Category Archives: Olympic Trials

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.

Salt In the Wound

For the last few weeks, I felt like I was finally moving beyond Philly. People had stopped asking about my training, the Olympic Trials came and went and I survived and I had a few good weeks of training. Then yesterday happened. The rest of my classmates are full, official 4th years while I’m making up the rotations I missed while I was training this fall. I was doing 4th year electives while I was “off” but I have to make up those clerkships before graduation and I opted to do them right off the bat. As such, I’m now surrounded by 3rd years who don’t know me or my story and who assume that I failed the Boards or otherwise floundered in third year and have to repeat a clerkship. I guess I could let them assume that and maybe so doing would ultimately be less painful, but I have had to have the following conversation multiple times in the past day.

“You’re a 2017, right? Why are you in this rotation?”

“I took the fall off to train for the Olympic Trials.”

“Cool, did you make it?”

“No, that’s not really how the United States system works. I needed to qualify for a chance to compete but I didn’t make the standard.” Awkward silence….

I’m facing a similar issue with writing my personal statement. My advisor is the Program Director here and she has encouraged me to demonstrate that I’m both a team player and have the ability to persevere, which is best done in my case via my running career. How do I demonstrate that perseverance when I feel like I failed at my big, bold move? How do I articulate that although I didn’t reach my A through E goals, I did achieve a lot of amazing things? How do I get over my shame enough to represent myself well?

Huge leap of faith, huge way to fall…

Week in Review 2/8/16 to 2/14/16

Well, the Trials are a wrap and it was an incredible day as promised. The heat was severe as many athletes dropped out throughout the race and even the seemingly infallible Shalane Flanagan suffered towards the end. In the end, the men’s side came out to be Galen, Meb and Jared Ward while the women’s side will be Amy Cragg, Desi and Shalane.

Monday: 4.25 mile run on the frozen golf course to start getting my legs ready for my spring adventures.

Tuesday: 5 miles early on the treadmill. Workout attempt fail #1. Hip core after.

Wednesday: 6 mile hill run on the treadmill.

Thursday: Post call, off day.

Friday: 6.2 mile plod and study.

Saturday: 10 miles feeling great on the treadmill because it was -8 out!

Sunday: 4 miles easy plus arms.

Total Miles 35.4 

Running is such a fickle beast. Last week, every run felt amazing. This week, every run was a ploddy achy struggle until Saturday when I felt great again with no explanation for either end of the spectrum. So it goes. For this week, I’ll be doing my normal running mileage plus adding in an afternoon workout of either snowshoe running, trail running, stairclimber or walking/jogging at 15% grade as the weather and snow allows.

Recently Read: The Trials, The Trials and Thoughts from the Interwebs

The Trials are tomorrow and on everyone’s minds. In fact, I opted to work long call Sunday instead of mid call tomorrow so that I can give the Trials my full attention!

I loved this perspective from Mike Cassidy, who missed the Trials this time around. It’s so hard to see everyone arriving in LA and feel left out but it’s amazing to even FEEL left out, like it was within reach at all.

I also loved these stories from four women who aren’t competing for Olympic spots but are high level runners with real jobs. Full time professional runners are amazing but I’m more inspired by women who have real jobs too, as their experiences and training are a lot more similar to mine.

Rocking a singlet with Vermont on my right chest would be awesome! Patrick Rizzo’s suggestions for making the Olympic Trials Marathon more accessible and interesting to the general public are spot on. I’m skeptical that USATF will take note, but here’s hoping.

Skechers is sponsoring the LA Marathon this weekend, with something like 16 athletes running for them including Meb and Kara. Of note, they also signed a contract with Meb until 2023, long after his big racing days will be over (although with Meb, never say never). I love that they are sending a message that an athlete’s value is more than just their race performances.

I love the internet and I LOVE social media but I also see the dangers inherent in broadcasting only parts of your life and your day. No one is glamorous all of the time. I still haven’t mastered the selfie but rest assured, if I took one when I start my run at 3:30, it would be terrifying. As such, I like the point this woman was making with her recent Instagram post (although a little bit of irony given why she started her account in the first place…)

Finally, this article cracked me up because I am QUEEN of multitasking on the treadmill. I mastered the art of reading on the treadmill in college (Pro Tip: If you have a fat book or text book, a big binder clip does wonders to hold your pages open). This morning, I watched a board review video for my 6 mile run. I do understand where she’s coming from, however, as I feel that way about outside runs.

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?