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, September 6, 2013

In which I have nothing profound or unique to say, but I rant anyway.

It's no secret that I hold an unhealthy amount of disdain for Rock 'n Roll races and especially their sponsor, Competitor Group. Their "races" (I have to put that in quotes since what they actually throw, in my opinion, are more events than competitive races) are lowest common denominator events aimed at giving the non-serious runner an expensive medal - minus all the bad parts of competing, like, you know, pitting yourself against other runners in a competition.

Their for-profit drive has, in my opinion, single-handedly been responsible for a massive increase in race entry fees over the past few years. Yes, the crazy demand for race entries (held against a relatively fixed supply) has enabled events to still sell out despite high entry fees. But by taking over so many local races to add to their stable of races, Competitor has managed to create somewhat of a monopoly.

Beyond buying up smaller races and then raising entry fees, Competitor also designs their races in such a way that much of the competitive edge is stripped completely out. Starts are staggered to an extreme, depriving runners of the competitive "gun" feeling of crowding that to many of us means "run your ass off." The course is lined with bands and cheerleaders and Team in Training coaches and all sorts of encouragement telling you that it's okay to be slow and steady. If you want to pay $100+ to go to a running party, by all means do it.

And now... in their latest move, Competitor has pulled all support for elite athletes, including travel and appearance fees slated for races this month. As RunBlogRun outlined, 71 of the 300 Olympic marathon qualifiers raced with Competitor. 23 runners who ran their races have set world records and 10 have won Olympic medals. No more. Competitor doesn't support you if they need to pay you; they only support runners who are willing to pay them.

Here's a little secret for you: running is a competitive sport. When you pay money to enter a race, you are entering a competition. There will be a winner at the end of it. Can you imagine if the NFL said, "You know what, guys? We're not paying our athletes anymore. They should play just out of love for the sport. The games will still go on, but the athletes can get there themselves. And oh yeah, you'll still pay $100+ a ticket." Let me tell you what would happen: there wouldn't be any more people willing to risk concussions for a life of football, and no one would attend games as the quality of the players declined.

Runners, especially distance runners, peak later in life than many athletes. After they leave college (and even during college, as compared to football/basketball, but that's another story), there is little to no support for professional runners. Rare programs like the Hansons or the Nike Oregon Project support some runners, but even the (few) runners you've heard of are barely making enough money to support themselves.

So let me be clear, in case you've missed it: Competitor doesn't care about running as a sport. They care about making money off of you. My RnR medals have never felt so hollow as they do now that there is no real winner in their races and only thousands of losers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Testing... testing... Can anyone hear me?

Two truths and a lie:

1. I am moving. In 1.5 weeks. Leaving NYC behind, leaving friends I love, a boy I like, an apartment I can afford.

2. I am becoming a diplomat. As in, I will be a representative of the US government abroad. I will help people who want to come to the US apply for visas. I will help Americans arrested for drug possession abroad keep from starring in Locked Up Abroad.

3. I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in 9 weeks. After a solid summer of training, I'm ready to run this race again come October.

You guessed it: #3 is a lie. Numbers one and two, however... very true.

NFAQ (Not Frequently Asked Questions):

What does this mean for me, Tracy? Well, come on, nothing really, now does it? You get the same half-assed, ever-more-occasional blog posts that you ever did. When I have something to say about running, I'll say it here.

Is yours going to become a blog just about your travels? What this doesn't mean for you: I'm not going to start writing a foreign service blog. In other words, NO. This is a running blog and it will focus solely on my running so help me. I imagine some of those runs will be done in far-flung places (yikes! I guess I might want to buy a treadmill, maybe?), but just like I don't show you intimate details of my current life, you don't need to worry that I'll be showing you intimate details of my future life.

Where will you be going? Fuck if I know. I've signed on for "worldwide availability." The basic timeline is that I'm moving to DC at the beginning of September for several months of training. I'll be in DC for somewhere between three months and a year, depending on whether I'm given language training or not. I find out in mid-October where I'll be going for my first tour of two years.

Can I come and visit you abroad? HELL, YES. I don't even know who you are and the answer is yes. You have a place to stay in my apartment. (I mean, your tax dollars will be in part paying for it, so...)

Tracy, get back to the running. Basically, you're like a total failure at running and that's why you transferred your MCM bib, right? This feels like more of a statement than a question. What are you getting at? Do you suck, or what? Ah, yes, there's a question. Yes, yes, I do. When it comes to running, I suck.

Will you be getting a dog? YES, hopefully. Maybe this one will even run with me sometimes, unlike my lazy-ass last dog.

How did this come to be? As anyone who cares already knows, for the past several years I've been an academic. And I hated it. My students are amazing, being able to dig in Egypt is amazing, my colleagues are great people, I had a great and stable tenure track job, and I despised the research. I found it completely uninteresting and isolating. The problem is, as an academic, research is supposed to take up 50-75% of your time. So, I had to find something else to do. And the foreign service was hiring. So I applied, I tested, I got a security clearance, and now I'm moving.

Any questions? If not, you'll hear from me again once, you know, I've actually had done anything related to running worth mentioning.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're all losers! HOORAY!!!!

There's a new race coming up this summer. No joke, it's being billed as a mud/obstacle/color/endurance 5k/charity run. The organizers don't specifically tell you to wear costumes, but I'm sure they would welcome it.

I was thinking about this race - specifically about how much I hate the idea of it - and I was wondering where my (well-documented if you search my blog history, which I'm too lazy to do) hatred for these new-fangled runs comes from. Am I just an old-school purist? I want everyone and their mother to start running, so why, then, am I against something that gets new crowds of people out there? Maybe it's as simple as I have no upper body strength and thus suck at obstacle courses am color blind and don't appreciate color runs don't care about special needs kids don't like the ridiculous cost of these new races hearken back to a day when racing was something one did competitively, even if one wasn't competitive, per se. Nowadays, we race... for medals? Or something.

So here's the thing: by taking away the emphasis on competition, there's no winner at the end of the race. And if no one wins, well, by definition we are all losers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

RUNNER TESTED SELFIE PHOTOS OMG LOOK AT HOW CUTE I AM

I got an email titled "blog material(?)." Since I'm too lazy to come up with my own material, I'll almost always take the bait.

And so I was sent this article. 8 super cute hairstyles that you can wear on your run!!!!!

I swear, I don't get it. When did fashion begin to trump function in running?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Running: oh, right, that's something I do

I'm back from Egypt, just in time for the country to descend into chaos... again. But this time, luckily, neither the American taxpayers nor my sister will be funding my recovery mission.

I went for a run this morning. It was a rather brutal baseline of where my fitness is right now. But the good news is that things can only go up, eh? Actually, I suppose they could go down. I ran 3m in the heat with little trouble - I could have struggled through a shorter run in cooler weather.

I did lose some weight while I was in Egypt, but I'm not kidding myself that that is anything but water weight lost from standing in the 110 degree sun 8 hours a day. I mean, I did the NYT 7 minute workout regularly, but now that they have a 4 minute workout, why did I waste those three extra minutes?

While I was running this morning, I overheard something kind of funny. A woman was walking along with a friend, and it looked like they'd just finished their run. She was saying to him, "Yeah, the first mile was like 20 minutes, and the second one was way faster, it was, like, 10 minutes." I think I gave her an odd look.

As she said it, I realized how different that was than how I'm used to hearing people talk about their running. I'm used to my friends saying things more like, "The first mile was about 10 minutes, but then I picked it up to 8:42 for the second and third miles and 8:20 for the fourth." Or, if they're being imprecise, something like, "The first mile was about 10 minutes, but the second was probably 9:15 to 9:30."

It kind of reminds me of back in the olden days when I started running, when I used to approximate my mileage by driving as close to my running route as I could. The future is now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No pressure, but in case you've wondered what I've been up to...

I'm trying out this "tumblr" thing that's all the rage these days. So I have a new blog, I guess. BUT, and this is important: it's not about running. It's about my work life, the one I try to refer to only obliquely over here. I'll probably be updating it more often over the next couple of weeks. But no promises.

Monday, June 3, 2013

This will get me running again!

I signed up for a half in DC this November.

A half marathon with a twist, that is. Or, as they say on their website:
Most runs have water stations and bananas on hand for refueling.  The DC Half and Half Marathon challenges you to down a half smoke with chips at the midway point. 
To be honest, I don't exactly know what a "half smoke" is, but I'm assuming it doesn't involve tobacco. And is edible. And that this race was basically made for me.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Riding your bike to Yankee Stadium*

A couple of weeks ago I had tickets to see the Yankees play the Mariners. Being the dedicated athlete I am, I decided that the logical thing to do was to ride my bike to the stadium. The subway is a massive cluster on game days, and at 10 miles each way, no big deal. Somehow I even recruited company for the journey, and we plotted our course.

Heading up through Manhattan was easy, and after crossing over the Willis Bridge (and remembering fondly the marathon), we meandered north through the Bronx toward the stadium. It was easy enough to find: 161st and River is pretty much the clearest directions you can give someone in NYC (north to 161st, east to, you know, the river).

Once there, we had to park our bikes. I read one report that there was bike parking in a nearby garage. However... we asked several police, none of whom knew of any bike parking. They pointed out a couple of garages to us, but one cop finally said, "Leave it anywhere. There are so many cops around, your bike will be fine." (I actually think he was probably right.) We did find the bike parking I'd read about, but it was kind of desolate and not secured. There was one old bike chained up, no one watching the lot, and it was dark. We were both sure our bikes would be safer in a more heavily trafficked area.

Action shot: not Yankee Stadium
So we chained our bikes to a tree near the entrance to the stadium. And then the fun began. My companion had his fancypants Mumford & Sons saddle with him, so he stuck the seatpost in his bag. We gave our tickets to the agent and were promptly told that we couldn't enter with our helmets on. Our choices: lock them to our bikes (in which case they could/would be easily stolen), or pay $10 to check them.

I kind of lost it. I'd made a point of reading their policies beforehand (having been caught with a kindle, aka a prohibited recording device, last season), and helmets aren't mentioned anywhere on the website. I needed that $10 to buy myself almost an entire beer! I may have insisted on speaking to a manager and filing a formal complaint and I might maybe have gone into a tirade about it, possibly referring to the policy as extortion.

FWIW, I also lost the battle and paid $10 to check my helmet. But the Yankees won, so it was worth it.

I was fairly angry at the time, but I've mellowed since then. That said, I still think it's a crappy policy. Why prevent bike helmets? Why discourage people from riding to the stadium?

*I'm posting this basically because it's inexplicably hard to find information about riding your bike to Yankee Stadium. It should be totally doable, and yet - it's not. I promise that I'm not going all cyclist on you. I promise that I am still running, and that I will blog about running again soon. I'm leaving on Monday to go on a dig for three weeks, and then I'll begin training for MCM. (Oh, yeah, I'm going to Egypt for three weeks in June. But don't be jealous, as this is the current extended forecast for where I'll be and the director of our project emailed me to point out that there is "very little shade" on our dig site.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ladies: I need your (hair) help

This past weekend, I indulged in my twice-yearly beautification ritual, meaning I got a haircut (and highlights, but shhhhhh I'm really that light haired naturally).

I don't blow dry my hair, ever. I condition it every day. I'm not rough on it. For the past few years, I've gone to the same stylist. I'm very used to her gushing over how soft and healthy my hair is. I mean, I'm basically a Pantene commercial - except I use Garnier Fructis.

So that's why I was shocked when my new stylist told me that my hair was actually unhealthy. She pointed out that there is a line where my my hair was broken all along, midway up my head. Skeptically, I checked it out and I could clearly see the wispy, broken hairs. Suddenly I was the before scene in that Pantene commercial.

She said, "Do you where your hair in a ponytail a lot?"
Uh, yeah. You know, every time I run.

She said, "Can you wear your hair down when you run? Or just wear a headband to keep it off your face and wear the rest down?" Yeah, no. Not only is that objectively weird, but oh! the sweat!

So what should I do? What do you do?

Edit: Long-haired gentlemen or anyone else with suggestions, feel free to reply.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friends don't let friends wear Crocs.

Are you worried that the nice weather means you can't wear sweatpants anymore, and you need a new, clear way to indicate that you've given up on life? Do you fear that with the new-fangled, fancily colored and low profile running shoes that your shoes are looking too trendy?

Or maybe you were afraid that barefoot running hadn't quite jumped the shark yet? Never fear! Along come Crocs and their new minimalist running shoe to convince you that barefoot running is long dead!


As long as I can still plug all of my Disney buttons into the holes on the shoes, I'm SOLD! Just kidding. I think they're terrible.

I can think of one person I know who will love these shoes, and he just started blogging this week (so go harass him)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Someone has a google news alert set up for himself!


Remember a while ago, when I complained about a race director's policies on my blog and then he came to my site and left some angry comments? That same race director - who I won't name, because he obviously scans the web for mentions of his company - has a new, odd policy.

You can read all about it on Emilie's blog. And I hope you do. And I hope you comment on it (he already has). And unnamed race director, if you read this: your races are well loved by the community. Please, please get someone to handle your marketing (proof reading your newsletters and handling communication for you).

PS: In case you're wondering how I'm doing during my work-imposed blogging moratorium, I'm well. The ER confirmed my sternum wasn't broken, although it really, really hurt for a while. On my next bike ride out, I loosened the tension on my clipless pedals too much and a piece fell out - so now they won't clip. Good riddance to those. Last week I discovered some TRAILS - like, real ones, complete with branches and rocks to trip you, kids smoking pot in the woods, and TURTLES in a pond - in Prospect Park. My life is forever changed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My bike shanked me

What can I say? Everybody else was doing it.

At least that's how I felt, reading report after report of awesome bike rides on super sweet road bikes. Facebook photos, tweets, blog posts. And if everyone else is doing it, why can't I?

I don't have a road bike, but I can soup up my hybrid with pedals that clip, get some cycling shoes, and finally experience the full body cycling experience that is pushing down AND pulling up on the pedal.

If everybody else was jumping off a bridge, would you do that, too, Tracy? I forgot where I read it, but I saw a great answer to that once: yeah, probably. This person reasoned that his/her friends were all intelligent people, and if they were jumping off a bridge there was likely a good reason. Maybe the bridge was on fire?

And that's how I found myself in Prospect Park this past weekend on a nearly empty path, fancy shoes strapped to my feet, fancy pedals fastened to my bike.

And If you know anything about clipless pedals, you know where this is going: the next place I found myself was on the ground. Not immediately, mind you, not the very very first time I clipped in, but within about 10 minutes. I had gone roughly an eighth of a mile. Slowly.

Before I went to the park to try the new pedals, I read a lot about how to practice with them. I loosened the tension on the pedals so it was super easy to release the shoes. I balanced against a wall and did clipped in and out a bunch of times for practice getting used to the feeling. I started with one foot clipped in and one foot not. But no amount of practice prepares you for that moment when you try to stop but your right foot is clipped in and you find yourself lurching to the right. That slow motion feeling of "Crap, I'm going down. Noooooooooooo." Followed by the feeling of hitting the ground or, in my case, hitting the ground and then feeling the entire weight of your body slam your sternum into the blunt edge of your (straight) handlebars, now perpendicular to the ground.

My bike stabbed me. Or punched me, maybe. To say I had the wind knocked out of me doesn't do it justice. I gather from talking to medical experts my parents that the sternum is strong and it's unlikely that I'm bleeding internally, but that HURTS, yo. Pain. Both my knees are also purple and the right one is a little swollen, but the sternum - ow. Ow. Ow.



I iced it and took some painkillers until later I finally got some relief when I switched to beer. I mean, man has only been able to harness ice for the past hundred years or so. Painkillers, those are also new. Beer, now - that's medicine with thousands of years behind it.

A few notes: yes, my shoes clip into my "clipless" pedals. Or clip-in pedals. Whichever you prefer. The "clipless" part comes as an evolution from toe clips - these new pedals didn't have toe clips, see? They were clipless! My particular pedals are flat on one side and clippable on the other, so I can still use them with street shoes. But soon I'm sure I won't want to.

The best treatment for this level of misery is company. So, please, if you've ever wiped out on your bike, tell me about it? Also, anyone know what the chances are that I fractured my sternum?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I could have been a contender

A few weeks ago, I woke up with terrible joint pain. It was weird and uncharacteristic and it sent me promptly to the doctor. The test results weren't good, and I was sent for follow-up with an endocrinologist and a rheumatologist.

I didn't blog about it because it turned out to be nothing. My normal doctor asked some probing questions that had me convinced I was a goner ("have you been tired lately? have you been thirsty?" - the sorts of questions that immediately have you saying, "YES! YES! I am tired and thirsty! Do you have any water and can I lay down here for a minute?"). The specialists did an ultrasound and told me not to worry about it - fluctuations in the thyroid um something medical yeah blah blah blah totally normal. I'm supposed to go back again in six months or so.

Still, for a brief second in between "Will I die?" and "I hate being in chronic pain," I'll admit - a sneaky, sneaky thought snuck in... "Will thyroid meds make me magically lose weight and will that make me a better runner?"

This man needs more cake, fewer thyroid meds

I'm not alone in my line of thinking. If you haven't already, read this article in the WSJ about a doctor in Texas who is becoming notorious for prescribing thyroid medicine to elite runners (including Galen Rupp) who are borderline (read: completely normal by most assessments) for hypothyroidism with amazing results.

You didn't think I'd mention Galen Rupp without a picture
of the Galen Rupp Mask, did you?

The article (full disclosure: it was written by a friend of mine) is neutral in tone, neither condemning nor condoning the diagnoses and treatment. And, truth be told, I'm not sure how I feel, either. On one hand, cheating is bad. It's against the rules, by definition. On the other hand, where is the line? Thyroid drugs are performance enhancing, male enhancement drugs are performance enhancing, heroin is banned. Personally, I've come around to the idea that we should just have it be a free-for-all. This goes for cycling, too. Jack yourself up. Use whatever drugs you want. No more testing, just an amped up, drug fueled race to the finish.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Running the High Line?

You know an article is worth reading when it refers to us as "joggers."

The latest from the NYT's Well Blog (I guess that's "well" like "healthy," but for some reason I always picture the authors peering down into a deep, dark well of running knowledge - "well" like "baby Jessica") tells us that we should be running New York's High Line.

Hidden in that article is one key point: "a completed High Line would... end at the Jacob Javits Center at 34th Street, making the entire park 1.45 miles." But it's not completed yet. It ends at 30th St, so it's only 1m long. I guess that's not terrible as part of a longer run, but why bother?

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the High Line is an abandoned, elevated train track converted into a public park. A hugely popular public park. An insanely, hugely popular public park. In fact, seeing the High Line is the only thing on my brother's to-do list when he comes to visit me in a few weeks (except for seeing Showgirls: the Musical).

I seem to be the only New Yorker who doesn't like the High Line. When I first heard about it, before it opened, I had an uncomfortable feeling because it seemed like a crime trap waiting to happen (few entrances! isolated! elevated above street level!). Heavy traffic and limited hours have kept that from being the case, but by the time I realized it was safe, my discomfort had morphed into this general sense of, "Why?" I mean, of all the problems that the city needs to solve - recovery from Hurricane Sandy, high unemployment, giant sodas, rat kings - no place for tourists to go in Chelsea! really wouldn't top my list.

Pro tip: if you want to visit the High Line, do it on gallery night. Go first to the High Line, dodge the crowds of tourists, watch the sun set, see people having sex in nearby buildings. Then go to the free, open art galleries where you can stare at avant garde modern art, feel woefully unhip and old compared to the crowds, and sip small glasses of mediocre free wine.

Incidentally, for those of you from New England, I went to college in Rhode Island and I also hate "WaterFire." Maybe I just hate all public art?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When my alarm went off Sunday morning at 7, I contemplated turning it off. I had spent all day Saturday driving to a friend's parents' house, and I was facing an entire day of family party - someone else's family.

I didn't turn the alarm off. Instead, I put my running clothes on and I stepped outside.

It was about 45 degrees, perfect for running in a dress and some arm warmers. I ran around the neighborhood for a bit and then down to the bay. I sat on the dock for a couple of minutes, watching the water, and then I ran back around the neighborhood. It was early and almost no one was out but for a dog walker or two.

Not to sound cliche, but it was calm, it was serene, it was peaceful. This is what I've been missing over the past month or so when I haven't been running as much: the feeling, coming in from a run, of being both physically exhausted and yet completely mentally recharged.

The rest of the day wasn't calm. At all. But I had that hour to myself.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chicago Marathon Registration Part Two: this time it's MCM

Tell me I can't have something, and it will only make me want it more.


So, yeah. After 75 minutes of sitting at my computer, desperately hitting refresh while texting one friend and tweeting another, I was finally through. $99 to MCM and $4 to Active later.

Speaking of that $4... that brings me to a very good question:

Why on earth does anyone use active.com?

Yes, that's rhetorical. Active Network is terrible. Runners use it because we have no choice if we want to participate in races that are using active. Race directors use it because it's easier to use active's system (and pass the costs on to runners) than to create and manage their own, especially now that online registrations are the norm (did you hear that, Dipsea? Online registrations are the norm).

And yet Active is terrible. There, I said it. And I stand behind it. Their fees are outrageous; their website is not user friendly; their technical malfunctions are foreseeable and preventable. MCM sold out in 2.5 hours last year, and anyone who was paying attention knew that would suggest increased demand this year. Active had a test run with the Chicago Marathon last month and they absolutely, positively blew it. They swore they had things worked out for today and they didn't.

30,000 people registered for MCM in a period of 2.5 hours. That means that active.com made $120,000 for two hours of internet mayhem. (And that doesn't include the opportunity cost of 30,000 people spending 1-2 hours on average at their computer, unproductively, in the middle of the day.)

This girl isn't worried about registering.
She's just happy to be running, and
sorry that she screencapped this photo.
Active is now officially the Ticketmaster of road running. And when I say officially, I mean it: after receiving funding from Ticketmaster early on, Active has since recruited Ticketmaster's CEO for their board of directors.

As a company, they're slipping. I'd highly encourage you to read this article for one perspective on their company and its valuation as of last fall, which includes some suggestion that the company's financial statements are "misleading at best, fabricated at worst." In short, instead of selling race registrations to the public, Active seems to have begun buying race registrations from race directors. This change is good for the race directors, in that is gives them an influx of cash with which to plan their events - and it allows Active to record the purchase of the registrations as 'net registration revenue' instead of 'gross revenue,' inflating revenue growth in their metrics. Race directors are happy with their monies and Active (on paper) appears to be doing well... except that, unfortunately, they can only barely afford to maintain this system. They're essentially doing the home budget equivalent of not only living paycheck-to-paycheck but also considering taking out payday loans. (A few days after the article was written, Active stock dropped significantly.)

The long and short of it for us runners seems to be that if you don't like it, you shouldn't race. Remember: when you register for a race through Active, you are not the customer. They do not care about your business. Why should they, when there are tens of thousands more just like you willing to pay their $4... or more?

The debacle was so bad that MCM apologized.
And then my sister's friend Jeff made some bad jokes on their fb page.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

POLL!

Marine Corps Marathon registration opens tomorrow. I ran it in 2011 and liked it.

Philadelphia Marathon registration opens Monday. I've never run the marathon (I ran the 8k a bunch of times), but I lived there many years - and liked it.

Should I...
a) register for MCM?
b) register for Philly?
c) register for BOTH?
d) use that money to buy some more ice cream?

Please answer in the comments.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oh, hey, blogiverse, what's up?

So, if you guessed that my radio silence lately has been because I haven't been running, you're right. It's true, I'm not bothered by it, I'll start running again soon, there's no good reason for it, yes I'm getting fatter, it's just way too cold and I don't want to, any other questions?

I haven't been totally lazy, though. I mean, I've been mostly lazy, but this past weekend I did something physical and interesting. IN BED. Just kidding. I mean, maybe I'm kidding, maybe I'm not, but I don't blog to talk about that sort of stuff.

After I blogged about my terrible ski trip, Samantha emailed me and suggested that we challenge ourselves. Push our limits. Thus the slacklining class, and the (soon to be aborted?) attempt at crossfit. Then this past weekend, she suggested aerial yoga at Om Factory. Yay! Sounds awesome!

Totally my class HAHA JK AGAIN

What's aerial yoga, you ask? In short, the class we took was a standard vinyasa class that incorporated silk "hammocks" that hung from the ceiling. (NB: they're not real silk. I find the touch of silk to be totally skeevy. This silk was all synthetic.) Some of the poses involved using the silks as props to get deeper into the poses; other poses involved using the silks for floating/hanging/inverting.

We were a few minutes early to the class and had some time to sit and swing in the hammocks. This provided my first indication that I might not love the class: the hammocks weren't like normal swings, traveling back and forth along a single plane. No, they spun, and moved sideways, and moved with little to no effort. The ideal positioning of the hammock was to have the bottom roughly even with your pelvis, meaning that your feet did not touch the ground when sitting in it.

And I started to feel a little queasy.

And the queasiness got worse as the class moved on. By the time we were at the "relaxing" part of the class, doing inversions, I full on felt like I might throw up. This wasn't a "push through the discomfort, Tracy!" situation. This was a "get your feet on the ground or you WILL be puking" thing.

I think, at first, the instructor thought I was struggling with completing the poses. She brought me some blocks and suggested a blanket. But by the time we got to the inversions, she must have noticed that I was kind of green and she suggested I spend the rest of the class on the floor. THANK GOD. Evidently aerial savasana is just laying in the hammock, with the option for the instructor to come around and give you a little push for some extra swing. From my safe space on the ground, my stomach churned to hear that.

I'd never realized how much I like the feeling of being grounded when I do yoga. A lot. I like it a lot.

So, bottom line is that I tried aerial yoga. It's not for me, and I feel okay about that. I left the yoga studio and promptly bought myself a new running dress that helped me forget all about the dizzy queasiness that was that class.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The end of the world is near

A few strange things have happened lately:

1) Google decided to cancel Google Reader as of this summer. HOW CAN THEY DO THIS TO ME?? Don't they realize how much more productive I'll have to be without having bunches of blogs to read each day? (I mention this not as an off-topic whine, but as a PSA to those of you who also use Google Reader, although I'm sure you've seen the mean pop-up message already if you do...)

We can make it through this. We will find another RSS reader. Suggestions?

2) I took a slack line yoga class and actually kind of enjoyed it. No, I won't be running off to join the circus any time soon, but I'd do it again. I went with two friends, both of whom were much more gifted at it than I and both of whom also enjoyed it.

Proof:

Blurry but yes it's me floating on that slack line
3) I kinda maybe agreed to do a Crossfit foundations class series with another friend. It sounds like the timing/logistics of it may not end up working out, but if you know my stance on Crossfit (hint: I'm against it), you'd realize that very, very strange things are indeed afoot for me to even contemplate Crossfit. This doesn't represent a change of heart; I'm still anti-Crossfit. I'm just contemplating a "know your enemy" type strategy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The things I do for you.

Have you ever had it happen where you've seen a product and said to yourself, "I'm very curious about that, but I would like an objective review the likes of which only Tracy can give"? No? Oddly enough, that happened to two of my friends/blog readers.

Specifically, in the past couple of weeks, two (different!) people asked me if I'd be willing to request a Simple water bottle and a pair of Zaggora Hot Pants. So I did! And they were sent to me!*

I haven't used either yet, but I will this week and I'll write about both.

Evidently you tuck the bottle into
the back of your pants.
With the water bottle, I'll try it out on a couple of runs and let you know. It could be great - a hands-free option for carrying water? That said, it could be awkward. Specifically I'm wondering if it can hold enough fluids to make it worthwhile, if it's comfortable, and if the fluids will either make my back quite cold or (more likely) adapt to my body temperature quickly and be warm and yucky to drink.

The pants are supposed to make you lose weight by
sweating more. Martin Lawrence, anyone?
With the pants... well, I'm skeptical. I'll leave it at that before I offer a full review, but just to be fair to Zaggora, I will be doing their 2-week challenge:


Yes, I do realize that the key to success here is not in the pants but instead in moving every day and that any weight I lose will be water weight that I sweat out. And no, I will not be doing Zumba. But expect loads of awkward photos anyway, and a pair of smelly pants by the end of the two weeks. (I'm just going to use my weight as a gauge. I don't own a tape measure and I have no interest in facing my measurements.)

*Yes, both of these things were sent to me free by the companies. At my request.** I didn't make any promises that I would blog about them (although I will), and I certainly will not write an overly glowing review just because I got them for free.
**Call me a blog sell-out if you wish. I didn't start a blog to get free stuff, and I don't regularly abuse the fact that I have a blog to get free stuff. I'm just dedicated to my reader(s), you see, and they genuinely wanted me to test these things.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm either going to die, or I'm going to be perfectly fine

On Friday, my next door neighbor died.

Well, I should say, on Friday, the police discovered my next door neighbor's body. They estimated that he'd been dead for a week or a week and a half (in bed, with no signs of foul play). It was all very NYC: the police knocked on his door, then my door, then they crawled through my fire escape into his bedroom. The rest of the day was a blur of paramedics, more police, and a terrible smell as they aired the apartment out. Now there's a police notice taped over the door.

And then, because I'm a terrible person, I live tweeted the whole thing while peering out my front door (and trying to peer into his).*

















So it was rather ironic that I woke up Saturday morning not feeling very well. Specifically, I had bad joint pain, the likes of which I'd never before experienced. Thinking back on my week, I had been exhausted all week. And there were two days of splitting headaches. And I nearly fainted at work on Thursday. But that was just low blood pressure, right? Dr. Google quickly confirmed what I suspected: lupus. Or rheumatoid arthritis. Or maybe HIV. (I've been tested for all three of these fairly recently and I don't have any of them, for what it's worth.)

By Saturday afternoon, walking up stairs was difficult. By Sunday morning, I needed to hold on to the bathtub to lower myself onto the toilet seat. There was pain involved. And a strange, guttural groaning/grunting combination that would have embarrassed me had it not been completely involuntary.

I contemplated urgent care, but I knew that blood tests would be involved and they'd just send me to my primary care physician for a check up. Uh, except I'm in between doctors right now - or, in the lingo of the career seeker, I'm transitioning into a new doctor. Thank you, ZocDoc, for getting me an appointment Monday afternoon with a new doctor.

She wasn't very reassuring. She said, and this is nearly a direct quote: "It could be lymphoma, or vasculitis. At your age? Lupus is a real concern. Or it could be a virus. Hm, let's hope for a virus." She drew some blood, pointed out that I was dehydrated, and sent me on my way with the typical "no news is good news" doctor send-off.

Point being, I'm not running at present. BUT! I'm going to be better soon. Or I could die. Probably I'll get better. Betting on my health, I signed up for a race and a fitness class-cum-comedy spectacle: on 26 May, I'll be doing the Dirty German Trail race (again) and this Sunday, I'll be taking a slacklining class at Brooklyn Boulders (NB: I can barely walk across a balance beam).

*What can I say? Real estate is a thing in NYC. Point in case: by noon the next day, I had an email from a friend asking for my landlord's information for when that apartment came up on the market.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Irrational fears: I have them.

I went skiing this past weekend. It reminded me of swimming.

No, not in that the sports have any similarity. (I'm not quite that unskilled at skiing so as to risk drowning.) The similarities came in my response to each sport.

When I was in kindergarten, my dutiful suburban parents signed me up for swim lessons at the local YMCA. I took lessons for years. I only once made it out of tadpole into guppy level, and I do believe that may very well have been social promotion.

As a guppy, I functionally couldn't swim. I did learn some skills: I could float on my back for hours and I could tread water until I got too bored to keep it up (maybe it was my extra buoyancy as a chubby kid). But I couldn't put my face underwater without holding my nose, and as such I couldn't do more than a crude dog paddle.

Over time, I began to avoid the water. I made jokes about not being able to swim. I never went to the beach. I didn't own a swimsuit through high school. I chose a college based in part on the fact that they had no swim test. Finally, my senior year of college, I got a stress fracture and turned to swimming for exercise. This meant swim lessons, so I manned up and did it. It wasn't easy and I wasn't good, but I kept at it. Along the way I developed a perfectly acceptable stroke - and discovered that I hate/am terrified of the water.

Part of it is physical, in that I feel intensely uncomfortable when my head is underwater and I get motion sick if I try to swim laps back and forth.

But most of it is mental. My swimming lessons experiment came to an end after about a year, during another set of lessons. With my one-length-long command of the stroke, I was put into a intermediate class with two women who were training for an Ironman. Early on, the instructor tried to teach us to start our swim by diving into the pool. I crouched on the ledge, looked down at 10' of water shimmering below me, and every fiber of my being said "no." I left the pool hysterically upset and never went back to the lessons.

In theory, I think of myself as an active person. I run. I've hiked. I've kayaked. I played ice hockey for two seasons. I've been on a sailboat - twice! In reality, I jog. I did play ice hockey, albeit badly. The first time I was on a boat, I sat in white-knuckled terror the entire time. I once had the opportunity to go into the subterranean chambers of the Great Pyramid at Giza, but I declined when I saw how narrow the entry passageway was.


I don't ever, ever want to pass up another opportunity like that. I have few regrets in life but that is one.
See? I'm active. I climbed the Sears Tower and then stood on the glass ledge with my brother. Reality: I crawled out there, terrified.
I snorkeled! For a few minutes. Until I confessed that I didn't love it and sat in the boat reading a magazine.
I liked kayaking. The East River was quite choppy, let me tell you. Do you see those crashing waves?
This one I really did. It was scary.
I am my own worst enemy, I know this. Since I was a small child, I've put so much pressure on myself to achieve. This pressure got me into a good college and a good grad school and into a good job (one that, ironically enough, I do not like and I'm actively looking for a new job - if anyone wants to hire a recovering academic, use the email address on the right!). 

But then sometimes, the pressure I put on myself hurts me. Lying on a mountain, or more accurately a little bunny hill, unable to even stand up on my skis unassisted, unwilling or unable to go on, knowing there was only one way down the hill and choosing to take off my skis and walk down, I pondered the line between quitting because I don't like something and quitting because something doesn't come to me easily. It wasn't until later that I realized that "not quitting" hadn't even entered my head.

Do I hate skiing because I'm afraid of it? Because I'm bad at it? Am I afraid of it because I'm bad at it?

And what am I actually afraid of, anyway?


Proof. And don't be fooled by how flat the ground looks.
Even with running, I don't push myself. I have a mental block; I'm afraid to push myself to run harder and faster. Afraid of what? Succeeding? If I pushed myself with running, at all, there is no way I'd do worse than I do now. The irony.

My common excuse with running is that it's the one area of my life where I'm free from this pressure, and I need to keep it this way. If I turn running - my best possible stress release - into something that causes me to put pressure on myself, what then? Where will I go? What would happen? Will I self-combust in a fiery ball of pressure?

I'm not going to lie here and claim that I'm about to turn over a new leaf and ski down that hill; I'm returning my borrowed ski clothes and avoiding mountains for the time being. BUT, I am registered for the Broad Street Run. It may mean half-assed business as usual for me, collecting a participants' medal without a true sense of accomplishment. But I think that admitting that I have these mental blocks might be the first step toward getting over them.

I usually hate those "desperate pleas for comments" questions at the end of blogs, but I'm going to do it anyway: am I alone here?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Chicago Marathon Registration Fiasco

I don't really have much to say about this one. I had no intention of registering anyway, and besides I'm too busy being bummed that Sage Canaday has a girlfriend.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spirit of the Marathon 2

Possible subtitles:
-"Because there's still money to be made off of you"
-"Setting it in a foreign country will make it seem like a new movie"
-"Why can't we all just run and not have to tell the world our STORY when we do?"
Any other suggestions?


Yes, you can probably guess from my sarcasm that I'm not a fan of the original movie.* Yes, I watched it, and no, I was not moved. Running is more than just something I do; it's part of who I am. That said, I do it for me. The marathon is a race. Maybe it's a 2 hour race, or a 4 hour one, or a 6 hour one, but what it's not (for me) is a metaphor: for life, for the human spirit, for some improbable journey.

If you want proof that anyone can run a marathon or if you need motivation, go and spectate at mile 24 of your nearest large marathon around the five hour mark. Chances are good that I'll waddle past, looking nearly dead. I'll be amongst my compatriots, the everymen. We're fat, or thin, or sick, or healthy; we've raised a lot of money for charity, or maybe we volunteer in our daily lives outside of running, or maybe we're selfish twats. We'll finish the marathon, or we won't, and we'll go back to our daily lives the next day same as ever.

Maybe this is me, but I feel like this focus on the everyday participants (not unlike myself) in the race takes attention away from the fact that it's a sport. I'll bet more people will watch this movie than will watch Mary Cain's super amazing performance two weeks ago when she shattered the high school two mile record. Shortly before that, she'd broken the one mile record - after taking her SATs that morning.

That said, I'll watch this movie, just like I watched the first. Anyone want to do a Spirit of the Marathon Marathon once it comes out? Popcorn and gatorade is on me!

*I also watched "Run for your Life," about Fred Lebow and the NYCM. The only thing I took out of that movie was that Fred really liked young girls. Not my kind of role model.

Friday, February 1, 2013

UPDATE: Mark Remy like bun huggers

Following up on my post from earlier this week, my sister emailed Mark Remy and he answered her.

Here's what she said:

Mark,

Since the what to wear tool is no longer available, I think to make up for it you should go a little beyond "what do I wear if it is 40 degrees out, misty, no wind and a dewpoint of 38".  How about this.  Running fashion advice.  For instance, shouldn't bun-huggers be outlawed unless you are an actual contender in an international championship invite only track meet?  
How about mixing and matching different colored florescent clothes?

Thanks!!!

Amanda Musacchio

And his reply?

Amanda,

As a redblooded male, I am firmly pro-bun-hugger.

Mixing and matching different fluoursecent colors, however, should be punishable by fine and/or confisaction of the garments in question.

Black bottoms and solid-colored tops, people! It’s not that hard!

Kind Regards,
Mark

He's wrong about the bun huggers but right about everything else. Except the vests (I was reading between the lines there; he didn't mention vests... this time). 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Race directors, race pricing, and irrationality

By now I'm sure most of you have heard about the fiasco surrounding the Naperville Marathon.

In short, the race directors announced this new race, in the western suburbs of Chicago. They had it priced at $150, which included the usual perks along with a nicer-than-normal shirt and free photography. Potential racers flipped out about the high price on social media, and the race organizers capitulated and lowered the price to $105 a few days before registration opened.

And then the race sold out on the very first day it was open.

Now, my training in economics extends only as far as two semesters of intro in college, but I don't really think it takes an advanced degree to draw some conclusions here. Namely: demand for this race far outstripped supply, and as a result the race directors undercharged for the race. (Granted the price lowering probably did engender some non-quantifiable good will.) The end result is that consumers were left paying much less for a race than they would have.

Not that anyone is asking me, but in my opinion they should have offered a tiered system for race fees. Not the typical tier, where prices go up at a certain date, but instead a tier with more services.

Offer the first 500 slots for a finite window of time at $75. You don't get anything but the race for that amount. The next 500 slots cost $125, but you get a shirt and a medal. For the next 500 slots, offer a shirt, a medal, race photography, and charge $150. For $175 you can add showers and a finisher's meal. Charge $200 for the rest of the entries. The race will still sell out.

And before you can protest, this wouldn't actually be that hard to do logistically via tabs on one's bib or another simple system like they already do for race shirts. After the Mt. Washington Road Race, I didn't get my meal because I'd lost the small bib tab. I was annoyed, but it was my fault. Life goes on (and I got Dairy Queen, anyway, which was way better).

Race directors are often short-sighted, wanting to get their races full (and therefore get as much cash upfront) as quickly as possible, even if it means losing out on large amounts of potential profit they could make.

For Naperville, there's also a marketing issue. They opened their registration more than two weeks before registration opens for the Chicago Marathon. Chicago will sell out, and that will leave a lot of local runners seeking reasonable options - runners who would have likely paid (and paid well) to run a marathon in Naperville. $200 seems unreasonably high today. But with Chicago at $175, it's easy to see how a local runner could (and would) justify it to themselves - I mean, the last time I ran Chicago, I paid $150 for the registration, plus $250 for the hotel - and I had a place to stay, with my family. If the directors had waited, or at least adjusted their marketing around Chicago (maybe opening a few slots in advance but then holding off on open registration until after Chicago opens), they again could have used this as opportunity to make more money.

I'm as big a fan as anyone of lower race entry fees. That said, there is a huge demand for races right now, and arbitrarily lowering fees to increase accessibility or because you don't like high prices isn't going to work as long as people are clamoring to run races. We need the number of entries in well-run races (including more, newer races) to catch up with the number of runners willing to pay pretty much any asking price for the ability to pin a bib on themselves.


An ineffective pricing model like this does a disservice to both the runners and the organizers: organizers are left making less money than they could, and cheap runners like me are left competing for limited entries with runners who are willing to pay more than I am.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I kinda want to spam him

How's this for cool?

Remember that "What to Wear" widget on runnersworld.com? And then remember how suddenly it wasn't there anymore?

Mark Remy, the Runner's World editor who wrote that book a while ago that was absolutely everywhere (um, at least in my world) with "rules" on running, was responsible for the decision to remove it from their website.

Now, the disappearance of this website didn't phase me at all, because every time I used it, it told me to overdress excessively. I know that I tend to run hot (please insert flattering jokes about my attractiveness here), but I swear: I could tell the site it was 85 and humid out and that I liked to feel cool when I run and still it would say I should wear tights, a hat, a long sleeved tech shirt, and a vest. Always, always a vest.

But some people used the what to wear tool, and some people loved it. (I also personally am not really sure how hard the "dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is outside and maybe adjust a little if it's really windy" thing is, but that's just because I've been doing this running thing for a million years. I've been sailing twice, and both times I flipped out and must have asked my friends what to wear on a boat about a thousand times beforehand.) (I wore shorts.) (I even had to buy shorts because I didn't own any non-running ones.)

Anyway, Mark Remy has offered to personally answer any emails runners send him asking what to wear. And he's actually doing it. I like that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sort of sportsbra things and other weirdness

Remember when I had my first-ever giveaway? And it was a weird thing, so only a couple of you entered? Well, the Thing I was giving away (courtesy of runningskirts.com) found a happy home, and here's what its new owner has to say about it:
UPDATE ON THE BRA OMG SO EXCITING!  (Actually it is kind of exciting, spoiler alert: I surprisingly liked it!)
When I first got it the size was perfect - which meant not tight enough for me.  So I wore it out under regular clothes just to check.  That sucker doesn't move and is super comfortable.  I thought the strappiness would bother me but it didn't.  Then I washed and dried it (you aren't supposed to) and that shrunk it just enough for me to wear when I run.  I found it surprisingly supportive with the padding and stayed put.  I'm not sure that I'd switch to this type entirely, but I thought it was cuter than a regular sports bra and worked well.  However, my caveat is that I used it for runs 5 miles and under - I'm not sure how I'd feel on a longer run.

And then, from the silliness files, here's an oldie but a goodie: the RunBike, now with a treadmill version! If you thought it wasn't possible to get sillier than the Elliptigo, you were wrong.



video

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I hate myself. DISNEY HALF MARATHON RECAP.

When I last blogged, I was headed off to Florida and annoyed that I had been cast off into the last corral at Disney. I was kind of dreading the race itself, feeling underprepared and angry with myself for my lack of preparation. Plus, you know, I'm kind of a childless adult, I'm not a princess (nor do I want to be), I don't run in a costume like ever ever ever, and it was supposed to be hot in Florida for the weekend.


HOES BEFORE BROS
CAREERS BEFORE FANTASIES

But still, I told myself, maintain a good attitude, Tracy. Buck up. You can do this; you're prepared for a half and you'll finish the half.

I flew in Friday morning and my weekend was off to an inauspicious start when I threw up, twice, in the bathroom at LaGuardia (NB: the handicapped stalls in Terminal C actually aren't that bad). Luckily, I slept it hard on the airplane and felt better once I got off the plane and into my SuperShuttle. Tired, yes. Filthy and unshowered, yes. Ready to roll through the expo for my bib and then nap it hard before my friend Emily arrived in the evening, yes.

On the shuttle to the expo, I was chugging Gatorade and making small talk with other runners, one of whom was another New Yorker who was doing Goofy - and who didn't mind my dehydrated rants about how "running" a 6-hour marathon wasn't a "real" effort. I'm an ass when I'm hungover. (But to be fair to me, I made sure to mention that I knew from experience. So then it's less offensive, right?) Mike and I hung out at the expo for a bit and agreed to try to meet up the next morning to run together.

NB: By Friday afternoon, the chaotic mess of an expo was stone cold out of Goofy gear (down to a lone water bottle and a sticker) and almost out of marathon gear. And also: I presented the results from a 15k (9:36 pace) and got moved up to Corral B. The second corral. Because running a sub-10 minute mile makes you nearly sub-elite at a Disney race?

Anyway, 3:30am Saturday morning rolled around way too soon, and I headed to the race start. To get runners into and out of the parks without disrupting park hours, Disney races start mad early. (And their starts are staggered, so had I stayed in Corral H, I would have started nearly an hour after the posted start of the race - but still needed to be in the corral by 5.) They also mean business about it being a long walk from the parking lot to the race start. Fortunately I had left myself enough time, and even better, I was able to meet up with Angela before the start. We'd never met before, but she recently had crazy and intensive leg surgery so I knew she'd be just my speed.

This woman's race was over before it began.
Medics were en route. This was in the parking lot.
The race itself... was kind of awesome.

I hate myself for admitting that. I really wanted to be able to come back and say, "Well, I did it, and it was stupid." I wanted to say that Disney races, like RnR races, aren't actual races but instead are events and I wanted to stay on my stupid purist soapbox and look down on people who enjoy them.

Instead, I had an awesome time.

I mean, they are events, and my soapbox is intact, and I paid waythehell too much to run a half marathon. But I liked it.

I took pictures with characters, sort of:

I got excited when I saw the castle and Epcot:


And I ran with Mike and Angela for the whole race:

After the race, I made like any good blogger and ate nut butter on a banana. Full disclosure? I'm actually the world's worst blogger. I forgot to pack Nuun, nut butter, and my Garmin. So I can't even post a photo of my mile splits!


Better yet, I spent the whole next day with Emily at Magic Kingdom acting like a 5 year old and loving every minute of it.
This is why I actually did the race.
Have I changed my mind on Disney races? Not really. They are what they are: super duper expensive running parties. Given that they sell out quickly, there's no incentive for Disney to up the perks (like, say, a discounted park admission?). Since I ran the Disney Marathon in 2004, the field has expanded substantially and the race has slowed down even more. Costumes were an anomaly back then; this year, I felt like a (happy) minority without one. In 2004, it was easy to stop for photos; this year, lines to wait for pictures could run 20-30 runners deep. If that's your thing.

And now, with that out of my system, back to acting like the dignified 30-something year old woman that I am.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On attitude adjustments, and things that don't really matter

I need an attitude adjustment, and I need it badly.

Remember last year (okay, only last month, but back in 2012) when I asked for advice on what to do about Goofy? After much thought and much advice, I decided that I really only felt okay about running the half. So I committed to that idea.

Then, this morning, I found out that I'm in Corral H for the race - and there are only corrals A-H.

Disney is a slow marathon to begin with, and being put in the last corral will impede any attempts I might have to go faster.

In the grand scheme of things, to say this is inconsequential is an understatement. But I'm bummed. I wanted to see where my training was at for a half; I do not want to weave around walkers and people stopping to wait to have their picture taken with Disney "cast members."

Okay: that's done. Time to stop whining and start packing. It's supposed to be 80 this weekend and my hotel has more than one pool.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Maybe a post-Christmas present for yourself?

A way to spend your NYCM refund money! How does this even get on the market?

Of course, as expensive as the medal is, it's cheaper than actually registering for the race was...