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!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On leading people on a run

After I finished my first marathon in March, my friends and family took that finish as proof that I know what I'm doing as a runner. Now, I would not consider myself an expert at all, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and know some things that work, etc.

The first time I was ever asked to go with people on a run was in Rochester. My dad had a few friends from the gym, whom I had met, and they wanted me to pace them on some runs around town. I was so nervous - I did not think I would be able to meet the expectations that they had about me. But then we made it through our first run together. And before I knew it, we ran together twice a week, and even tackled a few half marathon courses together. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and I look forward to running with my triathlete buds again.

At Beloved Summer Job, we had a student who was a cross country super star and needed to train while she was at camp. I was asked if I could accompany her on runs. This made me a lot more nervous than my first time running with the triathletes - she goes to State Championships and I...went to choir competitions in high school. I imagined that on our first run she would take off, and I would be left in the dust, feeling stupid about my ability to run. But we turned out to be a good match for one another, since her distance is more the 5k length, we sort of met in the middle for long runs, and paced each other quite well. At one point, I took her out for a 9 mile run, which is a little longer than she is used to (she normally goes to 8). She definitely started to tire toward the end, but still finished fine. We had such an interesting exchange after the run was over. She had trouble understanding how I was not tired from 9 miles, so I explained that I just had to train myself to not get fatigued at that point, because in a marathon, there is still a lot of the race to go. Then she said, "You're turning into my running idol." Me? I've never run competitively, and here I have a student telling me she looks up to me. I was so incredibly flattered; it was such a sweet thing to say. She is a remarkable person, and a reminder of why I come back to that job year after year.

At CUA, I work with a variety of departments in Student Affairs. I've had the opportunity to work with the Fitness Center, and have made a good connection with their director. We decided at the end of last year to found a running club for the undergrads called Cardinal Striders (our mascot is the Cardinal). I took a few of them on a run yesterday afternoon. We did a 2 mile loop around the perimeter of campus, and it was just really enjoyable to take them out and show them a good route. They had a lot of fun, and I did too. I am not sure that I'll be able to take these girls out a lot, but I think we're going to shoot for once a week.

Again, I do not consider myself an expert, but I'm flattered to know that people trust me enough to have me lead them on runs. It's really a great experience, and I enjoy sharing my thoughts and tricks of the trade with others. I'm sure if coaching is necessarily in my future, but I do like what I'm doing now!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's not a fail, it's an opportunity

At Beloved Summer Job, my boss's, boss's, boss would not allow us to say "fail" - he said it was an opportunity, you just had to look for it. While at first it seemed like just a silly phrase of encouragement, he did have a good point. Almost (and yes, we had a couple of true "fails") every "fail" has an opportunity masked somewhere in it. You just have to think about it, and in some cases, think about it for a while. Here are two recent running-related "opportunities"
*My 18 miler a few weeks ago was really hard - one of the hardest runs I've done excluding the marathon. I had to go really slow, and was filled with a lot of doubt along the way. While I made it through the whole thing (I had to go through the anonymous "Don't Quit" poem a few times in my head), I still thought it was a failure. However, once I sat down 2 weeks after and re-evaluated the run, I realized the problems that occurred with the layout of the course. I switched things around when I mapped out my 20 miler. That run was successful because I thought things through my "fail".
*After my 7 miler this morning, I did not have time for breakfast, and lunch just seemed to far away. I knew I needed something, so I thought I would try "Muscle Milk," which is supposed to help aid with recovery. Gross! Definitely not what I thought it was going to taste like. At first, I thought big fail - four bucks I'll never see and grossness. But it was my opportunity to learn that recovery drinks are not for me, even if other people recommend them.

So, Andrew, here's to you. Thank you for teaching me to look for the opportunity beyond every fail. I'll keep looking...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The sensations of a long run

Over the course of a long run, I've come to learn that my body and mind go through a lot of sensations. During my longer runs (like today's 20 miler), I wonder if my body knows what it is about to go through. Do my legs know at 8AM that they are going to run 20 miles? Do my muscles know at 5 miles that there are still fifteen left to crank out? I know my muscles now understand that they ran 20.4 miles today. I'm not doing the pregnant waddle, but climbing stairs is a slower process than normal. But as much as I prep mentally and physically, I know that my body does not always know what is coming - but it does know how to react once the miles start to add up!

The first few miles are always a warm-up of sorts - my legs and mind awaken and I find my stride. The middle are mental - I'm just coasting along at that point and taking everything in. The last chunk is where things happen. Sometimes that's when the pain and doubt set in. Other times, I break through a wall (not The Wall of the marathon) when I feel as if I can go on for a long time.

That's what happened to me today. At mile 17, I turned onto North Capitol, where I had just a straightaway, one turn, then a dash to the end. I was so happy to be at that point in the run, and to still feel good. The feeling morphed into something else - exhilaration. It's very cool to experience that - my endorphins must've been firing away like crazy.

The picture in the blog was snapped by the professional photographer at the Half marathon last week. I think it was around mile 11 that the picture was taken, and I think it captures how I feel about running - pure joy. It just serves as a release, and really makes me happy, even if there's pain involved in running. I felt the same way on marathon day, and I hope to again in 5 weeks. Pretty cool.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Parks Half Marathon Report

I set out this morning to run the Parks Half Marathon from Rockville to Bethesda, MD. I had 2 goals: break 1:50 (which I felt pretty confident about), and even faster, break 1:45 (a bit ambitious).
We lucked out with beautiful race weather: 60, sunny, and a gentle breeze. The gun went off at 7, so just after sunrise. I went out at a pretty fast pace; my first mile was about 7:35. While it felt fast, I knew I just needed to keep pushing and running sub 8 miles. Lots of small hills throughout the race, which I think I handled well. We spent a lot of time running through the woods on a path, which brought me back to my cross country days. My big plan was to speed up during the last 5k, which I did, and was able to pass a lot of people. During the last mile, we ran through this tunnel, and at that point, it was no mercy. I was really pushing, and when I came out of the tunnel, there was the crowd, and man, were they pumped. At that point, I was passing a bunch of people, and the crowd was pretty awesome, yelling "Come on!" and really psyched me up. Also, during the last 100M, the announcer yelled "And here comes Vanessa Taylor from DC," which was very cool to hear as I was finishing.
I finished in 1:43:29 (7:54 per mile), and came in 9/71 women ages 18-24, and 340/2061 overall. I beat both of my goal times, and had a lot of fun in the process. Definitely a good race, and I think I'll try to do it again next year. The picture I've included is of me, Brian, and Eileen, who are running the Marine Corps Marathon next month as well. We've been writing online in the Marine Corps Forum on Runner's World, so it nice to actually meet!
Today was a 20 miler day, so I ran the other 7 miles this evening after a meal and nap. I really felt sore after the 1/2, and even after putting my feet up all afternoon felt it during the 7 miler. However, I managed to push through it. Plus, it's good to learn how to run on tired legs.
So, 20 miles in all today - 13.1 fast, 7 not so fast. Off to put my feet up again and rest!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A "Capitol" Run

My task this morning was to run 10 miles at marathon goal pace (8:23 per mile). My path included running around the Capitol, down the National Mall, and around the Washington Monument. When I wrapped around the Washington Monument, I was welcomed by a number of sprinklers! This was at mile 5, not at a point when I was necessarily tired, but I was certainly getting hot by that point. To get misted for about 30 seconds was such a wonderful feeling. I felt like royalty - it was so refreshing and definitely helped me to stay on pace for the second half of the run.
It really was a gorgeous morning (mid sixties, sunny, with a breeze). Certainly qualified as a rave run in my book. Lots of people were out running on the Mall, and will we may not be running together, there is definitely a feeling of solidarity and togetherness among runners. Plus, more people means it's easier to cross the street without dealing with annoying cars!
The other thing that made this a good run was that when I arrived back at campus, my friend Wes was there. It was just lovely to be greeted at my "finish line" and to chat with my friend. We walked around for a little bit as I cooled down, and it was just a great way to conclude the run.
This was my last big run before the half marathon on Sunday. I might jog 2 miles on Saturday, but other than that, I will focus on cross-training, good stretching, and rest. Hopefully I'll have a good race report (and photos) from the big day. Until then..just rest, fluids, and some carbs too.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Transitioning back into a medievalist who runs

August is over and September is here. Things have cooled down a little bit, which is such a welcome relief. I ran 152 miles in August and I will run over 180 throughout the course of September – my biggest mileage month ever. This is the month when I will peak in all aspects of training. I've begun weight lifting again, as well as yoga. I think having those two activities, along with the addition of swimming, will be a difference in how I feel in those final miles of race day. I've got an 18 miler coming up this weekend – longest run since the marathon.
School is back in session, which means I can fully put back my medievalist hat on again. It was nice to take somewhat of a break this summer from research – it has made coming back all the more enjoyable. I am currently working on a paper proposal for the 2010 Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, which is expanding on the witch trial research that I've been doing for several years. I haven't had all of my classes yet, but things are looking good. It'll be a busy semester as per usual; lots of paper writing for sure.
That's about it for now. Off to be a medievalist again, and a runner in the morning (9 miles at marathon goal pace).