10 Miler Training Update – 11 Weeks Out

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Hartwood Acres looking fabulous. This was not a running day. This was a I’m-tired-so-lets-walk-and-take-pictures day. 

It has been a month since I signed up for the EQT 10 Miler, so I guess it’s time to give you an update on my training progress.

I meant to write a weekly update, with a detailed report of my workouts and how each mile of my runs felt. Some of you might have been interested in that, maybe. But I didn’t, so I’ll just recap.

After I hit that “register” button I was all like “Let’s do this!” and I laced up my shoes, drove to North Park and tackled 5 miles including the hill behind the boathouse. Nothing crazy – I do that loop all the time, walk/run, usually, depending on whether I’ve just eaten dinner or not.

Then all that week I was like “I got this!” so I pushed myself. I went to the gym and did some spinning and some body weight leg stuff and I ran on the treadmill. And then my knees were like “HA! We tricked you.” So I had to settle down a bit.  Continue reading

Back in the Gym

me_swimmingI am an athlete. Regardless of whether I’m on any sort of team, regardless of whether I’ve practiced recently, and regardless of the fact that I haven’t been in a pool in months, I will always call myself an athlete. I have the mentality that comes from twelve years of swimming. It’s the attitude and the drive and the determination that can only come from practicing six days a week, two, three, four, or five hours a day for half of your life.

So when I stopped working out for about six months straight, I started going crazy. Not at first- at first I enjoyed myself and my free time. I had just moved in to my new apartment, I was living in a new place, trying new things, hanging out with my boyfriend, meeting new people. I was starting a new job, which was stressful. I thought I was too busy to go to a gym after work, because after working all day, then cooking and eating dinner and cleaning up afterwords, when would I have time to unwind if I tried to throw a workout in the mix?

So for six months, I chose to relax. Looking back, I probably watched too much dumb TV and drank too much wine. But I enjoyed it for a time. I slowly started to feel sluggish though. I felt winded going up two flights of stairs. I felt slow and tired and saggy, if you will. My weight was the same, I generally looked the same as I always had, but I felt terrible about myself.

So starting in January, I bit the financial bullet and joined a gym. I made sure it was a gym I could walk to, that was open at the times when I needed it to be open. And I signed up for three months of personal training.

Continue reading

Tales of a Swimmer, Attempting to Run

My whole life, I have never been a runner. I have skinny flat feet, weak ankles, knobby knees and sore hips. I succeeded as a swimmer because I failed at everything else. I couldn’t kick a soccer ball, or run the bases. I was afraid of the balance beam and lacked the grace to dance on stage. Even a game of tennis contained more running than I could manage. I accepted the fact that I would never be a runner. That was okay. I love to swim.

But today, I ran around my entire neighborhood–without stopping, without walking. Let me tell you one thing–my neighborhood is no joke. The route that I take is about three miles and there are ten hills, varying in difficulty (most of them hard). So my run today was an accomplishment for any non-runner, especially me.

The beginning of my running journey

When I stopped swimming competitively almost two years ago, I knew I had to stay in shape. I wanted to stay active and try new things. I thought, What better place to try new workouts and activities than a college campus? But I found that I didn’t have as much free time as I’d thought. The idea of going to fun workout classes drifted farther and farther from my mind as I got more involved with the student television network and took on a part-time job. I did join UD’s yoga club and went to classes when I could. I went to open swim a few times and to the gym to ride a stationary bike.

But I found that the easiest thing to do was to run. No time limit, no gym or equipment necessary, no experience needed. I downloaded a free app for my phone called CardioTrainer and hit the streets. It was fun to track how far I’d gone, how many steps I took and how many calories I’d burned. I could also compare all of my past workouts. Last summer, I bought new running shoes, convinced that having new shoes would motivate me to run even more.

And yet, running is hard. It’s hard to tell myself to run everyday when I’m tired or sore, but if I miss more than a week I feel like I am starting all over again. I refuse to run in the rain or the cold or the dark. I prefer to run in the morning, but not the early morning. I can’t run after I eat, but I can’t run on an empty stomach. I hate running in the extreme heat of summer. I want the conditions to be perfect, the hills not too steep. In other words, I’m a picky runner.

My running goals

I’m never going to be a Runner, with a capital R. That’s never going to be me, so I’m allowing myself to be picky. I set a few goals for myself to keep me getting out there, and I have a community center membership where I can run on a treadmill when the weather isn’t ideal.

My first goal was to run around my neighborhood. For the past two years, I have tackled the hills of my neighborhood in various ways. I’ve tried running with the dog and without the dog. With my sister or my mom, and by myself. With my iPod, without my iPod. I’ve run the first part and walked the end, or vice versa. I’ve run up the hills and walked down them. I’ve run as far as I could then took a break. No matter how hard I’ve tried, the few roads that circle my house have defeated me every time.

Until today.

Another goal I’ve set more recently is to do a three-mile run once a week. It has usually been on the treadmill, since it’s gotten cold out, and I can easily keep track of the miles and speed. But there are no hills on a treadmill (none that I do) so today was a test. Run the three miles with hills. I didn’t think I would make it the whole way. I usually get about two miles in and slow to a walk. Today, however, I was feeling good. Today was a triumph.

My final goal is to run a 5K. Someday. A real 5K, where I get to register and get a little piece of paper with a three-digit number that I can pin to my shirt and a free T-shirt to show the world that I participated. You know, the whole shebang. And I want to not suck. So my efforts for now are to keep up my three-mile runs and continue running all the hills.

I thought that I hadn’t been getting any better. I couldn’t see any noticeable difference. But today I ran three miles with hills. Not bad for a swimmer. Like I said, today was a triumph.

(photo via)

Olympic Dreams

 

This was the year I was supposed to go to the Olympics.

I started swimming competitively when I was nine years old. It was the only sport I could do well, with my flat feet and lack of running skills and hand-eye coordination. I became as dedicated as any swimmer could get. I was the first one in the pool, last one out, before school, after school, weight lifting. Never skipped a set or a lap. (Ok, rarely skipped.) I distinctly remember one of my old coaches sitting down with me to discuss my future in swimming. He asked what my goals were, whether it was getting a better time, beating a certain person, or going to the Olympics. I looked at him, all confused, and said, “Doesn’t every swimmer want to go to the Olympics?”

I calculated my age and the years that the summer Olympics were held and decided that I would probably be at my peak when I was 22 years old, for the 2012 Olympics. I figured I wasn’t going to be a Michael Phelps at age 15, but by 22, I should have it in the bag.

So, yes, this was the year I should have gone to the Olympics.

I would never have come close to the fast times that these Olympians are going. I would have been drowning in their wake as they swam circles around me. I was never, ever on track to swim that fast. I had the most drive and motivation a coach could ever want in an athlete, but you have to have more than that to be the absolute best. You have to have some kind of innate talent and ability that cannot be taught or learned. These Olympians are naturals to the point of having super powers. But children should have dreams. The goal of every young athlete should be to go to the Olympics. It’s what teaches them to work hard, never give up, shake off mistakes and learn to work even harder.

The Olympians, not just those competing in London right now, but all of the past and future Olympic athletes, are heroes and role models to so many people, especially children. I looked with awe and wonder at the massive shoulders of my heroes competing on television and I watched them break records and I wanted to be in their shoes someday. And that is where I learned my dedication and commitment and my drive.

I had posters of swimmers covering my bedroom walls when I was younger. I meticulously cut pictures out of magazines, even tiny pictures that were barely three inches wide. So many you could hardly see the wall. Pictures of Dara Torres, Aaron Piersol, Dana Munz, Misty Hyman, Natalie Coughlin, Brendan Hansen, Michael Phelps. When I took them down sometime in high school, I’m pretty sure I saved them, because I couldn’t bear to throw away my childhood idols. These athletes were the ones that kept me in the pool, made me go to practice, and helped me with my stroke. I imagined I was one of them when I practiced and raced. I watched videos about how Michael Phelps swims his butterfly, and I tried to emulate him. These athletes were and still are my heroes and convince me every day that great things can be achieved, with hard work and a dream.

Every kid in sports needs that. Every adult not in sports needs that. We need to be able to believe that impossible is possible, that dreams can come true. We can see it on the athletes’ faces– the smiles as they touch the wall, score the last point, finish the race– that this is the moment they prepared for all their lives, and we’re living that moment with them. Because those moments are our moments. Those were our dreams too and we might not be the ones competing in London, but that was our goal, that was supposed to be our Olympics. So we’re left to live vicariously through the ones who were lucky enough to be born with the natural talent that we didn’t get, the monstrous shoulders, the massive legs, the precise stroke, the better coaching and more pool time. It’s not difficult to see why we didn’t go, so we’ll settle. We’ll let them swim our races, let them win the medals. We’ll cheer with them and cry for them and our hearts will break for them, in their successes and failures. These are our heroes, representing the United States, representing all of the young athletes whose dream it is to get there, representing all the non-athletes who can still find joy in their triumph.

I will let them swim my races. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, Cullen Jones…I guess they’re pretty good, they probably worked pretty hard. But by God, they better swim well. Because that was supposed to be me there.

 

(image from time.com)

 

The Boys of Title IX

As a girl who tried out almost every sport at least once before finally finding my niche, I must say that I owe it to Title IX. Not that I knew it at the time. Starting at five years old, I was introduced to organized team sports and I didn’t know any different. I thought all parents automatically signed their children up for t-ball and soccer when they turned five. Of course that’s not the case, but I couldn’t compare.

So my story followed the path of a shy child, with flat feet, who couldn’t run if the world was ending. Naturally, I was signed up for soccer at age five and failed miserably. Age six– slow-pitch softball and I was afraid to catch the ball. I suffered through that sport for two years. The next year that I would have played was supposed to be fast-pitch and I refused to go back. For a few years in there, from about age five to age eight or nine, I did dance–ballet, tap and jazz. I took a few tennis lessons each summer, maintaining amateur level with my backhand. I signed up for a gymnastics try-out week. When they wanted me to do a flip over an 8-foot-high bar, I realized my fear of heights. My mom signed me up for an ice skating lesson–the only thing I learned was how to properly fall so that someone else skating by doesn’t slice your fingers off. Finally, at age nine, I joined the Hampton Dolphins swim club. And the rest is history. I swam for twelve years, three years varsity at a Division 1 college. I can’t say I loved every single minute. But I loved most of the minutes. So thank you Title IX.

The 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX is tomorrow, hence my seemingly random thoughts about my many team sports failures. Once I learned, probably in middle school at some point, that Title IX was responsible for all of my childhood mishaps with soccer balls and balance beams, I became intrigued. Title IX became the subject of many school projects and papers throughout high school and college. I was curious because I couldn’t imagine a time when girls weren’t allowed to play sports. It boggled my mind. My parents always told me I could do anything I wanted to. So here we are, 40 years later, and girls can do anything. We have female wrestlers, football players, body builders. We have girls basketball, soccer, and softball teams. It is pointless for me to even list all the sports because girls have an opportunity in all of them. Even if it might be hard for a girl to get onto a professional football team, it is possible for her to try. So the evidence is clear that Title IX has done wonders. And not just in sports, because that is not the only reason why Title IX was passed, that’s just the most prominent thing that stands out to the public.

So why bring it up then? If it’s simply a fact of life now, then why keep talking about it? Because first of all, girls and boys are still not entirely equal in schools and in sports. Girls still have some ways to go in some parts of the country. Second of all, people continue to look at Title IX from the girls’ perspective. But what about the boys? What about the wrestler whose college team got cut right before his senior year when he is about to be voted captain? What about the schools that cut track and cross country because their football team brings in way more revenue than track teams could dream of? When looking at the big picture, people argue that boys teams have not been hurt overall. That there are other opportunities for them and that just because a few teams get cut does not lower the overall rate of boys in sports, and the gap between girls and boys in sports is still decreasing.

I think Title IX is a good thing. But I also sympathize with the boys whose dreams have been crushed or altered because of it. The big picture is beautiful, yes. But look at it from that one boy’s perspective.

As a swimmer, the effects of Title IX on boys teams has hit a little closer to home for me than for someone else maybe. When I was looking at colleges, I was trying to find a school where I could swim. One school seemed great; the team seemed fun, the academics were awesome–but they told me that was the last year for their boys team. I eliminated it from my choices. I wanted to swim with boys. Swimming is a co-ed sport and I had always swam with boys. They motivated me and made the team more interesting and I wouldn’t swim at a school without a boys team. So I may have been a great asset to that school, but they missed out. They shouldn’t have cut their boys team.

My boyfriend, whom I met on the swim team in college, told me that he had wanted to go to Rhode Island, that he was signed and ready to go to Rhode Island. They called him last minute, telling him they cut their boys team. (Thank God, or I wouldn’t have met him. Best decision Rhode Island ever made.) So he had to change his plans. He was in line for a scholarship from RI, but at Delaware, boys scholarships weren’t really available (they were saved for football). So I watched his dreams change as he adjusted to the consequences of Title IX.

During the spring semester in 2011, I had the opportunity of speaking with several of the athletes on the UD Track and Cross Country teams. I invited them on my TV show to talk about the fact that the school had just reduced these varsity teams to club status. There was outrage across campus about this decision. Students couldn’t understand why the football team (which wasn’t the best football team) couldn’t get slightly less funding. They couldn’t understand why the university couldn’t promote a girls club team to varsity status to make the participation equal. I’m sure it was a difficult decision for the school and they felt this was the best option. But when you talk to these kids, as individuals who were really great athletes, who had planned their lives to run track at UD, and you see their varsity-level team get swept out from under them with hardly any warning, then you wonder about Title IX. The track and cross country athletes had dinner with the president of the university to voice their complaints. They signed petitions and spoke to kids around campus. 

These are the boys who are affected by Title IX and just because their numbers may be small in terms of the bigger picture, their sport was important to them. Their individual stories will always be affected by Title IX.

There is no denying that Title IX is doing a great job of promoting sports for girls and enabling their involvement. However, there must be some other way to continue this progress without cutting boys teams in order be be in compliance. Talk to any boy whose team has been cut or downgraded to club status. I’m sure they have some ideas.