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"

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


Friday, September 6, 2013

In which I have nothing profound or unique to say, but I rant anyway.

It's no secret that I hold an unhealthy amount of disdain for Rock 'n Roll races and especially their sponsor, Competitor Group. Their "races" (I have to put that in quotes since what they actually throw, in my opinion, are more events than competitive races) are lowest common denominator events aimed at giving the non-serious runner an expensive medal - minus all the bad parts of competing, like, you know, pitting yourself against other runners in a competition.

Their for-profit drive has, in my opinion, single-handedly been responsible for a massive increase in race entry fees over the past few years. Yes, the crazy demand for race entries (held against a relatively fixed supply) has enabled events to still sell out despite high entry fees. But by taking over so many local races to add to their stable of races, Competitor has managed to create somewhat of a monopoly.

Beyond buying up smaller races and then raising entry fees, Competitor also designs their races in such a way that much of the competitive edge is stripped completely out. Starts are staggered to an extreme, depriving runners of the competitive "gun" feeling of crowding that to many of us means "run your ass off." The course is lined with bands and cheerleaders and Team in Training coaches and all sorts of encouragement telling you that it's okay to be slow and steady. If you want to pay $100+ to go to a running party, by all means do it.

And now... in their latest move, Competitor has pulled all support for elite athletes, including travel and appearance fees slated for races this month. As RunBlogRun outlined, 71 of the 300 Olympic marathon qualifiers raced with Competitor. 23 runners who ran their races have set world records and 10 have won Olympic medals. No more. Competitor doesn't support you if they need to pay you; they only support runners who are willing to pay them.

Here's a little secret for you: running is a competitive sport. When you pay money to enter a race, you are entering a competition. There will be a winner at the end of it. Can you imagine if the NFL said, "You know what, guys? We're not paying our athletes anymore. They should play just out of love for the sport. The games will still go on, but the athletes can get there themselves. And oh yeah, you'll still pay $100+ a ticket." Let me tell you what would happen: there wouldn't be any more people willing to risk concussions for a life of football, and no one would attend games as the quality of the players declined.

Runners, especially distance runners, peak later in life than many athletes. After they leave college (and even during college, as compared to football/basketball, but that's another story), there is little to no support for professional runners. Rare programs like the Hansons or the Nike Oregon Project support some runners, but even the (few) runners you've heard of are barely making enough money to support themselves.

So let me be clear, in case you've missed it: Competitor doesn't care about running as a sport. They care about making money off of you. My RnR medals have never felt so hollow as they do now that there is no real winner in their races and only thousands of losers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Testing... testing... Can anyone hear me?

Two truths and a lie:

1. I am moving. In 1.5 weeks. Leaving NYC behind, leaving friends I love, a boy I like, an apartment I can afford.

2. I am becoming a diplomat. As in, I will be a representative of the US government abroad. I will help people who want to come to the US apply for visas. I will help Americans arrested for drug possession abroad keep from starring in Locked Up Abroad.

3. I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in 9 weeks. After a solid summer of training, I'm ready to run this race again come October.

You guessed it: #3 is a lie. Numbers one and two, however... very true.

NFAQ (Not Frequently Asked Questions):

What does this mean for me, Tracy? Well, come on, nothing really, now does it? You get the same half-assed, ever-more-occasional blog posts that you ever did. When I have something to say about running, I'll say it here.

Is yours going to become a blog just about your travels? What this doesn't mean for you: I'm not going to start writing a foreign service blog. In other words, NO. This is a running blog and it will focus solely on my running so help me. I imagine some of those runs will be done in far-flung places (yikes! I guess I might want to buy a treadmill, maybe?), but just like I don't show you intimate details of my current life, you don't need to worry that I'll be showing you intimate details of my future life.

Where will you be going? Fuck if I know. I've signed on for "worldwide availability." The basic timeline is that I'm moving to DC at the beginning of September for several months of training. I'll be in DC for somewhere between three months and a year, depending on whether I'm given language training or not. I find out in mid-October where I'll be going for my first tour of two years.

Can I come and visit you abroad? HELL, YES. I don't even know who you are and the answer is yes. You have a place to stay in my apartment. (I mean, your tax dollars will be in part paying for it, so...)

Tracy, get back to the running. Basically, you're like a total failure at running and that's why you transferred your MCM bib, right? This feels like more of a statement than a question. What are you getting at? Do you suck, or what? Ah, yes, there's a question. Yes, yes, I do. When it comes to running, I suck.

Will you be getting a dog? YES, hopefully. Maybe this one will even run with me sometimes, unlike my lazy-ass last dog.

How did this come to be? As anyone who cares already knows, for the past several years I've been an academic. And I hated it. My students are amazing, being able to dig in Egypt is amazing, my colleagues are great people, I had a great and stable tenure track job, and I despised the research. I found it completely uninteresting and isolating. The problem is, as an academic, research is supposed to take up 50-75% of your time. So, I had to find something else to do. And the foreign service was hiring. So I applied, I tested, I got a security clearance, and now I'm moving.

Any questions? If not, you'll hear from me again once, you know, I've actually had done anything related to running worth mentioning.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're all losers! HOORAY!!!!

There's a new race coming up this summer. No joke, it's being billed as a mud/obstacle/color/endurance 5k/charity run. The organizers don't specifically tell you to wear costumes, but I'm sure they would welcome it.

I was thinking about this race - specifically about how much I hate the idea of it - and I was wondering where my (well-documented if you search my blog history, which I'm too lazy to do) hatred for these new-fangled runs comes from. Am I just an old-school purist? I want everyone and their mother to start running, so why, then, am I against something that gets new crowds of people out there? Maybe it's as simple as I have no upper body strength and thus suck at obstacle courses am color blind and don't appreciate color runs don't care about special needs kids don't like the ridiculous cost of these new races hearken back to a day when racing was something one did competitively, even if one wasn't competitive, per se. Nowadays, we race... for medals? Or something.

So here's the thing: by taking away the emphasis on competition, there's no winner at the end of the race. And if no one wins, well, by definition we are all losers.