Sunday, June 26, 2011

Starting Out on a Journey

June seemed to go by very quickly, and it struck me how little I actually ran this month. If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll recall that one of my goals for this year is to run 1,000 miles. As of today, I’ve run 428 miles. I imagined that I would have more mileage at this point in the year, but I’m not worried since I know that I’m going to kick my training into high gear starting tomorrow.

Week 1 should be an easy transition back into heavy training:

Monday: Cross and Strength Training
Tuesday: 3 Miles
Wednesday: 5 Miles
Thursday: Tempo Run, 30 Minutes
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10 Miles
Sunday: 3 miles
Total Miles (excluding Tempo): 21 miles

In other news, I can’t remember the last time that I cooked an actual meal at home. (Last week was a little crazy, and bowls of pasta with tomato sauce were the way to go most nights.) So, I tried a recipe that I picked up from Eat, Live, Run for a quinoa and black bean salad. I can’t say that I’ve also been my best at eating vegetables lately, so this was exactly what I needed this week. You can check out the full recipe here, but photos of food are never a bad thing.

The salad combines corn, red peppers, red onion, avocado, black beans, grapefruit, and quinoa.  The flavor combination was incredible.

 The vegetables and fruit are the first to go into the bowl for mixing.

 Followed by the quinoa and a lime juice-based dressing.

The salad keeps for about five days in the refrigerator, which is great because the recipe yielded more than I can ever consume in a few days.  Yum!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Dear Blog! Let's Run Another Marathon!

It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that I committed to running my first marathon. And, unlike my previous attempts to run 26.2 miles just to prove that I can, I actually went through with it.

I have you- my friends and lovely readers - to thank for helping me cross the finish line.

Writing about my experience and sharing this journey with you has been a motivating force that encouraged me to put on my running shoes and hit the asphalt. Thank you for taking the time to read my tl;dr posts and, for those of who talk to me regularly, listen to me blab on about my training and races. (Honestly, I still don’t know how some of you put up with me. Seriously.) Thank you for all of your page clicks and your comments. Thank you all for your words of encouragement.

Thank you for helping me to get through it all. And, for many of you, that goes beyond running.

It really does mean a lot to me to know that you're in my corner.

I think it’s appropriate that one year after starting this blog and my first journey to 26.2 miles I’m making my final preparations to start training for the four races that I’ll be running this fall. Over the weekend, I finalized my training schedule – all 21 weeks between now and the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th. Knowing that I’m capable of making it across the finish line – even if it did take me five and a half hours the first time – my goal for Philadelphia is to finish (of course) and to shave an hour off of my time. I’ve also joked that it would be amazing if I could shave two hours off my time and Boston Qualify.

(To be honest, I’ve half-joked about this. There’s a part of me that wonders if I’m capable of a BQ. I mean, what else am I going to do this summer? Have a social life?)

When I trained for Baltimore last year, I did zero speed work and focused more on putting in the miles. My goal was to finish. That was it.  Strength training was also a rarity. (I some insecurities about using the free weights and strength equipment in my apartment’s fitness center around all of the large men. Happily, I’ve gotten over that and lift heavy objects with the best of them.) Omitting those things from my training last year definitely hurt me in the end, so this year, weekly tempo runs, speed workouts, and strength training sessions will be a huge part of my training.

I also made a mistake not running the second 20-miler that I scheduled. Maybe, just maybe it would have helped me get over that oh-so-special wall in Baltimore. It's completely my fault, though, between the poor planning and sheer ignorance that one should taper before a huge race. This time around – one of the perks of starting so early – I have two 20-milers planned with more than enough time to recover from my shorter races and taper before Philadelphia.

So, what does the race calendar look like?

As it stands, I'm committed to four races. I'm looking forward to all of these and the chance to run with friends and coworkers at each.

September 4 – Rock and Roll Half-Marathon, Virginia Beach
October 9 – Army 10-Miler, Washington DC
October 15 – Baltimore Half-Marathon
November 20 – Philadelphia Marathon

(Yalies, it just hit me that I probably won’t make it to The Game this year. We’ll see though, since I have a knack for making awesomely terrible decisions that backfire very quickly.)

Believe it or not, the first week of training kicks off on Monday. Once I start, I'll be posting more regularly than I have these last few weeks. And you know what that means? More inspiring people, more carb night recipes, more running misadventures, and - if all goes according to plan - more race recaps.

Ladies and gentleman, in the timeless words of Kel Kimble: "Aw, here it goes!"

Tuesday Inspiration: Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog

This is incredibly beautiful and needs to be shared. I'll just file this under "Non-Running Commentary."

Love and I have a very strained relationship. Very strained. The details are irrelevant, but I sometimes find myself wondering why I even bother. Thankfully, there are plenty of things all around to remind me that when Love and I settle our differences, it'll be worth every second.

This is one of those things.

an epithalamion by Taylor Mali

First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you're all wound up and can't move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Run with Dad 5K Round-Up

Let me start this post by saying that I am incredibly proud of my dad.

There’s a lot to be proud of him for, of course, but on Father’s Day, I added finishing his first 5K to my list.

I was reminded that I am my father’s daughter Sunday morning when we cut it very close for our arrival to the starting line and both of us were super stressed out about it. (I, at least, have cut it close multiple times so knew that the only thing you can do is get there and dash across the starting line before the cutoff.)

We made it across the finish line about a minute after the official start in the race and caught up with the pack fairly quickly. Once we were in a good place, I let my dad set the pace and call the shots when it came to taking walk breaks and stopping for water. The course started at a track at one of the local high schools and followed its cross-country trails. It was absolutely beautiful.

On the loop back to the finish, my brothers and mom managed to take a few fantastic photos of my dad in action. I think he was pretty tired at the end, but he pushed himself and we crossed the finish line together.

The race by the numbers:

Gun Time: 32:06
Net Time: 31:08
Average Pace: 10:12

Gun Time: 32:05
Net Time: 31:07
Average Pace: 10:12

Clearly, the next step is getting my dad to train for a marathon. I think he's ready!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Global Race for the Cure 5K Round-Up

Every race is personal.

I’m no where near the fastest person on the course; I run sub-8:00 miles in my dreams -- and, even then, it’s a miracle. Thankfully, I don’t race to win prizes or fame. Every race until today has been about proving to myself that I can push myself physically and mentally. Every race has been about competing against my previous self and about improvement. I had some of those thoughts going into the Global Race for the Cure. But, this race was personal for another reason. For the first time, I was racing for something else.

In one of my training updates, I mentioned that there was a post that I was struggling to write about my decision to run this year’s Race for the Cure. I continued to struggle, and I never finished it. The post – which is still labeled “Draft” – is about my maternal grandmother, who passed away in 2009 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I have so many feelings about her, and I found it difficult to put them in writing in a way that did her justice. To put it simply, she was incredible, and losing her was difficult. Even two years later, it’s a little hard to go back to Connecticut and know that she won’t be there.

I ran this race in honor of my grandmother – in honor of her selflessness, in honor the support that she provided all of us, and in honor of her love. I ran this race in the hope that, very soon, we’ll be able to detect and treat breast cancer in its earliest stages – before it takes the women – and men – that we love. I ran this race to raise money to fund screenings, treatment, and education programs for under-served communities. I ran because I still have the chance.

I was out of bed at 6:45 -- once again confused as to why I was awake that early while stumbling around to make a quick breakfast and stab myself with safety pins while trying to attach the largest bib I've ever seen to my clothing. I took Metro to Chinatown and jogged down to the starting line just in time for the pre-race ceremony. The race organizers were so kind as to put pace signs along the runners start, and I nestled myself between the 8:00 and 9:00 crowd.

Once the race started, I quickly learned that the pace markers apparently didn't matter. I started to get just a bit frustrated when I realized that I would have to weave around runners and walkers -- walkers -- who didn't intend to move anywhere near the speed their position in the pace groups led me to believe. Then, I thought that my frustration wasn't in the spirit of the day. Instead, I did my best to find running space and settled into the race.

The course was a there-and-back loop along the National Mall.  Other than the beginning of the race when I sprinted at times to give myself enough room to pass, I maintained a consistent pace. When I started to feel tired and hot, I thought of the reasons that I was out there -- which was more than enough to keep me going.

I didn't care as much about setting a record this time, but here are my stats from the race:

Previous Record: 27:48 (Love the Run You're With 5K, February 2011)
Gun Time: 28:41
Net Time: 27:34
Average Pace: 8:53
Best Mile: 8:48 (Mile 3)

After the race, I walked back toward the metro and had an excellent interaction with a construction worker, who was obviously hitting on me. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't engage -- and I'd probably roll my eyes and give him the "Are you serious?" stare.  But, there were happy endorphins to enjoy so I decided to chat while I waited to cross the street. (My internal monologue is in italics.)

Construction Worker (CW): You're out exercising this morning?
Alisha: Mm-hm.
CW: That's good. That's really good...that's how you keep that body! (He motions an hour glass figure with his hands.)
Alisha: WHAAAA? Okay, it's going to be one of those interactions. Just smile and nod. I like to keep in shape.
CW: I bet your boyfriend is really happy with you!
Alisha: Yep. Good. Letting him think that you have a boyfriend -- even though it's a total lie -- will end this conversation.
CW: (laughs) You don't have a boyfriend, do you? (Maybe I hesitated?)
Alisha: Uh...I do have a boyfriend! And, his name is George. George Glass.
CW: I bet he's happy. Is he happy? I bet he loves you.
Alisha: I hope so.
CW: Good. Keep up the exercise and keep that body. It looks good!
-The light changes-
Alisha: Well, have a good day! Did that really just happen?

It was kind of flattering to have someone compliment me -- even though it fell on the side of street harassment. But, whatever, I was in a good mood.  Mr. CW, I'll give you that one.  The next time, it's the death stare for you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy National Running Day

Happy National Running Day, everyone!

Alright, so I’m technically a little under two hours until the end of the celebration of the joys of running but – as our quiz mistress says – “Better late than pregnant.”

My workout today didn’t go entirely as planned. With gross weather (It's so hot; milk was a bad choice) and plans for the early evening, I decided to hit the treadmill for a speed workout instead of going to the Ladies Night run. I started with a warm-up at 6.0 MPH and then increased the speed to 7.3 MPH, which has become my hard-but-doable pace. The first 800 meters were okay, but I started to feel tired and reduced the speed to 6.5 before taking a walk break, completely stopping at 2.5 miles. My guess is that diving head first into a speed workout after a five-day adventure to Connecticut – during which I really only ran once – wasn’t the greatest idea.

I’m not at all worried though, even with a race this weekend and the Run with Dad 5K in a few weeks.  (By the way, I'm super excited for June 19th.  Not only will I get to run with my dad during his first 5K, but I'll get to go to CONCACAF Gold Cup matches at RFK!)  It’s been really nice to take a break from heavy training, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to get back into my groove very soon.