Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Closing the Door on 2011

Everyone is recapping 2011, and it's my turn too.
I've run just over 1800 miles.  My goal was to run 2000, but it became apparent at the start of the year that running 2000 miles a year may not be the best, given the ITBS that flared up at the end of 2010.  So, I cut out some running and substituted a whole lotta cross training: biking, rowing, swimming, elliptical.  I didn't always track that mileage, but I know that the double sessions I was doing 3x a week in preparation for Boston really added up!
I ran 12 (ish) races:
February: Freezeroo 8 miler - 57:40 First race post ITBS, and a big sign my plan for Boston was working
March: National Half Marathon: 1:34:37 - PR and qualified for NYCM
April: Boston Marathon 3:27:00 - 9 minute PR and a major triumph
May: Medved Lilac 5k, Rochester - 20:45 - PR, AG winner
June: NY Mini 10k - 46:07 - worst time in a while, but my mom ran her first 10k!
September: 9/11 Memorial 5k - 21:02 - 2nd fastest 5k, and in 80 degree weather - rust-buster race of the fall
Clarendon Day 5k 20:23 - New 5k PR
October: Boo! Run for Life 10k - 42:48 PR - AG winner, first time running a negative split
(Unofficial) 5k track race - 19:57
Marine Corps Marathon: Ran the first 10 miles, jumped out, jumped in to pace my friend Jenny to a BQ
November: Veteran's Day 10k - 41:26 - New PR
Philadelphia Half Marathon + LoopPhest: 1:32:35 - Shiny new PR
Race with Grace 10k: 42:15 - 2nd fastest 10k, and 4 days after Philly
December: Jingle All the Way 8k - 33:31
States Run in: MD, VA (and DC), NY, MA, RI, FL, CA
Races volunteered at: 5
I went gluten free in January, and am starting to show improvement in my bloodwork.
I changed topics in my research, from medieval witchcraft to medieval pilgrimage and piety.
I spent the summer as the Academic Dean of a gifted program in Santa Cruz, and enjoyed my first West Coast experience.
I finished my classes as a PhD student.
I passed my comprehensive exams - one of the biggest victories of the year.
This time last year, it felt like everything was falling apart.  And in January, I took it as an opportunity to rebuild - rebuild my body, my diet, my training, everything.  The first part of 2011 just felt so hard, and I just had to trust the process.  I set out and made a list of goals, and wished I could achieve them - but I was definitely unsure if they were doable.  I remember getting up early and walking to the pool in the dark in the morning before school, just hoping it would all come together.  And I think that is why I am ultimately so pleased with how 2011 went - things happened because of hard work.  I didn't win the lottery or a sweepstakes - everything I "won" came from hard, tenacious work.  And that's why 2011 was a good year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.  JK Rowling, Harry Potter
I don't dream about running much.  A friend of mine who played field hockey in college dreams about it all of the time, but I don't dream about running.  My dreams have been a lot more vivid lately, but nothing about running.  I did have one dream where I got a teeny little dog - most fun one in a while, although it will be a long time before I am ever a dog owner.  Because, moneywise, being a grad student with a dog would be - ruff!
Anyways, I don't have dreams about running, but I do dream about running.  I don't necessarily fall asleep easily -- too much spinning around in my head.  I always thought that as I picked up running and trained more, I would just crash at the end of the day.  But that isn't always the case.  So, in a way to relax and prepare for sleep, I think about running.  But this isn't just about visualization: I fantasize about training for big races - what would it be like to stand in the same race as Magdalena, Deena, Desi, Shalane, Kara.  I pretend that I am running in an attempt to break 3 hours in the marathon, or even bigger, qualifying for the Olympic trials.  And all of the dreaming and imagining does the trick.  Boom, asleep.  I may be crazy, but it is fun to pretend.  Does anyone else pretend like that?
I flew home to Rochester on Saturday night.  I volunteered to get off my afternoon flight and got two free roundtrip tickets in exchange!  Pretty excited about that - and I had nothing going on Saturday, so I was completely content to just sit around the airport, watch planes takeoff, read and RELAX!  I even got bumped to first class for my flight home, which was fun - nice to get a little pampered.
And now I am at home for a few weeks - wahoo!  I am on the schedule of easy running, easy does it.  No schedule until January - just get out there, do some runs, some xt, some weights, and just enjoy the holidays!  I was planning on running 10 miles on Sunday, but once I got on the road, I felt tired, so I shortened it to 7 instead.  And right now - no problem!  My dad and I went to the pool yesterday, and we each got in 2000 yards - felt good to get back in the water.
There is not much else to report!  Just getting excited for Christmas.  My brother came home from college yesterday, so my whole family is back, which is a good feeling.
Can't figure out a clever way to sign off, so ta ta it is!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My love affair with the pen

I took a detour from writing about running to writing about writing.  This is draft one – may come back to this when I get further into the dissertation:
            I’m in the middle of a 20-year love affair with writing.  What I couldn’t illustrate with images as a child, I could certainly depict with words.  And a tradition was born.
            I think I love writing because all of me goes into writing.  My handwriting is my own and no one else’s.  It is messy, frantic, and even sometimes illegible.  “I’s” and “t’s” go undotted and uncrossed – or dashes fly by two letters too late.  My eagerness to splash words across the page surpasses any desire for perfect penmanship.  Heaven forbid I die before my notes are transcribed – no one will have the patience or even the capability to read them.
When I handwrite, I must hold the pen funny – I certainly press hard – the ink from the page collects and makes a black mark on the outside of my right pinkie – a stain that grows throughout the day.
As a child in the car, I always carried books in the car to lose myself in.  I ended up being so engrossed that I barely know my way around my hometown now – because I never looked up until age 16.  But I also sometimes would carry along a notebook as well, so I could write things down – ideas, stories, lists, anything.  The blank pages represented promise, not fear.  They promise a future, not a void.  And as a researcher now, my notebook has exploded into a set of notebooks – ringed, spirals holing all of my thoughts.  I can read over a hundred books in a summer, but the best way to manage my thoughts on them is to write my notes down.  If there was a way to transcribe your brain, I am doing what I can in these notebooks.  And sometimes, I clutch my computer in the same way, eager to clack away at the keyboard.  The cursor says “go” even my brain is trying to say “no.”  My fingers fly frenetically.  My pen flies.  I love underlining, bolding, capitalizing, all ways to emphasize the bajillion thoughts.
When I take notes, I don’t just take notes in the margins, but I use marginalia – truly going back to my medieval roots.  Signposting and drawing out those little or big, related or tangential ideas. 
I love the sheer idea of being a writer – completely in the throes of writing.  Mentally, I am not here.  I am writing in a café in Paris, carefully scripting out my ideas while sipping coffee that was brought to me by a garçon named François.  As the coffee swirls, and the caffeine stimulates my mind, my eyes gaze off into the distance, perhaps the distant past or the far-off past.  No one else is in my head.  I dictate the rhythm and flow – sometimes to a steady beat, others more limpid and fragmented.  I salivate at the possibility of writing in many genres: poetry, free-verse, haikus, prose, the expository essay.  I can manipulate the words in many ways.  I count out syllables in my head for haikus: marveling how the word “refrigerator” occupies all five syllables for a haiku line.  I can rhyme and reason.           
I can, I can, because I say I can.  My writing is not a recipe, dictated by measuring cups and separating three large eggs.  It is not regulated by time or limit: “must be read by” or “ready-made in 30 minutes or less.”
My love of the pen, the scrawling, sprawling ink, allows a multitude of vocabulary terms to describe all my thoughts and beliefs, facts and fictions, all things fortuitous and delicious. 
Why yes, I do love writing words like delicious, lugubrious.  I have a ravenous appetite for this stuff.  It is an insatiable, unquenchable love for being in a scriptorium, equipped with the mighty stylos.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Double Header Race Report: Girls on the Run 5k and Jingle All the Way 8k

A little behind in blogging land.  While the Philadelphia Half was my last formal race for 2011, I still had a couple races left on the calendar:
2 weekends ago, I ran as a running buddy at the Girls on the Run 5k in DC.  It is a program for girls ages 8-13 who meet twice a week and prepare for a 5k at the end of the season.  They have coaches and a lot of sessions about body image, girl power, and building confidence.  It is a really great program, but I didn't hear about it until midway through the season.  So, I signed up to be a running buddy and run alongside one of the girls.  The race was really cute: they had a mini festival beforehand with music and face painting for the girls.  I was paired up with a little 9 year old name Nina, who had never run a 5k before.  She said she was really nervous and asked if it would take a long time.  I didn't know her at all, so I had no idea how long it would take.  We got into line, and then we were off!  About 5 minutes in, she asked if we were almost done.  I said, no, we still had a while to go (you can't lie to a child about this stuff - this not even like "are we there yet in the car" - she has to get there herself!), but that she was doing great.  And she was - Nina even ran up the hills, and we talk a couple of walking breaks as necessary, and took water at the water stops.  I kept cheering her along, yelling words of encouragement: anything to keep her going.  After 2.5 miles, her face started to tense up and she looked really uncomfortable.  "My stomach hurts," she said - and I felt so bad.  But she was so close, so we walked a little bit, and then started jogging again.  Right before we hit 3 miles, she asked if we were almost there, and I pointed where the finish line was - that she could actually see it, and that we were going to get there.  She ran to the finish line, and we finished in about 37 minutes.  It was a very fun race.  Nina got a medal, and I was very proud of her.  I told her a lot of people who are much older than her have never done a 5k, and that she just did it.  It was a great race, a great program, and something I hope to be involved with in the future.
Then this past Sunday, I ran in the Jingle All the Way 8k.  This race (in its 7th year) had been a 10k for the first 6, but now that so many people were involved, it couldn't be held in West Potomac Park anymore, so it got shortened to an 8k and moved to Freedom Plaza in downtown DC.  I have a special place in my heart for this race.  Not only was it my fourth consecutive time running it, but this race as a 10k was my first race ever in 2008.  I ran 55:04 back then, and was definitely an inexperienced runner - was jumping onto the sidewalk trying to jockey for some space, wore my Mickey Mouse watch instead of a stopwatch, all the markings of a newbie.  So, I like to return to this race each year, in part because it's fun (they give you jingle bells to tie to your shoes), and to reflect on how far I've come in just a few short years.
But since the race wasn't on my formal calendar, I didn't give it much prep.  I did a short workout on Tuesday to just remind the legs of some speed, but that was it.  Even went to a Christmas party Saturday night and had no problem enjoying some Christmas spirit(s) too.  Which is funny, given that I just wrote about my "dry" rule.  But, I was just going out with no big expectations in mind.  I was hoping to just run sub 7:00 pace.  I did my 20 minute warm-up, and while it was cold, the sun was out, which was nice (there was really nasty weather the past 2 years). The new course had a lot of hairpin turns, so I thought that those would slow me down a bit.  There was a 20 minute delay with the start, so I actually ran into a Barnes and Noble to stay warm.  And then they had everything ready, and we were off!  I went through the first mile in 6:38, and I was like, whoa, that is really fast (faster than 10k pace), and I don't know if I'll be able to hold it.  Things spread out fairly quickly, and again, I was amazed just how many people were ahead, clocking a really fast pace.  The second mile was in 7:02, which had included a couple of those hairpin turns, which felt like I was grinding to a halt trying to go around a cone.  Okay, try to find a happy medium.  Then I hit mile 3 in 6:30 - my goodness, can I make up my mind on this?  There were 2 girls about 50 or so yards in front of me, and I really wanted to pass them.  I had almost 2 miles to catch up to them.  Then, mile 4 in 7:03 - this was not an in and out workout (Hard/easy) - what was this?!  I was starting to get closer to those two girls, and had passed some guys as well.  Finally, I was able to pass them fairly aggressively and was determined to just go fast enough that they wouldn't be able to react.  I covered the .98 mile in 6:20 (at least I knew how to keep picking it back up, right?), and crossed the finish line very happy about my overall performance.
33:31 (6:45 pace)
25/3024 women
8/832 age group.
I have made significant progress in my running in just 3 short years, and this race was certainly a testament.  It was also a testament to what you can do when you don't get too worked up about it either.  It was all about going out and having fun, and I did.  It was a great way to end my 2011 racing year.  Will start dreaming about 2012 soon enough!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the in-between phase

I am at an in-between phrase right now with a couple of things:
I turned in my last big paper a week ago.  It was a big relief to have it done - it was the last major project I had to do this semester as a student.  And on Wednesday, I attended my last two classes ever.  It was a weird feeling.  I went straight on from undergrad to grad school, so, I have been going to classes continuously, well, for 20 years if you want to stretch it all the way back to elementary school.  And finishing coursework means I am ready for the next step of researching and writing my dissertation proposal.  I enjoyed my last classes - definitely ended on a positive note.
But it certainly puts me in an in-between phase.  I've started to do some reading for the next step, but that work really won't take off until January.  I still have some TA responsibilities and grading to do this semester, but my time as a traditional student is over.  How strange!
And with the Philadelphia half ending my official racing season and training, I am at an in-between stage with running too.  I am doing an 8k race on Sunday (Jingle All the Way - 4th year in a row), but I've certainly lightened up my training.  I'll be meeting with my trainer, Sarah, on Monday to discuss plans for the spring.  But any sort of formal schedule won't kick in until January, so now, the plan is just to run (and train) happy:
Monday: 2000 meter swim + weights
Tuesday: race-week track workout.  I really like this one, because it is not terribly long, but it gets your legs going and reminds you of your speed (and that most of the paces are faster than race pace).  1.5 mile warm up, 6 x 150 meter strides, 1 x 1200 (5:09), 500m jog, 2 x 800 (3:18), 400m jog in between, 4 x 400 (92, 90, 91, 89), 2.5 mile cooldown = 9 miles (normally, the warm up and cooldown are 2.5 miles, but I shortened it a little this time.
Wednesday: 6.4 mile run in the rain - there are few things more exhilarating than a run through inclement weather.
Thursday: No school - Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  6.8 mile run downtown, including a loop around the Capitol.  I don't always do my runs around the central part of the city, but had some extra time on my hands, and decided to just enjoy a beautiful sunny day in our nation's capital.
Friday: 7.2 mile run - another sunny day (and the beginning of the week was gray and rainy, so this was definitely a treat) in DC.
While I am definitely someone who enjoys a schedule, it is also fun to live a slightly less-regimented life!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Relieved - Good Numbers

Not to sound overdramatic, but on December 3, 2010, I got a phone call from the doctor that changed my life: I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  It felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.  It was just hard - the doctor keep referring to it as a life sentence, and it definitely felt like that - a gluten jail.  And I worked to change my diet, but even in the summer, when I had bloodwork done, it showed virtually no change.  I felt like a big failure.  My number was way over 100 (goal is to first break through and get below 100 and eventually get down to about 20).  I wasn't being hyper-vgiliant and addressing the issue of cross contamination.  So, I went back to the drawing board, ditched Kix cereal and a couple of other things.  And over Thanksgiving break, I had bloodwork done again.  I called today, and had to wait all day for the GI specialist to call back.  To say I was nervous was an understatement: I was gripping the phone all day waiting and waiting.  I was in class from 4-6, and had resigned myself at that point that I was missing the call.  And when I walked out of class, I saw a voicemail from the doctor's.  My breath quickened in anticipation of the news.  Please tell me that I had improved, please, please, please, I had really tried - let me get below 100.

I finally showed some improvement!  After 11 months on the new diet, with continual steps to modify the diet, I had showed some improvement!  And yes, there is still a lot of work to be done to get my number down to 20, but I had improved.
I am very relieved.  Last December and January, things just seemed so bleak.  And I know now that getting handed this kind of diagnosis is not really the end of the world - a lot of people have to deal with a lot more challenges.  But, it was hard to keep perspective and keep the faith.  I would well up going to the grocery store or the mall - walking by aisles and stores with now-taboo products.  I don't get upset going there anymore.  Sure, the smell of a cinnamon bun or Blue Moon Beer still are a little tantalizing (after all, I still have a nose, eh?), but no more tears.
I am making a new life for myself.  It may not have been what I anticipated, but I am figuring it out.  And I am not doing it alone.  The only way that this has been possible is with a lot of support from friends and family.  My parents especially have had the brunt of it - they've had a lot of frustrated and upset calls from me in the past year, yet they have helped me tremendously.  Some key friends too have just offered so much support - it was not a solo effort.

The journey ahead is still unknown, but today I can say thank you for improving health - something not to be taken for granted.