Sunday, November 2, 2014

Not always all about the race: October running

It's been nearly a month since my last blog post, so these are just the greatest hits of October - can't believe it's over!
In continuation of my random fall season of signing up for races on a whim, I signed up for the Rock and Stroll 10k in Alexandria over Columbus Weekend. It poured and was windy - not the most ideal conditions. I was hoping to be fairly competitive (new race and the winner got $100), but I faded after 1 6:30 mile and ran 43:29 (for 7:00 pace). Again, given that I'm not doing any formal training, it was a fine race. I also think we accumulate a certain number of bad weather races - and I was overdue for crappy weather. I will say, the hot shower and post-race nap were some of the biggest perks of the race!
I do love to race, but I am also grateful that racing is not the only reason I love to run. The weekend after that race, I decided to go for a really long run. I had finally gotten back to covering 13 miles, and I thought I may as well add a few more. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I traversed through Virginia on the Washington and Old Dominion trail, the miles just added up. I had a 2+ hour long running podcast (Marathon Talk) that served to keep me company, as funny British marathoners Martin Yelling and Tom Williams bantered on and on. As I went further down the path into Reston, the people who were just out for a light stroll dissipated, and it was so quiet and peaceful. Not isolated enough that there was no one in sight (don't worry, Mom!), but just peaceful and no need to hear cyclists cry out "on your left" or just glide by like they were on the Tour de France. My legs felt loose and free, and I felt like i could just go on forever. In the end, it ended up turning into a 16 mile run, and while I stumbled into the house tired, it was the good kind of tired. It had been over six months since I had gone that far, and it put me up to 51 miles for the highest mileage I had ran in again, about six months. Feeling strong and happy.
Heaven on earth
I had the honor of pacing one of my dearest friends, Jenny, in the Marine Corps Marathon. She had decided that this was going to be her last marathon. I ran with her for her first marathon four years ago (Marine Corps 2010), I paced her to a BQ at Marine Corps 2011, and she then went to Boston to participate in one of the great races of the world, only to be met with a terrorist attack shortly after she finished. That was not the end to her story, so she came back to DC for her last hurrah, her victory lap. She ran 4:16, and while there were moments of pain as she crossed the bridge from DC to Virginia at the 20 mile mark, we crossed the finish line together hand in hand. It was a run of friendship and a great way to celebrate four years of her hard work.
Me and my friend Jenny after she finished the Marine Corps Marathon
While 50,000 people were lining up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge this morning for the NYC Marathon, trying to block the 40mph gusts of wind, I went out for my own jaunt around Virginia. I had in my head to run 16, and it was only going to take some heart to make that happen.  It was cold, my legs were tired, and it seemed like a pipe dream. Was I doing this for the right reasons? Was I just trying to show that I still have game? Or was this also a test of endurance? It wasn't until at least 8 miles in that I felt confident in my ability to get through the run, and it felt like the wind was blowing in my face no matter which direction I went. I kept thinking about New York, and those people were in it for the long run, literally, they were going to spend all morning, and into the afternoon, trying to capture this American dream. Surely I had it in me too. It wasn't glamorous, my victory strides back into my apartment complex, and I stumbled in, relieved for it to be over. It brought me up to another 51 mile week, and gave me more confidence that yes, I can enjoy running just for running's sake, and yes, I can still go far (although not as fast as I used to). It's just not always all about the race('bout the race, 'bout the race, no treble!)
I will find my racing mojo again, but in the meantime, I still have a running mojo. This fall is cold, but just too damn beautiful to let these short days just slip away, faster than the leaves can change and litter the ground.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rolling hills

Rolling hills provide some of the best terrain for training. Runners gain strength as their legs work to climb up, only to trash their quads on the descent back down. One can really get into a nice groove with the undulating hills. While flat is always equated with fast, the hills prevent muscles from stiffening up, from repeating the same action time and time again. One of my favorite DC races, the Pike's Peek 10k has these rolling hills, and that's where my 10k PR came from. Even if you are running on the same road, the rolling hills change things up, and provides an interesting view along the way.
Running, writing, and the dissertation all overlap in so many ways. So often, many people have made running analogies when talking about the dissertation, including the over-used "It's a marathon, not a sprint." I know what they are getting at: the arduous work, the moments of doubt, the joy at the end. However, I have finished six marathons: all under four hours. I started regularly running September 2008 and completed my first marathon six months later. This Ph.D. is taking a whole lot longer. I even got an e-mail the other day with the following headline: http://writetodone.com/runners-guide-better-writing/ The two do share a lot in common.
Both running and writing take a similar emotional toll: a veritable roller coaster ride of emotions.The excitement and anticipation in the beginning, the fear in the middle, the triumph in the end.
I'm rolling along in my dissertation, but with that comes the roller coaster of feelings. Last week, I was on a footnote scavenger hunt (a book referenced another book that I thought would be useful). As I read the author's analysis of one of the sources integral to my dissertation, some of the comments that author made started to sound too familiar - was part of my argument already made by someone? I kept reading, closely, waiting to see where her winding road of an argument went. Whoosh! It just just a slight turn, focusing on a different area, and I was saved! Phew! Plus, I could factor her points into my argument, and show how there was a clear distinction. Now that my stomach's knots could unravel, I went back and started reading the chapter from the beginning. I was hooked now, taking notes and the synapses and neurons were firing away. My muscles relaxed and I moved on.  
That up and down, all around emotion has now become a regular part of my dissertation life. The highs are great, the lows are what wake up my brain in the middle of the night. But the promise of the finish line is what keeps me moving. I have two friends who, all three of us could potentially finish and graduate at the same time. The thought of the three of us, in full academic regalia, standing in front of the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (that is where commencement is held for us), smiling and relieved from crossing this finish line, is often what gets me to return to the keyboard and the book again and again. 

Off to make another climb...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When it really is a fun run: Our Lady of Good Counsel 5k 2014

This is just short and sweet, as all as my running late has been:
In continuing my fun fall, I've picked up where I last left off: about 5 days of running per week, 40 miles for the past 3 weeks. This week, I cut it down to 35 miles, figuring take 3 steps forward, 1 step back. That's what I've always done: 3 harder weeks, and then a cutdown week. 
I did cutdown this week, but I also signed up for my church's fun run. I figured I would treat it as a race, again, without doing any real speed work, but just building back consistent running and a base. My church is only 3 miles from where I live, so in keeping green, I ran over to the race on Saturday. It's funny: I've done so many road races of all shapes and sizes. Local races that gather a few hundred people, regional races of a couple thousand, and the international-size Boston Marathon. Each bring their own character, and that even changes year to year. This was as home-grown as you can get. No bibs, no chip-timers, no mile markers. There was also a fun 1 mile run/walk for the kids, and they were all so excited getting ready for it. As I was warming up, I could hear a few of them chattering. One of them said "My mom does marathons..." and then proceeded to explain to the others how far that was, and it was so cute hearing them so impressed. These were also kids who would later cheer for their teachers who ran in the race: looks like they had some good role models. Something to keep in mind for the future. I lined up next to some high school girls and their mom (who asked what cross-country team I was on...she was shocked to learn I was 28) in the front of the oh, say, 50-60 people who were there for the race. With this being a church-sponsored race, it began with a prayer - always a nice way to start the day. And with the ringing of the school bell, we were off.
I had a feeling going into this race that I would do very well, as this race wasn't really publicized beyond our church. And within about 100 meters of starting, I was the third person, not third woman, but third person. Guy #1 was way in the distance, but I spent the first mile or so chasing after guy #2, then passing him strongly with a 6:14 first mile. This turned into more of a solo run that happened to be accompanied by the occasional police officer blocking off traffic or signaling which way to turn. It was a beautiful fall morning: high 50s, sun was shining, and I was running on the streets and trails of my new home in Vienna. Again, I still feel like it's a lot of work, and the second mile (according to my watch) was 6:45, so clearly even pacing wasn't a factor. I finished as the second person in 19:05, but my watch said 2.9 miles...so not quite a full 5k. That's 6:34 pace, and the equivalent of a 20:23 5k. I got a $30 gift certificate to Chili's, and then ran home, stretching out the run to make the day's work add up to 9 miles for the day. 
It was what it was, a fun run. Good to remember to support all races: big and small.
And speaking of big: amazing to hear that there is a new world record in the marathon - 2:02:57! I was in Boston in 2011 when the world best was set (2:03:02) and I remember being so stunned by that. Similarly, I was shocked to wake up this morning and read about the first ever sub 2:03 marathon at Berlin - the human body can do amazing things!
I was sad to hear that Shalane Flanagan did not break the American Record at Berlin, despite setting a new PR and coming in 3rd. She put it all out there: telling the press that that was her primary goal, and running gutsy (like she always does) in her best effort. Her post-race remark provides good food for thought for all of us: “This will aid me in future marathons,” she said. “Progress is always good, and this year I’ve dropped four minutes off my marathon time. I’ll look at my training and maybe work on being a little bit tougher in those last few miles. I'll take another shot at some point. Sometimes, it takes a couple of swings.” 
Keep on swinging!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting back in the saddle: Navy Federal 5k 2014

The last time I raced was April 27th, and the last speed work session I did was Easter Vigil (April 19th). That was the last time I was on a regular schedule for training, and I've said enough times already that there were enough valid reasons this summer to fall off the wagon. But, in seeing people post on Facebook their progress, and seeing great success from friends, it has been pulling me back into the desire to consistently get runs in. I do have to acknowledge and recognize that it may be the first year that I don't nab any PRs (unless I sign up for some obscure distance that I've never done before) since I started running. I'm making as much peace with that, as much as my type A tendencies will allow. That being said, I decided to sign up for a 5k, certain of completing the distance, uncertain where I stood in terms of time. I figured that while I was absent of speed for 5 months, something still had to be preserved. After all, some of the great pregnant athletes back and were able to regain their speed after months of running slow. I don't know scientifically how much fitness you lose and at what rate, but I figured I couldn't have lost it all. And yes, it probably would make more sense to get some solid speed workouts in (at least some 90 second fartleks thrown in), but I just wanted to race, get a sense truly where my fitness was at, and then go from there.

So, on Saturday I ran the Navy Federal 5k. I ran it last year in 19:59 and came in second. I knew it was a slow course, because that time came after a 19:10 PR and I was in really good shape. I figured since I came under 20 by the skin of my teeth last year, sub 21 was a good A goal, with sub 22 as a reasonable B goal. I threw in a few sprints in my shake-out run yesterday, hoping the legs would remember what a sub 7:00/mile feels like. I was happy that we live close enough that I could run there for my warmup. I positioned myself near the front of the start, saw two women who looked comparable in terms of general appearance, stood near them, and hoped that I wouldn't embarrass myself too much.

Boom! And we were off - in the first minute, as people are swarming around, sprinting like it's a 200 meter dash, and I'm realizing that I am just hoping to hang on. The two women go way out in front of me, one about 200 meters ahead, another about 100. In the first mile, I ran alongside one woman and passed her, and then felt very comfortable in third place. It was a welcome change of temperature - low 60s and cloudy - summer is finally ending! I went through the first mile in 6:29 - whoa! Not setting records by any means, but haven't seen a 6 in months and months. I've run some races where I've been somewhat uncertain of my ability to hold a pace, but there was a big question mark floating above me as I ran - wondering if this was too ambitious and fearing an impending blow-up. Things were relatively spread out at this point, so it was my goal to just pick off guys one by and just maintain this pace. Mile 2: 12:59 - nearly dead on, and looking like I'm squarely in third and able to hit my A-goal. This part of the course has a lot of turns and some hills, so while my pace slowed down, I was making good progress and passing a few guys. The last part of the course (last half mile or so) is part of one of my regular running routes, so I jumped in full-speed, passing 2 more guys in the final stretch and was pretty pleased with my finish:
20:52
6:42 pace
3rd woman and 19th overall (out of 808)

Wahoo! While it is the slowest 5k I've run in 3 years, it was less than a minute slower than I ran it last year. I broke even financially, as I got $25 for third place in a big check, a trophy, and had a great morning. I did look ridiculous with all of this in a drawstring bag as I ran home, check in one hand, bag bouncing behind me, but it almost must've been pretty funny to see. It's Wednesday when I'm finishing this, and my legs are still a bit sore - proof it's been a while since they've pushed that hard.
I need to start doing regular workouts again, in addition to just easy runs, but this was overall a great way to ease back into racing. Looking forward to more races this fall!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A decade ago...

On August 28, 2004, I moved into Hanselman 340 at the College of the Holy Cross for my freshmen year of college. I was a bundle of nervous, excitement, every emotion possible. I was excited to meet my roommate and set up my room (we're sitting on my bed), I was nervous about going somewhere where I didn't know anyone or my way around, I had mixed feelings about leaving my family behind, the friends I had known and loved for years. But this was the college I had dreamed of going to and I finally arrived. I knew I wanted to study history, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and beyond that, I didn't know much.
First day of college a decade ago
Those first few days were a blur of orientation mixers, ice breakers, hall meetings, first classes, and a thousand feelings. And this place became my home for four years:
View of campus from my room
It was at Holy Cross where I became a better writer, it was where I turned into a medievalist, I became an RA and interested in student affairs, I sang in three choirs and made a lot of great friends. I took classes with professors whose books and assignments still resonate with me today. It's because of them that I dropped the idea of law school (what a relief) and decided to become a professor.
Our school gave us journals on the first day of school, with check-in prompts that we could answer a few times per semester. I always did those prompts, and wrote in-between those as well, reflecting on who I was becoming, my fears and concerns (grades and my future were the big winners - some things don't change), and it's all bound up in a purple journal at my parents house. I've looked at it from time to time, and all of the emotions come crashing right back. I wrote about wanting to find love, and meeting the great guy. That didn't happen in college, but nearly a decade later.
I had concerns and interests about staying in shape: trying to go to the gym a few times a week, but without any sense of purpose or real enjoyment. 
As I was reflecting back about the past ten years, and also reading about the class of 2018 preparing for their arrival to Holy Cross, it came to my attention that I wasn't the only one reflecting on the passing of a decade.
It was also the tenth anniversary of when Meb Keflezghi earned the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon and brought home a medal for the first time in nearly three decades. He blogged about his decade as well: https://www.facebook.com/MarathonMeb and while the whole article was excellent, it was his conclusion that really stuck with me:
Some things take longer than we want to achieve or accomplish, but just because they don’t happen in your time, doesn’t mean they will never happen. Never give up on your dreams, but also never give up working to make your dream become a reality.
And if that's something I can remember for the next decade, and also advise the newly-arrived class of 2018, it's that accomplishments and progress take time: the dream doesn't become a reality overnight. Grad school has been a slow process: yes with peaks along the way, but it's been years in the making, and the end isn't quite in sight. I did not meet my husband in college, and there were years of wondering when that would happen too. I did not graduate college thinking that within a year, I would run a marathon, let alone qualify for Boston in eighteen months. 
There are bumps along the way, and there are days when the dream seems out of reach, and on those days, it's hard to see whatever medal of victory, be it a marathon medal, a degree, a family, dangles ahead of us. I know I've had those days of doubt and uncertainty. But on a weekend like this, when I've just come home from my honeymoon (Bahama cruise - it was wonderful!) and begun my third year of teaching, it's also important to remember the joy of hitting those milestones as well. And hopefully in a decade, I can dig this up and smile, laughing at what's happened from 2014-2024!
Bahama cruise!
A decade later, still can fit in this shirt, new roommate!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Relief in the Run

Today I ran for the first time since Friday morning. Nothing to write home about, except that the four miles ran this evening were the first four miles I've run in Virginia since June 20th. I had many great runs in Easton, PA. I ran up and down the Lehigh Valley, winding around campus, seeking escape, peace, and quiet, albeit briefly. But always tethered to me was my phone, and not just for safety reasons or to listen to something. In my job as site director, I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and was the end of the line on site in terms of the final say in a key decision. Yes, there were fantastic deans, a counselor, health staff, residential staff, instructional staff, office staff, campus safety, all involved as well. But this was my site to lead and to run, and I took that responsibility very seriously. 280 families each session trusted us to take care of their children, and while I don't have children myself, I know that they are the most precious cargo. And knowing that made me extra sensitive to the ding of a text, the ringing of the phone. So in going to sleep, the phone was always next to my ear, and in running, the headset was in so I could take a call while running and turnaround if need be.

All in all, we had a good, fun, and most importantly safe summer. There were some bumps along the way, but all in all, both the staff and students grew and developed through this process. Some may have went home with bumps and bruises, but everyone went home in one piece. When I woke up on Saturday, the day after the kids were gone, I was still on site, and my staff was too, and there was a sigh of relief. We did it, the kids are alright. And then we packed everything up, and I headed home that night. What a happy reunion I had with my husband and my dog - such a wonderful reception! And I went to bed that night with another sense of relief and weight off my shoulders -- we all made it.
Since I've been home, I've worked on catching up on sleep, as it's mainly been 6 hours (or less) per night for seven weeks. There have been some naps of sweet surrender, finally just letting my body relax again, after tense shoulders and nights sleeping lightly.

And today, I laced up for the first time since getting home. Just four miles right around eight minute pace in the light rain. While I still brought the phone with me, there wasn't that concern of the ringing or wondering, worrying what was going on while I was on the road. My head was clear, my feet felt light, and the open road lay before me. There was only relief in this run, relief to be done, relief to think about the road ahead of me.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How many wagons can you be on? Falling off and down, and getting back on and up

It's been almost two months since my last blog, and since I started blogging back in 2008, I have never missed a month of blogging. So, with July almost gone, the quick and dirty of the last seven or so weeks:

  • I spent the first 5 weeks of married life teaching my "Middle Ages at the Movies" history class, which was a good first experience teaching a new course. I got to develop some new lectures and come up with some new writing assignments. We also enjoyed catching up with some friends a bit, once we were done with all of the wedding stuff. 
  • On June 22, I packed up and headed off to Easton, PA to return to my summer job in a program for gifted children at Lafayette College. While it was my ninth summer with the program, I was headed to a new site as the director of the program. In layman's terms, I am the equivalent of a principal or headmaster of a program for almost 300 students, working with 80 staff members. Needless to say, there were many butterflies about such an undertaking. Yes, I had lots of experience with the program, but the promotion brought on new levels of responsibility. 
  • Because of this, I've had to be honest with myself and put running on the back burner. I did manage to get in two weeks of 40 miles per week, but really, I've been floating around the 30 mpw mark. It's the least amount of training I've put in since I got into this whole running thing nearly six years ago. I'm trying to remind myself that something has to give in order for me to find some sort of balance. And it's not that the running has fallen completely by the wayside, but there has been no speedwork or true consistency since early May. I wouldn't say I'm out of shape, but I'm not at the level I have grown accustomed to. I also am trying to reassure myself that I haven't completely blown off 2014 as a running year. I do hope to do some races in the fall, but it is very possible that this is the first year that I don't set any PRs - I just need to get back in the groove and then things will eventually fall back into place.  I may just need to wait until 2015 to really hammer out some races.
  • With all of this, I arrived in Easton, PA in June and set up shop. We have already completed one session so far, with nearly 300 children completing the program, and are halfway through our second session, with another group of 280 students. It's been a lot of work, but very rewarding too. I definitely am behind on sleep and schoolwork, but just throwing myself entirely into work here. I've never had a job I've loved as much as this one, and I hope that after I complete my Ph.D. I can find a job like this that I can do year round.
  • So with this job, I haven't had as much time to get in regular running, which has been fine. I set out Tuesday morning for an easy 6 mile run, and 5 miles in, SPLAT. Totally wiped out: banged my both my knees, my hand, my head and nose - lots of blood. Boo to the car that drove by around me and didn't stop to check to see if I was okay. I had a mile walk back to campus, which was just very uncomfortable, and the blood was going down my legs. Shuffling back like a zombie at 7AM, head hung in embarrassment. I have no idea what happened - I was fine one second, then on the ground the next. Thankfully, we have a nurse on site 24 hours a day, so she got me all cleaned up. I was really sore for the rest of the day, shuffling around campus like I ran a marathon, but with a lot more wincing. I'm feeling a lot better, and hope to do a small run tomorrow.
  • All of this is to say, sometimes you fall off the (running/writing) wagon, and sometimes you just fall down. But, regardless of the scars, blood, bruises, and bumps, you just get back up and on the wagon again. Looking forward to riding the wagon to the end of a successful summer!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Life as Mrs. Medievalist

Status update: Newlywed bliss is awesome. Thank you for all of the well-wishes in my previous post. A few of you wondered if I was blogging on my honeymoon. Nope! I was offered to teach a new class this summer.  A few days after the wedding, I started teaching "The Middle Ages at the Movies" - a new course that I designed. I'm lecturing on the historical background that inspired movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Lion in Winter, Braveheart, and Kingdom of Heaven, and my students are reading the primary sources affiliated with the time period of each film.
It's been a great experience so far (3 weeks in), and I'm very grateful both to my department for offering me the opportunity to design my own class, and for my husband (love saying that!) to patiently delay our honeymoon. After the course is over (it's a five-week course), I'll be returning to my program for gifted children. The past three years, I've been in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA as Academic Dean. This year, I was very pleased to be promoted to Site Director at a different site in Easton, PA. It is a great opportunity career-wise, and I look forward to getting to experience a new state to live in (for seven weeks).
Needless to say, the first twelve weeks of marriage are quite jam-packed. After that, we are looking forward to taking our honeymoon - a week-long cruise to the Bahamas! Neither of us have been on a cruise, so it is going to be a lot of fun.
On the running-front, there isn't much to report. I haven't had a lot of time/interest to train specifically for anything. I've run 40 miles per week for the first two weeks of married life, and I'm hoping to consistently hover around that number until later in the summer, when I'll pick things up again. I have no idea of goal races for the fall - there's too many (exciting) things happening this summer!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The best day yet

Regardless if you run, dance, sing, play sports, whatever you do for fun - there's a moment of anticipation before "the big dance." The curtain is about to go up, the starting gun is about to go off, and there's that final moment to catch your breath, look around, take in the moment, and realize the magnitude of what's about to happen. You know things will be different thereafter, that this is a game changer.
That's what it felt like before my first marathon, and before I walked into my oral exams for my doctoral program. And that's what it felt like when I stood in front of my childhood home on the morning of my wedding. Everything was planned out - I could visualize a lot: the church, the dancing, the dress, my friends and family there, seeing the man who will be my husband, but the anticipation was tremendous.
Seventy of our dearest family and friends were going to be there for the big day, and I knew in order to have a clear head, I would need to go for a short run. Running has seen me through some of my other big days and put me on the right foot (pun intended), so why wouldn't it kick off my big day? It was one of the best runs of my life. 4 miles just under eight minute pace on a beautiful sunny morning. All of my favorite songs were playing, my heart was racing as I ran through the streets of my childhood. I felt like I should've been clanging a bell and shouting "It's my wedding day!" I had a big smile on my face and was bopping around as I was running, I may have looked ridiculous - or just in love! (Cue either "aww" or Liz Lemon eye roll). 
Me with my family
It's hard to sum up my wedding day - even the pictures and video won't do justice. But things I'll never forget:

  • That first rush of butterflies when I woke up on my wedding morning.
  • Quiet time with my mom before the day really began.
  • Getting my hair done with my fabulous bridesmaids.
  • Listening to music and sitting on my childhood bed with my bridesmaids as we got ready
  • Finally getting into the dress and having it fit perfectly
  • That second rush of adrenaline when the limo pulled up to the house and it was time to go to the church
  • The moment of the doors opening and seeing my soon-to-be husband for the first time
  • The joy of walking down the aisle with my dad and seeing all of my family and friends there
  • Greeting Pat at the front of the altar in the company of a friend of mine (our celebrant was a friend of mine from grad school)
  • The joy of standing on the altar and facing everyone, and all of the other special moments in mass
  • My brother beautifully doing one of the readings
  • Stepping down for the sign of peace with our families
  • Being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time
  • Taking pictures around my hometown, even stopping traffic for a dip in the middle of our main street
  • Greeting everyone at the reception, including family and friends I hadn't seen in years
  • Our first dance (song: You are the Best Thing - Ray Lamontagne)
  • Dancing with my dad
  • Really, all of the dances - my grandma even danced to the Cupid Shuffle!
  • The beautiful toasts from our families
  • Our delicious gluten free cake
Me and my best friend and maid of honor
Dipping in the streets of Spencerport
  • The joy of having nearly all of our favorite people in the same room
    You may kiss the bride!
    Delicious cake!
It really can't be articulated. All of those marathons and PRs had given me a sense of joy and satisfaction, but it was nothing like this. My marathons were all solo adventures. Yes, I had the support of family and friends, but this was the starting line at the newest race - our marathon life together. And for part of the day, I was thinking this was the best day ever, which I told my husband. But he said "Do you really want this to be it? We still have a lot of living to do. How about 'best day yet'?" And I liked that so much more. 
I'm just over a week into life as a Mrs., and it's pretty sweet. Marital bliss in the early miles of our marriage - looking forward to all of the other mile markers ahead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thrice run: Pike's Peek 10k 2014

Since I started running here in DC in 2008, I've been able to sample many of the great races that this area has to offer. One of my favorite races is the Pike's Peek 10k in Rockville, MD, which is run on the Rockville Pike. You make one turn out of a parking lot, and then it's six miles of straight rolling hills. I ran it 2012 (40:55) and 2013 (39:28), both netted PRs. Last year's race was particularly meaningful because it was right after the Boston Marathon bombing, and so there were a lot of tributes at it. It's now one of my favorites - it's a sign of spring, it's a fast course, and the festival after is a lot of fun.This spring my training has been pretty good. I've missed some workouts, but I've also had a lot of good ones as well, and when I've been able to get all of my miles in, hitting about 45 miles per week. I told Sarah a month ago that my A goal was to get close to my April of 39:28, and my B goal was to go sub 40, which she thought was attainable. After all, I wasn't prioritizing running this spring, so my expectations weren't too high. I had also caught a cold last week (only made better by these beautiful tulips...and rest too), so there wasn't really a chance for a race week workout to put some spring in my step.Easy 5, 4, and 3 miles were it. Strangely, I woke up on Saturday with the tightest calves ever, and no explanation as to why? Any thoughts? It definitely freaked me out.I had a good warm up this morning along the course, and even though my legs felt tight, they felt better than when I first woke up. I saw my friend Ken for a minute, but I was rushing around, so we didn't really have a chance to chat. I got into the first corral (this is one of the greatest things about the race, is that they do wave starts, so it doesn't get that congested). Ths year, they even had pacemakers, even one for 40:00. I figured I would keep an eye on this guy, and just try to stay a few paces ahead of him. We were off and I was going fast - too fast - through the first mile in 6:15. It didn't freak me out though, it just meant I could ease off the gas, and averaged the second mile at 6:25 pace. Things had spread out a bit, and then I was falling into step with the pacer. This gave me a push to pick it up a little, and try to get ahead. I went through the 5k mark in 19:52, which had me right on track for today's goal. Sometimes it felt like it was getting hot, but a few times we hit a great breeze that felt heavenly. I like to pick up the pace at mile 4, and I feel like it is the 10k that I have the best handle on pacing. I was running between 6:20 and 6:24 pace pretty consistently and feeling strong. I was holding off on the bigger pushes until mile 5, when I finally started to get closer to some of the people I was chasing. This is a rolling course, so once you finish climbing a hill, you go back down. I knew that towards the end, it's all downhill, but I couldn't remember exactly when. I just kept waiting for that point where someone is yelling "It's all downhill from here!" That would be the time for the all out kick. And finally, I created the last hill, and was using gravity to propel myself for the finish. I told myself I wouldn't check my watch anymore, just run hard until the finish. I was happy as I saw the clock ticking, because I knew I had made this race a good one.39:336:22 paceOnly 5 seconds off of my PR121/2370 overall16/1241 women7/127 in age groupWhat's crazy is that I got beat by 2 50 year olds!It was a great race - not perfect, but pretty close. It means I've retained my fitness, and with more work, will be able to nab a PR, whenever that happens. Yes, I haven't set any PRs since last October, but Sarah says at this point, it's more about consistency. I'm not at a plateau - it just means PRs don't come as easily. I was happy to have more time to catch up with my buddy Ken afterwards (who scored a great PR), and I found out later from facebook that there some other friends of mine there - this wasn't one to miss! Although the Nike Women's DC Half Marathon was that day too, which meant 15,000 women were at that. I compared my results from PP last year, and I had placed 32 among women, and having run nearly the same time this year leads me to believe that a lot of the competition was running downtown that day. Regardless, it was a great race - my last race as a Taylor before I come a married lady - 18 days to go! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rejoice, we have conquered! Boston 2014

I generally don't reference my age, but I was born in 1986. Since I have been alive, no American, male or female, has won the historic, beloved Boston Marathon. The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. The last American woman to win was in 1985. I haven't followed Boston my entire life, but since I got into running and marathoning, I have (along with many) been hoping for an American to pull out the big win. There have been some close ones - Desi Davila even came in second when I ran in 2011. But if there was ever a day where an American needed to win, it was today. It was to show the bomber, and the world that what American do is overcome and conquer, even in the face of adversity.
I watched the first hour of the race at home in Rochester, then headed to the airport to fly back to DC. I was checking the 5k splits, anxiously watching Shalane hold onto her lead, hitting the half marathon point at course record, and whoopnng with surprise when Meb took the lead in the men's race. But really? A 38 (soon to be 39 in 2 weeks) year-old man, who was ranked 15th going into the race, leading? Could he win?
I was wearing my 2011 yellow Boston Marathon shirt while I was at the airport, and at security, a man with a 2013 Boston Marathon jacket came up to me and said "Boston Strong." His name was Mark, and we ended up on the same flight, which was delayed. Mark and I sat and chatted, as if old friends swapping stories, instead of perfect strangers. Because when you've run over the hallowed ground of Boston, you know the 26.2 mile course and the beauty of this magical event, which made us kindred spirits. And while we can't watch it live, we were tracking Facebook (I'm glad my friends were posting so much) and tracking the splits, we let out a woop when we heard that Meb won the race.
This was a big deal for so many reasons. Increasingly, there has been frustration - the Americans keep coming close, nabbing 4th, 3rd, even 2nd place, but still no win. So Meb's victory ended the drought. But his own story is one of persistence and dedication. He had a silver medal from Athens almost 10 years ago. He won the NYC Marathon in 2009 - when I hadn't heard of him yet. Meb could have been com placement - he went to the Olympics 3 times, was one of the fastest American marathoners, has a wife and three girls, and could have rested on his laurels. But his story is also one of overcoming - an immigrant from war-torn Eritreaa, suffered a devastating stress fracture and lost one of his friends due to cardiac arrest at the 2008 Marathon Trials, and a number of other injuries and challenges. He finished 23rd at NYC last yaer - his worst performance of his career, but he finished to show that NYC could overcome after Superstorm Sandy. Likewise, he signed up for Boston again to show that Boston Strong is real, and that the city and marathon would overcome last year's tragedy. Meb even had the names of last year's victims on his bib - he took this personal and wanted to honor the victims.
This wasn't just a superficial act - he took this personally, and ran with huge heart, and tremendous tenacity.
I was very weepy watching the recap video and Meb listening to the Star Spangled Banner - it was just a perfect moment. And the joy in the air was palpable - online, everyone is abuzz with it - this was a big deal and offered hope and joy. You don't need to be a marathon runner to appreciate it - the event is generally-recognized as one of the greatest physical tasks one can do.. To think that it's been three decades since an American was the first to complete the 26.2 mile journey. Meb changed the game and wiped the slate clean.
Look at this picture - his excitement and joy was electric.
The first man who ran a marathon, Pheidippides, may have died when he completed his journey from Athens to Marathon, but his words are immortal, "Rejoice, we have conquered!" They still ring true today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brave, Roar, and Let It Go: Power Songs, Mantras, or Both?

We all have power songs: those that get us going in the morning or motivate us during hard moments. For me, a lot of songs remind me of certain moments in my life: good, bad, ugly/challenging. Some ultimate become too painful to listen to or bring bad too much. Others are a reminder of celebrations or milestones or overcoming significant obstacles.
The Killers "All These Things I've Done" (and a montage of Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the 1984 Olympic marathon, which is no longer on YouTube) was what I listened to before my first BQ at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.
The Black Eyed Peas "I've got a feeling" was my go-to song before my first Boston Marathon.
"The Story" by Brandi Carlisle was before my pr of 3:27 at the best Boston ever - 2011.
But other songs represent life PRs too. In 2012, I was really struggling with my dissertation proposal, and I remember listening to "Let me be your star" from the TV show Smash. There was a lyric about remembering the difficult moments, and I remember telling myself that someday that that pain and self doubt would be erased when it passed, and it did the following year. 
Lately, there isn't a lot to write about in regards to running. I'm just trying to stay in decent shape, and in the fall I'll get back to more frequent racing and chasing PRs. I am just trying to chase good dissertation writing. I was pleased to find out that I earned a small grant to travel to conduct some research at the international Marian research institute. This was the first one I've ever won, and I cried when I found out. 
I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but I can often be crippled with self-doubt. I have questioned my abilities at every stage of my graduate career. Every stage. Not self-effacing doubt or just trying to be humble, but truly questioning my ability to reach the next level. There is always a period of painful questions and "negative chatter" in my head. I can vividly recall these, and in moments of victory, I remember these moments too. Perhaps it is so I never attempt to cruise or slide to the next benchmark. I'm at a middle point right now - far into my project, but the finish line (the Ph.D.) is still probably 2 years away. What are my 3 go-to songs right now?
Brave by Sara Bareilles
Roar by Katy Perry
Let it go by Idina Menzel from Frozen
You don't need to be a shrink to see what I'm craving - strong motivational songs to keep going about my power, strength, capabilities. 
They'll remind me to keep my head down and plug away. I can't wait to be at this finish line and have this all be a distant memory.
Last week, I was listening to a podcast interview with Dave McGivalry, the race director of the Boston Marathon. He had a lot of sage advice to give on perseverance and dedication, but one quote really stuck with me (and a quick google search confirmed that this is one of his major go-tos): "the walls of intimidation are crumbling." He was saying that people are increasingly gaining confidence and not letting others' opinions or their own get in the way. So, a big part of this process of writing the dissertation is crumbling, or really smashing my own wall of intimidation. Because it's not just about getting to the finish line, but recognizing the progress made along the way and standing on the rubble of doubts and losses and recognizing the victories.
Let it go, be brave, and ROAR!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My heart is in Boston today

It goes without saying that my heart is in Boston today. A year ago today, the Boston Marathon went from a celebration to the worst case scenario in the blink of an eye. And while I was hundreds of miles away, as I am again today, my love for that beautiful city and beautiful marathon transplanted me to Boylston Street.
I cannot believe it's been a year. I remember walking home at the end of the day, on that day, crying. I didn't believe it could happen on such sacred ground, on a day that is supposed to be special. And since then, it's been moving to see the outpouring of responses, from fundraising, to those who ran into the danger, to those comforting the victims and their families.
It's hard to look at pictures from my own Boston experiences. Those were days of such joy. I've always said they were some of the happiest of my life. So how can I look at the beautiful finish line from 2011 and not see the pain and sadness that was there in 2013?
It's a lot to process, and I'm still trying to understand it all. Today I choose to mourn and remember what was lost. It was pouring today on my 8 mile run, and in one way, it mirrored my mood. It seemed the clouds were doing the crying for me. But as the 22 mph winds blew and the rain fell, it was a reminder to do what Boston does - persevere during the storm. That city didn't hide - it came out stronger. The world didn't just embrace Boston Strong because it's catchy, but because it represent the indomitable spirit of that city.
I am also filled with hope and anticipation as I think of Monday April 21st - the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. It will be the best marathon ever - it will be a day of honoring and celebrating. I won't be there, but will be watching from home -- rooting for the Americans (go Shalane and Desi!!) and everyone taking part.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Johnny's Running of the Green 2014

Holiday runs are a lot of fun: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July - all are a blast. They involve a lot more festivities, costumes, drinking (yes, a blood mary always goes down the best after a race), and fun! Now, I do love all races, but some extra Irish music always amps up the race by a few points, and just the extra sense of spirit/fun. But before I got to Rochester for my St. Patrick's Day race, it was a different world in DC.
DC was finally getting a burst of spring, including sun and the temperatures getting in the 60s. I was excited to ditch the tights and wear shorts instead, and get in a warmer workout. Tuesday's track workout wasn't a race-week workout. It was 4 x1 mile, starting at 6:45 pace and getting faster. It went well: 6:44, 6:35, 6:26, 6:20. Woo! My legs were moving (and not on a treadmill) and it just went well. Even though I didn't have a good night's sleep before, this was the moment that I was doing well. All of my little stresses of the day that had been building up were gone, like someone had loosened up the pressure valve.
Meanwhile, a storm was brewing in Rochester, literally. My flight out to Rochester got cancelled on Wednesday, so I didn't get home until Thursday. Welcome back to winter - 10 degrees! With the windchill, it was about 0, so my last run on Thursday was a cold one for sure. And we had lots of wedding planning to do (2 months to go!), so Saturday morning was here before we knew it.
Johnny's Running of the Green 5 mile race is Rochester's Rite of Spring - although the weather begged to differ. It was about 30 degrees, gray, with 15mph winds. Not perfect conditions for a race, but this isn't a season for goal races, just to go out and have a good time. It was my goal to go under 33 minutes, but knew that wasn't a firm goal. My mom and I were doing it, and we would be joined by many friends and Rochester runners looking forward to this annual event.
Running into the wind, I went through the first mile in 6:30, and I felt like I was flying - too fast for today. My legs were just tired - was it the flight? The workout? Who knows - I just knew it wasn't my best day. Rather than getting caught up on time, I was just going to try and place high and not fall off the pace too much, even though I went through the second mile at 13:10 - 6:40 pace. I was really happy to hit the turnaround (2.5 miles) and see my friends and mom running by - that was a brief boost. By mile 3, I was starting to feel like I could push the pace more - at least in terms of effort. I was starting to both pass people, but have a couple of girls blow by me too. But at least I was feeling like I was making progress, and with a mile to go, hovering around that 33 minute goal time.
No chance at beating the girl in green

With half a mile to go - CRAMP! Oh my gosh, big big side stitch/cramp that totally slowed me down. I actually had this happen in another 5 mile race in September - what a bizarre coincidence. Anyways, it reduced me to a shuffle, and with 100 yards to go, this girl in green blew by me: I couldn't respond: I finished in 33:11 - not a PR at all, nor did I hit my A or B goals. Still, it was good enough for third place in my age group - which was rewarded with a bottle of wine! Not too shabby. My mom did well too: 46:38.
It was great to be home and great to do another race with my mom. Not my best, admittedly, but we don't always get the A goals/results. Time to go back to the drawing board...aka the road!
Me, my mom, and my booze prize

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 10 Tips for your first marathon

I have a few friends making their marathon debut this weekend. I made mine almost exactly five years ago (March 21, 2009) at the National Marathon (now the Rock and Roll USA Marathon) – and had a race beyond my wildest dreams.  One friend asked me for some last minute tips, and while I was writing back to her, I realized that I’ve been giving these tips more or less pretty much since I did run that first marathon. I’ve learned more along the way, and it is my hope that you can use this list as you prepare for your first half marathon or marathon. None of it is rocket science – just things that work. I wish you the best as you get ready for this big day.
    1)   Go to the expo early. You don’t want to spend too much time on your feet. Yes, there are great deals on shoes and clothes, but give yourself an hour (max two hours if you are going to a clinic/seminar/meeting an elite athlete) to walk around. If you do take advantage of those sales, don’t wear the new shoes/clothes for your marathon. Those hot shorts may be awesome, but if they happen to cause chaffing, you don’t want to find out on marathon morning.   
2)   Drink a lot of water in the days leading up to your race. You already carbo-load – why not hydro-load? This is you filling the tank. Don’t drink so much that you wake up in the middle of the night (which still may happen), but you want to be well-hydrated. At dinner, I have a bottle of Gatorade the night before. That morning, I just drink a cup of tea with my breakfast. I have carried Gatorade with me, but you can also just take in the water/Gatorade at the aid stations.
3)   Use the energy gels (GU, Jelly Beans, etc) that you’ve been using – don’t try anything new that they have samples of at the expo. Again, you don’t want to discover in sampling (or marathon morning) the new chews that it bothers your stomach.
4)   Leave early for the start, particularly for big city races. Yes, you have to get up earlier, but it is better to be chilling at the start than worry while you’re en route whether you’re going to make it or not.
5)   Bring a clean trash bag. After you’ve checked your warm-up clothes (pants, jacket, etc), you may still have some lag time before the start, and it can be chilly. This may seem weird, but you’ll actually see a lot of people do this. Cut a hole for your head, and your arms, and this will be your outer layer until the start. It blocks the wind, it’ll keep you warm, and then you can throw it out before you start.
6)   Go to the bathroom as soon as you get there. Particularly with races like Boston, where there are hundreds of porta-potties, there are long lines, so jump in one immediately. And then go again if you can – you spent all of that time filling the tank – just make sure you’re clear and ready to go.
7)   Go out SLOW. It will be crowded, but do not jockey around for a better spot once the gun goes off. It is a waste of energy – you will see people do this and it is not worth it. The excitement at the start is incredible and you will want to go out fast. Don’t. In my first marathon, I ran the first half in 1:52, and the second in 2:00. This is not advisable – I was too excited.
8)   Have a few goals (A, B, C) in mind – one of them should be to finish! This will allow you to not have an all-or-nothing approach, and will take into account numerous factors (GI issues, bonking, etc) and still will ensure that mentally you are working to reach those goals.
9)   Don’t think of 13.1 as the halfway point – mile 20 is halfway. Yes, the last 6.2 is hard, so start thinking of strategies to get through it. Maybe it’s thinking of someone you love for each mile. That’s what I did for all 26. And with each mile, I thought about them, and it helped me focus. I told each person in advance and I didn’t want to let them don’t on “their mile.”

10)                   Lastly, and most importantly, take it all in. Whether you decide to do another one or you are one-and-done, your first one is an amazing experience and it is a life-changing moment. It sill ranks as one of the best days of my life. Take in EVERYTHING. No matter how it goes, it will be amazing.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blissful exhaustion - that old familiar feeling

The day after I ran my PR at the 2011 Boston Marathon, I remember talking to my pregnant with twins professor after class, and she said, there's something nice about being tired. And yes, when the time is right, blissful exhaustion is a good thing.
Last Saturday was 12 miles, with 7 hard ones. I was near the end of my big week 3 of my training cycle - just days before I would be rewarded with an easy week. On Sunday, I did my first group run with the Pacers team at Theodore Roosevelt Island. My plan was to run 13 miles. I didn't really know how the group runs would work - would it be broken down in terms of pace, distance? I figured I'd just wait and see. I imagined that there would be about twenty of us, but when I pulled into the parking lot, it was pretty sparse. It ended up being the coach, and three fit-looking guys. The coach apologized, saying there were usually more participants in these group runs. It turned out that these guys are all training for Boston, which, I've done before, but the times they were aiming for had a 2 on them...
I asked them what they were kind of pace and distance they were aiming for: 20 miles, starting at 7:30 pace, and then working their way down to marathon pace (5:30).
Gulp.
I was trying to run through my options in my head. I had driven all the way here for a group run - it would be kind of a waste to then just run alone. I knew I wasn't going to be running 20 miles, nor would I reach that kind of pace. So, I decided I would start with the boys, and hang on for 6.5 miles, and then turn around. And we took off at 7:30 pace, heading toward the C&O Trail (a dirt trail). My workout from the day before, when I worked my way down to 6:30 pace, was still fresh on my mind and fresh on my legs. This was not going to be easy. Yes, as my fiance said, I can run 7:30 pace, but a day after beating my legs up, not so easy to do. Thankfully, the first couple miles weren't too bad - I could feel some twinges as we progressed, but was doing just fine. The boys were at a comfortable pace, and as a result, could chat away about their training, races, and life stories. Okay, I can hang on. The pace started to quicken as we hopped into Maryland and on the Capital Crescent Trail - something I haven't been on in almost two years. Very pretty, and a good distraction as they picked it up, and I was just a step or two behind them. One of the guys turned around at mile 5 - he had a different workout to do. 1.5 miles to go with these guys, and I could feel myself working harder to keep up. I told myself I had about 10 minutes left, and was just trying to hang on. It was with much relief when I hit 6.5, thank the gentlemen for letting me hang on. I was tired, and then my now-solo run turned into more of a shuffle. I was tired, I was sore, and I just wanted to finish. I got back to the DC area...but geography is not my best friend. I had gotten off the route I knew, and couldn't figure out how to reroute back to Theodore Roosevelt Island. All in all, it added a couple of miles, so it ended up being closer to 16 miles - the longest I've run in years. I was tired, but relieved. Beyond races, I haven't had a long run wipe me out that much in years. Gold star for the weekend, coupled with a good shower and breakfast. And then, with that feeling of blissful exhaustion, nodded off wrapped up in a blanket next to my dog. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Workouts, New Pace(r)s, and New Balance

No, not LSD speed.
But other than missing a tempo workout at the beginning of the month and a long run, I've been 90% consistent with getting my workouts in. A lot more on the treadmill than I would prefer, but at least they are happening. And I do have to testify to doing speedwork on the treadmill. I am notorious for going out too fast in workouts and then blowing up. I don't do it in races, but usually I have to save race during a workout and ease up two-thirds in. But there is definitely more of a science to the treadmill speed workout - you can be more precise. Yes, it's from an external machine and not myself, but it prevents (a degree of) stupidity and brazen behavior.
A couple of highlights and lowlights:
My apartment complex gym has 3 treadmills - I've never had to fight for one but all were occupied. I ended up doing my warmup outside around the complex. I came back in, and all were still being used, including a guy wearing Vibrams and walking holding a book. Grr. I ended up doing some core work on a mat while waiting for a spot to open up. Finally, I was able to get on one and did 5 x 1 k starting at 6:27 pace and working my way down to 6:11 pace. When I finished, the person next to me said, "Dang!" Yes, there was a reason I was clamoring for the treadmill! Was so hot and sweaty that I did my cooldown outside in a tanktop - to be fair, it was 48 outside. But with the snow on the ground, I must've looked ridiculous.
I also did a 6 mile cutdown workout during the Olympics on the treadmill and averaged 7:02 pace. Cross-country skiing was motivating enough to keep me going. 
This week was the crazy continuous 800s, arguably one of the most challenging workouts, but with the biggest rewards. 2.5 mile warm-up, continuous 1.5 mile with 800s at 3:17, 3:07, 3:17, 1/2 mile easy, then continuous 1.5 with 800s at 3:07, 3:17, 3:07, 1/2 mile easy, 2 x 800 3:06, 3:03, 2.5 mile cooldown.  I remember drawing on this workout at the end of the Army Ten Miler last year, when I was able to change gears in the last mile or so to clinch my PR.
Today was a 7 mile tempo cutdown, starting at 7:13 pace and worked my down to 6:27 pace, averaging 6:57 pace. No TV to occupy me, just the determination to get it done!
All of these have been going well - it just feels good to be really consistent with running. Even without big or many races on the horizon (a 5 miler in 2 weeks), it just feels good to get in great training and think about how it benefits long term.
And that's what matters - thinking about the picture. I've been working with Sarah for 4+ years now, and now, the schedules are tweaked just so and while there will be slight changes in the paces, but we've figured out what works and are sticking with it!
But in the name of progress, I am delighted to join the ranks of the Pacers Racing Team! Pacers, which has six great stores in the greater DC area, sponsors a major racing series each year, and has a racing team. They have a few different divisions, such as a National team that includes Olympic Marathon Trial qualifiers and top finishers at USA Championships, the regional division (that's the one Sarah is on), and the local team - and that's what I'll be on. It is actually the Pacers/New Balance team, which means they'll equip me with some new shoes and a racing uniform. 
I'll be matched up with some people who run at similar paces and will be able to participate in some of their group runs. On the elite level, the best do well when they train in groups. I'm just looking forward to experiencing that on a much smaller level. 
Now for March madness of all kinds to begin!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When the beautiful gets ugly: Women's 3000m at USATF Indoor

This weekend was the USATF Indoor USA Championships in Albuquerque, NM. The top 2 finishers in each race get to go Sopot, Poland for the World Indoor Championships. In a year without Olympics or an outdoor World Championships, this is one of the biggest track races of the year. So, naturally, there has been a lot of pressure on the elite athletes here to make that team, and I was very much looking forward to watching their journeys to Poland.
That feeling of excitement changed after the women's 3,000m race. An indoor track race means often 2 laps for each lap that would be done outdoors. There tends to be a lot of jostling, as everyone is fighting for positions. In the final lap, Gabrielle (Gabe) Grunewald made contact with eventual 3rd place finisher Jordan Hasay, and then went on to victory.

There was a lot of back and forth as to whether the contact impeded Hasay's stride, and eventually Gabe G was disqualified and lost her first national title and well-deserved ticket to the Championships. Alberto Salazar, the heralded coach and dominant American runner of the early 80s, lost his temper in a screaming match with another coach during all of this. After much back and forth (this story blew up all of the running and track and field websites), Gabe was finally reinstated on Monday as the champion. It was only because Jordan Hasay withdrew her protest (whether it was on her own choice, or that of her coach and Nike, that is still unclear): the decision was not overturned.
Screaming, yelling, threats...this makes our sport look ugly. The NFL has bullies and MLB has doping scandals (track does too), but on a weekend when the country's best should be celebrated for their hard work over the long winter, an ugly storm brewed instead.
It's not my place to discuss interference or clipping - I am not a USATF referee or official - I have no idea how that works. All I know is that it made for a stain on what should have been a banner of a weekend for our sport.
In protest or show of solidarity, the 1500m women runners walked off of the field after their race, hand in hand. They were not engaged in a shouting match against the officials, but united in a peaceful manner to show their support for the runners. 
I don't think the resolution ultimately meant that there is a solution to some of the larger issues that boiled over. But I know this:
The last time someone acted with so much anger because of something in a race, this happened:
Jock Semple, in anger of having a woman in his protected, sacred race, leapt out of the official bus and attempted to physically remove runner #261, Kathrine Switer out of the race. But then she, after being attacked in the 1967 Boston Marathon, went on to advocate for the inclusion of the women's marathon in the Olympics, and ran a personal best of 2:51 in 1975.
She turned a negative into a transformative moment, not just something that changed her own life, but impacted the lives of millions of women, myself included.
I don't know how this weekend's events will impact the sport at large. I'm sure for many runners, this isn't even a story on their radar. But it was an ugly moment and some good needs to come from it. This is what runners supporting each other should look like. I hope the stain can be washed away soon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rust busted: Love the Run You're With 5k 2014

I had decided on a very limited race schedule this spring - just 3 races before the race to the altar!
But still, even though I'm not really aiming for or expecting any PRs, it is my goal to be consistent in my training and get close to PR fitness so that those times can go crashing down in the fall. So, I still had my spring rust-buster race set up: Love the Run You're With 5k. It's at Pentagon Row, which means you're near the Pentagon, and during part of the race, you're high up enough to see the Capitol and Washington Monument (a nice view for the final half mile of a hard 5k). I've done it two times before, in 2012 (ran 20:41 a week before meeting my fiance - my last single race) and in 2013 (20:20). Last year, I was having some knee problems leading up to the race, and thereafter too. But I ended up having a great season. This year, I have been really healthy (knock on wood), but I have missed the occasional run, including a few road workouts. But this time, it hasn't been injury related - I've just been really busy. There's been a lot of visitors/traveling going on, and yes, I could also get up at the crack of dawn to make it all fit in, but nope. Having a good enough training season instead. 
With this attitude in mind, I still wanted to do well - if I'm plopping down money, may as well make it count. I had a good fartlek workout of 8 x 90 seconds on Tuesday as part of a 8.5 mile run, and it did kind of light a fire to run fast and think about the race. So, I did keep all of my usual pre-race traditions going, and was happy that it was 30 degrees out with little wind when I got there this morning. With it being an out and back course, I was able to cover most of the course in my 2.5 mile warm up. I bumped into a few friends who I've met through DC races and we were just chatting away really until 30 seconds before the start. It was nice to relax and be distracted right until the gun went off. I know I get too uptight sometimes, so this was a good reminder that chilling out can be a good thing!
Boom, gun is off. While I have been doing some speedwork, this was a big welcome back to going fast. And going uphill! The first half mile is uphill, and while I'm good at hills, this is a hard way to start a race! But, I hit mile 1 in 6:26, which is right at pace for 20 minutes. (Cue Matthew McConaughey) Alright, alright, alright, this is pretty good! And honestly, in this course, the first mile is the hardest, and I felt like I could pick things up a bit. I hit the turnaround and started moving, really running faster and starting to pick off girls. I have a friend who is really good (like sub 19 5k good), and I could see her, and I just wanted to get as close to catching her as I could. My hands were cold (foolish for not wearing gloves...my one mistake), but the brisk air was refreshing. I wasn't dying, but I definitely was in the speed zone, and hit mile 2 at 12:40 (6:20 pace) and was pumped. Woo! This is great! I passed a trio of girls, and had my friend almost in reach. Boom - the other girls used the downhill to their advantage and flew by me, but I couldn't fight back any more, but...as I could see the clock, and this was a lot better than expected:
19:38
47/1064 overall
12th woman
6th in Age Group
Wahoo! Sub 20 and less than 30 seconds away from my PR
This is the earliest in the racing season I've cracked 20 minutes, so even if this is just a good enough training season, it is off to a good start! After my cooldown, bringing the day's total to 9 miles, I cashed in (there's a ticket on our bibs) for my free mimosa - yum! Free drinks and well earned drinks are the best kind! It was a great morning - fun with some friends, a good race, and great way to kick off the spring.
Rust busted!