In an effort to avoid too dull of a blog, I’ll try and err on the side of brevity. For anyone who does not know me, cross country is not particularly “my thing”. I have an abundance of respect for the athletes who thrive in the hills, mud, and grass I just prefer a flatter more predictable route. But, since leaving college I’ve really worked on embracing cross country a bit more (which is easier to do when you only have to commit yourself to 2 races for the year). So I strapped on my adidas spikes in December and I was fortunate enough to have them run my feet all the way to Scotland (people should really invest in a pair of adizero spikes, they’re exceptionally good at turning people international) and that was pretty neat. I’d never been outside the continental US so needless to say it was a pretty incredible experience, despite being someone who is not necessarily pro-elements (wind, ice, rain, hills, creeks running through the course, etc.).
Such an amazing opportunity did come at a bit of a price: extending my cross season well beyond what it normally is. I love running, I really do, but sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I just want to take a break, and sometimes I don’t want to run indoor and I kind of think that’s ok. My dad once told me to choose my battles, which is an incredibly difficult piece of advice to follow for me in particular (I’m sure Mark Feigen could easily validate that for you). But I realized that I want to be able to show the hard work Steve, Ruth, Anthony, and SPI put into me, through my performances. I’d also really like to be able to give a nice big thank you to Adidas, and my parents of course, for their support via some low numbers on the track, that’s why I decided to skip over indoors and focus on outdoors.
So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing the past couple of months – not running indoor. I decided it was a good time to get some solid training in, and Steve saw it as a prime opportunity to have me run some of my least favorite workouts and that’s where I am now, running workouts and excited for outdoor.
by Mia Behm
Many people wonder, what’s out there for us once our running careers are over. After surveying several candidates, one interviewee in particular stood out the most – Mark P. Feigen.
For those of you who don’t know Mark Feigen, he’s best known for being one of the tallest runners to partake in Columbia cross country and track and field, for his role in The Real Maine and for his World Record viewing of all 4 seasons of Game of Thrones in a mere 36 hours, 34 minutes, and 35 seconds (disbelief can be addressed with proof seen below).
More important, though, is his recent muscle growth.
Since the completion of his running eligibility at Columbia, Mark has decided to hang up the spikes and pick up the iron, specifically via 5×5.
If you’re not familiar with 5×5 (or “StrongLifts”), there’s a good chance you’re not interested in getting “swoll.” Mark knows 5×5 and is obviously very interested in getting “swoll.”
Here’s a quick rundown of how 5×5 works:
You alternate between workout A and workout B completing 3 of 5 muscle exercises every day: Squat, bench, row, overhead press, and deadlift
A: Squat, Bench, Row
B: Squat, overhead press, deadlift
Each day you do 5 sets of 5 reps for each of the 3 exercises, 3 days a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
The goal is to start at a reasonably heavy weight for each exercise. Once you successfully complete all 5 sets for that exercise at your goal weight, the next time you do that exercise you will add 5 pounds (or 10 pounds for deadlift). This will ultimately lead to larger muscles and a more masculine frame.
When asking Mark why he chose 5×5, he had much to say regarding his new lifestyle and pursuit of happyness [sic]:
“As someone who has spent many years, going through countless workouts, injuries and comebacks in an effort to run faster on the track and seeing only marginal improvements at best, it’s a refreshing change of pace to be working at something (5×5) and feel like I am getting out as much or even more than I am putting in. Runners spend years trying to improve by seconds or even tenths or hundredths of seconds, but in less than 10 weeks of doing 5×5 I added hundreds of pounds to my squat, deadlift, etc. I won’t get into specific numbers because I don’t want to embarrass anyone (myself) but I am confident in saying that I am well on my way to being one of the stronger humans over 6 foot 2 inches to ever have come somewhat close to breaking 4 minutes in a mile relatively recently. Deep down, every man, and 50% of women, just want to be as ‘swoll’ as possible, and pushing the envelope in the weightroom until failure and also consuming 300+ grams of protein per day is the easiest way I can see to achieve that goal. There is currently a group of once-somewhat-elite-level track athletes from The University of Columbia in New York City who have rededicated themselves to pursuing ‘swollness’ at all costs. No one can be sure of how all of this will end, but it is surely an interesting development and worth following for some small subset of the general populous.”
So for those who worry about what will happen once they’re done logging miles, this study provides that that there is something to look forward to (at least for males), and that’s achieving a body representative of a very masculine build.
Joining Mark in the post-collegiate running, 5×5 scene are a few former teammates: Michael Weisbuch, Jeff Moriarty, Paul Corcoran, and Michael Murphy.
[In the event of full disclosure, Mark Feigen is the boyfriend of Mia Behm, the author of this blog].
by Mia Behm
A few quotes from immediate family members showing their support for my running
“If you’ve seen one [race], you’ve seen them all”
“Watching races is really boring, especially cross country”
“I like the distance races, but I can’t stand watching the sprinting”
The interesting thing about running is that to a lot of people, it’s not that interesting. I don’t take offense because it makes sense, I mean there are a lot of competition-type events I’m not interested in because I have no stake in them and/or they don’t have any sentimental value to me (like Nascar). I spent a large chunk of my running career making sure to emphasize that people really didn’t have to come and watch me race. “It’s ok you really don’t have to come, it’ll probably be pretty boring” was usually what I told people (most still came because most people are pretty nice).
But I’ve been thinking, there must be a way to intrigue all those people who currently dislike or are indifferent to running. So I came up with a couple of ideas that, in an alternate universe, could really turn people into running fans:
Version 1: Instead of lanes on a track, it’s lanes into a maze where the entire crowd can see the beginning to the end where the runner can successfully get out. Really the only rule would be that you couldn’t stop running until you were out of the maze. Instead of different distances in track like the 200m or the 5k, there would just be different degrees of difficulty (which would essentially determine about how long you’re running).
Version 2: (This is kind of an extension of the steeple) The race around the track would just be an elaborate obstacle course with different things to climb over and various hoops of fire to jump through.
Version 3: (this version is actually realistic and an idea courtesy of Mark Feigen). It would be called the “Knock-Out” race. In this style of racing, the number of competitors in an event would match the number of laps around the track. After each lap, the person in last place would be knocked off of the track. This would give the race much more strategy, as well as force each individual lap to be exciting. Then the winner is the last man standing…or running, rather.
While these alternate versions are under review, there are a few small details that could be explored to help enhance the meet experience. Simple changes tailored to the host city of a meet would help. For example if meets in Austin sold quinoa and locally grown vegetables inside the stadium, attendance might increase by as much as 40%.
Something I would like to see just because? Names on our racing singlets. Baseball, football, and soccer players all get to have their names on their jerseys. I think it’d be pretty cool if we did too.
Anyway, just some thoughts on the sport of running.
by Mia Behm
My last blog was about me so I thought this one should highlight some people who are much cooler and much more selfless: Steve and Ruth. You may know Ruth as “Steve’s better half”, as he prefers to call her (rightfully so). Just kidding they’re both equally great. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to talk about my training and the cool gear that comes with it, but it would be really hard to train without my coach, and infinitely more difficult to get Adidas gear without Ruth leaving no inbox unfilled with emails requesting more gear for us. I honestly don’t think these two incredibly awesome people get enough credit.
So, just to give you a better idea of how much Steve and Ruth do:
Every week Steve and Ruth provide us with the opportunity to get prevention and treatment for injuries with some of the best in the country – Dr. Spears, MD and Pieter Kroon, DPT (also wonderful people). Steve and Ruth sit in a physical therapy office on a Tuesday night for 3 hours waiting for 18 different athletes to get diagnosed for 18(+) different problems, only to watch all of us complete our very weird (but helpful) PT exercises in 18(+) different ways. And they don’t just sit there on their phones; Steve takes notes and provides his own input for every athlete, regardless of his accuracy – just teasin’, Steve.
“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” -Mike Tyson
When we travel, they don’t just leave us to fend for ourselves. For Chile Pepper, they rented a van and drove us 9 hours to Arkansas where they had already rented a big house for us to stay the weekend. Not only did they have somewhere nice for us to sleep, they home-cooked dinner for us every night. Not frozen pizzas, real detox-friendly food, usually featuring an Austinite’s requirement for survival: quinoa.
Ruth does nothing for herself, and everything for everyone else. I can’t imagine that one minute of the day goes by where she’s not thinking of something else she can do for us. No sponsorship stone is left unturned, though I’d really like for her to explore a Hershey’s or Nestle Toll House sponsorship, but I think that’s on the back burner for now. When I came onto the team, I didn’t even have time to think about what athletic gear I needed before she was telling me not to worry because 10 different neon sports bras had just arrived at the Rogue store for me along with 10 pairs of shorts and 20 shirts and jackets. In addition, she somehow was able to get each of us a very high quality injury prevention kit from Trigger Point. She may someday develop carpal tunnel from all of the Facebook notifications she types regarding our logging of training on Plus3, but I am more than happy to read and obey them because Plus3 does nothing to benefit her and everything to benefit us. I will log my heart out for her on Plus3. She is the most thoughtful person, and anyone who thinks otherwise must just be confused.
Nobody gets away without logging their Plus3
Now on to Steve: You would be hard pressed to find a coach who cares more about how his athletes perform than Steve. He has yelled things at me during races that I won’t verbalize here, and for the first couple of years at Texas I swear I could count the number of times on one hand that he was satisfied with a race of mine. But I was more than ok with that because Steve could have easily not cared, and could have easily told me “great job” at times when he knew I could do better. But he didn’t; he is the reason I got better. There were even races where I was sure he was far more nervous than I, pacing back and forth asking me if I wanted to talk about a pre-race plan… “Steve, do YOU want to talk about a pre-race plan?” Steve can tell you more things about my running form than I knew were there to describe. He once told me my sophomore year that I needed to stop being a part-time runner. I couldn’t just be a runner at practice; I needed to carry it over into the rest of my life. He said that if I didn’t take into consideration that I was a runner in the other aspects of my life, how could I expect to get better? And he was right, again. Steve might have the loudest laugh I’ve ever encountered, but it’s an awesome one, just like him.
Can’t remember if it was a good race or if we were just grieving about being in Waco. A great hug nonetheless.
Now that I’ve been sufficiently lame and sentimental, hopefully you know a little bit more about how cool these people are. I wish my memory and writing skills served me better to do their descriptions justice, but hopefully this will suffice for now.
by Mia Behm
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a native Texan. I was born and raised in the pretty unknown, but very quintessential suburban town of Waxhaw, North Carolina (just 30 minutes from Charlotte, NC). I spent the majority of my early years accumulating weird habits like chewing goldfish and storing it in my cheeks for several hours to savor the taste (or “chipmunking” as you may know it), as well as insisting on only sucking my thumb while holding my binky. My life was pretty ideal; my biggest obstacles included making it up the stairs for naptime, and struggling to understand that praying for God to make my baby doll real didn’t guarantee it would come to fruition.
Thanks in large part to Steve’s coaching, I now have the stamina to almost always make it up a flight of stairs before having to take a break.
My affiliation with running in my younger years was remote at best. I eventually found myself on a soccer team whose commitment level was a bit too serious for the 5 year old stage of my life. I had trouble understanding why my teammates didn’t enjoy picking up leaves during the game- “nothing better than a fresh soccer game leaf,” I always said as a kid. Eventually I was able to separate my love for leaves and my love for soccer so that they could both prosper individually.
Middle school was an incredibly awkward stage of my life where the next unknown development in my running game took place: the growth of my abnormally long legs. I like to refer to middle school as the PPSS- better known as the Proper Pants Search Stage. I spent 3 painfully long years wearing baggy jeans that were the appropriate length for high waters (or flooding). Every time someone commented on how long my legs were, I receded into an imaginary world where my legs were an average length and no one talked about them. To top it all off, everyone thought he or she was the first person to tell me, so I had to act as though they had just enlightened me to look into a mirror for the first time in several years.
I can only hope the angle of the photo is contributing to the length of my legs.
Luckily I made it out of middle school mostly unscathed.
With freshman year of high school fast approaching, my parents intentionally planned to ruin my life. They decided to move us from North Carolina to Texas. When I got to Texas I was relieved to find out I would not have to ride a horse to school. I still played soccer, and it was my continued involvement in this sport that brought me towards running. We had to do a mile-and-a-half time trial for the team and I ran a pretty underwhelming time of 9:30-something during fall of my sophomore year; however, at a small, private catholic school this stuck out as quite impressive and I was suckered into joining the track team. In all honesty, my movement to join the team was involuntary. Two girls from my grade actually cornered me into a brick wall and demanded that I come out for the track team. Peer pressure is a real thing, and so is fear, so I agreed to come to one practice with the intention of not returning afterwards. I went to my first practice as planned, but further peer pressure kept me in attendance until I was unintentionally on the team. Soon enough my first track meet came around, during which I felt a decent amount of nausea and anxiety, and warmed up while contemplating all the possible ways to get out of the race, but before I could execute any of these plans the gun fired to start my first 3200 meter run. I felt pretty good, and I kept feeling pretty good until I’d won. I was shocked. I distinctly remember immediately walking over to my mom, exclaiming “Wow, I’ve never been this good at anything.” My parents then fought about who was responsible for my new-found talent. My joy was short lived as my workouts got progressively harder due to my initial success. I continued to improve thanks to my amazing distance coach, Grant Spencer, who put up with a lot of complaining, and my head coach, Reverend Milton, who insisted on having me practice sprinter arm form despite being a mile/two-miler.
Eventually college coaches showed interest in my running, though I was still unsure whether I even liked running and was very much under the impression that I could find a coach who would let me do only track and not cross country. Apparently it was wrong to think this. Eventually I visited Texas and it was incredible. I wanted a school that was awesome for things unrelated to running like academics and football (at the time), and Texas was all of that PLUS Austin. Additionally, something about Steve’s approach of being really inconsistent with communication and making it seem like he was really disinterested in me, drew me in. In April of 2008 I made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and signed with the University of Texas. It turned out to actually be the best 5 years of my life thanks to incredible teammates and the best coach out there- Steve Sisson. Little did he know, his comment during my freshman year telling me I would make “a great supporting role on the team” was the main reason I achieved anything I did while at Texas. I think Steve knew I was pretty stubborn and very competitive, leading me to believe I had something to prove when he already knew I could be great all along. Steve put up with my love for cookies as he continuously pushed me and guaranteed outlandish accomplishments that I always believed. By the time Junior year had come, I’d worked very hard to eat less cookies and run more miles and I shocked even myself by barely grabbing an All-American finish in cross country. The following indoor season I grabbed an auto qualifier for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5k. Due to an injury I would later find out to be a stress fracture, during the month leading up to NCAAs I was only allowed to run on the ground twice a week (for hard workouts), while the rest of the week I was either on the alter g, cross training, or resting. Needless to say, I was really nervous about my fitness, but Steve refused to let me doubt myself (just one more reason he’s incredible). Thankfully the race went out very slowly, making it tactical rather than all-out. After slowly winding up, with 600 meters to go I was surprised to be feeling pretty good. Surprise aside, I took advantage and tried to chase down as many people as I could until finally crossing the finish line in what I thought was 3rd place. I was pumped! I hadn’t expected that at all and couldn’t stop smiling as I walked over to Steve and said “3rd place, that’s cool!” To which he replied, “3rd? You were second!” to which I replied, “Oh, that’s cooler!”
I had not planned to “crank that” at the finish, it was mostly accidental.
After that high point, I had to take off due to my stress fracture and attempted to return to cross country the following year on what I thought was a now healthy leg. Unfortunately, that distal fibular fracture had not healed, and it broke from one side to the other in the middle of my race at regionals, unbeknownst to me until I finished and couldn’t walk. That injury led to a horrifyingly long road to recovery with more laps aqua jogging in the pool than I would ever care to count. Another thanks to Steve for never ceasing to believe in me. 5 painfully long months later, I finally took my first steps running and was able to return for a 5th year.
My 5th year was filled with many more struggles, and it was much more difficult than I thought to come back from an injury and pick up right where I left off. Thankfully, Steve was pretty set on not letting me give up, and I was able to finish my last outdoor with a little bit of dignity. But that wasn’t the end I wanted to my running career, so I’ve decided that it’s not over. I felt like my injury had kind of robbed me of everything I was planning on, so now here I am at Rogue, still with Steve, striving to achieve the things I felt belonged to me all along.
by Carl Stones
It was a cold day in hell. The tile hallways of Brackenridge were quiet and cold, its inhabitants locked in the grips of a Halloween hangover. Most had already gone home at the urging of the 5 o’clock whistle, but one room remained crowded and tense, waiting only for me. Mere hours after its fall, I ended my 9 month protest of the Berlin Wall and pushed through the birth canal to breathe my first unassisted breaths of fresh air. And just like that, a 23 inch, 8 pound and 15 ounce ball of pure chaos was sprung upon this world.
Standing in front of my older brother, Dan, being a little angel.
Excluding a 2 year stint in Austin, I spent my childhood meandering along the mean streets of Round Rock, Texas. Though we had a nice house, I preferred time spent outdoors climbing trees, exploring woods and pastures, spelunking, or standing in front of a hockey net to help better my older brother’s slap shot accuracy. The latter wasn’t the best job in the world, but most of the bruises would heal in time. I digress.
Despite spending my first 5 years of life being what some might call “a terrible little shit,” I eventually warped into a fairly respectable and well-behaved child by the time I started my schooling. Soon after school began so did my involvement in soccer, cub scouts, basketball, and the like. I even had a brief winning streak in orienteering, though I decided to retire undefeated fairly soon thereafter. Sometimes after too much time at the top you just need to step away and pursue other exploits; it’s the same reason MJ stepped away to try baseball, golf, and playing with the Wizards. I digress. Eventually one thing led to another and running, which had only been a means of keeping fit for other exploits up to this point, worked its way into my limelight where it remains to this day. High school was mostly a blur that I’d prefer never to revisit, but the running was good. I ran in the Maroon and White singlet of the Round Rock Dragons under Coach Andy Jackson and it’s thanks to him, and his coaching that I was able to continue competing beyond adolescence.
Slowing down to enjoy the ride as I crawl the last 80 meters with heat stroke.
Of all the schools and all the beautiful parts of the country that I could have spent the next 4 years of my life, I chose to run for Steve Gulley at the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I majored in kinesiology and dabbled in psychology and neuroscience. The adjustment was rough; winters were arctic, springs were windy; summers were hot; college was harder than high school, both academically and athletically. But rough adjustments aside, friends were made, times were run, studying was done, relationships were had, All-American honors were earned, and then I left as quietly as I arrived.
Despite having no plans whatsoever to run post-collegiately, and no plans to move anywhere remotely near Texas, I found myself at a coffee table outside of Rogue Running on a hot summer day to meet with Steve Sisson and Jeff Knight. I was fresh off a trip to Trinidad where I won double gold at their national championships, so I’d say my stock was pretty high*, and I decided to give it a shot.
Anyways, here I am in Austin, Texas, doing the things I never thought I would. Eventually Steve and Ruth will have to take me out to the pasture, at which point I’ll pursue my plans and dreams beyond this running world, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this detour for now. My youth still flows as vibrantly as the Nile (even though Chris’ seems to be drying up faster than Lake Travis), so I’ll continue on at 100 mph for as long as I can. There’s still so much to experience and accomplish that even 100 mph just may not get me there, but that’s ok. I’ve yet to stumble upon this thing people refer to as ‘mortality,’ and so it’s in this immortal state that I will flourish for the time being; living the dream and chasing the devil, wherever it may take me.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”
*My stock was not high at all. Trinidad has incredibly uncompetitive distance races at their national championships.