Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sometimes the small victories count

I've been away from blogging for a couple weeks, and with good reason.  I arrived in Rochester on the 14th from my Santa Cruz summer.  That Friday night, my grandpa passed away at 88 after a 2 year battle with lung cancer.  It was very sad, but we all knew that this was coming down the road at some point.  And fortunately, we had What was very moving was the wake and funeral - a ton of people attended to honor him.  He was a WWII vet, an active member in his church and community, and really had a positive impact on a lot of people.  Very inspirational, and a great tribute to a great man.
But needless to say, running didn't go perfectly during that time.  I got in some good runs, including on the day of his funeral, and some bike rides with my dad too.  Nothing like family time.
Then last weekend, I moved back to DC.  My parents are fantastic and were really helpful in getting my settled into my new place.  But, as I am sure so many people know, moving and running don't necessarily go hand in hand, so I missed a couple of runs.  Moreover, moving back to crazy hot-in-the-summer-DC is not conducive for the best running either.  Man, it was 50 degrees in the mornings in Santa Cruz - I could even get away with short sleeves!  And in Rochester, it would at least be only 70 degrees.  But this is hot hot hot!  I got so spoiled with my summer - I know that most of the country had it hot and humid all summer, but man alive - this is hard!  I haven't really had a stellar run yet.  A couple of runs have just been cut short because of the heat - I keep wilting when it's 86 degrees.  When I was home in Rochester, I could run 8 minute pace all day long no problem.  Here, I'm holding onto 8:15-8:30 pace with no inclination of picking things up.  I am hoping that soon, the weather will cool down a little and I'll get my kick back.  I'm going to (try to) not get too worked up about some missed runs.  A few skipped runs ultimately won't make a difference.  I know that, I've been told that, and I've told others that too.  But still, seeing as I have a teeny bit of a perfectionist streak, it's still a hard pill to swallow.  But I will press on and wait to bounce back.
You wouldn't mess with me, right?
Today's run looked like a dream - just 4 miles.  Even though it was 88 at 6PM, it was going to be a good run.  I was not going to get derailed by the heat, nor was I was going to get lost.  Side note: I moved to a new place closer to downtown and spent the end of my last couple of runs literally running in circles - around the blocks of my neighborhood trying to get back.  That was not going to happen today.  I studied the maps, figured out the major intersections, committed to memory how SE streets flow into NE (I swear, to me, directions are harder than medieval history), and was ready to go.  I ran around the Mall - hugged the Capitol, passed the Supreme Courthouse, wave to the Washington Monument, and climbed Capitol Hill.  I ran about 8:20 pace for 4.5 miles, and it was the best run I've had since I got here.  It was the shortest, yes, but it was also the smoothest.  And I am not going to write it off as just a little weekday run - this was the small running victory I needed to help close out this month.  I found my way back just fine, I was covered in sweat - really, it dripped on the desk, but I was triumphant.  It won't go down in the books as spectacular (although it was monumental), but it was a small victory.  This was my post-run picture - tough girl pose.  Maybe I wouldn't win in a fist fight, but an A for effort, right?

Monday, August 13, 2012

My time in Santa Cruz has run out

I ran through the final stretch of my time in Santa Cruz.  My students went home on Friday, with some tears and smiles - bittersweet for sure.  They had a great time at camp, and the staff did too.  7 weeks went by really quickly.  In that time:

  • 424 students came
  • I worked with 38 instructors and TAs
  • Supervised 16 different courses, ranging from astronomy to psych to writing
  • The kids were in class for 100 hours per 3 week session
  • I logged over 200 miles, swam about 60,000 yards
  • Ran and won one race: San Francisco 5k with a PR
It was a great summer.  There were a lot of challenges and the program requires a lot of time and effort, but totally worth it.  I learned a lot, and it is a job that I love doing.  I love working with these kids and staff so much, and I always find this to be a rejuvenating experience.  
I got in 7 weeks of stellar running in.  I don't think I ever ran in temperatures higher than 70 degrees.  I did so much running on hills - tempo runs, easy runs, long runs.  And these were great runs.  My times were not always much to write home about, but I think once I get back to flatter courses and getting in more sleep, things will really click.  I haven't done any track work yet, and won't until cycle 3 of training.  But last summer, I came back from the West Coast and later in the fall had some good races.  But early in the fall, I had a tough rust-buster 5k, and I didn't feel like it was showing my work yet.  Sarah thinks that from now on, I should be able to run under 20 for the 5k consistently.  I did it for the first time in March, but then in 2 subsequent 5ks I ran 20:xx, but then ran under 20 again in July.  Hoping to know be consistent with that too, even in a not so fast race.  I am feeling a bit more confident this point. I also am starting to alternate weeks of 4 days of running with weeks of 5 days of running.  We are testing that out to see if I can handle a little more mileage, particularly since I am doing enough strength training to stay strong.  I am looking forward to that - while cross training and swimming is nice, running is my true passion and it is great to get more runs in.
My last weekend in Santa Cruz included 2 solid runs.  On Saturday: 2.5 mile warm up, Fartlek ladder run, 5x4x3x2x1x1x2x3x4x5min.  Take 3 minutes easy after the 5 minute fartleks, 2:30 after the 4 minute ones, 2 minutes after the 3 minutes ones, 90 seconds after the 2 minutes fartleks and 1 minute after the 1 minute fartleks.  2.5 mile cool-down.  Total=10 miles  These road workouts, while they don't have the same feel as a track workout, are also challenging and sometimes feel never ending.  You never step off the road or grab a bottle, you just keep going and going.  I was pretty pleased with this one - lots of undulating hills.  And then on Sunday, I ran 13.5 miles.  I hope I never take for granted that I can "bang out" a half marathon in under 1:50 as part of a training run.  I am very away that that is a distance many people are training to run some day - my mom included!  She is training for the Rochester Half Marathon in September, and has already gotten up to 9.75 miles in her long runs.  Very exciting!  But I digress.  I covered my over half marathon distance fairly easily.  I will never take that for granted.  But I will say, it is pretty cool to run a half marathon on a Sunday and then just move on with the day.  It has taken years of training to get to this point.  A few years ago (2009), 13 miles would have had me seeking out the couch for the rest of the day.  But with more practice and more mileage, I know how to get in that kind of run and then go on with my day without being sidelined.  It goes back to that 10,000 hours concept - that it takes that much time of practice to excel at something.  I think I have gotten maybe a couple of thousand hours in so far, but am nowhere near 10,000 hours yet.  I wonder how long it takes Olympians to get to 10,000 hours?
But my West Coast time is running out.  I am sitting in the SFO airport, waiting to fly back to Rochester.  I am leaving the most beautiful running place in the world, but in return, I get to go home to my family.  Sounds like a good trade to me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day in and day out, plus in and out

I think at this point, all of the confetti and fanfare have settled since last week's 5k.  There's still a part of me that is looking back with some disbelief.  After all, it was a race where I was not planning on winning nor PRing, and somehow both happened.  And, to my greater surprise, it did not feel like an all-out sprint, either.  My two best 5ks that I've run, this and the Scope it out 5k in March (first time I broke 20:00), I felt light and able like I was able to just fly down the road.  Other times, I've felt more like I've gutted it out, but not in this case.  All of that has been added into the joyful feeling.  It was fun to go back to work, and when people asked about the race or saw the flowers, to say that I won.  I don't think some of my colleagues knew that I took running/racing seriously - but they do now.  My office also got a bit more fragrant and beautiful with another bouquet sent in from my grandparents.  The card read, "Congratulations - see you at the 2016 Olympics!"  That's a bit far off in dreamland, but speaking of...a few thoughts on this year's Olympics so far:
  • While it was a bummer that the American women didn't place higher in the 10k, it was great that they all set PRs in the race!  It was all of their Olympic debuts too, so you wonder what they'll be like in 2016.
  • I was so excited by watching Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp go 1-2 in the men's 10k and seeing an American medal for the first time since 1964 (as if I've been watching the Games since then).  The final lap was tremendous, and the look on their faces really demonstrated the pure shock and awe that they felt.  And how cool that two best friends were able to share that Olympic joy together.
  • I was very sad to see that the American women did not do as well in the marathon as everyone had hoped.  With Desi Davila's injury, it was not surprising that she DNF. Even still, it was heroic that she started the race.  And based on everything I read about Kara Goucher's and Shalane Flanagan's training, I think everyone expected (including themselves) a medal to come home with them.  Fearing that being in the group could cause a fall, they lead for a good portion of the race, which that, combined with the heavy rain and challenging course, ultimately got the best of them.  Even though they finished 10th and 11th place, there is still so much pride for what they've done for American running on the international stage.  And in reading about all of their training that they've done together, you can't help but root for them.

And of course, I have been doing some of my own running, too.  Sunday wrapped up Cycle 1 of my Fall 2012 racing plan.  Other than one run and one cross training session that I missed, the 4 week cycle went very well.  I've been really consistent with my strength training, and doing that 2-3 times a week without missing them I think has made a significant difference.
Sunday was an in and out tempo run.  2.5 mile warm-up, then 6 alternating harder-hard miles (7:00, 7:15, 6:57: 7:23, 7:00, 7:15), 2.5 mile cool-down for a total of 11 miles.  This is a good workout to work on changing gears during a run, and the slower miles aren't really that slow.  And then today, I ran 12 miles with 6 miles of tempo thrown in.    The mileage is adding up.  My big fall race, the Army Ten Miler in DC, is not until October 21st, so I am just looking to get in some good training right now.  No other races lined up for the coming month.  I am hoping to get in at least a 5k and 10k in September/October so I can do some more damage to my PRs.
But ultimately, day in and day out, I am just trying to get in these runs.  The sand in my Santa Cruz hourglass is slipping by - I leave on Monday to head back to the East Coast.  I remember someone once telling me that it takes 2 years of consistent running to really see improvement.  I feel like I am continuing to hone in on consistency and improve on it each year.  After all, that's what the Olympians are doing, and why shouldn't we take a few cues from them?