Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A master at 40

Wow it's been a while.  I've been busy recruiting (in fact I am en route to Los Angeles right now) and running around in circles on the track.

Henry and I smile for the camera at Icahn (pre-relay) with Jonathon in the background

I'm actually decent on the track with what I really believe to be a pretty big upside.  I'm kind of just scratching the surface.  But I am not bad.  In true Amy fashion, I'm kind of depressed because deep down I want to be good on the roads.  I could take or leave track.  I mean I like it.  It's fun.  It's easy.  You run a few times around the track as fast as you can and you're done.  But it's not the roads.  I still hold my road goals close to my heart.  This is just a means to get to where I want to be on the roads.  This and my upcoming xc season which Coach Tony thinks is going to really make a difference in my performance on the roads.  I love you TR!

Coach TR and I after a 10K in Central Park


This summer I improved my 800m time by 8 seconds which is an eternity on the track.  It would be like bettering my marathon time by 20 minutes or something sick like that (ok I made that up but it is a significant gain).  Last night I ran a 2:30 and I'm happy with it despite the fact that I wanted to go sub-2:30.  I know exactly where I faltered too.  Between 500 and 600m I accelerated a bit and then took the foot off the gas a bit because I was worried I would blow up and wanted to have a strong kick at the end.  Well I had a strong kick and actually ran down a few women but still a second too slow.  I should have gone harder earlier.  Hindsight is 20/20 but in all fairness to myself I am still learning this distance and skill.

Annnd I'm off...This was actually two weeks ago when I ran a 2:34.

Shout out to Judy who, after running the 1500m in 5:09 (at age 49 by the way which is totally awesome) paced Michelle and I for 500m.  She and Michelle had the plan to go out at 72-73 seconds and I looked at them like they were crazy.  I thought 74 seconds was ambitious.  So she told me to fall in just behind them then.  Gun goes off and I waited for Judy to settle in.  Michelle wasn't hanging tight to Judy so I pulled in behind her and all I could think was "shit...this feels easy"  We completed the first 400 in right around 73.  Awesome job Judy!!  After the turn she felt herself slow down so she pulled off (as she said she would) and simply yelled out to me "go faster Amy"  That was when I accelerated and passed a girl who I know from seeing in the park and running these races and I know she is typically faster than me so I slowed a tad.  Of course she thought she heard Judy say "go pass her" and that was her ammo (she disclosed this to me after the race).

Us receiving instructions prior to the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) in which I ran the 1200 leg.  The little girl with her back turned to us in the black is Anna.  How can I compete with someone who weighs 90lbs!!
I am the giant lady in front ;-)

So I finished in 2:30 (though it could have been 2:31 which I thought it was but 3 people confirmed 2:30 so I'll go with it).  The 800m is actually a fun race.  Just when you are really starting to die, you see the final stretch in front of you and you dig deeper.  There really is a crazy art to racing on the track too which I enjoy.  I typically know how to win shit, so I can really be strategic (within reason...the woman who won our heat yesterday went out in 58 seconds...are you f'ing kidding me!!!  I was just watching her from afar - and I mean afar and heard the announcer say "lead lady passes the quarter in 58 seconds...I think I verbalized a "whoa")  She actually died a hard death because her second lap was a 72 or something.  She had to be a sprinter.  Poor thing.  She still ran a 2:11 which is pretty damn good.

The first ever 800m I ran over a month ago, I did it strategically to win.  I was in a slower heat because originally I had no idea what I was capable of.  As the race developed, I could see all that I have learned and heard TR talk about materialize in front of me.  I could see that I had a chance to win the thing after 400m.  I went out hard (I have a really fast start I am learning) and reined it back in after Tony's tongue lashing came rushing back to my mind from January at the indoor meet where I ran the mile.  "AMY AT WHAT POINT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT WHEN YOU TOOK THE LEAD AND NOBODY WAS AROUND YOU?"  I did think I saw someone's shadow in my defense but I was wrong in my tactics even if I did see someone.  I went out too hard.  Anyway, so I reined it back in and hung on the lead two women's shoulders.  At about 500m into it, one of the women dropped and it was just the two of us left out in front.  As I was coming down the back straight, I remembered Tony's advice..."In the 800m you have one move to make...make it at the right time...it will be intuitive."  Well not sure how intuitive it was but I made the decision that I was going to bust it out with 200m left so at the 600m mark I passed her and never looked back.  I will say that coming around the turn I was thinking "what the hell have I just done...did I go too early?  Where is she?"  I couldn't feel her near me.  As I approached the final straight I just accelerated with all I had left and beat her by 4 seconds.  Happy! Yay!  Winning!  But that race was an example of how on the track you don't always stick to a pace like on the roads per se.  You see how things develop.  I wish I had this kind of ability on the roads.  Gosh I wish so much I did.  If I had more left in the tank late I would be able to really do well.  I just die!

So Tony seems pretty excited about what I can accomplish on the track.  He has talked about going to USA Masters Nationals next summer and World Masters Championships and stuff like that.  When I saw him last Saturday on the track (where my workout was a simple but fast 400, 300, and then a 200...that is taking some getting used to...a workout used to be 15 miles.  Now I run for 5 minutes tops.  My cool down was 5 miles so that made me feel a little better about myself) and Tony told me to look at the masters results for the 40+ group.  He told me I would get pretty psyched about it...Well I went home and looked and if I was reading it right, I saw that I would have finished 3rd overall if I ran the time I did the week before.  It's pretty cool to have something you can compete in being old and stuff ;-)  A few more months and I will kick ass and take names as a 40 year old.  Can't wait!!  Lots of success ahead of me...How about Judy (who I spoke about earlier) has a 1500m time of 5:05 that ranks her #1 in the US and #3 in the World right now!!!!!!!!  Holy crap.  And I can compete with Judy so maybe I can be something like that someday.  She's almost 50 though so that is even more bad ass.  I'm still on the very young end of 40.  And I'm not even 40 yet!!

I haven't even mentioned my ability in the relay...I could be a good little addition to a team :-)   Judy and Michelle mentioned something about the 4 x 800m relay at the Millrose Games!!  Imagine that!  They said we could set some records in the 40+ group.  Ha.  Last night I did the 4x400m and though my 400 split was only 68 seconds, I was still able to catch a few people.  I was the second leg and had some work to do...So that's what I did.  Chasing down the enemy....


Next up on the racing circuit - Cypress 5K in sunny southern California on Saturday morning where I want to make a push to break 20 minutes (haven't done that in a few years), Team Champs 5-miler against all the speedy teams in NYC, and then it will be time to gear up for XC and the Fifth Ave. Mile .....5:20 anyone?

Well I should turn my attention to softball work right now...We have had a really good summer on the recruiting trails.  I haven't felt this organized in quite some time.  Hoping to secure our second 2016 commitment..and possibly some 2017's as well.  Recruiting is absolutely ridiculous.  But right now this is the way it is and we all need to do what we gotta do.  None of us can figure out how to regulate the madness of early verbals.  My thought is that this thing will blow up and come full circle eventually.  It is going to take years but once we all realize how ridiculous it is that 14 and 15 year olds are making decisions on college and we deal with repercussions in years to come (unhappy athletes, athletes who don't develop, etc.) I think we may begin our own moral code.  That's just my personal wild guess.  We'll see...Go Johnnies!!!  Next season in the championship game, they will have more material to talk about on TV - Coach K is now tearing it up on the track while her team is tearing it up on the dirt.  Big East Champions and NCAA's or bust!!!!!!!!!

This picture cracks me up.  These are a few future Johnnies who were taking a secret selfie of themselves after a game with me in the background in Colorado and I caught them and looked over and smiled.  



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Peripheral vs. Obsessive

So....

Maybe I just care too much.  It seems like whenever I care too much about anything, it falls apart.  But I guess when you care about something, you critique it with a fine tooth comb.  You become overly critical.  When it's something you are peripherally interested in, you really don't pay attention to the details and you can spin it into something warm and fuzzy.  #ChoosePeripheralOverObsessive 

I ran a sub-par 10K today that I really don't even want to break down.  This weekend's excuse - 78% humidity.  It's always something.  Sick of excuses.  At the end of it I had a revelation that something had to change.  Whether I needed to get out more and develop other interests so that the only thing I am thinking about and planning for isn't always softball or running or maybe I need to get back on my strict diet to see if my weight really does have anything to do with my times or something.  Of course I have also contemplated just staying the course and believing in the process.  I just keep falling short of where I want to be as a runner and it hurts.  Especially when I pour blood, sweat and tears and time and almost all my energy into it.  I wouldn't have it any other way though.  I really have no desire to have it any other way.  But I could stand to revamp some things.  I like the quantifiable goal of losing 5 lbs.  Start small.  But by gosh it is hard for me to lose weight.  So hard.  I eat a ton which will need to change (I don't eat any sweets or anything fried or really anything too awful - bread on occasion and only when I have a tough workout for carb reloading/fueling, a frozen yogurt with some dark chocolate mini chips on it every few weeks, etc.  Shoot I haven't had pizza or a hamburger in months.  I rarely drink alcohol.  The thing that has done me in - I started eating cereal, rice, milk, and peanut butter again.  I kicked the peanut butter habit and now I need to stop with the other processed carbs and dairy.  Fruit, veggies and lean meats and fish is what I need to get back to - not that I ever left it but I added some things that aren't even that fun and just like that, 5-7 lbs right back on.  That and my portion size is out of control.  And then there is my father who can't gain weight if he tried.  And who eats one meal a day because he's just not hungry.  Huh?) - I worry that I will simply transfer my suckyness from less eating to a loss of energy if I cut back.  But two years ago I was able to do it, so what the heck.  I was also running an absurd amount of miles too.  Now I am just exerting myself hard core twice a week and running a modest 45-50 mpw.  Five pounds should do it.  I look at myself in the mirror and in pictures and see that my body fat % has skyrocketed from its previous 13%.  I even have developed a minor spare tire and that folks, is unacceptable.  #NotFunny

I am just tired of being average.  Today I was having a pity party and started thinking how I don't ever remember being any good at anything.  It seems like everyone around me excels...and then here I come.  Miss Medicore.  Sadly I was craving a game of catch today and then I thought - I am probably no good at softball anymore either.  Thinking back, I can't believe I was one of the better pitchers in the Big East.  It's crazy to me.

The other day on one of my runs I was thinking that I am so glad I began running at the time I did.  I wasn't interested in it back in the day and I just feel like it came along at the right time of my life.  It kind of stinks that I am getting older, but I do believe I still have about 7-10 years left of PR level running and improvement.  It isn't much time so I need to make the most of it all.  I need to stop falling short.  Tony keeps telling me I still haven't scratched the surface of how good I can be.  He's really excited about the fact that I will be doing XC in the fall and indoor next winter.  He says through all this stuff we will find my niche.  I guess I wish that I picked up running and was a little better than I am.  Like when I became a softball pitcher.  I watched a girl throw windmill once, said to my coach "let me do that", did it and it was easy.  This whole running endeavor has been humbling and has taught me more than I could have ever imagined.  Especially the lesson in how to be happy being average.  Ugh.  So awful.  The thing I love about running is that it's by far the most challenging sport I have ever participated in.  I admire anyone who goes out and pushes their body to the limit.  I wish I pushed a little more at times - I need to learn how to pass out (kidding).  Body, could you please process oxygen to my blood and muscles at a quicker rate?  You are not helping matters!

I actually just finished reading a really great book titled "The Power of Habit - Why we do what we do in life and business" by Charles Duhigg who also writes for the NY Times.  Very good read for anyone interested in making changes to their lives - or for anyone who wants to help someone else make a change.  I will use it for the new eating habits I plan to create for myself.  I have also been wracking my brain on how to use it for my softball team's culture.  I believe we really have things going in the right direction and I'd like to keep it that way so just trying to figure out how I can make it useful.  Thinking about some of the bad habits our kids may have or the team as a whole may have...Of course people have to also want to be invested in the psychological process and not everybody is for various reasons.  And that's ok.  But anyway, always thinking.  Always looking for ways to improve.

I have a really tough perspective for the Polly Positives of the World (speaking of which, I just finished the second season of Orange is the The Black).  I could probably depress those glass half-fullers.  The glass half full world to me is such a b.s. world.  I want to meet someone who sincerely feels this way about things.  It totally goes against the fabric of who I am.  More than anything I hate bull crap.  And life is filled with people full of crap.  I rarely see things as great but as a work in progress where improvement is infinite.  Someone once told me that if I was the winner of the race I would still find a way to be disappointed.  Probably so.  Don't get me wrong...things make me happy and excited but I call a spade a spade - if something sucks, it sucks.

If I had some kind of ability, I would be a world class something with my discipline, dedication, and tenacity to achieve.  And then perhaps I would have a more satisfactory existence.


My pity party ended with this - it made me laugh.  Embracing failure.  This is so much better than "everyone gets a trophy"

Until next time....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Post-everything

This was such a phenomenal experience for my team.  As much as I hated that it had to be against one of my very best friends, all is fair between the white lines.  We won 5-3 and advanced to the championship against DePaul.  My senior captain Jackie went 4-for-4 with a single, double and two HUGE home runs!!

St. John's Softball Program after a historical season - Runner up in the Big East Tournament.  First appearance in a  championship game since 1990!

Checking in...been a while.  This is a post-marathon and post-season post (and not in the post-season sense that I wish I was posting about).  Our softball playing season has officially ended and although we lost in the Big East Championship game to top seeded DePaul, my team had a really special year.  Here are a few things I have learned (or have been reminded of) throughout it all:

1. It's not how you start, it's how you finish...that goes for an at bat, an inning, a game and a season.  Or even for my running life, a race.
2. Confidence goes a long way.
3.  Peer leadership really does matter - good leadership gets you in a good place.  Bad leadership gets you in an ugly place.  We had a super class of seniors who knew how to get it right.  And wanted to get it right.  It has made all the difference in the world for our program.  I feel good about our junior and sophomore classes as well.  These players are hungry and will not just settle for a Big East appearance.  Nor should they.  Big East Championship and NCAA's or bust.  It's awesome when program standards are set by the players themselves.
4. Sometimes you get really lucky with the group of support you have around you - even though things aren't always perfect with my staff, we all bring different aspects to the table that makes the whole thing go round.  I had a great trainer, a great SID, and a great manager to boot.  And we all had a lot of fun together.  It makes a difference.

Chris, Bob, Tommy and I after Saturday's final in Rosemont, IL

5. To quote Oprah Winfrey - "Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down."  I have lost ALOT in my life.  When you lose, you don't get very many texts and nobody posts much about it on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.  It's a lonely place to be.  I have a handful of people who text me through thick and thin when the chips are down.  And when I win, those are the people who inspire me most...because I know they are proud of me for "playing the game" and not just for "winning the game."  Don't get me wrong...I am a competitor just as much as anyone else (arguably more) but having the exact same support there when times are tough vs. when they are rolling along nicely means everything to me.  It's funny because sometimes the difference between one year from the next can be a few more wins because few more bounces went our way....the bounces that we just may not have gotten last season.  There's such a fine line...yet when you win, you are a hero.  Don't get me wrong again...I LOVE winning.  I wish I never had to experience losing to have to learn this lesson but it's incredible to me.  Texts fly in when we win by a run and play a sloppy game but not when we lose a tight game in which the girls were great and played their hearts out.  There's no room for losers in this society.  And let's face it - sports is one of the mediums that really matter in this country so you are either dubbed a winner or a loser - fans and athletes alike.  Nobody is more "patriotic" than a fan about his/her sports team.  It's a multi-million (or billion) dollar industry.  It is news everyday.  NFL draft, NHL playoff hockey, a gay guy getting drafted or coming out discussed ad nauseam, NBA playoffs, Red Sox vs. Yankees, the subway series, unionizing the NCAA...and the list goes on and on...Interesting concept to me...
6.  In my 39.5 years on the planet I've learned that it's tough to make a rainbow without rain.

In-game interview on Fox Sports 1 - I am a television star!  They also showed a few pictures of my dad and I running in the broadcast which I thought was AWESOME.  And CPTC and Tony got mentioned too.  Running comes everywhere with me :)

Now onto Boston...ugh.  Just ugh.
1K to go...For those kilometer challenged people that means .62 miles away.  I am at least vertical!

The smile isn't so much for the fact that I finished...It's that I am done with this distance for a few years.  
My biggest fear the week of the race was whether or not I would survive the stomach bug going around my team.  Do you know how awful it would be to go through 16 weeks of grueling marathon training during the course of a softball season only to wake up throwing up on race day and unable to make it to the starting line?  I was ridiculous that week.  My assistant at one point was like "Amy STOP!"  I would bring my own soap everywhere.  Wouldn't touch anything.  It was OCD central.  Thankfully I made it!  Race day temps were scheduled to soar to 66 degrees. Got a lot of texts saying "Yay should be a gorgeous day for the marathon!"  I'm thinking yeah, maybe for the spectators...66 degrees in mid-August would be amazing.  Not in mid-April after a tundra-like winter.  I know I had run in Florida  few times but never at those paces for that long.  The morning of the race was pretty action packed with everything we had to do to comply with security after last year's debacle.  Dad and I got to the Wamp club bus in Attleboro around 7:00am and we took off for Hopkinton at 7:30am after a few photos and stuff.  The ride went really fast.  I was on Facebook and sending out last minute texts.  When we arrived to Hopkinton Middle School we had to get off the club bus and board a yellow school bus which was hilarious.  Haven't been on one of those in 30 years.  That took us a few miles to the start - or rather dropped us off a mile from the start.  That's just what we needed - to walk a mile and be on our feet for longer than necessary.  Security was EVERYWHERE.  We had to show our bibs a thousand times.  By the time we got to athletes village it was almost time to head to the corrals.  I literally laid down for 10 minutes and we were off.  My dad and I ran into one of my CPTC teammate (Ambreleah) and we all walked to our corrals together. As we were walking, all I could feel and think was "holy crap, I'm in a tank top and I'm warm now.  This isn't good"  I got to my corral and 2 minutes later - BOOM - gun goes off and the race begins.  The first mile was really slow.  A cluster fuck pretty much.  So much log jam.  I was fine with it though.  I was going to stick to my plan come hell or high water.  And I did.  Until I couldn't anymore.  Going into the morning I thought I should have made an adjustment from my game plan.  I knew it was hot and thought it might be smart to go out around 7:25-7:30 instead of the 7:15-7:20 plan.  Because I hadn't heard from Tony I decided to stick to the plan.  When I spoke to him, he said he thought about emailing me on Sunday to tell me that but he didn't want to mess with my mind too much so he didn't.  In hindsight, I wish he had.  So I kept that pace steady between 7:15-7:18 through about 18.  Sometimes I would dip down around 7:10 but I was mostly where I needed to be.  At the start of the race once I got out of the crowd I wasn't really feeling it.  Some days you feel it.  This day I just wasn't.  I would go through waves of discouragement because of that.  And then a few miles would come along and I would feel ok and thought to myself "ok, just needed to get rolling a bit" and then I would feel crappy again.  The early hills were a bit of a challenge which should not be the case.  I still held strong with my pace though.  I had a much better Wellesley than I did last year.  The scream tunnel at the college was amazing.  But I never got too out of control.  That helped because when I got to the half marathon point in Wellesley Center I felt good.  Last year, I didn't feel so hot there.  I was on track to run a 3:11.  Ok, cool.  At the very least I thought I could PR even if I struggled in the upcoming miles.  Well struggle I did.  And I ended up running a 3:20:33.  22 seconds off a PR.



I was doing ok until I just hit a point at mile 18 or so where the hills and heat just chewed me to pieces and basically spit me back up.  I wanted to have some steam to attack the hills.  Ha.  Right.  I was hanging on.  Just like last year, the downhills in the low 20 miles (22, 24) weren't good because my quads were wrecked and going downhill just hurt.  I just kept working.  I went as hard as my little legs would take me (or should I say my thick legs...can we say FAT...ever since I decided I wanted to live a little and stopped being a nazi with my diet I have gained weight and I do believe it has affected me a little).  I pushed hard that last 1K and then down the final stretch of Boylston and I kept looking at my watch with despair as the seconds continued to tick away.  Damnit.  Damnit.  DAMNIT!  People in my club knew it was a disappointing finish for me - as Audrey said "You were trained better to do that"  Yep.  Pretty much.  Thankfully Tony said that after assessing the race and how everyone did he thought it was amazing that I ran near PR levels.  My dad put it well - "More people had bad races than had good ones this year.  I didn't think the heat would be a factor but it was warm out there."  So many people commented on how emotional it was and I was definitely happy I could be there after what happened last year however I barely looked into the crowd.  I was there to execute and that was it.  I have such tunnel vision when it comes to my goals.  Anyhow, when I crossed that finish line I was so happy...Happy that I won't be doing this distance again for at least 2-3 years.  Tony is going to train my ass to get stronger and faster and then when I do come back to the marathon, watch out!!  Sub-3 or bust!!  Like Tiger Woods, I am taking a few steps back to take a bunch of steps forward.  I think that is really cool.  I am currently registered for the mini-10K in early June (if I am recovered I will run it...if not I won't), the Pride 5-miler, and the Fifth Ave. mile in September.  I will be doing a bunch of the Tuesday night at the track races too.  This fall, watch out Vannie...I am coming to do some XC meets.  That is where TR says I will make a ton of strides.  Says everyone improves from running XC.  The things I am MOST excited about in 2014 is turning 40 in November because I will then be able to score points for the team.  Right now I am in the division with all the young, really talented runners.  I wish I was as good as them!

Ok, time to get ready for my week....lots of post-season wrapping up and meetings to do which takes a ton of energy on my part.  #stress

Here are some fun photos for all you Bachelor fans out there (if you are anything like me, you probably don't know what that show is...I can fill you in if you'd like as I had a tutorial from one of my juniors en route to Chicago)....

We had a very interesting trip out to Chicago.  For all you Bachelor fans out there, we ran into Juan Pablo and he became a St. John's softball fan immediately.  I had NO idea who he was or even what that show was about so when I learned it all, I thought it was pretty funny.

As if that wasn't weird enough, when we landed in Chicago two hours later we ran into his girlfriend Nikki who also became a fan of ours.  I actually spoke to her.  Very nice lady.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I am ready.

I have trained in 9 different states over the last 2.5 months.
































...including long runs of 18 or more in 3 totally different climates.

1st - 19 miles - Clearwater, FL - Temperature: 75 degrees with 75% humidity.
2nd - 19 miles - Chicago, IL - Temperature: 24 degrees with 16mph headwinds for half of run and 10 degree wind chills
3rd - 21 miles - New York, NY - Temperature: 45 degrees with damp conditions.

I have trained religiously outdoors in arguably one of the coldest winters in NYC history.  Not to mention in snow, wind, rain, ice and sub-zero wind chills.  To say I am ready for anything Mother Nature throws at me would be an understatement.



I have won a 5K XC race in humid South County Park on Everglades Rd. in Boca Raton, Florida beating a local XC high school girl.

I completed 12 sessions at the Armory indoor track on Tuesday nights this winter...and once I got the hang of it, I kicked ass on most of my workouts.



I ran a sub-6 mile in my first ever indoor track meet.

I had the most unbelievable 21-miler three weeks ago.  I surpassed my goal marathon pace by 12 seconds a mile - and felt strong doing it.

I have been up at 4:00am in order to get my training in several times this winter.

I have made just about every CPTC workout on Tuesday and Thursday evenings if I was in the state of NY.  Often times this was orchestrated by finishing up games or practices, smashing a banana and peanut butter down for nourishment, changing while simultaneously navigating through NYC traffic, frantically finding parking and sprinting to get my warm up in before the workout began.  Have you ever tried changing your sports bra in a car while driving?  Harder than the workout sometimes.

I have stayed away from alcohol this entire training cycle.

I have had the most amazing last month of training.  Perhaps the best of my life in terms of execution.  I have earned the confidence and respect of my coach.  Most importantly I have earned the confidence in myself.  I have put the work in, I have executed.  I have been relentlessly diligent in my training (both rest, diet and running).  I have learned more about running over the last few months than I probably know about most subjects in life.

I have managed to carry out a crazy softball schedule 7 days a week, managing a program, staff and team, and stress often times on my feet for 8 hours a day throughout this entire training cycle.

I have weathered a hammy pull in February and some other minor aches and pains that come along with grueling training and, knock on wood, I should be toeing the line in Hopkinton, MA as healthy as one can be at the conclusion of a training cycle on Monday, April 21.  I am lucky for that.  Like Tony said to me at the end of my amazing race plan - "When you cross the finish, you’ll be one of many runners who will have made your point to those who want to take our freedom. As Big Papi said last year -- this is our fucken city! CPTC-NB and Boston Strong!"  And Coach TR is a HUGE Yankee fan so for him to quote Big Papi....well, that's cool.

I am #BostonStrong.

I am ready.





Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yes!

Will the story of Boston Marathon 4.21.14 be titled "Lesson Learned?" or will it be "Lesson Learned!"  Both could tell to be very different versions.

I had probably the most amazing long run of any marathon cycle today.  It has been a long time coming, but lately I have been feeling really confident and really fit.  I've been executing workouts despite sore and tired legs and despite a grueling travel schedule.

Last weekend I ran in Chicago along Lakeshore Drive which was really cool..it was the 6th state I have trained in for Boston and the 3rd state I have executed a long run in.  The long run in Chi-town was really bad.  16mph winds and 10 degree wind chills along the water was not conducive to anything but a shitty 19-mile run.  I had a great bounce back long run this weekend on my own turf though.  The friendly confines of Central Park :) 
After Butler could not get out this weekend, my plans for the next 5 days changed dramatically.  This winter has been so brutal on so many levels.  I am usually not one of those people who post about how cold or how hot it is.  I kind of go with whatever mother nature throws at me.  This winter, however, is something that I think I will complain about forever.  It's been horrible for softball season - we haven't really had great weather to play in all year.  Who can really play softball in 37 degree weather with winds whipping everywhere?  I mean seriously.  We even had a day that was 59 degrees, overcast and windy in Florida.  Really?!

Marathon training has also been a beast.  To my credit, I have braved it all.  I have only run on the treadmill once this winter.  I think it was during a blizzard.  Other than that, I have been on the track or outside.  But anyway, Butler's flight getting canceled was actually a blessing because they were able to reschedule for this week when our weather is going to be 60 degrees and sunny!  If they came this weekend we would have been lucky to get a game in.  It rained most of the weekend.  So it all worked out pretty well.

Not only did this change affect my softball schedule, but it also opened up my training schedule a bit too.  Instead of doing my long run on Monday, I was able to get it in today (Sunday).  And it was a beauty.  I was shocked.  Tony was like "Oh, whatever.  Good job but it's no surprise to me.  You just need to learn how to execute and these are the things you are capable of."  Haha.  I was dancing all over the apartment and TR was like "yeah, whatever...ok moving on."  I'm kidding.  He was a little more excited than that but it was cool that he has that much faith in me.

Tony stressed that this was totally a key long run for the cycle.  It was important that I do things exactly as I would on race day.  I would have 7 miles worth of race pace mixed into a 21 mile run at different points, including the very end of my run.  It actually wasn't very daunting when you broke it down because the times I wasn't running at marathon pace, I was going pretty easy so it was all about keeping my mind occupied while I ran easily.  Tony has been prepping me for a 7:20 marathon pace, which with all I have going on this training cycle I have thought is rather ambitious.  That would put me at a 3:12 which I can definitely do but just not so sure I'm ready for that now.  That would be an 8 minute PR.  After today, I'm thinking that if I have a good day and the stars are aligned I could do that.  So today he instructs me to start at race time (which for me will be 10:20am as I am in Wave 2).  So in typical AK fashion, that watch started at 10:20am exactly.  I got up around 8am (well after getting up at 6am first and eating some power gel energy blasts because I was hungry...who wakes up hungry?  Me.  Always.), had my race day breakfast which I experimented with a little today (instead of the usual whole wheat bagel I went out to the bagel store and got a plain bagel with peanut butter so my stomach would digest it a little easier...I researched white vs. wheat and why the body breaks it down easiest - in a nutshell it's essentially stripped of all the nutrients and is broken down into sugar easier...whole wheat contains fiber which can cause bloating and worse which is not what I need...then I ate a banana with peanut butter, had some water and of course my diet ginger ale).  I wore the New Balance 1400's.  TR suggested I experiment with 890's and 1400's.  890's have more cushion and the 1400's are nice and light - 5.3 ounces to be exact.  I had it in my mind that I was going to run in my 890's for Boston but after today I changed my mind.  1400's it is!

So my first 10 miles today I was to be on soft terrain - despite all the rain, bridle was in pretty good shape.  Some puddles here and there but nothing too crazy.  I figured it would give me plenty of time to see where the wind would affect me most and allowed me to formulate a plan for where I would begin and end my marathon pace portions of the run which were to be done on the roads.  Here's a nice picture of the bridle path for those of you who don't know what it is.

You can cover about 5.5-6 miles of bridle path in Central Park (CP) and create all kinds of loops.  Great for running - has been a leg and life saver for me since meeting TR and CPTC.  It is a gravel trail that loops around the park.
TR said to keep it around 8:20 on bridle and the easy portions of my run.  In the end I actually ran about 8:11 pace for the first 10 but I wasn't looking at my watch much.  I was just keeping it easy and running smooth.  Whenever I do this my paces are so much more consistent.  Looking at my watch constantly makes my runs really choppy.  It's weird.  Running on feel is the best.

Ok, next 5 miles were to be done at MP on the roads - which in TR's mind is 7:20.  Believe it or not that was stressing me out.  Well actually that's believable since everything stresses me out.  I had mapped out that I was going to run into the wind on the west side hills and have it push me along on the east side.  Thought that was the best course of action.  When I threw down a 7:04 on mile 11 and felt good, I thought two things - 1. Either I'm having a really good day or 2. Ok, when will I crash and burn?  I never crashed and burned so it was my day.  My 5 miles were at 7:04, 7:09, 7:26 (this was the windy west side hills...damnit), 7:09, 7:03.  Pretty freaking good for me.  And I still felt strong when I had to get back onto bridle for the next 3 and bring it down to 8:20 again.  I hit 8:20's on the nose.  Again, didn't look at my watch.  The last 2 miles (19 and 20) were to be done at race pace again (or 7:20's).  Mile 19 was 7:10 and then mile 20 was 7:09.  Basically I averaged 7:09 for my MP and I was pretty freaking excited.  I still had much more left in the tank and I never lost my head.  Often when I fatigue all logic and sense goes out the window.  I lose my mind, literally.  That never happened today!  TR told me to warm down for a mile at the end which turned out to be 1.58 miles because that's how far I was from home.  Today was not an ideal day to run either.  The winds were blowing pretty heavily - 17 mph to be exact.  Typically that is a recipe for disaster for me and workouts.  Today I performed DESPITE the conditions.  YES!!



So let's see - I have done a long run in 75 degrees and 79% humidity, one in 24 degrees/10 degree wind chills and 18 mph winds and now one in 47 degrees, raw, wet, and windy.  Not to mention all the other work I have done in snow, ice and single digit temps.  It would be fair to say that I am ready for anything.

Pretty excited to execute in Boston in 3 weeks!  Let's see if I can put it all together.  I will not go out to hard...I will not go out too hard....I WILL DO IT! I don't know what this is more about - do I really want to succeed or do I not want to live through the heartache of f'ing up a race again?  I think it's all one in the same.

Wearing my Boston shorts in this photo actually...hasn't been this warm in months here!  This is me after a long run in Prospect Park (Brooklyn).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Footprints


Reporting to you from central Florida tonight.  Just taking a little time out tonight to chill out, relax and prepare for our weekend of 6 games ahead.  We've been on the road 7 days now and while I love softball season and get excited for every game we play, 7 days on the road (which will eventually be 10 days) is not easy.  It takes us all away from routines, normal sleep patterns (not to mention our own beds), and does take its toll on the body.  Cold weather schools definitely have it tough as many of us have to open up our first 20+ games on the road.  We are in the airport every weekend (an experience that is on my top 5 all time worst things to do) flying to some warm climate when really there are not many warm climates anywhere and we end up freezing most places we go anyhow.  We've even had some chilly days in Florida from time to time, although this year we've been to Florida twice already and the weather has been warm enough so that we aren't quadruple layered up…well I am, but I'm nuts.  For some reason I am always, always, always cold.  Last weekend was a tough one for us up in Athens, GA in the results column.  We had some really positive things go down but it just didn't show up favorably in the results column.  Playing nationally ranked opponents, including host UGA twice and UAB, will do that to you.  Strength of schedule is pretty important to me although I will give some merit to my critics (you know who you are) that a balanced schedule can be as beneficial.  I have taken that into consideration for next season actually but of course we will still see the likes of Tennessee, USF, San Diego State and some other high caliber opponents.  It's really tough to strategically schedule in softball because you don't often know who is going to which tournaments, which teams will pull out and subsequently be replaced with, you never know who will be a strong team in any given year, etc.  I am more than 1/2 way done with my 2015 schedule (and have been done with it since before Christmas) which is crazy.  I'm just waiting on Big East to come out with our conference schedule and I need to schedule our local midweek games and we'll be locked in for 2015.  My softball life is so very structured.  For someone who enjoys spontaneity, I am like a dichotomy.  I have actually become a little less spontaneous as I age.  But I still do like random trips and visits and stuff like that.  Well, I expect big things from our team this weekend.  It's starting to be crunch time and we need to begin to pick up steam so we can lift the confidence going into conference play.  This weekend will be a great start…

So I've been on the road in a different city over the course of the last 4 weeks but it hasn't put too much of a damper on my training.  I actually had a stretch where I was killing workouts…no coincidence that it was a week and a half where we had no traveling or games.  I had time to be at home and run on my own turf with my team without waking up at ridiculous hours to get workouts in.  My last two tempo's have not been up to par in my book and again, no coincidence that both workouts came just before and well into a road trip.  So many people say that running relieves stress…and it does for sure, however when I carry stress into a workout it affects the outcome tremendously.  Tremendously.  When you are trying to run at optimal levels under a ton of stress (at least for me), it slows me down as evidenced by my last two tempo's.  Tony wanted me to run today's 5 mile tempo at a 6:40 pace.  He thinks I can race a half marathon at that pace.  I think that is a little ambitious right now but he knows better than me.  So I set out at what I thought was a conservative pace this morning (6:51) and by mile 3 I was toast.  It probably didn't help that I was battling wind and rain but at some point those "excuses" aren't good enough anymore.  I ended up finishing the run averaging 6:58 but the thing that pissed me off most was that I ran my last two miles slower than my first two.  That is the exact opposite of what I am trying to do.  But I went out thinking I was being conservative.  I really need to keep it above 7's on the first mile of a tempo so I can finish strong.  Lesson learned.  The positive was that after the 5 mile tempo, I had a 4 minute recovery jog and then had to do a mile in the 6:30 range.  Tony said this would be a good workout for the kick at the end of a marathon.  Who has a kick at the end of a marathon, btw?  Ha.  I will!  I wondered how that would be after quasi-bombing the tempo…I ended up running pretty well and pretty even and actually felt ok.  I ran it in 6:34 which is not quite 6:30 but is in the range I'd say.  I was happy with it.  Plus tempo's are really hard to do solo.  Got another long run in (again, on the road and in a completely different climate) on Monday.  The weather was sunny, 75 and relatively humid but I still ran a solid pace.  Kept it just under 8 minutes with my last 3 miles being my fastest.  I actually had to work hard to keep a steady pace for the last 8 miles because I didn't realize just how windy it was.  When I turned around and realized it was whipping (later found out it was 19mph winds), I thought to myself "geeze…no wonder it felt so easy on the way out!!"  Of course I lost track of where I was on the trail and ended up running an extra few miles (the 18 miler turned into the 20+ miler).  I essentially walked/jogged 4 miles trying to figure out where the heck I was.  I could smell my skin baking in the sun.  No joke.  I hadn't put sunscreen on because it runs into my eyes and stings the heck out of them.  Anyhow, I was happy with the quality of the long run and with 6.5 weeks out until Boston, I feel like things are rolling along.  I'm not going to be breaking any world records in this one, but I do hope to execute properly.  That's my goal.  Execute a race plan properly.  The best thing about this training cycle is that other than a few niggles, I have been pretty healthy.  KNOCK.ON.WOOD.

Got to see Tim a few days ago, which is actually what prompted the headline of my blog post tonight.  I'm kind of a loner in the world.  I am not the most social thing going and most nights would prefer to just chill out alone, go to bed early and focus on my running and coaching.  At times I kind of feel like I am missing out but when I think about hanging out in groups of people doing social things, I realize I would just rather not.  With that all being said and while I don't have many people in my life, I have a select few people that just have a special place in my heart.  I speak to a few of them often, a few rarely and a few next to never but they never leave my mind and never leave my heart.  I'd go out on a limb to say I probably still love some of them in a capacity I can't quite explain and don't really understand.  I guess not all feelings can be explained, much to the chagrin of my anal desire to understand everything completely.  "Why?" is my favorite question in the world.

These people to me are those that get me and that can just pick up where we left off…a sort of timeless comfort level that transcends anything.  I probably have about 4-5 people in my life in this capacity.  All in different parts of the country.  Tim is one of them.  The day I left Florida for good goes down in my books as one of the hardest days of my life.  He is and will always be one of my dearest friends.  The dynamic I have with these people in my life is typically centered around the fact that they get me, make me laugh, are highly intelligent, and have qualities that I admire (smart, funny, witty, successful, do something uniquely well and care about me on a pretty deep level which in turn is reciprocated).  Ironically most of these folks are loner types like me.  Hmmm.

I'm pretty tired.  I have a 5:00am wake up call tomorrow so I can get a light 6-mile recovery run, some core, some pushups and of course breakfast in before games.  This girl doesn't miss a meal.  Time to hit the hay.

This stands true for so many things in my life….

Monday, February 10, 2014

Quality wins and procrastination

Just for the record, I am totally procrastinating right now.  I have a 16 mile run on tap and it's not so much the action of running that I'm struggling to get out the door with…it's the 23 degree temps.  I usually don't complain too much and am pretty hard core about getting out into the elements but ugh.  At least it's sunny.  Some would say this is what I get for deciding to run Boston…eh, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Really positive weekend for Red Storm softball!  I totally threw my team into the fire this year from a scheduling standpoint (as I notoriously do) and they responded pretty well.  We have some things that need to get cleaned up, ironed out and made more consistent but I believe that will come in time and with more experience.  Our team is so young, but so talented.  We opened up with Tulsa who is always a tough team and have been receiving votes for Top 25 forever.  After losing 5-1, we faced Ohio State.  OSU beat us last year but after reviewing lots of film my staff and I were positive we could beat them this year.  They jumped out to a 3-0 lead but my team began the trend that continued all weekend long which was that they fought to the bitter end regardless of the situation.   Getting down never phased them.  We took a 4-3 lead and never looked back.  Final score St. John's 6, Ohio State 3.  Opening weekend is always so interesting…teams are trying to find themselves, work out the kinks, play on a surface that 90% of us haven't played on since late fall, etc.  Sometimes it can set the tone of the season and other times it really means nothing.  In the end, it's all about how you finish…It's a marathon, not a sprint right?

Coach K. chatting with her team before the game :-)

Saturday was a tremendous day…as is the case with most of our road trips, I relentlessly find ways to train at optimal levels.  Let me tell you that it is no easy task either.  Most times it entails very early mornings on little sleep so I guess that throws "optimal levels" out the window.  On Friday I was up at 4:30am to get my run in before our 9am games.  And then I get on a trail expecting to see other runners and there was nobody in sight.  I'm used to NYC where there are runners out in the park at all hours of the morning.  Kinda creeped me out so I decided to run on main roads more for the safety of it than anything.  I always bring some form of identification in case something happens too…you never know.  Actually, I need to bring my ID bracelet next weekend now that I think about it.  Anyway, back to Saturday.  Wake up at 6:00am (sleeping in during softball season!!), get ready to race (I had packed all my stuff for the day the night before, including my coaching stuff…had told my assistants I would meet them at the field for the game that day), and drove to some park on Glades Rd. (was I in the Everglades??) to run in a cross country 5K race.  I had spoken to Tony about it and since I missed Thursday's team tempo I investigated any races going on down in Boca.  I found one and it happened to be a xc race on grass!  Right up TR's alley.  He agreed to let me run it as a tempo.  I arrived to the foggy park (and in hindsight, thankfully it was foggy because if it was sunny it would have been smoking hot…it was already 72 degrees and close to 80% humidity which is minimal in the summer here but when you have been running in teens and 20's it was shocking to the system), signed up, warmed up just over 3 miles, did some drills and headed over to the starting line.  As I was walking over a few cops said to me "Where did you run in college?"  Haha.  Love it.  A.) I am almost 40 and B.) I look nothing like a runner - big bones and all.  When I informed them I didn't, they said "well we have been scoping out the field and we have you as the favorite to win.  We watched you warm up and can tell by your intensity."  I got a chuckle out of that and started thinking "this is a fun 5K and I am preparing as if it were the Olympics"  Haha.  That's just me though and I wouldn't change it for anything.  I told them I doubted that.  Said there were younger people there, I was from NYC and the weather was not favorable and I wasn't out there to race…just to get a workout in for Boston training.

We all line up, gun goes off and I actually felt pretty good despite feeling sluggish in my warmup.  Two girls in pink jump out to a fast and furious start.  I thought to myself that they were either really good or really stupid.  They were pacing under 6 minutes.  I wasn't taking that bait and hung behind them.  Figured I'd either catch them later or they were just better than me.  It's only a tempo, right?  I was loving the course.  Nice and flat.  Well manicured grass.  Felt good on the legs.  Awesome.  Just under a mile into the race, the pink girls were slowing down tremendously.  I caught them easily and thought to myself that I didn't want to take the lead just yet.  I hung on their shoulder for a while and as things continued to slow down I made the decision to go for it.  I wanted a hard workout and these girls were obviously pretenders with how they went out.  I could tell the girl on the right was finished with the way she was breathing.  The one on the left was definitely stronger.  The funny thing is I saw her warming up and was going to pass her on the easy warm up run and thought better of it.  I said to myself that I wasn't giving anyone any ammo.  I wanted to remain conspicuous.  So I made my move just over a mile into the race and was in my comfort zone as the front runner.  I wondered how this would go.  One older man tried to pass me and that was short lived.  He fell back shortly thereafter.  So I ran the remaining 2 miles alone, which really isn't what I was looking for but oh well.  I wanted to be pushed by others around me.  There were 3-4 guys ahead of me but I wasn't catching them.  I started working really hard because I was thinking "shit, I can win this thing…that would be kinda fun"  My breathing got really labored but I hung on.  A mile 2.5 I had a guy telling me I was the lead woman which I knew…At the 2.75 mile mark, we had to go up a short hill which was minimal compared to what I do here.  And I had just done hill repeats last Tuesday too so I was ready ;-)  At the top the guy told us we had a 1/4 to go.  I made a left and finally I could see where people were behind me.  I didn't know if I wanted to look.  I knew I had slowed quite a bit after throwing down a 6:33 first mile.  It was such a typical Amy race.  Ugh.  Anyway, I saw pink girl #1 about 50meters back and I was like "oh hell no" and turned it on.  I saw the finish line and wasn't relinquishing the lead at that point.  Hell no.  I picked up my pace to about 6:20 for the last quarter mile or so and crossed the finish line.  Yay!!  I won.  1st overall female :)  I learned from my track meet in January that I actually do have a little bit of a different gear when I think I can't go anymore.  It's pretty awesome to have that in your back pocket.

Unfortunately I had to leave the event and couldn't stay for the awards ceremony.  I felt really bad because I know it is important to support those small races but we had games and I had to go coach them.  I cooled down a mile, stretched a bit and then changed in the parking lot into my coaching clothes.  I was like the transformer.  Runner one moment, Coach the next. I thanked the race directors and volunteers, they gave me a medal and I was off.

We played Northern Illinois first and just flat out got beat.  Definitely disappointing because I thought that was a game we could have had.  After a long two game break, we took on FAU and after trailing for pretty much the entire game, we ended up beating them on a 3-run walk off home run by my three hitter which was such an amazing experience for my girls.  They were so excited and that was fun to watch.  We had a quality pitching outing and a timely hit.  BOOM!  It was awesome.  The home run ricocheted off a palm tree and back onto the field.  It actually freaked me out for a minute because I knew off the bat it was gone so I turned to my runners and then I saw it bouncing back on the field.  I looked to the umpire who was giving the HR signal.  Phew.  Mayhem!

I woke up on Sunday morning at 5:00am for an easy, dark creepy 6 mile run, some drills and some pushups and core work on 5 hours sleep (I need at least 7-9 hours so this was tough but I was still flying high from the night before so it wasn't as painful) and then off to the field again.  We faced #18 Louisville and just didn't bring our A game.  Final was 7-0.

Lots of positives happened this weekend though…I am psyched to see the progress of it all.

Ok, I gotta get my legs moving…

#MondayLongRunner
#10WeeksTillBoston