miles, knees, NSF

Sunday was my 12-mile run. It was hard… significantly harder than the 10-mile runs I’d done the two weeks before. I might not have eaten enough the night before, or slept enough, who knows? But my knees are starting to worry me a little bit. It’s not that they hurt, though they do a little right after the runs. It’s that they sort of feel “fragile,” like when I’m sitting down or standing up, I favor them and don’t want to put weight on them. It’s not a good feeling. I also noticed at the climbing gym yesterday that my usual extreme antics of bending my knees to my will didn’t come so easily. I’m not sure exactly what to make of it, whether my knees are adjusting to new demands still (I’ve been seriously training only a little more than a month now) or if they just don’t like it. I’ve decided to skip my run today to see if the sensations subside.

On Friday I got some surprising good news: I won an NSF graduate research fellowship. This is a pretty fancy fellowship, and one that I’ve applied for three times now. The first time, I worked my ass off preparing. I went to an NSF application workshop, I had my essays read by former NSF reviewers, I polished them over and over, I warned my letter writers months in advace, etc. The net result the first year was an honorable mention, which is respectable but doesn’t come with any money. When I was doing my second round of grad school apps in Fall ’04, I figured I should apply again. I revised the essays, but didn’t change much, and had all the same letters. Not even a mention that year. They say that it gets harder each year because you are held to a different standard–first you’re an undergrad, then you’ve graduated so another year of experience is considered–so it was mostly out of futility that I applied last Fall. Carlo wrote me a new letter, and after looking at my comment sheets from last year I totally scrapped my essays and started over again. This time no one read them but Leslie, and they were very short–all less than a page–and written with the singular goal that they would be interesting enough to entice the reviewer to finish them. I guess either the system rewards persistence or short essays or new letters did the trick because I got it this time.

This will really make things easier for the next few years. I won’t have to hunt each semester for a new source of funding, whether that’s as a TA or a research stipend or whatever, and by the time it’s over I should only have a year or two left (man, this degree takes a while). My one concern is that I’d like to get experience TA’ing multiple times, and I know that Jeff has had some difficulty becoming a TA with his fellowship (which is running out this spring), since you can’t work as a TA for free. Hopefully I’ll be able to “turn off” the fellowship for a semester here and there when I want to TA.

Anyway. Life is good.

5 thoughts on “miles, knees, NSF”

  1. Wow! Marc and I send hearty congratulations! And for the knees: specific strenghthening exercises with weights helped us during our marathoning days…that, and lots of ice!

  2. Well, I did some looking around, and you seem to be exactly right. I found this page: and it seems to say that I have “runner’s knee.” I even have the little crunch noise they talk about, and their test works on me. So I guess I have weak quads, which I could have guessed, judging from the way they ache after my long runs. Thank you for the advice, I will try the exercises!

  3. Congratulations! That’s fabulous. Persistence seems to be the key; my advisor wants me to apply for an NRSA over the summer, and the thought of repeated rejection (or no response at all!) is a little anxiety provoking. But I’ll use you as my role model. : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *