Virtual long run- Two- #longrun #academia #runchat #oiselleteam

If we were on a long run today, I’d fill you in on the last few weeks of life. This probably won’t be too long of a long run (maybe 1.5hrs? 10miles? What do we feel like doing?) because I ran at a rate that was inversely proportional to the rate at which I consumed cheese and meat over the holidays. Like most everyone out there, December seemed like a whirlwind of events, too, and I didn’t get in all the awesome workouts and training and things I had planned. But really, it wasn’t too crazy. I ran a trail race in 8 inches of snow, I finished my first semester of teaching college sophomores, I applied for a few jobs, I traveled to Michigan for Christmas. I could probably write the “12 days of fall semester ending” song: There was 1 white elephant gift exchange, two Secret Santas, three holiday parties, four students that liked me as an instructor (if I am being optimistic), five reference letters requested, six CV updates, seven lunches and luncheons, eight dinners, nine cookies, make that ten cookies… ok fine, 12 cookies. All long runs should have some singing, right? Anyway, I digress.

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you how relieved I am to have finished my first semester as a lecturer in engineering. Teaching was tough; it required a lot more time than I thought it would (and I went in expecting to put in more time than most college profs given that I’d never taught an entire class before), it required a lot more effort, and a lot more emotional restraint. It was both humbling and rewarding, and I am excited to teach again knowing what I know now. I didn’t expect or anticipate all the questions I was asked throughout the semester, but as we chugged along, I found my stride. It was a steep learning curve, but I definitely know what approaches to take, and what not to take, in the future when I teach again. That is, if anyone hires me… (more on that later). Have you ever taught a class? A lecture? Have you had any teachers or professors that stood out as ones you liked or didn’t like? What about them made them a good or a bad instructor?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you that I have officially started the tenure track (TT) faculty search. In fact, this would probably take up the whole run, so maybe I will save the majority of it for a different post. I will say, however, that this is yet another thing about academia that is not as easy as one might expect (and requires a lot more time than I thought it would). Get a fellowship, they said. It will make you a “hotter” candidate, they said. What I have gathered, in my immature and rather short experience of TT-applying thus far, is that I’m not entirely convinced that the search committees always care that much about that kind of stuff. Cool, you have funding. So does everyone else applying for TT jobs right now (or so it seems).  Nonetheless, I’m on pins and needles waiting… waiting… waiting. Because even if you submit an application on Tuesday, you want (you really, really want) some sort of “cool, thanks for applying” point of contact from a real person, not an automated email, with some sort of “you’re just what we’re looking for!” or, at least, “nah, you’re not that cool” feedback. Because, even though you really want to be that cool, you also don’t like waiting. As I’ve been told, the first round of applications for TT positions tends to be a crapshoot, (or rather in academia) “a learning experience,” and yet another way to develop thicker skin. Also, it’s a way of finding out that the search committees just aren’t that into you, as one might say. And lastly, I will tell you that the TT application process in and of itself is a lot like trying to date someone you’ve had a crush on for a while; the nervous butterflies after you put yourself out there, the checking your phone/email all the time to see if you missed a message or call, the constant sinking “oh shit” feeling that you messed something up (grammatically, of course). Oy. I haven’t dated in a while. Remember when we used to chat about dating on our long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d laugh at the analogies we make now that we are “older,” and obviously more mature. Seriously, there was a time when we ran for hours and talked about our crazy sorority roommate and all the f^&#ing glitter in our upstairs bathroom, or our crazy office mate who didn’t use headphones and drove us nuts, or what freshman we could find to give us a free dorm meal. What crazy stories from college (or earlier years) do you remember that got you through long runs?

If we were on a long run today, I’d tell you about the awesome race I did a few weekends ago called the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run. It’s a cult race, usually selling out in the first few days that registration is open (this year it sold out in 6 hrs). Fortunately, the race director threw me on the wait list and I got in after bribing him with threats of volunteering and trail cleanup. Also, Pere Marquette is (apparently) a fairly famous area of Illinois; according to my Coffee Guy (@stringbeanPete), it’s the #2 place in the late 1960s for people to go on their honeymoon. There’s loads of bald eagles flying around, and its about an hour away from St Louis City proper. I almost ditched the race because the area got about 8 inches of snow between midnight and 6am, and the roads were in horrible condition. Fortunately, Emily agreed to drive, so we picked up Irwin and we skidded our way to the PMQT visitors center to run a 7.5mile race, in snow. It was fantastic. Lots of fun, actually kind of fast because the trail was basically paved (albeit with snow). There were some slow sections (e.g., getting behind the train of runners from waves that started ahead of me) and super fast sections (e.g., running in the powder and just flying down the hills), and I wound up in second place for women behind Emily herself. We had the speedy car, apparently. Has there ever been a race that you almost didn’t show up to the start line for that was an absolute freakin’ blast to race?

The drive up.

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

I like running down hills, too. Photo by James Hooton

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

So much pretty snow. Photo by Joann Fricke

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

SuperKate. Photo by Jim Hooton

The line of people.

The line of people. Photo by Joann Fricke

If we were on a long run today, I’d make a plan to have a long run again on Saturday or Sunday, because it’s 2014 now and it’s time to get back at it. Let’s think about what races we want to do this year, and chat about it in a few days, yeah?

10 thoughts on “Virtual long run- Two- #longrun #academia #runchat #oiselleteam

  1. You should consider recording yourself, podcast-style, so I can actually take you with me on an REAL long run:) Chat a little, leave some time for me to respond, chat some more, pause for response, ask a general question, pause, change subjects… I think that would be so awesome! While you’re working on that, I guess I can make due with these fun virtual ones:)

    My favorite teacher was so enthusiastic. You knew when he really wanted you to remember something, because he’d get all excited and wave his hands and have some quirky saying: “the ENERGY is IN the FUEL!” He also had a lot of examples and demonstrations and parts to pass around – ideas I assume you get after a couple years of learning what is the least clear in your lectures.

    Way to rock your run, girlfriend!! What winter pants are you sporting these days? My Swix are long over-due for replacing and I’d love your recommendations.

  2. I’ve taught a few classes in my day, but first grade is a *bit* different than university-level courses, so I don’t really have anything helpful. My least favorite quality in a professor is when they post a powerpoint and then read directly from it. No thanks, I can read faster than you can talk.

    I never ran until 3 years ago, so I have no high school/college long run conversations to look back on. I’m sure they would have been about boys, though, because wasn’t everything back then? Now it’s past races, future races, and lots of adventure racing talk. Or hatching schemes for future outings.

    AWESOME job at PM! Not so much with running races, but frequently when I’m planning to go mountain biking I’ll want to bail the morning of (regardless of good/bad weather and more because I’m a huge chicken about MTB) and am always really glad I went.

    See you in just over a week!

  3. Sounds like quite a long run. :-)

    As a fellow “reformed grad student” (i.e. PhD) I’ve had my share of teaching experiences, although not as the primary instructor. It does sound like a lot of work! Nice job in finding your stride, and I hope that your spring semester also goes well.

    Maybe we can have an actual long run before you move to your next adventure!

    • Word. I am actually planning to sign up (for real this year) for the IL half in April. I also applied for a faculty job there! I’m all in for a real life long run some time this spring… It’s not *that* far of a drive! Maybe there’s some cool trails we could run/hike in between us (Springfield? Effingham?)?

  4. Hey Megan! I think the job market has a lot to answer after the “promises” we were made in grad school, eh? But I guess that’s the real world for you. Good luck with your teaching! I decided I did NOT want to teach, or even be a tenure track faculty member…I’m in the process of following different paths right now.

    • Thanks, Rach! There’s a lot that I think will change in the next 10-20 years for early academics. Already, we’re experiencing longer duration as post-docs (both mentors I’ve had were post-docs < 18months), some even tackling more than one post-doc so they're spending ~10 years post-PhD without any security. In the field of engineering, that's insane (also insane, making <$45k for a full-time salary job after 10+ years of education/training as an engineer). I was encouraged, going into my current position, to not spend too much time as a post-doc and publish quickly and frequently or risk implosion. But that just doesn't seem feasible with hypercompetitive faculty searches, hypercompetitive journal publications (well, for some journals anyway), and hypercompetitive peers (seriously? I am in the running for a faculty job against MD/PhDs with K99s and publications in Science/Cell?!?). Johns Hopkins has already started reducing their graduate enrollment given the "PHD saturation" scare. I wonder if the tenure track process itself is going to evolve (e.g., less time to get tenure so schools "replace" TT faculty more quickly, dissolution of certain departments to make room for "hotter" areas of study, etc.). Anyway, it is what it is, TT isn't the only job out there for PhDs, and it certainly isn't everyone's dream job anymore.

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