Swimming Saves Lives

I have always been a water person. Growing up an oblivious/imaginative kid in Rhode Island in the era of the Little Mermaid, my mom quickly realized that I needed to know how to keep myself afloat. I was never scared of the water, which in turn scared her immensely. According to her, the chances of me wandering in too deep without realizing were about equal to me waking up on any given morning, truly believing that I was a mermaid, and jumping in above my head without a second thought.

I was extremely lucky in that: 1. Neither of those things happened, and 2. That I had access, early and often, to lessons that took my love of the water and fashioned it into a working knowledge of water safety, a decent stroke, and a lifelong relationship with pools, ponds, lakes, oceans, and, most recently, fjords.

IMG_3633

Magnificent Montenegro

 

As I said, I know I was lucky. So many children, for so many reasons, don’t learn to swim and as a result, “according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third [of] adults in the United States can’t swim the length of a pool, which puts them at risk of being one of the 10 people who drown every day in the United States.” Those are some scary statistics.

I learned about The Swimming Saves Lives Foundation when I joined Masters swimming, and I was interested to learn that April is Adult Learn to Swim Month. Adults can sign up for free lessons with volunteer instructors and cover everything from the absolute basics of getting in the water to stroke improvement. I signed up to teach, read over the instructors’ guide, and last week I showed up at the pool for my first lesson.

I can’t say enough good things about the program. There were enough instructors that each lesson was one-on-one and I was paired with D. D was there with her sister and the two of them were a blast. We started laughing within the first few minutes and didn’t stop until they got out of the water. D let me know that there was no specific reason she hadn’t learned to swim; she just never had and as a result she wasn’t scared of the water exactly, but she was hesitant around it. Still, she jumped right in and an hour and a half later, D was swimming almost the entire length of the pool. While she hadn’t quite figured out the timing for breathing, she was well on her way.

I’ve taught swimming before, but always to children. I wasn’t sure what to expect with teaching an adult but what I loved was that it was more like a collaboration than a straight lesson. D and I spent the time throwing ideas back and forth, looking for different ways to explain things to each other, and keeping warm by bouncing around acting like total fools (and possibly singing…). Obviously, that approach wouldn’t work for everyone, but that’s what was so great about the one-on-one format; we were able to settle in to a dynamic that worked for us. My biggest concern was taking cues from D at the beginning to get a sense of how she would be most comfortable, and then we ran with it. In terms of the progress D made, I may have brought the experience, but she took everything I told her and put it all together and I couldn’t be happier with how it went.

I’m teaching two more evenings this month and I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts to share, about the program in general and the specific things that worked (or didn’t). One thing I can already say with certainty is that I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about learning to swim, or who would like to improve their stroke (whether for racing or recreation) to look into Swimming Saves Lives/Adult Learn to Swim programs near them. The benefits are innumerable, and the process itself is a blast.

Advertisements

Eastern States 20 Miler

eastern states 20

I haven’t run a marathon since October 2014, meaning I haven’t run 20 consecutive miles since then either. Mostly I’ve been fine with this, if not decision, state of things, and yet the last weekend in March I found myself on the start line of the Eastern States 20 miler and, spoiler, 2:53:03 later, I found myself at the finish.

The Eastern States 20 milers is the well-known (apparently) and much loved race/last long run before Boston that starts in Kittery, ME and ends in Salisbury, MA, traveling south via the coast of NH including towns like Portsmouth, Rye, and Hampton. Until this year, it wasn’t on my radar, but a friend signed up to run it as part of her marathon training and convinced me to run it as well. I am not training for a marathon, nor have I been training for anything in particular, but something about running through three states appealed to me and so I signed up.

The race is low key but well run, with shuttles to the start and aid stations approximately every three miles. The hardest part of planning for me was deciding what to wear since 1. It is “Spring” in New England and 2. A lot can change along a 20 mile point-to-point course along the coast. In the end, I wore long tights, a tank top, a light long sleeve top, a buff neck warmer, a fleece headband, and gloves with hand warmers. I was definitely grossly overdressed for the start, where it was sunny and not overly windy, and I got rid of the gloves/handwarmers around mile 7, but by the end, when it became exceedingly cloudy and grey, I was grateful for the few extra layers I still had.

The race itself is gorgeous, and it was hard not to smile coming around a corner and seeing the ocean and the sun shining. As for me, this race was great in a lot of ways, and…less than great in others. Like I said, I haven’t run consecutive 20 miles since 2014, so I’m a little out of practice with the planning and the pacing. I’ve also been running less (but faster) throughout the week than I was for my last marathon training cycle. My long runs leading up to this looked something like: 8, 10, 13, 0 (skiing), 15, 17, 9 (taper), RACE. It was a fairly quick training cycle with the only goal being “finish without dying”. With that said:

Miles 1 to 10: GLORIOUS. I started out a little too aggressively (which I paid for in the second half), but I was running between 8 and 8:30/mile. I fell into pace with a few other women and felt challenged, but happy running with them. I took a Honey Stinger gel at Mile 7 and felt good.

Miles 10 through 13: I slowed down a bit to closer more consistent 8:30 miles. I was starting to feel a little tired, but felt like I could keep going at that pace for a while. Not exactly ideal for negative splitting, but fine for getting back on the road.

Mile 14: Things started falling apart. All of a sudden my right ankle started hurting and my ankle never hurts. I panicked a little bit and realized that the road had a pretty significant slant to it for water run-off, which makes sense for a coast road, but isnt something Im used to running on, and certainly not for long distances or at that pace. I slowed down to around 9:00/mile. Ultimately, I didnt want to finish the race injured, so I was disappointed to have to slow down, but wanted to minimize pain. The roads weren’t closed to traffic so running closer to the center where it was more level wasn’t really an option. I took another Honey Stinger gel as much to distract myself as for fuel.

Miles 15 through 18: Despite trying to be sensible and pulling back, I think I must have been adjusting my stride to favor my ankle, because my knee started to hurt, which completely threw me off mentally. I stopped and stretched, and slowed down even more. I started making deals with myself about conditions under which I could just stop and DNF and during one particularly dark and not at all overdramatic moment I may or may not have thought “I’m a swimmer – a water person! I’m not BUILT for land! What am I doing here?!” So yeah, things were going well.

Miles 19 and 20: Luckily the road had leveled off a bit and we got to run along the waterfront boardwalk. My knee wasn’t getting better, but it wasn’t getting worse, so I tried to pick things up again (mixed results). In order to hit the MA border, the race actually goes to about 20.2 (per the course map). I knew this going in. I expected this. I was sort of ready for this. What I didn’t realize was that the finish line was around a corner, so I started to panic a little bit when I hit the 20 mile mark and couldn’t see the finish line anywhere. Still, I picked up my pace a little bit more because I knew it had to be somewhere nearby. Finally I saw the turn and hauled it towards the finish. My last little .2 was back under 8:30, I crossed the line, grabbed a medal, and in a previous break from previous race tradition did NOT immediately start dry heaving. Small victories!

My legs immediately cramped up, but I managed to hobble to the shuttles back to the parking lot. I got to the after party, chugged a cup of soup (turkey noodle!) from the soup buffet (seriously). I was still really cold at that point so I dragged my sorry butt the three blocks back to my car, cranked the heat, and started the trip back home.

Overall, the race is great and I can see why people keep coming back, both to race and for Boston training. The volunteers are fantastic, the view is gorgeous, and even though there aren’t a ton of spectators, the energy is great on course. There were a few groups of people who drove the full course and stopped to cheer at several locations. Even though they weren’t specifically MY people, it was nice to see familiar faces and enthusiastic cow-belling, and I couldn’t help but smile every time I saw them. So THANK YOU whoever you were!

As for my race, those last five miles may have been miserable, but they were important in that I’m considering a fall marathon and I came away with a long list of things to remember next time I’m seriously training/racing:

  • I need the full training cycle. I survived on the minimum for this, but do not want the end of my next marathon to feel like this.
  • I need to run longer during the week. I’ve been doing mostly shorter runs (~4 miles) during the week, whereas for my last marathon I was running 7 and 9 miles during my mid week runs. My short runs are faster than they were last cycle, but I can’t sustain those paces as long. So next cycle I need to get that mid-week distance back.
  • I can’t really help the road conditions on the course, but I should try to train on some different terrains to try and minimize negative impact if/when the road tilts unexpectedly.
  • I need to get back outside for more of my runs (difficult, but not impossble for New England winter) in order to remember the layers I need. I’m good at freezing and hot but in between really threw me off.
  • Mental game needs work. When I started to fall apart, I really fell apart. And I probably shouldn’t be running away to the ocean mid-race.

eastern states 20_2

Oh right, I have a blog

I wrote this awhile ago, and it’s just been sitting around waiting to be published. So here we go: The long delayed recap of a couple of April 10ks.

—-

Going into the Scottish 10k I had a list of goals. They were less about the numbers and more about running attitude and I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.

The primary goal I settled on was to try and keep a consistent pace, and I listed a couple of different paces I would be happy with. Apparently my legs misunderstood and/or ignored the part about consistency, and instead decided that they would hit every one of the potential paces. I’m not overly concerned since all paces were sub-8 (with a couple of 7:30s thrown in! At my ego’s request I’m not going to specifically address the elevation profile of those speedier miles…) and there was a lot to deal with on course: crowds, hills, and tired legs from a pretty legitimate week of workouts leading up to the race. Also, a couple of late nights catching up with one of my best friends and roommate for the weekend, 8.

Anyway. Goal 1: Not as “achieved” as it could have been, but I’m not going to call it a fail either.

My second goal was to tackle the hills without fear or crippling self doubt.  Swearing while running was ok, as long as I kept running. I definitely felt the hills more than I did at the Half, but I’m not sure if that was because we were running clockwise, or because my legs weren’t as fresh. But, while I didn’t love them, I didn’t completely hate them either. If nothing else, bagpipers were stationed at the top of most hills, so I could hear the tops getting closer and I was greeted by kilts at the summit. If only that was the case with all hills…

Goal 2: Success

The final goal was just to run happy. To get as close to that magical NYC Half runner’s high as I could. I definitely wasn’t as happy, but I was enjoying myself as I ran. I didn’t think I was over the top happy or anything, but in every picture of me, from both 8 and from the official photographers, I have the biggest smile.

Goal 3: Success!

ScotRun1

Courtesy of 8

Overall, I’m happy with how the race went. I was mostly excited for it because of the Scottish theme, and NYRR did not disappoint. 8 and I got to the start with enough time to take advantage of the Scotland photo booth before working our way to the corrals. 8 wasn’t running, but graciously woke up and came with me to cheer, photograph, and hold my sweatshirt, because she is awesome. The race was a little bit frustrating in that it never really opened up, and felt crowded pretty much throughout, but so many people were dressed up and there are worse things than being crowded into a sea of tartan and kilts. As I said, my legs were tired, but not necessarily in a bad way. They were the kind of tired that happens after a good workout. Yes, it was frustrating not being able to run as fast as I know I can, but it was nice to be able to run as fast as I did.

Despite my happy running, by the time I rounded the last turn, I was definitely ready to be done. I still managed to muster up a little bit of leftover energy to sprint to the finish, cheered along by 8. I grabbed a French Toast bagel, found a sunny spot to watch the raffle and dancing at the finish festival for a little bit, and then made my way back to 8’s apartment. After brunch and a nap, I was awake and ready to get out and enjoy New York in a non-running sense, so I think I can put a check next to run/life balance for the weekend as well. Good times.

903664_10100923830268549_45304605_o

And I would walk 500 miles…

Obviously, this recap is delayed. When I first wrote it, I included more about my actual time, 48:46 and how all these ‘fast for me’ paces added up to a new PR. But then, I found out that this exists, and I couldn’t pass it up. A literary 10k? YES.

—-

I have a love/hate relationship with James Joyce.

143_535518509469_5018_n

Dublin, 2007

As part of my Literature degree, I had to a take a ‘major figure’ class, a semester long in-depth look at a single author. I didn’t really know much about James Joyce, so I thought he’d be a good choice. I don’t know if it was the professor, who I didn’t love, or the fact that I spent college seemingly on a quest to be an English Major who didn’t actually read, but I came away liking James Joyce in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

Theory, as it turns out, can carry me for at least 6.2 miles. I crossed the finish line happy enough to want to pick up Finnegan’s Wake and dive right in. Powerful stuff, this running.

I can’t speak highly enough of this ‘ramble’. It started in 1984 when the race director likened running a race to slogging through Joyce. Today, actors line the course and read excerpts from Joyce’s works – a different book/story for each mile, finishing with The Dead. The course is pretty, if hilly in spots, but there were spectators all along the course, plenty of water, and supportive volunteers. The actors were great, popping up every time I needed a boost. The organizers had extra numbers printed due to a last minute surge in registrations and we reached course capacity, but I never felt crowded or like resources were spread thin.

The race started with a Boston tribute, and then the Masters runners were off. Three minutes later the rest of us made our way to the start. The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but not overly hot, and the course rolled through the town center and along pretty, very New England, tree lined streets. There were only two hills I’d consider big and they came close enough together, that they barely counted as separate.

I hadn’t planned to run this race. I found out about it three days before, and I didn’t do anything resembling taper or planning for it. I registered the day before the race. I decided not to race race, but to use it as a quick, fun run. But then I started running and despite having run hard throughout the week, I felt good, I felt fast, and I felt like I wanted to see what I could do, so I resurrected the goals from the Scotland Race and set off on round 2. My first mile came in a little too fast at around a 7:15, but it was also on a slight downhill. My pace evened out with the terrain, and I ended up settling into 7:30s. In the end, my average pace was 7:32.

MHJR13RM00966_1

I slowed down a little bit on the bigger hills, but not a lot. I had the advantage of going into the course blind. I had no idea how many hills there were or when they occurred, so I just pretended that each hill was the last one and I did a good job of taking them one at a time without psyching myself out. The gorgeous weather/scenery and literary excerpts definitely helped!

As for running happy, I definitely had that covered. It’s odd. I don’t have any strong feelings towards 10k as a distance, and I always (ya know, all three times) feel like I’m slogging along, and yet I look the happiest in pictures from my 10ks. This race was no exception. I look ridiculously happy in every picture and I crossed the finish line with a giant smile on my face.

MHJR13MT03345_1

MHJR13MT03346_1

I also crossed the finish line with a brand new PR: 46:47. That may have had something to do with the smile.

At the finish, they were handing out pasta, snacks, and Harpoon beer. I grabbed some food and found a nice sunny spot to sit in, basking in the sun and the good PR vibes.

JJRCollage4

——

It’s been a good year for PRs. I know at some point I’ll stop PR-ing in every race I run, but I’m ok with that. Right now I’m loving the fact that every PR I have is from an Irish/Irish themed race: St. Pat’s 5k, James Joyce 10k, NYC Half on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Dublin Marathon.

I’ve decided this means that I should just move to Ireland if I want to keep getting faster. Oh the sacrifices I’m willing to make…

All my love to Boston

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my computer screen, trying to figure out what I could possibly write about the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It would feel so wrong to not write anything, but I can’t seem to find the words to do any of it justice. This isn’t going to be eloquent, and it probably won’t be coherent. I know it won’t capture everything I want to say, but I have to say something.

I thought about waiting to write until I had processed more. But then I realized that no matter how long I think about this, I will never fully process it. Nothing will ever make the tragedy at the finish line less shocking. This was a senseless, cowardly act. An incomprehensible violation and a cruel assault.

I wasn’t running on Monday, but as a runner in general, one of the worst things about the attack, to me, is that it was aimed at the spectators. The people watching the race are the most selfless, loving, and supportive group and while obviously no one should have to face the horrors of what happened on Monday, it was especially cruel to target the people who were there purely out of love. Spectators aren’t just there on race day; they provide support throughout entire training cycles. They deal with us when we are hungry or cranky. They listen to us talk enthusiastically about paces and goals, at best, or just as likely, blisters and dry heaving. They understand when we flake on plans because of long runs, or long naps, and they forgive us when we do show up – unshowered and in sweatpants. They put up with us at our worst. They wake up early to battle large crowds and long days in order to see us at the culmination of all our training. They carry us, physically and emotionally, past the finish line. Then, when the race is over, they do it all again. Training to run a marathon is an exercise in perseverance and testing limits, not just for the runners, but for entire networks of friends and families, and I won’t even try to pretend that running is the bigger challenge. Mixed in with all the overpowering emotions I’ve felt about Monday, the most haunting thought is that if I had been running, my parents would have been at that finish line waiting for me. The fact that that’s not a “what if”, but a reality for so many people breaks my heart and brings me to tears every time. Jezebel said it better than I can, but it’s the spectators that truly make running so special.

Despite the anguish and the pain that won’t ever truly heal, the Marathon will go on. Stronger than ever, scars and all. The running community is tight knit and strong; even as people compete there is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and support. As for Boston as a city, I’ve spent most of my adult life here and there is a fierce hometown pride that comes along with that dirty water. Boston does not just sit back and let itself be defeated.

At the expo on Sunday, Kathrine Switzer said that the more we run, the more fearless we become. To me, fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgment of it, and the strength to act in spite of it. All the stories from the aftermath of the bombings highlight courage and selflessness and truly epitomize the collective fearlessness that will help us band together and heal as best we can. I am so proud of my sport and of my city and so thankful for, and uplifted by, the outpouring of support coming from other communities and cities worldwide. On Sunday, swept up in the energy and excitement of the Marathon expo, I told my family that I don’t care how much work it takes, I will run Boston someday. Despite everything that has happened this week (or maybe even because of it?), I absolutely stand by that. Training plans are pinned up on my cube wall; Active is basically my homepage.

Until I’m actually at that starting line, I’ll be sending all my love to the people who were there, to all the people at the finish, and all the people affected in any way by this monstrous attack.

Stay strong, Boston. Be Fearless.

My Hood to Coast Application

As I mentioned last week, I applied to be a part of Team Nuun at this year’s Hood to Coast relay. Despite the fact that my post talked specifically about Going Big this year, the link to my application was tiny and easily missed. Subtle, even.

“Subtlety” is not something I’m particularly known for.

So, I decided to repost my video here and share the Nuun love, in all its ‘glory’. I talk a little bit about why applying is a big, bold step for me in my other post, so I’ll spare you my usual wordiness today, and just let my video do the talking.

Nuun announces the teams on the 17th. Until then, I’ll be redirecting all my nervous energy into Boston Marathon excitement. Including, but not limited to, trying to figure out just how long I can loiter near the Nuun expo booth before I ruin my changes at being chosen…

Good luck to everyone else who applied!

My Week in Workouts

Monday (4/1) – 4 mile run, 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday – 35 minutes elliptical, 50 minutes spin

Wednesday – 2000 yard swim, 7 mile run

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest

Saturday – NYRR Scotland Run 10k (recap pending)

Sunday – Rest

Scotrun

A few thoughts about the week:

1. I’m just about back to what I would usually consider a “normal” week. This week will (hopefully) be about the same, and then next week I’ll start building on it. Time to get serious about this half ironman.*

...be daintier, Steph. Wow.

…be daintier, Steph. Wow.

*Admittedly the time to get serious was probably about two months ago. But I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got.

2. Another thing I want to get serious about is incorporating more speed work into my regular workouts. I’ve started easing in by treating my shortest run of the week, currently about 4 miles, as an interval workout. For now, that consists of me changing my pace on the treadmill every song, so song by song it looks something like: 7mph, 7.5mph, 7mph, 8mph, 7mph, 8.5mph, 7mph, 8mph, etc. I live in fear of the day my 12+ minute version of OAR’s Crazy Game of Poker comes on during an 8.5 segment. Fear with a side of excitement about how badass I’ll feel when I make it through.

3. I swear chlorine messes with me. One hour(ish) in the pool this week and I dressed for summer in 30 degree weather, forgot my shoes, and took the wrong exit on my regular commute. This is why I can’t judge a certain Olympic athlete who occasionally stumbles over language and is happy to tell the world what he would do in various life situations. If this is me after only 2000 yards, I can only imagine what would happen if I spent an Olympic level amount of time in a pool on a daily basis. I suspect it would not be pretty. Although I wouldn’t say no to the medals.

4. Boston is in less than a week. I’m in full on geek out mode. Anyone running? Spectating?

If you need me, I’ll be over here with my route map and cowbell.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: In case it’s not ridiculously clear, I’m not a coach, expert, doctor, or professional of any sort. I’m slowly figuring out what works for me in terms of triathlon training, speed work, and the time limit on being submerged in chlorinated water, but it’s a lot of trial and error. I’m sure I’m not working the most effective methods out there, but I guess I could be doing a lot worse. If you’re looking for advice on your own training, please don’t take anything I say as being backed by authority or expertise. Not that you would – I trust that y’all are smart – but worth mentioning, just the same.

Scotland Run 10k – Thoughts before the race

This weekend, I’m running the Scotland Run 10k in NYC, and I don’t know what to expect.

Image

The original Scotland run: My first Half Marathon in Edinburgh.

Kidding, mostly. I know what I can do if I really push myself, and I know what I’d like to do in ideal conditions, but my weekend is action packed and while I’m ready and excited for the run, it’s not my main priority; It’s just one part of Scotland Week (which is actually A Thing. Who knew?). This definitely isn’t my ‘A’ race of the season, so I’m keeping my goals/expectations reasonable for the sake of a good run/life balance.

Anyway, my goals:

A. Consistent pacing (BONUS: negative split) – I ran my first (ahem, only…) 10k last year, and I raced that much like I did the St. Pat’s 5k. I went out hard, panicked, pulled way back, crashed, and then finished at the pace I probably should have been racing all along. So my goal for this race is to keep things more even, or as even as possible, considering the Central Park hills.

 B. Don’t be scared of the hills – I ran them three weeks ago and I can run them again. This time I’ll be going in the opposite direction (clockwise), which I hear might be harder, but I’m not letting myself think about that. Remember last time when I triple knotted my shoelaces and was ready to take on the world? Yeah, I’ll be rocking the triple knots again, with all the associated attitude.

C. Run happy – This mostly refers to not getting wrapped up in my own little world and staying out of my head. I want to be aware of what’s going on around me, so I can soak it all in. NYC is full of energy and a little bit magic, after all.

So those are the things I want to focus on this race. As for specific pacing, ideally I’d like to try for 7:30 miles. If that’s not happening, I’d settle for half marathon pace, sub 8s, or sub 8:06 (my pace for that last 10k). And if I can’t hit any of those? That’s fine too. My ego may not be the happiest with that, but the rest of me is fine with it. This weekend is definitely more about the people than the run itself, so I’m not going to miss out on things to rest, and I’m not going to kill myself on the course if I think it will knock me out for the rest of the weekend. This weekend I’m staying positive, setting goals, but also embracing the life outside the run. Balance, and all that.

Anyone else running the Scotland Run this weekend?

My Week in Workouts

Someday I’ll get my workouts up before I’m well into the next week. Not this week, and probably not next week either, but someday.

Monday (3/24): 3 mile run, 90 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 45 minutes elliptical

Wednesday: 5 mile run

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 5 mile run

Saturday: 15 mile bike ride

Sunday: Casual egg hunting (aka: Rest)

This week I was excited. Not for anything in particular, but just a general kind of excitement about possibilities and potential. I was ready and anxious to get out there and do…whatever. I’m always really happy when the seasons change, so that might have had something to do with it. It could have also been the “excessive” amounts of Easter candy I consumed (I regret nothing), or maybe (hopefully?) this Zenned out attitude adjustment is really taking hold. I think it may have finally gone on long enough that I can no longer give all credit to the NYC runner’s high.

Anyway, this revamped attitude, and my decision to go BIG this year, called for some other big happenings this past week:

1. I took my bike out for the first ride of the season. Even better, it was my first ride with real, clip-in bike shoes and I loved it. General wisdom is that when using clip-in shoes you WILL fall at some point. My dad and his group of cycling buddies have decided that it takes two to three falls before you learn to pay attention when stopping. I, being terrified of falling (with visions of derailed race seasons, and memories of that [disastrous] time I bought a skateboard) paid SO MUCH ATTENTION and my first ride went off without a hitch. Yes, I know I will probably fall at some point, but I’m glad it wasn’t on my first ride. This first ride was bliss. Gorgeous, Spring-y, legit bike gear bliss.

Awkward angle, real love

Awkward angle, real love

2. I bought a wetsuit. I’ve always been a swimmer, so I’ve never been overly concerned with the swim portion of triathlons. Also, despite the fact that I’m always cold on land, somehow in the water I’m fine. Up to this point, I’ve mostly scheduled my triathlons during parts of the season when I can get away with not wearing a wetsuit. Fun, but limiting. And I don’t want to be limited by something that is SO easy to change. Also, I don’t love getting run over by people more buoyant than me. So I took the plunge (ha…) and got the suit.

Not a wetsuit

Not a wetsuit

3. This is The Big One: I applied to be on the Nuun team for the Hood to Coast relay this August. Aside from the obvious (it’s HOOD TO COAST. And NUUN. You get to run down a freakin’ mountain with THE gurus of hydration!), this is big because it involves putting myself further out there than I’m used to. The application was a video, so not only did I have to learn how to edit videos, but I also had to watch myself (over and over and over and over…) on video, something I used to HATE. Plus, in making and posting the video, I had to admit – out loud! – that this is something I really want. When I was training for my first marathon I barely told anybody, and I definitely didn’t talk about my time goals. If something went wrong, I wanted to be able to pretend it had never happened. I’m not saying that I want to start putting EVERYTHING out there for the world to see (for the world’s sake, as much as my own), but I don’t need to keep everything so quiet either. If I don’t hit every goal (and obviously, there will be goals I don’t hit – right away anyway!) the people in my life won’t think any less of me. Plus, in the spirit of the year, I’ve decided it’s better to go big, than to look like I’m not going at all. So anyway, I spent my weekend editing “scripts”, pictures, and videos and finally hit submit on Sunday night. This year’s Team Nuun will be announced on April 17th. I have no idea how I’m going to stay calm until then. I imagine re-reading race recaps from previous years is not particularly helpful, but I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got…

end slide2

Fingers crossed!

So that was my week: massive amounts of excitement, putting myself out there, and showing all my sports some love. I have high hopes for this week as well, not least of all because this sweet shirt is on its way to me, as a reminder of all these big things I want to do. I’ve got a 10k coming up this weekend, I’ve narrowed my options in The Big Fall Marathon Debate, and I still have some leftover candy.

Life is pretty good.

Complacency, Caution, and Confidence: An ongoing attitude adjustment

I was looking over my race recaps (putting together my brand new races page) and I realized that they all follow the same basic pattern. By the end of the post I’m satisfied (Hyannis), happy (St. Pat’s), or even elated (NYC!), but at the start they are full of doubt: “I wasn’t sure what to expect,” “I wasn’t exactly sure what my ‘strategy’ was going to be…I was at a total loss,” “I was in a weird place.” Wow. I know I joke about being a little bit clueless, but this is a bit much.

SO. In honor of my recent and ongoing runner’s high, I’m officially proclaiming an attitude adjustment and cutting back on the bullshit.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt.

This is less about the obscene amount of food on my plate, and more about adopting the Happy Buddha Zen of my shirt. (Photo courtesy of 8)

I know that relatively, I’m still pretty new to running, especially the longer distances. However, I’ve been doing it long enough, and have access to enough different resources, that I shouldn’t be totally unsure going into a race. Yes, I know that there will always be a level of uncertainty about racing; The weather, course conditions, and fellow runners are only three of the many external variables. And there are just as many, if not more, internal, personal variables that can change the outcome of a big race. But still, at the very least, I should be able to have an idea of my capabilities, assuming decent conditions.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I can hold sub-8 minute miles. I shouldn’t spend an average of two days pre-race panicking and stressing myself out, as well as stressing out the people around me. I was talking to a friend after NYC and he mentioned that he saw so many people strung out before the race started. I was shocked that those people could be so absorbed in their negative concerns that they were missing out on enjoying this great thing they were a part of. Then I realized that I WAS one of those people. Well, shit.

A big part of this is that I think I am still learning, and I’m sure I’ll be learning for many more years to come. I’m still figuring out how to best arrange my race schedule, how to balance recovery with improvement, how to pace myself, etc. Obviously, that, paired with the race day variables, will lead to me not knowing what to expect. But, my attitude adjustment comes in not making that my focus.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in '08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

The other Buddha in my life. He found me in ’08 and reminds me to check in with the Universe from time to time.

I was talking to another friend and I said that 2013 seems like a good year to go big, to stretch myself, to try and achieve something crazy and maybe even a little bit impossible. In order to do this, I need to not care that I don’t know exactly how my race will play out. I need to just know that I’ve put in the training and that I can go beyond my “comfort” zone. I need to set big goals – not goals that I’m pretty sure I can achieve, but ones that will actually make me work for them.

I need to get over myself when it comes to hills, speedwork, and courses that don’t fit my ideal. Who cares if I keep PR-ing if I only register for flat courses that don’t include loops or out-and-backs?

I know this is all over the place, and maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense. But my point is that I want to work my butt off doing this thing I love, so that I’m more confident on the starting line. And if I’m “not sure what to expect” on race day, I want it to be because I’m pursuing something big, a reach goal. And even when that uncertainty is there, I don’t want it to be doubtful uncertainty; I want it to be able to embrace it as thrilling, exhilarating uncertainty. I want to start my race recaps saying that I went for it, with whether or not I got it being relatively irrelevant. Essentially, I want to combine the approach I took to running when I first started (13k with no training? No big deal. First half a week after my first triathlon? Whatever.) with the ability I’ve gained over the years.

I know, I know. I want a lot of things. But I think this is something worth pursuing. Not unlike that BQ I want to chase down. Bring it on, World. This year, I’m ready.

Boom. Attitude adjusted. And on the internet, for accountability. I’m going for it.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.

So totally in love with the Universe. No room for negativity here.

St. Pat’s 5k Recap

Only two weeks (…ish) late. That’s not bad, right? I thought about just letting it go, being a little baby 5k, and kind of anticlimactic after the NYC Half (which I’m still dancing around all excited about. Is there a limit on how long I can get away with that?). However, it was a good little race for me, so I think it deserves its moment in the spotlight.

Image

I wore this to work last week. I swear the matching nail polish was not intentional.

Plus, it’s far more interesting than my workouts this past week (Friday: 3000 yrd swim; Saturday: 60 minutes yoga), or the fact that I’m sick and living on crackers, grapes, and tea. Especially since only the tea is out of the ordinary.

Anyway.

In general, I don’t love 5ks. I look at them and see SUCH a short distance that it hardly seems worth it (which isn’t remotely valid, but there you are). And then I start running and remember that running fast (SO relative) is HARD. I don’t usually plan on racing 5ks when I sign up for them; they tend to end up being training runs with 2-3 miles tacked on at the beginning and end, so I really don’t have a great idea of what my 5k time actually is.

I mostly signed up for the St. Pat’s 5k because, being a week before St. Patrick’s Day, I thought this would allow me to celebrate St. Patrick’s Week and the race didn’t start until 11:15, so I could still sleep in. Score. On race morning, feeling festive and all, I got decked out in green, shamrocks, my Dublin finisher’s shirt, and even my old, 8th grade, bottle green gym skirt. And to think I couldn’t see the point in a gym skirt when I was 13. Little did I know…

Image

The race itself is part of a three race series, The Tour de Patrick, that takes place in the RI/MA area with each race happening right before the individual towns’ St. Patrick’s Day Parades, making full use of the people getting ready to watch the parade as course-side support. I got to the race early enough, and had no problem getting my bib and shirt. There was enough parking close to the start that I could walk back to the car (with my family dutifully following along), drop off my shirt, and still have time to listen to the band and check out the various costumes before pushing politely making my way through the hordes of people at the start.

I wasn’t exactly sure what my “strategy” was going to be. This was the week when I felt sort of injured, and really tired, and was single mindedly obsessed with New York, and since I have no concept of what makes a good 5k strategy anyway, I was at a total loss. So I decided to try and keep a pace slightly faster than my half goal pace, and go from there.

Standing in the start chute, I actually got kind of excited. Dropkick Murphys blasted over the speakers, which is excellent pump up music, being a Boston sports fan and all, and then the gun went off! We started on a slight uphill, but quickly crested it and got to fly down the other side. People were on the parade route, at least two little girls called out that they liked my skirt, and I was feeling good.

So good, in fact, that my first mile clocked in at 6:59. Way back in high school, I did a single semester of track, during which I ran the mile and the two mile. I only broke 7 minutes in the mile once, and I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was going to throw up. And here I was cruising in at sub-7 for the first mile of a 5k! Not sure exactly what to do with that, but there you are. I was pretty happy!

Mile 2 was hillier (as in: gradual uphill, gradual downhill, slightly more noticeable uphill. Providence is hardly mountainous.) and my pace slowed WAY down: 7:46. Umm, yikes. Although still at half goal pace, so there’s that? I think I didn’t quite remember that this was a shorter race, and so pulled myself way back, in the name of not going out to fast, before I remembered that I did not, in fact, have another 11 miles waiting for me.

So in Mile 3 I picked it up again. Nothing as crazy as Mile 1, but I came in at around 7:20. The last .1 I let loose and sprinted – it didn’t hurt that it was down a hill – and it felt WONDERFUL. I know I said that I rekindled my love of running in NYC, but I got a hint of that run happy feeling in Providence and I definitely think having that taste of it helped me in my half. Despite my all over the place pacing, I finished with an average pace of around 7:20 and a new PR of 22:49.

Image

RUN LOVE.

At the finish, I found my family, checked out some more costumes, and then took off. I was too cold to stay for the parade (continuing my streak of horrible Rhode Islander, since I didn’t even know there WAS a parade until this year), so instead we got some coffee, and made our way back home.

Image

Also, there was jumping.

I’m glad I decided to do this race, and I’m especially glad I went in just trying to get a sense of what actually running a 5k feels like. I know my time wasn’t fast by any means, but according to McMillan – my new best friend since he suggested that a BQ was not completely out of reach – it’s right where I’m expected to be. While I’d love to get faster, I think in terms of 5ks, I should work on more even pacing first, and then see if I can relive the high school glory days of 7 minute miles throughout.

In other news, this zero week has been good for me. As mentioned, I’m still riding the high of NYC, and I’m letting my body just crash and enjoy it (minus the being sick part, but whatever). By Thursday, I was definitely spending a ton of time cruising different race websites looking for the Next Big Thing (NBT) and getting excited for all the possibilities, and this is exactly how I want to be feeling!

This week I’ll start to ease my way back into things: hopefully get to cut back on the tea, get my voice back, and see if I can pin down some solid options for the NBT. Preferably one that lets me see just how accurate those McMillan numbers are… In the past month, I’ve conquered PRs and hills, and I’m starting to feel like I can do anything. And I can’t wait to put that to the test.

Image