Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections from a 13 year old...10 years later

I found my diary today from when I was 13 years old. I got it at my 13th birthday, which was the summer between 7th and 8th grade (the only time I was on a cross country team). It's a bit obvious to claim that I'm quite different now, but wow, I was a completely different person then. Different goals, feelings, etc. But not quite entirely different. It seems as if I had a similar running ambition then too. Here are a few quotes:
I hope that 10 years from now I can reread this to remember what I was like. XI have a goal this summer: be able to run 2 miles in 15 minutes or less. I will run almost every day. I will eat better. I will swim often. Duh! There's going to be a new coach next year. I want to impress (him? her?), I want to be captain of the girls team, and most important of all, I want to impress myself. If I pace myself this summer, I know I can do it. I'll have to work hard, but I don't mind. I've never really been good at sports. I discovered this year that I'm good at cross country, and I like it a lot. I get freedom, I got at my own pace, it feels good when I pass people near the end. I want to stick with it.
Today I ran 3 miles. It was hard but I think I did good. Tomorrow I'm going running and to the mall. I can't wait.
Today I worked on my pogo stick
. Tomorrow I might be online! (Slightly off topic, but that made me laugh)
X-country practice went xcelent. Get it? On the first day of school we ran 3 miles on the track. That was so boring. On the second day we ran a route by ourselves. It was like 5 miles. I was so tired.
At the McQuaid invite, I tried to go really fast, but I didn't go as fast as I wanted to. I was doing pretty good. But I came in 3rd from Spencerport.
At our last meet, it was a 2 mile course and it poured the whole time, I was soaked to the bone. I did pretty good.
That marks the end of my middle school days as a runner and I turned to singing. Oh young Vanessa, you grew up. Sort of. You got a better idea of what the world was like, but apparently retained a love for running! How funny, tired from 5 miles and now tired by 20. I don't play on the pogo stick anymore, but I still have trouble starting races.
The thing that struck me most was reading my list of goals and plans for the summer in regard to running. I really haven't changed at all. That is exactly how I attack marathon training now: name the goal and plan and persevere. And I still get excited about the whole process and don't mind that it's a daunting task. I don't have anything written down from then about running a marathon someday, but I remember telling my gym teacher that I would and send her a postcard when I did one (all before the days of e-mail, of course). When I ran the National Marathon, I e-mailed her, and it felt like it all had come full circle.
How funny. I've changed a little, grown an inch or two, but am still loving this crazy sport.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Unwrapping Christmas and Wrapping up 2009

Christmas, as usual, was wonderful. It was excellent to be with my family and just enjoy everyone's company. Also got a few neat running-related gifts too: new Asics for Boston, new hat, and the Spirit of the Marathon soundtrack.
2009 is rapidly coming to a close, marking the end of my first year as a grown-up runner. Not quite sure of the exact mileage (that's a resolution for 2010), but I know I've run: 2 marathons, 1 1/2, 1 10 miler, 2 10ks, 3 5ks and around1500 miles. Kind of crazy, especially for someone who used to describe herself as a musician, certainly not a runner or athlete. But the tables have turned, it seems.
It's been a year for changes, that's for sure. There have been losses and gains, hard runs and easy ones, busy days and a handful of slow ones. In some ways I've restructured a lot of my lifestyle. I see no problem getting up at 4:30 or 5 in or to get a workout in, like I am doing today. I also am getting in the habit of getting to bed earlier, when possible, in order to get a full night's sleep. Somehow, adding marathon training made me more organized - who'da thunk? My grades in grad school shot up, I became more efficient with work...hmmm, I seem to see a common thread here.
With resolutions on the mind, here are mine:
* To enjoy every moment of running the Boston Marathon and not get too caught up with time goals (although a 3:35 marathon would be great).
* Successfully pass my comprehensive exams in July and earn my Master's degree
*a 1:39 half marathon
*a 45:00 10k
*a 22:00 5k
*a 6:00 mile
Here is the week's schedule:

Monday, December 28: OFF

Tuesday, December 29: 2.5 mile warm-up; 4x1 mile, 500 meter jog between each mile repeat. Start at about 8:00 minute pace, try to cut-down each mile by 5-7 seconds. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage: 10 miles

Wednesday, December 30: 6 miles easy

Thursday, December 31: 8 miles easy

Friday, January 1: OFF

Saturday, January 2: 13 miles easy

Sunday, January 3: 6 miles easy

Total Mileage: 43 miles

Here's to a good end of 2009 and a good start to 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Commencing 1st week of Boston training with a bang.

Yesterday kicked off my first week of Boston training. My friend Sarahsent me the first cycle of my Boston plan. We're going to work in 4 week cycles, building for 3 weeks, then cutting down, then repeat, building with each cycle. This is how she trains, and she seems to be doing pretty well, so we'll see!
Here is week 1:

Monday, December 21: OFF

Tuesday, December 22: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile on track; start first mile at 8:10 pace, cut-down second mile to 7:55 pace. 2 lap jog. 4x800, 1 lap jog between each repeat. Start first 800 at 3:50, try to cut-down by 5 seconds or so for each 800. 2.5 mile cool-down: Total mileage—10.25 miles

Wednesday, December 23: 6 miles easy.

Thursday, December 24: 8 miles easy.

Friday, December 25: OFF

Saturday, December 26: 12 miles easy

Sunday, December 27: 5 miles easy

Total Mileage: 41.25 miles

Yesterday, there were a few inches of snow on the track, which slowed me down. Never again! I'll do the rest of my Rochester speed workouts on the treadmill. Not a wasted workout, because I was working harder going through the snow. It's cold here! My gatorade bottle kept freezing - it was like drinking a Slurpee. Now, if they made Gatorade slurpees, that would be sweet.

Today was six, normally easy, miles. But kicked today off with a bang. I asked my triathlete bud Mark if he wanted to join me, and he said only if I swam. So, he picked me up at 6 this morning, and we swam (1000 yards for me, 1200 for him - he is much better at this than I am). Wow, the pool really is an eye opener - I was wide awake at that point. Then we lifted weights for about an hour. Now, I really love weight lifting - I don't know quite why. But I like the idea of getting stronger, so we'll see what happens during this training cycle. Then Mark and I went out in the snow and ran for 6 miles. Normally,
that would be easy as pie, but so soon after the swim, I was wiped; definitely harder than normal. I have a new-found respect for all triathletes, because I cannot imagine biking in between those too. That is insane! But, things are always easier with a friend, and we had a lot of fun trudging through the wind and snow. We were feeling quite triumphant afterward, yet more proof that running in hard conditions (whether they be weather or after other workouts) is an invigorating feeling. We went out for coffee and bagels after, and the waitress was wondering why we had so much snow on our faces and in our hair and why our faces looked like they did. So, we told her of our adventures, and she thought we were crazy. Which she's right, we are crazy, but we had a blast. Mark and I spent the next hour talking about different running adventures, races, and thoughts about health and fitness in general. What fun, and how good company makes a big difference.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rocky Balboa's got nothing on me

I did not run in the blizzard yesterday; I decided that would've been stupid and dangerous. So, I postponed my 11 mile run until this morning. I am very glad that I did - what a beautiful run. They had cleared the roads, so I didn't have to worry about that. The sun was shinning (really glad I had my sunglasses on - the snow was reflecting the sun) and it was about 30 out, so not even that cold!
I normally see at least 50 runners when I run around DC. Today, I saw 5. The first runner didn't appear until mile 5 (Washington Monument). When I saw her, I yelled out "Finally! Someone else is out!" and she whooped back. It's the little things like that which get you through a run. I then got to the Lincoln Memorial, which was where I turned around. The one thing that was scary was trying to find spots that weren't icy, which meant sometimes I had to stray off the path. Once I turned around the Lincoln Memorial, the path was icy and slippery. I noticed that there was one path of footprints through the snow (bear in mind we got over 14 inches yesterday). I decided to take the path less traveled, and less slippery. So in I went, taking mighty big steps running through the snow (I did have on 2 pairs of socks, so my feet stayed warm and dry). Keep in mind, I am 5'1", so I am taking mighty huge leaps, so I think that was good strength training (like running in the sand). It felt awesome. I felt like Rocky running in the snow in Siberia. I was so pumped at that point. I did feel a little relieved when I got back on the roads - that was whooping my butt. When I was crossing a street, someone said "Good for you for running today!" I pumped my fist in response and said I was running Boston. As I ran along the street, more people cheered for me, while they were shoveling their sidewalks or walking around, which was pretty cool. It was a great experience overall - I felt strong trudging through the snow, and yes, on the road (not in the ring), Rocky Balboa's got nothing on me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Looking ahead to Boston with Excitement



This is Kathleen Jobes, who works for Runner's World, crawling across the finish line at Grandma's Marathon in 2006 to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Her legs gave out a few steps from the finish, but she finished in 2:46. If that doesn't inspire (or scare), I don't know what will. You don't crawl across the finish line for a sprint - you can run 100 meters in less than 20 seconds (less than 10 if you're Usain Bolt) and finish standing, even if you're gasping for breath. But the marathon does such a number on your body and your mind. But there is still a determination to finish - even if on your hands and knees. And that has to be the love of the sport - to run and push beyond the limits in order to conquer the distance. I just keep falling in love with this more and more every day.
I found out yesterday that the Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi (the top 2 male American marathoners) will run Boston! I am pretty psyched about this and thrilled to know that I'll be running in the same race as they are. These are the coolest guys in the sport and putting them in the same marathon should allow for a pretty exciting race. I guess I'll have to watch the highlights, seeing as they will finish over an hour ahead of me! Hall is eager to take on Boston a second time and Keflezighi is coming off a NYC Marathon win, so hopefully that hunger for the marathon victory will mean an American win (which hasn't happened since before I was born). One of the great things about this is that the desire for an American victory will bring more attention to the marathon and get everyone excited about it. I hope I get a chance to meet them at the Expo.
I start training for Boston next week. It feels as if I just finished the Marine Corps Marathon, but training starts up again! I found out about Ryan and Meb right before I went out for my run yesterday, and that was all I could think about. "I'm running the Boston Marathon in 4 months and I get to run it with some of the best runners in the world." Boston is exactly 4 months from today. I am getting hyped. I get all filled up when I read or hear about Boston - it still feels unreal.
While the official training hasn't started, I feel like I've built a good base. This was my first semester of graduate school when I ran the whole semester - papers and schoolwork did not get in the way, which is a sign that I'm finding my groove, both with school and marathon training. But I am ready to go and looking forward to starting training again. Since school is over, I will start my training at home, which is good. Not only will I not have the pressure of school, but I can run on roads with limited stoplights, eat well, sleep well in a good bed, and as a whole, get off on the right foot. I just will have time - I can go to the gym and recommence weight lifting, I can get in the pool and start swimming again. All good things.
There is excitement - I am just going to harness it for four months and unleash it on April 19th. Can't wait to get to Hopkinton and can't wait to get to Boston.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What exactly does a Medievalist do? Read on...

After my post "Literally surrounded by inspiration" I got a lot of questions on Runner's World about being a medievalist. What does a medievalist do for a living? What do I plan on doing with my degree? What are my specific interests within the field? Well, I decided to address all of those questions, as well as a few others I routinely get when I meet people and they find out I am a medievalist.
Do I go to Renaissance fairs?
Nope. That is a popular question and usually the first one I get. First of all, medieval and renaissance are two different periods. I do like the renaissance (Italian - they had one in England too!), but I don't think I want to pretend I am living in it. Unless you were a queen or a member of the nobility, there weren't a lot of great opportunities for women. Plus there was always the fear of the plague! I'll live in the here and now, thank you.
Do I go to Medieval Times?
I have never been to Medieval Times, no one has ever invited me! But I am all for it - just waiting for the invitation.
Do I dress up in costume?
Nope - we go about our days just like you do in work clothes. You might not even be able to spot a medievalist at first glance. But within five minutes of talking to one of us, we'll have given it away. However, I did go the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, MA, which has a fabulous collection of medieval armory. Here is me with one of the helmets.
Where do I stand on Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter?
I have never read anything by Tolkein - sorry. But, I will say that Tolkein was trained as a medievalist at Cambridge and was just a brilliant man. I am, however, a huge Harry Potter fan and have read the series a multitude of times. I even presented a paper at a conference comparing aspects of medieval witchcraft with some of the Dark Magic used in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Now that the basic questions are out of the way, onto a few about my own life as a medievalist.
What do I plan on doing with my degree?
Stay in school forever! I wish I could - I absolutely love reading and writing. I am going to earn my master's degree in 2010, and then I plan on going for the Ph.D in medieval history as well. Once I get out of school (which I am not sure how long it will take me to earn my doctorate), I would like to become a history professor at a liberal arts college. I'll also write articles and hopefully publish a book or two.
What am I interested in?
I am interested in the later Middle Ages (c. 1200-1400). The earlier stuff is good too, but it is not my primary focus. I love cultural/social history, as well as religious history and how religious history affected medieval culture. My original focus (as a general historian) was women's history, which now I like to look at medieval women's history.
If I had to pick an absolutely favorite subject, what would it be?
Medieval witchcraft! No, I am not a witch (Roman Catholic, actually) and I don't practice magic, which is also one of the questions I always get. How did I get into that? I did a term paper on it in college and now I'm hooked (that will probably be the subject of my dissertation). I am most interested in how did medieval witchcraft emerge in the later Middle Ages. I believe that when the Church started to tighten its definition of heresy, a working definition of witchcraft emerged as well in the thirteenth century, and the church used this definition to "hunt" for witches.
Do I believe that there witches?
Here is my take on it. I think there were a lot of women who did bad things, like mix concoctions and poison people. But I do not think women could actually fly around on broomsticks. There were also innocent women who unfortunately got caught up in the witch hysteria and killed. But I do not believe in witches.
So, which witches are you writing about?
(This is always what I say - I've gotten pretty good at coming up with canned responses). I have a witch of particular interest. Her name was Alice Kyteler, and she lived in Kilkenny, Ireland in the 1300s. She faced a whole host of accusations, including killing 3 of her husbands, and maiming the fourth, breaking into the local church to practice sorcery, sacrificing animals, blasphemy, and having sex with the devil. Yikes! The local bishop, Richard de Ledrede of Ossory prosecuted her in 1324. She was supposed to be burned at the stake, but she fled to England the night before her execution, and was never heard from again. Her maidservant, Petronilla of Meath, was not so fortunate - she was whipped six times and then burned at the stake - the first burning in Ireland. I think this trial radically reshapes our notions on how the church, and I hope when I publish a book on it, it will be groundbreaking in the field.
Do you like other medieval things aside from witches?
Of course. This semester I got in medieval hagiography (the study of saints - their lives, canonization procedures, their miracles, etc) after taking a class on it with my adviser. That's why I was reading books called Holy Feast and Holy Fast and Holy Anorexia - they were about medieval religious women who starved themselves in the name of God. The class actually inspired me to write all of my term papers this semester on medieval female saints. My favorite paper was about a nun named Christina who lived with a monk at one point and was looked after by an abbot in the 1100s in England. Her community did not like this and gossiped that she lived in sin, when in actuality she was a virgin. Christina was quite concerned that people were spreading false rumors about her alleged sexual behavior. These concerns about sexuality were quite advanced for the twelfth century. Anyways, it was a fascinating paper for me to write (I turned it in last night - one more to go). I also love medieval music and art history (you can't go wrong with medieval manuscripts and stained glass windows), but those are more hobbies of mine than scholarly interests.
Well, you asked, so there you have it. My life as a medievalist. We're a pretty good bunch, and also fun to have around at cocktail parties (we have a lot of great trivia from the Middle Ages). Thanks for letting me indulge you in the big thing in my life that I do when I'm not running!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What a difference a year makes: Jingle All the Way 10k

A year ago I ran the Jingle All the Way 10k; my first race as an adult. Here are my stats from last year:
Time: 55:04
Pace: 8:52
Division (Women 20-24): 110/325
Women in general: 533/2114
5k split: 31:52
A year has passed; I since have run 2 marathons and a slew of other races. I have learned what it means to train; to do long runs and speedwork and figure out proper nutrition and hydration.
Here are my stats from this morning:
Time: 46:01
Pace: 7:25
Division (Women 20-24): 22/402
Women in general: 82/2255
5k split: 23:28
What a difference a year makes! The race went well, to say the least. I went out slow and cautiously: 7:29 for the first mile, and ended up running slightly negative splits. This was a good pace and I felt good the whole time, which is always better than counting down the minutes until the finish! This is a course with a turnaround, and there I heard "Go Vanessa" - it was Brian - my DC race buddy. That was great and lifted my spirits a little. I liked the turnaround because it meant you could sort of watch other runners and be distracted while running. There were lots of costumed runners: elves, santas, etc. One Santa was really fast - normally you don't expect that from someone wearing a full suit, but you never now. Around mile 4, I was "recognized" aka, someone from the Runner's World online community said "You're the medievalist!" That was pretty funny and unexpected. I couldn't really say anything at that point, but I did meet him afterward. The final 2.2 miles were when I really was pushing the pace, and it was a relief to see the finish banner and just throw down the hammer. I knocked off 34 seconds off of my time and set a new PR. Brian set one as well with 47:08, so victory for both of us. However, we had made a bet that whoever "lost" (although I do think we both were victorious) would by breakfast after. So, Brian treated me to breakfast at Busboys and Poets, which was delicious. Somehow, we were seated in a private room, and while it was originally just the 2 of us in the room, more runners from the race kept trickling in (I think it was the closest restaurant to the race), and so we turned into a party room of runners. Breakfast was good, and it was excellent to catch up with Brian. Here's a picture of us from brunch. We're hoping to do another race together early in 2010.
All in all a great race, and a great progress report from a year's worth of work. It feels rewarding to know I'm making great strides (pun intended) and that I can continue to work at knocking off more time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Literally surrounded by inspiration

As evidenced by my username, the only thing I love as much as running is medieval history. I am currently working on 3 papers for the end of the semester. One is on Anglo-Saxon female sanctity, one is on an Anglo-Norman nun, and one is on the problems of female sanctity in the later Middle Ages. As one friend said "Those all sound really similar." While they are all dealing with female sanctity in the Middle Ages, they have much different arguments. Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of reading in preparation for writing these three papers. I've also been wishing I had a second bookcase; all of the library books for these papers have really filled up the shelves. As a new shipment of books came in this afternoon, I was putting them on the shelves and looking around and realized my bookcase really says a lot about me.
My medieval books take up the most space, which is to be expected. Even within that subject, they run the gamut with titles ranging from "Holy Anorexia" to "Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women" to "The Autumn of the Middle Ages." Included in those are my art history books, which sometimes I pull out for distraction and just gaze at some of the art, which is just gorgeous. If I can't live in Italy, I can at least pretend!
All of my history books are on the shelf, but there are at least 100-200 more at home. It sounds nutty, but I can't wait for the day when I can just have them all together in one central location. I think part of this also came from the fact that I was at my adviser's house this weekend, and she has a beautiful library set up in her living room. I want a whole wall of books too!
I have all of my running medals on the bookcase. I keep them there as a reminder of what I've done, especially to remind me when I'm questioning my ability to do something (like finish these terms papers). I have my running books/magazines there too, which are my favorite thing to read before bed. My medieval toys are up there on the shelf too: my medieval action figures, and the witch doll my mentor gave me when I defended my senior thesis (on medieval witchcraft).
Actually, a lot of my wall space has to do with running/inspiration. I'm a big believer in surrounding myself with positives words and images. The wall next to my desk is my "inspirational wall." My race bibs are up there, as are poems that friends have given me, special pictures, and some other things that give me confidence, reassurance, or simply make me smile. The wall next to my bed has index cards with favorite quotes about running. I initially put them up there to help me get out of bed for my runs when I started to train for my first marathon. I also have a poster of Deena Kastor, one of my favorite runners. I find that funny - I never admired particular athletes when I was younger, and now I keep up with all of the running athletes!
If anything, I know that I work well and write well when I'm inspired, and all of these things help to motivate me when I'm writing or need to get out the door for a run!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Can I be like them when I grow up?

This coming weekend, Colleen De Reuck will be honored as the Masters Athlete of the Year. At the age of 45, she came in second overall in the Twin Cities Marathon with a time of 2:32 (a time I can only dream of) and won the USA Masters Marathon Championship. Joan Benoit Samuelson (who won Boston twice and a gold medal in the first women's marathon in the Olympics in 1984) is breaking new masters records as well at the age of 50. She ran the 2008 Olympic Trials in 2:49 and the 2009 NYC Marathon in 2:49 as well.
These two women are incredible, because they have managed to dominate the marathon arena for decades and continue to break new records and raise the bar higher as they gracefully age. If you look at their pictures, they look incredible - excellent form, well-shaped muscles, and they make their running look effortless.
Now, I don't think I'll ever look quite like that or run that fast - running is a passion of mine, certainly, but it is not my career, like with them. But they give me a lot of hope. This means I can keep working at running the marathon for decades. Sure, you peak in your 30s, but these two women (among other masters in all sports) have demonstrated that you can continue to excell in the sport way beyond your 30s. There are no limits in running.
I still have a lot of growing up to do, but when I do, I want to be like them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Running Survey

One of my buddies from Runner's World sent out an online survey. It reminded me like the ones from middle school, except this one was running related!

Miles last week: 37
Your first Race: 1998 Cross Country Meet (middle school) at Black Creek Park in Greece, NY
Your last Race: Race with Grace 10k on Thanksgiving Day
When/Why did you start Running? 1998 (1st time) - we had to sign up for soccer or cross country, and I hated soccer. I started back up (2008) because I couldn't find a choir to sing with when I was in grad school, so I thought I would try running again.
Favorite Race? National Marathon in DC (my first marathon)
Favorite Distance? The marathon
Mistake you always make while racing: I don't push hard enough
Your mantra is... 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."
Favorite food before a race or long run? Hot chocolate the morning of, the night before a marathon: Pear and Gorgonzola pizza from Z-Pizza in Silver Spring
Favorite Gadget? Timex Ironman Watch
Something *strange* you always need on a run? I always carry a rosary in my pocket when I race
Amount of races you've done in your life? (not quite sure how many I did in middle school, my guess is around 15) In my return to running, I've done 10.
Amount of races you've done this year? 8
When I can't run, I...get on the elliptical, lift weights, and swim.
Music or no Music? If yes, Favorite music: Yes, classical for long runs (Beethoven's 9th symphony, Chaikovsky's 1812 overture, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue)
Favorite book? Running related - Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer. Non-running: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Dame Muriel Spark
Favorite Movie? Running related - The Spirit of the Marathon. Non-running - Beauty and The Beast
Favorite Runner? Favorite of all time: Kathrine Switzer and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Current runners: Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall.
Favorite brand of apparel? Champion (sold at Target)
Favorite brand of shoes? Asics
How many pairs of running shoes do you have? How many pairs do you actually use? Own 3, use 2.
Next Challenge ahead: Running in the Boston Marathon (hoping for a time of 3:35).
A Goal further ahead you'd like to get to someday: Breaking 3 hours in the marathon.
PR you're most proud of: 3:39:55 at Marine Corps Marathon (knocked off 13 minutes from my first marathon).
Fuel on long run or race is...Cherry Gatorade and Vanilla GU
Last/current injury: Pulled right hamstring in March 2009
Why do you run? I run because I have found it to be a liberating experience in so many ways. It is a mental and physical release. I am able to solve a lot while on a run, and I always come back from a run in a better mood than I when I left. I think I still have a lot of potential to unlock in running and I look forward to see what I can do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Double Duty Day

In the July issue of Runner's World, there was an article about the benefits of running twice a day. As long as you go 4 hours in between workouts (to refuel and let your muscles recover), your body can gain a lot from doing this. I did it a few times this summer, generally a 5 mile run in the morning and a 3 mile run in the afternoon, but not on a regular basis.
This morning I did my first track workout since mid-October. My friend Sarah put together a double cutaway track workout for me: 2000 meter (5 lap) cut-down run. You start at MP and then cut down 3 seconds per lap. I still need to figure out my splits with that, but I started too fast. Lesson learned. After that, 4x800 at about 10mile race pace and cut down 4-5 seconds each 800: 3:53, 3:49, 3:42, 3:37. All in all, it totaled to a 6.9 mile run. It felt great to get back on the track and do a workout like that. Also, the baseball team was out there doing stair workouts on the bleachers, so that was a good distraction while doing laps.
I then went to work, and a new friend of mine, Sean, asked me if I wanted to go for a run. We've started to run together a couple of times, and he has some routes that go through parts of DC that I've never ran through. So, we did about a 7 mile run as well at dusk. Perfect weather and running conditions, and a nice change of scenery (ran through Columbia Heights into Adams Morgan). The sun was just starting to set. This is one of the big positives about getting a guy friend for a running buddy - I can go running through the city in the dark. By the end of the day, I had ran about 14 miles. No wonder I was tired: ran 14 miles, worked all day, and wrote too. But both runs went well, and I think I'm going to try to do double duty once a week. Perhaps not this long as today, but I think I can gain a lot from it. At this point, I'll try whatever works in order to shave off minutes off of my marathon time!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Race with Grace 10k

Well, this morning I had my first race post Marine Corps Marathon and first 10k since December 2008. I went to the race with my triathlete buddy Mark, who was kind enough to drive me over. He is so funny, he called me this morning to make sure I was up, and he said "Bon giorno bella!" and then rattled off something else in Italian. Anyways, I hadn't seen him since June, so it was great to catch up and go to the race together. I always feel a little better before a race if I'm with people I know; it takes the edge off a bit. During my warm-up run with Mark, I was worried about how I was going to do just because I didn't think I could sustain a fast pace. However, the gun went off, and despite fighting the crowd, I hit my first mile in 6:54. I was a little freaked out at this point, because I didn't expect that, and had to ease up a little Mile 2 14:15, 5k 22:38. Can't remember how my other splits were, although I know I was a little slower at this point. Hills were steeper than expected and it started to get a little windy. But managed to stay at a fairly even pace (second half was about 2 minutes slower). I finished in 46:35 (ish...still need to check for the official time). That's almost a 9 minute PR from my first 10k, which I did last year. Here's hoping to knocking off more time in Jingle. It was a great race (998 people, and I came in 185), and I was able to see a lot of old friends: people from high school, the gym, old teachers, etc. Not only did my parents come, but my grandparents, uncle, and cousin came as well, which was sweet. Overall it was a great race; I was able to see lots of friends and family, and it was a great way to kick off Thanksgiving Day. Here are some pictures from the race, including the start, finish, me with my parents, Mark, and Manuel (who also does triathlons). It felt good to kick off racing again and dig deep (this means more speedwork again). Here's to good training through the winter!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Loving Living in DC, planning ahead, and inspiration

I love living in DC. I love my hometown of Spencerport, NY, but I love living in DC. Running around the city was how I learned my way around, and that was in part why I fell in love with this city. It is just so beautiful, and I love taking it all in during my long runs on the weekend.
Today was a 10 mile run - my longest run since the marathon and marking my re-entry into double digits. There were times when it was hard, like climbing up Capitol Hill, but the good news is, that part is always hard for me. But it felt good to get out there for a while. I like the 10 mile distance. It's long enough that you feel like you've accomplished something out of the ordinary, but not so long that you're spent for the rest of the day.
The annual walk for the homeless was going on while I was on my run. Which meant there were bands and people cheering around the National Mall. Now, I know they were all there for the walk, but I used that music and energy to pump me up (this was mile 7) and push me forward. The last 3 miles flew by, and I was pretty happy with how the whole thing went. Tomorrow marks 4 weeks since MCM, which means my recovery is over. I feel recovered, and ready to run and gear up for Boston training.
I met with my friend Sarah (the pacer) yesterday in order to discuss my Boston plan. I gave her the plan I used training for MCM, talked about workouts that I've liked, and she's going to take all of that information and turn that into my personalized marathon plan. I'll post it when she's finished with it, and I'm excited. It's going to be a little harder (more mileage and more track workouts), but not too much. She thinks that it will help knock more time off (and help me improve in my shorter distances as well), so sign me up!
My friend Jenny (the one who promised to do a marathon when I qualified for Boston) and I e-mail regularly. I recently got the following e-mail from her:
"Your running inspired me.
My running inspired my son
My son's running inspired my daugher
My family has inspired my nephew
My nephew has inspired his mother, my sister."
I was very touched to get that. Inspiration works both ways, of course, and she has inspired me. Lots of people have inspired me; the elite athletes, stories I've read online, and friends and family who have pushed themselves to do extraordinary things. I've just got to take that inspiration and keep moving forward.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Like getting into your dream school


Dear Vanessa,
This is to notify you that your entry into the 114th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 19, 2010 has been accepted.

We look forward to seeing you in April! Best of luck in your training!
Sincerely,
Boston Athletic Association

My entry to the Boston Marathon was confirmed and accepted the other night. Once I got the e-mail, I just felt a huge sigh of relief for a few reasons. Boston sold out last week (the earliest in race history), and I was so worried that I had messed up my application. But getting the official letter was a big relief and made the dream of getting into Boston a reality. That relief and joy reminded me a lot of how I felt when I got into Holy Cross, my top choice. Both were things I had been working towards for such a long time, and the alternative seemed inconceivable. As a 17 year old, Holy Cross was my only dream. And as a runner in the Marine Corps Marathon, my only goal was Boston or bust.
I know that there are many out there who missed qualifying by a few seconds, or got closed out of the race, and I feel sorry to write so gleefully when there is disappointment. But that is part of the desire for Boston - it is that dream school that you strive for. You take the tests, you study hard, you train hard so that one day you can show up and run with the big dogs. And after the hours of sweat and pain, you can proudly don the coveted jacket.
It's not an impossible dream anymore; it's quickly becoming a reality, and for that I am so grateful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An opportunity during an internet crash

I am not good with computers. I know how to use Microsoft Office, but that's about it (being a medievalist doesn't really require me to be computer-savvy). So, I was a bit bummed when I could not get online the other day to do research. It kept saying there was some sort of error. So I played around with the computer for an hour; refreshing, rebooting, clicking and unclicking, cleaning, anything to get the internet going again. I felt myself grow increasingly frustrated; frustrated at the computer and frustrated with myself for not being able to fix it.
Eventually, I stepped out and away from the computer, and I heard someone say that the internet was down in the entire building. It wasn't just me, and it wasn't my fault! I was very relieved, and I knew that the higher ups would get it going again (8 hours later they did, and I got a lot of other work done in the meanwhile).
This got me thinking. A lot of times we are so self-critical about flaws, what we've done and what we could've done right, when it turns out a higher force or incident was affecting us. Sometimes the server crashes, and it is not our fault. We cannot help it when our runs are slowed down by outside forces (bad weather, digestive issues, etc), or a server fails and threatens to halt our work. The important thing is to remember that we are not always the ones to blame. Why are we so self-critical? I assumed that this was entirely my fault, even though I hadn't done anything wrong (I didn't download anything funny or click on a pop-up). Sometimes problems just take time to fix, and we have to let go and accept that.
I didn't anticipate that the inability to get online would cause so many thoughts, but I think this did teach me something. We are always trying to do our best, and even when we try our darndest, the server can occasionally fail. We just need to be patient, and it will reboot again, be up to speed and ready to go again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On watching a race

I never just go and watch a race (except on TV). I generally do my race, cheer for a few people after me, but I never get to see a whole race play out. I decided to rectify that. I had 2 friends of mine racing in the DC Veteran's Day 10k this morning, Brian (who I met through Runner's World and we ran in the Parks Half Marathon together) and Sarah (a friend from grad school and the one who paced me through the last 10 miles of MCM).
I got up at 5 this morning to get my run in before the 8AM start (another sign you're a runner: you get up at 5 on the weekend willingly). I ran 9 miles this morning en route to the race. It was great to watch the sun come up and the city wake up - the Captiol just looks stunning with the sun shining on it. I've come to realize that there are 2 parts of marathon training: a part when your 9 mile run is the long run and a part when your 9 mile run is a midweek run. Currently in the part where it's still a long run, and I'm looking to go double-digit next week.
The racers had great weather: 50 and sunny, no wind and a great course. I saw Sarah before the run (she was easy to find - she's fast, so she was at the front of the pack), and she was surprised to see me (I didn't tell them I was going to show up). I wished her luck and then took my place on the sidelines, which was a new feeling. It was great to not feel the pressure of a race; my run was already done and I could just relax. The gun went off, and so did the runners. They were out of sight quite quickly. This was a new experience - I didn't know what spectators did while the runners were out of sight. I followed my cue and grabbed coffee and a bagel from a tent, which was great after my own run. I talked to some of the other spectators, and before I knew it, they announced that the first finisher was in sight. The guy was all smiles as he broke the course record and picked up $500 for the win. What a great finish. The first women came quickly after (more quickly than the race director expected - they almost didn't have the finish tape ready), and with them came my friend Sarah (who finished 5th). It was great watching her come down the chute and to cheer her on. She didn't know what place she came in, so when I saw her, it was great to tell her the good news (and she picked up a cash prize too). I met some of her teammates and it was great to hang out and hear her race story. Before I knew it, Brian came down the finish chute and so I yelled out for him (he was a bit stunned to see me there - surprising people is fun!) as he finished. More hugs and celebration. Both were happy with their times, which is always good to hear.
I really enjoyed my spectating experience. I enjoyed being able to watch without any pressure of racing, and it was just fabulous to watch my friends do well. Not sure how often I'll be able to do that, but will definitely try to make a habit of it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Thrill of Terrible Conditions/Training the Mind to Run Right Through the Winter

The New York Times on Wednesday came out with the following article on training during the winter "Train the Mind to Run Right Through the Winter": http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/health/nutrition/12best.html?_r=1. It's about how people taper off running during the winter because of the lousy weather and so they lose motivation to work out. Coming from Rochester NY, I can understand this. The weather does get cold and inclement at times. It sometimes is hard to motivate myself to trudge in 10 degree weather and snow. The study the NY Times conducted shows that the motivation is more likely to decrease in new runners than seasoned runners. Seasoned runners, they claim, "attest that there is a certain thrill that can come from terrible conditions."
I think they are right on the mark with this. A succesful run through the snow, rain, or wind can cause a great feeling of excitement. Today's run is a perfect example. It was 40, raining hard, and 25mph winds. But I suited up (having good running gear helps) and headed out. My time was hardly affected by these conditions; I think I ran my 6 miles about a minute slower than usual, if that. At first my hands were cold - my one mistake was not wearing gloves, but I've learned my lesson. However, within a mile, I had warmed up and was actually hot! It was pretty gross out, but it's fun to run through the puddles as I'm charging up hills and be out when everyone else is inside. Plus, the pink jacket repels water and my tights are pretty good too, so it's not like I could even feel the pouring rain. There is a big hill between miles 4-5, and the last 300 feet of that was hard. The rain was pounding and it seem as if the hill would not end. But reciting lines of the "Don't Quit" poem (see bottom of entry) helped to propel me up. Once I got to the top, I was totally psyched! So much adrenaline was going at that point, and I felt invincible. So I charged through the rest of the run, feeling strong and able to conquer anything. I do think part of it was the bad weather that made me feel better - which is bizarre - dreary days can often be tough. But going out and facing the tumultous weather was a good thing. So bring on the winter - I'm suited up and ready to go!

About "Don't Quit" (author unknown): My friend Jenny, who was the director of my camp this summer, shared this poem with us at the beginning of our program. I think it's very motivational during challenging times, and I've reread it a lot in recent months. There are also a few good lines that I've memorized and often recite to myself during hard runs (and during the marathon too).

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

7 mile run - practically perfect in every way

Runs like today are perfect. The weather was ideal (mid 40s, sunny, little wind). The fall folliage is peaking and the colors are absolutely brilliant. Fall really is my favorite time of the year to run. I think in part that's because I started running in the fall when I ran cross country in middle school. That of course feels like such a long time ago - not only was I different person then, but I was a different runner back then.
I ran 7 miles around Brookland today, the longest run I've done since the marathon. I ran it at 8:13 pace, which felt good, considering there were many hills within that run. It was just a good run. Didn't feel sore or achy, or like it was too much. In fact, around mile 6 I felt like I could just keep going. And I just love that feeling, when you break through that hidden barrier and are filled with the desire to keep going. All in all, it was a great run.
I'm slowly upping my miles. This week I ran 28 miles. I'd like to be in the mid 30s by the end of November. I have signed up for the Race with Grace 10k in Rochester for Thanksgiving Day. I'm hoping my triathlete buddies Mark and Adam will sign up for it too (putting on the blog is a good form of peer pressure!). I haven't race at home in Rochester since June, so it'll be good to race at home. I also haven't run a 10k race in almost a year, so I can take the opportunity to cash in on my marathon training and hopefully run a fast race.
While I won't start my official Boston marathon training until mid December, I am starting to think about Boston. I'm pretty sure I am going to use the Pfitz 18/55 plan (18 weeks, maxing out at 55 miles per week). It's a slight increase from my last plan (16/50), but not too much of a jump. I'll also start thinking about a goal time. There is certainly less pressure in this marathon (of course, I put it all on myself). I don't need to qualify for another race - this is the dream race for me. Yes, I do hope to knock off a few minutes off of my time, but I don't need to knock off 13 minutes like I did at Marine Corps. So, my guess is that my goal will be around 3:35 (8:12 per mile). But it is way to early to really think definitively about it.
It feels good to get back into a regular running routine, and without the pressure of training at least for another month. They'll all just be fun runs until then!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Continually humbled by the marathon

The marathon is truly a humbling experience in so many ways.
First of all, the training is humbling. There are times throughout the months of training where it's hard to remember why you're doing it; getting up early, through colds, a cold, bad weather, bad times, etc.
Marathon day itself is humbling. A lot of obstacles come up on marathon day. Digestive issues, heat, cold, wind, hills (both up and down!), and the body's ability to handle being on the road for hours. But you push through it all in order to cross that finish line. There is so much joy at that point, a feeling which I'm trying to hold onto almost a week after Marine Corps.
Hand in hand with that joy is the other physical response; pain. It seems so obvious, but your body really takes a hit during the marathon. In the days that followed the marathon, I clung to the banister for dear life as I tried to go up and down the stairs; legs wide apart and groaning along the way. My face would contort stepping off the curb, for my quads were screaming at me at that point, although I'm sure the people around me could not understand why this seemingly simple action was so hard for me.
Of course, you can't just stop moving after you cross the finish line. A few days after the marathon, I climbed on the treadmill to walk. 30 minutes later, I had walked 1.75 miles at 17:08 pace - more than twice as slow as my marathon pace. But it still felt like work. Yesterday, I finally hit the road and ran 3 miles. 3 easy miles were not as difficult as I thought. It felt good to be running again. I went slow, which was good. The first mile was excellent. The second mile was uphill, which normally isn't that hard, but I could feel it today. And that's okay; I took it slow. The final mile was good - felt relieved that I got through it. Tried to do my normal 20 lunges. I did 2 and almost fell over, haha! So, not quite there yet. But today I did 4 miles, and 10 lunges, so making progress there. And that is humbling; to do a workout that is usually basic and effortless, and to have it take a lot more work.
The recovery is humbling. I normally spend hours on Saturday running. Today was less than 40 minutes, but that was all I was capable of. That's the humbling factor of the marathon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Banner Marathon: Running the MCM and BQing

How do you describe adequately one of the best days of your life?
It may sound silly or like I'm exaggerating, but running in the Marine Corps Marathon was one of the greatest days of my life. I'll start from the beginning (it is a little long, but then again, so is the marathon).
I fell asleep by 9:40, and only woke up twice during the night (and fell asleep again quite quickly). I woke up two minutes before my alarm went off at 4AM, which I took to be a good sign. I was up and ready to go. I stretched, ate, and then hopped on the metro, which the only people on it at 5:30AM were marathoners, which only happens every so rarely. The walk from the Pentagon Metro to the Runner's Village took about 30 minutes, so I'm glad I had brought an iPod and could just listen to pump-up music on the way (and listen to other people chatter). I first bumped into Eileen, who I met at the Parks Half Marathon in September, and it was wonderful to see a familiar face and get a hug on a morning when I was quite nervous. At the Village, we met up with a lot of people who posted daily in the MCM forum on Runner's World, so it was to meet the people who I write to every day. We took a picture (see here) and talked for a bit until it was time to get ready. The announcers were saying all morning that we had the best weather in MCM history (50, sunny, little to no wind) and I believe it. It was a gorgeous day.
I took my spot in my starting corral and waited. I met a nice guy named Bill, and we decided to run together and pace each other (we couldn't find the pacers). Then, the starting cannon went off. Which was anticlimatic, because it went off, and then we walked for a few minutes to the starting line. But then we were off (look for the pink visor)! I was so glad I bought the arm warmers, because I was still cold at that point (although they came off around mile 9). The first few miles were a few seconds slower than marathon pace, but is supposed to happen; you are warming at that point. But by mile 4, we were hitting our stride and on pace. I feel bad, because Bill was such nice company, but we lost each other at mile 16, and I don't even know his last name. But we were good for each other for the first 16! Anyways, the hills were not bad, (even though the map makes them look like Everest) especially because I had practiced on much harder hills. The crowd support was great, and there were times when were on our own on the path, but that was okay, it was good to have some quiet and an introspective moments. Anytime the crowds were out, though, they were awesome. There were bands, great signs, and lots of cheering, which is always nice to hear when you have to run 26.2 miles. Going through Georgetown was gorgeous, the leaves changing, and even the Hoya mascot was out to cheer us on. At mile 10, I heard Sarah yell out “Go Vanessa! I'll see you at mile 16!” I was glad to find her, because I knew she would be coming to jump in at mile 16. That was good motivation for me at that point, because I just myself, “only 3 miles to the halfway point, and then 3 miles to Sarah after that.” We hit the halfway point around 1:49, which meant we were right on pace. The next few miles went by more slowly, and I was starting to feel tired. Not bad, but just tired. I saw my parents around mile 16, which was wonderful.
Having Sarah jump in at mile 16 was a breath of fresh air. Because she hadn't run at all, she had fresh legs, great enthusiasm, and that was just what I needed. She held my gatorade bottle for me, and said “You don't need to talk; I'm just going to talk at you for the next 10 miles.” She even at one point yelled for people to cheer for me, which is always nice to hear. But she just kept repeating phrases like “You're looking strong” “You look relaxed” “You're handling this very well” every so often. She would also pick out certain runners and say that we needed to pass them. When she jumped in, I was about a minute behind from my Boston goal. And that was a scary thought; I hadn't really set any other goal for the race other than to qualify for Boston. I couldn't really think about that, I just had to keep going. However, I just was petrified that I would miss the qualifying time (3:40:59) by 20 seconds, which would be devastating. But Sarah knew I was slightly behind and she knew what to do to help me make up for time (which is pretty hard to do late in the race). We ran around the National Mall, and after that Sarah said “We're leaving DC for good now.” Mile 20 was the big bridge, and all I could think at that point was “when will I hit the wall?” At this point, Sarah was telling me “It's just a 10k left. Now, you can use all of those speed workouts that you've been doing to pick up and pick others.” So, I reflected on my speed training at that point, all of those times I went to the track for mile repeats and 800s. Picked up a little bit. Then we had 5 miles to go. Then 4. Then we got into Crystal City, which had lots of music and spectators. Then she said, “Only a 5k left.” Now, a 5k on its own is very fast. But, not after 23 miles. But I knew I was only going to run for less than half an hour at that point. Then 2 miles. 2 miles is nothing, right? Sarah kept repeating all of her mantras, and started to add “You're going to get your qualifying time and you are going to smash your PR.” Then 1 mile. Then Sarah started to say “Can you hear that? That's the finish. You are so close.” I didn't really have many coherent thoughts at this point. That was something different from the last marathon. The last time, I was very happy and bubbly and smiling at everyone. This time, I was very focused (which my parents said that was how I looked) and driven. This was serious. Sarah jumped out (because she wasn't registered, so she wasn't allowed to finish) with .2 to go, and yelled “Go!” At that point, I just dug in, found the last bit of strength I had, and charged up the hill. Relief set in when I could actually see the finish.
I pushed and pushed and when I stopped my watch after the finish line, I saw 3:39:xx (and change, I couldn't quite see what it said). That's a Boston qualifying time! Just pure joy set in at that point – I had pulled through and made up for time and qualified for the most prestigious marathon in the world (other than the Olympics). I just smiled and couldn't stop. I got my medal from a Marine, was congratulated, then set out to find my parents. I bumped into Sarah first and we just hugged and yelled, I was so happy. My parents popped up two minutes later and more hugging. Here's a picture with me and Sarah (she has the pink top on). Just joy at that point. I was so grateful that Sarah helped me with my race – she made a major difference.
I then went to the massage table for my free massage. I had 2 people working on me, which felt great. Soreness had already set in at that point, because even turning over on the table was painful. But the massage was great.
We then went to the metro to go home – but it was so packed that we had to wait a while. On the ride back I sat with a couple other marathoners, and it was fun to talk about our shared experiences. The metro was filled with marathoners and their families. We got back, grabbed a quick lunch (I wasn't really hungry – which sounds weird, but I just didn't have an appetite yet. Don't worry, I was taking in a lot of water and gatorade). Then I showered (felt so nice to clean up) and tried to take a nap. Of course, this proved to be impossible. I was way too excited, and could not sleep. I had a ton of messages (online and the phone) from friends who had tracked me all day and congratulated me on my race. So, I called a bunch of my friends (most of whom I left babbling, excited voicemails). I did get a hold of Jenny, who actually saw me finish by watching the streaming of the marathon online! I was very touched that so many of my friends and family spent the morning glued to the computer tracking me and my splits. We talked for a while, and I was excited to tell her all about it (particularly because we had a pact: if I qualified for Boston, she would train for a marathon too). So, she got a play by play description of the marathon, which was great to share.
I could not sleep; I was just too wound up. I did lie in bed for the afternoon, but just chattered away on the phone the whole time or watched old episodes of The Office. My parents apparently could sleep, because they took a nap at the hotel. They then picked me up, and we went out to dinner (Uno's at Union Station) to celebrate. I got a steak dinner (with an awesome skinless baked potato) and a Blue Moon beer. Now, I don't drink a lot, and I don't abstain from alcohol during training (although I cut it out in the days leading up to the marathon), but wow, that tasted good. The whole dinner was fantastic, and it was great to just be with my parents (whom I hadn't seen since mid August) and celebrate. We just talked and laughed the whole time. At one point, a whole group of people wearing the MCM shirts and their medals walked into the restaurant. So I went over to their table (I know, I love talking to anyone, even if I don't know them). I told them I was glad to see I wasn't the only one wearing my medal to dinner, and we exchanged stories about our day. I had a great time with my parents at dinner – it was just so fun.
The official results were posted when I got back:
Overall time: 3:39:55
Overall place: 2061/20936
Gender place: 359/8280
Division (20-24): 51/753
I fell asleep by 9:30 – the day had finally caught up to me. Although I woke up at 4AM the next morning and was up for a bit (and concerned that I wasn't going to fall back asleep), I eventually turned over (which was hard to do) and fell back asleep for a few hours.
It is pretty painful to walk around, go up and down the stairs, or even climb into bed. But, I cannot say this enough: it is so worth the pain. I am just ecstatic. I saw Peter the Guard this morning, and he just gave me the biggest hug, and told me that he had been praying for me all weekend. He is so sweet, and I was so happy to give him good news.
I'll add more pictures as they come in, but this is what I have so far.
Thanks to Mark Remy from Runner's World for including me in his daily blog on Monday! That was so cool!
It truly was a great day. I'm going to “bask in my Boston glory,” which was what Sarah said to do. I think I'll be doing that for a while. Thank you all for your support and wishes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Expo, Shake-out run, and reflections about training






Yesterday I went to the Healthy and Fitness Expo at the Washington Convention Center to pick up all of my pre-race stuff (i.e. racing chip, t-shirt, and bib number). I didn't have to wait in line at all – yahoo! There were the usual vendors there: Nike, Asics, Addidas, etc, as well as lots of companies offering sample food and drinks, which meant I certainly got all of the vitamins and whatnot that I needed for the day.
But the cool thing for me was that that I got to meet and speak to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston and to work her way down from a 4:20 to 2:51 marathon over the years. She wrote Marathon Woman, which is one of my favorite books, and she has turned into one of my big role models, both as a runner and as an innovator. While I was waiting for her, to finish up a radio interview, I met her husband Roger Robinson, a runner and writer as well. He was really nice and introduced me to the MCM race director. Anyways, when I first met Kathrine (and yes, that's how her name is spelled – her father forgot to put the “e” in when he filled out her birth certificate), she gave me a big hug. We talked a bit about running and the marathon, and she gave some good advice. Not in the pace sense or tips about hydrating, but about the bigger picture of running. She also signed my book and wrote,
Vanessa,
Here's to a BQ...no matter what, it's a victory already and the results are magic. Go for it!
K. Switzer

She asked me if I understood what that meant, meaning that training is a victory of itself, and the results are the successes in life itself. While it sounds a little cheesy, I feel like we would actually get along really well if we got to work together. She was really nice, and I hope that I can meet her again. It was very exciting and good motivation.
Today was my shake-out run with a few of the editors from Runner's World (including Mark Remy, Jennifer VanAllen, and Bart Yasso) and people doing the Marathon Challenge. Met some good people and we did a really easy 3 miles around the National Mall.  It felt and it was nice to slow and just chat and relax. People were from all over the country, and it was fun to chat and hear how everyone's training went. Bart was nice and treated us to Starbucks after, so we just hung out and chatted for a bit. The editors also gave some last minute advice, as well as water and Gatorade, and the new issue of Runner's World! So that will be fun to read today/tomorrow as I lounge and get ready.
It is hard to believe that the marathon is less than 24 hours away. Since July, when my official training started, I have put in about 600 miles of running in order to prep for tomorrow. I have been looking forward to this day for so long, and now it is almost here. I remember standing in July and October 25th seemed so far away – I could not wait. Of course, in a marathon and in marathon training, patience is not a virtue – it is a necessity. So I reeled myself in and took my training one week and one run at a time. I cannot convey enough my gratitude to everyone who has supported me throughout this process. Whether it's been an e-mail or note, or friends who let me go on and on about training or sent me letters of encouragement, or my family who has always supported me, it has been wonderful, and I am so grateful.
With less than 24 hours to go, the name of the game is eating/drinking/stretching/resting. I will be taking it very easy. My parents get in in a few hours, and I cannot wait to see them.
Tomorrow is going to be great. The weather is going to be perfect, the course is gorgeous, the leaves are changing, and I am ready to go. I have done all I can to prepare for this. Tomorrow is the victory lap, and I cannot wait!

Monday, October 19, 2009

6 days to go...

I am in the final days of tapering before the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. I think overall, I've been more calm during this tapering season than I was in March for my first marathon. Certainly, I've been more fortunate during this season as far as staying healthy. But, I do think that's more than just being fortunate; I've been smarter. I'm stretching a lot more then I did, I'm resting more, and really doing everything exactly by the book.
This week I am more nervous than I've been in the past two weeks, but I think at a reasonable and manageable level. I think it's perfectly natural to have some pre-race jitters, considering the four plus months of preparation, and the 26.2 miles ahead. However, I'm fortunate that I have schoolwork and work to do to keep me occupied. I have a paper due on Wednesday (a book review on monastic charters in France), so I'm plugging away at that.
I have made it into the pool a few times, which has been great. Yesterday the water was cold, and the walk back from the pool was colder, but I must admit, swimming is a nice form of exercise. Six months ago, I never would've said that - I used to hate swimming. But, it's turned into a great form of cross-training and a way for me to relax while working out.
On a serious note, I do want to comment about the 3 runners who died in the Detroit Marathon over the weekend. I was very saddened to learn about it, and my heart goes out to their families who are mourning on what should have been a joyous occasion. I had a few friends bring it up at lunch today when we were talking about my marathon on Sunday. They weren't trying to stop me from doing it, but they did want to make sure I was aware of it. It is scary to be a part of a sport in which people die, but it needs to be said that this happens in other sports, not just in the marathon. I have every intention of being careful on Sunday; my body's needs always come first when running and I act responsibly when I run. I know that those runners were as well; but this is just something that happens - people do die at young ages, even when in excellent shape.
On that note, I am going to go and take care of my own body. I had salmon with my lunch, which is good for me, I stretched this morning, I've drank a lot of water, I ran 3 easy miles, all for the greater good.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Making the transformation into a Hardy Runner

For years, the only time I ever ran in the rain was during my middle school cross country days, because we had to. When I was off and on with running, the rain was certainly an excuse for me not to run. Or just go to the gym and use the treadmill.
Now, I must admit, on Thursday and Friday I used the treadmill when it was cold and rainy. But, that was more because I don't want to risk being outside too much before the marathon.
But today was the last double digit run before the marathon, and it wouldn't have been fun to do that inside. So, even though it was 43 (35 with the windchill) and rainy, I bundled up (it's amazing what the pink jacket and running tights can do) and headed out. This was the first run of the fall season where I could see my breath, and the first run where gloves were also needed (which I kept taking off and on throughout the run). I actually don't mind the cold, and I'm sure growing up in Rochester, NY has something to do with it. The rain is a different subject, but since I had a repellent jacket on and a hat, I couldn't really feel the rain.
Normally, I see at least 60-75 runners around DC when I do my long run on the weekend. Today, I think I only saw 25, tops. And all of the other runners were dressed like me, with black tights and jackets, all bundled up. There was definitely a feeling of solidarity, because we were the ones actually out there running. I know we must've looked crazy to some people for being outside, because a year ago I thought those who ran in the rain were crazy. But, now it seems that I've made that transformation into a hardy runner!
The rain was a good thing, because it motivated me to go a little faster so I could go home and take a hot shower. I ran my 12 miles at about 8:45 per mile and felt really strong at that pace. It was a great last long run before the marathon, and definitely good for my confidence during the taper. Plus, there is something fun about splashing around in the rain, doing what others won't attempt to do, and burning off 1000+ calories in the meanwhile (that makes me look forward to my dinner party tonight all the more)!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Running into Fall, National Gallery




I think it is safe to say that fall has finally come to DC. I wasn't convinced on Friday when it hit 80 degrees, but today it was definitely fall weather.
I had 5 miles scheduled today, so I ran into the city and to the National Gallery (certainly my favorite museum here). The leaves have started to change and there was a noticeable drop in the temperature. Woo! What a relief. I hadn't been to the National Gallery since May, so it was time for me to check in and see the new exhibits. Two quality exhibits: "The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain" and "Judith Leyster." The Spanish collection was well-put together - the armor was beautiful and they had some enormous tapestries as well. Judith Leyster was one of the first big female artists during the Baroque era (I've attached her self-portrait, and her work was a good collection as well. They also have on loan "The Beffi Triptych" from 14th century Italy (I'm attaching an image of that too), which was gorgeous. I was so happy to spend some quality time there, looking at the art, uninterrupted by phone or the call to do homework (I got all of my reading done last night). I really love art and art history, so it was my treat for the long weekend to spend some time at the gallery. So I got to combine two of my great loves today: running and art!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2 weeks to go...

The Marine Corps Marathon is 2 weeks today, and other than schoolwork, it is the main thing on my mind. The excitement is building, especially as more info about the marathon (such as features about it in magazines, ads, etc) becomes available.
Yesterday, I ran 15 miles. It was a good, long run. I felt nice and strong and comfortable with the pace. My only challenge was the wind (around 20mph), which was especially evident going over the bridges. This was a time where being petite was not in my favor; I felt like I was just getting pushed around, and certainly had to fight and work harder. But, come marathon day there will be other people out there who can help take some of the wind and it won't just be me taking it all in. I was happy, overall with how it went, and it did raise my confidence a bit (I was a little dissatisfied with my 21 mile run). This next week of running marks another decrease in my mileage. This past week I ran 45 miles, and this coming week I will run 32 miles in total. I am also done with weight lifting for this training season. It's important at this point to just let those muscles rest and recover. I am going to take this week to get in the pool and swim the time I would've spent lifting/running. I know my body will appreciate the non-impact aspect of the pool, and my muscles always just feel relieved when I get in the water.
Today was the World Half-Marathon Championship and the Chicago Marathon. Because of universalsports.com I was able to watch them both, even though they took place in London and Chicago, respectively. It's incredible to think that the elite men can run 13.1 miles in under an hour. The women's race was cool too - the winner broke away about halfway into the race, and just ran on her own for the majority of the race. This was pretty interesting: the second place woman was drafting behind her, and the winner kept gesturing, as if to say "Stop drafting! Get in front, do the hard work I'm doing for a while" The second place woman would do it for 30 seconds, then tuck back behind the winner. The winner was clearly not pleased by this, but it was really fascinating to watch the two of them interact.
The Chicago Marathon was great to watch. Sammy Wanjiru was out to break the world record, and had a few pacers out there with him for the first half, and boy were they going at a fast clip. One of the pacers even fell back - he couldn't keep up. Wanjiru did not break the world record, but he broke the course record (by 1 second) and so in addition to the $75k prize for winning, he won an extra $100k for breaking the course record. Talk about a payday! And he is using all of the money to help his family and village in Africa, so good for him for earning so much money. While none of the American women made it to the podium, 3 women made it to the top 10, including Deena Kastor. I was so happy that she made it through the marathon and was able to push through everything (she broke her foot in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon). Watching 45,000 people go through the race was just awesome, and definitely helped to pump me up for my own marathon.
2 weeks to go! It's definitely a bizarre feeling at this point to look back at all of the training behind me. I remember early July looking at all of the training ahead of me and October seemed forever away. Now I'm standing on the other end of training and looking back. Maybe this is a stretch, but you really change over the course of marathon training. Your attitude and mentality changes, your lifestyle changes, and your body transforms as it learns how to go faster, push harder, and run longer. There are still 2 weeks to go in my preparation, but it does feel good to look back and observe the progress I've made. It's necessary too, because it reminds me why I keep going out there every day. 13 more days...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Made it to the taper!

I ran 21 hot and hard miles on Saturday, and finishing that was the mark of the end of the monster month of training. What a month - I ran almost 200 miles in that big month of preparation, including 2 races. That 21 mile run on Saturday was hard. There were about 9 miles of hills (which were much harder than the hills I will tackle in the marathon) and it was getting pretty hot (at least in comparison to the weather we've been having). I'll definitely be looking forward to the aid station in the marathon, when I can just grab a cup of water from someone to throw on my head (versus Saturday's run, when I went to grab water from a drinking fountain and it was empty! I threw my hands in the air in exasperation). The gatorade I had with me was fine, but I just needed a little more than usual. But, I got through the run. I did take it easy for the rest of the day on Saturday. I just stayed in bed and read some of my medieval books.
I really think that by staying off of my feet for almost the entirety of Saturday afternoon/evening, it made a major difference in how I felt on Sunday. Going up and down the stairs on Sunday, I couldn't even tell that I had run 21 miles the day before. I also did a lot of reading (2.5 medieval books - phew!), which meant taking it easy yesterday as well.
I felt very relieved to have made it to the taper. This point seemed so far away, especially when I was running 50 miles a week. I am very excited about resting and cutting back in mileage, even though I'll only be running 3 miles less this week. Still, I'll be taking it easy and only doing a long run of 15 miles on Saturday. Only?! A year ago I could only run 4 miles at a time, and now 15 miles doesn't seem so bad. What a difference a year makes...
Today, I could feel the 21 mile run when I set out to do 8 miles. Was sore, but pushed through it just fine.
I received my sports massage today. To say that I feel loose is an understatement. It felt wonderful to get such a forceful massage, and to have someone work for an hour on all of the kinks, knots, and trigger points that have built up in my legs, back and arms during the course of marathon training. I left the center feeling so physically loose...I cannot remember the last time my shoulders felt like this. It was worth every cent, and while I can only afford to do this once per marathon, the therapist did a magnificent job. I do think this has helped undo some of the effects of intense training.
It's time to relax, rest, and recover. Of course, this is opposite of my medieval training: I have lots of presentations this week. But, all will be well. Too bad there is no taper in grad school...

Monday, September 28, 2009

My bones are shifting in my skin...

While that may be a line from Ingrid Michaelson's "The Chain," I think that's an appropriate way to describe how I feel right now. I am in my peak week of marathon training. I ran 50 miles last week and I'll run 50 again this week, including 22 on Saturday. My body is quite tired from the training. It's been going well, but it certainly takes a toll after awhile. I still do not know how Deena Kastor can run 140 miles per week. The only thing I know about her ability to do that is that she gets 10-12 hours of sleep a night, and a mid day nap. I'm jealous!
I am constantly amazed how the human body can endure so much, and still thrive even when facing many miles to go. Even though I felt sore yesterday from my 5k race on Saturday, I still made it through 12 miles through DC, and tackled 6 hilly miles this morning. I am a little stiff from my big week last week, but I know that I will still be able to do my 8 x 800 yasso workout tomorrow morning with no problems.
I wish that I could move around a bit more in grad school. It's a very sedentary lifestyle; sitting in class, sitting in the library, sitting at the computer, etc. No wonder I'm tired - I don't get to move around enough and shake out my stiffness! At Beloved Summer Job, I could at least move boxes to and from a storage unit, push speakers around campus for talents shows and dances, and chase after kids trying to go out of bounds! Alas, I don't see the academic field changing enough to allow for more physical activity.
But I have at least one way to keep my bones from shifting and my muscles happy. I've scheduled an appointment for a sports massage on Sunday, the day after my 22 miler. I had a short sports massage after the marathon, and even that 10 minute massage felt great. This is really going to work out the kinks and knots that have been building up over the last few months. I'm really looking forward to it - I definitely need it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Third Place and a New 5k PR


This morning I ran in the CUA Law School's first Race Judicata, a 5k to benefit an infant home in DC. Last night before bed, I was all set to go - laid out my clothes and everything. But still needed...something, a pep talk perhaps. So, I called my dad, whom I hadn't spoken to in a few days. He told me to show them my indomitable Yankee spirit. At first I laughed, because I never really think of DC being in the South. But then, I thought, maybe I just need to have that mentality during the race.

I got to the race with more than enough time to spare, and they delayed the start of the race because of some delays on the metro. That gave me some time to size up the crowd and see where I fit in. It's hard to tell who is fast and knows what they're doing until the gun goes off. At that point, a few women shot out really fast, and I felt a little disheartened, thinking that there was no way I could keep up with that pace. Evidently, they did not know what they were doing, because they slowed down quite quickly. Women 1 and 2 were out ahead, and I was with Women 3 and 4 as we went up the big hill. I decided to draft behind them for a bit, and then when we reached the top, I picked it up and left them behind. Woman 2 was just far ahead of me that I knew I could not pass her, but she served as a good pace for me. No mile markers, but I knew the water stop marked the halfway point. Despite the hills, I ran fairly even splits. I looked behind me a couple of times and I was firmly in 3rd place. With less than 1/2 a mile to go, one of the officials yelled "Third Woman" and so I knew I was all set with my place. I stopped looking at my watch in the final push and just threw down the hammer. There's never any mercy at the end! I finished in 22:24, which is a 10 second PR for me (and on a hilly course!). I was really excited to place in this race - there were a lot of good runners out there today. Following my finish, I was congratulated and handed a gift certificate to a nearby running store - woo! There was an award ceremony afterward, and it was great to talk to the other placers. A friend of mine, Suzy, won the women's race, so it was great that the two of us placed. This is a picture of us after.
It was a challenging course, and I think that made my time and place even more rewarding. The race was a great start to my day. Racing has really built up my confidence a bit. I never would've imagined that I could place in races, but I'm getting there! Making great strides, quite literally, it seems. And my father was right, I showed that Yankee spirit!