Telegraph from a sick bed

HAVE A COLD STOP

THROAT ON FIRE BRAIN NOT WORKING STOP

I BLAME GYM GERMS STOP

RAN 8:40S MON AM BEFORE COLD HIT FELT GOOD STOP

NUTRITIONIST SAYS EAT MORE, EARLIER STOP

NO APPETITE NOW – SIGH STOP

BEHIND ON EVERYTHING STOP

MORE SOON STOP

December 11 is Take a Blogger to Lunch Day!

I’m making up this national holiday on the spot! Because I think we bloggers should take the time to a) actually meet in person and b) treat each other to a tasty and nutritious lunch.

On December 11 I will be meeting up with Pigtails Flying (whom I feel lucky to now count as a flesh and blood friend, but who started out as a “virtual friend” in the most tenuous and potentially useless sense of the term) and, dammit, I’ve decided that I’m going to treat her to lunch. Because I like her and would like to show my appreciation in this way.

December 11th’s a good day for this, incidentally, because that’s also National Noodle Ring Day. Just one of hundreds of bizarre American holidays.

Let’s all make the blogging world a friendlier, realer and more delicious place. What fellow blogger will you take to lunch next month?

Okay, okay, I’ll consult with an expert

I posted recently about how I’ve stopped weighing myself. Many moons ago, I posted about being a fat, fast runner. I thought I could live with my situation, but I’ve decided I can’t. Why? Because over the past month I’ve put on a ton of muscle from the increased frequency (and loads) of weight work, and also from all the pool running. But, as per usual, I have lost little to no fat in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. I am more or less happy with the way I look. Although now my clothes are starting not to fit anymore, which was the catalyst for doing a Google search. I’m actually getting bigger. I now have both fat and muscular bulk to contend with. You know what people say about not worrying that if you’re a woman you’ll bulk up when you do resistance training? Well, I’m bulking up.

I will be going to see a woman with lots of degrees who specializes in working with endurance athletes. She’s a triathlete herself. At least in our initial emails, I gather that the issue may not be one of “calories in vs. out” but rather “what kinds of calories and when.” Her fees are not outrageous. Her CV is impressive. It’s worth it to me to find out if I’m just metabolically screwed by nature of my genes or if I can actually do something about this situation. At the very least, going to see her for a few months will be cheaper than buying an entire new wardrobe.

Random bloviations

Here’s my version of a Larry King column. Heavy on personal pronouns, inanity and randomness.

I use my Exogen 4000 bone stimulator daily. Sometimes twice a day. Is it working? I have no idea. Did you know these expensive devices only have about 170 uses? Then their internal battery goes dead. The maker claims you can’t replace or recharge the battery. Yeah. Right. Another four thousand dollars, please. I know we’re a capitalist country. But, honestly, we do take it too far sometimes.

I am also taking a product called Bone Up, a calcium supplement that’s full of Australian bovine something or other. It’s in the kitchen and I’m too comfortable at the moment to get up and go look at the bottle. It was recommended to me by a woman who has had many stress fractures. She says it works. I believe her.

I actually like this season’s Dexter. I didn’t like the last season, which felt like the writers were treading water with the character. This time around Dexter gets a quasi-girlfriend who may also have serial killer leanings (at the very least she is a victim turned vigilante), causing him to get sloppy with his protocol. That’s a plot development that rocks. I would not have thought of that. Also, Peter Weller is great in his role as scummy, bottom feeding private investigator.

I am also enjoying The Walking Dead, our first-ever zombie television series. I just call it The Zombie Show. I am still on the premiere episode, because not only am I too tired or too busy (or too asleep) to watch television most evenings, but also because Jonathan is not a big fan of the zombie genre. It’s a little hackneyed, but the cinematography is notably good and I appreciate the acting performance by the semi-aware-but-nonetheless-completely-zombified wife of one of the characters. That’s an acting challenge. The makeup and special effects are excellent too.

So my evenings are full of enjoyable violence.

I did the first of my two planned Big Name Runner interviews over the weekend. I know the article I want to write and how I will write it. I am determined to get this finished this week, although as usual my “pays the bills” work takes precedence and is heating up lately.

The nice thing about having a blog is that even if I can’t interest any of the usual outlets in paying me for it, I can just publish it here and I’ll be almost as happy with that. I’ll be surprised if no one wants it, but stranger things have happened. In general, I have quickly learned that it’s difficult to impossible to make a living just doing freelance running journalism. The fact that I’m not trying to means I can do the work I do in this area on my own terms. I’m still having fun with it.

I may get a chance to try out an Alter-G treadmill somewhere in Harlem soon. That should be interesting and educational.

I’m planning a trip to Switzerland at some point next year. It will probably be sometime later in the summer. We went there in 2007 and I’ve missed it ever since. The exchange rate is terrible, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Life is short. I want to go back to Zermatt, where a strained medialis prevented me from hiking up to the base of the Matterhorn. I also enjoyed Pontresina, the lower-key (and cheaper) sister town to St. Moritz. And, of course, the Jungfrau region, although I think this time we’ll stay on the Grindelwald/Wengen side, whereas last time we were in Murren.

Longer term, I’m figuring out where to go for my 50th birthday. Much as I would love to go somewhere weird and totally new to me, like Japan, or exotically third-world, like Indonesia, I think it’s going to be Norway. I guess I’m getting old, but I want a reliably civilized experience featuring a Western culture that I can somewhat relate to. There needs to be good beer and cheese involved too. I know it’s a few years off. But I like to plan.

Also, is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by Haile’s petulant retirement announcement, followed by cooler headed reversal — which in the process eclipsed every other New York Marathon story? Everyone knew he didn’t mean it. Now. Do you remember who won the men’s and women’s races? You had to think about it for a moment, didn’t you?

Why I’ve truly stopped tracking my weight

Longtime readers know that I have had an extended battle with the scale, my pants and race photographers over the issue of my weight. Or, more specifically, how much fat I carry and how it affects my ability to run fast. Here, for example, is a post from nearly two years ago in which, after a couple of years of calorie counting and restriction, and obsessive-compulsive tracking of my weight (Tanita) and body fat (Omron) readings, I had made no progress and decided it was pointless to keep caring. A check of my thyroid showed nothing unusual there, so my failure to lose (as it were) was obviously my fault somehow; or that of my ancestors. But according to at least one nutritionist runner, I shouldn’t concern myself with it.

That message stuck for awhile, but in the spring of this year, aware of my lack of progress in pushing my paces and race times downward, I looked for answers in the gravitational realm once again. Out came the evil twins, Tanita and her moronic brother, Omron, as well as my demented spreadsheets (which included colorful charts of my total lack of progress). Also, over the summer I acquired an Apple iTouch and among the universe of “apps” found something called Tap and Track, which would enable me to record every moment of energy expenditure and every morsel that passed my lips.

I dutifully tracked everything. I made adjustments over weeks, increasing calories slightly, or decreasing them slightly to drastically. I teetotaled for weeks. Or drank with wild abandon. Nothing happened. I began wondering if I might be the first person in the history of eating disorders to experience no change in weight.

During this time I’d started training with Sandra and, while the workouts were hard, the mileage was about what I’d been doing since January, or around 50 mpw, with very little cross-training. Then I got injured in August and could do nothing but limp and complain for about three weeks. I was not exercising at all, so I lightened up on what I was eating to compensate. I ate lots of cabbage and non-fat yogurt. I gained just over three pounds in those three weeks.

In early September I started cross-training and over a few weeks built up to what is now a steady weekly helping of hard work, with a day off about every 8-10 days or so. I kept up my compulsive taking and recording of readings. My weight did not change. My pants even got tighter for the first few weeks, which was quite discouraging indeed. In disgust, I sent Omron back to his dungeon under the bathroom sink and stopped stepping on Tanita every morning. I ate when I was hungry (about every 2 hours), stuck with reasonable foods (I haven’t eaten junk in years) and kept alcohol intake to a minimum most nights. But I stopped keeping score on the iTouch.

Then I started to notice things. Glimpses of shoulder muscles rippling beneath the fat. My arms had a nice, inward curve where triceps meet lats. I could see the adductor muscle that is giving me so much trouble. And veins. I had veins. My blouses were getting tighter, yet, paradoxically, I had obviously lost back fat. One day, getting dressed, I flexed my back and shoulder muscles for Jonathan and asked if he noticed a difference that would explain the shirt problem. “Do that again,” he said, a little stunned. Yeah, I had muscles alright. I think the weight training and spinning have helped my lower body, while I mostly credit the pool running for my upper body development.

Finally, my pants are loosening up, despite my emerging Incredible Bulk physique. But I think I will need new shirts. I still won’t weigh myself. But for shits and giggles I did some Omron readings over the past few days and they were consistently about 2% below the ones I got earlier in the summer.

I will probably always carry considerably more fat than your typical skinny bitch marathoner. But at least I’m learning it’s possible for me to lose some of it. Best of all, I’m saving so much time now that I’ve deinstalled Tap and Track.

A few minutes with Shannon Rowbury

Shannon Rowbury, 26, is one of the better known American middle distancers. You’ll mostly see her running the 1500 (where she placed 7th in the 2008 Beijing Olympics) or the mile; although she’s done well at the 3000 (winning the National Indoor Championships at that distance in 2008) and 5000 distances too, as well as the 800. Personal records of note include: 2:00.47 for the 800, 4:00.33 for the 1500 and 4:20.34 for the mile. I hired my former coach, Kevin Beck, partially on the basis of a 2008 Running Times article he wrote about Rowbury (and her then teammates Erin Donohue and Shalane Flanagan). I figured anyone who could connect that well with his article subjects and write as intelligently as he did about them and about running would probably be a good person to work with as a coach too. Kevin has described Rowbury as a “sweetheart” — and she is. I enjoyed talking with her about her running and other things — and even received the bonus of getting some injury advice from a real, live Olympian.

On your blog, maybe about a year and a half ago, you had a couple of posts — they were kind of poignant — about the difficulty of adhering to drug testing requirements? Has anything improved since then?
After I’d made those posts, and there was some talk about that problem, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) came out with a list of “suggested” supplements. There’s still a lot of work to do. They still say to use things at your own discretion. But they said, “These are some things that are a little bit more…”

It was crazy, because they were saying “You can use this kind of Midol, but you can’t use that kind”…
Exactly. I felt, and I still feel, that it’s so naive to say, “Just don’t use anything. Don’t take any vitamins. We can’t guarantee that any of them are good. You can get everything from your food.” I wish that were true. There have been times when I’ve tried to do that. But when you’re training five or six hours a day, when you’re trying to get a workout every other day — you’re asking your body to do these things that are somewhat unhuman, and then expecting that you can eat a good sized salad to get all the vitamins that you need. It’s just not practical.

Would you ever want to get involved in influencing the drug testing policies to make them a little more doable for runners?
My goal when I finish running is I’d love to be involved with the sport in another capacity. Taking what I’ve learned and taking my experiences and trying to help future athletes to have better opportunities and a better situation. Because I think it’s so important for the athletes who’ve lived through it to then go on to share their experiences and help shape the direction that the sports heads in. So I’m hopeful.

You’re kind of already involved now in that way with the Bay Area Track Club. What are you practically contributing to that club?
For the club right now I’m involved with David Torrence, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Bolota Asmerom, Tony Kauke and Crosby Freeman. We’re the founder’s committee, if you will. So we meet to talk about what we want to do with the BATC and what direction we want to head in. For me, specifically, I manage the blog that we have for the website. We’ve also got a cross country race that we’re putting on. So I’ll get on different committees we create to try and help with specific projects. But across the board the six of us are just doing whatever we need to do to make things happen. We’ve been around for a little bit more than a year now, but all of us are still working for free because we’re passionate [about it]. So if something needs to be done, it’s like, “Okay! I’ve got the time! I’ll do it!”

Do you ever get sick of wearing the same Nike racing kit? Are you ever tempted to “customize” it?
[Laughs] You know, I don’t get sick of wearing the same thing. I’m a product of the “uniform system” growing up, from elementary school, and I kind of liked the consistency. “This is what I wear.” But I do wish — and I have shared this with some other friends — I think it would be really cool if the Nike athletes could ID their uniforms. Because in, like, the women’s 1500, in a field of 20 athletes, 15 will be wearing the same exact uniform.

Right. Sometimes you can’t actually pick out the individual athletes.
Yeah. Nike already has the Nike ID set up for shoes. I wish they would have, maybe, a small color scheme of, say, five colors that are allowed and then let each athlete go in and ID their uniform the way that they wanted. That would be cool. And then I’d wear that all the time.

This one is from my friend Joe: Have you ever finished a workout and thought, “I should really go back to stepdancing.”?
[Laughs] Sometimes I do think that after some of those monotonous, really boring workouts. I think, “It would be so fun to be dancing again.” You get to learn a routine and have music, and it’s so energetic and lively. So there are times when I miss that creative aspect. But not so much from workouts where I’ve been so trashed that I didn’t want to run anymore. Usually after that I just go home and melt into my bed.

You struggled with injury a few years ago. What were the details of that?
I was diagnosed in April of 2007 with a stress fracture in my left femoral neck.

Hmm. What were your symptoms?
It first started with tightness on the side of my hip. Then it went back into the glute. Then, with that kind of injury, you’ll feel it in your groin, kind of in your adductor.

That’s what I have…
Uh, oh.

I have an injury and I’m convinced that’s what it is. It’s been seven weeks, so I think it’s healing.
I would suggest getting some really good massages and chiropractic work — when I was diagnosed I started getting that twice a week, every week, for, like, three months. In order for me to even get that injury in the first place, all my muscles had just gotten so knotted up and were misfiring. So one of the biggest things for me was getting everything back in alignment so that, once I was healed, I wouldn’t have that same bad pattern.

How long were you unable to run?
After six weeks I started running on an Alter-G treadmill. It was about three months until I ran on the ground.

Did you do any other cross-training during that time?
Yes. I first did swimming, then biking and then elliptical/Alter-G — my doctor kind of saw them as synonymous. That was mainly it. Primarily either bike workouts or Alter-G.

Did you do speedwork equivalents when you were doing elliptical or just steady paces?
I did do workouts. The pool, not so much — it’s more for recovery, like jogging. For the bike, I would do interval workouts there that were harder than some of my running workouts. And then on Alter-G I would do uptempo stuff. The highest intensity work was on the bike, just because there wasn’t the impact or the danger of reinjury.

Did you have trouble accepting the injury mentally?
It was weird, because I’d had a period from late February into March where I was injured and unable to run “right,” but was being told by my trainer that it was just tendonitis or something. So I should be able to run, but I couldn’t. So once I was diagnosed it was actually a relief. “Okay, I’m not crazy. I’m not a wimp.” So once I had that diagnosis and a plan of attack, I was so focused on getting healthy. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be running again, that I wouldn’t be back by the fall, training. So I just powered forward — cautiously — but kept making progress in small steps.

Did you feel that you lost any fitness, or did the cross-training help you maintain — or even gain — fitness?
It was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. It was extremely hard emotionally. But it gave me a separation from college. It pushed me towards my new coach. It forced me to sit down and study where my weaknesses were biomechanically and across the board — and really fix all of those problems. It really set the foundation from which I could move forward in my professional career. Maybe I lost a little bit of fitness base from not running for that many months. But I think I gained general strength that I’d never had before.

A lot of the European races this year were ridiculously crowded.
Yes.

I’m curious to know how you deal mentally and strategically with a race of, say, 20 people vs. something more manageable in size.
It is a little bit frustrating. It’s crazy, the difference that even three extra athletes can make. That being said, I have no control over the entries in a race, so when it is a really packed field, I just try and do my best to get out, get into a good position, and just be very aware of what’s going on. I fell once at Worlds last year, which was more of a trip than a stumble. I think my dancing background helps me stay on me feet. I try to just defend my space and get myself into a good, clear position. Also, I think it’s important to be relaxed when you’re in these big crowds. Because if you start getting frantic, then that’s when falls happen, that’s when you get into trouble. So I usually just try to “go to a Zen space” or something [Laughs].

It seems like a lot can go wrong very quickly at those speeds.
There were falls in multiple races this year. It definitely was not a clean season. It was frustrating with the 1500. I would always get so jealous of the men’s races because they would have David Krummenacker perfectly pacing every single 1500 that was raced. [In our races] every single rabbit would go out in 61 and then run 66 for the second lap or something. So, it was kind of challenging for that race to have a good one. But it’s good practice, because the Championship races are always tactical, so getting better and better at that [is important]. And you can really only get good at that through practice.

And they’re rough races sometimes.
Yeah, they’re also good practice for that. I try to, in general, be a nice, friendly person. But the more I get into these tactical races, the more I can get good at just defending my space. Not being a jerk, not being aggressive just to be aggressive — but learning how to keep other people from taking advantage of me. As I’ve gotten more adjusted to it, I think I’ve developed more confidence in myself to not let other people push you around, like when they try to guide you or take over your space. Usually you can see ahead of time if it looks like someone’s going to impede your space, and you can just tap them or make a little noise to let them know that you’re there. But it’s about protecting the little space that you’re in.

Have agents complained to the organizers about the size of the fields?
I think a lot of the field sizes come as a result of the agents. A lot of the agents are pushing to get a dollar or two out of having one or two more of their athletes in a race. They’re hoping to get something from the prize purse. So there’s still some work to be done to figure out how to make these races a little bit more fair in size.

How do you get yourself through really tough workouts?
I remember a workout in Mexico — a tempo run at altitude in the hot sun — where I was making a deal with myself in my own head as I was finishing the workout and feeling exhausted. “Okay, body, just get through this and I will give you a great lunch afterwards, we’ll take an ice bath…” Bizarre, neurotic deals you make with yourself.

It sounds like, from a professional standpoint, you want to stay involved in running once you finish your competitive career.
When I studied film I was really interested in the production aspect of things. Had I not gone into running I think I would have done further schooling to try and get an MFA to work in film production. But because film and running are mutually exclusive, that’s kind of taken a backseat. But I enjoy multimedia and media — and being a distance runner, you’re kind of Type A — I enjoy being involved in a project from many angles. And so I think when I finish with competition [I'd like to] be involved in some sort of role of helping to promote the sport and getting to have a hand in many things.

Do you see yourself as a “behind the scenes” person or someone who’s out front, like a spokesperson?
I could see myself doing either or both. I like the behind the scenes, organization, making things happen [role]. But I also really enjoy getting out and getting to talk to people and hearing from them. That interaction is really important. So ideally I’d get to do a little bit of both.

I know last night you co-hosted a fundraising event by the Young Professionals to raise money for the youth programs that NYRR runs.
It’s a group in their late-twenties to mid-thirties. It was so cool to walk into a fundraising event and see a crowd that was so young — see my peers already starting to “give back.” I think that’s really important and it was really neat to see that.

You seem like a fairly outgoing person. Are you comfortable playing that role? The public aspect of competitive running is something that you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you start out.
You know, I’m excited by it. When I first started — you know, I came from a dancing background, where you had to learn a routine, and then practice it and get it down. In high school and college, we had to do some extra stuff, but it was pretty straightforward [running]. I found it not very stimulating mentally. Once I started with Coach [John] Cook, there were more drills and things like that to work on that I enjoyed. And finally, as I’ve been doing this, to have more opportunities to speak to people, to challenge myself mentally — I fell in love with the sport even more, because the mental aspect comes into it. I feel like I can be doing my career and being a complete person rather than just a runner.

Recipe: Spicy cabbage salad

It’s been about four years since I posted a recipe here. Believe it or not, I do cook and I cook pretty well.

Here’s a salad I’ve been living on for the past few weeks. Since it’s 8,000 degrees here most days, it’s been good to have something you can eat cold.

Spicy Cabbage Salad

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1 medium-sized red cabbage, diced
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • Half a red onion (or one small one), diced
  • Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • A quarter cup of roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 3 T peanut oil
  • 2 T hoisin sauce
  • 3 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1.5 T garlic pepper sauce
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T low salt soy sauce

When shopping for a medium-sized cabbage, look for one that’s about the size of a medium cabagge. Chop up all the fresh stuff. If you hate cilantro you can substitute fresh basil. But you really should make the effort to like cilantro. When I first started eating it, it reminded me of floor cleaner. Then I started to like it. Now I can’t imagine living without it. People can change.

Make the dressing and mix it well so the oil and vinegar are emulsified (now are you impressed?). A tiny whisk is good for this. Failing that, find an old dressing bottle and shake the hell out of it (with the top on).

Throw everything in a bowl, mix it up and let it sit in the fridge for an hour for the flavors to meld. Eat.

Note: If you want to make this a complete meal nutritionally, you can add cooked shrimp, cubed chicken or, if you really hate yourself, tofu.

I don’t know how many calories this has, but it’s not many. This also makes a fabulous side salad with Chicken Gai Yang. Pair with: either a decent India Pale Ale or a Pinot Grigio. Rebels might try a Reisling or Sancerre.

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