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"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Oops, I did it again

Forza, that is!  Here's my sword from the class.  I decided to wear weightlifting gloves to avoid blisters.  And I was too chicken to steal Kiehl's from the locker room.  Next time.  Also, I have no designation in the program I use to record my running for "other aerobic activity."  That's an oversight.  I put it in as "yoga" - close enough?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update: Got a run in, after all

I went to the gym and did a neat new run that I suspect I'll be incorporating into my repertoire more and more.

I absolutely, positively despise the dreadmill.  The Running Dork (he knows who he is) tipped me off to a workout he's used in the past to get better at hills/stairs.

I started with a mile warm-up, done at a normal, relaxed pace (mine was, ahem, 10:40.  YES I KNOW I'M SLOW).  Then, after that, I turned the speed down to 4mph, a moderately fast walk, and upped the incline to 1%.  Every minute, I upped the incline another percent until I was at 15% - the treadmill's max.  At that point, still at 4mph (which had turned into a slow jog as I couldn't walk that fast at the incline), I turned the speed down to 3mph and walked.  He suggested 20-25 minutes, but I only had an hour at the gym, so I could only do 5 min.  After that, I turned the incline down 1% and the speed up .1mph every minute, until I was at a very slow jog and a flat incline.  Then I ran a mile cool down - although I was feeling pretty good, so I sped it up throughout and ended up with a mile just under 10 min.

Had I had more time, I would have liked to stay on the incline longer, and eventually I see myself working up to a slow run on the incline.

Man, what is wrong with me!

Today, for the second week in a row, I am signed up for my gym's "urban rebounding" (read: mini-trampoline) class.

Today, for the second week in a row, I am not going to my gym's "urban rebounding" class.

Last week sucked.  I forgot my metro card and got to the subway before realizing I had no cash and no way to get there.  (The class is held at a nearby branch that is not within walking distance.)

Today, I had a crummy night of sleep and woke up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps.  I actually did get back to sleep and then woke up this morning, put my clothes on, and basically dawdled long enough that it's now too late to get to the class on time.  I think that was my subconscious doing me a solid, as I haven't been feeling with it all week and I'm not really up for high intensity this morning.  Yoga, maybe, but jumping around would probably bring the bad back, quickly.

I promise that next week I'll go back to my regularly scheduled blogging about exercising, and there will be no more excuses.  My bad week has coincided nicely with some of the worst weather of the year, though.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why are some addictions healthy, and others not?

If I can be serious for a moment...

I recently volunteered for an organization that promoted healthy living for children.  I won't name them, as my experience with the organization was ultimately not a good one but overall I still support them (and my situation was unique, as many of you likely already know).  As part of my orientation, we watched a brief motivational speech given by the founder of the organization, someone who was an alcoholic until one day they woke up, decided enough was enough, and became an athlete.

It was quite obvious to me looking at this frail, emaciated several time Ironman that this person had traded in one addiction (alcohol) for another (running).  And yet person after person at the training gushed on about how inspirational this story was.

My serious question is, why was this inspirational?  Why is an addiction to running considered healthy and admirable, when other addictions are seen as character flaws?  Is there a point at which you are exercising too much?  People who exercise a lot, and I've been guilty of this at times, get aggressively defensive when accused of exercising too much.  It's easy to fall back on the "S/he's just jealous of me!" argument to dismiss your critics for not making exercise the same priority that you do.

But what about situations when someone actually is exercising too much?  One (very mainstream) web forum I was browsing the other day featured several threads talking about the Female Athlete Triad (and how ironic is it that its acronym is FAT) as though it were an ordinary, everyday thing - with amenorrhea maybe even as an indication that you were on the right track with your exercising.

It's an ambiguous idea.  I don't know the person that I'm criticizing above, even though they represent an archetype I've seen before.  That said, it seems clear that this person is not treating the root of their problems, namely their addictive personality.  On the other hand, if someone were to tell me, for instance, that I read too much, I promise you I would get defensive.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"As long as I'm not dead last."

This has been a rough week for exercise.  I took Monday off to rest, and Tuesday had crazy rain and wind advisories and all over misery, so I put the morning run off... and off... and off... and you know the rest.  Tuesday night was the worst night of sleep I've had in months, and Wednesday I was at work from literally 8am until 8pm.  This morning I woke up at 6am and my body resolutely said, "NO."  I had a stiff neck, sore legs, and two adorable animals curled up one on either side of me.  I went back to sleep until 9 and dragged myself into work with a promise that I'd go work out later tonight.

It happens.  I'm trying to shrug it off.  My only frustration is that I called my gym to get added to the list for tonight's spinning class, and by 9am the list - and wait list - were already full.  The New Year's resolution people are not giving up this year as quickly as I'd like them to.  That condemns me to a treadmill tonight, assuming I don't bail on it.  No!  No!

Speaking of my gym, I had the most annoying experience last week.  Meeting my running partner requires 30 minutes on the bus/subway.  Then 30 minutes home to shower, then 30 minutes back downtown to work.  All in all, essentially a 90 minute commute for a 3.5m run.  Well, I thought to myself, why not drop my stuff at a branch of my gym before the run, then shower and pick up my stuff and head directly to work after?  That would save me copious time.  Except that, with a crazy smile, the guy at the gym told me I would be billed $7.50 each time I did that for using a gym that wasn't my "home gym" during peak-hours.  Even to drop my stuff off in a locker and not use the equipment.  Stupid rules.

But - I've added a new race for February!  A 10 mile race in hilly Prospect Park. I did a 5m Turkey Trot there, and the race was excellent, although the hills were long.  But fun!  I can't fear the hills, given Mt. Washington looming over me...

This race makes me a tad nervous because it's a 10 mile race and a 3-person relay.  Translated, I predict that to mean that the percentage of runners beating me will increase from roughly 80% to roughly, um, like 95%.  As long as I'm not dead last - that should be my new motto.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Scenes from a run

A picture blog today, because I'm too lazy to write.

Note to self: if everything was frozen last week, and it's warm enough to wear shorts this week, it's probably going to be muddy.

This doesn't seem like the safest way to get from point A to point B...  but it is the only way.  And the drop really isn't all that steep.

This one I can't explain.  Not only is Eeyore hanged in effigy, but he's pretty far out - this took dedication and effort.  I'm sure it's a message to someone.  Hopefully not me.

Hey, look!  My "4 mile" route (measured via gmap-pedometer) is actually 4.81m!  But those hills that feel like mountains?  Actually molehills.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All you ever need to know about socks...

Balega Trail Buster.  Full stop.  I love this sock.

A friend of mine recently asked me if I had any strong preferences for running socks.  Like, could I name my favorite brand?  No, not so much I said.  She confessed that she's in love with Balega socks, a brand that I hadn't even ever heard of.  As long as socks don't have any cotton in them, they're pretty much all good as far as I'm concerned.

But... wait...  I did tell her that I had a pair I preferred.  I found them on clearance at a local running shop a few years ago and I bought two pair.  I wore them the next day and promptly went back and bought them out.  Nearly five years later, the socks are still fluffy soft and have held their shape.  They're like running on pillows.  I know it's time to do laundry when I run out of these amazing grey socks.  I couldn't tell her who made them because it had never occurred to me to seek them out.

They're Balega, specifically the Trail Buster.   They're awesome.

I checked my sock drawer, and there are a few neglected other pairs of non-balega socks (mostly Defeet) stuck way in the back, along with the stretched out sports bras that are really only good for yoga.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shoe review!

Asics 21xx: my first and only true running shoe love.

Vibram Five Fingers: like them.
(Ack!  I was taking pictures with my crummy phone, so sorry for the blurriness.  If I can take a clearer picture later, I will.  Otherwise, go to Vibram's website to see what they look like, and just insert a chubbier ankle in your head.)

Coming tomorrow: socks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nothing to see here...

Can you hear the birds chirping in this space, where my Manhattan Half Marathon race report should be going?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

One thing about living in NYC is that you get remarkably spoiled by how many races there are to do. The NYRR puts on something like 40 races each year, and they're (almost) all priced at $17 each. One thing that happens, at least for me, is that it devalues the overall race experience. It's no longer special - it's just a training run with a bib.

My plan had been to do each of the Grand Prix series half marathons, one in each borough. The NYRR hasn't announced the rest of their dates yet, and the chances of me being around for all of them (and wanting to do all of them) is low - Staten Island is typically the weekend of the Chicago Marathon, when I'll be out of town for a wedding, and Queens last year was in the dead heat of summer and would have meant a 4:30 wake up call to travel 90 minutes to the start.

I was taking stock of my training schedule the other day and realizing - you can have the epiphany, too, just click on my training log up there to the left - that I was not prepared to do a half this morning. Could I finish it? Sure! But what would I get out of finishing it? I started thinking that maybe it made more sense NOT to finish it. I know that sounds like a cop out, but it's true. I didn't want to do too much and risk injury, plus it's cold out and it's VERY demoralizing to be among the very last, struggling walkers being lapped by everyday runners.

The course was 2 loops around Central Park. My plan was to do at least a full lap (6m) and then come around toward the finish (at 7m) to pick up my checked bag. Checking my bag limited my drop-out options, but that was fine.

By Mile 2 I was coming up Cat Hill and I knew it was going to be a bad day. My legs felt like lead and my pace was slow. I was resolved to drop out, maybe even at 5m.

By 5m I was feeling better. By 6m I was still strong, and, although I left the course at 7m, I kept running through the Rambles for another mile or so. Honestly, those last 15 minutes were the most fun I had during the run. Me, nature, quiet, hills, bare trees.

I've been debating in my head whether I should beat myself up about this or not. I didn't disappoint myself, and I think I would have been more disappointed had I finished the race - I had taken a few walk breaks by the time I left, and I know that would have only gotten A LOT worse. I don't feel an accomplishment in finishing a race I've not trained for if it means I walk the last handful of miles. I haven't done a double-digit run in literally months, so I can say genuinely that I was not prepared.

But still, there's that niggling feeling of disappointment.
I can redeem myself in a few weeks, luckily - and I will.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I don't know, NYSC

I'm not sure how I feel about this poster hanging in the locker room at my gym. I guess I'm slightly more comfortable risking athlete's foot than I am with the completely naked women blow drying their hair in the locker room.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This does relate to running, just bear with it

So, a few nights ago on the way home from the gym, I was mugged.  Totally stupid, totally my fault, totally avoidable.  I'm physically fine and all the bastard got was my iphone.*  Which he took, out of my hand, as I was talking on it, one block away from my building.  Then he ran away.  It occurred to me to give chase - I was wearing running shoes - but thank heavens good sense prevailed and I instead ran home and called the police.

But props to the NYPD for taking it very seriously.  A van pulled up, sirens ablaze, about 2 minutes after we called.  They yelled for me to get in, and we drove around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes looking.  They had somewhere in the vicinity of 10 cop cars out looking for this guy.  Sadly, The Case of the Dumb Girl with the Stolen iPhone remains an unsolved mystery.

Later that night, as I was making my to-do list for the next day, I got to item number 1: go for a run.  That's when I realized that I haven't run without my phone in months.  Basically, having my phone with on a run has begun to equal safety for me.  I do live in a big city, but I run primarily along well-populated routes.  Tomorrow I won't be meeting my running partner, so it would mean a route closer to home (in other words, not Central Park).  It's an area that's not always visible to cars, but there's usually a fair bit of activity.

In my case, I got a new phone right away, plus my boyfriend put the kibosh on my running alone until I got one.  So I forfeited the morning run.  It happens.

What about you?  Do you run with or without your phone?

*(If you know me personally, you know how much restraint it took just now to suggest that my iphone is only a replaceable object and not the important part of my life that it is.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Animal follow-up

CNN today reports that a coyote was picked up less than a mile from my apartment.

When I was living in New Hampshire wild turkeys were par for the course, and I even once saw a bear while running.  I can't say I expected this sort of wild life here in New York.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Follow up on the stair climbing

On Monday night, I took the subway down to Wall Street to climb some real, actual steps.

My friend's building is 25 stories.  I told myself I would absolutely do it twice, and hopefully do it three times.  I was prepared with my gloves, with my gum, with my ipod set to metronome, and with some gatorade that I figured I'd leave with the doorman to drink when I got to the bottom (although I'd prefer in theory not to have to stop during the race itself, but there are water stations set up on Floors 20 and 65).

I made it up the steps twice with no problem.  I decided at that point to bail and call it a day with 52 flights under my belt, but when I got back to my friend's 3rd floor apartment, she somehow talked me into completing the third round.  My quads were burning at that point.  I stopped to pick up my water from the doorman, and he was getting into it, trying to talk me into a FOURTH!  I adamantly said no, but he did talk me into doing an extra 5 flights, for an even 80 climbed. 

I didn't set my watch right, so I don't have a time (unfortunately), but it was still helpful.  I feel confident I'll finish and optimistic that I won't be last.

A few notes:
First off, keeping a tempo is hard.  I knew better than to go with my instinct and run up the first few flights, but it was hard not to go faster than the set pace.  Of course, about 15 flights in, it was getting harder to keep up with the set pace.  There was a lot of back and forth the whole way: faster, then slower.  Eventually I turned the metronome off and just listened to up tempo music.  I now have a playlist just for stairs - lots of Lady Gaga and Britney and some embarrassing choices (ahem, Party in the USA, ahem).

The dust is totally an issue.  I didn't feel too bad about it going up, but my throat was and still is scratchy afterwards.  Cough, cough, cough.

Weightlifting gloves were a godsend.  I tried at first to take the steps two at a time - not as hard as I expected, but not really easier.  I forgot my gum, so I can't comment on whether that helped or not.

Dizziness was a slight issue.  I gather that the ESB has fewer tight curves.  I hope so, because that was rough.

The burning, the burning!  My quads were hurting.  It doesn't get easier, and I didn't get into a zone like I can on the stairmill, but seeing the floor numbers climb up is satisfying.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota I mean New York

Today I was running along the reservoir with my running partner when we happened to notice what looked like a cute, furry dog along the fence that separates the path from the water.  It turned around and we saw first its bushy, striped tail and then shortly thereafter its distinctive robber-mask face.

This was no dog, my friends, but instead a ginormous raccoon.

On one hand, raccoons and opossums are old hat to me, having grown up in an area where these things are pests that steal into your garbage cans at night.  On the other hand, this was broad daylight and this thing was moving erratically, trying desperately to get to some water.  You know what that means: RABIES.  You'd be surprised by how many times in one's life you get to say, "Don't worry, I'm vaccinated against rabies."  Assuming it's true.

So, we did the obvious thing, and stopped our run long enough to get a few photos.  If you live in the city, it's not every day that you get to see wildlife actually, you know, in the wild.

I'm more than a little disturbed by the raccoon "penis bone" image.  TMI, wikipedia, TMI.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stair practice

In preparation for the ESBRU and the Fight for Air Climb, tonight I will be going to a friend's 30-story building to run her steps thrice.  Gum: acquired.  Weight lifting gloves: acquired.  Stamina, endurance, and muscle strength: working on it.

Also, Forza?  I'm sorry I talked smack about it.  I can barely move my shoulders today.  Whew.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forza: 1, Tracy: 0

A coworker friend of mine has recently taken up Forza, which is a... how to describe it...  class she takes at the gym that involves rhythmically swinging giant, wooden swords around as exercise.  (You can see it on Martha Stewart on Tuesday this week, or go to youtube for a piece that aired on the Today show.)  She's lost a ton of weight through this class and always raves about it, so I was down for trying it.

I was also down for trying her gym - when we moved to New York, we joined the closest gym to us, the NYSC.  NYSC is... okay.  Just okay.  It's affordable and our branch is close, convenient, and new, which means it's nice.  Other branches, which we have access to during off-peak hours, are older and are not as nice.  But, it's less intimidating than a hole-in-the-wall boxing gym, and the classes are good.

Anyway, this friend goes to Equinox, the nationwide chain of fancy-pants gyms (they have KIEHL'S in the bathrooms) that is notorious for its amazing classes.  I wanted to try the class and, let's face it, I wanted to see how the other half works out.

I'm not sure what to say about the class itself.  I think it was instinctual of me to want to dismiss it as a gimmick, but my friend has lost more than 40 pounds doing it, so there's got to be something there.  Partly it was gimmicky, sure - but whatever it takes to get you moving for an hour, I'm not going to criticize (says someone whose only workout yesterday was the Wii Fit) (ahem, and yes, I get that that's not a true workout) (but I totally ROCKED the snowball fight!) (whatever, yes, moving on).

I might enjoy watching So You Think You Can Dance, but "appreciation" is where my relationship with choreography ends.  I'm notoriously bad at any sort of even basic choreography, so parts of the class were truly mentally challenging (and kinda humiliating) for me, once the class picked up speed.  The most fun part for me was trying to avoid the guy next to me, who drifted closer and closer to me with each and every step.  We were supposed to stay in place, but somehow he was moving around, a lot.  I never did figure out how, despite watching him pretty intently - he was wielding a heavy, wooden sword, I had to watch out.

Bottom line, by the end of the class I had sweat buckets and had blisters on both my thumbs.  Maybe I was gripping too hard.  I kept picturing the sword flying out of my hands and hitting someone.  I'm not sure that I felt empowered, or stronger, or more fierce like the clip on the Today Show promised, but Forza is an interesting alternative to a generic aerobic class, for sure.

But the gym!  The gym!  It was luxury!  It made me want to stay for hours!  The shower was great.  The towels were fluffy.  The mat area was sectioned off with some sheer curtaining, creating a breezy and almost middle eastern effect that was completely conducive to sit-ups.  The lobby had comfy chairs and I just wanted to sit in the steam room for hours.  The cardio machines were still just cardio machines, rows and rows of treadmills and bikes and bored people zoning out while getting their mileage in.  BUT THEY HAVE KIEHL'S.

I totally should have snuck all my empty travel bottles in to siphon extra Kiehl's.  Maybe next time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What the... wha?

From an email I received today:

Congratulations! Your past performance in the 2007-2009 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K and/or 2008-2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon qualifies you for Seeded Start Corral C (Wave 1) at the 2010 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K on March 21. For more information on the Wave Start and Start Corral qualifying standards click here.

I mean, that's all well and good, but... here's the thing.  I finished the Chicago Marathon (barely) in 6.5 hours.  As in, behind the last pace car.  I crossed the finish line and got a medal, but officially I didn't finish.

I'm as much of a sucker for a seeded start as the next person, and I do love the Shamrock Shuffle.  But how on earth did I earn a seeded start?

Oh... here's how:

Seeded Start Corral Qualifying Standards:
Corral Qual Standards 2010

Note: by finishing the Chicago Marathon, even unofficially, I automatically get into the first wave of runners.  No idea why they want to promote this race so badly when it's the second largest in the city (after the marathon), but if I were in Chicago, I'd do this.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beware of the runners

I have to say, I love this photo.  This is my usual running route, with the speed limit posted on the pathway.  I may be slow, but I do run faster than 5mph (usually). I'm waiting, anxiously, for the day when I get ticketed for speeding.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tiger Woods, Marathon Meb, and my lack of Cash Money

I just read the sad news that Tiger Woods will no longer have free access to his GM vehicles. Just like the rest of us, he'll now have to pay for his cars.

Aside from the irony that is the richest athlete in the world not having had to pay for his own cars for some time, this brings me to a favorite issue of mine: why I don't have an athletic sponsorship.

Ha ha!, you say. Tracy, that is crazy talk! But... think about it. Meb wears his Nikes for just over two brief hours of the marathon. I wear my Asics for 4+ or 5+ (ahem, or in one bad instance, 6+) hours of exposure. A hella lot of spectators see me going by in my gear. But I've had to pay for that gear.

I did see those people with the coconut water at the NYCM expo trying to recruit people to wear something that looked like a porta-potty, but that I guess was supposed to represent the juicebox that the water comes in. I thought about it. But, alas, I wasn't registered for NYCM and I think coconut water is totally gross.

I will dress like a bottle of Rolling Rock for a year's supply. I will dress like a can of Limonata for a year's supply. Hell, I would probably dress like an Edy's Whole Fruit Bar if you promise you'll have a lime one waiting for me, unmelted, at the end of the race.

Failing that, maybe I'll try writing to Dunkin' Donuts ("America Runs on Dunkin'!"). I am what you look like when you try to run on Dunkin'. It's not pretty, but I'm happy to rep your brand for free donuts.

My price is low, and I am for sale! (I also have more room for advertising on my body - that Meb is tiny!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Balancing running and... life and stuff

Two days off in a row so far. Kind of beating myself up about it. Tomorrow... will be a better day. I have big plans for running AND spinning - although spin class did give me the most unbelievably massive bruise the other day. I almost took a photo of it but it's in a rather sensitive area (okay, the top of my thigh).

The number one excuse I hear from my friends as to why they don't run is always the classic: "I don't have the time for something like that!" I know, I can say. Being slow as molasses (cold molasses, not the runny heated up kind), my runs always take a while.

But what do you do when things really do get tough? In addition to working full time at a job that can often demand more than my full time (ah, New York...), I also volunteer with an organization that puts me on call several nights a month for an overnight shift. Sometimes (rarely) I don't get called in. Other times I can be there literally all night. It's hard to pick myself up after these shifts. How do doctors or others with erratic schedules do it?

Also, to follow up, the North Face running club question answered itself: they meet at 6:30 on Wednesdays. I absolutely positively cannot get out of work prior to 6:15 on Wednesdays, so the only way I could make it would be if I supermanned in a cab on the way there, changing my clothes faster than the speed of light. Sad.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Ugh. I am tired of this cold already!

I'm not a cold weather whiner. I grew up in the midwest, where winter was freezing, period. You left the house, your hair immediately froze (if it was wet). Your tears froze if you cried (which you did, from the biting cold). We paid attention to the frost bite index in the weather and avoided being exposed for longer than that.

But this winter I'm struggling with it. I even like cold weather running! (I really like running in the rain, but that's for another blog.) I warm up fairly quickly and I much prefer the cold over heat, hands down. But everything this winter has me down. The days are so short, the weather's so cold, and I just don't want to wake up, bundle up, and get out the door. Of course, when I do, I have mostly great runs.

Part of the problem, ironically, is that I have too much motivation. I'm perfectly fine maintaining right now: a few shorter runs each week, supplemented with some spinning and some cardio at the gym, and I'm holding on to a lot of my fitness. But I don't want to maintain; I want to excel! I have these crazy, lofty race goals for this year that are completely attainable (barring injury). Every cold day that I either don't go out or truncate my workout is one day farther from my goals.

*Evidently it will warm up later this week, according to the weather reports.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More numbers: low ferritin levels

I struggle with my iron levels, particularly my ferritin. My GP was the first to notice this months ago, and she prescribed Repliva 21/7 for me. I hadn't known anything was wrong, but about a week after I started taking it it was miraculous: I had more energy, I was getting up earlier in the morning, I was happier...

A few months later, they discontinued it.

No matter, as my GP said that my ferritin was fine again. Until... a few weeks after that, when my hematologist said that it most certainly was not. (Low is considered less than 50; mine was around 15.) She said that she had something she liked better than Repliva and set me up with Niferex 150. By then, I realized how worn down I was. When the pharmacy told me that the Niferex was going to cost me about $80 - WITH insurance - I nearly broke down in tears as I handed over my credit card. I wanted to feel lively and less lethargic. The people at my local Duane Reade are very mean.

Then my levels went up, so my hematologist said not to worry about it. Then they went down, and my GP gave me a new prescription for a different, cheaper medication. That prescription was contraindicated for patients on blood thinners (like yours truly), so I was told to take an OTC iron pill. Again - in the pharmacy near tears.

I'm no doctor, so I don't understand how this is different from garden-variety anemia, but I know now that I'm in an up-down cycle of normal-low-normal-low ferritin levels.

Why is this relevant? Well, it affects my running. I know that. I've read about the links between female runners and low ferritin levels. I'm not a high-enough caliber runner to be too badly affected, but you have to wonder.

And yes, I do eat red meat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

ESBRU - I got an email just now...

We would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in the NYRR Empire State Building Run Up Preliminary Race scheduled to take place on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 9:00am.

Unfortunately, due to space limitations and an extraordinary number of well-qualified athletes, we are unable to offer you a place in the 2010 NYRR Empire State Building Run-Up Invitational race.

The $30.00 entry fee will still apply. You will receive an event T-shirt and your time will be recorded under preliminary race in the race day results.

At first read, it felt like a rejection. But then I remembered this same race last year - there were two waves of it. (I volunteered at it to fulfill my 9+1 for the NYRR. I highly recommend the experience for being all indoors, finite in terms of time, and loads of fun.)

Yeah, I'm anticipating that I'll be finishing in closer to 20 minutes than the record times of about 10 minutes. I've got a metronome app on my iphone and I'll be buying weight lifting gloves sometime soon. Next questions: chewing gum, or carry my own water? Attempt two steps at once, or one at a time (like I practice on the 'mill)?

The big toenail: should it stay or should it go?

I saw my podiatrist this morning. On the table: possible removal of my left big toenail.

I first lost it after the Flying Pig marathon in 2003. Just as everyone said could happen, it turned black as a result of repeated downhill running and then a few days later lifted off, easily. (And yes, my shoes are the requisite half-size too large.) (And don't tell me I should go with a full size too large, as my big toe is inordinately larger than the rest of my toes and a full size too large is too big for my feet, says my doctor.)

Problem is, after that marathon it never really grew back quite right. It was a lot weaker, for starters, and then it just doesn't really hold. Periodically - when I've been running more, but not necessarily only then - it will peel off from the bottom and completely remove itself. This causes some pain and the risk of infection.

My doctor explained the physiology of it to me, about how the the flexing of my toes and the size of my toes, coupled with the general make up of my foot and my arch and my weight, contribute to this. Complementing my particular situation is the fact that I take blood thinners: my propensity for bleeding, profusely, means that any sort of trauma (even micro trauma, like that inflicted when walking around all day) takes much, much longer to heal. In other words, short of staying off my feet for some time while this heals up, I'm likely to stay in this cycle for some time.

I quite like the doctor, and he's a former runner. He seemed optimistic that I can keep the toenail, although I'm pretty much over it already. He wants to see me/it again in a month after it's had some time to grow back - given that it doesn't really bother me on a daily basis and isn't anything more than an annoying eyesore, he wants to let it grow back and see if he can figure out what exactly is wrong with the nail before deciding for certain. That seems more balanced of an approach than my vote, which would basically have been to take the stupid thing off right then and there with my bare hands and no numbing agents. I'm kind of frustrated with the whole thing.

I'm really not at all vain about my feet. Nor do I consider the loss of a toenail to be some sort of war injury that I can be proud of. It just is what it is. I want healthy toenails that will stay on my toes. Barring that, I'd rather have no toenails than to have these bastards peeling off all the time.

But I'll give it another go!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Got to get the numbers up

I was just doing a review of my last few weeks' workouts...

Overall, I started this blog to get me out there. It's doing that: I've run every week for the past few months.

That said, I haven't gotten my mileage up to where I'd like it to be. I've YET to record a week that's above 20 miles! That's pathetic.


NYC Half, here I come

The NYRR just debited $79 from my checking account. I'm assuming from that transaction that I have been accepted into the NYC half on 21 March.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On second thought...

Maybe I should go back to taking my iron supplements. I've been kind of lazy about them lately, but it could explain (at least) the sleep and the lethargy.

Am I this out of shape?

Yesterday was a weird one.

My running partner and I both had the day off of work, and the predicted high was something abysmal like 22 degrees. We decided to forego our usual 7am run and meet at something more decadent: 9:30am (with the hopes that it would be warmer). I had a total crap night of sleep, waking up several times through the night, and when 9am rolled around I asked her if we could please push it back to 10. She suggested even later, and we agreed to meet at 1.

I had suggested that since we were both off, we should try for a long run. Even though I've been planning on running the Manhattan half in a few weeks, I haven't been training per se. I haven't been training at all, actually. On my own, I like to do an average run of about 5m - 3.5 with her (two laps around the reservoir/bridal path, and then running over to the west side to catch the subway). So I suggested that she and I do 3 laps around the reservoir. Adding on to that, I would get to about 6 or so.

She wanted to walk the third lap. Again, it was one of those "What do I do?" sort of situations. I wanted to run, but I enjoy her company. I could have stayed in my neighborhood (ca. 30 mins away) and run by myself, except I prefer company. As always she was very, very insistent that I run ahead if I didn't need to walk, but she was also cramping up with some back pain. NO MAN LEFT BEHIND. I walked the lap with her and then picked up my run where I left it off. I picked up the subway on the Upper West Side and got off a stop early so I could squeeze an extra mile in there, too. All in all it was a pleasant, moderately long run done in cold weather.

But when I got home, I felt kind of uncomfortable. Just moderately congested, that sort of thing. Problem is, it didn't go away. For the rest of the afternoon and evening, it actually got worse and developed into almost flu-like discomfort: chills, aches, lethargy, etc. I've had this before, where I felt basically ill after running, but those times were after real long runs or marathons - not a jawn of barely 7m.

What gives? I was dressed appropriately for the weather. I've run in worse. I did have a bad night of sleep, but overall I got enough sleep. What happened?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Racing etiquette

So, my last post about my bad experiences with a fun run got me thinking. About race etiquette.

Every race has some newcomers to the sport, and that's awesome. When one of them is walking in the middle of the course wearing dress clothes and swinging an umbrella and then whacks you in the knee with it, that's NOT awesome. (True story. Ref: the black and blue mark on my knee tonight.)

So... I suspect this will be a topic that I come back to, as I notice more things that I take for granted. But how about some starters?

-Walk to the sides so you're not in the way of the runners
-Try to avoid stopping on a dime, if you can. If you know you're going to be walking, start running over to the side
-Anticipate whatever you can. Do you need water at the next stop? Start moving over to that side so you're better able to get it and can avoid cutting people off suddenly
-Be realistic about your pace when you line up. If you know you're going to be walking a lot, stay to the back. If your 5k PR begins with a 3 (or even a 2), don't line up with the super skinny dudes in short shorts at the front.

And, one for people who are NOT new to the sport:
-Try to remember what it was like to run your first race. Remember the excitement, remember the feeling of not only racing against yourself, but of being part of something bigger. Try not to be hard on people who make mistakes and are inadvertently rude.

This includes the woman who waved me away at mile 3 of the Turkey Trot when I had a question about the course, or the woman who punched me - yes, fist in back - around mile 7 of the NYC Marathon TRAINING RUN. Not even a race. And she, a Marathon Maniac, should have known better than to be so rude. Ironically, I was trying to catch up with her to ask about her MM status when I got punched.

(If they're rude on purpose, you have my permission to go to town.)

VOLUNTEERS: try not to crowd the course! Yes, we all want our 'Ade, but we can move over the two feet to get it. The more you step into the roadway, the more of a choke you create.

Volunteers, of course, could merit a separate post entirely dedicated to what to say and what not to say when cheering on the course. (For instance: "Almost there! You're so close!" should NOT be used when more than 5% of the course remains. Mile 2 of a 5k, or mile 14 of a marathon, is NOT "almost there.")

Friday, January 1, 2010

Evidently I can't run for "fun"

Last night was NYE. To celebrate, I decided to do the annual NYRR Emerald Nuts 4m fun run. I was curious about a run at midnight in Central Park, and everyone I know who's done it has raved about how much fun it was. It seemed like a good compromise to me - I love the idea of starting the year out right, with a run, and it would get me out and about with the crowds of revelers, but I wouldn't have to get dressed up or spend exorbitant amounts of money. Somehow I conned two friends into participating with me.

I told a few of my friends that I was doing it, and I was surprised by how many of them had done the race before. They all said that it was fun, which was a reliable endorsement. But then I noticed something: they'd all done it once. They'd all done it, they swore it was fun, and then they never went back and did it again. I think I get that now.

It was fun. There were loads of people and fireworks and free (non-alc) champagne at mile two. But... it was too fun. It turns out I'm not really into that. The course was populated by people who didn't understand common rules of racing (walk to the SIDE of the road, people!) and people wearing things like jeans, dress shoes, down jackets, etc. The problem with being my super-slow speed is that these people can, conceivably and easily, pass you. And that is WAY demoralizing.

On top of that, I was having some issues and had to stop at mile 2 to use a port-a-pottie. I have never - never - done this in a race of less than marathon distance. So, not that I was running for time, but my time was redonk slow.

So, I rang in the new year with a physically healthy but emotionally unhealthy fun run. Physically, it was great weather for a solid 4m training run. Emotionally, the mean thoughts I was having, directed toward fellow racers, were not at all nice!