Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us

- Thanks again Deena (opening line from Spirit of the Marathon).
I ran a hard 20 mile run yesterday - the first time in a running groups from the Pacers store. Up and down hills, through the wind, with fast runners. These were strong, solid runners - those who go to Boston on a regular basis, those with phenomenal PRs, those who run many many marathons a year, those who have run more than 16 months straight. I was the newest and weakest, and I didn't feel like that until mile 12 or so.
I finished in under 3 hours, close to 2:54, the fastest 20 mile run I've ever done, with the exception of the Marine Corps Marathon. I finished feeling quite tired, and concerned. It felt hard for a long portion of it, the hills scared me, and I began to doubt my abilities to perform well in Boston. I had an 8 mile recovery run today, and while last week, the recovery run was a piece of cake, it was more of a struggle today. More doubt entered my head. If I felt so tired, how was I going to run Boston successfully when I want to do it at a faster pace, and it's a harder course?
But then I had to remind myself of the bigger picture. But then I realized that these guys have been doing this for a while. It is okay to be tired - I came off of a hard track workout earlier in the week, and I am in the peak of my training. Instead of building to one big mileage week, Sarah is sustaining me in a long peak - and that is where I am. I will be more rested when it is time to run Boston. I will have the adrenaline of the race and the support of the crowd. And oh yes, this was my best 20 mile time.
So why was I so hard on myself? Was it because it felt so hard to push to get through the run? After my recovery run today, I put on Spirit of the Marathon. I watch that movie at least once a month, usually after a run, and usually end up falling asleep at some point. If you haven't seen it, it opens with Deena Kastor running, and she says, "Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most, define us."
It is good to be challenged. Looking back, sure it would've been great to run the 20 miles at a faster pace with relative ease. But where would my triumphant moment be? People are not often respected for their ability to simply breeze through things. Yes, we all respect and admire those who can effortlessly play music or sports, or do math - they have God-given talent. But we also give a great deal of respect to those who have endured and struggled in order to end up at the top.
No one runs a marathon because it's easy. We run the marathon for the great challenge that lies in front of us. Whether it's a tough workout or high mileage week, it is a challenge. It is a challenge to maintain a lifestyle that will help us prepare for this enormous event. The moment we get comfortable, we decide to up the ante and push further and harder. Because we pride ourselves on enduring challenges; that is a part of our history. We hail those who survived the harsh winters, the tough conditions, the adversity, and emerged on the other side.
While I've waxed historic a little, I really did have to think things through after the run. It was a stressful week last week, and this week is stressful with a paper and a Latin midterm. All of that can make a run harder.
But I will rise to the challenge!

Here's what this week looks like:

Monday, March 1: Swim

Tuesday, March 2: 2.5 mile warm-up; 4 x 800 meters, first 2, 3:53, second 2, 3:50 (1 lap jog between each interval); 4 mile run off track, should be a moderate pace, but not a hard effort; 4 x 800 meters, first 2, 3:45, second 2, 3:42. 2.5 miles cool-down. Total Mileage—14.5 miles

Wednesday, March 3: 9 miles easy

Thursday, March 4: OFF

Friday, February 5: 18 miles; first 5 easy, middle 8 at marathon race pace, last 5 miles easy run.

Saturday, March 6: 6 miles easy

Sunday, March 7: 8 miles easy

Weekly Mileage: 55.5 miles

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thanks, Coach!

The other day after a run, I was waiting in line to get some coffee, and the college's football coach was in front of me, whom I had never met. I had just finished an 8 mile run, and my face was still quite flushed. He asked me if I had a good workout, and I said yes, it was a good 8 mile run. He seemed surprised, and I said, yes, but I was more proud of my 20 mile run. He asked me my name, about my training and Boston, and if the race was going to be on TV. He then shook my hand and told me good job. Thanks Coach!

I met with Sarah last night. Not only does she design my marathon training schedule, she is excellent at Latin (quite the marketable skill). For class, I had to come up with a prepared translation about an attempted murder of a Roman emperor. After much help, I emerged with a better understanding of the passage, and hopefully a good translation. Once the Latin was pushed aside, we went back to talking about running. She asked about training, because she knows that my mileage has shot up in recent weeks. My first question for her was, "How hungry are you?" Thankfully, she told me she consumes about 3000 calories a day (we are running about the same mileage). What a relief, because my appetite has shot up along with my mileage. Sarah's been happy with how my times have been with my track workouts. She asked if I was feeling tired from the mileage increase. I was at first, but am slowly adjusting, which she said happened when her mileage went up too. Glad to know I'm normal. Thanks coach!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Speeding through the monster cycle, and thoughts a la Julie & Julia

I am in week 2 of my monster cycle. I had my speed workout this morning, which tends to be a good kick-start to my day. I was pleased with how it went. As soon as I got out and started running, the tension started to melt away. We had rain overnight, so there was still that nice post-rain feeling in the air that means spring is coming. 2.5 mile warm up, then I used my straightaway road for my track. 2 mile tempo run at 7:25 pace, then 8 x 400 aiming for between 1:48-1:52 for each one, with a minute jog in between. A few were too fast (1:44), but nothing went above 1:51, which was good, then a 4 mile cool down, for a total of 12 miles. Still felt strong during the cool down - the past few track workouts have totaled 14 miles, so having 2 less miles made a major difference.
Monday, February 22: OFF
Tuesday, February 23: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile tempo on track, first mile 7:50, second mile 7:35 ; jog 2 laps; 8x400 meters, 150 meter jog between each, 1:48-1:52 pace. 4 mile cool-down. Total mileage—12 miles
Wednesday, February 24: 6 miles easy
Thursday, February 25: 9 miles easy
Friday, February 26: OFF
Saturday, February 27: 22 miles easy, run easy the first 5 miles, average marathon goal pace for 12 miles, finish last 5 miles as easy run.
Sunday, February 28: 8 miles easy
Weekly Mileage Total: 57 miles
As soon as I got out and started running, the tension started to melt away. We had rain overnight, so there was still that nice post-rain feeling in the air that means spring is coming.
They announced the complete elite field for Boston today. The BAA has been dropping names since December, but the complete list is here. I hope that Ryan and Meb will be around that weekend at the Expo, as well as some of the other bigwigs. I know that Deena Kastor is running London the week after, but I'm hoping she comes to support her fellow Americans.
I got to thinking about meeting some of the big American marathoners last night after watching the Meryl Streep/Amy Adams movie Julie & Julia, which is just a fun and sweet movie. Julie is so full of admiration for Julia that she seeks to emulate her, and works her way through Julia's Master the Art of French Cooking and blogs about it. But she doesn't just write about her cooking experiences, she pretends Julia is watching over her and Julie tries very hard to be like Julia Childs.
I've sort of been doing that with my blogging about Deena Kastor. As it has become evident in recent blog posts, she is one of my biggest running role models. While I can't quite immitate her mileage or speed, I do try to be like her. She recently wrote about turning 37 in her blog, and I just think she has a great attitude about running and the joy of it. So hopefully she doesn't hate me or find me disrespectful. She is a teriffic woman and I would love to one day meet her. Here's to you, Deena - I lift my water bottle to you!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2 months to go - butterflies and my power word

I recently looked back at my old blog posts, and have always reflected on training with two months to go before the marathon. The first time around, I was full of butterflies, and had gotten a 15 mile run in. The second time, the butterflies were back in regard to BQing, but I already felt more ready than the first time.
Now I am two months away from my 3rd marathon. I wouldn't say I am ready to go, but I am already feeling prepared. The butterflies are back. I think there should always be butterflies in regard to a marathon. It's not a walk in the park - a little butterflies never hurt anyone. While hearing "Heartbreak hill" causes fluttering, the word "Boston" alone bring new waves of excitement.
I always have to remind myself what it's all for. I was at the gym for weight lifting and core work. During the final reps, when my abs started to shake, or my arms and legs started to tire, I had to say "Boston, Boston" to myself. I recite it during hard runs too, and I recited back when I was trying to get Boston as well. There's been some discussion, with the Kara Goucher article and others, about creating a power word to repeat during tough moments. Boston is my power word.
I had butterflies last night in preparation for my 20 miler this morning. I even dreamt about the run, and woke up at 1AM thinking about it. There is no doubt that I can do it - but there are butterflies. Butterflies aren't bad - there are two meanings of my name: one means "star" and the other means "butterfly."
Today was a 20 miler for me. I ran the first 7 by myself, and then met up with MCM RWOL Forumite Julie for the final 13. She is really sweet, and we just had a great time chatting, which made the miles fly by quickly. The great thing was, she had a Garmin, so we just ran and ran until it said we ran 13 miles. Toward the end, I knew we had less than a mile to go, but all of a sudden, she yelled out, "We're done!" We're done? Such joy and relief. Yes, I was starting to tire, but still had a little gas left in the tank. We hugged over our triumph - because who wouldn't be excited after a good run like that?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pacers Ambassadors Unite

Last night we had our Pacers Ambassadors program kick-off at the Pacers store in Clarendon. There are about 40 of us in the program from all over DC. This is excellent, we range from high school students, parents, those just starting to run, to those who run 50 mile endurance races. Lot of good runners, and a few who will be joining me in Boston too! I enjoyed talking to everyone and hearing all of their running stories. I'll be looking forward to seeing them at upcoming events. We also got our new running gear, which you can see modeled in the picture. I am near the right with the zip-up jacket, the men got black and green shirts, and the women got black and white shirts. They are nice dry-fit short sleeve shirts, which I can't wait to wear. And as one of the people said last night, I can't wait for it to be warm enough to wear short sleeves! You'll see me wear those in upcoming races.
If you're in DC and want to learn more about the store, the race series, and the fun run series, go to for more information. Stay tuned!
I have 20 miles on tap for Saturday. It's days like these where I do wish I had a constant running partner - even for 10 miles, the company would be excellent!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The medievalist takes a holiday, and returns to a tough cycle

I was fortunate enough to have my friend Melissa in town for the weekend. I met Melissa 4 years ago when I started working for CTY, and we've become good friends over the years. She drove down for the long weekend. Because we had had some time off from school, I was able to get ahead in my reading, which meant that I could actually take the weekend off from reading, and just have fun. What a novel idea!
My 10k was canceled on Saturday because there was still some ice. As bummed as I was, the race director made the right decision. I'll just have to redeem myself at a later 10k this year!
But not having the race just meant I could do a 10 mile run on Saturday and then reap the benefits by dining out all day.
We did lots of touristy-things, hitting up the Smithsonian museums, and going out to eat. On Sunday, we saw Henry V at Sidney Harman Hall in DC by the Shakespeare Theater company. A friend of hers is a fellow in the company, and so he got us free tickets. It was an excellent performance; the entire company did a great job. The set and scenery was great, the makeup team did a great job making the actors bloody during fights, and then clean them up. It was a great show, and I would highly recommend that people check it out. They are also doing Richard II at the same time (same actors), which I am sure is great too and would love to see.
Anyways, it was great to have her here and spend some quality time with Melissa.
And back to reality...
Sarah sent me my training plan for cycle 3 of Boston, which she said is "by far the toughest cycle." I believe it...

Monday, February 15: OFF

Tuesday, February 16: 2.5 mile warm-up; 6x1mile, start at about 8:00 minute pace and cut down 5-7 seconds per mile, 500 meter jog between each rep; 4 mile cool-down. Total mileage—14 miles (***if you can’t get on a track because of the snow, just try to replicate the workout on the roads. So, you’ll have to judge it a bit by effort, but aim to do 6 x 8 minutes on the road with about a 2-3 minute rest)

Wednesday, February 17: 6 miles easy

Thursday, February 18: 9 miles easy

Friday, February 19: OFF

Saturday, February 20: 20 miles; run easy the first 5 miles, tempo at average marathon goal pace for 10 miles, finish last 5 miles as easy this run.

Sunday, February 21: 8 miles easy

Weekly Mileage Total: 57 miles

So, this morning was my speed workout. The track still has a lot of snow, and the gym doesn't open up early enough to run on the treadmill, so I made a makeshift track. I found a 1/2 mile straightaway with a slight hill and used that for my mile repeats. It went really well, and was nice to only have to do one big turn per mile. I pretended I was Deena Kastor (again, can you tell that she's my role model?), because I've read that she does her speed workouts on the the road as well. I think it was slightly less than a mile, but I started at 7:45 pace and went down to 7:14 pace. Woo! I'm taking that as a good sign, and that my training is paying off. The final 2 mile repeats were tiring, but I think that's when the mind needs to take over. You can coach yourself through a mile and break it down into segments, and that's just what I did, and that's how I got through those last 2 repeats. The adrenaline kicked in and I felt like I was flying. That's the best feeling, and that's why I love running in the morning; it really does kick-start my day in a good way.

I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, as well as some of the events throughout the weekend. The Olympics are so inspiring in a number of ways; watching all of these countries come together, watch people triumph over their dreams, etc. The Olympians are amazing: how they train, how they eat, and their dedication and attitude toward their sport - those are all things to emulate. I'll never be on an Olympic team, but I think like an Olympian and dream like one. Boston is my Olympic dream, and I'm only 9 weeks away from being there!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The medievalist's speedwork playlist - no Gregorian Chant here

So, Runner's World frequently reveals various top-runners' iTunes playlist, and they give a little explanation of why they listen to that kind of music. Well, Runner's World hasn't contacted me yet for my top picks, but I thought it was time to reveal my go-to playlist:
Oh, and they always show an action shot of the runner, so here's mine:

It's the End of the World as We Know It - R.E.M.
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Tunak Tunak Tun - Daler Mehndi
Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
Sandstorm - Da Rule
Acrobat - U2
In the Navy - Village People
Pump It - Black Eyed Peas
Animal City - Shakira
Let's Make Lots of Money - Pet Shop Boys
Defying Gravity - Wicked Soundtrack
Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners

And now for the explanation.

I listen to a wide variety of music when I run. On my long runs, the ones that take a few hours, I like to start with classical music because it keeps me relaxed and steady as I get moving. Top picks for that include Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Bach's Magnificat, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. But that's for slow and steady. You need a different mindset and mentality for speedwork, which is is why I listen to the music listed above. Songs like It's the End of the World as We Know It and Brown Eyed Girl are great for first intervals - they are upbeat, but not too intense. Then Tunak Tunak Tun (CTY canon song that is just epic...and I know how to do the dance) is great for a mile repeat when you need to push hard. Crazy followed by Sandstorm was what I used to set a mile PR; back to back they both are fast-paced with no rest. Acrobat by U2 is good during recovery laps, to slow down and be steady. In the Navy is one of my go to songs - it can always pick me up during a work out (especially when they do the "They want you" chant - I pretend I'm getting recruited). Pump It recently got added - I am loving Black Eyed Peas more and more, and I wish I could sing and dance like Fergie. Animal City may not be one of Shakira's well-known songs, but it is my favorite (my friend from college Rob and I used to play it as a pump up song when studying for music history). Let's Make Lots of Money was the theme song to Beauty andthe Geek (a reality show), and is great for the home stretch. Defying Gravity from Wicked is also great, especially toward the end (when Elphaba flies) and a great way to finish up.
And that's what I listen to when I run!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cabin Fever

I am in DC, which means we've been getting walloped with snow. Or rather, the city is getting walloped, and I, being from upstate New York, know how to deal with it. School was closed Friday, and it was closed yesterday, and it's closed again today. It could be closed again tomorrow, as we are supposed to get even more snow.
When they announced the snow day on Thursday night, there was a big sigh of relief and I felt like a kid again. Freedom! Freedom!
Then the snow kept falling over the weekend. I was so glad that I did my long run in advance, and I've been doing the rest of my runs on the treadmill. Sunday, the Super Bowl was even more exciting because we knew by halftime that we would not have school on Monday. On Monday, I went to the library to work on my Latin and got a lot done. During a meeting Monday night, they announced that school was closed again.
And here we are today, Tuesday. Thank goodness I had a 9 mile run today. That helped me to blow off some steam. But yes, I think I have cabin fever. I want the roads to be clear so I can run outside, and yes, I want to go back to school. I like school, that's why I went onto graduate school. So it's weird to be working but not going to classes. The snow needs to stop - the race director said they might cancel Saturday's 10k if we get walloped again.

Tuesday, February 9: 2 miles warm-up, Fartlek, 10 x 90 seconds hard, 2 minute easy run between efforts, 2 mile cool-down. Total mileage—about 9 miles

Wednesday, February 10: cross train

Thursday, February 11: 6 miles easy

Friday, February 12: OFF

Saturday, February 13: 2 mile warm-up, Race By George 10K (break 46!), 2 mile cool-down. Total mileage—10 miles

Sunday, February 14: 7 miles easy

Weekly Mileage Total: about 32 miles

Here's to a break from the snow and a return to normalcy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trying to be more like Deena Kastor

Deena Kastor is to be admired for a number of reasons: she holds the American record for both the half marathon and the full marathon, she has an Olympic Medal, she has won in Chicago and London, and the list goes on and on. But there are other reasons too.
For the amount of work she puts in, running 100+ miles a week, time in the gym and the pool, and equal amount of time goes into recovery.
In a Runner's World interview when she was getting ready for the 2008 Olympic Trials, she made the following comment,
Sleep is huge for me: I take a one- to two-hour nap daily and get eight to 10 hours nightly. When I'm awake and training, I expect so much from my body, so I really need to let it rest as deeply as it works.
Now, this is her career, so of course she is going to spend virtually all of her time focusing on it. And the rest of us just don't have the time to sleep that much, we can try try to be a little more like Deena. She is my running role model, so I'll do what I can to follow what she does as much as possible.
I have realized more and more that I run better and recovery faster when I get a good night's sleep. The night before my 20 miler, I only got about 5.5 hours of sleep. The night after, I got 9.5. Then, I ran an eight mile recovery run, and by mile 1, the soreness and stiffness was gone! I do think a big part of my success was the sleep.
Yesterday was a snow day (as we were in the middle of Snowmaggedon, as Obama has called it), which I really needed. I still did a lot of work and reading, but it was great to just do it from home and without interruption. Today I lifted weights, again after a full night's sleep, and it felt fine. I have another goal: to do 200 pounds on the leg press by the end of the year. I am currently at 165, so if I had 5 pounds every 6 weeks, I should make it.
Anyways, I took a nap after that (it is the weekend after all, gotta put down the books for a bit), and awoke feeling fresh. I've got a 9 mile run tomorrow, and am starting to look forward to my 10k race next Saturday. Weather is supposed to be good (mid thirties), and I'm very excited. Looking forward to the super bowl tomorrow (although really just excited about watching the game at a friend's house and the food - but I will say Go Saints!). Here's to a good game, and good commercials too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Biggest mileage week ever, and time to go to runner's confession

Well, January was a big month. I ran 201.5 miles, a new personal record for me as far as mileage. Looks like I should definitely be able to run 2010 miles in 2010. This week is my peak week in my 4 week training cycle, and I am definitely looking forward to the light week next week (plus, it calls for some cross training, and I haven't been in the pool for 2 weeks...oops).
Monday, February 1: OFF
Tuesday, February 2: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile tempo on track, start at 2 minutes per lap then cut down 2-3 seconds per lap. 4 mile run off track, should be a moderate pace, but not a hard effort; 8x400 meters, keep the first 4 at about 1:50 or so, try to do the next 4 1:45-1:48, jog 200 meters between each rep. 2.5 miles cool-down. Total Mileage—13.75 miles
Wednesday, February 3: 6 miles easy
Thursday, February 4: 9 miles easy
Friday, February 5: OFF
Saturday, February 6: 20 miles, first 5 miles easy run, middle 10 miles at marathon race pace, last 5 miles easy run.
Sunday, February 7: 8 miles easy
Weekly Mileage: 56.75 miles
Anyways, I think I'm starting to feel the effects of training. I am learning how to adapt to long track workouts that take hours, run 8 miles after having run 18 the day before, etc. It's going to make it a lot easier for me to push through a 10k than it was 2 months ago. I'm running the By George 10k on February 13, and feeling pretty confident that I can break 46 minutes this time.
I am also am just starting to get a little more tired. Not during my runs, but later in the day or the next day. It's nothing of concern; it makes perfect sense. If I get up at 5:45 and run almost 14 miles (most of them hard), I will naturally be tired later. Obviously, I know what I need to do: snack throughout the day and get more sleep when possible. Which brings me to my next point.
I knew that Groundhog's Day just happened, and while I know that he's been "right" most of the time, it doesn't really matter to me. I'm from a cold climate, so being in DC makes winter seem, almost springlike. But I am looking forward to days when the sun is up and out for longer. It's not even out for 12 hours - and I definitely work better and run better when it's daylight. But it's also the point in the semester where the work is starting to pile up; and I've actually been ahead of the game.
What's my solution? I am going to Florida in 4 weeks to visit a good friend and her family. I cannot wait. It's beyond the fact that I'll spend a week in warm weather and in the sun. It's that I can get off the plane, and have 5 year-old Henry give me a big hug, in the way that only little kids can do.
In anticipation of the snow storm we're going to get in DC on Saturday, I did my long run today. Yep, 20.5 miles! The weather was good: 30 and sunny, and no problems on the run. I went into Virginia a bit, which I hadn't done since October, so it was nice to go over the Roosevelt bridge (seen here). I went nice and slow, and just focused on the hills (elevation ranging -5 to 300 feet) and staying strong.

Time for confession: I don't think I ate enough yesterday in preparation for today's long run. To be fair, I didn't think to switch my schedule and do my long run until about 11PM last night. But while I got through the run fine and took my 3 GUs as needed (which helped), it was not enough. I had lunch: steak and a baked potato from the cafeteria. But then an hour later, I was still ravenous! So, I grabbed another meal, yes, you read it, another steak and potato lunch to eat later, which I've already done. I still am looking forward to dinner with great gusto!