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!
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": 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!