It’s Lauren Fleshman Appreciation Day!

When I think of the Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times, get up eight” I picture Lauren Fleshman. She gets injured, she slogs through injury recovery, she trains again, she runs fantastic races. Then she gets reinjured and the cycle begins anew. But she never gives up. And she always comes back.

Fleshman has one of the few outstanding elite blogs that I’ve found. Not only is she remarkably candid about her own running, but she generously doles out helpful advice to anyone who asks for it. She’s opinionated and well informed too, and you’ll find interesting, useful posts that run the gamut, from the rabbiting debate, to eating disorders, to building mileage and more.

Fleshman’s self-possessed manner extends to live interviews, as shown in this famous post-race encounter after the 2010 US nationals:

And here’s edited footage of her win over the weekend at Crystal Palace:

Reprise: A few minutes with Morgan Uceny

Uceny just won her first Diamond League 1500, in Lausanne, using the same method I saw her use a few weeks back at the Diamond League in New York: gradually working her way up to a lead pack position through the course of the race, then flooring it in the last 150 metres or so. In that race she came in second. It was very exciting to watch.

I’ve gotten a few hits on an interview I did with Uceny last year when she was in town for the Fifth Avenue Mile. So in case you’re wondering who that fast American in the green top is, you can learn more about her here.

Yep. I’m injured.

Whatever I did a week ago is lingering. My right calf voices complaints when walking up hills and stairs, and it’s tender. I tried a run on Tuesday morning just to see if taking a few days off had helped, and in doing so I think I set back recovery from whatever this is by at least a few days. I made it a mile exactly with dull pain, and then it went all sharp and stabby on me again. I hobbled home and decided to not run for the rest of the week.

I’m trying to have a positive attitude about this. We’ve had two calf injuries in our household, neither of them serious. I tore the fascia in my calf a few years ago. It was fine again in about 10-14 days, if I recall. More recently, Jonathan did exactly what I’ve done and I think his turnaround was even shorter. But it involved intervention, which I’m committed to. Every night I sit on the couch and knead the hell out of it, digging into it with my thumbs and a special plastic benubbined torture device our massage therapist gave us. It feels a little better the next morning.

Anyway. The Mini 10K is Saturday. This Saturday. I probably won’t run tomorrow. What’s the use? Maybe one more day will do the trick. I figure I’ll go with the intent of racing, or at least running the course easy. Besides, I’m really there for the shirt, the “event” (meaning seeing the stars of women’s running) and the post-race brunch. As Ewen suggested in a previous comment, I should know in the warmup if things are still off kilter. In which case I’ll opt out of running altogether and just spectate. That’s not exactly that great a compromise considering the field. I don’t want to skip it, but on the other hand I’ve had fun racing it twice and there will be more years in the future to race it. Turning a minor injury into a major one isn’t worth it. I’m finally, finally learning this lesson.

Unfortunately, my new work project precludes me from doing much of anything, least of all preparing for and conducting interviews. I won’t be doing any interviews for the Diamond League Adidas Grand Prix event later in the day either. Oh, well. I suppose I’ve earned the right to soak up the experience without having to produce anything. Haven’t I?

Houston, we have a plan

I had pretty solid plans to go to Houston in January whatever happened in terms of my own Olympic Trial dreams. There will just be too many interesting people there to miss it. Plus, there’s the Trials! For awhile I was thinking I’d skip it, since I thought it might just be too depressing to go now that I’ve regained sanity and given up on my own quest for a qualifier.

But that would be silly. I’m not upset about it now, so I’m doubtful that I will be eight months from now. Besides, as more and more people whom I’d like to meet are coming out of the woodwork and posting “I’m going to be in Houston!” on Facebook, I get more and more excited about the prospect. Not only do a have a slew of Houston Hopefuls to meet, but a whole lot of people whom I have only known virtually will be there, as will my friend Pigtails Flying. And, I hope, Coach Sandra and her star athlete, Khalid Khannouchi.

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to register for the 5K race they run in conjunction with the half and full (open, not Trials) marathon races on marathon weekend. I hope to be a specialist at shorter distances by then, and much faster than I am now. The first masters female last year ran a 22:46. Pfft. I can beat that easily now. At my current level I could crack the top 10. Maybe I’ll make it a goal to place in the top 5. Yeah, that would be fun. And perhaps even possible. See? It’s all about picking the right race.

By doing a 5K, I can relax and watch the Trials, and not worry about running around talking to people, or going out and having a beer or two the evening before my race. I can even bail on the 5K altogether without it being a big deal. But I don’t think I will unless I’m injured or something.

Yes. This sounds like a good plan.

Lights! Camera! Travel!

Two weeks without a post. Dearie me.

It’s been one heck of a spring so far, primarily consisting of familial highs and lows, and mostly just lows for running. First, my stepmother nearly died after surgery complications. That was three weeks ago. She’s still in the ICU, clawing her way back to normality. So that’s completely sucked. But I did learn a lot about my family and myself in terms of our personal strengths and weaknesses and how we all cope with disaster. That was interesting and useful.

Then I blew up in the Long Island Half and declared that marathons were dead to me. My feelings have not changed.

This photo needs no caption.

I spent the last week in England with Jonathan’s family, and that was a great time, although, like all travel and concentrated social time, kind of exhausting too. J.’s brother and his husband live in southwest London, while his mother and her husband live in the western cape of South Africa. We try to convene in one of our locales at least every 18-36 months. I hadn’t been to the UK since 2006. It’s changed in some ways but not in others. For example, while cars (and people) are getting bigger, their streets and parking spaces are not. This makes riding in a car a harrowing experience. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed, worrying about my inlaws’ paint job and side mirrors.

Out and about...

We are active tourists. I think it’s really stupid to travel to a place and sit around inside, which is part of why I don’t care where I stay, usually, as long as it’s not diseased or dangerous. Fortunately, J.’s family is also up for lots of walking, tube-riding and ticket-buying, so our days and evenings were filled with interesting things to do. Highlights include:

A guided walk with London Walks, which has become a kind of tradition when we go there. This time around we did a square mile tour of the city’s center, getting a history of, among other things, Roman London, the Black Death, the births of the Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London, and too many buildings designed by Christopher Wren (the Michael Caine of historical London architecture) to count.

A memorial to victims of the plague.

War Horse, which has been playing in London for quite awhile but just opened in Lincoln Center and has gotten a shitload of Tony nominations. As previously noted, I’m not a theatre person, but I appreciate a creatively conceived and executed production in any media, and this delivered. Skilled puppeteers steered giant horses (and a tank) around a stage for two hours. The play’s a little long and overly sentimental (but that’s par for the course in almost any English treatment of WW1 and WW2 — that’s my sweeping, culturally insensitive opinion; go ahead and flame away!), but it was nevertheless impressive. The casting director gets Most Creative Casting award for putting a black man into the role of an embittered SS Captain. Not since seeing Charlton Heston playing a Mexican narc in Touch of Evil have I had to work so hard to suspend my disbelief.

Also, I noted that at play intermissions, English people rush out to the lobby to buy tiny containers of ice cream, which they bring back to their seatmates in huge stacks. Then they all sit there and eat it together, looking supremely happy and satisfied. This was a spectacle so utterly charming and weird that I was beside myself.

In one of a dozen pubs visited.

A massive Joan Miro retrospective at the Tate Modern, which I dragged J.’s family to, although I did not hear complaints. But they were probably being polite. There were 13 rooms of works spanning his career, organized chronologically and placed within the context of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Spain, which I admit to having known absolutely nothing about. Now I know almost nothing about those periods of history.

Sadly, I did not get to drink Piddle while there.

A long weekend in County Dorset, to the southwest of London, which is on the southern coast. J. spent most of his childhood and his early teens in this area and it’s incredibly beautiful. Friends of his brother’s have an apartment right on the beach in Sandbanks that they let us use. We had two memorable lunches: the first to reconnect with Jonathan’s stepfather, who we’d last seen circa 1993; the second to celebrate a major milestone birthday for his mother. We visited too many pubs to recall.

Saw lots of these...

The cultural highlight of that last venue was viewing the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual televised music competition that drew 125 million viewers this year. Each European nation puts forth its “best” song and performer(s) in a bid to win the votes of its peers (you can’t vote for your own country, nor are larger nations allowed to skew the numbers — everyone gets the same number of votes). If you have never seen Eurovision, it’s difficult grasp its level of sheer gaudy absurdity. The event goes on for hours, and it’s kind of like Star Search meets Top of the Pops meets Solid Gold. Fortunately, we have YouTube (see below).

...and lots of these.

Singers from nation after nation take the stage, usually with lots of non-singing dancers in tow, against a backdrop of often stunning visual effects. Then the voting begins and at that point you’re glad you’ve been drinking because it goes on for about an hour and half, with each nation’s vote doler outer (usually a tarted up woman, probably a local television personality) struggling to chatter coyly in broken English (Ha! Ha! Foreigners are so funny when they try to speak proper English!). The winning nation gets the dubious prize of hosting next year’s Eurovision, which is presumably a massively expensive proposition, so we found ourselves wondering if Portugal, Iceland and Greece might be sandbagging. Winning performers rarely go on to stardom, the exception being Abba, who won in 1974 with “Waterloo.”

I think my favorite part of watching Eurovision is the spontaneous reactions we all have. We can’t stop ourselves from saying things like:

“God, is everyone in Iceland that fat?”

“Wait a minute. Her name’s Kati? But that’s a man!”

“What is wrong with the French?”

You also get a real sense of what people in the various countries find sexy and stylish. It’s rarely what I find sexy and stylish.

I have never correctly guessed who will win. I’m never even close. This year’s winners were Azerbaijan’s Ell/Nikki, with an anemic, schmaltzy duet called “Running Scared.” I was banking on either Ireland, with its bizarre, poppy entry from twin brothers (and big fans of epaulets, hair gel and Devo) Jedward. Or Serbia’s Nina, who rocked the final with a stylish sixties vibe and, as a chunky-legged girl from peasant stock like myself, proved exteme bravery in wearing white tights on international television. But, no, all the bands I hated made the top 10. Special mention goes to Moldova, for its entry, “So Lucky,” which embodies the sort of demented eye- and ear-raping that you expect of Eurovision.

Azerbaijan: Cream-colored bland FTW.

Ireland: We don’t care if we win. We’ll charge it!

Serbia: Don’t worry, if we don’t win we can always get jobs at Target.

Moldova: Coneheads and unicycles! Thank you!

Jonathan procures pork pies at Borough Market.

Clearly, given the length of my Eurovision report, this was my favorite part of the trip. But I sampled a lot of English culinary staples this time around: black pudding, Scotch eggs, pork pies and my ritual fish and chips/mushy peas, this time from a decades-old childhood chippy that Jonathan was amazed to find still bustling despite everything around it having changed.

Fifty years later, while entire streets and buildings are gone, the humble chip shop still stands.

Unfortunately, since J. got the bright idea that we should all drink absinthe during this musical ordeal, I had a mild hangover the next morning and, while stumbling out for a walk along the beach, managed to bash my left foot on a gate. I’ve done something to it because after an eight mile run the next day my left hip flexor and adductor were iffy. My foot still hurts when I flex it. Kids, don’t drink and run.

Branksome Chine, where we did part of a longish run.

With the foot issue, travel stress and terrible nutrition (and almost no running) of the past week, I plan to jog rather than race the Brooklyn Half this weekend, mostly to collect my 10 points for internal New York Harrier scoring. I’m hoping I can redeem them for pistachio nuts or bobby pins or something at the end of the year.

Article: “The Crowd Goes Wild” by Alex Hutchinson

This article from Maisonneuve is worth a read. It discusses the changing dynamic of track and field journalism, one that has evolved from a monodirectional and highly controlled presentation to a two-way exchange between stars and fans that is at times both confrontational and disarmingly honest.

I should point out that I post interesting finds like this to Facebook often and rarely take the time to highlight them here. So if you want more of the same, then (be)friend me.

Lykkelig løyper, Grete Waitz

[That's "happy trails" in Norwegian, at least according to Google Translate]

What can you say about Grete Waitz? She was not only an inspiring talent, but she was one of running’s greatest ambassadors. There is a huge hole left in the world of running today.

I will keep the bloviations to a minimum. That’ll be easy because I never met Grete. I saw her at the expo for my first marathon, the More Magazine Marathon, 2007 edition. She was standing there with Lynn Jennings, greeting people. I was such a newbie to the sport that I had no idea who Lynn Jennings was. But I knew who Grete was. But I was too shy and awestruck to go over and say hello! Now I kick myself for that. The next time I saw her was in 2008, when she flew by me in the back of the press truck at mile 20 of the New York Marathon, where I was watching from the curb. When I started interviewing elites last year I vowed to try to meet her at the next Norwegian Festival, but I was away during the weekend of those races in October. And so that was that.

Here are some highlights from around the web. Also, I can recommend the movie Run for Your Life, a documentary about Fred Lebow, in which Waitz has a large presence.

Fellow New York Harrier (and fellow runner of Norwegian descent, although his name’s a lot easier to deal with than mine is) Douglas Hegley’s post is worth a read. He had a few chance meetings with Waitz that tell you everything you need to know about the woman. This is the most personal blog post I’ve found about Waitz thus far. But Amy’s is a good runner up, and contains links to other great stories.

Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World has this lovely tribute.

Here’s the IAAF’s remembrance of Ms. Waitz, who, it should be noted, still holds the Norwegian record for the 1500.

Waitz was ambitious and driven, yet humble and generous. Everything a champion should be.

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