Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Penultimate week

I've started this post a few times this week, but the list of odd things just kept adding up. There were so many things that made the penultimate week of training/tapering a crazy one:

Penultimate week of training:
Monday, August 30: OFF
Tuesday, August 31: 2.5 mile warm-up; 4x1 mile, 500 meters between each rep, start at 7:15, aim to cut down 5 seconds per rep. 2.5 mile cool-down: Total mileage—10 miles
Wednesday, September 1: 6 miles easy
Thursday, September 2: 9 miles easy -- Unscheduled rest day (off)
Friday, September 3: OFF
Saturday, September 4: 12 miles easy
Sunday, September 5: 5 miles easy
Total Mileage: 33 miles

Talk about gut-wrenching. Did not have a ton of thoughts going into Tuesday's morning's speed workout, other than I was happy it was only 10 miles. But I felt unwell within the first 1/2 mile. I had hoped it was just my stomach waking up, but things did not let up. Alright, I thought, suck it up buttercup, get out and do this now before it gets to 90 degrees and it feels worse. But it didn't subside. Things let up later in the day, thankfully. But I did hit my times as expected.
As I wrapped up Tuesday's workout, the top of my left foot felt, well, weird. Thought it was just part of Tuesday being an off-day as far as how I felt, so I shook it off. But Wednesday, that feeling was back. It wasn't excruciating pain, but definitely an uncomfortable feeling. Decided to take off Thursday, ice, and wear a brace around, just to keep things secure. Thursday was an uncomfortable day, as lots of thoughts started to whir around in my head. What is this? What did I do wrong? Why is this happening so close to the marathon? But panicking does no good. I am fortunate to have a friend who is not only a medievalist, but a nurse. After our Later Medieval England class, she looked at my foot. No immediate concerns, and recommended just ice and ibuprofen for the next few days. That alleviated some of my concerns, at least there is nothing so major that will pull me out of the marathon. Plus, I was taking off Friday too, so hoped that back-to-back rest days would help.
Just like it can be difficult to find a wonderful friend, it can be difficult to find a good massage therapist. I did a little research for my new area, and crossed my fingers when I stepped in to see Robert on Friday. Lot of tension had built up (particularly in my shoulders), and I wanted it all gone before next Sunday. Was very pleased to find out that Robert had ran a few marathons himself, which meant he would understand the particular aches that tend to build up turning marathon training. What luck! He was fantastic, and rubbed out the tension in my shoulders and upper back. Also got a few recommendations about some effective stretches for loosening up in the morning. He also rubbed out some of the "gravel" in my feet - knots that had built up. No pain when he rubbed my left foot, and he said I had a good range of motion. I left feeling optimistic, and hoped that Saturday would be a good run.
I woke up on Saturday with a cold. What? Really? Managed to hang in through the busy summer, the high mileage, and during the taper was when it all caught up. Well, it fits all of the research - either right before or after a marathon is when the immune system is the lowest and runners get sick.
I tend to be on the fairly positive end of things, but this has all made me crabby. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself during the 12 miler. With about 2 miles to go, I was running uphill and I saw a man heading downhill. He had no legs and just pillowcases attached to his knees. No complaints, no looks of self-pity, he seemed to be doing his thing as if it was completely normal. That was a blast of perspective and a good wake-up call for me. Surely I can look on the bright side of things.
There is one week until the marathon. I have never felt so nervous about one. This is not pre-Boston jitters, these are big nerves. Rest will be key this week. Thankfully there is no school/work tomorrow. I'm going to have to recite "Don't quit" a lot this week,

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Back to School Run

I am in the taper now, which is a relief. There is such a thrill of running 60 mpw, but the exhaustion that accompanies it is a challenge. It has taught me a lot, running on tired legs, but it is a good feeling to start to cut back:

Monday, August 23: OFF

Tuesday, August 24: 2.5 mile warm-up; 8x800; 1 lap jog between reps. Start at 3:40 and cut-down about 3 seconds per rep. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage—10 miles

Wednesday, August 25: 6 miles easy, swim 1050 yards

Thursday, August 26: 9 miles easy

Friday, August 27: 8 miles easy

Saturday, August 28: Off

Sunday, August 29: 16 miles easy

Total Mileage: 49 miles

Tomorrow is the first day of school. It is my first day as a PhD student, and my first day as a Teaching Assistant. While I am at the same university that I did my master's degree, it is a new step in my academic career. Naturally, there are some butterflies associated with the big day, so I used my run today to reflect on the upcoming semester and year. But butterflies are good, they mean excitement, and I am excited. This morning was another hilly run. 16 miles, around 8:25 pace. I tried to seek shade whenever possible, because things are still heating up in DC. Will be very happy to go up north for the marathon. Anyways, 16 miles was far enough for some quality thinking and reflection.

My marathon (Rochester) is exactly 2 weeks away. I am also starting to get excited about that. I can't wait to go home and do a hometown marathon. I feel like that gives me an edge - even though almost everyone else running it is from Rochester too. But I feel proud to represent my hometown, my family, and I think that feeling will boost me up during the hard miles.

The hills were hard, and I actually used that feeling as a confidence booster, not just for the marathon, but for the upcoming year. If I can do these hard runs, surely I can lead successful discussions with undergrads, write good papers, and in general run through this semester with head held high. So, with just over 12 hours to go before I walk into my first class, it is time for bed and to dream of a good year.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Proud of the pregnant runners

There must be something in the water...or the Gatorade.

3 of the top marathoners in the world are pregnant: Paula Radcliffe (WR holder), Kara Goucher (record for debut marathon), and now...my role model, Deena Kastor (American Record holder).

A few of my buddies from the MCM forum (Elizabeth and Cassie) are also pregnant. All of these women are running through their pregnancies, and one of my friends, Cassie, is even planning on running the MCM while pregnant (she'll be Gallo-walking).

All of these women are really inspiring, and makes me proud to be a female runner. To live in an age when running through pregnancy is not just acceptable, but celebrated, is a big step. Again, I have to give thanks to those who ran before and proved that women could run, it is healthy to run, and encouraged.

I thought about all of this while I was on my 9 miler today. It was about 85 in DC, and I was booking it around the National Mall. How lucky am I to run and not get stares, glares, or looks of disbelief based on my gender. No one seemed skeptical. The world can go back and forth debating barefoot running and static stretching, but I am grateful that this is an issue that has been put to bed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This is what a BA medievalist looks like

This was my recovery week. Which I definitely needed - cycle 3 was tough. Even though I thought it wouldn't be too bad, life has a funny way of keeping me on my toes!

Tuesday, August 17: 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, August 18: Swim - 1000 yards - no breaks (first time ever!)

Thursday August 19: 6 miles easy

Friday, August 20: 4 miles easy and strides (6x150 meters)

Saturday, August 21: Off - Staff Bonding at Ropes Course

Sunday, August 22: 14 miles easy

Total Mileage: About 33 miles

I do enjoy having the long run on the "shorter" end - it does end faster and isn't as daunting as those 18 and 20 milers. I was hoping for cool temperatures, and while that didn't quite happen, there was rain when I started! I put in a lot of hills, and while they were hard, it was also a great confidence booster. If I can deal with all of these rolling hills, surely I can push harder at Rochester (3 weeks away) when the inclines are not so steep! About 7 miles into the run, I felt great, and realized that I was already halfway there. "Come on, keep pushing, you're going to be running for less than an hour, you'll finish soon." The rain was invigorating, and combined with the hills, I felt really good. And when you feel that good, you just gotta fly! And so I did!

Distance: 14.35 miles. Pace: 8:09. That's goal A (3:33) marathon pace! Surely with more rest and the crowd support of the marathon I can sustain something close to that.

Okay, after all of the talk on the Loop, it is time reveal what a BA (bad @$$) medievalist looks like:

Okay, maybe not the scariest or intimidating runner you've ever seen, but I am still smiling after 14.35 wet and hilly miles. Now that's scary. Plus, I already belong to the original B.A. Association
And wouldn't these sell well? Just some thoughts from the resident medievalist...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gone FISHing...and here's what I've learned (Lesson 1)

I have been learning this summer about the importance of play.
Here's a book recommendation:

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen

This is a wonderful book for a number of reasons. It is short and succinct - the ideas are really clear cut. There are some good anecdotes that are easy to relate to. It is something that you can apply to both your work life and personal life. I like this in particular, because it means that there are a series of behaviors and attitudes you can adopt and use in all aspects of your life. There are four FISH philosophies that figure into the book. I've been trying to be more intentional about my running, and I realized that I should think about the FISH philosophy in terms of my running. All information comes from the book, and the images are from the FISH! Philosophy website.
Today is Lesson 1:
When kids run, they are playing. They are uninhibited by times, by form -- their legs and arms are pumping out of the sheer joy associated with this activity. How can we make running more playful? I think this is often most possible (and FUN) in a group setting. When I first started running with the triathlete buds, I didn't realize they were playing. They would shove each other and tease a lot at the end of a long run. It used to seem really silly to me, but now I realize that they were problem-solving - they found a way to get through that last hard part of the run. So, I realized I needed to be creative too. We would come up with different games to occupy us during a long run. One day we came up with a runner's point system (point system since have been forgotten): you earned or lost points depending on your behavior during a run. I.e. Bad jokes during a run -5, funny story +5, showing up late -5, bringing extra fluids, +10. It got sillier and sillier as the run progressed, but it was a ton of fun and a wonderful way to pass the time.
To finish up part of a run, Jenny and I would pick a fun motown song to wrap things up. Possibly strange to the bystanders and pedestrians, but it made the run more fun, just like it's supposed to be.
I learned more about playing from Jenny when we were swimming. I am not a good swimmer, and so getting in the pool for half an hour can sometimes be a struggle for me. I looked over at her lane at the end of a swim, and she was doing handstands and flips. I (and some of the other swimmers) looked over in some bewilderment. For me, I was watching someone who was normally very serious about this sport go to the other end of the spectrum. I asked her about it afterward, and she said she was playing (she's the one who bought the FISH book for me). This was how she used to relax before competitions, and how she would unwind after. It felt strange at first, but I tried it the next time I was in the pool. Did some flips underwater. Hmm. Reminded me of when my brother and I would play in the pool when we were little. I could get used to this. Jumping off the diving board (I can't dive) or doing cannonballs was a wonderful way to end practice. We would shout and laugh...and then go into work with that playful mode and mood intact. Didn't mean that we weren't serious about our jobs, but we incorporated this playful aspect into work.
I am still working on how to play while I'm running alone. Sometimes my music helps, or I'll spread my arms like I'm zooming around a corner. Of course, I don't really play as much during a hard track workout (only zooming around the track - no way I can spread my arms like an airplane). But I'll still whoop for joy afterward.
How do you incorporate play?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Believe and the legs will follow

Today was a 20 miler. It was not like the one two weeks ago which I cranked out. This was hotter and hillier. Mind was playing some games with me throughout the run. Instead of letting my mind consume me, I had to turn to something else. Last year, I would've thought of Latin declensions, this summer, it was comps, but there wasn't a class to be thinking about. I knew I would probably end up writing about this run, so started to focus on that. Also started to suspect that a poem would come out of this, so worked on that in my head, too.
Covered in sweat, caked in salt
The legs start to fatigue
All hills seem to lead upward
The mind wanders
Doubts can settle in and get comfortable
A little voice whispers over one shoulder,
"Pull over, stop, no one will notice,"
Fighting hard to ignore the taunting tone
Another resounds louder,
"Rest if you must, but don't you quit"
Struggling to listen to the right voice
Make the right choice.

You've got to believe in your capacity
The body's ability to triumph
When you start to believe
The legs will follow
Up and down
Will find the pace
Hang on until the end
When victory finally settles in.

There was an end, and I was definitely holding on tight. This had been a hard week...

Tuesday, August 10: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2 mile cut-down on track, start at 7:25 pace and cut down 2-3 seconds per lap; 2 lap jog. 1x1200, (1 lap jog) 2x800, (1 lap jog between), 4x400 (200 meters jog between). Aim to hit 5:15, 3:30, 3:25, start at 1:40 pace for the 400s. 2.5 mile cool-down. Total mileage—11.75 miles

Wednesday, August 11: 5 miles easy

Thursday, August 12: 3.5 miles easy

Friday, August 13: Tempo Run; Run first 2 miles at very comfortable easy run pace; 13 mile tempo run; start at 8:10 pace then try to work down the last few miles to about 7:50 pace. Run 2 miles easy for cool-down. This should be more like a half-marathon “race.” Still treat it like a tempo, but if you are feeling good, push it a bit more towards the end. Total Mileage: 17 miles - Ran it in 8:00 pace

Saturday, August 14: Off - move to new apartment

Sunday, August 15: 20 miles easy

Monday, August 16: 3 miles easy

Total Mileage: 60 miles

It's getting through high mileage weeks like this (3rd time I've hit 60 mpw while training for this marathon) that gives me some confidence that that I am prepared. It's scary to have doubt settled in like that, but I just have to remind myself that I have put my body through a lot and it's learning how to adapt to that. I have to remember that I choose my attitude - not just for each day, but for each run. So today, I chose to believe and my legs followed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holding on until the end

My favorite running story this weekend was not that American Tyson Gay beat Usain Bolt. Sorry, Tyson. Much congrats on the major victory, but another story trumped that great match-up.
This weekend was the Beach to Beacon 10k in Maine. While the winning times were fabulous, it was another story that caught my attention,
Piers was actually the defending champ in the competition to be top womanfrom Maine at Saturday's Beach to Beacon 10K. She was lagging a bit behind her training partner Barry with less than a half-mile remaining after they'd run much of the 10k together. "I turned around and I yelled, 'Come on, Sheri!'" Barry reports. "I heard her yell back, 'I'm coming.'" They cross the finish line hand-in-hand, though Barry was awarded the Maine victory. "That's what we try to do, run together," Piers explains. "It's so much more enjoyable. In years past, our fitness levels have been off, so we haven't been able to do that. But we run together every single day."
This was the picture of Sheri and Kristin finishing together in 34:34. It is incredible - they finished together, holding hands, at a 5:34 pace. And the smiles say it all. Pure friendship - the place they finished in didn't matter anymore. They were competing for the top Maine finisher (which grants extra prize money), and they didn't care. It was about sharing a moment together, and celebrating what they do together - run and be friends. I thought this was quite beautiful, and a testament that even in the spirit of competition, friendship prevails.
I have 2 marathons coming up. 1 is the Rochester Marathon (9/12), in which I am shooting to break 3:35 (and possibly 3:33). I am excited about my homecoming marathon - my parents and all of my grandparents will be there. It is my chance to finish in a competitive spot, and is certainly the flattest marathon I've ever run. I have high expectations, and I'm hoping that all of this summer training will pay off.
But I also get to run MCM on Halloween. My time will not matter then. I get to share this experience with a friend - and I've never been able to do that in the marathon. We've ran over 100 miles together this summer in training, and we'll share 26.2 more on Halloween. We've only linked up for the clap line (this tradition our camp kids do), but I am very much looking forward to holding on until the end on Halloween...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Success in the mile

I am in the process of training a friend for her first marathon. I've been fortunate enough to be running alongside of her for the past 6 weeks, and 3 weeks ago, we officially kicked off her Marine Corps Marathon training. I set her schedule (I'm using the Runner's World "Rookie Plan" which was what I used when I ran my first marathon) and e-mail her the schedule for the week. At the end of the week, I total everything up and send her a summary. When July ended, I totaled up her month, and she set a new mileage PR. It is exciting to be alongside as she sets these new milestones, and it will be even more thrilling to run alongside her as we run the Marine Corps Marathon together.
Last Thursday, I put Jenny through a timed mile trial. She had never done one before, and I was able to predict based on some of her 5k performances that she could run about a 7:20, maybe a 7:15. We toed the starting line, and then we were off. I always take the outside lane, so I can pace her and be alongside her. First lap, we came in 1:42. Whoa. Second lap, 3:29. Hmm...this is definitely going to be a big PR for her. Third lap, 5:18. When there was about 200 meters to go, I started yelling, "Dig in, dig in!" and she came through and finished in 7:02! Victory, victory! Was so excited for her at this point, and she said she grew more excited based on my reaction. She's still on the newer side to running, so she doesn't always know what a good time is. But I do, and it was phenomenal. Not only was it a big PR, it superseded my expectations by a lot. This was an excellent way to start the day.
She may be new to running, but as a former competitive swimmer, she understands the nature of a grueling training schedule, and all of the other components of a distance athlete. I also set a mileage PR in July (235 - a PR by 30 miles). At lunch the other day, I sat down with her and was talking about my own goal for a mile trial. The last time I did a successful mile trial, it was this time last summer, and it was a 6:13. It was my goal to get into the single digits. We had a track activity with the kids, so it was my plan to participate and hope that a few of the kids would run similar times. Nerves were high - the shorter the "race," the bigger the nerves for me. Went through the first lap in 1:26 (a 400 PR), and I was hanging on with the boys. Second lap in 3:01, which seemed much more realistic. Can't even remember what the third lap was, was just trying to hang on. Someone just kept yelling PR, and I hauled, and hauled...
6:07. A 6 second PR! Victory! Victory! I was so excited about this: not only did I PR, but in 90 degree weather, and the day after a hard workout. And speaking of hard workouts...

Monday, August 2: Easy 4 miles

Tuesday, August 3: 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; 10x800 meters, 1 lap jog between each rep, start at 3:40, aim to cut down 3-5 seconds per rep. 3 mile cool-down: Total mileage—14.25 miles + aqua jogging

Wednesday, August 4: 6 miles easy + mile trial (1 mile w/u)

Thursday, August 5: 9 miles easy

Friday, August 6: Aqua jogging

Saturday, August 7: 18 miles; First 8 miles easy, 10 mile tempo, start at 8:25 pace and work down to 8:10.

Sunday, August 8: 7 miles easy

Total Mileage: 60 miles

It has been a hard week. Made it through the cutdown in 8:59. Then for the 800s: 3:40, 3:37, 3:33, 3:30, 3:27, 3:24, 3:21, 3:19, (this was when I really started to feel tired), 3:17, 3:16. So, doing all of this under little sleep, was still a victory, even if I didn't hit my splits. Sarah (my coach) said it was still a "solid workout," so I can sign off on that!

I got a note from Danny 331, who asked how I was doing without getting my Deena Kastor sleep. It has been challenging, and I know that the lack of sleep has hindered my performance a bit. However, I am going home to Rochester on Sunday, and plan on making up for lost time! No, I know, you cannot really play catch up, but I will step it up and hit the hay earlier.

Anyways, we both achieved track victories. And for a former swimmer and a former musician, not too shabby...