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"

Monday, February 28, 2011

On Thursday, I left my house about 6:20pm to meet my new running partner at 6:30. At 6:45, I deduced she wasn't coming. To be fair with her, we'd parted Wednesday night saying, "Let's meet tomorrow! Tomorrow should be good!" and then we'd never followed up with an email. So I take responsibility for the misunderstanding. I didn't have her phone number on me, either.

Still, it was too dark for me to be comfortable running alone, and I didn't have my headphones for the gym (plus, I was overdressed), so I turned around and ran home. For a total of whopping 1.5m.

Everyone has a different threshold for what constitutes a run. Beginners might be ecstatic to run 1.5m. For most of my running career, my threshold has been right around 5m. Okay, I can sneak a 4m in there now and then, and a solid 3m is... okay, better than nothing, I guess... but less than 3m? Come now - is that even a run? Will I have even broken a sweat?

I kind of feel like that 1.5m "run" is mocking me - sitting there in my running log, laughing at my good intentions and shitty follow-through.

What I should have done is to get out there Friday morning and take it back. Replace the 1.5m with a solid run. Then I could have laughed at those measly, tiny miles as I updated my training log.

But I didn't. It was raining Friday morning and I fell asleep on the couch fully clothed Thursday night, pretty much guaranteeing a crap night of sleep. When I woke up Friday morning, running was off the table.

Believe it or not, this is embarrassing - the same thing happened Saturday morning. 9:30am, there I was, on the couch, in my clothes. I swear to you, jokes about showerbeer aside, I am not an alcoholic. I've just recently discovered the simple pleasure that is falling asleep while streaming television shows on netflix through the wii. And so I'm staying up too late.

I did exorcise the 1.5m run on Sunday with a gorgeous, gorgeous 6m "long run" in Central Park with Kate. It's a glorious feeling to be running in shorts during the month of February. (I have to put "long run" in quotes, though, because even though it's what my training schedule called for, is that really a long run? Pouah. I'm trusting my sister-cum-coach on this one, but begrudgingly.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

More emails I've exchanged this week

Because I am lazy, I am milking email exchanges into two blog posts this week.

This email exchange is between me and my little brother. I'm having trouble inserting a screenshot of the conversation itself, so you'll have to settle for me retyping the exchange. I've inserted pictures for your viewing enjoyment.

Me: So, I want to climb Kilimanjaro. Any chance you'd be game for it? Not this year - maybe not for a few years - but at some point. What do you think?

No Toto. Only giraffes.
Poochie: Would I be interested? As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like an Olympus above the Serengeti. But seriously, yes, I am somewhat interested. Would it involve "roughing it" or are there acceptable hotels in the region?

I can rough it like you would NOT believe.
Do you see any bathrooms in this photo? No?
That's because I was PEEING in the DESERT.
Yes, that's right.
Me: So, it's a "walkable" mountain, meaning that there's no technical climbing and old people can do it. BUT, the hiking of the mountain is a several day thing with camping involved. It can take from 5-8 days. The rest of the time in Africa/Tanzania will obviously involve hotels.

I'm also pretty okay with nice hotels, though.
Condoleeza Rice stayed here shortly after I did.
Poochie: Do we know if the camping would involve bugs the size of dogs?

Originally I googled "giant roach," but that was too gross for me.
Me: Bugs the size of dogs are a dealbreaker.

Man, I am just full of crazy ideas this week, I think that's the take home message. There's no chance any of you have climbed Kilimanjaro, is there? And does this make me more of an idiot? Also: was I bluffing about no giant bugs?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nightrunning, by the numbers

Time at which I left for last night's run: 6:20pm (pitch black out)

New running partners accompanying me: 1

Miles run: 4.5

Rats almost tripped over: 2

Bikers who didn't see us because we we wearing all black: 2 (although only 1 was rude to us)

Times I was called sexy: only 1, disappointingly

Showerbeers consumed post-run: almost ZERO! There was no beer in the house! (Fear not; my groceries were delivered slightly later and more beer arrived, bringing this number up to 1)

Don't judge me based on an iphone photo of my groceries, okay?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As usual, I spoke too soon

Real email exchange from two days ago (the emails are me to my sister, my sister to me, me to Tamara, and Tamara to me, if it doesn't make sense):

So, there's the question: for considering this, am I a big idiot, or the biggest idiot? Seriously - use the comment space to tell me what an idiot I am and why this is a bad idea. Or let me know how much Cincinnati sucks and how I should avoid it. Because it kind of does suck.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

[This space intentionally left blank]

I didn't run the Cherry Tree 10m race on Sunday. I was registered for it; I'd picked up my packet earlier in the week; I wanted the ear warmers; I had made plans to meet Kate on the subway at 8:15 in the morning.

I woke up at 7am after a bad night of sleep. It was freezing cold out. I live more than an hour away from Brooklyn and the start of the race. I looked at my running clothes all laid out and I said, "Screw it." (Actually, to be honest with you, what I actually said was unprintable, but "screw it" is a very close approximation.) I texted Kate to tell her I was a disappointing loser and I went back to sleep.

Common refrain that you've seen before on this blog: I'm sick of half-assing too many races. I wasn't prepared to race 10m this weekend, and I chose to DNS rather than to be disappointed with myself.

So, instead, I got my sister to create a half-marathon training schedule. She wants me to focus on speed and not distance. Okay, I'll do it. To say that it's low mileage is sort of like saying that the Pope goes to church occasionally. But you know what? If I can't stick to this plan, I'm a deadloss.

It's focused around a halfathon on 1 May - possibly the Flying Pig? Then I'm registered for the Brooklyn Half on 21 May. This gives me two chances to feel like I'm somewhat competent/improved at the half. If that doesn't work... maybe I'll just stop racing entirely for a bit. Not a bad idea.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Do you know what I'm about to do?

If you answered, "Go running!" You're right! (You're also very astute, as this is a running blog and all, so chances are good it had to do with running.)

This is one of the first times in ages that I've woken up and put on my running clothes before I did anything else.

It's 50 degrees out and sunny. I'll be back in an hour.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Doldrums

Yes, this is me. No, I still can't skate backwards well.
First off, thank you for all your comments on puking after a run yesterday! Sounds like I'm in good company for not having ever run so hard that I puked. Of course, unlike the Sweaty Kid, I've also never fainted. Aside from drinking so much that I passed out (which I would never do, of course), I've only fainted once and it had nothing to do with running. I was learning how to ice skate backwards - evidently a crucial skill when you're playing ice hockey - and I fell on my coccyx. There was... pain... and then there was me laying on my back with people staring down at me while I wondered how I got there and why my bottom hurt so badly.

I was fine. Nothing broken.

But, anyway, on a scale of 1-10, exactly how cliche is it to take to your own running blog and complain about lethargically not really feeling like running? Wait: don't answer that.

I mean, I did just survive a revolution. Sorry, I forgot that I promised I wouldn't use that excuse anymore. And - let's face it - I'm back in the swing of things and that's not really valid anymore. I may have come home from Egypt with a week's worth of unanswered emails and a cold that turned into a flu that turned into a sinus infection, but I'm fine now.

I got gchatted up by a running friend yesterday morning (I won't mention his/her name to protect this person lest they wish to remain anonymous). It opened with, "I lost my running mojo." Yeah. I feel it, too. I know it's common when it's cold and you're coming off of a busy running fall and there are no major races on your calendar for the next few months. Where does the motivation come from when it's not external? Oh, wait: don't answer that either.

So what to do? I've asked my sister (AHEM, MANDY, I KNOW YOU READ THIS) to create a training schedule for me, and I'm looking forward to nicer weather and maybe running a spring halfathon or two to lift my spirits. Beyond that... I guess it's just going through the motions until I hit inspiration.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Have you ever thrown up after a race/run?

I've noticed this blogging convention, which is to end each post with a question to get your readers to comment. I don't do that.
UPDATE: Just as a clarification, I don't mean to suggest that people who do this are artificially fishing for comments. I assume bloggers who do this genuinely want other people's input and want to start a conversation.

Not that I don't welcome your comments. I love your comments. Even if you call me bad names (would that I was so lucky as the Angry Runner to be called the c-word).

But today, I do have a question for you: have you ever run so hard that you threw up after?

The Gridiron Classic 4m in Central Park happened on Superbowl Sunday, and it seems like every single person I follow on twitter who ran this race ended up puking after.

I've only thrown up after running once. It was many years ago, during the summer, and I was training for one of my first marathons. I'd gone out for an easy 6-8m, but midway through I ran into a friend from high school and my 6m became 12m. I didn't have any water on me, so we stopped to buy something to drink. The vending machine only had that gross V-8 juice that is supposed to taste like fruit, and I couldn't drink it. So when I got home, parched, I chugged as much pink lemonade as my mother had in her refrigerator and promptly threw it all up.

I don't think that really counts as throwing up from running hard. I think my body was just rejecting the V-8 (I mean, seriously, so gross).

What about you?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Starting over. Well, sort of.

New year; new running goals.

Didn't the new year start in January, Tracy?

Well, yeah, for most of you. But I got caught in the Egyptian Revolution, you see, so I'm only now (that I'm back from a revolution) beginning to size up the year ahead.

Okay, okay, I'll stop now. But seriously: how often do you get to say that you were evacuated from a country by the State Department because you were caught in a revolution? I have to get some mileage out of it, because rumor has it that the bill they'll be sending me for my two-hour flight to Istanbul will be upwards of $1500.

My current facebook and twitter profile photo -
me stepping off the evacuation plane.
Because, you know, I lived through a revolution.
And I'm milking it for all it's worth.

So, new year, new running goals. As I've said before, I'm not so much into new year's resolutions. So you won't hear me promising to run four times a week (at least!), or to do yoga (all the time!), or core work (so important to running!), or pushups, or cross-training, or lower my 5k time to xx minutes...

That said, of course I'm not going into this year completely goal-free. My biggest goal right now, and you'd think this would be easy, is to run fewer races. Period. There, I said it. When I race, I want it to mean something.

I'm running a 10m race this weekend, and then I'm registered for a 5k coming up in a few weeks. I shouldn't have signed up for either of them - it was last year's Tracy who did it, blame her! But they're on my calendar and I'm getting my registration fee's worth out of them.

After that, I'm registered for a half marathon in May. This fall, barring injury, I will be running the NYCM and the Flying Monkey Marathon, both sentimental holdovers from last year.

Other than that, I'm contemplating racing a few half marathons in the late spring/early summer. It's easy enough to stay trained for those and maybe, maybe I can actually get to a point where I feel competent at the distance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupid's Chase 5k race review

In honor of Valentine's Day, a V-Day race review for you. On Saturday, as promised, I ran the Cupid's Chase 5k with my friend Kate. How was it?

The good:
-The spread. Cupcakes, bottled water, canned pineapple juice, ginger ale, water, greek yogurt, pop chips, random socks, and - best of all - plastic bags in which to put all of your loot.
-Race day registration. No line. Kate and I just walked up, filled out a form, handed over $20, and were in.
-Making friends! I had planned to meet the infamous Mrs. Duffy at the finish, having already warned her that I'm completely awkward when meeting new people. Thanks to her eagle-eyes, we met at the start instead. Now, please go over to Katie's blog and read her account of the race and of meeting me. (Actually, please read her blog in general, but you can start with that if you don't read it already.) It makes me laugh because she said that she was awkward and that I had things to say. In reality, I kept thinking, "Why are you so awkward, Tracy? She's so nice, and you're just cold and you're babbling." Katie comes across in her blog as a smart-but-badass cool person. In real life she's a smart-and-also-warm-and-fun-but-badass cool person.

The bad:
-Race day packet pick-up. LONG lines. Should have registered race day, suckaz!
-The weather. Is this their fault? Obviously not. But the course was so iced over at points that it was literally impossible to run.
-The course. A double loop for a 5k - really? A narrow path that can only fit two abreast at points - really? And I get that they couldn't close the path to ordinary park traffic, but this caused some... congestion.
-The other racers. Also not really the race's fault, but a charity 5k will bring out lots of casual runners who take long walk breaks or throw their hands in the air and stop cold when they see a puddle on the course. There is a chance I may have hip-checked another racer trying to pass me. I apologized to her but, between you and me? It was kind of on purpose and I wasn't all that sorry.
-My finish time. Ugh. I knew I was out of shape, but I expected to be about a minute faster. That hurt.
-What went through my head the entire race. Recently, a friend of mine decided that I should listen to Todd Rundgren. I'm not his target demographic (ahem, nice way of saying I don't really think I like him), but there is one song of his that I do quite like. Do you know how many times a 2.5 minute long song can go through your head during a 5k? Especially if you really only remember snippets of the song? A hell of a lot of times. (The song is "A Dream Goes on Forever." Google it. Catchy, no?)

After the race, Kate and I did brunch with her adorable son and I rode a blue metal camel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

News from the world of New York racing

The Brooklyn Half Marathon (or "halfathon," as a good friend would call it) - a race where I set a PR last year - opened and closed in two days this year.

The NYCM might be forced to raise its (already hefty) fees to cover police costs for closing the roads. At $156 for NYRR members, $196 for US residents, and $281 for international applicants, the race already costs $50 more than Chicago for most people. Yet the demand so far is well beyond the number of entries.

And, saving the best racing news for last, I'm back on the scene! Yes, after being evacuated from the midst of the Jan 25 Egyptian Revolution, after spending a long weekend on my couch with a flu and then a sinus infection, I'm going to be racing again this weekend. Well, sort of racing. Participating in running events, anyway. 

On Saturday, I'll hit up Riverside Park for a flat 5k. Then, on Sunday I'll head up to Van Cortlandt Park to participate in the Valentine's Day Marathon. I'm going to try to do the half - but if I only feel like doing the 10k, so be it.

It's been a long two weeks since my last race. I feel ready for a comeback.

Gratuitous, unrelated photo of me with a fake mummy

Monday, February 7, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Egyptian Marathon Luxor Run: Race Review

What to say about this crazy, zany race? Obviously, much of my experience with this race was overshadowed by the political situation that was unfolding even as I was running. And is still unfolding. But as I was running I had no idea how bad it was going to get. So let’s talk about the race, okay?

As you’ll remember, I signed on to do the full marathon and then had a change of heart. A wise change of heart – in addition to not being ready for the full, I had also come down with a cold. I couldn’t have pulled off the full. The full was a four-loop course. The “half,” which was actually 22.2km, was only two loops, and by the end of those two loops, the sun was bearing down on us with no shade on the course. There were water stations set up every 2.5-5k, and they were staffed by very nice volunteers with bottled water and bananas. In addition to the half and full, there was a one-loop race, a much shorter kids’ race, and a rollerblade marathon. The roads were open, which meant dodging the occasional tour bus, but mostly the course was clear.

First off: there weren’t many participants. We were bused to the start at an ungodly hour (we were told to be ready for the bus by 5:15am; this being Egypt, the bus left closer to 6am). We waited at the start line in the cold for almost an hour before the gun went off with no fanfare (desert, remember? Lows near 40 and highs nearer to 80). No fanfare at all.

The start at the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut was scenic, that’s for sure, and the rest of the course held promise. We ran past sugar cane fields, past the colossi of Memnon, past small villages, past a cemetery. BUT, we also ran past screaming children. Throngs of screaming, harassing children demanding baksheesh (a tip, essentially). Screaming children running with me, surrounding me, grabbing at me. At one point, a group of these children clamored around me and when I said I had no money to give them, threw a handful of sand at my face. I was kind of impressed that I managed to swear at the kids in both English and Arabic without even giving any thought to my response. Then I felt guilty that I had just sworn at a group of kids.

I have to be honest here. I’ve spent probably about 20 weekends of my life in Luxor, and I hate that place. I find it to be a total hellhole. The monuments are beautiful, but they’re marred by the incessant harassment. I actually like haggling for prices, and I don’t mind the used-car salesman tricks that proprietors use to get you into their shops. I just mind the constant, never ending stream of attention: “Let me help you spend your money!” “Hey, moneybags, come into my shop!” “No hassle, no hassle, just step inside!” (This last one is usually accompanied by the guy either physically blocking your way or reaching out to touch you.) In addition to the usual harassment, Luxor has recently begun to gain a reputation as somewhat of a sex tourism destination – where European women go to pick up men. I had several men boldly ask me whether I was alone or with a group, and when I said I was alone they would brazenly fire off the questions: Where are you staying? How many nights? You are all alone in your hotel room, no? This gets old, fast. (And none of the guys were even hot.) So the kids, most of whom are poor in a way that we as Americans can’t fathom, are taught from day one that tourists are walking dollar/Euro/sterling signs.

With pretty much any race where I’m not racing at 100%, I have a simple strategy: pick out the weakest, saddest looking runner who is going about my pace and start up a conversation with them. Then, when s/he needs to walk, I can take a break, too, and blame him. So, about 3k into my first 10k loop, I hooked up with a 12 year old boy. He was wearing canvas shoes and denim shorts – just my style. He also spoke no English, but he was very patient (I speak Arabic at the level of about a 3 year old who knows some verbs but can’t conjugate them. The 3 year old also knows a healthy number of swear words.).

Mahmoud and I settled in to a nice running groove for the next few kilometers. I managed to convince him to run slower and take fewer walk breaks, which worked well until the second to last turn – at which point he sped up ahead of me. Damn him, I thought. He said something to me about seeing me at the finish, and I was struck with déjà-vu: I pace someone for much of the race only to watch him sprint off at the end. Once I turned the corner, though, I realized I’d been wrong. The stretch of road I was now facing was a landmine of grabby children with lots of hiding places and no marathon personnel to fend them off. Mahmoud had gone ahead to shoo the kids away!

When we got to the finish, he chose not to run to the finish line but instead to come along with me on my second lap. What good fortune! Except that our bibs were color-coded to our individual races, and the race staff pulled him off the course. Well, more like lifted him off the course. A man in a galabiyya seriously ran up to him, picked up all 60 or so pounds of him, and carried him away screaming. And just like that, I was facing the second and last lap by myself.

This outfit totally says "touch me," doesn't it?
It was fine. The weather had turned warmer, but I was going along steadily. Until… until… the last stretch, the one with the cemetery where Mahmoud had gone ahead and scared off the kids. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was surrounded by kids. Menacing kids. With hands reaching out, grabbing me, stopping me. As I was yelling, “I have no money on me,” an older boy in his teens reached out and groped me. He seriously reached under my running skirt to grab my butt. Not a simple grab, mind you, but what can only be described as a full-on massage. I’m sure the whole thing took mere seconds, but it felt like it was several minutes of disgustingness. I stopped, started screaming my head off while he laughed, and then ran into the street to flag down a police officer. I told the officer what had happened and he started off toward the kids – who, of course, had already run away to hide in the fields.

At that point, my race was over with about 5k to go. I was surprised by my reaction: after the initial adrenaline rush and the report to the police, I immediately started crying. I couldn’t breathe: the desperate sobs kept me from taking a deep breath, which kept me from being able to run. I got it together quickly (again, this was probably only a few minutes but it felt like an hour) and finished up the race, slowly.

I later found out that I wasn’t the only one who’d been frustrated with that particular stretch, and I’m going to encourage the event organizers to consider putting a water stop or something along there. One woman told me that she wouldn’t have gone for her fourth and final lap if her husband hadn’t agreed to go along. Another woman who ran it last year had a story almost exactly similar. This is above and beyond kids pestering you; it’s sexual harassment.
Medal and finisher's certificate.

The front of the shirt.

Here’s something funny: I know that I set a new PR, because I’d never raced the 22.2km distance. But I still to this day am unsure what my time was. It wasn’t good, even if you subtract a couple of minutes for when I stopped the police. But they didn’t have any clocks anywhere on the course and I wasn’t wearing a watch. Times are supposed to be posted online, but the internet was shut off for nearly a week, so I’ll just have to keep waiting.

The race itself is colored for me by the jackass kid who touched me, and the aftermath of the race is colored by the events in Cairo. Without internet or phone service, it was hard to see how bad things were until I got back to my hotel room and turned on the news. That night, after the race, there was a “gala dinner.” It was the usual, decadent, touristy affair, completely with European belly dancers (few of the ones who perform are Egyptian; did you know that?) and something that looked suspiciously like a pig but was probably a goat roasted on a spit.

I sat there for a few minutes, completely in awe. Here I was, eating all this food while Cairo literally burned. After about 15 minutes, I gathered up my medal and my papyrus certificate and went back to my hotel room to watch CNN.

Would I do it again? Yes, but I'd bring pepper spray.

As for my return to Cairo? Well, that was dramatic. Not as dramatic (for me) as you’ve seen on the news, but still outside my comfort zone. Never before have I seen the army out on the streets in full force. Never have I been in a position where the streets were swarming with men 24/7 – all armed. Never before have I seen an Egyptian funeral-cum-political protest, heard actual machine gun fire, or seen men walking around openly carrying pistols (and I live in Harlem). Never before have I been evacuated from a country due to political crisis.

But that’s a story for another, non-running blog.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Go on with your TMBG jokes

I'm in Istanbul. Neat city, from what I've seen. I'm headed to NYC tomorrow, weather permitting.

I'll write up a report once I can. Of the race and - if you want - all the other stuff I saw. (Not to be melodramatic. My experience was that of an expat/tourist who was completely, safely, totally removed from the protests.) I'm basically just really exhausted right now, although the whole thing is already fading from emotional into an amusing anecdote. "Hey, remember that time I was emergency evacuated out of Egypt due to the overthrow of Mubarak? That was awesome, right? I'm so badass!"

But Egypt! Egypt! Egypt is safe! Egypt is stable! Egypt is wonderful! Egypt feels more like home to me than New York does! No one I talked to expected the protests to be all that large at first, let alone this successful. Power to the people. The amazing, wonderful, gracious, generous Egyptian people who deserve a leader who respects them. These are exciting times in the Middle East.