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"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

GUEST BLOG!!! My sister speaks

Tracy here: this is PART ONE. My sister emailed me enough material that I'm going to split it up into a couple of days' worth of blogging so that I don't have to keep talking about running when I'm not doing it.  Complete with a picture of me and my sister looking NOT AT ALL like tourists in Egypt!

Now, my sister.  She's too modest to talk up her credentials, but she's run like a million marathons (okay dozens), thousands of ultras (okay several) and is super fast.  She's training for the CIM right now, and if you don't believe that she's a superstar, she often can be found at major marathons pacing the 3:30 group to success.

Hi, I am Tracy's sister and unassuming coach.  Pseudo-coach, whatever you want to call it since I am not yet certified!  I have some very random comments which may or may not have been inspired by Tracy's training questions/concerns or comments from her blog readers.  Here goes!

On Mileage:

How much should you run in training for a marathon?

For new runners, follow a program like Hal Higdon's Novice Marathon Training Program.  Do not question it, do not add miles nor skip too many runs.  Run your first marathon and see how it goes and then you can start trying a different program. For more experienced marathoners like Tracy (she ran her first marathon 10 years ago!!) you know your body and what you can handle.  Most coaches (including pseudo-coaches like myself) recommend running as much as your body can handle.

How much can you handle?  Unfortunately you can only figure this out through trial and error. The guidelines are to increase your mileage gradually... very gradually.  For example, I started my first marathon training program (11 or so years ago) peaking at 40 miles per week.  I thought that was a lot.  Over the past 11 years I very gradually increased to a high now of about 105 miles per week.  Seems like a lot, well, it is.  I have found my body can handle it.  I race a lot better on high mileage than I do lower mileage.  I don't have kids, just a full time job and I am a full time grad student.

Then take Tracy.  She is prone to stress fractures.  She has not suffered any other major injuries, but she has found through trial and error that she can handle about 40 miles per week when she is healthy. That is the key, to stay healthy.  So, over the next 6 weeks I will try to gradually increase her mileage from about 30 (where she is now once her tibial tendinitis heals) to about maybe 45 miles, depending on her injury status.  She won't run 45 miles for very many weeks, but just enough for her body to get used to the mileage and pounding necessary to finish the marathon in her goal time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes on my health (not my legs this time!)

First off, Deena Kastor's not going to be running the marathon this November because she's pregnant.  Who knew?  I can't help but read that article and wonder if maybe the baby was an unexpected blessing.  None of my business.  Good for her, and this brings me THAT MUCH closer to winning.  Ha ha.  My hopes are on Shalane Flanagan. 

Second off, everyone had good long runs this weekend.  Except me.  Because I'm not running.  I hate to call out another blogger publicly, but I am freaking JEALOUS of Mrs. Duffy.  I kept waiting for that corner-turning point, and I was sensing it, and then I stopped running before I got there.  

So, my health: You know what makes me sad?  I miss spinach.  That makes me sad.  I'm mostly down with the fact that I have to monitor (effectively limit) my Vitamin K intake because of my blood thinners, but every now and then I see someone with a giant spinach salad - or, yum, cooked spinach with BACON - and I get annoyed.  Because I want it.  Because I love spinach.

In the grocery store the other day, I actually heard myself say, "I would rather die than not eat spinach."  Melodrama much?

If the recently approved generic lovenox means lower prices, I will give myself shots of blood thinners twice a day so that I can eat spinach again.  Then I could also have babies, which I can't do on coumadin.  But I'm not so much into the whole baby thing.

While I'm on my health, my iron levels are up again.  I've taken my iron pills consistently for the past few months and my ferritin is above 100!  (It dipped down into the single digits once, hovered in the teens for a while, and then went up into the low 30s for a brief time.)  So I'm iron-fine!  Just in time for foot strike hemolysis to pound the iron out through the soles of my feet...  Once I start running again, that is.

Yeah.  I promise I'll talk about running again soon.  Maybe even tomorrow... when I have a special treat for you: my sister/coach guest blogs!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stretching. In other words, PT update

I'm not going to recap what I did this week because I didn't run.  Okay, I ran 10m at that race, but basically I didn't run.  Instead, by request from yesterday, I'll share with you the stretches I'm supposed to be doing twice a day.

The physical therapist said, "This routine should take you about 20 minutes to do.  But you're not running now, so it should be easy to find that time!"  I swear he then cackled maniacally.  He also said, "This is crazy.  You've been running ten years and you don't stretch?" (he said that a few times).  I guess Mrs. Duffy's comment yesterday was right on, too - it is amazing that I've come this far.  But, you know, a few marathons in and you start to think you're impervious to injuries from not stretching.

Anyway... here it is, my new stretching routine.  To make it easier to conceptualize, I've crudely attached my disgruntled head to each of the poses so you can envision me doing them (I do not wear sunglasses while stretching; it was the only appropriate photo I had since I have a giant nose and avoid having my photo take in profile).  I'm having trouble with the hip/knee stretch - somehow I find it hard to make that one work.  The others are easy and actually kind of feel good.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can I tell you a secret?

Well, I learned how to stretch yesterday at PT after the therapist told me that I failed my flexibility test "miserably."  While he was having me bend and contort, I kept hearing these noises from him: "Oh, WOW," "Oooh!," "Oh, yeah, that's bad..."  You get the drift.  Anyway...  I have stretching exercises to do.  

In the meantime, here's a funny comic for you:
And here's my secret.  Shhhh.... don't tell anyone.

I'm tired of the marathon.  Already.

I'm excited about MY marathon, yes.  But I'm tired of marathon updates on facebook and twitter and in the news and it feels like I'm just being completely bombarded by marathon overload and I'm so over it!

I'm being a bitter person by not allowing my friends/acquaintances their first-time marathon excitement because I'm so jaded.  And of course, you can probably guess that my jaded-ness comes at least partly out of nerves.  And largely out of this stupid rest I'm taking.  I didn't need to tell you that, did I?

I know I'll get excited once the subway billboards come up and I have to start making actual arrangements.  But in the meantime, don't be shocked if I'm looking at you with boredom when you talk about which gels you prefer, or if I'm rolling my eyes privately as I'm reading about how excited someone was when they did their first EVER!!! 10 or 12 or 18 mile run.  I want to be excited and not jaded but I'm too scared about my own race to get rid of my stupid "yeah, been there, done that" bravado.

Hmm... good blog idea: which gels I prefer!  Because it's novel when I do it, and annoying when others do.  Right?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NYCM and... a concert?

A few weeks ago, the NYRR emailed those of us who are registered for the NYCM to ask our feelings on a race weekend concert.

Now, I have some thoughts on this.  The race is already enough of a festival; do we really need a concert?  Then again, there's no reason why I have to go to one, anyway, so who cares?

But, then I read further through the email, and got to this, the proposed list of bands:

John Mayer's a runner!
And a d-bag.
-Lenny Kravitz
-John Mayer
-LCD Soundsystem
-Roger Waters
-Cheap Trick
-Al Green

I find this list absolutely fascinating.  These are the bands they think we as runners will like.  These are the musicians they think we want to hear.  Or, perhaps more accurately, these are the bands that might be available and within their price range that someone in their office thought would work.  Still, it's so interesting to me.  You can get absolutely no sense from this list of who the target person is that these bands are all supposed to appeal to.  Except that it's not yours truly.

Also, wish me luck: physical therapy at 4:15 this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Battle of Brooklyn 10m Race Report

You're invited! But I have no beer.
Yeah, I kind of bluffed yesterday when I said I was taking my doctor's advice about not running seriously. But I will start taking it seriously.  I'll start... today.

So I kind of did run Sunday morning's Battle of Brooklyn 10m race.  I felt like my entire marathon effort would collapse if I didn't get some sort of double-digit mileage in before taking a break.  I was registered, I had the t-shirt already, and when my friend Kate called Saturday night saying she wanted to do the race, I had company for the 75 minute subway trek to Brooklyn.  How could I resist?

It wasn't my best race.  In fact, it was ten whole minutes slower - one minute per mile - than I ran the same course back in February (in better conditions, admittedly, but not that much better).  In other words, it was demoralizing.

That's been an ongoing theme of mine lately, though, hasn't it?  I came into training feeling strong, and now I feel broken.  (Cue sad, pathetic music.)  But no more.  This is where I turn it up and come back stronger than ever.

JUST LIKE ROCKY BEAT IVAN DRAGO, I WILL BEAT THE NYCM.  Anyone want me to pull them around Central Park in a sled?  Next snowstorm, man, harness me up.  (I would like to find a gym with one of those climbing machine things, though. And if I end up looking like Dolph Lundgren at the end, that's cool.  Well, like the girl version of him.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Diagnosis: wuss

I hate you, hate you, HATE
YOU!!! and your partner,
Another Monday where a race report should be and I have nothing to offer.*

I went to the doctor on Thursday, and she said I have "medial tibial stress syndrome," which if I'm not careful will develop into a "medial tibial stress reaction," which left untreated will turn into a stress fracture.  I believe if I read between the lines well enough that all of these big words translate to "you are a baby who can't handle shin splints."

She ordered two weeks off of running (but I can elliptical - for what it's worth, ha ha - and bike) with PT two times a week so I can learn how to stretch and strengthen.  She was trying to assess my range of motion and kept saying, "Your calves are SO tight!  Seriously!  Too tight!"  (It was actually kind of funny, because she must have told me to relax three or four times.  I was relaxed.)  When she told me that I need to stretch, I said, "And I probably should lose some weight; I'm sure my weight's not helping."  She looked sharply up and said, "Honestly, you need to stretch.  Lose some weight if you want, but it won't make nearly the difference with this problem that stretching will."

I'm taking this hard.  On one hand, I've never before had pain from running that stopped me, cold, and made me unable to run.  And I've had two stress fractures, both of which I ran through.  So it's a no-brainer to listen to her advice, obviously.  On the other hand, the marathon is in 11 weeks.  And I am running this marathon.  Running - not walking, not limping.  She did seem confident that I still could run the marathon.  How glad am I now that I squeezed that 17 in two weekends ago?

When I left my apartment Saturday morning and the weather was perfect for running and the barricades were still up from the Percy Sutton 5k, I teared up.  Honestly.  These two weeks are going to be rough.

*Sort of.  Wait for tomorrow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Week in review: am I training for something?

I guess I am in training, but you wouldn't know it.  Here's how I spent my week:
  • Friday: rested, moped, called 15 doctors to find one that could see me in a reasonable time frame AND took my insurance.
  • Saturday: 4.37 easy miles with Mike along the river.  No pain.  I'll admit, I had a split second of, "Could I run the Bronx half tomorrow?" and then I said, "Not gonna do it."
  • Sunday: 6.3, sort of.  Lots and lots of walking while the friend I was "running" with tried to pretend like she didn't mind.
  • Monday: rest. 10 hours of sleep Sunday night, though.  10 hours.
  • Tuesday: rest, again.
  • Wednesday: 5m - Yassos at the track.
  • Thursday: Um, nothing.
I don't know how many miles that is. Both too many and not enough.

I set out to do Yassos* on Wednesday, but instead I ended up doing something in between Yassos and speedwork.  My goal was to do 4 Yassos this week and then work up.  I thought I'd aim for 5:00 for each.  Well, I kind of missed it, entirely.

My times for the 800: 4:50, 4:44, 4:40, 4:30 (okay, so I turned it up a little for the last one)

I'm not heartened by these results.  First off, they're erratic.  Granted keeping a set pace wasn't my goal - my goal was staying under 5, but these are too erratic, suggesting that I don't know what I'm doing.  (Ahem.  Accurate.)  It's been ages since I've done speedwork with regularity.  Something to work on.

And of course I also saw the doctor.  More on that later...

This weekend: super exciting double-race weekend!  5k on Saturday and 10m on Sunday.

*If you're not yet familiar with the Yasso, read this.  In short, Bart Yasso developed the theory that you can take your marathon goal time in hours and minutes (say, 4:45) and use it as your 800 time in minutes and seconds (again, 4:45).  Build up to doing 10 of these before your marathon, and you're in good shape.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I hate the elliptical machine

I'm going to the doctor in a couple of hours, so in the meantime I'll distract you with something unrelated.  The elliptical machine.
Dean Karnazes and the
"Elliptigo." How does that
dude get his name on
be his insane leg muscles.

Hate it, hate it, hate it.  I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again.

First off, it's unnatural: what on earth does that movement imitate?

Secondly, why does it measure "mileage"? What does that even mean?  You're not going anywhere.  No ground (fake or real) is moving beneath your feet.

And then, insult to injury, the other day I did 40 minutes on the stupid thing and it gave me vertigo. I almost fell leaving the gym and barely made it home without falling.  Yuck.

Now this odd green machine I can get behind, though - the Elliptigo.  You may have seen it featured on Running is Funny last week.  It's an elliptical machine... with wheels.  You can click the product link and watch some funny movies about it.

Anyway, deets on the doctor trip later.  By now my legs are feeling mostly better so I've convinced myself that I'm just weak.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An epic battle brews...

I got this from a friend the other day, via email:

Here's the bet: Me versus Ian, Flying Monkey Marathon.  Here's the gag: the winner of the bet will be the last person to cross the finish line.  Can I do it?  Can I win the bet?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Panic on the streets of Harlem

Let me illustrate for you a remarkably poor bit of civic planning:

Exhibit A
In Exhibit A, you see a standard, multi-use path.  Very obvious to anyone who takes it, be they cyclist, rollerblader, runner, or walker.  You stay to the right.

Exhibit B
Exhibit B: a slight twist on the path.  Can you see, to the right of the white line, that it says "Ped Only"?  So, walkers and runners stay in the far lane (regardless of which direction they're headed), and cyclists and rollerbladers share the two-lane part of the road, with their directions being obviously marked (again, staying to the right... within your 2/3rds of the path).

Now, pay attention, because here's where it gets tricky:
Exhibit C
This is where the two traffic patterns meet, with no fanfare, and only a small "yield" sign indicating the change.

And wait!  It gets better:

Exhibit D
This is what happens next - a dark, shaded, blind curve!

There's some tension in NYC (maybe everywhere?) between cyclists and runners.  I'm sure cyclists have their own p.o.v., but from my perspective, the cyclists here are Lance Armstrong wannabes: fast-moving road hogs who expect the right of way because of their speed and their fancy clothes.  Confidential to NYC cyclists: no dude outside of the show So You Think You Can Dance has ever looked good in spandex.  It's just varying degrees of obvious genitalia.

This little roadway and its abrupt intersection, let me tell you, confuses the situation.  For miles, cyclists have been staying right.  Now they need to be in the middle.  Instead, nearly every cyclist assumes that they should stay right, and when they see you in their right lane coming toward them, they are angry even though you are correct and they are wrong.  Okay, to be fair, it's not just cyclists; walkers and runners often get this wrong, too.  But it's more fun to scape goat the cyclists.

I don't really understand enough about traffic patterns to have any idea of why one pattern on a multi-use path is preferable over another.  But, like whoa!  Someday I think I'll camp out right at this little intersection and take photos of all the near-miss accidents that happen here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

[This space intentionally left blank]

Um, yeah, this is where my Bronx half marathon report should go.  Um, if there was anything to report on. I bailed on the race.  I did not DNF, thank you very much.  I just didn't run.

After two days in a row of mild pain (okay, not all that mild), I spent a large part of Thursday and Friday calling doctors to find one that could see me.  The doctor I saw before - ironically for the same pain - was on vacation through the end of August.  Do you know how hard it is to find a sports medicine doctor who takes your insurance, is accepting new patients, and can see you within a month?  I'll be seeing the new doctor on Thursday.

I also bought new shoes.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I already have too many but hear me out: I haven't been fitted for shoes in years.  Every time I got fitted, they recommended the same Asics (10xx series and then 20xx series).  So I bought pair after pair.  This past January, my beloved Asics were tweaked and they started giving me blisters in my arch, which is when I started screwing around with different shoes.  Right now I have too many pairs of shoes because of that - I've just bought more and more and more.  It was high time I got fitted again, and I'm now the proud owner of new Sauconys.  These will be the only shoes I will wear for the next few weeks.

Will they cure me?  Who knows.  Is it worth a try?  Yes, absolutely.  My sister/coach has also instructed me to run the first half mile or so of my workouts barefoot to concentrate on my form.  I'm not sold on barefoot running, but I'll do what she tells me.  Her marathon PR is 87 minutes faster than mine, after all.

Confession time: these shoes are HOT.  They are so cute, it makes me want to run all the time.  I tried on every pair they brought me and was honest in my assessment of the fit, but secretly the whole time I was thinking, "Please, please let it be the adorable green ones."

Final note: Congrats to my running friend (and blog reader: WHAT UP!) Mike for a smoking 9 minute PR on his half time at the Bronx Half this weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training week 6

This is how I roll post long run.  Yep, I dragged myself in from 17 miles on Saturday and didn't even remove my compression socks or grody clothes before I collapsed in a sweaty heap on the couch.  Thank goodness for washable cushion covers.

I'm still mixed on the compression socks, by the way.  I can't decide if they work or not.  I started wearing them originally because they were trendy and - let's face it - I'll follow any fad.  I kept wearing them because I don't really have many answers on my whole blood clotting issue and it seems better safe than sorry.  But I can't decide if they actually help my muscles or my circulation.  I can decide that I absolutely, positively do not like the way they look on.  My lower legs become green sausages.  Ah, well... it's not about the fashion.

I'm getting used to slightly higher mileage, although this week was not without some trouble.  I'm still feeling burned out, more physically than psychologically (the cooler weather helps!).  My long run was, well, longer.  It wasn't my weakest run although it was slow as molasses.  I need to be getting more sleep, which means going to bed earlier.
  • Friday: blessed, blessed rest day
  • Saturday: 17.07m.  This took me from northern Manhattan (where I met up with one friend) to a lap of Central Park (where a 2nd friend took over conversational duties) and back up nearly to the George Washington Bridge (alone, but my dog met me for the walk back from the river).
  • Sunday: 5k over the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Monday: rest, sweet sweet rest. Well, except for a hot yoga class with some friends. The class was good, although it beat me up so much that I had to rearrange my schedule and put my recovery day on Tuesday.
  • Tuesday: 4.1m on the treadmill.  I am CLAIMING that .1m.
  • Wednesday: 2.5m on the treadmill.  Did you hear that? 2.5.  I intended to do 6, but I lost my mind at 2.5 and stopped.  Cold.
  • Thursday: 5.0m, sort of.  More on that "sort of" next week.
31.8m.  I like the gradual mileage creep up; I like it a lot.

I had a weird run Wednesday.  Per usual, I didn't get up early to run in the morning, which meant the treadmill at night.  I was chugging along, trying to watch tv and take my mind off of that hamster wheel feeling.  About a mile in, I noticed that the woman on the treadmill next to me had a crumpled up, well-worn chart of treadmill paces and time spent running versus calories burned.  And she was consulting it regularly.

That bugged me.  Like, really bugged me.  Since I started keeping this blog, one of the things it's done is to make me more aware of why I run (you've surely noticed all of my silly ruminations).  On that treadmill at that moment, that was NOT why I run.  I don't run to burn calories (added bonus, sure) and I don't run for the experience of wasting my evening in an-overcrowded gym on a treadmill like a hamster wheel watching crummy television to take my mind off of the run.

So I got off the treadmill and went home.  There was another issue at play, too.  Some... I hate to say it... pain.  I'll be seeing a doctor about that next week.  I'm sure it's nothing though, right?  Totally nothing?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

After years of being aware of this story, I finally got to read it.  (Translation: after years of being too lazy to order an imported book from amazon.co.uk or go to the library, I finally found a copy online that I could read on my kindle.)

I liked it.  I really liked it.  You should read it, too.  It's short; it won't take you long.  Don't be lazy like me about getting it.

It's not a running book, per se.  It's not Born to Run, it's not What I Talk about when I Talk about Running.  Instead it's a short story about a young, blue collar kid in the 1950s.  He's poor and sees no way out of his neighborhood, so he and a friend turn to petty theft.  When he's caught and sentenced to time in Borstal (British juvie), the prison authorities notice his talent at cross-country running.  The book then shows his struggle as he balances his love of running and the freedom he feels while doing it against his contempt for being used as a racing pawn by the prison authorities.  Despite knowing that it will cost him a potential early release, he stops a few meters before the finish of the big race and allows another to win - one of the only expressions of his free will he is capable of within the system and the ultimate act of defiance.

Yes, I just ruined the plot for you.  But it's not the plot of the story that makes it worth reading; it's the vivid description of the narrator's life and his helplessness and the glory of running.  I don't care that I'm not an elite or even very good for that matter; reading this story, I felt how running is something personal that we as individuals do for us, for our own reasons, for our own benefit alone.

Might I also recommend the Belle and Sebastian song "Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner"?  Yes, I have a soft spot for those twee Glasgowegians.  I also have a soft spot for my former governor, Rod Blagojevich (you can tell I'm an Illinoisan: I can spell his name without looking it up).  He cited the Sillitoe story as an analogy to his impeachment.  One thing you've got to give the dude credit for: he runs and he's well versed in running.  And literature.  Sadly he's also corrupt, but it's Illinois, you know?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Time for my monthly Running Times love-fest

September, 2010 issue has arrived. Yay yay yay yay!

Man, do I love this magazine.

I'm not sold on the coloring of the cover art, but that's Shalane Flanagan preparing for NYCM, so I'll take it.  Did she tell them that she's not actually Irish-born, despite her name?  (I couldn't find a photo online, so I took one myself - sorry for the quality.)

Anyway, let's cut to the chase.  What of the contents tickled my fancy this month?

Oddly, the parts that resonated the most with me were not even true magazine content.  Instead, a letter to the editor (p. 8) and the editor's note (p. 6) hit home.

First, the editor's note.  I won't give too much commentary, but he summarized some of what I was grappling with a few days ago (in a more concise and eloquent matter):
"I discovered that my running of late had fallen into a common trap: It had all become a means to an end. Many people run to accomplish other purposes: to lose weight, live longer, get ripped abs, find a girlfriend/boyfriend, raise money for a cause.  I've always felt that, while these are nice side effects, runners run because the activity is worthwhile and enjoyable in itself.  Running "for" something else seems analogous to having sex just to get pregnant: It works, but you're kind of missing the point."
-Jonathan Beverly
I don't have kids so I can't verify the last line, but I like what he's saying.  A lot.

Then, a letter to the editor:
"When a friend mentioned possibly backing out of the Nashville Country Music Half Marathon last month, I pointed out that her $110 entry fee was nonrefundable.  'That's okay,' she responded, 'it will be my donation to the city of Nashville.'  I then explained to her that the event was owned and run by a privately held company called Competitor Group, Inc., ... and that much of her entry fee would likely be going to enrich Falconhead Capital, a private equity firm situated about a mile from where she works in midtown Manhattan.
"When someone who regularly runs one of their races - sorry, "participatory event assets" - has never heard or seen their name, it isn't hard to see the genius in Competitor's business model.  Road racing has been an overwhelmingly nonprofit endeavor for so long that most runners are willing to assume that an absurdly high entry fee means that more of their money will be funneled toward some good cause or another.  Meanwhile, the thousands of volunteers who make each of Competitor's events possible are almost certainly unaware that they are providing free labor for a for-profit company; the online volunteer solicitation for the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon even begins with the words 'Help support your community and 30,000 runners and walkers...'
"I'm all for free enterprise and private profit, but can you imagine Walmart trying to find staff with language like, 'Help support your community and thousands of shoppers by volunteering'?"
-Rob Leder/Stamford, CT
In reproducing this letter here, I am NOT suggesting that volunteering at a race is not noble.  Hell, if nothing else it's fun.  But, know where your money is going.  Race entry fees are creeping up and up and up.  Most of us are not getting significantly more return on our entry fees than we were a few years ago.  And yet, it's supply and demand: as long as Rock 'n' Roll can fill a half marathon with $100+ entry fees, they will continue to charge that much, or more.

The Philly Distance Run was always one of the highlights of my fall when I lived in Philadelphia.  I only ran it once, but I went to the expo as often as I could, and I loved knowing that the elites were in town, using it as a marathon tune-up.  Khalid Khannouchi, Catherine Ndereba, and Deena Kastor all set course records at the race - Deena's was a smoking 1:07:53, also an American half-marathon record.  Now, the race is owned by Competitor, and the FAQ on the website includes, "Can I train for a half marathon in five weeks?"  (Okay, fine, Ryan Hall is running it.)

To conclude my paean to Running Times?  Not one but two full articles on female runners (Shalane Flanagan and Elana Meyer - and Shalane is even wearing the same shoes as me in one of the photos. It's LIKE WE'RE THE SAME PERSON).  Love it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A new PR to be, and more on my love for Frank Shorter

In 1987, my dad ran New York.  He and my mom went to NYC for vacation (this was a Very Big Thing for us midwestern, provincial types), he ran a 4:20:39, and he brought me back an autographed Frank Shorter poster.  It was a few years still before I would start running, and a few years more before I would amass my own collection of signed Frank Shorter stuff and Frank Shorter would accuse me jokingly of stalking him.  (Dude: I know you went to Yale and then on to law school because of the internet.)  I guess he's not used to having a Superfan.  Because I am one.  Because I love Frank Shorter.

Anyway: 4:20:39.  That won't happen for me this year, but I have a new goal.  My dad's old times are going DOWN.  Tricky thing is that he did most of his running before the advent of chip timing, so I probably have to err wide to make sure that I beat him.  Luckily there were fewer people running in those days, so I won't go for straight up clock time.  His PR, at Chicago, was 4:10:11, so once I smash his 4:20, I can move onto smashing his PR.  Mwah ha ha ha.

I told him about this plan, hoping to incite some friendly rivalry, and he laughed and said, "You know, Tracy, you should really have higher goals than that."

(I hope I don't have to tell you that the photo is Frank Shorter and not my father.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sgt. Keith A. Ferguson Memorial Run/Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge 5k race report

I am a sucker for:
-a race, especially a 5k;
-a gimmick, such as running through a tunnel or over a bridge;
-and peer pressure.
In other words, a 5k over the Brooklyn Bridge that a few of my running friends were doing was an absolute no-brainer for me.

Problem is... I went out and ran 17 miles on Saturday.  And then I couldn't get to bed on time Saturday night.  So maybe I wasn't in peak form Sunday morning.  I thought about bailing and said, "No. You're meeting your friend on the subway platform and you're dressed.  Just go."  I got out the door and my friend texted me to say she was bailing.  I went anyway.

Long story, short: Bridges aren't flat. Races the day after long runs aren't pretty or easy.  My goal was anything under 30 minutes, but they didn't have a chip mat at the start.  The course was not that wide.  More confusingly, the walkway wasn't closed off to non-race traffic.  And, I didn't bring my Garmin (and they had no clocks or mile markers on the course).  So, I missed my goal and have an official time of 30:41.  Still under a 10 minute mile, at least.  I won't lose sleep over it.

For as cynical as I sound about the whole thing, it was kind of cool.  A race with a good cause is always touching (and it doesn't get too much more poignant than a dead police officer if you ask me).  I met Sgt. Ferguson's aunt at bag check and evidently his mom was greeting the finishers (I missed her).  Also, there was a moment as we were headed back when two girls behind me said, "Look!  There's the Statue of Liberty!!" and started squealing about it.  If that's not a really, really cool way to start a morning, I don't know what is.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training week 5

This week was kind of weird for me.  On one hand, I had some of my strongest runs yet: an okay-but-not-great-but-not-bad long run, a solid tempo run, and two solid runs (for the treadmill, anyway).  And yet... this was the first week for me that my morale has kind of been flagging.  I'm tired of training.  When I wasn't training, if I skipped a run, life went on and I ran the next day.  Now, if I skip a run, I feel like I've made a Very Bad Mistake and my training is going to suffer for it.  The runs are getting just long enough that I have to plan around them: early dinner Friday night to accommodate the Saturday long run, leaving work early to get to the gym in time during the week, that sort of thing.  It's temporary and it's worth it, but the marathon is still too far away to be tangible and yet my training is happening now.  At the same time that it's getting harder, it's also getting easier (the running, anyway).

So what did I do?

  • Friday: scheduled rest day
  • Saturday: unscheduled rest day. Woke up late.
  • Sunday: almost - but not quite - 15m at the NYRR long training run.
  • Monday: rest.
  • Tuesday: 6m w/4m at HMP.  Couldn't figure out why the first two were so easy and the river looked so lovely and frothy until I reached the turnaround in my run - duh, it's called a tailwind!  Slightly faster than HMP for the four, and they were my first four instead of my middle four, but it felt good so I went with it.
  • Wednesday: 5m recovery, on the treadmill because the heat is back.  Turned into a progression run accidentally because I wanted it done.
  • Thursday: 6m on the treadmill, again.  Faster, partly because it's getting easier and partly because I wanted the treadmill OVER and OUT OF MY LIFE.

31.86m.  It would have been higher if I hadn't blown off Saturday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feeling flush?

A few days ago, I learned that you can (literally, with no pretense of fundraising) buy your way into the New York City Marathon.  You can either run 9 qualifying races and then donate $1k in lieu of volunteering, or you can just straight up donate $2500 with no races.  The NYRR is a 501(c)(3) charity, although it's unclear what the money will go toward.  They have a vague mission statement on their donation page whose wording says a lot without saying anything at all:

I'm against this, sort of, but for complicated reasons.  What I'm against is that when it comes to large races like the NYCM, there is no longer any pretense of running being something that's open to everyone.  I know that.  It's no longer the "lace up your shoes and go" sport that many of us love.  But at the same time, I get that running is a business and I get that it's hugely expensive to put on a race like New York.

When I started running, I started running for me.  I didn't wear a fancy watch, I didn't run any races, I just went out running most days of the week.  I tried new running routes because I wanted to explore.  If I was tired, I didn't go running.  If I wasn't tired, I ran longer.  I didn't keep track of how far I ran and I never knew how fast it was, but just how it felt (usually "good" or "sucky").  I ran because I could and because I wanted to and because it made me feel good about myself, most of the time.  When I ran my first marathon, a couple of years after I started running, it wasn't a metaphor for life or proof that I was a superhuman who could do anything I set my mind to.  It was just something that shook up my running routine for a few months and gave me a goal and my running some focus.  And yeah, I was proud of myself after, but I didn't dwell too much on the marathon's place in my life... it was just an extension of the fact that running had a prominent place in my life.

But it's not like that for everyone.  Especially in New York, running is all about your times and your training schedules and your races.  People here are competitive, and many runners here have the means to be competitive.  In New York, more than anywhere else that I've lived and run, you can buy the right running clothes and buy the right coaching and (through charities) buy entry into the marathon and therefore effectively buy a prepackaged life experience.

Photo credit: Amanda Musacchio
Again, it's personal and I am not intending to denigrate anyone's running/marathon experience.  I just know what running means to me (cue "sentimental music") and I want it to mean that to everyone.  I want running to be a part of everyone's life.  I want it to be a constant: their solace in bad times, their celebration in good times, something that's so hard you want to give up some days and so gloriously effortless that you never want to stop other days but overall is just uniquely personal, a part of who you are, and available to everyone.

I get caught up in it as much as the next person, but running is not about medals or racing or finish times - it's about you.  I'm way more impressed with someone who's been running regularly for years than I am with someone who ran a marathon, once, and then promptly lost interest in running.

That said...  Whatever.  This isn't all that different from charity entries that I (by-and-large) don't have a problem with.  If you have the money, power to you.  I'd love to see you donate it to a cause that I like, but your money is your money to do with as you please.  And, if you go with the NYRR's "Champion Circle" option, you and your spectators will enjoy the VIP tent - I speak from experience, having enjoyed a VIP tent at the Chicago Marathon myself a time or two...

(If you've read all the way to the bottom of this rant, you get a caption for my gratuitous photo: that's me with my beloved training partner Tamara, freezing at the start of the Disney Marathon.  It was really, really cold.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Garmin and Privacy: should we be worried?

Two weekends ago, when I ran (literally, ha ha) into an acquaintance of mine, we got to talking about tech toys for tracking our running.  He wears a Nike+ and I pointed out that I wear a Garmin.  "Oh," he said, without missing a beat, "so I can tell exactly where you live!"

Yeah, I guess you can.  If you click on my training log and then click on an individual workout, and then further click on the map embedded in the workout (for any of the days when I wear my Garmin), you'll see exactly where it is on the map of NYC that my Garmin typically picks up a satellite signal.
Me, waiting for the satellites to load...

Let me spare you the effort: if you do this, you won't actually know much about me.  Even if you pinpoint my exact corner, you've narrowed it down to one of several large buildings.  There are 50 apartments in my building alone, so you've pinpointed me exactly... with an error margin of several hundred apartments.  In fact, I'm even including a picture of me with my Garmin at a corner near my apartment just to help you stalk me, if you're so inclined.

I'm not naive to internet safety, but my friend and I did share a chuckle over someone he knows who lives in a less dense area and whose Garmin tracings allow him to see this friend exit out of his front door, head to a running path, and then later return to his exact address.

So, if your plan is to trace my whereabouts in order to use your knowledge for evil, don't bother.  I don't have a set schedule.  I don't have a set route.  I never carry cash or credit cards or other valuables when I run.  I don't live alone, so my apartment is still occupied by a roommate (and a dog) when I leave (and I have no valuables, anyway, unless you happen to share my love of Trippen shoes and wear a women's 8.5).  Does this make me "safe"?  Of course not.  That said, these technologies are something to think about.  I tend to hide behind the huge scale of New York City, allowing the fact that I'm never really safe to lull me into a false sense of pseudo-security.  And certain things I can't compromise on any longer: now that I've tasted the sweet nectar that is the post-run Garmin data-dump, running without one just feels so... primitive.  How on earth did I run for nearly a decade without knowing my heart rate?  My exact distance to .01m?  My calories burned???  Geesh.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


An email arrived in my inbox Sunday morning...  Yep, 21 November, two weeks after New York, I will be at the start line of another marathon.  Registration for the Flying Monkey closed in a record 32 minutes and I just barely eked my way in.  If training doesn't kill me, this race just might.

(Also, if you're curious about the race organizer, he blogs photos of his son in dangerous situations.  Enjoy it and share it with your friends and loved ones - his blog has appeal for those amongst us who love cute pictures of children and those who secretly wish they could put children in the oven.)

The email's pretty funny.  Let's hope I'm still laughing on the 22nd of November.

My groovy monkeysters, so cool that you decided to stop by and dance with us this Fall.  And wow, just wow.  32 minutes, you filled the place.  Impressive.  I dream that your enthusiasm won't scare the monkeys into a rumble.  Cuz we all want this to come off starry and all.

Even though running is stupid.  And Monkey is stupider.  Groovy stupid, but stupid.

Anyhow.  You are registered.  You are in.  And though you may regret this decision, monkey is coming and maybe you should go and run on some hills.  Not that you can train for this.  But at least you can get your groove on.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will send you bits of information.  In the meantime, feel free to peruse our website, 
http://www.harpethhillsmarathon.com , for information about the marathon and lodging.  And you can follow monkey tweets at http://www.twitter.com/hhflyingmonkey .

Lastly, to all those of you who gave a few dollars to help us rebuild our broken home, my deepest gratitude goes out to you.  Thank you so much!  (

Some details now -

- You cannot actually train for this race.  Don't even try.  It is futile.  But running is stupid groovy, so don't stop now.

- Dallas once said, "if the runners want fluid on course, they should pray for rain".  Dallas is a wise man.  While you will be lucky to get any fluid out on the course, but we are hoping to provide it to you about 18 times, and it should mostly consist of water and lemon / lime Gatorade.  And energy gels too.  Hopefully GU brand.

- No, I have no idea what the weather will be.  There is a distinct possibility that we will have some.  Who really knows, though.  Especially here in September.

- And this. As always, we are looking for volunteers on race morning.  So if you know of anybody smart enough not to run who wants to come out and spend a sweltering or freezing morning in the park helping out, please let us know.  Volunteers are awesome!

Monday, August 2, 2010

NYRR Long Training Run #1

I've made myself a promise that I wouldn't write about food.  I'm into running; I'm not into healthy eating.  I have crap eating habits, and I own them.  I don't eat yogurt and cereal and salad.  I eat out too much and I love chicken fingers and this would go far toward explaining why it is that I haven't been able to lose any weight recently.  So I don't talk about my eating habits.

But now I'm going to take that back and tell you about the blood sausage I had Friday night at Bar Boulud.  Because, WHOA.
This stuff... oh, dear... this stuff was amazing.

I'm going to kick the pretention up a notch and mention that it brought me back to an amazing parrilla I ate at while in Argentina.  (In reality, I was by myself for most of the trip and really, really lonely, and it was cold and rainy the whole time, so I ate at good restaurants to make myself feel better - but that doesn't make for as good of a story, does it?)

Anyway, that's the long version of the story to tell you that Saturday morning I woke up from my food coma late and didn't go running.  I rode my bike for a bit instead.  Not the same thing, I know, but better than nothing.

Anyway, Sunday.  The NYRR does two long training runs each year in the build-up to marathon season.  They're basically supported fun runs, with pacers, in Central Park.  You choose the distance, up to 20m.  It's great that they do this, but they fall very early in the training schedule for most people.

I had made a plan of meeting up with a lovely woman I met through Twitter, of all places.  Trouble is, I was a massive, massive grouch Sunday morning.  Seriously.  I did not want to be up at 6am and I did not want to be running at 7am.  Even though we didn't plan to meet up, I found my friend Mike just before the start - good thing, as I stayed with Majo for all of .25m.  Yep, a quarter mile in and she peeled off, leaving me in her dust.  (She was going strong, and when Mike and I stepped off the course briefly so that he could adjust his Garmin, we were behind.  We met up with her again around 8m after she had to stop for a bit.)

I hadn't done anything over 10 in nearly a month, so this was a long run mostly just to see where I was at.  I stayed with Mike - I was holding him back a bit, but I bet he's too polite to point that out - until ca. 14m, when he went ahead and I limped it in.  I ended up doing 14.84m - yep, the pretzel and Gatorade tables were set up .16 before I would have hit 15m, and I said, "Forget it."  (Ahem, actually I said something else that started with an F, and I may have said it aloud.)  Back in the pre-Garmin days I would have guiltlessly recorded this one as 15, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that lost .16m.

Let me tell you something: the first time the 7 minute mile pace group laps you, it's kind of cool to see the speedy runners.  The third time they do, it's kind of annoying.  And once the 8 and 9 minute pace groups catch up, and they all look just like you, that stings a little.  Ah, the perils of the quadruple loop course.

At the finish, with a vastly improved mood, I met up with my friends and we sat around, drinking Gatorade, gossipping about marathoning, and dreaming about compression socks and vats of Bengay (the last one may have been just me).  It was a total New York, Sex and the City moment with Gatorade instead of cosmos and Nikes instead of Manolos.  And loads of wicking fabric.  And more body odor.  I guess it wasn't very SATC at all, come to think of it.

I have a theory on Bengay.  I think it doesn't so much actually soothe your muscles, but instead just causes a tingling sensation and a menthol smell that takes your mind off your fatigue.  My theory also holds for HeadOn.