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.

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Race Day Recaps: BU Valentines and Millrose Games

Since coming home from Texas/Seattle I’ve been really busy getting back to work, both at Rutgers and with running, and traveling to more races.  That’s why I got so delayed on my race recaps.  Now I have some time to take a small step back and reflect on the last few weeks…

The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting this new phase in my running career is that not everything goes as planned and that’s okay. If preparations went perfectly, I would have slept well after my 3k in Seattle, not gotten sick the next Tuesday and been able to do a workout with my team to get ready for the mile in Boston.  I would have known exactly what and where I was racing the week after Boston, but neither was the case. In hindsight I feel a little funny thinking about the fact that I almost didn’t go to Boston. Yes, racing when you’re not feeling well is terrible and a bad idea when your next race is a week away. I didn’t want to run poorly and then make myself even more sick by traveling. But after sleeping for 12 hours that night, I woke up Wednesday feeling like a new person. My only hesitation then was that I had missed the workout. What if I wasn’t sharp enough to race? It definitely made me nervous, but I couldn’t miss a chance at a good race and a big PR.  I’ve always loved racing in Boston, and this time was no different.  Kate Grace took us out perfectly, again, and I owe her a lot of thanks for another PR.  Before I got on the line, Gag told me not to leave any gaps, which is something I remember Coach Fox always saying as well.  Both of them were there watching and I could hear them cheering, but I watched the Flotrack video of the race, I could see myself fall back half of a step and then get right back on where I know they were both in my head.  I was thrilled with a 6 second PR (4:31.3) and to be able to see my teammate, Amanda Winslow, run the third fasted time in the world just ahead of me (4:26.28).

The week that followed was a mess of confusion.  The plan was to fly out to Iowa and run another 3k.  We tried to get into the Millrose 3k, but the heat was over full so even waiting to see if someone scratched wasn’t an option.  And then Mother Nature attacked New Jersey again.  My flight was canceled and there were no other flights going out in enough time for me to get to Iowa and prepare for my race properly.  My indoor season was over and it was time to gear up for spring…until another curve ball was thrown at me.  Flights getting into New Jersey were being canceled as well, which meant that a spot opened up in the Millrose Wanamaker Mile.  I owe an I’m sorry/thank you to Katie Mackey, who couldn’t make it out of Seattle, and a big thank you to David Monti of NYRR for making me a last minute addition.

So I found out on my way to a workout Friday morning that in a day and a half I would be in one of the biggest, most watched races.  The number of times I had to wrap my mind around racing and not racing and racing again throughout the week was making me a little dizzy.  I told Gag that I was mentally overwhelmed and he responded with “Ha! That’s a good one. You’ll be fine.”  And then, though still nervous, I started to get pretty excited.  Nat sent me the quote,

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

  He’s right; it doesn’t matter if I knew all along or if I found out when I did.  I’ve been training hard and racing well and I was presented with an amazing opportunity.

I wish I could say that I took the quote and ran with it (see what I did there?), and had the most incredible race of my life, but it didn’t quite go that way.  No one went with the rabbit and it turned into a jumbled mess until 800 and I just didn’t have the same strength or speed to go from there.  I felt tired and flat.  The crazy thing is that if I hadn’t run in Boston the week before, the 4:35 that I’m disappointed with would have been my new PR.  I also know that it was really great for me to have that experience.  Actual racing like that is different from time a time trial-type race and I needed that experience on a big stage.  Now I need to work on having the courage to be the one that pushes the pace when the rest of the field doesn’t, and/or put myself in a better position to go.

Full of new experiences from the past month and a half in Texas, Seattle, Boston, and NYC, I’m ready to reboot for the spring season. I can never seem to say thank you enough for all of the support via all forms of social media. More good things to come!

#NJNYtakesTX: Winding Down

January is coming to an end, which means so is our trip to San Antonio. I’ve had a really great time bonding with some teammates and learning a lot along the way. Without realizing it, I was getting into a rhythm at home planning what I had to do each day and I started to feel like I was going through the motions. I think getting away from every day life with work and whatever else to train has helped me to take a step back and enjoy the hard work that goes into what I’m trying to do. I know that going home means going back to work and every day things that require a bit more scheduling again, but I don’t think I’ll feel like I’m going through motions anymore, “fitting in” my run or gym time. Why did I feel like there was such a rush before just to get it done? Sometimes I need to remember to enjoy the process, and this trip was a great reminder.

At the same time, I’ve learned that the life of a full time runner is tough.  I mean, I am a full time runner in New Jersey too; it’s not like I switch to part time at home and do half the running, half the eating healthy, half the strength training, but I also have a part time job that keeps my mind off of running.  Something I’ve learned while here is that I like having that distraction.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been having a BLAST in San Antonio.  As I’ve said before, I appreciate the opportunity to train in a new, warm place, and I know it’s something that’s good for me and I would like to continue doing each year.  But non-training projects stop me from obsessing and dwelling.  I was way too excited to get my work schedule emailed to me last week so I could write it in my planner and start working on student questionnaires.  I’m also trying to take on an extra project.  Not many details yet, but we have been talking a lot about ways that NJNY can become more involved in our local running community.  Anyway, I know I can’t take on too much and training comes first, but it’s definitely nice to have something to work on.

That being said, we did come out here to put in some good hard work and that is pretty tiring.  Although we (or at least I) lack the energy to go on big Texas adventures every day, we have been taking advantage of the trip.  Quick recap: we took a mini road trip to Austin, ventured downtown and saw the Alamo and the River Walk (from what I was told before coming down here, the trip would not have been complete without it), I explored the natural bridge caverns when my brother came to visit from Houston, and we got to know some of the awesome local runners through the grand opening of We Run San Antonio running store. Most importantly, we did some serious quality training. Success.

On to the next adventure: 2014 Indoor Season. Get ready Seattle, we’re on our way.

#NJNYtakesTX: Hill Country

Finding hills in San Antonio is no problem at all. My brother lives in Houston and when I told him I would be training here he said everyone calls it hill country, but I took it with a grain of salt because I know that where he lives you can see for miles with absolutely no change in elevation. Relatively speaking, “hill country” didn’t hold much value. I’ve quickly learned that he (or his San Antonio sources) were correct. There are hills. I only wish there was a little less fog this morning so that we could have been rewarded for our climb to the top of a trail with a view.

Yesterday was a new experience for me.  After our pace run, I went for a massage at a neuromuscular pain and nutrition center and was worked on by Savitri Frizzell. I have never even seen a chiropractor before and this fall was my first time seeing a massage therapist.  It was a great session.  I took anatomy in high school, but studying social sciences for the past five years distanced me from knowledge of the muscles, nerves, and bones. I know the basics, but I feel like I should know more. I always appreciate it when whoever is working on my explains what is happening, and that is exactly what she did. What everything seems to boil down to is that my right leg is longer than my left, which throws everything off balance.  The way she was able to find areas in my legs and hips that were feeling tension, massage somewhere, and immediately release the tension was really awesome.  Needless to say, I learned a lot and I have some great exercises to add to my daily routine! And she has an office in New Jersey…

Some more running inspiration (Pinterest credit to Jenn Ennis aka @runnderlust):
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#NJNYtakesTexas: We Have Arrived!

After many traveling woes (canceled and delayed flights, missing bags, excessive turbulence) our whole contingent is finally here and settled in the Lone Star State.  First impressions of Texas: everything really is bigger, Mexican food is delicious, and there’s something about a truck. I guess there has to be some truth to the stereotypes.
1. The trip to the “grocery store” was very overwhelming for me. HEB Plus was like a combination of five different stores with groceries, clothes, appliances, electronics, and probably anything else you could imagine (but somehow different than Walmart).
2. The restaurant was a great choice. First dinner in Texas was done right with enchiladas.
3. There really are so many trucks! But not just your average truck, because everything is bigger here. We pulled up to a restaurant for dinner with our little VW Jetta between two monsters. I think I would have needed a boost just to get onto the step that is supposed to boost you into the truck.

Amanda and I were the last ones to arrive late last night, but this was no reason to forget why we are here.  This morning started with a cross training and core session at Gold’s Gym.  This place was huge and very luxurious! I wish I could say that since I wrote about my attempts to become a swimmer I have succeeded and can now swim a gazillion laps while rotary breathing like a pro, but I can’t. I really did practice, but I’m not confident enough in my swimming to use it as a legitimate, beneficial form of cross training. Today I stayed in my comfort zone and used my new aqua jogging belt, but I have not given up on swimming! I have my swim cap and goggles with me and I want to keep working on it. This was followed up by an afternoon trail run. Today was still a little chilly, but it certainly wasn’t 6° like new jersey and the rest of the week is supposed to be in the 60s and 70s!

Some motivation for the weeks to come from Kara Goucher:
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New Year, New Place, New Plans

Sunshine and 10 Gallon Hats
I spent a good part of last night in Newark Airport (delayed for hours) because I have the opportunity to take a break from the northeast winter to get in some warm weather training in San Antonio. Unfortunately we never left. After hanging out for five hours, the flight was canceled. We weren’t able to get on another one until Monday evening, and our bags were not pulled so they went out on the first flight to San Antonio this morning. One more weekend (without any of my good running clothes) training in the cold and snow.

Once we get out there, however, I am really looking forward to a solid month of training, uninhibited by snow, slush, and ice, and a chance to experience a new place. Big thanks to Rose Monday, Oiselle, and Coach Gag for making this all happen for us. Expect a few more posts this month as I report on my Texas adventures!

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Amanda and me ready to leave, and the snow that kept us in NJ

Some Resolutions
I don’t really have a tradition of coming up with a New Year’s resolution.  That’s not to say that don’t think there are things about myself that I could improve, I just usually don’t remember to think about it, and if I do, I get frustrated when I don’t stick to it.  This year I actually have been thinking about some things that I would like to do or work on in 2014, the New Year seems like a great way to start.

1. Become a Tea Drinkerimage
I have never liked tea. Iced or hot, even the smell of it usually makes me feel nauseous. At the same time, I have always wished I did like it. It seems like such a healthy soothing thing to have on cold winter nights before bed. Last year I had a miserable cold when I went home for winter break and my dad begged me to try his herbal tea and it was actually pretty good! A taste for coffee took some time for me to acquire at first too. So I’m starting with this vanilla sleepytime tea before bed and we’ll see where it goes!

2. Drink More Water
As a runner, I think it’s weird that I have to remind myself to drink water. Most of my friends’ water bottles are like an extra limb that they always have with them. I’m really good about it at meets or races, but I really should work on being hydrated all of the time.

3. Eat Different Veggies
I was super picky as a kid growing up and did not eat many things that were healthy for me without a fight. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to like vegetables a lot more, which is good, but I want to branch out from my typical corn and broccoli. I’ve started eating cauliflower more recently, but I want to try more. Any suggestions for veggie recipes are appreciated!

4. Flexibility
I’ve said it before, stretching is a new thing for me. I am incredibly inflexible. Running at the intensity that I am, I would definitely benefit from being more flexible. This goal is part of the reason for plan #5…

5. Get Into Yoga
This one I have been thinking about for years and for some reason never did it. Aside from increasing my flexibility, yoga will increase my core strength while hopefully relieving some stress and relaxing me. I’ve looked into some classes in my area, but there aren’t always beginner classes that fit my schedule and I have yet to get myself out the door. And maybe I’m a little self-conscious about my lack of flexibility. I decided to start small. You can do anything with the Internet. I found a short morning yoga routine on YouTube that I have been doing to get my day started. Maybe after some practice with these basic poses, I will have enough courage to get me to some classes.

6. Discipline
The mental ability to stick with all of these things. I think all of them, or at least most of them, go along with one another and really have to do with me taking steps to get to the next level as an athlete. Looking forward to what 2014 has to offer!

Race Day Recap: 5th Ave Mile

Yesterday, I ran in my first NYRR 5th Ave Road Mile Championships.  Though I ran the Sylvan Beach Mile in July, I keep wanting to say that 5th Ave was my first professional race.  I guess it feels that way because it was the first one away from Syracuse and built up from workouts with NJNYTC.  In a way, it was my second, first post-collegiate race.  But that’s a mouthful.

Race Day Routine…or not
I had to forget about my former race day routine. I never liked being to strict about it anyway because it would drive me nuts if something went wrong. For this one, I didn’t know what to expect and I wanted to be able to go with the flow. I also was home the night before with my parents and my boyfriend, Nat, which is obviously different than being at hotels when traveling with my college team and having a team bus taking us to the race. My mom made some delicious chicken, broccoli, and pesto pasta. Great pre-race meal. The next morning I got up early to wake my legs up and eat a good breakfast before making my dad and Nat leave the house at 8:15. I didn’t have to be in the city until 10:30, so 8:15 was way too early but I was nervous because you never know what could happen with traffic. Of course I got to 5th ave. at about 9:30. That was fine though because it gave me plenty of time to stretch my legs after the ride and find a Dunkin Donuts so I could stick to the one race day ritual I wasn’t willing to compromise on: coffee.

Go Time
I had teammates with me to show me the ropes, which is good because it was new to me. We checked in with Coach Gags and headed to the elite athlete tent where we were given our packets with numbers and instructions for the race. This tent was at the finish line, so we had to make our way a mile up 5th ave. to drop off our plastic bags with our belongings at the start before warming up in Central Park.

The race itself was pretty awesome. The first quarter is flat, second slight uphill, third slight downhill, last flat. I kept reminding myself to be patient because the road can be deceiving. At the crest of the hill 800m in you could already see the finish line and I felt like I could fly so I still had to tell myself it was only half way. Then when I was within 400m of the finish I started to press. I crossed the line in second place with a new PR and all I could think was that was fun! I can’t wait to do it again. A 1-2-3 finish for NJNYTC was pretty cool as well. Also, big congrats to the other Oiselle birds who ran in the 5th Ave. Mile and everywhere else this weekend! I almost couldn’t keep up with all of the tweets about new PRs! Exciting stuff.
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Now What?
The race was a great start to a great week, and hopefully great season. Today I got the keys to my new apartment and moved the first couple boxes of my stuff in! I can’t completely move in until Friday when I have my dad’s help with the furniture, but I’ll be stopping in after work all week to slowly move more boxes and do a little cleaning. Moving down there means no commuting and having teammates to run with on non-workout days. I also got a membership to the gym at Rutgers so I can use some of their facilities. I want to start swimming a couple of times a week, which should be interesting since I haven’t really done it before. I’m willing to try though because I know it’ll be good for me. Other than that, I’m just looking forward to next week and getting into the swing of things.