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, January 31, 2012

Radio silence

The bad news: Last night, I went to bed around 4:30am. That's been happening a lot lately. For no good reason; I'm just anxious and this turns into sleeplessness. When my alarm went off this morning at 5:30, I was ready to go running - luckily Emilie had the good sense to suggest I go back to sleep instead.

The good news: If I go out running now, I only have to run 19.7 miles today in order to meet my B-goal of 100 miles for the month.

Yeah.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remember when?

One year ago today, I was in Cairo, wondering why I couldn't access twitter or my gmail. One year ago tomorrow, the internet and local phone service was shut down. From there, all hell broke loose. A few days after that, I watched the Army be welcomed into the streets of Egypt as a liberating force. Every police vehicle, every police station was burned. Most of you know my story by now: how they canceled the trains, so I had no way of getting back to Cairo; how a kind couple I met at a race took me in for a week; how I was eventually evacuated by the State Department. I was lucky, needless to say. My life was never in danger.


Today, I'm whiny because I might not make my (arbitrary) mileage goal for the month. And also I ran out of dark purple fountain pen ink at work and had to fill my pen with dark green yesterday. And I was moved into a new office at work, meaning now there's about an hour mid-day when I have trouble seeing my computer screen because of the glare from the floor-to-ceiling windows. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

First world problems much?

كلنا خالد سعيد
(Translation: "We are all Khaled Said," a rallying cry of many of the protestors.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Accountability

Most mornings, I run about 4.5m with Emilie at 6:15. We live two subway stops apart (about a mile or so, but with a big hill in the middle) and so she'll take the train up to me, I'll meet her at the station, we'll head over to Riverside Park, and we'll run. We end at the subway station by her house, where I jump on the train.

I know this sounds convoluted, and it is. It would be easier to meet in the middle, but that would involve us both needing to tackle that hill and me needing to wake up 15 minutes earlier. That's not happening. (Also, the neighborhood between us is a little sketch, and it's dark when we meet.)

Today, I got on the train after my run and stood there, playing Words With Friends like an addict a champ. There was a crazy guy sitting near me, but I wasn't paying any attention. He was really starting to get into it, yelling craziness about how he was going to "pull your skirt down to show you, how could you do this to me, I've done it before you, know, I'll just pull that skirt down, you'll be standing there in your panties, then you'll take him seriously!" This went on for several minutes, complete with skirt pulling down pantomiming.

I very surreptitiously looked around the train - yep, I was the only one wearing a skirt. The crazy guy was talking to me! He was saying all of this in a menacing voice, too.

Eventually he reached out and touched my arm. I jumped, and turned and glared at him, which launched him into a fit of hysterical laughing/yelling. I told him, "Do NOT touch me," to which he replied, "I didn't touch you. God touched you! In your heart. That was god."

Point being: why on earth don't I run the mile home after saying goodbye to Emilie? I can handle a 5-6m run in the morning. Tomorrow and from now on, I'm running home after saying goodbye to her.

Monday, January 23, 2012

MAJOR LIFE ANNOUNCEMENT

You might notice some changes around here from now on.



Last Saturday, like most people who follow distance running, I sat glued to my computer for a few hours in the morning, following the Olympic Trials. Then, later that afternoon, I had a few friends over and we sat glued to the television, watching the race unfold. Later in the evening, and there is a chance I may have had a glass or four of wine and was possibly egged on by my friends, I declared my intention to compete in the 2016 Olympics, running the marathon.

The good news: MarathonGuide has a history of the women's Olympic Trials. Since 1984 when the women's marathon was introduced, the time needed to qualify hasn't changed as much as you might think - it's mostly been between 2:28 and 2:33. (This year saw an exceptionally strong field and perfect conditions, and the winners came in around 2:25.)

The bad news: my current (and sorely outdated) PR of 4:43 has to fall... like, a lot. In fact, I'll pretty much have to run twice as fast.

Anyone have any training tips for me?

Here is my plan so far:
  1. Lose weight. Probably at least 30lbs - those pros are small. Therefore, I must finish the ice cream in the freezer so I'm no longer tempted by it (DONE).
  2. Train at altitude. No big deal - my neighborhood isn't called Hamilton Heights because I live at sea level, you know (DONE).
  3. Scope out the competition. I went with a friend to the Armory this past weekend to watch some high school track at the New Balance Games. (Actually, we went to watch some elite track, but, ahem, we kind of were late, so we saw a lot of high school relays.) So, high school ladies: in 15 years when you've peaked - I'll be ready for you.
  4. Run. Like, a lot more. Like, maybe even upwards of 40 miles a week. (I fully expect this to increase as I get better. To, like, maybe 50mpw? 60? Surely no elites would ever run more than that, right??)
  5. Get a sponsor. I figure, barring actual sponsorship, I'll just pick a brand and wear a lot of their clothes. Then when I start winning, I can ask for a retroactive sponsorship. Unless Nike finally answers my emails. Can anybody hear me?
The Armory. Picture me out there running, but in shorter shorts and way faster.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Did you know I recently became a vegetarian?

That's right! I don't eat meat any longer! (Ed: well... sort of. Read on.)

I announced this proudly at the end of December only to be met with derision from my little brother. This one:

That's my brother with some of my healthy vegetarian supplies.
He said, "Why would you have to announce that you're a vegetarian? Why can't you just eat less meat and not be a douche about it, like the majority of the world?"

Well, duh. Because I want to be special. Labels, especially ones you can be self-righteous about, make you special.

Now, never mind the fact that the other day at work, I was craving chicken so badly that I seriously would have hurt someone for a wing. I have a (plastic, butter) knife in my desk and if I'd smelled any chicken, I would have used it. I'm sure this meat thing will stick. I mean meatless thing. Yeah. Besides, all the cool kids are experimenting with meatlessness. Will it make me faster, and thinner, and stronger, and magical? Nah. Will I stick with it? Probably. (Ed: definitely not. Shortly after a draft of this post was written, I fell off the wagon and right into Shake Shack. Je ne regrette rien.)

I said goodbye to my meat days in style, though, with a burger for lunch and combination steak and lobster dinner on New Years Eve. (Ed: goodbye, meat days... see you again in 12 days!) Then, that night to celebrate NYE, hopped up on red meat, I took a 90 minute bikram class.

90 minutes of meat sweats. Ugh.


The weirdest thing about this photo is not that it's blurry, but it's that my sister announced, in earnest, "Oh, you're really going to like this one!" after she took it.

On New Year's Day, she and I ran 11 miles in freezing cold weather with 30mph winds wipping at us while snow fell "down" horizontally. Driving home through the snow, she then took this photo:


She was also quite proud of this photo. Now, I'm no Mapplethorpe, but maybe my sister isn't, either. (Ed: is it weird that I think, "insert name of famous photographer here" and the only name the voice in my head can come up with is "Mapplethorpe"?)


(Final annoying editorial aside: after Shake Shack, there was Manhattan's first Steak 'n Shake. Then there was the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien. It's been a great week back in the arms of my dear friend red meat!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What does the future hold?

Last Monday, I got a very ominous email in my inbox:


This should be exciting, right? Not ominous!

And yet... I'm about 90% certain that I am NOT going to register for the NYCM this year.

That, after running 9 local qualifying races last year. Just not doing it. I've already invested enough time and money into a race that I'm not excited about. (Which is also why I won't be paying to defer my entry, either. Deferral means that you have to pay this year to hold your spot... and also pay next year.)

It's not simply because entry fees have gone up (which they have - it would cost me $227 to register for the race). It's not just because I actually feel okay with the race I ran last year (and I do). It's just... my heart isn't in it. I've done the race two years in a row now, and it's a great race. But it would be a great race to watch, too. And I could instead do another fall marathon or, what sacrilege! not do a fall marathon.

Speaking of not doing marathons, I also made the sad decision that I will not be running RnR New Orleans. Well, the decision kind of made itself when I realized I was only 8 weeks out from the race and haven't done a training run longer than 11m... yet. I really can't justify the cost of traveling to NOLA to run a half, even if I do want to see some friends who are also going to be there. And then I dropped out of Ragnar Cape Cod, ostensibly to run a marathon in Chattanooga - but I'm guessing that won't happen, either.

No motivation. And that's okay.

I do have a few races coming up, though. I'm doing a trail half in a couple of weeks, and then a 10m race shortly after that. And then... who knows? Maybe an early fall marathon abroad? Or maybe nothing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You can't trust your Garmin

My friend Renee ran a half marathon last weekend on a track. Yes, you read that right - 68 laps total on a track. Here is her Garmin map from the race:


Let me remind you - she ran this race around a track. The track never changed size. She never veered off the track. She ran decidedly more than 3.09m (10 more miles than that, in fact) and while her time here is correct, her pace isn't.

Can we please drop the whole "but my Garmin said the distance was - " argument now? Finally?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No time to write a real post so read these things instead

Oh yes, they did: the 10 hottest female contenders at the Olympic Trials this weekend. What, no bikini shots of Jenn Shelton? (For the record, my money is still on Tera Moody for this, too.)

While we're at it, my sister (who sent me that lovely link) also sent me another link: race t-shirt etiquette. I agree with almost all of it - I would argue that family members do not  earn the right to wear the shirt.

And more about Ryan Hall and his "desperation for God." Of course, this post would therefore not be complete without a photo of naked Ryan Hall.



Finally, some happy news: Chip Wilson, the CEO of Lululemon, has stepped down. Did you know he's a billionaire? Your $80 yoga pants put him there!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Houston, we have a marathon

As many of you know, the women's Olympic marathon trials are in Houston this weekend. I guess the men's are, too, but who cares about those? (Okay, fine, some people do, but now that Galen Rupp is out and we don't have the excitement of the Galen Rupp mask, well...)

No blog can ever have too much Rupp Mask.

Anyway, I think the most interesting thing about the trials is that I am a contender! Yes, you read that that right. At least according to Runner's World. So maybe I haven't met the A- (or B-) standard. But, look at this!

Tera Moody is was?* running, and her best is a 2:30 half marathon! I can do that!

Yeah, I get that it's just a typographical error (that they've since fixed). But let's go with it.

In all seriousness, I know it's trendy to be into Desiree Davila because she kind of rocks. But I love me some Tera Moody, and not just because she's a fellow Chicagoan and we have the same initials.

See? Never enough.
*She's injured, but I can't find any suggestion that she's out of the race.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Vega Sport Performance System

I have a question for you... How do you energize, sustain and recover from your workouts now?

For me, that answer is: badly. In fact, this post has one main point, which is that I do not fuel myself appropriately. In fact, I'm probably the absolute wrong person to offer a review of a fueling system.

First off, background on me and fueling:
Going into marathon season, I dutifully bought a multi-pack special of Gu and Gu Chews off of Active Schwaggle (good lord, how I hate that name). This was to compliment the box of Shot Blocks that I dutifully bought last year in anticipation of marathon season.

Do you know how many of that box I still have? True: I haven't opened any of the Shot Blocks. I've used one pack of Gu Chews. During marathon training, in its entirety, I took two Gus, and both were provided by the Front Runners. I took a Gu and a pack of sport beans during Marine Corps, a Gu during NYCM, and I used up a Gu during the Flying Monkey Marathon (okay, fine, I dropped it in the porta potty and left it for dead, unopened - you would have done the same).

I don't fuel well. Another example? My ideal pre-race/long run breakfast is pretty much anything, and my ideal time to eat it is as I'm beginning my run. Literally as I'm beginning my run. I eat as I'm walking out the door, as I'm waiting for my Garmin to get a signal.

Second off, Vega Sport:
Recently I was contacted by Vega and asked if I'd be willing to try some of their products. Free stuff? Um, yeah. They said that I'd get a 2-3 day supply. With my record, that's more like a 2-3 year supply... if I take up ultrarunning, that is. Otherwise I'll have this stuff through its expiration. And probably beyond. (And then I'll use it after it's expired and wonder why it upsets my stomach.)

They bill themselves as holistic and all-natural and vegan and really really good for you. I'm going to be honest here: given my history with not really using gels, I wasn't too concerned about their all-naturalness. Instead, I had two big concerns: price, and taste. Oh, yeah, and effectiveness.

Here is what I was sent, with an asterisk next to what I tried:-Pre-workout energizer*
-Electrolyte hydrator*
-Endurance gel*
-Endurance bar
-Performance protein
-Recovery accelerator
-Protein bar*

Of the products I used, I will purchase the endurance gel to use in the future. It was delicious. The consistency was less, I don't know, even? than Gu. It felt and tasted more like jam, in a good way. I ate it; it went down easily (without water!), and I perked up immediately.

The protein bar - I did not care for this at all. To be fair, I'm not a big fan of bars in general, and I was eating this one half hungover on the way to a race that I was kind of nervous about. I PR'd the race, running the 15k five minutes faster than last year (and last year's time felt like a reach).

I also tried the pre-workout energizer, which didn't do much for me. The taste was... okay. I couldn't finish the whole bottle, which is normal for me as I don't typically drink before I run. It was a slightly thicker consistency with a neutral flavor. I didn't notice any measurable difference in my run that day. (In fact, I had a pretty miserable run, although I blame it on the fact that I was slogging along with people typically faster than I.) The electrolyte hydrator was much less sweet than Gatorade (EXCELLENT) but had - to me - a slightly odd aftertaste



I should add another caveat to this: I am not someone who takes any sort of supplements. On days that I remember, I might eat a gummy children's vitamin. During harder runs, I might use nuun or gatorade. Other than that, protein powders and any other nutrients that don't come from food are not a part of my diet. My little brother, on the other hand, does take vitamins and supplements and protein powders, so I asked him to try the protein powder. He recoiled when he noticed the relatively steep sodium content - at 520mg, that's 20% of your daily value. (For comparison, the GNC whey that my roommate chugs recreationally has only 160mg.)


Now, finally: price. Frankly, the prices seem steep to me, but I think most nuun-gu-gatorade-clif products are overpriced. It's obvious that a lot of thought went into the creation of these products, and I do love the push toward all natural, plant-based products - isn't that what we should be consuming?

A comparison. Here are the ingredients in a packet of Tri-berry Gu:

Maltodextrin (Glucose Polymers), Filtered Water, Fructose, GU Amino Acid Blend (Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine, Histidine), Natural And Artificial Berry Flavor, Potassium And Sodium Citrate, GU Antioxidant Blend (Natural Vitamin E And Vitamin C), Calcium Carbonate, Fumaric Acid, Sea Salt, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, GU Herbal Blend [Chamomile, Cola Nut (Has Caffeine), Ginger], Citric Acid, Pectin

And here are the ingredients in a raspberry Vega Endurance Gel: 

Dates; Filtered Water; Energysource®** (Grape Juice, Natural Rice Dextrins); Sorghum Malt; Electrolyte Blend (Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Vitamin C, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Chromium); Coconut Oil; Citric Acid; Natural Raspberry and Strawberry Flavors.

Looking at the ingredient lists, I'm grateful that Vega and their products exist in the market. Which would you rather consume?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Here is how not to do it:

Two guys in a car. I run past. The driver honks. I turn to look, afraid that I'm in danger. Both men lean over, leering at me. One says something lewd.

I feel creeped out, disgusted.

Here is how to do it:

One guy standing on a street corner. I run past. He says, "Look at you, looking all... healthy! I like it!"

I feel maybe a tiny bit creeped out, but mostly kind of smugly happy. I am healthy!

Here's a better idea:


Don't do it at all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Running math

Let's see...

I can have all of this:



For $3.59. 18oz of peanut butter, yum. 20 cents an ounce - that's NYC prices for grocery delivery.

Or I can have this:



8 for $10.80 (or 24 for $32.40, which is the same price), which works out to $1.23 an ounce. Granted you can probably find it somewhat cheaper, but that's the price to buy direct from Gu's website.

What am I missing here? Oh, yeah, the nifty packaging. Which promptly ends up tossed to the side of the road, if New York is anything like the rest of the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Things I don't get, 2012 edition

Here's what I don't get (today):

I love running. I really do. If I could, I would take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant. And then I would even marry it. I love going out and running. I love having an hour or so each day to be alone with my thoughts, or (better) together with friends. I love the feeling of knowing that I did something for myself, both the physical feeling and the smug mental feeling, too.

So why, given that I love running so much, why is it that I procrastinate about it so badly? Why do I have so many, many excuses for why I can't run today... or tomorrow... or right this minute?

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's a race, dammit



Not a Polyphonic Spree concert.

Me, I'm holding out for the Zombie-color-warrior-mud-chocolate-rock 'n roll-costume party-indoor-relay. Coming in 2013, inevitably. Only $465 to register!

It's a gimmick, people. Here's a better idea: just run the damn race.

(I read about this initially on twitter but then I saw it late last week on Ellen's blog.)