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"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Questions for you! Please help me.

On Monday everyone gave me such good and thoughtful responses that I have another plea for input. Here's the deal:

Since a couple of weeks ago when Crossfit tried to kill me, I've been making a concerted effort to do more core work and strength training (at home - mostly body resistance exercises like push ups, negative pull ups - ahem, these don't go so well, squats, and sit ups). You don't need to tell me how important and beneficial these exercises are in theory. It's the in practice part that I've never tried consistently enough to make a difference.

So, I'm asking you:
-do you do core work and strength training?
-how has it made a difference?
-if it has made a positive impact on your running, do you attribute this impact specifically to the strength training, or were these periods where you were taking your running more seriously?*

a picture I stole off the internet and crudely
attached my head to. I TOTALLY LOOK LIKE THAT.
-Bonus question: if you've ever had any IT band tenderness, what helped it go away? (Please don't say foam roller please don't say foam roller)**

*yes, the question I'm really asking here is, "Do I haaaave to? Or can you please tell me that I can become a stronger runner through running alone?"
**I do believe that this icky pain - one I've never experienced before! - started two days after I tried Crossfit for a second time and did 50 squats. Beware, my friends.

Moral of the story: CROSSFIT = DEATH

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My runs are not a "journey"

I'm about to go off on someone - maybe even you. Don't take it personally.

Do you ever get philosophical about running?

I don't.

Not me. Although I do like running in the snow.
Oh, I love running. Obviously. Its benefits are many: physical well-being; emotional well-being; "me time;" smug feeling of being superior to non-runners; I don't need to enumerate the benefits here. You probably know them. You're reading a running blog.

But not a benefit for me? My runs are not transcendental. Or at least not often.

I read a few running blogs, as you can imagine. It's interesting to read about people's struggles with running - and, for many of us, it does seem to be a Sisyphean struggle. We're always fighting running: fighting to make time, fighting to keep at it, fighting through phases where we don't improve or have lost motivation, fighting to run more, to run harder, to run faster.

Of course, it doesn't take a particularly astute observer to point out that we're actually fighting ourselves. Running is neutral, right? It's just there. You do it or you don't do it.

Not me. Although I did grow up near Chicago.
One thing that I hate to see in running blogs is melodrama. Unintentional hyperbole. Average runs that become life-changing. Speedwork that becomes superman's flight. Love letters to one's body or to one's run or to nature. All written in earnest. This drives me bonkers.

Am I jealous of these runners, whose every run seems to transcend and become a thing of beauty? I really don't think so. Any run can be beautiful; any run is beautiful on its own. But for me, the beauty of running is doing it and doing it again. It's not the acute memory of the wind through the trees on a perfect day. It's seeing the ongoing changes: seeing leafy trees in the spring and the same trees, leafless, in the fall. Seeing the branches drip with rain or be heavy with snow. The beauty of running is not the light reflecting off the river in the morning, but the constancy of the river being there every day when I run near it. The Hudson River in New York, the Schuylkill when I lived in Philly. The scenery changes, I change, but the run doesn't change.

Or maybe the beauty is in me. Because I am strong and powerful and beautiful, or something. I can't even say that in jest.

NB: None of this applies to treadmills, because they are just miserable and soul-sucking and there is nothing beautiful about running on a treadmill.
Definitely not me. I don't even like beaches.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm lazy

It's still Monday night as I'm writing this. I just got home from a book club (with a group of running women! holla!). We read a book that we were largely indifferent toward. I have a very, very bad headache. So, I'm going to bed. Early. I don't have anything else to say.

So instead, I'm going to tell you to click over to dailymile and read my friend Aron's race report of his very first marathon (Ocean Drive) this past weekend. In short: he did an awesome job. And he partied with strangers after the race. You can trust runners, Aron. I stayed with (running) strangers for a week in Egypt.

Related: I'm pretty much a crap friend for completely forgetting that he was running this and not wishing him luck beforehand. Aron, forgive me? Looks like he didn't need it, anyway!

Oh, and also? Remember two weeks ago, when I posted that I had registered for the New York City Marathon? I think I got it all sorted out and I am, I believe, registered with my guaranteed entry. There's also a note on the registration page that I can't help but think somehow relates to me:

But this is what I like to see:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. For now. And, the slow-person loop.

So, last week I did some speedwork. Despite every single smart runner that I know telling me that I need to build up my mileage and that speedwork won't do me any good until my mileage base is higher, I wanted to do it. It's fun to pretend I'm a fast(er) runner for an hour. My justification? I was building my base while doing speedwork. I did the same distance (5m) I would have done that day, I just did it faster. In quarter-mile loops. (Yeah, yeah, 400m loops. Not trying to claim that extra 2 yards.)

But that's kind of a hypocritical mindset, no? One commenter, my imaginary friend the Angry Runner, mentioned that she'd been reviewing her Lydiard. She even wrote an entire blog post all about Lydiard and how "miles make champions" (complete with rather, um, crude drawings). Funny that: just two weeks ago I myself was passing on a link about how American runners need to run more in order to get faster.

I get it. I will be running more and I will leave the speedwork to the side - for now.

However, in terms of running more... is it just that simple? To some extent, I get caught in what I'm calling the slow-person loop: I want to run faster, so I need to run more. But the fact that I do not run fast keeps me from being able to run more. In other words, I only have so many hours to run (I'm not trying to use the old whine that "I don't have time;" I'm just trying to be realistic about my schedule). Let's say I have about 8 hours a week to exercise, give or take a bit given my laziness. If I were to run 8 hours/week, I'd run about 45mpw at my current 10-11 minute mile. If I could bring that down to an 8 minute mile, I could run 60mpw.

There are no shortcuts to getting out of the slow person loop or I would have found them like a decade ago. Now, I do realize that I'm NOT maximizing my time - between laziness and excuses, I don't run as much as I have time for - and probably what I should be doing IS maximizing my time. In other words, use the 10 minutes I spend downloading my Garmin data running. Get more sleep so I can run more.  Eat better food so my runs are more productive (and so I don't get the runs - oh, man, I can't believe I made a pun so low-brow). Take my morning tea in the shower or on the subway so I don't spend an hour sitting at my computer "checking my email" before I leave for work. That sort of thing.

So, bottom line: no more speedwork (for now). Maybe this summer I'll spend some time trying to lower my 5k PR, in which case speedwork might be more efficacious. Until then, maybe some hills. But no crazy bounding up the hills.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rebecca Black... rhymes with Track...

Yesterday, as promised, I went to the track to run 8 x 400. Whether I should have done speedwork or whether I should just be running more, that's still being debated. But I did it. It was cold, hailing, and windy. The track was wet. I'm basically a hero for doing my prescribed workout and not wussing out.

My track looks very dramatic here.
Advice: make sure before you leave for your track workout that your tights won't cause a wedgie. And your shirt won't ride up. Or you'll spend your entire workout with one hand pulling your shirt down and the other pulling your tights down. It won't look decorous, no matter how hard you try. Also, be sure that you have anything else in your head - ANYTHING - besides Rachel Black's Friday. Because that song is so catchy, it almost makes me wish that RCN had never fixed my internet (because having internet again after a week basically meant I had to watch that video over and over again yesterday).

There were geese on the track. I couldn't have made this up if I'd tried. PICK A LANE, GEESE.

I decided while doing my repeats that I should try a little bit of advice from the February issue of Runner's World and use a mantra. I chose a simple mantra: "You're strong." Two syllables; one for each foot strike. Because I AM STRONG.

And you know what? The mantra worked! Well, sort of. Here's how each of the two minute long intervals went:
  • "You're strong You're strong You're strong" - repeat for about 30 seconds, down the length of the straight part of the track
  • [Edited for all audiences:] "What the [censored] are you doing here? Where the [censored] did that wind come from? The hail is hurting your [censored] face. For [censored]'s sake, stop being such a [censored] [censored]. You think this [censored] is going to magically make you a better runner? You're not strong; you suck [censored]." - repeat, with variations, for about 30 seconds, through the curve and into the wind
  • "It's FRI-DAY, FRI-DAY, GOTTA GET DOWN ON FRIDAY!" - repeat for about 75 seconds
If you'd like to try it yourself, I can highly recommend this mantra for its effectiveness in causing you to push through your repeats. However, I might suggest that you learn the rest of the lyrics to the stupid song if you're going to use it. I'm providing the video here as a service to you. You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Read it now before the Times' paywall shuts you out!

This is almost two weeks old, but it's still quite funny. And you know what makes me sad? I read it, thought it was funny, and then an embarrassingly long time later realized it's actually a double-entendre for politics. I guess I take running too literally and have forgotten that other people don't take it so literally.

Believe it or not, there is stuff going on in my running life behind the scenes. I'm not all mindless links to other people talking about running. I now have a training schedule for a spring half. I'll be doing speedwork, even. Speedwork! Exciting! Starting... today. With 8x400s at 5k pace (it seems crazy slow, but McMillan and Hal have never led me astray before).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where is MY media attention?

The title of this post is meant as a joke. I do not want media attention.

But you know who does? The McRunner. And you know who else does? The 400lb marathoner.

By now you've heard of both of these guys, at opposite ends of a spectrum. On one hand, you have Joe D'Amico, an experienced and talented runner who finished the LA Marathon with a PR of 2:36. He spent his last month of training eating nothing but McDonald's as a publicity stunt to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities. On the other extreme, we have Kelly Gneiting, a former sumo wrestler who finished the race in 9:48 - another PR, shaving two hours off his 2008 time of 11:48.

I'm not going to demean either marathoner's performance. It was miserable rainy and cold conditions in LA and you don't need me to tell you that crossing the finish line was impressive, no matter how it was done. D'Amico finished 29th overall in the race, and Gneiting set a confirmed record for heaviest marathon completer.


If there is one recent trend in publishing I absolutely hate, it's the gimmick book. You know the ones - "I spent a year wearing only pink shoes and riding a unicycle around the streets of Reykjavik and here are the life lessons I learned and pseudo-sociological observations I'm making." It's self-indulgent. It's pointless. It's ephemeral. It's vain. And the worst part is that we as a public eat it up.

These guys are the gimmick marathoners. D'Amico wasn't exactly supersizing every night; he ate chicken wraps and smoothies and oatmeal. Power to him (and I do hate me some gimmicky Morgan Spurlock, on the other extreme, all the same), but here is an extremely talented runner who got a hella lot of media attention (and raised money, to be fair) for doing... something kinda vain to get media attention. 

And then Gneiting! I'm not going to fat-hate and I'm not going to be snobby about finish times. 10 hours is, yes, a little slow, but he finished. However, I do have to wonder about his training. No articles I've read have mentioned his training, but I would have expected that over the course of a sensible training program he would have picked up the pace slightly and possibly even shed a few pounds - but for his Guinness record, he needed to stay heavy. 

People are lauding him as a hero (okay, so I read on twitter that someone said that Ryan Seacrest said that but now I can't find any confirmation of it and I refuse to listen to Ryan Seacrest to find out). But is he? I completely and unequivocally support exercising and getting healthy. I do NOT support desperate, unhealthy bids for arbitrary world records.

And that is the world according to Tracy (today's session, anyway).

Next up, for NYC people: you've probably already heard about this, but the good people at JackRabbit Sports sent me the following blurb, and now I'm passing it on to you because...
-I have nothing else to say;
-it actually sounds like an interesting event;
-they said in the email that they thought that readers of my blog might be interested and I'm so flattered to think that they think that I have readers that I'm willing to do whatever they say.

The JackRabbit NYC Running Show is April 22-23!

They included all sorts of ad copy about it, but you can read up about it on their website. It's big. Lots of vendors. Lots of speakers. It sounds like a good event. I'll probably go. You should, too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NYC Half, 2011 edition

I did not run the NYC Half yesterday, in case you were wondering. At nearly $100 to enter, I kind of see it as a race that's worth doing - once. And since I did it last year, this year I was more than content to stay at home and host my new best friend Olivia for the night. While other runners were carb loading, we were having our first experiences with Four Loko. (I did not drink the stuff. The ingredients in our batch were malt liquor, artificial flavoring, and red dye.)

The three eventual winners. I love how Galen and Mo are
all matchy-matchy twinsies.

From the reports I've read, it sounds like most everyone who did run the Half had an amazing time. Temperatures in the mid to upper 30s combined with clear skies and only a light wind made for ideal race conditions. My friend Kate rocked her first-ever half marathon, and then of course the elite race was extraordinary, too.

Mixed feelings on the elite race: while I would have loved to see an American take first place, and while Meb's finish and Ryan Hall's finish were both not as strong as we could have hoped, it was such a great race with such record-breaking performances that it's hard to be disappointed in the results. Galen Rupp? Finishing third after falling early in the race? All three lead women breaking the (previous) course record? Damn.

And some eye candy for those who appreciate a fine
woman. I know what you like.
I had to double-check Galen Rupp's age. I knew he wasn't that much younger than Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryan Hall, and yet he looks like he's about 17 in every single photo of him I've ever seen. That's when I discovered that his birthday is 8 May (he's 24).

Now, I don't like to read into coincidences, and I'm anti-astrology. However, Meb was born 5 May. Galen Rupp was born 8 May. I was born 11 May. I wasn't convinced when I only knew about me and Meb, but now that we can add a third to our Taurus-distance-runner party, I'm starting to pick up on a trend here. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who has two thumbs, went out last night, and then forgot to update her blog? This one right here!

Yeah. I may have had a beer or three, but at least they weren't green. And I still got up at 5:30 to run this morning. (True, I did come home post-run and fall back to sleep, reawakening at 10:30. But still.)

Some photos, in lieu of content. I want to get more readers by showing you pictures of what I eat, which seems to be the norm on running blogs. Just kidding. No, I don't. I don't eat well. We had ribs. You can use your imagination. They were good.

Me, needing more beer
Renee, with beer

Me eating chocolate fondue and not
looking at the camera because the flash
on the iphone 4 is blindingly bright.
If you're the curious sort or are really bored at work and want to read more about me running, you can click over to my friend Carla's post about her NYC trip a while back. I would ask her to stop taking pictures of me from behind, but I'm okay with most of the photos since I look oddly busty in them. Carla is very nice to me in her post. I think she doesn't realize exactly how dead serious I was when I said I was coming to visit her in Manila sometime soon. The joke is on her when she regrets extending the invitation!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Melodrama much?

Yesterday was the worst day of my life. Seriously. The worst day.
(Okay, maybe not seriously.)

But let me tell you what happened to me:

  • I woke up and discovered that my AC adapter wasn't working. The Apple genius bar couldn't see me until the afternoon, and I couldn't take the laptop in that afternoon - I had a date to skype with a friend I don't talk to nearly enough who lives far, far away. (Thus the need for a fully charged laptop.)
    I blame this jackass. Don't even tell me she's
    cute. She chews through electrical cables
    like they're twizzlers. If you like twizzlers.
  • This became a whole lot less relevant when I discovered that my internet was out. Well, partially out. It's really, really, really slow and inconsistent. I can steal a neighbor's open wifi network, but it's not very good. (I need to figure out which neighbor it is and ask them to upgrade to a better ISP. I've had this problem before.) So for the next three hours, I am sitting in my apartment waiting for my cable provider to show up and try to convince me that my internet is actually fine.
    I found this on the internet. It's relevant.
  • THEN, I discovered that when I signed up for my guaranteed entry into the NYCM a few days ago? Somehow I inadvertently entered the lottery by accident. No. No. No. But yes. Needless to say, an email is in to the marathon people.
I am an idiot. Just not sure how. Please fix this, NYRR?
  • And then, the coup de grâce: I got rejected from the Mt. Washington Lottery!
I am unlucky. No - I am cursed.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, if you're into that sort of thing. Today can only be better.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maybe you didn't see this coming?

Huh. How did that get onto my phone?

There I am, sitting in the doctor's office last Thursday evening, waiting for my doctor to be ready to see me. I get an email from NYCRuns telling me that registration for the Yonkers Half and Full is open.

Ooh, I say. I've always wanted to do Yonkers. I should sign up for the half!

And then I notice the small print... Coupon code for $15 off the registration fee for the full for the first 100 registrants. So, $35 to register for the full and $40 to register for the half. That $5 I'll save will pay for my first post-race beer.

What can I say? I'm weak. I couldn't run last Thursday because I could barely lift my arms above my head. In particular I pulled something on my left side and had to use my right arm to lift my left arm to get my clothes on and off. So in my desperation to run, but given my inability, I did the next best thing and registered for another fall race.

And besides, I'm already registered for New York, so I can just use Yonkers as a training run, right? An easy training run, right?

Turns out I'm really, really good at registering for races. I click that mouse like a BOSS.

Let's not even point out what a terrible, terrible mistake I made last year running a full marathon as a training run for New York.

But this year's going to be different, right?

Better question: anyone else want in? I can hook you up with the coupon code if you want (it's probably still valid).

Reviews from marathonguide include:
  • Yes, it has hills. Well, that's an understatement. It has cliffs.
  • I did the half-marathon, and yes, the course does have hills - not like Central Park in NYC, but steeper.
  • The hills are to die for.
  • It's a really tough and challenging course - no kiddin'. The first loop is a breeze, but the second loop is totally magnified and intensified: each hill, each incline... they all just get longer. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't act like you never saw this coming

I didn't do all those races last year for nothing.

To recap, I got in through the 9+1 program for guaranteed entry. My NYRR races last year were (in no particular order other than long to short)...:

Achilles 5m
Wall Street 3m
Fifth Avenue Mile (I don't think this was a qualifier)

I'll probably do a few of these races again this year, just because they're close and because I can. (I'm already registered for the Brooklyn Half, for instance.) But seeing these races come up on the NYRR calendar and not entering is one of the simple pleasures of life.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Better late than never

I've been holding on to some miscellaneous stuff for some time, intending to post about it and then being lazy and posting about myself instead. So here you go:

First off, Jon Cane has a blog entry about changes in American distance running over the past few decades. It won't be new information to most people who follow distance running, but his basic point is that he's angry at the tendency for Americans to bemoan the victories of African runners as being somehow "unfair," since (as the complainers say) the Africans are so genetically gifted. With links (and links to charts), he discusses how Kenyan and Ethiopian runners actually are working harder than American runners. In fact, on average American distance runners are getting worse over time.  As he says,
...in 1983 there were 267 sub 2:20 marathon performances by Americans. By 2005 that was down to 22. This despite the improvements in nutrition, training technology, sports medicine, etc.  Contrast that with the relatively steady performance exhibited by Japanese marathoners, and the rise of Kenyan runners.
The links are interesting and it's certainly something to think about. In particular, he links through to a piece entitled "Less is less," arguing that Americans need to run more, and we won't get better until we do. Huh. The article doesn't mention anything about 30-something female 5+ hour marathoners who run in the vicinity of 20mpw these days, but I can put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Next, and NYC-specific, there's a race in Central Park on 26 March. It's the Police vs. Fire 5-Mile run, sponsored by the NYPD Running Club. I did a 5k of theirs last year and it was quite nice. Register now before the fees go up.

While I was looking for the website for that run, I found this event info. According to the link, the NYPD Running Club has a 5k on the second Saturday of every month, at 5am. 5k at 5a, if you will. On one hand, 5am? That's the worst thing I've ever heard. On the other hand, could be fun. The NYPD Running Club also has a fairly comprehensive list of local races, including loads of non-NYRR ones.

Another thing? I am definitely not mentioning this guy. Nope, not giving him any more attention than he's already gotten.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The horror, the horror!

You'll do, Runner's World, but you're NO Running Times.
I realized today as I was thumbing through this month's Runner's World that it's been a while since my last issue of Running Times. And we all know how much I love Running Times. Like, a lot. The last issue I remember receiving is December. I know they don't publish 12 months a year, but I definitely did not receive a January/February issue. And here we are into the second week of March and I've yet to receive a March issue.

But I swear, I never received a renewal notice! Is it possible they emailed it to me and I let it go to my junk mail?

OH HOLY HELL. I JUST REALIZED WHAT THE PROBLEM IS. My dad gave me my subscription for Christmas in '09, and obviously he never renewed it. Breathe, Tracy.

Never fear. I'm now subscribed for the next two years. Phew. (Incidentally, Running Times has the worst upsell of anything I've bought online in some time. I think I had to click through four "no thanks, I don't want this $20 add-on" pages to finally be able to place my order.)

For serious I do not want anything but your magazine. And yeah,
I'm reading my own blog right now in another tab. What of it?
I mentioned this HUGE, GIANT PROBLEM OF MINE to a friend who said, "I think maybe the magazine is out of print. I think probably the editorial board woke up one day and said to themselves, 'I believe we've said everything that could ever be said about running. One foot forward, then the other foot...'"

On a serious note, I would be remiss if I didn't mention something about the untimely passing of Sally Meyerhoff earlier this week. Others have discussed her death more poignantly than I could. In short, she was an amazing runner/athlete and by all accounts a warm and gracious person, too. I don't think there's a larger lesson in victim blaming to be made here - yes, she missed a stop sign while riding - who amongst us hasn't? We all know that traffic laws should be obeyed and we all choose to be selective about when we follow the law to its letter. What happened, however it came about, is sad. Be careful. Live life to the fullest.

And if you want to see victim blaming, read how the NYTimes and other media covered the (effectively consensual, by their reporting) gang rape of an 11 year old girl in Texas. According to the Times, the accused perpetrators are mostly good kids and basketball players; it's the fault of the girl's mother for allowing her daughter to go to that area, and the girl had been in this "bad" area before (so you know what that means...).

I'm sorry for that digression. And my thoughts and condolences go out to Sally's family and friends.

Updated: When you plan your blog posts the night before, you don't have the ability to predict terrible earthquakes and other disasters and instead you blog mostly about something flip. Obviously my thoughts are with the people of Japan, and Hawaii, and now the west coast.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Serves me right

When you live with someone who is obsessed with crossfit, and you refer to crossfit as a cult, even if the person you live with doesn't read your blog ever ever, you'll still be cursed.

My curse: I was challenged to try crossfit. I was promised that through it, I will become a faster runner. Since I do, um, no cross-training or strength training, I accepted this challenge. I've agreed to do crossfit for the next few months.* So far, after one day, all I've become is really irritated by my inability to master this "burpee" thing. I did 100 of them on Monday and couldn't wash my hair in the shower without squealing on Tuesday.**

It... hurts. My arms are like jello. Still, now I feel like I'm prepared to stay fit for if/when I'm incarcerated and I only have my cell to work out.

*I probably won't stick to this unless I'm reminded and harassed. I certainly don't want to. In fact, so far this week it's lasted all of one day.
**Not quite squealing. Maybe more like moaning in pain. Whenever I hear/use the word "squeal," I think of that scene from Deliverance. You know the one. It was not like that. Watch at your own risk:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Does the gym have a responsibility to its patrons?

This is sort of off-topic of running, but it's related.

I go to the NYSC, one of the largest gyms in New York.  My local (Harlem) branch is mostly hugely buff guys.  Crazy buff guys.  Lots of boxers, lots of actors, lots of personal trainers working out.

I'm still haunted by an experience I had a while back, over the summer, when I was working at a library downtown and went to a different branch.  The demographic there, unsurprisingly, was much different, with more college students and young professionals.

There was a girl on the elliptical that immediately caught my attention.  I don't know what verb to use to describe what you do on the elliptical, but she was doing it furiously.  She was overdressed for the warm weather in long sleeves and long pants and she was very, very skinny.

I have no idea what this girl's situation is, nor is it any of my business.  But everything about her suggested the possibility of an eating disorder.  She stayed on the elliptical, moving like a maniac, for quite some time before moving to the treadmill.  Where she did the same thing.  Then she went into the locker room to do some dynamic yoga (very odd place for it).  When she finished her locker room yoga, she opened a carefully packed quarter bagel and ate it in tiny bites over a period of several minutes.

But that got me wondering: what is the gym's responsibility toward its patrons?  Does it have one?  Should the gym have some sort of system of checking that people are maintaining healthy attitudes toward exercise?

The line between healthy and unhealthy attitudes toward exercise is a blurry one.  There are going to be unhealthy outliers on both ends of the spectrum no matter what, and way too many Americans fall into the unhealthy category because of their lethargy.  And if the gym were to target at-risk patrons, I could find myself moving up that list.  Last summer, I was there several times a week and on the treadmill for sometimes hours at a time.  (At my pace, my 7-10m treadmill runs meant that I got to watch all of Jersey Shore and most of SYTYCD.)

So, I ask: do you have an opinion?  Is what you do at the gym completely and totally your own business, or should the gym take steps to be sure that its patrons are healthy?

I honestly don't know how I feel.  I've heard the staff and trainers at my gym advocate ridiculous and unsafe seeming practices too many times to trust their judgment on this.  And I would obviously resent any interference in my workouts. But, at the same time, I'd love for my gym to be a lovely place of whole body wellness rather than a place that fosters potentially bad attitudes.

Also, I think crossfit is a cult. (Totally unrelated; just wanted to say that.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Coogan's 5k race review


Just, ugh.

I don't mind running in the rain. Don't tell anyone this, but I actually kind of like it. The rain is cooling. It feels refreshing. Sunday morning, it wasn't even raining that hard.

And I love the 5k distance. It's just perfect for racing. Adrenaline carries you through the first mile, you coast through the second mile, and then just one more mile and you're basically done. It's easy to gauge what your pace should be (somewhere between "comfortable" and "I want to die") and it's easy to hold that pace for only 3m.

I even knew what to expect with the hills of this race, since I'd done the race before. The race took place in Washington Heights and, let me tell you, the "Heights" part of its name is no joke, fool. The hills are formidable - the sort where you look ahead to suddenly be faced with an uphill wall of people, stretching into the sky.

My legs were dead. I ran to the race as a 1.5m warm up, but I knew within a few blocks of my house that it wasn't my day to race. On top of that, I'd misjudged the distance to the start. Intending to get there with a few minutes to spare, I instead rolled into the last corral. My usual spot in the second-to-last corral was hard-earned, and it made a noticeable difference that at the tail end of the last corral, I was surrounded by loads of walkers. And kids. Lots and lots and lots of kids. And overdressed people. (50 degrees for a 5k does not mean running tights and a long sleeve tee under a fleece under a jacket with a camelbak.)

And the crowds! The crowds! I was at the 2m mark before I could set my own pace. The crowds were thick, they were all elbows and swear words (ahem, okay, maybe that was me), and they did insane things like walk four abreast or stop, cold, to walk in the middle of the one-lane course. At the one mile mark, I was actually so frustrated with the thickness of the crowds that I was forced off the street and onto the sidewalk - the course itself was unpassable with walkers. Leaving the course is cheating as far as I'm concerned. I felt my eyes well up with tears and I told myself to just turn around and go home. I snapped out of it, luckily, but it just confirmed that this was not my run.

And the kids! Let me say, I totally support kids racing. I think it's an awesome experience for kids to have. Kids should race - that is, as long as they're not in front of me and behaving erratically, which seems to be always. (And finishing before me, but I can let that go.)

Anyway. The first mile sucked, hard. The second mile sucked, but a little less hard. The third mile was okay, I guess. I ended up finishing about a minute slower than the race I did three weeks ago. Disappointing.

Remember how I was smiling in yesterday's
pictures. Yeah. Neither do I.
I am DONE with racing. I am done with crowds, I am done with paying money to get a bib and a t-shirt I never wear in order to do a mediocre job of covering distances that I could cover on my own. I'm done with being dissatisfied with myself. I run for me and not for race times.

I went home, took a warm shower, made myself some tea, and sat in my chair listening to Jim Croce. That cured it. I stopped thinking of my morning as a crummy 5k race and started thinking of it as an okay 6m run. In the rain.

Wouldn't you know, though? I then - later that same night! - went and registered for yet another race in April. Another 5k, even. I'm kind of rather obsessed with airplanes (in that I'm terrified of them) and I've always wanted to run a race on a runway. When I saw that registration was open for the JFK Runway Race, I was in. Plus, it's a no excuses course. You can't get flatter than a runway.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weekend wrap-up

You'll never believe it! Hang on to your hat: I ran 25m last week!

Ahem. Yes, I know that mileage is low. But, the last time I ran 25m in one week, it was November and 26 of those miles were covered in one go. So I'll take it. I'm not ready to declare my rut completely over, but it was a good start.

Anyway, here's a quick recap of my weekend. Because I have no real-life friends, I have to turn to the internet to meet people. (Isn't that what blogging is all about?) (Okay, this is a joke. I do have real life friends. One or two of them even read this occasionally.) This weekend, I had the good fortune of hosting one of my internet friends, the wonderful Carla with whom I ran half of the Chicago Marathon. Carla, who used to live in NYC, showed up on Friday with her friend Jen for a too-quick weekend visit.

The only thing better than running friends visiting for a weekend is running friends visiting, bearing Brazilian liquor. And a rice cooker. And a puppy. (I had to return the puppy, sadly.)
This is cachaça. I will use
it to make caipirinhas.
The weekend was blissfully unscheduled. I ran a nice and relaxing 4m Friday evening and then followed that up with a sort-of-long run Saturday late morning with Jen and Carla. We were aiming for 10m; at 7m, Jen was having leg pains and Carla was having foot pains, so we decided to declare the run over and to walk across Central Park to the Upper East side to get my bib for Sunday's 5k (more on that race tomorrow).

Saturday was a glorious day. The weather was beautiful and it was one of those days when there is nothing better to do in the world than go for a run with new friends and discuss everything under the sun. (Literally the sun, which was such a nice sight and a reminder that spring will be here soon.) We started up near my apartment in Harlem and ran down the West Side Highway along the Hudson.

One of the best parts of the run? It was exciting to see an elliptigo in the wild, but more exciting was that Carla taught Jen and I how to take self-portraits. I've mastered the ability to take photos that make me look maybe sort of okay using my phone and a mirror:
I don't drink coffee. True.
Unless it's a pumpkin spice latte.
But without a mirror? On the go? There is an art to it, and Carla is a master. The key, she explained, is to hold the camera in your left hand, as far from your body as you can. Of course, I do lack all artistic ability and this proved no exception. My pictures looked embarrassingly like this:
I know I have some talents,
but photography is not there.
I swear it's me:
My totally bad ass pirate hat
felt very comfortable on the water.
With the run over, Jen and Carla headed downtown to buy me some peanut butter (fully securing their place as the best houseguests of all time). I then proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend like this, at least until the puppy left with Carla on Sunday:
The puppy's name is Lily,
and she's moving to Manila
with Carla in a month.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Having a blog is kind of a narcissistic endeavor, don't you think? Like, not only am I writing about myself, but I'm being vain enough to assume that there are people out there - at least one or two - who want to read about me. But I'm not kidding myself; you want to read about running.

The world of running (or, at least, my world of running) has been fairly quiet as of late. Aside from a 5k this weekend, I don't have any winter races on the table. I'm not training for Boston. Since Meb wasn't invited to run Boston, I haven't even heard anything exciting from the world of elite racing. (True fact I just learned: Meb and I are both Tauruses with May birthdays. However, I think horoscopes are completely and totally meaningless. So meaningless that I can't even bear to make a "You'd think that my starsign could have gotten me to share some of his talent!" jokes.)

Every now and then, I'm tempted to blog about my personal life. You know, the one that's mostly absent from my blog, mentioned only in passing? That one. I'm tempted to share my thoughts on fashion, on cute boys, on how I spend my day when I'm not running or thinking about running.

Or I'm tempted to bitch about work. My job isn't more annoying than most people's, but it does have its share of annoyingness. Trust me, it does.

But I don't write about those things, at least not more than in passing. I'd love to say it's because I have a super-secret job, or an amazing, fast-paced private life.

Nope. I'm pretty much as boring as they come. I live in one of the most exciting cities in the world, and yet I spend my evenings staying up late to watch Drop Dead Diva on netflix (it's funnier than you'd think!). See? If I were to share my private life, I'd lose even the last one or two of you.

What's the point of this, you ask?

Right now, my non-blog life absolutely sucks. I'm not going to drag you down into why, but for reasons both personal and professional these next few months promise to be long and annoying. I'm totally fine physically and emotionally - do not consider this a plea for an outpouring of emotional support. Everything is fine and there's no need to be concerned or to keep me in your thoughts. Things are just particularly tedious.

Maybe that's why, as was pointed out to me earlier this week when I was out to dinner with a friend, I "do drink a lot of beer lately." It's not that much beer. Not really. I swear.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My run

Again, I'm too lazy to write about running so I'll just dump a lot of pictures on you and call it a post.

If you look closely, you'll see that my shoes have "Tracy Tracy Tracy" written on each of the toe boxes. I have two pairs of identical shoes with vastly different mileage on them, so I wrote my name on the older pair to keep me from getting confused.

What do you think about injinji socks? I guess I like them well enough, but I won't seek out a new pair once these are gone.

Also, the penny is there on the floor for scale. NOT because I'm lazy and my house is a mess and there is random change on the floor. That would be totally gross.

This is a rocky promenade in St. Nicholas Park where I once saw two kids in flagrante. Remember kids: just because no one walking BELOW you can see what you're doing, that doesn't mean that people walking ABOVE you can't see you. It just furthered proved my long-standing theory, which is that the people you see naked in public are never the people you want to see naked in public.

I never took Latin. The dead languages I've studied (Sumerian, Akkadian, and Egyptian) were all nearly obsolete by the time Latin rolled in, but I think there might be a spelling error in here.

125th Street was full of people and not very good for running. The McDonald's has Shamrock Shakes. I didn't stop for one. (I'm strangely proud of this.)

On the way home, I decided to run through St. Nicholas Park. It was empty, and getting dark. And I took the road less traveled. Miles to go before I sleep. Or something.

Bonus 9th grade English question: does that poem express remorse, quiet satisfaction, or both? Or neither? (The Road Not Taken, not Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening)

Even though it's barely two blocks from my apartment, I rarely run through the park. Shortly after I moved in to my neighborhood, a recent college grad disappeared while running through the park. That made me leery about running through the park alone. Not because I was afraid for my safety, mind you. Her story ended happily - well, as happily as dissociative fugue can get, which is to say that she's alive today and she didn't end up chopped up in a dumpster.

I wasn't afraid for my safety. I was stunned and saddened by the realization that I was no longer a young girl. If I went missing, it wouldn't be a tragic story about a girl, plucked from youth, a life cut short. I'm - gasp - in my 30s.

Oh, also? I don't run in the park because there are stairs. Loads of them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's that time of year again...

Guess what today is? It's kind of a holiday, actually.

If you guessed that today was the day that registration for the Mount Washington Road Race opened, you'd be right! I shouldn't be telling you that, and I really shouldn't have linked to it, because now you might compete with me for one of the limited spots. But I'm too excited to keep it quiet. (I'm actually cool like that. If you want to enter too, I'd love the company.)

This year I'm entering as part of a team in a bid to increase my chances in the lottery. I'm nervous I won't get in. Keep your fingers crossed for me. This race kind of kicked my behind last year, so obviously what I need to do is... this race, again. They've doubled the registration fee; maybe this will increase my chances by decreasing the number of lottery entrants?

In other news, the Pig is definitely off the table. My old training partner, the one I was going to be running it with, found out that she has a scheduling conflict and can't make it to the race after all - so I'm now looking for another late April/early May halfathon, if anyone has any suggestions. (Alternately, staying in New York and not racing is certainly on the table.)