On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Counting my blessings

I am SO lucky to have friends who let me disappear for a couple of hours while on vacation to run.

More importantly, I am SO lucky to have a body that lets me take off and run 11 miles because I want to.

Nothing profound today, just a moment of gratitude. Sometimes I forget and I take for granted that even though I'm slow, I'm capable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh, yeah, I also run

I don't have a running related picture to share, but I did go
to a Yankee game on Monday.
With the exception of races like Sunday's, I don't really do any memorable running and I certainly don't take photos of my running. I like to talk about running but nine times out of ten, my runs themselves aren't really worth talking about - and that's okay.

Still, one of the reasons that I do this bloggy thing (besides really liking to talk about running) is accountability. Last Wednesday I mentioned that I was starting to train. So this Wednesday, I'll tell you how I've spent my last week running. Almost every running blog I read does this, and in my experience there's no interesting way to tell you about my week of running. If you're into stats, maybe you'll like this. If not, skim on and I'll have something anecdotal tomorrow.

My goal for my first week of training was to build up to running five days a week and add some resistance training. To that end:

  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: 4m easy in the pouring rain
  • Thursday: 3m easy + conditioning class at the gym (um, yeah, I was sore for two days after this. guess I needed it)
  • Friday: 3.1m easy
  • Saturday: rest
  • Sunday: 15.6m trail race
I totally meant to run Saturday but, you see, after I bailed on Brooklyn I realized that I'm kind of lazy. I also intended to run longer on Wednesday, but what was a light rain when I left quickly became a downpour. I'm also annoyed that I only ran 5k on Friday - I thought I was facing double races Saturday and Sunday so I was taking it easy.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I wanted to run 5 times this week. I ran 4 times.

It was a really good beer.
One of the reasons I'm excited about having a flexible training schedule is so that I can focus on what I did not do each week instead of what I did do. This isn't a psychological thing; it's not that I'm trying to be punitive about the runs I didn't do instead of patting myself on the back for the runs I do. It's about being realistic and adaptive. If after a couple of weeks I notice that I'm resting every Monday and  Tuesday, if I notice that I'm consistently skipping a midweek long run or running 3 and 4 mile runs rather than 5 or 6 mile runs on the regular or never making it consistently to five runs in a week, I need to make sure my training schedule matches this and not set myself up for failure by sticking to a set plan that's geared for someone who's actually been hitting their runs.

Does that make sense?

So, my goal for this week: run 5 days. do the conditioning class again. be prepared to add speedwork the following week. This week will be tricky because I'm going to be out of town for the long weekend, and the friend I'm traveling with already said, "You can run in New York! Why do you have to run in Montreal?" (I think she was being slightly facetious. Right?)

Oh, yeah, which reminds me: you may not hear from me again until Tuesday because I'm taking a long weekend. You should, too! It's a holiday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dirty German 25k race report

So, maybe I blew off running the Brooklyn Half on Saturday, but the weekend wasn't a total loss. If nothing else I took a lot of pictures, as you're about to see.

Saturday afternoon, I took the train down to Philly (well, technically I took it to New Jersey) and met up with Liv. Our plan: eat some pizza, go to bed early, and run the Dirty German 25k trail race the next morning. I was skeptical about the pizza (let's just say... I've never heard of a good reason to go to Jersey, period, and food certainly wouldn't be my first thought). I wasn't skeptical about the race, though. Germans! And they're dirty! And it's a trail race!

One day after 7,000 runners crowded into the narrow streets of Prospect Park to run the Brooklyn Half, I was standing at the start line of a very different race:

Trail races are a little different, aren't they?

I was very curious about this race, and not just because they promised St. Pauli girls at the aid stations. The race was held completely within Pennypack Park, a branch of Fairmount Park in the Northeast part of Philly. I'd never heard of Pennypack Park before, even though I lived (and ran) in Philly for several years. Would it actually be a trail race? Or would it be a sort of urban/trail hybrid?

The 8am start came and went, and we eventually headed out about 8:10. Much to my surprise and much to our pleasure, it was all trail (with the exception of maybe about a mile on a paved bike path). The course followed the path of a gorgeous stream out and back:

The course for the 25k barely doubled back on itself (the 50k was two loops, and the 50 mile was three loops plus an add-on). Of course, as much as we passed no buildings and few people, it was an urban race, which meant occasional reminders that you were in a city. For instance, bridge underpasses all graffitti'd up:

Or beer cans. And more beer cans. Someone had quite a party:

What, you can't tell that those are beer cans strewn about my feet? Oh, that's because it was so humid that the lens of my phone/camera would not defog. Also, I had asked a fellow racer to take this picture, and I think he took four or five different shots. This is the clearest of the bunch. The humidity followed Saturday's rain. I guess I'm glad it wasn't raining on race day, but the mud was pretty intense. Both Liv and I very nearly lost shoes to the suction of it.

As promised, there were some sections of the course that were single track, including one interesting section of exceptional narrowness. The trail was only a few inches wide and the foliage was all up in our faces (literally). Do you see how the course goes all wavy? We were basically running s-shapes around and around... we could see the next runner ahead of us, but we could never quite catch up to him or tell how far ahead he was. It's fascinating to see how close we were to the train tracks and to houses, because you had no sense of that while out there.

There were two stream crossings - nothing too deep and each fairly rocky, but it was hard to avoid getting your feet soaked. There were hills, but none too intense. And of course there were St. Pauli girls. That's coke, not beer, in my glass, sorry. Can you tell that my shirt is quite literally soaked through with sweat from the humidity?

In terms of the running, the first 8 miles were solid and strong, given the trail terrain. After that, we slowed down some because an injury of Liv's flared up and she needed to take it easier. (I told her I was going to blame our slow down on her in the blog post, but in actuality I was happy to slow down, too.) That's the thing about a trail that's even a tiny bit technical, as I'm learning: pushing through and running isn't always that much faster than a fast walk.

More than three hours after we started, we finished. They met us at the finish line (no more elaborate than the start!) and handed us our finisher prize pint glass - this race just kept getting better! When I saw the grill with all the bratwurst, I was in heaven. Assuming heaven is a sweaty, sweaty humid place with empty beer glasses and bratwurst for everyone, and assuming they'd let me in rocking a single arm warmer.

To wrap up this entry (that probably took you longer to read through than it did for me to run the race), I loved this race. I'm absolutely positively glad that I did it, and I know without a doubt that I made the right choice in skipping Brooklyn. Even the t-shirts for this race were cool:

Oh, and in case you're wondering? The pizza in Trenton really was that good. Who knew?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What did I do this weekend?

This weekend, I...

-lost a(nother) toenail running;
-ate a brat - not a hot dog - at the end of a race;
-got attacked by stinging nettles mid-race;
-got a nice orange tech shirt for a race, and a pint glass at the end;
-chafed BOTH underarms (how does one do that, even?);
-visited a far-off, never-before seen part of a city that I consider home - that being, of course, Pennypack Park in Philadelphia;
-had an amazing time.

That's right: I didn't run the Brooklyn Half Marathon after all.

I could tell you the long story, but really the short story is enough: Friday, I realized that the idea of the race was stressing me out. Way too much. Getting to Brooklyn, running the race, getting home... I was just dreading the whole entire thing. I tried to explain to my sister how I had to run it because I'd posted a poll. She thought it was hilarious that I was trusting my life decisions to a flukey poll that dropped half its votes.

(She also had a birthday on Rapture Day Saturday. Happy birthday, Mandy!)

And then, well, there was also the race I was signed up to do on Sunday, in Philly: the Dirty German 25k. Tell the truth: how many of you would have changed your vote if you'd known I was planning on doing another race on Sunday?

So I stayed in Manhattan and slept 10 hours Friday night. No regrets. And more on the trail race tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2011

And the decision is...

I'm running the Brooklyn Half Marathon tomorrow.

Earlier this week, BloggerCrash2011 caused me to lose nearly half of the votes that had been cast in my poll! As much as I'd like to pretend that all of the votes were "no" and that I obviously shouldn't run, the "yes" votes well outnumbered the no and maybe votes before the disappearance and they certainly outnumber them now. Plus, all of the food for thought in the comments made sense. Thank you for your input.

So I'll do the race.

In the rain. In the hot, humid rain. Recipe for success.

Speaking of rain, I'm a big fan of just womaning up and getting yourself out there to run despite the conditions. I mean, I take showers, right? (Usually. Don't answer that. Rhetorical.) And running gets you sweaty, right, which is like the same thing but dirtier? And, you never know when race day will be wet - LIKE THIS SATURDAY, FOR INSTANCE. So, suck it up and train in the rain.

But this week we've had rain in our forecast literally every day, and I've kind of been a wuss about it. On Wednesday I got caught in a hella storm and my clothes were completely soaked. Completely. I stopped at the drug store on the way home and the pharmacist gave me a weird look and said, "Is it raining?" When I nodded she said, "I figured you were just really, really sweaty." Water was dripping off the brim of my hat. I wanted to say something sarcastic in response, but I didn't. I consider my restraint a victory.

Special new shoes that I'm wear testing that I'm
probably not supposed to show you. Don't tell anyone.
Oh, well. I did it. Some newspapers in my shoes and they were even good to go yesterday. And yesterday, even though the rain held off, I ran on the treadmill. And promptly remembered why I so passionately hate the treadmill.

One last note: if you live in New York, you've probably been to Jack Rabbit Sports. Twice this week I've had the good fortune of going to their Upper West Side store on 72nd St. (between Amsterdam and Columbus on the south side of the street). They were gracious enough to host two events, where I was lucky enough to meet Emily, Emilie, and Jonathan for the first time. It's weird to me to meet people whose blogs I stalk follow and who I know from twitter - what's even weirder is that they're all so nice and completely the same in person as they are online. Not me. I'm painfully socially awkward in person. Okay, maybe not painfully.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Girls on the Run

If you're in New York, you may want to consider being a running buddy for Girls on the Run Manhattan. On 5 June they have a 5k race, and volunteers are partnered with the girls (who've been training for weeks) to get across the finish line.

Or don't consider it. That's up to you.

You see, I seem to be the only person in the world that didn't have a good experience with Girls on the Run. I volunteered as a coach a few years ago, and my experience was... mixed. Okay, no, I'm going to say it: it was bad. It was a bad experience.

Let me qualify that by saying that everyone I volunteered with was amazing and dedicated. The one kid I was able to connect with was great. But the program was a huge, disappointing drain of my time.

About a year and a half ago, I found myself with some free time and decided to offer myself up to GOTR. They were expanding into a new school in Harlem that needed coaches, so I was put in immediately as a coach. I had no experience with the organization and no training. So I watched a demo movie, read the binder, and prepared to go twice a week with snacks to a school in Harlem. And while I might live in Harlem, I live in west Harlem. The school was in east Harlem - meaning it took me a solid 45 minutes each way to get there.

So, already a recipe for disaster. Two brand new coaches with no idea what they were doing trying to introduce a program into a school that also had no idea what it was all about. Things went wrong from day one - we couldn't use the space we'd been promised, we had no core group of girls, the ones that did show up were interested only in the food and then would leave when we tried to go through our programming. (Seriously. One of the girls early on asked, "Can you keep us here?" Now, I'm pretty good with kids so I knew better than to say, "No, we can't." I bluffed it. She said, "What will you do if we leave?" and then gathered her friends and said, "Let's try it. Let's get out of here.") We never even met our point-person at the school, so we were helpless to fix the situation.

By the third week, we had one girl. One girl. She was great, but she wasn't enough to justify three volunteers (we'd been given a third) spending four hours a week each in the middle of the day there. The GOTR organizers - again, all of whom were wonderful - were gracious and understanding and in agreement when we told them we thought it wasn't the best use of anyone's time and pulled the plug on that school shortly thereafter.

That was a bad experience, yes. But - and this is the part I usually keep to myself - I'm not sure I agree with GOTR's programming. I love the thought of introducing kids to running. And that's what I expected: a running program, for kids. Specifically, training for the 5k they host at the end of each year. But it's more than that; it's also a self-esteem building program. And the emphasis is less on running than it is on self-esteem (for the last 10 minutes or so of each session we were supposed to keep the girls active and incentivize them into doing whatever physical activity they wanted - but cartwheels or skipping for a few minutes doesn't prepare you for a 5k, you know?).

Our group was middle school students (the "Girls on Track" version of Girls on the Run), and the activities we were told to do did not work with these girls; they came off as hokey to our inner city kids. And - now this is me overprocessing - I felt a little weird being the white woman heading into the inner city school to tell minority kids how to feel good about themselves.

I know a lot of people who love Girls on the Run, and I respect that. I know a lot of people who've had great experiences with the program. Sadly, I'm not one of them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And just like that... I'm training again

Yesterday I had a crazy evening meeting at work that left me completely wiped. I've been running on empty sleep-wise lately, so when I got home from work, I was done. I could have gone to the gym, but I'd gotten four hours of sleep the night before so I said NO THANK YOU and curled up on the couch with my laptop.

But, laptop on lap, I did do something running related. I worked out my training schedule for the next few weeks! Because that pesky Yonkers Marathon is now only 18 weeks away, it's time to start training.

You can run it, too. If you're not weird, you can even sleep on my couch before the race.
But how to train?

Here's the deal: I'm not ready for the high mileage of Pfitzinger. But I'm ready for something a little less cookie cutter than Hal's programs.* In consultation with my friend Angry Runner (who is being incredibly gracious and surprisingly not angry in giving me advice - don't let the secret out that she's not always angry), I'm going to try to be a little more flexible with my training.

Yonkers will be my 9th marathon, so I have the basics down of how to get to the start line healthy and how to get to the finish line, period. I know what works for me in terms of rest and recovery, and I know what training my body can handle. I need some flexibility - not only is my schedule irregular, but I'm of the "oh, well, I may as well just give up" school of training, meaning that when I have an overly prescriptive schedule, the minute something doesn't go as planned I throw my hands in the air and let the rest of the week's plan go to hell.

For starters, I've divided the next 18 weeks into four 4-week phases followed by a 2-week taper. For each phase, I've given myself a goal (and these goals are cumulative). So, in the first phase, I'm going to work on building my base to running five times a week and working with weights at least once a week. During the next phase, I'll add some targeted speedwork/strides once a week and a few miles at marathon pace during my long run. Phase three will see more work with weights and at least one run incorporating hill work. My phase four goal, so far, is just to increase my mileage - but the beauty of a flexible plan is that I can change this if I want depending on how the first weeks of training go.

So essentially I'm laying out my weeks as they come, but with forethought. I know what I have to do, and each week or two weeks or month I'll work around my schedule to get my targeted workouts in. And then I'll reassess every couple of weeks. Frankly the hardest part, and I know I'm not alone here, is going to be making training a priority. And maybe avoiding shin splints, because those last year were miserable.

I feel like I just said an awful lot without saying anything at all!

The video is unrelated to anything I've said, but it made me laugh.
*True story: Hal Higdon is my cousin. Or rather, his wife is my first cousin, twice removed. She and my grandfather were cousins.
**Totally unrelated to any of this (and there's actually no referent for this pseudo-footnote): want to read something written by a jackass? Read Ben Stein's ridiculous defense of the head of the IMF. And try not to get angry. Yes, the year is 2011 and not 1950.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's that time of year again!

It's NYCM kick-off time! And by "kick-off," I mean: MARKETING TIME!

Last year it was t-shirts with hearts and flowers. This year (so far) the shirts look better, but they've introduced something new and phenomenal:

Yes, that's right. Six months before the race, two months before you're started your 14/16/18 week training schedule, well before the pictures have even been taken, for a mere $109, you have the option of buying a full photo package from brightroom.

Never mind that brightroom seems to take some of the world's worst pictures... of me. May your luck be better. But for $109? I'll ride my bike next to you for 5-10 training runs until we've captured that perfect, effortless, wonderful running photo. I'll even shoot you from above, instead of below (like brightroom), for a more flattering angle.

As someone I follow on twitter pointed out the other day, NYRR has now sent several emails selling stuff, but they haven't (yet) sent an email to let registrants know that they need to select a transportation option to get to the start. The transportation choices were posted nearly a week ago, and most people haven't noticed... but make sure to offer them a way to spend (more) money on the race!

Finally, a serious note. (Okay, not that serious.) Yesterday afternoon, my ingenious poll had an amazing-unbelievable-thank-you-so-much 92 votes. By yesterday evening, it had 52. What gives? Blogger is frustrating these days. Maybe it's time for me to learn to code so I can create my own web site from scratch. Yeah - no. Anyway, please do continue to vote and comment if you haven't, even if I'm not sure your vote is being recorded.

Monday, May 16, 2011

News from the world of running

First: If you haven't already (or hell, even if you have), please go and vote in my poll from Friday. Thank you to everyone who has voted and has offered amazing comments. I'm weighing them all carefully, although (as promised) I'll go with the majority. As of right now that means I'm maybe running the race.

Second: Drew Carey ran a half marathon yesterday in 1:58. Props to him for his weight loss and running success. If you're looking for fat Drew Carey, he's barely recognizable these days, no? Related: he's evidently pro-headphones.

Finally: Sammy Wanjiru has died. At 24. Terrible. By all reports as I'm typing this, he killed himself by jumping off a balcony, possibly as an accident after a domestic incident. Please - let's not stigmatize suicide anymore than it already is by saying that he "fell off a balcony." He killed himself. Obviously we'll never know why, but what a devastating end to the life of such an amazing runner. Shortly after an amazing race at Chicago, he was brought up on charges of threatening to kill his wife. Whether this was true or whether, as he claimed, it was not true, it hints to some serious trouble in his life.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Should Tracy run the Brooklyn Half Marathon?

I'm trying out a little poll here. Please, please if you read this, vote. I will go with whatever the three of you readers decide for me.

Here's the deal: I'm mostly prepared for the race physically. Mentally, I could not be less excited about it. I had an amazing race there last year, but this year I'm worried that doing the race will be a recipe for disaster and I'll end up even more burnt out than I have been lately.

If the race goes well, it will be a nice baseline kick-off to marathon training season in the fall. If the race goes poorly, I might end up even more discouraged than I am at present.

I am registered for the race, although the cost isn't a huge factor (it was $25 to register). I could go into it as a training run, intending to take it easy.

In addition to the poll, please leave any and all thoughts in a comment below.

The poll will be active until the 20th, which is kind of the very last possible moment when I have to decide (being as the race is on the 21st). And yes, I'm a good Chicagoan, so vote early and vote often.

I don't get it.

Blogger had a big problem this morning and lost both yesterday's post and also the one scheduled to post this morning. Hopefully they're not lost-lost, but they're certainly lost beyond my ability to reconstruct or even deal with right now. Blah.

Moral of the story: when you use a free service, you get what you pay for. Fingers crossed it will be working again soon.

Update: gack, they lost several of the comments on my last post, too. No, I am not censoring comments. I'm powerless to do anything about this. Let's hope they restore them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things that make me happy...

-Nice runs that break a running rut and happen on one's birthday. I'm not so naive as to think that the rut is gone for good, but it's abated. And no, I most certainly did not run as many miles yesterday as years I am old... because I'm old. And that would have taken all day.

-No smoking in city parks!!
Because this post is entitled "things that make me happy," I'm going to ignore the fact that the Mayor has said that this law will not be enforced.

-NYC Pizza Run. There aren't words to tell you how upset I am that I'll be in Chicago for a wedding that weekend. Finally: the race I've been training for all my life. (Kidding. I don't even really like pizza that much. But I would do this race if I could...)

-Speaking of races I've been training my whole life for, there's also this: the Too Slow for Boston Marathon. Finally - I can be both a participant and a competitor! There's even prize money! I'm happy to say that I've never finished last at any race... yet. But with only four confirmed participants, my odds are good at this point.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bear Mountain redux

Remember last year, when I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain Half? This year, I returned to the scene of the crime - not as a participant, but as a volunteer.

Specifically, I helped to man the 27.7m aid station on the 50 mile course. 50 miles of technical trail running. Almost - but not quite - two marathons.

I know for some of you that's no big deal (you freaky people call those 50m run days "Saturday"), but for the rest of us, let's give it some thought. To put things in perspective, the winner finished in 7.5 hours. Nikki Kimball, the North Face sponsored athlete and competitive trail runner, finished in 9.5 hours.


So late last week when I saw a tweet from a friend saying she needed more volunteers, I told her I might be interested and I'd let her know. Shortly after I got an email from her confirming my participation - sneaky on her part, but, it worked. I needed the push. I wanted to use this to get inspired, but not too inspired. And I did! I loved the volunteering, and I can officially say that I have no desire to run a 50m trail ultra. Ever.

For those of you who've never seen one, ultras are slightly different. Especially trail ultras. For one thing, the people are hardier. (And by "hardier," you can assume I mean "crazier.") For another thing, the aid stations are better. Way better.

Check out our spread:

We had: flat coke and mountain dew, salt, pretzels, saltines, bananas, jelly beans, brownie bites, boiled potatoes, potato chips, m&ms, peanut butter sandwiches, Gu Brew, gu, gu roctane, water, ice, and a giant vat of chicken broth heated over a propane stove that I kept trying to offer to people but they didn't seem to want it. THEIR LOSS - chicken broth during/after a race is phenomenal (but I'd like to know which of the race directors bought the low sodium broth, I assume by accident).

And peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Lovingly made by myself and E:

Yes, this did make me briefly contemplate taking up trail ultras. It may or may not be true that during a college when my stepmother worked for United, I used to fly for the free food. The airline industry killed that free meal plan, the cheap bastards.

Also making me briefly contemplate trail ultras? The scenery:

Then I realized, Screw that, Tracy. Run the half again next year. All the scenery but infinitely less pain.

It also helped that our aid station, set up at a camp with little cabins that were closed up for the winter, kind of had that horror-movie-hide-the-bodies-here vibe going on:

The work was straightforward and kept us busy: we noted the number of each runner who came by so that our team captain could record at roughly what time they passed through; we got their drop bag for them so they could change their shoes, eat their weird foods, apply more body glide; we helped them refill their water bottles or got them food.

The excitement - which was also the sole aggravation of the day - came at the end, when a runner went missing. Runner #48 was the last one to leave the previous aid station, and he didn't show up at our aid station. So we waited. And waited. And waited. After two hours, it seemed like he wasn't coming: either he must have left the course, or something had happened to him. So, out went search and rescue and their adorable german shepherd:
Let me tell you, that dog was excited to be put to work. Of course, it was for naught as the search and rescue team came across the sweeper (taking the trail markers down and cleaning off the course) a few miles in. No sign of runner #48.

At that point, our day was done. All that was left was to go to the finish line and have our free lunch at the post-race barbecue. They had a good spread of food, including the most delectable looking cake brownies I'd ever seen. E got one, and when I asked for one, the server said, "Actually, I'm not supposed to give you one. They're only for runners. I'm not going to take hers back, but you didn't do anything special, so you're not supposed to get them." Let me tell you... suddenly I saw my day flash before my eyes. I didn't do anything special?? Waking up at 4:45 to leave by 5:30. Making two loaves of pb&j sandwiches - and cutting them. Helping people with their skinned knees and bloody nipples and salt-crusted faces. Before I could jump the table to grab my own brownie, E said, "This one is really big. We can share it." Phew.
Just in case you notice anything, I may take the next few days off from the blog. I haven't run in nearly a week and I'm ready to try again, but until I have a good solid run, it's not really helping me to write about it. Don't worry - I'll be back before you can miss me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Do you know how many miles I ran this weekend?


Do you know how I feel about it?

Pretty awesome, actually.

On Friday I mentioned that I was out of motivation. I got a bunch of good comments on what I could do about it, and my favorite one would have to be this one:

For some reason, this comment really resonated with me. I know that taking a short break right now won't lead to weeks without running. And I also know that I felt pretty a-okay not running this weekend. On a piece of advice from my sister, I bought a bike pump to inflate my bike tires so this week I'll bike.

Another comment, from Looseyfur, got me thinking, too. She asked about my iron. I've struggled with my ferritin before: my iron goes down, I take drugs, it goes back up, I go off the drugs, it goes down. (This is all done under my doctor's supervision.) I hadn't really given much thought to my ferritin - I had a blood test a few weeks ago, although I never followed up with my doctor after it. But as soon as I read that comment, I had a lightbulb moment.

Get it? It's an iron!
It's never until I start noticing improvement from the iron pills that I realize how badly I'd been affected by the low ferritin levels. Now, I know I haven't been getting enough sleep lately, but I woke up after nine hours of sleep Sunday morning and I felt like I'd been drugged. I walked through the whole day groggy. Last night I fell asleep an hour earlier than usual while doing some work, and I woke up nine hours later groggy.

I'm writing this through a mental haze. I've been awake for over an hour but I'm still pretty out of it. Tomorrow: something more coherent.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Motivation. It's not there. Again.

Please. Give me some motivation. I'm begging you. I have none. Anything will help.

Getting out the door is hard lately, and my runs are lackluster. I'm trying to get psyched up for the fact that training for Yonkers begins in less than two weeks, and instead I kind of want to just hang up my running shoes and never run again.

I skipped yesterday's run, for no reason. I put my running clothes on (including my shoes) and I sat on the couch for two hours. Eh, I was tired. I didn't want to. So what?

I had super-secret plans to run a half in Virginia in two weeks, but I've canceled those. I'm seriously tempted to bail on the Brooklyn Half, too. Why bother?

I missed my "100 miles in April" goal by 2 miles. And I'm kind of indifferent to that. What does it matter, anyway?

This is what I see on my running route (real iphone photo taken last week):

And yet, this is how I feel:

I know it's normal. I know that every run can't be rainbows and sunshine and floating on air. I know that motivation comes and goes and it's okay. But man! I want to be enjoying myself more.

Any suggestions? (Besides HTFU - I'm on that one.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rock and Roll Country Music Half Marathon race report pt. 2: THIS IS WHAT A PW LOOKS LIKE. And it's not good.

Yesterday, I told you a little about the Country Music Half itself. Today, my race.

In short: it sucked. I knew the course would be hilly. I expected that it would be warm. But it just wasn't my day. I could run through my litany of excuses from last week - they're all still there (in fact, I unexpectedly slept 10 hours the night before last) - but I think I have a new culprit: garlic.

You see, despite having a legit Italian name, I'm only 25% Italian. Worse, I'm intolerant to garlic. And garlic is a sneaky bastard, working its way tastelessly into innocuous foods like take out pasta you have delivered to your hotel room the night before an out of town race (or ketchup! did you know there's often garlic in ketchup?). I won't get into the garlic symptoms, which typically hit me about 6 hours after I eat the garlic. They're graphic and disturbing and obvious and although I know some runners like to talk about their bowels this is not that type of blog. Saturday morning wasn't like that, though. I woke up feeling more or less okay and it wasn't until right around the start that I realized that my stomach hurt. And that was all - just dull pain with occasional cramps. Cramps that worsened when I ran. I felt complainy and pissy, basically.

By mile 4, I was falling behind pace. By mile 7, I was walking almost as much as I was running. After that, I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm. More than just lacking enthusiasm, though, running hurt. My last three miles took 14 minutes each. Blech. Bleak. Blah. There was nothing there.

I finished the race with a large blister under the ball of my right foot and massive chafing on both of my thighs. Delightful.

Whatevs. I got the shiny, glittery medal, I got to hang out in the dirty south, I got out of the city, I got to see some friends, took a picture of myself in front of the Parthenon, and I got to eat Dairy Queen.

If you disagree with me on Competitor and are a fan of RnR races, I apologize for my opinions. You can always sign up for the NYC RnR 10k - only $60! Incidentally, for only $50 I will be happy to run alongside of you any distance you want up to 20m (I'll ride my bike if you're faster than me) - hell, make that $25. I'd probably do it for a smile and a pint of beer, I'm cheap. You'll not only get a scenic tour of the city, but I'll talk the whole entire time. Better yet? You can have my CMM shirt, too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rock and Roll Country Music Half Marathon race report: THIS IS WHAT A PW LOOKS LIKE. And it's not good.

Hmm... where to begin? How about my facebook status update a few hours after the race ended:

There are two reports to be had here: one, an objective report on the race; the other, my race. Sadly, I don't have too much good to say about either.

So let's back it up to a few weeks ago. I know that by virtue of living in NYC I'm supposed to be all "rah rah I love New York SO MUCH!", but sometimes? I just want more than anything in the world to be anywhere else but NYC. So what did I do? I decided on a lark to return to the scene of my very first marathon and run the Country Music Half Marathon. I knew a few people who were doing it, travel was reasonable, and I wanted a mini-break.

Now, the race itself.

I hate Competitor. It's true. I do. I hate how they turn their RnR races into "festivals" and I hate how they cater explicitly to making money off of the average runner. I passionately support anyone and everyone running. But I don't support any company trying to make money off of the running boom so blatantly. That said, they have their niche, and people who like their races: props.

After registering for the race, I got ONE email with my race registration (no details, just a confirmation) and several emails offering me different upgrade packages. Parking? VIP tent at the start? Buy the race video in advance? It'll cost you! Dearly!

The t-shirts were, hm, okay. A tech tee (I SHOULD HOPE SO CONSIDERING I COULD HAVE BOUGHT A NEW GARMIN FOR THE COST OF REGISTRATION), but unisex sizing. The size small fits around my torso more or less but is too long and the sleeves extend to my elbows.

I can't speak much to the expo as I ducked in, got my race stuff, bought some compression socks, and left. It seemed pretty standard expo-ish. Large. Lots of stuff for sale. Crowded.

If you're looking for information about the race itself, here you go. The course is a point-to-point that starts near the Parthenon and ends downtown. The 7am start was pretty rough, and this year it was cold - however there was a Starbucks right at the start, so I was able to hang out there in the warmth. (The line to use their toilet was really, really, really long.) The course features consistent rolling hills. It runs briefly through the downtown area, winds through a neighborhood, and then, um, and then I lost track. There's at least a part of it that's pretty boring and desolate.

The race ostensibly started at 7, but they release the runners in waves every minute or so apart. So, being in the 18th corral meant that my race started much closer to 7:30 (which gave me time to wait in the porta potty line). They do this to reduce congestion and crowding along the course, but it - like much else that RnR does - helps take away from the race feel of the event. You're passing people and being passed and it's all inconsistent and harder than usual to keep track of.

It doesn't help that much of the course is narrow. Given the size of the event, the race was crowded the whole way through. At mile 11-12, the full marathoners split off. By mile 12.5, I was shocked to notice that the crowd had not thinned in the least.

When I did the inaugural race, I remember enjoying the bands and cheerleaders. This go around, I didn't notice any cheerleaders and the music wasn't very enthusiastic. That could have been a reflection of my attitude, true.

Water and Cytomax were available every couple of miles. I carried a water bottle to avoid having to stop. Gu - plain gu - was available at one point toward the end. No flavors. I saw one woman grimacing and moaning about having accidentally eaten the plain gu. "That tasted disgusting!" she said. Yes, yes I can imagine it would. I didn't tell her what I thought it would probably taste like.

I have a theory that these races are bad for etiquette in general. When you have too many people who've never raced before or who have only done other RnR races, it just seems like the basic rules are out the window. People are ruder than ever throwing their cups on the ground thoughtlessly, they stop cold and walk in the middle of the course, they ALL wear headphones. (Seriously - at several points I looked around and realized that there was no one besides myself who was music-free.)

Crowd support was actually good. And if you've ever wanted to run a race in a tutu, I'd definitely A+ recommend this one. You won't be alone.

This has gone on long enough. Tomorrow: my race.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why you gotta be like that?

First off, Brooke made more of her hilarious photoshopped running products. Please go to her blog and check them out. And imagine me laughing hysterically as I look at them.

I had kind of a funny experience on Sunday. I suspect you've all had this experience, too. And I really, really don't understand it.

To set the scene: I spent Saturday out of town doing something stupid. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, but in the meantime here's a teaser photo:

Yep. I did that. And I shouldn't have. But more on that tomorrow.

But anyway, Sunday afternoon I felt like I should go for a short little jog. I was taking it easy, running some and walking some while having a pathetic conversation with a friend - the drawn out kind that can only be had via text message. It was a nice day and I was enjoying just being outside.

UNTIL. Until I got passed.

Let me tell you two facts about Tracy. These aren't exactly well kept secrets:

  • I'm slow. This is true. In fact, I passed someone during one of my runs a few weeks ago, and as it was about to happen (which was like a 5 minute build up, because, you know, I'm slow and all), I realized: I had no idea what the etiquette for passing someone is. How wide of a berth do I give him? How quickly do I cut back over after I've moved around him? I don't know!! The punch line of the story is that he was probably about 80 years old. Yes. But man, I totally passed him!
  • I'm not competitive. Not in the least. Once upon a time, I was a highly motivated, very competitive grade schooler. Then college hit, and I relaxed into the apathetic, lazy Gen X'er I am now. (Or maybe I'm a Millennial. See how apathetic I am? I don't even care!)

Basically, point being, I kinda don't care if you pass me. I'm not going to make you a target and ruin my leisurely recovery run to chase after you.

BUT. Sunday. I'm walking and sending a text message, and this girl comes around me and passes me. Cool. A few seconds later, I start running again and it quickly becomes obvious I'm going to pass her. Okay, no problem. Except that this launches a giant game of leapfrog. For over a mile. Every time I pass her, she speeds up to pass me. And then she slows down, because she can't maintain my (SUPER SUPER SLOW) pace. So I pass her again. Finally, she tears off. I can hear her heavy breathing. I can see that she's having difficulty maintaining the pace. It was all just so uncomfortable that I took a walk break and let her have the lead.

Why on earth? I know this behavior isn't uncommon, but I don't get it. Yes, woman in black cotton, you beat me. Relish that victory - you totally beat a tired girl who was run/walking the day after a half-marathon. You're a badass speed demon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where were you?

Honestly, I had a post prepared about running nonsense (you'll get to read it tomorrow), but last night was basically a holiday in my household. There are two people in my household, both with strong interest in the Middle East, one a former soldier. Yeah, we stayed up late watching the news and drinking and smiling.

(Oh, if you went to bed early last night and for some reason came directly to my blog without talking to anyone or looking at any other news sites, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by US forces last night.)
From the Daily News (although their front page is way classier -
giant ROT IN HELL next to his photo.)
I'm kind of mixed about the fact that I raised a beer - um, more than one, actually - in celebration of someone's death. But I wasn't celebrating a death so much as I was celebrating my patriotism, my intense pride at being an American and my excitement over seeing Obama be able to take the credit for living up to  a campaign promise. And how amazing that it wasn't a drone that killed him but instead US forces, on the ground. Exactly 8 years to the day after Bush announced "Mission Accomplished," nearly 10 years after 9/11, bin Laden is dead.

Sadly, so are the 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11 and the thousands of American (and coalition) troops who have died since fighting our wars in the Middle East.

My 9/11 story isn't exciting. I was living in Philly at the time, and I had the radio on as I was getting ready for class (it was Chio in the Morning, a godawful terrible morning show). Suddenly, the female announcer burst on and said, "There's been a second one! It wasn't an accident!" before she started crying. I turned on the news just after the second plane hit and sat on the bed, stunned. The Canadian I was living with came back from his shower and I said, "Something bad has happened." He blew it off as probably nothing and we walked to school together. I took my discman (ah, the good old days...) with me because it had a radio tuner and we showed up on time for our class. Classes were not officially canceled that morning, although our professor dismissed us immediately. We then spent the rest of the day stunned, but ultimately unaffected.

I'm glad that I don't have a more exciting story (like Carla's, for instance). And I'm certainly glad I didn't know anyone who was working in lower Manhattan that morning. What about you?