Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Worthy Investment

In my historical teaching class, we've been talking a lot about what makes a good professor. There's a lot of qualities that we have agreed on, but one statement has been repeated throughout the semester, and it is something that figures heavily into my own teaching philosophy. A good teacher is one who makes an intentional investment in her students.
When you make a worthy investment in someone else's life, you do not know what the return will be, but you hope that it is a big one. You make the investment wanting to see that person grow and develop.
I've been fortunate enough to have a few professors invest in me in graduate school. This week, I am design the coursework for my final semester of classes. Because I have taken care of all of my requirements, there is a large degree of freedom. So, with two professors who are tremendous, I proposed independent tutorials: weekly one-on-one courses with each professor. This would give me a lot of freedom to pick subjects that interest me and have great discussions with my professors. Both were a-go for the classes, and their enthusiasm was phenomenal. One said that it would be "a lot of fun" and that we could work on a lot throughout the semester.
Okay, I realize it might not be everyone's desire to pick classes with a lot of reading, but when the subject material is good and the enthusiasm is there, that is a dream class. These professors have put a lot of time into my academic and professional development, and it has made a tremendous difference. Not only have I been able to grow a lot, it has continued to spark my passion for learning. It gives me a lift, a high, and makes school wonderful. I don't think it would've been possible without their choice to invest in me.
And this goes beyond teaching - we invest a lot.
I've made a major investment in running, and the more I invest in it, the interest is rising and I am getting a great return. 3 mile repeats yesterday: 7:11, 6:58, 6:51. But it goes beyond that.
This weekend is going to be a great pay-out: the Marine Corps Marathon. Jenny gets in in a few hours, and we'll have a few days to pal around before the race. But the race itself is a big bonus. The excitement is building, the big day is almost here - and I am ready to cash out!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I can't imagine life without running

Women's marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said that, and up until 2 years ago (almost exactly - first long run was 5 miles on November 1, 2008), I wouldn't have believed it.
A friend of mine from high school contacted me this morning, and it had been a while. She was always the athlete (swimming, softball, lacrosse), so the fact that I am now a runner is quite the switcheroo. Sara couldn't believe how things had changed, and to a point, I can't either.
Within a relatively short period of time, running has become one of the most natural things to me. I ran 5 miles this morning, and it felt absolutely glorious. Ran about 7:42 pace - on an easy day. I just felt like I could just go with nothing stopping me, and decided to let it rip - why not? It wasn't exhausting, it was just fun, as running should be. It was a perfect release - the weather was perfect, I took to the hills with ease, and it was just joyful.
I feel very blessed that I have the ability to run. With a few exceptions, my body has been able to handle the mileage well. I am blessed that I have figured out how to manage my time in a a way that allows me to run almost every day. It has lifted my spirit in so many ways - I always come back from a run feeling better than when I left. I have been able to work through some major challenges during my runs. Whether alone or with a buddy, it is an enjoyable experience.
To some degree, I know I am preaching to the choir. We've all fallen in love with running, and gather together to share our love for it. But surely we all had a point in our lives where running was unnatural or absent. And now that it's here, we can't imagine life any other way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thinking ahead

I don't know how many of you out there break up your running into seasons, but I know I like to. Yes, there tends to be a fall marathon and a spring marathon, but there are also a few months in the year not devoted to the marathon training. In the early summer, I worked on some short races, which helped to improve my racing tactics. As we enter the heart of fall, I am looking to work on my 10k time. If I can break 45 minutes, then I will have met the majority of my 2010 running goals. I have 2 10ks on the horizon, one on Thanksgiving Day, and one in mid-December. It is my hope to get to the mid 45 range for the first one, and then break the 45 minute barrier in the second. Here is the plan: Speed workouts on Tuesdays. Tempo runs on Saturdays. Long runs (10-12 miles) on Sundays. The other 2 days of running (Wednesday and Thursday) are just easy days. I am excited to work on this distance. The pace is not fast enough (like a 5k) to feel completely awful, yet the distance is long enough to have lots of time to pass people and throw in some surges. Plus, it is my hope that as I work on the 10k, I will set up a good base for marathon training when it kicks off mid December.
I ran 10.7 miles today. This was my last long run before the Marine Corps Marathon. I even included a few miles on the National Mall, just to get a taste of it before I see it again next week. Chills and emotions were certainly present along my run as we shift into the marathon week. While the temperatures have changed, the air will also change in this final week. The city will shift as it prepares to accomodate over 20,000 runners. All of the marathoners will seek to strike a balance between mentally preparing for a major race yet not letting those thoughts dominate the entire week. It's always tricky, but good to know that everyone else is feeling that way, too!
I'd like to highlight a series of great profiles over on Running Times. The National Women's Marathon Championships are a part of the NYC Marathon on November 7th. Running Times profiled 3 women who could fare very well in the championships -- and they are not full time runners. They are working women, who managed to squeeze in 100 mile (and in the case of one teacher, 200 mile!) weeks while living another life. Absolutely amazing -- some really can do it all.
On a final note, now that the Halls are out of the Mammoth Running Track Club...can I join? Every club needs a medieval runner, I think, and I could bring a lot to the team. Maybe not an Olympic medal or Boston win, but I could bring a little spunk and knowledge. Coach Terrance Mahaon, keep me posted...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More than a feeling...

I am now registered for my 6th marathon - the 115th Boston Marathon. Feeling very grateful to have gotten in, given that it sold out in just over 8 hours.
I think there are enough "heated" articles out there about the race filling up, the "slowness" of women's times, and other issues that we should instead turn to a positive spotlight - someone who actually has almost nothing to do with the Boston Marathon: Mary Wittenberg, the president of the New York Road Runners Club. This was a great article about her in the Times. First of all, I did not know she won MCM in 1987 and qualified for the Olympic Trials. Wow! Having followed a lot of the races she has organized, it seems that she always has a very compassionate touch, which is always nice to see. She always speaks very passionately about her job, says it is the best job in the world, and I believe her. Got to love her attitude and dedication - not to just the NYRR and running, but to her family. Here's to you Mary - you are quite the inspiration! Tremendous runner, leader, family-focused woman - amazing!
It is hard to believe that I have now registered for a 6th marathon - still need to cross the finish line for #5! Last week was not just a mini-peak, but a solid peak in training: 3 days of double days. Saturday was a double day too: 16.5 in the morning and 4.5 in the evening for a total of 21 miles. The weekly total was 59 miles! Haven't run that much since August, so it was good to get one high mileage week in before the taper. I'll say it again: double duty can really bump up the mileage. Those afternoon/evening runs really helped to loosen me up and shake out any stiffness accumulated during the morning run. I also had a good session in the weight room last night, which means I feel strong enough to relax during my 2 week taper before MCM.
Point of clarification: There has been a little concern (from my mom) about running 2 marathons 7 weeks apart. Now, I know there are many of you out there who have done this (or more within a shorter period of time), so I have mentioned you all to my mom that no, I am not crazy, people do actually run multiple marathons in a short period of time.
There is a lot of anticipation heading into this marathon - Marine Corps is 12 days away. I will be pacing a friend through her first marathon, and I am excited. Her husband currently has been acting as her "sherpa" during long runs (he rollerblades alongside her and carries her water and fuel), and on marathon morning, he'll pass that role onto me. I'll be her sherpa and pacer, cheerleader, and whatever other hat I'll put on that day. My friend Sarah paced me through the last 10 miles of MCM last year, and it ended in a banner marathon. I'm hoping to lead Jenny to a similar victory.
I may have multiple marathons on my mind, but don't worry, Mom, I have my sanity too. Good runs and great days are here!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Proud Daughter

Today, my mom ran her third 5k. She PRed again by over 2 minutes (despite having a cold this week): 30:50. But equally as important, my dad ran his first 5k. Prior to today, my dad had been doing the 5k workout on the treadmill, but only ran outside twice this year. I didn't know what to expect with him. He's more a swimmer, or even a biker. But he signed up, and was excited.
I wasn't there for it, since they ran at home, and I am at school. But the race happened while I was in the middle of my long run today, so naturally my mind wandered over to their race. Was not sure how either of them would do, but was anxious to hear about it.
When I called them, I found out about my mom's PR. Then I asked for my dad's time: 33:56. Amazing! For a first 5k - wow. This is a picture of them before the race.
And here is a picture of my dad finishing.
They say that I inspired them to run when I started marathoning 2 years ago, and while that may be the case, I never pushed them out the door. They did that themselves. I got all choked up when I got the pictures - it is very exciting to watch them embark on their own running journeys. And inspiration goes both ways - they are always on my mind during my runs.
I am a proud daughter today - both of my parents did a wonderful job.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I am a little over 4 weeks out of the Rochester Marathon, and just have over 2 weeks to go until the Marine Corps Marathon. So, instead of a 4 week recovery/build-up and a 3 week taper, I've decided to shoot for a mini-peak - this week.

Monday: 6 easy miles

Tuesday: 5 easy in the morning, 4.5 in the afternoon

Wednesday: 8 x 800s (400 recovery) + w/u, c/d = 8.5 miles

Thursday: 5 miles

Friday: Off

Saturday: 15-16 miles

Sunday: 3 mile recovery run

So no matter what, this will put me over 40 miles for the week. Last week ran 39 miles. Finally feel like I'm approaching regular mileage.

I am peaking this weak for Marine Corps, and will do a two week taper. Decided to do a double day yesterday – and those are always confidence boosters. I know it is something that the big timers do, and while I don’t do it a lot, it feels good to do. I just keep realizing that running helps to calm me down, and so if later in the day, work and school has gotten to a point where I need a release, the second run can happen and relieve some of that pressure.

I had a great workout this morning. Not necessarily my best or most consistent 800s (3:41, 3:39, 3:37, 3:35, 3:31, 3:28, 3:30, 3:30). A guy playing soccer joined me for the 6th, which was why it was so fast. It's fun when someone spontaneously joins you (he was practicing soccer in the field). During my last recovery lap, the soccer ball rolled over to me and I kicked it back. It is possible to play and work at the same time!

Here's to finding the ability to play throughout the day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10: The Date to Motivate

I was able to watch the Chicago Marathon via live streaming. My eyes were watering the whole time. You can never anticipate what will happen in the marathon. Things can change over the course of 26.2 miles. You can be the leader at the half, but things change and change again.
SAMMY WANJIRU WAS AMAZING. Amazing things happen on Marathon Day. Sammy had some not great performances in 2010, including a DNF in London, and a stomach bug in September. But now, he has 2 back-to-back Chicago victories and an Olympic gold medal on his resume. Watching his sprint to the finish, when he established an incredible distance between himself and his competition, was breathtaking. Such a strong finish. Here's a short clip of the win. Talk about motivation.
Liliya Shobukhova blew me away. She was in the middle of the pack for so long, and it seemed as if she would lose her defending title, and not just by a place, but by a few women. But at mile 21, she made a decisive move and passed the leader with determination.
Age does not matter. Sammy is 23. Lyliya is 32. At 46, Colleen De Reuck finished in 2:34 - good enough for 15th place. At 53, Joan Benoit Samuelson finished in 2:47:50 - a new age group record.
A double-double win. Both defending champions came back and won AGAIN. Great things happen. Both gapped their competition considerably. History was made on a historical day. Even though Liliya had to speak through a translator, you could hear the excitement and pride - she won the World Major Marathon Championship, she set a personal best, a Russian record - so many amazing things. And it was 75 degrees - not ideal for a personal best. So what can happen when she gets better weather?
Great things are happening in the running world. Congrats to all of the racers in today's marathon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sometimes when I run...

...I don't tie my shoes tight enough, and I have to fix them a half mile into the run
...I stop paying attention and run off my intended course
...I feel like I'm 10 feet tall, when I'm only 5'1"
...Think about medieval history
...Plan ahead for meetings
...Have no thoughts at all
...Fantasize about winning a marathon
...Think about the marathons I would like to run someday
...Sing along with my iPod
...Run with a friend
...Run alone
...Think about my form
...Am waiting for every mile marker
...Suddenly end up at home
...Run like a kid
...Pump my arms a la Rocky
...Play chicken with cars
...Do lunges after
Today when I ran:
...I had to fix my shoes at mile 4
...I did think about my form
...I chased the sunrise
...Ran alone
...Picked up my pace to the beat of "A Chorus Line"
...Smiled during Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet"
...Sang along to The Ronettes' "Please Mr. Postman"
...Came home to hot coffee and cinnabuns
...Wore the shirt I wore for my first marathon
...Recalled my first marathon
...Did my 20 lunges

Best wishes to all of those racing this weekend! And good luck to all of those doing their 20 milers before MCM!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cheers to Fall

Happy fall! And happy 200th posting!
I had a good session at the gym last night. Back to pushing 175 on the leg press, and juts building up strength in general. Got some good core work in as well. There's an exercise when you hop (think like jumping rope with the bouncing) between 2 half bosu balls - strengthens your legs and core. Place one in front of the other, and have one foot on each. Now switch back and forth, getting faster and faster. It definitely takes practice to get used to the rhythm. I must look like a nut, but I know it works!
I got to wear running tights this morning! I know it's going back up to 70 in a few days, but I am loving this weather while it's here. It's all I can do not to pack up and move to, I don't know, Vermont, so I can enjoy this weather in some sort of lodge. Not the worst idea when I write my dissertation. But I'm getting carried away.
The weather was great. The air was cold enough to wake me up, but not to give me the chills. I could see my breath a little, and to just have that stark, fresh air all around me carried me out the door. On days like today, when I just went out for a run, no speed work, no challenge or tempo, those are the glory days. I don't even know what I thought about this morning. Thoughts came and went over the passing of the miles, but nothing weighed heavily in my mind.
I took this right when I came back from my run. Face is red, not from heat, but the cold! Hooray! Nothing like hot coffee to warm up afterwards (gatorade and chocolate milk followed too). Cheers to fall and to good, unweighted, runs that lie ahead!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Every fall I fall in love again

Fall is my favorite season, and not just for running. Everything about it, the crispness in the air, the changing of the leaves, the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, the cool temperatures, all gives me a rush. Fall marathons give me a rush, too.
But every fall, I fall in love with running all over again. Maybe because that was when I had my first experience on a cross-country team in 1998. Fall 2008 was when I came back to running and decided to do a marathon. Fall 2009 was when I was going for my first Boston qualifier. And here we are in 2010 and I am in love once again.
I ran 10.6 miles today. I even got to wear long sleeves. It was 46 when I left this morning, and while it did warm up, it was glorious. The sun was shining, but did not have too heat accompanying it, so it was just a pleasant morning. Lots and lots of hills, in preparation for Marine Corps. I was able to do some good brainstorming as well. For my Historical Teaching class, I have to design a syllabus for my "dream class." My class is going to be called "Saints and Sinners in the Later Middle Ages." So I spent the time on the road thinking about topics that would be worth incorporating into this class for undergraduate students. Got a lot of good thinking done - there is still a lot of work to be done. Still, it was a good time to reflect and think about various themes to incorporate for this class (including Franciscans, Joan of Arc, witches, and much much more!). Anyways, it felt good to get out there and do a long run of double digits. It was a perfect day to be out and running. I guess things felt really good too: averaged 8:12 pace. Came back to have coffee and pancakes - delicious all around.
I've included two pictures of my alma mater - Holy Cross in the fall. This weekend is Homecoming Weekend, and while I won't be there, I certainly have the school on my mind. It is absolutely beautiful there this time of year.
I've fallen in love with running all over again. Happy Fall!