Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tempos heating up as it heats up

Beyond mile repeats, beyond long slow distance (you know, the other kind of LSD), beyond any track workout, the run each week that both bolsters my confidence and speed is the tempo run. Also known as the progression run, it is part of a longer run where you pick up the pace as the run progresses. So, rather than going out too fast and burning out/hitting the wall, you pick things up when you are theoretically running on tired legs. For me, they tend to range between 3-7 miles, and they are always slower than goal race pace. I think it is the best way to simulate race conditions, and now that I've learned how to do them (mostly - I'm no master - I still start too fast sometimes), I absolutely swear by them.
These were fantastic to do in California on Saturday mornings. I wasn't in charge of the kids, it would be about 55-60 degrees, cloudy, and I could just go out and knock these out. Now that I'm back in DC, there are other things to do, and it's hotter. I've actually taken to now doing a lot of my runs in the evening when I get home (generally after 6), so things are cooling down, rather than heating up. Plus, I've found that my legs are lot looser from moving around throughout the day, rather than just from the few steps to the coffeepot and to go outside. All these benefits, plus, I can accomplish a lot during the day, and the run is an end of day treat.
Anyways, Saturday was an 11 mile run, with 6 miles of tempo. THe goal was to start at 7:30 pace and either hold it (depending on the weather), or try to cut down. I knew it was a hot day, and all I wanted to do was stay inside...but I was not going to can this run. It was my monster week of cycle 2 training (46 miles) and I was determined to get all of these runs in. The warm up wasn't too bad - I wasn't pouring buckets yet, which was a good sign. I lined up at my starting spot on the W&OD trail and hoped for the best. I was 3 weeks out from my rust-buster, and wanted this to be a strong workout. Bang! The invisible gun goes off, and I go through the first mile in 7:03. Whoa nelly, slow down. It is hot and you have 5 miles to go. But I was feeling good, and then another 7minute mile came. Then another. So, it was the turnaround point, and I told myself the goal was to not blow up. Last Saturday, I had sought to do a 40 minute tempo run, and only got through 20 minutes. Didn't want to bonk and scrap the workout again. But this time, I was feeling more confident. I was definitely more hydrated - I had drank lots of water throughout the day, filling up the tank, as it were, rather than just the morning cup of coffee after a night of sleep (which is when you get dehydrated). There were some hills on the way back, but I kept hunkering down. I was thinking of Deena Kastor and her recent 9th place finish at the World Championship in Moscow, running the marathon in 2:36 at age 40 when the heat was I'm the 90s. Surely I could maintain seven minute pace for just 6 mile. My finish line (a wooden post) was in sight, and I came through the last mile in 6:50. It was the best hot tempo run I had ever done. I walked around for a couple minutes, just catching my breath and calming down, then did my 2.5 mile cooldown.
The finish line of my high mileage week was in sight. All that remained was a half marathon long run and that would bring me up to 46 miles. Again, procrastination kicked in and window washing, vacuuming, church, and much more all happened before my long run. So again, I put off the run until the evening. I was excited because I just got an iPhone and was looking forward to trying one of the running apps. I downloaded run keeper and set off. I haven't been in our new apartment for that long and mainly had been keeping on the W&OD trail. This time, I was going to add some variation and visit some of the neighborhoods in the area. The only problem with running at dinnertime is that people are out grilling and it all smelled so good! I was pleased with my pace - just under 8 minutes, and was appreciating that there was low pressure. I didn't have anything to get back to, no school assignments or work meetings awaiting - this wasn't going to be crammed in. And I kept knocking off sub 8s without feeling I was expending too much. At the end of it all, it was a beautiful run and fast too 1:40:58 for 13.15 miles - probably the fastest 13 I had ever done in a training run. Stumbling back into the house, I made gluten-free spaghetti and sausage for dinner (you can carbo load after, right?) and put my legs up in sweet victory.
I'm in a recovery week now, and given that it is the first week of school (teaching 1 class and working on my dissertation), I could definitely use the free time! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The little red dress and the yellow shoes

We women are always on the prowl for the little black dress. That one that works for a variety of occasions and goes with everything. I have one, but the dress with the real story is my little red dress. No, it doesn't have that implication of being a "lucky" dress in the dating world...
I bought this dress in 2002, my sophomore year of high school at Old Navy for I think $20. It was in anticipation of a band trip to Quebec and I wanted something special to wear for our end of trip reception. It was comfortable but pretty and I could wear a jacket with it. It since has been worn for:
Thank you, Old Navy!

  • Piano competitions
  • College interviews
  • My high school senior picture
  • Conference paper presentations
  • Freshmen move in day at CUA when I worked in Residence Life
  • The past 6 opening days of our gifted camp
  • The day I found out I got a TA grant in grad school
  • And the day I got engaged!
So, the dress has told many stories. It certainly has gotten its value. And it is definitely still going to be put to use. I'm not retiring this dress until it either doesn't fit (and I'm hoping to stay this size forever) or it just gets worn out. 11 years in, and it is still standing.
Something else with a lot of stories did just face retirement. My first pair of racing flats, which I got in the summer of 2011, went to a shoe donation bin in Santa Cruz right before I left. They had accompanied me through track workouts, some tempo runs, but most importantly, in about two dozen races in CA, NY, PA, and VA.
My times from before then
5k 20:45
10k 44:45
13.1 1:34:32

And after
5k: 19:21
10k 39:28
10 mile 1:05:52

Obviously, the shoes didn't do all of that work. But they did mark a turning point, marathons were put on hold and t was time to work on speed. I'll be breaking in a new pair soon, but it was definitely a sad goodbye for that first pair. I always felt good to go in those shoes and loved putting them on to race.
Saucony Racing Flats

So, the red dress and the yellow shoes: each tells a lot of stories and holds a lot of memories. One has helped me run my best races, and one has helped me to run my life on the right path.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My time in the Golden State

I Love Lucy in California...my drives around CA
looked a little different
I'll remember:
  • That the beach was 5 miles away and we could getaway for even an hour
  • That San Francisco could be done in a day trip
  • That I drove back and forth from San Jose Airport and loved the scenery
  • That over 400 students passed through my program and had a great time
  • That I worked with a team of 70 great educators
  • That I ran in the Wharf to Wharf 6 Mile this year, and the San Francisco 5k last year - both top notch races with great friends
    Trails at UCSC
  • That I ran over 200 miles in one of the most beautiful parts of the country
Which is more blue?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

My time in California just came to a close. For the past three summers, I have spent seven weeks of the summer working at my gifted camp or brainiac campus one friend called it. While I plan on continuing to work for this program, they have sites all over the country, including near DC. I'll be getting married next May, and I don't think I'll be inclined to leave my new husband for 7 weeks just 6 weeks after getting married. So I recognized that this was be my last summer in California for a while. And I absolutely loved it. Santa Cruz has been like no other place that I've ever lived in.
Before 2011, I had never been west of Indiana and now I have spent seven weeks of the past three summers living in Santa Cruz.  That's not quite half a year, but it is definitely longer than a vacation. I have loved California. It is like no place I've ever lived in. The runs were beautiful. My last long run was on Sunday - I created a half marathon course around campus: through the woods, perimeter, trails, etc. I was supposed to do 12, but come on...it was so easy to make that a round half marathon. It was absolutely gorgeous - the sun was out, but it was only 60 degrees out. I did my best to be as present as possible and take that in. Over 3 summer, I've covered over 600 miles running around Santa Cruz and I wanted to drink up those last few miles. Just wonderful: 1:43:59 for 13.1 and the great way to cap off Santa Cruz running.
And, I got to go stand up paddle boarding again. And I didn't fall in! With our summer program complete, I had no immediate concerns or worries. Even though my flight was later that day, I didn't feel rushed. I felt more comfortable on the water this time with a greater sense of balance. It was windier this time, but I just planted my feet and paddled on. This time, my thoughts were less don't fall don't fall and more take it all in. Would I ever get such a chance again to do this? To virtually float on water, devoid of communication with the outside world? All I could hear were the otters barking and birds chirping. Pelicans drifted by me, as if I was in Finding Nemo. My legs quaked as I got off, but they stood firm and helped me propel through. It was a cool day for the beach, but the wind felt good. It was so sunny and the water and sky challenged each other in a which could be more blue contest. After I embarked on land again, I drove around along the coast, taking in each bend in the road. No GPS was needed, just the water and coast served as my guide. It was California at its finest. 
I am now back in Virginia with my fiance, and very happy for that reunion. They say absence makes the heart fonder - like it could be more fond. I am working to build my new life now, but I'll never forget my beautiful summers in California.