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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I hope this is the worst thing you see all day

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

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

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

I don't get it.

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 in review: a premature look back

I really shouldn't be blogging right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This is what it's all about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's next for me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So What it's Hot? Product Review

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

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

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

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

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

Behind your head

Rear shot, behind the head

Over your ears behind your head
Around your neck

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Can anybody hear me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Would you believe...

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

I'm a loser.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What do you carry with you when you run?

Just some quick little begging for advice before the weekend.

What do you carry with you when you run?

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

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

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

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