Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
It’s back to normal, sort of. I was back in DC for about 36 hours, and then took at bus out to Chappaqua, NY to visit family for Easter (ah, the benefits of being at a Catholic school – Easter vacation!). This was great because it meant 3 days after the marathon, I was getting full nights of sleep every day! I definitely needed that – I was completely exhausted for the first 2 days. But I do believe that if you can get through the first 2 full days after the marathon, you are good to go. Before that, I was so sore, and it is a soreness that it is hard to explain to others. I live at the top of my apartment building, and coming down the stairs was a process. I tended to take a deep breath, and grit it out – I am sure I looked foolish to anyone passing by. But was deliriously happy!
And that’s the thing: the joy hasn’t gone away. Of course, it’s not that surreal, pinch-me-did-this-really-happen, kind of feeling, but still very happy. It’s the kind of feeling that is perfectly timed with the end of the semester: I have about 10 days to go. Surely I can take what I did at Boston and use that to fuel me/reassure me for this final stretch…
I took a few days off – no exercises, no stretches: nothing. On Friday, I went for a 50 minute walk around Chappaqua – figured it was time to start moving at least a little fast, but walking was the fastest I could go. On Saturday, I rowed 6000 meters – couldn’t quite muster a run yet, but wanted to get some form of moderate exercise. Felt good to break out a sweat – which a few years ago that wouldn’t have been a desire. Now, it’s as if when I am pushing that hard, I feel most like myself, most real.
After Mass, I so wanted to go for a run on Sunday – and so I did! 3.8 hilly miles at a relatively fast pace considering that I was less than a week out from Boston (8:06 pace). I think part of me was just so excited to get back on the road. And I did the same on Monday. Very hilly though – I could feel my quads ache on the downhills – they must be remembering going down Heartbreak Hill!
I ran 4 miles today, and that was more for my mind than my body. I have a week and a half of school: papers, exams, papers and exams to grade, and then I will be done. Somehow, I get more nervous about that than marathon training.
So I just need to sit back and remember what I have just done. Surely if I can go sub 3:30 in the marathon, I can finish the semester on a high note. And in the next week, I won't be running to train, just running to stay sane!
Friday, April 22, 2011
I knew it wasn’t just going to be one post about Boston. If you want to know how it all came together, here it is…
Exactly 6 weeks before the Boston Marathon, I was on a plane from Rochester to Florida. I knew it was time to hone in and get everything into place to make the final six weeks go as smoothly as possible. So, I wrote a letter to myself and laid out my plan…
In exactly 6 weeks (it is 10:30AM), the starting pistol will go off and begin my dream race: Boston 2011. The past 2 weeks, I have trained with what I think is a new intensity and passion. I have a new goal in mind: sub 3:30. I think in the past I have been hesitant to set big goals, in part because I don’t want to fail and disappoint myself. But I now have 2 years of marathon training under my belt, and over a year of more focused training through Sarah’s guidance. And now, I am staring into the distance, imagining Hopkinton, Ashland, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and finally, the promise of Boston that awaits me. The picture is simultaneously clearer and blurrier. I have run Boston before. I know exactly what Heartbreak Hill feels like. But what will it feel like if I step outside of myself, dig deep, push myself, reach and find that new layer?
I could make my dreams come true.
In order for me to succeed in exactly six weeks, a number of things need to come together.
· I need to hone in on my tempo runs. I have finally gotten the hang of them and they are working.
· I need to keep my nutrition on par. I have come to find a lot of great foods that help fuel my runs as well as aid in my recovery. I have learned that just a little bit of planning with this has made a difference. I think I eat better in general. Instead of pizza and fries for lunch, it’s a roast beef sandwich and yogurt. I don’t drink as much. I drink more milk. I don’t splurge on fast food, since I don’t necessarily know if there’s gluten in a product that probably isn’t good for me anyways. It must be working.
· I need to maintain consistency with my cross training. It is hard doing double days of cross training, and I don’t get that same thrill of a 5:30AM alarm to go rowing that I do for running. But with 6 weeks to go, I need to push on, divide my time, and make it manageable. I can vary things up.
· I need to keep some strength training as well, and continue to do my ITB exercises. These are all of the ancillary things that can make a major difference.
· I need to trust the process. 2 weeks ago, I called this a leap of faith. But while I am partly in awe and disbelief of the possibility of going sub 3:30, I need to believe that this can and will work. Sarah trains with people who have gone to the Olympic Trials. I do track workouts that Olympic Trials qualifiers do. This works: double days, tempo runs, 2 types of track workouts in one, they all lead to great results.
· I know how to step outside of myself. It is funny, but the teeny, almost impromptu Freezeroo 8 miler in some ways may have been a signal that I am ready for a breakthrough. I went through the first mile in 6:53 and it felt easy. I set a PR in the 5k, and I wondered how this was possible. The same thing happened at the 10k mark. I am getting better at pushing myself, and feeling more comfortable being uncomfortable. This is working, and I will be testing myself again on March 26th at the National Half Marathon, aiming to run sub 1:37 in order to receive an automatic bid for the NYC Marathon (revised: mission accomplished – 1:34:37).
· I need to run with joy. I gain strength from my family and friends, and I need to harness that. I just came off of an amazing weekend at Kathleen and Sandeep’s wedding. That joy even translated into my long run. I ran 19 miles on the treadmill, averaging 8:18 pace. That is solid for a long run, considering long runs are supposed to be about 45 seconds slower than race pace. This should mean than 8 minute miles should feel relatively comfortable. Even though it was mentally challenging to stay focused on the treadmill for so long, in some ways, I know it will be easier in Boston. I’ll have changes in scenery, and I’ll have people cheering for me and supporting me. I can tap into that. I think I did yesterday, and certainly saw positive results. I am going to be spending this week with the Uibles. That will give me joy too. I can use that as I begin to peak in training, which will help me feel solid in the taper.
I am looking at a big breakthrough. But I have the tools in hand, a brand new body that I myself have rebuilt, and a support system that will be there for me along the way.
This is an achievable dream that I can reach.
Now is the time.
When I wrote this, I was focused, and sharp – ready for the final press. Reading that now, I have a big lump in my throat.
Because it really was an achievable dream.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
There is something so incredibly special about the Boston Marathon. Perhaps it is its storied history, the qualifying time, the competition, or the quest to set afoot upon sacred ground, that brings pilgrims from all 50 states, and 93 countries together for one day. But the trip was more about the race itself, so time to go back to the beginning.
I stayed with my best friend in Providence Saturday night, which was so much fun! She got married in March, and I hadn’t seen her since. Very relaxing and we even did a 3 mile shakeout run together Sunday morning. Those final runs always frighten me – they are at a slow pace, and I often wonder how I’ll put out a much faster pace for 26.2 miles. But, we had a wonderful time – Kathleen is very important to me and it was good that she was able to be a part of my Boston journey.
On Sunday, I headed out to Boston to meet up with my parents and go to the expo. My first stop was to meet Kathrine Switzer – my running role model. Gracious as always, and her husband (Roger Robinson) was too – they are very nice people. I also met Sara Hall (Ryan Hall’s wife) – she is an elite middle distance runner. I didn’t know she was going to be at the expo, so I was a bit surprised to see her. She was very nice – signed an autograph and took a picture with me. I had my Pacers gear on, and she also had very nice things to say about the store. Picked up my number, which is always so exciting – the final thing you need before you can run.
I then had dinner with my parents and a few friends from the Marine Corps Marathon and their families. Lots of fun at Maggiano’s, a delicious restaurant that was close to the convention center. We were eating by 4:30, which was good as I think we were all set for bed after that! The waiter was very nice and brought over 3 tiramisu desserts for the table, so my parents had that and I got ice cream after. A couple of phone calls, and then it was back to the hotel for bed.
I am pretty good about falling asleep the night before a marathon, and did a pretty good job Sunday night. I felt at peace with everything – relaxed and ready to go. Woke up in the middle of the night once, and then it was 4:30 on Marathon Monday Morning.
I had half of my breakfast in the hotel, and my parents and I took the T downtown. My parents “put me on the bus” – it really feels like the first day of school again. I rode on the bus with a MCM buddy, Bettina, which was excellent. We had fun and swapped running stories, almost oblivious that we were driving 26 miles.
Time in the Athletes’ Village flew by, and before we knew it, they called us to the start. I made a last minute game change and opted for the tank top, no arm warmers. Bright orange, so I could be fiery fast. Bettina and I walked to the start, hugged, and then headed for our respective corrals. And then the gun went off!
And so I waited, then we started to move forward, and then FINALLY cross the starting line. 2 minutes into the race, I realize that I did not hit start on my watch. Silly me! Hmm – how am I going to figure out my time? I decided I would start my watch at the 1 mile mark, and then use the “lap” function on my watch for every mile, ignore the pace band, and just go according to pace. Went through my first timed mile 7:25. Whoa, easy girl. No need to make up for lost time yet. Within a few miles, I had evened out to 7:45 pace, and was at 7:46 pace by the half.
At this point, I should note that I met with my training coach, Sarah, a week before Boston, and she said I should aim to go beyond clearing 3:30 and be a bit more ambitious, even though the pace would feel fast.
Anyways, the support on the course was as wonderful as I remembered. There was a surge of energy as you moved form town to town: each place with its individual mix of excitement. I gave some little kids high fives, but other than that, just tried to focus on relaxing and taking it all in. People were great with setting up “water stops” outside their front lawns, or handing out wipes (all of the Gatorade makes you sticky). It was hot! I kept dumping water on my head and rubbing it on my arms too. I also grabbed water or Gatorade at almost every stop, which normally I would only take something about every 5 miles. Not on Monday. I figured it was best to be overcautious this time. So again, I have no idea what my overall time is, but I keep averaging 7:45 pace or so, and my thoughts keep going back and forth from “Is this too fast?” to “I could totally go faster, but I won’t.” I was really hoping I wouldn’t crash and burn, because then I wouldn’t be courageous, just stupid. But the first 10 miles clicked off really quickly.
The screams from Wellseley started to rumble in the distance. Brace yourself, listen to them, and harness their energy for later. You could actually feel their screams – so incredible.
And then we hit the halfway point. Alright, halfway to go. The next few miles click off quite quickly, and I am still hoping I am doing the right thing. Maybe I can pick it up after Heartbreak, but you can’t press the pace until then.
A few more miles go by, and then mile 16. Okay, 10 miles to go isn’t too bad, but I am starting to feel a little tired. Reel yourself in, and get ready for Newton. Bam! The first turn of the course, and the spectators are out and ready to help get us ready to climb these hills. At this point, after climbing the first hill, I have my first splits with an 8 on it. That’s okay, that’s okay, these hills are hard, you need to go easy. And then things evened out again: mini sigh of relief.
But with 9 miles to go, that is a long time to still feel tired. It felt hot at this point too, so I just kept focusing on taking in liquids whenever possible. Another hill, another 8. But then I popped a 7:45 split. Then, time for Heartbreak Hill. I had trained on harder hills, I was ready for this. It is a long climb, and patience is absolutely a necessity – the top will come at some point. And when I finally made it, the frat boys of Boston College were waiting and cheering. I had an easier time this year than last year going down Heartbreak Hill – I think because I was ready for it. 5 miles to go, which I figured would take about 40 minutes, especially since I could just feel my energy dropping.
My mind is just swirling with thoughts and images at this point. Then 4 miles. Get down to 3, that would be less than half an hour. We then are in Brookline, next to trolley tracks, and people on the trolleys are taking pictures of us. We’re dying and they’re photographing it? Then someone by me is carrying an American flag. People are chanting USA! USA! USA! My heart surges a little. Then back to the hazy swirly feelings. My legs hurt so much. Then, the crowd’s intensity picked up again. People are shouting “Ole, ole ole ole,” and I feel myself feeling excited again. My heart is pounding. 2 miles to go. You can get through another mile, and then it’s just one to go. Keep your head down, ignore the Citgo sign, and just keep going. How are there more hills? Mile 25. Wait for it. Then, the 1 mile to go sign. You can do this, you can do this. Then, 2 turns to go. Then, the final turn.
So spectacular to get onto Boylston Street. The blue finish arch hangs like a glimmering beacon of hope. And oh my gosh, the crowds are phenomenal, indescribable. I am running and running, and feel happy again – this is going to happen. I know my parents are somewhere, I look to my left with 100 yards to go, and there they are – I joyfully wave and continue on. And as I lift my hands with joy and relief, I cross the finish line. I have done it.
And I have no idea what time I finished in.
I got my cape and medal. I called my friend Jenny, who had been tracking me but didn't know my final time, but was so excited. Then, I called my parents who gleefully reported to me my time:
7:54 per mile
almost a 9 minute PR and almost 12 minute Boston PR
Oh my God, I actually did it. The diet, the cross training, all paid off. I went sub 3:30 with room to spare.
My other stats
Age Group (18-39): 850/5202
I could barely walk, so I shuffled to the curb by a church and sat down while I waited for my parents. I was wrapped in my cape and on top of the world We headed back quickly, got cleaned up, had some celebratory phone calls, then went out to dinner. That is always one of my favorite parts: we always have a lot of fun. Went to Outback (very good GF menu): had steak and potatoes and Redbridge GF beer. All so delicious, and I packed it all away, and ice cream too. A few more phone calls, and then time for bed, blissfully happy about the course of the day.
Tuesday at the airport, there was no swagger, but certainly a wide stride in each runner, trying to navigate and make the legs do what is normal, after having done something completely abnormal. But again, just like upon arrival, the jackets are donned, and now the medals are worn, and we all know that we shared in something special.
More is to come: my parents took lots of pictures. Here is a preview: I took this back at the hotel afterwards.
This was the race that mattered so much to me, for so many reasons. It was more than a triumph, it was the victory I had sought after – I answered Boston’s call, ran with joy and courage, and found so many blessings along the way.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I have begun my pilgrimage.
Interestingly enough, I am strongly considering developing a project on medieval pilgrimage. It is a fascinating topic, and my interest has piqued this semester with both my own courses and what I am teaching.
Mecca, Jerusalem, Rome are all sites of pilgrimage in the religious realm. But for those who also embody another passion, running, Boston is the pilgrimage site.
People come from all walks of life: old, young, married, single, all over the country and all over the world, to congregate in this one place on this one day. By bus, by train, by car, by plane, all will do whatever it takes to arrive in time for Marathon Weekend.
I hardly needed to verify my gate: the seats were full of lithe runners, donning marathon jackets, drinking water, reading Runner’s World, and gazing far-off in anticipation for what is to come. I am wearing my Boston 2010 jacket, and I exchange knowing glances with the runners,
You and I are here for the same reasons. Our training may different, our life stories may be distinct, but you and I want the same thing. I may understand your lifestyle more than some of those who actually know you, and in that way, we are comrades and pilgrims together on this same journey.
There is an unspoken excitement in the air. And this was what greeted us upon arrival in Logan:
I am now staying with my best friend for the night, and my parents will arrive tomorrow. And the clock keeps on ticking until Marathon Morning.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Running mileage: 529.25 miles
Swimming: 40,000 yards
Elliptical: 206 miles
Rowing: 75,300 meters
I don't know how many hours that adds up to, but this is the most I have ever trained for a marathon. Ever. It has been consistent and focused. Once I started physical therapy in January, the IT Band pain went away permanently. My new diet has been consistent. I am physically a lot stronger - my legs and arms look different. I don't tucker out toward the end of a run anymore. I have figured out how to run tempos. I ran a solid half marathon (1:34:37) that indicates going sub 3:30 is more than doable.
I have run this course before - I know what the hills look like, what the crowds sound like, and what this magical race feels like.
This is one of my favorite songs (All These Things I've Done by the Killers), and especially paired with the clip of Joan Benoit Samuelson winning Olympic Gold in 1984 is all the more inspiring. It is one of my power songs, because it reminds me that I have assembled a good training cycle and followed it to its end.
My power word is going to be "courageous" on Monday. I have taken several leaps of faith: with my diet, with the cross training, and my goal for Monday. I am going to have step outside of myself, which I am learning how to do, and push on Monday. But I am going to run focused, simultaneously running free and happy.
I am setting myself up now to relax my mind and enjoy myself in these final days. I get to have a few dinners with medieval faculty, which I am excited, and see some of my dearest friends and family. That is going to put me in an ideal state for Monday: relaxed and happy.
The door has been slammed shut, the hay is in the barn, and I cannot wait to run on Monday.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
- Adams Morgan
- Dupont Circle
- Rock Creek Park
- Embassy Row
- National Theater
- The White House
- The Capitol
- Some of the Smithsonians
- Washington Monument
- Lincoln Memorial
- Arlington Cemetery
- Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
- Haines Point