Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rejoice, we have conquered! Boston 2014

I generally don't reference my age, but I was born in 1986. Since I have been alive, no American, male or female, has won the historic, beloved Boston Marathon. The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. The last American woman to win was in 1985. I haven't followed Boston my entire life, but since I got into running and marathoning, I have (along with many) been hoping for an American to pull out the big win. There have been some close ones - Desi Davila even came in second when I ran in 2011. But if there was ever a day where an American needed to win, it was today. It was to show the bomber, and the world that what American do is overcome and conquer, even in the face of adversity.
I watched the first hour of the race at home in Rochester, then headed to the airport to fly back to DC. I was checking the 5k splits, anxiously watching Shalane hold onto her lead, hitting the half marathon point at course record, and whoopnng with surprise when Meb took the lead in the men's race. But really? A 38 (soon to be 39 in 2 weeks) year-old man, who was ranked 15th going into the race, leading? Could he win?
I was wearing my 2011 yellow Boston Marathon shirt while I was at the airport, and at security, a man with a 2013 Boston Marathon jacket came up to me and said "Boston Strong." His name was Mark, and we ended up on the same flight, which was delayed. Mark and I sat and chatted, as if old friends swapping stories, instead of perfect strangers. Because when you've run over the hallowed ground of Boston, you know the 26.2 mile course and the beauty of this magical event, which made us kindred spirits. And while we can't watch it live, we were tracking Facebook (I'm glad my friends were posting so much) and tracking the splits, we let out a woop when we heard that Meb won the race.
This was a big deal for so many reasons. Increasingly, there has been frustration - the Americans keep coming close, nabbing 4th, 3rd, even 2nd place, but still no win. So Meb's victory ended the drought. But his own story is one of persistence and dedication. He had a silver medal from Athens almost 10 years ago. He won the NYC Marathon in 2009 - when I hadn't heard of him yet. Meb could have been com placement - he went to the Olympics 3 times, was one of the fastest American marathoners, has a wife and three girls, and could have rested on his laurels. But his story is also one of overcoming - an immigrant from war-torn Eritreaa, suffered a devastating stress fracture and lost one of his friends due to cardiac arrest at the 2008 Marathon Trials, and a number of other injuries and challenges. He finished 23rd at NYC last yaer - his worst performance of his career, but he finished to show that NYC could overcome after Superstorm Sandy. Likewise, he signed up for Boston again to show that Boston Strong is real, and that the city and marathon would overcome last year's tragedy. Meb even had the names of last year's victims on his bib - he took this personal and wanted to honor the victims.
This wasn't just a superficial act - he took this personally, and ran with huge heart, and tremendous tenacity.
I was very weepy watching the recap video and Meb listening to the Star Spangled Banner - it was just a perfect moment. And the joy in the air was palpable - online, everyone is abuzz with it - this was a big deal and offered hope and joy. You don't need to be a marathon runner to appreciate it - the event is generally-recognized as one of the greatest physical tasks one can do.. To think that it's been three decades since an American was the first to complete the 26.2 mile journey. Meb changed the game and wiped the slate clean.
Look at this picture - his excitement and joy was electric.
The first man who ran a marathon, Pheidippides, may have died when he completed his journey from Athens to Marathon, but his words are immortal, "Rejoice, we have conquered!" They still ring true today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brave, Roar, and Let It Go: Power Songs, Mantras, or Both?

We all have power songs: those that get us going in the morning or motivate us during hard moments. For me, a lot of songs remind me of certain moments in my life: good, bad, ugly/challenging. Some ultimate become too painful to listen to or bring bad too much. Others are a reminder of celebrations or milestones or overcoming significant obstacles.
The Killers "All These Things I've Done" (and a montage of Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the 1984 Olympic marathon, which is no longer on YouTube) was what I listened to before my first BQ at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.
The Black Eyed Peas "I've got a feeling" was my go-to song before my first Boston Marathon.
"The Story" by Brandi Carlisle was before my pr of 3:27 at the best Boston ever - 2011.
But other songs represent life PRs too. In 2012, I was really struggling with my dissertation proposal, and I remember listening to "Let me be your star" from the TV show Smash. There was a lyric about remembering the difficult moments, and I remember telling myself that someday that that pain and self doubt would be erased when it passed, and it did the following year. 
Lately, there isn't a lot to write about in regards to running. I'm just trying to stay in decent shape, and in the fall I'll get back to more frequent racing and chasing PRs. I am just trying to chase good dissertation writing. I was pleased to find out that I earned a small grant to travel to conduct some research at the international Marian research institute. This was the first one I've ever won, and I cried when I found out. 
I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but I can often be crippled with self-doubt. I have questioned my abilities at every stage of my graduate career. Every stage. Not self-effacing doubt or just trying to be humble, but truly questioning my ability to reach the next level. There is always a period of painful questions and "negative chatter" in my head. I can vividly recall these, and in moments of victory, I remember these moments too. Perhaps it is so I never attempt to cruise or slide to the next benchmark. I'm at a middle point right now - far into my project, but the finish line (the Ph.D.) is still probably 2 years away. What are my 3 go-to songs right now?
Brave by Sara Bareilles
Roar by Katy Perry
Let it go by Idina Menzel from Frozen
You don't need to be a shrink to see what I'm craving - strong motivational songs to keep going about my power, strength, capabilities. 
They'll remind me to keep my head down and plug away. I can't wait to be at this finish line and have this all be a distant memory.
Last week, I was listening to a podcast interview with Dave McGivalry, the race director of the Boston Marathon. He had a lot of sage advice to give on perseverance and dedication, but one quote really stuck with me (and a quick google search confirmed that this is one of his major go-tos): "the walls of intimidation are crumbling." He was saying that people are increasingly gaining confidence and not letting others' opinions or their own get in the way. So, a big part of this process of writing the dissertation is crumbling, or really smashing my own wall of intimidation. Because it's not just about getting to the finish line, but recognizing the progress made along the way and standing on the rubble of doubts and losses and recognizing the victories.
Let it go, be brave, and ROAR!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My heart is in Boston today

It goes without saying that my heart is in Boston today. A year ago today, the Boston Marathon went from a celebration to the worst case scenario in the blink of an eye. And while I was hundreds of miles away, as I am again today, my love for that beautiful city and beautiful marathon transplanted me to Boylston Street.
I cannot believe it's been a year. I remember walking home at the end of the day, on that day, crying. I didn't believe it could happen on such sacred ground, on a day that is supposed to be special. And since then, it's been moving to see the outpouring of responses, from fundraising, to those who ran into the danger, to those comforting the victims and their families.
It's hard to look at pictures from my own Boston experiences. Those were days of such joy. I've always said they were some of the happiest of my life. So how can I look at the beautiful finish line from 2011 and not see the pain and sadness that was there in 2013?
It's a lot to process, and I'm still trying to understand it all. Today I choose to mourn and remember what was lost. It was pouring today on my 8 mile run, and in one way, it mirrored my mood. It seemed the clouds were doing the crying for me. But as the 22 mph winds blew and the rain fell, it was a reminder to do what Boston does - persevere during the storm. That city didn't hide - it came out stronger. The world didn't just embrace Boston Strong because it's catchy, but because it represent the indomitable spirit of that city.
I am also filled with hope and anticipation as I think of Monday April 21st - the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. It will be the best marathon ever - it will be a day of honoring and celebrating. I won't be there, but will be watching from home -- rooting for the Americans (go Shalane and Desi!!) and everyone taking part.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Johnny's Running of the Green 2014

Holiday runs are a lot of fun: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July - all are a blast. They involve a lot more festivities, costumes, drinking (yes, a blood mary always goes down the best after a race), and fun! Now, I do love all races, but some extra Irish music always amps up the race by a few points, and just the extra sense of spirit/fun. But before I got to Rochester for my St. Patrick's Day race, it was a different world in DC.
DC was finally getting a burst of spring, including sun and the temperatures getting in the 60s. I was excited to ditch the tights and wear shorts instead, and get in a warmer workout. Tuesday's track workout wasn't a race-week workout. It was 4 x1 mile, starting at 6:45 pace and getting faster. It went well: 6:44, 6:35, 6:26, 6:20. Woo! My legs were moving (and not on a treadmill) and it just went well. Even though I didn't have a good night's sleep before, this was the moment that I was doing well. All of my little stresses of the day that had been building up were gone, like someone had loosened up the pressure valve.
Meanwhile, a storm was brewing in Rochester, literally. My flight out to Rochester got cancelled on Wednesday, so I didn't get home until Thursday. Welcome back to winter - 10 degrees! With the windchill, it was about 0, so my last run on Thursday was a cold one for sure. And we had lots of wedding planning to do (2 months to go!), so Saturday morning was here before we knew it.
Johnny's Running of the Green 5 mile race is Rochester's Rite of Spring - although the weather begged to differ. It was about 30 degrees, gray, with 15mph winds. Not perfect conditions for a race, but this isn't a season for goal races, just to go out and have a good time. It was my goal to go under 33 minutes, but knew that wasn't a firm goal. My mom and I were doing it, and we would be joined by many friends and Rochester runners looking forward to this annual event.
Running into the wind, I went through the first mile in 6:30, and I felt like I was flying - too fast for today. My legs were just tired - was it the flight? The workout? Who knows - I just knew it wasn't my best day. Rather than getting caught up on time, I was just going to try and place high and not fall off the pace too much, even though I went through the second mile at 13:10 - 6:40 pace. I was really happy to hit the turnaround (2.5 miles) and see my friends and mom running by - that was a brief boost. By mile 3, I was starting to feel like I could push the pace more - at least in terms of effort. I was starting to both pass people, but have a couple of girls blow by me too. But at least I was feeling like I was making progress, and with a mile to go, hovering around that 33 minute goal time.
No chance at beating the girl in green

With half a mile to go - CRAMP! Oh my gosh, big big side stitch/cramp that totally slowed me down. I actually had this happen in another 5 mile race in September - what a bizarre coincidence. Anyways, it reduced me to a shuffle, and with 100 yards to go, this girl in green blew by me: I couldn't respond: I finished in 33:11 - not a PR at all, nor did I hit my A or B goals. Still, it was good enough for third place in my age group - which was rewarded with a bottle of wine! Not too shabby. My mom did well too: 46:38.
It was great to be home and great to do another race with my mom. Not my best, admittedly, but we don't always get the A goals/results. Time to go back to the drawing board...aka the road!
Me, my mom, and my booze prize

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 10 Tips for your first marathon

I have a few friends making their marathon debut this weekend. I made mine almost exactly five years ago (March 21, 2009) at the National Marathon (now the Rock and Roll USA Marathon) – and had a race beyond my wildest dreams.  One friend asked me for some last minute tips, and while I was writing back to her, I realized that I’ve been giving these tips more or less pretty much since I did run that first marathon. I’ve learned more along the way, and it is my hope that you can use this list as you prepare for your first half marathon or marathon. None of it is rocket science – just things that work. I wish you the best as you get ready for this big day.
    1)   Go to the expo early. You don’t want to spend too much time on your feet. Yes, there are great deals on shoes and clothes, but give yourself an hour (max two hours if you are going to a clinic/seminar/meeting an elite athlete) to walk around. If you do take advantage of those sales, don’t wear the new shoes/clothes for your marathon. Those hot shorts may be awesome, but if they happen to cause chaffing, you don’t want to find out on marathon morning.   
2)   Drink a lot of water in the days leading up to your race. You already carbo-load – why not hydro-load? This is you filling the tank. Don’t drink so much that you wake up in the middle of the night (which still may happen), but you want to be well-hydrated. At dinner, I have a bottle of Gatorade the night before. That morning, I just drink a cup of tea with my breakfast. I have carried Gatorade with me, but you can also just take in the water/Gatorade at the aid stations.
3)   Use the energy gels (GU, Jelly Beans, etc) that you’ve been using – don’t try anything new that they have samples of at the expo. Again, you don’t want to discover in sampling (or marathon morning) the new chews that it bothers your stomach.
4)   Leave early for the start, particularly for big city races. Yes, you have to get up earlier, but it is better to be chilling at the start than worry while you’re en route whether you’re going to make it or not.
5)   Bring a clean trash bag. After you’ve checked your warm-up clothes (pants, jacket, etc), you may still have some lag time before the start, and it can be chilly. This may seem weird, but you’ll actually see a lot of people do this. Cut a hole for your head, and your arms, and this will be your outer layer until the start. It blocks the wind, it’ll keep you warm, and then you can throw it out before you start.
6)   Go to the bathroom as soon as you get there. Particularly with races like Boston, where there are hundreds of porta-potties, there are long lines, so jump in one immediately. And then go again if you can – you spent all of that time filling the tank – just make sure you’re clear and ready to go.
7)   Go out SLOW. It will be crowded, but do not jockey around for a better spot once the gun goes off. It is a waste of energy – you will see people do this and it is not worth it. The excitement at the start is incredible and you will want to go out fast. Don’t. In my first marathon, I ran the first half in 1:52, and the second in 2:00. This is not advisable – I was too excited.
8)   Have a few goals (A, B, C) in mind – one of them should be to finish! This will allow you to not have an all-or-nothing approach, and will take into account numerous factors (GI issues, bonking, etc) and still will ensure that mentally you are working to reach those goals.
9)   Don’t think of 13.1 as the halfway point – mile 20 is halfway. Yes, the last 6.2 is hard, so start thinking of strategies to get through it. Maybe it’s thinking of someone you love for each mile. That’s what I did for all 26. And with each mile, I thought about them, and it helped me focus. I told each person in advance and I didn’t want to let them don’t on “their mile.”

10)                   Lastly, and most importantly, take it all in. Whether you decide to do another one or you are one-and-done, your first one is an amazing experience and it is a life-changing moment. It sill ranks as one of the best days of my life. Take in EVERYTHING. No matter how it goes, it will be amazing.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blissful exhaustion - that old familiar feeling

The day after I ran my PR at the 2011 Boston Marathon, I remember talking to my pregnant with twins professor after class, and she said, there's something nice about being tired. And yes, when the time is right, blissful exhaustion is a good thing.
Last Saturday was 12 miles, with 7 hard ones. I was near the end of my big week 3 of my training cycle - just days before I would be rewarded with an easy week. On Sunday, I did my first group run with the Pacers team at Theodore Roosevelt Island. My plan was to run 13 miles. I didn't really know how the group runs would work - would it be broken down in terms of pace, distance? I figured I'd just wait and see. I imagined that there would be about twenty of us, but when I pulled into the parking lot, it was pretty sparse. It ended up being the coach, and three fit-looking guys. The coach apologized, saying there were usually more participants in these group runs. It turned out that these guys are all training for Boston, which, I've done before, but the times they were aiming for had a 2 on them...
I asked them what they were kind of pace and distance they were aiming for: 20 miles, starting at 7:30 pace, and then working their way down to marathon pace (5:30).
Gulp.
I was trying to run through my options in my head. I had driven all the way here for a group run - it would be kind of a waste to then just run alone. I knew I wasn't going to be running 20 miles, nor would I reach that kind of pace. So, I decided I would start with the boys, and hang on for 6.5 miles, and then turn around. And we took off at 7:30 pace, heading toward the C&O Trail (a dirt trail). My workout from the day before, when I worked my way down to 6:30 pace, was still fresh on my mind and fresh on my legs. This was not going to be easy. Yes, as my fiance said, I can run 7:30 pace, but a day after beating my legs up, not so easy to do. Thankfully, the first couple miles weren't too bad - I could feel some twinges as we progressed, but was doing just fine. The boys were at a comfortable pace, and as a result, could chat away about their training, races, and life stories. Okay, I can hang on. The pace started to quicken as we hopped into Maryland and on the Capital Crescent Trail - something I haven't been on in almost two years. Very pretty, and a good distraction as they picked it up, and I was just a step or two behind them. One of the guys turned around at mile 5 - he had a different workout to do. 1.5 miles to go with these guys, and I could feel myself working harder to keep up. I told myself I had about 10 minutes left, and was just trying to hang on. It was with much relief when I hit 6.5, thank the gentlemen for letting me hang on. I was tired, and then my now-solo run turned into more of a shuffle. I was tired, I was sore, and I just wanted to finish. I got back to the DC area...but geography is not my best friend. I had gotten off the route I knew, and couldn't figure out how to reroute back to Theodore Roosevelt Island. All in all, it added a couple of miles, so it ended up being closer to 16 miles - the longest I've run in years. I was tired, but relieved. Beyond races, I haven't had a long run wipe me out that much in years. Gold star for the weekend, coupled with a good shower and breakfast. And then, with that feeling of blissful exhaustion, nodded off wrapped up in a blanket next to my dog. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Workouts, New Pace(r)s, and New Balance

No, not LSD speed.
But other than missing a tempo workout at the beginning of the month and a long run, I've been 90% consistent with getting my workouts in. A lot more on the treadmill than I would prefer, but at least they are happening. And I do have to testify to doing speedwork on the treadmill. I am notorious for going out too fast in workouts and then blowing up. I don't do it in races, but usually I have to save race during a workout and ease up two-thirds in. But there is definitely more of a science to the treadmill speed workout - you can be more precise. Yes, it's from an external machine and not myself, but it prevents (a degree of) stupidity and brazen behavior.
A couple of highlights and lowlights:
My apartment complex gym has 3 treadmills - I've never had to fight for one but all were occupied. I ended up doing my warmup outside around the complex. I came back in, and all were still being used, including a guy wearing Vibrams and walking holding a book. Grr. I ended up doing some core work on a mat while waiting for a spot to open up. Finally, I was able to get on one and did 5 x 1 k starting at 6:27 pace and working my way down to 6:11 pace. When I finished, the person next to me said, "Dang!" Yes, there was a reason I was clamoring for the treadmill! Was so hot and sweaty that I did my cooldown outside in a tanktop - to be fair, it was 48 outside. But with the snow on the ground, I must've looked ridiculous.
I also did a 6 mile cutdown workout during the Olympics on the treadmill and averaged 7:02 pace. Cross-country skiing was motivating enough to keep me going. 
This week was the crazy continuous 800s, arguably one of the most challenging workouts, but with the biggest rewards. 2.5 mile warm-up, continuous 1.5 mile with 800s at 3:17, 3:07, 3:17, 1/2 mile easy, then continuous 1.5 with 800s at 3:07, 3:17, 3:07, 1/2 mile easy, 2 x 800 3:06, 3:03, 2.5 mile cooldown.  I remember drawing on this workout at the end of the Army Ten Miler last year, when I was able to change gears in the last mile or so to clinch my PR.
Today was a 7 mile tempo cutdown, starting at 7:13 pace and worked my down to 6:27 pace, averaging 6:57 pace. No TV to occupy me, just the determination to get it done!
All of these have been going well - it just feels good to be really consistent with running. Even without big or many races on the horizon (a 5 miler in 2 weeks), it just feels good to get in great training and think about how it benefits long term.
And that's what matters - thinking about the picture. I've been working with Sarah for 4+ years now, and now, the schedules are tweaked just so and while there will be slight changes in the paces, but we've figured out what works and are sticking with it!
But in the name of progress, I am delighted to join the ranks of the Pacers Racing Team! Pacers, which has six great stores in the greater DC area, sponsors a major racing series each year, and has a racing team. They have a few different divisions, such as a National team that includes Olympic Marathon Trial qualifiers and top finishers at USA Championships, the regional division (that's the one Sarah is on), and the local team - and that's what I'll be on. It is actually the Pacers/New Balance team, which means they'll equip me with some new shoes and a racing uniform. 
I'll be matched up with some people who run at similar paces and will be able to participate in some of their group runs. On the elite level, the best do well when they train in groups. I'm just looking forward to experiencing that on a much smaller level. 
Now for March madness of all kinds to begin!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When the beautiful gets ugly: Women's 3000m at USATF Indoor

This weekend was the USATF Indoor USA Championships in Albuquerque, NM. The top 2 finishers in each race get to go Sopot, Poland for the World Indoor Championships. In a year without Olympics or an outdoor World Championships, this is one of the biggest track races of the year. So, naturally, there has been a lot of pressure on the elite athletes here to make that team, and I was very much looking forward to watching their journeys to Poland.
That feeling of excitement changed after the women's 3,000m race. An indoor track race means often 2 laps for each lap that would be done outdoors. There tends to be a lot of jostling, as everyone is fighting for positions. In the final lap, Gabrielle (Gabe) Grunewald made contact with eventual 3rd place finisher Jordan Hasay, and then went on to victory.

There was a lot of back and forth as to whether the contact impeded Hasay's stride, and eventually Gabe G was disqualified and lost her first national title and well-deserved ticket to the Championships. Alberto Salazar, the heralded coach and dominant American runner of the early 80s, lost his temper in a screaming match with another coach during all of this. After much back and forth (this story blew up all of the running and track and field websites), Gabe was finally reinstated on Monday as the champion. It was only because Jordan Hasay withdrew her protest (whether it was on her own choice, or that of her coach and Nike, that is still unclear): the decision was not overturned.
Screaming, yelling, threats...this makes our sport look ugly. The NFL has bullies and MLB has doping scandals (track does too), but on a weekend when the country's best should be celebrated for their hard work over the long winter, an ugly storm brewed instead.
It's not my place to discuss interference or clipping - I am not a USATF referee or official - I have no idea how that works. All I know is that it made for a stain on what should have been a banner of a weekend for our sport.
In protest or show of solidarity, the 1500m women runners walked off of the field after their race, hand in hand. They were not engaged in a shouting match against the officials, but united in a peaceful manner to show their support for the runners. 
I don't think the resolution ultimately meant that there is a solution to some of the larger issues that boiled over. But I know this:
The last time someone acted with so much anger because of something in a race, this happened:
Jock Semple, in anger of having a woman in his protected, sacred race, leapt out of the official bus and attempted to physically remove runner #261, Kathrine Switer out of the race. But then she, after being attacked in the 1967 Boston Marathon, went on to advocate for the inclusion of the women's marathon in the Olympics, and ran a personal best of 2:51 in 1975.
She turned a negative into a transformative moment, not just something that changed her own life, but impacted the lives of millions of women, myself included.
I don't know how this weekend's events will impact the sport at large. I'm sure for many runners, this isn't even a story on their radar. But it was an ugly moment and some good needs to come from it. This is what runners supporting each other should look like. I hope the stain can be washed away soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rust busted: Love the Run You're With 5k 2014

I had decided on a very limited race schedule this spring - just 3 races before the race to the altar!
But still, even though I'm not really aiming for or expecting any PRs, it is my goal to be consistent in my training and get close to PR fitness so that those times can go crashing down in the fall. So, I still had my spring rust-buster race set up: Love the Run You're With 5k. It's at Pentagon Row, which means you're near the Pentagon, and during part of the race, you're high up enough to see the Capitol and Washington Monument (a nice view for the final half mile of a hard 5k). I've done it two times before, in 2012 (ran 20:41 a week before meeting my fiance - my last single race) and in 2013 (20:20). Last year, I was having some knee problems leading up to the race, and thereafter too. But I ended up having a great season. This year, I have been really healthy (knock on wood), but I have missed the occasional run, including a few road workouts. But this time, it hasn't been injury related - I've just been really busy. There's been a lot of visitors/traveling going on, and yes, I could also get up at the crack of dawn to make it all fit in, but nope. Having a good enough training season instead. 
With this attitude in mind, I still wanted to do well - if I'm plopping down money, may as well make it count. I had a good fartlek workout of 8 x 90 seconds on Tuesday as part of a 8.5 mile run, and it did kind of light a fire to run fast and think about the race. So, I did keep all of my usual pre-race traditions going, and was happy that it was 30 degrees out with little wind when I got there this morning. With it being an out and back course, I was able to cover most of the course in my 2.5 mile warm up. I bumped into a few friends who I've met through DC races and we were just chatting away really until 30 seconds before the start. It was nice to relax and be distracted right until the gun went off. I know I get too uptight sometimes, so this was a good reminder that chilling out can be a good thing!
Boom, gun is off. While I have been doing some speedwork, this was a big welcome back to going fast. And going uphill! The first half mile is uphill, and while I'm good at hills, this is a hard way to start a race! But, I hit mile 1 in 6:26, which is right at pace for 20 minutes. (Cue Matthew McConaughey) Alright, alright, alright, this is pretty good! And honestly, in this course, the first mile is the hardest, and I felt like I could pick things up a bit. I hit the turnaround and started moving, really running faster and starting to pick off girls. I have a friend who is really good (like sub 19 5k good), and I could see her, and I just wanted to get as close to catching her as I could. My hands were cold (foolish for not wearing gloves...my one mistake), but the brisk air was refreshing. I wasn't dying, but I definitely was in the speed zone, and hit mile 2 at 12:40 (6:20 pace) and was pumped. Woo! This is great! I passed a trio of girls, and had my friend almost in reach. Boom - the other girls used the downhill to their advantage and flew by me, but I couldn't fight back any more, but...as I could see the clock, and this was a lot better than expected:
19:38
47/1064 overall
12th woman
6th in Age Group
Wahoo! Sub 20 and less than 30 seconds away from my PR
This is the earliest in the racing season I've cracked 20 minutes, so even if this is just a good enough training season, it is off to a good start! After my cooldown, bringing the day's total to 9 miles, I cashed in (there's a ticket on our bibs) for my free mimosa - yum! Free drinks and well earned drinks are the best kind! It was a great morning - fun with some friends, a good race, and great way to kick off the spring.
Rust busted!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Jogger

Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman is one of my favorite books of all time, particularly because she so aptly describes all of the emotions, dreams, sensory experiences, and sensations of a runner. Moreover, her story is one of ambition: the drive to train for a marathon, eventually reach a 2:51 marathon PR, and to push the IOC to allow the women's marathon to be an Olympic event in 1984.
After her first (and most infamous) marathon, she decided to train for her second. Kathrine had a time goal in mind, and said if she didn't achieve it, she would be content being "a happy jogger" for the rest of her life.
I think about that idea - the happy jogger. I know they are out there - people who run who like to run, but don't get wrapped up around the precise time or distance they go. They don't do races - they just run, literally for fun. And we who do races do it for fun too, but there are definitely competitive goals embedded in our drive to get out there and get after it. I know that's how I feel now...I want to keep improving.
But there will be a time/age when there will be a peak, and then the inevitable decline. I hope I'll still want to have that competitive drive, and shoot for age group PRs. But whether its age or what, I hope I could also be a happy jogger.
A lot of my runs lately have been on the treadmill. It's been too icy outside to run, so I've been having date nights with the machine and ready to go crazy. Finally on Friday, we had a mini heat wave and I knew this would help. On Saturday, we went to Pennsylvania for the day. So, I had a good enough run. Instead of 10 miles with 5 at tempo pace, I had a good enough run of 5 miles. The sun was out, 30 degrees felt warm, and this was perfect. The 5 miles flew by, and it made me think about the happy jogger. I think if I wasn't training, 5-6 miles would be the perfect distance to do all of the time. It's in and out relatively quickly, it burns a decent amount of calories but doesn't knock you out for the rest of the day either. The endorphin rush comes, maybe it's not the runner's high, but definitely a sense of accomplishment and relief. It did the job - it cleared my head and had me ready for the day.
Today I ran 13.1 as a training run - 1:39:45. It was an even warmer day today - I had shorts on, and it was a nice teaser for spring. It was great, and I loved it. Hey, it's the super bowl - I'd like to be able to enjoy all of the snacks! But I know there will be a time when I won't feel like getting out there for that long.
And so for now, there are flashes of the happy jogger - a good reminder of the purity of this whole running thing.