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"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rain, rain, go away

My feelings about running in the rain are a lot like my feelings about running in the cold: I don't mind doing it once I'm out there, but I hate getting ready to go out.  That first quarter mile is miserable, even though it improves rapidly after that.

Well, I better get over it.  And soon.  It's bad out, and it's supposed to be like this for the next two days.  I was a coward yesterday and had my sister rewrite my hill workout for the treadmill - in my defense, it was raining, cold, and windy, a combination I find to be sheer torture.  I ran right before spin class, so I froze a Muscle Milk to drink in between the treadmill and the bike.  Verdict: weird.  But no weirder than non-frozen muscle milk.  And seriously, Cytosport, could you pick a grosser name for the stuff?

The one nice thing about having had my half time be on the slower end of my predicted range is that my marathon pace is now even slower.  I did my hill intervals on the treadmill at PMP, which was an almost leisurely pace that I had no trouble maintaining up to 6% incline.  Well, no trouble maintaining for 90 second intervals before dropping back down to 1% for the rest intervals.  Still, I wish I'd been out on the hills instead of inside.

I'm not sure why I feel I have to defend myself for choosing to run on the treadmill, as though running outdoors is somehow more bad-ass than running inside.

But, a small update of good news:  I was doing some online banking when I noticed that $90 had been debited from my checking account.  That's exactly enough to cover my Mt. Washington registration fee, my new Mt. Washington hat, and my long sleeve 50th anniversary commemorative shirt.  Lo: the lottery list is published, and yours truly is confirmed!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wow... I'm getting kind of scared.

The other night, I had a bout of insecurity about Mt. Washington.

I've wanted to do this race for years, but - let's face it - I'm not a talented runner.  You can use all sorts of other adjectives to describe me: persevering, dedicated, dogged, delusional, etc., but you're not going to come up with "good."  The way objective success and talent are measured in running is largely through speed, and I'm lacking there.

The reviews of Mt. Washington use another set of adjectives: unrelenting, grueling, excruciating.

For instance, check out this review of last year's race, from a dedicated and extremely talented mountain runner (the second American to break the hour barrier on the 7.6m course, in fact - I don't even break 7.6mph doing speedwork, and that's on a flat track).  The photos are especially telling, as you can so clearly see the the runners are above the clouds.  Above them.  Or, as he states in his review, "You really did feel like you were in an airplane."

To show this more visually, compare the Mt. Washington and Pikes Peak Ascent elevation profiles.

Pikes Peak, partial (from the BTMR website):

Mt. Washington (from gmap-pedometer):

You see that?  Unrelenting, straight up.  The two maps show how Mt. Washington is just straight up, whereas that section of the Barr Trail (shorter than Mt. Washington in this image, at only 6.3m) has peaks and valleys.  Mt. Washington may be less technical than Pikes Peak, for certain, but it is unrelenting.  Or, in their words, "The Mt. Washington Auto Road is 7.6 miles in length, has an average grade of 11.5% with extended sections of 18%, and the last 50 yards is a 22% 'wall' to the finish."


Monday, March 29, 2010

I am the champion!

Okay, it wasn't that big of a deal after all. I ran the George Washington Bridge!

Here is my experience, in pictures:

The approach. It looks intimidating. Maybe because it's HUGE?

The Port Authority's website very clearly said that the north walkway was open today and the south walkway was closed. The Port Authority's website lied.

Incidentally, this photo is taken quite near the scene, during my first-ever drive across the GWB, where my sister pulled the car over in hysterics and IN TRAFFIC at the mouth of the bridge so that we could switch drivers because she was scared.

So, a slight backtrack and onto the south walkway. What you don't see in these photos are the cyclists. They were everywhere. So many of them. Go figure; it was a gorgeous day, and the GWB is the easiest (only?) way to get from Manhattan to the Palisades in NJ. There is great riding to be had in the Palisades, or at least so I've heard. There is also a lot of spandex cycling gear to be seen, if today is any indication.

It begins. .9m between the outer supports.

Note the beat up sign, inexplicably fenced in. We kept right.

The New Jersey side. Having the disdain for Jersey that can only be held by someone who has spent much of her life living in either NYC or Philly, I was impressed by how pretty it was and I kind of wished I was running that dirt trail down by te water.

And it was over! So quick and anti-climatic.

I guess I forgot to cut my d-tag off after last week's race. And I hate, hate that it's still pants weather even though it's nearly April.

The bridge was high, but overall not terrifically scary. (Although, my companion didn't care for the game I invented for us to play, which I named "cause of death." As in, "Eartquake on the bridge! What's our cause of death?" or, "Bridge collapses! You fall off! Car accident! Hit by a bike!" etc.)

The views weren't as spectacular as I expected.

The grade wasn't bad, either. In fact, it was barely noticeable. I haven't gotten the deets from the Garmin yet, but it was refreshing to be able to run somewhere flat and uninterrupted for 2m.

I'll do it again.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lazy end to a lazy week

Hello from out of town!  Briefly in DC to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  A quick trip, to catch up with an old friend while daydreaming about Emperor Shihuangdi and the Qin Dynasty and hopefully getting lots of cheesy tourist photos with the creepy and lifelike army.  I've brought my running clothes, and it would be nice to do one of the quintessential DC runs while I'm down here: either Rock Creek Park or along the Potomac or up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  The friend I'm staying with lives in Alexandria, though, so if I get out, it will likely be a local run.  Also, I'm only here for about 20 hours - if my running shoes stay in the suitcase, life goes on.  Also?  Frankly, years can pass, but I'm still freaked out about Chandra Levy, even if it's only in my head that I'm still a hot young thing.  I know I'm not the only woman who is paranoid about running alone.

So, anyway, recap of the week in running.  Basically, lazy lazy lazy.  I got out there, I did a long run, I didn't do a spin class, I did a hill run.  No speedwork, partly because my sister didn't set me up with a plan (DID YOU HEAR THAT, MANDY?) but mostly because my legs were still feeling the half.  On Thursday, running an easy 3 with my training partner (she's back!), I had some mild calf pain - likely residual soreness or shin splints, but I'm a baby when it comes to calf pain.  Given the two tibial stress fractures I've already had, and given that the blood thinners cause my bones to "leach calcium" (as my hematologist loves to remind me), I think it's okay and maybe even wise for me to be cautious.

Skipped Friday, too - slept in because they were predicting rain, then sat in my pyjamas tied to my desk working all day.  But!  I did make it over the GWB (more on that tomorrow).  Also?  Next week is another week.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I am a maniac. Please stop me.

What have I done?

A few days ago, I did something I probably shouldn't have.  Quietly, secretively, while I was all alone in the house and no one was watching.

I registered for the Chicago Marathon.

I honestly don't know why.  Because it's there?

I got an email that registration was about to close, I thought about it for a few hours, and I got pressured by the thrill of knowing I soon wouldn't be able to register.  I registered; literally 4 minutes later the race closed.

What have I done?

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm trying not to be sarcastic or mean

Okay, I'm not trying that hard.

I was teaching my students about the Battle of Marathon the other day (I love the Persians), which of course allowed me also to talk about Pheidippides and the origins of our sport.

As a preface to it, I asked if any of my students had ever run a marathon.  Several said yes.  Of course, further investigation revealed that these students had run, you know, 5k marathons.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I did not want to run on Tuesday

After staying up until an ungodly hour trying to get a project done, I forgot to unset my alarm.  Even worse, the alarm was on my phone, which was in another room.  I had to get up.  It had only been 6 hours - which, for me, is a miserable, miserable night of sleep.

Even more miserable?  It was not raining.  In fact, there was almost sort of sun.  One of the reasons I stayed up past 1 doing work was based on the weather report of 24 hours of rain.  I figured I wouldn't be running anyway, and I don't need as much sleep to just go to a spin class.  But, no!  Cruel, cruel world: I had no excuse not to run.

So, first run after the half marathon.  The nice thing about being slow is that I don't really have a "race" mode, which means that I don't seem to need as much rest after races as I could.  Maybe that's also because I don't push myself that hard.  Could be.

Despite my lethargy, I came to some realizations while I was out there last night.  Such as...:

Fact:  I started at the bottom of this hill, then I got to the top of it.  See those tiny cars down there?  I ran past them, half a mile earlier.  That's pretty cool.

Fact:  A lot of people in my neighborhood evidently like to smoke pot on the way home from work.  That is not cool.

Fact:  This course is less erratic than my Garmin's elevation profile shows.  It starts off with a very, very nice rolling downhill, which I flew down, and then picks up gradually over about a mile.  Then, it drops down again for a few blocks before about a mile of solid hill.

Fact:  That mile of hill sucks.  SUCKS!  It's punctuated by these terrible faux-crests, where you think you're at the top of the hill and you finally reach the peak and then you realize that that hill keeps going at a slightly lower incline.

This route used to defeat me, but yesterday it was no big deal.  Yes, I slowed down a fair bit (I love how the Garmin says I maxed out at a 2:54 minute/mile - bless you, Garmin).  But I ran the whole thing, minus one half block where I was so disheartened by a faux-crest that I slowed.  Per Garmin, my paces were not as inconsistent as I would have suspected.  (The route is on city streets, so the stop-and-go of the paces are about 30 blocks of crosswalks and streetlights.)

In fact, I felt so good after 3.5 that I strapped on my VFFs and took the dog for another .4 around the block.  Lovely night.

Fact:  There's more than a little truth to the old adage that you regret the runs you don't take.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

GWB and ME

I've been promising myself for sometime that I would run the George Washington Bridge.

Just like Mt. Washington, just like Pikes Peak, I feel this urge to do it, "Because it's there," to quote George Mallory. (You read it here first: I will not run up Mt. Everest. Ever.) (Um, and hopefully my athletic pursuits won't eventually lead directly to my death.)

I see its imposingness from my normal, everyday route - but I typically run under it. I've known that it's possible to run across it, and it's always been on the back of my to-do list for someday.

That day is soon! That day is NOW!

Frankly, I'm kind of scared. I've run the Brooklyn Bridge, but the pedestrian path on the Brooklyn Bridge is in the center of the bridge - maybe it obstructs the views some, but it also offers some protection. From what? I'm not so clumsy that I'm liable to trip and fall, flying over a guardrail into the river. But, by all accounts (and by "all accounts" I mean this one website I found that discusses running over it), the GWB is harrowing: high and windy and long.

The excuse reason has been the distance: it's about 2.5m from my apartment to the bridge. Tack on a mile across and back, and you have a run of at least 7m. Too short for a midweek run for me, at least lately.

Until... spring break hit! No work responsibilities = crazy running schedule. Finally!  That's right; you read it here first: next week?  I'm totally running that bridge.

This week's goals

I enjoyed having goals last week, even if I fell slightly short of achieving them. Having completely forgotten that I'd be running a half when I set my goals, I had told myself I'd do a long run - that would have been stupid to do right before the half. And I came up one run short, but I did make it to spinning and I was better about getting enough sleep.

I mean, accountability is part of why I'm doing this, right?  So, without further ado, this week's goals:
  • Run at least four times.  Again, including one speed session and one run that incorporates hills.  This will be tricky as our weather report is showing rain, rain, rain, rain, and rain all week and I'm a wuss.  I give myself permission to forfeit speed work if the track is wet (which doesn't prohibit fartleks, though).
  • One long run, ideally 10m.  This is tricky, too, because I'm headed on a mini-break out of town this weekend from Saturday morning through late Sunday night.  I either need to do my long run on Friday (possible), super early Saturday (as if!), or Sunday, while I'm out of town (that's possible - it would test my dedication, but it's possible).
  • At least one spin class.  I would say two, but - come on! - let's not go crazy here.
  • At least one weight session of some sort.  Ideally, I'd like to get back into a regular sit-up/push-up routine.  There's no reason why I shouldn't be in one; that's so basic and easy and takes no time.  But I'm leaving this pretty broad.  At very least, I'd like to use the captain's chair and the assisted pull-up machine, my two gym faves, each time I go to the gym to spin.

Monday, March 22, 2010


My second toenail, the one that got messed up at the half yesterday, is now oozing clear fluid from under the nail. There must have been a blister on the nailbed. I predict the nail will fall off by the end of the week. It's pretty gross.

In case you were wondering. (I did refrain from posting pictures.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NYC Half Marathon Report, or, My Garmin Goes Wonky

The short version: perfect weather (upper 40s at the start, low 60s at the finish with sun the whole way), finished in 2:27:36 (slower than my perfect-conditions/better-training goal, faster than my actual goal).

The longer version:
Last year, I paid my $75 and entered this race and made it to mile 8, barely, before hopping on the subway and going home.  This year, I was going to finish.

This race was off to an inauspicious start for me even before the gun went off.  I got a bad night of sweaty sleep, woke up 45 minutes earlier than I needed to and couldn't fall back asleep, and missed my bus.  The buses run infrequently enough to begin with on Sunday mornings, and I had no cash on me to take a cab (although there are never any cabs in my 'hood, anyway).  By the time I got to the start I was a) freezing cold and b) later than I'd wanted.  Luckily, I was still there 20 minutes before the starting gun went off.

Unluckily, I was in the second-to-last corral.  The 7:35 start time came and went, and I was still standing at 105th St (the start was half a mile up at 95 St.).  7:45 came and went, and we could sort of see some movement ahead, but no forward push.  By the time I crossed the start line, 17 minutes had passed from the start.  If there were any announcements, or the Star Spangled Banner, we couldn't hear it.

I won't waste my time or yours complaining about the NYRR corral system.  Every large race has to have one, I get that.  And, short of making everyone run a qualifying race, there are going to be people out of place.  So partly I'm tired of all of those out of place people being ahead of me, but mostly I'm tired of every type-A New Yorker who pushes themselves to an 8 or 9 minute pace being ahead of me.  Did I say "tired" when I meant "jealous"?  Same thing.  I'm definitely tired of starting at the end of the corrals, when the corrals are so long and thin that it barely even feels like I'm in the same race as the front of the pack.

The course was 1.5 loops of Central Park, a jaunt through Times Square, and then a run down the west side of the island, along the river, for a finish in lower Manhattan.  First up: the park.  On one hand, it's gorgeous for running.  On the other hand, it's hilly as all get out, it's crowded, there are no spectators, and I'm tired of racing it.  The first few miles were fine as I pushed past a lot of people who'd started ahead of me.  There was a miserable spot - more like a miserable mile - at 2m when the elites were leaving the park.  We normal runners were stretched out over the entirety of the path, feeling fresh from the start line, and with very little warning the lead car had to get us out of the way.  Runners were dodging the bikes and trucks and it was kind of a cluster.  The road is narrow at that point, so there was a lot of jostling and elbowing and general frustration.  (I have trouble with NYRR races: more than anywhere else I've run, they seem to have some bad problems with people not understanding race etiquette.  Today it was walkers two or three abreast in the middle of the road.)  The frustration got worse about half a mile later, when the volunteers started yelling at us to move to the opposite side of the road.

The second half of the park was uneventful.  Hilly, yes, and I got passed by the Prospect Park racewalker again.  I said hi to him and thanked him for helping me get through the last few miles of that race.  He was very nice, but he did add that his 10m time this year was 4 minutes slower than last year.  Our conversation was cut short by the icy-cold dread that coursed through my veins when I saw a line of runners in front of me, climbing a hill that looked both steep and never-ending.  I think I can run Mt. Washington when Central Park intimidates me?  I snapped out of it and kept running.

Bizarrely, I ended up carrying a water bottle, a normal Poland Spring bottle I'd grabbed out of the fridge to drink at the start line, in my hand for the whole race.  Usually I like water stations for breaking up the monotony of the race and for forcing walk breaks, but today I relished the fact that I could avoid the water station insanity and just stop once every two or three for a refill.  I also stopped twice for electrolytes - once ca. 6m (way early for me!) to eat my Shot Blocks, and again around mile 9 when they were giving out Power Gel.  I didn't take any Gatorade, and after my rough night, I'm not too surprised by that.

My ideal pace would have been 10:41 (for 2:20).  Also acceptable was anything less than 11:27 (for 2:30).  For the first time, I was counting on my Garmin to get me through my run.  Bad, bad mistake.  Each of my first miles on the Garmin came up about .1-.2m before the NYRR signs.  Who was right?  Who was wrong?  Well, I have a hunch: my Garmin says that my overall mileage was 13.41 for the day, so I'm going with the NYRR.

Plus, the splits also incriminate the Garmin:  10:25, 10:00, 10:14, 10:54, 10:30, 11:11, 11:15, 11:15, 8:22, 13:31 (I would believe them averaged out for 10:58s for both), 11:49, 12:05, 11:46, 4:17.  I may have been running faster in the beginning, but I think it's safe to distribute that "extra" .3 from the end over the first few miles.  I wasn't running that fast.

I had noticed that one of my toes was slightly painful during the race, and when I got home and peeled off my shoes, my toenail is purple.  I'll be watching for that to fall off over the next few days.  Might be time for another trip to the podiatrist.  It could have been worse - I saw three different people carted away by ambulances.  Hopefully they're all feeling better now...

Overall, I feel good about the race.  Not great - I won't be able to say I feel great until I'm back at my pre-illness racing times.  But I feel content about it.  I was pretty beat at the end, which suggests to me that I put in a good effort.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

NYC Half jitters

I hope my race goes well tomorrow.  I'm actually quite nervous about it.

I've had a little bit of inconsistent training the past few weeks, although I feel that (in spite of that) I'm in a fairly good place to finish this race and not be too embarrassed by my performance.  It doesn't hurt that the predicted weather is absolutely gorgeous: high 40s at the start, getting up into the low 60s (although likely I'll be done before the day's highs are reached).

Although I've run a whole bunch of races over the past few months, I realized that I haven't actually run a large one that I cared about in ages.  It's been literally years since I've felt any substantial prerace anxiety.  Little things make a difference - I haven't done the ritual laying out of the clothes the night before, the planning of my prerace meal, or the pinning my bib on in advance.  I realized this morning that I know that one of my pairs of Asics gives me blisters, but I can't even remember which pair.  I best figure that out before mile 7 or 8 tomorrow.

I guess my chill attitude is a good thing, but I kind of miss the butterflies.  I don't think it's so much that I've just relaxed about racing as it is that I haven't done a race in years in which I'd set strong goals and trained hard.  That's my next step over the next few months.

This morning was a short jaunt to the track to help my partner train for a work-related fitness test (more on that later).  He did a strenuous track workout but I only did a couple of miles and some stretching, with the exception of one lap during which I paced him.  My only goal tomorrow is to finish.  Okay, and to finish in less than 2:30 if conditions permit.  If they don't permit, I can blame it on the 400m I sprinted today, right?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slow DOES NOT EQUAL inexperienced!

So.  Here we go again.  One of my favorite rants.

Let me say it again: I am a slow runner.  I have been running, with some consistency, for more than a decade.  I have completed 5 marathons, with two under 5 hours, one right near it (5:07), and two okay now I'm trying for the written equivalent of mumbling to avoid telling you that the other two were, um, slow.

An 11 minute mile is fine by me.  Beating my 9 year old 5k PR of 25:40 would be dreamy.  Qualifying for Boston?  I'd probably pay to have my time engraved on my medal, or maybe even invest in one of those shadowboxes to show off my bib and medal and my finisher's photo...  for starters.  It would likely also involve a tattoo.  Probably on my face.

Call me a plodder if you must; I prefer "runner."  The point being, I'm an experienced plodder/jogger/runner.  I've raced all distances through the marathon.  I've run on trails and tracks and roads and vacations and treadmills and in foreign countries in a skirt.  I've used camelbaks and handheld water bottles and Fuel Belts and Gu and Gatorade and Ultima.  And I'm okay with my pace.  If I get faster, I would be okay with that, too, but I know that I'm pushing myself and challenging myself by running as-is and I don't need speed to prove that to me.

So why, then, is the assumption that because I'm slow I must just be beginning?  At the Run Club the other night, we were divided into three groups: "Fast," "Experienced Runners," and "Maybe people who are just starting out or might be walking for some of it."  My group and our 10:30 pace got the coaches' attention as they encouraged us with things like, "You guys are looking great, you can totally do this, it will only get easier!" said in an earnest voice.  At the end, when I asked what to expect from future runs, I was told that I would probably find myself improving, for sure - when all I was wondering was whether they would be tempo/interval/fartlek runs or what.  Mind you, the coaches were nothing but encouraging and nice and meant no condescension by this.  But this attitude of "slow=inexperienced" is, in my experience, endemic to the running community.  And I'm over it already!  Enough!

True story: lining up at the start of the Chicago Marathon with the 5:30 pace group last year, the pace leader told us that her plan was to Gallowalk.  Many of the first-timers gathered around her were clearly distraught to hear that; they'd trained to run, albeit slowly.  In response, the pace leader said, "I heard a rumor that one of the 5:45 leaders was thinking about actually running the whole thing.  Honestly, I don't even know how you could run that slow if you tried!"

Perhaps not a coincidence, today I bought a headband at the NYC Half Marathon expo that reads, "Slow is the new fast."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh, Run, how I needed you...

(Lululemon gave me a beer after the run.  I'm a cheap date; now I love them.  It was a Molson Canadian.)

Yesterday was one of those days, and it's been one of those weeks.  Already.  And yesterday was only Wednesday.

When I left my office to head to the Lululemon Run Club, it went from being one of those days (in a bad sense) to one of those days (in a good sense).  How gorgeous a day!  And I was ready, ready for one of those transcendent runs where the sun shines just so, where the temperature is just absolutely perfect and neither too hot nor too cold, and you feel weightless as though your normal pace is suddenly the speed of light and you could just run forever and ever and ever and nothing bad can happen to you as long as you just keep running and there are no problems in the world and you'll never feel pain.*  I needed that.  I could have had that.

Alas, it was not to be.  I didn't know what to expect of the Run Club, but I did expect to run.  And we did - sort of.  We ran from the store to the park, where the night's run was explained to us: 4 10 minute runs, with exercising in the middle.  So 10 minutes running, 1 minute sit-ups.  10 minutes running, 1 minute pushups.  10 minutes running, 1 minute squats.  10 minutes running, 1 minute plank pose.  Um...  that's kind of not what I signed on for.

But I maintained a positive attitude, even when the 1 minute breaks were actually like 3-5 minutes and even when the group decided to bail on the final 10 minute set and even, still, when we spent 10 minutes cooling down with stretches afterward (I'm in the no-stretching unless injury warrants it running camp).  I didn't need/want the calisthenics breaks in the middle, but, hey, I did more situps/pushups today than I would have otherwise.  And, with the running to/from the store, it was just over a 4m run, so certainly not a waste of time.

I will probably go back.  The timing works, the location is good, and the people were nice.  I can't say definitely, because I'm not sure who the program is geared for - I rather suspect it's geared for getting non-runners into shape for the summer.  We got a lecture on taking it easy the day after our run and eating a lot of protein and icing our sore muscles.  After 4 miles.  If nothing else, it may not work out with my training - I asked if we could know what the format of the runs would be in advance, and she said that they usually email us all the day/night before.  (In other words, I won't know until that day whether it will be a steady-state run, a fun run, a speed workout, etc.)

Also, I'm mixed on the mid-run exercise breaks.  Too much standing around for me.  Anyone have any thoughts?

*Please, no one mention the Tarahumara now?  Yeah, I read the book.  Yeah, I bought the shoes.  But aren't those poor Indians played out yet?  Shouldn't they be running off into oblivion by now?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh, dear... what have I done?

Today, I registered for the Pikes Peak Ascent (Wave 2).
Am I totally insane?  Wait - don't answer that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lululemon, I don't Lololove you

Tomorrow, I'm breaking a longstanding ban on Lululemon and joining them for their running club.

Technically, I broke that ban last weekend when I bought some arm warmers.  You see, they have thumb holes and foldover mittens on their arm warmers...  It's so creative! and practical! and smart!  As I was purchasing the arm warmers, the sales associate told me about the run club and I was hooked.  I've been looking for a group to run with and the timing works for me.  I like their positive attitude toward fitness (even if I'm a little skeeved out by how often their adorers mention how great their butts look in the pants as their number one justification for $90 yoga pants - FITNESS IS NOT JUST ABOUT LOOKING GOOD WHILE SWEATING, LADIES).

What I don't like, and what was behind my longstanding ban, is their company founder.  Companies like Lululemon or American Apparel are cults of personality that can't be disassociated from their founders.  That means that if you have a problem with their founders - like, say, if you think it is inexcusable that the founder of American Apparel masturbated throughout his interview with Jane magazine and has been brought up several times on sexual harassment charges, it tarnishes your idea of the company.

With Lululemon, the company founder is a vocal advocate of child labor.  I don't have a giant problem with that, honestly, but I do have a problem with the origin of their name: Chip Wilson had every intention of expanding his company into the Asian market and argued that the repetition of the rolling, liquid consonant L in the name would be a marketing ploy.  Or, as he put it (and I quote): "It's funny to watch them [the Japanese] try and say it."

Not okay, dude, not okay.  It's offensive to your Asian clients, relies on the consumer's ignorance of the company's origins, and is outright racist.  As far as I'm concerned.

So, why am I trying their running club tomorrow?  I can't given a satisfying answer to that without sounding like someone who backs down from her principles.  Their store is close to my office, the timing works, and I want to run in the park in a group.  Um, and I've evidently unprincipled.  So it goes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How good could I actually be?

A recent comment on my McMillan post got me thinking about challenging myself.  The last time I ran (as opposed to "finished") a marathon, I trained hard.  I incorporated speedwork and multiple 20m runs and tempo runs.  I finished strong, I finished at my (modest) goal, and I felt good about it.

But, for most of my running career past and present, I've used excuses for not pushing myself very hard.  Using Hal Higdon's novice training programs instead of intermediate.  Holding back during races.  Taking days off of running for no good reason, other than vague "I'm tired" feelings  (I stand behind skipping my run last Friday: Snowicane 2 made even walking on my street treacherous).

What would happen if I really pushed myself?  Is this something I want to do?

Having just said that, I'm now going to revert back to the excuses: I need to lose some weight before I can be a better runner.  I have too much going on at work/school to dedicate myself to running as more than a pastime.  I don't want to risk injury, and I've gotten stress fractures each time I've pushed myself.  These things are all true, but I do see a time (this fall?) when there shouldn't be as many obstacles in front of me.

Still...  What would happen if I did dedicate myself?  What could I achieve?  Am I afraid of failure?  Do I lack the willpower?  Is it okay to just keep on as a mediocre runner, or should I aspire higher?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When it's cold and rainy out

I'm sitting in my kitchen, in my pyjamas, holding a glass of tea and listening to the wind whip my building. The rain seems intermittent, or at least it pales compared to the wind.  The weather channel tells me it's in the 40s out, so today is one of those days.  A miserable, bone-chillingly cold day, the sort that seems to have been put in our lives to remind us to take a break now and then.  Unfortunately, New Yorkers usually ignore these signals and just try to move on with their day, only inconvenienced - and I'm no exception.  Busy day ahead of me, with lots of running around.

Enough musings.  Ever since I got that cold, I've been slacking.  That's why I'm setting goals for myself this week.

This week, I will...

  • Run 4 times.  
    • At least one of these will be a long run, hopefully of 10m.  (If I only do 9, I won't lose sleep.)  Sunday would be a good day for this, but Sunday is supposed to be brutal weather.
    • One will be speedwork, or at least an interval run of some sort.  I'm targeting Thursday.
    • One will involve hills - probably a hilly route rather than repeats, depending on the speedwork.  Tuesday is the day, assuming the long run hasn't been postponed.
    • One will be whatever I want it to.  Yay, Friday! Or Saturday!
  • Go to at least one spinning class.  This means either giving up my lazy Tuesday nights or calling ahead to reserve a bike for Thursday night.
  • Get more than 6 hours of sleep a night, on average.  If I prepare my classes in advance, I can avoid staying up until 2am writing my lectures.  I will do this.

When I write it out like that, it doesn't seem so hard.  Ultimately these are modest goals.  I'm not going to dwell on what hasn't worked for me in the past few weeks, I'm just going to pick up and move on.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who needs a Garmin?

When the police leave their speed checkers next to the running path?

Also?  I totally swear it was reading "6" (and briefly even 7!) before I stopped to take a picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The good, the bad, and the... dizzy?

Speedwork, my dear friend!  I'm back in it!  Sort of.  This is the story of a speed workout that almost didn't happen (and wasn't very speedy when it did).

Last night, after yet another impossibly long day of work, I bagged on the gym and had a beer before watching Law and Order and going to bed.  I got the bright idea that I should do some speed work this morning, so I texted my sister for a workout, woke her up, and got the following text:
1 mile warm up, 12 laps of alternating each lap w 5k pace and the next lap marathon pace, 1 mile cool down
You might point out that my sister is not the best person to get track advice from right now, being as she's walking with a limp due to the large blood blister on the bottom of her foot that she got from running on the track barefoot yesterday.  You would be right.  Anyway...

I stumbled out of bed this morning when my alarm went off around 7.  That's not a figure of speech - I literally stumbled because my head was spinning so badly it threw off my balance.  I made it as far as the bathroom before returning to bed for another fitful hour of sleep, after which I was able to get up and move slowly.  Caffeine didn't fix it, ginger didn't fix it, and the only thing that seemed to help was neck rolls and massage.  This is not a common phenomenon for me by any means and I have no idea what caused it, except for a hunch that I slept badly (and I had a sore neck and shoulders).

Still, I hit the track, figuring I would either loosen up while there or still feel sick and head home early, no harm no foul.  It was kind of neither.  Instead, it was a mediocre, off-goal workout during which I felt only sort of off-kilter.

My target paces were 2:27 for the 5k quarters and 2:51 for the marathon splits (using McMillan predictions for my 5k and marathon paces).  Aside from a superfast first two and two rest laps that I walked, I was fairly close.  My splits were: 2:13, 2:35, 2:34, 2:50, 2:31, 4:22, 2:29, 2:48, 2:34, 2:47, 2:32, 4:22.

As much as this was sort of a dead loss, I'm excited to be back on the track.  I need to do this right now to get a feel for the different paces again and to push myself.  Today sucked; not only did I have no clue what the paces should feel like, but my legs were lead and my lungs were heavy and there was a terrific headwind sweeping down one length of the track.  I only got that adrenaline-filled feeling of power once or twice and it was fleeting.  Usually speedwork, even slowly, makes me feel superawesome.

After a long meeting at work tonight, I'm switching to scotch.  And a new pillow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bear Mountain Elevation Chart

Now that's not too bad, is it?

Maybe it's my time spent staring at the Mt. Washington Road Race elevation chart ("just one hill!"), but this honestly isn't that bad, comparatively.  Yes, they're trail miles.  Yes, that's a lot of up and down.  But at the same time, it's really only about 3-4 bad uphill miles with a lot of downhill.  And the overall elevation change is only a difference of ~700ft....  Just over, and over, and over again.

Yeah, a hill workout on the 'mill tonight is in order.  Gulp.

My running partner is back!

I don't always record for you which runs I've done with her and which without, but the past few weeks have been without.  Without both her, and consistent running.  She's a busy one and always emails me from her blackberry, so her emails are often short and completely devoid of tone.  I figured from her last few emails that she was giving me the slow blow-off, and after almost two weeks of not having heard from her, I took a hint.

I was wrong!  She emailed last night and we're on.  Yay!  Treadmill run tonight and then pick it back up in Central Park hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Running makes me hot: this is why I'm hot

I'm hot 'cause I'm fly; you ain't 'cause you not.

In my neighborhood, it's a regular occurrence that men will sometimes, well, notice me as I run.

It ranges from flattering comments of admiration - which I don't mind - to disturbingly lechy stares.

I know I'm not alone in experiencing this.  And I'm not saying this to be at all boastful.  Trust me, I would not leer at me on the street when there are so many more fly girls out in my 'hood.  But I have some questions about this.

First of all, why me?  Is it just because I'm there, or because I'm typically in a short skirt and moving?

And second of all, what do they expect will happen?  Do they mean it just as a one-off compliment, or is there any hope that I'll be like, "Hm, now that you've leered, I am kind of in the mood..."?  Is this a call to action, or is it just put out there with no hope of follow-up?

Sadly I'm used to objectification.  The area of the Middle East where I lived, I stuck out like a sore thumb for my light skin and light hair.  A sore thumb, but also a hugely desirable, insanely attractive sore thumb.  Almost every time I left the house in my oh-so revealing t-shirts and capri pants (the ankle! what scandal!), I was subjected to any number of propositions and comments and gestures.  This drove some women absolutely crazy - it was sad to watch them buy baggier and baggier clothes and intentionally turn into frumpy, bland people to avoid the harassment.

I was on the other end of the spectrum.  I grew to love it.  Every time I left the house I was met with affirmation of my attractiveness.  Running in New York, particularly up in my neighborhood, is the closest I've come to that.  Often it's creepy attention, for sure, but when you get the perfect combination of running endorphins mixed with just the right flattering compliment, you can really feel like $1,000,000.

Am I alone here?  How do other people handle it?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stupid, stupid Tracy

I was in the process of preparing this long post last night before bed about New Orleans when the alarm on my cell phone went off, alerting me that it was time to take my coumadin.  Problem is, it turns out that this is the first time in 2 years of being on the stupid drug that I didn't have my coumadin with me.

After hysterically ransacking my suitcase, I realized that the pills are still in New York.  Several calls to my mom and a 24 hour pharmacy later, I acknowledged that I would have to spend this morning trying either to track down a new prescription or to get my pharmacy to transfer my prescription here.  A hectic morning later, the nice people of Rite-Aid in New Orleans figured out a way to sell me 4 pills.

This took hours, and when combined with necessary pre-wedding socializing meant that the long run couldn't happen today.  So, tomorrow or Tuesday for it.  Stay tuned.

I am an idiot.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Big Easy

Can you imagine living in a place where hotel elevators need signs like this?

I'm out of town for the weekend and feeling much improved.

I often read rave reviews about running out of town: new sights! new routes! revitalize your running!  Something must be wrong with me, because I do not agree with this.  New routes are great, sure, but the miles seem to creeeeep by when I'm out of town and my runs feel as though they take forever.  I know that were I to attempt one of those "just see where the run takes me" jauns, I would be back in my hotel in 10 minutes, flat.

But not today.  I had been tipped off by a local friend that the thing to do was to run down the trolley tracks on St. Charles Ave., where you could travel for miles of great running.  I only wanted to do a short run, an "Are you there legs? It's me, Tracy" sort of wake-up run in preparation for attempting a long run tomorrow.   I'm hoping to jump right back into my training schedule, but I'm nervous about 10m tomorrow.  My run today was my first in well over a week, so I'm just going to head out tomorrow and see how it goes.

Back to today's run.  It started most inauspiciously, hours before I even put my shoes on.  We had an 8am flight this morning, which meant waking up at 5am to get ready for the 6am bus to the airport.  Combined with a 1am bedtime, I was tired.  I couldn't sleep on the flight because, well, I can't sleep on planes (and Blake Lively was on my flight!).  We got here to find that we could not get an early checkin at our hotel room, meaning we had 4 hours to kill, so we headed out to get a bite to eat and some coffee.  By 2pm we were in the room and taking an amazing, wonderful 3 hour nap.  When I got up, it was already 5pm and the sun was beginning to set.

I don't like to run after dark.  Technically that's not true: I do like how the absence of light changes and amplifies the physical sensation of running (is that just me?).  I feel more vibrant and alive in the fading light.  But, I also feel less safe, and in an uncertain city it's not a risk I like taking.  Thus the short run.  On top of that, my Garmin could not pick up any satellites.  It took more than 10 minutes to get an initial signal, and the signal kept dropping off for the first half or so miles.  Which meant an incessant and obnoxious beeping because I don't know how to set my watch to not do that.  I was ready to throw the thing in the lake - which I was luckily not near.

Still, the run was glorious.  About a mile in the GPS problems let up and I realized that there were enough people out to make the route perfectly safe.  It was lovely and I only had one near miss getting hit by a trolley car.  And running in shorts and a t-shirt!  Glorious!  It will be spring in New York soon enough and then soon after I can start bitching about the heat, but until then, this was beautiful.

Happy evening to you, too.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Road to Recovery

A journey of a thousand miles begins with putting your shoes on and leaving the house.

Those savvy among you may notice that I've added a new race to the sidebar: the Soldier Field 10m.  Evidently this is the spring of the 10m race for me, with the one a few weeks back, Broad Street at the beginning of May, and then Soldier Field to end the month of May.  Bring it!

Assuming, that is, that I ever kick this cold.  I got so fed up this morning that I went out and went to a spinning class.  The cold has stayed almost completely in my head, so although I'm not over it, I didn't feel like it was dangerous to go out.  I didn't leave the house at all yesterday, so I'm quite stir crazy.  Even if it was miserable, I needed something.  When I expected that the weather would be in the 40s, I had hoped it was a run.  Instead I got 30s with snow flurries, so I went to the gym.  If I'm still holding strong in a few hours, I may try a short run this afternoon.  The thought of running in a skirt makes me extremely giddy after this snowy, snowy winter.

Part of the joy of coumadin is the limitations it places on what other drugs you can take.  Advil: off the table.  Antibiotics: only with caution.  Even though I see my doctor nearly every week, it still gets old having to call her to find out if I can take a Sudafed.  So, I've foregone cold medicine this time around.  The placebo effect of EmergenC is actually significant.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Still sick. I assume you don't want details.

Yeah, I'm under the weather.  Last night I kept it together enough to work all day, then came home and sat on the couch for hours watching mindless tv, blowing my nose, and feeling sorry for myself and how miserable I felt.

So, today I'm doing the logical thing and responding to my inability to run by thinking about registering for another race: the Soldier Field 10m.  Anyone done this race before?  Most specifically, I'm curious if it fills up, and when.  I have a lot going on in May and I'm not positive I can make it to Chicago for that date, so I have to decide whether to register and gamble on being able to make it, or wait until I'm sure I can make it and gamble on whether the race might close early.

I would like to try to go to the gym later this evening, even if just to do the recumbent bike or something that gets me moving, but I'm torn.  If I saw someone in my condition at the gym, I would be very angry with them for threatening the health of other gym goers.  What do you think?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cough. Sneeze. Complain. Repeat.

Yesterday, I quickly progressed from bad to worse.  The cold is making itself at home in my body, adamantly against my wishes.

Until further notice I am doing very little that doesn't involve watery eyes, runny noses, and what I suspect might be the upper limit of how much EmergenC one can take before overdosing.  So, I didn't go to spinning class last night and I'm certainly not doing anything besides the minimum requirements of my job today.

And eating ice cream.  That I'll do.  It's "feed a cold," right?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

GWB and ME

I've been promising myself for sometime that I would run the George Washington Bridge.

Just like Mt. Washington, just like Pikes Peak, I feel this urge to do it, "Because it's there," to quote George Mallory. (You read it here first: I will not run up Mt. Everest. Ever.) (Um, and hopefully my athletic pursuits won't eventually lead directly to my death.)

I see its imposingness from my normal, everyday route - but I typically run under it. I've known that it's possible to run across it, and it's always been on the back of my to-do list for someday.

That day is soon! That day is NOW!

Frankly, I'm kind of scared. I've run the Brooklyn Bridge, but the pedestrian path on the Brooklyn Bridge is in the center of the bridge - maybe it obstructs the views some, but it also offers some protection. From what? I'm not so clumsy that I'm liable to trip and fall, flying over a guardrail into the river. But, by all accounts (and by "all accounts" I mean this one website I found that discusses running over it), the GWB is harrowing: high and windy and long.

The excuse reason has been the distance: it's about 2.5m from my apartment to the bridge. Tack on a mile across and back, and you have a run of at least 7m. Too short for a midweek run for me, at least lately.

Until... spring break hit! No work responsibilities = crazy running schedule. Finally!  That's right; next week.  I'm totally doing it.  You read it here first.

No run today

I know I'm being lame, and I really do want to get outside.  It's 42 degrees right now, the sun is shining, and there is STILL something like 6 inches of snow on the ground!  But the paths are finally all cleared!  Glorious running weather!

But I woke up this morning way too congested.  I've felt the cold growing the last few days, but I've chosen to ignore it.  I've felt the cloudy-headedness sink in, I've experienced the icky sensation of waking up with more and more congestion each morning, and then today is the first morning that it's actually negatively affecting my breathing - in addition to the congestion, there's a cough and sneezing and runny eyes.  A bad cold/flu took over my household last week, but I thought that zinc and willpower would keep it from affecting me.  Ha ha.

It hasn't fully taken over yet, but it's already affecting me.  I know what happens when I run on these days: I have no energy.  It's hard.  I get frustrated.  I get upset.  I get no good exercise out of it.  If it's even safe to run today - I'm quite lightheaded.

Do you have any suggestions, lest this continue for another day?  It's hard to know where to find the line between mildly sick (which running might help) or actually sick (which running might make worse).  How do you decide?

I think I'm going to try to go to a spinning class tonight, for starters, unless I feel much worse.  At least then I'll be moving for a full hour, and I can put in as much or as little effort I'm capable of.