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Friday, February 2, 2018

Fall 2017 and plans for 2018: Running

My awesome Team Athena
For the first time, I dedicated myself to doing enough USATF Masters LDR races on the Grand Prix circuit to count my final points in the age group rankings.  Last year I competed in two races, but one needs three races for your points to count in the series rankings.  (Your top five races count for points.) This year I upped my races to four. Although a good amount of travel (plane) is required for most of the races, the experiences are worth it.  Being surrounded by fellow motivated masters runners is inspiring.

I started off the season with the road mile in Flint, MI, a race that I previously blogged about.  You can read that here.  The rest of my fall racing season focused on the two USATF cross country races and the road 5K. 

I put in a solid training block over the summer and early fall, getting my weekly mileage up into the 60's per week, two days of resistance band training, and several days of swimming.  The next race was the road 5K October 1 in Syracuse, NY.  The course is flat and fast with only a minor hill at the start and 400 meters from the finish.  I felt TERRIBLE and ran well slower than my goal of sub-19:00, although I did continue to compete to the finish line out-kicking two ladies in my age group.  I finished 10th overall and 5th in my age group in 19:10.

Next up was the first cross country race (October 15) in Boston at the famed Franklin Park. As a Groton School senior, I ran my first cross country race (5K) there 25 years earlier!  I felt very strong in the race and competed well finishing 7th overall and 5th in my age group.  I followed Coach Tom's race plan and ran within myself until the Bear Cage Hill (something that destroyed me when I was 17 years old), then went for broke to the finish.  Everyone seemed to run a bit slow on the course, which is not fast but also not slow.  I did manage to run faster than I did back in 1992!  Two of the best things about the weekend: 1) rooming with the amazing Trish Bulter and 2) seeing Tim Cox for the first time in decades!
Between miles 1 and 2

Running with the fastest Grandma I know, Trish Butler

Tim Cox has not changed a bit
My final USATF race was the 6K cross country race in Lexington, KY (December 9).  Now that course was HARD! Particularly a large hill heading into the finish (women go up it twice, men three times.)  The morning was bitterly cold and windy, with everyone racing in more coverage/layers than is typical.  I used the same strategy as the race in Boston, holding back until after we moved up the hill the first time (at about 1.75 miles out of 3.75). I then ran downhill as hard as I could reasonably go and held on.  It was encouraging in the later stages to be passing people on such a challenging course.  This was the most competitive race of the season, and I was pleased with a 15th overall and 8th age group placing.  My placings over the season were enough for me to finish 2nd overall in the USATF LDR Grand Prix for the 40-44 age group!  One treat: my husband Michael was able to come to this race (he was also at the mile in August), and we got to catch up with some friends from Lexington. 
First loop...near an Olympian!!!

Starting my charge...and trying to get away from the speedy Tania Fischer

Out with friends Darshak and John! We clean up sometimes.
So, what is next? I took some time off after the XC race and then started on a two-year plan...I believe that I have not yet run to my potential in the marathon. I have a sabbatical coming up in Spring 2019.  I am going to focus on the marathon for the next two years, taking advantage of the sabbatical (when I am not writing my book!).  I may not run faster than my current PR of 2:57, but I can try.  If I don't give it a go, I will never know.

Currently I am working on bringing my tempo pace down so that I can hold 6:10-6:15 pace for 4-6 miles. That seems to be my sweet spot. We are working on speed through the winter since I have access to an indoor track facility and I will do a half marathon in March.  After that half, I will build my mileage up from the 50-60 per week that I am currently doing (on 6 days) to 70ish and race Grandmas Marathon in June.  One addition to my training that I have made is one heavy lifting (for me) day to complement the resistance band work.  If nothing else, the muscles look good!

Happy tempo,

Monday, January 22, 2018

Economics and Crises: Teaching my first general education course (Part 1)

This semester I am teaching a course in the Roanoke College Intellectual Inquiry curriculum (the name of our general education program.)  My course is titled INQ 260EC Economics and Crises. All students must take two of the INQ 260 courses, as required by the general education curriculum. These courses focus on teaching social science methodology and require significant writing. My course was approved by the Faculty last spring and I am teaching it for the first time this semester.

Given this is my first time teaching a course outside of the Economics Program I am a bit anxious, but I thought that I would create a series of blog posts about its progress for my pedagogy pals and for my future reference.

This post will focus on the content and purpose of the course with some specific comments about the first week (last week.)

The INQ 260 courses focus on a question and teach social science methodology from the perspective of the faculty member.  I proposed my course (and it was accepted) as one that investigates how economists study crises. These crises include poverty, war, natural disaster and may vary from semester to semester depending on current events.  Each semester, I pick a country and a data set to focus daily lectures and lessons and from which students will frame their semester research project.

This semester I am using Nepal with a focus on the devastation created by the April 25, 2015 earthquake.  Nepal is ripe with other crises for students to study as well, including poverty, violence against women, and child health issues. 

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) began the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program in 1984 which conducts surveys in developing countries that focus on women and children's issues like fertility, family planning, and health.  Currently there are five DHS data sets available for Nepal, including the 2015-2016 survey which was completed after the earthquake. The DHS data sets are commonly used in the development and health economics literature, and the data sets pertaining to Nepal will be the primary data resources for my course.  As a complement to the DHS data, the program offers STATcompiler which is how my students, with no required statistics background, will create visual analytics for their research project.

This semester, we will cover the steps of the research process including:
1) Creating a research question and hypothesis
2) Conducting a literature review
3) Using and analyzing data to address the research question
4) Interpreting the results
5) Using the results to frame policy

The end result is an original research paper for each student based upon the question they devise in the first few weeks.

Want to know more about the course details? You can see my syllabus here and lecture slides from Lecture 1 and Lecture 2

So far students have selected broad research topics which we will narrow this week. Students began selecting their broad topic after Lectures 1 and 2 (provided above) and with the help of the summary of key findings from the 2015 DHS-Nepal.  I am pleased with the range of issues students have selected:

A few additional notes on the first week:
1) Of the 25 students, 22 are women! Given I teach economics, this ratio is usually the reverse.
2) The students come from many different majors, although a few are economics majors and are using the course as an elective in our major.
3) Encouragingly, I had 100% attendance both days of class last week.
4) Following #3, everyone did their reading and were ready for discussion (yes, only one week in, but still, YAY!)
5) Again per #3, students selected broad topics for the semester project on Thursday and each student worked diligently to make their choice.

Each week or so I will provide updates for those interested in pedagogy.  The updates will also help me formulate a pedagogy manuscript after the semester is over.  I would love to hear your feedback.