Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A marathon of a weekend and a request

Ever since I did my first marathon in 2009, I became more sensitive to the word marathon - my ears would perk up when someone would talk about a marathon. At the same time, I realized how much the term gets thrown around "It's a marathon, not a sprint," (used typically to describe any long project) "Friends marathon coming up next," "this is a marathon event,"" etc - but things not generally referring to the 26.2 event itself. Even last week, I picked up my bib for the Navy 5 Miler, and the security guard said, "Oh, are you here for the marathon?" (I then told him that it was not a marathon) "Well, it's a marathon to me!" he replied. Perhaps in spirit, but not the standard 26.2 Well, I had a marathon of a weekend, and it's not too far from the truth. My Saturday workouts are speedwork on the road (paved trails): either some sort of tempo run or farleks - something generally between 10-12 miles. They are probably my most productive workout of the week - definitely the one I think about the most. Now that the weather has mercifully cooled down, I've been putting off those weekend runs until later in the day. I'd rather do some work in the morning and then get out there later in the day. Of course, as soon as I got out on Saturday and got my warm-up done, the sky opened up and it started to pour. But to be honest, as long as I'm dressed fine, the rain doesn't bother me. Sometimes, it feels like it pushes me to run faster, and that was the case on Saturday. This was the workout:
2.5 mile warm-up. 3 miles x 2 miles x 2x 1 mile on the trails.  Aim to use the first 3 miles as warm-up, aim for 7 minute pace.  ½ mile jog;  Aim to hit about 6:50 pace for the 2 mile.  ½ mile jog.  For the first mile, aim for 6:40; ½ mile jog; aim for 6:30 on the second. 2.5 mile cool-down.  Total: 13.5 miles
I did a pretty good job with this one: slightly below 7 minute pace for the first 3, 6:50 for the 2, 6:39, and then I "blew up" and ran 6:49 for the last mile. And I had put everything I had into trying to fly in for that last one, but this is definitely a workout of cumulative effort. Even a few fast seconds early on can quickly catch up to you. The rain just kept coming down, and I could feel the water build up in my shoes and squish along the way. Just me and a few cyclists trying to get home. At the end of it all, I stumbled back into the house, drenched, wiped, and exhilerated. It was hard, but it went well. My legs felt beat up, but I had my celebratory glass of wine (which is how like to cap off speed days) and called it a night.
It was a monster week of training, and there was still one more run left: the Sunday long run. These tend to be 10-13 miles, with no concern of pace the day after a workout. Of course, this was a weekend when it was the longer end: 13 miles. And my quads felt it every step of the way. I don't think mentally I've ever had to work so much to get through a 13 mile training run. It wasn't really just the soreness that got to me, just the overwhelming tired feeling. And I couldn't have been checking my watch more - were the miles really adding up so slowly? But then I did some simple arithmetic: 13.5 + 13 = 26.5. I was running the equivalent of a marathon in 24 hours. No wonder my legs were hurting...it was mile 7 on Sunday...not unlike the mile 20 feeling of a marathon. And I fully realize that this is not a marathon - it was not done consecutively, mile by mile in a single day. But at the end of the long run, the second 13 (and yes, I threw the .1 in too), done in 1:48, my legs stumbled up the stairs and I was done. Had a big bowl of gluten-free pasta and called it a day. It was a marathon of a weekend and my little leggies were sore sore sore. Not quite waddling like a pregnant woman (which I did after my first marathon), but more sore than usual. So much running! But it all was a success and the more you can get used to running on tired legs, the better.
And speaking of marathons: a request:
My future brother-in-law Jack is running the NYC Marathon in 6 weeks to support a great cause, academic support and career development for first-generation college students. For more information on his organization, check out his infographic here: http://www.imagebam.com/image/916722275232572
It would mean a lot to me if you could also support the cause by donating even a small amount on his team's page here: http://www.crowdrise.com/NewYorkNeedsYouNYC2013/fundraiser/teamNYNY

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rust Busted at Navy 5 Miler 2013

Early on in the race

Pre-Sunrise Washington Monument
Today was my rust-buster race for the fall season: the Navy 5 Miler. It is also held in conjunction with a half marathon, and so there were a few thousand people out on the National Mall this morning for the race. The hot weather dissipated for the day, and it was a lovely 57 degrees at the start. I didn't sleep well last night, but I didn't care, I was going to have a good race. run, run, run - other than trying to go forward, everything else was blocked out. I was happy when the 4 mile sign came up - I could hang on for one more mile. I had already realized that my A-goal of sub-32 was out the window, and I was just hoping to better my time from my last year. And then, the urge to look behind hit me and boom, this girl just sprinted by me. And that's not on me - she clearly had a few more gears than I did - I watched her sail away. But I was just doing my best to dig in and hang on through the finish.
Less than a mile to go
Last year, I ran 32:32 and came in third - it was my hope to better that this year. I did my warm up and was ready to go. And with the clang of the Navy bell, we were off! I went through the first mile in 6:14 - way too fast! I was in third briefly, but then one of the girls from one of the local racing teams blew by me. So quickly she was over 50 yards ahead, so I worked to just protect fourth. It felt fast, and I held that up until mile 2. At that point, I could feel a bit of a side stitch coming on, and rather than fight it, I eased up a little. It didn't feel comfortable, for sure. Some races everything just flows...this wasn't one of them. But the weather was perfect, and the flat course made it easy to just motor through. There was a Navy guy running about 2 steps in front of me, so I just tried to lock in behind him and go. There weren't a lot of people around (it was so quiet - no spectators on Haines point, and with not a ton of runners, you didn't even hear footsteps). All of my thoughts were gone (nothing about the dissertation even) - it was just
32:14 (6:27 pace)
5th woman
33/1358 overall
1st in age group! So check out the bling! This was the medal for the age group win, and the finisher coin went to everyone (that is a tradition in the military to give out coins for special achievements).
Finisher coin
 It wasn't the race I had hoped for - the A goal wasn't there. But I did better than last year - I knocked 18 seconds off from last year. I may have "lost" 2 places, but the women who beat me are also on racing teams. So, I'm taking this as a victory. We don't always get A+ races, and this was still very good. I am excited that the racing season is off and running and looking forward to working towards that A+!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Need to remember both the starting line and the finish

The new academic year is off and running, as is my fall training cycle. There are not a lot of noteworthy things to write about, no major mile stones, and it got me to thinking about the past year.
I remember what last September felt like. I didn't know exactly what my dissertation proposal was going to be. I didn't even feel as if I had a future in academia - I was just plagued with a lot of doubts. The running was going okay - I was re-acclimating back to the heat after Santa Cruz, and it took time to get my groove back. I was looking at the starting line of a long race, with no finish line in sight. There was just a glimmer of hope.
The attitude for the year was: keep my head down and just do my work. It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't always glamorous. It meant a lot of quiet hours, often alone, with some books, my laptop, and a barrage of thoughts. When people asked how it (meaning the dissertation) was going, my response was always fine and I put on my best poker face to hopefully hide the mounds of fear beneath the surface.
By January, there was measurable progress and I started to feel a sense of momentum. Things were picking up and I started to feel more confident reporting my progress to inquisitive friends (certainly without a lump in my throat!).
May was the finish line - my proposal passed for my dissertation - the department and university said yes, this is a feasible project and we support it. It was glorious. And the fact that I engaged 2 days later made it all the sweeter.
4 months have passed since that sweet victory. And I feel some of those feelings surfacing again. I'm now in dissertation land and it is me, the laptop, and a blinking cursor as I'm trying to essentially write a book. Some of the crippling fears are back. I have an end goal in mind: defending in Spring 2016 (a month shy of my 30th birthday). Will it happen? The committee says that it is a reasonable goal and now that I've decided on it, I needed to have that single-minded focus again. And I need to remember both the start and the finish. There were some very tough and trying parts last year, but the end result was so sweet. We all go through the valleys...it is the promise of the peak that keeps us going.
I've been having some pretty good runs - about A- I would say. A couple runs have been cut short, but more for time constraints. It is definitely better to go into races slightly undertrained than overtrained. I did a 5 mile tempo run on Saturday and averaged 6:45 pace. The weather was unseasonably cool - just 60 degrees at 7:30AM, and it felt like a race morning. There were over 50 Team in Training runners out there on the W&OD trail - amazing! I also did a track workout on the treadmill today: 11 miles with 5x1k (4:01, 3:57, 3:54, 3:52, 3:49), 4x400 (91, 90, 89, 88) - phew! It was so hot outside that I could not stand the thought of doing the workout outside. So, I did the warm up and cool down outside (sweating all the way), and then hopped on the treadmill. I have actually done that a couple of times now, and while I'm not a fan of the treadmill, there are a bunch of positives for doing speedwork on it. It regulates the time, so I know I'm not going to go out too fast and risk blowing up. It keeps the past honest and and even, and while it's as dull as watching paint dry, it definitely is a good thing.
There is a finish line, there is a medal awaiting. I'll just need to remind myself of that every step of the way.