Category Archives: Olympic Trials

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose…Updated

Three and a half years ago (omg…) I shared a blog post right after VCM about what I wanted to accomplish in running. At the time, I structured it into 18 month Goals, Someday Goals and Pie in the Sky Goals. I was about at the end of my first year of medical school and didn’t know that I would pick General Surgery, move to Asheville, have breast surgery etc. That post continues to sit in my mind, however, because it was a vulnerable position to put myself in. What if I never crossed a single thing off?! Did that make me a failure or mean I had poor insight into my abilities? Would I always wonder what if?

It turns out, that list hasn’t changed much in terms of checking things off. I ran a PR in the marathon the fall after I wrote that. And I just won my first marathon last weekend which prompted me to revisit my list. I’m leaving out the 18 month time frame on my new version and just doing To Do and Pie in the Sky. I tried to come up with a combination of goals that are participation based (on me to complete), time based (again, on me to achieve) and competition based (on me AND other athletes).

To Do:

PR in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon (18:44, 38:33, 1:21, 2:54 respectively)

Run a Trail Marathon

Win a National Championship

Run a Beer Mile

Run the Shut In Trail Race

Pie in the Sky:

Olympic Trials Qualifier in the Marathon

Run a US Running Circuit Race

Earn an Elite Bib at one of the US Majors (Boston, New York or Chicago)

Run for the US on a World’s Team

Still (Mostly) Alive

It’s hard to believe that only 11 weeks have passed since starting Intern Year and in the same breath, 11 weeks has flown by. I am almost done with my first rotation of this year (Acute Care Surgery) and with it, done with the bulk of my training for RDC! As expected, my running has had to take a bit of a back seat to everything else but I’ve done a reasonable job of continuing to train and build and finally have some long term goals in mind!

July: My only real goal for July was to survive and figure out what my running schedule might look like when the reality of 80+ hours of work hit. We had a relatively mild summer here and since I ran in the early morning for most of it, I really didn’t struggle too much with heat and humidity. I ran a very reasonable 181 miles and my long runs progressed to 16 miles. Workouts were non-specific (long trail runs, fartleks and easy tempos) and focused on general fitness acquisition.

August: I started to figure out what work was all about and finally managed to get through my days more efficiently. I hit the wall a bit energy wise in the middle of the month and finished up with only 165 miles. I did, however, get my first 20 miler in for the cycle and my workouts started to get more specific. I also started going to Orange Theory, which has been very interesting in terms of my perception of effort versus my heart rate.

September: After a relatively disappointing August, I have been trying to refocus more on my running in September. I am about as fatigued as I’ve ever been right now and my body is showing it with lots of general aches and leg heaviness. I did get another 20 miler in and my workouts have become even more focused (more on this later). I restarted my iron to make sure I’m tuned up from that perspective and have been focusing on sleep and stretching as much as I can to combat 80+ hours of standing/interrupted sleep/weird positions in the OR. I’m doing a check in half marathon in Johnson City this weekend and interested to see where I’m at as compared to both Unplugged and the Asheville Half. I don’t know what the topography of the course will be and the weather looks hot but it will be nice to have a supported “up-effort.”

I realized in August is that I have to become more flexible with training and with that, workouts have to become more intentional. I don’t have the recovery ability to do multiple workouts a week and instead, have to make do with a couple of quality efforts each week. Because of this and because I have been so frustrated with my stagnation, I finally decided to hire/bring on a coach. I say ‘bring on’ because I am working with Dave Ames, who is a friend beyond being a coach, and the decision was about as collaborative as it gets. As many people know, Will has been my coach forever but with intern year for him and an intentional shift in our marriage to be as focused on just being married and not being co-workers, co-coaches, athlete-coaches, it was time to make a different plan.

One of the amazing things about having a coach is that all I have to do is workout. One of the terrifying things about having a coach ARE those workouts. For example, I had a medium long run on Sunday with a workout built in that didn’t seem that difficult on paper but was EXTREMELY difficult. Similarly, I have a mile repeat workout today that I am convinced is all but impossible so I have the difficult task of convincing myself first that I can do it and second, getting through it. Dave gets incredible results from his athletes and furthermore, has a lot of experience with the sports psychology aspect of racing which I need almost as much as the physiologic piece.

My race schedule has evolved as well, with a new focus on the US 50K Road Championships (hoping to podium) in March and CIM 2018 for my (hopeful) OTQ attempt. This takes a little pressure off RDC where my main goal is to just get back into marathon running and hopefully undo some of the emotional baggage I am (still) carrying from Philly.

But first, the Bluegrass Half in Johnson City on Sunday!

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.

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

My first selfie as Dr. Waterman Manning!

I won’t even attempt to recap the past few weeks of training (or life), but the very short version is that I graduated (wooohooo!), celebrated with family and friends and managed to get two very anxious doggies back home to North Carolina. We are now getting settled in Asheville and the dogs look like little kids complete with tons of mud, scratches and sunburns. They love the new backyard and are only happy when they are outside. I’m feeling similarly and have spent countless (uncharacteristic) hours just quietly rocking on the porch and dreaming up home improvement projects. I know the storm is coming but for now, I’m enjoying 9 hours of sleep a night and no real “to-dos.”

Hard to describe the bond between classmates but it’s a bit like leaving the best teammates ever.

Running is going well and I must admit that I’m relieved to feel reinvigorated now that I’m in Asheville. It is getting hot and humid here so runs are slowing down but I’m happy to get out the door every day and enjoying slow progress with my fitness. I’ve started the process of exploring running spots around the area and was blown away by Bent Creek and the new sections of the Mountains-to-Sea trail that I’ve discovered so far. I tried to join in on a group run the other night in an attempt to make some friends but it was a pretty horrible experience (still debating if I want to write about it…). Despite that, I’ve had tempo runs, steady state runs and interval workouts that have demonstrated slow but forward progress.

The Asheville half is this coming weekend and the weather looks…not great. As much as I would like to taper down in hopes of having a great peaked result, my training hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant a taper. Instead, I’m going to train normally this week but add a rest day and extra easy day on Friday and use this as a jump off point for summer training in preparation for my fall marathon. My only goal is to have a strong last three miles, which has eluded me lately in half marathons. I haven’t chosen a race yet (waiting on vacation approval) but am excited to think about starting the (long) journey towards my Trials attempt.

Race Report: Unplugged Half Marathon 2017

First race of 2017 done!

When I came into 2017, I had planned on making Unplugged a focus event for the spring but then life got in the way and it ended up being a workout/rust buster/engine check. My A goal was to break 1:30, my B goal was to be under 1:32. My (unstated) C goal was to finish and not get injured, which was not a forgone conclusion. I came in at 1:31:54 and felt pretty good, so mission mostly accomplished!

Despite living and training in Burlington for many years, this was my first year really running Unplugged. Until recently, it fell on Boston Marathon weekend and I was either running or going down to spectate or in the midst of VCM training. The race is truly unplugged; no awards, just water on the course, few spectators. All of this sets up for an awesome opportunity to get a good workout in without too much stress.

I was excited to have a chance to get a marker for moving forward for the Asheville Half and a fall full, but I was even more excited to see my dear friend Abbey who is my running buddy/confidante extraordinaire who was coming back to Burlington to race. Warming up with her and standing on the start line was enough to make the whole day worth it. She went on to kick ass and I can’t wait to work towards our next running (and life) goals together.

On race morning, the only piece I was worried about was the weather. The forecast called for snow, rain, windy and high 30s which is a tough temperature to dress for. While the mountains got anywhere from 4 to 9 inches of snow, Burlington was relatively dry but the start was COLD. I warmed up in two pairs of pants and two coats and for the first time ever, planned to race in full tights. Will tried to convince me to do a singlet and arm warmers but since he wasn’t at the start and I was being wimpy, I put a long sleeve on under my singlet which would ultimately turn out to be a big mistake.

The gun went off and we had a mile of out and back. I eased into the race and tried to resist the urge to chase after people. The first mile was distinctly uphill and conversely, when we turned, the second mile was downhill. I tried to stay in control but ended up running 7:03 and 6:49. I’m not sure if this second mile ultimately bit me in the butt but I did have to remind myself that I didn’t have the fitness to run that whole race in the 6:40s. The first few miles of the race had multiple turns and full circles through neighborhoods and it was hard to get into a rhythm. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were 6:50, 6:54 and 6:57. The 6:57 was the mile where I had to strip off my undershirt, a feat I accomplished without losing a step or falling down.

After mile 5, we turned onto the bike path and I was able to cruise a bit. Since the race started at 11, I was pretty hungry by the time we started and took my gel shortly after 6 in hopes that it would stave off a bonk. This seemed to work and Miles 6 and 7 were 7:02 and 7:03. I threw my gloves at another friend at mile 7 and was collected but definitely starting to feel some quad fatigue and quickly shed the idea of pushing the last 3 miles in favor of just staying consistent.

Mile 8 passed quickly in 7:03 and mile 9 was the downhill mile in 6:54. I was starting to get some confidence back after this but when we crossed into Waterfront Park, I came to what felt like a complete stop with stomach cramping and the worst GI distress of my life. I can generally tolerate gels without too much water but since I went into the day a tad dehydrated, I expect it sat like a brick in my stomach. I limped through mile 10 in 7:04 (no WAY was this race worth a GI disaster) and just hoped I could hang on for 3 more miles. Mile 11 passed in 7:07 with waves over the Causeway ala VCM 2013.  At least this time, the wind was at our back! Mile 12 was a mess and I alternated between smooth running and stomach saving pace, ending up with my slowest mile of 7:16. I was able to collect myself and ran mile 13 in 7:06 pace. I failed to stop my watch after crossing so have no idea what the last .1 was but I just tried to stay smooth and didn’t do much of a kick.

Is it easy to be excited about my second slowest half ever? Not really. Am I thrilled for the effort it took to accomplish my B goal? Yes! I have had a tough season of training and to be able to run a 1:32 comfortably off essentially no training is something even I have to begrudgingly be proud of. The best part, however, is that it left me hungry for more. I want to get back to being 10 minutes faster, to chasing that sub 1:20 and my Olympic Trials qualifier. I want to push my fitness forward. Onward and upward!

Week in Review 3.13.17 to 3.19.17

Monday: 2 miles easy. Downhill skied.

Tuesday: 2.5 miles easy. Downhill skied again as Stella rolled in. Shoveled the first foot of snow in the evening.

Wednesday: Shoveled the second foot of snow (and the next 6 inches). Downhill skied in the most amazing powder ever.

Thursday: 3 mile run easy.

Friday: Match Day!

Saturday: 45 minute nordic ski at Catamount.

Sunday: 5.75 mile run outdoors.

Total Miles: 13.2

The first big news is that we Matched!!! We will be heading to Asheville NC and Greenville SC for our General Surgery and Emergency Medicine residencies respectively. We were incredibly lucky to interview at a whole host of amazing institutions and are looking forward to starting our careers in the Blue Ridge.

To see just how excited I was, here’s a great video my friend Jack got of the whole shebang:

We also got an INCREDIBLE snowstorm on Tuesday and Wednesday that dropped 30 inches on Burlington and an insane 58 inches at Bolton Valley, which is where I am lucky enough to have my pass. I spent the first three days of the week bombing around on my skis and Wednesday was easily the best day of skiing of my entire life.

I was also able to start doing some easy running this week. I was doing well and excited to get back to normal running…and then my steri-strips fell off which leaves my incision in direct contact with my sports bra. I did finally get 6 miles outdoors in today and although I felt 100% out of shape, it was good to get out there.

One of the nicest things about knowing where I’ll be for residency is being able to plan upcoming races! I now have my schedule set through June and have even been doing some longer range planning for my fall sub 2:50 marathon.

For this week, I’m trying to get back into regular training while also listening to my body. At this point, it’s clear that Unplugged is going to be a training run but I’m hoping to set myself up such that it can be a great workout as well.

Goals for 2017

The only guarantee in 2017 for me is change. In March, I’ll find out where I matched. In May, I’ll move and graduate. In mid-June, I become a surgical intern. As I’ve been ruminating on goals for 2017, one of the biggest challenges is that I don’t know exactly what my life will look like and past June, I don’t know what my call schedule will be which makes planning races or training difficult. Thus, my biggest goal for early 2017 is to lay down the habits that will allow me to continue to train during Residency. My secondary goal is to build a foundation to chase the Trials Standard for the 2020 Olympics and continue to represent Skechers Performance at local, regional and national races.

To do this, I’ve had to think about what works for me in terms of training, what is a reasonable training load that will allow me to race well AND be sane and what I’ve continued to struggle with during the past few years. I don’t know the specifics of any program yet but I do know that I can plan on working 80 hours a week with approximately one day off a week.

  1. 40 to 45 miles a week. Such a bitter pill to swallow but I have to be realistic about what I can really get in throughout the year. At this point, my plan is to do 30 minutes on most mornings with an early wakeup two days a week for an interval effort and a steady state effort plus a long run on my off day. This obviously won’t prepare me for a marathon length event but should allow me to do a half marathon or shorter with minimal notice. It will also let me scale up to the marathon once I have my schedule.
  2. Daily strength training or core. One of the things that I’ve been reminded of during my run break is that I feel so much better when I’m doing strength training and core on a regular basis. Although I am well aware of the benefits of strength training, I always struggle to fit this “extra” in. To better do this, I’ll plan to do my strength or core work at the end of the day. It’s so tempting to hammer through my to-do list but I need to make strength a real priority and setting a time for it both eliminates the need to get up at 3:30 am every day and gives me a mental break at the end of the work day.
  3. Diet Quality Score > 15. Despite my best efforts, interview season continues to wreck havoc on my nutrition. When I have a choice, I’m making high DQS choices but on interview days, all bets are off. There will be plenty of temptation to eat quick, easy food but residency is just as much of an endurance sport as running and fueling with good food will make both running and learning to be a surgeon a little less painful.
  4. Flexibility. Trying this one again! Yoga practice at least once a week, both to center my mind and work on my ever worsening flexibility. Daily foam rolling routine (8 passes over each major muscle group) to follow my daily strength/core.
  5. Morning runs!! The only constant for me is that if my run doesn’t happen in the morning, the likelihood that something comes up skyrockets. When I come back to running on Monday, my first order of business is to get my run done. My hope is that by June, it’s such a a habit that I don’t think anything of it.

As I always tell my girls, it’s one thing to set goals. It’s another to figure out the processes that set you up for success in reaching them. I’m highly motivated by checklists so I’m going to make a weekly checklist that sits on my bulletin board and includes all of these items as checkmarks. I also went back to a paper weekly/monthly planner for 2017 (I need the broad overview to feel in control) and will write in my daily workout as well as my week goal on the week page. Finally, I’m putting a bulleted version of this goal list on my bathroom mirror and on my desk.

What are your goals for 2017? How are you setting yourself up to meet them?

It Ain’t About How Hard You Hit (Olympic Trials 2020)

It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. 

I’ve talked about it here before although not in great detail, but Philly 2015 and my failure to make the Olympic Trials or even break 1:20 did significant damage to my running soul. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered as evidenced by my lack of…caring during races but I’m starting to feel a bit more life since the 2020 Standards were released this past weekend. The full standard will be 2:45 and opens September 1, 2017, which is what it was relaxed to at the end of the window this past year. The half standard was lowered to 1:13 and doesn’t open til 2018. Aka, I’ll be going for the full standard.

When I asked Will on Sunday if I had a chance, he didn’t miss a beat and said, “without a doubt.” He’s generally pretty honest, so I allowed myself a little hope and even decided that I’ll run the New Bedford Half Marathon this spring as part of an extended build-up. My goal isn’t to PR but to start getting some long distance specificity back. I can’t pick a goal race or even a window yet until I know 1) where I’m doing residency and 2) what my schedule looks like for PGY 1 and 2 but I’m officially putting it out there as a big, scary goal.

Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come in the marathon amidst some disappointments, but here’s my trajectory AND what I’ll need to qualify.

  • City of Oaks 2008 3:17:35 (7:32)
  • Rock’nRoll 2009 Las Vegas 3:15:51 (7:28)
  • Boston Marathon 2011 3:11:18 (7:18)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2012 3:05:33 (7:04)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2013 2:58:28 (6:48)
  • Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 2014 2:54:38 (6:39)
  • Olympic Trials 2020 Standard 2:45 (6:17)

6 marathons, 23 minutes off and a drop in pace of 57 seconds. For a 2:44:30, I’ll need to drop 10 more minutes and 23 seconds per mile. It seems wholly insurmountable now, but we all have to start somewhere, right? I don’t anticipate doing it all in one bite; it seems more realistic to aim to get under 2:50 first and then take the final stab after that.

Week in Review 11.28.16 to 12.4.16

Monday afternoon: 6 mile easy run plus 100 pushups/200 crunches.

Monday evening: Hour spin class with Erin.

Tuesday: Unexpected cross training day. 10 minutes on bike, 10 minutes on elliptical, 10 minutes rowing. Core cross train.

Wednesday: 45 minute bike.

Thursday: 10 mile long run in Kalamazoo.

Friday: 5.5 mile run post-interview. Arm lift.

Saturday: 7.3 mile run.

Sunday: 5.5 mile run with a mile of 100 on, 100 off.

Total Miles 34.3

This week could be better described as ‘doh!’ Just when I was starting to get some momentum and literally within 5 minutes of looking at spring half marathons, I kicked my metal bedframe while putting laundry away and gave myself a huge, swollen foot that couldn’t bear weight. I cross trained for two days then when I was ready to run again on Thursday in Michigan, realized that I’d left my inhaler in Vermont which resigned me to easy, slow running so as to not have a medical emergency some 600 miles from home.

The upside is that I did get some lovely running in while in Michigan and am starting to look forward to some spring events and more importantly, to Trials 2020. The standards were released today. The full marathon window opens September 1st, 2017 and the standard is 2:45, which was the revised standard you may remember me griping about last fall. The half marathon window opens a year later and was dropped to 1:13. In otherwise, big nope on aiming for that standard. That means I need to start working towards the 2:45 (6:17 pace) and come up with a plan that accommodates a potential move across the country AND intern year.

Recently Read: Trials, Doping, and Rock’N’Roll

Obviously this week is all about the Trials and although I’m mostly watching through Twitter and Instagram, the drama continues to delight. I found this three-part article on the 2012 5000 meter final especially intriguing. The finish was everything a Trials event should be but it was especially interesting to read the perspective of the athletes involved and how it continues to shape their lives going forward.

We’ve made it big time? John Oliver took on doping this week and he is spot on, both in his analysis of how we got into this pickle and the barriers to make any changes.

I have the opportunity to race a number of Rock’n’Roll events over the years and will do so again in the middle of the month, so I found the recent article by Tony Reavis about the history of the series interesting. 

Finally, the debate over running form never ends. While the anecdote about the runner who was stuck at 2:42 and relearned how to run and ended up at 2:23 is certainly compelling, the fine print that was glossed over in the article was the amount of time it took to make the transition and the risks that come with monkeying with your stride.