Confessions and Obsessions

Obsession #1: Running with people who are faster than me.

I’ve been doing the majority of my runs with a buddy recently, and it’s amazing how much better it feels to run with someone else! The miles just tick by so much faster — especially when your running buddy actually IS a lot faster than you. I tried to go for a recovery five miler on Saturday morning after a pretty ugly long run on Friday (more on that in a second), but my friend K- doesn’t really process the words “take it easy on me” and we wound up maintaining a 8:45 min/mile pace the whole way. I know that doesn’t sound particularly fast, but the D.C. humidity has been KILLING my paces. Luckily, having a friend along meant that I didn’t get enough opportunities to look down at my Garmin and freak out about my pace, so I was pleasantly surprised when I stopped my watch at the end of the run and saw how fast we’d been going.

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Confession #1 (slightly related to Obsession #1): I don’t think that I can stick to the training paces I laid out for myself at the beginning of this summer. I came to this realization on Friday, when I tried to do a 9 miler with four miles at half marathon pace (8:30 min/mile). Even though I woke up at 5:30 (that’s crazy early for a college kid!) to try and get my miles in before D.C.’s monstrously hot and humid weather took over, I felt like I was swimming rather than running along the Canal Path.

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I came up with my training paces based on the way I’d been running during the winter, not thinking about how the weather was going to affect my speed. Turns out — it does affect it. A lot. Last week’s tempo run had me feeling so nauseous I needed to take a 10 minute break to sit by the end of the run. And I imagine it’s only going to get worse as my runs get longer.

So here’s the game plan: I’m going to dial all my paces back by 15 second per mile, which seems to be the equivalent difficulty of a 15 second faster pace in less gross weather. So now my tempo runs will be at 8:30 pace and my HMP will be closer to 8:45. If I’m feeling good, I can try to bring the paces back down to my original goal towards the end of the workout. But I don’t want to make myself sick by trying to hit paces that are challenging even in ideal conditions.

Obesession #2: Almond milk. I’ve never been a milk drinker (I used to cry when I went over to friends’ houses and their parents served milk with dinner. I still don’t understand why anyone would want to have milk alongside their brussels sprouts. Those are two flavors that just don’t mix!) but I have recently come around to almond milk. It’s great with cereal (which has become my standard breakfast since it became too hot to eat oatmeal) and it doesn’t have that slightly sour taste that has always grossed me out about regular milk.

Confession #2: I may or may not have drunk an entire container of almond milk in 2 days. It’s only four servings, but still. That stuff isn’t cheap!

Just a happy thought: My roommate is doing a couch to 5K program and after my 5 miler on Saturday I joined her for another 2 miles of run/walking. It was so much fun running with someone who is just getting started and I am SO excited that she’s becoming a member of the running tribe! Now we just have to find a 5k for her to race when she’s done with her program!

That’s basically all for today. Sorry I don’t have more interesting thoughts!

Here’s last week’s running/exercise data:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4.5 miles, 2 at HMP
Wednesday: 3.5 mile hill run
Thursday: 60 minute swim with 20 lengths of intervals (one length as fast as I can go, the next one easy)
Friday: 8.5 mile HMP run – FAIL
Saturday: 5 miles at 8:45 pace, 2 more run/walking
Sunday: 5 miles easy

TOTAL: 26.5 miles

Outside

Today I went hiking.

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Loudoun Heights Trail: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

I’ve been talking about hiking quite a bit lately, I know. As a through-and-through city girl, who would have thought I’d become so enchanted by nature?

Yet I have been. I feel more like myself out there. It’s something in the steady moving, the heavy breathing. The feeling of being immersed in greens and blues and yellows and browns. The pausing to take note of a turtle trundling along the side of the trail. The taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, slightly squished and salted by the sweat on your hands, when lunch is eaten with a view. It makes you glad to be alive, to be yourself, where you are. And though I am without a doubt a girl of subways and crosswalks and concrete and steel, I am suddenly overwhelmed by a sneaking, at-first-sight kind of love with the out-of-doors. I’m nursing it like a crush, my mind rampaging wildly ahead of my cautious steps along the trail. I find myself daydreaming about far-fetched adventures, envisioning trips in the Rockies and thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, much the way a lovelorn girl would picture sharing romantic evenings and passionate kisses with a boy she’s only just realizing she likes. It’s a little crazy, I know.

But lately, when I close my eyes, I see the dense green of forests and the outlines of mountains printed on the insides of my lids.

I feel like this video, which is from a baking blog I love, encapsulates how I feel about hiking perfectly. Someday I’d like to be on a meadow in the Rockies, spooning strawberry cobbler from a dutch oven while the sun sinks below the tree line.

All the same, running isn’t going anywhere. This week hasn’t been particularly interesting — just dogged progress through my training plan. I did a bit of a hill workout on Thursday — it wasn’t in my training plan, but I felt like it. And by hill workout, I mean that I ran in one of the hilliest neighborhoods in D.C. And tried not to let the inclines slow me down.

Tomorrow is my long run, so we’ll see how that goes. Enjoy your weekends, everyone. And go find yourselves outside!

Data-less

Something is wrong with my Garmin.

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It’s been acting kinda wacky all week — beeping at odd times, refusing to power on or getting stuck on certain screens. This morning, it started randomly beeping again, waking me up 30 minutes before my alarm. After some careful consultation of various running forums on the internet, I decided to do a complete “hard” reset of my watch, returning it to factory settings. Hopefully that will clear up whatever funkiness has been going on with it recently.

Anyway, that meant that this morning I did my long run without a watch for the first time in a very long time. No times, no beeping at every, no data to analyze (and agonize over!) when I get home. And you know what? It was pretty nice! I’m home in Brooklyn for the weekend, so I decided to just do three loops of Prospect Park, since I knew that would add up to my scheduled 11 miles.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning for running — clear, blue skies, 65 degrees with a light breeze — and since I wasn’t keeping track of or thinking about my pace, I decided to focus on form instead. I reminded myself to keep my back straight and my head up, and I tried to imagine myself as light and springy instead of sore and galumphing, which is how I normally feel at the end of a long run. I didn’t do the 2-3 miles at Half Marathon Pace fast finish I had planned, since I was trying to embrace the “no numbers” mentality of the run. But I do feel like I was able to pick up the pace towards the end, and I definitely felt lighter and springy-er than I’ve felt for most of this training cycle.

Going back a few days, I WAS able to use my garmin for a tempo run with my good friend K-, who is turning out to be my favorite new workout buddy for speedwork. He’s very encouraging (also much faster than me) and I want to impress him, so running with him is a good motivator not to slack off or give in to negative thoughts.

On Thursday we did 6.5 miles, three of which were at tempo (8:15 min/mile) pace.

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The tempo beast is vanquished once again! I felt kind of woozy/light headed after this run (it’s been super hot and humid in DC lately, so I’m thinking I was dehydrated), but it was also SO satisfying to have done it. The best thing about running in the early mornings before work is that you go about the rest of your day with a feeling of accomplishment. I LOVE getting home from my run and seeing that my roommates are just waking up, still bleary eyed and wearing pajamas, while I’m decked out in sweat and jazzed on endorphins.

THE WEEK
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4 miles easy in the morning, 30 min lap swim in the evening
Wednesday: 30 min arms/abs (I did three sets of this core routine, plus some chair dips)
Thursday: 6.5 mile tempo run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 11 mile long run, focus on form
Sunday: (planned) 3.5 miles easy

TOTAL: 25 miles

On Running and Living

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately.

It’s the summer before senior year, and already the questions are starting to tumble in: What next? Everyone from my grandparents to my professors to my internship supervisors want to know what I’ll be doing, where I’ll be going. And it’s exciting, thinking about all the jobs I want to apply for — reporting fellowships in London! teaching English in Jordan! — but it’s also scary. I have a giant google doc that includes all the jobs, internships, fellowships and programs I’m interested in, and much like training for a marathon, I’m trying to steadily make my way through the seemingly endless list of tasks involved in launching my life after college.

What’s striking is how similar running is to life. Day after day I set tiny goals — an extra mile in my tempo run, a more polished version of my cover letter, a more optimistic attitude in the mornings and more grateful attitude as I slip into bed — and as I accomplish each of them, I know that I am inching myself just a bit closer to the final one, whether that’s a marathon, a job, or a more healthy mind and body.

This weekend I pasted some decorations on the wall above my bed — postcards, a picture of my cat. I also included two pieces of memorabilia from my training process for my second half marathon — the first race I ever did speedwork for, and where I set my current PR. The first is a post-it with the words, “You love this. You wouldn’t be trying so hard if you didn’t. Think about how much this means to you!” The other one is a quote from an email my mom sent me: “Most important: Do not be disappointed. Run your best race. Push yourself harder when you want to fall off (but you know how to do this from tempos) – you will be happy at the end when you tell yourself ‘I did my best.’ The crowd of other runners will make you go faster and so will the spectators. [...] Also, the strategy sounds good for keeping your mind in check and not filled with negative thoughts. Also have a positive mantra. You did the work, you can do it. I know you can.”

My wall of inspiration!

My wall of inspiration!

As I think more and more about the future — both in running and in life — these quotes seem surprisingly dual-purposed. The first can apply to almost anything difficult but meaningful. I originally wrote it to get myself to stop scaring myself out of doing tempo runs, but it could easily apply to scary job interview or a challenging essay.

My mom’s words also ring true to life right now. This summer I’m working two jobs and taking an Arabic class. I’ll have to push myself harder at a time that most people are relaxing. But this is something I know how to do, and that I know will take me towards my goal in the long run. Having other people competing helps me to challenge myself, and so does the knowledge that I’m surrounded by “spectators” who are cheering for me. I need to keep repeating positive mantras to myself — reminding myself that I AM prepared, that I AM capable, even though I’m often inclined to sell myself short.

And most importantly, I can’t be disappointed. So long as I “run my best race,” that’s all I can ask of myself. The best life is not necessarily going to be the one I planned on, but it will be the one I’m living. As long as I’m not constantly looking back, second guessing, I know that I’ll be happy.

This morning’s run was a rehearsal in pushing hard and positive thoughts: a 10 mile long run with two miles at half marathon pace at the end. I was dreading the HMP miles as I laced up my sneakers — I was running with a much faster friend, and even though he told me to set the pace, I was afraid I would embarrass myself trying to hold 8:30 min/miles at the end of a long run.

For some reason my computer won’t upload the data from my Garmin, but the run was actually a success! Most of the easy miles were at about a 10:15 min/mile pace, which is my goal long run pace (according to the Runners World calculator) and then miles 8 and 9 clocked in at 8:30 and 8:32. Whoot!

Annnd, the week in running/general exercise:

Monday: 20 mins arms/abs workout, 15 mile bike ride
Tuesday: “Body Sculpt” at the Y
Wednesday: 6 mile tempo run
Thursday: 15 mile bike ride
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 4 mile easy run, 30 mins of lap swimming at the pool (oh yeah, I started my lifeguarding job this week!)
Sunday: 10 mile long run w/ miles 8-9 at HMP

Battling the Beast

A long, long time ago, back when I was training for my second half marathon, I first made acquaintance with an awful, terrifying beast called the Tempo Run. Each week the beast would loom before me, focusing its steely, dreadful eyes upon me and making me quake with fear. It had power over my thoughts and convinced me to do terrible things, like doubt my ability to hit a certain pace or run a sub 2:00 hour half marathon.

Every week I would duel with that beast, and after a few early losses, I started to come out ahead of the Tempo Run. Paces that had initially seemed terrifying and unsustainable to me became a matter of habit. I was able to maintain a 8:30 minute pace for two miles, then three, then five. And when race day came, I blew my old half marathon PR out of the water, all thanks to my practice dealing with the Tempo Run Monster.

Sadly, in the months year since I last did a real tempo workout, that monster has grown back as huge and terrible as it ever was. So on Wednesday morning I headed out for my first tempo of the MCM 2013 training cycle feeling anxious, doubtful, and already halfway ready to throw in the towel. “My runs have all been at 9:30-10:00 minute pace recently,” I thought. “I’ll never be able to churn out 8:15-minute miles.” Luckily, I am a great lover of plans, and if something is typed out in a fancy google doc, I have to follow through.

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It would appear that all my fears were unfounded. Not only was I able to hit my tempo pace (8:15 minutes per mile) but I actually felt pretty good doing it! It was super satisfying to get back to my house that morning, my roommates just barely waking up, and know that I had already battled the Tempo Run Beast while they were still lying in bed.

Lets just hope I’ll remember this triumph when I face off with him again next week!

 

DC Running

Welp, I’m back in DC for the summer, which means that my runs will start to feature fewer bridges and loops of Prospect Park and more monuments of dead presidents!

Unfortunately, it also means I’ll be running with a weather forecast that looks like this for the next three months:

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Yesterday — the day I moved into my new house in DC — the sun was blazing hot! Not the thing you need when you’re spending the day lifting heavy furniture and unpacking box after box of books. My roommate and I had woken super early to move our stuff before the heat of the day, but unfortunately that meant my run had to wait til the afternoon. I headed out around 6pm, hoping for cooler evening weather, but no such luck. It was still about 90 degrees, and my face was bright red and my whole body covered in sweat by the time I returned from a 4.5 mile loop around the Lincoln Memorial.

This morning I woke up at 6:30am, determined to avoid the sauna-like conditions of  Saturday’s run. It was well, well worth the early alarm! The temperatures were still slightly higher than comfortable (around 75 degrees) but the sky was a brilliant blue and every leaf seemed particularly green. The morning seemed made for running.

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The sun rises over campus!

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The Potomac looking peaceful

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Back to my old stomping grounds! A totally empty canal path at 7am on a Sunday.

Despite the beautiful scenery, it wasn’t an easy run. My legs have been feeling extremely sluggish and heavy of late. I don’t know if it’s because I’m out of shape, or adjusting to the heat, or what. But the 10.5 miles I ran this morning seemed uncharacteristically difficult. It worries me a bit that I finished a simple 10.5 mile run feeling like I couldn’t have kept going much longer. How am I going to do 18 and 20 milers in a few short months? Let alone 26.2?

Even though I’m still doing pretty low mileage (25 this week), I’ve scheduled in cutback weeks in my training plan every third week in order to prevent injury. I’m determined to make it through training for this marathon feeling healthy and maintaining my motivation, and I feel like keeping my mileage on the lower side is the way to do that. So here’s hoping the coming 2o mile week (and next two days off) will put some pep back in my legs. I’ve got my first speed workout of the training cycle planned for Wednesday (6 miles with three at tempo pace — around 8:15 min/mile) and I’m already feeling nervous about that pace goal.

Aaaannd here’s the week in running (and other exercise…): 25 miles total

Monday: 6 mile hike in New Jersey
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 6 miles in Prospect Park
Thursday: 4 miles in Prospect Park
Friday: 12 mile bike ride
Saturday: 4.5 miles around the Lincoln Memorial
Sunday: 10.5 miles on the C&O canal path

Sorry it’s not a very interesting post today. I’m still in the base mileage period of training, so there’s really not much to report. Hopefully Wednesday’s tempo run will go well and inject a little excitement into these reports.

 

This Training Cycle I Will…

1. Go to yoga at least once a week. Preferably twice if time allows.

2. Swim or otherwise cross train [hiking, group fitness classes, etc.] once a week.

3. Do arms/abs/core exercises on days I don’t run [so about two to three times a week]

4. Practice positive thinking while I run. Recite mantras, tell myself that I CAN.

5. Cherish every mile. Enjoy the journey. To train for and run a marathon is a privilege, not a punishment.

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Click to zoom in

So last night I finally put all of the runs from my sketched-out, hand-written training plan into a google doc. I even added the google docs app to my phone so I can look at my training plan when I’m not at my computer. Seeing all those workouts planned out, scrolling through the weeks til I see 26.2 miles on October 27, gives me a jolt of excitement about running that I feel like I’ve been missing. I’ve been having some trouble with motivation lately — well, really all year. Its not that I don’t like running anymore, or don’t want to run. And occasionally I will have one of those magical runs when the miles fly by and I don’t want to stop. But in the day to day, there are so many excuses NOT to run. So lately my runs have been feeling slow, forced. I’m out there because I’m making myself, not because I want to be.

I guess this is natural. Running and I had a bit of a honeymoon period my sophomore year of college, when I ran my half PR and my first marathon. It felt like every day I was running a new distance PR, or hitting faster speeds in my tempo runs and track workouts. Now is the plateau. I’ve been all these places before and I won’t instantly get better just by heading out the door. The motivation to run is no longer the thrill of doing something new.

As I typed my plan into the google doc last night, I thought about what I DO want to get out of my training now.The most immediate thing that came to mind was speed — I’m hoping to run this marathon a full 35 minutes faster than my first. But I thought a little bit harder, and I realized that even more than getting faster, I want to develop a better relationship with running. Rather than the high-intensity romance that I had my sophomore year (fall 2011 to spring 2012) or the resentful drudgery of last year (fall 2012 to spring 2013) I want running to be like a old, good friend — comfortable, stable and always there for me.

A lot of my goals for this training cycle actually have to do with things that I’m doing when I’m not running — ways that I can keep myself saner and healthier so that running doesn’t burn me out. I was super diligent about stretching and yoga when I trained for the Baltimore Half, and that entire training cycle was remarkably pain-free. I want to train for this marathon without getting injured, so yoga is goal number one. I also want to make sure that I’m working other parts of my body besides my legs and feet, in order to both build a better running form and also to find other outlets for exercise besides running. I have a terrible slouch and in photos from the end of races — especially the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. marathon last spring — I’m always all hunched over. Doing arms and core exercises will help that. I also am going to be working as a lifeguard this summer, so I’m hoping to do lots of swimming — which is good for the arms and also non-impact!

My mom always says that running is totally mind over matter. The body can do almost anything you ask it to — you just have to have the willpower to ask. I want to embody that mentality with my running this summer and fall. My body CAN run another a marathon and it CAN run it in 4:10. I just have to train my mind to WANT to. That means I have to start wanting to run again. I may not wake up burning with desire to lace up my Brooks and hit the road, but once I’m out the door, I need to work on banishing negative thoughts. If I spend 10, 15 and 20 miles thinking about how much I don’t want to be running, of course it’s going to suck! Of course I’m going to feel slow, and sluggish, and resentful and bored. But if I try to live in the moment, to breath deeply, to appreciate my legs moving under me and the sound of my sneakers slapping the pavement, to take each mile as a gift and not a punishment — then I think I’ll remind myself how to love running. After all, I signed up for this marathon. I chose my goal time, I designed my training plan. If I don’t want to be doing this, then I don’t have to. But I DO want to be doing this — which means that I need to keep on keeping on even when it’s hard.

I’ll be glad I did when I cross the finish line this October and see 4:10 on the clock. And knowing me, and knowing running, I’ll be glad I did long before that moment as well.

This Week

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3.5 miles with mom
Wednesday: 8.33 mile hike  on Mount Taurus.
Thursday: 20 minutes of abs/core workout
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: Super rainy/windy 5 miles
Sunday: 10.5 mile long run

TOTAL: 23 miles

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