Category Archives: Marathon

Olympic Trials Preview 2016

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit bittersweet for Olympic Trials Week to arrive. During my training cycle this fall, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about what it would be like to toe the line in LA, how it would feel to don an Olympic Marathon Trials bib. When that didn’t become a reality AND I had a bad race in Philly, it was hard to not just throw my running shoes away entirely. I’m past that and inspired to be back to training but it still stings to not have made it to this coming weekend.

I’m still excited to watch the race next Saturday to see who will be our “three” in Rio. My prediction is that Desi will win, with Shalane and Amy Hastings Cragg hanging on for 2/3. There are a few dark horses in the field who might challenge early but ultimately, I think experience will win out. On the men’s side, I’m a lot less educated but expect it will include Rupp and Meb plus a dark horse. I wish I thought Ritz would get it together but he just hasn’t demonstrated the durability for the marathon.

Runner’s World did a cool infographic on the qualifiers. Looks like I have the right name but should have gone for the marathon standard instead of the half (which I already knew and considered…). New goal: get Vermont on the map the next time around!

Who do you think will make up the US Marathon team?

Paddle Your Own Canoe

paddlecanoe

There are plenty of things about being a third year medical student that are hard. You’re never entirely sure of your responsibilities, you’re almost always in the way and most of the time, you get your feet on the ground just to switch services again. It is the definition of in flux. Despite this, third year is also the time when you are supposed to pick your specialty. Picking your specialty is somewhat like picking a spouse. In fact for some people, their specialty will last longer than their spouse.

For whatever it says about me, classmates who don’t know me particularly well always assumed I would do Surgery. I wasn’t so convinced; after all, it’s a notoriously difficult residency and lifestyle and I like my dogs, my husband and my running. I loved my OBGyn clerkship and was fairly convinced that was the way to go for me. Until General Surgery. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Surgery, not unlike falling in love with your spouse. As Abbey once said, when you know you know. As soon as I admitted it to Will and to my closest friends (and switched my Advisor and my entire 4th year schedule…), I just felt at peace. I was excited again about the next phase, invigorated by the challenge of tinkering with the human body.

As word spread, however, that I ditched OB to General Surgery (we get a little cliquey about such things), I started to get reactions from friends that included, “Well, do anesthesia before you really commit” and “Are you sure? Don’t you want kids?” As sure and as happy as I was (and am), doubt started to creep in.

While I was walking the dogs late this afternoon, I realized that choosing General Surgery as a 30 something female is par for the course for me. I’ve never been one for the easy path. I’ve never been one who avoids an experience because it might be arduous or difficult. People ask me the same thing about marathons/my running life: “Aren’t they hard?” or “I could NEVER run that many miles.” Ultimately what works for me (and ignites the spark in me) doesn’t have to work for everyone else. I love running and I embrace the challenges and disappointments that come with it. Some days it’s easy and I don’t have to think before heading out the door and some days it takes sheer force of will to get out there. But it’s always worth it. I am approaching General Surgery in the same way. I know it is an exhausting road, but I can tolerate exhaustion if it’s something I’m passionate about. That is a lesson gleaned from life as a long distance runner…

Paddle your own canoe. 

 

Millinocket Half and Full Marathon 2016

Maine has always held a special place in my heart. Although my dad was born and raised outside of Boston, his parents moved up to Belfast, Maine with his youngest sisters and that’s where we went for holidays and summer vacation. My aunt Stacey is one of Dad’s younger sisters (he has 6 of them!) and has always been a runner. She came down to cheer for my first marathon, held me in an ice bath after and continues to encourage my running in a zillion ways. She now lives in Lincoln, Maine on a beautiful pond where she continues to kayak, run and live the “Maine way.”

Millinocket is right next to Lincoln and as this article points out, has been hard hit by the closure of Great Northern. One of my uncles worked for the paper mills in Maine, another worked for Bath Iron Works and one of my cousins worked for the Verso mill in Bucksport, so the idea of using a race to stimulate the economy strikes a chord with me as I’ve heard my family talk about the very real impact of mill closures on their lives. I’m excited to see that it’s already full but also hoping more spots open up so that Suzanne, Stacey and I can run it in December.

What do you think about this idea? Have you done this kind of event before? Anyone sign up for this one before it filled?

Insanity

There’s a quote that states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. A similar sentiment is captured by if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. I got to thinking about these two quotes when I was running around the track on Tuesday, dreading my next 200 meter repeat. I’ve been training for marathons so long that speed is almost theoretical at this point. I am still adjusting to running fast enough that I have to bend over at the finish to catch my breath.

This Spring has been/will be a marked deviation from my normal training. I’m happy with my progress in the marathon thus far, but also frustrated. I’m an endurance monster, I always have been. But it’s taken me 6 years to go from 3:17 to 2:54 and I recently had to admit that much of that is attributable to the fact that I haven’t developed my speed. With two surgeries and an almost annual marathon on the schedule, I’ve gotten really good at running moderately fast for long periods of time. The fact remains, however, that my 5K and 10K PR are way slower than my marathons would predict. It’s not I’m not capable of running fast; I can dummy Will in a 200. I just haven’t used those systems in a very long time.

In the past few weeks, my workouts have been a total deviation from normal. Instead of 2 hours at marathon pace or tempo miles, I’ve had workouts like 5 by 300 meters or 2 by 200, 200, 400. When I get my workout assignments, my reaction is almost always WHOA, that will be easy. Halfway through, however, my quads and lungs are burning and I temporarily miss tempo pace. All of my races for the first part of this season will be (relatively) short, with nothing over 15K on the schedule. The hope is that by working on my speed now, marathon pace will feel significantly easier (and get faster) come this fall.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be racing a 4 miler. After that, it’s a collection of track and road 5Ks, a 10K and a 15K. And as much as these workouts hurt, I’m really enjoying the change of pace both literally and figuratively.

Have you done a training cycle that focuses on something completely different from your normal? What’s your reaction to short, fast stuff?

The Endurance Mindset

When Oprah was training for her marathon, she quipped that “running is the best metaphor for life; you get out of it what you put in.” There’s an enormous amount of truth to this. Sure, freak things may happen but for the most part, what you get on race day is a sum of quality miles trained plus the benefits of all the extras like strides, core, strength, stretching etc.

When I started to prepare for Step 1, I didn’t even know where to begin. I’ve taken big exams before; after all, I managed to get into medical school which required the MCAT. The MCAT, however, was a half day test and although it ostensibly determined my entrance to medical school, a poor performance didn’t mean I could never go to medical school (I could retake) and didn’t represent an investment of over $100,000. The USMLE Step 1 exam represents two years of classroom knowledge crammed into a day long test with a total break time of an hour. The only way you can retake is to fail but the space between barely passing and being competitive for a residency is enormous. The more I thought about it, the more Step 1 resembled a marathon. You study for about 12 weeks. You start by building a knowledge base and as you get stronger, you add workouts that are more and more specific to your task. Finally, you work on the endurance to sit and focus for 8 hours. Once I framed it that way, the test preparedness paralysis lifted. I wrote a schedule the exact way I write one in running, with dates down the y-axis and specific domains across the top x-axis. I built in recovery days. I even built in a taper so that I’m fresh and ready on test day (March 2nd), not crawling to the start line.

Throughout medical school, people have asked how I keep training at a (relatively) high level, almost always incredulous that I can find the time. Some of the answer is that running is a top priority for me and I make choices that support my running ahead of many other things. I don’t belong to any student interest groups; I choose to believe that a long coaching relationship with MMU demonstrates my interests just as well. I don’t do many social things; almost all of my friends are runners, so I make that my social time. However, making running a priority isn’t the only reason I’ve kept at it during medical school. Being a runner has given me an endurance mindset and gives me a set of tools to approach any enormous challenge that life can throw at me.

How do the things you’ve learned from running carry over in your life?

Wrapping Up 2014

I rang in 2014 on crutches and heavily sedated on painkillers. Looking back at where it started, I’m grateful that the year still held a marathon PR despite it’s immobile beginnings. I was lucky enough to coach another season of cross country and somehow finished my second year of medical school (courtesy of the funky UVM schedule). I fully intended to have at least part of 2015 planned out by today but studying for the Boards has taken up most of my time and I’m still waiting on some sponsorship information that will change my plans significantly. So into 2015 I go sans any kind of training plan, an anxiety inducing situation for me!

I wrapped up December with 156 miles. My 2014 total was 2259 miles which comes out to a weekly average of 43 miles (which includes the 6 weeks of 0 post surgery). Thus, one of my running related goals for 2015 is to up that weekly average to 50 miles, giving me a total goal of 2600 miles for 2015. Assuming two training cycles up in the 70 mpw range, this should be attainable without scrambling next December.

Another thing I did well at the beginning and end of the year but not so hot in the middle was weight training. I know strength work is key to injury prevention and maximum efficiency but I always cut that out first when my schedule gets crammed. Thus, for 2015, I want to make sure I am getting at least 1 arm and 1 leg workout in per week. Yes, more would be better but I’m trying to be realistic.

I generally have pretty good nutrition but there are definitely areas in which I can improve. First, we eat a little too much candy in this house which is not a calorie issue, but a “bang for buck” issue. We had a “Sundays only” rule for a while, so I may lobby that we go back to that. I’ve been working on taking my vitamins (multivitamin with iron, Vitamin D and biotin) every day and finally found that if I leave my pill container by my bed (I know this makes me 80+), I actually take them daily. We recently switched to a cast iron pan and continue to make sure we eat red meat twice a week to keep my iron stores nice and full.

Finally, I need to work on flexibility. I sit a lot for school and have tight fascia, both of which set me up for range of motion issues. I’ve been working on foam rolling consistently and will continue that in 2015 but am on the lookout for a simple yoga routine to do at home two days a week. In my optimal world, it would be about 20 minute long and focus on hips and lower back.

What are your goals for 2015? Anyone have a video or website that they love for yoga?

Lessons Learned: 2014 Cycle

Since I’m in my off season (to which my surgeon quipped so what, 60 miles a week?) and won’t gear up again until 2015, it’s time to look back on the cycle for 2014.

What I Learned

I can tolerate big mileage. I consistently ran 75 to 80 miles a week without injury and within 6 months of surgery without much more than occasional soreness. That being said, I was WIPED all the time and my workouts weren’t as solid throughout. Will and I assume that this is a direct result of never being fully recovered, courtesy of the mileage and of course, medical school.

Heartrate training works well for me, mentally and physically. I’ve had a heartrate monitor for a long time but hadn’t really used it much until this cycle when I started rocking it on every tempo run. It made an enormous difference for me mentally because “all” I had to do was get to 168 to 170 and stay there, whatever that pace was. I found it much easier to focus on the workout and not be stressing over pace and in turn, the paces were much closer to what tempo should be. It was the first time I really understood what tempo pace “felt” like.

I’m not done improving. In the back of my mind, I was worried that I had peaked with running and that working hard would bring no additional improvements. Although I wouldn’t call this a stellar racing year (I only ran 1 PR and had a collection of horrid races), I am thrilled with my marathon PR that came on mileage and just 10 months post-op. I’d love to see what happens when I have some speedwork on board and a totally solid ankle.

What I Need to Work On

Strength training. Right after surgery, I was in the gym almost every day and built a great base to come back to running on. As mileage got higher, however, and school got back into session, my gym time dwindled to almost zero. I’d do squats when I brushed my teeth and the occasional pushup, but I really wasn’t working on my strength and my quads paid for it during and after the marathon. I also need to improve my knee drive and I think strength is part of that.

Form. My form is okay and it’s holding up better in later miles but I still have a tendency to twist my upper body and shuffle my legs. If I’m going to click up another level, I need to get my arm swing working well and my knee drive far higher. Will recently built me a step up box for knee drive and I need to make a renewed commitment to practicing running arms daily.

Flexibility/Prehab. My back and hips hurt daily and if I want a successful open (and master’s) career, I have to get this in check before I’m crippled at 35. Some of this is that I currently sit a lot (which won’t improve over the next three months as I prep for Boards). Some of this is that I am not consistent about stretching and foam rolling. I’ve been working on making foam rolling my first activity of the day and am hopeful this will help.

I don’t have 2015 mapped out yet. I’m waiting on the final schedule from USATF NE to see what the Grand Prix schedule is and on a few other schedule related issues. I would prefer NOT to run a marathon in Spring 2015 (training in the winter sucks, I’m taking the boards in February and I am in Maine for my first rotation until May) but if VCM is the Grand Prix marathon, I am likely to join in. In my perfect world (ha!), I’d spend the first half of the year working on speed, getting a stint in at altitude and then target an early fall half for my OTQ. The marathon is more likely to get me in but almost everything has to go perfectly with a marathon that it can be hard to put all your eggs in one basket.

So my to-do list:

  • Build back up to 75 to 80 miles per week
  • Create and stick to a sustainable lifting regimen
  • Foam roll daily
  • Work on form, particularly arm swing and knee drive
  • Regain some speed and turnover
  • Use heart rate training for all workouts

What’s your 2014 analysis? To do list for 2015?

Changing Gears

One of the hardest things post-marathon is finding your speed again. The marathon, when well executed, is a very long run at a sort of hard pace. Workouts are usually tempo runs or marathon pace chunks of long runs and true speed work is saved for the very end and serves more to sharpen up the legs than confer any actual speed. Coming off of Mohawk Hudson, I am very fit. And very slow.

If I was just going into the winter season, this wouldn’t be a problem and I’d have time to remind my legs that I don’t always have to run 6:40 pace. However, I’m headed to Las Vegas next weekend to attempt to race a half marathon, so 6:40 won’t do. In the past two weeks since I’ve really been training again, I’ve had a lot of frustrating runs where despite my best “fast” efforts, I’m settling right into 6:30 to 6:40 pace.

I finally turned a (tiny little) corner this week. On Wednesday, I hit the track for 3 by mile at T pace and happily settled at 6:04 pace, followed by a mile of 200 ins and outs at 5:15 pace. Today I paced an athlete to her first sub 21 5K (Go Flan!!!!!) which was 6:40 pace (again), but did manage to kick at the end and shake out some more junk. I was also happy to find that 6:40 pace felt like jogging and that the 3 miles flew by. Good sign for next weekend.

In terms of next weekend, my “absolute best day ever, jump around at the finish” goal would be to break 1:20 (6:08 pace). My more realistic but still challenging goal will be to PR (under 1:21:45 so 6:14 pace). My non-time based goal is to execute a smart race; controlled through 6, cruise to the turnaround a little after 9 then send it once we’re back on the Strip heading home.

Anyone else struggle to convince their legs to turnover after the marathon? What are your tricks for reminding your legs that they can fly?

Recently Read: A New Beer Mile Record, Winter Reflective Gear and Lots of Science

Now that I’ve survived our “hardest” classes in medical school, I’ve had a lot more time to sift through articles that I bookmarked over the past few months. To add to your Friday morning distraction, here’s what I’ve stumbled across recently in the world of running.

A new women’s beer mile record! Although it sounds like her beer times need a little work, this is an impressive improvement on the standing record. Hard to say if it will stand long, however, with the Championships coming up on December 3rd.

Although I don’t agree with headphones for any outdoor runner, regardless of safety features, this article is a good reminder that it’s the season for running in the dark. I swear by my Nathan reflective vest and recently added a pair of Nathan gloves to my collection (product review forthcoming).

Every 20 minutes in a marathon would ruin my stomach but in my most recent marathon, I took a Gu at mile 6, mile 12 and mile 18, which is far more than I’d taken in previous attempts at 26.2 and had zero issues with nutrition. This article looks at what goes into a successful fueling attempt and concludes (in a sort of no shit way) that a plan is way better than just winging it. Although this seems self evident, a plan can also help when you start to experience the inevitable full or sick of Gatorade feeling at the end of the race.

A heartstring read for sure. I still remember the Trials where Ryan Shay went down and the absolute panic afterward as everyone tried to get information on what happened. Sudden cardiac death in athletes remains a research interest of mine and reading about Stephan Shay’s run on Sunday is just plain gut wrenching.

On the line of sudden cardiac death in athletes, there’s new evidence to suggest that deaths during the swim leg may be due to swimming induced pulmonary edema. In short, pulmonary edema is the accumulation of fluid in the lung space that shouldn’t be there. Fluid in a space that should be air filled interrupts gas exchange and can be life threatening in situations where ventilation cannot be restored.

Most of us spend our lives sitting way more than we want to and this sequence of stretches and movements can help with that. I’m embarrassed to admit that I cannot do the Grok squat. At all. I am religious about clamshells and glute bridges, however and can testify that they help injury proof one’s hips.

Finally, on the sad/frustrating/WTF news of Rita Jeptoo’s positive A sample, a timely explanation from Runner’s World about how EPO works in the first place. I found the fact that EPO alone has significant effects; generally I think of performance enhancing drugs as still requiring training and although that is still likely true, this indicates that EPO may have a significant impact independent of training load.

What have you been reading recently?

My Kind of Sister Hero

There’s been a lot of talk of sister heroes recently, attributable in large part to Oiselle which uses the term frequently in print, on product and in interviews. Among the most commonly talked about “sister heroes” are Oiselle runners Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman and now Steph Bruce. All of these women have had exceptional running careers. All are also mothers, which lends to much of their mass appeal. And while all are interesting to me in their own right, they aren’t really my sister heroes.

Much of this comes out of watching the New York City Marathon on Sunday where yet again, the announcers totally missed the mark. Speaking off scripts and clearly undereducated about the sport (a shame, since a few of the announcers REALLY should have known better), the conversation focused on how tough a day Kara had or how disappointed Deena must be while entirely overlooking the two Americans who really showed their stuff: Desi Linden and Annie Bersagal. One announcer even went so far as to say that Bersagel “didn’t have her best day” despite her being 2nd American and battling horrendous winds for 26 miles. They didn’t bother to mention that Bersagal is unsponsored and legitimately works a full time job as a lawyer. They didn’t bother to mention how brilliantly Desi ran, tucked in the lead group and just quietly working away.

Bersagal and Lanni Marchant, another attorney-pro runner are my kind of heroes. It’s often frustrating for me to look at my training opportunities and race performances and wonder if it would be different if my life wasn’t centered on surviving medical school. Women like Bersagal and Marchant give me hope that it is possible to work full time and be successful at running as well. Yes, there are many concurrent sacrifices (such as zero social life) but one doesn’t have to live at altitude and live the pro lifestyle to be a top runner.

Who are your running heroes? Anyone else watch NYC this weekend?