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"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Adios, New York! For now.

Halloween time!  Someone at work told me that he was going to dress as a loser for Halloween: all he needed was a Yankees uniform.  OUCH!

I'm away for the weekend.  Yesterday afternoon I took a bus (ugh) to New Hampshire to celebrate Halloween wild-style.  My friend in Concord swears that the people of New Hampshire love to have fun.  I don't know; I did used to live up here after all, and I'm not sure I believe her.  During the summer I spent doing research near Concord, I was told that fun was shooting squirrels with a bb gun from a second story window. I didn't do that, but then again I also didn't have very much fun that summer (except when my run was interrupted by a bear one morning - but I didn't have a bb gun so I had to use my wits to escape).  I will run while I'm up here.  You'll hear all about that next week.

This is basically me, right?
But look at her toes - she is floating!
My Halloween costume, in case you're curious?  I'm very proud of this: Chicago Marathon finisher.  Bib + medal + mylar blanket + running clothes = authentic costume.  This time with less disappointment!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sports Authority/Asics 5m run

A total of two runs in two weeks.  I'm pathetic.

Not so pathetic as to miss the chance for a group run, however.

On Monday, you read about one of my two runs, the one I took last week with my friend Ian.  Today, I'll treat you to the other run I did in two weeks, which was a 5m fun run hosted by Sports Authority and sponsored by Asics.

Let me preface this by saying that I love group runs.  I love running with other people.  I also do like running by myself, but for long runs or variety or just socializing, you can't beat a group run.  But, and this is a refrain you've heard me repeat before, ever since I moved to New York I'm just too slow.  In particular I'm too slow for group runs.  This isn't so much because I've slowed down (although I have...) as it is because New York is New York.  When you hear that it's a "fast paced" city, you can apply that to its runners as well as its women everything else.

When I heard that Asics was sponsoring a group run, I decided to go for it.  Their Bryant Park store sponsored a series of runs last year, and I participated in one of them.  It was fun and all inclusive and I got free breakfast and some gloves - win!  This year I conned talked two friends into joining me, and we met at the 6th Avenue store at 8:45am.

The short: If you're free Saturday, do this group run.  They ran along the West Side Highway down to Chambers St. and back and then had free breakfast afterwards.  Everyone took home a technical running hat, gloves, a water bottle, and a winter hat in a recyclable bag with coupons, and they did a raffle for free running shoes, as well.

The long(er):  As usual, I had trouble with the pacing.  Yes, it's taper time, so my friends and I were taking it somewhat easy.  We didn't have a time/pace goal, but my Garmin later told me that we were doing 10:xx miles (with some stop-and-go from lights toward the beginning and end).  That's not unreasonably slow for me for an easy run, but the rest of the group was back at the store about 10 minutes before us.  The group had three pacers: one for sub-8s, one for 8:30s, and one for the rest.  Although we passed some people while we were out there, they must have turned around early because we came back to the store DEAD LAST.  Not only did the "slow" pacer not wait for us on the course, but they were about to start the raffle when we got back.  We took the last three bottles of water, and a Sports Authority employee dug up some remaining goodie bags for us.

All's well that end's well.  I'd do it again.  I could complain about being slow, but I feel like I've been complaining a lot lately, and ultimately I had a good run with good friends and I love my new hat.  A legitimate complaint would be that the first diner we went to afterwards was closed because, you know, someone had been shot dead in there earlier that morning.  The second diner brought me the wrong omelette and it took me half of the Mexican omelette to realize for certain that those were jalapeños and not chunks of avocado.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thinking ahead to beyond the marathon: more stairclimbing

We wore matching outfits.
So, the other day, I was looking over my schedule for the next few weeks and I realized that I'm headed back to Chicago in three weeks to climb the Sears Willis Tower with my brother.  My brother recently lost 80 pounds via a trainer and the stairmill.  Earlier this year, to celebrate, we did a stairclimb in a local "skyscraper."  (Must put "skyscraper" in quotes - it's huge for Chicago's suburbs, but not so huge in the grand scheme of things.)  Given how much easier that race was than he expected, my brother decided that this year we're climbing the tallest building in Chicago.

It was pretty dorky.
When I realized this was coming up, I had two immediate thoughts:

-"Crap, I should really get a plane ticket!" and, simultaneously,
-"Crap, I should really, really train for this thing!"

When I did the stairclimb last year, I was just a few weeks off of having run up the Empire State Building.  I can't say that I totally rocked that race, and I can't say I prepared, but I had invested some time on the stairmill beforehand.  This time around, I've done nothing specific to prepare.  I haven't even taken the stairs up to my fifth floor apartment or my fourth floor office in about six months.  Sad but true.  I haven't seen the inside of my gym in at least two months.

My brother, on the other hand, does an hour on the stairmill at least once a week.  I guess I'll let him have the "victory" on this one; he's earned it.  He tells me that this plan is to run  next to me the entire time until there are only one or two floors left, and then he's going to sprint ahead and beat me.  That plan does tend to work better with an element of surprise, in my experience, but we'll see what happens.

Of course, since I've procrastinated, plane tickets for that weekend are inexplicably expensive.  Big problem with living in NYC and attempting to travel on Friday evenings/Monday mornings: evidently, loads of people like to do business here (who knew?) and the planes fill up!

I'm not too worried about this race, honestly.  It's a "fun run," and my experience last year showed me that it's hard to prepare in a targeted manner and that I will not be the last to finish.  Here's the not-very-nice fundraising email I sent out to my immediate family (I call my brother "Poochie" - long story):

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I don't want to be serious, but I have to

In the two weeks since the Chicago Marathon, I've run all of two times.

That's right - 14m total.

I haven't even worn my Chicago t-shirt yet.

That race defeated me.  I knew I wasn't fully trained, and I know the conditions were bad, but I expected more of myself and I didn't feel good about how it all went down.  Instead of channeling this into renewed dedication about New York, I instead sat on my couch drinking beer and watching the Yankees.

And we know where that got me.

On one hand, I had a 26m training run and I'm enjoying a 4-week taper.  I'm ready for New York.

On the other hand, my 26m training run was basically a dead loss and I'm discouraged and disillusioned and not where I wanted to be by any stretch.

I guess all of this behavior makes me ready for the upcoming Unhealthy Living Summit.  But that's (obviously) a small recompense.  Remember back at the beginning of my training cycle when (naively) thought I could maybe possibly be in PR shape come marathon day?

I picked myself up this weekend and actually did get outside for a run, so now I guess that I'm officially tapering.  I'm not sure what's happening with me, though.  The weather? Perfect for running.  In theory, I should be having the best runs of my life.  Every morning I wake up and get excited.  In my head, I can see the calm river, I can feel myself having an amazing run.  Most mornings I even put on my running clothes.  But then I just don't get out the door.  I don't know how to explain it.

Sure, I've had a lot going on in my personal and work lives, things that have bled over into my running time.  But this has nothing to do with time for running and is mostly psychological.  Where is my motivation?  Why do I do this?  I'm not improving and I don't feel the same sense of excited anticipation the rest of my friends seem to be experiencing.  I'm too young - and too desperately in need of improvement! - to burn out this easily!

It'll get better.  It does; having been running for a decade has shown me that motivation comes and goes. But I'm ready for the upswing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sizing up the competition

Last Saturday, I had the good fortune to run with a friend of mine who was in from out of town.  Not just any friend, mind you, but the friend with whom I have a significant wager.  You might remember him from this post, or from this image:

Ah, yes: this year's Flying Monkey Marathon will be an epic showdown.  The twist to this bet is that the winner of the bet is the person who finishes the race last.  Ian is confident it will be him.  I know it will be me.  Even so I was eager to head out for a run with him and see exactly how fast he isn't.

It was nice to play running tour guide.  Even though I've lived in NYC for two years, I still feel like I don't really know this city.  I hear it's somewhat of a shopping mecca; I wouldn't know since I do most of my shopping online.  Theater?  I hate it.  Arts?  I rarely have the time or the patience to take advantage of these things.*  But running!  That I can do.

We only had about 9 miles before Ian had to return to his family.  Starting from Times Square, we ran up Broadway to the southwest corner of Central Park, and then up through the park to the Reservoir.  Ian barely resisted breaking out his best Dustin Hoffman impression (from Marathon Man - a reference that was sadly lost on me) before we headed back down through the park to the 72nd Street Transverse.  Next, we dodged tourists to head across the park to the west side and over to the Hudson River to continue our run.  That was a slight bit of bad planning on my part - I absolutely love running by the river.  I love the serenity, I love the views (even if they are of New Jersey), and I find the other athletes out there to be less intense than in Central Park.  But the strip of the river we ran, from 72nd to 45th, is immediately under the West Side Highway and kind of a no-man's land.  Still, it was a gorgeous day and I had great company - what more can you ask for?

And the verdict, should you wish to place your own wager on it?  I will win this bet.  I am now superduper confident that I will win this bet.  It was almost a joke - I was huffing and puffing and panting and straining to keep up with him while he effortlessly strode through the streets of New York, trying to convince me that he really was as slow as he'd promised.  Ian, you have made a sucker bet.

I ran this post by Ian in advance, and his response was: "Oh yes - I'll be ahead... until the second half where you will reel me in, laughing as you pass my poor broken body, and then I will shuffle through the last few miles (as always).  When that happens, please assure my wife and daughters that I am okay."  We'll see, Ian, we'll see.  Come 21 November, there will be only one bet winner/race loser.

Apropos of nothing: a link to the NYTimes' latest running article.  Evidently we distance runners are an insurance paradox: examples of healthy living, but hugely injury prone.  Note the gratuitous "OMG Boston closed so fast!!" reference.

*To be fair, I'm not completely uncultured.  I do have a membership to both the Brooklyn and Metropolitan Museums, and I go to each of them any time they entice me with events serving free alcohol.

Friday, October 22, 2010


If you look closely, I think you can see his junk.
Stop the press!  Ryan and Sara Hall have left their coach, Terrence Mahon.  I think this is the closest thing to a celebrity breakup that we runners get.  Does this mean there's an opening in Mammoth for new runners?  What do you think - should I apply before someone else seizes my opportunity?  I'm sure with that level of training I could finally bring my 5k PR closer to 25 minutes.

Poor John Popper; plagued by false rumors of his death
and forever relegated to being "the heavy guy from Blues Traveler."
You heard it here first: the NYCM is officially holding a post-marathon concert with Blues Traveler as the band.  Their email stated that tickets would be free (plus a guest!) for runners, but the fine print is that they're only giving away 1,000 tickets, and those are being given out at random times during the expo.  I know Blues Traveler has their fans and all, but the song the NYRR chose to promote the concert is Run-Around.  You know, that annoying harmonica song that was popular as I was graduating high school... 15 years ago.  Evidently they would like us to run so fast that we actually go back in time.

And finally, TAPER MADNESS IS REAL, PEOPLE, IT'S REAL!  In a fit of delusion, I decided yesterday that I need need need new running shoes for the race.  I mean, my current shoes have more than 100 miles on them; how can I possibly run another marathon in them?!?  In the process of trying on the new shoes, I went to zip up my adorable, fashionable leather boots... and the zipper broke.  Cold broke.  I was forced to wear my running shoes with my normal clothes in a throwback to the '80s commuter businesswoman look.  Super chic, no?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


There's a significant chance I'll be in Egypt from 3 January to 24 January.

Tourist chic = totally hot. Admit it: you love the water bottle.
The Egyptian Marathon is scheduled for 28 January.

Do I extend my stay by a few days?

Additional info: last year, 12 women (TOTAL) finished the race, meaning that my chances of a top-ten finish are good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monthly Running Times Love-in

Have I mentioned how much I adore Running Times?  Only, like, always.  I know.

This is last month's issue - this month isn't
online yet.
Let me enumerate for you why I like the magazine:

  • It treats running like a sport, featuring professional athletes (at all levels, from high school to masters level) whose performances we can follow.
  • At the same time, it treats running like a participatory sport, with advice for improving your performance as a runner.
  • The focus is on performance and not simply on participation.  The tone of the magazine assumes that its readers are experienced runners.

It's hard to keep from comparing Running Times with Runner's World.  I subscribe to (and enjoy) both magazines.  That said, Runner's World seemed to undergo a shift a few years ago to cater more toward amateur runners.  I'm an amateur runner, sure, but I'm still concerned about my performance.  I nearly gave up on Runner's World a few months back when they did a feature on a runner who knits... during marathons.  Props to her, and I'm sure her times are better than mine, but I try to eschew gimmicks.

So what treats did this month's magazine have in store for us?

First of all, they have an extensive feature on elite women who balance full-time work with competitive training.  The take home message?  (As always:) I get too much sleep, evidently.

But next, my favorite part.  Find it yourself above or on p. 64: compression may just work as well as ice baths for recovery.  VINDICATION for those of us who hate ice baths!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Boston!

I'm totally number geeking out here, y'all.

I decided to do more "how many Chicago runners qualified for Boston?" Now you have a full set of data from this year (men and women) and last year (with near-perfect conditions).

And the results?

Here are my completely non-scientific conclusions based on two years' data for this one race:

  • Conditions at Chicago were bad this year, with significantly fewer finishers;
  • More younger people run marathons, by a wide margin;
  • Based on percentage of finishers, middle-aged runners tend to qualify at a higher rate.  Either the qualifying standards are too lax for older runners or older runners have more experience and are better trained to run hard;
  • Men - especially middle-aged men who ran Chicago in 2009 - seriously need to STFU about women's "lax" standards.

This guy ran for charity last year.
Caveats: I took exactly enough probability and statistics to know that I don't enjoy probability and statistics.  And I often confuse correlation with causation.  Therefore it's impossible to say whether men are trying harder to qualify or whether the standards are too easy, but oh! to be a man!

I didn't really need to know that I got beat by an 83 year old man last year (by a wide margin), and I certainly didn't need to see how many people were heartbreakingly close to their qualifying times (3:41:03! that sort of thing).

As an fyi that most of you probably know, Boston allows 5000 non-qualifying runners to enter the race: 1600 charity runners and other "special invitation" folks (likely how Will Ferrell got his bib several years ago).  While I do personally agree that charity runners should have to qualify, I don't necessarily agree that their participation (as qualifiers or not) in any way dampens the prestige of the race.

More inanity, fewer statistics tomorrow, I promise.

Boston Marathon statistics

So, yesterday my internets were ablaze with the fact that the Boston Marathon sold out faster than a Justin Bieber concert.  The race opened and closed faster than - never mind.  I was about to make an inappropriate joke.

Listen: I get why you're excited.  Most of us will never run in the Olympics or the Olympic trials or even routinely place at local races.  But Boston is a goal that's attainable for serious runners.  And I'm appropriately jealous.

One thing that's been brought up - by at least the WSJ, if not the BAA - is lowering the qualifying standards for women.  Evidently women's racing (both in participation and elite finishing times) has outpaced men's.  Should they tighten the standards to prevent their servers from freaking out next year?  Doesn't much matter to me.  Boston is far enough beyond me that it's not a realistic goal for me any time soon.  But it kind of does  matter, in that it's not just Boston but all races that seem to be filling up like wildfire.  Supply for race entries can barely keep up with demand, and new races are popping up everywhere.  Registration for Chicago closed in March, nearly 8 months before the race was scheduled to take place.
Real picture of the BAA's servers this morning.
Okay, I'm kidding.
Back to the standards.  My marathon PR is 4:43 - a full hour off of my Boston qualifying standard of 3:40 (now, if only I was 65 instead of 26 when I ran that, I would have qualified with two minutes to spare!). So like I said: I'm out of the running (PUN INTENDED).  I thought to myself, "I should organize the Anti-Boston Race!"  ...and then I said, "don't they call that the 2010 Chicago Marathon?"

So, I ran some numbers.  (When someone says something like "run some numbers," you're supposed to be impressed, especially if that person works in the humanities.)  How many Chicago finishers qualified for Boston?  I focused on the women because, you know, I am one and all.

16108 women finished the Chicago Marathon.
1242 women qualified for Boston at the Chicago Marathon.
7.7% of women who finished the 2010 Chicago Marathon qualified for Boston.

By age group, qualifiers/finishers (and percentage):
16-34: 570/8513 (6.7%)
35-39: 175/2551 (6.9%)
40-44: 216/2247 (9.6%)
45-49: 164/1416 (11.6%)
50-54: 71/802 (8.9%)
55-59: 26/327 (8%)
60-64: 15/126 (11.9%)
65-69: 3/29 (10.3%)
70-74: 2/7 (29%)

I was one of 92% of female finishers of the 2010 Chicago Marathon who did not qualify for Boston.  And I'm okay with that.  Also?  When I'm in my 70s, still running, I'm SO getting a top-ten age group finish.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A new alternative to the 9+1?

I'm sure you've all heard about this dude by now:
That is Edison Peña, the (formerly) trapped Chilean miner who continued his running regime of roughly 10k a day while underground.  As a reward for his "marathon"-like trials underground, Mary Wittenberg has extended an invitation to him to participate in the New York City Marathon this November.

I'll admit that I was the only person in the world who didn't follow this story avidly, basically because I have no heart wasted all of my mining energy back in 2002 on the Quecreek Mine Rescue in PA (remember that one?).  Sure, it was only 4 days, but I cried actual tears when those guys came out of the mine.  Tears - seriously.  And I don't often cry.  A few years later I read a book on strip mining and realized how brutal the whole mining industry to people and to the land, and then I forgot about mining again.  Until last week.

I have two thoughts on this:
1.  Did the Chilean miners have showers underground?  Because if not, um, those miners were probably fresh.
2.  Can we add this to the list of official ways to qualify for the marathon?  Enter the lottery, run really fast, raise money for a charity, pay a lot of money, run enough qualifying races, or be trapped underground in a mine for a long, long time?  I suppose the last one should be qualified as "by special invitation from the race director," but just in case you want to recreate the experience, here's a link to some mining jobs in New York State.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I don't know any more song lyrics about being dizzy or I'd insert them here.

Which one is me?
My grade/high school best friend's mom was this former fashion plate, a beauty who was once named the queen of our village.  She morphed her youthful model looks into a graceful Eileen Fisher look that works for her.  A classy woman with a great sense of humor.

The one thing about her, though, is that she has two sons and no daughters.  This meant that her former body image issues were occasionally foisted on to me.  Like, for instance, the time we were at their lake house for a weekend. I loved their beautiful lake house, but I hated that lake.  Hated it.  Hated all water.  I wouldn't quite say that I wast hydrophobic, but I wasn't that far off from it.  (True story: I turned down scholarship money at a school that required a swim test.)  (I'm still a crap swimmer, but I'm mostly over my fear by now.)

So one afternoon, we were debating going out into the lake.  I was trying to suggest anything else to avoid the water.  She pulled me to the side and said, "I know that we can't all have supermodel stick figures, honey, but don't be embarrassed about getting your swimsuit on!"

Yeah.  Except I was at a normal body weight and basically grew up with this family.  No embarrassment there.

The last time I saw her, a few months ago in New York, her son/my friend organized an afternoon of drinks.  I had been feeling a little woozy from the cab ride over, so I ordered a ginger ale.  Again, there it goes: "Ginger ale has a bit much sugar, don't you think?  Check the calorie count before you drink that!"

Point being: I'm chugging ginger ale like it's going out of style right now for its anti-vertigo properties.  I'm aslo chugging meclizine, incidentally, and learning how to do this:

The Epley Maneuver. I tried this
and thought sure I was going to die.
On Wednesday morning, my phone fell off the bed around 5:30am, waking me up.  As soon as I sat up to grab the phone, the room started spinning.  Understatement of the year.  I've been having dizzy spells - sort of often, lately - but this wasn't even in the same realm as anything that's happened before.  This was whole body.  I was covered in sweat, shaking, crying, and feeling like I wanted to throw up.  I crawled to the couch, then back to the bathroom to try puking, then back to the couch.  Two hours later it subsided enough that I could fall asleep for a few hours, after which I went to the doctor.  She diagnosed me with "acute labrynthitis" (David Bowie optional).

Before you ask, this is completely unrelated to the marathon and is also unrelated to running, except to explain why it is that I did not run Wednesday or Thursday.  And I may not run today.  I'm under doctor's orders to "R-E-S-T until the end of the week!"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/10/10 Chicago Marathon race report pt. 3: the finale

I've been hard on myself the past few days, if you haven't noticed.  When you're as slow as I am and you have a bad race, it's sometimes hard to discern the difference between "acceptably slow" and "I'm better than this slow."  But now, thanks to the magic of Marathon Foto, I have an objective look at my race and I can officially put Sunday's race into the "I'm better than this" category.

Care to take a scenic walk through the streets of Chicago with me?  Because it's a walk I'm taking in these photos, get it?

The photos aren't all bad!  This one is kind of cute.  Then again, I knew the photographers always hang out here and I'd just had an adrenaline jolt from seeing those Chinese dragons.  (I'm more terrified of Chinese dragons than I am of mummers, and that says a lot.)  (Incidentally, did anyone else notice a ton of frog umbrellas on the course?  It was like they were put out there to torture me.)

You can do it, Tracy!  Smile for the cameras!  What a great race you're having!  It's totally natural to have your right hand balled up into a fist - that's perfect running form and in no way indicative of physical discomfort!

Uh-oh.  What is that look of consternation on your face?  This does not look good for Tracy.  I'm biting my lip in pain here.  Also, I'm walking.  In case you couldn't tell.

Okay, and we're running again.  Totally running.  Just with a vapid, empty look on my face.  Like no one's home.  Completely normal.  At least there's shade.

I really hate people who can a) rock booty shorts and make it work, and b) look near the finish of a marathon as though they've exerted no effort.  I am neither of those people.  Instead, I look like death.

Mile 26.  I'm thinking about quitting.  I love how the woman next to me is all jazz hands/pained expression here.  I also love how this photo is like a minute after the other one, but my expression hasn't changed at all.  Actually, my shoulders might look slightly less slumped in this photo.

Nope...  I take that back.  Shoulders are still slumped.  This is on Roosevelt Road, less than 400m from the finish.  I saw the 400m sign, thought, "Huh.  In an ordinary day, you could do that in like 2 minutes," and I just kept shuffling.  I CLIMBED MOUNT WASHINGTON AND A FREAKING RAILWAY OVERPASS REDUCES ME TO THIS?

This is the finish.  My eyes are closed - not a fluke of photography.  I wanted to die.  I am shuffling.

Take home message: sometimes you feel like you're having a bad day, and it's because you're actually having a bad day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/10/10 Chicago Marathon race report pt. 2

Here's how my Sunday went down, for those of you who like details.

By 6:30am, I was at the host hotel, meeting up with Carla.  She, too, was aiming for a sub-5 hour marathon.  We walked over to gear check, met up with Carla's friend Kim, and headed to the portapotty lines around 7am.  After waiting... and waiting... and waiting in the line, we were only maybe halfway to the toilets.  The crowds were too thick for any sort of clandestine public urination, but at least we could see the corrals.  Little did we realize that the entrance to the open corral was actually several blocks away.  We finagled our way in, but we weren't able to push quite up to the 5 hour pace team.

By 8am, we'd crossed the start line.  We got into an even pace pretty quickly; the crowds were thick, but it wasn't too bad.  Our first few miles were pretty even with pace.  There was nice shade and good crowd support, and we chatted away, stopping at every water station.  I didn't mention it to Carla at first, but every mile made me more nervous about my ability to keep up our pace.  It was already a hot day and I was exhausted.  By mile 7 or 8, it was harder than it should have been to maintain that pace while talking.  I was sweaty and dehydrated.  Carla gave me a salt pill around mile 9 or 10, but I expected a quick pick-me-up and instead I was still plodding.  By 10am and the halfway point, I'd lost her for good.  I had become a liability at this point.

Carla, for the record, is a saint.  She's fun to run with, completely likable, and she carries extra salt pills.  I was sorry to watch her go, but I felt powerless to hold on.  (She went on to rock her marathon, running 5:07 with consistent splits despite the weather.)

What do you do when you realize halfway through a marathon that your race, as you planned it, is over?  I kept going.  I wanted to wear the shirt, and - worst of all - I knew that DNFing would mean that I'd have to do yet another training run.  But seriously - my race was over.  I was done mentally and mostly done physically at this point.  With the sunniest, hottest half of the race left to complete.

Watch your step.
So I plodded on.  It was slow, with as much walking as running.  I took water at every station and wished desperately that the "Event Alert System" would change to black and the race would be canceled (it got up to red but never black).  I ran through misting stations and tried not to trip over soggy, deteriorated cups or banana peels or orange peels or sponges in the middle of the road.  I took ice from police on the course and avoided ambulances (several; scary).  I tried to help a woman who was throwing up fairly aggressively and was reprimanded by her friend: "She's with me. She has help."

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I hate negative signs intended to cheer me on.  I love Chicago for its crowd support, but what about when that support is, well, unsupportive?  I got actually angry every time I'd see a sign that said something like, "Stop Lollygagging!" or, "If you can read this, you should be running faster."  Some of these signs were downright mean.  And the one saying "Morticians up ahead - look alive"?  I haven't heard reports of anyone having died this year, but that one freaked me out.

By 20, I was still able to pick it up now and then, but it was rough.  My stomach was full of fluid but my mouth was parched.  I don't remember mile 25 very well, except that I just wanted the f*&$ing thing over with, now.  I physically couldn't run.  I didn't want water.  My body wasn't cooperating and my mind had completely given up.  The only way I can explain it is that if someone had said, "Tracy, here's $10,000 for you if you can jog it in to the finish, even if slowly" I would have said, "No thanks, Imma walk this one out."  I turned onto Mt. Roosevelt and saw a medical tent (the finish line was literally in sight at this point) and considered stopping.  Instead I pushed myself forward, somehow.  I kept asking myself, "Do you know your name? Do you know what date it is?" just to test myself to make sure I wasn't completely losing it (I couldn't remember if it was Sunday or Monday - I knew it was a holiday weekend - but otherwise I was good.)

Taste: repulsive.
Powers: magical.
At 1:46pm, I crossed the finish line and immediately burst into tears.  Sobbing, hysterical, terrific tears.  Nothing like this has happened to me before - I wasn't emotional, I was just exhausted.  They weren't tears of relief; I thought I was going to die.  I got my medal and stumbled to the medical tent.

I've DNF'd a few races, but I've never, never ended up in a medical tent.  I've never even seriously considered a medical tent.  A friend saw me finish said that I looked completely unaware of my surroundings, and that at one point in the last 200m a cop darted across the course - my friend thought that the cop was on his way to see if I needed aid, I looked that bad.  Weirder still, evidently I didn't acknowledge the cop (because I didn't see him).  Yeah, I was out of it.

Twenty minutes, one wet towel, one misting station, an RN, an MD, and a Gatorade recovery drink later and I felt better.  An hour later and I actually felt good.  Like, quite good.  Perky.  Happy.  Hungry.  Not at all sore.  It was the heat that did me in.  You'd think after all the time I've spent dehydrated in the hot, Egyptian sun that I'd recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion, but noooo.  It's a marathon; you're supposed to be sweating and have a rapid pulse.

That is a massive plate of Carson's chicken & ribs and a smiling, recovered me.
And finally, from the "that's really cool" file, check out this video of the start from Runner's World.  If you squint closely, you maybe, maybe, maybe can see me in my orange shirt and blue skirt:

Tomorrow: the Chicago Marathon recap ends with some lovely, lovely, lovely photos of me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10/10/10 Chicago Marathon race report pt. 1

The short story: the Chicago Marathon was bad.  Just bad.

In retrospect, although I don't regret running, I do wonder if I should have bailed on the race.  The line between "not really a good idea" and "definitely a bad idea" sometimes only comes into focus when you're in the medical tent at the finish - assuming you can still see by then (and your vision isn't fuzzy).

Back it up.

As you've probably noticed from, you know, my every statement on this blog, I'm training for the New York City Marathon on 7 November.  But a few things came together and I ended up registering for Chicago:
-the fact that I'm a native Chicagoan who adores the Chicago Marathon;
-the fact that I'd be in Illinois the weekend of the Chicago Marathon for a wedding;
-and the fact that I realized the latter a day or two before the Chicago Marathon closed registration and I can't resist feeling like I'm "in on" something...
I'd run it as a well-supported long training run, right?

Of course this plan was imperfect.  Chicago is a flat, fast course and I couldn't shake my secret desire to try for a sub-5hr marathon (even though I still have two weeks of training for NYCM).  I had done a successful 18m training run for NYCM, but no 20s.  I spent the evening before Chicago at a wedding and dragged in around midnight, having pre-race carb loaded on vegan tofu stuffed peppers (at the wedding) and chicken fingers (in the car on the way home during the 3 hour drive).

And then there was the weather...  oh, the weather.  Not quite 2007, but not quite comfortable, either.  Anecdotally, it seems that a lot of runners who trained for sub-3:30 were able to hit or come close to their goals, but those who trained for anything slower missed their goals, often by a lot.

The good thing about my crappy finish (5:46) is that I'm not sore.  At all.  No stiffness, even.  I mean, seriously - I've been more sore from 5m training runs than I am right now.

A few thoughts...  After this round of fall marathons,* I'm done with it for a while.  I need to become a better, stronger, healthier, and frankly thinner runner before I do this again.  I want to see some consistent improvement before I throw myself wholeheartedly into training again.  This was my sixth marathon finish, and of those six races, only ONE of them was a well-executed race of which I am proud.  I'm completely over the idea of finishing just to finish.  I'm not saying I'll race every marathon I enter from now on, but I don't want to give up this much of my life to training again if I'm not in peak form to begin.

And the Chicago Marathon?  Seriously, it can go screw itself at this point.  It's become like an abusive boyfriend to me.  It was awesome in the beginning but it's just gotten worse during our years together.  I'll keep coming back, I'm sure, but the weather is too volatile, the crowds too thick, and my finish times too slow for me to pour my all into our relationship from now on.

Tomorrow, I'll do a race blow-by-blow for those of you who like details.  And you'll get to hear some highlights (there were a few, and those were lovely).

*I am indeed still doing NYCM and the Flying Monkey.  Battered marathoner syndrome: "I'll never do this again!... but I can't wait until next time."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week in review: NYCM training again

  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 13.1m at Grete's Great Gallop
  • Sunday: 9.3m
  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: 6m in Central Park with Renee.  I forgot how awesome an early morning run/girl talk session can be.
  • Wednesday: rest
  • Thursday: rest.  Taper, right?
28m.   I'll squeeze in another run before the race this weekend.  But, you may not hear from me for a few days.  Monday is a holiday and besides, I'm on vacation.  First up, a wedding outside of Chicago.  Then, this:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On Saturday night, I got a frantic call from my sister. "Have you been following the weather?" she asked.  "It's looking like it's going to be bad."  I knew immediately what she meant: the Chicago Marathon.

No, I hadn't been following the weather, but there are two ways it can go: too hot, or too miserable (rain and cold).  And since 2007, most of the time you hear "bad weather" and "Chicago Marathon" in the same sentence, it refers to the heat.

I went immediately to WGN to see what Tom Skilling, local Chicago meteorological hero, had to say.

Huh.  That is not good.

Now, I know that it's impossible to predict the weather a week in advance with any accuracy.  But, I was there in 2007.

(Warning: I'm about to use hyperbole to talk about the 2007 Chicago Marathon as though it was a mythical tragedy instead of just a canceled road race.)

In 2007, it was hot.  It was very hot.  By the end of the day, it would be nearly 90 degrees.  Maybe not the worst weather ever, but Chicago is notoriously flat and usually has mild-to-cold weather.  I don't know how we made it through.

Replace "Terrorist Attacks" with
"Marathon Problems" and you're on!
I was volunteering at the 5m elite water station, and I was sweating as we set it up.  I was sweating as we closed it down.  We started hearing ambulance sirens pretty much as soon as the race started, and we heard them throughout the entire race.  After our water station was closed up, we walked over to the 10k water station and tried to help those volunteers.  They were not out of water (as we'd later hear), they just couldn't pour it into cups fast enough for the desperate runners who wanted water on their heads and bodies as well as for drinking.  Later stations were evidently out of water.  A  man collapsed onto the curb and we tried to help him.  Two runners, both doctors, offered to look at him.  We told them not to ruin their races, that we'd take care of him, but they both looked up and said, "Our races have been over since they began."  I was upset - My sister was leading a pace group when they canceled the race and forced her to walk the last 6 miles.  We waited for her at the finish, frantically, for several hours, checking the medical tent and wondering what had happened.  No one could tell us what was going on; we just knew that my sister wasn't at the finish like we thought she would be.  It was harrowing.

I was there, man.  I still have PTSD from it.  When the weather is just right and I see joggers sweating...  Flashbacks.  It's like I'm there again, man, in 'Nam Chicago '07.

Most weather reports have calmed down some and are predicting highs in the low 70s, although if you believe Tom Skilling it will still get into the 80s.  Additionally, a mass email went out to all participants to remind us of the "Emergency Alert System" to notify us of their terrorist-threat-level-esque alert system for marathon weather.  I get that the weather is no joke, but I also get that 30,000+ runners have been training for months (and traveling from great, expensive distances) to get to this day.

Please, please, Carey Pinkowski, don't cancel the race on us?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You spin me right round, baby

So, dizzy spells.

I alluded on Monday to the fact that I've been having dizzy spells lately.  And I suggested that I know why, and that they're nothing to worry about.

The cause: tension in my back and shoulders.
The solution: well, I'm not sure, but I'm using this as an excuse to do more yoga and to treat myself to a massage.

I started noticing the tension building at night, when I'd wake up each morning with that nagging "I didn't sleep well" feeling.  I switched around my pillows but was still starting most mornings with a headache.  And then, I think as a residual gift from my shin splints, I've been carrying a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders - so much so that I've taken to running with my hands balled up into fists.  No good.

I went for an hour long massage yesterday.  It was deep tissue massage.  It hurt like a mother.  But as soon as I was done, I felt better.  Fingers crossed it lasts.  In case it doesn't, I have another scheduled for next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Race Report: Get Outside on Governors Island

Okay, lemme be upfront about something: I was disinclined to like this race almost from the get-go.

When I first heard about it, I was excited.  Flat course!  Great views! I've never been to Governors Island!  Yay!  And then it started getting weirder... I registered early, only to find out that people who registered later, in August, got money off their registrations (so I was effectively penalized for registering early).  On top of that, the course has 15 turns.  Yes: 15 over 6 miles.  You turn nearly every third of a mile.  Better yet, they told us all to look at and memorize the course before getting there to avoid race day complications.  Better yet, getting there meant taking a ferry, and (inexplicably) once on the island the start is a 20 minute walk from the ferry dock - and the ferry would only make three trips that morning, so you could either get there ridiculously early or risk being late.

It got weirder.  After emailing us that it was a 20 minute walk, they updated the website to say it was a 40 minute walk to the start ("bring your bike") AND the website said that you should bring your own water bottle as the race was going sustainable.  Students would be selling water bottles as a fundraiser, and otherwise water would be provided in "re-filling stations."

And then I discovered that my one small ace in the hole - the fact that my subway line runs direct to the ferry dock - wasn't.  That train was running extremely limited service on the weekends and stopping two miles short of where I needed.  That meant transferring trains, which meant hassle.  Even if I wanted to take a cab, which would be prohibitively expensive (probably (~$35), there aren't any in my neighborhood.

I'll cut to the chase: I got to the subway station well before the train was scheduled to arrive at 6:05.  And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Thirty minutes later, I was still 45 minutes away from the ferry dock (if things went well, which they don't on a Sunday morning with the MTA) with no signs of the train and I was facing the very real possibility that I would miss the last ferry.  I gave up and went home.  After a few more hours of sleep, I went out for a recovery run.
No race. this is totally what happened instead. Me and the dog. Both tired. In bed.

I didn't need to do this race and in fact my legs were tired and my body was tired and I needed sleep more.  I think this is a sign.  I spent the spring and summer doing races that I was only half committed to, running them casually rather than racing, and I've gotten nothing out of it.  And in fact, my times have gotten worse.  I'm not sure my body even knows what it means to run a consistent, strong race any more. Even when I set my 4m PR, I walked for part of the race.  That's not good race strategy.

After fall marathon season ends for me, I'm going to spend some time seriously re-evaluating my racing.  I've hidden behind my slow times - telling myself that it doesn't matter how I do because I'm not a very fast racer - as an excuse to waste time and money participating in races that I don't care about.  I have guaranteed entry into next year's marathon if I want it by having done 9 races this year, and it's time to focus my efforts on improving as a runner, not just on racing willy-nilly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Race Report: Grete's Great Gallop

New Year's. I'm clutching
her out of fear of fireworks.
Also, I'd been drinking.
Here's something you might not know about me: I am obsessed with all things Scandinavian.  True story.  During my first archaeological dig, I spent 10 hours a day for three months basically listening to a Swede and a Dane tell me amazing, amazing stories about this fascinating part of the world where people eat herring and salty black licorice and spread lard on toast and collect money from the government for doing nothing.  Do you know that all of our good pop music comes from Sweden?  When I finally got there for my first visit, it was like a dream come true - if you dream about IKEA furniture and schnaps and drunken Swedes setting off fireworks that would be illegal even in Indiana for New Year's, that is.  I dream about those things.

Point being, running around Central Park is boring.  Running around Central Park when you tell me it's a Norwegian Festival - that's a different story.  The t-shirt?  Meh.  The course?  Eh.  Norway? AWESOME!

Southern Sweden has its own Stonehenge.
Impressive, until you see that the stones are waist-high.
If you could eat like this every Christmas,
wouldn't you? That's EEL in the bottom
left.  Yummy EEL. The rest is herring. And ham.
Of course the race isn't only about Norway; it's also about Grete Waitz.  And she's cool and all, and a local running hero for her amazing performances at the New York City Marathon, and she was at the start waving us on, but can I tell you more stories about Scandinavia instead?  When my plane landed in Oslo and they pronounced it all "Us-lo" instead of "Oz-low" like we do over here I thought for a second that I was in the wrong place.  Oh, and another time?  I went to see a movie in Copenhagen and the credits rolled and the subtitled screen said "SLUT" and I burst out laughing.  That means "end" in Danish.

Back to running.  It was gorgeous weather and I went out strong, but I faltered at the end.  My goal was to make it a pace run, as close to MP as I could, and to that end I finished only two minutes under my goal.  But my splits were terrifically uneven, with a solid first half and a much slower second half.  (I had to hard reset my Garmin last week, so I don't have my mile splits, sadly.)  I've been having some weird dizzy spells this past week (I'M TOTALLY FINE AND I KNOW WHAT'S CAUSING THEM AND I'M GOING TO SEE MY DOCTOR THIS MORNING), but I realized near the 10m mark that I was actually feeling nauseated from running a curvy part of the road.  Motion sickness: it's not just for cars or planes or boats anymore!  So, I took it easy.  There were lox and waffles at the end - sadly, I dawdled meeting some people from twitter at baggage and didn't get any waffles but the salmon was good and the company was worth it.

I totally stole this picture from Lauren, so go to her blog.

To conclude: remember Roxette?  Of course you do.
The guy from Roxette is way, way successful in Sweden.  Still.  I know this song is in Swedish and all, but I triple-dog-dare you to try to get it out of your head after a listen.  As upbeat as the song sounds, the lyrics are actually quite depressing in translation.

And if you like that? Let me know.  I'd be happy to turn this blog into "Go Tracy Listen to Swedish Music" instead.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week in review: there are only FIVE WEEKS LEFT

  • Friday:  3m, barely.  No more treadmill for me this season!
  • Saturday:  6.5m, interrupted by a children's festival on my running path.
  • Sunday: xm total: 2m w/u, 1m race, 2m c/d, and then 4m in the afternoon.  (Did you catch that? I totally did a double. My sister's orders.)
  • Monday: rest, sweet rest
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: rest. Um, yeah, this is getting old.
  • Thursday: 5m on the treadmill waiting for this week's Storm of the Century to fail to materialize... and then I limped home.
I'm not going to sugar coat this week - it was lame of me.  All of my smug pride over having done a double on Sunday was washed away over the next three days, as I sat around not running.  I should probably just accept Tuesdays as a scheduled rest day instead of feeling guilty about it.  Very lame.

I could use the excuse that I'm tapering for Chicago.  Yeah.  You know, the race that I'm not even racing, that I'm "participating in"?  That's totally exactly what I'm doing: a taper.  Not slacking on my New York training at all.

It's fascinating to me how some of us beat ourselves up for not running (me), while others take pride in the days that they do run and don't fixate on the days they don't.

However, something very, very, very exciting happened to me last weekend.  I. SAW. AN. ELLIPTIGO. IN THE WILD!!!

During my easy run on Saturday, I stopped to take a phone call from my brother (I know, I know, I was totally that guy on the running path).  While on the phone, I saw this green bike/scooter flash past me and it caught my eye.  Suddenly I started squealing: "It's an elliptigo! An elliptigo!"  My brother was freaked out at first, but then I tried to calm down and explain it to him.  It's a hard concept to explain.  He said, "So, wait.  It's like, 'I like using the elliptical, but I have some errands I need to run around town'?"  EXACTLY.  But somehow better in reality than it is in theory.

I'm racing back-to-back this weekend (well, participating in races, but neither for time): Grete's Great Gallop on Saturday and GOGI on Sunday.  I'll be in a skirt and a baseball cap.  Probably purple on Saturday and grey skirt on Sunday.  Say hi!