Where Have I Been?!

None of the following is in any way meant to be an excuse for my hiatus from blogging for the past few months…I have no excuse for that and I will be better!  Here’s the quick version of what’s been going on in my world:

-[Thought] I had plantar fasciitis at the end of my summer of racing
-Took two weeks off, then started training again
-Got engaged!
-Walked the runway for Oiselle at Nolcha Fashion Week
-Built up my mileage with some pretty tough training…got a really great base!
-Raced Dash to the Finish- Not the greatest of races…
-Worked at the GNC table for USATF Foundation at the NYC Marathon Expo
-Wedding plans, wedding plans, wedding plans
-Raced Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving- Awesome day! 2nd Place after a not-so-good week of training
-Dealt with some foot pain before finally getting an MRI…
-…Found out I don’t have plantar fasciitis, but a stress reaction in my calcaneus instead

Let’s go back to the mileage build up bullet point.  This past spring Gag told me over and over again that he was very pleased with how I was doing, but next year I need to be stronger.  Whether I went out too hard, fell asleep in the middle, got outkicked at the end, or even had a solid race, his response was always, “We’re gonna build up your strength”.  And we certainly did.  For about two months my mileage was way up and we were all doing great workouts.  With the exception of my race at Dash to the Finish, I felt amazing!  Sometimes my “plantar” was a little sore at the start of my runs, but it always seemed to warm up eventually.  I had a week when I felt pretty tired before Manchester, but everyone assured me that was totally fine with all the hard work we were doing and just relax a little bit…I’d be fine.  And I was!  Maybe it was a combination of taking the pressure off of myself a bit because I knew I might still be tired and the miles of hard work I put in already this fall, but by the time the gun went off I felt awesome and had fun doing it.

I felt a little beat up the day after Manchester, but that’s pretty normal coming off a road race with such drastic uphills and downhills.  I kept pushing through, wanting to get my mileage back up after one bad week of training and one week with a race in it.  My foot continued to hurt a little, and the top of it was pretty sore too.  I had a good workout on Friday, but then before heading off to my Saturday long run I noticed it was swollen and I couldn’t convince myself it would be fine anymore.  

I had an MRI scheduled for Monday afternoon, but by that morning the swelling had gone down and the top of my foot didn’t hurt too much to the touch anymore (though the bottom was still tender to walk).  Never having had something more serious before (note to self: don’t say that out loud apparently it’s bad luck), I always wonder if something is actually wrong or if I’m just being a wimp.  I was pretty convinced that the MRI wouldn’t show anything but a little inflamation in my plantar and the doctor would tell me I was fine.

Turns out the top of my foot was fine! And my plantar too! Unfortunately my heel bone was not, and the pain on the top of my foot came from altering how I was landing on my foot to avoid the heel.  He showed me the screen comparing the healthy bone to what my heel looked like, and told me there wasn’t really a time frame, just that I can’t run on it until it calms down and I’m pain free.  Not what I wanted to see or hear.  

Positive things to be thankful for:

1. I’m not a crazy wimp…there actually was something.
2. It’s not a stress fracture.
3. I put in a lot of base work already this fall.
4. Though cross training is far from my favorite thing to do, at least it’s happening now and not when the weather is warm and beautiful and all I want to do is run in it.
5. I’ve got support and help and advice from coaches, doctors, family, and teammates who have been through it before.

On to the Next

It’s almost comical how much of my life (at this point) revolves around running.  I realize that my blog has been very quiet since I got back from Europe.  I have writer’s block.  When I got back I wound up running two more road races at the beginning of August and then, with some extra encouragement from my plantar fascia, took a break.  I started to write a little recap of my last two races (GNC Liberty Mile and Belmar Chase) and the importance of taking some down time, and then decided what I was writing was too boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of those races and I still think down time was important, but I couldn’t convince myself that it was worth finishing and sending out.

Since it was still a part of my journey, here’s the short version:  The Liberty Mile was really fun.  I’d never been to Pittsburgh before and it’s a pretty cool city.  I learned I need to work on my kick, and now I have my very own big head.  Belmar was an awesome way to end the season.  We (NJNY) got to sweep a race in New Jersey and then hang out at the beach a bit.  Yes, my plantar fascia was starting to bug me toward the end.  It was nothing terribly serious, but it has been a long and amazing year, so it was a pretty good time to take a physical and mental break.

So back to my writer’s block and a life devoted to running…I was ready and a little excited for my break. And then three days into it I sat with my roommate, Rebeka Stowe, at the breakfast table with a list of goal for the coming year and a rough sketch of what my weekly mileage and trips to the gym would look like to get me there. I was already getting antsy and excited and ready to start again. Of course, it didn’t help that Rutger’s classes don’t start until next week, so my running break coincided with my work break. I spent hours each day looking at houses online for a group of us to move into, watched A LOT of Netflix, floated in my parents’ pool, woke up when I wanted and took my time drinking coffee and browsing Pinterest. The unemployed life was pretty nice, but I was itching to start one of my jobs again. Motivated, but reminding myself to be patient, on that third day I joined LA Fitness (Rutgers was always crowded and when classes were canceled, the gym was closed). I started slowly building back up with cross training and light lifting.

At the end of two weeks of cross training and running twice, I sat down with Gag to talk about the coming year. It’s impossible to describe a conversation with him. He tells it like it is. He knows what you’re capable of and exactly what you need to do to get there. He knows it’s hard and it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice, and he let’s you know that too. But I leave every conversation with him feeling more motivated and confident that this is what I want and that I will achieve my goals.

Now I’m a week into the comeback with some awesome things on my plate. I have another year with Oiselle! And I’m super excited (and nervous!) to model for them when they return to Nolcha New York Fashion Week on September 9th. As of right now, I don’t have any races officially scheduled for the fall (no need to rush my foot) but there will be some eventually! That’s where I’ve been for the past month…mostly looking ahead.

**And now you can follow NJNYTC on Instagram!

9 Things I Learned in Europe

All year Europe, to me, seemed like this mythical journey that everyone talks about, but no one plans, and somehow it all comes together.  It felt like there was a lot of talk but that it would never actually happen, even all the way up to the day before I left.  But finally ten days ago I hopped on a flight to Ireland and it all began.  It was quite the adventure, and though I’m writing this while trapped in the Zurich airport for nine hours just trying to get home to a stormy NYC, I’m already thinking about next year.  Here are a few lessons for next time that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Pack less and re-wear clothes.  I didn’t know what it would be like for me because my races were so close together that I didn’t have a home base.  So through ten days, three countries, and four flights I carried a large bag with things I probably didn’t need.  Of course running clothes become gross, but there are ways to do laundry and I can definitely cut down on street clothes.

2. Ireland uses euros, not pounds.  And Switzerland uses Swiss francs, not euros, and is extremely expensive.  Thinking I’d be in Belgium until the day before I came, I changed a bunch of money to euros.  Then for some reason assumed Ireland used pounds and didn’t bother to do any research, switched to pounds and was wrong.  Next time double check.

3. Bring your own shampoo, soap, and towel. This ended up being less of an issue than I originally thought.  When I got to Cork, all I wanted was a shower and I was in a dorm room with a shower that didn’t turn on, no towel, and no toiletries.  All was fixed by the following afternoon, but you never know where you’ll be and it’s probably best to be prepared.  Also, every place I went had only liquid soap that was used as shampoo as well and no conditioner.  European thing?

4. Looking both ways before crossing the street is even more important in countries where they drive on the other side of the road.  I almost died.

5. Check in for flights and check your bag online a day in advance.  The one time I didn’t do this, going from Dublin to London, a massive fee was attached to the bag.  They told me that is often the case and it is much less if you do it online ahead of time.

6. Deer in England are not afraid of people.  I was only in Teddington for a day and a half, but it was the perfect place for down time between races.  Bushy Park was great for running, and the deer don’t even flinch when you go by.

7. Get out and see things.  Of course it was important to remember why I was there and I made sure my legs were rested well enough, but I didn’t want to forget where I was.  Running provided me with an amazing opportunity and I’m glad I took advantage of it and was a bit of a tourist as well.

8. Europeans love athletics meetings.  Athletics meetings = track meet.  Great crowds and, as mentioned in my race recaps, fanatic little children greeting you at the finish line to ask for your bib number and have you sign hats, t-shirts, and programs.

9. Track athletes are a special breed.  Here’s the sappy part of my reflection on the trip.  And instead of a lesson learned, it’s more like reassurance of something I’ve always known.  But as someone who has never done this before, and without the teammates that I train with and know well, I was welcomed and guided by so many whom I’d only met a day or so before.

Luzern, Switzerland (via Teddington)

Legs 2.5 and 3. July 12: Dublin -> London -> Teddington by bus, and stayed until July 14 -> Zurich -> Luzern by shuttle.

Teddington was a great spot to stop between races.  Big thanks to the Brooks Beasts for welcoming me!

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Luzern might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  I had heard that it was from so many people before I came over here, so when it was cloudy and pouring rain the first day I was pretty disappointed. But I woke up today with the sun shining and got to see the amazing views in those pictures just a few blocks from my hotel.  I wish I had more time to enjoy it post race, but I’m headed home tomorrow morning.

So Luzern was a quick trip for me.  A nice walk to the river in the morning, followed by watching American TV shows in German (this was the only non-English speaking country of my trip), and a shake out was all I had time for before getting into race mode and heading to the track.  Europeans love their track meets. The stands were packed and standing room around the whole perimeter was at least three people deep. And the whole event was like a fair with food carts and people walking around drinking beers and eating sausage. 

I knew the race was being paced well and that there were plenty of fast women.  Within a lap the race had already split and only a few women went with the pace, so I had the option to go with them (even if it was a bit fast), start slower and settle with the second pack, or run alone between them. One of the things I’ve been trying to work on is not being afraid of fast races, so I decided to go with the lead pack and we went through a mile in 4:51.  I held it for a little while, but by the last 2k I started to feel cooked. 15:43 for 8th.  I really would have liked to end my Europe trip with a PR, but it was good to experience that and I’m glad I went for it.  Trying to think of and be proud of everything I have done this year, and at the same time my mind is already filled with everything I can do a little differently to make next year even better. 

Spitzen Leichtathletik Luzern (the name of the meet:Top Athletics Lucerne) was a pretty incredible production. The night ended with amazing fireworks set off from the infield.  They were pretty much right on top of while we stood at the 5k starting line collecting our bags and changing our shoes.  Really cool end to a trip through Europe and a great send off back to the US.

Dublin, Ireland

Leg 2! July 9: Cork -> Dublin by bus. Morton Games Mile.

 

Blogging via my phone because my outlet converter mysteriously disappeared in my Dublin hotel room and my tablet is out of juice, so just a quick update for now.  A new place with even more new people.  I think I can be pretty outgoing at times, but I’ve never before spent so much time with people I only previously knew by name.  I’m so glad I’ve had some awesome people to be a tourist with instead of being a hermit in my hotel room with no friends.  On Thursday, I got to see a bit more of Dublin on another castle tour and a visit to the Guinness factory, which ends with a pint at the top of the building overlooking the whole city. Pretty sweet.

 

As for the meet, I can’t think of many other races that have been more fun.  I was a little nervous, which is natural, but even though I wanted a pr, I really felt no serious pressure and wanted to see what I could do. Having that relaxed attitude was definitely part of my success last night.  I got in line with a perfect pace and a great field and it felt pretty amazing.  Another 4th place finish, but I got my big pr. 4:28.02 :) Again, the little Irish kids all swarm you at the end, asking for your bib number, autograph, and selfies. 

 

The rest of the night was fantastic as well and I already hope I’m coming back to the Morton Games next year.  Now I’m in Teddington for a short while before heading off to Luzern!

Cork, Ireland

Leg one of my European Adventure! July 6: 8:15am NYC -> London -> Cork (just about midnight local time). Cork City Sports 3k.

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I’m an anxious person.  And a planner.  This trip is a true test in my ability to just go with the flow and trust that it will all work out.  And fortunately, so far it has.  My first day of travel was pretty smooth with no delays or cancelations.  Though I felt like I was going through a maze, I made it through Heathrow Airport and on to Cork with two new stamps in my passport. 

It took me the night and a bit of the next morning to settle in and get my bearings.  Cork is five hours ahead of New Jersey, so I had to force myself to sleep and get up early to try and adjust.  Already learned some lessons for next year, like bring a towel and soap/shampoo because you’re in a dorm room (though later on they did bring these things, my room just wasn’t ready yet, the shower didn’t even turn on the first day).  Speaking of the dorm, I didn’t unmake the bed but I’m pretty sure this is an accurate comparison:

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The next morning I ran in Kyle Merber, NJNY teammate, who introduced me to more Americans, and I wasn’t alone anymore.  We all went to the track for a run and strides together, and then took a short bus ride to Blarney to see the castle and kiss the stone.

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(Another lesson learned, they use euros in Ireland, not pounds.  Probably should have done some research.  I’ll have a whole list of Europe lessons by the end of this)

That night (night before the race) I was actually feeling tired, even though it was mid-afternoon at home.  I thought my plan to force myself to get up early was working.  So I played a movie on my tablet and fell asleep very quickly.  Unfortunately, my body thought it was just an afternoon nap and I woke up two hours later.  Once I fell asleep again, though, I was out for the night and I hopefully I’m okay from now on.

The restaurant downstairs is providing us with meals, which is pretty nice.  Corn Flakes and dinner rolls aren’t my typical race day breakfast, but it’s something to eat and there is coffee so I’m doing just fine.  All of these things (hard-springy bed, broken shower, different meals) sometimes make me nervous, but I feel pretty calm.  I’m enjoying the experience and learning to just go with what I’ve got.  It’s teaching me to let go of the rigid race routine I like to pretend I don’t have.

So on to the race…same old things going through my head (put yourself in it, no gaps, don’t wait too late to move, etc.) but I was also trying to push the fact that I was coming off a much less than ideal USA Champs race out of my mind.  I stayed relaxed and in a good position.  When I fell off the leaders, I found myself alone with some wind for a bit, but I was still okay.  I got caught at the line and bumped off the podium, but I still consider it a solid start.  I ran 9:01, which is not a PR, but it’s far better than what I did a week and a half ago.  It has reassured me that my mind and body are still in race mode and given me confidence for my next two out here.  And the little kids that swarm you at the finish line, asking for autographs and pictures and if they can keep your bib number make you feel like a rock star!

This is what the rest of my time in Europe looks like:
Morton Games Mile in Dublin, July 11
Two days of hanging out in Teddington
Luzern 5k, July 15
July 16 I fly back to the good old USofA

2014 USA Championships

Lesson learned: bad things happen that won’t affect anything but your brain. You can’t let them.

It has taken me a while to think of what to write about this weekend.  Not much can ease the feeling of disappointment in a bad race.  I’m fortunate enough to have my Oiselle and NJNYTC families’ support, which made it a little easier.  I was often reminded that everyone has bad races, something I’ve certainly always known, but the USA Championships are never a good time for it to happen.  I had high expectations for myself.  I’ve improved so much this season and felt great in preparations. 

Unfortunately, I let a little bad luck with some poison oak get in my head and I just didn’t have it on race day.  A rash first showed up Thursday morning and I spent most of my time for the next 24 hours trying to figure out what it was and how to get rid of it without taking something that would make me fall asleep or be on the banned substance list.  Poison oak is irritating and itchy, but it doesn’t affect your ability to run, and therefore it is absolutely no excuse for my poor performance.  No matter how many times I told myself I was fine, I wasn’t very convincing and I let myself stress out about it instead.  By race time, I put myself in a decent position at the mile, but by 2k I felt spent.  As I felt myself falling farther and farther back, it took some mental strength to remember that I never want to drop out of a race.  It was far from the USA Championship race I imagined, but it happened.  Now it’s time to pick myself up and learn from it.

On a happier note, it was a pretty great weekend for many of my NJNY teammates.  With so many finals qualifiers and podium finishes for Ashley Higginson and Donn Cabral, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such a group.  It was also very exciting to see so many Oiselle birds competing.  Only big things ahead on both fronts.

Adidas Grand Prix and Looking to the USA Champs

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One of the best birthday gifts I got this year was a phone call letting me know I had gotten into the Adidas Grand Prix Diamond League 3k.  I had an opportunity to compete with some of the best athletes in the world.  At that point I had almost three weeks to mentally prepare for such an elite meet, and I went into the race with three goals in mind:

Don’t get overwhelmed by my surroundings.
The closest meet I had to compare this one to was Millrose this winter.  And while the circumstances for this meet were different (I didn’t find out I was in 24 hours before the race), they were both high profile races that tend to make me nervous.  When I reflected on my experience at Millrose, I realized I needed to be more confident despite the huge stage I was on.  I wanted to go to Adidas, be confident, and run like I knew I was capable of running even with the huge names that were in the race with me, the packed stands, and flashy cameras.

Run a new PR.
The 8:56 I ran indoor was a big ten second PR from the previous winter and I was very proud and excited about it.  But that was early in the year and I have been training hard.  In a race that was bound to go fast, I knew I could do even better.

Compete.
This one is from Gag minutes before getting on the track.  I think it pulls my first two goals together.  Competing meant putting myself in the race and being aggressive.  It meant not thinking too much about the time to get that PR but running the race that was in front of me and letting the PR come.

I think I accomplished my goals with varying degrees of success.  I was not too overwhelmed by where I was, I felt much more comfortable this time.  This was largely due to the company I had in my teammates, Ashley Higginson and Nicole Schappert, who ran the 3k as well.  I did run a new PR, but, like the Oxy 1500, it was only by one second.  I would have liked to get closer to 8:50, but I’ll take a PR anyway and I know I’ll have other opportunities.  Finally, for the most part I was competitive.  I knew the leaders were going out at a pace that was unrealistic for me to go for, but I would have my own pack to compete with.  I stayed calm but attached for the first mile and a half, and I had a kick for the last 200M.  Looking back, I wish I had made a move earlier.  I could have trusted my strength a little more and tried to go when the leaders of my pack did.  But there are always things I think I can improve on and each race is a lesson for next time.  In general, I’m pretty happy with my first Diamond League experience.

In the past, this time of year has been pretty much the end of the season for me, but now things are just heating up!  In just over a week I’ll be out in Sacramento running the 5k in the USA Championships, and a week after that I’ll head over to Europe!  Big things ahead, can’t wait!

Race Day Recap: Oxy HP

A PR is a PR, no matter how small.

I’ve always told myself that I won’t be upset when the result is a PR.  If I’m lowering my times and showing progress, I shouldn’t be complaining.  So I’m not upset, and I’m not complaining.  But after my race at the Oxy High Performance meet this past weekend, I do know that I can be even better next time.

I tried to remember what I’ve learned from past races.  I couldn’t be afraid of high level competition and let myself get shot out the back.  I also couldn’t get too anxious and waste energy fighting the mess of the pack.  So when the gun went off this time I tried to put myself in it and stay calm.  It was going to be fast and I was going along for the ride.  I’ve watched the video of my race since and it turns out that I did end up in the back, but I never felt like I was being pushed out.  I waited while I watched some competitive shoving and tripping in front of me.  I might have waited too long.  I had a strong finish, which is good, but I might have had a little too much left.  Not enough like a sprinter to go faster for the last 100M, but more strength.  I could have gone a little sooner.  But a PR is a PR.  Lesson learned and it showed me I’m capable of more.

Los Angeles was really hot!  For the three days we were there, I’m pretty sure the temperature reached the triple digits.  I did my shake out run on a treadmill in the gym the morning of the race instead of taking the risk of melting.  Nevertheless, I worked hard to hydrate and stay cool, and once the sun went down it was much more bearable.  I even warmed up in my track attack pants, true #flystyle.  It was great seeing all of the other birds who raced matching in our warm ups as well.  As always, it was awesome having all of that support there.  I also had my dad and my cousins there cheering for me, and my mom and my boyfriend stayed up very late to watch me from the east coast.  I’m a pretty lucky lady!  Thank you everyone.

Race Day Recap: Payton Jordan

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photo credit @oiselle_sally and @flotrack video

Patience, trust, and strength.  I’ve been trying to think of what to write about my race at the Payton Jordan Invitational this past Sunday and these are the three words that come to mind.  I learned a lot about myself and racing.  This weekend’s lesson: push myself out of my comfort zone. 

Going into the weekend I knew this would be a highly competitive race.  That’s why you go all the way across the country to a great facility like the track at Stanford University.  I was ready for a big PR and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.  My previous 5k time was 15:56 and I had the 15:40 barrier on my mind.  If I ran 75 second laps (5:00 miles) I could run a 15:37.  And then I heard that the rabbit was going to take the race in 72-73 second laps.  Though Ashley, Nicol, Amanda, and I were sure we would have a group at our pace in the race anyway, I was still nervous about the start being faster than I was ready for.  I had my race from the Stanford Invitational two years ago stuck in my head, when I felt pretty amazing for 5-6 laps at a faster place than planned, and then hit the biggest metaphorical wall I have ever seen.  I couldn’t let that happen again, but I knew that being afraid of the pace wasn’t good either.

Patience.  When the gun went off, I put myself in it but continued to remind myself not to get too anxious.  This was really hard for me.  Not that I always go right to the front of races, but it usually goes one of two ways: anxiously on the shoulder of someone closer to the front, or completely shot out the back (and that’s when you know from the start it’s bad).  After watching the race, I can see that I was very much so in the back, but this time it was different.  I didn’t know at the time that I was the very back, and I felt more like I was relaxing and being patient than panicking while trying to stay in the race.  I also let myself get closer to the rail and go for the ride instead of wasting energy on the outside to be on someone’s shoulder.

Trust.  About half way through a race is usually make or break time for me.  Between 2k and 3k I just barely started to think about that wall from two years ago, but quickly changed my mantra from relax, be patient to stay tough, you can handle this.  Gaps were starting to form.  Packs were breaking apart.  It was time to put my head up and start moving up.

Strength.  Okay 1200 to go.  We do repeats at this pace all the time!  You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re strong.  Just finish it strong.  And I did.  15:30.33. New PR :)

Of course I can never help being critical of my races either.  After my excitement died down a little bit, my first thought was if I could go that far under 15:40, where were those last 4 seconds for the A standard?  Could I have started pushing myself a little sooner?  But I’ll always have those thoughts after races.  They fuel me for the next one.

So despite some travel issues with my bag getting lost both on the way to and from San Francisco, I had a pretty good trip.  Traveling with Coach Gag and my NJNYTC teammates was really awesome and Palo Alto is a beautiful place.  And I’ve always loved being able to race with my teammates.   Congrats to them on big PRs as well!  I also got to spend a good amount of time catching up with the Syracuse team. Finally, west coast races often mean a large contingent of bird supporters!  So in addition to Gags on one end of the track, I could hear a great Oiselle group cheering each lap at the other end.