Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I believe in cross training

Last year, I was a 5-6 day a week runner. My mileage was typically in the 50 mpw, and occasionally even bumped up to 60mpw during peak training for Rochester 2010. My cross training consisted of 1 1000 yard swim a week and some weight lifting. But, afterwards, ITBS came, and it seemed as if high mileage was not the way to go. So, when Sarah structured out my plan for Boston, she suggested going down to 4 days a week of running. The other 3 days meant cross training twice a day. I did not anticipate how much cross training would help. Ultimately, 3 tasks became a part of my routine: rowing, swimming, and the elliptical. The elliptical was a constant, and the rowing ultimately replaced the swimming after 6 weeks. Sarah said I would be surprised at how much stronger I would feel because of it. And, she was right. Somehow, I run better and stronger with 4 days a week, on 40 mpw than 60 mpw. 3:35:54 (2010) vs. 3:27:00 (2011).
And so I am continuing to follow the cross-training plan!
Biweekly roundup
Monday: 6000 meters rowing AM, 4 miles elliptical PM, weights
Tuesday: 9 miles with 3 miles of repeats
Wednesday: 3.4 mile AM run, PM "tri" 15 minutes rowing (3000 yards), 15 minutes spinning (3.4 miles), 15 minutes elliptical (2.2 miles)
Thursday: 7.5 mile run
Friday: Rowing
Saturday: 3.4 mile shakeout run
Sunday: 1.3 mi w/u, 5k (20:45), 5.5 mile cooldown

Monday: 4 miles on elliptical (32 minutes) and weights
Tuesday: 7.5 mile AM run, 3.4 PM run
Wednesday: 6000 meters rowing, 3 miles on spin cycle, weights, plyos
Thursday: 7.5 mile AM run, 3.4 PM run
Friday: 2000 yard swim, weights
Saturday: 5.5 mile AM run, 16.6 PM bike ride
Sunday: AM weights, 10.6 mile run

That's right, I am back in the water! It was long enough time away from the pool (3 months), and I went back in on Friday. It was not as hard as I thought to get back into it - and it was just as fun as I remembered. And then on Saturday, I asked my dad to go on a bike ride with me. He bikes regularly, and we biked on the Erie Canal. It was hard, and my butt hurt afterward, but it was good. I am not saying I am turning to a triathlete, but I will continue to train like one. And I'm not saying no to a triathlon in my future, just not yet.

I believe in cross training. Put away the running shoes for a day, pick up something new and just try (or tri) - your body will thank you!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gluten Free Friday: French Meadow Bakery Review

Did you know May is Celiac Awareness Month?

Last year, I did not know that. This year, it's party time! Bring out the gluten-free products!

I am proud to announce my latest gluten-free company: French Meadow! Their phone number is 1-800-NoYeast - how awesome is that?

I first heard about them right before Boston - my best friend Kathleen bought me their brownies when I was staying with her before the race. So good! They are individually packaged, and so easy to just toss in your purse (or even gym back for a post run treat). The brownies are very moist and delicious, without making you feel too full. If you visit their website (www.frenchmeadow.com), you can also get a coupon for $1 off their products. Their product range is very wide: they have a bakery, they make desserts, bread, all of the products someone who is living gluten-free would like.

It was very nice for French Meadow Bakery to send me another batch this month - they have been very much enjoyed during Celiac Awareness Month.

Life is always unexpected. Again, last year, I had no clue. 6 months ago, I had no clue. It has only been 5 months. Things are a lot happier than they were 5 months ago. I have a plan, I have the food, and I have the support. So, yes, I have been celebrating this month, and I finally have the food to do so!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When you push fear aside...

The sky is the limit.

Well, not entirely. But, taking a chance and saying no to the fear can be very liberating.

I can be kind of chicken with some physical conquests. I duck anytime a ball flies near me. But I am learning to push myself to try new things and to be less afraid. At the gym, there are a lot of machines that I don't use, because well, they look intimidating and I don't think I have the strength to complete the exercise. But I've slowly started to realize that the strength I've built up from running and doing some weights and cross training can actually translate into the ability to do other things.
Example: In February, I looked at the rowing machine and thought, wow, that must be good to do. And then, I sat down, pulled, and started rowing away. From then on, I rowed 3 times a week in preparation for Boston. I realized that yes, I was strong enough to do it, and once I got started, I loved it - and I think it really helped get me stronger.

But that doesn't mean I always grab machines by the horns and just go. But lately, I have been eyeing these two machines at the gym:

Especially with the one on the right, I have always been afraid I would fall down or do it wrong or lack the the ability to do it right. But I have been doing so much strength training, it was worth giving it a shot. Do you ever eyeball people at the gym and size them up? I do sometimes, and I watched some of them do those machines, and I thought, surely if they can do it, so I can it.
And finally I pushed aside the fear and went for it. The sit up bench was hard, but I actually had fun with the lower back machine. It may sound corny, but it felt so liberating to actually do it. That machine has looked impossible for years, and there I was, not falling down, but actually doing it.
I'm not saying it was a life changing moment. But, I felt free, I felt less scared to try something new. When you take the big step, look over the gaping hole, and jump, that feels amazing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Run to Overcome: A Review

In December, I first read Meb Keflezighi and Dick Patrick's Run to Overcome. What an amazing book. I started to write a review of it back then, but it was never finished. I initially wrote,
"I think part of the reason I loved the book so much is that I am in a bit of a running rut. My mileage is low, and things are just a bit tenuous now. So, knowing that Meb's story is one of triumph over adversity was a good incentive to read it." And now...
While this is a book about Meb's training and racing stories, it is not just a book about running or runners. It is the story of an immigrant family (Meb has 9 siblings) from Eteria. Meb took to learning English and his schoolwork with the same tenacity and dedication that he would eventually take to running. He then got a scholarship to UCLA, where he began his "internship" (what he refers to his runner-coach relationship as) with Bob Larsen, who still coaches him today. When he turned pro, he approached Nike with a letter that included the following prediction, "In the near future I am confident I will make a positive contribution to U.S. distance running in the 5,000m, 10,000m, road race and marathon." It reminded me of the
While I knew a lot of the major events that were included in the book (2004 Olympics, 10k American Record, 2007 Olympic Trials, and ultimately the NYC Marathon), it was still gripping to read.
And now to reread. I love a story of triumph. Meb never had anything handed to him; he worked to earn it. During major injuries, he endured hours of rehab, doing everything he could to rebuild his strength and ensure a strong comeback. The ending to the book is just beautiful,
"Winning in life doesn't happen when you overcome just one thing-do or die. It's persevering, knowing that difficulties are bumps in the road, not the end of the world. It's continuing to do the right things, knowing your time will come. After all, you have to conduct yourself like a champion before you can ever win a championship. Whatever you do, then, give it your best. Persevere in overcoming obstacles. When you do, you'll be running to win."
You can read it if you are a runner or if you are just looking for some inspiration and motivation. This is a story of hard work, of persistent dedication, of faith in God's will, and the importance of believing in yourself.
I root for the Americans because they represent my country, and I am proud to have the American runners stand in front of me at a major race like Boston. But reading of a story like this makes me so much more proud to run in the same country as those like Meb Keflezighi.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Medved Lilac 5k PR

I am not a 5k runner by nature. I have actually done as many 5ks (6) as I've done marathons. But, in my quest to work on my speed, I am working on my shorter distance racing. And today was the Lilac 10k/5k, and thanks to some good friends weighing in, I opted for the 5k in my hopes to break 21.
I did my 3.4 mile shakeout run yesterday and 1 mile warmup this morning, and as always during the warmup, wondered how I could run minutes per mile faster than I was during my warm-up. I also met Bill Rodgers, who was so nice (he was running the 10k).
We had a nice little chat, and I asked him what he thought about Boston this year, and he said he thought it was a mistake, which made me laugh, because I did too! It put me in a good mood before the start.
I think trying to find a good starting position can be tough in a small race - is it cocky to stand at the fro
nt? Should I be in front? I knew I was at least somewhat deserving, because there were a couple of kids to my right saying the fastest they could go was 6 MPH (10:00 miles). But to my right were a bunch of really fast looking guys - guys who I've seen win races in Rochester. To heck with it, I'm going to get toward the front.
And then, bang!
Oh my goodness, 6:25 for the first mile. Holy cow, not ready to run at that fast yet for more than one mile. But it went by so fast - I could hear them calling out 5:50s, and the pace felt comfortable as 6:25 clicked by. And then it was time to be real: keep going, try to pass people, and hold on for dear life. I knew I could potentially finish in the top 10, so I needed to make sure to try and pass as many women as possible. I got a few during mile 2, and then I was just sitting pretty, trying to just keep the pace going. Went through mile 2 13:05, so clearly was not able to sustain 6:25s, which is okay.
I passed a couple of kids, and then was going back and forth with a few guys
. Was hanging on and just couldn't wait to see the mile 3 marker. And lo and behold, it finally appeared. By the way - this picture is the proof that I totally need to work on my form. Heel striking, hands swinging - hopefully I can fix this at some point. Anyways...
One of the joys of running in Rochester is that I know a ton of people in the running community. Lot of friends from my hometown, and people whom I've met through running. And as I was going through that final stretch, the last .1, I was so uncomfortable and tired, but there were numerous cheers of "Go Vanessa" that just kept me going.
20:45 (6:42 pace - see, I knew I couldn't do 3 6:25s)
A PR by over a minute! Was so happy - it was tough, but it felt great. And I even came in 8th out of women, 43rd overall (out of 1010), and I won my age group! My mom and I had a nice morning together, and she got to watch the award ceremony. Overall, the race was a great feeling and a terrific way to kick off the short distance racing season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Five Footraces of the Past and Future

5 footraces I wished I had seen:
1960 Men's Marathon - Rome - Abebe Bikila winning Olympic gold barefoot

1982 Duel in the Sun - Boston Marathon between Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar

1984 Women's Olympic Marathon - Joan Benoit Samuelson pulling away at the 5k and never looking back

1996 Boston Marathon - Uta Pipping winning her 3rd Boston Marathon and overcoming major GI issues along the way

2003 London Marathon - Paula Radcliffe breaking her own world record

5 races of the future:
Philadelphia Half Marathon 2011 - I have never "just" trained for a half - I am excited that it will be big focus for summer/fall training.
London Olympics 2012 - I loosely recall watching part of the men's marathon in 2008. I was not a runner then, and I just remember being amazed at the distance. Now that I know the sport more and know the athletes, I cannot wait to watch this.
NYC 2012 - It will be my NYC debut, and return to the marathon after what will be a year long hiatus. Can't wait to run through all 5 boroughs with 40,000 other people.
Chicago date TBD - I have watched this race on TV and it just looks stunning. Spirit of the Marathon is one of my favorite movies, and it features the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It is on my list to run at some point of the future.
2020 Olympic Trials - Location Undetermined. I don't know if I'll ever knock off 44 minutes, but who knows what my time will look like by then. And if I don't ever qualify for the OT, I definitely want to go and watch them at some point.

What are your dream races?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let's do the timewarp again

(My summer camp kids love that song and it is played at every dance)
Anyways, I felt like I went back in time yesterday:
My triathlete bud Mark is a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, which is just over an hour from my hometown. So, he picked me up yesterday and we drove out there. He had a faculty meeting, and I used their library to read Religion and the Decline of Magic. It definitely brought me back to 2004...
Fun fact: I almost went to HWS. Had I not gotten into Holy Cross, I definitely would've went there. Beautiful school, good history program, and a great music program. I even interviewed for a music scholarship (for singing). And it seemed like a good fit: I did an overnight there, and when I came home, I got the acceptance letter for HC.
So it was funny to return to the campus that I had visited several times (I even remembered my way around - which was shocking if you know me and my lack of direction). My life could have been very different if I went there. I don't know if I would have studied medieval history, and I certainly don't know if I would've gotten into running after college.
After Mark's meeting, he introduced me to his department chair, who I am almost positive interviewed me for the music scholarship back in 2004. So funny!
Because Mark's knee has been bothering him, we also stopped at the orthopedist. It just so happened that this was the same orthopedist who diagnosed me with ITBS! I just had to go with him and thank the doctor for all of his help and recommendations for PT. I was so happy to tell him that I was able to run Boston. Funny how everything comes full circle.
Last night, I went to the gym and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I started with some weights and knew I should do some cross training, but I couldn't decided what. So, I decided to do a 45 minute "tri;" 15 minutes rowing, 15 minutes spinning, 15 minutes on the elliptical. I didn't get bored, and it was easy to work through each station, knowing that it would end soon. It was a good workout! Then finished with some more weights and went home.
All in all, it was a good day, and good to revisit a couple of places from my past.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gonna Fly Now

Well, that settles it - I signed up for the 5k for Sunday! Looking forward to it - definitely gunning for a PR, and hoping to crack 21 minutes.
Yesterday turned out to be a really good workout day. My triathlete bud Mark picked me up in the morning and we went to the Y together. Rowed 6000 meters in 30:30, and then did some weights. Went home, did 15 minutes of plyometrics and read Beneath the Crosses: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris. My PhD comps are in October (2 days before MCM), and I have over 100 books to read before them. That may sound daunting, but I am actually very excited - lot of good ones to read. Plus, this is part of my career choice, it would be silly if I didn't enjoy the process. That is one of the nice things about being home for a little while - it gives me the chance to train and read uninterrupted by school. Plus family time too! Then after dinner, I went to the gym with my parents (it was their 30th anniversary!). I did 4 miles on the elliptical and some more weights. My parents continue to impress me. My mom has really picked it up with the strength training - if I can incorporate some of that into my own routine, I'll be all set!
Today I got up and started another book: Saint Jerome in the Renaissance. Then headed out for some mile repeats. It was a bit cold and drizzly, but that actually was good weather for a track workout. I get hot and sweaty enough without it being in the 70s. It was my goal to do 3 x 1 mile repeats all under 7:00 pace and hopefully faster and faster:
6:56, 6:45, 6:32!
Hot dang! And while they were fast, I could've gone a little faster. So, I think I will be in good shape for Sunday - a little rest and a little adrenaline will help too. Also had on Rocky to get a bit psyched. And speaking of which...
This confirms your registration for the HALF MARATHON!
I registered for the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November! I have been wanting to do it for a couple of years, and it seemed like the perfect time. It is just over a 2 hour bus ride from DC, and easy to get to. It is flat and fast - perfect conditions for a PR. I am hoping to move from 1:34:37 to maybe 1:32 or so. We'll see - 6 months away, and that will be my peak fall race. My race calendar will be a lot fuller this season, that is for sure!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Call me crazy but...

...I'll take 40 degrees, windy, and pouring rain over sunny and 85 any day for a run!
Yesterday was my first day back in Rochester. I went to the gym with my parents after church, and got some weightlifting in - the first time in a month. After lunch, I knew I wanted to get in a long run and return to double digits.
It was absolutely pouring rain - 40 degrees and a 17mph headwind - not Boston weather, definitely. But not DC weather either - 80 and humid. We have had some hot days that made me say "Get me outta here" and wish for cooler weather! But Sunday's long run was awesome. Once you get soaked, that is it, you can't get any more wet. So I just went out and enjoyed myself. No traffic, rolling hills, no cars to reckon with. It was perfect. I managed to keep 8 minute pace too. I burst into the door afterwards, drenched and exhilarated. My parents thought I was crazy, but I felt absolutely invigorated. It was a good way to end the week. This past week was recovery week 4 from Boston, aka the return to normal running...
Monday: 8 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles including 4 x 800 (between 1:40-1:45 pace), then 2 miles plus plyometrics
Wednesday: 7 miles
Thursday: 1 mile warm up - 1 mile trial
I haven't tried doing a mile trial in 8 months. I asked a friend of mine from grad school to pace me (he can run like a 19 minute 5k). My PR from August was 6:07, and while I didn't know how fast I could go, I knew I would improve from last year. It was a bit on the hot side, but I decided to just go for it and see what happens - I would only be uncomfortable for about 6 minutes, right?
We went through the first lap in 1:25. Oh my gosh, I don't think I've ever ran 1:25 for 400, period. We'll see what happens! 800 in 2:57 - okay, sub 6 may be possible. Then the dreaded 3rd lap - 4:30. Oo, this is going to be tight. I ended up finishing in 6:02 - a PR! It would've been nice to break 6, but I know that under the right conditions, I will very soon.
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: Moving day
Sunday: AM Weights, PM 10 mile run
Total: 40 miles - that feels like normal mileage!

This Sunday there is a 5k/10k race for the Lilac Festival in Rochester. I have 2 options: run the 5k and break a year old PR (21:53). Or, run the 10k with someone who I run really well with? I am doing another 10k in June (NY Mini 10k), so I will have the chance to run a 10k again soon. I don't know when I'll do another 5k. Any recommendations? Feel free to weigh in!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Transformation

I told a couple of my professors earlier in the semester that I felt that I have been going through an academic growth spurt. It has been my first year year in the PhD program, and while I was in grad school for 2 years before this (working on my masters), I am finally figuring out my stride.
While I love the Paula Radcliffe quote, "I cannot my life without running," there is a second quote I would need to add,
"I cannot imagine my life without school."
I love reading and school so much. I have loved teaching. Grad school is absolutely the best place for me right now. Not everyone goes straight from undergrad to grad, and no, it is not undergrad part 2. There was definitely a transitional period; a time of adjustment. You have to figure out your professors, how to write, how to speak, and even how to think.
And I won't say that I have figured it out completely, but I know what I am doing and I absolutely love it.
The professors who I TA for took me and the other TAs out for dinner last night. We had a blast - we all were relieved that the semester was over. Then, they toasted each of us. One of the professors, who came to my school the same year I did, has increasingly played an important role in my academic career, and this semester I have been able to study with her and teach with her. When I got home, I actually wrote down what she said, so that I could pull it out and remember it during the harder parts that will be coming up (PhD comps, dissertation),
"You have transformed so much since you started, and that has just been lovely to watch."
And she was right - it is that growth process that matters so much.
I am in the process of transforming in my running too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Proud of my mom

A year ago yesterday
My mom toed the line for the first time
Had entered her first 5k
With a hope to just finish the race
But she managed to keep a steady pace
And crossed that beautiful line
Feeling tired, but overall fine
And hungry at the same time to do it again
And that was when running soon became her friend.

She has been racing now for exactly a year
Running with regularity
Making her marathon daughter proud
To see her transform from "sometimes I run"
To, "Yes, I am a runner too."

So yesterday was her runniversary
And my mom entered that race again
Much more prepared
With many more miles under her belt
She not only met her goal, but wildly surpassed it.

When word came on the phone
I was the proudest daughter
Of my mother-turned-runner
Who fell in love with something new.

Both of my parents PRed in the 5k yesterday! My dad ran a 31:31 (just a week after a triathlon), and my mom...29:32! Sub 30! So excited for both of them. They are really figuring out their stride and coming into this sport quite nicely. This is them with one of my mom's running partners. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I am so proud of you and I love you so much!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bounding around: German and Plyometrics

I passed! I got the following email in German,
Sie haben die Prüfung bestanden!
Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Sommer (ohne unregelmäßige Verben).
(You have passed the exam! I wish you a beautiful summer (without any irregular verbs)).

What relief! Again, all of the tension in my shoulders is gone! My friends/family have been giving me grief, saying "Of course you would," but I still had some doubts, just like I did about sub 3:30. It's a pass/no pass class, and it means all of my language requirements for graduate school are complete (I'll still probably take some Italian down the road). Another checkmark en route to the PhD! All I have left for the semester is a seminar paper due Saturday, which is fine - it is a paper on "my witch" - Alice Kyteler - the one accused of killing 3 of her 4 husbands, and then maiming the fourth. You'd think I'd be really dark and twisty for reading stuff like that all of the time, but that isn't quite the case.

My running is getting back into a regular routine.
Sunday: 6 miles - furthest run since Boston
Monday - 6000 meters rowing
Tuesday - 2 mile AM run, 15 minutes of plyometrics, 6 mile run in the evening - total of 8 miles
Wednesday-5 mile run in the rain
Thursday-5 mile sunny run!
Friday - Will row 6000 meters, plyometrics
We'll see what happens over the weekend!
I read this really interesting article on plyometrics. Now, I know the benefits - they can increasing running power and efficiency - I just haven't really done them. But on Tuesday, I needed a mini study break, and this did the trick!

Warm up with 3 minutes of walking lunges, deep squats, and jumping jacks to prepare your legs for maximal-effort jumping.

Jump as high as you can off both feet. Repeat 20 times.

Rest 1 minute.

Assume a split stance (one foot a half-step ahead of the other), bend down, and jump as high as you can. In midair, reverse the positions of your legs and land in the new stance. Continue jumping and alternating your leg positions until you’ve competed 20 total jumps.

Rest 1 minute.

Stand on your right foot with your left knee bent and your left foot elevated. Bend down and jump as high as you can. Land on the same foot. Complete 10 total jumps and then do 10 more off the left foot.

I also added in some high knees, butt kicks, and some grapevines. It got my heart going, and I felt sore the next day! I am going to try to do this twice a week. We'll see what happens!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I think if I treat the big days like Boston, I'll be all set

Last night was my German final. I spent all week getting ready for it. Flashcards, practice translations, anything German I could get my hands on. And the whole class came down to this 2 hour exam. I am not the most calm test taker, so I needed to be careful that I didn't freak out to much. So, I could either do that and set my self up for a hard day, or...
Treat the big days like the Boston Marathon
I got up, and did a 2 mile shake out run
I studied
I listened to pump up music
I did plyometrics (more about that in a minute)
I studied.
I wore running clothes and tucked my rosary in my pocket, as usual
I wore my Boston shoes.
Walking to school, I tried to just relax and think easy.
I thought about Boston, and how the hard work paid off.
I said a quick prayer, and then it was time to begin.
The first chunk was hard. The second part was better, and I was surprised. The third part was an hour-long translation. This was the part I was most nervous about. But, the time flew by, and I worked my way through. Soon, the professor walked by, told me to just check my work one more time, and then hand it in.
Such relief! My brain hurt almost as much as my body did after Boston, but I prepared right. Now, I have to wait a bit longer for the results, but I know I did the best I could.
Funny how the reliance on a few good rituals/tricks of the trade can make such a difference.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In 3 years...

What will my life be like?
I started thinking about this last night. In my reslife job, we held a prom for our students. I wore a dress I bought in 2002 for my high school sophomore dinner dance. Dress still fits! I went (then) with a senior who was in band with me and had a blast. That was 9 years ago this weekend.
6 years ago this weekend, I was a freshmen in college. My college choir got together with 6 other schools in the area to perform Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with a full orchestra (and 300 singers), which was amazing. I had just started to see my first boyfriend, and our parents met at that concert. Everything was new and exciting, and I couldn't believe my freshmen year of college was almost over.
3 years ago this weekend, I was a senior, and again, the consortium schools got together for a concert (they do this every 3 years, and I was fortunate enough to get to do it twice). This time, we did Verdi's Requiem, which was also amazing. Both Consortium concerts were two of my favorite performances ever. I was about to graduate, and had just decided where I was going to go for graduate school in the fall to start my masters.
This weekend, I am a year into my PhD program. I now have 6 marathons under my belt. I am gluten free and running painfree. I think back to 2002, 2005, 2008 and now, I have had no idea what the next thing in store was, and that is still the case.
3 years from now is 2014 - hopefully I will be closing in on my dissertation. Who knows where I'll live. I don't know what my running times will look like, or how many more marathons will have been run. But I know I'll enjoy the ride!