Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Rave Run

At my summer job (camp for gifted kids), we have a dance every Friday night. One of the traditions is that the kids "rave," meaning they swing around glow-sticks during "Sandstorm" by Da Rude. They're pretty good at it (after all, they are talented), and it is very cool to watch. I decided to swipe a few of their glow-sticks (they throw them up in the air after they're done) for this morning's run.
I am starting to find a certain thrill about early morning runs. There's something exciting about beating the sun and beating most of the world out of bed. I am catching people on Friday night while I am starting Saturday morning. I started this morning with glow-sticks on my wrist. Fluorescent green and purple illuminated the path as I commenced my 20 mile journey. As light began to dawn, I definitely had found my stride. It was so cold out! 50 degrees - perfect running weather. Wore my arm warmers for a few hours - I haven't done that since March. Then picked up my friend Jenny after I ran 13. We set out for our 7 together, and it really helps to break up the run like that. It was so beautiful outside, we ran up and down so many hills, and at one point, the way the sun was coming up was absolutely breathtaking. You can't start a day better than that. We finished a la Rocky, victorious and running up the stairs to our office.
Between the 2 of us, we covered 27 miles, and it felt good. Sure the legs are a little sore, and we may wince when sitting down today, but there is definitely a smile beneath that groan.
If I can bang out a 20 miler with 4 hours of sleep, and use the phrase "bang out a 20 miler," something must be clicking.
A beautiful morning, good mileage, great company. Definitely a rave run.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running into the hard cycle

This week starts cycle 3 of Rochester Marathon training. As Sarah (my training coach) prefaced, this is the hard cycle. And so, in opening up the schedule, I expected to feel that somewhat familiar sense of butterflies and nervousness about the 4 weeks ahead. But...that was not the case when I saw the schedule.

Monday, July 26: aqua jogging, elliptical for 1/2 hour

Tuesday, July 27: 2.5 mile warm-up; 6x1 mile, start at 7:25 minute pace and cut down 5-7 seconds per mile, 500 meter jog between each rep. 4 mile cool-down. Total mileage—14 miles

Wednesday, July 28: 6 miles easy.

Thursday, July 29: 9 miles easy.

Friday, July 30: OFF

Saturday, July 31: 20 miles easy

Sunday, August 1: 8 miles easy

Total Mileage: 57 miles

Wait, this is the hard one? I was talking it over at breakfast this morning with Jenny and trying to figure out why it doesn't seem so hard.


I've been training while prepping for comps, and I think that absorbed some of the stress of training.

I've been training while at an intensive (and wonderful) summer job. When you're focused on creating a positive environment for 240 children, your priorities shift.

I've been running/marathon training consistently for about 20 months, and my body is starting to adapt to gradual progressions in mileage/speed.

Conclusion: I do think it is a combination of all 3. It's somewhat of an unsettling feeling, this sense of calmness 7 weeks before a marathon. But I'll roll with it!

I was starting to think ahead about the marathon and looking at the course map. The Boston Marathon drops several hundred feet in elevation during the first 10k. The Rochester Marathon drops 100 feet during the first 10k. There is no Heartbreak Hill in Rochester - the largest mile incline is 50 feet. I can do that! This will definitely be the flattest marathon I've ever run, and hopefully the fastest too. So, it seems that all in all, I have a calm, but excited feeling about the marathon. I've been hitting my splits and mileage.
Today's workout went well. I overslept, which is starting to take on its own standards. Is it still oversleeping when you wake up at 5:30AM (instead of 4)? So, my day started 90 minutes later than expected, but worked through it. Was very happy with my splits on the mile repeats: 7:25, 7:18, 7: 13, 7:03, 6:56, 6:51.
I choose my attitude, and for today and for this cycle, I choose to be footloose and fancy free!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Family Reunion

It's been an interesting week. I had come off of a weekly mileage PR - 60 mileage, took my comps, and finished the first session of my gifted summer camp. This week started the second session of camp, and a recovery week. I certainly needed - not just my legs, but my brain too. As much as I love medieval history, a little time off and away has served me well. And just like recovering from a marathon, I need to rest before I step back into school in the fall.
So, I am swinging back. Got into the weight room on Monday for the first time in a month. Got some aqua jogging in too on Wednesday, my legs appreciated that.
Monday, July 19: swim, weights
Tuesday, July 20: 2 miles warm-up; Fartlek on roads, 10 fartleks at 90 seconds with 2 minutes easy run rest between each hard effort. 2 miles cool-down. Total mileage: about 9 miles

Wednesday, July 21: cross-train

Thursday July 22: 6 miles easy

Friday, July 23: OFF

Saturday, July 24: 14 miles easy

Sunday, July 25: 4 miles easy and strides (6x150 meters)

Total Mileage: About 33 miles

It's been a bit of a family reunion at camp. My brother, Ryan, came here this year to be an RA, and I am thrilled he is here. He is a great kid (about to start his junior year at ND), and absolutely hilariously. I tend to be very serious, and he knows how to loosen me up and make me smile. I know he has enjoyed camp, but I am not sure if he realizes how much better he has made camp for me. Last Saturday night, for example, I had to have a late dinner and he stuckaround after his friends left to make sure I wouldn't eat alone. Feeling exhausted and grateful, I almost cried - was very touched. Or this week, he got me coffee when I couldn't go out of the office. It's the little things...
This is a picture of us during the first week at camp. He's 4 years younger, but some think we're twins! Nope, I am the older by far.

A bunch of my summer job friends have family in town this week too. It's amazing how a little extra family blood around makes such a positive difference. Smiles are back and bigger, and people just seem to be a bit lighter this week. One of my friends (Florida) has her family in town, and her kids are my quasi niece and nephews. So, we've been getting in lots of play time, hugs, hair styling, dinosaurs, and knights (I didn't even have to sell knights and medieval mania to 5 year old Henry, he got into that himself!).
Overall, based on the success of the week, I think it is fair to attribute that to the families. What a difference shared chromosomes make!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Tenacious Victory

It is unofficial, but as of Thursday, I have finished my master's degree.

The final project to get my medieval master's degree was to take comprehensive exams. 2 days, 4 hours, 6 essays in total concerning 4 areas of history: Byzantine, early medieval, late medieval, and early modern (Renaissance and Reformation). My professors gave me recommended lists to read, totaling about 60 books. Just to show...

My friends in the program got it and knew the task at hand, but others found it hard to imagine reading 60 books. I LOVE reading. To me, I felt really lucky that my big medieval task for the summer was to read.
In June, I had finished the books and transitioned into my summer job -- working as an administrator at a camp for gifted middle school and high school kids (5th year in the program) in Saratoga Springs. Each day, generally before my morning run and before bed, I found a bit of time to review the heretical movements, emperors, and other shenanigans about medieval society. The faculty in my program let me take the exam on site, meaning I didn't have to travel to DC for the exam. Instead, I was locked in the office in NY.
I finished the first day in about 3:41, and it occurred to me that I can run a marathon in about the same time I can take one day of exams. And it did feel like a marathon - about the same amount of time of preparation, and a somewhat similar feel of exhaustion after. But there was still one day to go.
In all ways, I found it best to treat comps like a marathon - and my jitters were about the same. I went on runs each morning, listened to certain "psych up" songs, and tried to find a little relaxing time to talk with a friend. That's what has gotten me through 3 marathons, and it works!
The butterflies were big on Thursday. This was the day - the final day, the subject area where I knew the material really well. The attitude I chose for the exam was "tenacious" -- it was something a few friends had said, and it stuck with me. So, I came in on Thursday ready to rock and roll. I told my proctor that she would know within the first minute if it was a good exam. She flipped the test, and I just smiled. The test was a way of truly showing what I knew - good, thorough questions that I could confidently answer. I wrote and wrote, and every once in a while would get up to stretch. It started to occur to me with an hour to go that I was about to finish my degree. "Hang in, hold on, finish strong," I thought, and then realized that I truly was coaching myself in marathon-manner. It was a great exam because I could really show what I knew and incorporate a lot of the books I had read in preparation. Plus, I was able to incorporate ideas from papers I had written in school too, so it was a nice way to amass it all.
When the time was done, I opened the door and my friends at my job had made a "finish line" for me. I almost cried at this point - just from the relief of finishing and feeling grateful for my friends here. They also got me a cake, so we had a little work party at lunch. I was very touched, simply because they understood how much the exam meant to me.
For me, it was a big stepping stone in my academic career and a victory. There is still lots of work to be done, but it was a way to show my department what I've learned since I got to graduate school. I couldn't have done it alone, and it was the support I received leading up to the exams that made Thursday all the more special. So, if you ever:
*Asked me a question about the Middle Ages or asked about what book I was reading
*Bought me coffee while I was studying
*Helped me move my books across several states (thanks, Dad!)
*Offered support and hugs
Thank you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

With 2 months to go...

...I'm feeling good.

I always check in with myself at the two-month mark prior to the marathon. Rochester is 2 months away, and while I don't have the butterflies that I did before Boston, there is a feeling of excitement. And like then, I am more prepared than I was. My average weekly mileage is where I peaked last time, and this week, I am setting a new PR of weekly mileage. I looked back at my Boston plan, particularly the track workouts I did, and there is a difference. Not only are the workouts longer (last time they started at 10 miles and worked up to 14.5 - now they started at 12 and already are at 14), but the expected times are a lot faster. Instead of mile repeats starting at 8:00, they start at 7:20. Same with 800s - instead of starting at 3:55, I start at 3:37. It's always good to do a bit of a quantitative comparison to see how things are coming along.

And the big thing that became a deal-breaker in my evaluation: this weekend's 20 miler. Definitely a big confidence-booster. I am sure I will have a couple more 20 milers to reckon with, but this was a good one.

I do still need the 2 months for some maintenance work, but I am right where I whould be. I've been slacking on the weights since I got to Saratoga, but I've been getting in the pool twice a week. But, once my comps are over (they are Wednesday and Thursday), it will be back to the weight room.

Monday, July 12: Swim

Tuesday, July 13: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile cut-down on track, start at 7:15 pace and cut down 2-3 seconds per lap. 4 mile run. 10x400 meters, jog 200 meters between each rep. Start at 1:40 and take 1-2 seconds off per interval. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage—14.5 miles

Wednesday, July 14: 3 miles easy

Thursday, July 15: 5 miles easy

Friday, July 16: Tempo Run; Run first 2 miles at very comfortable easy run pace; 12 mile tempo run; start at 8:20 pace then try to work down the last few miles to about 8:05 pace. Run 2 miles easy for cool-down: Total Mileage: 16 miles

Saturday, July 17: 3 miles easy

Sunday, July 18: 18 miles easy

Total Mileage: 59.5 miles

And today started my friend Jenny's training for MCM. I put her on the Rookie Plan from Runner's World, which is what I used when I trained for my first marathon (National Marathon) in 2009. It's a good one, and eases you into the longer runs very well. And before you know it - it's time for the 20 miler!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recognize Your Victories - Best 20 miler ever

The 20 mile run is significant. For many people, particularly those training for their first marathon, it is the closest they will glimpse at the 26.2 distance, only to know that there is still the unknown 10k, only to be revealed on race day. Some will perhaps go up to 22 miles, or run the 20 miler more than once, but regardless of how often it is done, running 20 miles is not just an ordinary long run. I prepare for it differently than I do for 10, 13.1, or even 18. I eat a little different, I fuel a little different on the run, and mentally I enter some sort of alternate state standing at the beginning of my 20 mile journey.
I got up at 4:15, and was out the door by 5:15. No worries about lots of traffic! Within a mile of beginning, it started to sprinkle, which was a welcome sensation, given the heat the Northeast has been experiencing all week. Last week's "failed" long run was still on my mind. In sum, I had to cut it from 18 to 15 (too hot) and slow my pace. I made up the mileage later in the week, but was still disappointed in myself. I knew I made the smart decision to cut it short, but for me, a shortened run throws thoughts of doubt into my head. So, today I was seeking redemption, and certainly not a repeat from last week.
So, the fact that it was 70 and raining was perfect. It was soft and gentle as it hit the trees. I also happen to love the sound of cars driving on a wet road, so the sound accompanied me and added a sense of relaxation to the run. The opening miles tick off nicely, and I turned at mile 5 to see dark clouds of black and grey in the sky. Please don't be a thunderstorm, please don't be a thunderstorm, I thought, I don't want to have to call this off. It began to pour and pour, but no signs of lightning. I was soaked within minutes, but once over the initial wetness, that's it, you're wet and that's it. Saw a few runners at this point, and yelled out that I was glad not to be the only one out. At mile 12, things started to click. Even with 8 miles to go, I knew this was definitely going to be doable. And, I was picking up my friend Jenny at mile 15.5, so I only had a few "lonely" miles to go. That sensation of possibility is incredible. I understand that in part it is a chemical reaction, but to be self-assured in the ability to complete a challenging task is a major high. I "picked up" Jenny, and came flying in like I had run 3, not 15. She asked how I felt, and I said great, ready and excited for the final stretch. I couldn't really contain my excitement about how I felt, particularly in comparison to last week. With 2 miles to go, the shirt came off a la Brandi Chastain.
Finishing the run was exhilarating. I whooped with Jenny, happy. I finished strong, with no doubt in my mind that I could run farther today and faster if need be. Some may not understand why I would get up before dawn on the weekend to run 20 miles, but that sensation of accomplishing something definitely is worth it.
Joan Benoit Samuelson said "Recognize your victories." Today was one of those victories.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Expanding Lung Capacity

It has been almost a year since I started to swim. Yes, I've known how to since I was 8, but when I was in school hated it when the PE unit was the pool.
Last year, as I settled into training for marathon #2, I kept reading more about pool running and how good the pool was for runners. It also helped that I was surrounded by 2 good swimmers (Jenny and my dad), who had been hovering around the issue of me getting in the pool. Bought the bathing suit, and started pool running/aqua jogging. If you've never done it, you wear a flotation belt and "run" in the deep-end for an extended length of time. After a couple tries, I realized how much my muscles relaxed when I got in.
Then, I decided I should actually try to do laps - something I hadn't done in years. I covered 400 yards-gasping and panting the whole time. I had to stop every 100 and grab some water. It totally blew me away - this was hard work! Lots of gasping and sputtering. I kept upping it and worked my way up to 1000 yards, but was still resting every 100. Then 200, then every 250. When I got to that point, the pool changed. No longer was it an obligation, but a desire. I liked stretching my body out in a way different than when I run. Then in the winter, I nixed the break at 250, and just took breaks at 500 and 750. It made me push through the first half, and the second half flew by. It started to feel like I had a swimming routine going, and while my stroke was not perfect, it worked and it got me through the laps with (relative) ease. The swim turned into something I looked forward to on Mondays - it released all of the tension and soreness accumulated during the weekend runs. Plus, I generally got to go with one of my favorite swimmers - Dad, Jenny, or the triathlete buds. They all do have so much knowledge and collective experience, that it's helpful to have them watch and give suggestions.
Today, Jenny and I went swimming in the morning before work. I got through the first 500 yards with relative ease, then pushed on. There have been a number of times in recent swims when I've contemplated not taking the 750 yard break, but kept chickening out. But today, with 300 to go for the whole swim, I went back and forth, and decided to go for it. Pushed through the 750, and then kicked for the last 200. Now, kick is a relative term considering my pace, but it was definitely a faster pace.
Today was a small victory in the pool. My stroke still needs improvement, but now I know I can do 2 x 500 yards with little problem. I think once I get to through the 1000 yards straight that I'll up my distance...
And speaking of:
Monday, July 5: OFF

Tuesday, July 6: 2.5 mile warm-up; 5 lap cut-down run; start at 7:15 pace and cut down about 2-3 seconds per lap; jog 2 laps; 8x800 meters, 1 lap jog between each rep, start at 3:37, aim to cut down 3-5 seconds per rep. 3 mile cool-down: Total mileage—13.25 miles

Wednesday, July 7: 6 miles easy

Thursday, July 8: 9 miles easy

Friday, July 9: OFF

Saturday, July 10: 20 miles; First 8 miles easy, 12 mile tempo, start at 8:25 pace and work down to 8:10.

Sunday, July 11: 7 miles easy

Total Mileage: 55.25 miles

First 20 miler of the season tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeehaw - that's a lot of 800s

One of the many components of my track workouts is that there is some sort of change. Either, it's a set amount of intervals (like mile repeats), but the pace steadily increases. Or, it's 2 sets of workouts - a fast cutdown set (like 2000 M or 2 miles), followed by a of intervals.
This was the super mega combination of both:
2.5 mile warm-up; 5 lap cut-down run; start at 7:15 pace and cut down about 2-3 seconds per lap; jog 2 laps; 8x800 meters, 1 lap jog between each rep, start at 3:37, aim to cut down 3-5 seconds per rep. 3 mile cool-down: Total mileage—13.25 miles
I was out the door by 5:25 - not just so I could make it to work, but to beat the heat. But no - started to sweat within a half mile of the warm up. Definitely made me miss the days of February and March - I will take the cold for running any day!
Anyways, I got through the cut down in 8:54. The thing that always freaks me out about the first set of speedwork is that I put too much effort in and that will negatively affect my performance in the second half. Took my 2 laps very slowly to regroup and focus, and just kept telling myself that each interval would be done in less than 4 minutes. Splits for the first 4 800s: 3:35, 3:32, 3:28, 3:25. Fatigue started to set in at this point..and thoughts of fear and doubt too. I was hot and tired - dumped some water on my head and told myself to calm down and take it one 800 at a time. Then 3:22, and 3:19. At this point, I know I am approaching my 800 limits (I think the fastest I've ever done one was about 3:05 - and that was not 8 of 8 800s. Anyways, (am I keeping anyone in suspense?), I get through the next one in 3:17 - not quite the 3 second increase, but I'll take 2 seconds. But I am beat - and there is still one to go. I took my lap, retied my shoes, did everything I could to refocus and charged ahead. 3:15! Even had to yell at people trotting along in lane 1 and still made it. I'll take it - that was a hard workout.
Average time - 3:24 - which in Yasso terms, confirms that I can run 3:35 in the fall and possibly 3:32-3:33! Of course, one run does not define the big race, but it definitely gave me a bit more confidence in my ability to press the pace at the end, even when it feels tough.
There was an older guy who got on the track halfway through my workout, and he came over to me right after I finished the last 800. Found out his name was Teddy, he was 70 and a 200 and 400 meter sprinter. Apparently Teddy competes at the national level, and he ran with me for part of my cool down. Always cool to meet another runner!
Somehow managed not to crash afterward and stayed strong through the rest of the work day. Just got punchy by the time of my faculty meeting, and made a joke about the funk section of our agenda (compared to fun section) - and that was the end of my serious state.
Let's get funky!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Firecracker 4 miler report

I've mentioned before that I am training my friend Jenny for her first marathon (MCM). We work together in the summer at a camp for gifted children, so we've been running together for 2 weeks now. Her official marathon training won't start until next week, but it's been good to have her get a good base going before training. I've also loved having someone to run with. Generally (since my mileage is a little higher than hers), I'll run the first few miles alone and then "pick her up" for the last chunk. It works well for me too, since it's refreshing to get a distraction halfway into a run. And I can work with her on pacing, which is what I'll be doing when we run the marathon in October.

So, we had the time today to get away from work for a little while for Saratoga Springs Firecracker 4 Miler. While we weren't going to race it together, we were going to it together. I was so happy to have someone to warm-up with and just goof-off with before the race. They had some live music going, and lots of people from town were out and about to watch the race. And with a few minutes to go, we hugged and took our respective places for the start of the race.

One of the great things about racing a new distance is an automatic PR. I had never done a 4 miler race before, so while I had some time goals in mind, it would be a PR regardless. I also had a hard 15 mile run on Friday, and my legs were still feeling it a bit. The first mile was uphill - 7:10. A little after mile 1, someone had a misting station set-up - what a wonderful thing. I think misting stations should be mandatory in any race above 70 degrees. They also had some local bands Finishing mile 2 and knowing I was halfway done - felt great. Hot, tired, but knew I could sustain a relatively decent pace. Then there was a sharp downhill - I am not good at downhills. Uphills, I can pass people (which is a pretty good psychological play) and throw them off, but I take the downhills fairly slow. Then, just a mile to go - wahoo! I came through around 29 minutes, but didn't read my watch. Then it was time to wait and watch for Jenny to come in - I knew it would be easy to spot her in her red shorts. She finished very strong - I was very impressed. She's from Florida, where it is so flat, and she took to the hills very well given the fact that she only gets hill work when she's here in NY. Anyways, she came through the chute with a great stride - I was so proud of her.
We then had to get back to campus for work, so we dumped a ton of water on our heads and headed back.

A few hours later, the results were posted:
29:07 (7:17 per mile)
Division place: 5/53
Overall: 174/1301

Jenny's stats
34:01 (8:31 pace)
Division place: 13/91
Overall: 479/1301

Now, the thing that frustrated us was that while the race was chip timed, there was no mat at the start. Which means Jenny broke 34 unofficially and I probably ran 29 on the dot. Oh well. Still a PR! And, as I was telling Jenny, Saratoga is a good place to run - not only was it a hard course, but there are a ton of fast runners. And there were a ton of fast people today, so the fact that we did well in our respective age divisions meant a bit more, since we were in a competitive field. In the end, it's about breaking through boundaries and over hurdles:
*I had a good run in the heat.
*I passed people on the hills.
*Jenny ran her first hill race.
*Jenny PRed.

And we had a good time!