself everyday. Repeat it multiple times a day. One day you will be out on a run or on the track or driving in your car, and you will smile. You'll realize it's working.

Phoebe- "I will get healthy" "I will run 157" "It will get better"

If you struggle with or know anyone struggling with depression, don't be afraid, shy, embarrassed, too proud, too stubborn, ect to ask for help. People love you, care about you, and need you. Please take advantage of the amazing and helpful resources available:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Mental Health America
Anxiety & Depression Association of America

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bird's the word... Happy Thanksgiving!

Naturally, in honor of Thanksgiving, I had to put together a list of ten things I'm thankful for:

1. My Parents
Let's get the big hitters out of the way first, because let's be honest- no matter how thankful I am for the rest of the things on this list I am most thankful for them. Besides loving me unconditionally and to use my mom's words "growing me" (still not sure how I feel about that comment eight years later), they have been there for everything. For two people not into sports (they are far more artistic and some how ended up with three athletic children), the amount of time, energy, and resources they have put into our running and racing is so extensive, I could never thank and appreciate them enough. Over the last thirteen years, my parents have scheduled their lives around our running. When we were young (and less self sufficient), work vacations were scheduled to line up with Junior Olympics, US Championships, and invites in California. My mom exudes a passion for life that I find unbelievable. As I've gotten older, I've realized she's taught me life skills I didn't even know about.  My dad has been a shining example of hard work and humility. He use to race boats in his twenties and was the absolute best (I found the trophies and plaques hidden away to prove it) and you would never know. Before every race he tells me the same thing, "go fast, turn left", mostly because that is all he knows about track. But it always makes me calm before the storm and helps me keep it simple.

2. My twins (Mel and John)
Because they are MY TWINS; my parents had them for me, they are mine, and I own them. These two complete everything about me and I don't feel like a normal person if I don't talk to one, if not both, everyday. People think it's weird we get along so well; always asking "don't you ever fight?" No. We don't. In fact when the three of us are together, you probably can't handle it. Our average age drops to about 10 and the banter is unfollowable.

3. Breanne Hamm & Brandon Nied
Not related to me or each other (different last names should give that away), but I consider them siblings. They add a balance to my life when I'm not with my family.

4. Hand Warmers
If you haven't stashed these in a pair of spikes/flats on a cold cold day you are missing out. Putting your feet into a warm pair of shoes that have been sitting track/trailside for at least 30 minutes, makes me not care that it is super wasteful.

 5. Oiselle
Follow them on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/ect and you'll see why I love this company. Best #runfamily a girl could ask for!

6. Blackberry Apple Sourcream Pie
We only make this on Thanksgiving and Christmas. A pie anyone could be thankful for.

7. The Coaching Three
Coaches should always strive to coach in such a way that the athlete becomes not only a better athlete, but a better person. I've been fortunate enough to have three coaches who have done exactly that. Bruce was my high school and club coach. He taught me to work hard and never be afraid to race. JD was the big reason I went to Washington State. He taught me Keep It Simple Stupid and to never underestimate the power of just running. My current coach Kirk Elias is teaching me patience, a skill that can never be overdeveloped.

8. Coffee
Shouldn't need an explanation but, I wake up (and go to sleep) before all of my roommates. Having a hot pot of coffee waiting in the kitchen makes my cold, dark, silent house a little more enjoyable every morning.

9. The Rehab Team
Mike Spevak and Rick Swecker are the PT and Chiro helping to keep my body working. They let me invade their office whenever I need to keep things going.

10. Steamboat Ditch Trail
I cover every mile of "the ditch" at least once a week. If you ever come to Reno, it is a must run. Thirteen miles one way, flat, dirt. Awesome.

Mel is yelling at me from the kitchen which either means my potatoes are done, the pie is done, or something is on fire/burning. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Apparently, Spikes Are Scary.

When I glanced at my training plan this morning I saw 7 miles and strides.  I immediately knew I would need my flats.  As soon as I went in my closet, my eyes gravitated toward my neon green Oiselle spike bag.  This has been happening on a fairly regular basis; getting my runners, getting any item of clothing, when I take naps (because my closet is the perfect napping spot; dark, cool, quiet... perfection).  That bag houses my spikes, which have lay untouched and unlaced since June.  I knew I should be doing some of those strides in spikes today.  The truth is I should have used them last week and didn't because, honestly, the thought of running fast in spikes makes me feel a little sick.  What if my foot isn't totally healed?  What if it hurts?  What if I hurt it again, after only one stride?  What if I'm not fast anymore?

Whenever I'm scared to do something, I come back to a run I had a few years ago; a simple premeet that has become a cornerstone of my athletic psyche.  My friend Anita and I were both racing at an indoor meet in Seattle and met to do a shakeout.  Anita is one of my favorite people to run with; we always run too fast and have the best talks.  I remember her saying "I'm not ready to race but I'd rather find out where I am right now than in three weeks when it's too late".  We talked about how easy it was to avoid racing with a plethora of (sometimes legitimate) excuses at the ready.  But we both knew at a certain point it doesn't matter.  You need to find out where you are; ready or not.

So I'm in my closet looking at this spike bag, wondering if I should grab it.  Wondering if I'm ready.  Telling myself I don't need to be in spikes yet, there is no rush.  I'm simultaneously wanting to run and skip and jump around in my spikes; maybe put some two inch spikes in and aerate the lawn.  But what if I'm not there yet?  What's the harm in waiting another week?  I think back to that premeet with Anita, grab my spikes, and head out the door.

Today I decided to stop being scared and found out where I was.  I didn't know what would happen when I put them on.  Maybe my foot would hurt.  Maybe I'm not fast anymore.  Maybe everything is fine.  As athletes (and human beings) we get invaluable data from doing things that scare us.  We see our braveness, force ourselves to face ugly realities, discover amazing possibilities, and (in my current case) find out that spikes aren't scary.  It seems easier in the short term to worry and be scared.  Push "scary" tasks to the back of your mind until it's perfect.  If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives.  So go do that scary thing you've been avoiding this week.

ps.  Strides were awesome.  My foot didn't hurt and I'm still fast.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Twelve weeks of Netflix

Twelve weeks ago, somewhere between the last water pit and 100m to go at USAs, I partially tore my plantar fascia, flexor hallucis longus, and posterior tibial tendon.  Meaning no stability, can't move my big toe, and forget being able to get on the balls of your feet.  My walk didn't even have a swagger, it was more shuffle than limp.  When I got home, I was given a set of crutches to use for three weeks, a daily tape job, and a "no running, shoes must be worn at all times" order for eight weeks. What I envisioned would be a summer of attempting to salvage my track season, some road races, and getting a nice training tan with my sister, turned into this:


Lots of bike time.  Lots of Netflix.  I know how to work a theraband like nobody's business.  I have a complete theraband collection; which is probably equivalent to a complete set of Chocolate Frog Cards in the athlete world.  I'm very self sufficient with the underwater treadmill, GameReady, and fancy ultrasound Nevada athletes call "The Magic Machine".  After give or take 10,000 calf raises, my calves have returned to their filled out glory.

During the time off my feet I finished: Mad Men, Sherlock, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, any Disney movie that fit my current mood, White Collar, New Girl, Ripper Street, Once Upon a Time, and Breaking Bad.  After watching more TV* than I have in the last 10 years of my life, I know what it takes to pick out a show when you cross train:

     1) Drama, suspense, and mystery are required.

     2)Violence is recommended, but not required.

     3) Humor (generally the darker the better, but whatever kind you're into will work)
     4) It's complicated enough to keep you engaged.
     5) But not so many details you get totally lost when you get distracted by:
         a. Pinterest/Twitter/BuzzFeed/Facebook/8Tracks/YouTube/ect on your phone
         b. the book you've been attempting to read for the better part of six months
         c. absolutely nothing; you have just checked out of life for the last ten minutes
         d. your HR is above 190 mid workout and you're convinced lactic acid is dissolving your organs.
     6) Accents
     7) Any track and field meet with a live stream trumps any and all shows you are watching; even if said feed is in a language you do not understand.**

*I'm not sure you can call watching TV on the internet watching TV.  Someone should come up with a verb for this activity.  Netflixing? "Inter"viewing?  Watching the computer?  I'm not creative.  English and language majors, you're on it.

**BBC by far had the best feed of the world championships- live, free, no commercials, and see #6 on the list.

At eight weeks my PT gave me the go ahead to run.  I had been planning my return to running as those eight weeks had ticked by at a snail's pace.  I thought I would get cleared to do a bit of light jogging for a couple days, maybe 20-30 minutes right off the bat.  Then build back up to 60-70 miles over a couple weeks.  Dive back into tempos and Virginia Lake repeats.  Back to business, like I hadn't missed a step.  I knew all the time I'd logged on the bike would, at the very least, keep me as aerobically fit as I was pre-injury.  Then a lightbulb went on when I checked out of life for a minute on the bike.  I'm starting at zero. This is not a little injury that you just get back to business with.  I'm starting at zero.  I spilled all of this to Mel who, with the most empathetic gaze, said "yeah, you're at zero" (she more than anyone knows what it is like to start at zero).  My first two weeks back on my feet were run a minute walk a minute, built up to run ten minutes walk two minutes; with thirty minutes of total running.  This is almost worse than not running, because it is a tease.  You are running, but really it feels like you are doing long stride outs for thirty minutes. Do you know how long it takes to run thirty minutes when you run a minute, walk a minute?  It feels a lot longer than the hour it takes.

The one thing I heard repeatedly over the last 12 weeks (besides: Be careful. Don't rush back. Are you allowed to be off your crutches? Can you run yet? Are you allowed to wear those shoes? You biked HOW long today?) was, "You have a great attitude about this."  As soon as I found out how hurt I was, I couldn't be mad.  How do you plan for tearing some tendons?  How do you see that coming? As painful and awful as it was, I knew it could have been so much worse.  I have an unhealthy amount of anatomy text books at my fingertips.  I know how to navigate a Google search and WebMD, which always tells you you're dying.  Tear any of those tendons completely and that's surgery.  Tear your post tib completely and even with surgery, running fast again is not a guarantee.  The achillies is in that muscle/tendon/nerve bundle too, and it could have just as easily been that.  I had to take eight weeks off my feet and it was not fun and I was not happy about it.  Considering the alternative, I'll take those eight weeks.  The longest, until now, I've been told "you can not run" has been maybe ten days.  If this is the worst injury I ever have, (knocking on my wooden desk as I type that) I'm lucky.

Four weeks back on my feet; I'm at 22 miles and today I get to do a few strides.  I've got the next couple months drawn out and have goals for each month.  Until I'm at fifty miles a week, I'll be mostly on the bike.  Right now, I'm adding strides and speed/power back.  After that, add workouts.  My fall is locked into rebuilding my foundation so I can hopefully race a little indoors.  I'm taking my time and doing it right.  If I don't have time to do it right, when will I have time to do it over?

Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's a week until US Championships and I have been very M.I.A. on the racing scene.

Chuck Martin is the owner of Eclipse Running and the man who has provided me with a job for the last 10 years.  He is an avid runner and cyclist.  He has a passion for running that is contagious.  I can't count how many times I've gotten into conversations about track, training, marathons, Ironman, or racing with Chuck and completely forgotten I was at work.  In the early fall Chuck had the same nasty, lingering cough that everyone and their mom had; but it never really went away, even months later.  Well into the winter, he kept talking about how tired he was and how it was hard to go for a run or ride his bike.  He would leave the shop in the afternoon determined to get a ride or run in, leaving him totally exhausted.  After a trip to DC with his wife, he came back saying "old ladies were kicking my butt on all the tours!" (his exact words).  Well into February, he went to the doctor.  After some confusing text messages, the shop got a call. "I'm getting on a helicopter to Stanford, I'll let you guys know more tomorrow." Diagnosis: leukemia.

After our initial shock, the Eclipse employees settled in and focused on our job: take care of business; knowing this was not an, "I have the flu, you guys need to cover the bases for a week or so" situation.  Having had worked for him so long, Chuck asked me to be in charge (ie. meet with reps, orders, keep product stocked, clean, deposits, scheduling, ect.), even bringing the "I know this isn't what you want to do with your life and you have your own goals and dreams" card to the table.  Done and done.  No questions, hesitations, or second guessing on my part.  The answer would always be yes.   

So how does all this fit into the racing part of my life?  Well, running a business is stressful (obviously); especially when it is not yours, basically you are in charge of someone's life savings, you do everything 110%, and are slightly a neurotic perfectionist.  It took about two months for the effect of that stress to show.  I opened at Mt Sac, not thrilled with my opener but I hadn't raced in 10 months, you have to get steeple legs under you.  Then Oxy, which left me very frustrated.  My coach and I discussed how I could not be unhappy with races, they reflected my training.  Long story short, after looking back at my running log, the pillars I was trying to build the specificity on were shaky.  I straight up did not have the fitness and the more specificity I tried to add, the more tired and run down I got.  I can see looking back I was doing C/C- work and that doesn't cut it.

With a week till US Championships where does this leave me?  In a perfect world, it's the start of April and I've caught the downward spiral to exhaustion early.  Sometimes we have to work with what we're given.  I have made the most of the last few weeks.  I'm finally feeling rested and have put together some solid specific workouts.  Now I'm just waiting to see if my 10:00.35 from the Trails will get me into the race next Thursday afternoon in Drake Stadium.  As I wait for declared and accepted entries to come out, I think about how Chuck is laying in a hospital bed waiting to start a bone marrow transplant.  I am painfully aware what a special opportunity I have to chase these dreams.

If I could go back to February, I would never change my decision to take on the responsibility of the store.  A terrible situation created another situation, that can help me reach my athletic potential.  Now that the store requires so much more of my attention, I can't work three different jobs.  While the density of work has increased, the volume has decreased.  This leaves me with time to do things I've neglected, like rest.  Over the past ten years, Chuck has become a parental figure in my life.  He is someone I respect, admire, and feel extremely accountable too.  I will never be able to thank him enough for the support he has given me, starting with the first pair of shoes he fit me for when I was eleven.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day in the Life

When Oiselle asked me to do a “Day in the Life” blog I was pumped, how hard could it be? Write a little, add some pictures, maybe a little video. But then came the hard part, choosing a day to chronicle.  Everyday in my life is different.  Is there practice? What is practice? Do I need spikes? Where am I working today; Eclipse Running? Eclipse Pizza? both? neither? Is there PT today? Or the chiropractor?  Do I need to double? Is it a lifting day? Am I traveling this weekend? Am I coaching? Racing? Both? Just picture a calendar highlighters threw up on and that’s what I’m working with most days.  

My phone is buzzing around in my blankets somewhere with the alarm memo, “somewhere someone is already up getting it done.”

Bread in the toaster. The coffee pot contains 4AM cold coffee, courtesy of my pro-triathlete roommate, who heads to swim before the heat turns on in the morning.  New pot STAT.  Toast pops up. On goes peanut butter, banana, honey, cinnamon; yes in that exact order everyday. Creature of habit, guilty as charged.
Today is a workout day so I have a few hours to chill, organize my day, catch up on some shows (currently working my way through White Collar), and do some neglected chores.  Working at the running store and restaurant; which means I’ll have to double after work.  Lifting can get moved to tomorrow.  Reminds me I have to update my running log.

8:15A   Head to the chiropractor before practice.  Do I have everything? Probably not.

8:50A   Head to campus.


I meet up with Kirk and set up everything for practice.  A couple rows of hurdles.  A plethora of med balls.  Scissor hurdles. Wobble boards. Cones, cones, cones... I’ve never seen so many cones.  

Get the low down on the workout, do pre-run exercises, and head out the door for warm up.  Twelve women will be on the track today.  Some with the same workouts, but many with different times.  Two coaches are there, but one is working out (that’s me).  Having the ability to do workouts at the same time as the athletes I help coach definitely has it’s benefits.  There is always someone to run with and I can give Kirk feedback on how it seems to be going for people real time.  However, there is a lot going on and things can get out of hand very fast.... let the chaos begin.


Cooling down to my car.  I was supposed to be at Eclipse Running for work 5min ago.  Shoot a quick text to Chuck, the owner- “Just finished practice, be there in 10.” “K. No rush. Did you get a chance to eat?”  Damn that’s what I forgot.  There’s a banana and a bar in my bag, not going to cut it.  Quick stop at Newman’s Deli on the way.  

Welcome to Eclipse Running, Reno’s oldest running specialty store.  I’ve worked here since high school and have the greatest boss ever.  I’ll spend the first hour or so still in my workout clothes, stretching and foam rolling in between customers.  A few shipments of shoes need to be put away.  A couple customers with special orders get called.  Socks get restocked. 

Head for home.  Usually I’d be headed to Eclipse Pizza for round two of work but it’s slow so they don’t need me (yes, Eclipse Running and Eclipse Pizza are affiliated).
I’m whimping out on a second run; cold, windy, dark... not my jam.  My sister isn’t at work either! Bike Party! Core Party!  I’ve had my sister living with me for the last eight months and it’s as close as I get to having a full time training partner.  Somebody to be accountable to 24/7.  We hop on our trainers and get plugged into Netflix (I also need music and something to read... high maintenance).  

Dinner. Our “Core Party” has turned into a foam rolling and stretching party.  Brandon (the triathlete) is home too and is making us feel slightly less accomplished as he tells us how he swam, biked, and ran today.

8:30P  Can I justify going to bed before 9? Yea...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I've never been much for resolutions.  If I was they might look something like this: spend more time stretching, blog more, stop procrastinating.  Since I'm posting this well after the time where it is still appropriate to say "Happy New Year" to people, a few of those "resolutions" are already out the window.  The stretching more thing is going well but, let's see how that is in another week.
But goals... I'm all about goals.  The Goals of 2013:

The quest for Speed, Power, and Durablity.
Heading into 2013 the biggest question is how can I be faster than last year?  Which leads into the next question (and gut check) what are my weaknesses?  Easy answer: speed/power and durability.
After watching me do fly 60's one day my coach joking said, "If I could wave a magic wand over you I'd give you raw speed."  This is the same guy who said my vertical jump was high enough to just slip a piece of paper under my feet (but seriously, at the time it was).  There are some serious kickers out there and I don't like the taste of dust.
Putting in 85+ miles week in and out takes its toll on my body.  I've learned the value of rest days, easy days, naps, relationships between volume and intensity; but at some point my body is going to say enough.  It's always a game of opening the envelope without ripping it.
How do I turn these weaknesses into non-issues?  My answer: become a better athlete.  Alright awesome, Collier, but how can you just say "I'm going to become a better athlete"?  Hit the weight room... kind of.  I have this tendency to have muscles appear out of thin air just walking by a weight room so, we needed to be creative.  Enter my new friend Julie Young, the owner of O2 Fitness, who I've teamed up to help with the speed/power/durability issue.  Ascending the list of top US/world steeplechasers is going to take more than just being fast between barriers and efficient over them although, sometimes, that seems hard enough.  When you have to jump/hurdle/throw your tired body and wasted legs over 28 barriers and 7 water pits it needs to look pretty; and being strong, agile, quick, and durable never hurt.  When it stops looking pretty, you my friend, are in serious trouble.
Maybe my goal should be to always look pretty in races... not sure that'll get me on a world or olympic team.

Airport Phone Calls.
Originally my idea behind starting this blog was so that my family and friends could stay more up to date with what was going on in my life.  Since I blog so often you can see how well that worked out.  When I finally do get around to catching up with them and they ask whats been going on my answer is always the same "Running and working. Same as usual. Nothing exciting. My life stays pretty consistent month to month."  Boring.  I am boring but my life is exciting.  I travel almost every weekend coaching with UNR and I'm running professionally.  There's bound to be some exciting details slipping through the cracks in the months between "life update" phone calls.
One problem- my days are filled.  Planned down to the minute. When there is a day with nothing that's exactly what I'm doing, nothing.  So where am I going to find this time to catch up? Airports.  
I waste a lot of time in airports; wandering, browsing the magazines that were the same as last week and will be the same next week (even though I stand there, blank expression on my face, hoping to come across something new every time), refreshing my twitter feed every half second.  Goal: use that time to call my friends who I've neglected and get regular life updates; because trying to review 6+ months of life in a ten minute phone call you lose the awesome details.

Junior Silver State Striders
I never would have gotten to this point in my running career without the Silver State Striders and Bruce Susong.  I was fortunate enough to grow up in a community where I had access to a club system and an awesome coach.  Bruce was my club and high school coach, he took us all over the country to race and very often on his dime.  Returning to Reno after college, I noticed a decline in the club's presence and participation.  I want to encourage kids to get involved in this sport, because (pardon the cliqué) but they are the future.  Children's passions should be encouraged and cultivated.  I want to involve myself more in getting kids excited about running, excited about being active, excited about track and field.  Whether it's putting on clinics, helping out at races, or putting on races, I'm getting out there somehow.  It's time for me to put my background, experiences, and resources to use and try to return favors that helped get me here and continue to support me.

There are a few things I'm not changing this year.  I'm sticking with Oiselle, which I'm pumped about. They are doing great things in the running world and I'm excited to be a part of that.  I'm staying in Reno, why would I leave this great support system and community? Looking for 2013 to be a great year #lucky13.

Since it's past the New Year.... Happy Tuesday!