Friday, May 28, 2010

Five Things Fridays

5 things you may not know about The Medievalist... (usually the marathon goes in there - but that's pretty much a given in this blog). Thanks to RunMonkey on the Loop for distracting everyone on a Friday afternoon.
1) I have only chewed 3 pieces of gum in my entire life. The first was on my first plane ride. The second time, someone gave me what I thought was a hard candy and turned out to be gum. The third time, a friend wanted me to "try again." Nope!
2) I read faster than I can run. I have to read 60 books in preparation for my MA comps this summer, and I can crank through books faster than mile repeats.
3) My brother Ryan and I have a mole on the exact same spot on our left hands.
4) Chris Matthews and I went to the same college (Holy Cross). This is us at an alumni function after a HC basketball game (I went straight from the game, hence the sweatshirt, Chris came straight from work/TV, hence the fancy pants outfit).
5) When my brother and I were little, our mom taught us our phone number (no area code) to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." We thought it was so cool that our number fit in with the song. It wasn't until later that we realized that the song works with every number.
Bonus: Until college, I wanted to study modern American history. I even remember having the following thought in middle school "Nothing interesting happened before 1750." I was proved wrong!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You've got me begging you for mercy

You've got me begging you for mercy
Why won't you release me?
I said release me

I don't know what it is, but I have a small knack for motivating people to workout. At the very least, I have a few friends who don't want to disappoint me, so they show up to workout with me. One friend from school told me she would buy me breakfast if she was late to meet me to workout. After two breakfasts on her, it seemed to do the trick.
My friend Mark (the Ironman) asked me to "whoop his butt" this morning with a speed workout. Okay, I can do that. Thanks to all of my training, I have a variety of speed workouts that can whoop butt in many ways.
The heat is here in Rochester (it is in the low 80s), and while I know it is so much hotter in the southern parts of the country, it is still hot. We did a 2.5 mile warm up and I was already sweating by that point. Time for mile repeats! My plan was to start at 7:10 and knock off 5 seconds per repeat (and do at least 3). I told Mark to start at 8:00 and then would knock off 5-7 seconds per mile. My first mile - 7:08. Mark's 7:36. Too fast. I told Mark he needed to at least match that first mile for the second repeat. He did, and I ran 7:01. Unfortunately, the heat got the best of him and that was it for him. Definitely begging for mercy. I did one more at 6:53. We then ran home, and I gave some advice on speedwork. I know he is going to rock the next session. That's the thing - it is all a learning process. Even if you don't get it right at first, you'll take that experience and learn from it.
I need to work on my abs. I've started doing knee raises on this machine:
If only he was training me!
But seriously, strong abs means a better marathoner, so sign me up. My brother just got The Bender Ball and it comes with a few DVDs. I did the first one today - the core one. Aah! It was 18 minutes, and I yelped a few times at the end. My abs were definitely begging for mercy. I will definitely keep doing that a few times a week. Hopefully it makes a difference!

I don't know what this is
but you got me good
just like you knew you would

I don't know what you do
but you do it well
I'm under your spell.

You got me begging for mercy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

5 Mile Aurora House Race with Pace Report - A Homecoming

I came home Friday night after another year of grad school in the books. I am 2 months away from having my MA - just need to take my comprehensive exams this July. Moved out successfully and was very happy to arrive at home. I will be home for a month, which will give me some solid time to study for my exam and get some great runs in (and get back to the pool and weight room - oops). But I digress.
This morning was the Aurora House 5 Mile Race with Pace. I like races at home - my parents come (well, they come to the far away ones too, but a mile drive is a lot easier), I know a lot of the people who are running, etc. I did a 1 mile warm up around my neighborhood. I don't know what it is, but it is when I warm up that the butterflies set in. I feel like I'm puttering around and then I worry about my ability to hold a fast pace. Luckily, I am aware of that feeling and I know that the nerves tend to go away once I start.
I knew that I stood a good chance of placing, so I was trying to size up the other women. 3 women (myself included) stood at the front of the starting line, and when the gun went off, one went out in front of me and one was behind me. Definitely felt like I had a hometown advantage - a lot of it was on the Erie Canal, which I run on a lot. I went over one bridge, passed a kid who I had been running with, and mile one they shouted out 7:02. Oops! Too fast (that is my current 5k pace). There was a turnout at about 1.5 miles, and I could see that the first place woman was way out in front of me - time to let her go. I was comfortably in 2nd place. Although I could hear a man and a woman behind me. The man was talking and singing, which was good for two reasons. 1, I knew they were staying together and I hoped that would tire him. 2, I could hear how far away the 3rd place woman was. There were actually 3 water stations on the course - which was great because I just kept dumping water on my head. At the third water station, the Katz's (Mr. and Mrs. - I went to high school with their daughter Jen and she is an excellent XC runner) were there and they were cheering me on. That gave me a little boost and put a smile on my face. Then climbed the 2nd bridge at mile 4 - just one more mile to go. Again, this was a bridge that I was familiar with. I felt like I only took 4 steps to get up and over. This was a bridge that challenged me when I was younger, but not today. Going up the bridge, I could see that I had about 200m on the 3rd place woman. The guy in front of me was about 100 m ahead, so I really was running my own race. Made the final turn, and had about half a mile to go. So happy that the finish sign was huge and had a very clear idea of where it was. Finished at 37:00 on the dot. The picture my parents took was just as I was about to cross - so close to breaking into 36, but that is okay. Lots of people clapping - I was second woman! The overall female winner did it in 34:06, so there was no way I could catch her. We waited around for the award ceremony and I was able to catch up with a lot of people from my hometown. There were lot of people who I knew from high school, and so it was surprising for them to see me run (they all knew me as a singer and musician). Even saw my old music teachers, and my junior prom date (his dad was the race director). I ended up winning the open women's division, which was cool (a $25 gift certificate to Wegman's). It was a fun race and a great way to kick off my time at home!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Medievalist experiences a Renaissance

Every year in Kalamazoo, Michigan, there is a major medieval conference where 3,000 medievalists from all of the world gather for a 4 day conference. Those who study music, history, literature, theology, all come together to present research on various and sundry medieval topics. This was my third time going, and it was fantastic. It is refreshing to know that there are so many other people who have devoted their professional lives to researching topics in this field.
I gave my paper on Saturday, and must admit, the butterflies set in when the preeminent scholar of my field came in. I am still very new and young in this field, so I certainly wanted to make a good impression to this person who has profoundly shaped my own research. Once I started to speak, the butterflies settled. Every time I looked up, it seemed as if people were engaged in the topic and more important, no one was nodding off! At the end, there was time for questions and comments. I got a number of questions that I was able to field well (mainly they were things that I left out of the paper for the sake of time), and people came up to me afterward to shake my hand and congratulate me. The Preeminent Scholar came up to me afterward and said it was a good project and that he was impressed. I asked him if I could contact him in the future for questions and feedback, and he said that would be great.
There was a meeting of the organization which sponsored my panel later in the day, which I went to. They were looking for some graduate students to get involved, so now I will be helping them with editing their semi-annual newsletter (which includes short articles). They know that I don't really have any experience in that, but they said you just need a good pair of eyes. So that will be some good experience for sure. The professor who organized my panel told me that people told her that they enjoyed my paper and that "that MA student gave the best paper of the morning."
Needless to say, I am very pleased with how the conference went. I went to many great sessions and made a few good connections. I also brought a few classmates and they enjoyed their first Kalamazoo experience. And my paper gave me some confidence and assurance that I am on the right track and that hopefully I have the ability to make some impact in this field.
Honestly, I feel like I just conquered Boston all over again. For someone who can run marathons, I don't have the most confidence in my academic work. So, this was certainly what I needed. I feel refreshed, recharged and ready to dig into my research with confidence. It may not be a marathon high, but it was certainly a victory.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

5k report (and my mom's 5k report too!)

Yesterday I ran the National Police Week 5k in DC. I ran it last year because my friend Manan has a goal of running 50 races in 50 states (and DC) in 5 years, and this was his DC race. I enjoyed it a lot last year, so I thought it was time for me to go back and do it again, and hopefully get a new 5k PR. I also brought my friend Sean to run it - we've done some long runs together, and we actually met at a race last fall.
Man, I am definitely a marathoner by trade - it felt so fast (I haven't done a 5k since September)! The first two miles went well, and picked off a lot of people going up Captiol Hill (all that Boston training keeps paying off!). That final mile, I was just hanging on and waiting to see the finish line. Crossed in 21:53 - a new PR by 29 seconds! Very happy with that - and I think I need to do some more 5ks this summer to work on my short distance abilities. It is a completely different mindset to go from a marathon to a 5k. In the marathon, I settle into a groove and float for a while. There was no floating yesterday - just digging in the whole time. But that's good - I need to learn how to do that more and more. Again, I was very happy. I've been wanting to break 22 minutes for a year, and it finally happened!
My mom ran her first 5k yesterday at home. She was very nervous about it, but when I called after, she was so excited! She ran a 36:21 - very good for her first time. My mom also felt that maybe she could've run a few minutes faster, but she was afraid of crashing and burning. I don't blame her - I feel the same way! But the important thing is that she finished wanting to do another one, so we are looking to do one when I am home in the summer. She also said she got emotional on the final turn and could see the finish line - it is an exciting moment! So big day for the women in our family - 2 5k PRs, including a 5k debut. I am very proud of her that she did it - she just started running within the past year or so. It's amazing what the human body can learn how to do.
My dad sent me a few pictures of her from the race, and my first thought was "Wow, we look exactly the same running." Now, we look very similar to begin with, but that thought was further confirmed in the pictures:

Same genes for sure - same arms and everything. Like mother, like daughter. Happy Mother's Day to you, Mom - I'm honored that we run the same!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In Memory of Kim

On Monday, the head chaplain and director of campus ministry from Holy Cross (my alma mater) passed away from cancer. Not only did she work at Holy Cross for 25 years, she also was a graduate of HC (class of ’76 the first women’s class to go through the college). This meant that she devoted over half of her life to our school. To say that Holy Cross has suffered a loss is a severe understatement. Kim McElaney left a significant footprint on our campus. As the director of campus ministry, Kim created many programs that emphasized the importance of service and Christian responsibility to help others. But beyond her various campus initiatives, Kim was just a warm presence at Holy Cross and embodied all of the characteristics that we are taught to strive for at Holy Cross.

When I arrived at Holy Cross in 2004, I was a nervous freshman and felt overwhelmed by the challenges of college, both in and out of the classroom. By November, I was very stressed and concerned about my ability to successfully finish the semester. I had heard that some students would study at Campion House (the campus ministry building). Campion was an actual house, converted into offices, but also maintained a living room and kitchen for students to pass time in. So, when I was not in class, I would go to Campion and study. All of the chaplains would say hi, offer me a snack, and just listen to my day, my studies, my concerns. Kim was one of the first to do so, and her welcoming presence made me feel like I was at home – even though home was six hours away. No matter what, even if I was struggling through the day, I knew I could come “home” to Campion and things seemed a bit brighter. Kim would always greet me with a smile and a hug, and it made a major difference. When finals came along, my stress mounted, so I spent more and more time at Campion. I did feel at home – I would even bring slippers and put them on while reading in the living room. All of the chaplains would stop by and check in on me, including Kim, who I am sure had a lot on her schedule, but spent time with me.

I got through that semester largely in part because of Kim and Campion House. Things began to pick up, and I figured out my studying groove. Even when things became busy, and I couldn’t spend as much time at Campion as I would’ve liked, it was a comfort to know that was my go-to place. Kim, and the other chaplains were my go-to people. She made a significant impression on me, a young woman, and her compassion and kindness was something I wanted to emulate. In all of my years at Holy Cross, her actions always stood out, and I graduated in 2008 with love and gratitude for what she had done for me four years before.

In part, I think her passing is so sad because it is such a testament to how many people she touched. Since Monday, so many people have spoken out about her kindness and the profound impact she had on their lives. To know that her warm presence is no longer on the Holy Cross campus is devastating. One wrote in to say “The heart of Holy Cross is gone.” And I agree. Our school is devoted to being “men and women for others” and Kim was entirely for others.

Kim’s approach is why I want to go into higher education. She always sought to make Holy Cross a safe environment that stimulated students to grow. I think that is at the heart of education – students cannot learn in a hostile environment. She made it warm and safe, and because of that, I grew. It seems as if the best way to honor Kim and ensure that her legacy lives on is to teach and work with that same compassion.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


A lot of people have been asking me if I am still riding the high of Boston. I think there are 3 stages of post-marathon joy. 1) The initial joy that happens after crossing the finish line. At that point there is so much adrenaline pumping and you feel ecstatic. And barely able to walk, so instead of feeling the pain and physical effects of the marathon, you feel joy. 2) The homecoming joy. I think this lasts about a week. It's going home and seeing your friends and family and celebrating the victory you've been working for. Nothing can get you down at this point - you are still very much on cloud 9. 3) Content. I think this is where I am. The marathon is not a distant memory, but certainly a memory. No longer reduced to a shuffle, but back into running, even if only in the single digits. You're still proud of the victory, but it is now behind you and it is time to look forward.
I am using that content feeling to propel me into future running (and life) victories. I know that I can push hard and accomplish what I set out to do - Boston taught me that. It has fueled a new determination in me. It has made me hungry to keep pushing and see what I am capable of, both in the running sphere and in life.
I am running the National Police Week 5k on Saturday. I have an 8-month old 5k time to beat: 22:24, and it is my hope to break 22 minutes. I am starting to enjoy racing and running at a new level. I am looking forward to toeing the starting line and giving it my all.
Tomorrow, I am going to do a track workout (first one since Boston): mile repeats at goal 5k pace, to see how that feels. I am looking forward to standing on the track - I've actually been anticipating it for a few days.
I'm feeling hungry, and even a steak dinner won't satisfy that hunger.