Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 38 - Joan Meiners - FAIL FORWARD - Part 2 of 3

I feel like that's a moment best reserved for after the race.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 38 - Joan Meiners - FAIL FORWARD - Part 2 of 3

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JESSE: I feel like that's a moment best reserved for after the race. JOAN: Right? Yeah. In case it just made me super-- I think it kind of energized me. It did make me nervous but it also kind of energized me. I actually ended up breaking the school record that day, so, I think it worked in my favor. That was a gamble, right, like off the cost. JESSE: Right. Well, it wasn't-- The thing is, it wasn't your coach that took you up there. JOAN: Right? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. ?? 00:31> sabotage. JESSE: That's why I'm like, he doesn't you know-- I-- honestly, we just met obviously, but if you spend enough time with your athletes, you get a kind of a sense about what energizes them, what makes them nervous. The other coach has no idea I assume. I assume you haven't spent a significant amount of time with him. So, that seems like-- JOAN: Yeah. I mean, I always assumed that my coach knew about the timing and let's totally okay with it, but it was the other coach that walked me up there. And then... Yeah, I don't know. Now you're making me rethink like the timing of this and whether-- how well it was thought out. JESSE: Well, I mean, we know how it turned out. So, it was-- you were apparently fine. I don't have a namesake like that, but I know if I did, I would probably be like, I'm gonna have a terrible day now like-- just a little too much pressure. JOAN: I was definitely nervous, but I was-- I kind of went flying over those hurdles. And I'm sure my form was atrocious. But I was having a great time. So, it worked out. JESSE: Since your dad wasn't a marathoner, and you have somebody you are named after that's so iconic. I'm terrible about knowing who anybody is in running. I just paid attention to myself most of the time. I mean, is that something you thought about like during your career I should be as good as she is, or I should like channel her power or anything like that? JOAN: Not a lot. I mean I was never like even close to being maybe like I should be as good as she is. She runs ridiculously fast and won the Olympic marathon in Los Angeles against all odds, and it was like a really hot day and she trained in Maine. So, she just has an incredible story. And I was never really comparing myself to her in that way. But it was, it was fun to have-- to get into running and to feel like I had that back story and I have a-- my parents when I was born, they sent her a letter telling her that they had named me after her. And they had met her a couple times at like events or something. And she sent back a signed picture and then that was hanging in my room when I was growing up. And so it was cool to have her to look up to. But I never expected to just walk up the bleachers and meet her right before my race. And she was like, “Next time you're in town, you should come over for dinner.” And I was like, Okay. I have a picture of you in my room since I was a baby” like, that’s crazy. But yeah, I didn't really ever feel any pressure doing that. Actually, to get more into my, like random history of sports. I actually played softball and swam in high school. And I didn't think that since my dad was a really fast runner, and I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and you know, you go running on the trails there or on the bike path and you just get past no matter who you are. You just get past because you're-- because it's like Olympians training right next to you doing their speed work on the bike path while you're doing you know, you're trying to train for a half marathon or whatever. So, I didn’t-- Because of that, I didn't really think of myself as a serious runner. I just thought like, “Oh, this is what I do for fun.” And then I kind of tried out for the team and college on a whim and like became a serious runner from there. But yeah, I had no designs on becoming the next Joan Benoit Samuelson. JESSE: I feel like that kind of speaks to kinda like what we were talking about earlier just like with the podcast or journalism where you meet people and I think the way our culture is, it's almost like, we make icons out of Olympians and athletes and now, comedians. I watched a ton of stand up comedy. So, then there's these people that are essentially icons, has these big entertainment X musicians, all these very talented people. And I'm sure there are not so nice people in those groups as well, but there are not so nice people, not in those groups. I feel like in general, people just seem to be people like they're not-- I don't know that I've personally met anybody Olympic stature, not that I've met a ton. But a few that are like, all about themselves. You know, they're just like, “Oh, yeah, if like, if you love the sport that I love, I'm happy to talk to you or help you or whatever.” It's not like “Oh, you're not good enough ?? 05:33> get out of here.” JOAN: Yeah, yeah, you're totally right. You always think that that's kind of what we expect to happen. Like, oh, but I am a pee on. Like, they'd be totally right to tell me to get out of here. But yeah, I'm ?? 05:49> meeting kind of my sports ?? 05:51>. I was recently at a journalism conference, and an investigative journalism conference in Houston and I looked across the room and I saw Mara Abbott. I don't know if you know who she is. She got fourth in Rio for the women's cycling road race. She's like an amazing, amazing climber on a road bike. And she's also from Boulder. And we went to like rival high schools around the same time. And I knew who she was. And I wrote to my friend, I was like, on a piece of paper, I was like that’s “Mara Abbott. Like Olympic fourth place ?? 06:29>.” And I was like, “No, I can't.” But he made me and she was super nice and was just like, there because she also is interested in journalism. And we have a ton of like ?? 06:43> sometimes. So, yeah, people are just people and they're nice. And they got into it for the same reasons and everybody started somewhere. JESSE: Yeah. Sometimes I think that that idea that that person is like, unapproachable. Almost speaks more to, at least for me, my own like insecurities than it does the actual person themselves. You know? JOAN: Definitely. You don't know anything about them really. You just kind of follow them as a fan. JESSE: Right. You're just like, “They're really fast. Like, by default they want nothing to do with me. We have nothing in common.” And then they're like, “Oh, no I'll talk to you. That's fine.” JOAN: Yeah, and then it's really weird when the tables turn and people come up to you and they're like, “Oh, I watched you race or whatever. And you're like, wait. JESSE: Yeah, right. I actually had-- I kind of had that experience a little bit. I just finished filming a commercial for the company, with my friend Brian, who I ran with in college. He's now a teacher at one of the local schools and this past Summer, I had my first ever race winning, overall race win, not a very big race. There was like 100 people there. But it was big for me because I've been racing for almost 20 years, I never won. So, I was happy about that and went on with my life. Well, so I shoot this commercial with Brian, and then he goes back to work. And I gave him some product that we use in the commercial I said, takes at home. And there's another guy that I'm not familiar with that he works with, who knew me from winning that race? It was like, “Oh, yeah, I know him. Like let him know if he needs somebody to train with I’ll like-- it's just like, what? Like, I just-- I want a small race. Like I'm not anybody important.” JOAN: Yeah. I used to live in a small town in North Carolina on the beach. This is where I had that job I mentioned earlier where my job was to like, go catch stingrays and stuff for a coastal ecology research and I had to do a lot of random beach stuff ?? 09:04>. And I was running-- I ran a lot when I lived there, and they had like this beach run series. And I would go do that and do well usually. And I was at the gym one time and some random person comes up to me and this was the first time this has happened to me so I was very-- I was like shocked. A random person comes up to me and says, “Oh, I saw you race last week at the beach. Like you did really well.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, people know who I am. They're gonna see me running on the street. What if they do when I have to duck into the bushes, you know?” Like, “Oh God, I'm not anonymous anymore. This is bad.” JESSE: You know, it's almost nice like you said nice and bad at the same time. But like, even I often talk about this lady Barb Lindquist who is one of the first I'll say, superstars, she would probably hate me saying that in triathlon for the US. She was the first woman to be ranked number one in the world. And so she was in the Olympics in 2004. I was fortunate, although not quite fast enough, somehow she allowed me to be a part of this group that she coached trying to get college athletes and turn them into professionals. And I remember the very first national championship I was at, she was like, showing me how to use elastic tubing to warm up for the swim because it was too cold to get in the water. As she walked away some guy came up to me was like, “Is that Barb Lindquist?” Like, “Yeah, it is.” But it's still like so like, she's this huge person. And people know who she is. But at the same time, she doesn't like get accosted when she goes to races. You know what I mean? Like, it's just like, kind of like you with Mara just whispering in the corner, like over there. JOAN: Yeah, cuz you don’t want to bother them. Like if you really look up to someone you don’t want to pester them. I think most people don't, some people do maybe. JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. We'll jump back because you've got a lot going on with kind of what you're doing now, what you've done with your journalism. It's kind of a general question. I like to ask this especially, I think it's especially pertinent for you because like you said, when we got going, it's like, if nobody hears about what you're doing, then are you really making an impact? And that's part of what I like about targeting people like you is it there are some people that are deeply engrossed in research and then have really no way to present it to the public. You obviously get bigger platforms than talking to me. But you know, you understand kind of the importance of it. So, what I always have trouble with, sometimes personally, but just in general, trying to advise this is how do you sort bad science from good science, bad research from good research, and kind of dealing with all the sensationalized headlines to distill that down to like, what's really happening, what's important to focus on? JOAN: Yeah. That's a good question. So, usually if something is really seems like something you've never heard before, and it's just groundbreaking and totally unimaginable, it's maybe suspicious like you should be suspicious of it. Most science happens in very small increments like, you make a big discovery. But really, if you're not in that field, it doesn't seem big. It's, it seems just very incrementally different from the last thing you heard about coming out of that field. And that's kind of how science should progress most of the time. So, you want to be suspect of those, like great huge breakthroughs where it seems like somebody did something that's unlike anything you've ever heard anybody doing anything before. And that doesn't mean that it's bad science, but it means that you should talk to a lot of people about it before you write about it. And you should ask for a second opinion from-- And you should always do that. I always try it when I'm writing a story about science. It's good form to get an outside opinion. So, somebody that didn't work on the story may be a rival in that field. There's a lot of like, rivalries within science and like, either personal or ideological rivalries. So, somebody believes that this is how the world works. And there's this other group that's like, it’s definitely not how it works. This is how it works. And so if you're going to write about a breakthrough on one of those sides, you want to talk to the other side and just get their opinion. As a journalist, you don't have to take a side, but you should represent all the sides. And I think that's the best way as a journalist to do it. As a reader, you want to read from multiple sources. If there's something big that happened in science, there's gonna be multiple outlets that report on it. And so reading from multiple outlets and everything is a good way to kind of, if you're suspicious of something, it’s a good way to figure out what's up. Usually, if NPR and The Washington Post and Writers and whatever all right about kind of a similar thing, you can usually believe that it's real, because most of those journalists will have done their homework. But if only one outlet seems to have the big scoop on something then you want to be a little suspicious of that. Go to Part 3 Go to Part 1

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