Category Archives: doubts

Small News: I Picked a Fall Marathon

I just signed up for the RDC Marathon in November.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m about to start General Surgery Residency and I registered for a fall marathon. Before you think I’m entirely crazy, let me attempt to explain.

First, I need something outside of the hospital for me. Running is an excellent outlet for stress for me but I need something to focus me more than just vague “stay in shape,” so a long race is a great motivator.

Second, I need to dip my foot back in the marathon pool. My last marathon was in 2014 and my last big focus race was the Philly Half in 2015. As I’ve covered, perhaps ad nauseam, Philly and the failure there wounded me more than I can express and it’s been an ugly road back. I’ve self sabotaged races, half assed training and generally faced an enormous amount of fallout from that one race. I’m at a point now where I’ve accepted that I can’t expect to come back at the same place I left in 2015. I haven’t trained at a high level in over a year and have had numerous setbacks in that time. What I can do, however, is start fixing the foundation and looking forward to the Olympic Trials for 2020.

So why a full marathon and not a half? I often joke that for a marathon to go well, God himself needs to come down and anoint you for the perfect day but that you can run a good half marathon with locusts falling from the sky. That’s still true, if you have the perfect training setup. If you don’t, however, you lack the requisite speed to run fast at the half distance. As I’ll detail in an upcoming post, my schedule for the next year is a bit…challenging and will require a ton of flexibility on my part. What it does include, however, is a guaranteed post-call day when I can get my long run in.

Why did I choose a brand new marathon that it unlikely to have a ton of people or crowd support? See above with Philly. I considered trying to get into the elite field of a race but my times are too old and I didn’t want to automatically assign the pressure of being an invited athlete to my comeback. As Abbey said the other day, “just let me run with regular people and drink from paper cups and run fast.” Yes, the ultimate goal is to post a 2017 time that will get me back into invited fields but I don’t need to add pressure for this first big race back.

Right now, I don’t have any hard goals. After all, I have 23 weeks and almost half a surgical intern year between then and now. In my mind, I would really like to break 3 hours but I’ll reevaluate that as I get closer to the race. My other big goal is to have a good training cycle that will help me to put Philly behind me once and for all.

Week in Review 7.11.16 to 7.17.16

This week has been an utter whirlwind. Finished in Chicago, ran a half, drove to Charlotte, got stuck in an airport for 14 hours and finally got back to Vermont. 

Monday: 2 by mile at T pace (6:25, 6:24) then 4 x 200 hard. Sweltering heat, the kind that makes the lines on the track blur. 6.1 miles.

Tuesday: 4 mile recovery run. Arms and core after.

Wednesday: Off Day.

Thursday: Quick interval workout of 2 by 400, 2 by 200. Super humid and hot but good prep for Sunday. 5 miles.

Friday: 4 miles easy.

Saturday: 2.5 miles easy.

Sunday: RockNRoll Chicago Half Marathon. 1:26:48 and 16 miles total on the day.

Total Miles: 37.6

I’ll write a full race report soon (probably next week after I get to Asheville and get through this next set of boards) but RockNRoll was not quite what I wanted it to be. It did serve as a good fitness test and will certainly propel me forward but it was frustrating to yet again find myself totally comfortable in the 6:30s with no real ability to pick it up from there.

The next two weeks will be pretty low-key from a training perspective for a few reasons. First, I need a small break from running and to evaluate what pieces of my training need to change. My reaction to a crappy race is always the same: one half of me wants to quit and never run again and the other half is angry and just wants to hammer harder. It’s fine to hammer but I need to take some time to figure out how to hammer smarter. Second, I have another set of medical boards next weekend that crept up on me. This test isn’t quite as big as Step 1 but it’s not one that I can blow off either so I’m spending most of my time studying for that and just keeping active for maintenance. Finally, I’m starting up in Asheville on Sunday and as it always is in a new place, it’s hard to know how the schedule will work.

Self Conscious

I had a bizarre experience last Saturday during the 10,000 that has been bothering me since. I didn’t include it in my race report because it was such a positive experience overall that I didn’t want to taint it by telling this story but since I can’t shake it, here it is.

I was maybe 6 laps into the race, feeling incredible because I was clicking off laps effortlessly and feeling strong. As I rounded the curve towards the home straight, someone yelled out “Number 21, open up your stride!!” At first, I thought perhaps I misremembered the number stuck to me and shook it off. When I came around on the next lap, however, a coach in red started screaming again “Number 21, your STRIDE!!!! OPEN UP YOUR STRIDE!!” She was standing in the bleachers screaming at me and I.was.mortified.

First of all, I have a lot of residual embarrassment and fear of being yelled at by coaches from my high school experience so it was a miracle that I even signed up for a race on the track where there is nowhere to hide for close to 40 minutes. I won’t lie that I was extremely self-conscious as I stepped on the track with the lowest female hip number in my spandex at 32 years old next to 18 and 19 year olds. The fact that a stranger, someone who doesn’t know me, coach me or have any stake in my performance felt that it was appropriate to scream at me for my form hurt me more than I can ever explain. I turned and shrugged my arms at her, my feeble attempt to say “f*ck off” and finished my race without incident but it chewed at me for the remainder of the race. I thought about finding her afterward to give her a piece of my mind, both as a coach and an athlete, but decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting.

Since then, I haven’t been able to go for a run without feeling self conscious about my form. Are those drivers looking at me, wondering why I run so oddly? Do I look ridiculous doing speed work? Why do I even bother to try to run competitively with such bad form?

Here’s the thing: I DO shuffle. Part of that is because I have been running marathons for years and the shuffle comes with the territory. Part of it is because I stand all day long, often in weird positions and my back and hips are ridiculously tight. Part of it is that I don’t do enough dynamic work. But my shuffle also works to my advantage. I have a high cadence and I land on my midfoot, which means my impact is virtually nil. I’m quiet and efficient when I run. I know I could use more knee drive. Most of us could. What I don’t need more of, however, is self consciousness about how I look when I’m running. 

Has this ever happened to you in a race? Would you have confronted her? What’s your body/running hangup?

How Many Things Do You Want to Be Good At?

My experience in medical school is generally on the periphery of this blog, in part because it’s a blog about running and in part because I like having a section of my life that isn’t consumed by medicine and the torture that is becoming a doctor. That last statement is a bit tongue in cheek, especially over the past year. Anyone who was around me during the first year of medical school knows that I was miserable. I love people and being around patients and getting ripped away from the real world to study biochemistry was painful. Last night, however, as I was walking out of the hospital some 13 hours after I walked in, I found myself almost bouncing home and realized whoa, I am in love with my job. That’s not to say that I didn’t come home and almost cry when I realized I had 10 hours of work to do but only 9 hours til my alarm went off again and a strong desire to get a little sleep, but in general, what I get to do every day is fucking incredible.

In that vein, this week has been nuts. Will is back in Connecticut so I’m on my own with the dogs, the house and everything that goes into being a 32 year old with a life outside the hospital. Despite the fact that my alarm went off at 3:45 every morning this week, I still found myself running out of time to get my full planned run in and was so frustrated with myself on Wednesday when my planned 8 mile workout turned into a 4 mile workout. By the time I got home, I had convinced myself that I could never do a surgical residency because my house would be messy and I wouldn’t be able to get my runs in and would never see my family. Then I opened the door and the dogs were there, as happy as ever to see me and Joe made dinner (best friend ever) so I could get the 4 miles in and I just took.a.breath.

After I calmed down, we were talking about the limits of what you can be good at at one time. This topic is actually a big source of conflict for Will and I because it is one of the few areas in which we view the world entirely differently. I throw myself into things and my brain never shuts off, even when a commitment is done. Will walks out of the hospital and switches gears, leaving work at work until he goes back the next day. When he’s running, he’s running. When he’s watching tv, he’s just watching tv. In contrast, if I happen to be sitting on the couch, I’m practicing suturing, answering coaching emails, looking up articles for my next great research paper and thinking through all the unsolved questions of my day.

I don’t know which approach is best (probably somewhere between the two), but I do know that it’s definitely a place where I need to improve going forward. I will have plenty of time to be a runner; in fact, surgery ends in three weeks and I start a rotation with more time to train. I will get more time back to help coach the Nordic team. I will get a moment to call my mom.

The running related piece of this is that for the next few weeks, I’ve accepted that what I have time for is what I have time for and am working on being fully grateful for whatever that looks like. I’m so excited for some outdoor runs this weekend (even if the weather forecast is for rain, which will make our snowy sidewalks a mess). I’m grateful that I was able to run every day this week.

Quiet the Doubts in Your Head

In the vein of Halloween, some workouts haunt you forever. Steady state long runs are one workout that spikes my anxiety enormously, dating back to the first real disaster I had training under Will. It was my birthday and we had a meet so I needed to get my workout in early and headed to the bike path. It was something like 13 miles total with 6 at steady state pace, which was probably 6:45 pace that year. Within a couple of miles, it was clear that the workout wasn’t going to go well. I couldn’t breathe, my legs were heavy and hitting 6:45 pace seemed impossible. I ended up crouching on the side of the bike path because I was crying so hard at my “failure.” I remember dragging myself to the meet, not wanting to make eye contact with Will because I was so ashamed. I would later be introduced to the term “misfire,” which is what he writes in his coaching spreadsheet when a workout goes awry. A cute term, but challenging to bounce from as an athlete. Later that cycle, I would try the workout two more times with full success, even noting in my training log that it was “easy” the second successful time.

I had a similar workout on the calendar for Monday: 2 hours with 8 miles at 6:30 pace. Despite the fact that I’ve run longer workouts at a similar pace with no major issues and that I just raced a 10K significantly faster, I launched right back into the mode of “this is a workout that I can’t do.” I told Will 1000 times that I was anxious about the workout, that I didn’t think I could do it, that 6:30 pace was too fast. Although it was three years ago, the memory of crouching by the bike path thinking “failure, failure, failure” felt like it happened yesterday.

As most workouts do, my run on Monday turned out fine. In fact, it turned out great. With a very honest steady state effort, I clicked off 8 miles at 6:23 pace and 15 miles total. Despite this, I wasn’t excited after my workout, I was just happy that it was over. Why is it that we’re so willing to dwell on one bad workout for years but won’t celebrate a good one for even a day? When another steady state run comes up, I guarantee that I’ll think back to the “failed” one and not remember the one from Monday where I felt fit and fast.

What workouts haunt you? How do you erase the memory of a bad workout or race? What workouts always make you smile when they show up on your schedule?

Week in Review 9.14.15 to 9.20.15

Monday: 7.2 miles of recovery plus 6 striders on the grass. Hip work afterward.

Tuesday: 6 by 1K repeats (3:40, 3:44, 3:45, 3:45, 3:44, 3:45). Legs totally dead and a super frustrating workout. Leg lift afterward.

Wednesday: 7.1 mile recovery run. Lifted arms.

Thursday am: 13.1 miles with 2 by 2 at Tempo Pace. Was supposed to do 3 by 2 miles but when I went to start the third, I almost couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. Essentially jogged home.

Thursday pm: 3 miles warming up with Erin before her 3K.

Friday: Scheduled Off Day. 7 miles prorated. Lots of activity setting up our school fun run.

Saturday am: 5 miles plus 6 striders bright and early.

Saturday day: 5 miles of running plus 3 miles of coursewalking at the Invitational. Legs cooked at bedtime. Girls had an epic day with JV winning and Varsity in third.

Just want to bottle this happiness!

Just want to bottle this happiness!

Sunday: Downtown 10K in 38:33, a 5 second PR and the win! Much more in my race write up but a perfect example of why going out with caution and racing smart always pays off. In this case, literally, with a $125 prize.

A little stunned at the finish.

A little stunned at the finish.

Total Miles: 67.4

Before this morning, this week was one of the most stressful in all of my running life. I don’t totally understand what’s going on with my running and it’s so frustrating to feel like I’m doing all of the right things and having nothing really work out. Finally made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow morning to get my iron levels checked, among a few other things, and will see a sports dietitian on Thursday to see what suggestions she has. Having a good race today is a huge mental help, however, as I felt like the first 4 miles were extremely easy and that changing gears wasn’t that difficult.

Week in Review 8.17.15 to 8.23.15

Feeling a bit like I cannot catch a break! Had an awesome early week of getting up at 4:30 and getting my runs in only to wake up sick as a dog on Friday heading into our training camp. Will assures me it’s not the end of the world but I’m too full of snot and sore from coughing to totally believe him.

Monday: 6.5 miles early.

Tuesday: 8.65 early with Chris and Carl on the bike path. Epic humidity.

Wednesday: 10 miles with 2 by (3 min, 2 min, 1 min hard). Dewpoint of 70 = wheezing during my run. In hindsight, perhaps the beginning of my sinus infection/cold.

Thursday: 7 mile recovery run.

Friday: No voice and swollen sore throat. Decided to push my long run “a day” in hopes that I would feel better with more sleep. 5.2 miles easy.

Saturday am: No such luck on feeling better. 3.5 miles of hilly, rocky terrain when we arrived at Windridge.

Saturday afternoon: 5 miles of speed training courtesy of cross country lacrosse.

Sunday am: 5 miles with the team with 6 by 30 seconds hard uphill. Totally knocked down by my cold. Legs after the workout.

Sunday pm: 2 mile run with Joe before drills. 15 minutes of aquajogging cut short by a bee sting in the pool. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Spent the rest of the night absolutely miserable between the cold and an allergic reaction.

Total Miles: 53

Obviously the end of this week was anything but optimal. My big job right now is to get healthy so that I can attack Phase 3 next week. The good news is that my schedule is now wide open for running and that as soon as I stop coughing, wheezing and generally feeling horrible, there’s nothing in the way of training. It is certainly hard to keep the faith right now, however, so I’m definitely getting plenty of practice with my positive self talk!!

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.

Teetertotterfinished

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?

Race Report: Falmouth 4 Miler 2015

Long story short, this was not one of my favorite race experiences. From a very stressful pre-race experience to a course that was anything but flat, I didn’t leave yesterday with a lot of good feelings about racing or my progress.

I left Lewiston at 7:00 am, plenty of time to make the trip to Falmouth, collect my bib and warm up. When I arrived in Falmouth, however, there was no signage for the race near the address provided and I spent 25 minutes driving around deserted neighborhoods and Falmouth High School trying to find the start. Finally, I saw runners warming up and followed them back to the well-hidden community park. Granted, this was more of a community event, but any signage would have been much appreciated. I finally parked and got my bib at 8:15 for an 8:30 start. Suffice to say, I was not calm, cool and collected as planned.

I jogged a mile in some serious wind to warm up, then stripped off my layers just before the start. The air temperature was great but the gusts of 30+ mph made standing at the start uncomfortable. Thankfully we started only a little bit late so I didn’t have time to fully freeze.

I wouldn't necessarily call this flat and fast...

I wouldn’t necessarily call this flat and fast…

Mile 1: Not warmed up, at all. This was also a visibly hilly mile and I struggled to get comfortable. Because of my lack of warmup and the hill, I was prepared for a slow first mile but was still frustrated to run a 6:21.

Mile 2: Finally up the first incline and into some rollers. Starting to feel a little smoother here and passed a few people as I found a sort of groove. 6:14.

Mile 3: The mile began with a 360 on a side street to turn around and headed back up the hill I had just cruised down. We also started to face the tailwind we’d enjoyed on the way out. I was in no man’s land but started working my way up through the few guys ahead of me to get some protection from the wind. Started to feel much smoother in this mile. 6:19.

Mile 4: Downhill! Legs were feeling great here but unfortunately, we were headfirst into seriously strong wind. Despite my best efforts, my hands and arms were flailing just trying to go forward. When we turned into the home stretch, the wind faded some and I started to kick. I was surprised to find a ton of acceleration and disappointed that we didn’t have much race left. The chute wasn’t marked, like at all, so I had a bit of an odd finish as I hooked left after crossing what I thought was the finish line. 6:05.

Finish Time: 25:04

7th Overall, 2nd Woman.

wpid-20150411_094255.jpg

What I’m Happy About: Despite a bad pre-race routine, I managed to keep my wits about me and not just flip out during the race. I am working on not getting frustrated in the wind and give myself a B+ for not fighting it today. I was really happy to feel like I had a lot of gears left at the end (just wish I’d had them earlier) and to find that I’m not tired or sore at all today. Incidentally, yesterday was also a 4 mile PR of over two minutes. That being said, my only prior 4 miler was a 27:11 in 2008.

What I’m Frustrated About: I’ve had some really good workouts recently even with my legs being exhausted from third year and I don’t feel like yesterday was reflective of where I’m at. Even on Wednesday when I was post-call, I cranked out 1200s faster than I did when I ran my half marathon PR (which is faster than I ran yesterday…) I feel like I’m slowing down despite more speed work but Will assures me that he’s not worried so I’m trying to believe him.

Where I Go From Here: We’re working on finding another fitness test soon, which will probably be the weekend I head back to Vermont (May 2nd/3rd). I’m going to keep focusing on short stuff and speed into the summer, both because my schedule just doesn’t accommodate longer training right now and because I need to figure out how to move faster. In the interim, I need to facilitate recovery to the best of my ability and take opportunities to get off my feet and get as much sleep as possible. I also need to keep working on strength training and remember to drink even during the busiest clinic days.

Another race experience done!

Another race experience done!

Week in Review 9.15.14 to 9.21.14

There’s a saying about a bad dress rehearsal indicating that you’re ready for a great performance. Here’s hoping that applies to running too, because it has been a disaster of a “rehearsal” week! I came into last week assuming it would be a normal schedule, so I took Monday really easy following my big workout on Sunday which put me behind on miles with the intent of making them up easily later in the week. Then I had a crazy day in clinic on Wednesday which meant that I missed my run entirely, a workout that got cut short on Thursday and insane wind on my race shakeout on Saturday. To top it off, I had a shitty race yesterday. Woof. It was a frustrating Sunday and I would not say I’m heading into the final 3 weeks with a whole lot of confidence.

Monday: Recovery 6 and yoga. Feeling pretty good post-workout.

Tuesday: Early morning 10.2 miler with Carl plus striders at the end. Feeling great.

Wednesday: Off, unscheduled and really mad about it. Lifted arms in the evening.

Thursday: Rushed workout. 7 by 5 minutes at T pace and 2 by 200 at really-effing-hard pace. Jumped in the car and drove to my meeting without a cooldown. Brilliant.

Friday: 10 mile recovery run through the Intervale.

Saturday: 7 miles of a laughable run. Convinced Will that we should go to the Causeway. Not too bad on the way out, but turned around to a 40 mph headwind. Because we didn’t want to trash my hip flexors, we walked for a mile before jogging back. Striders after.

Sunday: Downtown 10K in 40:27 thanks to a 24 mph headwind and 60+ dewpoint. Felt fine on the warmup and during the race (besides weather conditions) then spent 45 minutes post-race with my head down on Church Street with heart palpitations. Was in serious Sinus Tach until 10:30 (laying down on my bed racing at 140 bpm) and felt off for the rest of the day even when I got back in normal rhythm. Total of 10 miles and total frustration.

It’s hard not to have a week like the last one and not have a total meltdown, get in your bed and decide to scratch all future races. I’m resisting the urge to do that, running full volume until Friday of this week and going into taper with the hope that all my hard work this summer will come together in three weeks.