Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Day I beat Frank Shorter - Airport 5k

My mom and I in front of one of the old airplanes
Today was the Airport 5k in Rochester, NY - my last race for a while.  I have not done any serious training since my track race 2 weeks ago.  A few runs here and there, but no speedwork.  I just wanted to go out and have a good run.  It was my hope to run under 21 minutes, but that was it.  My mom ran too, and it was her second race back after ITBS issues since last fall.  She has been running consistently, and was hoping for a PR.  She came pretty close in her first race back, but was now ready.

Way too smug about being so close to Frank Shorter
Thursday night I did a 5 mile run in 91 degree weather at 7:46 pace with my friend Jen (running friend since 7th grade) and her friends.  So hot!  So, I was hoping that with a shorter race and at least twenty-degree-cooler weather, that would help.  I did my warm-up at home, and then hopped in the car with my mom to the race, which was at the Rochester Airport.  The staging area was in a hangar and the race was on the runway!  Pretty cool experience - you don't get to run around there often!  Frank Shorter was the race marshall, so he spoke beforehand.  At the race, I lined up near the front (had looked at old results and was pretty sure I'd finish in the top 10 women)...and near Frank Shorter.  As you can see, I look pretty smug standing so close to him.  In case you missed the memo, Frank Shorter is a 2 time Olympian in the marathon - Gold in '72 and Silver in '76.  Don't think I'll ever be able to start so close to I took advantage!  And then the gun went off!

So warm!  We were off and things spread out fairly quickly.  I ran 6:34 for the first mile, which was fine with me.  My friend Jen and her dad were both volunteering, so I got to see them each twice throughout the race - and Jen was at the first mile marker.  There was a turnaround, and I counted women - I was 6th.  That worked for me - the other women were way ahead, and I didn't really think I could make progress to catch anyone else.  But I was running my own race.  Mile 2 - 6:38.  At this point, running on the runway was cool in theory, but hot.  I wished there was a second water station so I could dump more water on my head.  Oh well.  2.5 miles in, a woman runs up along side of me.  I put a couple of yards on her, but she made a decisive pass.  At that point, I just wanted to finish.  I got to see my friend Jen's dad again.  Now, this man was my softball coach in 5th and 6th grade when I was a very timid catcher (I've since stepped away from ball sports).  So, I have heard this man cheering "Go Vanessa" for over half of my life.  His cheers (and my dad's) helped me bring me in, and I was very pleased to come across the finish line.

20:31 - 6:37 pace
Go Mom! En route to 29:35 5k PR!
Not a PR, but my 3rd fastest 5k.  Not too shabby for minimal training!  But while my race was over, it was my turn to play the role of spectator, as I was waiting for my mom to come in.  The cool thing was that I saw her twice during the race because of the two out-and-back parts.  I had a fair estimate of when she was going to finish, so I stood and cheered the other runners while waiting for her to come in.  Yes, that meant cheering for Frank Shorter.  Now, he is 64 and long retired, but still, for one day, I beat Frank Shorter.  He ran it in about 27 minutes.  And then, not too long after, my mom came in!  She ran 29:35 - a 20 second PR!  It was very exciting watching her come in.

Frank and I - he doesn't seem to be too upset.
 He did say when I met him, "You beat me, eh?
Afterwards,  I got to meet Frank Shorter and speak to him, which was very cool.  Very nice guy and fun to speak with.  I also won my age group, so Frank Shorter gave me my award - a gift certificate to a local salon/spa.

We had a really fun day.  My mom and I had a great time at the race, and then afterwards we saw the new movie Brave (come on, I'm a medievalist - how could I not?).  Very cute, and maybe will spark a new generation of kids to fall in love with medieval history.  After that, my dad and I played 9 holes of golf.  Let's just say that my athletic talent lies with running - but I did have a couple of good holes.

Me and my friend Jen
We started running together in middle school

And tomorrow I'll be back at the airport to fly to California!  But today goes down as the Day I Beat Frank Shorter in a road race.  I'm sure he's not too bothered about it - I'm sure his two Olympic medals are keeping him happy.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Happy Place

Paddling around the Tidal Basin
While running has not been the focus lately of my life - only 25 miles logged last week, life has been good.  I'm at the tail end of "summer vacation" before I head off to Santa Cruz on Sunday to work at my beloved summer camp for 7 weeks.
I got good health news.  Last December, I finally got my bloodwork numbers for Celiac Disease out of the 100s, and to a 98, which is still really high.  At this point, I need to get it done every six months until there is significant improvement.  I made a few changes to my diet - knocked out some labeled seasonings and stepping things up at restaurants.  That is such a strange thing ordering at restaurants - being insistent about verifying that they understand the importance of having an uncontaminated area for cooking my food.  Anyways, I got my results back last week - 68!  I knocked 30 points off, which was the largest improvement I've made so far!  I still need to get down to about 20, but I was really happy with the big jump.
Me, my dad, and my grandpa at the Iwo Jima Memorial
I went to DC for a long weekend - my now second home.  I moved to DC to start grad school in 2008, and I don't think I ever thought it would be my home.  But each year I've been there, I've fallen more and more in love with the city.  I realize now that I have created my own life there- that's where I started running, ran 3 of my 6 marathons there, and have had my entire graduate career there - it is a great place.
One of my favorite spots of DC
So, I went for a long weekend trip there.  My grandfather, a WWII vet (stationed in England), got to participate in one of the Honor Flight trips, and my dad was his guardian.  We met up with them at the Iwo Jima Memorial - a place where I've only been before at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon!  It was nice to be able to see them on the trip.  My grandpa said the trip was one of the best weekends of his life.
Sweet 16th Birthday - 2002
I also celebrated a birthday - 26!  I though 25 sounded like the grown up age, but 26 definitely is.  It was a great day.  We went paddle-boating on the Tidal Basin - near the Jefferson Memorial.  So pretty! This is also a great place for running!  It is definitely one of my favorite places in DC.
On the Georgetown Waterfront
I also found this - from my sweet 16 party 10 years ago.  Still lucky to be friends with a lot of the girls in the picture - some are still my closest girl friends in the world.

I also got to spend it with someone special (if you had been reading into the "we" - that's who).  Not going into the details (identity hidden to protect the wonderful), but he's a great guy who made the day very special.  
So, I've started out 26 on a terrific note.  I am running a 5k with my mom on Saturday and flying out to California on Saturday.  Happy places/peaks/highs, whatever you call them - they are here right now.  Many reasons to be smiling.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hodgepodge: aka out of season

After my mile race last week, Sarah told me to take a few days off from running and just do what I wanted - no running schedule, no plan at all.  I took 4 days off from running, which at this point, it has been over a year since I've had that much of a break.  I found some other good ways to get out and about:
Biking - biking is my favorite summertime cross-training.  It is hard for me to do more than 30 minutes of it on a machine, but if I can go on the open road, it is a lot of fun.  So, each of my off-days from running I biked between 10-13 miles.  Nothing to brag about, but a good way to go burn off some energy.  Plus, the thing that is nice about biking during the summer is that I don't get as hot doing it as running.  Biking in 90 degree weather doesn't feel like the Bataan Death March like running.  On a related note, my dad completed a 62 mile bike ride as part of the Tour de Cure!  Very impressive - I could not bike that far.
Ye Olde Golf
Golf - I am not a good golfer, but last year I asked my dad to teach me how to play.  I feel like it's one of those sports that knowing how to play, at least a little, can be beneficial down the road.  Granted, it's not like medievalists get together on the green as part of business ventures, but you never know...this is what "medieval golf" on Google comes up with.  Anyways, we went on Saturday and had a lot of fun, and I had some of my best holes yet.  Granted, they were double bogies, but that was an improvement.  We also went to the driving range Monday night, which was more fun than my first time doing that last year.  I had better success with the driver and am finally starting to hit a bit more consistently.  I think the ultimate challenge for me is that with golfing, each time it comes down to about 3 seconds.  That's a lot of precision!  There's just so much more room for adjustment in running!
I also got in a few good session as the gym.  I've been meaning to write a blog about weight/strength/core training, but I think it's going to have to wait till next week.
Talk about a view!
I started running again on Tuesday.  Just did an easy 3.4, which felt like enough for a first day back.  Then on Wednesday, drove out to Canandaigua to catch up with my old triathlete buddy, Mark.  We did a lot of summer running together a few seasons, but haven't seen each other since he moved.  His house's view is incredible, by the way.  So, we did a 5.5 mile run around his house, which was super hilly.  The final hill on the way back had a 17% grade to it - felt just like a step above walking.  But it was super fun, and I was so happy to have a running buddy for a day.
But on Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get another running buddy - two days in a row?  I had gone over a month without running with anyone, so this was exciting.  I ran with one of my oldest friends, Jen.  We go all the way back to 7th grade cross country.  She went on to run in high school and college, so there was definitely an 8-10 year gap period when we didn't run together.  While we've done some running since then, this was the first time in a while.  I met up with her and another running friend of hers, and we ran through downtown Rochester, which was a lot of fun.  While I've lived outside of Rochester my entire life, I've only done a couple of runs through the city (including the Rochester Marathon in 2010).  We had a great time!  7.5 miles flew by - just chatting and taking in the scenery.
In a nutshell (not sure if that was sort enough for a nutshell - maybe coconut), that's been the past week without a running schedule!  It is nice not to have the pressure of getting every single run in and just have fun.  Speaking of fun, I am off to DC in the afternoon for a long weekend visit.  Going to be fun!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Debuting in the Mile: McMullen Mile Race

While I have done a number of time trials, I had never actually run an outdoor track race.  I say outdoor because I did have one season of indoor track in 9th grade, which was less than stellar.  By that I mean, my 1500 PR was 7:25, and I repeatedly finished last in the races.  I would say I was due for a fresh start.  Incidentally, I bumped into my old gym teacher yesterday before the race, and we were having a laugh, because I never demonstrated any indication in middle school/high school gym that I had any semblance of talent as a runner.  Things have changed a little!

Heather is on the left, I am in the blue top
The McMullen Mile is in honor of a local elite runner, Charlie McMullen, who ran sub 4 in the mile in the 70s and 2:15 in the marathon.  It was at Nazareth College, and it was very cool to actually run in a stadium.  There were seven heats, and I was actually seeded in the elite women's heat (sub 6), which felt very cool.  I mean, how often does that happen?  Originally, there only 4 women listed in it, included me and a friend of mine from the area (and RWOL Boston Forum Friend).  So, we were actually fairly hopeful - maybe we could finish in the top 3 (which had prize money).  We were the second to last heat, which I was happy about, because it gave us the chance to watch a few races and let the sun go down a little (it was an evening race).  I watched the first two heats, so I could get a handle on how the race was going to be structured.  I then did my usual 2.5 mile warm up, and it felt good to finally get the legs moving, and the weather had cooled down a little.  Got back to watch one or two more heats, and then we were called to get our numbers (not quite a bib, but a little number that we stuck on our hips).  I wish they had safety pins, because I could tell that it might fall off, oh well.  So, as I said, there only four of us who had pre-registered, but there were 4 more women added to our heat: the GVH runners.  The Genesee Valley Harriers is a local Olympic development team that you have to qualify for (i.e 18:58 5k to be on the B team, 18:05 for the A team), and they co-sponsored the race.  So, once 3 girls with the GVH uniforms showed up, Heather and I both knew that winning or placing was not a possibility - we just ad to hang on.  I was number 6, Heather, number 7.  Here we are before the call to the start, and then this is the entire field.
So many fast GVH girls!
And then the gun (an actual gun, not a siren - and that is loud!) was off.  Immediately, the field spread out.  These girls were not messing around.  Bu the nice thing was that we had a lot of room - no one was crowded for space.  I tucked behind Heather for a little bit, then decided I was going to go a little faster.  I went through the first lap in 1:25, which was perfect.  The other girls were really far in front, and so it felt more like a time trial than a race.  I knew I could not catch anyone, so I just had to focus on hanging on and running for my goal time.  2:52 for halfway, and I was feeling pretty good.  I didn't die too much in the third lap, but it definitely felt hard to move/kick in the final lap.  Plus, the winner and some of the other girls had finished by the time I came up on the last 100m, so it was harder to motivate.  But I kept going and just resolved to get through this...
Couple of strides away from the finish
An official sub 6 race and a new PR!  My lungs were burning after for a bit, and we were all just trying to catch our breath.  It was not the sub 5:50 I was hoping for, but a PR all the same.  I had knocked 2 seconds off from my time trial in early May, and had successfully had my first outdoor track race and did not get lapped.  And, I got to run in the elite, seeded field of a race, a very cool opportunity.  When you think about the Olympic women who can run 5:15s for 26.2 miles, it is a bit humbling and mid-boggling.  But for a night, I got to be in the fast heat, and by going under 6, I showed that I deserved to be in that one - it was not a miscalculation, it was right.  Since there were a bunch of heats, and some people ran faster in the slower heats than predicted, it took a while for them to tabulate the results for the age group awards.  I came in 3rd for my age group, so I got a bronze medal.  I need to thank Heather (who won her category) for this, because the race officials had only listed the top 2 in my category.  She actually went to the officials on my behalf and made sure that I got my medal too.  Who says running isn't a team effort?  She did a great job herself, and ran a 5:58 while in the process of training for a 50 miler.  All in all, it was a very good night.
I texted Sarah, and she was pleased with how it went.  She also added, "The mile is a race that feels less crazy the more you do it."  And that's true - it did just feel crazy.  So, maybe some summer I will do a few mile races and get more experience in it.
At home with my new medal.  Wrists are glowing
from the safety bracelets I wore on my cooldown
once it got dark.  They almost look like
Wonder Woman bracelets - maybe that's
this year's Halloween costume?
My parents were at the race, which was cool, since normally I am in DC for my races.  They are so supportive and great.  They go to all of my Rochester races, and have also traveled to DC/Boston for my marathons.  But, as we were recalling before the race, this is only the second track race they've ever attended.  In 9th grade, they attended my first indoor track meet (at the University of Rochester), and I actually got lapped in the 1500 and came in last.  I told them to never come to a meet again.  Things have changed!
This spring, I was fortunate enough to crack through 2 mythical running barriers: sub 20 in the 5k and sub 6 in the mile.  I am sure that to a degree, the two go hand in hand, if you can break one, you can break the other, but it was still very cool to have both happen in the same season.  I was really pleased with how this racing season went - I was able to PR in the mile, 5k, and 10k.  A lot of that has to do with Sarah's coaching and scheduling.  She put together 5 good months of training for me, and knew how to schedule races and workouts in a way that led to some strong performances!
But the McMullen Mile meant an official end to my spring racing season.  I have been on a formal training schedule since January 9th.  I am going off of a schedule for the next month or so.  Sarah told me to take a few days off from running, and then just run when I want to.  I will be doing another race (Airport 5k in Rochester) in a couple of weeks, but won't be doing any focused training for it.
Mile training was a good experience for me.  The workouts were very hard and require a different type of skill/focus than the longer stuff.  I'm looking forward to giving it a go again down the road, but also looking forward to running for fun right now!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sharpening - Not in Vain

The last week has been a week of sharpening and preparing all around.
My first outdoor track race is Thursday night, which I have been training for for about 5 weeks.  This has been a great experience for me, but it also has been really hard.  The majority of the workouts are at my limit - they are at an all-out effort.  But, it has been a good learning endeavor - I have pushed a lot harder for the shorter distance.  It is my hope that when I go back to the 5k/10k training in the fall, the paces for those goal times won't seem as fast!
Tuesday was my last workout before Thursday's race, and it was great.  Probably in part because it was so short, and probably in part because it went so well:
2.5 mile warmup, 6x150 meter strides, 4 x 400 (84-87 seconds for each, jog 30 seconds in between), 2.5 mile cool down = 6.5 miles
These went really well: 85, 85, 85, 84.  Yes, they felt fast, and that was the fastest set of 400s I've ever done, but it was a really good effort.  Sarah said that this is a classic workout, and if you can do it slightly faster than goal pace, than it is a good indicator for the race itself!  And today was just an easy 2 miles with 4 x 150 meter strides.  That flew by.  Perfect running weather for National Running Day!
One of the trails on the UCSC campus
I also spent last weekend at a training session/meeting for my summer program for gifted children.  It was a great meeting, and I got a lot of great ideas for the summer.  I had this job last year (Academic Dean), but it was my first time in the position.  With some experience now, I have some new ideas as to how to better run the program and make it a better experience for everyone - staff and students alike.  I cannot wait - and the fact that it's in beautiful Santa Cruz doesn't hurt either!
On the dissertation front, I am doing my best.  But by far, coming up with a viable dissertation topic is the hardest academic thing I've ever done.  I had a good idea that I was running with (pun intended) for a few months, but then my advisor met an advanced professor in the field writing a book on a similar topic.  Goodbye idea.  Then, for the last month or so, I was doing reading on a new topic and had come up with an exciting idea.  When I went to check something on a history dissertation database, I found my idea with my sources in a 2006 dissertation.  Are you kidding me?  I was so upset - it was like being kicked in the stomach and the brain at the same time.  But I took a few days away and went back to the library and drawing board.  I wrote to my advisor, explaining the situation and my new plan.  Not the best feeling - I was hoping to write her with good news, not a roadblock.  Her response included this, "Your reading won't be in vain."
I am holding onto that thought.  Not in vain will I read, not in vain will I run, and not in vain will I plan for a good program this summer.  All of this is a process - of sharpening, of preparing, of hard work.  It wouldn't feel as worthwhile if it was all an easy snap, right?  And in looking back to some of the other hurdles I've gotten over: coursework, comps, BQing, etc., that final victory after the all of the hard work has been so sweet.  So, in the meanwhile, I am in the middle stretch, and although the finish line may be in the distance, the road to getting there will not be in vain.