Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Nook: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Amazing novelist writes about his marathon running and Olympic-distance triathlon training and compares it to the endurance needed to write a novel. Combines many of my loves into one, concise memoir.

I read some paragraphs that made me think, “Didn’t I already write this?” It’s so spot on.

On Bicycling:

“Running and swimming I like to do anyway, even if I’m not training for a race. They’re a natural part of my daily routine, but bicycling isn’t. One reason I’m reluctant when it comes to bicycling is that a bike’s a kind of tool. You need a helmet, bike shoes, and all sorts of other accoutrements, and you have to maintain all the parts and equipment. I’m just not very good at taking care of tools. Plus, you have to find a safe course where you can pedal as fast as you want. It always seems like too much of a hassle.”

On Swimming and Education:

“Lots of people know how to swim, but those who can efficiently teach how to swim are few and far between. That’s the feeling I get. It’s difficult to teach how to write novels (at least I know I couldn’t), but teaching swimming is just as hard. And this isn’t just confined to swimming and novels. Of course there are teachers who can teach a set subject, in a set order, using predetermined phrases, but there aren’t many who can adjust their teaching to the abilities and tendencies of their pupils and explain things in their own individual way. Maybe hardly any at all.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

50 Years of Women @ Penn State Harrisburg

My spring project at Penn State Harrisburg, during my brief time as a library archives assistant:
50 Years of Women @ Penn State Harrisburg
I used only the information within the College History Archive and the Penn State Harrisburg website to research and write 50 blog posts about 50 women at Penn State Harrisburg during its 50 years of service.

The blog will automatically release a new blog post each Monday until all 50 posts are published.

Two are published so far:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Training for the 2016 Spring/Summer Swimming and Triathlon Season

This is roughly what my training schedule has looked like for the past few weeks. There's also usually at least one multi-mile trail hike with the dogs thrown in there. Looking forward to warmer weather to have more swims, bike rides, and runs outside! 

Monday: cycling (on trainer), yoga

Tuesday: pool swim 3-4,000 yards

Wednesday: 4-6 mile run (treadmill), 45 min. TRX

Thursday: pool swim 3-4,000 yards

Friday: yoga or rest

Saturday: cycling (on trainer or spin class)

Sunday: run 4-6 mile (treadmill), 45 min. TRX 

I've been pretty sore, but not injury-sore. Gaining muscle: losing flab on my hips and the backs of my arms and my pants are all tight around my quads. 

my daily workout journal

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Accidental Half Marathon

Brian volunteered at the Squirrely Tail Twail Wun, a trail half-marathon on February 7, so he thought it would be a good idea to sign me up to run it.

I’m a fair-weather runner, so I said maybe I’d run it if I trained enough beforehand and the weather wasn’t too bad.

I kind of forgot about it. Since having the cast removed from my right foot, I’d been running maybe 15 miles per week, mostly on the treadmill.

Map from my GPS watch.
Two days before the race, race participants received an email from the race director that said the trail conditions were pretty rough, and we should all consider wearing bags over our socks and trash bags to at least our knees to prevent soaking our feet. Your feet will be numb in two miles after they get wet, he wrote.

This information, being the fair-weather runner that I am, made me say, “Um, no.”

But then the race director sent another email the day before the race that said, Nevermind! The temperature was cold enough to freeze a lot of the water/snow on the trail, so bags over our feet/legs were no longer needed.

Brian said he’d be volunteering about six miles into the race, and if I made it that far and didn’t want to keep running, he’d drive me back to my car. That sounded good to me – I knew I could handle six miles.

The morning of the race was in the low 30s with a projected temperature in the high 40s for the afternoon – not terrible running weather for February.

Brian was on site helping with set-up, and he texted me to ask if I had spikes for running on ice. No, I said. Will I need them?

No, but maybe bring some gloves to protect your hands if you fall, he said.

Grrrreat, I thought.

Despite that, I packed my bags and drove to Pinchot Park. I was halfway there when I realized I forgot to pack my trail running shoes, so I turned around. By the time I did get to the registration table, it was five minutes to start time. In those five minutes, I watched two people slip and fall on the ice.

Brian walked me to the starting line and said he might be more like 7 or 8 miles into the race, but he’d still drive me back to my car if I wanted to bail by then.

I felt pretty negative before the race. First of all, I was cold. Second, I had just come out of a foot cast in the fall, and I was in no hurry to injure myself again. I had to tell myself it would just be a fast hike.

The race started, and I jogged alongside close to 200 other runners. The first mile was my slowest because it was literally a sheet of ice. I watched at least three people fall in that first mile, and one woman – maybe not even a quarter mile into the race – was on the ground in agony after slipping.

So I tiptoed across the icy parts as I watched all of the people prepared with spikes stomp or slide their way through it.

But after that first mile, the ice only came intermittently and it was usually avoidable. The snow was hard and filled with footprint divots, and my ankles were pretty sore within the first 5K. But I warmed up quickly while running, and I had a hydration pack and a few GUs, so I stayed well-hydrated and energized.

Other than sore ankles and sore hips, I actually felt pretty good. I ran when I could, I jogged or fast hiked when I couldn’t because of the terrain. I saw at least a half-dozen more people wipe out on the course. The trail through the woods was beautiful – or at least what I could see of it when my eyes weren’t glued to the icy divots in front of my feet. I passed a lot of people who had passed me as I tiptoed across the ice at the beginning of the race. My legs felt strong running uphill.

After mile 6, I started looking for Brian. After mile 8, I gave up looking and wondered if he had tricked me and maybe he wasn’t stationed on the trail at all but had stayed at the registration area.

And I thought, oh well. Even if I had to walk for a few miles, I could still make it. My feet and legs had gotten soaked in snow and cold mud up to my knees, but my feet weren’t numb. I could make it.

Just as I approached mile 10, I saw him, sitting on the far side of a stream, one that I had to cross, and the only way to cross it was by wading through it, which I did.

10 miles in and still smiling!  Photo courtesy of Brian.
Brian helped me to get a GU out of my bag. I ate it and told him at this point, I was just going to keep going. I heard people behind me approach the stream, and my competitive instinct kicked in – I didn’t want anyone to catch up to me. Brian gave me a good luck kiss and then I kept running.

By then, the temperature was warmer so the snow was slushy and I could almost skate through it, which was kind of fun, especially going downhill. That song “Everyday I’m Shuffling” was stuck in my head as I shuffled down the trails.

When I ran past a part of the disc golf course, I knew the finish line was around the corner. And then there it was. Three hours and five minutes after I started.

I was dazed and tired and sore, but smiling and amazed I actually finished the whole thing.

It took a week to recover, and I can finally walk up and down stairs again without crying.

The best part of running my first half-marathon on an icy snow trail is that it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll PR when I run my next half!

The theme song of my first half marathon: 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why It Doesn't Matter that I Didn't Run a Half Marathon this Fall

In August, I signed up for a 10-week half-marathon training course with the goal of running my first half-marathon at Marathon on the Mountain in November.

A week before my race, I had such severe foot pain that I caved in and saw a podiatrist.

Rode my bike on the trainer with my cast
on. Don't tell my doctor.
Bad idea.

He put me in a soft cast for a few weeks to make me rest it. Bye-bye half marathon.

Of course I was disappointed, but I felt like I got so much out of the training course that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t able to compete in that particular half-marathon. It’s not like I was going to win it, and there will be plenty of other half marathons in the future.

The training course kept my workouts regimented through the end of summer / early fall and kept me sane at a time when I started a new job that required me to sit for 8 hours a day. Knowing I had to go run after work, even if I was tired, helped me make it through my day. Having other fun, motivated people to run with definitely helped, too.

By the time I got out of the cast, the holiday season was upon us and I never quite got back into a workout routine.

Now, finally, weeks after the cast came off, I’ve signed up for a TRX class at the Y that kicks my ass twice a week, so now this is what I look forward to while I’m sitting on that same ass for 8 hours a day.

This is a good kick-off into competition season: swim meets and train runs coming up in March and
April, with more open water swims and triathlons to follow throughout the spring and summer. Time to get into and stick with an exercise schedule.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dewey Beach Triathlon: A Race in Photos

A Triathlon in Photos:
Nice, calm morning - perfect water conditions for the race.
I got eaten alive by bugs on the way from the parking lot to the transition area. 
My family set up chairs at the end of the ocean swim.
Walked a half-mile down the beach from the transition area / swimming end point to the race starting line.
Showing off my body marking.
Stepping to the front of the starting line.

35 & under women's heat at the starting line.

Watching the men's heat navigate the first buoy. 

At the end of the swimming leg. Caught up to a lot of the men from the heats in front of me.

Riding back into the transition area.

Made it to the finish line!

Getting instruction to wipe the sea dirt off my face.

2nd place in my age group! Only about 18 seconds behind 1st place. In the top 10 overall women. 

Great race, and such a beautiful day to spend outdoors with family. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Interview with Rebecca on Training for and Competing in Her First Olympic-Distance Triathlon

Rebecca and met when we played on the same softball team when we were about five or six years old, and late we swam together on our high school swim team. In the past few months, I kept seeing her facebook posts about training for her first Olympic triathlon. Reading about her training and race-day goals, and then seeing photos of her looking strong and happy at the end of the race inspired me as an athlete. I am so excited that she has been willing to share a little bit more about her athletic experiences with us here, and I hope her story inspires you, too.

Rebecca after completing her first Olympic triathlon at the New Jersey State Triathlon event.

What has been your previous experience with competitive sports?

Rebecca: Before a duathlon in October 2014, I hadn't participated in competitive sports since high school swimming, but I always enjoyed working out and even taught indoor cycling classes at my gym. I'm a big believer in using exercise to maintain mental health, and staying active helped me cope with the stress of undergraduate and graduate school, a career change, moving to another state, and getting married. But once I turned 30 and life settled down, I decided I needed a hobby and started training for and participating in some local races.

For months you inspired me with your facebook posts about training for your first Olympic triathlon. How did you decide to compete in this triathlon?

Rebecca: Competing in a triathlon has always been a huge pipe dream of mine, probably since college. I have a swimming background and have recently gotten into road biking. But I always hated running, so I didn't ever see a tri happening. Then one day, when forcing myself through a three mile treadmill run in 2013, something clicked and I felt like I could keep going. I ended up running six miles that day, then started taking my runs outside, and ran my first half marathon in November 2014. I had only competed in one sprint triathlon before Jersey State, but I'm glad I challenged myself with the Olympic distance because the sprint distance the day before was cancelled due to a thunderstorm!

I love that you keep pushing yourself to try new races with new challenges. What was your training schedule like for this event?

Rebecca: I followed a 12-week plan and generally trained 6 days a week including one brick (bike to run) session. It was tough because I was also teaching 2-3 Spinning classes per week in addition to my own training.

Did you have any routines for training or on competition days?

Rebecca: I always do at least 20 minutes of yoga after a run or brick. I used to have a lot of IT band and patella issues, and yoga been the magic fix. After that, I treat myself to a couple glasses of wine. :)

Yoga and Wine: an excellent way to relax and recover! What made you most nervous about competing? Most excited?

Rebecca: I still don't know how to change a tire, so I'm always nervous about getting a flat. I think what was probably most exciting about the Jersey State tri was the size of the event (there were almost 2,000 triathletes competing in my event alone) and the fact that it was my first Oly.

Wow! I bet that made for a hectic transition area. In a few sentences, please describe what the race was like for you.

Rebecca: It was HOT and humid. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of under-hydrating on the bike, so I bonked during the run and did a lot of walking. Afterwards, I saw a lot of people with heat exhaustion in the medical tent. Luckily, all of the water stops had volunteers giving out cold towels and cups of ice, which I kept dumping down my tri suit. I remember running next to some random guy and saying to him, "I'm going to need so much wine when this is over!" The best feeling was the "misting tent" after the finish line, where they literally hosed down all of the finishers with ice cold water. I was so exhausted and overheated that I couldn't speak full sentences until I cooled off.

That’s awesome, though, that you were able to keep going and finish with adverse racing conditions. What were the best/worst parts of the race?

Rebecca: My proudest moment was passing swimmers two waves ahead of me during the swim. Least proudest moment was getting passed by 60-year-olds on the bike -- haha. But that didn't bother me too much because I still had a really strong bike and that's usually my weakest event. Part of my motivation was another woman who really pushed me on the bike -- we kept passing each other, and then the other would catch up, and every time I passed her again, she'd yell, "Go get 'em!"

In what ways, if any, has the experience of training for and competing in this event changed you?

Rebecca: The biggest change I made was after the tri -- I decided to quit teaching Spinning so that I can focus more on my training.

Are you planning to compete in any more races? If so, which ones and why?

Rebecca: I'm doing my first full marathon (Marine Corps) at the end of October. My uncle has run it before and convinced me to do it with him this year. After that, I'm toying around with the idea of a Half Ironman in 2016, if not 2017, because why would I stop at an Oly?

Exactly! Why stop there if you’re having fun? Thanks so much for sharing you experience with us. Good luck at your first marathon and half Ironman! Maybe in 2018 or 2019, we can talk about your first full Ironman...!?

Please post any comments or questions for Rebecca about her racing experience in the comments section below.

Do you have a sports experience you'd like to share? We'd love to hear it!