Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good enough

The all or nothing attitude is a tough one to deal with. Finding a middle ground is not always easy.
My best friend was in town this weekend - she is more like a sister to me than a friend. And rather than get up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in my scheduled weekend runs, I took both days off. I'd rather just enjoy the precious time I have with her than forcing a few extra miles in. So, 25 miles for last week instead of 45 - this was much more fun. We had a wonderful time catching up - she got to meet my fiance finally and just hang out. I had a huge smile on my face picking her up at the airport, and that feeling stayed all weekend.
And ultimately, in terms of running this spring, good enough is the goal. I am only planning on doing 3 races this spring: a 5k, 5 mile, and 10k. I am not anticipating any PRs - it is just the goal to be fairly consistent and run some decent races. Faster times will come this fall. The schedule anticipates that not every run or workout will happen - with no shame or guilt. With our wedding, and so much other stuff (another friend is getting married in Oklahoma in March - road trip!) going on - why make there be too much pressure.
Today was a 20-20-20-20 minute workout: 20 minutes easy, 20 minutes moderate, 20 minutes harder, 20 minutes easy. I did it on the treadmill because it's only 10 degrees, and the trail that I tend to do speed workouts on is totally covered in snow and ice. When I picked up the speed on the treadmill after the first 20 minutes, going about 7:10 pace, it just felt fast and took a while to settle in. I finally adjusted, and it felt like a lot of work to pick it up again to 6:55 at the 20 minute mark. Ultimately, the paces I ran were slower than my 10 mile pace, but better than stopping (which was what I wanted to do at 3 miles) or just doing an easy pace. I ended up with 10.5 miles done - a good enough workout.
I'm not saying we shouldn't always go for the gold, but perfection, knocking it out of the park can't always happen, nor should we expect it to. I still want to do better, but I also want to have fun.
Runs are good, as is getting faster, but you can't beat this.
Me and my best friend Kathleen - my maid of honor
That's when a good enough week makes it worth it for a best enough weekend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Groundhog Day

 My family and I watched Groundhog Day on Christmas Day. Not your typical Christmas fare, but it is a winter/holiday movie. I've often heard elite runners say their lifestyle is like that movie: get up, train, eat, sleep, train, do it again and again, and again. Life for an ABD (all but dissertation) Ph.D. candidate is like that too - not much variation from day to day. Wake up, read/write, play with Heshie, read/write some more, run Heshie, Pat, plan, the end. Hopefully I won't go as berserk as Bill Murray did, cracking and kidnapping Punxsutawney Phil. And in that regard, there isn't much to report. I am aiming for consistency, and really, that should be my main word for this year. Consistency in dissertation work, and consistency in running. In just the couple of weeks of really honing in on the dissertation, I have written a lot. It's not all great, and not all of it will make it into the final version, but it's better to have thoughts on paper than a blank page of nothingness.

In terms of training, there isn't much to report. I've had a few great early season speedwork sessions. Nothing on the track, and nothing major, but it has felt good to crank out some faster miles and just have a change of pace, literally. On Saturday, my out and back run (5 miles out in 39 minutes, 5 miles back in 36) was dedicated to Meg Menzies, the mother and 3:05 marathoner who was killed by a drunk driver while on a run. Over 90,000 people ultimately dedicated their runs this weekend to her - remembering a great person. It is such a little thing, to just go out there and enjoy and really be in the moment, but to be able to do something we take for just gives a little more perspective.

Perspective is an interesting thing. I wrote earlier about how things stay the same when you get caught up in the mundane, and Meg's tragic death show how fast things change in an instant. I was driving to a friend's house across town to see her and her new baby. Yes, now old enough to have friends with babies - crazy! She is one of my oldest and closest DC friends - she is even going to be a bridesmaid in my wedding. Four years ago, we were drinking Manhattans after class and watching Friends reruns. Last night, we were catching up on family and cooing over her new baby.
And on my drive home, thoughts about change settled in my head as I cruised along I-495.

I've been in DC for over 5 years now. I'm going to the same school, and while I live in the same area (although not same place...I've moved around a lot...hoping to stay in this apartment for a couple of years now), there has been change, just gradually. And in the day to day, if you don't stop and think about it, you don't really see the change. It's only after pausing to look up and look around that you see the seasons have changed, your life has changed, maybe in ways you expected, or ways that you didn't imagine. One of my best friends from home came over the other day en route to a vacation in NC. We've been friends since we were 13, and stayed close after we graduated high school. But instead of hanging out at our parents' houses, something we still do when home for the holidays, she came over to my apartment. We each had our pets meet each other and laughed at how in a few years, it will be our children playing together. How does time move by like that?
All of this is to say, we get so lost in the routine that we don't realize the ebb and flow of life. It's one thing to get lost on the run and have a clear head, it's another thing to take in all of the beauty along the way. The day-to-day humdrum isn't as mundane as we's those subtle changes that slowly blossom into bigger, and hopefully better things.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Magis: Resolving for more in 2014

Remembering my Jesuit education from my days at Holy Cross, I have been thinking about magis, meaning "the more."  From St. Joseph University's website, it is "A profound and deeply personal Jesuit concept, it’s about doing more, being more and achieving more than originally thought possible." 
I am hoping to live this year with the idea of magis in mind. Rather than thinking of this year as just another year, there are enough things going on to step it up and expect to accomplish more.
We are getting married May 17th. I want to learn how to be a good wife (I can't wait for that term to actually be applicable) and make all of this an exciting process. My parents are putting in a lot of time (a lot is an understatement - my mom is amazing) to help plan things, and I want to be better in helping them with everything. 
I have been ABD (all but dissertation) for a semester. Last semester, I spent my time doing a lot of research and reading, with some writing. This semester, I need to step things up and write more. Now, resolutions are supposed to be specific - you can't just say, write more. So, it is my goal to produce 7-10 pages per week. Some may be bad pages/junk writing, but I am going to resolve to write at least 5 days a week. I never understood the fear of writing until I was well into my doctoral program. The dissertation isn't just writing a few seminar papers and putting it together. It's sticking with it for years. And I know I can stick with something for a while (5 years of running without falling off of the "wagon"), I just need to lean into the wind/fear and confront it by writing MORE. Writing more and more frequently. I'll put out my big goal for the year. I'm not sure how realistic it is, but better to aim high. I would like to have 2 drafts of chapters done by the end of 2014: one in the spring semester and one in the fall. That would put me on pace for finishing in 2016. I can't stay a Ph.D. candidate forever - this is the only way to change that.
I'm also hoping to blog more - I think I just need to get in the habit of writing anything more often. The blog could be my "break" for the day and a chance to just write in any mode possible. And finally on the running front...a few goals. I am not sure with the wedding and the writing that my spring schedule will have a lot of races. But I'll throw down a few goals:
1 mile: 5:49 (currently 5:51)
5k: 18:59 (currently 19:10)
10k 39:15 (currently 39:28)
1/2 marathon 1:29 (currently 1:32:34) - I am not sure of the likelihood of me running a half in the fall (or spring 2015), but I at least want to direct my training toward that end.
One thing that could help this is GU. I was very excited to find out right before Christmas that I will be part of the 2014 GU Energy Program. They are going to offer me a significant discount toward their products. While I've used their gels since 2009, I am looking forward to trying out their other products, particularly since they are dedicated to offering a number of gluten-free products. 
Other updates to come. Meanwhile, we are loving all of our time with Heshie, the bulldog, who is keeping us on our toes! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The "tail" end of 2013

I think 2013 stands as one of the fastest years of my adult life. There was a lot of
The first third of 2013 was just a lot of work: a lot of training and a lot of writing. Keeping my head down and nose to the grindstone meant PRs in the 10 mile at Cherry Blossom (1:05:52). After Boston broke all of our hearts and lit a fire, I ran the Pike's Peek 10k and with Boston in mind, ran Boston Strong and PRed running 39:28.
Three generations of my family at my bridal shower
A few weeks later, my dissertation proposal was approved by the history department, moving me to ABD status. 2 days after that, Pat proposed and we got engaged at the Lincoln Memorial - one of the best weeks ever.
Me and my best friend and matron of honor

I spent my summer in California, working with my gifted children and running all over beautiful Santa Cruz. I was fortunate enough to meet up with a friend for the Wharf to Wharf 6 Mile race. I also got to explore San Francisco a bit more and just enjoy the different world of the West Coast. Coming back to the hot East Coast, I moved to Vienna, VA and fell in love with running on the W&OD trail. I resumed teaching and dissertation work. My aunts and bridesmaids threw me a fabulous bridal shower - it was so wonderful to be with all of my favorite girls. My mom came down to DC and we both ran the Army Ten Mile - her largest race ever. She ran a strong 1:35, and I was happy to knock 11 more seconds off of my 10 mile time (1:05:41) on a day when I didn't anticipate it all to come together. Winning the Nationwide Insurance 5k held in conjunction with the .US Road Racing Championships afforded me the opportunity to meet my running role model and hero - Deena Kastor. I jumped into a high mileage routine shortly after, hopefully curbing all of the delicious holiday treats and dishes my mom made.
Meeting Deena Kastor
My PRs going into 2013:
1 mile: 5:51
5k: 19:21
10k: 39:50
10 mile: 1:06:10
At the end of the year
1 mile 5:51 - still can't crack this!
5k: 19:10
10k: 39:28
10 mile: 1:05:41
I did 16 races this year - the most ever. They ranged in size and place, from CA to DC to NY, from 300 people to 25,000.
And right after Christmas, Pat and I welcomed to the newest member of our family - Heshie! She is an eight-week old English bulldog who we picked up on Sunday. Her name comes from an SNL skit that we thought was hilarious. We are absolutely in love with her and are having the best time with her. Pat had dogs growing up, but she is my first one, and it has been wonderful. Even though we are still figuring out how to train her, Heshie is a very happy dog and in just the few days we've had her she has brought us so much joy.
I'll make my 2014 resolutions soon, but for now, I just want to play with my new pal. Happy New Year!
Picking her up from the breeder's house
Cutest face ever