Monday, December 27, 2010

Flippers and Form

I am not a great swimmer. But, I can swim and I am a lot better than when I started August 2009. Form is so important to swimming, just like running, but my swimming form...needs improvement. I used to look like I was barely afloat, and now at least there is some rhythm to it. But it's not that graceful stroke that I see in my dad, Jenny, or my triathlete buds. I do like swimming a lot, and I know I will continue to get better with it over time. I'm just not having the rapid improvements that I want - and that's okay - this is not my number #1.
This morning, I went in to the Y for a swim. One of my triathlete buds, Adam, was lifeguarding, so we exchanged hellos and then I headed in. After 300 yards, he handed me flippers. I tend to do a scissor kick, and am not good at the flutter kick. My arms are better than they were, but the kick needs improvement. So, I did 100 yards with a kick board and flippers (fins?). Wow, I was motoring, at least in comparison to my usual crawl. So, I ditched the board and flippers, and kept going with my own two feet. The thing that is hard for me is maintaining that rhythm while kicking and pulling - it's a lot of coordination!
Do you think more coordination is needed for running or swimming?
Back and forth I went, doing my best to keep my feet fluttering and avoiding the scissor kick. I think the hard part is that I feel like my legs are just so straight, and I want to bend them a little more. But I kept going, and sort of tucked my legs in to shake them out during the turnaround. Anyways, I got in 1400 yards and it probably turned out to be one of my best swims ever. The endurance training from running helps, because I don't need to stop to rest at any point. I've done a 1 mile swim once, and that was torture (September 2009). I would like to get to a point where I can do a mile comfortably and regularly.
Good form is hard to maintain, both on the road and in the water. But slow and steady improvements are starting to happen!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running Review of 2010

States run in: New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, DC, Virginia, Maryland, Florida
Races: 11 (2 5ks, 1 4miler, 1 5 miler, 3 10ks, 1 half marathon, 3 marathons) = 125.5 miles of races
Marathon: Went from 3:39:55 to 3:35:54 (goal was to run 3:35)
Half Marathon: Went from 143:29 to 1:39:30 (goal was 1:40)
10k: Went from 46:01 to 44:45 (goal was 45:00)
5k: Went from 22:24 to 21:53 (goal was 22:00)
1 mile: 6:13 to 6:07 (goal was 6:00 - but I only did one attempt, and I am okay with not meeting this - will raise the stakes for 2011)
Mileage: 1690 in 2009 to 2017 miles in 2010 (goal was 2010)
So I met all of my goals, except the mile, and I am not too concerned about that. I am pretty excited that I was able to hit all of my goal times. I'll do my 2011 goals in a different post, once I do some more thinking about those goals.
I have learned about the power of negative splits. Particularly in the 10k, I have become much better at running negative splits, and consequently, have run much better races. Seriously, run the second half faster - it is much more fun to pass people in the end.
I have improved my swimming (new distance PR this morning 2,050 yards!!) and learned of the fun of playing too.
I got to be a part of the Pacers Ambassadors program, volunteer at some great races, and go on some great runs with the Clarendon running group.
I ran up and down the East Coast (and Kalamazoo, MI too while at a conference).
I won my first race (Meaghan's 5k - June), and got a couple of AG awards too.
My parents started running, and have even completed a 5k.
I got to do 3 marathons: Boston, Rochester, and Marine Corps - each special in its own way.
I learned a lot, grew up as a runner, and strengthened some important relationships along the way. Not too shabby for a year's work.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Yes, I wrote so excited on Monday with talk of cross training, swimming, skiing, and even doing pushups. Wham! Woke up on Tuesday with a bad cold. Head cloggy, body aching, nose plugged, yuck. The only time I got up was to go to the GI specialist. Today I made it downstairs, and while I certainly did not exercise today, at least I'm sitting up and have been awake for most of the day. But the timing has been good - thank goodness for Christmas vacation. Really, the body knows how to hold on when needed, and then when life lets up, so does the body. Now I've got the right excuse to take it easy over the next few days.
There's been a lot of "I heart speedwork" blogs on the Loop lately, which I agree. There's nothing like hitting your splits, or going even faster than expected. I think it's like getting a gold star for the day before it already starts.
But I did get another gold star today - a 4.0 for the semester. First time ever, and I'm not going to lie, pretty proud. And as crappy as I feel today, that is definitely a gold star. Hard work pays off, for sure.
But the real comfort and joy was during my rest day today. While resting on the couch, I put in "You've Got Mail," one of my favorite movies. The little emails Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks send each other are so cute; I absolutely love them, "You're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings." I also got in a family dinner, and good conversation with a dear friend. All great things on a day that could've ended just on the couch. Comfort and joy for sure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mega Cross Training + 1 Confession

I am a person who likes a plan or schedule...even on vacation/running without a plan:
I am at home on Christmas vacation. But I still like to have some sort of routine. So, my plan is to do a TON of cross training over break. I'll get in some runs to, but I am going to operate under the exercise for time, not miles. So if I can get in at least an hour a day (when that usually means about 7 miles), that would be pretty good for keeping my fitness level up.
Yesterday my parents and I went cross country skiing for 45 minutes. I don't think I've done it in 5 years, but it felt great. Where we ski is really beautiful; lots of pretty trails. Then in the afternoon, I did a 3.7 mile run.
This morning I went to the Y with my dad. Swam 1200 yards - first time in the pool in 3 weeks. Felt great - the pool just takes off a lot of physical pressure and my body just relaxes, even when working hard. Then did upperbody work in the gym, plus my Roman chairs. And here it comes...the embarassing confession of the month:
I cannot do a regular pushup. I can to the "girl ones" just fine, and I can get down low enough to do a regular one, but I cannot do a regular push up. Ridiculous! How is this possible? I do upper body weights in the gym, I can swim, and I can run marathons, but I can't do one measly pushup? So, resolution #1 for 2011 - be able to do one pushup, and hopefully a lot more by the end of the year. I'm giving you my word - this is part of my plan for 2011!
We are also going cross country skiing again this afternoon. 45 minutes of that plus 30 minutes of swimming is 75 minutes of cardio for the day, plus weights. Not too shabby for a non-running day.
Thoughts? I know cross training can't entirely replace running, but surely I am going to reap a lot of benefits of a lot of XT, supplemented by some shorter runs, right?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

5 minutes and 5 pictures of 2010

In 5 minutes, describe 2010, using 5 pictures:
I took my master's comps over the summer, reading over 60 books to prepare for the 2 days of exams. I was very excited to celebrate that victory with my family and friends.
I got to spend more time with my brother, Ryan.
We worked
together during the summer, and because he joined another part of my life that is important to me, got to understand another component of my life. This was the first time we were really able to spend time together outside of Rochester. We're going to be home within 12 hours of each other Friday night/Saturday morning, and I am very excited.
I had the thrill of running Boston. Boston was one of the best days, not just 2010, but of all my life: it was absolutely thrilling.
The support I had from my family and friends propelled me through the day, and after I crossed the finish line, there was also an outpouring of love and support. It gave me an unquenchable thirst for more marathons and more Bostons. I will be back in 2011 in conquer those Newton hills once again.
I got to introduce a friend to marathoning. I felt a tremendous sense of pride as we gallavanted around Saratoga as we trained over the summer, and then finally during the marathon around DC/VA, knowing that I helped a former swimmer turn into a sub-4 marathoner. And in doing so, our friendship blossomed into something more spectacular.
By entering the PhD program, I feel like I've reaffirmed to major things: I love medieval history and I am very excited about the prospect of teaching. I have really enjoyed my first experience at being a TA. I got to give my first lecture. In one of my classes, I got to develop a teaching portfolio, and grew increasingly excited over the prospect of teaching classes such as "Saints and Sinners" and "Teaching through the Ages." My own coursework this semester was fascinating: I got to learn much more about the Carolingians than ever expected. I got to write a fun research paper. And I manage to set up a great schedule for next semester that allows me to work quite intentionally on some interesting subjects: late medieval narrative, early medieval piety/monasticism/sanctity, and Renaissance pedagogy. My professors have been more than willing to support my interests, and I hope to do the same in the future for my own students.
I think in general, I've grown increasingly passionate in 2010: both about running and my graduate work. Consequently, I just have become more willing to put time into both. But it's not just about taking out the books or putting on the shoes: participating in both has allowed me to renew some pretty imporant relationships, both with family and friends. There were many challenges throughout the year, but I have also learned more about how to overcome them. One of my favorites quotes is "A personal peak is a triumph over fear," from Peaks and Valleys. That is how I have grown this year: by looking ahead into the hard parts, and saying, okay, I have the tools and support to go through this. Time to get ready to forge ahead in 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When the 3 miler is meaningful

Running is a bit on the back burner these days. Boston is still over 4 months away, and I won’t commence my training for that until 2011. Sarah (my coach and a fellow medievalist) told me to just do what I can in the next few weeks and not worry too much about running. I have a good base at this point, and I can also take the time over break to work on the ancillary things like strength training, core work, swimming, etc. School needs to be the first priority right now, and she certainly understands that. I just finished my teaching portfolio – which is ultimately forever a work in progress, but at least now my pedagogy teacher has an initial idea of my teaching philosophy and aims as a professor. Yesterday, I handed in my big seminar paper “Prepared with Banners Waving and Bells Ringing: Increasing Ornamentation in Thirteenth-Century English Processions” for my later medieval England class. That was a big triumph – probably the most fun/fascinating/worthwhile paper I’ve written in graduate school. It’s a project that my professor said could be a dissertation – just not the one I’ll write (I’m doing mine on medieval witchcraft). But perhaps this will spark some thinking for book 2 – the second project that is always lurking in the back of your mind. I have one more paper to hand in (due Friday) on Carolingian literacy, and then the semester will be over. Needless to say – writing is the main priority this week.

But I was so overjoyed on Sunday with the 10k. It just went so incredibly well, and the more I think about it, the more I am sure that my success had to do with the fact that I relaxed! I had fun before and during, and did not get too stressed about it. What a tactic! It just goes to show that playing really does do wonders in all facets of life.

This morning I went out for an easy 3 miler. I just felt very relieved – the end of the semester is in sight. It was cold out, but not so windy that it hurt my face. The sun was out, and the traffic was light. Knee only bothered me a little, and going slow felt just fine. I was just grateful to be out – out and away from the computer, away from grading, away from the world. I think it is easy to take those easy short runs for granted sometimes. But really, they can do a lot for the spirit. Just get the clothes on and go out the door and do it. I came back feeling refreshed and recharged. Even managed to do 20 lunges and some planks after. And then I was ready for the day – to edit and to write. There was nothing complicated, no mile splits to hit, no pre long-run breakfast to prepare, no complicated route to measure. Just the easy 3 miler, no thoughts, no worries, just a sense of gratitude for being on the open road.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jingle All the Way 2010 10k PR - Scrappy

In 2008, Jingle All the Way was my first road race. I finished in 55:04, and that was the race that kicked off marathon training. So, it is a race very dear to me - I returned to it last year (46:01), and wanted to do it again this year.
Things that changed the game going into this year:
*I already met my 2010 goal of breaking 45 minutes (ran 44:57 at Race with Grace on Thanksgiving).
*I have just felt rundown with the end of the semester.
*Unsure if my knee is still bothering me. This week, I only ran 11 miles before today (5 Tuesday, 4 Wednesday, and a 2 mile shakeout yesterday).
On the other hand:
*I didn't want to back out of the race. I've done well on this course and I know it well. People in DC are fast, and they help push me to keep going. And then there's the other thing: every time I have raced, I have set a PR. And while I know I'm going to hit a point where that won't happen, I am enjoying this streak so far - it is a pretty cool feeling.
Last night, I decided to just relax. No point in getting worked up over today - perhaps I would just go for a course PR, or no matter what, get in a 6.2 mile run and have fun. My friend Amanda came over to hang out with me and my roommate Julie (we're all in the history grad program). So much fun! And got in a good conversation with Jenny too. Relax relax relax, laughed, and decided what the heck, 2 beers too. We had a blast, and even though I didn't get a ton of sleep (5 hours), the amount of fun I had was totally totally worth it.
It was cold and raining this morning. Just put on my headphones and listened to fun music on the way in - I am not going to sweat anything out. Picked up my bib number and only had a couple minutes before the start. This was ideal - no time to worry - chose to just smile instead. I'm not going to lie, I didn't warm up or stretch at all. I was just thinking "What the heck, we'll go out and see what happens." And then it was time to go!
Bells were ringing and I crossed through the first mile in 7:00. Too fast no matter what, but no pain. Mile 2: 14:30. Okay, we'll see what happens, maybe a PR, more likely a course PR. I got through the half in 22:48. If anything is going to happen, it is time to pick up the pace. It is really raining now, but I am happy with what I wore (Boston shirt and shorts). The turnaround is pretty cool, because you can watch the elite runners, and they are a nice distraction. So, I watch them, and then the other runners when I am on the other end of the turnaround. I start to pick it up, and then pick women to pass. Got through mile 4 at 29:08. Unsure what my time will be. I have decided in the past few races not to mark ideal splits on my hand, and just run by feel instead. No point in trying to do math in my head at this point, we'll just see. I keep going and going, and the pace feels fast, I am really hauling and I feel tired. Knee doesn't hurt that much, certainly not like it did during the week. Relief at mile 5 (can't remember my time), knowing there was less than 10 minutes to go. There was a pack of 3 girls, and I kept getting closer to them, and then passed them. Was wondering if acclerating at mile 4 was the right choice, but thought, I'll just be uncomfortable for a little while longer. But as I kept pushing, digging, and passing people, I started to think. This is what I do best, pull out all of the stops when the time comes. I am scrappy - I can fight and be aggressive in the end of a race and pass others assertively. So, go ahead, be scrappy. So, I just keep moving and moving - finding another layer to go faster as the rain comes down harder. Okay, I can see the finish at mile 6. Just go, go, keep going, only a few more moments of hauling in like this.
A 12 second PR for the 10k, over a minute PR for the course.
Overall women: 62/2535
Age Group: 11/383
I was just so happy and could not stop smiling. After picking up my bag, I walked to the nearest Dunkin Donuts (a must have), with music playing. I definitely had a bounce in my step, and even in the rain, I felt teriffic. Today I chose to be scrappy and happy. Carefree served me well - not only because I PRed, but had fun too. What a way to close out the 2010 racing season!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Alberto Salazar is like Charlemagne

Perhaps an odd comparison, but not if you're a runner/medievalist, like me:
Alberto Salazar, the great marathoner of the early 80s and winner of the "Duel in the Sun" (1982 Boston Marathon), reemerged into the running fore in 2001 when he created the Nike Oregon Project. Salazar did this in part to address the decline of American runners in the world stage, saying, ""The rest of the world has gotten faster, and Americans have gotten slower." I pulled some information from the Track Town USA website:
The Oregon Project has also taken advantage of the following equipment and technology:
  • Laptop and Russian software: analyzes heart rate patterns torecommendoptimal intensity for daily workouts
  • Vibrating exercise platform: increases leg power
  • High-pressure oxygen(Hyperbaric) chamber: accelerates repair of muscle tears
  • Underwater treadmill (like the one on the back patio of Nike House): a way to increase training miles while reducing injuries
  • Whirlpool: relievesmuscle soreness
  • Medical testing equipment: monitors hemoglobin levels
Current runners who are involved include Shalane Flanagan, Kara and Adam
Goucher, Galen Rupp, Chris Solinsky, Amy Yoder Begley, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenheim. These are all Olympians, American record holders, and continue to lead the pack in the recent boom in American distance running.
Recently, one of the major additions to the Project is coach Jerry Schumacher, who coached Shalane to a second place finish at the NYC Marathon. This in part occured due to Salazar's heart attack in 2007, but the addition has been quite beneficial to the project.
Ultimately, the project stands as a testament to not only what a good team can do together (versus training individually), but the effects of a single man's vision for positive change. The project has been hailed as one of the most innovative ideas in running in the twenty first century, and will hopefully continue to produce world-class runners for years to come.
So, how is Alberto like Charlemagne?
Brief summary of Charlemagne: Charlemagne was king of the Franks beginning in 768, and then was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800. During his reign, he expanded the Frankish empire tremendously into Western and Central Europe. In addition to his territorial advances, Charlemagne was also hailed for his contributions to the Carolingian Renaissance. His court, Aachen (pronounced Ah-ckin), was a center for learning. It became so renowned in part because it was a wonderful center for the liberal arts, and so people from diverse backgrounds and interests came together at Aachen. Charlemagne had to work very hard
to get Alcuin of York to come to Aachen. Alcuin was a well-known grammarian and litearay scholar, and adding him to the court enhanced Aachen's prestige. Other notable scholars included Theodulf (a Visigoth), Paul the Deacon (a Lombard), Peter of Pisa, and Einhard, who wro
te the first major biography of Charlemagne. These were the heavy hitters - the big writers of the age, and Charlemagne brought them together. Therefore, I submit to you
....The Carolingian Court Project
The idea came while I was reading David Bullough's Alcuin and Achievement in preparation for a final paper. Probably proof that it is the end of the semester, but there is a little bit of a connection. Both great men, great coaches if you will, and they put together great teams. Both are winners, and will certainly always go down in the annals of history, whether medieval or running.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Diagnosis: Celiac Disease, Prognosis: Hopeful

Friday night I got a call from my doctor... I have Celiac Disease. My aunt was diagnosed with it about a month ago, and so I had bloodwork done over Thanksgiving break. And the results are in, Celiac Disease. Apparently, my intestines cannot tolerate gluten -- primarily wheat products. One of the symptoms is fatigue. But that seemed pretty easy to attribute to other things: marathon training and being a full-time PhD student. That would explain it, right? Even when I get enough sleep, it doesn't always feel like enough. Perhaps this was why.
I cried a bit when I first found out. I kept thinking of things that I won't be able to enjoy: beer, donuts, pizza, cinnamon buns. Now, I hear there are some substitutions that can be made on some of this. But still - no more Blue Moon? Dunkin Donuts? But time for a reality check too. That was not the worst thing I could get a phone call about from the doctor. Holding onto that, and grateful that it wasn't anything else.
I have 2 weeks before I go home, and at this point, they say to just keep eating gluten, so that they can get an honest assessment of what things are like. So, I am not going to lie: time to drink and eat up. Might as well enjoy the last hurrah!
The American 10k Olympian Amy Yoder Begley has Celiac Disease. I just read an interesting article about her from Running Times. She was diagnosed in 2006, and she says that since she has found out, it has made a big difference. Her training has improved as she has learned what foods work best for her. And she also says the restaurant options for CD are growing (Outback Steakhouse - guess I know where I'm going). She said she has more energy now that she is not eating foods that are breaking down her body. "I’ve actually found that energy levels are much better during the day. I’m not having a lot of lows any more and I feel better,” Begley says. I think I have a new role model in the running world.
That is something to be really hopeful about. Have I only been operating on partial capacity the past few years? This is what I need to focus on (and not what foods I have to give up). Maybe things will improve a bit when I drop the gluten - more energy, new PRs? This is what I am holding onto.
As I learn more about this, I will continue to write about it - what foods are going out, what new things work. I would also love to hear from anyone who has made the switch - what foods become your go-tos during training?
Yesterday, I ran 3 miles in 25mph winds. That sums it up right now: fighting to move forward. Between the end of the semester, the diagnosis, and a knee that is still not feeling 100%, that was all I could do. But I still got out there.
And maybe I had 2 donuts this morning...