Doubt Versus Faith

The last few weeks haven’t been the best in recent memory. Some of that is the weather; it’s hard to have any faith when you feel like you’re melting into the sidewalk. Weather doesn’t tend to rattle me for long though: almost everyone is dealing with it and it always gives way to training perfection by mid-September.

What IS rattling me is this creeping sense that things just aren’t going to pull together for me this year. The logical side of my brain tells me that it’s way too early to tell anything but the emotional part nags that I’m behind past years and certainly behind the markers that would predict the run I’m seeking in Philly. There are a few recent moments contributing heavily to that sense of doubt. The first is the Montpelier Mile. In a vacuum, it was a totally acceptable race run off very little specific training at peak mileage but I am struggling to let go of the fact that I a) missed my (arbitrary) time goal and b) got outstepped at the line. Since then, I’ve felt…deflated. Not long after the Mile, I had a horrible training week where running was painful and slow and my legs felt like they were filled with concrete. I slogged through my miles and ended up in tears after almost every run. My recent adaptation week helped me to feel better but as soon as I did, the heat settled in and all of my workouts have been effort rather than pace based. Even though I understand that effort is the way to go, it’s extremely hard to work at interval effort that turns out to be usual tempo pace (or slower). All of this is compounded by the fact that I went out on a huge, terrifying limb and took time off school to train and feel like I might be the world’s biggest failure if I don’t get a huge PR out of the effort.


There are plenty of factors that can explain my funk, both actual and perceived. I’m barely sleeping courtesy of third year and when I do sleep, I need to recover both from my workouts and from standing all day. I’m in a constant state of flux (the curse of third year: you’re always new somewhere and almost always in the way) and because everything is so new and unfamiliar, prone to microbursts of adrenaline every time a new situation crops up. Even my nutrition is suffering. The past two weeks on clinic were better because lunch breaks were built in but on other services, it’s “grab what you can, eat when you can” which is the enemy of effective fueling.

One of Will’s philosophies is that the process is the goal. That is, it’s more important to build day by day and week by week than to be hyperfocused on only the final goal. Self-doubt is diametrically opposed to the idea of process as the goal. Doubt is fixated on the end goal only. Trusting the process requires enormous faith in self and faith in coach. And the training sweet spot is somewhere right between the two, where you have enough doubt to stay hungry and humble and enough faith to persevere through a training cycle.

Since I started thinking about this post two weeks ago, I’ve actually made some progress towards the middle of the doubt/faith teeter totter. I’ve slowed down my non-workout runs to try to spare my legs, adjusted my expectations significantly before heading out for workouts and am trying to be more honest and open about my feelings of doubt, rather than bottling them up to manage on my own.

How do you ward off self-doubt? Which side of the teeter totter do you naturally fall on?

Week in Review 7.27.15 to 8.2.15

The actual temperature for most of this week...

The actual temperature for most of this week…

Monday: Arms in the morning before clinic. 7.5 at night with Erin. Feeling pretty banged up post-Mansfield.

Tuesday: Temps in the 90s so I took my off day, prorated to 8.5.

Wednesday: Still ridiculously humid with a 72 degree dewpoint. 10.2 miles with 8 by 30 seconds hard uphill.

Thursday: 8 hot recovery miles.

Friday: 9.1 miles with arms after.

Saturday: 10 miles with 4 to 1 fartlek. 4 min at T pace (6:21), 3 min recovery, 3 min at T+ (6:05), 2 min recovery, 2 min at I pace (5:47), 1 min recovery, 1 min hard (5:35), 1 min recovery, 1 min hard (5:27). Not as fast as I would like but have to be happy with it in the heat.

Sunday: 15 miles through Richmond. Hip core after.

Total Miles: 68.3

Total Miles for July: 277 miles with 3 off days.

It’s not easy but I’m pressing on with running despite oppressive heat and lack of sleep. I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to three weeks from now when all I have to do is train but I’m surviving and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

Not sure how the next two weeks will go as I start nights on L&D (6 pm to 6 am) but aiming for two more full mileage weeks as I wrap up this clerkship then an adaptation week while I’m on bridge and then the big time training begins!


Week in Review 7.20.15 to 7.26.15

Time is flying towards Philly! Somehow I only have a week of clinic and two weeks of L&D until I’m “off” til November. It’s both exciting to think about training full time and terrifying to feel like I’m not in the best shape I could be going into that focused period.

Monday: 7.1 in 87 degrees.

Tuesday: 8.5 at 4:30 am. 2 by (3, 2, 1 minute with equal recovery).

Wednesday: 6 miles at recovery pace.

Thursday: 8.5 miles with Annie. Slowed it down a bit and felt much better.

Friday: 6.2 miles and arms afterward. Starting to feel better.

Saturday: 8.2 mile Progression Run. First three miles of progression felt great; really easy. Last mile was awful.

Sunday: 12 mile run up Mount Mansfield. Yup, 925 feet to 2760 in 3.5 miles. Felt amazing going up. Coming down was a little rough on the quads.

Does this count as altitude?

Does this count as altitude?

Total Miles: 57

This adaptation week was needed both physically and mentally. With a little more focus on food (eating enough of it, on a regular schedule), only running in my GoRuns (can’t explain why my Kinvara and Hoka are killing me) and slowing my pace down, my legs have really calmed down. The weather is becoming a major factor with dew points well into the 70s but it’s a little easier to be patient for progress when no one feels good. Climbing up Mansfield was also a great bonus workout; hard enough to get my heart rate up but (hopefully) not so hard that I ruined my legs for the week.

Back to normal mileage this week. I flip to L&D nights next week so my schedule will be more of a 10 day structure but I’m just working on being grateful for every hour that I get to run!

Week in Review 7.13.15 to 7.19.15

Monday: 6.23 mile run with horrible OR legs.

Tuesday: Last case didn’t roll out of PreOp until 6:30 pm so no run for me.

Wednesday: 11 miles with 6 by 30 seconds hard up Depot Street. Legs pretty dead but felt smooth during the hills.

Thursday: 8.5 run just slogging along.

Friday: Fit 9 in and ran into Amy which made it much more enjoyable. Striders in the last mile.

Saturday: 7.5 mile speed workout. Another day with a dewpoint of 70. 6 by 400 on the track. Dying with the heat!

Sunday: Quite the weather potpourri run; thunderstorms and rain for the first hour, then opened up to sun for the second hour. 15 miles, grateful for Erin’s company for all but the last bit. Full body lift after.

Total Miles 65.3

Not going to lie, this week was not the best. My schedule was pretty crushing and I was just in low-grade pain all week. Hoping it’s just fatigue from this new rotation but making plans to get my hemoglobin checked regardless. Heading into an adaptation week next week and will assess from there.

On Anorexia Athletica

As everyone who regularly reads this blog knows, coaching is a central part of my life and I spend a lot of time learning as much as I can about both the physical and emotional elements of effective coaching. Will is similarly interested in coaching and has spent an enormous amount of time researching anorexia athletica, an increasingly common condition that is unfamiliar to many coaches and athletes. Unlike anorexia nervosa where a person’s body habitus usually gives away the condition, anorexia athletica is far more insidious and subtle. In fact, an athlete suffering from anorexia athletica may have what looks to be a “perfect athlete’s body.” I’ve become increasingly concerned about anorexia athletica as a number of popular bloggers have normalized obsessions with excessive exercise and “clean eating” and mainstream running magazines have run multiple articles on how to eat clean, weight loss for performance and “strong as the new skinny.”

Will recently made a training video for coaches and athletes on anorexia athletica (I’m just the narrator) and I think he did an incredible job of fitting in all the key elements including recognition of AA, performance impacts of AA and how to get help for an athlete about whom you are concerned.

Week in Review 7.6.15 to 7.12.15

It seems like I just wrote my Week in Review for last week, but apparently another week has passed! I lived through one week on Gyn Surgery and managed to get my runs in. They weren’t pretty, but they happened. Since not everyone goes to medical school, I thought for this week I would include the other bit of my schedule to give a more “full circle” view of my not-so-glamorous life.

Monday: Orientation from 7:30 til 3:30. 6.9 mile run afterward with Joey then studying/prepping for the rest of the evening.

Tuesday: Orientation from 7 til 2, break to run 9.7 miles in 70 degree dew point with 5 by 300 hard on the track. Incredibly miserable run. There was sweat pouring into my eyes and I wasn’t sure I could move. Then back to school from 6 to 8 for pelvic boot camp. It was what it sounded like…

Wednesday: Up at 4:30 am to prep for the day. 5 cases for the day, so I stood for 12.5 hours in the OR. Home at 6:30 and since my legs were throbbing, decided to take my scheduled rest day (prorated 7) for the week. Prepped until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Thursday: Up at 5 but only 3 cases today. 8.8 recovery miles afterward. SORE/ACHY.

Friday: Up early but no scheduled cases. Studied in the library with my legs up until we were released at 1. Napped, went to Burlington Beer Company with my best friend and her husband who were passing through then ran 8 miles home from there. Gotta do what you gotta do.

Saturday: 10 miles with 4 by 5 minutes at T pace (170 HR) on the Causeway and a lovely lake soak afterward. Legs at night.

See the trees on the horizon to the left? That's the incredible Causeway.

See the trees on the horizon to the left? That’s the incredible Causeway.

Sunday am: 15 mile with Annie absolutely dying in the heat, even at 8 am.

Sunday pm: 5 miles with the team. River soak planned!!

Total Miles: 70.4

This week was brutally painful on my legs. I wore compression socks and running shoes and tried to focus on good posture in the OR but am still in just an enormous amount of low grade pain from concrete floors. Just working on being kind to myself and going on effort with the reminder that in 5 weeks, I’m off to focus on training until Philly.

Leftover picture from last week on the Rail Trail. 16 miles of this!!

Leftover picture from last week on the Rail Trail. 16 mile trail, for 32 miles of amazing running if you need it.

Dear Cyclists

We’ve had a bit of a rough summer here in Vermont, with three fatalities already following car versus bike. Two were alcohol related and one was speed related. All have heightened the intensity of conversations about what it really means to share the road. Some people are blaming the cyclists; from what I understand of these three accidents, this is wholly inappropriate. All three were experienced riders, wearing helmets and following traffic laws. All three drivers were incredibly irresponsible and totally out of control of their 3000 pound vehicles.

The impact of all of this is that many of us, both runners and riders, are feeling a little skittish about being on the roads. Last weekend, Will and I talked about going for a bike ride and then decided we just didn’t feel comfortable given the current climate. It was also a topic of conversation in the OR this week; one person stated that she won’t ride anywhere but the bike path now. Another said he’s been riding more, almost in homage to the three riders who passed away.

I am a fervent supporter of safe running, biking and whatever other person powered movement you want to engage in, but with that said, I am also LIVID at some of the behavior I witness as a driver and as a runner. The saying “one bad apple” comes to mind and although I think most of the cyclists in town are fantastic, I have two enormous pet peeves that I just need to get off my chest.

1. The Surpriser. He comes up behind you silently either on the road (why he’s riding against traffic is another issue) or on the bike path and without saying a word either pushes you off into traffic as he passes or scares the life out of you as he blows by. Related to this is the peloton of who come upon you at 40 miles an hour or the person who yells “On Your Right!” If you’re on the bike path, ride a reasonable speed to accommodate all the other people using the path and pass on the left. Passing on the left is such a convention that when I start to hear someone speak, I automatically move to the right. Following this convention keeps everyone safe; I don’t jump in front of oncoming bikes and you don’t hit me as you pass on the right.

2. The “I’m a Car No Now I’m a Pedestrian.” Pick one. You are either operating as a vehicle or as a pedestrian. You cannot invoke the privileges of both as it is most convenient. I see this most often at stop lights and on cross walks. If you are on the sidewalk (which, by the way, is not allowed in Burlington), stop at the Pedestrian Cross, dismount and wait for your turn to cross. If you are on the road, it is 100% not acceptable to blast through the red light that all the other cars had to stop at. I see this at stop signs all the time as well; cars dutifully stop and wait their turn while bikes blast through. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve almost been hit by a bike while running as I cross an intersection when it’s my turn as a bike blows a red light to turn across the cross walk.

We are all responsible for sharing the road and most of us use the road in different ways throughout our week. When we are drivers, we need to be aware, drive the speed limit and give as much space as we can to other users of the road. As cyclists, we need to ride single file, follow traffic signs, wear bright clothing and lights and generally use common sense. As runners, we need to do much the same. Anger over cyclists trickles down; one bad experience as a driver makes it more dangerous for the next cyclist or runner.

Sharing the road is every single person’s responsibility.

Week in Review 6.29.15 to 7.5.15

I really did run last week, I swear! Inundated with starting ObGyn and didn’t get this out on time at all!

Monday am: 9 mile recovery run.

Monday pm: 3 mile run with the girls. Arms afterward.

Tuesday: 10 mile hill workout in Red Rocks. 6 by 30 second hard.

Wednesday: 7 mile run with 3 by 200 to calibrate for Friday. Was aiming for 41 seconds and totally failed with a 36, 39 and 38. Happy to find that I felt smooth and quick!

Thursday: 9.3 mile run. Hip a little cranky but a beautiful day. Hip core in evening.

Friday am: 3.9 mile shakeout with 4 by 100 on the track.

Friday pm: 6 miles with 1 mile road race. 5:32. Recap here.

Saturday: 5.6 miles of OMG EVERYTHING HURTS and my HR monitor, keeping it below 130.

Sunday: 16 miles in the heat. With bike support and getting up to the rail trail, it was really quite enjoyable although legs still so tired.

Total Miles: 69.9 miles.

Despite being frustrated with my run on Friday, this was an awesome week of running with good miles and hard work. For the first time this cycle, I’ve been a bit sore almost every day but thankfully my hips are behaving well.

As evidenced by it taking me 2 days to get my Week in Review out, the name of the game this week is get 70 miles in whenever you can. Yesterday, I managed to get out in the afternoon and today should be the same. Tomorrow, all bets are off. I’ve learned throughout medical school that when my schedule gets nuts, plans for mileage get a little more flexible. Today, I’ll basically run until I run out of time up to about 12 miles. Similarly, as I have an hour here or there for the rest of this rotation, I’ll take whatever opportunity I have to get miles in.

20 weeks to go!!!!


Race Report: 10th Annual Montpelier Mile

Alternate Title: Years of marathon training do NOT prepare you for a road mile.

I made the last minute decision to run the Montpelier Mile instead of Clarence DeMar earlier in the week, in some part because I wanted a new experience and in some part because there was a lot of cash on the line. Regarding the latter, I should learn that if in any other year I would have won going away, assume that if I’m there, at least four other faster women will show up. Sarah Luck. Anyway, with a $15 entry fee and the opportunity to race through my hometown in front of tons of people, I signed up to donate my lungs to the streets of Montpelier.

Since I’ve never raced a road mile and my last 1500 meter run was literally in the 90s, Will and I hit the track on Wednesday to try to calibrate me for a 5:30 mile. My job was to run 3 200s in 41 seconds. I was not successful. The first was a 36, the second a 39 and the third a 38. Eff it, we’ll do it live.

I will admit to being incredibly nervous. I spent most of yesterday worrying about how to approach the race. I realize that the plan is to run as fast you can for a mile but I worried that I’d either go out too fast and suffer for 300 meters or go out too slow and run out of real estate. The course was set up well with two turns and a round-about. The best part, however, were the crowds. I’ve never run a race with so many people out to cheer us on! Brilliant to have the race just before the parade.

I didn’t wear a watch because the course wasn’t marked, so I have no idea what my splits were. There is a “Dash for Cash” built in for the first 400 so I just tried to stay clear of all the people sprinting for that line. The top 4 women (of which I was a part) were all within steps of each other at the 400 meter mark but a high school girl (she’ll come back into play later) got there first then as we rounded the turn, dropped back quickly. I had my eyes on Christina’s back (ok, her braid, it’s swingy and easy to watch) and the woman in 2nd but was just trying to stay calm. Just before the Roundabout and 800 meter mark, I heard my godparents cheering. As I moved around the Roundabout, people were dropping back quickly and I actually felt pretty good. Somewhere in here, however, Christina and 2nd Woman got away from me. I’m not sure if I was slowing down or they were speeding up but I lost contact big time.

My original plan was to round the last corner and kick for home, which seemed like a lovely plan when I was talking it out with Will. When it came time, however, I rounded the corner and wanted to die. The finish banner was SO SO SO FAR AWAY. And by so far away, I mean 400 meters. I just tried to keep it together but my legs were done with the idea of a mile. As we closed in on the finish, suddenly the high school girl from the start was back and before I could respond, we were over the line. 5:31 for her (and $125) and 5:32 and $0 for me.

To say I spent the first few minutes (like 30 minutes) seriously effing pissed is an understatement. I actually took my singlet off and threw it. Dramatic. I don’t know why I expected to have an amazing mile in the middle of a 70 mile training week, after years as a marathoner but somehow I did. I was more frustrated that instead of staying focused and kicking it in, I just let someone by me in the last 10 feet. Yes, the prize money would have been nice but I was (and am) more frustrated that I didn’t fight all the way to the line. Definitely a race lesson that I need to learn and improve upon…

All in all, it was a great experience to race a totally different distance and I’d actually like to continue to do more short races, both because it hurts in a completely different way (I mean seriously, what’s with the lung pain?) and because it forces me to be razor-focused from the start. I’m already looking forward to the next track meet to keep honing my speed skills!

2nd Annual MMU Cougar Chase 5K

Men setting off after 3 long minutes!

Men setting off after 3 long minutes!

One of the great parts of a cross country race is that it’s unlike any other course and instead of focusing on matching your road 5K PR, you can just let go and try to run the best race you can with the conditions of the day. In hosting the Cougar Chase, the hope is that we can share a bit of the magic of cross country while doing our annual team fundraiser. We set it up as a chase with women heading out 3 minutes ahead of the men to try to set up great sprints to the finish and stoke some inter-team competitiveness.

Last year’s top woman was Kate Leugers in 19:54, holding off Derrek Schulz in 17:10 (20:10 clock time).

Great battles in history: Nolan versus Swaney!

Great battles in history: Nolan versus Swaney!

This year, the prizes are shaping up to be AMAZING, with a pair of shoes for the top three finishers (male or female, whoever gets to the line first). Huge thanks to Skechers, Fleet Feet and SkiRack for the donations so far!

If you’re local, the race is July 18th at 8:30 and 8:33 am at Mills Riverside Park in Jericho. Entry fee is $10 and all proceeds benefit MMU Cross Country. We are in desperate need of new uniforms this year and will be using our funds for that!

Online Entry or Day-Of Entry from 7:15 am to 8:00 am.

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