Archive | April 2012

School’s Out (Almost) and Random Ramblings

I am three classes, two finals, one paper rewrite and one two page response away from finishing my sophomore year of college. Monday is my last day of classes, and this time two weeks from now, I will be done.

If you can believe it, study days and finals week are actually less busy for me than the regular school year. The paper doesn’t publish, I don’t have to go to classes, there’s all this time on my hands! I’m looking forward to the freedom to schedule my own life. I can go to bed EARLY (no more staying up for 2:00 a.m. deadlines every Tuesday and Friday) and get 8 hours of sleep every night, go running when I feel like it (I’m thinking halfway through the day to break up the monotony of the library).

I don’t really have much in mind to talk about. My running life hasn’t been too eventful in the past two weeks, mostly because I’ve been too busy doing stuff for the newspaper and last minute school work to do much running. I’m hoping to fit in a long run tomorrow morning. Twelve miles! It’ll be must first double digit run since the marathon. I guess that’s all for today. I’ll report back later with info from my run!

Did/do you like finals week in college? What do you do when you have free time?

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Totally Terrific Tuesday

Warning: I am totally high on endorphins and adrenaline right now. My enthusiasm for running, journalism, and life in general may be highly contagious. If you are susceptible to gleefulness, giddiness, or smiling uncontrollably, it might be wise to step away from the computer.

I LOVE LIFE.

It is very rare that things go better than according to plan, especially when you’re a college kid in the midst of the final week of school, with term papers looming and application deadlines approaching.

But in the past couple of days, everything’s gone exactly as I had hoped, and better!

First off, the newspaper had elections this weekend and I was elected to the position I’ve been dreaming about basically since the beginning of this school year. It was in my New Years resolutions, even. And last night, my very first production night in the position, we finished the paper ON DEADLINE (that never happens!) and, as far as I know, without any mistakes.

VICTORY!

Secondly, and probably more relevant to this blog, I did my first real tempo run in a VERY long time today and it was GREAT! I was shooting for four miles at or around 8:20 min/mile pace, because that’s roughly what I was running last October right before my half marathon, and I wanted to gauge if I had lost any fitness.

The answer: I haven’t! After a too-fast warmup (The first mile really should have been more around 9:00 min) I managed to keep my pace around 8:20 and then drop it down to 8:10 for the second half of the tempo. I was so thrilled to see that pace flashing on my watch that I promptly tripped and face planted halfway through my cooldown mile, cutting the celebration somewhat short. But I won’t let a scraped shin and a bruised elbow get me down! I am WAY too excited about the paper and the run. It might be dangerous.

Unfortunately, I now have to go work on an International Trade problem set with my study group (that’ll bring me off of my cloud pretty quick) so I’ll leave you with a happy bunny photo:

What kinds of things make your day totally terrific? Do you do tempo runs?

In Which I Proselytize

I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a vegetarian. I have a hard time explaining this to people, because I am not your typical, “animals have feelings too and we shouldn’t eat them,” PETA-loving vegetarian. I often joke to people when I explain my diet choice that I don’t care how the cow feels.

Sorry cows. You’re cute, but that won’t stop anyone from eating you. 

It’s not that I think animals don’t have feelings or their lives don’t have value — they do. Humans have profited from the work of animals for thousands of years and I think that’s pretty darn amazing slash lucky for us. It’s more that an animal’s feelings and life will never be as worth as much to me personally as a human life, and since eating other species is a natural part of the food chain anyway (you’d never tell a lion to think more about how the gazelle feels) there’s nothing morally wrong with humans eating meat.

No, my problem is with the WAY we eat meat, and the WAY we produce it and transport it and package it for consumption. Lately a lot of movies about the food/meat industry have been circulating on Netflix (I’ve watched Forks Over Knives and Fresh in the past two weeks, both of which I recommend) and it really got me thinking about what made me decide to become a vegetarian two and a half years ago, and whether those reasons still stand.

The answer is yes. The rate at which Americans consume meat and animal products is bad for both our health and our planet. People can argue about the degree to which this is true, but it’s still true. It takes 10 times as much land to produce animal products as it does to produce plant-based foods and 3 to 15 times as much water. Huge swaths of the forest both in the U.S. and abroad have been clear cut to make room for cattle farms. But none of that environmental cost is shown in the actual cost of the meat because the U.S. subsidizes the meat industry so heavily.

Even if you don’t care about the environment, eating most meat is bad for your personal health — especially in the quantities in which Americans consume it. Most American meat comes from huge farms where animals are bred closely together and given all kinds of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. All of those chemicals and drugs make it into your hamburger. Animal products, when consumed in large quantities, also can lead to health problems, from obesity to heart disease to cancer to acne.

Plus, vegetables are delicious! And beautiful! And colorful! I ate meat for 17 years, but no hamburger was ever as delicious or aesthetically appealing as a bowl of veggie curry or a colorful salad.

I don’t think that eating meat or dairy is across-the-board immoral. Blanket statements about morality are almost never true. But I do think that the system which produces our beef and chicken and milk and cheese is a bad one, and we need to opt out to the degree to which we are able. Meat and dairy shouldn’t be seen as forbidden, unethical foods — we just need to recognize their full environmental and biological cost and treat them as luxury items.  I’ve never liked meat that much, so going whole-hog vegetarian was a personal decision that was no problem for me, though I don’t think everyone in the world necessarily needs to do the same. I do eat a lot of yogurt and a lot of baked goods, so cutting dairy is harder. But I have tried to cut down on cheese and I almost never drink milk any more (the regular stuff is full of additives and I can’t afford organic!).

Anyway, I’ve found that being a vegetarian comes with a TON of benefits. I’m a lot more aware of what I eat now, because I’m always trying to make sure I get enough protein and I can’t just revert to the easy chicken from the cafeteria.  That means that I’m eating a much wider variety of foods — lentil stews, homemade black bean burgers, chickpea curry, etc. It’s been a ton of fun playing with different recipes, and realizing how delicious veggies can be has actually made me a much more adventurous eater. I was convinced that I hated mushrooms from ages 5 to 18, but now I love them. Same goes for a lot of other foods. It’s great! One of my favorite places to find awesome vegetarian recipes is tastespotting, which is basically a giant bible of food recipes and blogs. But I’ve also started experimenting with cooking a lot more, and cooking without any recipe at all. Since veggies won’t make you sick if you don’t cook them right, it’s a lot easier to just make dinner up out of your own head!

Okay. I think that’s enough for one day. But I want to hear about you guys! What kind of diet do you have? Do you think you eat too much meat/dairy? Not enough? Do you like to cook your own dinner? 

Back on (the) Track

I did a track workout today. It was my first one in oh, lets say five months?

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It was HARD. I may or my not have threatened my running buddy (who ran track in high school and is significantly faster than me – this was probably a walk in the park for him) with severe violence on multiple occasions.
K-, my super-speedy friend who came up with the workout, had me doing a ladder, which is when you start out doing shorter distance splits, progress up to a longer split in the middle, and then come back down again. (Sorry that none of this is the appropriate/official terminology. I’ve never run on a team, so everything I know about track workouts comes from blogs and occasional readings of Runners World). The track near my school is 320 meters, so we broke this up into 1/2 loop, full loop, and 2 loop splits.

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(I tried to keep track of it it on the garmin but the splits came out super weird. I need to learn how to program that to do things other than track my mile pace. A lot of math went into figuring these splits out!

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0.1 mile (160 meters) = 0:40 (6:34 min/mile pace)
0.1 mile (160 meters) = 0:39 (6:31 min/mile pace)
0.2 mile (320 meters) = 1:19 (6:34 min/mile pace)
0.2 mile (320 meters) = ??? The garmin didn’t keep track of this one somehow…
0.4 mile (640 meters) = 2:39 (6:37 min/mile pace)
0.2 mile (320 meters) = 1:24 (6:50 min/mile pace)
0.2 mile (320 meters) = 1:21 (6:47 min/mile pace)
0.1 mile (160 meters) = ??? This one also got lost
0.1 mile (160 meters) = 0:37 (6:12 min/mile pace)

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This was HARD! Oh my gosh, I don’t know how people run 20 minute 5Ks. I could barely even keep up the 6:37 min/mile pace for the 640 meter split. I thought I was going to keel over by the end of it (I survived). Basically, K- decided what pace he thought was appropriate and I just tried to keep up with him. By the second half of the workout, especially during the two 320 meter splits after the longest 640 meter one, I tried to distract my brain from thinking “I WANT TO DIE” by thinking of ways to inflict physical pain on K- in exchange for this. Of course, after it was all done and I had a drink of water I was so glad that K- had agreed to run with me and basically floated on an awesome endorphin cloud for the rest of the afternoon.

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Yay running!

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Do you do track workouts? Do you do them with friends or alone? (I think having K- around really helped push me to run at a pace that I probably would have been afraid of normally) Which track workouts are your favorite? 

Meme Me

Yesterday, the inevitable happened.

I got turned into a meme.

I’m infamous among my friends for saying really dumb but cute-sounding things (in this case, I was trying to make a surprise cake for my friend Arturo’s birthday and I kept trying to ask subtle questions about his favorite flavors and he wasn’t being very helpful so I just blurted this out) and now there are 15 of these photos all over facebook, so that I will officially never be able to live any of them down.

In other news, I’m back at school, and as finals week looms and paper deadlines approach my stress levels are going through the roof, inducing an overwhelming desire to curl up in a ball and cry like a baby.

But at least the running has been good! I joined my friend K- for our weekly Tuesday afternoon run. Usually we go out to the Tidal Basin, but she had to get back early for a meeting with a professor so we opted for 4.5 miles along the Capitol Crescent Trail instead.

This trail is basically one long, straight, paved road through the woods, but I never get bored of it! Today, there were a lot of bikers out and a couple of people walking their dogs. It was fun to see so many people enjoying the spring time!

Sorry that there’s not a whole lot of running talk in this post. There’s not been much to report! I’m hoping to head over to the track for some kind of speed workout on Thursday, so there’ll be lots of fun running then!

Do you get teased a lot by your friends? Ever been made into a meme?

The Week and Fast Finish Runs

Hey folks!

First off, happy Easter and Passover to those who celebrate! To those who don’t, happy Empanada Day! Who knew there was such a thing? I didn’t, but I’ll happily eat some empanadas if that’s what’s required.

I ran 23 miles this week, which doesn’t seem like very much compared to the 35-40 mpw I was running before the marathon, but this week was the first time since March 17 that I haven’t felt like my legs were made of lead while running.

Monday: 40 min swim
Tuesday: 6 mile run around the Tidal Basin
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 4.9 mile run in Prospect Park
Friday: Circuit training at the Y (my arms and glutes are still sore!)
Saturday: 7.58 mile run in Prospect Park and Yoga at the Y
Sunday: 4.82 mile run in Prospect Park
TOTAL: 23.3 miles

It’s awesome to finally be getting back into the groove and I’m pumped to start getting my weekly mileage up in the 30s again and to throw in some speed work!

Lately, I’ve been trying to do some fast finish runs, where I speed up for the last mile or so of my run. I did this on Wednesday (somewhat involuntarily, because sometimes I get WAY more competitive than is necessary) and again today. Here are the splits for today’s run:

I only really sped up for the last half mile or so of mile 4 (and then the .82 miles were my jog back home from the park), and I tried to maintain a 8:00 to 8:15 min/mile pace for that half mile. It felt pretty hard, because it’s been a while and a half since I last did any kind of speed work, but it was awesome to run fast!

I’m no expert, but I think that fast finishe runs are really great training both mentally and physically. They teach your body to run hard even after you’re tired and it also helps you practice revving up your energy to finish a race looking and feeling strong. I slowed down a LOT during my marathon (going from a 9:30 min/mile during the first half to about a 12 min/mile by the finish) and I think that as I keep training and becoming a better runner, fast finish runs will help me avoid that.

Did you celebrate empanada day? (Did you even know it existed?) How do you feel about fast finish runs?

This Was Not an Easy Post to Write

I started running two years ago, during the spring of my senior year in high school. Since by that point I’d already gotten into college and was basically done with high school, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I was feeling frustrated about a lot of things, particularly the way I looked, and I thought that running would be exactly what I needed. It would be an opportunity to clear my head, to get stronger physically, and hopefully help me drop some of the weight I gained from stress-eating my way through college applications. In late April, I signed myself up for a 5K that was scheduled for the first weekend of June, and I told myself I would need to be able to cross that finish line standing by race day.

You could say I crossed that finish line and just kept right on running. Almost two years after I registered for that race, running has become more a part of me than I could possibly have imagined. It’s brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I love it. When I signed up for that first 5K, I saw running as a way of achieving other goals, but now running is a goal in and of itself. I don’t run to lose weight or because I want bigger calf muscles. I run for the sheer joy of it, because I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and NOT running.

But the truth of the matter is, I still haven’t lost that weight I originally wanted to get rid of. In fact, I’ve put on weight since I’ve started running. A substantial amount of it. This is not necessarily a bad thing — I don’t think that women need to be super skinny or that there’s certain weight that a person ought to be — but right now I’m not happy with the way I look. My clothes don’t fit me right and I just don’t feel good. And I want to do something about it.

Clearly exercise is not the problem here, since I run 25 to 35 miles a week and cross train on top of that. So I’ve decided to start being more aware of the food I eat. This is really hard at college, when unhealthy foods abound and my dining options are basically limited to the gross food that’s available in the cafeteria (Not a whole lot of fresh fruit and healthy whole grains, that’s for sure.) But I think that if I can plan out what I’m going to eat at the beginning of the day, and STICK to that plan, I can avoid temptation. I already do eat pretty healthily — lots of salads, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, more than 8 cups of water a day and never any soda, etc. — but I have a serious sweet tooth and can’t say no to cookies, even though the desserts in the dining hall aren’t even very good. So in addition to planning my meals for the day, I’m going to stop eating dessert of any kind from the dining hall since they’re just not worth it (but I’ll keep dark chocolate in my room to satisfy my sweet tooth!) and also give up fancy coffee drinks. I’m also going to eat fresh fruit throughout the day and not cover it in peanut butter, which is my current habit.

I’m also going to seriously commit to weight lifting and core-strengthening, something I’ve always tried to do but usually give up on. I’m going to do 10 minutes of abs work EVERY MORNING when I wake up and lift weights at the gym once a week. I know that this will make me a better runner as well as helping me fit back into my jeans, so that’s motivation as well.

Talking about weight and body image is always tricky, especially because the media portrayal of how women ought to look is so damaging psychologically. (That’s a link to the website of the movie MissRepresentation, by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should.) A lot of the time it’s hard to distinguish what you actually want from what it feels like society expects from you. I want to be clear that I don’t hate my body  — my body has done amazing things, like running a marathon — and I am so so grateful for it. I just think that right now, I don’t look or feel my best, and I want to work on changing that in a way that’s healthy and safe.

Did your body image affect your decision to start running? Have you ever tried to lose weight? What do you think of the issue of how girls’ body image is affected by the media?