Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reviews of 3 Running Books

I've decided to take a break from reading about medieval history. I'll be doing it again soon enough, so I thought I could actually do some fun summer reading. Here are the 3 books I've read lately - all running related, but could certainly be appreciated by all, I think...

I am the Central Park Jogger by Trisha Meili. I first read this book when it came out in 2003, but reread it again, and it definitely carried a different meaning this time around. In 1989, Trisha was running through Central Park and was beaten, raped, and left for dead. Her story is about her recovery. She endured so much trauma, on a number of levels, so to come out of it so strong is inspiring. Not only did she survive, walk, and return to a fairly normal life (given the circumstances), she even ran the NYC marathon! The hope and sheer will that she conveys throughout the book and throughout her journey should cause us to go the extra mile. She didn't complain during everything she went through; I don't think I can really complain about some stiffness after a long run. Really moving read.

50/50: Secrets I learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days-and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance by Dean Karnazes with Matt Fitzgerald. Dean, who is a well-known ultramarathoner, decided to push the limits even further, and sought to run a marathon a day (in all 50 states) in 50 days straight. 8 of the races were "live" meaning that they happened like a regular marathon on the weekend. The other 42 were specially created for Dean's Endurance Challenge. These races did not have as many participants, but Dean tells many touching stories of the people who participated. For a lot of the runners, this was their first marathon, which is always a cool experience to hear about. Not only did Dean describe all of the races (which was exciting, because he included the Marine Corps Marathon), but gave lots of fantastic tips along the way. A quick read (prologue, then a day by day description of each race) and a fun one!

Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women's Sports by Kathrine Switzer. This was definitely my favorite. Kathrine was the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon in 1967. An official tried to tackle her and get her out of the race, but a friend of hers pushed the official out of the way. I'm including the pictures that the press photographer took when it happened (how fortunate he was there). Now, the shoving incident happened at mile 2 - could you imagine having to run 24 more miles after that? She continued on, and finished the race in 4:20. Her description of the marathon was quite moving, I think because I could relate to a lot of the feelings she experienced in her first marathon (but no one tried to push me out of the race). Kathrine fought to have women allowed in the Boston Marathon, a category in the Olympic marathon, and to run in other marathons and races (she was the one who created the NYC Mini 10k for women only). She kept training and running other marathons, and eventually knocked her time down to 2:51! That gives me a lot of hope that I can really knock my time down over the years. Her book was definitely well-written - she was a sports journalist too, so she really knew how to tell her stories in such a captivating manner.

All 3 books were top-notch, and even if you're not really into running, they are still good reads. Plus, I feel as if everyone reading this blog is more likely to read these books that I recommend versus a bunch of medieval ones!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hot + Hills = Hard Half Marathon Course

I went out for another half-marathon course with the triathlete men yesterday. We ran a half-marathon course at Mendon Ponds Park. The last time I ran at Mendon Ponds was when I ran cross country in middle school - 1999! I'm second from the left. Back then, the race distance was 2 miles - and that felt long.
Anyways, memories of cross country rushed back when we arrived at the park. However, this course we did yesterday was a whole lot harder, obviously. 13.1 miles with rolling, rolling hills. Adam and I counted them along the way, and we got to 50 hills - that was insane! A lot of times, we would climb one hill, it would level off for 20 yards, and then another one! It was a really tough course. Plus, it was getting hot and humid, which didn't help. I wish there had been a sprinkler or something to run through - we were so hot. Last week's half-marathon was fun, but this was not. The miles were marked, and it seemed as if each mile marker was so far apart. Both Adam and Mark had some trouble with the heat, and they slowed down a bit toward the end. This was definitely the second hardest run I've ever done - second only to the marathon. But, I always refer to hills as character-builders. Well, there was certainly a lot of character building yesterday. Definitely a good training run. I don't think it would've been so bad had we done it in April when it was cooler. I do think we'll try it again - it will be easier the second time around, because at least we'll know what's coming. Even though it was hard, I know that all of my runs will help me prepare for the Marine Corps Marathon, and that way I'll be able to kick butt and qualify for Boston!

Monday, June 8, 2009

My first go at Yasso 800s

One of the workouts I've heard much about is called Yasso 800s (named after Bart Yasso - Chief Running Officer of Runner's World Magazine). The idea behind it is that you can estimate your ability to run a marathon in a given time based on this work out. I.e. if you want to run a 2:50 marathon, you need to do repeated 800s (2 laps around the track) in 2:50. Doing 6-10 of these in a row (with 1 lap repeats) has proven to be a good indication of your marathon time. People have sworn by it for years, so I figured today would be a good try for it.
I ran 2 miles to the track at the high school - the perfect warm-up distance. Then I did 6 800s with a lap in between each with a goal of 3:40, since that is my marathon goal. I hit 3:40 each time (actually around 3:36 for each one), but I was starting to feel it during the 5th and 6th Yassos. It's pretty hard to be so so consistent, but I started to settle into a groove. I found a bunch of songs on my playlist that were about 3:40 so that I would be occupied while doing the 800. So, I hit all 6 800s under 3:40, and will be working my way up to 10 800s later in the training. Then I ran the 2 miles back to my house. It was definitely a challenging workout, but I'm sure I'll be reaping the benefits of it too.
On a related note, this morning I spoke with 2 people from Runner's World. They are putting together a new training program for marathoners and want feedback for it. So, I get to use the new program for free! It looks pretty cool - it's a 16 week program and you log your miles and they have suggested workouts. I went through the installation with them, and gave feedback based off my initial viewing of the program. The two guys were really helpful, and I'm looking forward to using the training program.
So all in all, a good day for running!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An honorable (2nd place) finish

I ran in a 5k at St. Christopher's Church in Chili with the hope of breaking 22:00 (one of my two summer goals. On another note, I did break the other one - I ran a 6:28 mile on Tuesday). While I did not break that goal, it was still a great run.

I really don't like when I have to get to races really early for check-in, because it gives me so much time to just get nervous. Everyone is doing their pre-race thing - jogging, stretching, sprinting, etc. While I have a pre-race routine at home (yoga, etc), I have nothing for the course. So, I did a little stretching and jogging, but still had way too much time left before the race. Ah well. I approached the starting line, and did not go for the front row. I think, unless you know you're going to be one of the first to finish, it can be cocky to go to the front row. However, I went to the second row, because I knew I didn't want to lose any time bobbing and weaving trying to get some space. Then the starting whistle blew.

I took off, with my parents and grandparents standing a few yards away cheering, at a fast pace, but still with nerves abound. I think I finally calmed down when I hit the first mile at 6:54. We were running through a residential area, which was nice, because there were families out on their lawns cheering for us. I looked ahead, and I didn't see any other women. "No," I thought, "I can't be leading, right?"

I looked behind me and I saw one woman about 20 yards behind me. Every so often, I looked back, and she was still there. Mile 2 came around 14:05 and she was still there. But I passed someone's house and the family yelled "First girl!" So, I guess I was leading. Around 17 minutes, I passed two younger guys (high school), and they said "Good job" which I thought was sweet. At about 19 minutes (I think), the woman finally passed me. I uttered "nice work" and I knew at that point that was it. She had been bidding her time, and did it. I picked things up as I saw the church and the finish line, but she could not be beat. She came in at 22:28 and I came in at 22:34. A new PR!

I shook hands with her after, and found out her name: Theresa Palmieri. She smoked me, and did such a great job. I talked with her and her sister Patricia at length after while we waited for the awards ceremony, and I guess Theresa is quite the hard-core runner. She's run the Boston marathon 8 times, she also does ultra marathons and triathlons and has a PR marathon time of 3:25. I really enjoyed talking to both of them - they were really nice and had some good advice, especially since Theresa is quite skilled, as evidenced in the race.

Then they had an award ceremony, and I placed second overall for women, and first in my age division (18-24 women). I got a sweet medal (as seen in the picture with Patricia (white shirt) and Theresa Palmieri (jacket) too. I went home feel pretty proud of how the whole thing went. What a cool day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Celebrating National Running Day with 13.1 through Geneva (NY)

How else to better celebrate the inaugural National Running Day than with a good run?

I went out with the big guys again today. We drove out to Geneva (NY - there seems to be some confusion about that) this morning so that we could run the course that they will do in July for the triathlon. I got up at 4:45AM this morning to get ready, and I think the last time I was up that early was for the National Marathon (also the last time I ran more than 10 miles). When I get up that early, it always takes me a little bit to get that "holy cow it's early" sickening feeling in my stomach to go away. But, after two bowls of Kix, coffee and tea, that feeling went away. I was ready to go.

Geneva, NY is so beautiful. The course runs along the lake, through town, by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and is just a lovely route. We were running 8:30 miles fairly consistently. Mark and Adam went down the hills (which there were many) fairly fast, but I was a bit more conservative, since the uphills were huge (especially between miles 7-9). I'm so glad I did, because while they were able to run quickly downhill, I was able to hit the uphills with confidence.

The weather was cool with a bit of overcast and a light breeze at the end, which was very refreshing. We did the half marathon course (13.1 miles baby!) in 1:54, which was a great time for a non-race day run. This was the longest distance Mark and Adam had ever run, and I felt very honored that they wanted me to lead them through it. I had a great time - they made me laugh and it was enjoyable.

We went to a cute little coffee shop (reminded me of Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga) for breakfast after - it felt so good to refuel and relax after. Those two guys were a lot of fun, and I'm glad we ran the half marathon together this morning. Actually, there's nothing half about it! :-)