Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The medievalist's insomnia

Three weeks before Boston
The Medievalist couldn't sleep
Thoughts of the big race danced around
Hindering her from counting sheep.

She tried to relax and ease her mind
Freeing it from the work of the daily grind
But words like "Natick" and "Wellesley" kept ringing through
Reminding her of a real-life dream about to come true.

The bib number is in - 1-6-5-5-2
Which puts her near the front of Wave Number 2.
Relax - the taper is in sight!
Just a few more days of a hard-fought fight.

These racing thoughts are not ones of doubt
There's no reason to worry, certainly not to pout
But must stay calm - many days still lie ahead
Which is why it is so important to go back to bed.

Hopefully dreams will come soon -
If she dreams come of Ryan Hall - certainly she will swoon
For they're both en route to Boston to fight the good fight
And will cross the finish line - victory is within sight!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

A healthy mind in a healthy body.

Roman poet Juvenal wrote this in the last 1st century AD in one of his satires. Actually, he wrote, orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano (One should pray that the mind is sound in a sound body).

While ASICS may have a monopoly over the quote these days, I cannot emphasize enough how good of an idea it is. When I was in college, I did not run much. It was definitely an optional thing in my mind, and while I enjoyed it when I got out, it did not always seem to me like I had the time for it. Sleep wasn't really a priority either - work had to get done. I never pulled (and still have not) an all-nighter (and am very proud of that), but a full night's sleep only came on the weekend.

And then running came back into my life when I entered graduate school. I quickly learned that good runs only happen after good sleep. Generally, whenever I've really slogged through a run, it is because I did not get enough sleep the night before. Of course, there are times, like when I am at CTY (beloved summer job) that a lack of sleep is inevitable. But all in all, I've realize how much more I can thrive in both running and working when supported by good sleep.

Running has helped my mind as well as body. I think really well while I run; I plan out papers in my head or practice presentations on long runs. I come back with a better sense of what I need to do, and then I furiously write down everything that went through my head. I work out problems concerning work, school, and everything else.

Running gave me a confidence that I do not think I had before. After I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I realized "Wow, I just did something that most people cannot do." I guess I can do some things (which was I used to tell my Latin teach last year when he was surprised when I got a translation right). If I can go out and run 20 miles on any given Saturday, and have only been doing that for a year, surely I can be a good historian and writer. I tend to be very critical of my abilities as a medievalist, and often worry if I am talented enough for this field, for it is a tough one. I have to remind myself that I can do these things - write research papers, translate Latin, present my research - after all, I can run marathons! And when I think about that (and that my professors told me that they admire me for running - they admire me? They are the ones I look up to), I get the confidence I need to go out and be a medievalist.

Last year, when I went to the big medieval conference at Western Michigan University, I bought a button that had "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano" on it. I clipped it to the lanyard I had to wear while I worked at CTY, in order to remind me that that is the way to live. Juvenal was right, we all should pray for a sound mind in a sound body.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I love my guards

I've written before about the kind basilica guards. They are always there when I finish my runs here in DC. I grew quite attached to Peter, who used to hug me at the end of each run, even when I was all sweaty. Unfortunately, he was transfered to another location on campus, so I've only been able to see him a couple of times this year. Fortunately, I have made some new guard buds, particularly one named Burnett. He too is very kind, shakes my hand after, and is a joy to see when I round the bend for my last 100 yards of a run. Today Burnett gave me a big hug, and pointed me out to one of the other guards, who apparently saw me charging up one of the bridges this morning. I was in a particular high after today's track workout. Not only did I get through it 3 days after the half marathon, but came in a few seconds under expected times:
2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile tempo on track, first mile 7:45, second mile 7:25; jog 2 laps; 8x400 meters, 150 meter jog between each, 1:45-1:50 pace. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage— 10 miles Ran the first mile in 7:44, overall 15:05 for the 2 mile tempo. Then for the 400s, 1:46, 1:47, 1:48, 1:43, 1:46, 1:46, 1:43, 1:42.
It was hard, the lactic acid was building up during the 400s, and it was hard only having 150 meter jogs in between. At the end of Chariots of Fire, there is a part when the American coach says that rigor mortis sets in after 300 meters, but Eric Lidell goes on to triumph. I had to just keep picturing him in victory during the last 100 meters. Seems like it worked!
Anyways, I was pretty pleased that despite the soreness that still remains from Saturday, I successfully completed the workout. The body is an amazing thing! I went swimming yesterday, and that definitely loosened me up.
But I keep digressing. It was excellent to see Burnett and his guard-friend today afterwards. He called me a "true athlete." I never would have described me as that until recently...funny how things keep changing. It was great to see them after.
This is week 2 of cycle 4 for Boston.

Monday, March 22: Swim

Tuesday, March 23: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile tempo on track, first mile 7:45, second mile 7:25; jog 2 laps; 8x400 meters, 150 meter jog between each, 1:45-1:50 pace. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage— 10 miles

Wednesday, March 24: 6 miles easy

Thursday, March 25: 9 miles easy

Friday, March 26: OFF

Saturday, March 27: 18 miles easy

Sunday, March 28: 6 miles easy

Weekly Mileage Total: 49 miles

Less than 4 weeks to go. The half marathon lit a new fire in me - I enjoyed really digging in and not just using my legs, but my head to run. Everything I kept repeating to myself, "Relentless fighter" "Pass that dude" "No mercy" during the half, worked. And "kick" was the mantra for today's speed workout. This is just as much as a mental challenge, and requires practice too. I think I'll stick with being a relentless fighter on my way to Beantown!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

National Half Marathon Report (1/2 Marathon PR)

Way too jacked up on adrenaline to sleep, so here is my race report!
Well, the sunshine all week and warm weather were good indicators that this was going to be a banner race. I was a little concerned that it was going to be too hot (studies have shown that performance decreases above 55 degrees), but it was 50 at the start. But I am getting ahead of myself...
Yesterday was the Expo, and they had Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers as speakers in their lecture series. Both gave great advice, not just about running marathons, but how to live life as a runner. When asked about her diet, Joan said "I am on a seafood diet. I see food, and I eat it." Good to know that she eats a ton too! She talked a lot about passion and desire - those are things that can't be instilled in someone, you have to feel that yourself. Joan stressed the importance of running your own race, and not anyone else's. I met them both after, and they signed my bib. Bill Rodgers wished me the best for my Boston debut, and was really encouraging. That is what is so great about this sport; you can meet the greatest runners and they are very down to earth and are inspiring people. Also spent some time with Brian, my MCM friend, and it is always good to see a friend before a big race.
First thought of the morning: I was so happy to fall asleep by 9:45 (that takes training too) and that I fell back asleep immediately when I woke up in the middle of the night. I am starting to get that down pat. I took all of these things as good signs and got pumped up. Played all of my psych up music, did my stretching, and then headed downtown. Metro was a little slow, but made it just in the nick of time. Here's a picture of the metro - the only time runners rule the metro!
And then we were off! Decided to not even wear arm-warmers at the start, so just a blue tank top and my trust blue Asics shorts. First mile was incredibly slow, about 40 seconds slower than goal pace. Nothing scarier than starting 40 seconds behind, and feeling like I need to "make up time" at the beginning of a race. It took about 4 miles, and finally I was hitting my splits (which I carried a band with them written down in my pocket). Phew! Started to heat up a little at that point, so I just kept dumping water on my head at every water stop. Tried a new trick: did not carry my own gatorade with me this time - just took it at the aid stations. Might keep doing that; it was nice to have my hands free. Crowd support was excellent - someone yelled "Looking good, Blue" and that kept me going for a few miles. I had decided that this was going to be an aggressive race, so I just kept finding people to pick off. My power phrase for the race was "relentless fighter" (which I wrote on my band) and just kept that phrase in my head the whole time. There were some strong runners, so I chased after them. There were a bunch of hills from miles 4-9, and since I practice on hard hills, I knew I was going to pass some people there.
I have to say, (obvious statement), a half marathon is so much faster than a marathon! Before I knew it, it was mile 10. Just a 5k left. Then 2.1, and then 1.1. It was at the 12 mile marker that I started to feel tired, but I knew I was only going to be running for less than 9 minutes at that point. I started to pick things up a little more at that point, finding those final people to pass. Then the finish line appeared - there is never mercy at that point! I flew down the chute, passed a few more people, and then crossed the finish line.
Official finish time: 1:39:30
And here are my other splits/results:
Overall: 622/6249
Division results: 26/571
Sex results: 10k split: 45:59 (new 10k PR)
Overall pace: 7:36
:-) Relentless fighter!
Almost a 4 minute PR. I was really happy, because not only did I break my 1:40 goal, I had 30 seconds to spare. I never felt too bad, and this makes my 3:35 Boston goal seem much more attainable. And that is the next stop! I met up with MCM forumites Eileen and Julie after, and we were all just so happy with the race.
What a great day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recovery is Easy in Florida

We had a week off from school for spring break, so I went to Florida to visit a colleague and friend of mine, Jenny. We met last summer at CTY and really hit it off. Now, she is going to train for her first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon - and I am going to run it with her. Anyways, she has 3 kids, ranging from 5 to 13, and I haven't seen them since early August, so I thought a trip to Florida was a great way to spend spring break. It was also my recovery week in cycle 3, which was excellent timing.

I was definitely right! What a great vacation - best one I've been on in years. We got some great runs near the beach (see first picture). Spring was just around the corner in DC, but it was mid 70s all week in Florida. It felt great to have shorts on all day!

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So yes, this is 5 year old Henry, who calls me his girlfriend. He was over the moon that I was there for a whole week, and had a lot of fun introducing me to his teacher, friends, cousins, and even other kids on the playground. This is him getting ready to go to the beach. He is so sweet, he said "I love you, Vanessa" every day and gave me lots of hugs. What a heart breaker.

blog post photo

This was me at the beach on Wednesday.
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Thursday, Jenny and I went out to dinner.blog post photo

She is a really good person, and I am so fortunate that we met last year and made a great connection. Jenny also has a great family. In addition to Henry, she has 2 kids, John and Maddy (13 and almost 11), who are wonderful, as is her husband (who is a high school history teacher - so we have a lot in common). I just felt really comfortable at her house, and her extended family is great, too. On Wednesday, she had to work, so her dad (who I had just met a few days before) picked me up, took me out to lunch and to the beach!

All in all, a great vacation. Very relaxing and just fun to be a part of someone's family for a week. Went to soccer games, picked up Henry from school, helped with spelling homework, etc. It was just what I needed. Just good clean fun - a lost art. Lots of laughs and smiles all week.

Now back to reality. But I am holding onto that vacation high for a while. My eyes are turned forward, for the National Half Marathon is on Saturday. I am very excited about it - my first race of 2010, and hopefully a testament of how well training has been going. It is my A goal to break 1:40, so hopefully that happens. Here's what I'll be doing to get ready..

Tuesday, March 16: 2.5 mile warm-up; 1x1200, 1x800, 4x400; aim for 5:40, 3:38, and 1:44 (for all of the 400s); take 1 lap easy between each interval. 2.5 mile cool down. Total mileage—9 miles

Wednesday, March 17: 6 miles easy

Thursday, March 18: 9 miles easy

Friday, March 19: OFF

Saturday, March 20: National Half! 2 mile warm-up, Race (goal: sub 1:40), 2 mile cool-down. Total mileage—17 miles

Sunday, March 21: 8 miles easy

Weekly Mileage Total: 49 miles

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Okay, yes, I hoped the title would help get a few more hits. No, Mom and Dad, don't worry, I did not get married.

A lot of my friends who do not run regularly ask me how I have the time to run amidst everything else. In part, I refer to my previous post about how training gets done. But in some ways, it goes beyond that.
I am single. Most of my friends in grad school are involved, and their free time is spent with their significant others. So at the end of the day, when work is done, they have a nice dinner together or watch a movie. And the weekends mean date nights or trips away together. I get it, I get it.
Running is my husband. I was first introduced to Running when I was in middle school, and we really hit it off. Then I wasn't sure how much I loved it, so I decided we needed a break. 10 years later, we met again in DC and decided to take the next step - a marathon. This was a big step, we started spending lots of time together, almost every day, and even big dates on the weekends. My friends knew it was serious - for I started to talk about Running all of the time, and always with a smile on my face. When I crossed the finish line at the 2009 National Marathon, I knew this was the real deal. I felt happy when I was with Running, and it seemed as if that wouldn't change.
So while my friends might not understand how it's possible, I do. I made a commitment to love to Running, and we'll spend the rest of my life together.
I promise to be faithful, to wear the right sneakers, to fuel up, respect the distance, and enjoy the runner's high. I take you, Running, in long runs and speed workouts, in treacherous weather and sun, until death do us part. This is my solemn vow.