Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Club XC

Club Cross Country Nationals went well individually and as a team.  The women won the team, and I placed seventh overall.  I qualified for the United States team going to the Edinburgh, Scotland for the Bupa International Cross Country Challenge on January 5th.  My teammates Meghan Peyton, Ladia Albertson-Junkas, and McKenzie Melander also qualified for the women’s team, and John Peterson qualified for the men’s team.  Dennis Barker, my coach is going as the junior men’s coach.  Also Stephanie Price, my former University of Minnesota teammate, qualified for the women’s race.  Amazing! Five of the nine spots on the women’s side were given to women who train in Minnesota.  I am so excited to travel internationally with some of my favorite running partners.  I am also excited to meet some new runners.  Last year was so much fun in Edinburgh because we had such a great group of women.

One of our board members, Lance Elliott came along with our team, and ran in the men’s masters race.  He warned us before our race started that the course was difficult and muddy, always going uphill or downhill, it was hard to gain ground on runners once you let them go.  I went out hard with the leaders in the first section of the race, and we passed through the first mile in 5:10.  The top three women started to pull away, and I was feeling strong, so I went with them.  I continued to feel great through the second mile, but started to fall off the leaders during the third mile.  In the last 1200m of the race, I was struggling, and three women passed me.  Thankfully, two of them were my teammates.  I’ve been training with Meghan for the past two years, and when she ran past me, she yelled at me to keep it going.  I truly didn’t have another gear to shift into, but her words helped to motivate me to stay strong to the finish.  As a team we had 4 people in the top 11, which was awesome.

Also, I had such a great time spending time with my teammates and all the other runners from Minnesota.  Elizabeth Yetzer, my roommate, came with the Run n Fun team, as well as many of my other good friends. 

Post Race
And Post Awards


Friday, December 7, 2012

Club Cross Pre-Race

I am on the plane heading towards my first race of the season.  I am running Club Cross Country Nationals for the first time, and Team USA Minnesota is sending a women’s to compete for the first time in its history.   The team is made up of Meghan Peyton, Heather Kampf, Ladia Albertson-Junkas, McKenzie Melander, and I.  The fact that five out of six of our women on Team USA Minnesota are healthy, fit, and willing to compete at the same distance is pretty amazing.  We are racing a 6k, which is pretty long for some of us.  However, there is prize money for the top five teams in the race, which is a good incentive for everyone.  Also, this race will be used for the selection for the U.S. team for the Bupa International Challenge in Edinburgh, Scotland, next month.

The trip is especially exciting because Run n Fun, the running store I work for is sending a women’s team, two men’s teams, and a masters men’s team.  We all have the same flight schedule, and are currently driving the rest of the passengers on the plane nuts by our talking (cough, cough, Elizabeth Yetzer), and our collective need to use the bathroom often.

I’m trying not to get too worked up about the race.  It is a long year of running, and I know I won’t be a significant break until next fall.  We haven’t done much race-specific training, because we dedicate our fall to base training.  However, I really want to be part of the cross country team in Scotland again.  I had so much fun, and it was a great experience last year.  Either way, I hope a few Team USA Minnesota runners are able to go.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mom's 50th Bday

On Sunday evening I had a wonderful time celebrating my mom’s 50th birthday with several of our neighbors.  The gathering was at the household of Mark Raderstorf and Linda Armstrong, the party organizers of the neighborhood.  They are a very generous and open family who enjoy hosting gatherings at their house.  When Elizabeth and I housesat for them last year, as they lived in Ecuador, there was a lot less socializing on the block. 

Now, when I usually go over to their house, I am one of several ‘youngsters.’ The Raderstorf/Armstrong family has three children, Jeff, who is my age, Goosey, who is Dylan’s (my brother) age, and Jenna, the youngest.  There are many other children on the block who are between Jeff and Jenna’s age who make their way through the house.  All of the children on the block have grown up in the neighborhood, with Dylan and I being the late arrivals when I was in fifth grade. 

But, on Sunday night, I was the only one of my generation.  Which was surprisingly great.  Since leaving for college, I have slowly matured into being able to enjoy the company of my parents and their friends, but never have I been so excited to spend time with adults 25-35 years my senior.  The food was delicious, and Phyllis, the next door neighbor of Linda and Mark’s delighted us all by bringing bread and delicate desserts from Patisserie 46.  I loved being able to talk with adults who are highly invested and leaders in our community.  After dinner, Mark had everyone at the table go around and say one thing they appreciate about my mom.  The ritual was corny, but also an amazing way to build my mom up, and have everyone practice seeing and articulating the strengths they see in someone else.  Afterwards, Linda led us through the lighting of the hope candle for the first Sunday of advent.  Although her readings was Christian based, she made sure the beauty and wisdom of the custom was accessible to the Christians, Jews, and Atheists around the table.  I appreciated being included in the dinner, and I hope I am able to build a similar community where I settle down someday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lifetime Fitness Turkey Day 5k

I hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving.   I was blessed to sit around, catch up on homework, play board games, visit with friends, and run for about five straight days over the holiday and weekend.  My grandma came from Phoenix and my aunt Tonya came from Rochester for the weekend.   My brother Dylan graduated from Carleton a few days before Thanksgiving, so he was home and stress free.  A couple of his teammates biked fifty miles from Northfield to join us for Thanksgiving dinner.  They got lost a few times, so we ended up eating without them, but they made it before the snow got too heavy.

I ran my first ‘hard effort’ of the season at the Lifetime Fitness Turkey Day 5k on Thanksgiving Day morning.  My teammates who are running Club Cross Country Nationals on December 8th (Meghan Peyton, Heather Kampf, Ladia Albertson-Junkas, and McKenzie Melander) all ran the race, except for Meghan who got to go do a 5k in San Jose, CA.  Although the race is not the best place to put in a serious racing effort, it is lots of fun, and I will not give up the tradition of running the race every year.  I started participating in the race as a fun post-cross country activity in high school, followed by a great way to catch up with high school friends while I was in college.  Now the race serves as a rust-buster in the fall before the Team USA Minnesota team starts our serious racing.  Thankfully, this year I was not harassed by older women who I got in front of at the starting line.  However, I did have to dodge some young children, old dudes with headphones, and a guy in a giant turkey hat who had not quite figured out start line etiquette of road races.  Which is: if you aren’t one of the top men or women, start behind them.  I took 3rd in the race behind McKenzie and Heather and ran around 16:50.  Not bad for a hard effort without crossing the line into racing. 
Start of the race! It's hard to see, but Ladia is in the purple, Heather is in the blue sports bra, and I'm in the all black.

My favorite part of the weekend was my double-run on Friday morning.  I ran twelve miles with a couple Run n Fun friends, Joe Sepe and Frances Eanes, as well as my roommate Elizabeth.  My mom, aunt, and grandma made eggs, bacon, fruit salad, and pancakes from scratch for us to munch on after the run.  No sooner had we finished eating then eight of my Southwest High School teammates came for a short run around Lake Harriet, followed by another brunch prepared by the wonderful women in my family.  I was so lucky to get to hang around my friends without worrying about cooking or cleaning up.  I don’t know a better combination than eating, running, friends, and family. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall Base

I am back to running, back to living on my own, and back to being overwhelmed by activities. 

Running is going well.  I enjoy base training in the fall when I just get to focus on working hard and getting fit, without worrying about racing.  The first couple weeks were a quite a strain on my body, but I am not getting quite as sore, now that I am a month into training.  I made a couple changes this fall – I am doing weight training 1-2x per week with Aaron at FIT studio in St. Louis Park, and I am seeing Dr. Thuy Katzenberger at Chiropractic Healing Art Center in Edina for help with my plantar fasciitis.   Aaron is kicking my poor, out-of-shape muscles into gear.  I did a personal lifting session with him to go over Olympic lifts and kettle bell exercises, and now I am doing small group sessions.  He comes up with running-specific work-outs for Meghan Peyton and I, sometimes using Olympic lifts, sometimes using medicine balls, kettle bells, stability balls, lacrosse balls, bands, free weights or other crazy strengthening equipment.  Going to see him is expensive – and I’m not used to having to pay to work-out, but I appreciate the feedback I’m getting, as well as guidance in working strength and explosive systems that I usually do not give enough attention to.  Dr. Thuy and her staff are being very generous by volunteering their time with me.  I love/dread my visits to the office.  Never have I been in such pain in a doctor’s office (partially because three people are working on me at once), but my legs feel amazing when I leave.  Dr. Thuy is working with me to modify my running stride, which I believe needs to be done.  I think it has fallen apart over the past few years as I have bumped up my mileage without keeping enough focus on my speed and form. 

Another change – Elizabeth Yetzer and I are united again as home mates.  We are house-sitting in a beautiful home in Bloomington, a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis.  The homeowners care very much about energy efficiency, which is inspiring, but can also make the appliances confusing.  I managed to lock the stove while in the middle of preparing dinner for a few people coming over.  Elizabeth locked the oven when she was trying to bake herself a dinner.  This time around we have a bird, Willow, to care for, as well as a snake.  Thankfully Hyder is in hibernation; I do not think I would enjoy feeding him his frozen mice. 
                                               Our new friend, Willow.

As for being overwhelmed, I am back to normal.  No more days of exercising and napping, like I had this past spring and summer.  I am back to trying to balancing running with work and school.  I am currently an M.B.A. student and an assistant coach for the cross country and track programs at Augsburg College.  While I am enjoying getting to know the student-athletes at Augsburg and challenge myself in the classroom, I am not particularly passionate about my coaching responsibilities (mostly recruiting) or the subject matter in my classes.  This can make it difficult for me to stay excited about my busy schedule, but I am trying to focus on the long-term benefits.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

And I'm Back in the Game

My break from running was wonderful.  I thought about exercising as little as possible.  I watched too much television, stayed up too late, and didn’t do any cooking.  All things I try to do the opposite of while I’m in training the rest of the year.  The only downside was, since I took my break much later than usual, I missed two beautiful weeks of fall running while sitting in my basement.  And I got my wisdom teeth pulled and was on pain medication for the past two weeks. 

Taking some time completely off does not fit in with my philosophy of living a balanced and disciplined life while growing mentally, physically, and spiritually.  However, I get so burnt out traveling so often and training and competing at a high level, letting everything go for a couple weeks is just enough to remind me why I love working so hard the rest of the year. 

After taking my break, I ran a couple week of mileage.  The first day I ran around Lake Harriet, and I do not think I have felt so miserable while running so slow around the lake since I was a freshman in high school.  This past week I started doing work-outs, and I feel rejuvenated.  I’m still not running very fast or particularly far, but my work-out times are quite a bit faster than where I have been starting out the past two falls after taking a break.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bolder Options Graduates

Violet and I graduated from Bolder Options!  We spent the past year meeting once a week (unless I was traveling for more than a week at a time) to exercise, try new food, and attend Bolder Options activities.  When I first met Violet, she was having seizures daily and could not run for more than five seconds at a time.  Violet spent the first half of the year working with medical professionals to get the right balance of medications to stop her seizures.  Part way through the year, Violet ran a 25 minute mile.  By the end of the year, she ran a 15 minute mile.  I have had so much fun over the past year watching her as she has matured and gotten healthy.
                                    Violet and I at Bolder Options Graduation

We graduated from the program with Violet’s sister and her mentor, along with 15 other pairs.  Each pair had a turn to come up to the front and speak about the impact of the other person on their life.  Violet said the sweetest things about me and our coordinator, Megan. 

A couple days before the graduation, I had asked Violet what I should say about her, and all she told me was, “you should rhyme.”  So I quickly wrote a poem and shared it with the group at graduation:

I want you to meet Violet, my dear young friends.
She wants me to rhyme to celebrate our year’s end.
Now, Violet is the true wordsmith of our pair.
She’s a rhymer, rapper, and joker extraordinaire.
I will do my best to live up to expectations,
But, I can’t measure up to Violet’s imagination.
The first time we met, I knew Vi would be a treat;
She wrapped her arms round me and smiled oh so sweet.
I thought, “Who is this lovely lady with the sparkling eyes?”
To meet my new mentee was a wonderful surprise.
In the beginning, we spent time learning to run,
Doing body weights, and taking in Bolder fun.
We handed out Gu to marathoners in the fall,
And watched college racers at Minnesota hit the wall.
I learned all about the group Mindless Behavior,
And Violet thinks of Princeton as her cherished savior.
But, I was worried ‘bout Vi ‘cause she had many seizures,
Missing school to recover was not a time of leisure.
With all the time spent visiting with the doc,
Violet had to catch up with schoolwork ‘round the clock.
However, Violet is now seizure free.
On top of it all, she made the honor roll B.
Violet is truly a tough and spunky young adult.
If you mess with her, she will tell you, you’re at fault.
When we were trick or treating, a guy creeped her out,
And she did not hesitate to call him a lout.
Yesterday, Violet ran the mile so fast.
By 10 minutes did her old PR past.
I was so proud as she sprinted the last straightaway,
I know positive changes are in her life to stay.
Violet can grow up to be anything she wants to be:
A singer, an actor, a teacher? I can’t wait to see.
Violet, I have had a great year with you,
And I look forward to making memories anew.

By mid-poem Violet had tears running down her face, and I had to stop after my line about Violet making the honor roll because the audience all started clapping.

        There were great stories from the other pairs, and many people were crying as they tried to speak.  The graduation was a special experience of all of us pairs as we got to celebrate the hard work we put into investing in a stranger and striving for greater physical fitness.
                                           Violet, her sister Siata, and coordinator Megan

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fall Update

Oh man, it has been a chaotic end of the summer/beginning of the autumn.  Unlike this spring, when I was able to focus on running and racing, without too many other distractions, I am a busy woman once again.  I am now an assistant coach for track and cross country at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  I am having a blast; we have a great group of student-athletes; I am not as excited about the recruiting.  In exchange for coaching, I attend free classes at Augsburg, and I just started my first business class in my quest for a Masters of Social Work and Masters of Business dual graduate degrees.  In my Tuesday night class, Social Entrepreneurship, I am being given $300 by the college to start my own business.  And although I am sure I will appreciate the skills I am going to learn in business school, there is no way I ever want to have a business.

Since I got home from racing in Europe, I’ve run a couple road miles (the GNC Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh and the Minnesota Mile in Duluth).  This weekend I am taking a crack at the 5k road USA championship in Providence, Rhode Island.  Afterwards, I will take a break from running!  My body and mind are in great need of some time away from working out, plus I need to get my wisdom teeth out.  They are driving me crazy!

Short update, but I need to get back to the homework.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jamie Walks Dubin, Runs Paris, and Bikes Lyon

After my four races, I decided to take a few days to explore while in Europe.  I spend a couple extra nights in Dublin before heading to France for a night, and then going south to visit Lyon and my college teammate, steepler Feli Mensing.

My first day in Dublin, I spent the morning exploring downtown with Lennie and New Zealander Malcolm Hicks, visiting the Temple Bar neighborhood and  exploring the Guinness factory tour.  I spent the rest of the day walking from the hotel provided by the Morton games to a bed and breakfast near the downtown area.  I thought this would be a great way to see the city, even while carrying my 35 pound hiking backpack and 20 pound school backpack.  The walk was supposed to take an hour, but ended up being more than three.  Apparently it is well known that Dublin is not a well-marked city, but I had no idea.  I set out a happy camper with directions written down from Google maps, thinking the way to the B and B would be self-evident.  However, I was quickly lost.  Between a large shortage of street signs, curving roads, and streets changing names once or even twice within a few blocks, I got very lost and very grumpy.  Luckily for me, I just walked in the direction I thought the B and B was located, and I eventually came across one of the streets on my list of directions. 

        For dinner, I decided to walk to a restaurant recommended by my hosts.  Not wanting to make the same mistake, I wrote down directions, studied Google maps, and brought along a general tourist map.  This time, Goggle led me astray.  The streets were better-labeled in the busy area of the city, but I was told by my computer to take a right, when I should have stayed straight.  My map did not show enough detail to give me much help, and I ended up walking another couple hours and never finding the restaurant. 

        I did have a great experience the next day visiting Dublin’s Modern Art Museum, Natural History Museum, National Gallery, and National Library – and they were all free. 
                                                          My Running Animal

        The next day I flew to Paris, and followed some complicated directions to get to an apartment I had found through Airbnb.  The couple I stayed with very sophisticated; the husband worked in the film industry and the wife worked in the fashion industry, specializing in designer children’s clothing.  They had a three year old daughter, who made me feel silly that night when I happily retired to bed at 11:00 while she still bounced around the house, excited about the opportunity to watch ‘The Flintstones’ after an evening spent out with her parents.  I spent the evening running to some of the major city attractions in Paris – Notre Dame, Louve, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe. 

        The following day, I eventually reached Lyon, where I got to stay with my college teammate, Feli, who is working on her Ph.D. in engineering.  She amazes me.  She moved to France without knowing the language.  I couldn’t get around the country without being overwhelmed, and she came here, got an apartment, started school and her research, and had to teach a class. 

        The first afternoon, we went on a bike ride with her boyfriend, Etienne, and had a picnic around a lake a few miles outside of Lyon.  We swam, caught up, and took a nap.  After dinner, we met up with her neighbor and visited a couple bars, which was fun when Etienne was there, but was a lot less fun after he left.  A weird old French man kept trying to hit on me.  My reaction: ‘No.  I still don’t know French.  I didn’t magically learn the language between now and the last time you tried to tell me something.  And I still don’t want to go to a club with you.  And I’m still not going to give you my number, least of all because I still wouldn’t be fluent in French by the time you called me.’  And another Scottish dude decided he should feel how muscular my thighs are after I told him I am a runner.  I know how to find the good ones.

        Feli took the next day off of work, and we went for a run, walked around the city, and did some shopping.  Nothing too exciting, but I had so much fun catching up with Feli.

Morton Mile

I flew to Dublin to run a mile as my last race in Europe.  I was hoping to break my of 4:39, which I set as a junior in college, and the 1500m I ran in Ninove gave me confidence I would be able to do so.  Although I had fun hanging out at the meet with Team USA MN teammate Gabe Anderson, and new running friends Katie Makey, Aisha Praught, Lennie Waitte, and Lemlem Belekrit, the race did not go as planned.  Unfortunately, I came into the race emotionally and psychologically drained.   Before the race, I had to deal with continued negative actions from my recent ex-boyfriend.  At the same time, I doubted my ability to run well in the race.  There were six or seven 2012 Olympians in the race; this being there last tune-up before the start of the games.  I had been racing with Aisha and Lennie in the Belgium races, so my plan was to stick with them, but even during the first 400m, my body was having trouble hanging on to the back of the pack.  I ended up running 4:42.  I was disappointed, but I’m looking forward to having another crack at the distance in a couple road races coming up – The GNC Liberty Mile on August 17th in Pittsburg, and the Minnesota Mile on September 6th in Duluth. 

Ninove 1500m PR

Yes! I got a personal record out of this trip to Europe.  I ran a 4:17.7 in the 1500m at Ninove.  Like    Gent, I wasn’t sure how the race was going to feel.  My foot was hurting so badly after my steeple in Gent, I wasn’t able to run the next day.  The Ninove meet was only three days after Gent, but thankfully my foot was feeling a lot better by the time the race came around. 

The race was a perfect set-up for me to run fast.  There were quite a few faster women in the race, and there was a pacer going out in 4:14.  The weather was sunny and the wind was still.  Although there was a lot of jostling the first 2 laps, I only was really cut off once, and I made that lady pay by leaving some spike marks on her calf.  After coming through the 800m in about 2:16, I hung on for dear life, and was able to finish pretty strong.  I didn’t pass anyone the last lap, but I didn’t get passed either.

After the race, I had enjoyed a hamburger, crepes, and a cold beer.  So good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Brussels in 5 Hours

This trip to Belgium has been awesome because I have had more time and ability to explore the area compared to most track trips.  This has been possible because, first of all, we have a few days between meets.  Second, Belgium has a sweet public transportation system, and I am able to take the train to any city. 

In between Gent and Ninove I spent an afternoon in Brussels with a couple other runners who have met up with the Athletes In Action group I am following around, David Jankowski and Julian de Rubira.   We only got a quick walk of the center part of the city, but we got to see Manneken Pis (statue of a little boy peeing), Jeanneken Pis (statue of a little girl peeing), St. Michael’s church, the grand square, and have a drink at Delrirum, home of 2,000 kinds of beer.  I ordered a cherry kriek beer and some kind of strawberry beer cocktail.  I should have ordered a Delirium tantrum beer though, because it has been voted the best beer in the world, and some other Americans in the bar said they agreed with that statement. 

                                                      Grand Square
                                                            And Beer with Julian and Dave

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gent Steeplechase

I’m going to write a short blog about my Gent steeple.  I am taking two on-line classes this summer, and I am trying to finish final papers for each class.  I’m getting a bit stressed out trying to fit everything in!

                I was feeling uninspired going into the steeplechase race in Gent.  I was coming off a laborious 1500m, and I wasn’t sure this steeplechase would feel any better.  The weather was outcast and windy as we entered the stadium in Gent.  I was made fun of for all the clothing I had packed (it was sunny in Leuven, just an hour train ride away), but it turned out I was the only one from our group who was prepared for bad weather (very unusual, compared to other Minnesotans I am never ready for the weather). 

                The steeplechase started 20 minutes behind schedule, so everyone in the race was jogging around on the backstretch, doing strides.  When the gun finally went off, the pace was conservative.  No one wanted to take the lead in the wind, but Americans Stephanie Garcia and Aisha Praught worked together in the front.  Because the pace went out slow, it was very crowded the first mile. 
One woman who had been causing Bethany Nickless and me problems in the 1500m in Kortrijk was up to her old tricks again: swerving, speeding up to get in front of you, then slowing down, and clipping other racers.  With three laps to go the group finally thinned out.  Aisha Praught, Great Britain runner Lennie Waitte, and started to break away.  My shoe came untied with two and a half laps to go.  I was considering dropping out because my feet are so easily hurt, but I was feeling too good to stop.  I took the lead with two laps to go.  Lennie and Aisha passed me with 500m to go, and I passed Lennie over the last steeple barrier for a 2nd place finish in 9:57.  I felt very good during the race, and I was happy my body was able to go sub-10:00 without feeling awesome. 

                For a prize, I was given a bottle of champagne and $60!  They should do that more often in American track and field races!
                                                   At the train station with my champagne!

                The only downside was my foot was hurting pretty bad following the race.  I am scheduled to run the 1500m today in Ninove, but I’ll have to see how my foot feels after warm-up.  I don’t want to mess it up any more than it already is, but I only have two races left, and I want to run them!

Link to results.  Scroll down to mid-page.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Little Kortrijk 1500m

Scratch my claim in the last blog that I was not nervous for the race.  We show up to the train station in Kortrijk for the meet, get picked up at the station by some of the meet organizers, and stand in line to pick up our racing bibs (which turn out to be two large pieces of paper with our names on them to wear front and back of our jersey).  All the 1500m runners arrive around the same time, and I notice a bunch of Trials 1500m finalists are here, the three Americans who made the Olympic in the 5k, and a few Trials steeplers.  Turns out this is going to be a very good race. 

            The meet is very small and informal.  15 minutes before the start of our race, the 1500m runners began to gather at the start line.  We knew there were going to be two heats of the race, but we didn’t know who was in which heat, and which heat was going first, until a couple minutes before the race.  They decided to split the heats at a PR time of 4:16, so I was in the B heat.  We had a pacer going through the 800m at 2:16, so it was a great opportunity to PR.  From the gun I hung out in about 5th place.  As expected, there was a lot of jockeying for space, with people moving in front of my people, and then I would have to go around them to try and stick close to the pacer.  On the last lap, I got passed by my friend and fellow steepler, Bethany Nickless for her win, and I passed another woman in order to get second.  I ran 4:25, so I wasn’t very happy with the time, but I was happy I had stayed competitive during the race, and I am hoping I can feel better after shaking off some more jet lag.  I was happy I got to race in my sweet Oiselle jersey with a bright green bird image (USATF kept making the company change the image on the jersey for Olympic Trials until you couldn’t see the bird anymore).  I wasn’t alone in not being happy with my race; unfortunately a lot of the Americans ran a few seconds slower than their PR’s.  However, my Team USA MN teammate Gabe Anderson had a PR in the 800m at 2:02.83.  Awesome!  If you must see them, here are the results:

                                                Sweet Oiselle bird!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home, Sweet Leuven Home

Leuven is peaceful – brink buildings, cobblestone streets, and many more bicycles parked on any given street than cars.  During the past couple days it rained in the morning, but has turned sunny by mid-day.  A set of bells in the town square signals time passing every 15 minutes.

I love buying food here.  We went to a large market in the town square on Friday, where I bought freshly homemade yogurt and brie.  I also came home with carrots and non-GMO strawberries. 

Bread in the market and the grocery store is baked, and then put through a bread slicer before your eyes.  I haven’t gone out to eat yet – we have been making group meals at the hostel, but the ingredients make the meals special, along with sharing it among friends.  I also enjoying the automatic macchiato/latte/cappuccino/espresso/coffee/chocolate coffee/hot chocolate with water/hot chocolate with milk/hot water machine in the kitchen of the hostel.  I have been drinking much more caffeine than usual because a delicious drink is just a button push away, frothed milk and all.

A couple nights ago we got to climb up to the bell tower and hear a concert performed on the carillons by the bell player of Leuven – an official position at the University.  We climbed up 200 steps for a beautiful view of the city and to hear an hour-long concert.  Carillon playing is an important part of Belgium history and culture.  After WWII, campuses in the United States began to create their own bell towers on college campuses after enjoying the beauty of them in Belgium.
                                                I got tired by the end of the night...

Today I am off to race a 1500m in Kortrijk, Belgium.  I am not too anxious about the race.  I want to get a good effort in after arriving in Belgium a couple days ago.  I felt pretty sharp in my pre-meet yesterday, so I’m hoping that can translate to some good racing over here.  At the same time, I am still yawning all the time and trying to get used to the time change.  There are a lot of good runners, and especially American runners, in the race.  I should have fun racing some of my steeplechase competitors in the race.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flying in the Business Section is A Okay.

The few times I have flown internationally, I have had to walk past the luxurious large seats in the first class section of the plane to take my spot in the strictly vertical chairs.  I realize I am very lucky to travel anywhere by airplane, but trying to sleep sitting up is not a very fun experience.

However, last night I got to experience the good life at the front of the plane.  I was assigned to a spacious, comfy chair, which could be shifted to lay flat for sleeping.  When I got on the plane, there was a large pillow and comforter in my seat, along with noise-canceling headphones and a toiletry bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, etc.  I was given a glass of champagne as soon as I set down.  I was so in awe of my good fortune, the flight attendant had to be convinced I was over 21. 

After wiping my hands with a warm towel, I was given a small bowl of warm almonds and cashews.  This was soon followed by an appetizer of duck slices with cous cous and bread.  Next, I was given a salad with yellow pepper slices and crumbled blue cheese.  This was followed by a large bowl of pasta with eggplant and cherry tomatoes.  Finally I got to pick a dessert – vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and whipped cream.  I am amazed airplane providers can serve such gourmet meals so high in the sky.

The only down side of the delicious dinner was it took so long to eat all the courses, I ended up sleeping only three hours.  I got off the plane at 8:30 (12:30 am Minnesota time, I believe).  I blindly bought a train ticket to get to Leuven from an automated machine, without realizing there were people behind a counter to sell tickets as well.  I managed to find the right train, but when the train employee came to check tickets, he told me I had bought the wrong one.  It ended up costing the same amount of money, so I was fine.  Even though the employee spoke English and was nice about my mistake, this was enough to get me teary-eyed, which I blame on sleep deprivation. 

The hostel I am meeting Bethany at had a map and good direction so I only had to wander a couple minutes before finding my bearings and getting on my way.  I’m now sitting in the lobby waiting for Bethany and friends to come back from a meeting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On to Belgium

I’m sitting in the JFK airport waiting for a flight to Brussels, Belgium.  I’m running four more track races before my season is done (and I get to take a break!).  My plan is to race a 1500m in Kortirjk, a 3000m SC in Gent, and a 1500m in Ninove.  I will then travel to Dublin, Ireland to race a mile on the 25th of July.

I’m nervous.  I ran a couple work-outs in the past week, and I have not been feeling very good.  I can’t tell if my body is not yet used to run in the hotness and high humidity Minnesota experienced last week, or if I am past my peak.  Either way, I hope I can give good efforts for these last races of the season.

I am also anxious because I am traveling alone.  I shouldn’t be as nervous as I am; I had to travel on my own to get to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, where I lived for a couple months.  Most people in Addis Ababa did not speak English, and I did not speak any Ethiopian languages.  But it is still long and lonely.

Ideally on this trip I will be able to set some new PR’s.  Even if that doesn’t happen, this will be good practice for extending my season past the end of June and traveling around Europe.  However I do this year, I hope it will make me more prepared for next year.

Thankfully, I have plans to meet up with fellow steeplechaser Bethany Nickless and some of her buddies.  We were roommates on the United States cross country team trip to Edinburgh, and she is staying in a room with four other women in Leuven.  I was happy to hear they have room for one more person.  I am relieved because I thought I would have to wondering around on my own.  I joined CoachSurfing before I found out about the extra bed space.  Although I got some very nice offers, I’m excited to be with someone I know and have people to run with.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Olympic Trials re: Humter S. Thompson

My mom sent me an awesome link to a parody of the Olympic Trials in Hunter S. Thompson form. The blog made me laugh, except for the mimicking of Thompson's sexism.  I have always said Nike picked Galen Rupp as their new Steve Prefontaine sponsor child, and it seems like they would go to no end to make sure he succeeds.  Check out the blog.

Olympic Trials!!!

For anyone who has been long awaiting my thoughts on racing at historic Hayward Field, running two steeples in 5 days, and attending my first fashion show, no more need to hold your breath.  If you think that sounds pretentious, I am completely kidding, because the main people who read my blog are my parents. 

I had such a fun experience competing at the Olympic Trials this past week.  I missed out on the ’08 trials in the steeplechase by a couple spots, so I was very happy to get to race this time around.  Especially since the field in the steeple is so much deeper.  In ’08 the last athlete in had a time of 10:10; this year the last athlete in had a time of 9:58.

In the first race, I ran a half a second PR of 9:51 to time qualify for the finals of the women’s steeple.  I was pleased with my effort because I was able to keep my cool running in a large pack, something I do not have a lot of experience with in the steeple.  I was disappointed with my performance in the final.  My goal this year was to be in the top 8, and I finished 12th in 9:56.  I was only able to stay with the lead pack of women for 2 or 3 laps.  My goal next year is to be in that top group of athletes. 

I stayed in a house for the week with Heather Kampf, her husband Ben, our coach Dennis, and elite master’s runner and board member, Paul Gionobile.  We spent the week playing hearts and golf, and watching Dennis eat cheez-its for every meal.  Our official mascot of the week was a squiver (squirrel beaver) - someone had drawn a picture of one and framed in on the wall of the house.
On Friday evening, after my final race, I went out to a wonderful dinner with all my relative who were kinds enough to come support me: my mom and dad, cousin Cole, his parents Tadd and Julie, and my aunt Eileen and uncle Gene. 
After dinner, I attended my first fashion show with my mom and two aunts.  The show was put on by Oieselle to highlight their fall line of clothes and celebrate the trials.  The event was so fun – lots of runners, drinks, food, and MC Hammer was the DJ!  The new clothes were awesome – I can’t wait to get my hands on some.  Fellow Minnesota Erin Ward got to show off a sports bra and spandex shorts.  I was happy to find fellow young tracksters Caitlin Gregg and Whitney Liehr.  We had a blast dancing and taking pictures in the photo booth.

Since trials, I’ve been doing a little bit of running around.  I spent a couple days in Portland after the Trials exploring with marathoner, Ariella Deprenger Gottfried.  We got to visit the Nike Employee Store, run in Forrest Park, and walk around downtown.

Once I got home, I hopped in a car with Heather Kampf, Elizabeth Yetzer and her boyfriend Dan, and Chris Rombough and his girtlfirend Melissa, to drive 13 hours to Cleveland for our college friend, Katelyn’s wedding. 

I am now heading home and trying to decide whether or not to buy a ticket to Belgium for a few more track races before the season is over.  I am hesitate because I don’t have anyone to travel with, since most of my teammates finished their track seasons by now, and I don’t have an agent yet, so I don’t have a group to travel with.  I am excited to try out the European experience!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Feeling Good!

I am so excited to compete at the Trials this week.  I have never felt so good this late in the season.  In college I always felt burned out by June.  I felt pretty good last year, but I was still adjusting to the intensity of professional training.  But, I can tell my legs are ready to go for this week.  I felt like I was flying during my last two steeplechase work-outs, and I had to hold back a little bit.  I hope everything comes together, and my body and mind are able to go on Monday for prelims. 

I’ve been doing a good job of staying calm during the past few days, but now that I’ve landed in Portland, I’m getting nervous.  I’ll have to keep myself busy so I’m not worrying about the race.  It shouldn’t be a problem with so many cool runners to hang out with.
Check out with this article on, 'Olympic Dreams - Jamie Cheever.'

Friday, June 15, 2012

Staying Busy Through Dark Days

I thought I would be able to get so much done in my time at home before trials, but I am still feeling overwhelmed.  Even though I am tapering, doing all the small things to get prepared for a big event does take a long time: trying to sign up for Trials as being sponsored by both Team USA MN and Oiselle, buying 18 pound bags of ice at the grocery store for icing, and getting lots of sleep.  Also, having to spend a lot of emotional energy coming to terms with the ending of a 3-year relationship has been difficult the past couple of weeks.  My sex offense and offenders class has not made things any brighter – this week we are studying sexual violence against children and offenders of those crimes.

A few highlights of my week:

1.       Patricia Weaver Francisco came to the Ramsey Country SOS support group as a special guest.  She wrote, ‘Telling,’ an account of her rape and her recovery from the trauma.  The book was the first account of a personal experience of rape, when she published the book in 1994.  She brought so much positive energy to the group because she had gone through a horrific incident, like everyone else in the room and had gone through 10 hard years before she could celebrate her survival.  She encourages victims to tell other people they feel comfortable with about their experience, in order to create a more vocal and supportive culture for survivors.

2.       When I got home from Indiana, I had a box full of beautiful running clothes, given to me by Oiselle, to wear at Trials.  I was smelly and stiff after driving 10 hours back from Indianapolis with the Yetzer family on Sunday night, but the first thing I did was tear open the box with my parents, and try on all the clothes.  My favorites are the Boise Bra (so soft), the Lesley Knickers (capris are my favorites), and the Happy Hoodie (so cute).

3.       Being reminded of my parents love and support for me in Trials and in life.  Even though they strongly oppose me buying a puppy pug. 

4.       Dinner at the Yetzer house last night.  Such good food and beautiful company. 

Back to homework!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Indianapolis Finale

Another racing update: I ran a 1500m on Saturday night in Indianapolis, and I got a PR!  I ran a 4:19.3.  I was hoping to run a little quicker, and to beat my steeplechase competitors in the race, but I can’t complain about a setting a personal best. 

We were supposed to have a rabbit in the race going through the 800m in 2:12, but when we got to the line to start the race, the rabbit had not showed up to the track yet.  I thought the pace would still be quick, but the runners who took control of the race the first couple laps took us through the 400m in 69 and the 800m in 2:18.  I took the lead after the 800m, and put in a surge to get the race going.  For my effort, I kept getting my heels stepped on by some stinkers.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold onto the lead, and I was passed by a few runners in the last lap.  I fought back the last 100m, and finished fourth overall.  Elizabeth Yetzer ran the 1500m as well, but was frustrated with running a 4:20 for the third race in a row.  I know she can get down to the low teens once everything comes together.

                Elizabeth’s parents drove from Minnesota to watch the race, and now we are driving back through the Midwest to get home.  Unfortunately, not much battery left on the computer since I’ve been trying to get some homework done on the computer.

Icing after Wednesday Race with Elizabeth

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Running My Wheels Off

Well, I ran 209.7 the hard way.  I went out in a 60 or 61 second 400m, and then finished with a 69 second 400m.  I felt like I had run my wheels off.  A 60 second 400m shouldn't be that hard, but it is just hard going back down to such a short distance when Coach Dennis is having me work-out with the 5k and 10kers.  I could run a 2:09 as a college a season opener.  However, I had a lot of fun, and it was a beautiful night to run; about 60 degrees with no wind.  I was especially happy to have some friend’s cheering: Elizabeth’s boyfriend Dan, and her sister, Annie.  They drove 10 hours to watch the race, and then turned about and drove 10 hours home today.  I also got to race with a couple Run Pro Camp attendees: Mary Kate Quiett and Devotia Moore, who are both rocking the 800m this season as first-year professional runners.  Travis Berkstrand from the University of Minnesota and Mike Hutton from St. Thomas University ran the men’s 800m.  Mike set a new PR, and unfortunately, Travis had to stop after running an awesome first 600m because someone stepped on spike and it came off.  Boo.
This morning, Elizabeth, Annie, Dan, and I got breakfast at a cute restaurant, Creation CafĂ©, which overlooks the canal in downtown Indianapolis.  Afterwards we ran, napped, and then got food and had a picnic while listening to a live jazz band on the canal.  It was a beautiful evening, and so fun to explore a new city with a friend.