Sunday, February 23, 2014

Good Times and Heights

When first going into track season my freshman year, the only thing I knew was running is hard no matter how long you are running for. When the distance is shorter, you run at a faster pace and times you get are lower. When the distance is longer, you run at a slower pace and the times you get are higher. The thing about watching a track meet is that you don't truly know what good and bad times consist of. You hear times and distances shouted out at random it seems: 5:10, 11.4 seconds 19 feet, 3:40, 6 feet. How is a person supposed to know what times, distances, and heights should make you laugh or should make your jaw drop. My goal in this blog is to explain what is considered the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Now one thing about this blog is that it's not about saying that if someone runs a certain time, throws a certain distance, or jumps a certain height that they are a bad athlete or should give up running or throwing or jumping forever. It just means that either they should find another race or event, train a bit more, or really need to drastically improve form. But I am a firm believer that with enough work anyone can be relatively good at any event. It just takes work.
One more thing I have to point out is factors that go in these times. These include gender, age, body composition sometimes, whether it's an indoor or outdoor track, competition you are facing, and sometimes circumstances of weather and wind and such. Unfortunately, I am not the best at saying what times or distances are good or bad. This is more of my educated opinion I have gotten from experience and research. I tried to split it up from average high schooler, high school champion, D1 athlete, and olympic times. Since I am not as good with knowing good girl race times, I decided to only put boys times. Sorry gals. These are approximates and not exact in any way shape or form. And remember, like grades, times, distances, and heights do not define you at all. Just wanted to say a little food for thought before I started:

100 meter: This is the shortest event in outdoor track and field. I'm not a sprinter, but I know that an average track high school boy gets around a 11.9 seconds to 12.5 seconds. Milliseconds are a big deal in this event. The winner of a state championship should get around a 10.4 to 10.5 seconds. Good D1 athletes will get around 10.1 seconds. Olympic athletes get under 10 seconds regularly. The world record was ran by Usain Bolt pretty recently. He ran a 9.5 seconds.

200 meter: The world record is also held by Usain Bolt with 19.1 seconds. Typical runners that train with sprinters run around a 25 second flat. Seniors, though, get closer to 23.6. State winners get typically close to 21.8. Good D1 athletes get under 21 seconds.

400 meter: The dreaded 400 record is actually held by the American Bred Michael Johnson with 43.1 seconds. That is running four 100 meter under 11 seconds each time... which is nuts. The range for the 400 is pretty spread out. At freshman year, if you can break 60 outdoors, you are above average. One a state 4x400 meter relay, each guy is running around a 50 second (not including the handoffs of the baton). A winner at state will get around a 48 second. D1 guys should get around a 46 second. 

Now we start getting in to distance events: my kind of events. I have a better bearing of these times that others.

800 Meter: If you can break a 2:10 minute, you are pretty solid for a high school veteran. 2:05 minutes is more preferable for relays and such. If you break a 2:00 800 meter, though, you are very solid. State champions get very close to 1:50 to 1:53 minutes. 1:48 and under will get you places in college. For the pros, though, you'll want to get very close to 1:42 considering the world record is a 1:40.9.

1600 meter (aka the mile): This is my favorite event and one I understand the best. Breaking the 5 minute mile is a thing that all boy runners strive for. In order to be competitive at your conference championship your senior year, you need to be under 4:30 minute for an average high school conference. State runners get a ridiculous 4:15 and under.  For top colleges, they want people as close to the 4:00 mile barrier as they can. Olympic runners break 3:50 and under (they don't run the 1600 in the olympics; instead they run the 1500 meter but thats a conversation for another day... and to just confuse you even more, the official 1600 meter and the official mile is a difference of almost 10 meters... but again thats for another day). The record is 3:43.1 minutes. The runner ran the second 800 meters faster than the first 800 meters... which is not possible... like really.

3200: This is the 2 mile, a race I have never ran in an actually meet before (which is pretty surprising but it seems that will change this year). Breaking 10 minutes is a requirement for competitiveness throughout high school. Breaking 9:40 should make you win conference. State champions get under 9 minutes (which is crazy) D1 guys get closer to around 8:40 (thats 4:20 mile twice in a row). The record for 2 mile is unreal though: 7:58.6...

Triple Jump: This is the dumb jumping event that I do... so i can say its kinda dumb but still fun. The range is all over the place because there isn't that many people that know about it not to mention actually do. 38 feet should place you at a senior meet. 40+ feet will make you place pretty well in competitive meets. 45+ should get you top 10 at state. There is always that one guy that jumps like 49 feet, though, and wins by like a foot because he is the only one who knows what he's doing. 52+ should be in good college. The record is 60 feet which is held by a british guy of all guys... I would think that my home country should hold that record but i guess not.

Long Jump: 19+ is good in high school. 23+ should place you at state. 25+ is NCAA D1 winner worthy. 29 feet is the world record. As you can most likely tell, I don't do long jump considering the length of this segment.

Pole Vault: Ok so I'm worse with pole value than I am with long jump. High school winner should get 15+ feet... so D1 guys should get around 17 feet? I know the world record is 20 feet if that helps....

High Jump: I actually did this event one meet... and stunk at it so I never did it again. 5 feet 8 inches is a ok senior. Above 6 feet is more preferable in high school. 6 feet 9 inches could win high school state. 7+ feet is good in college. World record is 8 feet... So if I held a bar straight above my head, people could jump over that.

Discus/shot: I don't throw. I don't lift. Never touched a discus in my life. I just know that 60+ feet for shot is 180+feet for discus will win stuff... big stuff. 75 feel is a world record for shot and 242 feet for discus.

Don't even ask me about hurtles because I know that people can run 300 meters with hurdles that I can without them.... so it makes me feel self conscious...

Understand all these times are based on the biggest (3A)high schools in Illinois and is not always true for all states... the college and olympic times are pretty accurate. Moral of this blog: pole vaulters are a cult... because if I don't know all about them, then no one can

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Track Season Begins

Track is a fantastic sport that can be watched more than at the olympics *gasp* every 4 years. Actually, there is world championships for track every year. It was not the olympics in which Usain Bolt has the world record in the 100 meter but at one of these championships. *Gasp*

Track and field is a sport that people see as just running all the time. This is so far from the truth. There is many other fascists in the sport that people don't realize. Yes, you run a lot in track. Yes, it will hurt more than one time. Yes, the sport itself is dull. But for a person that really understands the sport, it is a thing of beauty.
There are many different running events that are spread out through the 2 seasons, indoor and outdoor. There is everything ranging from the 55 meter to the 200 meter and 400 meter to finally the dreaded mile and 2 mile races. In the outdoor, the 55 and 60 meter races are dropped and the 100 meter is added. There are many different 4 person relays like the 4 x 100, 4 x 200, the infamous 4 x 400, and for the distance guys, the 4 x 800 (half mile). In my opinion, the field events are what give track its flavor. There is the famous long jump and fun to watch high jump. There is the pole volt that everyone wants to try at least once before they die. There is also the little known triple jump, an event that I do. For strong guys out there, there is the shot put, discus, and in other states there is the javelin and hammer events. So whatever you are good at, track has a place for you.

As there are cliques at our schools and workplaces, there are cliques in the sport of track. It's fun to talk about which event people do what. At the beginning of each practice, people from certain events split off with people of similar events. See which one you belong in:

The Jumpers: These guys tend to be very springy and usually basketball players. They are always up in spirits and pretty jumpy and not for the reason you think. Every so often, like 2 or 3 days a week, they get to skip 400 intervals (basically the worst torchure next to 800 intervals) and soreness that comes only from fast running. they still lift some but it's actually for a purpose of jumping higher. On these "field days", they basically just jump a few times then sit around for the rest of the day. High jumpers get it the easiest. 95% of the time, they either are sitting on the mat or drinking water. In track language, field day for jumpers = recovery day to not do work. Who wouldn't be happy to be a jumper?

The Hurlers: These guys are fast enough to be a treasured jumper but just don't have the vertical hops. They are good enough to jump over a hurl, though. There is much less running than usual runners but they don't have designated days to sit around. These guys are pretty chill but not overly happy. You could be worse than a hurler.

The Sprinters: Being a sprinter can straight up suck most days. There are some days to work on block work and hand offs but overall the repeats and intervals don't balance those days well. Most of these guys hang their heads at practice because of the hard work. They still have to lift even though it doesn't directly help them as much as jumpers get from lifting. These guys are dark and jealous of most of the other guys at practice. Jealous of everyone... except the distance guys.

Distance Guys: These guys are crazy. Every practice, you run mile after mile. You kill yourself at stairs workouts. You have tempo runs that make you want to quit. Every run is beneficial to you, though. There are no off days for these guys. Lifting is at a minimum if at all so recovery days are about running 3-4 miles. The only benefit to these guys is they get to run wherever they want really, they become good friends with each other, and tapering at the end of the year is absolutely awesome. They are basically the exact opposite of throwers. And did I mention how the mileage can make your mind just a little off? I mean, have you ever talked to a dedicated distance guy?

Throwers: All these guys do is lift, lift, lift. Practice throwing a little then lift some more. Basically, these are football players that want to get stronger for football and not care much about throwing itself. Running is at a minimum so these guys are in good spirits. But not as high in spirits as the best clique in track: the pole vaulters.

The Pole Vaulters: These guys are the best. Every day is like a field day. Little lifting and little running. It's also the most baller event ever. No one really knows what they do, though. So much so in which that is the only information I know about them. I mean seriously

So basically those are all the stereotypes for the cliques in track. Most of these are oversimplified and some aren't true completely.  People who are dedicated don't follow most of these stereotypes so don't take all of these as facts. Except the pole vaulter one. #distanceforlife

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cross Country as an Analogy

Today while I was sitting in church (very exhausted I must add) I let my mind wander on anything it pleases. I recommend this to anyone because it gives you very interesting insight on life, love, and other mysteries. So today, I forgot what exactly the pastor was talking about, but it prompted me to think about an analogy for life. So I, obviously, thought about running. So without further ado, let me introduce my analogy for life:

Life is like a Cross Country Race:

Life is like a cross country race. At the beginning of a race, everyone lines in with each time in a 3 by 4 spray painted box. You line up next to everyone else, everyone starts in the same place. You take off all your extra, non-jersey things to keep you warm and ready. You now only have on shorts that are barely longer than underwear and sleeveless light shirt. And let me tell you, it can be pretty cold. As you line up, a referee comes infront of everyone and explains how the race will run. Be goes off to the side and gets ready to shoot the gun. Then the gunshot goes off and everyone starts. You start to run against the other competitors. 
The first mile there are many strategies with it. You can go fast out front making the first mile the fastest. You can go out slow making it the slowest mile. Or you can be steady and try to have consistent mile splits.
The second mile is a sometimes overlooked but still crucial part of the ran. Most people's slowest miles come in the second mile. Smart runners know this and start to make a move, or run a little harder/similar to their first mile to make up ground. 
The third mile is just about giving all you've got to finish the race strong. Some people (metaphorically) die the last mile and get pasted. Some people's last mile is their fastest because they want their closing statement to end on a better note than what they started with. Also, they are trying to recover from slow second miles. Then there is the consistent people who end their last miles similar in timing to their other two. It's all about preference. 
The last part is called the "chute" where all the runners end in line after they see what time they got. They are all in order from first to last. All is exhausted no matter how hard they run.

Now here is where I try to explain the relation to life:

The Warm Ups: At the beginning of your life, you have all of life's comfort and protection to warm you up and keep you out of the cold. This is a requirement to start the race of real life. I would say that you keep all your "warm ups" on until around the time you are a teenager. Then one by one, you take off the security. For example, you start doing real homework by yourself, so you take off your "hat". You start babysitting your sibling and the neighbors, so you take off the "warm gloves". You start to drive a car so now the "warm-up pants" come off. And before you know it, you are at college with only your "jersey" on and ready for life. If you start to take off warm-ups too quickly, you become too cold for the race. Take them off too late, you won't be ready for the race to start. My advice, find a good middle ground.

The Team: As you go "run your race", you always run for your team. It does not matter if you like them or not. It does not matter who your coach is. You actually do not have a choice who these people are. In order to race, you have to have them. I am referring to your family. At the end of the day, you will always have the same "logo" on your "jersey". Your family's name. You carry around with you everywhere. You represent them whether you like it or not. It won't change because the nature of a race is to run for something. My advice on this is that it makes it more fun to "run" for people you have good relations with and have a great time with, as much as they get on your nerves. 

The Start Box: Now the start box in a cross country race I believe is different than in life. While in an XC race there is the same start time and place for everyone on the "team", in actual life people start at different times depending on age and maturity. Your parents started their race way before you did. That's way they cheer you on. It is because they know how hard it can get, especially in the second mile, and they try to explain the obstacles to you and when you are going to get tired and how to prepare for the race. My advice to that is listen and respect older people because the race is way different than you expect it before the "gun". Don't be afraid to lean on them when you get out of breath. 
Now some people do start at relatively the same time and place. If that is so, use each other to pace. I once heard of twins that were one of the best in the state. One twin would pace while the other hung back a bit. Then when they felt ready, they would switch roles. Find a friend to "run" along side. And for those who don't believe there is not friend for you, realize there is another "runner" with your same dreams and goals thinking the same thing.
And for people who start after you, don't be afraid to give guidance within reason. That's all I have to say about that.

The Referee: The referee in real life is that person or thing who explains the "race" to you. For some more religious people, it may be a God figure. For others, it may be someone you look up to and listen to like a parent or role model. It can also be a thing like a book or a movie. It is possibly the media also.  Or it can be a collection of all these things. Most likely, the last one is what can explain this for most of you. You can learn a lot about yourself, your values and morals, and your personality by trying to pinpoint your "referee". Some referees can be good yet some can be bad. Some referees say wrong information. Use your own discerning techniques to filter those out. And remember, as much as some people believe that nothing influences them and they are the controllers of their life completely, they are influenced by something which makes them think that very notion. 

The Gun: Most simply, the gunshot is a decision. What it shows is either your passion, obsession, and life calling or the opposite of that igniting a flame in which you revolve your life around. This starts your path down the path of your life. It can be one you really love. For example, you watch T.V and you see the sport of basketball. You find out you like this so you start to practice day in and day out to be the best you can be. The first decision to practice is your "gun shot". Since this is shot by the referee, the referee has a lot of influence on what your gun is. If your ref is the media and you believe in what the media tells you what you should want, then your shot would be the decision to try to get as much money as you can even if it sacrifices a fun job to a lame but high paying one. If one of your refs is a book about endangered species, then your "gunshot" is the decision to join a group to help animals. You have multiple "gunshots" in your life depending on how your ref changes, how opportunities arise, and different and new issues in the world become known. Once you figure out your ref, you will figure out your "gunshot" soon enough. You can always stop on race and start a different one, but remember that we never stop running. You can be sometimes faster and slower, but life will not stop.

Other Competitors: These are people you interact with in your everyday life. There are two kinds of competitors: ones that build you up and ones that tear you down. For the sake of boredom and typing, here is the fast version. You sometimes have a choice and sometimes don't have a choice your environment and the people you interact with. Basically, cherish time with builder uppers and spend the least amount of time with people who tear down. Don't be a tearer downer yourself because no one likes them. People can change, though, so remember that. No matter where you are in the race, you always have an effect on others.

Now this is the part of the blog where I explain how different stages of life are (This doesn't completely relate to all I've said up to this point. This is just about your full life, not mini races you go through, finding your niche and going after your calling):

The First Mile: Some people start too "fast" by being too overly excited about what they are doing and using too many resources at once beside distributing over all the "miles" you "run". These people are almost too optimistic. Some people start too "slow" and do the opposite. Find a good medium. Remember that you still have a lot of living to go. Think of your future self and go at your own pace.

The Second Mile: This "mile" is where most people have the hardest time. They don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. They start to slow down and become pessimistic. But this is also where the smartest "runners" make their move. They start "pushing" here because they know they don't want to regret this section because this is usually the longest part in the "race" of life. If you go too fast in this part, though, and get to the third mile too fast, you are exhausted at the end and won't finish out strong. Also, the race will pass you by and you will just get caught up with the crowd. This is not a good thing at this point. Be yourself and go strong to set your future self up well. Make good decisions. Be positive. Encourage others. You don't know what around the next corner.

The Last Mile: This is it. You planned your whole "race" on this part. This is where everyone is making their move. Everyone is cashing everything in, not holding back. And you shouldn't be. Let it all go because there is no use having energy after a race. It is unsatisfying. Run and run to the fullest. 

The Time: The result at the end of the race is by the amount of person's life you positively affected. Each person has something else to give to someone. This is how you are remembered. It is not measured by numbers but by quality. I personally think that dramatically changing someone's life in a positive way by 10 fold is better than affecting 20 people's lives just a little bit. But I know there are people who feel the opposite and I respect that. What ever you think is better, strive for that. 

The Finish Line: This is basically your death bed. We will all go there one day. Will you pass the line with a slumped look, feeling like you should've gone harder the the first or second mile. Or will you go with two hands up, knowing you did your best and there is nothing you would change? I don't think any of us would feel completely one way or the other. More of a mix. But I personally would rather have my hands up higher than my shoulders more slumped. 

The Chute: The "chute" is a somewhat touchy subject. I guess if I'm talking about life, though, I have to mention it. It's where you do after the finish line. After you basically stop running and the heart stops beating. Everyone there has passed the threshold. To end this segment I will just have a thought provoking quote from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

PIPPIN: I didn't think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN (almost whispering): What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF (staring off into the distance): White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN (Looking aside): Well *a little chuckle* that isn't so bad.
GANDALF (Thoughtfully): No. No, it isn't. 

Wherever life takes you, run it the best you can and know how. Comment about thoughts, opinions, other views, anything. Thanks for reading this long post! And remember,
 May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks
     J.R.R Tolkien

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lukas Verzbicas

That picture may not seem like much. I scrawny typical white American high school/college kid with short shorts, floppy dirty hair, and obvious running body. Well actually this kid is not from America (Lithuania) but has actually lived in this very state, Land of Lincoln, since he was 9. The guy doesn't even seem that fast. I mean, the guy behind him seem faster than him. But since he is in front of the fast looking guy in the background, you can assume there is something interesting about this kid. But interesting is an understatement. This kid's name is Lukas Verzbicas, and he one of the fastest kids that has ever run in America. But that's not all.

Born in 1993, he is actually younger than my brother and my bro is only 21. In the time that he has been alive, he has put himself on the world stage of Triathletes, cross country runners, and track guys. 

Let's start with the fact that he was a State Champion in the 3 mile with a 13:53, only 3 seconds off the highschool record.

But thats not what makes him unique.

He has broke the 4 minute mile, only the fifth high school student to do so including great Olympians like Jim Ryun. 

But that's not what makes him great. 

He holds the high school 2 mile record of 8:29. 

But thats not why he is great. 

He won more than half a dozen elite races including Foot Locker Championships and Adidas sponsored elite races. 

But that's not what makes him standout to me.

He is a gold medalist in Junior Olympic events and predicted to win triathlons in the Rio Olympics.

Still not it, though.  

In order to illistrate what makes him better than others, I'll have to tell a story that I read from about Lukas's struggle:

It was a clear, sunny day last July under deep blue skies and no wind to speak of. Perfect conditions for an interval training ride through sloping hills on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Lukas, and a group of other college-aged kids who comprise the fledgling Elite Triathlon Academy, had taken this route countless times before.
Already positioned at the front, Lukas looked to separate. “I decided I wanted to ride away from the group,” he remembered. “Kind of thinking, ‘I’m better than everyone.’”
Careening down a hill with runaway speed, he saw the next in a series of sharp turns suddenly materialize a few yards ahead. His only chance was to take the turn wide but, in doing so, his tires got caught up in the sand along the shoulder of the road. Out of control, his bike slammed into the metal guardrail and his body hurtled through the air, landing down a rocky embankment. His bike, his body — and potentially his future Olympic dreams — were crushed.
Later, in the hospital, the news was sobering: his spine was broken.
In addition to the two snapped thoracic vertebrae, he suffered six broken ribs and a broken right collarbone. Also, his right lung was punctured and would need a gallon of blood drained from it.
He spent the next month in the hospital. His already lean six-foot frame would wither to a mere 108 pounds.
Looking back he says that, in a way, it was meant to be.

Now here's what stands out to me. First of all, he admitted his flaw: he put himself on a level in which he put no one else. That is the worst thing you can do in the world of running. As runners, we are all equal in terms of importance  While some may be faster than others, you can't have that flood you. Having confidence in yourself is not bad, saying that I think I can win because I run the best is one thing. But deciding that everyone else is below you puts your attitude and behavior in a bad place. You start to run just to beat people and I don't believe that is what running is all about. I believe it is about beating yourself and pushing your body past your initial limits and to overcome your goals. Winning is fun, but in the end everything seems meaningless if it's just about other people. Racing against yourself is where the real nirvana of running comes from because it proves that you can accomplish things that you didn't originally think you could. And with this confidence, you can use it in your life outside of running. 

You can race 4 year olds and "win" but the win will feel hollow because you didn't push yourself to the limit to get there. (And if you did push yourself to beat 4 year olds it's only because of 3 things: you are a 4 year old yourself, you are really out of shape and need to start working out, or you know the fastest 4 year olds on the planet and you should tell the world about them) So what I liked about Lukas is that he admitted that he had that mindset. That is a very hard thing to do. 
The other thing I liked about him was the challenges he did to overcome his medical problems. It is an inspiring story because 7 months after surgeries and intense rehab and basically learning to walk again, he entered his first race since the injury and actually won it. That itself is awesome.
Lastly, I liked the last line of the story. "It was meant to be." Because he learned from his mistakes and would be a weaker man (not in the physical sense) if he did not go through what he did. 
With his whole life story that I've shared with you, I've showed you what makes him unique to me. I'm going to strive to be more like him when I run (not literally his times because they are fricken insane) but more his attitude he has now because that attitude makes you a better runner and overall person to be around. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Blerch

Every so often when I have some spare time and need some cheering up, I find myself going to a particular comic website in which a friend once showed me. I find very relatable comics and humorous portrayals of everyday life. These include everything from cats, "minor" differences in life, review of movies, to hotels, movie theaters, and running which I personally find interesting. The creator of the website (the name has slipped my mind) published a comic that I found very eye catching and somewhat inspiring. He explained (at actually quite a personal level) why he found running enjoyable and terrible at the same time. He titled it The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I run Long Distances.

Being a runner myself, I found myself clicking on the comic almost instantaneously. I did not know before reading this article that the author did actually run. Everything from 5ks to ultra-marathons. Besides finding personal satisfaction in himself, he finds it very calming in which he actually makes up comics in his head during this time. All this I found very interesting and enlightening. But I really didn't connect with this comic until he started talking about something that all runners have experienced. In quote, he said "Some runners call it 'hitting the wall'... I do not believe in the wall. I believe in the blerch." Basically, what really inspires him to give up and stop is this little creature:

Ok so your first impression is most definitely "What the Heck" but hear me out. Basically the whole premise of the blerch is that it's a little creature that "whispers" in your ear to give up. It tells you all the junk food that is calling your name. It reminds you that sleeping in without running in the morning makes you feel more rested. It is all those people who tell you to give up. It is not a wall, though. That is the biggest point of this idea. A wall cannot be moved. You will always have to yield to a wall. When your legs give out from underneath you, there is not much you can do. But as for a creature, that can be silenced. You can choose to ignore it. Pretend like it's not there. It is always there and will always be there as long as you so long run. But you have a choice. Even in other things than running, like school work or stilling it out with a tough relationship, the blerch will always be there. It is just a matter of weather you will feed and submit to it or not.