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"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things I Do Not Like, August edition

-Daily Mile. I don't get it; I like my social networks social and my running logs data-filled. Stalk my running log if you're bored, but I don't really need 50 of my friends affirming my every run. Not to knock it if it's your thing, but it's not really my thing.

Maybe I should start the anti-Daily Mile, where you can only give demotivation. You can give me a little thumbs-down and a comment like, "You quit at 4m, Tracy? You could have done 6. Lazy ass." In fact, I would encourage you right now to go and review my training log and then mock me mercilessly for the (numerous) holes you'll see. Obvious starting points: no long runs more than 14m in months; two weeks in July with mileage under 20m; highest monthly mileage so far this year in June. If anyone - anyone - tries to tell me that it's okay! and I'm doing great anyway! I will... well, I'll give you a mean look of consternation and beat myself up some more.

-People who throw around the term "fatties" all willy-nilly to disparage others. But we're all runners! So we're all thin! And fat people, well, they just deserve it, amirite? I mean, if I see them eating ice cream, it must mean that they eat ice cream, like, all the time! And that's why they're fat! But, Tracy, it's okay that you like ice cream, because you're a runner!

Listen: be concerned about someone if you know they have a weight problem and it's affecting their health. Be concerned about our society's miserable food habits that are systematically creating an obesity epidemic. But discrimination is discrimination, and that visceral negative reaction you have when you see an overweight person eating (or sitting on the subway, or sweating, or doing anything that loads of people of all weights do) is discrimination. I'm not going to try to convince you that every overweight person has a thyroid condition or has just lost 100 pounds and has another 100 to go, but I am going to try to convince you to not be a dick. And your jokes about "fatties" are dick-ish. Helping to make healthy food choices affordable for everyone will help people lose weight. Mocking overweight people or creating a culture of hostility based on weight won't.

-The obnoxious blister on the outside of my right big toe that hurts like nothing else and won't go away. Any tips?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm too tired from a(nother) week night long run to do anything more than regurgitate stuff I've read on the internet for you

First off, not something I read on the internet but instead something I'm tired of seeing on my runs:

This bad boy has been parked on the main loop of Central Park, on the east side by the Boathouse. I'm not anti-union by any means, but I am anti-really loud drummers and guys yelling at me when I'm just trying to enjoy my run. Read more about the labor dispute here. I do give them props for renting the classy rat-in-a-suit balloon.

Next, if you're an apple geek, you might appreciate this story of a runner who ran the apple logo in homage to Steve Jobs (h/t @jheath). I have an ipad (I'm sorry, iPad) and two MacBooks, but that is way beyond me.

Not beyond me? Beer. I like it, as you know. Studies have shown that non-alcoholic beer helps in recovering after distance running - please let's test the alcoholic beer next, okay?

But don't worry about your beer belly. First off, running can help that gut - better than weights can. But if you just still can't lose that last bit of stomach, just get some new Spanx workout clothes! You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Well, that was that

Hurricane Irene came and went with fortunately few casualties. Unfortunately, amongst those casualties were both of the races I was registered for this weekend. Mayor Bloomberg rescinded all permits for public events on Saturday and Sunday, so I sat on my couch like a lump in lieu of racing. Or running. Or doing anything that wasn't "eating junk food and pretending like the impending natural disaster made it okay."

But now for some controversy. Well, sort of. Because, you see, the NYRR's policy is to not offer refunds in case of race cancellations.

This is a standard policy with races, as most of us know. Many of the costs are sunk, including the permit, the t-shirts, the bibs, the Gatorade, the labor, etc. But that didn't stop many people on the NYRR facebook page from complaining about the profiteering NYRR and their greed for race fees.

I get the policy. I read the small print before I checked the "I agree to these terms" box and I wasn't one of the complainers. But... it would be nice if they acknowledged it somehow. I was registered for two races that were canceled in one weekend, and both of these race registration fees were expensive (by NYRR standards). Instead, their acknowledgment of the cancellation came via email:

As you see, the email is three sentences: 1) race is cancelled, 2) YOU GET NO MONEY BACK SO DON'T EVEN ASK YOU GREEDY GREEDY PERSON, 3) be safe! I might have liked an apology thrown in there. With a refund, you see, I could have bought more, better junk food for the weekend.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My weekend is ruined. RUINED!

Original plan: 5k Saturday morning, half marathon Sunday.

New plan: 5k Saturday morning (hopefully), stay inside and batten down the hatches through Monday morning, long run Monday evening.

The mayor preemptively canceled all permits for any event being held Sunday, city-wide, in order to clear the roads in case of an evacuation - thus the half is not happening.

I'll admit: I was secretly more than a little relieved to hear that. I'm no wuss and I would have run in the hard rain and heavy winds, but I would have hated every minute of it. And when you're shooting for something in the 2:15-2:30 range for a half finish, that's a hella lot of minutes to hate (nearly 150, to be precise).


Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is an athlete?

The other day when I was modeling my running skirt, I looked at the photos and said, "Great photos! I almost look like a runner!" The friend who'd taken the photos gave me a puzzled look and said, "Um... you are a runner." My meaning was not to disparage myself, though. Yes, I am a runner. I say that unequivocally. However, if I were walking down the street next to Shalane Flanagan, you would say, "She looks like a runner!" and we would both know you were talking about Shalane.

Not me.
Then yesterday, while I was thinking about this, I got an email from another friend. He mentioned that twice this past week, people have said to him, "Obviously you're an athlete." Both times he thought they were being rudely sarcastic. Both times they weren't - they were impressed by him.

Now, he's a dear friend so I hope he won't be offended when I say that he doesn't exactly look like Frank Shorter. (Yep, another excuse to google "Frank Shorter shirtless".)

Frank Shorter
I know that athletes and runners come in all shapes and sizes, I do. But isn't perspective a funny thing? In the company of runners, I feel out of place and - yes, I'm going to say it - chubby. But in a non-running community, I'm basically a gazelle.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had once, years ago. I mentioned to a classmate that I was dismayed because my weekly mileage had fallen to about 20mpw, and I wanted to be up closer to 30mpw. This classmate was a casual runner, and he was impressed with my 20mpw. I said, "Yes, but in my circle of friends, 20mpw is not a lot!" His reply? "Sounds like you need to get a new circle of friends."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I felt the earth move under my feet

To be fair, I felt the floor of my apartment, and the four floors below it, move under my feet. The earth was down there somewhere. It moved. My apartment just kind of wobbled.

But yes, you read that right: I SURVIVED EAST COAST QUAKE 2011.

Of course, my number one thought was not: "Am I okay? Are my pets okay? Is the city okay?" Nor was it even, "Has this shown up on twitter yet?" My number one thought was: "How will this affect my long run?" and its corollary, "Does this mean I don't have to do my long run today? Is it even safe?"

Yeah, of course it was safe. So I did my long run.

It was a gorgeous day and a good, solid run. I ran about 8m down the West Side Highway to meet up with Tara near her office, and then she and I ran back up to the Upper West Side.

But... the run wasn't long enough. That's been the story of this marathon training cycle. My past four or five long runs have all been around 13m, and this weekend will be the same (I'm running a half on Sunday). I wanted to do 15m, but between leaving late (I got an important phone call right as I was walking out the door - why are those always bad news?) and not having a good sense of how long things take me, by the time Tara and I parted ways it was already dark out. I don't like running in the dark, so I got on the subway.

The marathon will be fine - as long as I get my act together and up my long runs. I'm not training for a half, after all.

I only got very nearly hit by two bikes during the run, so I consider it a success. That, and it was also oddly fast (for me). I have found that I'm fastest in the late afternoon/early evening.

I'm not usually an "OMG here's my playlist!" girl. You can choose your own music or, better yet, go without music. But when I walked out of the apartment, iphone in pocket, I decided I wanted to listen to music. I found a mix on my phone labeled "marathon" and I started it up. Can I tell you how much it rocked? Yes, or I can show you.

The best part? This isn't all of it! There's more music left on the playlist for another run! I stand behind it all as awesome, even the two versions of "Boys of Summer." Especially those, in fact - it's the perfect time of year for that song. I will admit to feeling kind of old when Blink-182 started, remembering that my brother and sister played me that song on my 23rd birthday... a decade ago. But! The Cheat is Not Dead (you either get it or you don't).

And I can't be the only one here who's seen Coed Prison Sluts? Like, a bunch of times? And owns the soundtrack? And thinks it's awesome music to run to? (Attn: potentially NSFW. I can't say for sure as nothing fazes me anymore.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Running Skirts Redux: A REVIEW

Friday afternoon, one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me took place (that is not hyperbole, sadly): I went down to check the mail, and I discovered a package from RunningSkirts.

I was confused - I couldn't remember ordering anything. But it was plausible that I would have; I do love me a running skirt. Had I been sleep-shopping? ...again?

I opened the package and, much to my delight, there was an adorable skirt and a pair of arm warmers,* compliments of RunningSkirts, with a nice note inviting me to review the skirt. Don't mind if I do!

Their description of the skirt reads: "Red and mini white polka dot print skirt in lightweight performance fabric. 2 Roomy Velcro closure pockets at the hips. Attached compression shorts with no chafe flat seams have a longer inseam for thigh protection and a fit that does not ride up. Inseam length 6-8".

Let's start with the important details: I think the polka dots are really more pink than white.

I was excited to see how generous the compression shorts were in length (pardon the slippers), so I put the skirt on to test it out.

Pardon the messy house. And - just so we're clear - the foam roller is obviously a prop. Literally: I propped it up for the photo so I'd look like someone who uses a foam roller.

The fit of the skirt is ideal. I love the length of both the skirt and the compression shorts. Their fabric is stretchy with a generous waistband made of the same fabric (no muffin top), which means you can wear it lower on your hips or higher toward your waist as you like. Once I'd adjusted mine, it stayed put. I don't really have a waist, per se, so I can't address how well the waistband would work on those with a more hourglass figure or who typically like a drawstring waist.

As a general note, I've owned two RunningSkirts in the past, and the sizing was slightly inconsistent between the two. One of the skirts I owned was quite large, so I sized down when I bought the next one - and found it to be, um, figure-skimming (aka tight). Given the stretchy fabric, the smaller size still fit easily. But it looked tight. I just noticed after wearing it to run that this skirt is one size larger than my typical pants size, but it fit well.

What I see as this skirt's biggest drawback is the pockets. Specifically, there are two, one on either side at the hips. They are generous and square with a small piece of velcro to close them.

I'm picky about pockets. I like them, I like a lot of them, and I like them to be secure and tight. I could easily see throwing a gel or two into these pockets, but my keys jangled (because the pocket wasn't quite tight enough) and my iphone fit, but awkwardly. Note that their website calls these "closures" instead of pockets, which I think is apt.

The iphone pocket bulge doesn't look as awkward in this photo as it actually is in real life. The iphone can only fit sideways, which made it difficult to plug my headphones in. Once I started running I didn't really notice anything, though. I even got used to the keys jangling after a few steps. They weren't bouncing but simply making noise.

Also note that the compression shorts are compression in name only - they're not overly tight by any means.

The verdict? After 4 miles, I like this skirt and I will wear it regularly. It's comfortable and the compression shorts didn't ride up, nor did they chafe. In essence, it did exactly what I like my running clothes to do, which is perform well and not give me any reason to think about them. No pulling, no adjusting, no nothing but me and one of the best runs I've had in weeks. And, if you're into that sort of thing, the skirt is also kind of cute. The $68 price tag is steep, but it's not out of line with what running skirts often go for and RunningSkirts does offer sales periodically.

I'm happy to consider myself a Skirthusiast.

But don't take my word for it on this skirt's comfort. If you go over to my friend SillyGirl's blog, you'll see countless photos of her in different versions of this same skirt - a true testament to its wearability. And its versatility! She's about 6' tall and lithe, and I am... not. Yet we both look good in the skirt, if I do say so myself.

(And yes. The green shirt with the red skirt was a little bit "Christmas in August.")

Edited: Carla had a very different experience with RunningSkirts (and with the company) than I did, so be sure to read her review for a different perspective. I haven't worn this skirt for more than 4m, so I can't say whether the shorts would ride up after a longer run (or whether they'll be different after I wash them). If my review changes, I'll update this page.

*Even though the weather today was nice and cool, 75 degrees is still a little warm for arm warmers, so review part two will have to wait.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now, on this week's agenda...

Long run Tuesday!! YAY!!! I CAN'T WAIT!!!

That's the special holiday you get to celebrate if you:
     a) bail on your Sunday long run
     b) are pretending this is a good thing while secretly kind of dreading it
     c) are anxious about not having had a solid run longer than ~13m in ages
     d) are me
     e) all of the above

Yep, I bailed on yesterday's long run. I met Tara and Jenny, intending to do three loops of Central Park. I made it one loop - barely. The weather was bad (hot and humid), but mostly it was that I was bad. I try to use the "what would you do if it was race day?" barometer to convince myself to suck it up on days like this, but yesterday one of the rare days where the answer was "you'd consider DNF'ing and probably just end up walking like 25 miles of the race." I was beat. I went home and took a nap while they ran.

I also skipped my run on Friday, though. I'd planned to go out in the evening, and I was in my running clothes dressed to leave when the sky darkened with a severe thunderstorm warning. I had just read an article about severe thunderstorm warnings, and I just got this sickening sense that running in the rain was okay, but running in a severe thunderstorm was stupid. I asked my brother what to do, and he told me that if I went running, he'd play "If I Die Young" at my funeral (I told you The Band Perry was stuck in my head lately!).

So, tomorrow. Long Run Tuesday. More celebratory photos to pretend I'm cool with it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Love (of running) is a battlefield

Why I deserve a medal: After about 5 hours of sleep Wednesday night, a long day at work yesterday, a large meeting I was very stressed out about, and a mandatory two-hour after-work meeting at a place I volunteer, I dragged home about 9pm, exhausted.

But what did I do? I put on my running clothes and went to the gym. I was on the treadmill by 10pm. Because that's what you do when you're training for a marathon.

Why I am actually the weakest link: I spent the entire run watching Jersey Shore, sending emails (you know you're not running fast enough if you can type), and bargaining with myself. The final deal I struck with me: stay on the treadmill for 4m and walk really really fast home and you can count the mile back-and-forth to the gym, calling it a 5m run. I'm on the fence about whether that's cheating or not.

Why it's probably a draw: When I got home, I discovered not one but TWO small blood blisters, one on either foot on my second-smallest toes. The treadmill changes my gait. Yet another reason it's lousy.

So I did the logical thing: I threw my dirty clothes on my roommate's chair and sat down on the couch with a beer. And a Gatorade, for balance.

But, more importantly, can anyone explain to me what my hero Frank Shorter is wearing here? (I can tell you what he's NOT wearing - a wedding ring).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why lie?

We're runners. Let's face it; our race times matter.

Usually they are intensely personal and don't matter at all to anyone else but else, but they matter to us.

Personally, I don't lie about my times.  One of my life-mottos is WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get.  Sometimes I'm not proud of my times, other times I'm ecstatic.  Most of you when you see my times probably think that I should go back to playing shuffleboard or whatever else it is that slow people like me do to keep us occupied. I get out of running what I put into it.  If I was more dedicated and pushed harder I would see more results.  But I'm happy, I'm (mostly) healthy, and I absolutely love running.

Do you compare yourself to others when you run?  I don't mean in the pseudo-competitive, "I'm going to pick that person off next" way, but in a serious way?  Or are you competing with yourself and your expectations?

To stop beating around the bush: what would drive someone to lie about their race times?

If you're going to do something public like tweeting about your running and racing or blogging about it, you owe your readers some honesty.  Misrepresenting yourself on your blog is disingenuous and dishonest.  As is moderating your comments to such an extent that the only comments published are unanimously positive.  This creates the (intentionally) false impression that you are a faster runner than you are. And get this (watch out; this is bold) - no one but you actually cares.

One particular blogger I follow has this problem. And it's bad. She blogs anonymously, so the sky is the limit in terms of her hyperbole. Finishing Chicago in 6:48 hasn't kept her from publicly stating that she finished in "around 5:30" or even "about four and a half hours." A half marathon that she finished last year in 2:34? This became "I was on track to run 1:45 until mile 11." Honey - unless those last two miles took you more than half an hour each, no you weren't.

I don't want to attract her attention by linking to her, so I won't call her out publicly. But I just don't get it. Most of the time she openly buys her bibs on craigslist, which I kind of think is less poor planning and more a ploy to avoid being listed in the race results. A recent race that she did - which she reported as a PR (piecing together her blogs and tweets, you would expect that to be around 2 hours) - was this:

I edited out her name. Please note that the results do include a 17-minute rest room break that she says shouldn't count toward her finishing time. So... I guess it was actually a 2:49? Another race a week later she said was a 2:14, and not a PR. But...

What's wrong with just being you? What's wrong with celebrating the achievement of running a marathon or a half marathon?* Why must you be ashamed and - worse - lie about it?

Let me pass on to you a piece of advice my dad has given me before every marathon I've ever run: "Tracy," he says, "You're not going to win." And you know what? Every race, he's been right. So why lie?

I'm not judging you based on your time. However, I am judging you based on how you report your race. Own your performance. It's yours.**

And now, because they crawled into my brain almost a week ago and won't leave, I present to you the Band Perry:

*And if you know me, you know I'm conflicted on this myself. While I am most absolutely certainly NOT in the "there are real runners and then there are casual runners camp," and while I myself am slow,  I do get a little frustrated sometimes by the whole OMG YOU DID IT YOU ARE A HALFATHONER DOESN'T MATTER IF IT TOOK YOU FOUR HOURS!!! attitude.
**I've actually had this post sitting in my drafts for over six months, debating whether or not to post it. I can be a bitchy person sometimes, but it's not really in my nature to publicly direct it at a single target. I feel a little uncomfortable about it, but I actually truly do want to understand the motivation that causes someone to exaggerate their own performances. AND YES I KNOW THE ANSWER IS JUST FOR ME TO STOP READING BLOGS THAT MAKE ME ANNOYED.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zombies and ultras and two questions for you

The other day I got a tweet from a former student:

Zombies! I gather this is the latest in the mud run/warrior dash/spartan race fad. An expensive fad. Occasionally a deadly one.

Truth be told, the event kind of sounds like fun. I probably won't do it, partly because of logistics (it's outside of Baltimore and I'm in NYC - although my smug urbanity forces me to pretend like my car-free status is not  a hindrance but instead something that makes me better than all of you oil dependents) and partly because of the price: $67 for a 5k? With "obstacles," so I won't even PR? It's for fun, right. Fun.

But if I understand correctly, it's not really a race per se. If you want to know how I feel about racing for "fun," read this post of Sarah's and my comments on it (I'm the first commenter).

So, question 1: what do you think of these "adventure" races - would you do one or have you done one (and was it fun)?

Zombies aside, you know what I might do? An ultra. I mean, I will do one at some point, but I'm starting to creep out of the dreaming stage and into the planning stage. Also on twitter, I was bantering with two friends about upcoming races, and this came up:

Obviously I'd have to start with a 50k like the Swamp Stomper, and the best thing to do would be to piggy-back it off of marathon training... like this fall's marathon training. I feel like I keep waiting to do things like this for a time when I'm much, much faster than I am at present.

Clue phone, it's for Tracy: you're never going to be that much faster. Plus, ultras have really good food at the aid stations.

So, question 2: Have you ever done an ultra, and (whether or not you have) should I do it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blah humbug

I wanted to update both of you readers on my running, but... My runs have just been kind of there lately, my life outside of running and the blog is also just sort of there, and I find myself in the very very unusual position of not really having anything to say about myself. (That won't stop me from filling several paragraphs of blog with meandering nothingness, mind you.)

But at least I have been running, mostly. I'm still taking antibiotics to cure the sore throat from hell - nearly three weeks ago! My long runs have seemed to stagnate in the 12-13m range for the past few weeks, and running has felt very hard. It's not getting easier, anyway. Still, I've been doing it. I need to kick it into gear, though. And by "it" I mean "myself." I need to kick myself into gear. I need to kick myself, period. Snap out of it, Tracy!

Now, I'm sure it's totally unrelated that I'm writing this from the couch with a chocolate chip cookie in hand. And it's not the first time lately I've been in this position, either. Not even the first time today. They're double chocolate chip, actually. Remember: correlation ≠ causation.

This weekend, though, I got some good running in. On Friday I ran to Trader Joe's, where the cashier made me feel like a badass when he was impressed with my 4m jog. "You ran here? From Harlem? Damn!"

Quit giving me that haughty look, you skinny freak
On Saturday I did a long run with my friend Renee down Summer Streets and onto the West Side Highway. I'd love to gush about how the weather was perfect and Summer Streets was amazing and it was one of those runs that just glowed, but truthfully? The company was great but the run itself was hard.

Now her haughty look seems more disdainful as Renee cozies with her life partner.
On Sunday, I met Mz. Duffy for a loop of Central Park. Good company, good conversation, and steady rain made for an amazing run. This one I actually could gush about, but just use your imagination.

After the rain run, on Sunday afternoon, I had a massage. On Sunday night I slept nine hours. Huh. Guess I was tired?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Um, so, um, yeah, I think I may have gotten a saddle sore riding my bike on Monday. I'm just going to leave it without any further elaboration lest the conversation turns any more indelicate than it already is. But I may go down as the first person to ever get a saddle sore from riding her bike for less than an hour. Please recommend your favorite powders/gels/lubes to help a girl out. (Clearance bike shorts from REI are already en route.)

Other than that, I'm putting together a list of my dream races. A comment yesterday pointing out this race (8 Tuff Miles) got me thinking about it... Late winter vacation?

Definitely on my dream race list:

Incidentally, something that Comrades does (per their Wikipedia page) is pretty interesting: you get a different medal depending on your finish time. Honestly? Even though all of my medals would be made of tin, or plastic, or whatever other crappy alloy they gave to slowpokes, I like that. Why not make the medals actually have some meaning?

It's weird how attracted I am to hill races, when I don't particularly like running hills. Any dream races you'd include that I haven't?

Updated: Majo points out in the comments that I left out the Swiss Alpine Ultramarathon. Yeah, I did, because I'm not crazy. But I do know someone who is, so do check out Christel's report of the race. (Actually, maybe it should be on my dream list - it does seems gorgeous, and she makes it sound easy!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sometimes New York is cool

Ever since I saw someone who was either Alec Baldwin or a crazy man (or... both?) on a bike on my normal running path a few weeks ago, I've been on hyper-alert for celebrity sightings. And lo and behold! Yesterday evening, running around the reservoir with Tara, I saw one!

Chris Noth! At first I wasn't sure it was really him - Tara had just told me on Sunday that she had seen him recently, so I was afraid he was on my mind and the guy I saw was just a random older dark haired dude. I got a good look at him and immediately turned to Tara to say something intelligent like, "OMG wasithim didyouseethat?" Another girl ran up behind us, saw my mini freakout, and said, "It was totally him."

And if your google autofills "Chris Noth sweaty" from now on, you can know that I had something to do with that. Apologies. The best I could do was a beach picture - and he looks waaaaaay older than that in real life. And he was wearing a shirt.

If you're looking for more memes, this time about healthy living bloggers, head over to Angry Runner's page and look at the ones I'm proud to say I helped her come up with. And then, while you're at it, head over to Bridget's blog and tell her what you think about money-making races that turn themselves into parties, breeding undertrained people who are "experiencing" the event rather than "racing" it: yay or nay? (I hope I don't have to tell you what I think.) And then, while you're clicking, head over to Geek Girl's blog and give her some support - she's going through one of those messed up situations that really helps to put your life in perspective.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I wish I'd known about this sooner!

And also I wish I was better at running hills, and didn't have a job that precludes heading to Colorado that weekend. While I'm at it I wish I was 20 pounds lighter and maybe blonder, too. You know what? While I'm daydreaming, make me a millionaire, too.

I will do this race - and the "real" Pikes Peak Ascent - someday, mark my words. More info about the race here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who am I?

I learned a very, very valuable lesson yesterday:
Bike shorts exist for a reason.

Yes, I went for a bike ride yesterday. A real bike ride - not on a spin bike in a studio, and not because I was on my way somewhere. And yes, it was awesome. I finally know what it's like to pass people (even if those people were runners while I was on my bike).

Why on earth did I do that?

Well... I'm maybe, maybe contemplating a multi-sport event. A duathlon. I mean, I love guns and I've cross-country skied a bunch, so... (that joke never gets old, does it!)(what? it's old already? huh.) A 2m run, 12m bike, and 2m run? I can probably do that, right? I haven't registered yet, but what's tipping me over the edge is their "fat tire" division, which accommodates slowpokes like me on their commuter bikes.

A little pep email from Ms. Duffy (she was right - gaining speed on the downhills does make the uphills not as bad) and I headed to Central Park for a loop. I was kind of nervous about it; not only was I afraid I'd have to walk my bike up Harlem Hill (stop laughing! it didn't happen), but there's been some tension between the police and cyclists in the park lately. Cops have been issuing $270 tickets for cyclists who don't stop at red lights in the park - even during the park's car free hours and when there are no pedestrians around.

I didn't get a ticket.

But I did get some insight into one of the bigger problems in the park: tourists are assholes. They ride their rented bikes the wrong way in the running lane. They cross the street whenever they want in groups of 10-20. They think that making eye contact with me as I fly down a hill means I'll stop for them. And worst: they ignore the stoplights completely. Hey, cops, here's an idea! Ticket the tourists.

Their jerkiness made me into a right asshole. As I rode through green lights in the park, narrowly missing tourists, I started yelling, "You have a red light" at them. Most of them looked confused, having not even seen the lights. One guy yelled back, "I know - I ignore them!" Ein Stuhl in der Hölle for you, tourist.

Should I do the duathlon? I can't decide. If I do, however, I make you a promise that these are things you will not see on this blog:

  • No gratuitous pictures of me in spandex. Actually, no pictures of me in spandex, period.
  • For that matter, no panda shots. I don't care how cute your adorable skirt and cowboy boots look, if you are on a bike, safety is a priority. PUT THE CAMERA DOWN.
  • No gushing, loving posts talking about how amazing biking is (except this one). I have a hybrid commuter bike and it's okay, but it's not great. I will never be a great cyclist on it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some of you may have already seen this, but it's quite interesting so I'm happily reposting it. Over the weekend, on the New York Road Runners facebook page, someone posted two links to information about being a bandit catcher for the NYCM.

There was an article in the New York Times three years ago, and in 2006 someone posted on a listserv a detailed description of what it was like to do this.

Interesting reading.

People see banditing as a victimless crime, and to some extent it is. But then again, it's not. Course limits are there for a reason, for one thing, and then for another thing: participation in a race is a privilege we pay for. I agree in particular with the facebook comment that likens banditing to stealing.

As much as I might complain about how hard it is to get into the race, or how expensive it is to get into the race, banditing is not okay. When I ran the last 6 miles of the Chicago Marathon with my sister (for her first!), they offered me a medal at the end - which I declined. Personally, and you might disagree, I see a difference between a friend jumping in to run part of the course with you (as long as they are respectful and don't take aid) and someone deliberately trying to run a race they haven't registered for.

Step one in training for a race is figuring out how to register for it, and doing that. There's no glory in finishing a race you're banditing, even if they do give you a medal at the end. You've taken aid that was intended for those of us who paid, you've congested an already busy course further, and you've cheated, plain and simple.

One of my favorite things to read around marathon time is this blog, where Jonathan Cane tracks down people who have cheated the NYCM. It's kind of shocking to me how many people cut the course.

Now, personally, I think more races should have a legal bib transfer system to help prevent banditing - but that's another complaint for another day! Speaking of which, anyone have an MCM bib they want to (legally) sell me?

Friday, August 5, 2011

I know it's a disappointment, but...

I will not be participating in the Jamaica Underwear Run tonight.

I know, I know: most of you will probably be devastated that you won't be able to tune in on Monday to see pictures of me in my underwear,* but I screwed up the dates and I have my monthly book club meeting tonight. I'm also so inundated with work that I probably won't be able to go to my book club, either.

So if anyone wants to run it, pretend you're me and collect my registration packet. I think you get free boxers at the end! The Naked Cowboy will be there!

*This is basically what I would have looked like. Totally, right? I even own that outfit! (Okay, maybe not. But I have some twine, pink underwears, and a piercing facial expression.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I thought while running in the rain last night

Miles 1-2
Yay! Running in the rain! This is fun! It's like you're a kid again! You must know some songs about rain, Tracy! What are they? Oh, right:

Look - another runner! Oh, she's unfriendly. Listen. You and I are the only runners around for miles. You can smile back at me, lady.

OMG, there are no runners around for miles. Could I be appearing on a "ripped from the headlines" episode of Law & Order: SVU next season? Okay, better be more aware of your surroundings... there are a lot of bushes here. Lots of places for bad guys to hang out.

Mile 3
Okay, phew, a cyclist. I'm not alone. Wait - is he wearing white bike shorts? Really? In the rain? White? You go on with your bad self, I guess.

The West Side Highway under the George Washington Bridge smells a lot like wet dog tonight. If that wet dog were vomiting and defecating at the same time.

New music! What other songs do you know about rain? Well, there's Prince:

No, I don't know any of the words to that song besides the chorus. But there's always - oh, no, oh no -

Mile 4
Must. Get. That. Song. Out. Of. My. Head. Replacement:

Okay, it's not about rain. But it's got a good cadence, I know all the words, and if you sing the chorus as "rain, rain" instead of "dance, dance," it works.

They're from Chicago! My brother's friends have partied with them! I wonder if it's true what my brother told me, that the lead singer always wears a hat because he's bald? While I'm on it, I wonder what really broke up Pete Wentz and Ashley Simpson? And I wonder if Pete Wentz was really upset that his penis pictures leaked, or if he's secretly another Anthony Weiner? [ed. note: it would be embarrassing to admit how much time I spent on this topic.]

Mile 5
The leggies are feeling very fresh tonight! No, you did not just say "leggies," not even when you were having a conversation with yourself, did you really now?

Home - home - home - almost there.
Blah blah blah, something about regretting the runs you don't do and not the runs you do, blah blah, rain is refreshing, blah blah blah.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A race, or a rock concert?

When I was in junior high and high school, if we wanted to go see a big concert we had to get tickets the day they went on sale. This meant a trip to the mall (where the Ticketmaster outlet was) first thing on a Saturday morning, where we could stand in line to get a bracelet that gave us the ability to go back at 9am, when the tickets went on sale, to buy the tickets.

Okay, so maybe the shows I went to in high school didn't always sell out.
By college, the process had shifted to the computer. Now, you had to be online right at 9am, clicking furiously through and entering the right codes before the scalpers did. It was always a gamble - how popular would the concert be? How many tickets were available? Could you still get them at 9:15, 10am, the next day? And of course if you missed the window and the tickets sold out, you could always buy them at a mark-up from a scalper.

I really liked the Judybats.
On Sunday, I mentioned that race registration for the Flying Monkey Marathon would open Monday morning at 9am. And at 9am, it opened. Then, at 9:04, registration for the race promptly closed. (Actually, it closed at 9:03 and 58 seconds.) Last year, the race sold out in 32 minutes.

What gives? It's a small race, limited to about 250 participants. And the race director allows early registration for last year's finishers (myself included, this year), which accounts for a few entries. But mostly it was just demand, plain and simple. It's a great race that's had some well-deserved good publicity. People were ready at 9am.

This isn't an isolated problem, though. Demand for race entries in general is high. We saw this with Boston. Also, RnR/Competitor keeps buying and adding races and then jacking the fees (and worse, we pay them). What's the solution? (Please, please don't say "increase race fees." Yes, I did take econ in college, but no, I do not want to be priced out of any more races!)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This week in long runs

Have you seen Disney's Cinderella? I dreamt about having a great long run, and this Sunday, I got my wish.

That was exactly my long run this weekend. The birds were chirping, the sky was wide-open and blue, the sun was shining down on us, kissing our shoulders with warm and cozy happiness. 13 miles of blissful magic with Tara. Exactly what running is supposed to be.

I'm not kidding! It was even the damndest thing - if I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't have believed it: a gaggle of river rats (possibly a rat king?) led us down the running path to a drinking fountain and even held down the button for us to fill our water bottles! It was kind of weird and gross at first, but hey, the rats were trying to be nice. I got the impression they liked my skirt. They were curious about Tara's waist-water bottle, too.

Okay, obviously I'm lying. The skirt bit was too much, huh?

It was a good run, though. Even without magic.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't feed the trolls

Last week, I wrote what I thought was an innocuous post entitled "I'm calling you out." It was geared toward a preponderance of blogs I'd seen lately, full of (relative) beginning runners telling their (even less experienced) readers exactly what they should be doing.

I thought it was pretty obvious that this post was written with a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek. I mean, for goodness' sake, I write a running blog. I read running blogs. I participate in running forums. I read running books. I go to running classes. When I'm not working or sleeping, I spend probably 75% of my awake time either running or thinking about running. I love getting running advice. Some I take, some I don't. Some I take and then later discard. Some I don't take and then later wish I had.

So, on Friday, someone posted a link to this post on the Runner's World online forums. I'm flattered that she wanted to share my post. But the response! Here are a couple of highlights:

Ah, the internet. Gotta love the trolls. (To be fair, both of these runners later admitted they were being harsh.)

It's generated five pages (and counting) of discussion. I love that something I wrote has caused a lengthy discussion. But... much of the discussion has nothing to do with my blog post at all, and even the people who try to take me to task for what I wrote aren't always basing their critiques off my words. I weighed in twice, against my better judgment, and a few people do take my side (thank you, Aron!!).

My point in the original blog post was that many blog readers consider bloggers to be experts regardless of their experience - and I think this came across to the handful of you who are regular readers of my blog. Unlike what some on RWOL inferred, I don't think that credentials or a paycheck are a guarantee of expertise. However, simply having a blog does not guarantee expertise.

For the record, here is my running advice to you. Write this down, it's good: There's a lot of advice out there. The best thing to do is to figure out - through trial and error - what works for you. What works for you will be different from what works for me. That's it.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to tell myself that "any press is good press" and return to doing what I do well, which is running - slowly. Back tomorrow with a lighthearted and inane post that is decidedly not full of advice.