43: Caster Semenya, Race Psychology, Injuries

May 14, 2019

43: Caster Semenya, Race Psychology, Injuries

Juggling work-life balance can be a real three-ring circus, which Lauren & Jesse know first hand. Led by listener questions, the Work, Play, Love Podcast is all about sports, biz, and family. [ASK YOUR QUESTION]

43: Caster Semenya, Race Prep Psychology, Racing After Injury, Late-Night Baby Duties

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Spring training is ramping up, and Lauren is riding high from recent workouts with her athletes. Meanwhile, Jesse wonders whether he set a world record for fastest 5K on crutches, and he shares how nerdy he got trying to figure it out. This week, Jesse and Lauren discuss gender in sport, and the challenges that DSD athletes face in light of the recent the Caster Semenya case. They share how they mentally prepare for races, and talk about wisdom from coaches throughout their careers. Lauren talks about racing after injury, and how she worked with Mel Lawrence to recover from a string of injuries and come back to set a 5K PR at Payton Jordan 2019 (go Mel!). They also dig in to who does what when it comes to late-night baby duties.

Important Stuff!

Don't forget that June 5th is Global Running Day! Head over to globalrunningday.com/workplaylove and celebrate moving your body by pledging to run!

This week's episode is sponsored by Jaybird wireless earbuds for athletes. Visit jaybirdsport.com and use promo code workplaylove to get 20% off your order.

Tasty Bites

11:10 - Who is favorite Game of Thrones character and why? Any guesses on who takes the Iron throne?!

J: Jon Snow and Arya. Arya is so badass. But Jon Snow died and came back to life.

L: Jon Snow is hot! But I like Tyrion. I have a theory that he might end up on the throne, but it seems like Jon Snow is lining up to take it.

14:12 - Jesse, do you run with your own fluids during a race, or use the Gatorade/cola/Redbull provided?

I typically run with a bit of my own fluid. I will premix some Nuun Performance, which is for extended workouts, and take it with some water at an aid station. I’ll use Redbull in the second half of a marathon, or 2-3 miles into a triathlon half marathon.

15:02 - At Kona, the pros have separate fuel tables. What is offered there?

The pro tables at Kona have whatever you put there. Before the race, you can place up to six single bottles with something taped to the bottle (like blocks or gummies) at aid stations.

16:35 - What's your opinion on Kinesio Tape (or rock tape)? Is there any harm in using it over a long period time?

We’re not doctors, but there’s probably no harm in using Kinesio tape over a long period of time. A possible downside is a negative affect on your skin if you have sensitive skin. Otherwise this type of tape could provide helpful physical cues during times of recovery, and it might be worthwhile to try and see if it works for you! Neither Jesse nor Lauren have used it, but they would be open to giving it a try.

19:42 - How did you decide to pursue more business-related endeavors professionally instead of more engineering?

I never felt like pure engineering was a great fit for me and just found that my interests naturally brought the bigger picture in to focus. I really enjoyed the end-to-end design, manufacturing, marketing and advertising, distribution, finance and people management aspects of business. If you’re wondering what’s right for you, I would say to pursue what most interests you. If it’s problem solving and design and getting the details perfect—engineering may be the best path. If you like things like people management and a more holistic approach, then a business focus may be better for you.

24:09 - How do you store your sweaty workout clothes?

We store our clothes in our bedroom and that seems to work well. We do laundry every 3-4 days, so we don’t have problems with smell. If you don’t have frequent access to a washer/dryer, or you’re traveling, take a shower with your workout gear and hang it up to dry.

26:29 – Global Running Day

Global Running Day, or #globalrunningday, is on June 5th! Global Running Day is a worldwide celebration of running that encourages everyone to get moving. Lauren and Jesse are participating, and they’re hoping that all of you in the WPL community will join them! Go to GlobalRunningDay.org/WorkPlayLove to sign up and pledge your own run. It’s an awesome way to have fun and celebrate with the world-wide community of runners.

The Meat and Potatoes

28:18 - What is your perspective on the issue brought on by Caster Semenya? Should biologic markers be the lines in the sand for gender distinctions in this sport? Is "female" worth the protection of a definition?

It’s hard to look anywhere running-related and not see a debate about the Caster Semenya case ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Lauren and Jesse share their thoughts on this incredibly complex and nuanced topic, and point out that it should not be oversimplified or reduced to a single issue. They explore the importance of gender distinctions in sport, they talk about issues that people with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD) face, and they explain why this is such a challenging topic. Most importantly, they stress that this topic should be approached with empathy, humility and compassion. The athletes that fall into these unclear categories are real people—and we need to start by honoring their rights and their humanity. It’s also important to recognize that the governing bodies of sport are an imperfect system made up of humans doing their best.

For a great resource on this topic, check out what Steve Magness has to say over at The Science of Running.

43:58 - What resources do you use for yourself or for your athletes as far as prepping for psychological and mental side of racing?

As an athlete, here are a few things to try: 

  • Visualize your training and your races prior to doing them
  • Stay calm in moments of pain and perseverance
  • Mentally break down your race into bite sized steps—then simply focus on completing the next small step

Practicing these three things on a regular basis, or encouraging your athletes to try these tactics, can help develop mental toughness and help you mentally prepare for races.

As a coach,build mental toughness into your athletes’ training plan, and take opportunities to connect the dots between training and racing whenever possible. For example, create a workout that will push your athlete to their limit, and let them know that the purpose of the workout is to get them to a place where they’re unsure if they can complete the workout. Communicate that this is to help them practice working through those moments so they can be prepared when they encounter similar situations during a race.

49:19 - Lauren, how did Mel Lawrence get back into running and racing from a series of injuries—both physically as well as mentally.

In Little Wing, we promote a culture of health. We prioritize health and reward the things that athletes do to maintain their health to create longevity. Because if you can stack up several seasons in a row without a lot of interruptions, you are going to see performance gains. With Mel, we started humbly and set our sights on goals several years away. We raced, but race times weren’t our focus. Instead, we focused on making smart decisions with her health and longevity on the track each season in mind. We set the bar low and tried to see how few days she could miss each year, and she’s had an incredible trajectory.

55:13 - How do you manage the early childcare division of duties when you and your partner are both pursuing athletic endeavors?

There’s no doubt about it. Having a child has an enormous impact on your lives. From recovering from the injury of birth to re-orienting in life as a parent, balancing work, play, and love is a challenge. Lauren and Jesse share how they handled childcare when they first had Jude and how their approaches have changed over the years. Most important? Don’t let traditional gender roles get in the way of your personal goals; and practicing clear communication with frequent check-ins is essential.


1:10.36 Underwear and chafing (Episode 41)

I just wanted to add that women can get chafing in areas other than thighs (if ya know what I mean!). So, if you are like me (are there others like me?!?) I do have to wear underwear under tight fitting shorts and pants if I'm running anything more than a short easy run. I've had good luck with underwear from several of the big running apparel companies. The only shorts that I've ever NOT had to wear undies with for longer runs are the Strider shorts from Oiselle (I think that is what they are called) but they don't sell them anymore (can you do something about that, Lauren? please!). Anyway, just wanted to share that not everyone can go commando under tight shorts or pants without chafing.

1:11.26 Setting goals while family planning (Episode 42) 

Follow up to episode 42 about setting goals while waiting to get pregnant. I think you can go ahead and put events on your calendar. If you don't get pregnant by the time event comes, then you'll be glad you didn't waste that time. And if you do get pregnant, you can record these as PPRs (pregnant PRs). I also found that I was surprisingly fast during my second trimester. Finally, if you are going through any hormonal treatment to get pregnant such as IVF, adjust your goals and expectations accordingly. I donated my eggs and during the period of time that I was giving myself injections to prepare the eggs for harvesting, I felt incredibly weak and slow.

1:12.06 Grieving athlete (Episode 41)


I had a similar experience about 14 years ago. My mom had been battlng cancer for 18 months. My training during her cancer battle helped me stay sane, alleviate stress, and be a better mom, wife and teacher during that difficult time. The day before my goal race, the Pike's Peak Ascent, I found out that she was admitted to the hospital and her next step was to start hospice. She had 6-8 weeks to live. For the race, I toed the line with a heavy heart, but tried not to add any pressure by saying that I was going to run my best race for my mom. I stuck to my race plan. With that said, I did find inspiration from her courageus battle. As I began to suffer, I reminded myself to enjoy my surroundings since my mom will never be on the top of a mountain ever again. When I had difficulty navigating the technical trail, I pictured my mom summoning her strength to get up from a chair and use her walker to navigate her home. The courage, positive attitude, and strength she showed us throughout her battle helped me get to the finish line. The only difficulty was when I started "crunning" (crying and running) with 2 miles to go at 13,000 feet. I quickly pulled it together and finished strong. My advice is to race. Set a realistic goal that matches your training and allow yourself to embrace the joy of a race. Racing will hopefully allow you to escape your grief and find solace during a tough time! Good luck!

As always, submit your work/play/love question at pickybars.com/workplaylove - Thanks for listening!



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