Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Non-Running Commentary: Twenty-Four

I spent my 24th birthday weekend at my parents’ house in Connecticut. There was something nice about waking up in my bedroom at home – away everything in DC – a year older and, with any luck, a year wiser.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I started to feel like I'm starting to get “it.” Broadly, “it” is what it means to be a twenty-something and how these years will affect the next phase of my life. “It” is knowing that it’s okay that I’m not reaching certain milestones in the exact order that I planned as a child dreaming about what life would be like in my twenties. “It” is understanding that I don’t have to be on the exact timeline as others in my peer group. “It” is finally starting to accept the person that I've become – personality quirks and all -- and understanding how I can continue to grow.

There were moments of 23 that felt like absolute train wrecks. (Then again, doesn’t everything feel like a train wreck after a night of debauchery? Or maybe those were just the little construction workers in my head.) There were also so many joyful moments and so many moments of which to be proud. (It may have taken me longer than I planned, but I did manage to get myself across the finish line of my first marathon.) There were moments of confusion and moments of wondering if I’m on the right path. And, there were moments of confidence and knowing that things will be okay if I’m willing to put in the work and keep the big picture in sight.

I discovered new interests and passions. I figured out what I need from my relationships (platonic and otherwise), and I learned what I can offer in my relationships with others. I met incredible people, formed new friendships, and strengthened existing friendships. I saw that I could push myself physically in the same ways that I pushed myself mentally and artistically at various points in my life.

So, for Age 24, I only hope that I am able to experience greater personal and professional growth, become a more efficient runner, enjoy the many friendships that I'm so blessed to have, become closer to my family, enjoy new experiences, continue to to do the things that I love, and make the most of every moment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Morning Dose of Cute

I know, I know. I've been slacking on my Tuesday Inspiration series.

But, fear not! I have something extra awesome for today.

Rosa, the goddess of candy blogging and one of my fantastic suitemates from college, shared this via Google Reader. Puppies and running? I couldn’t resist!

Unleashed: A Local Pup’s Accidental Half-Marathon Run

From the article: “According to Karen E. Warmkessel, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center, Dozer escaped an invisible fence, lured by the thousands of racers running past his home, which sits near the Mile Five mark. The race benefitted the hospital's Greenebaum Cancer center. Dozer joined the pack. Runners reported seeing him at several points along the route. The pup crossed the finish mark with other runners -- clocking in at 2 hours and 14 minutes!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Training Update

Mmm, Thursday: Over the hump and marching valiantly toward the weekend!

Okay, so I technically can’t really complain about this week. I had a good race on Sunday, went to a Nationals game on Monday for a dollar (yep, a dollar!), and had a really great run during Fleet Feet Ladies Night. And, after? I plopped on my couch with a black bean burger and a beer to watch the second half of the Women’s National Soccer Team friendly against Japan. And, it was good.

Today's exciting news – well, exciting to me because I think that spreadsheets are fun – is that I started drafting my training plan for my fall races. Honestly, it was time to start planning. Since I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, I've been thinking about my training a lot -- my goals for my fall races, my strategies to avoid burnout, deciding between a July or August start -- and I needed to get my thoughts on paper. So, last night, I fired up Excel and created a shell for my training plan. Then, I start to figure out my plans for my long runs -- starting at 10 miles and hitting 22 miles three weeks before the marathon. (As with my Baltimore training, I'll be increasing my long runs by two miles every two weeks.)

I need to decide how many times during the week I should/want to run. Last year, I ran five days each week. It was a lot, but I wanted to make sure that I could finish the race. This year, I'm considering running three or four times per week and adding more strength training to my schedule. The goal for Philly is to finish and finish faster than my performance in Baltimore.

Thinking about my race and training schedule, I think I’ll be a much happier person if I drop down to three long races this fall instead of my planned four. October and November are booked, so I need to pick a race for September. I worked in the Parks Half-Marathon into my training schedule but Virginia Beach would also be a fantastic choice – and I’d get to lounge around on a beach during Labor Day weekend.

We'll see! For now, I'll focus on finishing my training plan.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Capitol Hill Classic 10K Round-Up

I have mixed feelings about my performance in this morning's race.  I set a PR and broke 60 minutes, but I was far from finishing in 53 minutes or less. There's a part of me that wonders (and has decided) that I could have finished in 53 minutes if I had prepared better and pushed myself harder during the race.  Lucky for that part of me, there are plenty of other 10Ks this summer to try to reach that time goal.  

The Capitol Hill Classic was a great race, and it was so pleasant to run in such a beautiful part of the city. There are, of course, things that I wish I had done differently (i.e. not starting as fast as I did). Still, I'm happy about the outcome.

Mile 1: I took a cab to Union Station and warmed up with a light half-mile jog to the starting line at Stanton Park. I dropped off my bag, stretched, and stuck myself in the back with the hopes that it would force me to start slow and gradually build speed.  Not too far into the race, I looked at my watch and noted the 8:20 pace. It felt good, so I decided to keep it up. 

Mile 2: The stretch from East Capitol around RFK stadium wasn’t not the most visually exciting, and I could feel that my faster-than-usual pace wouldn’t last much longer. I took a short walk break once I got around the stadium and finished the mile a few seconds slower than the first.

Mile 3: Things started to fall apart during the third mile. My thought: “Oh right, 10K – which means that I probably shouldn’t have run the first two miles so quickly.”  I slowed down a lot during this mile, hoping that I would recover enough to run the last two miles quickly enough to reach my time goals.

Mile 4: During the race, I decided to name this mile the “America, Fuck Yeah” mile. Once we looped back around Lincoln Park, heading west on East Capitol, the Capitol building was clearly visible. It was breathtaking (as always). Pace-wise, I was in a good place.  I didn’t run this mile as fast as I would have liked, but I felt great.

Mile 5: Running downhill is great -- until you remember that running down often means you have to run back up.  (It's funny how those things work, huh?)  Even though I run hills on most of my runs – I really can't avoid them in my neighborhood -- I spent most of this mile trying to convince myself that running back up wouldn’t be that bad. 

Mile 6: The first quarter-mile was fine.  When I reached the base of the hill, I definitely mouthed a few obscenities. At that point, I did the only thing I could do: look straight ahead, lean forward, and charge! Once at the top, I was home free and pushed until the end of the mile.

And, the last 0.2:  The crowd support at the end was amazing! As I approached the finish line, I saw that the race clock was ticking toward the 60 minutes. Refusing to let it reach 60 before I crossed the finish line, I sprinted until I heard the race announcer call my name as ran across the line.

The numbers:
Previous 10K Record – Jingle All the Way 10K: 63:49, Avg. Pace: 10:17
Gun Time: 59:22
Net Time: 58:01
Avg. Pace: 9:21

To celebrate setting a personal record, I registered for this year’s Army 10-Mile Race in October and took a nap.  It was certainly a great way to start the day. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Round-Up

Training has been very different these last few weeks in the absence of a spreadsheet to tell me what workouts I need to complete each day.  In short, everything is a lot more flexible.  There is a part of me that liked the flexibility, but I do miss having something to help me keep everything balanced. Last week, the focus seemed to be on strength and speed; this week, it was about distance: 24 miles over five days, and all of them outside (which is probably why I didn't bother to go to the gym to strength train).

The Capitol Hill Classic 10K is a week away, and I’m so excited to hit the racing scene again. I have two goals for this race:

  1. Very likely I will accomplish this: Break 60 minutes
  2. Will be awesome if I can do this: Finish in 53 minutes or less.

My tentative plan for the week is to run three days, complete two strength workouts, and take Saturday to prepare for the race. 

The other exciting news of this week is that I retired my second pair of running shoes yesterday.  Honestly, it was time for a new pair.  For the next 500 or so miles, I’ll be going from these:

To these:

What can I say? This shoe did very well, and I intend to stick with it for as long as I can.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top 15 Songs for Running

Now that it’s safe to say that spring has arrived, it’s time for my favorite activity: Spring Cleaning!

(I watched this entire episode recently and remember the words to all of the songs.  What information is not stored in my memory because this is there?)

In addition to the usual tasks, I’m working on major playlist cleanup on my iPod.  Having ten running playlists might be a bit much. While going through this list, I started to think about which I would say are my favorite songs for running.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I listen to music a lot during my workouts. In fact, I only go without music on group runs, when I run in the early morning or late evening, and during long races. I listen to music not because I need to distract myself on my longer runs, but because there is something about having the right song playing helps me to push during workouts.

How did I decide on my Top 15? My picks are songs that frequently appear on my running mixes.  I rarely skip these songs when they come up. If I do skip a song, it’s usually because I want to save it for a point later in a run when I’m likely to need the motivation or want to try hitting a certain pace.

And, I think a lot of these songs are just the bee’s knees! (Did I actually just type that?)

There are a couple of staples that I left off this list because we already know that they’re awesome, for example “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” I also feel like Ke$ha should be somewhere on this list because I’ve listened to both of her albums from start to finish on several runs. (So what the lyrics are terrible? Her songs have great beats, and I will run the hell out of them whenever I get the chance.)

Top 15 Songs for Running

15. "One Way or Another" - Blondie
Blondie has been a staple on my running playlists, but I love this one at the start of a run. The tempo is great for both fast and slow paces.

14."Damn It Feels Good to be Gangsta” – Geto Boys
It’s a little on the slower side, so I usually place this one toward the end when I want to start my cool down. Besides, if I had to name something “gangsta,” it would have to be running when the temperature is below freezing.

13."Thnks fr th Mmrs" - Fall Out Boy
It’s all about the tempo – and the fact that I am not afraid to admit that I listen to Fall Out Boy like it’s my job. One of these days I’ll tell you about my emo kid years…

12. “Survivor” – Destiny’s Child
This one is wedged between a few incredibly fast tracks on my Power Hour playlist to mark the start of the recovery jog, but I’ve also enjoyed listening to this during long runs to push myself to keep running.

11. “Givin’ You All That I Got” – Robin S.
Technically, the song is a plea for the singer’s lover to trust in her love. It’s appropriate though, since I may be in a relationship with running. (At the very least, it’s complicated.) The song is upbeat, fantastically 90s, and great for a little push when you need it most.

10. “Bring the Noise 20xx” – Public Enemy featuring Zakk Wylde
Serious question: What is the correct spelling of “Yeaaaaah Boyyyy”? Second serious question: how is this track so amazing? This song is great toward the end of a run or when I need a good kick to run up those pesky hills.

9. “Move” – Ludacris
“Move” is a great song when you’re running through the streets of DC --- because most tourists refuse to understand that taking up the entire sidewalk is not okay.

8. "Speed Demon" - Michael Jackson
Despite it being an extremely terrifying movie, I watched Michael Jackson's Moonwalker almost weekly as a child. Why? This dance-off between Michael Jackson and a claymation rabbit (jump to 4:00 for the action).  As for the song, it's another one that pushes me to run at my top speed.

7. "Here (In Your Arms)" - Hellogoodbye
I love Hellogoodbye, but I never thought of adding their songs to my running mixes. It turned out to be the best decision ever! This song works well during tempo workouts.

6. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
The last few times I've listened to this song on a run, something clicked and I felt a need to really give it my all.  It might be that I associate this song with one of the best runs that I had this year.  I remember feeling emotionally drained before the run, but I managed to push myself and finished the run in a decent time for that point in my training.

5. "Sweet Child o' Mine" - Guns 'N' Roses
This song will always be one of my favorites for running.  Period. Fun quirky habit: If I'm listening to this song while waiting for a walk signal, I sometimes slip into moving my fingers in the key pattern for the song on Guitar Hero 2.

4. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Steve Ouimette Cover
I was already a huge fan of the 1979 classic about Johnny the Fiddler, but add a few dueling guitars and you’ve got yourself a damn good song to get pumped during a run.

3. “Green Grass and High Tides” – The Outlaws
Like my number two pick, this one starts slow and builds to an epic guitar solo. It’s great for the beginning of a run when I want to hold back and build to my intended pace. So good!

2. “Freebird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way that Freebird is a good song for running. It’s so slow!” You would think that, wouldn’t you? It’s slow in the beginning -- which is nice at the start of a run – but by the time the song hits the epic guitar solo, I’m ready to rock out and run fast.

1. “Through the Fire and the Flames” – DragonForce
This one has been a huge motivator when I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on a run, and it’s also helped me pick up the pace during tempo runs. It's very fast, and I've started to see if I can keep up with the tempo.  I also find the lyrics to be very motivating:

So now we fly ever free
We're free before the thunderstorm
On towards the wilderness our quest carries on
Far beyond the sundown, far beyond the moonlight
Deep inside our hearts and all our souls

So far away we wait for the day
For the lives all so wasted and gone
We feel the pain of a lifetime lost in a thousand days
Through the fire and the flames we carry on

If you haven’t already started to question my music taste, I’m interested to know what you think are the best songs for running and working out. Drop by the comments section, which is now powered by Disqus. Three cheers for functioning comment threads!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: Amy McDonaugh

For today’s Tuesday Inspiration, I’d like to share a piece about the winner of Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Amy McDonaugh.  Beyond finishing a marathon in 2:58 (so fast!!), she is inspiring because she runs despite being legally blind.