Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

This past weekend, I competed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Philadelphia in pursuit of the Olympic Trials Marathon standard of 65:00. Overall, it was a great experience, and although I came up an agonizing 10 seconds short of my goal, I was able to leave with my head held high with a nine second personal best and a 16th-place overall and sixth-place American finish. I felt great going into the race, and now have all the confidence I need to know I can run 64:30 to 64:00 on the right day. It’s frustrating to be so close to a goal I’ve had for such a long time, but I am proud to say that I stayed mentally tough in a race I could have easily given up on eight miles in.

The conditions were a bit sub-par, with about 70 to 75 percent humidity, yet a cool temperature. The biggest obstacles I faced in this race were pacing and pack running–the top group made it known early on that they were gunning for quick times, and it was hard not to get dragged along in the first few miles of the race. After a brisk 4:45 first mile, I forced myself to settle into a rhythm of 4:55 to 5:00 miles to ensure a strong performance, sacrificing running with the front 20 to 25 competitors from the get-go.

The race became a game of catching runners falling off the fast early pace of the race, and while I tried to latch onto groups and zone out at my goal pace, competitors began to either drop out or fall off fairly quickly in the middle miles of the event. I used the runners coming back to me slowly as a tool to steadily move up from miles four to eight. By mile nine-and-a-half, I had caught the 16th-place runner, and found myself chasing my dream over the last four miles all alone, with the next runner about one minute ahead.

To say that the the last four miles was a daunting task requiring intense mental focus is an understatement. There were very few spectators and fans from nine to 12 miles, and I was fighting hard to stay on pace. With each passing stride from 45 to 60 minutes of the race, I faced the challenge of pressing on, yet staying composed, as I approached the finish. With 1.1 miles to go, I knew it was close and that I would have to close a bit harder to get the standard.

With about 800 meters to go, I hit a huge wall and fought a burning sensation in my quads and calves approaching the hill to the finish. I had about 20 seconds to get to the finish from the 13-mile mark, and unfortunately came up just 10 seconds short of securing a spot at the 2016 Olympic Trials  in Los Angeles. The immediate aftermath of the race was painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching. To train all summer long for this day and come up short was depressing. I could barely stand, heart-broken and exhausted, knowing my best wasn’t good enough to achieve my goal on that particular day.

After regrouping and letting off some steam, I have had some time to evaluate my performance and take away a number of positives:

  • Finishing 16th overall and sixth American: In a loaded field of sub-60:00 caliber runners and some of the country’s best road runners, I felt I took a step towards becoming great. I got to race in a very talented field and placed well against some great competition. Witnessing some of the better competitors finish 30 seconds to a minute off their personal bests gives me a lot of hope that I am right where I need to be. I was glad I was able to be competitive given the conditions, as I anticipate the Los Angeles weather will not be forgiving for a marathon. I felt I raced smart by conserving energy after a fast first mile and moving up slowly throughout the duration of the race.
  • A personal best: My training has been slightly different going into this half-marathon than it was for my debut in Brooklyn this past May. I did more mileage, quality long runs, and great strength based workouts, such as tempos in fartleks, in comparison to the training I did this past spring, which consisted of high-volume intervals and 10,000-meter based training. A personal best of nine seconds is something I am proud of given the circumstances, and I have gained a lot of confidence from this personal best that I can attribute to the training it took to get me to this point.
  • Consistency: A few years ago, I may have been the most inconsistent runner I know. I’m glad that recent maturity through mental preparation and trusting in my training has given me strong, consistent results since last fall. To be disappointed in a personal best is a huge testament to the consistency I’ve experienced in race results over the last year, and I’m confident that the breakthrough is soon to come.

I want to give a huge thank you to Coach Fox for guiding me with training during this summer, and to the NYAC (New York Athletic Club) crew for giving me great support and teammates to train with. I’m very excited to continue to improve over the next few months and compete soon in one of my favorite disciplines of running–cross country at the Club Cross Country Championships! To everyone at New York Road Runners–thanks for all you do for the sport and I’m extremely grateful to be a part of an incredible organization with unbelievable support.

Until then, time to gear up to put on a great TCS New York City Marathon with the best running organization in the world, New York Road Runners! Seeing thousands cross the Central Park finish line in November will be all the motivation I need to have a break out performance in the half-marathon, most likely at the Houston Half-Marathon in January.

Run for Life.

Posted in Reflections, Running | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call To Action: NCAA Sports Psychologists

During the first two seasons of my junior year at Syracuse (2011-2012), I experienced the biggest slump in my running career to date. In cross country I couldn’t break 25:00 in the 8K, and in indoor I struggled to run in the 8:30s and 14:50s in the 3K and 5K after running 8:17 and 14:22 the previous year. Nothing physically was wrong with me and it took me a long time to admit to myself that I wasn’t mentally approaching the sport from the right perspective. I faced anxiety related issues pertaining to my training and racing, put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, and was no longer enjoying the sport.

I broke down and sought a different kind of therapy—sports psychology. Yes, maybe I had overtrained a bit and was too obsessive with certain aspects of the sport; however, I was mentally drained and frustrated with my mental weakness and inability to push past the pain. For the last few years of my collegiate career, I have been seeing a sports psychologist weekly on balancing life as a student-athlete and approaching my competitions and training the correct way. At first, it was not something I wanted to share with many people because my ego and confidence got in the way. The negative connotation associated with seeing a psychologist made me feel embarrassed.

I want to take this moment to express the importance of seeing a sports psychologist for ALL student-athletes in the NCAA, and not just for those who are struggling or feel depressed. It is okay to see a psychologist when everything is going well. Too many times I have seen athletes and teammates in my sport suffer set backs related to mental struggles, and in most of those cases the athletes were apprehensive to seek help or want an outlet to express their frustrations…not that they could get any help anyway due to a lack of resources provided on this issue in the NCAA.

As a disclosure, I am not familiar with other NCAA institutions and their backgrounds in staffing sports psychologists, but I can speak for the lack of staff at the Syracuse University Athletic Training Department dedicated to sports psychology and nutrition. Currently, there are no members of the Syracuse Athletic Department who play a role in the mental health and well-being of the Syracuse student-athletes, and its a shame and an embarrassment that they are unwilling to staff such help. I firmly believe that full-time staffed psychologists and nutritionists in the athletic training department would be exponentially successful towards long term success for all programs in the athletic department. Student-athletes need an outlet to express their frustrations and concerns, including performance in competition, the stress of balancing academics and athletics, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health aspects. The athletic training facilities at Syracuse, a member of one of the big 5 conferences in the NCAA, does only so much to support athletes physically, but NOT mentally.

2013Trainers_002_web

I don’t see any sports psychologists in this photo.

I like to think that my sport is more mental than physical. The training requires all the physical strength put forth by an athlete, but when the time comes to step on the line and produce results, the mental side of the sport kicks in and reveals the true will of an athlete to perform to the best of their ability. It is easier to think of sports psychology as training, but for for the mind. When your sport requires a substantial amount of mental focus and energy, wouldn’t you agree that you need to train that portion of your talent as well? No one sees the hard physical labor that gets an athlete to the physical fitness they are in. They are only able to see the results produced on the day of competition when your mind is in control of how you perform. Unfortunately, many athletes are evaluated solely by results on the day of competition, unaware of the physical labor put forth by the athletes in periods of hard practice and training—which is why it is extremely important for all student-athletes at NCAA institutions to have required access to sports psychologists to train their minds and mental capabilities.

It’s time to make sports psychology and seeing a psychologist a norm at NCAA training facilities and take away the negative stigma associated with it. Many are too quick to stereotype psychiatrists as an outlet for those with ‘mental problems’ rather than a positive outlet to build upon the strength of the mind. Because of this, student-athletes suffer and are not willing to seek mental help; however, this is also a result of the lack of resources provided to student-athletes for mental health.

To those reading who can help to do something about this dilemma, you have the full attention of a student-athlete graduating in one month who wants to see something change in relation to sports psychology as a part of NCAA institutions. I am proud to say that I could not have accomplished what I have done in part to the sports psychologist I have been seeing over the last few years, Dr. Jeff Pauline, a member of the Syracuse University Sports Management Department, unaffiliated with the athletics department.

Syracuse University members who are reading this, its time to speak up and get someone on staff to service the mental needs of student-athletes on campus. Up to this point, I am sorry to say that the training facilities at Syracuse have been subpar during my experience at the university. It’s time to put the student-athletes first on this issue.

And to those reading who are apprehensive about sports psychology, seeking mental help, or just having an anonymous outlet to talk to—don’t be turned off by ‘going to therapy.’ Train your mind the same way you train your body, speak up, and don’t let your pride get in the way of something beneficial. Confidence is a double-edged sword. Be careful and wary about the stubborn and egotistical side of it.

Posted in Reflections, Running, School | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good to Great: SUXC 2013

2013 Cross Country Championship

Photo Credit: Sarah D. Davis

What does it take to transform a good, strong cross country program into a great one with long term success? Coming into my final cross country season for Syracuse University, I found myself asking this question in regards to what I think will become one of the greatest programs in the NCAA. I was blessed and fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come back to Syracuse University for my fifth year of eligibility in Cross Country and Indoor Track—an opportunity that I wanted to capitalize on to create momentum for the program going forward.

For SUXC, 2013 saw tremendous success. We took home the first ever ACC Championship in school history with five All-ACC selections, won the Northeast Regional Championships with six All-Northeast Region selections, and took tenth place at the NCAA Championships, the first men’s top ten finish under the current coaching staff and the highest finish since 1957. Coach Fox also received the ACC Coach of the Year award, the first in Syracuse history. It was a season to remember, and although it was a long push to get there, it was a lot of fun and I loved every minute of it.

The Good to Great Model

Throughout the semester, I read the highly acclaimed management novel Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. The novel dissects 11 companies who transformed from having mediocre results within the market to results that beat the market by 3.5 times per one dollar invested over a period of 15 years. Collins and his research team created a Good to Great Model and identified six important steps a company must take in order to achieve greatness propelled by a concept he called the flywheel. Each step was categorized into three groups based upon disciplinary values a good company must gain and possess in order to become great. While reading the novel, I found myself applying each step of Collins’ model to our cross country team.

Level 5 Leadership: The Syracuse University Cross Country Team was coached and guided by the best coaching staff in the NCAA. A level five leader is characterized by their humility while leading, yet they possess rigorous drive to do what is best for the company. I can vouch for the entire team that the entire coaching staff at Syracuse is driven to being the best, making hard decisions along that stay within the confines of creating one of the best cross country programs in the NCAA. As a result of these decisions, success emerged; however, the success achieved over the last decade by the team, especially the initial success of this year, was taken humbly. The coaches allowed the running to do the talking and gain press (although limited) rather than taking credit for everything they had previously accomplished.

First Who, Then What: It is important to create goals, but these goals mean nothing unless you are surrounded by the right people. First choose the right people you want onboard, then formulate your goals and where you want to go. It became evident to me that Syracuse Cross Country has had all the right people come through the program. The coaches have done a phenomenal job recruiting and bringing the best all-around athletes into the program, athletes who I cannot be more proud of to call teammates. By finding and choosing the right people to join the program, those who are driven and work extremely well together, it is easier and more effective in forming goals. For SUXC, these goals were to win the first ACC Championship and place on the podium (top 4) at the NCAA Championships. These goals were not chosen, but rather realized once everyone was aware of the talented group we had.

Confront the Brutal Facts: It is important to confront the current reality of the situation, but never lose hope of what can be accomplished in the future. For SUXC, we had to be honest with ourselves. One day, we would love to hoist the national championship trophy, yet we realized this is not entirely the time to do it. It is a long process that takes years of work and momentum. We knew we could be top ten, even top five, on a really good day at nationals, but we still kept the faith that one day we can be the greatest team in the country. It is a hard pill to swallow, but when a team cares about building towards the future of the program, the team keeps the dreams and hopes for future goals alive even if that goal cannot immediately be met.

The Hedgehog Concept: What is your passion? What can you be the best at? What is your driving resource? These three questions, when overlapping, form the basis of one’s hedgehog concept. For SUXC, the passion of running, the goal to be the best in the NCAA, and the success we achieve along the way are our hedgehog concept. It is important to stick to this concept when making all decisions, and although it may seem simple, it is a lot harder than it looks in the model. All the training and racing decisions made for the program were geared towards success in the future. All members of the team, coaches, athletes, and administration, adhered closely to the hedgehog concept. By using the hedgehog concept as a guideline, the team was able to achieve success by simply training and staying focused on what needed to be accomplished.

Culture of Discipline: In my mind, this concept was the most crucial aspect to this season and the program as a whole. All the puzzle pieces can be there, but unless a company consists of self-disciplined individuals who focus on their responsibilities at hand, the puzzle cannot be put together. My teammates were extremely self-disciplined this season. We had ample guidance from our coaches, but still had many freedoms to control on our own, freedoms that can only be conquered by self-disciplined and motivated people. Every teammate did their part and responsibility to ensure the overall success of the program, and the end results spoke for themselves. I owe a lot to my teammates for the sacrifices they had to make to stay self-disciplined, and I’m excited to see where their self-discipline will carry them in the future of SUXC.

The Flywheel: Throughout the six steps taken to becoming great, there is a great deal of momentum built until a company, or in this case the SUXC team, breaks through into greatness. The concept of this buildup of momentum is known as the flywheel. Once our team had achieved all the necessary steps towards becoming great, we began to see success. Momentum built as early as the hiring of the coaching staff and recruiting of their first SUXC athletes and culminated with the self-displined actions of my teammates adhering to our hedgehog concept. We saw momentum carry us through to our first ACC Championship win, the first top ten finish in recent program history, and we had multiple All-Northeast Region and All-ACC recipients. The best part about the flywheel is that it keeps on turning as long as the six steps continue to be followed, meaning future success for SUXC.

(Note: I did not include technological accelerators due to relevancy, although it is one of the six steps mentioned by Collins)

Overall, while it was nice to draw parallels between SUXC and Good to Great, there were many other factors that made this season a huge success. The approach we took this year was very laid back and fun. Every trip was exciting to be a part of and the team had really good chemistry. Racing was treated as it should—just another workout. Other than running with a mass of other teams from all over the country, it was just running. For years I put a lot of pressure on myself until I was finally able to realize the reason that I ran in the first place, that is because I love to run, I love to compete, I love being a part of a team, and I love my school. I saw myself this season treat running for Syracuse as a privilege and a fun opportunity to express my passions, rather than treating it like a job.

994392_10100810976678174_1279782468_n

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

The concepts in Good to Great seem relatively common sense and simple—and they are. If I just run with passion and stay focused on what lies ahead, that’s all there is to it. Running is, simply put, just running. If a team and program like Syracuse can follow these simple steps, anyone can do it, right? Wrong. It is easy to get caught up and lose focus of goals and carrying out one’s responsibilities. Following these steps is so much easier said than done, and I challenge you all to take part in following Collins’ model to transform into greatness.

Being a part of Syracuse Cross Country for the last five years has taught me a lot about myself, helped me to find my faith again, and given me reason to pursue my passion of running as a career, whether professionally or on the business side of it. I have so many people to thank for the opportunity to represent, in my opinion, the greatest school in the NCAA including family, teammates, friends, coaches, and mentors (As well as NYRR, huge thanks to everyone I worked with this past summer! It was an incredible experience). I am really excited for this upcoming Indoor Track season for one last opportunity to represent Syracuse, as well as watching SUXC in the years to come. Here’s to continuing the momentum and keeping the flywheel spinning.

Posted in Reflections, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I’m just about more than halfway through the summer. It’s an awesome realization to know that in a month I’ll be back with great teammates and friends to begin another exciting year at Syracuse. It’s a year I’m really looking forward to, but as I’ve blogged about before, it’s important to live in the moment and take time to appreciate the environment you are currently living in.

This summer has been a blast so far. I’ve taken a step towards pursuing my goal of making an impact in the world of running with a summer internship in the public relations department at New York Road Runners. What I love about the company so far is its mission — promoting the sport of distance running and road racing to lead others to live well balanced lives, building a tight knit community, and giving opportunities to so many people in the community by allowing them to experience and share my passion. Since day one, I have gotten to see first hand how much of an impact NYRR has in the New York City area through weekend road races for all ages, youth events such as National Running Day where New York City kids learn to live an active lifestyle and huge events such as the Oakley Mini 10K and the New York City Marathon.

I’ve learned a lot about the world of public relations so far through this experience, some of which can only be learned outside of the classroom. It takes a lot of multitasking and quick response time to be the middle man for an organization and the media. Planning can take many weeks in and advance, even months for events like the New York City Marathon, but a PR practitioner has to be able to respond on a whim and change plans if necessary. Meeting the needs of the media and releasing news related to the NYRR is a challenge and it requires a two way communication system.

photo

Jen Correa of Staten Island. Her story will be one of the segments featured for the marathon this year.

I’ve had a lot of fun experiences on the job. My first week, I got to attend National Running Day at Icahn Stadium and watch kids from all five boroughs run races and have a blast at different activity stations. I got to attend the Oakley Mini 10k and experience a press conference with elite, professional athletes as well as help run media functions the day of the race. In the office we perform many different PR activities, and each day there is something new to tackle. Planning for the marathon has been a lot of fun so far, even though it is still months away. I have met great people like Jen Correa, who battled through Hurricane Sandy, and it is amazing to have had a hand in coordinating her segment with ABC to air in the Fall. (Be sure to stay tuned for the pro athlete announcement for the ING New York City Marathon Next Week!)

Running…I have found a new side to the reasons I love running. I am meeting great people in the community and have been able to share stories and conversations through getting in some miles. Van Cortlandt Park has been great to me in my training for the upcoming cross country season. Running Cemetery Hill and passing by the finish area of the 8k has brought back memories that I get to relive at least 3 or 4 mornings a week. It also motivates me to focus on the goals Syracuse Cross Country has this year. I’ve also been able to run in Central Park for a lot of my normal training runs and doubles, where the atmosphere is filled with all kinds of interesting people and events everyday. If you have never run at Rockefeller State Park in Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, NY PUT IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST. It has been my long run spot all summer, and it is filled with miles and miles of dirt trails. It connects to the OCA, which runs along the Hudson River, even down to Van Cortlandt Park.

I’m really excited to get back to Syracuse and finish off my college career strong. There is a lot of unfinished business left with Syracuse Cross Country/Track and Field, and we have big things in store this year. It has gone by extremely fast, but it isn’t over. I want to make this program the best it can be, and I am grateful to have many teammates, coaches, friends, family, and others who support me and share the same goals.

P.S. Be sure to follow @nyrrnews for the latest NYRR media news and updates as I finish out my internship!

Posted in Marketing, Public Relations, Reflections, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#2Social4U Class Teaching Project

532894_10151306459942261_823726870_n#2Social4U held our team teaching assignment last week for #NewhouseSM4 on social media and public relations for events. We taught the class how to plan, run and evaluate events by discussing the different social media tools and resources that are helpful to use before, during and after an event. They say that some things are best explained through the use of an example, so we decided to make our team teaching assignment an event that we planned and executed through social media tools that we talked about. We called the event NXNE to parody the popular SXSW event held every year in Austin, Texas.

To plan the event, we created many event pages on different platforms such as Google+ and Facebook. We even used Foursqaure as a way for people to check into the event and offered a #2Social4U NXNE bracelet as a special for the students who checked in. To invite students to the event we used paperless post, and after everyone’s confirmation this tool let us communicate with all the attendees. To check people into the event we used MyGuestList at the door and included a QR code for attendees to scan to take them to the paperless post website to download the app. The different pages for our event can be found below:

Google+ Event

Facebook Event

Foursqaure Location

Paperless Post Invitation

Eventbrite Page

Attendees were able to live tweet using our hashtag #2Social4U and ask questions and tweet comments on our presentation which we used as feedback.

images

Dr. Brenda Wrigley

We interviewed many professionals related to the field of event planning. I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Brenda Wrigley, a professional in the PR field who has had a ton of experience in planning events and promotions for public relations campaigns. She is the old chair for the PR department at the Newhouse School of Public Communications and had a lot of great points on how to use different media for planning, executing and evaluating events.

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 3.56.23 PM

Some of the stats we recorded by using Hash Tracking.

The event was a great success and by using hash tracking and social mentions we evaluated the number of impressions our presentation had on our audience and those who engaged in conversation using our hashtag. Some of the statistics can be found in the image to the right.

To plan the event, we curated interviews, images and articles into a Pearltree. Pearltree is a great resource to use for gathering information and data on different topics for others to share and use. I like to think of it as the future for organizing information. It visually creates a map for the user to follow easily and find the information they are looking for, similar to a library card catalog. Here is what our pearltree looked like:

Pearltree

The presentation went really well, and we received a lot of great commentary from those who attended. I enjoyed working with my team a lot and we all learned a lot of valuable information that we can use as professionals in the future. We shared the presentation with the class through a Prezi, which was a great visual to display all of our information on. The Prezi can be found below:

Prezi for #2Social4U

I also created a Storify of the event to recap what happened and gather information from the class. If you missed it or want to know more about the event, read it below!

Storify

Posted in #NewhouseSM4, Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chuck Hemann of the W2O Group Speaks at #NewhouseGLDSM

Chuck Hemann from the W2O group came to visit Newhouse on Wednesday, March 20th. He had a lot of great advice about the status of Big Data and how it can provide companies with a competitive advantage. Earlier in the day, he also visited #NewhouseSM4 and shared his experiences analyzing data at W2O.

Check out my storify posted below!

Chuck Hemann

Posted in #NewhouseSM4, Marketing, Public Relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kate Brodock, Leader of Syracuse Social Media Accounts, Speaks to #NewhouseSM4

Kate Brodock Speaks to #NewhouseSM4

Kate Brodock Speaks to #NewhouseSM4

Kate Brodock came to #NewhouseSM4 to speak on social media at Syracuse University on Monday and had a lot of great information to share on how the higher education industry does social media and all the different accounts that Syracuse University has on different social media platforms. Definitely contact her if you are interested in working on the Syracuse University social media team. I have linked my storify to the image above, read and enjoy.

Posted in #NewhouseSM4, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment