Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Choose Your Motivating Words

Last summer I had an epiphany: I needed to find a saying that I could repeat to myself during workouts, easy runs, and races and it needed to help me refocus and be in the moment. I wanted a saying that would help me run faster or check on my form. It had to be easy and it had to have personal meaning. It needed to motivate me to work harder.

Running fast hurts. 

That was it. I've repeated that to myself on plenty of runs now. Each time I go out I say it, even if I'm running a slow, easy workout. It does what I needed it to do: I can focus immediately on what I'm doing in that moment but it allows me to remember that each step I take is for a purpose. I want to race faster than before. This saying is even more helpful in a race, where you have to push through the pain that is telling you to stop. It is important to remind yourself that everyone feels pain, but that a race is won or lost by how you deal with that pain. A PR is achieved by pushing through pain. This saying has reminded me that I can always push harder than what I'm doing at that moment. Running fast hurts, so run faster. 

A new saying was born in the last month:

Get s**t done. 

I started using something like this, without the s**t part, with the track kids. The girls work so hard each day. You give them a workout and they do it. They don't complain. Because of this, they see the results. They have realized that to run fast, you have to suck it up and train. Train hard, train right, just do it. It's my own version of Nike's "just do it" saying, but it provides more personal meaning because I chose the words myself.

I had to use that saying the entire time I was in Vermont. It's 17 degrees and the wind is blowing? Well I have a workout to do, and therefore, need to get s**t done. I think that by saying this to myself it makes me feel 'tougher'. I focus on the moment, rather than the "dread" of running, and then I realize that the cold isn't that bad. I instantly become thankful that I'm out there, getting the workout in, and feel better after. To see results, you just have to buckle down, and get s**t done.

Finally, a new 2015 saying, and one I have to work on, is:

Eat like an Elite. 

I suck at eating the right foods. I probably eat more servings of chocolate in a day than fruit. No joke. It's a new year and it's time to get serious. This phrase has more meaning to me than "eat more veggies".  I want to become a faster runner (not an elite). What is one thing I know that I can improve on every day? Nutrition. I know I feel better with higher quality food and refuel properly after workouts. In the last two days since I came up with this saying I've actually walked away from chocolate to pick up fruit a few times. I had to pat myself on the back. It's a small feat, but it feels good. I just have to repeat it over and over.

Why am I sharing my motivating sayings with you? Because I want you to find your motivating words. I often repeat the certain phrases or words to my kids at practice. If I say it enough then they can start to hear me in their head when I'm not there. If you don't have a coach, then you need to become your own coach. We all have goals for this new year. Maybe yours is to stay injury free, to get a PR, or to attempt a new distance. Maybe your goal is to forget about splits and to run for pleasure, or it's to forget about running all together. Whatever the goal, choose some words that you can repeat to yourself to get you there. Repeat it to yourself enough and it will begin to come naturally.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Looking Ahead to 2015

Happy New Year all!

We (Tom and I) spent two weeks in Vermont over Christmas and during that time I was unable to connect my computer to the internet. While that could have been a problem, I was totally OK with it. The break gave me plenty of time to disconnect, and didn't make me a slave to the screen. It also meant that I wasn't able to write up my end of the year recaps like I used to.

No matter what, it is a new year, and there is plenty to look forward to in the next few months. Here are some excited things happening in my world:

Last year was my first year running for Potomac River Running, which also goes by =PR= Running. I was able to squeeze in more races, run for them at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and the Boston Marathon, and become more motivated knowing that I was representing a team of runners. That was helpful for those days that I didn't want to get out the door. I knew that I was running for something larger.

I'm excited that I'll be able to run for them again this year. More races, hopefully more PRs, and a chance to meet more runners.

ambassador_TeamNuunAnother exciting addition to my running this year is the opportunity to represent Team Nuun! I've used Nuun since I ran the Nike Women's half in 2013. The flavors are great and it never leaves an after taste in my mouth like Gatorade did. It's a great option for getting electrolytes in after a workout or a run on a hot, summer day in DC.

I have only one race on my schedule for 2015 that was not planned for. BOSTON!

For months after last year's race I swore that I wouldn't run Boston, or any marathon, for some time. That all changed one week before sign up opened, when I realized that there wasn't anything holding me back. I actually wanted to run Boston. There was no outside force making me feel like I should do it like last year.  Knowing this, I feel like I will be even more into the training this year and will be excited to be there running.

What's even cooler is that Tom is also doing Boston this year! He had also sworn that he wouldn't run Boston or another marathon but someone must have put a spell on us or something to make us change our minds last minute. I like the idea of us both training. We can push each other to get out and do the workouts, and don't have to feel bad when we are tired and want to stay in during the evening.

It's nice to be back in DC after a few weeks in Vermont. Yesterday's run was in the 60s, which felt heavenly compared to the 20-30 degree weather in VT. I know I won't be down here forever, so I fully appreciate the warmer running days during the winter down here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Monthly Recap - January through June

At one point in my life I updated this blog on an almost weekly basis. I was doing a lot of running while trying to figure out how to be a teacher and a coach, and I was getting too little sleep. Fortunately, I came to understand a word, priorities, and made a few changes to make life easier.

Blogging had to be cut down in order to dedicate more time to teaching and coaching. Running is still happening (somewhat), but since it isn't my job, I can't justify spending more time on it to sacrifice what I get paid to do each day and for what actually matters in this world. The work I do every day makes more of a difference than the running I do.

There are some days that I wish I had more time to dedicate to running, but I am happy knowing that even if I can't get all of the running in that I want to, at least I have a job (coaching) that allows me to experience running every day. I get paid to think about running and wear running clothes. It could be worse.

As we approach the holiday season I find it nice to reflect on the year. I'll do it a little differently this time around - a month-by-month summary and then I'll conclude with my favorites of the year. Here it goes!

Overall running this year
Two summers ago I was hitting 200+ miles per month. I was running 60+ miles a week and saw some nice PRs in the marathon. That hasn't been the case this year. I've had much lower mileage each month, but I have focused more on strength training. As a result, I saw PRs in each distance this year from the 5K to the half marathon. I can feel a huge difference in my running form and strength.

January: 143 miles: Marathon training for Boston had started. It was cold. There were lots of snow days. I was miserable. It was to become the same routine for the next three months. I began to do weekly indoor workouts to get in some cross training and to save me from the cold. The track workouts no longer existed.

Layers can help to get out the door on cold, winter nights

February: 149 miles: Another month into Boston training, and a month in which my mileage should have picked up. It did, but only by 6 miles. More indoor training days and a dread for Boston developed. Boston simply wasn't feeling like a marathon I wanted to run. I had no internal motivation to do it, therefore, hardly any motivation to train, especially with more snow! I thought I had moved to a warmer climate, but we had a total of 8 snow days this winter!

An 8 mile run in our worst snow of 2014

March: 177 miles: Alas! Some more miles. The weather started warming up and the outdoor track season was in full competition. A switch turned in my mind during one run: I wouldn't focus on training for Boston. Instead, I was going to focus on the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler that I would run two weeks before Boston. I decided to follow my marathon training, but rather than thinking about Boston each time I ran, I focused on getting a PR in the Cherry Blossom. All of sudden I was excited about running again!

April: 129 miles and 2 races
I spent the first week of April in Boston at a conference. It was just what I needed to get excited to run Boston. I love the city and the buildup to the race had already started. I ran by the finishing line each morning before the city woke up. The first time gave me goosebumps.

I snagged a new PR in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler (1:05:47) that qualifies me for automatic, seeded entry into next year's race. The only problem is next year's race is ONE week before Boston. DANG!

Boston also happened. My legs had been sore for over a week from the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and I knew I didn't have the miles put in for a PR at Boston. However, the weekend was one of my favorite marathon weekends: talking to Shalane Flanagan in the bathroom at the airport, having dinner with high school friends, eating brunch with college teammates, and then meeting up with Laura and other bloggers at the start. I paid for the lack of training starting at mile 14, but the amazing crowd support carried me to the finish line and I finished with a 3:20:36. I loved the weekend and had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when the race was over.

With the marathon done I could now focus on speed. I promised myself that I would do no more marathons for a few years. It made me happy to know that crazy training and hours from my weekend life would no longer be a problem. My new goal was to get a PR in the half.

May: 90 miles and 1 race
I was a little bummed to find out earlier in the year that Tom and I would not be able to make Vermont City Marathon work. With so many weddings this year, we could not justify another trip to Vermont.

My mileage was lowered as I focused on the end of the year teaching tasks and finished the season with the track team. A bunch of colleagues and students ran in the Capitol Hill 10K Classic, where I ran my 2nd 10K of all time. I finished with a 40:05 and a new PR. What surprised me about the race was hitting the 3rd mile below 19:00. I knew that I needed to get into a 5K to see what I was capable of. I hadn't run a sub 20:00 5K since college and knew that I was ready to do it.

June: 146 miles, 1 race
The end of the school year brought excitement for a summer filled with running and more hours to dedicate to wedding planning. My mornings became the same: Wake up, eat, run, eat, shower, wedding plan all day.

I managed to hit up a Father's Day 5K and nabbed a 19:18 finish. The race had that same 5k pain that I hate, the kind where you want to throw up and I almost did. I raced a silly race, going out too fast, and knew that if I raced a smarter race I could break 19:00. I was determined to do it!

Did you really make it down to the end? Congrats to you! I'm going to assume that 6 months is enough for one post and will write about the second half of the year in another post. For now, I'm going to enjoy these next few days of relaxation, food, and even some snow in this city of DC! Yes, snow! And for the first time in years I actually have some winter boots. I was probably the only Vermonter going to school in Vermont without some real winter boots, but I have finally smartened up!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Veteran's Day 10K

It's becoming the same story with races now: Too little sleep and too little running during the work week. The week leading up to this 10k was hectic. Crazy hectic. It was the end of the quarter, which meant comments for 110 students needed to be written, I played my saxophone in the jazz band during the Fall Concert on Wednesday, and then we had our Fall Sports Banquet on Thursday. I love it all while I'm doing it, but then I get home at 9:00 and there's no chance for a run.

A co-worker posted this race in our faculty room in October and after hearing that it was a fast course I decided to sign up. For the last month this race was my focus on all of my runs. I wanted to break 40:00. I had good speed leading up to it and had just raced a new 5k PR two weeks before. However, after the crazy work week, I had to reevaluate what my goal for the race would be. On race morning I decided that finishing would be enough. A PR would be great, but I couldn't expect it, nor did I want to put my body in the pain that would be required to get it.

I'm not a professional so I don't have the time to dedicate to running. Sometimes I have to be OK with 12 or 17 mile weeks. When those weeks happen to fall in the week leading up to a race then I have to try my hardest to talk myself into racing by convincing my mind that I'm in better shape than I am.

The basin at 7:00 on race morning

Race morning started off in the low 40's, but it was sunny and not windy. This was a relief, especially since we were racing on Hains Point. Tom and I volunteered at a 10K there the weekend before and the wind was horrible. I would have cried if I had to race with the wind, and the weather for this 10k was just about perfect.

We met up with a few co-workers of mine before the start. It was awesome to see and be with familiar faces at the start!

The Race:
I did an extra long run for warm up by accident and didn't get in the drills in that I normally do. I was OK with this, considering everything else had worked out better than could be asked that morning. The gun went off and we were out. I knew I was cruising and was not surprised to see 6:15 on my watch for the mile 1 marker. A little too fast, but nothing to freak out about.

I stayed right behind two girls starting at the second mile, which I went through at 6:28. When mile 3 came (6:26) I was bummed that it wasn't a 5k. 5Ks feel so nice now and I would have been very excited to be done racing. This was my third 10K ever and I still didn't know how to race it.

I passed the two girls in front of me at this point. My fourth mile was strong. I felt strong and it flew by in 6:23. I started to feel the race a little more during the 5th mile, but held on, finishing that mile in 6:29. Tom was at the 5th mile marker and that is when two girls came out of no where from behind me. Good strategy, chicas. They knew just how to throw me off my focus. They looked strong and I wasn't feeling strong. I kept counting down the tenths of a mile, which is not a great way to stay calm.

I got to mile 6 with 0.2 to go (6:31) and felt the 10k-urge to vomit. So did one of the girls in front of me who suddenly stopped and pulled off to the side. I shut my eyes knowing that if I saw anything come up I'd lose my cookies too. She saw me at that moment and decided that finishing was more important than vomiting and hopped back into the race.

Once again, like the last race, I saw the clock tick its way closer and closer to 40:00 and could not make my legs get to the finish any sooner.

Tom's phone deleted all of the photos he took of us while running. The only photo that somehow survived is me  after getting my award

Final Time:
New PR
9th Female
3rd in Age 
(not including the overall winners)

I'm a little frustrated, but I know that a 39 will come with better training, more speed work on the track, and a better work week. 

We hung out at the finish for some time and it was fun to be with friends. After the awards, Tom and I paid a visit to Thomas Jefferson.We had fun enjoying the peacefulness of DC at that hour in the morning. 

It looks like the next race is a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Hopefully I'll get in some quality runs between now and then. It's nice not having to worry about a training program yet. That will come at the end of December as Tom and I both begin to prepare for Boston. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

2014 Walk (RUN) to end HIV 5K Race Recap

During my first year of teaching I made a bet with a student that if we ran a race I would beat him. He was an 8th grader back then, and at the time I figured we wouldn't actually race each other. Little did I know that he would come out to join the cross country team the following year. Nor did I know that I would get a chance to race him this year, as we both ran the Walk (I say RUN) to End HIV 5K two weekends ago.

Pre Race Summary:
  • Sleep the week leading up to the race was not the best. Too many weird dreams and waking up at 2:30 am. 
  • I was eating too much Halloween candy. I bought it for the trick-or-treaters and made the terrible mistake of opening the bag to "test it" for safety concerns. Kids can't get bad candy can they? 
  • My right eyelid was twitching constantly leading up to the race. Was it stress? Caffeine? Something else? No matter what, something wasn't totally right with my body. 
  • I barely got any miles in the week leading up to the race. I probably got a total of 12 in. 
Race Morning:
  • Woke up at the same I normally wake up for school, just so my body was used to doing its morning routine. It was nice to do my normal breakfast and know that I'd be OK for the 9:15 start time.
  • It was gorgeous: sunny and 50 degrees when we arrived at the start
  • I got in enough warm up but I felt sluggish during the slow-running warm-up portion. The drills at the line helped to wake me up. 
  • I felt confident for a good race all week and all morning. The mental prep is key when hoping to run a good race or to win a bet. 
It was really fun to be able to run in a race with all of my cross country kids for the first time. They were excited to be running a flat road race instead of the hilly and grassy courses they are used to. They were also really cute at the start when they did their traditional pre-race cheer, and made sure to change up the cheer to shout "Coach Svetlana", their nickname they gave me last year.

They all knew about the bet, of course, and it was awesome when the athlete I had the bet with walked up to the front of the line saying "If we're going to race then I need to start up here with you."

Right before the gun went off I kept telling myself "6:10. 6:10. 6:10". I didn't want to go out in a 5:55 like the last two races. A 6:10 would be nice. 

A few of the boys on our team went out ahead of me. I let them. I knew how to run my own race. I also thought that the boys would slow a little later in the race which would allow me to catch up. A few women also sprinted ahead of me at the start. I felt off and couldn't stay up with the, nor did I want to ruin the 6:10 that I knew I needed to hit. I didn't feel energized like my last few races, so I had no clue what was in store for me.

We got to the first mile marker: 6:14. Good. I was OK with being slower than 6:10. It gave me the confidence that I wouldn't die, but I knew that I also needed to push over the next two miles. Two of our kids were ahead of me still at this point. 

After mile 1, the course took us in a new direction and the wind was blowing against us. Luckily I was able to get behind a few guys to draft for that portion of the race. Sometimes it comes in handy to be a female and the shortest one around. 

The course was an out and back which allowed us to see everyone behind us as we made our way through the second half of the race. A lot of our athletes cheered for us, but I was way too focused to cheer back. I felt so bad for doing that. I could barely breath at that point, let alone shout out to them, and I was way too focused on the boys ahead of me.

I caught up to one of our athletes, the boy I made the bet with, at this time and together we made our way to mile two. We hit it at 12:25 - a 6:10 mile. GOOD! It was a good time for me, but an even better time for the kid I was running with, who hadn't run that fast of a this season. I was super excited to see our kids racing their way to a PR, but couldn't form a coherent sentence to tell them.

I eventually pulled away and set my sites ahead of me to another boy on our team that was running with the two women ahead of me. I was afraid of pushing too hard at this point in the race to make myself throw up, but now know that I should have pushed harder. I kept getting closer to the lead ladies, but not fast enough. At some point I realized that I was totally letting myself trail behind them and that I wasn't actually in Race Mode. I needed to work, and this was my last chance. 

With about 40 seconds left of the race I passed the two women ahead of me at the same time. Not having seen the any other females for some time, I starting to think I was in the lead - but definitely not positive. I saw the clock hit 19:01 just before I made it to the end and my first thought was that our lead boy was going to get over a minute PR for the day! I also realized that he was going to beat me and become the first boy on our team to beat me in a few years!

I also realized that I had made some mistakes in the race that cost me breaking 19:00, which has been my goal time this summer. The whole time I was racing I felt like crap and thought that I was going to get a 20:00. Everyone in front of me looked slow. I felt slow. I just thought 20:00 would be it for the day, NOT a low 19. I believe I could have pushed harder but didn't do it until it was too late. You live and you learn.

Final Time
2nd female
New PR!

I ended up winning the bet, but I am confident that if (or when) we race again, I will lose. This kid can beat me in every distance shorter than a 5K and by next fall, he'll take that honor as well! While I hate losing, this will be a bet I will be happy to see him win. 

This race was a PR, but am I happy with it? Not 100%. I was stupid:
  • I didn't fuel at all properly during the week.
  • I didn't pay attention to the watch and just went by feel - which was 'crappy'
  • I didn't push myself at all out there and never actually felt like I was dying.
The good news, however, is that every one of our athletes got a PR and some kids got HUGE PRs! It was so much fun to end my race and to turn around and watch our athletes finish their races with huge smiles on their faces. All of their hard work from the year paid off and it was fun to reward them with a fast PR on a fast course.

Also, I secretly really like running 5ks and 10ks in the city. It's fun to run the streets, in between the large buildings, and to see the sites like the Capitol.