Monday, September 1, 2014

BRB - Going Back to School

I often start blog posts start with "I can't believe it's already [insert day/month]."  Well, it's September, and I can't believe it.  (Surprised?)

I've been absent from the blogging scene -- partially because I've been absent from the running scene. One of the challenges of writing a blog about running is that you need to be racing (or engaged in some related activity) to have content beyond "I went for a run today."  To be honest, I've enjoyed the break from race training because it gave me time to enjoy that my best friend was here for an entire summer.  I had time to get settled into my new apartment, go to my five-year college reunion, see BeyoncĂ© live, get my canning on, get to know some new friends, and explore some new hobbies.  

This isn't to say that I haven't been running.  It's just been less pressured; that is, I don't feel like I have to run and don't feel the guilt of missing a workout.  Since the marathon, I've averaged about 52 miles a month -- which is probably a normal amount of running if I think like a rational person and not like an obsessive marathoner.  I ran the Crystal City Twilighter in July and made it more about having a consistent race than trying to hit a PR.  Later this month, I'm running the Navy 5-miler; and, while it'll be nice to PR, I'm really just going to enjoy it. 

With school starting this week (eeep!), I don't know how much I'll have time to train for longer distances. I'd like to say that I'm going to have time to train for a half marathon, but I don't know if that's going to be the case (hopefully, by spring, I'll be able to figure that out).  But, I'd be just as happy trading running crazy distances for other pursuits and building relationships.  Besides, there's nothing like training for a long distance race in the heat of summer, which is when I'll have a little more breathing room (at least until I get to the dissertating phase).

Things will probably be quiet here for a while, but I'll try to keep this updated with tales of my journey to becoming Dr. B.  (New blog title! Called it!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Capitol Hill Classic Race Round-Up

The alternate title of this post should be: "I had fun, but, geez, when did I get so bad at this?"

I know I shouldn't whine, but this race showed me that I'm in worse running shape than I was during marathon training.  My body, however, has enjoyed eating like I'm training for a marathon...a little too much, if you know what I mean.

I ran this back in 2011, and the course has changed quite a bit since then.  First, the loop around RFK turned into a loop around the Anacostia River Walk Trail.  Frankly, it was not my favorite part of the course.  There's something about trying to squeeze hundreds of runners on a very narrow trail that doesn't seem to work as well as you might think.  In a smaller race, sure, using the trail would be fine.  I think it even worked well during the marathon because the portion used was much wider (and, by then, the pack at thinned so much that it didn't matter).  The second change was that runners no longer run down (and then up) Independence Avenue.  It ranks pretty low of my list of favorite hills in DC - yes, I do have favorites - but it's a very pretty run up the House side of Capitol Hill before looping back toward the finish.  Instead, we ran the narrow-ish streets around the Capitol and the Supreme Court before doing an out and back on East Capitol, which is my second favorite street in DC.

I ran the first two miles probably faster than I should, and then had to convince myself to keep moving during the more boring parts of the course.  By Mile 5, I just wanted to be done but mustered enough energy for a strong finish.  My watch clocked 6.4 miles in 57:55 -- which is not my fastest but a good reminder of what happens when I train and treat my body like it's not a vacuum for cookies.  (Although they're truly delicious cookies that are bigger than your head, cookies are still a sometimes food.)

These days, I'm still packing up my apartment and getting ready for my cross-town move.  Thinking about all the things that one has to do before a move, I've added remap loops of various distances.  If I can convince my things to getting into boxes on their own, I'll be okay.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Life Update

Oh, hey! It's been about a month since my last update.

I haven't been running as often in the months after my marathon.  This always happens, and I always appreciate the break.  I'm slightly worried about my upcoming 10K.  I wanted to race it, but I don't think that'll happen.  My plan is to have fun (I always say this) and enjoy having my dad here for the weekend.

I don't do life updates often, but I think this is a good time to give a quick run-down of my next few moves.

I'm starting a PhD program! 
Grad school has always been on my radar.  I'd envisioned that I'd move to DC, work for one or two years, and then head off to graduate school.  I love my job and wanted to stay on longer than I'd anticipated.  Honestly, going that route confirmed that getting a PhD was something that I actually wanted to do.  So, this fall, I'll start as a doctoral student.  I'm not leaving DC but...

I'm moving! 
I'm having ALL of the feels now that I've started to pack up my place.  I'm kind of in denial about it and I'm making excuses about things that I don't want to pack because I "need" them between now and the time I move in two weeks. This was where I landed after graduation (holy cow, my fifth year reunion is so soon!) and these four walls have seen almost five years of personal growth.  I'm so much more of an adult than I was when I moved in at 22.  Still, I'm excited to one of my favorite neighborhoods.  It'll be nice to be closer to all of the metro/bus lines that I need to get to work and class.  And, I swear, the new place is adorable! 

Knowing that I'm going to have a lot less free time starting this fall, I'm starting to give some thought into how I can work racing into my schedule.  It'll probably be a while until I run my next marathon, but I'm confident that I'll be able to work in training for early fall half-marathons. Hooray spending summer break to train!

Once I figure out my summer training schedule (there's still time for one more PR until I start school), I promise to blog more often

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Post-Marathon Recovery

Running after a major event is humbling.  There are moments when you want to run fast -- as fast as you could go at peak training, and your body simply says, "Nope."  

RnR USA feels like it was an eternity ago, which is probably why I haven't been so forgiving of my body.  It's only been 21 days and, if conventional wisdom is true, I should expect to need about one day for each mile that I ran during the race.  I've been trying to run at my usual pace, some days more successfully than others.  But, man, running still feels hard.

Last week, I ran the Women & Politics Institute's Race to Representation 5K.  I love this race (I ran it before in 2011) -- small field, looped course on American's campus, benefits a worthy cause, lots of fist pumping to BeyoncĂ©'s "Girls (Who run the world)."  My mistake, I think, was trying to race it.  I started off fast, felt pretty good, and then started to lose steam in the last mile.  I finished in 25:47 -- faster than I did in 2011.

During the week, I ran twice with my coworkers -- 6 miles on Tuesday and 6 on Wednesday.  I could keep up, but it felt harder than it should have.  I just have to give it some time, I guess.  

I still don't have much of a plan.  I'm running a 10K next month, but I'm itching to sign up for a longer race.  (NYCM, once again, told me no.)  I'm thinking of running the Baltimore Half again.  It really is one of my favorite races, but I think I want to travel to a different city for a half marathon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Oprah Line

Coming off the high of my PR (and the fact that I ran faster than Oprah -- by just seconds, but still), I came across this 2007 Salon article on the topic of the Oprah Line.  The article was written by someone whom I suspect is/was a legit speedster; in article, he argues that the Oprah standard diminishes the accomplishments of "real" marathoners who run marathons to win.  (It's funny -- he's talking about a running boom in 2007, but this could have just as easily been written in the last three or so years.)
When Oprah expanded the sport, she also lowered the bar for excellence. For the previous generation of marathoners, the goal had been qualifying for Boston. Now, it was beating Oprah. Her time of four hours and 29 minutes — the Oprah Line — became the new benchmark for a respectable race. (That was P. Diddy’s goal when he ran New York.)
Once the supreme test for hardened runners, the marathon became a gateway into the sport. Soon, gravel paths were crowded with 5-mile-an-hour joggers out to check “26.2 miles” off their life lists. Team in Training, which raises money for leukemia research, promised to turn loafers into marathoners in 20 weeks. I met a lawyer who started running because, “They say if you can run a marathon, you can do anything!” The marathon was no longer a competition. It was a self-improvement exercise.
I have to say: I hate this attitude.  One of the things that I love about running marathons is the many reasons that people run -- for health, in memory of loved ones, to raise money for charity, to BQ, to win the purse.  I've run five of these at this point, and, honestly, the only person that I'm racing is myself -- a la ghost mode in Mario Kart.  Yes, I do want to eventually qualify for Boston. Yes, I would love to run a marathon in under four hours.  But, that's going to take some time.  Just finishing a marathon is an accomplishment, and I will always be in awe of people who can run marathons in close to two hours. And, I'm just as in awe of the people who trained their hardest and got themselves across the finish line in a time that they're proud of.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll USA Race Recap: 2014

My fifth marathon is in the books!  (It's kind of a crazy thought that I've run five of these at this point.)

I set a few different goals going into the race.  Based on my training, I thought that these were easily attainable:
My reach goal was to run a 4:00 race.  I didn't hit that time this year, but it's definitely a possibility for my next marathon based on my training and today's race.  (I have to say, running three 20-milers this year worked so well.)

After running the half three years in a row, I decided that it was time to give the marathon course a try. The first half of the course continues to be my favorite -- I was even happy to run through Rock Creek Park this year.  I think it helped to know the first half of the course really well.  I knew where the hills were, and I knew where I could use the downhills to my advantage. There were a few times when I looked down at my watch, to time when to take my gels, and had to tell myself to slow down because I was in this for the long haul.

The marathoners and half-marathoners split around Mile 12, and it's one of the strangest things about the race. This year, there were about 16,000 half-marathon finishers and 2,700 marathon finishers -- and it's very obvious at the split.  It wasn't terribly difficult to find running space during the first half of the race, and it was pretty awesome to have so many people around for the first 12 or so miles.  When I continued onto my 13th mile, I could count the number of people around me. 

The second half of the race looped around Capitol Hill, down toward the Mall, and around L'Enfant Plaza.   The crowd support thinned out near L'Enfant Plaza, but the marathoners seemed to have a special bond and were very encouraging.  

After L'Enfant Plaza, we continued down into southwest DC.  We ran pass Fort McNair and around a very empty industrial zone before an out-and-back on South Capitol near Nationals Park.  That leg felt long for some reason and was hillier than I expected.  At this point in the race, I kept whispering to myself "There is no wall" because I felt like I was seconds away from crashing.  Running across the bridge into Anacostia was painful (thank you, metal portions!) but I actually made it across without too much trouble.  Once I saw the 20-mile marker, I knew that I only had 10K to go.  (At some point, even though I tried to stick to the tangents as best as I could, my watch ended up being 0.30 miles ahead of the mile markers.)  

The Anacostia trail was a dead-zone (more so than some of the earlier parts of the second half). On any other day, I could imagine it would be nice for a leisurely run or walk.  When you've run 20 miles and need people yelling at you to run faster, it's not the best thing in the world.  Thankfully, one of my coworkers did part of her training run to the trail and met me around Mile 22 to push me along for a bit. It was a much needed boost!  

The last two miles felt like they went on forever.  There were a few final hills along Minnesota Avenue that I just did not want to deal with.  RFK is clearly visible from the final bridge, and I felt like there were miles between me and the finish line. I high-fived one of my good friends as I pushed through toward the finish and crossed the finish line feeling a really happy and only a little loopy.

So, here are the splits:

(Mile 16 -- I wish!  We ran under a tunnel during that mile, which definitely confused my watch.)

Officially, I ran the marathon in 4:29:06, averaging about 10:16 per mile.  This is my new personal best, and I beat Oprah by seconds!

I probably will not run the marathon course again (but I'm very open to running the half in 2015).  I do like that it covers all four city quadrants, and compared to the Marine Corps Marathon, showcases DC well.  (There's a nice mix of monuments and neighborhoods.)  I thought that so many parts of the second half of the course were mentally taxing -- especially a lot of the winding sections along the same streets and loops around some of the more deserted parts of the city.

I don't have a post-marathon plan.  I'm running a local 5K in two weeks mostly just as a way to encourage myself to get back into running after a much deserved break.  I entered the lottery for the NYC marathon, but I think I want to work on running a fast half-marathon in the next year. We'll see!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Marathon No. 5: Weekly Round-Up (Week 14)

It's March 3rd, and this is what things look like in my 'hood:

Schools, the DC government, and the Feds are all closed today; my office has a very nice work from home policy, which I'm taking advantage of for the second half of the day.  

The snow is beautiful, but these cold temperatures are enough to make me worry about marathon day conditions.  Here's hoping for a sunny, 50-degree day...

I'm into the second week of my taper.  So far, it's been very nice to run fewer miles and not stress out about having the "right" conditions for a long run.  I know, I're supposed to train in everything but, after many weeks of long runs in freezing temperatures, I'm looking forward to packing away my running tights.

Here's what things look like for this week:

Monday - Off, stretching 
Tuesday - 4 miles
Wednesday - 3 miles
Thursday - 3 miles
Friday - Off
Saturday - 8 miles
Sunday - 3 miles

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marathon No. 5: Weekly Round-Up (Week 13)

I must say that I've really lucked out with the weather on my 20-mile runs.  Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous -- about 40 when I started, clear, and eventually reaching 60.  Hopefully, things will be just as lovely on race day.

Of the three 20-mile runs, yesterday's was by far the hardest.  I ran over to the U.S. National Arboretum, which is one of my favorite parts of D.C. It's a little out of the way (great for a long run), but it's beautiful.

History lesson! These columns were part of the original east portico of the Capitol.
Looping back downtown and heading back to my apartment (basically miles 15 through 20), I started to overheat and felt sluggish.  It was a feeling that I really hadn't experienced on the other longer runs that I did.  (Granted, last week's feelings of just wanted to be at home was caused more by the fact that it was freezing and raining more than being actually tired.)  Of course, with this last 20-miler, the hard part of training is over.  At this point, I start my taper and just have to focus on recovery, nutrition, and getting to the start line injury-free.

Here's what the week looks like:

Monday: 3 miles
Tuesday: X-Training
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: X-Training
Friday: Off
Saturday: 12 miles 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Marathon No. 5: Weekly Round-Up (Week 12)

Half-way through Week 13 is a great time to write the recap of Week 12, amiright?  

This is it -- the last "hard" week of training.  Honestly, I couldn't be happier because it means that I'm about a month out from race day.  I feel prepared, and I'm excited to see how it goes.  Last week, I don't think I ran nearly as many miles as my training plan says, but I did a few of my runs much faster (and felt good so there's that).  I did my long run on Saturday between binge watching House of Cards. It was a cold, rainy, generally miserable-looking day; around the Capitol, I ran into the Cupid's Undie Run.  Considering that I was wearing far more clothing that a lot of those runners, I figured that things could have been much worse and kicked myself into gear.  

So far this week, I've done a tempo workout and an easy three mile run (outside and in shorts!). Tomorrow, I'll run four miles, and, on Saturday, I'll run my last 20-miler of training.  And, it looks like the weather is going to be perfect this weekend.  Spring feels so close!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Great CSA Adventure: 'Shrooms (Weeks 5)

It's Wednesday again, which means I picked up another batch of fresh veggies and other treats.  This week, Glen's Garden Market prepared the bags so I also got a dozen eggs from a local farm.  I'm a little overwhelmed, but I have a plan: frittatas.  Also, these delicious carrot cake pancakes are happening with all of the carrots that I've picked up over the last two weeks.  (I made these once before after a run, and I assure you that they are amazing.) But, back to recapping the last week's haul.

Week 5 wins for being the week for which I knew what to do with just about everything in the bag:

Stayman apples
Portobello mushrooms
Pea tendrils 
Raw honey
Spiced nuts 

I had mushrooms over left from previous pick-ups and, with the lettuce, I got the brilliant idea to make lettuce wraps for my post-run lunch over the weekend.  In fact, it was such a brilliant idea that there was already a recipe on the internet that included just about everything that I wanted to use.

Some assembly required.  I also learned a very good lesson about how much siracha I should use as a topping.