The Organized Runner

Sara Morrison

Sara Morrison

The Organized Runner

Recent Posts

One Year at Praxis

One Year at Praxis

A little over a year ago today. Isaac Morehouse turned my life upside down by sending me an email: “Got ten minutes for a quick phone call?” That quick phone call led to me giving notice at my job – my first job out of […]

Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 2

Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 2

Recap: The book is split in half – the first half on black paper/white text from Seth’s perspective and the second half on white paper/black text from Chandler’s perspective. I reviewed Seth’s half here.   PROS: Considering the long break between my reading the first […]

Just Google It: Panel Graphs in Excel

Just Google It: Panel Graphs in Excel

I got a data task last week. I love my data. At my last job I once got lost writing a report on our evaluation data and didn’t look up from my computer until my stomach growled and I realized I stayed an hour later than I usually go home.

Anyway, I had the task of plotting some pretty disparate numbers. Things like website traffic (maximum at tens of thousands) per week as well as acceptances (maximum under 10) per week…plus some numbers in between. I thought this would be easily solvable with a secondary Y axis but after plotting the data that way, I realized it wasn’t the best solution. I either needed to blow up the graph to billboard size or have a third or fourth Y axis to make it work.

Then I tried taking out website traffic as a whole since it was the outlier, but then my next biggest variable became a problem since it was an outlier compared to the rest of my data. My next solution was to plot all of the variables separtely. Since the data is all plotted by week, I just had to stack them on top of each other, and the trends (spikes and dips) would still show even though it wouldn’t be as visually appealing. I made all 5 graphs before realizing that was a dumb idea. Frustrated, I told myself that there are entire professions based around data analysis and visualization, and there has to be a way to display these numbers in the same graph.

I then turned to my best friend, Google. I can remember taking a computer applications class in middle school where we learned the “proper” way to search – using keywords, plus signs, etc. That is never the way I search, though. I’m a fan of typing full sentences or phrases of my stream of consciousness. In the pre-Shazam or Siri days, I found many a song title and artist by typing in the lyrics of songs I heard on the radio.

This is what I typed in, and I felt it like destiny that someone else had used the same phrase that I had. The forum led me here which is where I found my answer.

The feeling of fate continued as I read the post. The writer laid out all of the ways people attempt to display data like this, which mirrored the attempts I had just made.

  • You can plot everything on the same graph with one Y axis, but that leads to everything but your outlier looking like a flat line.
  • You can plot a second Y axis, but then you have to remember which lines go with which axis (and still wasn’t enough in my case)
  • You can plot all of the data on separate charts and try to line up the X axis

Or you can make a panel graph! I copied the format of the data and the formulas in the step by step instructions (accounting for the fact that I needed 5 panels rather than 3). Since the example data is so small compared to mine, I had to write down a list of conversions (example E9 = my G44) to get the formulas right after quite a few mistakes that had my graph looking wonky. But then I had it! Five variables worth of data aligned along the same X axis each with its own Y axis for scale.

The point of all of this is that it’s very unlikely that the problem you’re experiencing is something only you will encounter. The internet is a wonderful place that can help you with many problems from fixing your blender (boil the blade kit to get it unstuck) or helping you make a panel graph for the first time.

 

Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 1

Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 1

I learned about the band NEEDTOBREATHE my first summer working at Strong Rock Camp when my co-counselor would play their music to wake our girls up in the morning. I had the opportunity to see them play live at a Braves game this summer which […]

Decide, Commit, Step Forward: How to Break Free from FOMO and Organize your Ambition

Decide, Commit, Step Forward: How to Break Free from FOMO and Organize your Ambition

When I first started at Praxis, I learned that it is something I’ll always have to explain to people. The follow up question is usually about our participants who I like to describe as “exhaustingly inspiring.” Our community is constantly pinging with notifications about new […]

Why I Keep Training

Why I Keep Training

Running – or training to be precise – can sometimes feel like an unbalanced or unfair relationship. You do your work every day, putting your time and effort and sweat into making your relationship with running better, and then race day comes, and running doesn’t seem to hold up its end of the deal. If you were dating someone and constantly worked on your relationship and did nice things for them, and they didn’t reciprocate, you would probably dump them. So why do I keep training?

I briefly pondered that today. It was a level and logical question – not an emotional one as I’ve been before. I wasn’t upset at myself for wondering, just thought about it as I had an off day today. I rarely take weekdays off, but I finished up my track season last night and am feeling a little beat up from it. Plus, I haven’t had an extended break besides my usual down weeks once a month since January, so this is instrumental in me making it through all of 2017 healthy.

Back to the question of why I keep at it. I’ve thought before that I could back way off on training and still be semi-competitive. I could probably run 20 minute 5ks and maybe bust out a 19:30 on a good day or a fast course. Depending on the level of competition, I could win some age group awards or maybe even the whole female division. I could spend less time on training, not be as tired, and still scratch that running itch.

But I want more.

I don’t want college to be my peak. I don’t want to just PR in the 5k, I want to take a whopping 24 seconds off and one day break 18 minutes. I want to PR in every event from the 400 to the marathon. And all of that takes a lot of work. Until I stop wanting more, it’ll be worth it to inch ever closer to those goals.

I realized with a smile today that these thoughts closely parallel one of my favorite sections of Once a Runner which is the best book written about competitive distance running. The backstory starts with the main character Cassidy (an elite miler) explaining to his girlfriend Andrea how track is different from other sports since the comparisons across time aren’t subjective.

“In track it’s all there in black and white. Lot of people can’t take that kind of pressure; the ego withers in the face of the evidence. We all carry our little credentials around with us; that’s why the numbers are so important to us, why we’re always talking about them.

“…the point is that we know not only whether we are good, bad, or mediocre, but whether we’re first, third, or a hundred and ninety seventh at any given point…assuming we make the lists. That’s right. Sometimes it is possible, despite your best efforts and a hundred miles a week to not even exist. That, my dear, breaks my heart.”

Disclaimer: I am and never was in the same ballpark as Cassidy (a fictional runner but still). I would be one of those people who didn’t make the lists. I describe myself best as a serious runner and/or a competitive runner. Running is a high priority for me, and I typically race around 75% of age graded results, so that’s good enough for me to say competitive. For me, not being at an elite level doesn’t change the fact that I am training toward goals – the same way someone who is trying to run a whole 5k without walking is.

“But you can beat most of the people around, we know that, right? Isn’t that good, isn’t that what you want?”

Here Andrea echos that voice in my head that sometimes tries to convince me that I don’t need to run 50+ miles a week or lift weights or foam roll. If I can do decently well in local road races, isn’t that enough? For people like Cassidy and me, it’s not. His response gets me amped up every time I read it, and typing it tonight was no exception.

“It’s a simple choice: We can all be good boys and wear our letter sweaters around and get our little degrees and find some nice girl to settle, you know, down with…”

“Or what? What is the alternative?

Andrea doesn’t know what’s coming next.

“Or we can blaze! Become legends in our own time, strike fear in the heart of mediocre talent everywhere! We can scald dogs, put records out of reach! Make the stands gasp as we blow into an unearthly kick from three hundred yards out! We can become God’s own messengers delivering the dreaded scrolls! We can race dark Satan himself till he wheezes fiery cinders down the back straightaway! They’ll speak our names in hushed tones, ‘Those guys are animals’ they’ll say! We can lay it on the line, bust a gut, show them a clean pair of heels. We can sprint the turn on a spring breeze and feel the winter leave our feet! We can, by God, let our demons loose and just wail on!”

So that’s why I keep training. I have goals that demand more than mediocrity of me, and I have enough fire in me to put my head down and grit my way through a final kick or another interval rep around the track. Finish times might be black and white, but records are meant to be broken, so while I am in this stage of life – settled, few responsibilities (aka no kiddos), and healthy – I’m going to keep chasing them.

 

Someone on the Internet was Wrong!

Someone on the Internet was Wrong!

Normally I ignore and archive the news-related emails from LinkedIn, but last week an article caught my eye since it was about the sharing economy in China. I was surprised that type of business would thrive in China – a country that isn’t known for […]

Past Me Would be Proud

Past Me Would be Proud

I have a joke with one of my friends called “past me would be proud.” Both of us are still pursuing competitive distance running post-college while also balancing jobs and lives in general. It’s hard. In college, it was understood that you carved hours of […]

Reading Makes Me Dramatic

Reading Makes Me Dramatic

I read All the Light We Cannot See this weekend. It’s been a long time since I read a fiction book, and it reminded me how much I love reading.

I spent much of my childhood reading. I was all about Accelerated Reader points in elementary school, and my sister and I took part in our local library’s summer reading program. I grew up with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of the Sweet Valley High series, the Animorphs, and of course Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Reading before bed was my nightly routine, I’m sure well past my bedtime on occasion. Family road trips included a “book box” in the back of the van because we could never fit as many as we wanted in our backpacks (this was before kindles and smartphones and tablets). I was surprised how many memories came back the first night I laid in bed, unable to put my book down.

When I read a lot, I tend to get dramatic. I’m pretty sure everyone narrates their life in their head as they go about their day, but my narrator gets far more interesting when I’ve been reading. I imagine my life as a story and wonder what intricacies I can create to make the story more interesting. It’s certainly not that I do anything out of the ordinary, but I feel like part of my imagination that has been dormant comes to life.

The material I’m reading either increases or tempers the narrator. I don’t feel any change when I read nonfiction. I enjoy finding ways to relate what I’m reading to my life or personal development, but there’s not an emotional response like there is with fiction, and I supposed heavy fiction intensifies the emotion.

All the Light We Cannot See is a great book that I would recommend, but it is not a light read. It’s historical World War II fiction, and if living during the 1940s wasn’t bad enough, there’s the horrific addition of the war.

[light spoilers & heaviness below]

I tread carefully through the book waiting for the inevitable rape scene I had heard was coming. Page after page, and I didn’t see any scenario where it would happen. Monday evening as I neared the finish of the book, I started to feel hopeful that what I had heard was mistaken – maybe about another book. Then there it was. A few brief paragraphs, thankfully not graphic, but still awful.

They don’t teach you in school that armies would go into cities and rape the women and girls. Upon Googling it (which I don’t recommend), apparently it was very common on both sides of the war. It reminded me of the time I learned that David cut off Goliath’s head after knocking him out with his sling shot. They don’t tell you that part in Sunday School.

[you can come back now]

I think it’s ok to spend some time ruminating what makes you uncomfortable if for no other reason than to make you thankful for your current life. How privileged am I to use my imagination to create dramatic plot lines when I live in the age of the internet and general abundance and [mostly] peace?

 

“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

PSA: Don’t Honk at Runners

PSA: Don’t Honk at Runners

There are many uncomfortable things that can happen while you’re out running – needing to use the bathroom, chafing, the weather being miserable, etc. not to mention the outside influences like getting honked or yelled at. I consider honking to among the worst. The definition […]