Category Archives: Running
Post-Collegiate Racing Season: Competitive Athlete Vs. Recreational Runner
Did the Olympics spark that fire for your inner-competitor too? Obviously the highlight for me was the track events. I have so much respect for these world-class athletes, but I also know how much of a sacrifice they make to commit their life to a sport. Running is literally their job.
Now that I’m on the other side of the collegiate-athlete world, I started realizing how differently I look at running/races as a competitive athlete versus as a recreational runner.
When I signed that scholarship agreement during my senior year of high school, I was committing to represent Northern Arizona University, the Lumberjacks, and Adidas. Training was a mandatory part of every day. Being on an NCAA Division 1 Track team was something I’d worked hard for, and it will always be one of my proudest achievements.
When I graduated one year ago, the collegiate running career officially ended as well. Now I have to find the motivation to run myself. Suddenly running is a choice. Do I even want to run anymore? Of course I do. That’s a no-brainer. There’s just no training plan I “have” to follow or any races I must compete in. There’s no one else tied to my performance.
I can’t say I prefer one over the other. I LOVED being a collegiate athlete; it gave me an identity and purpose at my school. It was incredibly rewarding, but stressful at times, and I think 8 years (high school and college) is the perfect amount of time to be a serious competitive athlete.
I’m also learning to LOVE the perks of being a recreational runner. There’s less stress and pressure; there are more options for workouts beyond what’s dictated by a coach. So here’s my comparison of Competitive Athlete vs. Recreational Runner now that I’ve enjoyed my time as both:
- Collegiate running spoiled me with free race entries, plus free transportation, lodging, food, racing gear and not to mention a dozen pairs of shoes a year. That’s a tough one to say goodbye to after college. (Thankfully I was able to jump right into the Boise Elite running team when I moved to Idaho which has a couple of sponsors and free race entries.)
- A coach can give you an outside perspective on your weak areas and ways to improve.
- Your team and coaches hold you accountable for your workouts; skipping a long run is simply not an option.
- Collegiate races have competitors at or above your level who can help push you through the race to improve your time. The atmosphere, the crowd, and the “official” nature of these types of races also boost adrenaline and help performance.
After graduation, that all goes away unless you are in the seriously elite 1% who become professional sponsored runners. I’m definitely not in that group :) I said goodbye to my blue and gold uniform but my love of running is still strong and I’ve been enjoying local race events as an individual runner.
- The stress of pleasing your coach and representing your school is lifted.
- I actually find enjoyment from my sport again now that I put less pressure on myself.
- You meet so many people in your community, who are just happy to be there, and it instantly boosts your mood.
- You can find scenic courses and run through gorgeous scenery rather than a turf oval track.
- You can win money ;) NCAA rules prohibit any “extra benefits” which include race prizes.
- You can race with an iPod!!! This one is HUGE for me because I run twice as fast it feels like when a really good beat comes on.
This weekend, I’ll be racing a local 10k road race. After that, I’ll continue training for an upcoming half-marathon. Transitioning from a student-athlete to a random road race runner isn’t too difficult because both have their perks. Let me know if you have any additions to these lists!
I’ll catch ya later on this week with a new back-to-school breakfast recipe I’m working on too :)
Huckleberry Festival & 5k
Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear “huckleberry” I think of a charming storybook. Being from Southern California, I’ve never had a huckleberry before and I’ve been dying to find them! Ever since moving to Idaho earlier this summer, I’ve been all about getting out to new places and finding new-to-me adventures to cross off my Idaho Bucket List. The Huckleberry Festival in a small mountain town a couple hours away was by far the most adorable small-town event we’ve been to. I have a feeling it will be an annual summer tradition.
Four years ago, my university track team traveled to Bozeman, Montana for the Track & Field Conference Championships. We flew to Spokane, and drove through Northern Idaho through the scenic Pacific Northwest and into Montana. (Little did I know this would be my new home 4 years later!)
After our race, my best friend Kerri and I walked through the tiny downtown in search of some huckleberries which are native to the area. We’d never had them before but it seemed like something we needed to try while in the PNW. The grocery stores failed us though, and the closest thing we got to huckleberries was a huckleberry-flavored chocolate bar. Okay, we weren’t too sad about that ;)
Since moving to Idaho, I’ve had huckleberry wine and huckleberry-flavored coffee, but no fresh berries. We’ve heard that you have to be careful picking them in the mountains though because you are literally competing with the bears for berries!
My parents and I woke up around 5am on Saturday to drive up into the mountains and be at the 5k race registration by 8am. The entire highway is lined with rivers and streams and farmland, which is even more picturesque during sunrise.
“Welcome to Donnelly. Population: 138”
We had no idea what to expect from this festival. But every event kept us pleasantly surprised and happy we made the trip!
The 8th annual Huckleberry Trot 5k race began at the community center, on a dirt road marking the course with white arrows. We got our t-shirts, purple flip-flops, and a goodie bag. The mayor of Donnelly kicked off the race, and about a hundred of us ran down the country road. The straight long road had some cows on either side….and that’s about it. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. There were a couple of boys a little younger than me who ran in a clump, and I just kept up with them for the first half. I had no expectations for my race time and I wasn’t really trying to hit a certain pace.
I crossed the finish line in 20:22, winning overall female. My grand prize? A Huckleberry Pie, of course! I was so excited to win the pie from one of the local Donnelly bakeries :) My mom raced the 5k as well and finished 3rd in her age group so we both brought home a medal! My dad said he’ll race it with us next year and we will not let him forget it ;)
We celebrated with post-race iced americano’s at the local bakery and split a huckleberry muffin that had just come out of the oven. The whole town spans one block, and it was festively decorated with purple streamers and huckleberry flavored specials everywhere.
This weekend was another reminder that I am extremely blessed to have found a new home in Idaho.
After years of gushing over movies and TV shows with a small-town setting, quaint and charming, I can finally experience it first-hand. We hung out on Main St. for the parade…..which lasted all of 7 minutes.
The day was so beautiful and a popular vacation destination, McCall, wasn’t too far away so we decided to head more north instead of heading back home. Look at how diverse Idaho is – mountains, lake, beachy sand, and a pine tree all in one spot :)
We had lunch on the balcony of a brewery looking out on the lake. I ordered the house salad with grilled chicken and raspberry dressing, which I’m now inspired to recreate at home. It was creamy, not like a regular raspberry vinaigrette. I’m thinking of trying out a greek yogurt raspberry puree type experiment to make my own healthy version of this bright pink dressing…
Everything in this area is blooming so most of the stores and restaurants have fresh flowers. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful! We were feeling like we were on vacation all day.
We skipped dinner and went straight to dessert that night with my fresh huckleberry pie while watching the Olympics :) I also made an AMAZING new healthy recipe with a friend last night, but I’ll save that for my next post.
Running in Mammoth Lakes
My favorite part of vacations: finding new running paths. The best way to experience a new place is to get out into it and explore on foot, in my opinion! Whether it’s New York City, North Carolina, Montana, or Mammoth, I always do a little research before a trip to find the best running hotspots. I feel like I get to see a part of the city or countryside that most tourists don’t. And I get to combine my love of travel with my love of running, which truly feels like vacation.
Last week, my parents and their friends rented a penthouse condo at the foot of the ski lifts on Mammoth Mountain and we spent 8 solid days exploring lakes and trails and mountains. I tagged along on their adventure, but began every morning with a run by myself at 9,000 ft. elevation.
You already know I’m more fond of running than the average person, but this trip made me more excited than ever to begin mixing up my workouts and training more seriously for my next marathon. Something about just burning off my energy, pushing my feet off the ground, hurling myself forward as fast as I can, music blasting out the sound of my own breath…I just can’t get enough. I feel so lucky to be able to run as far and as often as I want, injury-free and surrounded by nature. The fact that I’ve been safe and avoided any serious encounters with sketchy people or wild animals has not gone unappreciated either!
Some days I just run for its health benefits and because I feel like I need to maintain the long-distance-runner body type I’m used to. Some days I run because it’s something I know I’m good at and I need a confidence-booster. Some days I’m bummed out or stressed out over something, and I know that I seem to stop thinking/obsessing/worrying/hurting for that hour I’m striding down my path. Every day and every run is different but I almost always finish a run feeling stronger than I started.
And even though I can power through a treadmill session with a pair of headphones, nothing can ever compare to running outside. While I was in Mammoth, I ran up Lake Mary Rd. to Twin Lakes, then from Twin Lakes to Horseshoe Lake and back. I ran without music but spent every second taking in the silence, smells (I ran through a campground at one point where people started morning fires and cooked their bacon breakfasts), horse ranch, wild deer, bridges over creeks and brooks, expansive views of the Eastern Sierras, Lakes Mary, Mamie, and George, and the gorgeous massive pine trees. Hitting a plateau with views of the mountain tops make you feel pretty small :)
Speed has never been my strong suit and the fact that I actually enjoy running uphills makes it obvious that I’m a cross country runner at heart <3 I just thrive off of the feeling of cresting a really steep incline and knowing that I struggled and pushed myself. After I catch my breath, I’m always ready to do it again. I’ve added a few hilly trails and hill repeats to my workouts over the next few weeks as I gear up for my next marathon.
I passed high school cross country teams every day and was honestly jealous of their running camps. I went to Runner’s Workshop camps for 2 years in high school, and my high school coach also organized his own running camp for us a couple summers up in Big Bear, CA. Running teams and elite athletes love altitude training!
From the start of the Lake Basin Path on Lake Mary Rd. (which starts as Main St.), it’s 5.3 miles up to the finishing point of Horseshoe Lake. The bike path runs parallel with the one-lane road but sits a few feet over so that trees and fences usually separate you from cars.
Horseshoe Lake also has a perfect 2-mile loop around the circumference of the lake basin. The trail picks up at the parking lot, narrowing down to a single-track trail with pine trees on both sides. It was the flattest run of my trip because most streets have dramatic inclines and long flat roads are hard to find.
If you are braver than me or have a bigger group to run with, there are so many more bike trails to explore but I was by myself and nervous about bear sightings so I stuck with semi-paved and heavily-trafficked routes this time :) If you’ve ever run in Mammoth or the Eastern Sierra’s, let me know where in the comments below. I’d love to check out more areas!
Every morning after my run, we hit up a local coffee shop. At first, we intended to find a different unique coffee shop each day, but there was a definite favorite that we ended up at 5 days in a row. Full coffee shop review will be up tomorrow because it’s Monday after vacation and this girl has to get to work. See you again soon!