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, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

This year, to celebrate, I'm going to a 10:30pm bikram yoga class on New Year's Eve. I will spend midnight in savasana. The next morning, at 11am on new year's day, I will do a long run. I kind of can't wait. Going out on NYE is totally overrated, am I right?

I'm contemplating whether or not to issue a challenge to myself for the new year. One of my friends gives herself a cooking type challenge each year - if you're into meat and want to be impressed, read her posts from last year on doing things like making her own sausage from scratch. Another good friend has set the goal of doing a half marathon each month.

Part of me thinks that giving myself a challenge could give me some focus in the new year. The other part of me thinks that it would just set me up for disappointment when I inevitably abandon the challenge partway through the year. What I do know is that I don't want it to be vague, e.g. "get more fit." That's a recipe for disaster for me. I work much better with specific goals.

Oh! I do have one exciting thing I'll be preparing for throughout 2012. Dawn and I have decided that we're doing the Chattanooga Stage Race in 2013. I'm not sure that preparation involves anything more than "run a lot, often back to back long runs," but I should probably throw as much trail running as is feasible into the mix. If I wasn't so completely over the state of Tennessee (seriously - how many races do I need to run there?), I'd consider this race in May. But the North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain is easier and local, so it will probably get my race registration fee.

If you have any thoughts on the idea of a challenge for the new year, do let me know. Is anyone doing anything like that?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I hope this is the worst thing you see all day

After a stunningly mediocre run today,* my sister and I stopped off at the running store where she moonlights. While there, I saw the most horrifyingly horrendous sports-related product I have ever seen. Worse than pink body glide. Worse even than those crazy bouncy shoes:

"Handful" - A sports bra designed to flatter, not flatten. It's padded. Like, hugely padded. Like, more so than any of my normal bras. (I tried to photograph the padding. Just trust me on it.)

As Sonja, a Boston Marathon finisher, attests on their website, "I want spectators to focus on my strength and determination-not my nipples!" Or, like they're packaging states, "You're active. You're versatile. Your'e one of a kind. You're a handful."

I don't get it.

Let me just put it out there: I have nipples. Sorry for offending those of you who weren't aware of this, but I in fact do. And yes, on the rare occasion when it's cold enough, there is the chance you will be able to make out a faint outline of a nipple under my thick sportsbra and shirt(s). And if you do, well, I have one thing to say: Stop staring at my chest, you perv.

*with really good company. Nice to meet you, Danna!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 in review: a premature look back

I really shouldn't be blogging right now.

Somewhere, on a scrap of paper in a coat pocket or on a pile on an end table in my apartment, I have a hastily scrawled list of things I should blog about. Things I've meant to blog about. Things I will blog about, once I have a computer again. These are perky things, happy things, funny things. These things are light as air and fluffy as clouds. These are not things that I'm thinking about at 9pm on a Thursday night. After a full day of work, after an evening run, after returning to my office with my mind still on overdrive, the things I'm thinking about are the opposite of fluffy clouds.

No, sitting here in my office, I most definitely should not be reviewing the year that has almost passed in my head. What a year, and not in a good way. Personally and professionally, I've had to answer some serious and hard questions this year. As much as I've made a whole mess of awesome friends this year, I've also had to let go of several people who were very important to me - a break-up, not a death, it could be worse. And I have my health, as do all of my loved ones. For that I'm grateful.

I know last year I waxed on about how January 1st was an arbitrary date and resolutions are meaningless. But this year, I'm welcoming the fresh start, even though it's fabricated. I'm looking forward to 2012, but only because it means I can put 2011 very, very far behind me.

Anyway. In between pity parties, I did do some running in 2011.

In January, I started the year with a 4m midnight run in Central Park. Shortly thereafter, I left for Egypt. I ran a 22k (you read that right) in Luxor, Egypt, during the Egyptian revolution and then got evacuated by the State Department.

In February I came back to the states and, out of shape, ran a Valentine's themed 5k.

March saw me developing a bit of a statement on blogging, and also running Coogan's, another 5k in upper Manhattan. It also marked the first time I said "this is my last race for a while" in a blog entry. Hahahahaha.

Yeah, that lasted. Until April, when I ran a trail 10k in the Bronx. And another 5k on a runway at JFK. And then a sort-of 10k to celebrate Easter. I finished off the month with a PW half marathon in Nashville.

In May, I ran the "dirty german" trail 25k (which has gotten my blog no small number of hits by people searching for "Dirty Tracy," "Dirty Germans," or other things unfit for print) in Philly. I closed out May with a difficult 5k in Van Cortlandt Park. June also saw only a few races, including a hilly 10k, a supershort 5k in Montreal, and back-to-back PRs in one weekend at a 5k on Saturday and a 10m race on Sunday.

Also in June? I drank a lot of beer and defended the running skirt.

This seems weird, but I don't think I ran any races in July. How can that be? But I did upset the RWOL forums with a blog entry that I wrote that someone else posted on the site. I certainly wasn't done annoying people at that point, however. In August I wrote about a woman whose blog I read who fabricates her race times. (She got back to me on that, by the way. We exchanged a few messages after that. I think she might be a compulsive liar.)

I ran a mile in 7:37 in September and then I laid low, training for NYCM. (I did try to talk Nike into sponsoring me, but I'm still waiting to hear back.) To prepare for the marathon, I ran a taper-time half that nearly left me dead by the side of the road.

And then! Then! The glorious fall in which I BECAME A STUNT MARATHONER! In other words, I ran 3 marathons in 22 days. It somehow worked, although it involved a lot of massages and rest. But I hope not to do that again. The first was Marine Corps, and then a week later New York City. I gave myself a two week rest before the Flying Monkey.

In December I ran a 10 mile trail race that I haven't blogged about and set a 15k PR.

Happy holidays, y'all. Appreciate what you have. Don't take anything for granted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This is what it's all about.

Last week, I was moaning about goals. If you could read between the lines, which you can because both of you readers are very very bright, you could sense that I was - I don't know, not exactly missing motivation so much as kind of floundering about what to do next. I'm goal-less, and while that's okay, I'm also impatient.

I got some excellent advice in the comments, including M's suggestion that I work on... well, on doing nothing. Sweaty Kid also had a suggestion: more trail running. So, I tried that.

On Sunday, I met Illana in a place with a funny name to run on a trail with a burly name. That's how I described it to a friend, and I stand behind my words - we met at the Mamaroneck train station (funny name) to run the Leatherstocking Trail (burly name). And it was awesome.

That photo is about .02 seconds after I stepped in the water accidentally and screamed out loads of profanities. It was cold. Coldcoldcold. This is also my new facebook profile photo, since it's rare that I look anything other than completely strange while in running clothes.

But first, I ran a 15k. And it was great. Saturday morning, only very slightly hungover, I ran the Ted Corbitt 15k in Central Park in 1:29:11, beating my last year's time (and PR) of 1:34:01 by nearly 5 minutes. This made me happy. I set a goal for myself (sub-1:30) and I beat it. And it was hard.

Illana is training for things that are much more hardcore than I am, including a trail 50k this spring. Me, I'm chilling. Although I wanted to throw up more than a little bit at the finish line of Saturday's race, I actually didn't feel that terrible by Saturday afternoon. Sunday was all about easy running, though. Illana let me lead and set the pace, and I set it sloooooow. My Garmin died just as our run began, and hers was recording only the time (not the pace/distance). This was fine by me.

There was an element of Blair Witch to the whole thing - mostly because you can't tell from the photos that we were never more than 500 feet from the suburbs.

Of course, I am like an elephant when it comes to the trails. Well, maybe not quite an elephant, as an elephant would be able to just smash its way through stuff. I'm more like, you know, something clutzy and awkward.

Illana is faking falling, but I'll bet you were fooled, weren't you, you totally couldn't tell that this was staged, can you!

It was only about 90 minutes into our 2+ hour run that she took the lead. Immediately I noticed her style - she jumped gracefully from stone to stone, seeming to float or bounce. "Be nimble!" she told me. "Nimble!" I tried it. It worked. (Relatively speaking. I went from elephant to maybe hippopotamus - which I'm good with.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's next for me?

I don't know what's next. And I need advice on what I should do.

I will hit 1000 miles of running for the year tomorrow morning. Considering that November was a blisteringly tough 80 miles in total for the month (and this was including two marathons! compare it to October at 130 miles), and considering I didn't run more than twice in the entire month of January, I'm okay with that. I'd like it to be higher. Maybe 1500m for next year as a goal? That would be tough, but doable.

My biggest goal for next year, though, is not to race. I'm tired of "racing," as in participating in races that don't get my full attention.

When I was in college, I wrote to the Partnership for a Drug Free America and asked them to send me a video of their commercials. They did. My favorite one was this one:

Anyone who has hung out with me a bunch has probably heard me quote this guy. He gives such an eloquently strung out expression of the way we all pretend like life changes are somehow easy to make. "Come back in one year and I'll be... successful." How many times have I said that?

You come back one year from today and I'll be faster. And running higher mileage. And I'll be thinner. And smarter. I'll make more money. I'll have more friends - ooh, maybe a boyfriend! And my cat won't be an asshole any longer.

Except none of those things will be true. I'll pretty much be the same, knock wood. And that's okay. But no sense in pretending like I'm going to stop my serial racing.

I'm already registered for RnR NOLA, and I've been invited to join a team for Ragnar Cape Cod. In March and May respectively, I'd like to keep those two as my only spring races. In fact, I'm even on the fence about RnR. And then I have guaranteed entry to the NYCM come November.

Do I take a break? If so, how? What do I focus on?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So What it's Hot? Product Review

A few weeks ago, I got a message from one of my friends asking if I'd seen the "So What it's Hot" water bottle holder. "I think it's like the Snuggie for runners!" she said.

Oh, yes, I'd seen it. Their ads have been doing the twitter/facebook/viral bit, and for good reason. If you haven't already seen it, watch this:

Given that my love of the Snuggie is well known, as is my love of water, I knew immediately that I needed to try the SWIH. Therefore, I did something I've never done before and I shot the company an email asking if they would be willing to send me one to review. A few hours later I had a very nice email saying yes, and less than a week later I had two SWIH, size medium and large, one in pink and one in black. (Customer service: A+.) For reference, the pink is L and the black is M. We didn't really notice a significant difference between the sizes, although the medium was slightly too large to fit comfortably around my neck but fit perfectlyover my head. The velcro may have been aligned slightly differently between the two, as Tara's size L fit around her neck easily. That, or maybe I have a dainty little giraffe neck (<--not true).

I recruited Tara to try the SWIH with me on a weeknight run in Central Park.

The product is simple: it's a stretchy band with a velcro fastening that wraps around your head. An elasticized pouch in the middle of the band holds a water bottle, enabling you to wear it a variety of ways:

Behind your head

Rear shot, behind the head

Over your ears behind your head
Around your neck

Around your waist. NB: we deemed this completely pointless.

  • It's surprisingly easy to get the water in and out. I expected it to be hard and that I would have to remove the SWIH, but I didn't.
  • Inadvertently encourages good posture. Having the SWIH behind my head meant that I kept my head and torso up straight.
  • Did not bounce. It actually kept the bottle fairly flush against my head and it didn't really bounce. Now, that said, the water does slosh (see below).
  • NO ONE GAVE US ANY WEIRD LOOKS. I'm not sure if this is because we live in New York, where doing odd things is de rigueur, or if it's because people expect runners to be different, or if it's because it was dark. But only two people said anything to us, and both comments were curious and encouraging.


  • The sound of the water slushing. For the first two miles, Tara and I were pleasantly surprised by how stable the bottle was. Then we both stopped to drink some water, and when we started up again, it was as though we were running on the beach. Not in a pleasant way, but as though we were carrying the sounds of the ocean right behind our ears. Even talking to each other meant having to speak up over the waves crashing through our heads. Tara tried putting in her headphones. Not only did that not deaden the sound, but she lost an earpiece cover.
  • Very difficult to drink and run. Although the bottle was easy to remove, we did have to stop to walk to do it.
  • Definitely puts a weight on your neck. I would not have been able to use this for speedwork/tempo runs, nor long runs. I end up with tired shoulders (ahem, no core strength) after long runs anyway, and adding the weight of a water bottle would be brutal.
  • No pockets for money, etc. I'm asking too much here, but my handheld bottle gets a plus for also having a small pocket.
Given that it was only about 40 degrees when we ran, I didn't have a chance to test the SWIH with frozen water. I could see that being very pleasant in the summertime, and I will definitely do that for my easy runs next summer.

Overall, I'm mixed on the SWIH. To be entirely honest, I kind of expected the worst and was pleasantly surprised. I'm always looking for an alternative to a handheld bottle, but I'm not sure this will become my go-to. I will use it again; however, I might suggest it for something lower-impact than running. I would use this in a second over a camelbak on a short hike, for instance.

Barely pictured: the surprisingly effective front-of-the-neck approach to wearing it (aka "the St. Bernard")
But you know what? We had fun trying it. Loads of fun. If you're looking for a nice, cheap stocking stuffer or grab bag gift for the runner in your life, why not?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Can anybody hear me?

I said goodbye to my computer in a very solemn (and private) ceremony on Wednesday. Beers were drunk. Songs were played (from my iPhone, since... well, since...). My 11" MacBook Air may have only been part of my life for 343 short days, but those days were meaningful and that computer's memory (both gigs of it) will live on - at least until I buy a new one in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, I find myself having to do things like talk to people, or use a pen in order to write in a notebook. It's making me twitchy, and it's making me neglect things like my blog. So don't tell anyone, but I'm right now blogging from work. Shhhh!

Something you may not know about Tracy: to pay the bills in grad school, I taught a public speaking course. Now, never mind the "those who can do" adage and let's just pretend for the analogy that I'm basically an expert. One of the things I taught my students was the age-old advice of how to structure a speech: tell them what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you just said.

So today I'm going to tell you what I'm going to say. And then, next week (maybe? hopefully?) or the week after, I'm going to say it. Slowly, slowly. I might skip the last step.

Things you can look forward to in the next few weeks:
  • Race reviews! I ran a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot and a trail race in DC. Thank god I did not run the Hot Chocolate 15k. What a clusterfuck that sounds like.
  • Product reviews!* I have a new running dress. I have a SWIH (oh, yes, I do - and I wore it for 5m and it wasn't as bad as you might expect). And I have some stuff (that's the scientific term: stuff) from Vega.
  • Um... and other stuff, too? Maybe the list isn't as impressive on paper as it is in my head. That happens.

*Frankly I'm kind of mixed on product reviews. On one hand, if someone sends me something for free, I'm going to take it. And I'm never going to say nice things about something I don't like. On the other hand, I don't like having my blog be a shill for today's crap product du jour. Skip those posts if you don't care. I won't be offended.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Would you believe...

I accidentally spilled beer on my laptop and am paralyzed until I take it out of the rice bowl in a few days to see whether it is working or not.

I'm a loser.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What do you carry with you when you run?

Just some quick little begging for advice before the weekend.

What do you carry with you when you run?

This morning, I ran two miles more than I intended to. Emilie and I have a nice morning routine going on: I run about a third of a mile to the subway to meet her, we run for around 4ish miles, and then we part ways at another subway stop near her apartment, where I get on the train and head home.

Today I said goodbye to Emilie and entered the subway. I swiped my card. The turnstile read "insufficient fare;" my card expired last night, evidently.  The sum total of what I had on me was: a cell phone, my apartment keys, and an expired metro card.

So I ran home and (obviously) tweeted it. And had someone ask me why I wasn't running with my wallet.

So, I ask: what do you carry when you run? I guess I should have been carrying some cash, but frankly I never do (whether running or not). The few times I've set aside a few dollars specifically for running, I've then gone and spent those few dollars - I'm just not a cash-person. Should I be?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Garmin, or not to Garmin

I have loads of interesting things to blog about but not a spare minute in which to record these gems of thoughts. (That's not sarcasm. I actually do have some interesting things to blog about. I'll spare you any sort of tease, but you'll see. Just wait.) Also, I'm exhausted. Completely and totally exhausted. Still.

In the meantime, I'm sure you all heard about this little "event" yesterday called Cyber Monday. (Is it really an "event" if it's just basically a bunch of stuff on sale online? Huh.)

Amongst other things, the Garmin 405 was on sale.

And, funny that, this sale comes up just as my Garmin 305 has decided that it no longer supports my marathon habit - the battery most recently died at around 4 hours. I could get faster... or I could buy a new watch.

I didn't buy it. I think I'm going to try this radical thing where I "don't wear a watch" this winter. You know, sort of like I did for the first 7 or 8 years that I ran? It's retro. But I think it will be okay: I know how far my routes are. I know how to look them up later to map them if I'm not sure. I know how to enjoy a run without feeling saddled by my wrist-computer. And I know how to use a normal Timex for those days when I am curious about time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Flying Monkey Marathon Race Report

A day late and a dollar short.

Truth be told, I really was not looking forward to this marathon. Sure, it would be a chance to catch up with some friends. But physically? No way, no how. My body was burnt out from my little two weekends, two marathons MCM/NYCM stunt. My legs felt fine, but I haven't felt refreshed since NYCM. I go to bed early and wake up early, exhausted. I'm just TIRED.

The closer it got to the actual marathon date of last Sunday, my excitement seemed to decrease rather than increase. I was especially bummed because I had a bet riding on this race. Last year, my friend Ian had bet me that I would not be the last finisher of the race (because he would be behind me). When he bailed at the last minute, I ran instead with his brother and we renewed our bet for this year. This year, though, the bet was legit: first one to the finish wins. Loser buys the winner dinner after the race.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, the weather forecast for the weekend stabilized. Low 60s, wind, and rain. I've never run a marathon in the rain.

Thing is, I entered this race much stronger this year than last. I had every intention of running with Ian (not actually racing it against him), and secretly I hoped that I could coerce him into beating his PR of 5:28. By mile 1 of the race, my goals had changed from "lead Ian to a PR" to "finish this damn thing to get to the post-race party."

"I'm cold and wet and want this bitch over NOW!"
This race has a cult following for a reason. It's hard - 7200 feet of elevation change is not for the weak. It's beautiful - fall in Percy Warner Park? Yes, please! And it's friendly - the small size and the devoted fans gives a camaraderie I haven't seen at any other race.

None of that was enough to salvage the race for me. I suffered through nearly 6 hours of cold and rain. I was miserable for almost all of it. By the end I had to cajole myself into continuing using the excuse of beer at the finish. And that was for naught: I had half a beer, realized I was freezing cold, and went back to the hotel to shower. 15 minutes under hot water and three hours under a blanket later, I was barely able to leave the hotel for dinner.

In case you're wondering, I won the race, but by a cheat. The race isn't chip-timed, and although we crossed the start and finish together, I finished three seconds faster. OFFICIAL RESULTS ARE OFFICIAL RESULTS!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running, and more Lulu-gate

Here's another Lulu-ism for you.

Click this product link. Begin with the "tempest blue herringbone" color (all the way to the right). One by one, click on all of the colors, moving left through dark slate heathered, plum heathered, and black herringbone, ogling the attractive male model.

Now click on "black" on the far left. Notice any thing different about that model?

(To be fair to Lululemon, I'm sure this was an unfortunate coincidence, and I applaud their use of non-white models. But dude would have rocked the plum heathered and looked way hotter, in my opinion.)

I may be quiet for the next few days. Emilie and I are trying to make a go of meeting to run at 6:15am, and this has so far left me excited to run and completely drained of energy to do other stuff like work (my sleep schedule hasn't yet caught up with the new plan).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

UPDATE: Lululemon's founder is still kind of a douche

One of my most frequently googled posts is something I wrote ages ago about Lululemon. The clothing store has a huge cult following amongst affluent yogis and runners, and for mostly good reasons. They do a lot of community-centered programming out of their stores, and their clothes seem to strike a chord with many by being durable, flattering, and fashionable (albeit expensive).

The store ethics center tightly around their founder, Chip Wilson. Chip Wilson is an advocate of Landmark Education (participating and sponsoring employees' participation), and some have accused Landmark of cult-like tendencies (it may have connections with Scientology).

But then, there's this:

Yes, John Galt. On the side of Lululemon's bags. You know John Galt - the famous character from Ayn "Rhymes with Mine" Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged? The conservative manifesto embraced by Objectivists and Tea Partiers everywhere?

True fact: I loved Ayn Rand in college. I missed two meals in order to finish The Fountainhead, and after I finished it I immediately bought a copy for my brother to read and enjoy. (He hasn't read it yet. It's only been, what, 10 years? I'm sure he'll get around to it soon.) Even though my own personal politics no longer preach rational self-interest as the ideal by any means and I find Ayn Rand's writing to be simplistic to the point of being juvenile, I don't have a problem with the politics of the book per se.

But I do have a problem with stores that try to slip political messages past their customers, especially when Lululemon has tried to play it like this is a motto that empowers women to live life to their fullest rather than a political credo. If "The Virtue of Selfishness" is also your motto, as it was Ayn Rand's, then Lululemon is your store!

Personally, albeit seemingly unconnected to John Galt, I think my friend Sarah summed it up best when she said that Lululemon was now in the Brown's Chicken category (along with Lane Bryant, I'd add). Love the store or hate it, the horrifying murder that happened there overshadows all else.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Post-Marathon Enjoyment

The weekend in photos:
Running tour leaving from Brooklyn Brewery

It was pretty

Then I had maybe a lot to drink


It was awesome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Multiple marathons and me

I lied when I said there would be no marathon for me this weekend. I will be participating in a marathon, but I've kept it secret from you. That's because it's a TWILIGHT MARATHON! I'll be watching all the DVDs in preparation for the new movie coming out next weekend.

But now, for reals, regarding multiple marathons - in short: I'm not doing that again. Not because it was hard (it actually wasn't that bad), but more because I don't want my identity to become "stunt marathoner." I want it to become "girl who sets goals, trains for goals, and achieves her goals." The glory of just finishing has faded for me by now.

But, just in case you were wondering how it is that I ran two marathons in 8 days, here are some more details. And then I will not talk about MCM or NYCM 2011 again except in passing.

Why: I don't know? I can tell you some reasons that were not why I did it. I did not do it to join Marathon Maniacs (for those of you keeping score, I became eligible last year and have thus far chosen not to join). I did not do it as some sort of vengeance race - as in, I didn't want to give myself a second chance at a possible PR.

So why did I buy the MCM bib (during the transfer period, totally legit)? A few reasons, I think. One, to see if I could, plain and simple. I seem to recover fairly easily (ahem, largely because I do not put enough effort in).

Also, not to get too personal, but I'm going through something in my life that one might euphemistically call a "rough patch." I wanted to get out of NYC for a weekend, and the thought of seeing friends and running a marathon all by my lonesome seemed cathartic (it was).

And finally, I think that subconsciously I was trying to sabotage myself. Yes, that's right. My training through this whole cycle was actually kind of okay, and I was terrified of not living up to my potential. So how better to counter that than to set up an impossible obstacle that will guarantee that I don't do well?

How: All of my training was geared to NYCM, and MCM was an add-on. I did my last 20m run three weeks out from NYCM. In the week between NYCM and MCM I ran a miserable half and then rested most of that week.

The day after MCM, I ran a very very slow 4m. I had a massage on Wednesday. I then took the rest of the week off from running. In the three weeks prior to NYCM, my mileage was 30m, 16, and 30m (the last figure including MCM). As you can see, I took it easy-peasy leading up to the race(s).

Not really winning any mileage awards here.
And then? Honestly, I feel almost completely fine now. I had a very, very painful massage on Monday night (the only time the therapist I like could see me) and I really am not very sore.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I swear that next week I'll move on to talking about something else. But not just yet. There will be two more days of recap.

A few days after MCM, I eagerly opened my Marathonfoto email and looked at my race pictures. To my surprise, they were actually quite good. I'm not smiling in many of them, but I'm running in all of them and I even have both my feet off the ground in one.

Every time - every time! - I saw a photographer at NYCM, I was walking. For the record, I took probably 4 short non-water stop walk breaks. I walked up part of the Pulaski, Queensborough, Willis Ave. bridges and I walked up some of a hill in Central Park. And Marathonfoto had photogs at the top of every hill. They even had a photographer set up right after a water station at one point! Are they trying to catch us at our worst?

What's the opposite of flying?
It's not just the photos; it's also the money. I know it's trite to complain about the cost of NYCM (it's significantly more expensive than MCM - $185  + $11 lottery fee for NYCM versus $90 for MCM). NYC is a difficult and expensive city to shut down for a day. And I know that there are logistical difficulties in NYC that aren't there in DC (getting 45,000 people to Staten Island, for instance), and NYCM has appearance fees and awards to factor in to the cost.

But the finish area - the finish area! What a nightmare the NYCM finish area is (still!) A claustrophobic, disastrous, terrible half mile of death-shuffle. I had to push through crowds of people wanting their picture taken in order to have my medal handed to me, and then I had to push again to get a bag with Gatorade and water in it. It took me nearly 30 minutes to get 10 blocks out of the park, while crammed between barricades and UPS trucks with NYRR volunteers with bullhorns watching me from lifeguard chairs.

At MCM, a smiling Marine put my medal around my neck and shook my hand before pointing me to an efficient assembly line of treats (including a boxed lunch!). The photo area was clearly indicated and off to one side, so you could have your photo taken (or not) as you liked. I met my friend less than 10 minutes after I'd finished the race.

Finally, the medals. My cold, cold heart is not warmed by a medal, as you know. I stick them in a box on the floor of the closet when I'm done with the race. But even despite that, NYCM's medal was weak this year. Compare the two (apologies for the green background):

MCM is shiny with a nice, thick ribbon and a part in the middle that spins. NYCM is dull, flat, and colorless.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The (immediate) future of my racing

As you know, nearly two weeks ago I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.

Then, last Sunday, I ran the New York City Marathon.

And then, my taper for the Flying Monkey Marathon on 20 November officially began.

So what's next?

1. Lose weight. Now that I'm nearly back to where I was speed-wise before I had the blood clots, I need to get back to the weight I was at before them. That's about (gulp) 25lbs that need to go. I'm active enough; I just need to work on improving my eating habits. I'm ready to do this.

2. Develop core strength. My back and shoulders were killing me during the NYCM. This has happened before, and I recognize it as a sign that I have weak core muscles. Luckily this is easy to fix. (If you have any suggestions of core exercises, please let me know.)

3. Run more. I know many of you might disagree with me on this, but in order to do well at the marathon, I need consistent and (relatively) high mileage training. Sure, I can run a marathon with training of 35mpw. But it won't be pretty. I won't finish as fast as I want or as fast as I am capable of. I won't feel good after, physically or psychologically.

I've done marathons that were brutal because I was unprepared. I've done a bunch of those. And I've only done one where I felt confident in my training. Lo and behold, the brutal marathons were all done on 30-40mpw (but I got all of my long runs in!) and the one where I felt confident (and set my PR) was done on 40-60mpw. If I can't get my mileage up higher than it's been lately, I can't ever expect marathons to go smoothly. I'll never fulfill my dream of "racing" a marathon when I'm beginning to struggle by mile 10 or when I'm surprised that I didn't crash. Could "negative splits" ever become a phrase that has meaning to me?

The end goal: Ideally, I'd love to shift my focus to racing a half marathon in the spring. However, taking advantage of Competitor's rare generosity, I signed up for the New Orleans Marathon in March (for $40), and then I have guaranteed entry to NYCM 2012. New Orleans is supposed to be a flat course, so I'm tempted to say that I'd like to go sub-5 hours there (that is definitely my goal at NYCM next year).

I'm not really sure how to focus myself, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NYCM 2011 race report

Subtitled: Evidently a taper marathon is the way to go for me
Also subtitled: I'm still faster than a Chilean miner (poor Edison Peña dropped out at mile 11 this year)

First, the good:
It was a gorgeous day, and I finished in 5:08:18 (20 minutes faster than last week; 32 minutes faster than last year).

AND I HAD SO MANY SPECTATORS! Yes, after saying that I'd only ever had one spectator, I managed to see Lauren, my brother, TK, and several friends on the course. That rocked. Better yet, my brother saw several other friends of mine. He now thinks that I'm basically the most popular person in NYC, which made me laugh. Outloud. Several times.

Check out the sign on that guy!
My plan for the day was simple: I was going to go out on pace for a 5-hour marathon and just run that pace until I fell off of it. I fully expected to crash, and crash hard, and I fully expected it to happen within the first 10 miles of the race. I was running with Tara and her dad - well, sort of. I was actually kind of a jackass and spent most of the race running about 5 feet ahead of Tara and her dad. (Subconsciously, because I was anticipating a crash, my mind was telling me to stay ahead of them to give me a buffer. Of 5 feet. It was not logical.)

The only photo of me taken during the race. HAHA just kidding.
I would never run topless.

But I never crashed. I just kept running. And it felt good. Even better, I was actually running, not lolligagging. Not quite racing per se, but fast enough that I couldn't really talk. (At one point, true story, Tara and I were going up a hill and I turned to her and made a series of guttural noises. She said, "I know exactly what that means. Yes, we can walk now.")

Sleeping at Fort Wadsworth
Then, the bad:
In some ways, this race was awesome. Aside from water stops (and then, only about half of them) I barely walked. I felt strong all the way through the very end, and my last two miles were faster than my goal pace. I saw almost all of my spectators and felt buoyant.

So why am I not happy about it?


My second marathon ever, way back in 2002? 2003? (a long time ago) was 5:08:08. That is my third fastest marathon to date (my first race was 4:55 and my third race was 4:43). If I had been 10 seconds faster on Sunday... if I had only tied or beaten my third marathon ever... then I'd feel like I was back to being the runner I was before I got sick, before I had two pulmonary emboli and couldn't run for almost two years.* I want to be that girl again! Never mind that the 5:08:08 was in Chicago and NYCM is a harder course... my mean, critical self-conscience doesn't listen to logic or reason.

I was kind of sad to give this sweat shirt up at the start.
It says: "Born to Hunt, Forced to Work."
So overall, I'm pleased. It was a good day. I felt like I ran solidly and also, I had fun.

What would a race report be without a
half-drunk after photo?
And now... the taper can really begin.

*It's not worth getting into here, but in case you didn't know: I had two pulmonary emboli, about a year apart, and my number one symptom was intense, stabbing chest pain. It took me over a year after the second clot to feel like I was "back to normal" in my lungs.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remember last Monday when I was too tired post-race to write up a race report right away, so instead I offered a poll? And remember how one of the choices for "annoying spectators" was Team in Training, and I expected people to go off on me for hating on the charity but instead a few people actually agreed with me in the (totally awesome) comments?

Well, this week, I'm too tired post-race to write up a race report right away, but I do have an observation:

You know that annoying thing that spectators sometimes inadvertently do where they push onto the course, not realizing through their enthusiasm that they're actually creating a bottleneck for the runners? Team in Training was spectating from 1st Avenue somewhere uptown, right around the top of the park. They had a crowd there - it was probably half a block "reserved" for them. They had pushed SO FAR into the course that the blue line (painted on the course to mark the tangents) was at least 5 feet behind them. On a straightaway. The spectators before and after them were all on/near the sidewalk - their group alone was sticking out into the road.

They should have known better.

Also: no marathons next weekend for me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And the race is Sunday!

Things I wanted to buy at the NYCM expo, but couldn't find:
-Injinji socks

Things I didn't intend to buy at the NYCM expo, but did anyway:
-Asics arm warmers that I tentatively think I love but that are much too big for me so I have to get a new pair
-a super cute purple short-sleeved Brooks t-shirt (NYCM branded)

Not bad. I was in and out of the expo in an hour. Having women's t-shirts as an option for the race shirt was a nice touch this year.

Now, if you don't mind, my brother is in town and we're off to experience all that New York City has to offer.

(See what I did there? That's me and my brother on the right. I added our faces to the audience of the Today Show! I know it's basically seamless and you'd never have guessed this, but the photo is faked!)

NYCM will be my 10th marathon on Sunday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall Foliage Half Marathon race report

This story is not pretty. Not at all. It also involves woman-bits, so be warned.

The plan for last Sunday, the 23rd of October, two weeks before NYCM: a tune-up half marathon a couple of hours outside of the city so that we could practice marathon morning stress (getting up at 5 but not running until after 10) and so Tara could "peep some leaves." (Seriously - she must have used that exact phrase at least 1,000 times leading up to the race. Turns out we can add "peep" to the list, along with "moist" and "panties," of words that make me cringe.)

Pretty leaves, no?
The leaves were gorgeous. At several points during the race, I contemplated taking photos of said leaves for the blog. Then I realized: I was running a race, not walking around in the park.

And I was running a good race, at first! Our goal was to stick to marathon pace, or around 11:30s. The first two miles clicked by in 10:0x - and felt easy. The course was hilly - much more so than I expected - but we were going solidly, using the downhills to refresh for the uphills.

Oh, but the hills weren't the only problem with the race.

Here's the thing (and I have to apologize to my brother and any other males who might be reading): I'm one of those lucky women who get cramps each month. Bad bad cramps. The morning of the race, I woke up at 4am (an hour before my alarm) with a very familiar "uh-oh" feeling going on in my torso. I slapped on a sticky heating pad for the drive to the race and tried to ignore it.

By mile 5 of the race, the discomfort of my Woman Times had shifted into pain. Intense pain. Each-step-of-running-stabbing-me pain. I knew, without a doubt, that I needed a bathroom and I needed it fast. Thank goodness this race was stocked with port-a-potties. I saw one in the distance and I jetted toward it.

MY UTERUS IS THE SIZE OF A PEAR. HOW COULD IT DO THIS TO ME? (I didn't wear the heating pad for the race, although I wished I had.)

That bathroom break bought me some time. For a couple of miles, anyway.

Here's the weird thing about this otherwise well-organized race: the mile markers were off. I mean, legitimately off, not just "Waaaah, my Garmin says something different!" off. I know that Garmins aren't as accurate as certified courses. I am never one of those Garmin whiners. The official race time is your time, even if your watch said that you ran 15.2 for a half. It is what it is.

But I didn't know the mile markers were misplaced at first. So when the mile markers were progressively farther than we expected each time, Tara and I trusted the race course; we talked about Garmin inaccuracies and marveled at how badly our Garmins were doing, given the crowdless, open course. Knowing that I was so close to a PR, though, I'll admit that I gave the mile markers a dirty look as I passed by them and secretly wished that my Garmin was right, instead of the course markers.

The course was lovely, but the hills were no joke. Still, they rolled along mile after mile, and so did we. We made some friends with other runners on the course, we looked at the pretty houses, we talked about the marathon, I complained about my cramps as they got worse and worse.

Mile 12, after my second bathroom break, I gave up mentally. (For comparison, in the sum total of my nine marathons, I have used a port-a-potty two times.) There was nothing left. I could not physically run anymore without pain shooting through my abdomen. If you have a uterus, you know the pain I mean. It's a gut-wrenching, terrible pain that made me want to vomit. Either that or curl up on the side of the road in a cow field and just cry myself into painful sleep in the fetal position. Walking relieved it - in fact, walking was pain free.

Have you ever been excited to see one of these?

I told myself not to walk. I told myself I only had 11 minutes left in the race and I needed to just suck it up. I tried to channel every heroic athletic endeavor I could to just HTFU and get through it. I thought of Chrissie Wellington. I thought of Angry Runner. I thought of how good it would feel to know I pushed through. But I couldn't. It hurt too badly. I alternated running and walking and just kind of kept moving.

But what did it matter? I left the port-a-potty at the 12 mile marker, 12.4 by my watch. I had 1.1m left and my PR was now officially out of range. If I could have stopped right there, I probably would have. If this had been the day of the marathon, I wouldn't have finished. I would have DNF'd and walked off the course at mile 12. I was in that much pain.

But here's where the mile markers became an issue. Right about mile 12.5 by their markers, at 13m by my Garmin, a volunteer was standing there yelling, "The finish is right there! Less than .2m to go!" What? The course was an accurate distance. My Garmin had been right all along. If I had known that, maybe... Well, there is no maybe. I didn't push myself harder. I don't know if I could have or not, because I didn't. I finished the race 2 minutes off my PR.

At the finish line, I took my medal and asked if there was a medical area. I was in pain, bad pain, and I needed a heating pad and some painkillers. The man at the finish line freaked out, even as I tried to explain to him through tears that I was fine but having cramps. (Why are we women so often afraid to just say, "I'M BLEEDING FROM MY LADY PARTS AND IT REALLY FREAKING HURTS?" I had menstrual cramps. Dirtier phrases have been said.)

Once the paramedics realized what was going on with me (and that it meant they didn't have to get out of the warm front seat of their ambulance), they told me they had no heating pad and tried to give me directions to a drugstore. In the local vernacular, these directions of "down past the light and a little over the tracks" were too much for me and I collapsed in a chair, crying.

A few minutes, one Aleve*, and one heating pad later, I was fine. Tara and I had lunch and explored scenic Rhinebeck.

I'm being a doofus

Tara enjoys a beer

For what it's worth, my final time was 2:23 - the goal, running this at marathon pace, was 2:30. So I guess it's a victory?

*I'm actually not allowed to take Aleve or any other NSAID, being as I take blood thinners. The pain was so bad that I took my first NSAID in 3.5 years. I was willing to chance internal bleeding to make this pain go away. Don't tell my doctors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My love of Frank Shorter has been well documented on this blog.

I love him.

Finally, I've read the Runner's World article about his childhood.

Also, there's a video.

Now, I love him more.

In short, if you don't want to click on it: Frank Shorter's father was a doctor and a beloved community member by day and a sadistic child abuser by night. His abuse of his children was emotional, physical, and sexual (not all of the children would speak to the RW reporter, but all of those who did confirmed the emotional and physical abuse and two of the daughters also shared that they were raped at ages 6 and 13). Frank found a release in distance running. Once his father died and he began to realize how his story could impact - and possibly help - others, he's begun sharing it.

The video is particularly rough to watch. The juxtaposition of the terrible story against the eye and ear candy that is Frank Shorter made my brain spin. So here are some pictures for us to all enjoy.