Friday, May 17, 2013

Rinse and repeat

Step one laugh all day. Step 2 believe in yourself and your training. Step three PR. Rinse and repeat for the next 6 weeks until the end of the season.

Boom just like that another hurdle race down, a teeny tiny personal best achieved and goal #2 crossed off my goal board. While I admit I did have a little bit higher expectations for this race, I'm not dissatisfied. For one a PR is a PR. Two this was probably the first race, dare I say, that felt easy. Saying that a race felt easy may not be the best thing, because clearly it means I held back, but it's also not a bad thing because it means if I ran what I did and it "felt easy" it means potential to race even faster (which is actually an amazing thing).
I executed my race mostly like I wanted. The 2 biggest steps I've been working on in practice are cutting back on my studder stepping and alternating legs. I'm proud to say there was far less stammering to hurdles and I willfully switched legs when necessary (this is huge). My speed tells me I'm able to go way faster, (hence a pretty fabulous run down of a girl ahead of me after hurdle 10), now the goal is putting two and two together and turning on that next gear earlier in the race. I've got 2 more hurdle races and a handful of flat races before Club Nationals. If I'm able to keep the momentum going I think I might even surpass my own expectations. Sky's the limit, onward and upward I go.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In da Club

This post is being brought to you by a convo I found myself in today, and one that I've been in a couple times. I'm surprised in the years I've had this blog I haven't actually composed a post on this yet (though it's quite possible that I have started one and just never got around to finishing it, oops).

Most of the time when I tell people I'm a runner, they ask "oh well what do you run?" (most assuming I'm going to say marathon), then I say 400 hurdles, then the next question is "What school do you run for?" then the even more perplexed look of  'Huh' when I say I'm not in school. Then the long winded explanation that I run for a club and no I don't get paid to torture myself. Then I come across the conversations with the semi-recreational runner, and next thing you know I'm telling them (strongly urging) you should join a club. I get the doubtful response of "Well I don't know, I'm not fast enough", because they know of the club or clubs I have run for boast the elite athlete, Olympians, and the such. They also have this crazy notion that I'm really fast (this is only partially true). So I'm here to give you my fairly elaborate story and bring hopefully some displacement of fears and info to those not in know.

The back story, started running in middle school eons ago, ran throughout high school, walked on the team in college my frosh year, trained that year but didn't compete (red shirted), then quit. This was 2000. Yada yada, got lazy, decided partying and being social butterfly was way more important and didn't run at all for 3 years (I'm sure most of my college friends didn't even know that I at any point of knowing me was a serious runner at any point in my life). Then had to escape that life and moved to Boston. Fast forward to April 2004, my first experience with a marathon ever, not going to lie I really had no clue what a marathon consisted of. From my colleges I was under the impression this was a day for an excuse to day drink. My bartending comrades and I set forth near the finish line to chug back way too many libations. We poked our heads outside to cheer on some of the runners passing by, then it out of no where it happened. This flush of excitement, I felt this insane connection to these people passing by, I wanted to jump over the barriers and run with them. Ignored that crazy feeling and went back in for even more margaritas and shots, then decided I had entirely too much to drink and decided to walk stumble home. It was in that very instance walking by the finish line watching foil wrapped runner after runner passing me by that my eyes started filling with tears (thankfully I had sunglasses to cover this up). Holy crap I REALLY missed running. The very next day I went for a run, then went for run after run. I was hooked again. I signed up for a 5 miler that fall, my first at that distance ever. Threw in a 5K here & there.

Fast forward again to Boston Marathon April 2005. Still using the day to party hard, this time drunk me overcome with those runner emotions went into Niketown and bought a pair of sneakers and then convinced myself I was going to run the 113th Boston Marathon (113th only because 13 is my lucky #). Started making some 5K races a yearly ritual, getting faster each time too. Fast forward to July 2006, signed up for the Iron Girl 5K a few months prior forgot about it (forgot = I started dating someone) and didn't really train for it. Ran a not so shabby time and placed 3rd in my age group. It was at that point I knew I had to do something with my running, if I could run what I ran without any real training, I had some untapped potential I needed to get out. I thought ok, not my first choice but road runner I will be.

That August signed up for my 5 miler again (year #3) and decided if I was going to be a road runner I needed a pair of zippy racing flats to fit the bill. I went to Faneuil Hall to the Bill Rodgers Store (now no longer) to acquire said zippy shoes and while dude went to get my size for the flats I liked, I found myself staring at the spike wall and holding a spike. When he came out he asked if I needed a size to try on for the spikes too, I said no. Then we started to talking about my running past and my missing of the track. He tells me why don't you join a club. At this point I had no idea what club running consisted of. In my mind I thought it was like a book club, where people who like to run got together and ran. Not exactly what I was in the market for. Then he said no that's not it at all and next thing you know with my racing flats I had a business card with a list of coaches and their respective clubs.

It took a few months but eventually I finally went online and looked up each club and emailed the coaches inquiring about the clubs. This was December 2006. Only one coach actually got back to me, it was Greater Boston Track Club. Now at this point I was 6 almost 7 years out of any kind of track shape. I mean don't get me wrong I wasn't a lug, I had been running on a "regular" basis and lifting but I was in no means in any kind of great shape, especially for the track. Even with this I was welcomed aboard no questions or judgement given. The 1st year was a struggle for me as I was certainly the bottom of the chain, I was slow in comparison to the majority. Actually for the next year or so my name always graced the bottom of the performance lists. Thing is while this did bother and frustrate me to no end, my coach never ever once said hey you're the slowest person on the team you should think about quitting. Actually it was the complete opposite he encouraged me and pushed me as well as my fellow teammates who rooted me on no matter whether in my eyes was failing or succeeding. These people became my extended family, some of my greatest friends to this day. When I moved to NYC that was the thing I clung on to hard, I was afraid to leave them and join my current team. Obviously when I realized I couldn't train hard on the track alone and was going to stay in New York, I transferred over to Central Park Track Club and then found another group of amazing training mates/teammates and coach, who in the same have been my big supporters and cheer section, continuously pushing me beyond limits I thought were possible.

For anyone that doubts their "fast enough" running abilities, if my story doesn't compel you to rethink your thoughts on joining a local club team, well I don't know what else to tell you. There are so many options out there for every level, whether you want to stick to the roads, try out the track or just get faster. Don't be afraid to take a chance and check one out. If you don't know where to start, will give a list of active clubs near you; email around, check out their websites if they have one, ask to go to a practice with them. You might find your extended family like I did, you might get to those goals you have in the back of your mind that you didn't think could be a possibly, or you could just have tons of fun with a bunch of other like minded "crazies".

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

365: Week 18

4/29/13 (1): Runner, personal trainer, waitress/bartender, soon to be coach, and can now add super bling packager to my many talents
4/29/13 (2): had a ridiculous multi course meal then this...Uh is this really happening right now?? Not a Yankees fan but this is pretty amazeballs
4/30/13:  Art sculptures and spring go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-ding-a-de-ding-de-dong
5/1/13: Found while cleaning today...just in case I forgot, which I could never
5/2/13:  If you need me, you can find me on the corner of Worth and Avenue of the Strongest...also it's officially 1/3 of the way through the year
5/3/13:  Pretty building on the outside, not so pretty to spend a couple days inside.
5/4/13: May the 4th be with you. Ha I crack myself up
5/5/13:  It sometimes astonishes me that this beauty is smack dab in the middle of this concrete jungle
4/29 (1)

4/29 (2)







Monday, May 6, 2013

Artist in training

Back either the end of February or maybe it was March, I came across a post from my team for someone looking for participants in their thesis study for anxiety before competition. Upon seeing this I knew I had to jump aboard. I know that part of my "bad" performances in races is because I let my head get in the way. Though not apparent to the eye because I often try to hide it, I suffer from anxiety before races, and not the good kind that every athlete should have. Usually race day it's a median level, but days before is when it kicks in overdrive to a point that it's incredibly unhelpful and not facilitating. I start to get my head wrapped around every little detail of my race, not entirely a bad thing except while doing that I forget key components to my race body and mind. I don't eat properly, forget to eat sometimes, don't hydrate, and worry myself to not sleeping. This has been a problem for some time.
I'd like to say that I've exhausted all my possibilities with helping it but I know I could do more. One of my former teammates from Boston is a sports psychologist, we chatted once or twice about it, it helped a little but I definitely could of done more follow ups. I've incorporated music into my pre race routine, this actually has insanely helped with day of competition nerves. Self motivation talk, this helps until I let a hint of doubt creep in, then I'm dunzo. So after a few emails back and forth with thesis guy about the just of his study, I thought, why not it couldn't hurt.

The basic premise of his study was having athletes use art therapy as a way to ease anxiety before competition. I would spend an hour a week, once a week for 5 weeks drawing in journal, I started
April 2nd and finished up last Tuesday (April 30). It was an out of the box experience and took me out of my comfort zone. I'm no stranger to the art world, when I was young I was very into art and drawing (I've since retired that practice) and I've been camera/photography obsessed for I can't even remember how long (still am, hence the obvious 365 project rolling throughout this blog).  Though it was something that I loved to do at one point it was intimidating and slightly nerve racking at first. Eventually I settled in. We worked on ways to get my racing anxiety woes to be more controlled and put a plan of pre race action into action. Elicited drawings for me to look at and envision to evoke positive waves to ease my nerves. This helped because often times I see these things in my head but then my mind races elsewhere so it doesn't stick.
In the end I throughly enjoyed it. I'd like to think it leant at least a small helping hand to those couple early outdoor PRs (because it's the beginning of the season it's hard to say it's a definite). Either way it has help me feel more relaxed and calm. I will certainly keep it up and use it as a tool for upcoming races. I'd recommend trying it out.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Surprises in my experience are either really really good or really really suck. The former is always welcome. My last case of surprise came at first as not so welcomed but ended up turning to splendid. After a pretty rough week of an emotional roller coaster from the Boston dealings, a fellow teammate/friend and I decided to have a Friday girls night in, wallowing in cupcakes, banana bread and beer. Then randomly at 930p my text message goes off, I ignored since we were mid chat. About 30 min later checked my phone to see what the text was, it was from my coach. This was the dialog Coach: Penn Relay 4x400 Me: Um do you need me? Hadn't planned on running it Coach: Surprise Me: Ok End text convo. Yes I was surprised, then got a little excited, then a little annoyed (because it was last minute) then a excited again (because I thought wow my coach has faith that I can hang with the uber fast girls) then annoyed again (because it changed my racing plans from doing an open meet and racing hurdles). The next couple days were on the verge of frustration. How was I getting to Philly? When was I going to be able to race hurdles again? Then finding out there were 2 teams and I was on the "B" Team. Though not an ounce of offense to the other relay mates on that team, I didn't want to forgo an open race to race a relay with the slower of the teams. I know that sounds rude and selfish but in my defense I only have so many opportunities to race hurdles. I eventually snapped out of my grumbling because I know that Penn Relays is supposed to be fun. I had even tried to scheme racing the relay on Friday then sauntering to NJ on Saturday to fulfill my original race plans (last min squashed those plans when I realized it wouldn't have been in my best interest to do that). Pouty mood still a little in effect I hopped on the afternoon bus to Philadelphia, thankfully I had one of my prior training mates and good friend there to disperse my not so pleasantness. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and perfect running weather. We got in a little after 2p, she was set to run in the 4x100 at 5:20p and then both of us in the 4x4 at 7pm, her on the "A" team, me on the "B". After we got to Franklin Field we found our coach to get passes and run down on relays. At that point the first team was down a leg, coach shuffled 1 of the other girls off the second team on to the first, I was lead leg of the second team. Not going to lie I kinda sulked over that for a second because I had hoped that I might be moved up, but I accepted his decision. A little bit afterward he pulled me aside and asked what I thought I could run (since I haven't run an open 400 outdoors yet). I told him wholeheartedly believed I could run a sub 60. He said it was between me and another girl as to who he wanted to put on the A team because we were about the same time wise and he wanted to run the fastest team possible for that team. As much as I wanted to scream pick me put me on that team, I told him my peace of confidence in myself and said that it was his choice and whatever he thought was the right choice I would accept it and run as fast as I could on whichever team I was on. I was very proud of my non meltdown and acceptance during that conversation. Then around 5pm when my coach came by with our relay bibs, he handed them to me said "A" 3rd leg. Say what?! Woah, wasn't expecting that. I looked at him and said "Really, are you sure?", with my heart and stomach doing back flips from the excitement/over joy and then nerves because I knew a lot was riding on my performance now. He nodded and said yes. Surprise. Yes another surprise indeed. At 6pm I set forth on my warmup, then at 20 min til we made our way to the paddock area. Apparently that was late and we were rushed in as they had last called our event. Oops! There were supposed to be 6 teams in the Women's Olympic Development 4x400, to our surprise (yep surprises all around this meet) there was only 1 other team in the holding cube with us, other than the 2nd team. Huh interesting. With the team in there (a team not so known to be sprinters), there really was very little way the "A" Team couldn't win (minus a DQ). We kept waiting to see if the crazy even super faster teams were going to join us in the paddock but it never happened. Then it was go time. Our first girl got out blazing, then 2nd leg, then I lined up to grab the baton for the 3rd leg. I have only once ran at Penn, it was 6 years ago and it was in a 4x100, I knew the track was weird but I didn't really know how weird until I stepped on to run a 400. I got out was running completely by myself, no one was ahead, and the next girl was about 6-10 seconds behind me. I don't really remember much of my leg other than thinking I was at the 200m mark and telling myself to turnover when I was actually at the 270m (weird track). Then passed the baton to the anchor girl and wobbled towards my other teammates on the infield. After our anchor girl finished they ushered us quickly over to the podium stand, gave us each the infamous gold Penn Relays watch the winners are presented with, then had our picture taken. It was all kind of surreal. I never in my years thought I'd have a Penn watch, granted it was by fluke, but still hours before I wasn't on that team. I ended up running a 60 flat which wasn't my goal but still a PB for me and I walked away from a winners stand. I'm not sure what the other girl that was in the toss up cusp ran, I believe it was about the same as me, I can only hope that I ran well enough that my coach's decision was made valid. In the end it turned to be a great surprise and one I won't likely forget.