Halfway point.

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Sometimes I can’t even think of where to start. Like this a running blog, but I just don’t ever feel like writing about running the way I used to. Maybe because my job is to write workouts for other runners and answer emails about running. And I love coaching and helping other runners meet their goals. I like getting to know the athletes that I coach- every person is so different! It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle- a big old confusing mess until the pieces start to take shape.

I rarely read running blogs- just a few friends that I know personally. I’m finding myself more drawn to sarcastic mommy blogs. That shit is hilarious. I appreciate anyone who has a sense of humor about parenting because it can be pretty ridiculous at times.

The other night I told my husband that I wanted to start a blog with cooking tips for convenience foods. Don’t get me wrong- I like to cook when I can listen to music, sip a glass of wine, and really enjoy it. But when I cook now there is absolute chaos around me and it’s the opposite of relaxing. Frozen pizza may not be the ideal recovery food but it’s a hell of a lot easier. Plus I have some great tips for how to cook THE PERFECT FROZEN PIZZA. No?

So, anyway, we’re halfway to Boston. Training is getting done but it’s not easy. There have been lots of evening treadmill runs lately. I had a killer long run last weekend that was a huge confidence booster, mainly because I talked myself out of it halfway through and then refocused and was able to finish and hit my paces. I had come up with some good excuses- it was icy, the trail was covered in snow, it was too cold, too windy, etc. and then I started writing the email to my coach (in my head while I was running) and I realized I was being an idiot. Luckily it was pretty cold (for real) and windy so there weren’t many people around to hear me say “F*ck you wind!” every time I had to run into a headwind. By the way, that tactic worked quite well- I highly recommend it and might have to use it for my half marathon next month at Shamrock (which is notoriously windy in certain areas of the course).

I can’t believe I’m racing a half marathon in a few weeks. Besides the one I did this fall, I haven’t run a half marathon since 2011!

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JMU Hall of Fame speech

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We’re on our way home from a very busy weekend at James Madison University, but I wanted to post my speech from Friday night for my friends and family who weren’t able to attend. More photos and details coming soon! Go Dukes!

……..

A few years ago I was working as a high school science teacher and track coach in Hampton Roads. Inevitably some of the kids found out about my achievements as a student-athlete and wanted to know… so Coach Mollie (DeFrancesco was too long and Coach Turner never stuck for whatever reason) anyway, so Coach Mollie, how do I get a scholarship because I really want to run track in college? Or what’s the deal- how do you become an All American?

So, I would tell them- oh, you have to work hard in practice every day and get good grades, eat right, go to bed early, etc. But… the truth is that you can do all of those things and more and never get to the top level. Because being a student athlete requires A) hard work B) talent and C) a hell of a lot of extremely good luck

And maybe it doesn’t seem like good luck at the time, but looking back now you can see it.

Let me explain…

First- JMU wasn’t my first choice. And before y’all get upset, let me remind you that I was 18 years old and really had no clue about anything as you’ll see from this story. I had it narrowed down to two choices: JMU and… Villanova. My dad took me and my sister on a road trip (I guess- two birds with one stone?) and although I loved both schools for different reasons, I settled on Villanova (I know, gasp). It gets better. My primary reason for selecting that school at the time was… honestly the mall was better. I’m not making this up. And if you know anything about the King of Prussia mall, it really is a NICE mall… I swear.

Luckily for everyone involved, my parents were bums and didn’t turn in my paperwork on time- so instead of attending Villanova I “settled” for JMU. So, thank you mom and dad for being bums and not turning in that paperwork on time. Just kidding, I love you ❤️

Some more examples of good luck and I’m going to attempt some one liners here…
When I say I “walked on” the team… anyone who knew me back then would say that’s pretty accurate because I was basically walking back there.

There was one day in particular when I was a freshman that I remember Coach sent us out on a 5 mile run and I was SO TIRED… so I ran to my dorm and took a nap for 45 minutes, splashed water on my head and ran back to Godwin. That’s a true story.

Getting back to my main point here… YOU NEED A HELL OF A LOT OF GOOD LUCK. After my not so great showing my first year, Coach Henner left and Coach Dave Rinker was hired as the head cross country coach. There are 100 different ways to train a runner, and Coach Rinker’s workouts happened to work well for me. If it weren’t for that change in coaching staff I certainly wouldn’t have had the success that I did.

Now, I’m going to skip over a lot of details here, but after many, many laps around the old Bridgeforth stadium track, eventually we got to here.

I have a lot of people to thank- my high school coach Mark Mindel for getting me started, my coaches at JMU- Coach Henner for my first year and coach Rinker for the majority of my collegiate career. My professors and especially Dr. Mike Goldberger for all of the free counseling sessions and many recommendation letters. My teammates- each and every one of you- you need great teammates to be a great athlete even in an individual sport like running.

I firmly believe that JMU was the right place for me- if I had chosen any other school I would not have flourished the way I did here. That’s also why, if you ask any of my former students or athletes that I coached, I always told them if you want me to write you a recommendation letter FOR JMU no problem! Just don’t ask me to write you a letter for William and Mary.

And last, thanks to my family for traveling so far to be here this evening. My husband and I met while I was in grad school here at JMU but he’s always been supportive of my running and puts up with me in general so he deserves a thank you. And to my two girls, Emmaline and Natalie who will probably be up here giving their own speeches in about 30 years. Love you ❤️

Good night!

Racing after baby and a new training program…

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Today I registered for my first race in several months! I actually registered for 3 races, all in September (two 5ks and a 4 mile trail race). The first one is this Saturday (eek)! One reason I decided to jump in a few races so soon after having Natalie is the need to practice a race day routine for my half marathon in October. Plus I really love fall races, whether I’m in shape or not. The only problem is, I used to be able to come home afterwards and lay around watching football (and eating)… that won’t be an option for a few more years I think. Luckily these two are cute, so I don’t mind too much.

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I’ve been training with my former high school coach for the past few weeks. Although I haven’t been able to be there in person for most of the workouts, it has been really helpful to finally have a coach again. I mean, logically I know what to do to train for a half marathon (I should hope so… I do this for a living) but having someone to report to makes me feel more accountable. I usually receive my workouts on Sundays and then try to plan out my week from there. The toughest part has been getting in my long run (with a 2 month old who needs to eat constantly and refuses to take a bottle). It’s also pretty challenging to attempt a tempo run with the double stroller, so I have to run those workouts based on effort. I’m happy with my progress so far and feel I’m getting a lot stronger, so I’m looking forward to challenging myself with some races in the next few weeks. Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend!

Never Forget.

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My memories of that day and what followed are, of course, centered around my team and running because that’s what I lived and breathed at the time. When the first plane hit the tower, I was getting ready for my 9:30 class and my roommate Suzie shouted out the news to me. I remember watching the footage with the rest of my roommates, then writing a status on my instant messenger along the lines of “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center”. I didn’t fully grasp that it was a terrorist attack until I got to my first class. At some point I left to go to the bathroom and ran into a girl in the hallway who explained the rest of what had happened. My professor would not, however, let us go home because she thought her class was more important than this terrible tragedy. I’m not kidding.

I had another class after that, but that professor cancelled to let us go home. Since many of the students at James Madison University are from northern Virginia, and a lot are from the NJ/NY area, everyone was worried and wanted to call home. This was a time before everyone had cell phones, and it wasn’t so easy to reach your loved ones. I did have a cell phone, so I tried to call home several times to make sure everyone was okay. My family is from upstate NY and my dad travelled a lot for his job, so I was worried there might be a chance he had been in Manhattan. Luckily I did get through and got to talk to my parents and my sisters. I remember my sister telling me that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center had flown toward Albany (where we are from) and that the terrorists had used the Hudson River to navigate towards New York City. That gave me chills.

I don’t remember much else in the late morning/ early afternoon, but I do remember when we all started showing up for practice. My coach knew we would be upset, but he explained that running would help us to deal with our emotions more than cancelling practice would. He did give us the option of individually deciding whether to practice, and one of my teammates chose to take the day off because she hadn’t been able to get in touch with her family. The rest of us hopped in the vans and made our way to Masanetta Springs for a classic Coach Rinker cross country workout; long intervals, hills, short rest, no mercy. It was exactly what we needed at that moment.

We had a really good cross country team that year, and were ranked #12 in the country. A few weeks later, we travelled to Roy Griak in Minnesota, which would be our first experience flying anywhere since 9/11. I know I was scared of everything and everyone, and that was a common sentiment at the time. We showed up at the airport hours ahead of time. So many things had changed; there were all these things we couldn’t bring on the plane, you had to show your ID to everyone, security eyed you up and down. The biggest worry was our spikes and whether we could bring them in our carry-ons as we were always made to do (along with our uniforms). Anyone who has ever run track or cross country knows that’s a requirement in case your luggage gets lost!

The race itself went really well for us as a team. I got chills again on the starting line, seeing all of the teams with their multi-colored uniforms, all newly emblazoned with American flags. I actually remember tearing up a  little bit, which was something pretty rare for me at the time. I used to be really good at holding it together and then channeling all of my feelings through my workouts. In fact, that year was my best year of running by far, and I think some of it was due to my need to deal with life and the post-traumatic stress from September 11th.

I didn’t actually see the ruins of the World Trade Center until January. We were on our way to the Armory for an indoor track invitational. I remember being excited about the meet because I was in really good shape and my coach had put me in the mile, a race I almost never got to run. I was deep in thought when we crossed the bridge and I saw the Manhattan skyline for the first time since the terrorist attacks. There were two giant holes where buildings once were. Something about seeing that actually made it real to me. I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and burst into tears. It made me so angry that that had happened, and it filled me with pain and fear.

We stayed in New Jersey, but the sky over our hotel was gray and full of dust even that far away from the World Trade Center. It was quite a long process of trying to clean up the rubble left behind. When I got on the bus on the morning of our race I was not feeling great, and seeing the skyline again was a harsh reminder. Somewhere on that bus ride I made the decision to not be angry anymore. I really took a  moment to just think about what had happened and appreciate how our country had come together during such a difficult time. I was overwhelmed by feelings of pride and patriotism, and I decided to take those feelings with me and let them carry me through my race. I remember starting in the back and feeling awful for the first few laps, but somehow I worked my way toward the front. When I heard the bell ring to signal the final lap, I suddenly got the feeling that I was flying! I sprinted the last lap with all I had, and I ended up winning and setting a new meet record. Truthfully I was happy that I had won, but it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to run my cool down with my teammates and get some good New York pizza.

I learned an important lesson from all of this, which I guess is my point for writing about it. My coach was right: coming to practice was far better than going home. Your team is there to hold you up when you’re going through hard times together. I’m reminded of that every year on the anniversary of September 11th.

About that Runner’s World (Oiselle) article…

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Oh my goodness.

Yesterday I read this article in Runner’s World (Oiselle Wants to Be a Different Kind of Apparel Brand) which led to then reading this very long thread of complaints on the site Get Off My Internets.

I’m all for venting your frustrations in an anonymous online forum if it makes you feel better. I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to spend way too much time reading threads on the Letsrun messageboards. The problem is, there are a lot of things written on these boards that are entertaining, but many of them are false.

For example, every year since the freaking beginning of the internet, Letsrun puts out an April Fools page. One of the stories was this gem, about Leo Manzano turning down a deal with Oiselle for a sponsorship with Hanes. Someone on the GOMI thread posted a link to this story and everyone thought it was real. Eventually someone with some sense alerted them that it was an April Fools joke.

Another criticism I read (and one that was frequently repeated) was that Oiselle clothes fall apart in the wash. I’ve never had something from any company fall apart in the wash. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’m also not dumb enough to believe something written anonymously on the internet. You wouldn’t believe the things my students used to “write” in their “papers” that were copied and pasted from something a random person wrote on Ask.com. Anyone can write anything on the internet. I’m doing it right now.

I’ve been on the team for three years. There have been a lot of changes in those three years. Some people have left and a lot more have been added to the team. And some of those people are probably annoying in their own unique way. Maybe I’m one of them. I post a lot of photos of my kid, I know this. At least I don’t post photos of my kid’s poop on Facebook. I don’t understand grown adults who are obsessed with Disney, but I’m sure they have their reasons. There are some people who are reeeally into taking selfies in their new outfits every day. Or close up photos of their GPS watches. Or photos of their watches while looking down at their legs and feet. I don’t think it’s fair to lump everyone on the team together and say we’re all the same. In fact, the point of the team is to bring people together- fast runners, slower runners, ultra runners and 800 meter runners. I like that part of the team.

Lastly, about the Flock memberships… unless you’ve ever been in the position of being an emerging elite athlete, you really don’t know what it’s like. It’s difficult to get a sponsorship unless you’re already an NCAA champion. I was in that position ten years ago and it was very stressful. I ended up on a great team with a great coach, and I had a lot of things taken care of for me (free shoes, uniform, coaching, travel, access to facilities, massage, sports medicine, etc) but I also had to balance that with working to pay rent. I wasn’t working full time, and couldn’t afford health insurance. Even if you are working full time and have health insurance, there are a lot of expenses that come with training and racing at a high level. It’s tough to stay with it year after year, and I’ve seen a lot of talented runners quit because they couldn’t make ends meet. That Flock membership money could help someone pay for their health insurance. Or it might help with travel to a big meet. I think it’s impressive that the first round of memberships sold out so fast, and I hope that money gives someone the push they need to stay with it for another year.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ve had some of these thoughts on my mind today and felt compelled to share them. If you have any questions about the team or want to know more about the Flock memberships, I’ll be happy to answer.

All opinions are definitely my own.

Would you rather win… Or run a fast time?

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Don’t Google your own name. Just don’t. I’ve been wanting to add a section to my blog with my PRs for awhile, but it takes time to find results scattered all over the place from the past 10-15 years. I have a few memorized, but I had to dig up old college media guides and, yes, Google my own name to find some races. I also found some really bad race results I had forgotten about. Like, a 30 min 5k from when we missed the start of the race, and a 3:52 marathon I ran “for fun” (and hungover) where I ended up walking the last 6 miles.

After perusing these results and finding the races I was searching for, I had a few thoughts:

1. My 800 time is going down. My PR is from college, believe it or not, on a 3200 meter relay team when I had to fill in for someone at the last minute. My coach put me on the anchor leg and told me not to let anyone pass me. I remember running the first 400 way too fast (I hadn’t run an 800 since high school) and then hearing footsteps behind me. I somehow held on and finished, then found my coach to get my split. I know I ran a faster 800 in a workout, but that doesn’t exactly count. I don’t know if relay splits even count. Meh.

2. I need to run more 10ks. I think the 10k could be a perfect distance for me if I train properly for it. I still haven’t found my 10k PR time because it is going to take some more research. I know I ran it in 1999 at the trials for the Empire State Games. I had also ran it the year before when I was still in high school. Those were my only attempts at that distance on the track. I don’t know why I abandoned the 10k after that, but I think this was my biggest revelation today. 

3. Personal records are still my biggest motivator. Of course everyone wants to win, but I’d rather get my ass handed to me in a race and run a fast time versus finishing first and running a slow time. There’s something special about finally seeing a new number next to your name that you previously thought was impossible.

Would you rather win (overall, or age group, etc.) or run a fast time?

Throwback Thursday

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I’ve always been a fan of nostalgia, so Throwback Thursday is a welcome distraction from my normal schedule of running and changing diapers. In honor of this day, I’ve decided to come up with a list of things that I call my all-time most memorable running moments:

1. My first 400 meter hurdles race. I ran about 200 meters of this race, then ducked under a hurdle and fell to the ground. I don’t think any of my coaches would have predicted that I would even last the season.

2. My last race as a collegiate athlete. I ran the 5,000 at ECAC’s indoor at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. I was not expected to do well because I had been having a terrible indoor season, but after a few laps I decided to go for the win and never looked back. I was only a few seconds away from qualifying for NCAA’s (where I had finished 6th the previous year), so I took my last victory lap as a collegiate athlete bawling my eyes out. 

3. My first high school state cross country meet.  This was my first year running cross country and my team won the state championship. I’ll never forget this race for many reasons, one of which was the short appearance of my hurdles coach who jumped out at me yelling “Eye of the Tiger! Eye of the Tiger” during the race. I’m not sure if he was trying to scare me, but he did, and I definitely ran faster because of it.

4. My 5000 meter PR at the Cardinal Invite (at Stanford University). I actually don’t remember a lot of this race, but I do remember coming through the 3k faster than my PR and then slowly dying. This was the only the second time I had ever run the 5000 outdoors and I knew it would be my last for awhile so I wanted to make it count. It was the most painful race I ever ran, and I was super sore the next day. Of course my coach didn’t want to waste the opportunity to go sight-seeing so I spent all of the next day hobbling around Chinatown and Ghiradelli Square cursing him under my breath.

5. The time my sister and I ran the Boston Marathon. Of course, this hasn’t happened yet but it will in a few short weeks and it’s definitely making the top five.

Do you have any memorable runs or races?