Monday, December 27, 2010

Flippers and Form

I am not a great swimmer. But, I can swim and I am a lot better than when I started August 2009. Form is so important to swimming, just like running, but my swimming form...needs improvement. I used to look like I was barely afloat, and now at least there is some rhythm to it. But it's not that graceful stroke that I see in my dad, Jenny, or my triathlete buds. I do like swimming a lot, and I know I will continue to get better with it over time. I'm just not having the rapid improvements that I want - and that's okay - this is not my number #1.
This morning, I went in to the Y for a swim. One of my triathlete buds, Adam, was lifeguarding, so we exchanged hellos and then I headed in. After 300 yards, he handed me flippers. I tend to do a scissor kick, and am not good at the flutter kick. My arms are better than they were, but the kick needs improvement. So, I did 100 yards with a kick board and flippers (fins?). Wow, I was motoring, at least in comparison to my usual crawl. So, I ditched the board and flippers, and kept going with my own two feet. The thing that is hard for me is maintaining that rhythm while kicking and pulling - it's a lot of coordination!
Do you think more coordination is needed for running or swimming?
Back and forth I went, doing my best to keep my feet fluttering and avoiding the scissor kick. I think the hard part is that I feel like my legs are just so straight, and I want to bend them a little more. But I kept going, and sort of tucked my legs in to shake them out during the turnaround. Anyways, I got in 1400 yards and it probably turned out to be one of my best swims ever. The endurance training from running helps, because I don't need to stop to rest at any point. I've done a 1 mile swim once, and that was torture (September 2009). I would like to get to a point where I can do a mile comfortably and regularly.
Good form is hard to maintain, both on the road and in the water. But slow and steady improvements are starting to happen!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running Review of 2010

States run in: New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, DC, Virginia, Maryland, Florida
Races: 11 (2 5ks, 1 4miler, 1 5 miler, 3 10ks, 1 half marathon, 3 marathons) = 125.5 miles of races
Marathon: Went from 3:39:55 to 3:35:54 (goal was to run 3:35)
Half Marathon: Went from 143:29 to 1:39:30 (goal was 1:40)
10k: Went from 46:01 to 44:45 (goal was 45:00)
5k: Went from 22:24 to 21:53 (goal was 22:00)
1 mile: 6:13 to 6:07 (goal was 6:00 - but I only did one attempt, and I am okay with not meeting this - will raise the stakes for 2011)
Mileage: 1690 in 2009 to 2017 miles in 2010 (goal was 2010)
So I met all of my goals, except the mile, and I am not too concerned about that. I am pretty excited that I was able to hit all of my goal times. I'll do my 2011 goals in a different post, once I do some more thinking about those goals.
I have learned about the power of negative splits. Particularly in the 10k, I have become much better at running negative splits, and consequently, have run much better races. Seriously, run the second half faster - it is much more fun to pass people in the end.
I have improved my swimming (new distance PR this morning 2,050 yards!!) and learned of the fun of playing too.
I got to be a part of the Pacers Ambassadors program, volunteer at some great races, and go on some great runs with the Clarendon running group.
I ran up and down the East Coast (and Kalamazoo, MI too while at a conference).
I won my first race (Meaghan's 5k - June), and got a couple of AG awards too.
My parents started running, and have even completed a 5k.
I got to do 3 marathons: Boston, Rochester, and Marine Corps - each special in its own way.
I learned a lot, grew up as a runner, and strengthened some important relationships along the way. Not too shabby for a year's work.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Yes, I wrote so excited on Monday with talk of cross training, swimming, skiing, and even doing pushups. Wham! Woke up on Tuesday with a bad cold. Head cloggy, body aching, nose plugged, yuck. The only time I got up was to go to the GI specialist. Today I made it downstairs, and while I certainly did not exercise today, at least I'm sitting up and have been awake for most of the day. But the timing has been good - thank goodness for Christmas vacation. Really, the body knows how to hold on when needed, and then when life lets up, so does the body. Now I've got the right excuse to take it easy over the next few days.
There's been a lot of "I heart speedwork" blogs on the Loop lately, which I agree. There's nothing like hitting your splits, or going even faster than expected. I think it's like getting a gold star for the day before it already starts.
But I did get another gold star today - a 4.0 for the semester. First time ever, and I'm not going to lie, pretty proud. And as crappy as I feel today, that is definitely a gold star. Hard work pays off, for sure.
But the real comfort and joy was during my rest day today. While resting on the couch, I put in "You've Got Mail," one of my favorite movies. The little emails Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks send each other are so cute; I absolutely love them, "You're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings." I also got in a family dinner, and good conversation with a dear friend. All great things on a day that could've ended just on the couch. Comfort and joy for sure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mega Cross Training + 1 Confession

I am a person who likes a plan or schedule...even on vacation/running without a plan:
I am at home on Christmas vacation. But I still like to have some sort of routine. So, my plan is to do a TON of cross training over break. I'll get in some runs to, but I am going to operate under the exercise for time, not miles. So if I can get in at least an hour a day (when that usually means about 7 miles), that would be pretty good for keeping my fitness level up.
Yesterday my parents and I went cross country skiing for 45 minutes. I don't think I've done it in 5 years, but it felt great. Where we ski is really beautiful; lots of pretty trails. Then in the afternoon, I did a 3.7 mile run.
This morning I went to the Y with my dad. Swam 1200 yards - first time in the pool in 3 weeks. Felt great - the pool just takes off a lot of physical pressure and my body just relaxes, even when working hard. Then did upperbody work in the gym, plus my Roman chairs. And here it comes...the embarassing confession of the month:
I cannot do a regular pushup. I can to the "girl ones" just fine, and I can get down low enough to do a regular one, but I cannot do a regular push up. Ridiculous! How is this possible? I do upper body weights in the gym, I can swim, and I can run marathons, but I can't do one measly pushup? So, resolution #1 for 2011 - be able to do one pushup, and hopefully a lot more by the end of the year. I'm giving you my word - this is part of my plan for 2011!
We are also going cross country skiing again this afternoon. 45 minutes of that plus 30 minutes of swimming is 75 minutes of cardio for the day, plus weights. Not too shabby for a non-running day.
Thoughts? I know cross training can't entirely replace running, but surely I am going to reap a lot of benefits of a lot of XT, supplemented by some shorter runs, right?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

5 minutes and 5 pictures of 2010

In 5 minutes, describe 2010, using 5 pictures:
I took my master's comps over the summer, reading over 60 books to prepare for the 2 days of exams. I was very excited to celebrate that victory with my family and friends.
I got to spend more time with my brother, Ryan.
We worked
together during the summer, and because he joined another part of my life that is important to me, got to understand another component of my life. This was the first time we were really able to spend time together outside of Rochester. We're going to be home within 12 hours of each other Friday night/Saturday morning, and I am very excited.
I had the thrill of running Boston. Boston was one of the best days, not just 2010, but of all my life: it was absolutely thrilling.
The support I had from my family and friends propelled me through the day, and after I crossed the finish line, there was also an outpouring of love and support. It gave me an unquenchable thirst for more marathons and more Bostons. I will be back in 2011 in conquer those Newton hills once again.
I got to introduce a friend to marathoning. I felt a tremendous sense of pride as we gallavanted around Saratoga as we trained over the summer, and then finally during the marathon around DC/VA, knowing that I helped a former swimmer turn into a sub-4 marathoner. And in doing so, our friendship blossomed into something more spectacular.
By entering the PhD program, I feel like I've reaffirmed to major things: I love medieval history and I am very excited about the prospect of teaching. I have really enjoyed my first experience at being a TA. I got to give my first lecture. In one of my classes, I got to develop a teaching portfolio, and grew increasingly excited over the prospect of teaching classes such as "Saints and Sinners" and "Teaching through the Ages." My own coursework this semester was fascinating: I got to learn much more about the Carolingians than ever expected. I got to write a fun research paper. And I manage to set up a great schedule for next semester that allows me to work quite intentionally on some interesting subjects: late medieval narrative, early medieval piety/monasticism/sanctity, and Renaissance pedagogy. My professors have been more than willing to support my interests, and I hope to do the same in the future for my own students.
I think in general, I've grown increasingly passionate in 2010: both about running and my graduate work. Consequently, I just have become more willing to put time into both. But it's not just about taking out the books or putting on the shoes: participating in both has allowed me to renew some pretty imporant relationships, both with family and friends. There were many challenges throughout the year, but I have also learned more about how to overcome them. One of my favorites quotes is "A personal peak is a triumph over fear," from Peaks and Valleys. That is how I have grown this year: by looking ahead into the hard parts, and saying, okay, I have the tools and support to go through this. Time to get ready to forge ahead in 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When the 3 miler is meaningful

Running is a bit on the back burner these days. Boston is still over 4 months away, and I won’t commence my training for that until 2011. Sarah (my coach and a fellow medievalist) told me to just do what I can in the next few weeks and not worry too much about running. I have a good base at this point, and I can also take the time over break to work on the ancillary things like strength training, core work, swimming, etc. School needs to be the first priority right now, and she certainly understands that. I just finished my teaching portfolio – which is ultimately forever a work in progress, but at least now my pedagogy teacher has an initial idea of my teaching philosophy and aims as a professor. Yesterday, I handed in my big seminar paper “Prepared with Banners Waving and Bells Ringing: Increasing Ornamentation in Thirteenth-Century English Processions” for my later medieval England class. That was a big triumph – probably the most fun/fascinating/worthwhile paper I’ve written in graduate school. It’s a project that my professor said could be a dissertation – just not the one I’ll write (I’m doing mine on medieval witchcraft). But perhaps this will spark some thinking for book 2 – the second project that is always lurking in the back of your mind. I have one more paper to hand in (due Friday) on Carolingian literacy, and then the semester will be over. Needless to say – writing is the main priority this week.

But I was so overjoyed on Sunday with the 10k. It just went so incredibly well, and the more I think about it, the more I am sure that my success had to do with the fact that I relaxed! I had fun before and during, and did not get too stressed about it. What a tactic! It just goes to show that playing really does do wonders in all facets of life.

This morning I went out for an easy 3 miler. I just felt very relieved – the end of the semester is in sight. It was cold out, but not so windy that it hurt my face. The sun was out, and the traffic was light. Knee only bothered me a little, and going slow felt just fine. I was just grateful to be out – out and away from the computer, away from grading, away from the world. I think it is easy to take those easy short runs for granted sometimes. But really, they can do a lot for the spirit. Just get the clothes on and go out the door and do it. I came back feeling refreshed and recharged. Even managed to do 20 lunges and some planks after. And then I was ready for the day – to edit and to write. There was nothing complicated, no mile splits to hit, no pre long-run breakfast to prepare, no complicated route to measure. Just the easy 3 miler, no thoughts, no worries, just a sense of gratitude for being on the open road.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jingle All the Way 2010 10k PR - Scrappy

In 2008, Jingle All the Way was my first road race. I finished in 55:04, and that was the race that kicked off marathon training. So, it is a race very dear to me - I returned to it last year (46:01), and wanted to do it again this year.
Things that changed the game going into this year:
*I already met my 2010 goal of breaking 45 minutes (ran 44:57 at Race with Grace on Thanksgiving).
*I have just felt rundown with the end of the semester.
*Unsure if my knee is still bothering me. This week, I only ran 11 miles before today (5 Tuesday, 4 Wednesday, and a 2 mile shakeout yesterday).
On the other hand:
*I didn't want to back out of the race. I've done well on this course and I know it well. People in DC are fast, and they help push me to keep going. And then there's the other thing: every time I have raced, I have set a PR. And while I know I'm going to hit a point where that won't happen, I am enjoying this streak so far - it is a pretty cool feeling.
Last night, I decided to just relax. No point in getting worked up over today - perhaps I would just go for a course PR, or no matter what, get in a 6.2 mile run and have fun. My friend Amanda came over to hang out with me and my roommate Julie (we're all in the history grad program). So much fun! And got in a good conversation with Jenny too. Relax relax relax, laughed, and decided what the heck, 2 beers too. We had a blast, and even though I didn't get a ton of sleep (5 hours), the amount of fun I had was totally totally worth it.
It was cold and raining this morning. Just put on my headphones and listened to fun music on the way in - I am not going to sweat anything out. Picked up my bib number and only had a couple minutes before the start. This was ideal - no time to worry - chose to just smile instead. I'm not going to lie, I didn't warm up or stretch at all. I was just thinking "What the heck, we'll go out and see what happens." And then it was time to go!
Bells were ringing and I crossed through the first mile in 7:00. Too fast no matter what, but no pain. Mile 2: 14:30. Okay, we'll see what happens, maybe a PR, more likely a course PR. I got through the half in 22:48. If anything is going to happen, it is time to pick up the pace. It is really raining now, but I am happy with what I wore (Boston shirt and shorts). The turnaround is pretty cool, because you can watch the elite runners, and they are a nice distraction. So, I watch them, and then the other runners when I am on the other end of the turnaround. I start to pick it up, and then pick women to pass. Got through mile 4 at 29:08. Unsure what my time will be. I have decided in the past few races not to mark ideal splits on my hand, and just run by feel instead. No point in trying to do math in my head at this point, we'll just see. I keep going and going, and the pace feels fast, I am really hauling and I feel tired. Knee doesn't hurt that much, certainly not like it did during the week. Relief at mile 5 (can't remember my time), knowing there was less than 10 minutes to go. There was a pack of 3 girls, and I kept getting closer to them, and then passed them. Was wondering if acclerating at mile 4 was the right choice, but thought, I'll just be uncomfortable for a little while longer. But as I kept pushing, digging, and passing people, I started to think. This is what I do best, pull out all of the stops when the time comes. I am scrappy - I can fight and be aggressive in the end of a race and pass others assertively. So, go ahead, be scrappy. So, I just keep moving and moving - finding another layer to go faster as the rain comes down harder. Okay, I can see the finish at mile 6. Just go, go, keep going, only a few more moments of hauling in like this.
44:45
A 12 second PR for the 10k, over a minute PR for the course.
Overall women: 62/2535
Age Group: 11/383
I was just so happy and could not stop smiling. After picking up my bag, I walked to the nearest Dunkin Donuts (a must have), with music playing. I definitely had a bounce in my step, and even in the rain, I felt teriffic. Today I chose to be scrappy and happy. Carefree served me well - not only because I PRed, but had fun too. What a way to close out the 2010 racing season!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Alberto Salazar is like Charlemagne

Perhaps an odd comparison, but not if you're a runner/medievalist, like me:
Alberto Salazar, the great marathoner of the early 80s and winner of the "Duel in the Sun" (1982 Boston Marathon), reemerged into the running fore in 2001 when he created the Nike Oregon Project. Salazar did this in part to address the decline of American runners in the world stage, saying, ""The rest of the world has gotten faster, and Americans have gotten slower." I pulled some information from the Track Town USA website:
The Oregon Project has also taken advantage of the following equipment and technology:
  • Laptop and Russian software: analyzes heart rate patterns torecommendoptimal intensity for daily workouts
  • Vibrating exercise platform: increases leg power
  • High-pressure oxygen(Hyperbaric) chamber: accelerates repair of muscle tears
  • Underwater treadmill (like the one on the back patio of Nike House): a way to increase training miles while reducing injuries
  • Whirlpool: relievesmuscle soreness
  • Medical testing equipment: monitors hemoglobin levels
Current runners who are involved include Shalane Flanagan, Kara and Adam
Goucher, Galen Rupp, Chris Solinsky, Amy Yoder Begley, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenheim. These are all Olympians, American record holders, and continue to lead the pack in the recent boom in American distance running.
Recently, one of the major additions to the Project is coach Jerry Schumacher, who coached Shalane to a second place finish at the NYC Marathon. This in part occured due to Salazar's heart attack in 2007, but the addition has been quite beneficial to the project.
Ultimately, the project stands as a testament to not only what a good team can do together (versus training individually), but the effects of a single man's vision for positive change. The project has been hailed as one of the most innovative ideas in running in the twenty first century, and will hopefully continue to produce world-class runners for years to come.
So, how is Alberto like Charlemagne?
Brief summary of Charlemagne: Charlemagne was king of the Franks beginning in 768, and then was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800. During his reign, he expanded the Frankish empire tremendously into Western and Central Europe. In addition to his territorial advances, Charlemagne was also hailed for his contributions to the Carolingian Renaissance. His court, Aachen (pronounced Ah-ckin), was a center for learning. It became so renowned in part because it was a wonderful center for the liberal arts, and so people from diverse backgrounds and interests came together at Aachen. Charlemagne had to work very hard
to get Alcuin of York to come to Aachen. Alcuin was a well-known grammarian and litearay scholar, and adding him to the court enhanced Aachen's prestige. Other notable scholars included Theodulf (a Visigoth), Paul the Deacon (a Lombard), Peter of Pisa, and Einhard, who wro
te the first major biography of Charlemagne. These were the heavy hitters - the big writers of the age, and Charlemagne brought them together. Therefore, I submit to you
....The Carolingian Court Project
The idea came while I was reading David Bullough's Alcuin and Achievement in preparation for a final paper. Probably proof that it is the end of the semester, but there is a little bit of a connection. Both great men, great coaches if you will, and they put together great teams. Both are winners, and will certainly always go down in the annals of history, whether medieval or running.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Diagnosis: Celiac Disease, Prognosis: Hopeful

Friday night I got a call from my doctor... I have Celiac Disease. My aunt was diagnosed with it about a month ago, and so I had bloodwork done over Thanksgiving break. And the results are in, Celiac Disease. Apparently, my intestines cannot tolerate gluten -- primarily wheat products. One of the symptoms is fatigue. But that seemed pretty easy to attribute to other things: marathon training and being a full-time PhD student. That would explain it, right? Even when I get enough sleep, it doesn't always feel like enough. Perhaps this was why.
I cried a bit when I first found out. I kept thinking of things that I won't be able to enjoy: beer, donuts, pizza, cinnamon buns. Now, I hear there are some substitutions that can be made on some of this. But still - no more Blue Moon? Dunkin Donuts? But time for a reality check too. That was not the worst thing I could get a phone call about from the doctor. Holding onto that, and grateful that it wasn't anything else.
I have 2 weeks before I go home, and at this point, they say to just keep eating gluten, so that they can get an honest assessment of what things are like. So, I am not going to lie: time to drink and eat up. Might as well enjoy the last hurrah!
The American 10k Olympian Amy Yoder Begley has Celiac Disease. I just read an interesting article about her from Running Times. She was diagnosed in 2006, and she says that since she has found out, it has made a big difference. Her training has improved as she has learned what foods work best for her. And she also says the restaurant options for CD are growing (Outback Steakhouse - guess I know where I'm going). She said she has more energy now that she is not eating foods that are breaking down her body. "I’ve actually found that energy levels are much better during the day. I’m not having a lot of lows any more and I feel better,” Begley says. I think I have a new role model in the running world.
That is something to be really hopeful about. Have I only been operating on partial capacity the past few years? This is what I need to focus on (and not what foods I have to give up). Maybe things will improve a bit when I drop the gluten - more energy, new PRs? This is what I am holding onto.
As I learn more about this, I will continue to write about it - what foods are going out, what new things work. I would also love to hear from anyone who has made the switch - what foods become your go-tos during training?
Yesterday, I ran 3 miles in 25mph winds. That sums it up right now: fighting to move forward. Between the end of the semester, the diagnosis, and a knee that is still not feeling 100%, that was all I could do. But I still got out there.
And maybe I had 2 donuts this morning...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something needs to get engaged over the holidays...

Well, one thing is getting engaged this holiday season:

Yup, abs. I’d be smiling as big as Kara Goucher if my abs looked like that too. The thing that gets tossed away during time crunches – core work. Time to reel it back in and rebuild some muscle and strength. With a few weeks before Boston training truly kicks in, I’d like to build a good base right now and be strong and ready to go. Last night at the gym, I did my Roman chairs. 3 sets of 13 reps, and I repeated this throughout the weight session, for a total of 117 chairs. Yikes – not too sore today, but I think I also need to include some other core exercises as well, not just to work the abs. Swimming has helped too – it just stretches everything out so nicely. I’d love some recommendations on what people do for core work.
The 10k on Thursday really took a lot out of me. Didn’t run on Friday, and was sore during Saturday’s 10 miler (took Sunday and Monday off too). I think in part it is the combination of racing + the end of the semester – I am just a little bit worn out.
Nonetheless, I did do a short track workout this morning:2.5 mile warm up, then 3 x 1 mile repeats, starting at 7:15 and then knock off 5 seconds with each one (1 recovery lap in between each), 2.5 mile cool down for a total of 8.75 miles. Pouring rain, but that was not going to stop me. 7:13, 7:06, 7:00. It felt good to be on the track (first time since 11/9) and in the rain, felt like fighting through the repeats. I could have gone faster, but I am continuing to learn that it is not worth completely killing a track workout and have it zap you for longer than it should. So, I hit my times, dipped a bit faster than expected, so I’ll take that is a win!
I am doing one more 10k this year (Jingle All the Way in DC on 12/12). It was my hope to break through 45 there, but since I did that last week, I am hoping to set a new PR as well. This course (I’ve ran it the past 2 years) is flatter than Race with Grace, so I am confident that as long as there isn’t crazy wind like last week, I can probably knock off a few seconds. It would be cool to run 44:44 – just sounds neat. We’ll see.
While I did not run on Friday, it ended up being a banner day for training. I got up early with my dad to be at the gym to swim by 5:30. This was something we did a lot when I was at home training for Boston. I love it – the house is really quiet, the ride to the YMCA is dark but peaceful, and it is good father/daughter time. We both swim, and then go our separate ways for gym work. But then we always reconvene for the ride home. It is a wonderful way to start the day, and I am looking forward to having that as my routine in a few weeks. In the meanwhile, run, read, write, and repeat is the name of the game!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Race with Grace 10k 2010 PR - Very Thankful

Yesterday morning was the 20th annual Race with Grace 10k in Hilton, NY. I was hoping for a PR - I had been doing some 10k specific training in preparation for this and one more 10k in 2010 (year end goal: break 45 minutes). I ran this last year (46:35), and was happy to return to a course I have some experience with.
Was asleep by 11, and felt well-rested when the alarm went off at 6:30 (gotta love a late start - 9AM - for a short race). Played some of my psych-up music, and then Mark (triathlete bud) picked me up. It was good to see him, exchange teaching stories (he is a music professor), and catch up. As I keep running, I learn that I have better races when I can relax and joke around with someone beforehand. We got in a good warmup too. It was pretty cold - about 30 and the windchill was 23. But, was still going to wear my lucky Asics shorts. So we stripped down (I convinced him he needed to ditch the tights too), and with a quick hug to my parents, headed to the start.
And then there was the siren. Last year, I blasted through the 1st mile. This year, was still fast, but 7:04 was more manageable. I decided to ease up a little, it was also really windy, so I felt easy was the best way to go. 2 miles - 14:39. Right on pace for a mid 45 finish. Got to the 5k in 22:36 - 7:16 pace. At this point, I wanted to start making a move, but rather than picking it up a ton, decided to pick off a few people who were hovering around me. Holy crow, was it windy! I can't remember my 4 mile split, but it was at that point that I started to go back and forth with people. This was when it really started to feel like a race - it's much easier to push when you know you'll only be running for 15 more minutes. I decided to keep the gloves on a la Bill Rodgers (even though metaphorically this was when they came off). Then relief at mile 5 - just 1.2 to go. Was going back and forth with one guy (Steve - he had friends cheering for him), and he finally said "Just go!" So, kept going, and just aiming to pass and not be passed. Passed a few more people, and started to feel like, "Wow, I am moving along." Then, finally saw the 6 mile mark. No thoughts other than just go. Wearing my pink visor, it was easy for my dad to see me, and I could hear him yelling "GO GO, haul it in!" And so I did!
:-)And now I have a nice shiny new 10k PR
...44:56
I was so excited! I did not expect to run that fast. This is me with Mark, who finished in 50:x
x (he did his first full Ironman this fall and on Wednesday will start training for his second.
This is me with a friend of mine form high school - Jen. Jen ran XC in high school and college, and has always been both a good friend and a competitive runner. It's nice to know that we can still see each other every once in a while. And me with my two sponsors/supporters/fantastic parents.
It was a great race and a wonderful way
to kick off the day.I am blessed. I got to wake up in a warm bed, and eat breakfast. I was able to run a race, and finish in a time I am proud of. I got to finish with hugs from my parents, and then go home to see my brother too. I was able to talk to friends up and down the East Coast (and congrats to Jenny who ran a 31:48 PR in a 4 mile race) and to toast them in friendship. I had a lovely dinner with my family.
Very thankful indeed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting at the door

I love my little town, and I am so grateful to be home for a few days. I get pretty choked up at airports: they show mini snapshots of love and families. No one coming out of the gate is angry - there is always a sense of relief upon arrival. There is excitement, joy over seeing the people you love. Even if worn out from security lines, buses, crammed flights, all of that is quickly put aside. I was so excited to see my parents (hadn't seen them in 2.5 months) - the anticipation had been growing, and I was very happy to come home.
No, I did not have puppies waiting for me when I came home yesterday. But there definitely were at the door:
Beautiful new Asics with Raspberry/Lightening piping. I had some errands to do before I could run, and the sun was already down, but that was not going to stop me. Lots of clothes - it was about 30 mph winds, but I was going to get out that door.
Oh what joy to run in new shoes! It was definitely the old ones that caused the pain - this was a beautiful run. 6 miles, with some pick ups thrown in, no pain. I couldn't stop smiling the whole time, and isn't that how runs are supposed to be? No one could really see the smile though, cars were sparse in driving along the small-town roads. It was very peaceful - even though it was probably when most people were headed home, no one was around. My town is so pretty - it is definitely quite the change from DC. Trotting back to my street, I could see the light on at home. Mom was waiting with dinner on the table. Yum!
Ah, to be home. I did a 3 mile shakeout run this morning in preparation for the 10k tomorrow. I think I am definitely ready to PR again. Even with an off week, I think the excitement of the race will push me. No matter, I get to run with a friend (Mark - triathlete bud), and have my family there supporting me. Sounds like a good Thanksgiving to me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Patience isn't a virtue...it is a necessity

People have asked me what my running motto is, and I think that is it, Patience isn't a virtue, it is a necessity. At least for distance running. You can't go out and blast through the first half of a marathon...you'll only crash and burn. You can't just go out one day and decide to run 15 miles...you'll hurt yourself. Patience is a necessity.
And this week I have been reminding myself of my motto. If something is wrong, it is necessary to take it easy, be patient, and just wait. I am pretty sure that my knee issue has to do with the fact that I am way overdue for new shoes. I ordered a pair online, and they should be waiting for me at home in Rochester when I get home on Tuesday! Again, must be patient.
Monday: 1000 yards in the pool
Tuesday: 1000 yards, weights/core, 1/2 hour elliptical
Wednesday: 1000 yards in the pool, 1 slow mile on the track
This was hard - just one mile? But wanted test out the knee. Slow and easy did the trick, and better one than none.
Thursday: 3 easy miles
Friday: 3 easy miles, weights, 2 easy miles (wanted to do 5 miles for the day, but broke it up)

Today I ran 5.6 slow miles. It was harder to go slower - I knew I had the capacity to go a lot faster, but wanted to just take it easy and get some mileage in. Tomorrow, I will run 5-6 miles. I will take Monday off (probably will do weights + pool), and then fly home Tuesday (and break in the shoes). Will probably run 6 miles on Tuesday with some strides. If that goes well, I anticipate Thursday's 10k will go well too!

It's not easy to be patient, but I am learning. The pool has been great for me (changing things up has been good too). I could use more patience all around. I know I can't just crank out a seminar paper - I have to wade through the material, think about the possibilities, and slowly work my way through the paper. Slowly but surely, will write, will run, and make sure to have fun along the way!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fish Lesson 2: Choose Your Attitude

In August, I wrote about how much I have learned from the Fish Philosophy. I talked about one of the lessons: play. Obviously, that is the big fun one, but there are 3 other components that are also essential to the Fish Philosophy. I always find it amusing how they can slip into your life when needed.
Here is lesson 2:
Choose your attitude. Your attitude is your reaction to what life hands you, and only you can choose that reaction.
I had the great tempo on Saturday. But Sunday morning, I had to stop my long run at mile 6.5. The outside of my left knee had started to hurt, but by the time I got to 6.5, I knew I could not run any further. This is why I always carry my metro card! I took the train back. I was pretty upset about the whole thing - rarely do I ever have to cut a run short like that. The train ride felt really long, as did the walk home. I moped around the house for a few hours. What is this? What does it mean - what do I need to do now?
And then I found a little perspective. I don't have a marathon coming up - not for 5 months. I am probably due for some rest anyways, not just from running, but at this point in the semester, I am burning the candle at both ends.
So, after I sulked around, I realized I needed to choose a new attitude. I chose to be healthy and positive. Whatever this is, at least is an indication to take it easy. So, if this is the card I've been handed, what can I do?
  • I am taking a few days off from running. It is the downhill movement that really hurts, so I am just going to not run for a few days.
  • I am going to get on the ellipitical. Less impact, but I will still get the cardio benefits.
  • I will continue to lift weights - might shift the focus to upper body and abs and not put a ton of pressure on the knee.
  • I will ice.
  • I will be flexible about my 10k expectations for Thanksgiving. I am assuming a few days off will do the trick, but if not, I will be realistic!
  • I am going to get in the pool and swim.

The pool is definitely the best thing coming out of whatever this is. Until yesterday, I hadn't been in the pool since September 3rd. Thanks to my dad, Mark (triathlete bud), and Jenny (MCM partner and dear friend), I have fallen in love with swimming. I think it's great, and I have enjoyed all of the benefits of it. This semester, however, I just haven't been good about working swimming into my schedule. But now, I'm changing the game and making time for it! I was so happy to get in yesterday. I was able to stretch out my whole body, give my arms a great workout, and take pressure off of the knee. Plus, in following lesson 1 of the Fish Philosophy (play), 1000 yards was followed by handstands and flips. Fantastic and fun - the way exercise should be. I had a similar experience in the pool this morning, flips and all. Doing that alone isn't quite as fun (Jenny and I used to cannonballs and whatnot after our workouts in the summer), but was still a treat.

So, we will see what the next few days will bring. I will continue to follow the Fish Philosophy. And there will be more underwater fun for sure!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

From Tempo to pancakes

This morning I had to do an 8 mile run, with a 4 mile tempo run thrown in. It is a relief to have such a short tempo in there, because in marathon training, I have done 20 mile runs with 10-12 miles of tempo thrown in there. It is very tricky to hold on like that for so long. Today's tempo required to hold onto a faster pace, but only for 4 miles. Ended up starting at 8:00 pace, and worked my way down to averaging 7:30 pace. Was pretty pleased with how it went, considering it was hilly the whole time. No problem training with hills - the 10k courses are much flatter than what I train on. I am not the best at tempoing, even though I am good at track workouts. But today went well! Victory!
And coming back to make this for breakfast was good too!
Pancakes, bacon, coffee, and chocolate milk. Mmm. Ahhh, to bask in the post-run high and enjoy a good breakfast. Delicious. Now that I'm fueled up again, it is time to read and write about medieval literacy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

And it made my heart bigger

I'm really trying to hone in on my 10k training. Race with Grace 10k is just under 2 weeks away (Thanksgiving Day), and I want to run in the mid 45s. I'm tring to get amped, rev up, and focus in on my training. But this is a challenging point. There aren't that many daylight hours, and school is really picking up. Final papers and projects are due in a month, and just like the marathon, you can't prepare for them in a week. I need a decent chunk of time to do some research, methodical thinking, and then the daunting task of writing. So, as much as I would like to spend extra hours cross-training (or even resting), I just need to recognize that it's just not possible right now.
In that sense, I'm holding onto Boston training. Like last year, I'll kick off Boston training at home, right when the semester ends. I train really well when I'm at home. There are few traffic lights, lots of hills, good food, and good people. My dad and I can go to the gym in the morning before he goes to work, and then I can tag up later with Mark (triathlete bud) for my runs. I'll get a sneak preview when I'm home for Thanksgiving, and I'm holding onto that as well. But in the meanwhile...
Monday: 3 miles + weights
Tuesday: 3 miles in the morning. Afternoon track workout: 2.5 mile warm up. 2x800; 1x1600; 2x800. Do the first 2 800s in 3:32; aim to do the mile at 7:10; do the next 800 in 3:32, do the last 800 in 3:28.
Ended up running 3:32, 3:29 for the first 2 800s. Then 7:05 for the mile, then 2 3:26s. It was windy, but I held on, and even putting in the extra effort to fight the winds led to great times.
Wednesday: 5 hilly miles. I ran home from school, and was uphill most of the way. I am fortunate to have built in hills - no need to do extra training there!
Thursday: Off. Called an audible and decided to take the day off - an extra hour of sleep was worth it!
Friday: 5 hilly miles.
Saturday: 8 miles with 4 mile tempo
Sunday: 10-12 miles
Total: 43-45 miles
Today's run was hard with the hills. The route just goes up and down the whole time (an out-and-back course), climbing and descending at least 100 feet. And you know, I still felt tired today (I think I'm struggling with it getting darker earlier). But kept going and climbing. And in the end, doing the run made my heart bigger. If it was easy all of the time, there we be no challenge, and then where is the drive to keep pushing?
So, to slug it out, tough it out, and do it, generally yields positive results. I am pretty sure my heart grew a little this morning, and I'm hopeful that the hills and challenges ahead will encourage it to grow bigger!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Transforming the Dream

Jenny said that the whole thing was a surreal experience. And in a lot of ways, it makes sense. Running a marathon can be transformative in so many ways, and can mark a definitive shift in a person's life. So naturally, participating in the whole experience, the preparation, the travel, the pre-race rituals, and finally completing the 26.2 mile journey, can seem surreal, like a dream. But there is no waking up - this is reality, and the dream actually came true. So what now? That's a question we face post marathon. What now? How do I recover? How do I move on and what is next? Another marathon, a new time goal? But now that the dream has come true, it can transform us and lead us into a new direction. We’re both very excited to see what lies ahead.

Now that MCM is over, my eyes are turned to the 10ks coming up. I ran 191.9 miles in October - proof that double days really can bump up the mileage. I'll be doing a track workout tomorrow - my first in two weeks. Already, I'm excited - looking forward to cranking out a few fast miles.

I really enjoyed my long run yesterday: 10.5 miles. Recovery has been going well. Marine Corps didn't do the damage that the marathon normally does, so while I am still

taking it easy, I haven't felt as exhausted/broken down as I normally do. So, to run 10.5 a week after 26.2 didn't seem like a big stretch. My long runs won't exceed 12 miles for another 6 weeks, so I am just going to enjoy that these are "shorter" runs! This upcoming season is exciting - I love training in the fall, and I have high expectations that the next few weeks will help to continue to build a strong base.

Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” came on during my run, and I thought of the marathon, which was ongoing during my long run. It is one of my long-term goals to get into the New York Marathon via their qualifying system (3:22 is an automatic in). I was grateful that NBC did a 2-hour highlights special of the NYC marathon. What an exciting race. So sad to hear Haile Gebresaille drop out and then announce his retirement from running. But what joy on the women’s side. I was so excited to watch Shalane Flannagan make her debut. Her across-the-board talent (from 1500m to the half) set her up for a fantastic entry into the marathon. So exciting to watch her stay with the pack, and when it was cut down to three, hang on. 2nd place in NYC in her marathon debut – phenomenal. I was moved to tears – so proud to have her represent American women (she also won the USA Marathon Championship today) – stunning performance. In her post-interview, she said that the beauty of the marathon is "That you always want more," and I couldn't agree more.

Dreams to come true, and when they do, you don’t just wake up. You start dreaming all over again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Friendship at its finest: MCM 2010

Over a year ago a deal was struck and a promise was made between two friends. If I qualified for Boston, my friend Jenny would run a marathon. One goal was fulfilled, thus launching a new journey between two friends. I told Jenny I would train her and run the marathon with her. So, the past year has been spent togettingready for MCM 2010. In the course of a year, Jenny went from a new runner to marathon finisher. Amazing things can happen when the dream is there and two friends work together to make the seemingly-impossible a reality.Jenny and I started official MCM training while we were at our summer job.There, we started to build her base, but by the time the summer had ended, she had begun to figure out her stride. She learned how to run hills (a task when you’re from Florida) and how to find an even pace. She went back to Florida, to receive workouts from me, and to progress through the program. She went into double digit runs, ran through the heat, learned how to find the proper nutrition that worked for her, and even didthe notorious 20 miler. As friends, of course we talked a lot, but it was not the same as doing those runs together. Her husband, Sam, acted as her Sherpa on long runs, carrying her water and rollerblading by her side. The miles were laid, the foundation was built, she hit the taper, and the excitement began to build as we headed towards MCM.

Jenny arrived late into DC Wednesday and even though it was the wee hours of the morning, there was nothing but pure joy to see my dear friend. It was the thought of the happy reunion that often pushed me through the past few weeks, and in some ways, I had hung onto that. Hugs were there, and even though we were exhausted, talked until almost sunrise. Tried to spend the next morning lounging – even if we couldn’t sleep in, we could at least rest. Thursday we ran partFont size of the course (around the National Mall), and she was able to meet some of my DC friends and gain insight to my life as a medievalist.

Even though the schedule was busy, we were all about having fun as we palled around the city. On Friday we had lunch with a few of our friends from the summer job – it was good to catch up after 3 months. Then headed to the expo to pick up our numbers. We were interviewed for CSN Washington’s website, so there are now short videos of us talking about the marathon. We also went to the First Timers’ Dinner – a chance for new marathoners to meet one another, hear tips from experts, and learn more about the marathon.

Met some great people, and the excitement continued to build as the big day drew closer. That evening, her family (parents, husband, and 3 kids) came in, and to say we were giddy at that point was an understatement. There we were, carefree, skipping across Crystal City (where we stayed) to meet up with them. Now that the family was there, the reality set in. And the excitement just grew and grew.

Saturday morning we did a small “shake out” run in Crystal City. I think this is a great way to get ready and loosen up. It was hard to stay slow when we were so excited. We then went to the Museum of Natural History (3 kids, including 5 year old dinosaur fanatic Henry), which was awesome. The kids really loved it, and while it was crowded due to the rallies, totally worth it. However, by the early afternoon, fatigue had set in – as if our bodies wererealizing what was in store for the next day. Naps were in order, and we were very grateful to be able to sleep. We then had our pre-race dinner with her entire family: kids, husband, parents, and aunt. Jenny’s family is absolutely wonderful, and it was a treat to be included in the family dinner. After that, we headed back to our hotel room (all of the kids went with Sam, and we had a room to ourselves). This was fabulous – I never get to relax beforehand with someone else running the marathon. We talked about all of the training and all of the positive outcomes that have emerged from deciding to go through with this pact. Beyond health, it has brought us a lot closer, and we were closeto begin with. It was a great way to wrap-up our pre-marathon routine, and reflect on our friendship. So, we got ready for bed and just talked until it was time to go to sleep.

I beat the alarm by a couple of minutes, and set my iPod to play the “Chariots of Fire” theme to wake her up. All pumped up, we headed to a 7-11 for breakfast, and then took a shuttle to the start.

The line was long, but it was great having a bus drive us there: we were very excited to be on our way.

Took care of all of the logistics, and got ready to head to the start. Jenny was excited to see all of these people come together, and I was thrilled to have someone next to me, and at that point, the butterflies did set in for me. We hugged, and then the cannon went off!

What a rush to go under the arch and begin the 26.2 mile journey. The first few miles we just tried to find our pace amongst the mass of humanity. We settled in a rhythm quickly, and found our stride. Weather was perfect – sunny and high 40s (maybe a little cold for my Florida friend), and we were able to just watch the leaves change – the MCM course is gorgeous. We stayed right on 8:46 pace for the next few miles as we headed toward Georgetown. Still smiles abound, and we even exchanged a few stories. There is a point where you turn and suddenly bagpipes are playing – so beautiful, and definitely helped to push us forward. The hill in Georgetown was hard, but Jenny had some practice with hills in NY this summer, and took to it very well - I was very impressed. At this point, my Sherpa duties kicked in – I held her fuel and started to pass her stuff along the way. The hardest hill was over, I told her, as we descended downhill and out of Georgetown.

Running alongside Jenny meant checking in, making her smile, and doing everything I could to make her first marathon enjoyable. We then hit the middle miles, ran by the Lincoln Monument and then departed for Haines Point. This was a quiet part of the race, but hit the half in 1:54:23. At this point, I read Jenny a letter from her sister Mary-Beth, who had sent it to me a few days prior. I figured Jenny had worked hard enough at this point that she deserved some words of encouragement. Needless to say, it was a bit emotional, but gave strength to keep pushing. Wrapped around the Lincoln Memorial, and then headed through the Mall. Tons of people at this point, which was good as some fatigue set in. Turning around the Capitol was cold – the wind started to blow across. But at the Smithsonian Castle we saw Jenny’s parents, which not only was a lift, but meant I could drop off her jacket and my arm warmers with them. We continued on – single digits to go. The next big challenge was to“Beat the Bridge” at mile 20 – passing it means you are on track to finishing (if you don’t cross it in 5 hours, you get rerouted). Heading towards the bridge means we bade farewell to DC for the last time and headed back to Virginia. The crowds were growing louder as we approached the bridge – big cheers at this point. Then Jenny said, “Now this is the furthest I’ve ever run,” and that continued to be the thought – each new step was a distance PR. My friend Bettina saw us (she was running too) on the bridge and gave us a cheer –we needed a lift at this point. She was looking strong, and then was off again like a flash. All of a sudden, some cramps set in for Jenny, and so we walked about 100 feet, just in order to get things moving. But she was determined and unstoppable and suddenly we were running again. Whoever decides to yell “Only a 10k left!” is crazy – that is still a long way to go. But we broke it down, mile by mile, we would get to the finish. I bumped into one of my old RAs, Kyle, who was running (and it was his birthday) – yelled happy birthday, and then continued onward. We arrived at Crystal City, which was absolutely crazy (it was interesting to see that where we were staying all weekend suddenly became so crowded). And then just a 5k to go.

By this time, I was doing my damndest to do whatever I could to keep Jenny going and put one foot in front of the other: singing, cheering, yelling words of encouragement. I had been carrying my cell phone on me, and suddenly, I realized it was ringing. What? Her family called to see where we were, and I gave them the update, and said that we would see them soon.

Didn’t expect to take a phone call at mile 24, but that’s what the Sherpa did. Jenny and I even started to sing “Relax, go to it” as we were preparing to leave Crystal City – a good sign that she had regained her stride. We saw her family at mile 25, and pushed on. Her time goal was well within reach, and we just started yelling “Come on, come on!” as we plowed onward. Finally, mile 26 came up. There is a hill at mile 26 (which I couldn’t remember from my first MCM experience), but I’ll certainly remember it after this year. We pushed upward, closer and closer to the finish, less than 385 yards away. Finally, the finish arch was in sight.

We grabbed hands, ran and ran, and then finally, victory! 3:57:38

A sub four marathon on her first try, just over a year after starting to run. Absolutely amazing. We just hugged and hugged at this point – it was a very emotional finish.

I was so proud of her and so honored to be a part of this experience (still welling up as I think about it). How many friends can say they’ve run a marathon together? To be side by side the whole time, to share in the experience, the challenges, the victories, and the ultimate triumph, is a rare and treasured experience.

Legs were so stiff at this point – we sat on the ground waiting in line, and only scooted up the curb, rather than standing up.

Eventually, we met up with her family – a joyous occasion. It took a while, but eventually got a massage.

I was fortunate to bump into one of my MCM friends, Freddy, and his son, both who did a tremendous job. A one in a million chance that I saw him, and glad that I did.

After a lot of navigating, finally got back to the hotel and got cleaned up. Sleep did not happen, but at least we could rest our tired bodies. Lots of phone calls came in, wishing Jenny congratulations. Went out for a celebratory dinner at Ted’s Montana in Crystal City – burgers always taste so good after a victory like that. Jenny and I were so wiped, but we could smile and enjoy the moment.

Then it was back to the hotel, and I think we were asleep by 9 – the whole day caught up with us.

Monday morning was quiet – no one wanted to get out of bed. We checked out of the hotel and took the kids to the Air and Space museum for a last fun DC excursion.

The Mall was the quietest it had been all weekend – the city was finally deserted. We hobbled around as the kids looked at the shuttles and planes, and enjoyed our final hours together. With a lump in our throats, we hugged goodbye at the airport. It was the perfect weekend – wouldn’t have changed a thing.

There are photographs that show us running toward the finish line, hand in hand, shots of us after the finish, but none of it will ever truly describe the beautiful moments between two friends. It was an emotional, powerful, beautiful marathon – we were moved and humbled by the whole thing. A promise was made and fulfilled. In the end, it culminated in triumph over adversity, joy over fear, a journey and celebration of friendship at its finest.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Worthy Investment

In my historical teaching class, we've been talking a lot about what makes a good professor. There's a lot of qualities that we have agreed on, but one statement has been repeated throughout the semester, and it is something that figures heavily into my own teaching philosophy. A good teacher is one who makes an intentional investment in her students.
When you make a worthy investment in someone else's life, you do not know what the return will be, but you hope that it is a big one. You make the investment wanting to see that person grow and develop.
I've been fortunate enough to have a few professors invest in me in graduate school. This week, I am design the coursework for my final semester of classes. Because I have taken care of all of my requirements, there is a large degree of freedom. So, with two professors who are tremendous, I proposed independent tutorials: weekly one-on-one courses with each professor. This would give me a lot of freedom to pick subjects that interest me and have great discussions with my professors. Both were a-go for the classes, and their enthusiasm was phenomenal. One said that it would be "a lot of fun" and that we could work on a lot throughout the semester.
Okay, I realize it might not be everyone's desire to pick classes with a lot of reading, but when the subject material is good and the enthusiasm is there, that is a dream class. These professors have put a lot of time into my academic and professional development, and it has made a tremendous difference. Not only have I been able to grow a lot, it has continued to spark my passion for learning. It gives me a lift, a high, and makes school wonderful. I don't think it would've been possible without their choice to invest in me.
And this goes beyond teaching - we invest a lot.
I've made a major investment in running, and the more I invest in it, the interest is rising and I am getting a great return. 3 mile repeats yesterday: 7:11, 6:58, 6:51. But it goes beyond that.
This weekend is going to be a great pay-out: the Marine Corps Marathon. Jenny gets in in a few hours, and we'll have a few days to pal around before the race. But the race itself is a big bonus. The excitement is building, the big day is almost here - and I am ready to cash out!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I can't imagine life without running

Women's marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said that, and up until 2 years ago (almost exactly - first long run was 5 miles on November 1, 2008), I wouldn't have believed it.
A friend of mine from high school contacted me this morning, and it had been a while. She was always the athlete (swimming, softball, lacrosse), so the fact that I am now a runner is quite the switcheroo. Sara couldn't believe how things had changed, and to a point, I can't either.
Within a relatively short period of time, running has become one of the most natural things to me. I ran 5 miles this morning, and it felt absolutely glorious. Ran about 7:42 pace - on an easy day. I just felt like I could just go with nothing stopping me, and decided to let it rip - why not? It wasn't exhausting, it was just fun, as running should be. It was a perfect release - the weather was perfect, I took to the hills with ease, and it was just joyful.
I feel very blessed that I have the ability to run. With a few exceptions, my body has been able to handle the mileage well. I am blessed that I have figured out how to manage my time in a a way that allows me to run almost every day. It has lifted my spirit in so many ways - I always come back from a run feeling better than when I left. I have been able to work through some major challenges during my runs. Whether alone or with a buddy, it is an enjoyable experience.
To some degree, I know I am preaching to the choir. We've all fallen in love with running, and gather together to share our love for it. But surely we all had a point in our lives where running was unnatural or absent. And now that it's here, we can't imagine life any other way.