Sunday, January 29, 2012

Peaceful Tempo on the Capital Crescent Trail

Today ended week 3 (hardest week of a 4 week cycle) of my first cycle back.
Monday: 2000 yard swim, strength/core training
Tuesday: Track workout: 2.5 mile warm-up; 2k cut-down (8:40); 2 lap jog; 4 x 1200. 5:15, 5:12, 5:02, 5:12 500 meter jog between each;  2.5 cool-down. Total=10.5 miles
Wednesday: 3 miles AM, 6 miles PM - 9 miles = first time doing doubles in a long time!  
Thursday: 2000 yard swim, strength/core training
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 9 mile run with 4 miles of tempo
Sunday: 12 miles
Total: 45.5 miles
Highest mileage in a while!  The whole week went pretty well.  I have been keeping all of my 2k swims under 45 minutes, so I am glad to be consistent with that.  Not looking to do anything with those swims right now, other than to supplement my running, but I do like to try to get a little faster as I progress.
Now, to make a long story short, my tempo run did not happen yesterday.  There was an issue getting out to the marked trail (I am so bad with directions), and must've missed the entrance to the trail (it's far off from the regular road) on one side (I am used to entering on the Bethesda side of the Capital Crescent and I tried to enter on the Silver Spring side, which is closer to where I live).  I swear, I am not a dope - I just mess up directions and finding stuff.  So, I just ran 9 miles easy instead, and said that I would include the 4 mile tempo in my Sunday run.  So...
I went out to the Bethesda side today, and I swear, the weather we had this weekend was perfect running weather.  Yesterday it was in the 50s and today in the 40s.  God was smiling down on the runners, I'm sure - it was absolutely gorgeous.  So, my plan was to run a 2.5 mile warm-up, 4 miles of tempo (starting at 7:40 and working my way down to 7:20), a 2.5 mile cool down, and then just 3 miles easy to get in 12 altogether.  As soon as I started my watch for the 4 mile tempo, I felt so alive and great.  There was even a big bridge (read: hill) within the first mile, and I just felt like I was flying - and I was - 7:19!  This was faster than what I was supposed to finish, but I think with Saturday's bloopfest, I was so anxious to do my tempo run!  Got through the second mile in 7:14, and I just felt like I kept passing people - no one was going to beat me today (even though I'm sure no one else thought I was trying to pass anyone).  With 2 miles left, I knew I still had more and more in the tank - 7:00 for mile 3! As I was going down my second bridge, a biker was coming up and looking at the view over his shoulder - coming too close to me!  I barked out "Look forward!" and he veered out of my way.  I was on fire and that little bit of adrenaline really did it for the last mile 6:46!  So, I averaged about 7:05 overall for the tempo.  Was really pleased - a very solid first tempo for the year.
And the reason that I wrote that it was a peaceful tempo was that it was so quiet.  Even though there were people on the trail, it was very quiet and even my head (where there is always a lot of chatter) was quiet too!  It was probably the most relaxed I had felt all week, and maybe that's why it went so well! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dealing with fear, Spamalot, track

What are you afraid of?
I'm not thinking of things like spiders or snakes, but the other things that aren't hiding under the bed, but crawling around in our heads.
I am in the very early stages of researching a topic for my dissertation.  I have some ideas in mind, but no matter what, I am staring down at the starting line of a very long project.  We just a department workshop on Friday to talk about the proposal - the document I have to submit (and get approved by a whole bunch of people) - and I am not going to lie, it freaked me out a bit.  Because from here on out in the PhD program, things are a bit nebulous and murky.  While I have goals about what I want to do and when I want to finish, it is a very imprecise and uncertain thing.  And I am a big planner: I like certainty and schedules, and it is a little hard to just have to trust the process.
And I do have some fear with this - it is a tall order and it is definitely something I have never done before.  I remember have some fear and skepticism with the marathon - but it was a 6 month process leading up to the big day, not years and years.  Everything so far has gone on track with my program, so I should not worry too much.  But I still have reason to worry - people don't just crank out PhDs.
So, I am acknowledging my fear - fear of the unknown, but I am hoping that in saying it out loud, I can manage it a little better than keeping it bottled up.
A few friends of mine who are in the program stayed at school working pretty late on Friday.  When I was walking home at 10, a little freaked out from the day, I played "Find your grail" from the musical Spamalot.  Not only is the song great, but the medieval references are just great - plus, it goes on an on about achieving your goals and saying "you won't fail."
Life is really up to you, 
You must choose what to pursue, 
Set your mind on what you find, 
And there's nothing you can't do.
Pretty uplifting and a nice reminder that all big dreams are accompanied with some fear and doubt.
Today, our mini cold spell had broken - the ice was gone, the sun was out, and it was a beautiful day - perfect for a track workout.  Quite the opposite of last week's workout: cold and rainy.
2.5 mile warm-up; 2000m cut-down (start at 7:05 pace and get faster with each lap); 2 lap jog; 4 x 1200. Aim for about 5:15 to start and cut down 2-3 seconds per interval, 500 meter jog between each;  2.5 cool-down. Total=10.5 miles
I remember when I first started working with Sarah 2 years ago, I was not always steady with the 2k cutdown.  It is a nice way to start the workout, but I used to have a hard time getting a little faster with each lap.  Much better this time: I did the whole thing in 8:40 (6:58 pace) and started at 7:05 pace and managed to work my way down.  The 2 lap jog is always great - long enough to almost feel like you're starting fresh and hitting the reset button.  I was really happy with how the 4 x 1200 went: 5:15, 5:12, 5:08, 5:02.  A little too fast at the end, but I felt good, and managed to average under 7 minute pace for the entire workout.
When there is a bit of fear and doubt, a workout like that is a good reminder that things take time and I can succeed.  I couldn't have done a workout at this pace a year ago, but here I am today, feeling like I could've pushed a lot harder!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Olympic Trials and First Track Workout of 2012

I was planning on writing a long recap of the trials, but Michelle Hamilton's article on Runner's World did such a nice job.  I'll also include this picture, which was my favorite from Saturday.  I loved it because you can see both the pain and exhaustion of the marathon and the pure joy in them knowing they are going to the Olympics.  All I'll say is this: both the men's and women's races were terrific.  No one really ran uncontested, and it took a lot of effort to make the team.  It was hard to watch both Dathan Ritzenheim and Amy Hastings come in 4th with looks of disappointment.  So close to an Olympic berth, yet it didn't happen for them.  But both still set PRs on a challenging looped course.  I am very excited about the marathon teams - I think they are going to do a fantastic job representing America.  Can't wait to watch their Olympic preparations and race in London!
On Tuesday, I had my first track workout of 2012.  First time putting on my racing flats since December 11th, and I was excited.  Even though it was 40 out and pouring rain, I was undeterred - I could not wait to get back to speed workout.  It always brings a big thrill, and I always get psyched for these workouts.  So, this was the task of the first one (and this was a new one for me):

2.5 mile warm-up; 2 x 2 mile tempo on track. The goal is to be pretty
even for each set. So, aim to run the first 2 mile in 7:05 per mile, jog 800 meter recovery, and
aim for 6:55 per mile for the second 2 mile.  2.5 mile cool-down. Total=9.5 miles
Soaked by the time I got to the track, I changed into my racing flats.  And I hopped up and down a few times on the track -- all alone, and ready to go.  And with the click of my watch, I was off for the first set.  I ran 7:03 for the first mile and negative-splitted to finish for 14:03.  I was pretty pleased - I haven't done any long sets of spadework like that for a while.  And while 7:01 pace is not 5k or 10k pace, it was a good effort.  While it had poured during my warm up, it had calmed down a bit during the first set.  But during my 2 lap recovery, it started pouring again - not the worst thing - I had gotten hot, and this cooled me down a little.  And it stopped by the time I was ready to toe the line!  When I started, I felt great but after I hit my first mile in 6:55 perfectly, I was wondering how much effort it would take to repeat or better that.  But I did feel good, and it wasn't until the last half mile that I felt tired but kept trucking.  And I got through the second 2 miler in 13:43 - a strong negative split!  I was really pleased.  While in a month or so I'll be hoping to run faster than that, this was a great rust-buster workout. Looking forward to doing many more of these this year!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Looking Toward Houston

The Olympic Trials for men and women are on Saturday in Houston, and I am so excited.  I won't there, but will be watching the recap on NBC eagerly.  I cannot wait!  I got into running in Fall 2008, and didn't start following professional runners until Spring 2009 with the Boston Marathon.  So, the Olympics and Olympic Trials leading up to 2008 meant nothing to me - I had no idea that the trials existed.  I never had favorite athletes as a child - I never followed a particular team.  But in the 3 short years I've been running, I started to follow the professional sport quite avidly.  I reading all of the running news daily, and I know the athletes and their stats pretty well.  Needless to say, not only am I excited to watch the Olympics in London, I am excited to watch the trials. I have been reading about all of these tremendous athletes who are well known just by their first name: Ryan, Meb, Desi, Shalane, Kara, Magda, Deena.  It is so hard to pick who is going to win or make the cut.  I think this is one of the beautiful things about this sport - you don't root against anyone.  You want these people to succeed because on some small scale as a marathoner, you understand their desire and quest.  But, if I had to pick...(w/predicted times)
1.  Ryan Hall (2:08:15)
2.  Mo Trafeh (2:08:47)
3.  Meb Keflezighi (2:10:11)
(and runner up: Nick Arciniaga)
1. Desi Davila (2:23:04)
2. Shalane Flanagan (2:25:48)
3. Kara Goucher (2:25:57)
(and runner up Magdalena Lewy Boulet)
We'll see what happens on Saturday.  But I am already so inspired by all of these athletes - both those who are hoping to punch their ticket to London and those whose dream come true is to qualify for the Trials.  They have put in so much time, effort, dedication, heart, sweat, you name it, into getting to this start line. I just hope they enjoy their journey to the finish!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Promise in Starting Fresh

I am back in DC after a nice 3 week stint in NY.  Although, not for long - I am heading to Chappaqua to visit some family over the long weekend.  But I'm getting ahead of myself!
This week is off to a good start for a few reasons.
School starts again at my university, which means I am officially a PhD candidate (was a PhD student until now)!  And I love the beginning of school - there is always such promise and potential in the beginning of the semester, and I love it.  It was a weird feeling though - since I am done with coursework of my own, I did not go into a classroom as a student this week for the first time since I was 5.  I am going in as a TA - 4th semester doing this, and for one of my professors who is great -- a class on Medieval Britain.  And we got off to a good start.
Yesterday also started my first cycle of training for my spring racing season!  I am going to be doing a bunch of 5ks and 10ks this semester, along with the RNR DC Half Marathon on St. Patrick's Day.  So, the training will be similar to what I did this fall, but we're looking to alternate running 4 days a week and 3 days cross training, with 5 days a week running and 2 days cross training, so slowly easing back into more running.  We haven't set my race schedule yet, but it'll be probably another month before my first race of 2012. My training is off to a good start.  On Monday, the first thing I did was a 2000 yard swim in 43:45 - pretty good for almost a month away from swimming.  I then went straight to the weight room for about 45 minutes - I am starting to up the weights that I use - hopefully this will make a difference!
And today I had a good run: the task was 20 minutes easy, 20 minutes moderate, 20 minutes harder, 20 minutes easy for a 10 mile run.  I haven't done any real speed work in about 6 weeks, so this was a good get-back-into-it workout.  The weather was perfect today (50 degrees and sunny - it snowed yesterday though!) and little wind.  Sometimes at the 20 minute mark, I have a hard time picking up the tempo, but I did a good job - averaged 7:26 pace for 5.4 miles in 40 minutes.  For the first go at speed for 2012, I am pleased.  Week 1 is off to a good start!
And today - 1/10 marks one year of going gluten free.  Now, there really should be an asterisk next to it - I have not been exactly perfect with my diet, and I also have learned through the past year about foods that are right for me and the foods and kinds of eating I need to watch out for.  I found my post from last year on this day.  I was optimistic and nervous at the same time.  A year has now gone by, with some progress, but also a lot of room for improvement.  I hope I can check back in a year and see more improvement.
But at the end of the day, I do like the idea of starting anew.  There is hope in the sense of another chance or getting another go at something.  We don't necessarily get a clean slate, but we certainly gain the opportunity to write (or re-write!) our own story.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

8 + 4 = 12 in 2012: Resolutions and Goals

Happy New Year everyone!  I spent New Years in Long Island visiting a friend from college (Holy Cross) - whom I hadn't seen a few years.  We had a great time, but now that vacation is almost over, it is time to settle down and put some goals and resolutions out there.

And therefore, I present my goal of 8 + 4 = 12 in 2012.
8 = the number of hours of sleep I really need to aim for.  My trainer has been trying to get me to get 8 hours for a while, and I just haven't been able to cut it.  I thought I would be able to do it this fall, but, with comps, it just didn't happen.  But now that the stressful semester is over, I am going to aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.  At the minimum, 7.  I need to cut out the computer before bed, and just hit the sack!
4 = the bottles/glasses of water I am going to drink per day.  I am not great about drinking water throughout the day.  Coffee yes, water, no.  And I'm not saying I'm cutting the coffee, but I need to up the water!
I expect that both will help me on the road to my 2012 goals:
school wise:
Have a good semester at Mount Saint Mary's teaching my very first college class
Get my dissertation proposal submitted and approved by the fall
running wise:
*Improve on tempo runs
*Be consistent with cross training
race wise (A and B goals)
5k: B: 19:59, A: 19:45
10k: B: 40:59 A: 40:30
Half marathon: B: 1:31:59 A: 1:30:59

There is no marathon goal.  I am 99% positive I will not run a marathon this year.  I met with Sarah, my trainer/coach last month, and we had a long talk about my long term goals.  I think I can be a lot faster than my 3:27 marathon, but most likely I jumped into the marathon too fast.  I ran my first marathon at age 22 - many serious marathoners don't debut until much later.  And by age 24, I had already run 6 marathons.  I hadn't even run 6 halves or 10ks at that point. I really want to succeed in distance running, I need to take each distance seriously and wait a bit before stepping back into the marathon, and certainly before trying to do 2 marathons a year.  So I am going to wait, and eventually when I want to return, I am going to be aiming for something like a 3:15 or better.  But I am going to be patient and the marathon will be waiting for me down the road.

My next training cycle of shorter distance racing starts on Monday.  Just aiming to get some decent mileage in before then!