Archive | June 2013

Outside

Today I went hiking.

hiking

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.