A year later

Andrea Parker Portland Track Festival

The start of my final professional track race.

Yesterday, as I popped over to letsrun.com to check out the NCAA Track & Field Championships results, I saw a link to results for the Portland Track Festival.  It was as though I had forgotten this meet was even being run, despite the high profile middle distance athletes that were slated to race, including American track’s latest sensation, high schooler Mary Cain. Seeing the link to that meet gave me mixed feelings, as it reminded me that it was one year ago that I ran in my last track race and let the sun set on my professional running career. That race was a total disaster.

At the time I was trying to get my US Championships qualifier and I had a severely bruised left heel, was doing workouts on

Andrea Parker Steeplechase

Payton Jordan ’10

the track and recovery on a bike, while cruising around in a walking boot the rest of the time. It rained the entire day before and day of the meet, things got behind schedule and we were held on the track at (chilly) Oregon dusk for over 20 minutes without our warmups on just shivering and trying to keep warm as we were promised, “Just another minute, ladies.”  I was more scared to race than excited but tried to trick myself into thinking I was fit (which I was, surprisingly), on top of things and ready to achieve my standard because the pain I felt with each step, barrier and water jump?  Yeah, that’ll go away as soon as the gun goes off and the adrenaline starts overtaking my body… right?

Andrea Parker Traverse City Golden Mile

Warming up for the Traverse City Golden Mile ’09

As you may have surmised, I did not achieve my standard.  In fact, I did the opposite of that.  I may have run the second slowest steeple of my life and felt a strong sting of pain with each and every step I took, never mind the pain I felt after jumping over things every 80 meters. It was excruciating, heartbreaking and demoralizing. 3 laps in, I seriously, for the first time in my racing career, considered stepping off the track because I knew it was going to be a very long 3,000 meter race and didn’t know if I could handle it mentally. But, like every other race I had entered and had control over whether or not to finish (anyone who’s ever run in a conference championship meet in the 5k at the end of the meet just for points knows what I’m talking about), I did finish. And I was upset. And sad.

I walked over to my warmups and backpack and just sat. I took a few minutes to collect myself, found a fellow steepler who had not had

Andrea Parker American Milers' Club

One of my all time favorite steeple pics. Steepling in the early days of the American Milers’ Club.

the world’s best race either, and we jogged for about 10 minutes just so we didn’t seize up later in the cold Portland air. I had a chat with my coach over the phone (the way all of my training had been done that year- by phone) and he told me that perhaps I should take some time to consider my options (what?!) and that we’ll talk in the next couple of weeks.  I didn’t know what to think, so I just cheered on the 5k runners that I knew and went back to the dorms, where most athletes were staying. I sat on my twin XL bed and kind of stared at the wall, then at a magazine and finally, exhausted, just went to sleep.

Mulling over your future is a tall order, especially when it involves potentially giving up something you hold very dear to your being. As it turned out, I needed to give my heel a break, get healthy and consider my next move, all while enjoying this time of recovery- or at least pretending to enjoy it. I succumbed to the reality of being a 29 year old steepler and that the 2016 Olympic Trials were a LONG way away. It was time to put my degrees to good use, find regular employment and still find a way to fulfill my running needs.

Andrea Parker Road Race

My first and last 10k road race at the Martian Marathon in ’08

These days I don’t feel right if I don’t run (force of habit? buildup of anxious energy?), so I’m pretty much still pounding the pavement, gravel or grass 7 days per week, but it is purely out of enjoyment of the sport. I’m not trying to get in a shake out, recover from, or for, a big workout or hammer out a long run, though I do still enjoy the feeling of locking into a run for 12 miles. I derive great pleasure from my friends and running acquaintances’ success and feel a small cut of their pain when standards aren’t achieved or bad races are run. Friends come in and out of town and I am so pleased to be able to catch up with them on runs because it’s just like how it used to be: fun. We chat, we laugh, we share perspectives, all while doing the thing we love so much.

Yeah, I miss the exhilaration of hammering a great workout, speeding down the track and racing (and winning!), but that phase of my life has passed and I’ve surprised myself with not having any desire whatsoever to enter a local road race or be competitive.  The only person I want to be competitive with is myself (as is shown by those runs where I knock out 6:30 after 6:30 just for the hell of it) and that competitive desire may or may not return in time.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see but in the meantime, cheers to having a blast throughout my running career and taking away so much from those experiences that have assuredly made me a better person on the track, in the pit, on the course and off.

Andrea Parker Track and Field

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Summer Running in AZ Brings Distractions and Weather-Focused Anger

11 miles running andrea parker

11 warm miles later, I sprawl on a towel.

Summer is here. It reared it’s nasty, hideous head last week in the form of mid to high 90 degree temperatures that just kept rising and promise only to keep rising well past 100. I’d be lying if I said that was the first 100 degree day we’ve had here in Scottsdale, but those blazing temps have become more consistent, which means interruptions to outdoor exercise routines and the implementation of a summer approach to being outside. The dawn of Andrea being actively angry at the weather is upon us, as I can’t help but be simply pissed off that it’s so hot out and that I feel like a caged animal during these extra hot months. Plus, my electric bill doubled this month. Ugh.

Here’s a sample day from October through April:

Time Activity
6:50am Wake up, get ready for work, prepare morning hot beverages and lunch.
7:20am Kick off the golden hours of work when I experience much productivity.
12:30pm Lunch, breather from work or eat al desko.
1pm Hammer out what didn’t get done in the AM, adhere closely to my well-organized to-do list (the envy of my co-workers).
4pm Change clothes and, depending on the day, lift in work-based gym or head out for a run in Tempe on my way home.
5:45pm Arrive home, stretch (or pretend to), shower, perhaps get a massage from generous boyfriend-massage therapist.
6:45pm Start on preparing dinner, eat, then plunk self on couch for TV/work catch-up session.
10pm Attempt early bedtime.
11:15pm Finally fall asleep.

Not exactly super fun every day, but I’m focused and alert at work and I get to run afterwards when the bod’s awake and functioning optimally in a comfortable climate. Now let’s take a look at a sample day between the months of May and September:

Time Activity
6:25am Get out of bed and desperately try to wake up with tea while attempting to comprehend that morning’s headlines, followed by some activation exercises.
7am Struggle out the door for a run that ranges between 6 and 9 miles and curse the heat for the duration of the run.
8:30am Depart for work after rushing all necessary post run activities. Attempt to stop sweating post shower (#runnerproblems).
8:50am Arrive at work with a mild feeling of panic due to not being there before all co-workers arrive. Attempt to settle into a work groove amid distractions like cheers from the sales department (not a bad problem to have, though!).
11:30am Out of curiosity, poke around and ask co-workers what they’re up to for lunch. Get back to semi-focused, kinda productive working.
12:30pm Eat an odd mixture of food from my leftover packed lunches or find myself in a Chick-Fil-A, Chompie’s or Some Burros after lamenting the heat at least three times on the drive over.
1:15pm Get back to work. Try to settle into a groove that will promote focus and productivity. Take a moment to appreciate the AC.
2pm Isolate myself either in the game room or upstairs in the dream room to focus.
4:30pm Get antsy and change into workout clothes to lift with the team fitness group I lead at work.
5:15pm Get antsy, assess work completed and tomorrow’s work load. Depart shortly (or not too shortly) thereafter.
5:45pm Get home, sit around feeling like it’s too early to eat. Think about how hot it is and how I’d like to head out for another run but am certain  I would melt.
6:45pm Start on preparing dinner, eat, then plunk self on couch for TV/work catch-up session. Shake fist at the heat even after the sun sets.
10pm Attempt early bedtime. Toss and turn and get angry about how it’s hot even with the AC and fan on.
11:15pm Finally fall asleep… likely due to exhaustion from frustration over heat and anxiety about how I have to get up and ask my body to move pain free and efficiently in the paralyzing heat in a handful of hours.
andrea parker water running

Hydrate or die! (Seriously.)

Ok, if you had doubts that Arizona summer weather was as bad as people say or has greater ramifications than simply being hot as blazes, please tell me you’re no longer a naysayer. Until I experienced my first AZ summer, I had no idea that 1.) my attachment to running had such an impact on my daily life, productivity, focus, level of zen, sanity and general well-being and 2.) having the weather truly dictate your outdoor physical activity schedule is one of the most frustrating things for an active person. Trust me, I understand this all with respect to the bigger picture, but for running’s sake, I am simply amazed at the ramifications of the Arizona summer heat.

I’m trying- really trying- to embrace being an early morning runner, but it’s tough. After consistently rising in the 4s as a child for figure skating practice, I found myself as an anti-morning person throughout high school and part of college, that is, until I had to consistently get up for class, morning runs and eventually a job at an office. Even then I still had significant flexibility and wasn’t truly a morning person, just one who could make it out the door by 7am for work (or the precursor to training).

andrea parker pool after running

How every run should end. Like that wicked sports bra tan line?

Last year I had to be up and at ‘em at the ASU track by 5:45am so that I could be done with my warm up, drills, strides, workout, cool down, hurdle drills and stretches by 7am because it was just TOO. DAMN. HOT. We’re talking frozen towels and water bottles stationed at the 400m and 200m marks on the track so that no matter where my interval ended, I had access to cooling agents.  Even at that time of the morning, my body felt wonky and not quite willing to work as smoothly to hit times as I would have liked.

Now that doing that is no longer part of my job, I find it simply unnecessary to wake up in the 5s, but given the negative effects I experience when I’m not running or exercising (mostly running) it may very well be necessary that I find a way to force myself into being a morning exerciser. A good friend of mine told me the other day that she was called out for running being a coping mechanism for her in all things troubling in life.  I think that’s spot on. We find our peace and calm and are able to sort things out on runs. It’s a time in our days where we are alone with our thoughts and minimal distraction. It’s our therapy, so when that gets taken away  or severely switched up, it’s unsettling.

I think one of my in-the-future solutions to the heat will likely be acquiring a stationary bike (recumbent, of course, so I can read to pass the time while I get my cardio on) or a treadmill.  I actually came into work today and started looking up the cost of a good treadmill out of pure frustration. Having a Woodway in my home would be a dream come true, as I could have a great run any time of day without having to worry about the cleanliness of the machine, volume of breathing happening on the treadmill next to me, availability of the machine or worrying about cranking my sweet, sweet jams too loud.  A girl can dream, but in the meantime, I think I’m just going to have to get creative… until that one weekend in October rolls around and the heat breaks.

Sidenote: I wrote a post for treadmill.com giving actionable tips for running in the heat instead of just complaining. I’ll include the link as soon as it goes live!

Oh, yeah, don’t forget the haboobs. Who doesn’t love a dust storm whooshing towards you when you’re outside or driving, only to overtake you and fill every exposed orifice with sand?

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Why Everyone Should Run… Or Something Like That

Text Message Andrea ParkerSo there I am, sitting in a restaurant in San Diego with my co-worker, June, when my phone lights up and I see a text from my sister.  I hadn’t talked to her in a few days, so I checked the message and saw this:

Immediately I remembered the 45 minute phone interview I had with Peter Sagal in January and the long run he, myself and my friend Vic had done in January of last year and got excited. It was out! The Runner’s World article Peter said he had been trying to write for a year (afterall, he is a busy man with all of his engagements, including hosting my favorite NPR show, Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) was finally done and in print in the May 2013 issue.

Andrea Parker Runner's WorldLast year, Peter, Vic and I had met for a long run when Peter was in Phoenix for an NPR fundraiser and our conversation traveled all around, covering things like our backgrounds, our college experiences, insane love for Michigan sports (more so Vic and I) and how we began running. Peter wanted to know if we had any advice for him in terms of getting his musically and artistically inclined daughters into athletics of any kind. This conversation lasted for at least three miles with discussion of how sports for kids and teens have become so competitive that they are more intimidating than exciting for those who may just want to participate, rather than seek a college scholarship from their achievements.

How to make everyone feel important or welcome?  My answer wandered into the territory of making the whole athletic experience more fun, light and social.  Not everyone wants to be the best athlete on the field, track or pitch, and I think that some coaches and parents may have forgotten this along the way, given the insane sporting competitiveness that exists at such a young age. Pre-teens and teens are inherently social creatures, so what is wrong with allowing a team of girls and guys chat and gossip while they warm up or stretch before that day’s workout?

Is a coach yelling at his or her athletes necessary? No. Not ever in my book. The coach sets the tone and if he or she is able to understand where his or her athletes are coming from, the athletes will be able to connect better.  Besides, who ever really responds to yelling, anyway?

In my line of work we are constantly talking about knowing your customer, understanding their needs, and engaging them.  I find it ironic how similar this idea is to coaching young adults. Though teenagers may be difficult sometimes, I can assure you that if they are spoken to in a way that conveys understanding of their perspective, situation and (sometimes perceived) plight, they will be more responsive.  We all want to be understood and feel welcome, so I think that is the key to getting anyone, of any age, motivated to get involved in some endeavor. Especially in athletics at a young age.

Andrea Parker Michigan Cross Country

2004 Pre-Nationals Michigan team cheer

I’ve always been an athlete; my parents didn’t need to force me into all of the sports I played (OK, maybe one or two), so my intrinsic motivation differs from someone whose parents “made” them try out for a team.  By being forced to attend a daily practice, feet drag even more. If only a sport existed- and it does!- that welcomed everyone, fosters team bonding through a common goal and encourages self improvement not just through athletic prowess, then I really feel like we’ll be on to something.

It’s called cross country. While there is a varsity and JV team, everyone practices together and in many races, everyone toes the line at the same time, so you get to race with your teammates, feel that pain at the same time and bond over the struggle of completing an exceptionally hard course. Nothing grows a bond between people more than experiencing a similar struggle and celebrating the highlights together.

But I digress.

I relish my memories of middle school through collegiate cross country and some of my best friends came not from being forced on the same team, but by coming together and being open to each other’s differences, lightening heavy moments, being present when a race or workout didn’t go as well as planned and allowing ourselves to enjoy being young, competitive, strong female athletes.  I can only hope that young women and men approaching high school get to experience the fun and camaraderie that sports can bring to an individual’s life and feelings of fear or nonacceptance will go the way of the dinosaurs.

While it can manifest in different ways, we all just want to have a good time. That Carly Rae Jepsen really does have the right idea. Man, I just said that, didn’t I? Whatevs.

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Oh. My. InfusionCon.

Andrea Parker Shoes

June and I braving it through day 2 of InfusionCon

I am the victim of a giant thrusting of neon green upon my body. Day 2 of my company’s gigantic user conference at the Kierland Westin in Scottsdale is upon us and I’m riding high on an absurd amount of caffeine and customer enthusiasm. “I LOVE INFUSIONSOFT!” “AUTOMATION IS AMAZING!!” “INFUSIONSOFT TRIPLES MY BUSINESS!” No, I’m not yelling. Seriously, people are all up in my business about expressing their love for my company’s product, which is, you know, pretty awesome.  It does, however, mean that I am running around to organize on-camera interviews, bullet point virtually every speaker’s presentation, take photos of speaking engagements and mingle with co-workers and customers.  My team- the content team- is doing a killer job gathering things to write about on the Big Ideas Blog for months to come. I’m the managing editor, so all of this good stuff goes past my critical eye and gets worked over on the back end with all things keywords, images, outbound links and SEO.  It’s a lot of work, but to fully immerse myself in this world for three straight days and come out with a lot of quality material is definitely worth it.  June and I are a team (best dream team ever? Maybe :- ); she does the on-camera interviews with keynote speakers, Big Ideas-themed speakers and our customers, and for my tasks, well, see above.

Andrea Parker Joe Manna Shoes

I knew I kept these flats for a reason!

We got these extremely loud neon shirts so all attendees know who they can turn to to ask all of their marketing automation, restroom location and refreshment refresh time questions. They also serve as a source of amusement because they’re all somewhat awkward fitting, but they gave me and my co-worker, Joe, a chance to whip out our neon shoes to coordinate.  Outstanding.

We have a contest called “The Ultimate Marketer” with 3 finalists who get profiled and featured pretty heavily in our company’s marketing efforts in the upcoming year, as well as have an entire e-book written about them (enter: me) and they get voted on by InfusionCon attendees. This is awesome for everyone, but me.  Why? you ask. Well, I basically have 48 hours to interview them, gather sales data, examples of their marketing materials and write the copy for an entire e-book after 3 of the most busy and stressful days I’ve experienced in my Infusionsoft tenure, not to mention it’s over the Easter holiday weekend.  I’m not too worried about it because I will get it done and it will be done well, but it just means A LOT of focus over the next few days. That’s kind of hard because Jeremy just returned from a 2-week trip with the Men’s National Soccer Team and I would like to spend a little QT with him. As always, one must rock a solid work/balance life.

Daymond John Infusiocon

These lady sharks could have eaten Daymond John alive!

Oh, one last thing. Do you like “Shark Tank”? Well, I got the pleasure of listening to Daymond John speak and then facilitate his interview afterwards.  He’s a decent guy with a lot of confidence and he loves the ladies. Madison was thrilled when his assistant, Cliff (nice guy, well dressed) told DJ that he’d be taking a photo with the lady team to his left. DJ fixed his jacket and straightened his tie, all with a very broad smile because, well, he loves the ladies of the Content Team! Observation of the day: he’s a small dude.  Just check out this picture of my team with him and keep in mind that I’m 5’7 and wearing low-profile racing flats, not my standard 4″ heels.

Time for a little more writing, but of the e-book variety. Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget to finish the rest of the chocolate bunnies, not just the ears!

Oh, and by the way, I had the pleasure of guest blogging again for treadmill.com. Check out a detailed history of the steeplechase!

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Thank you, McGuire.

My friend and former University of Michigan teammate, Rachel, is one of the most talented, unabashed and honest writers I have ever had not just the pleasure to meet, but compete with for four years.  She wrote an amazing article for Runner’s World on the abuse of power that exists in some female collegiate running programs. While scathing exposés are what many people salivate over, clawing at all of the dirty details of a story, Rachel does a tremendous job discussing the inspiration for the story- a coach from the University of Toledo being completely inappropriate with some of his athletes, which lead to mental emotional abuse- and a not so far removed experience of some athletes in a nearby high school.  I encourage you to read it. Strongly encourage.

Andrea Parker Penn Relays 5k

Me and Gallo getting after it; it’s the U-M way.

If you’ve ever been curious about the psyche of collegiate athletes, especially that of the female long distance runner, she does a great job describing the emotional fragility that exists on any given day and how easily it is for a coach to manipulate that state in either a positive or negative way.  (Another, more in depth, exploration occurs in “The Silence of Great Distance,” a stirring account of successful distance runners going to extremes.)

Andrea Parker Track XC Big Ten

All we do is WIN, WIN, WIN. Triple Crown, baby.

We Wolverines had the amazing experience of working under a coach who had nothing but track on the brain 24/7 and measured his happiness in our successes on the oval or cross country course. Mike McGuire will absolutely live in my mind as one of the country (world’s?) greatest coaches not only for the way he could produce excellent athletes recruiting class after recruiting class, but because of his commitment to make us all better athletes.  That commitment did away with the outside forces that may be distracting us from our training, but you know, that technique worked because as soon as you got to the track, you knew you had to check your issues at the front door (or, in my case, toss them into the steeple pit), lest you disappoint your coach, whose job it was to make you successful. He wasn’t about to waste his time with a bunch of young women who didn’t care to be there or didn’t feel like trying that day. He could be tough, but he balanced it well with awkward humor and random insight you never knew the man had.  I know that not everyone had such a fulfilling experience with the college teams and coaches, so I am grateful for Mike’s commitment to high standards and to the women who made it all worthwhile.

Forever, GO BLUE!

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Get Your Stretch On (but not for so long!)

Parkersplash dinner

3/4ths of the Parkersplash Fam

My week’s been a hot mess of writing, editing and managing… and letting my laptop and full, loosely capped, travel cup of water mingle a little too closely.  Despite the whole “let the screen dry out, hope the damage isn’t permanent and hope I don’t have to tell my superior” thing, I’ve been loving how much has been happening!  I’ve had some great runs with my bestie, Julie (we’ve got a 17 miler lined up for tomorrow- her 17, me more like a lucky 13 miles.  What? I’m not training for a marathon!), fabulous meals with my parents, who are in town for about two weeks, and the return of my forever-traveling guy.  I found a few minutes to squeak in a guest blog on the supposed necessity of stretching before and after runs.  Why do I use the word “supposedly”? Because you may have been doing your warmup all wrong since you were a kid.  Really.

parkersplash glute

Grab your right knee while your left knee is bent, then straighten the leg while paying special attention to squeezing that left glute.

Until 2009, I let myself carry on with the understanding that you must stretch before runs in order to get muscles prepared for the work ahead, but I was apparently misinformed as a 4 year old T-ball ingenue.

You may have heard the term “dynamic warmup” thrown around in reference to the warmups that elite runners, as well as other professional athletes, choose to engage in. It’s not really a new thing, but it’s finally getting some attention as the alternative to pre-activity stretching since it doesn’t involve overextending cold muscles; it’s more of a gentle wake up to key muscles groups that allow them to properly prepare for the activity ahead.  While I could go on for a while about this, get the lowdown and shift your perspective on your activity preparation. Your muscles will be all over this!

parkersplash steeple

You’re not doing this without a good dynamic warmup!

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Guest blogging? I’d love to!

Hi, y’all!

I know it’s been a looong time since my last update, but it’s only because I have been so very, very busy with the next chapter of my life that I have not had one moment truly to myself.  But that’s OK!

To give you the quick and dirty, I am now the managing editor of the Big Ideas Blog at Infusionsoft, as well as the editor of all e-books that my company produces and shares.  We focus on helping small businesses succeed through a variety of marketing strategies and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and we’re growing like a 13 year old boy in the summer between 7th and 8th grade! We’ve grown from less than 200 employees to 350 in less than a year — me being around 320ish.

I love what I do (Why wouldn’t I?  I get to write and edit, as well as put my vast marketing knowledge base to good use!) and it does take up a lot of my time, but fear not!  I am still happily running, so all is not lost in that realm.


My kind of winter running and training.

I was recently contacted to become a regular contributor to www.treadmill.com and today, Wednesday, January 30th, is my first post.  Check it out! The conversational tone and off the wall remarks are all there, and I give so solid winter running gear suggestions to boot!  It looks like I’ll be posting 2x/month, so I’ll share some hype with you each time I post.

Do enjoy and feel free to give me ideas for my next running/training-focused post.  Thanks for reading!


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