On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, May 2, 2016

I'm back in America.

I’m just going to skip the part where I apologize for not blogging sooner or say something cutesy like, “testing… testing… is this thing still on?”

There’s been so much of interest going on in the running world lately - which I still follow, believe it or not, even though I don’t post on my blog and barely tweet these days.

For instance, the NYTimes has some crucial advice for any non-runners interested in starting to run. Step one: PICK A RACE! Really? Before anything else? Next steps: check out your form and then do a run-walk program. A couple of steps later they have you buying a Garming.

I know that I’m old school about running, and I do believe that whatever gets you out the door is the best thing for you - whether it’s donuts waiting when you get back, training for a race, or needing to actually use the Garmin you just spent several hundred dollars on. But whatever happened to, you know, just running? No expensive races, no special gear, no special attention to your form?

This shouldn’t surprise me, as I’m not really a fan of the Times’ running coverage. It’s a lot of everyman-type stuff about average runners plodding through their day-to-day. Not as aspirational as I would look for in the Gray Lady, a paper of record. Would that their coverage of professional athletes rivaled their coverage of midpackers dispensing “advice.” (With an exception for this story about a kick-ass 100 year old record setter that everyone should read since she’s awesome.)

Or how about the woman who couldn’t run Boston, so she innocently gave her bib to a friend, and that friend ran a Boston qualifier, which the blogger then innocently used to re-qualify for Boston the following year? And now she’s banned, and upset about it. But she’s a mom, guys. Cut her slack! The only part I don’t understand is why her friend wasn’t also banned from Boston.

But enough general news… What’s new with my life? Well…. Kind of a lot. And some of it has bearing on running, too! This is going to get a little long, so feel free to close your browser window now if you don’t care for too many details about my personal life.

After a longish hiatus of spin classes and not running very much, I finally sucked it up and joined a running group. They’re ubiquitous in Brazil, and I’d avoided them because they’re also hilarious and cheesy. You meet three times a week in a group with several coaches, who guide you through stretching, a workout, and then more stretching. And you all wear matching t-shirts and run in a pack.

The matching t-shirts thing was hilarious to me (ours were a rather aggressive neon yellow), but it started to make sense the first night I ran with the group. The one easy place to run in Sao Paulo, Ibirapuera Park, is PACKED at night and the only way your coaches can identify you as you run by is by your matching t-shirts. I was skeptical about the set workouts, but the coaches were actually great and I liked it way more than I expected to.

And then I got engaged. Like, to be married. Yay, right? Yay! Shortly after I got engaged, we started talking about kids. I’ve never really wanted them, but he did, badly, and frankly, a child seemed like the least I could offer after he agreed to leave his career and his family and the only country/culture he’s ever known to follow me around the world. So I went to the doctor.

My doctor… or should I say, my former doctor,* told me that if I wanted to get pregnant, my age was a concern, as was my weight. (Brazilians are OBSESSED with weight - my average American weight basically made me a grotesque, obese monster in her eyes.) She said that I should start trying now because it would probably take me a year, possibly two, to get pregnant - if I could get pregnant at all.

You see where this is going. That was early September; I’m due in June.

*She became my former doctor after she told my husband that he needed to put me on a diet during my first trimester to actively try to lose weight, and also after she showed WAY more interest in advising me on what brand of stretch mark cream I should use rather than, you know, the health of my fetus. But most crucially, and most damaging for me, she told me that all running was out. All spinning was out. Anything that would contract my ab muscles at all was out. She told me that I could do water aerobics, only. Period. That I would have a miscarriage if I exercised, but not to worry if that happened because 30-40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage anyway (shrug).

Common sense told me she was wrong, but I was naive, and also I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day and feeling sick during the awake hours. So I quit my running group, stopped going to my spinning studio, and spent a lot of time napping on the couch. Problem being, by the time I switched doctors during my second trimester and found out that I could actually exercise, I was awkwardly shaped and short of breath. And also trying to plan my exit out of Brazil because of zika, which I finally did in early March. (I never planned on having kids, but if I’m going to do this thing, I may as well not fuck it up with a mosquito bite.)

Some people have easy pregnancies, and some people are me. I haven’t had any bad problems, per se - no gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia or any of those words that I don’t really understand that fall under “complications.” And my zika test was negative. Pregnancy has just been super hard. I’m always tired, I have so much pain in such weird places, breathing is difficult, sleeping is even harder. I had nausea all through my second trimester and any “glow” I may have had was drained away by trying to manage the logistics of planning an international move, including getting my now husband an immigrant visa and starting a new (temporary) assignment in DC.

I see so many cute pregnant women galloping through their runs (I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way to them, but it looks that way to me) and I’m full of bitterness. I want to run, but at 33 weeks pregnant and coming out of an 8 month running hiatus, it would just be stupid. So I’ll have to wait another few months and pray that my post-partum incontinence is mild enough that black running skirts will hide it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Finally! The shirt for those of us who can't decide which race to do!



And of course I'm buying it.

There's this cycle that blogs go through. In the beginning, you start writing for yourself. There's something that interests you, there's a reason that you decide one day to create a blog. Slowly but surely, your blog picks up readers. Maybe only one or two, but the change happens and you're no longer writing for yourself - you're writing for an audience. Once this change happens, kind of inevitably, the blog becomes boring.

Maybe that's just my theory, but I feel like I've seen it too many times. Blog writers keep writing long past the time when they are actually interested in what they're writing about. Blogs limp about, becoming more and more bland. Or worse: more and more pseudo-authoritative (to complete the blog circle jerk, please (re)read Marie's post on blogging v. journalism).

I want to keep writing, I actually do. I live in Brazil, for christ's sake. It's awesome and hilarious and certainly worth slapping a few photos up on my website. So why don't I?

I think for me, it's this "who am I writing for?" issue. I want to write for myself - but I don't need pictures of Ibirapuera Park, where I run after work - because I see it when I run. I don't need descriptions of the hilarity that is a Brazilian woman with an obvious boob job (you can get one for free as part of the state sponsored health care plan, in many instances) running in what calls itself a sports bra but would be a skimpy bikini top in any other country (ouch). I don't need to talk about how funny it is that spinning is a thing that JUST arrived in Brazil, or how I already bought plane tickets to a marathon in June that won't even open registration until April because that's how things roll here, or how delicious coconut water directly out of a coconut is at the end of a run. But it's weird, because when I think about sitting down to write, I'm writing for some imaginary audience that's not me. I can't explain it, but it feels weird. Like the blog ship has sailed.

I think I also want to be frank and honest, but, see, then we're back up to the first problem: I want to be frank and honest with myself. I don't want to be frank and honest on the internet. Maybe that's why I have an actual, wire bound notebook wherein I record my workouts?

And come on, no one wants to read the rantings of someone who is always going to be a little bit fat, a little bit slow, and a little bit lazy. People want to read stuff that's aspirational, not relatable (or disdainable!). Running will always be part of my life, but I'm never going to have some magic transformation wherein running becomes my whole life and I slowly but surely crawl toward BQing or winning local races or other impressive stuff.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Back me up here

I can't be the only who spontaneously signed up for a marathon because it's the first of the year, can I?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why didn't anyone tell me this sooner?

I don't want to jinx anything, but my runs lately have been going well. Quite well. My daily runs are up to 4 miles with no difficulty, and further, I'm enjoying running. Like, I'm excited to go out the door. This hasn't happened in ages.

I think it's because I'm going out after dark, no joke. I've spent the past, hm, nearly 20 years being terrified of being raped, and using that to keep myself inside after dark. (And yes, I know how unlikely that is, statistically speaking.) But now! Something about being in a foreign country, and not carrying my cell phone when I run out of fear of being mugged, not having any identification on me, and only partially speaking the language - finally I feel safe and free to run outside!

Okay, fine, I'll buy a Road ID and put the consulate emergency phone number on it.

Anything else about running in Brazil? Well, in Brazil, everyone is responsible for maintaining their own sidewalks. What this effectively means is that everyone's sidewalks are totally different. Some are awesome, some are terrible and broken. Most are these hodge-podgy small cobblestone deals that seem designed to trip you.

And the traffic! I was warned about how bad the traffic was here, and I'll admit, I didn't really listen. I've lived in NYC and Cairo and visited a plethora of other cities, and I've never met traffic I couldn't handle. But oh, boy, Sao Paulo... For one thing, stoplights are widely considered optional after dark, due to safety concerns.

And now that I'm running after dark...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I'm not really a fan of Hoka One One.

This morning, I went for a run in Sao Paulo's version of Central Park. It's called "Ibirapuera Park" (which is pronounced exactly as it looks, unless you're me and you just sort of slur a lot of labial noises all together because it's kind of a tongue twister). It's not quite as big as Central Park, and it's way more crowded, but it's beautiful. Instead of carts selling Gatorade and overpriced water, they have carts selling coconut water - but from real coconuts.


Bad blogger that I am, I didn't take any pictures (crime here is insane, and I didn't want to be walking around with my phone out - although in the middle of the day, it probably would have been okay - but the replacement cost here for an iphone 5 like mine is about $1500, so...).

Speaking of astronomical prices, let me tell you a short story. Before I left the states, I bought myself a running present. You know, one of those "maybe you'll be motivated to run more if you drop mad money on running" presents. Always works, right? My present to myself was a pair of Hoka One Ones. I mean, I was reading about how everyone was finding them to be completely transcendental, and I'm always one to hop on a bandwagon.

My first few runs in them were lovely. They're so cushy! Like soft marshmallows, nested gently into clouds. But then today, during my run, I noticed that I was having some shin pains. Oh, Tracy, I cursed myself. You KNOW you do badly with zero-drop shoes! Sure enough, by the time my run was over, I was ready to retire the Hoka One One's and call it a failed experiment. Should have known better from their stupid name.

No problem, right? Just go to the store and buy some new shoes, right? How about the Brooks Ravenna that I love, or what about my old tried-and-trued Asics?


Granted I don't wear the Gel Kinsei, but let me show you why I won't be buying running shoes here any time soon: that shoe is priced at R$1000. As in, $450. The cheapest models they had (think, fashion shoes not made for running) at the Asics store were about R$400, or about $200.

This country is expensive as fuck.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A journey of a thousand okay more like 13.1 miles

Is anybody reading this?

That's not some rhetorical device to cutely point out that I've been AWOL forever. That's actually a question - do I still have any readers?

In the past many many months, I basically stopped running. I moved to DC, I sort-of-kind-of-but-not-very-well learned Portuguese, and then I moved to Brazil. Living in a foreign country is awesome and difficult at once, but I know you're less concerned about my exciting expatriate life than you are about my running.

Yeah, that.

To be totally honest, I found life in DC to be different, and by that I mean difficult. Not only was I not accustomed to having to be anywhere 5 days a week (and on someone else's schedule, no less), but I had to be at work by 7:30 every morning. In short, I never really got used to it. Couple that with an intense liminal feeling, like I was always in between (why bother settling down when I know I'm going to be moving soon? why bother making friends? why bother...?), and I was not myself while I was in DC. But it became a cycle: I'd feel upset, so I wouldn't run. I wouldn't run, and then I'd feel upset. Rinse, repeat. Oh yeah also I got (more?) fat.

One thing that surprised me about living in DC, on the other hand, was how little I missed NYC. I missed my friends there like whoa, but the city itself? Not so much. NYC is a busy, expensive, vast, and difficult place to live. And yet it traps you in like an abusive relationship, making you think that there's NO OTHER PLACE IN THE WORLD AS AWESOME. In fact, there are many places. And once you get to one of them, you'll be much happier.

So anyway, I live in Sao Paulo now. And I'm happy. Aside from some lingering loneliness that will abate in time, very happy. My life is still a little disordered - I've been in temporary housing for a month, my stuff (including my car) is unlikely to arrive until November - but overall I feel more calm than I have in a year. Which is probably why I've been able to pick up that there running thing again.

It's slow going, and what I now consider a "run" would make my old self laugh hysterically (4km? hahahahahahaha - but at least reckoning in kms does make it seem slightly less pathetic). It's a little too early to consider goal races, but I'm thinking about a December-ish half if I can get my shit together.

Oh, yeah, also? It's winter here. Wrap your mind around that. #soweird