Archive | January 2012

The Other Side

I said in my last post that I’d see you all on the other side of 20 miles.

Well, I made it! Though the trip was a tough one. Honestly this was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done. Definitely the most difficult of this marathon training cycle. Coming off the endorphin-fueled runner’s high of my 18-miler from two weeks ago, I definitely did not expect this run to be such a challenge. Sure, 20 miles is more than 18, but it didn’t seem too huge a jump upwards when I thought about it in the abstract. In reality though, those two extra miles were everything.

From the very beginning of this run, I wasn’t really in the zone mentally or physically. I kept having to stop for things — first my ipod kept uncliping from my waistband and I had to fix it, then I needed to make a bathroom pit stop at the FDR memorial (Really nice bathrooms there, BTW. Never again will I use a Starbucks bathroom now that I know there’s such a clean alternative right on the Mall!) I ran the first 10 miles by myself, with a few fun podcasts (Joy the Baker and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me) to help entertain me. Joy and Peter Sagal kept me smiling, but even at this early stage, I wasn’t feeling too hot. I kept thinking how much longer it would be until I was done.

Luckily, for the next section of the run I looped back to campus to pick up a friend who promised to accompany me for a few miles. K- was recovering from a pretty bad cold so she was only feeling up to about 3.5 miles, but having her company made a HUGE difference. We ran over the Key Bridge and did a beautiful loop of Roosevelt Island, and K- got me from having 10 miles left to do to having only 6 miles left to do in pretty good shape. I was sad to say goodbye to her when we got back across the bridge. For some reason, even at 14 miles, a distance I’m used to running on a pretty regular basis, I was feeling mentally and physically drained and ready to throw in the towel. I wasn’t actually hurting anywhere in particular. For some reason, 20 miles just felt like too much, too far. I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to keep going for another 6 miles. But as I waved goodbye to K-, I looked at my watch and told myself, “Only one hour of running to go. You can do this, Sarah.”

Those last 6 (well, really 6.4) miles were definitely not pretty. I ran 3 miles out and back along the Capital Crescent Trail, because I figured that the CCT is my home turf, and if I was going to rally my confidence anywhere it would be there. I was slow, my form was bad, my feet really hurt, and I kept closing my eyes in an attempt to zone out enough to not think about how much further I had left to do. I kept talking myself the entire time, saying things like “Just hold on” and “You know you can do this.” I think that I might have scared the runners I came across between miles 17 and 18, because I spent the vast majority of that time repeating “I can do it. I can do it” out loud to myself over and over again. When I  reached the mile marker that told me I had one mile left to go, I tried to dig deep and pick up the pace a bit, if only to get to the end more quickly. I don’t know if I was actually running any faster, but it felt like I was giving that last mile everything I had. When I finally finished I sat down on the side of the trail and cried for a minute. Not because I was upset or hurt, but just because I felt so mentally and emotionally drained from that run. Three and a half hours after leaving my dorm room, I had finished. I had kept going when I didn’t want to and when I didn’t think I could. I didn’t stop and walk. I didn’t let myself turn around early. I did what I had set out to do.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to feel this way after a training run. Reading back over this post, it sounds more like a race report than anything else — all about mental toughness and not wanting to keep going. This wasn’t a race and I didn’t HAVE to keep running. I knew I wasn’t feeling great, and I could easily have stopped after 14 miles, postponed this particular long run til next weekend. But I’m glad I didn’t give up, even though sticking with it took a lot out of me. You never know how you’re going to feel on race day, and this run taught me how to motivate myself even when I feel like I can’t keep going, how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Now I’m not quite so scared about “Hitting the Wall” or losing focus on race day, because I’ll know I’ve been through that before and I’ve developed strategies to get myself through it. I’m still nervous (I can tell you about the crazy marathon nightmares that I’ve had, but that’ll take a whole other post!) but I want to look back on this run as something that I can learn from, and if it taught me anything it’s that I CAN push myself and I CAN accomplish the things that scare me. I think it’s a lesson worth learning.

Congratulations on making it this far! I know that was a long post — hopefully not too boring though. Have you ever had a really mentally difficult run? What strategies do you use to motivate yourself when you feel like you can’t keep going?



Off and On

If last week was an “off” week in terms of running (and life in general!) this week has most certainly been “on.” Between getting in some seriously high mileage (for me), dealing with breaking news at the paper, working through what seems to be a never ending pile of homework, finishing my study abroad application (!) and declaring my major (!!!) it’s been a busy seven days.

And it’s not over yet. I woke up this morning with some really awful cramps so I decided to put my 20-miler on hold till tomorrow. Sometimes being a girl kinda really sucks. Instead of running first thing in the morning, I slept in a bit later and then trucked off to the business school building to do some homework. Sadly, it wasn’t a very productive day because there were a bunch of MBA students (who I guess are taking weekend classes?) being noisy and social in the main study area. Grrr. The biz school building is my favorite place to study and is so much more convenient for me than the library, but sometimes the multitude of business minded people streaming through the building in their slacks and button up shirts and networking and stuff can kind of get on my nerves. I guess I’m just jealous because I’m in a humanities major that’s never going to make me any money when I’m older.

Anyway, so that means that tomorrow’s the big ol’ 20-miler. I have to admit I’m pretty nervous. I’m experimenting with drinking gatorade on my long run instead of eating energy gels because Gu has kind of been upsetting my stomach lately. We’ll see how it goes.

See you on the other side of 20 miles!

What’s been keeping you busy lately? Was your college major useful for your future job?

Best of the Web

First things first, lets just pretend I’m not posting this at 1:30 in the morning. A college kid’s schedule is rough, what can I say? The advantage is, of course, that I’m basically having a 4-year-long slumber party with homework. It’s a trade off.

Now that’s out of the way, on to running news and my traditional Tuesday list of some of my favorite places on the interwebs.

I know that I didn’t sound too cheerful in my last post, but thankfully things have been looking up since then! I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of my never ending cold, the weather has improved (50 degrees! I ran in shorts today! Yippee!), and I met with my former editor (whom I really admire and am just a little bit scared of) from the newspaper today and she told me I’m doing a great job.

I also had a GREAT run today with one of my buddies K- from the paper. We had an awesome time running 7.3 miles in the sunny, warm weather around the National Mall and Tidal Basin.

One of the best parts of the run came as we were running past the FDR memorial. We came across a huge flock of geese parked right in the middle of the path, and because I’m a total wimp and the epitome of a city kid who’s scared of nature, I confided in K- that I am afraid of large birds and was kind of scared to run through them. She didn’t say anything, but instead just started running at the birds, flapping her arms and yelling at them to get out of the way so I could go through. It was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me while on a run.

Scary goose. Not really. But kind of. Look, their beaks are really big and their wings could actually hurt you, okay?

Another great thing about today? It’s Best of the Web Tuesday, meaning that I can share with you all the internet things that are making me happy and sucking my time away from things I should be doing, like Economics reading.

1. Hello Giggles: This website is the project of a few of my favorite people who I don’t actually know, including Zooey Deschanel (!) and it’s an awesome black hole for the 30 minute break in between classes during which you could be reviewing Arabic vocabulary but instead want to look at pictures of adorable animals.

2. Dear Scarlet: I discovered this website a few days ago while perusing Hello Giggles and I am in love with it. This little girl is so cute and the love her parents show for her through their posts is heartbreaking. I like to think that one day she’ll be able to look back at this website and it’ll make her smile to think about the person she used to be, and how much joy she made.

That’s all for today! I hope that you’re all asleep by now and won’t read this till tomorrow. 🙂

What cheers you up after you’ve been feeling down? What’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for you on a run? Are you a procrastinator?

My Sneakers are Lonely

So this past week was not the greatest, especially not in terms of running.

I took a lot of unexpected rest days this week, and even though I probably needed them I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself. 16 miles total is definitely not my best. I had originally planned for this week to be pretty low mileage anyway (I’m experimenting with a “one week high, one week low” system in order to avoid hurting my achilles, which has plagued me for a while) but I was thinking more along the lines of 25 or 30. Yet a combination of school work, snow, personal life drama, a cold that just won’t go away, and one night spent partying a little too hard meant my trusty Brookes Adrenalines haven’t seen a whole lot of action recently.

Sad sneakers!

I know I shouldn’t beat myself up for not running as much as I’d like to. There was a time for me when 16 miles a week seemed like a huge achievement, and I need to remember that any time spent pounding the pavement is better than no time at all. I just kind of feel like I wimped out this week. (Not to mention the fact that the first full week of dining hall food was kind of a shock to my system, so a LOT of junk found its way into my belly in the past seven days.) When people ask me how I find the time to train for a marathon, I always tell them: “Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. This is how I am choosing to spend mine.” I always thought that if you can’t find the time to do something, that means you probably don’t want it badly enough. So heres the question: How badly do I want this marathon?

The answer is, a lot. A lot a lot. Even when it’s early in the morning and icy and cold and I was up til 2 a.m. doing Economics reading the night before, I always love going for a run. I have a post-it next to my bed that says:

(In case you can’t read the last part, it says, “You love this. You wouldn’t be trying so hard if you didn’t. Think about how much this means to you!”)

It’s not exactly Shakespeare but it reminds me of why I get out the door every day. I love running. I love training. And I am so excited to be running a marathon. I just need to be reminded every so often, and not let myself slip into bad habits. Luckily, I have some good running friends to get me out of the dumps and back on my feet. Today, one of my best buddies N- and I did an easy 4.5 mile loop around the neighborhood where our school is, including a trip along Embassy Row and a stop at CVS for me to buy Ricola (BEST COUGH DROPS EVER!)

I think I have tried every variety of these cough drops. I may or may not eat them like candy on occasion. I just really like the menthol-y taste. I promise I’m not as weird as I sound. Or maybe I am.

It wasn’t the fastest four and a half miles ever, nor did I feel that great, but N- and I chatted about homework and study abroad and the newspaper and boys and life and it reminded me that in addition to really, really wanting to run this marathon and feel great about it, I also just really like the simple pleasure of going out for a run.

Sorry that this post was super rambly and incoherent. This is what happens when there’s no real running news to report! Here is my plan for this week — hopefully I’ll be a bit better about following it than I have been for the past few days, and hopefully posting it on the blog will help hold me accountable!

14 22-Jan 4.5 4 5 + Yoga 6.5 5 REST 20 40

How do you feel when (and if!) you flake out on your training schedule? How do you keep yourself motivated?

All Kinds of Accomplishment

Guess what I did this morning?

I ran (almost) 18 miles! I’ve done this before, but I definitely did NOT feel as good about that run as I felt about this one. On my previous 18 miler, I started feeling tired after mile 15. I could feel my form becoming sloppy, my feet were dragging, and all I could think about was finishing. Not so this time. Even though my ankles started aching a bit towards the end, I felt good, even speedy, up until the last steps. I don’t have a fancy watch so I don’t know what my splits were for this run, but I’m pretty happy with that final time. I’d like to run my marathon somewhere in the 4:10 range, and if I plug 9:57 min/mile into the Runners World pace calculator it puts me in at around 4:20. I hope that I can shave off those 10 minutes come race day! I think I can.

My other running accomplishment for the week was hitting a new weekly mileage high of 44 miles. It’s kind of crazy to think that just a year ago 20 miles a week was a big deal. Of course, just a year ago if you had told me that I’d be training for a marathon I’d probably have told you you were crazy.

I like to attribute my successful run this morning to my expert night-before fueling strategy, which consisted of eating 3 giant pieces of the most delicious banana bread I’ve ever baked.

(Sorry for the terrible quality of this photo. I don’t own a camera, so everything is taken with my extremely grainy cell phone…)

This is not your standard banana bread with walnuts and chocolate chips. This banana bread is far more cosmopolitan than that. It’s moist and dense, but fluffy at the same time. It’s got a crispy cardamom and sugar crust and a rich cinnamon-y interior. It’s something you could serve at a fancy restaurant with a scoop of artisanal vanilla ice cream, though it’s just as at home being eaten warm out of the pan in while reading a good book. Basically, you need to buy yourself some bananas and bake this right now.

Here’s the recipe, somewhat adapted from Five and Spice

Cinnamon Banana Bread with Cardamom Sugar Topping

2 cups ap flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs

3/8 cup brown sugar

3/8 cup white sugar

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 tsp. vanilla

3 tbs. plain Greek yogurt

½ cup vegetable oil

3 Tbs. raw sugar

1 tsp. cardamom and a pinch of nutmeg, for the topping

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and nutmeg and salt
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together sugars with eggs for 3-5 minutes. Add mashed banana, vanilla, yogurt and yogurt and stir till combined.
  4. Add oil to wet ingredients.
  5. Gently mix dry ingredients into wet. Do NOT overmix! This is how you get the bread to be awesome and fluffy and soft.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan. Mix together raw sugar with cardamom and nutmeg and sprinkle over the top.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes until a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. You could wait for this bread to cool for 10 minutes like a real grown up person, or you could succumb to your ravenous crazy friends and eat it out of the plan. Should you choose the second route, you won’t regret it!

How do you feel after a long run? What do you usually eat the night before? Do you like to bake?

A Good Day

In college, you know it’s been a good day when:

1. You get 8+ hours of sleep

2. The morning starts off with a 8 mile run with one of your best friends on the C&O Canal Path and YOU’RE WEARING SHORTS! (So I guess D.C. weather is good for something!)

3. Every single thing you’ve put in your mouth has involved peanut butter. (PB and banana immediately post-run because I was STARVING by the time I got back. Gotta try experimenting with eating food before I go running. Chobani greek yogurt with frozen rasberries and peanut butter cheerios for the best breakfast ever, and then carrots dipped in peanut butter with my lunch because it’s my new favorite thing.)

4. You cross four things off your never ending list of to-do lists:

Yes, it’s definitely been a good day, and it’s not even over yet! I hope your mornings have been as great as mine!

What makes a good day for you? What’s your favorite way to eat peanut butter?

Back to the Books

It had to happen eventually. Despite my best efforts to convince my parents to let me live on the couch and bake cookies all day, this morning they put me on the Amtrak to D.C. and told me not to come back till May. Not really. If anything, my mom was suffering from more separation anxiety than me. It was like the first day of pre-school when the parent can’t let go and the kid is already playing with blocks and sticking out her tongue at her new classmates.

In an attempt to ease the pain of separation, I spent my entire last day at home with my mom. Which of course meant waking up at 6:45 to go to our favorite weight-lifting/abs class at the Y. After we had showered and eaten breakfast we headed out the door and uptown to the Guggenheim, where my mom showed off her art-history major knowledge and I tried to understand the artistic value of monochrome.

Do you know what this is supposed to mean?

We made homemade tomato soup for dinner (plus pumpernickel bread with cheddar cheese and apple) and watched old episodes of The West Wing with my dad. I am not a TV person at all (not because I’m snobby and intellectual, just because I don’t have time and prefer to spend my time in front of the tube watching Disney movies and pretending that I’m still six) but this is a really great show.

Today we went for a early morning run around Prospect Park, which smelled like a pine tree air freshener factory exploded because the Parks department was grinding up people’s Christmas trees to make wood chips. It was great.

I had a really great break, full of friends visiting and awesome long runs and spending a lot of fun time with my parents, so I wasn’t very eager to head back to college. I know it’s going to be hard to adjust to the heavy workload and the crazy hours. But the first day back has actually been pretty good!  I went grocery shopping and bought peanut butter multigrain cheerios, which basically sounds like heaven in a bowl.

As if that weren’t enough, when I opened my mailbox I found the latest issue of Runners World inside! I’m excited to have time to read it before being buried under mountains of reading and homework.

I look very suspicious in this picture. I swear I’m not up to anything sneaky!

So overall, it’s been a good first day back. But we’ll see what happens when classes start tomorrow!

Do you like spending time with your parents? What’s your favorite kind of cereal? Do you look forward to starting school/work after a vacation? (If you answered yes to that last one, what kind of job do you have and where can I find one?!)