Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let go

I am learning to let go a little, and countering everything bundled up in my type A personality. I had two weeks of light training - self-imposed. The first week my knee was bothering me, so I mainly cross trained (and then did the rust buster). Two days after, a few hours after a run, I got slammed with a bad cold and took the rest of the week off. I didn't exercise from Wednesday through Sunday - very unusual for me. Part of me wanted to jump out of my skin. The other part was too tired to move and just took it for what it's worth.
In the meanwhile, I have shifted some of my energy to just being single-minded and focused on revising my dissertation proposal. So, it is possible that I may not have the speediest running season this spring, but if I get my proposal passed, it will all be worth it.
However, a couple of weeks ago, I did return to the track for the first time in 3 months. It was a short workout, and the speed part only totaled 5k. However, I was able to get my legs moving. And I do love getting on the track and working my way through a workout. And then I had a full consistent week of running. 48 miles total for the week. That included a half marathon (informal) run on Sunday, and a tempo run on Saturday.
I am cautiously optimistic. I had the best week of running last week of 2013. I am getting stronger and figuring out how to regroup after a bumpy few weeks. Last week was tenacious Tuesday (what's used to call my track workouts). While it was pouring rain and windy, I was still ready to go. However, by the time I was done with the warmup, there was a lacrosse game going on the turf, spilling onto the track. So I did something I haven't done since January 2010: speed work on the treadmill. This workout is challenging to begin with(since it is all about changing gears), and the treadmill does not stimulate excitement for me. But, it did allow me to be very consistent with pace. In the end, I was right on target. 2.5 mile warmup, 2 x 1.5 mile with half mile jog in between and 2 x 800. The 1.5 mile is broken up into 3 continuous 800s, changing pace with each one. The first 1.5: 3:20, 3:11, 3:20. The second: 3:11, 3:20, 3:10. Then the 2 separate 800s were 3:07 and 3:05. Pretty good considering I haven't done a ton of speed work lately. I am going to do an 8k on the 10th, and now I'm starting to feel like I can actually make a good race out of it.
Last week on the tempo run, under my Boston jacket was my Olympic shirt (which I bought this summer). In a way, both provide motivation. It took a lot of hard work to get to Boston. And it took Olympians a lifetime to get to London. Surely I can get out in the dreary weather and put out a good effort, even in less than ideal conditions. No cutting things short, no cutting corners.
I am becoming consistent again, feeling strong again, and returning to that hunger for excellence.
I had written most of this on Wednesday morning, and it briefly seemed as if I spoke too soon. I fell down walking to class, and banged up my knees really hard. Really?! I had just gotten on track again, did I really just blow it? No. I took Thursday off, and did easy cross training on Friday, and by Saturday, everything was back to normal. Thank freaking goodness. I got in another hilly self-created half marathon on Saturday. Then on Sunday, 3 x 2 x 1 mile run. This is a other cool variation on a tempo run. It breaks things up a bit. 3 miles at 7:13 pace, then half a mile easy, then 2 miles at 6:53, then half a mile easy, and then 1 mile in 6:34. It felt great to get in good turnover. Yes, it got hard in the end, but that's the point. With the warm up and cooldown, it totaled 12 miles, bringing the weekend's total to nearly a marathon. I have to say, I've focused on the shorter distance stuff for so long, it's been nearly 2 years since I've done a 20 miler. My how things change.
And really, I need to let go when everything doesn't go according to plan. Some days or weeks or months do not exactly fit what we expected. But that's how life goes, and the more I can let go and roll with it, the better off I'll be in the long run, literally. Last fall I had a few weeks when I was inconsistent, and eventually, things returned to normal and I had some of the best races of my life. I'm not saying that that will happen again, but you never know.
And sometimes, not knowing is half of the fun.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Watching it come full circle: Love the Run You're With 5k

Like last spring, I selected "Love the Run You're With" as my spring rust-buster race. However, unlike last spring, it wasn't 20 degrees with 20 mph winds. 30 with 2 mph winds was much nicer! Brisk is good, especially when it's sunny. As has been unfortunately precedent with the past few races, I had a difficult time falling asleep. It stinks, because I wasn't even that worked about this race. It was just all about getting out there and testing the wheels for the first time in a few months. Oh well. You have to run with the cards you're dealt with.
Last year, I ran this race in 20:40, and came in 5th place. I figured a slight improvement on my part, depending on the competition, could mean a top 3 finish. As I walked to the start, who did I see but Claire Hallisey, the British Olympic marathoner who lives in Arlington, VA. Nope! No chance at that with an Olympian in the same race! But still, it is a cool feeling to not just be in the same race as an Olympian (because if you do any major marathon, there is the possibility that Olympians are there), but somewhat close together at the starting line. The gun went off, and we were off. I had little to no expectations for this race. Somewhere around the 20 minute mark seemed like a fair guess for what I know about this course and the fact that it's early in the season. This race starts off with a pretty steep hill. Last year, it was a shocker, this time, I felt more ready for it. I hit the first mile in 6:37, and the pace felt a little fast. I knew I wasn't going to be pulling out a PR on this day, but I was just hoping to have a good race. After the second mile, I was able to start thinking about picking things up and starting to pick off people. This is my favorite part of racing: ramping up and shifting gears. Now, there were some back and froths with people, but I did pass more people than got passed. As I hit the 3 mile mark, I could see the clock ticking. I knew sub 20 was out of my grasp, but was determined to just get in a strong finish.
In the pink top on the right
20:20 (6:33 pace)
16th woman out of 1,084
60 overall out of 1,723
So funny - that time last year would've put me as fourth woman and age group winner. It all depends on the year you run!
Not too shabby for a rust buster. 20 seconds faster than last year, which is good progress. Last year, 20:20 was my PR, and now my PR is 19:21. So a minute faster than last year, a minute slower than my best. My fall rust-buster was a 5 miler at 6:30 pace - faster for longer. But..If 20:20 is what I can on a "B day," I think that's a good sign. I know sometimes my standards can be ridiculous: I need to chill out, relax, and just have fun. I got to run near an Olympian, who went on to run 17:55 for the 5k. That's not an every day occurrence. Last year, I was the fastest single girl at the race (with it being a Valentine's Day race, they have those categories). I was just a few days away from meeting my boyfriend, and we are approaching our first anniversary. This year, I was 7th in the taken category - and all the happier. I do Love the Run I'm with, and the guy too. 2013 - lookout!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Training with Lauren on my mind

Lauren en route to 2nd place in the Navy/Air Force
Half Marathon in 1:21 in September
The week before Sandy Hook, I had a sudden loss of my own. A running friend of mine, Lauren Woodall Roady, was killed by an off-duty firetruck in Kentucky after competing in the SATF Club Cross Country National Championships. I first met her after a 5k in March, in which we both had PRs. She came in second and went sub-19, I came in fifth and went sub-20. We did a 3 mile cool down together and talked about runs we had done, life in DC, etc. Very nice girl, and had just joined the Georgetown Running Club racing team, a local competitive team. After that, I saw her at half a dozen DC races, in which she consistently achieved new PRs. When we met, her PRs were 18:55 for 5k, 41:46 for 10k, and 1:28:30 for the half marathon. In less than nine months, Lauren dropped those PRs to 17:53, 36:35, and 1:21:41. She was turning into an emerging elite quite quickly, and her hard work ethic was quickly paying of. While she was consistently faster than me, we had a lot in common and both were very engaged in DC running and happy to talk after races. While I don't know if we were quite friends, saying we were mere acquaintances diminishes that special relationship you build with fellow runners.
I was so sad to hear that she had passed away in such a tragic accident. This was a woman with such potential, both on the roads and off. Lauren was only a few months older than me, had recently gotten married, and had her whole future ahead of her. 
I've been thinking about Lauren a lot lately with the spring racing season right around the corner. Without a doubt, she would've been at a lot of the races on my schedule, and beat me handedly. 
I've had days when frankly, I didn't want to hop on the stationary bike at night after a long day or slog it out on the roads. I could easily skimp out, but Lauren has been on my mind a lot. Her dedication to running and training was admirable, and certainly worth of emulation and imitation. So, the days when I haven't been as anxious to work out, I offer my sessions up to her. She would've been out in the cold or the gym, striving for improvement. It's the least I can do for someone who was so passionate about this beautiful sport.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My running renaissance in DC

Me with one of my old running partners, 2 days before the 2009 inauguration
This is a bit overdue after the inauguration. I had moved to DC only a few months prior to the 2008 election and Obama's 2009 inauguration. I was there at the National Mall, all excited about the promise of hope and change in the future. I was also in the early stages of training for my first marathon.  I couldn't help but reflect on the difference four years had made. Back then, I was excited about finishing my first marathon, and doing a few races around DC. I had no idea where I was going: in my history program, my running, my life, and my way around DC.
Four years later, DC is my home, and the National Mall is my running playground. Some of my routes have been the same since 2009, when all the magic began. Others are new and/or improved. I have places to run in Maryland, the District, and Virginia: each with unique and varied paths. I've also found a series of races to embrace and call my own too, that I can return to year after year with excitement. And, since DC is so rich in running, I can try new ones annually as well.
I remember running around the National Mall in 2008 and felt like a tourist. The city was still so new to me, and I felt more like a visitor than a resident. Would the monuments appear ever just a regular buildings? Or would I always stop and marvel along the way? Perhaps it's a little of both. I see the Capitol every day on my walk to the metro, and hit all of the monuments during my runs. I do not stand transfixed anymore, but quickly take it all in as I go by. I'm still not completely perfect with direction, but I do know my way so much better than I did four years ago.
And DC opened her running arms to me. I was fortunate in my second year to become a part of the Pacers Ambassadors program in conjunction with the Pacers Running Stores. Not only did they provide me with a little gear and the opportunity to volunteer at local races, they also connected me with a group of dedicated local runners who I had never met.  
I found out the other day in a RunWashington.com survey that this blog has been nominated for "Best Local Running Blog" in DC! So, if you've lived or visited in DC and done some running here, fill out the survey (which asks about favorite running spots, races, etc) and on questions #13, vote for the medievalist!
Running in DC gave this medievalist a renaissance. This blog is part of that too. It's allowed me to dialogue about races, training, but it's also connected me to a very vast and talented community of runners and readers. I wouldn't have paired running and writing together initially, but the two ended up going hand in hand, or hand and foot, as it were.