Other running stuff (not deep thoughts)

It’s Twofer Tuesday on RLaG. You get TWO posts!

Here’s other stuff that’s going on.

I was tempted to do the Randall’s Island Zombie Run, but at $60 it’s expensive. Plus, as I wanted to go as a zombie, I’ll be all overachieving and need to get plastic gashes and such. It’s coming at the end of a huge month in terms of personal and professional commitments. So I’m going to skip it.

Our household NYRR membership lapses in November. I truly don’t give a shit. I’ve barely run any NYRR races and have been soured on them as an organization for various reasons lately. Their races have just gotten too crowded. When I get back into racing I’ll probably return to CT, NJ and Rockland/Orange counties where there are wide open spaces, fast ladies and cheap trophies aplenty.

Yesterday I took JS on a tour of Van Cortlandt Park. We ran a bit along the South County Trail, which is actually a paved path, and then parted ways so I could go back and hit the XC course for some tempo miles. JS continued going north and eventually his Tuckahoe Road. The path continues north and becomes the North County Trail around Elsmford. I wish I’d known about this path when I was training for CIM, as it has a mile+ gradual hill. In any case, we’ll return, I think often. I’m sick of the running path I’ve been using for close to 14 (eep) years.

The dirt cheap gym I joined is in Yonkers at the Cross County Mall. Blink Fitness is a wildly expanding NY-area gym. It’s $15 a month. You get treadmills, ellipticals, sort of shitty stationary bikes (not spin bikes), FormFitness strength machines and a smattering of free weights. That’s about it. You have to bring your own towels. But it’s $15, people. That’s, like, three beers at one happy hour.

Tammy Lifka, whom I interviewed for my Houston Hopefuls project, just ran a 2:49:02 in Chicago. She has been struggling with her running for quite awhile, but she changed her regimen (and her coach) and now seems to be on a tremendous upswing. I am incredibly happy for her.

Lize Brittin, whom I also interviewed for a Runners Round Table podcast close to two years ago (again, eep), has just self-published her memoir of anorexia, Training on Empty. I read a very early draft of this book and gave some feedback. It’s compelling stuff. The foreword is written by the author of my all-time favorite running memoir, Lorraine Moller. Here’s a review from Kevin Beck.

And finally. Shoe companies are clearing out their 2012 models to make way for new editions. So if you want to stock up on the shoes that are working for you, now’s a good time to pick up “last year’s models” at closeout prices.

2011: a look back

This year was not about racing, training, injury or mileage. It was about survival, observation, change, trust and taking risks.

I ended 2010 with some resolutions. I didn’t do half bad at sticking to them. With the exception of Facebook.

January

I started the year by attempting to let go of all plans and expectations. Considering how the next few months panned out, that was probably a good call.

The year started with baby steps back into running after 2010 ended with roughly four months of no running at all due to a stress fracture. For weeks and weeks after I started back again, I had adductor pain. Since I was turning into a whale I started working with a nutritionist to try to lose weight. That turned out to be a total waste of money and time.

The depression that had been knocking at my door in the fall managed to knock the door off its hinges and come stomping into my mental foyer wearing muddy boots. It was competing with some projects I did: a podcast on eating disorders in which, perhaps ironically, depression was a hot topic, as well as what would turn out to be my final interview for the Houston Hopefuls project.

The depression won. But at least I was running again.

I also discovered some fateful podcasts.

February

On February 1st I registered for the Chicago Marathon. Because I was still thinking there was an outside chance that I might actually have a hope of eventually running an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier for 2012. Oh, the folly.

I dipped my toe back into racing, mostly to see if my sacrum would crack again. I was slow. But not ridiculously so. My body parts remained intact.

I published my third piece for Running Times. That would also be my last one of the year. I closed my business’ books today and noted that I made a grand total of $450 writing for Running Times and Runner’s World in 2011. I have not enthusiastically sought more work from Rodale since then.

I was picking up from square one of the plan (former) Coach Sandra had given me way back in July.  I got back up to 50 mpw and did some hard workouts. We were working long distance at this point and would fall out of touch soon after. That was actually okay with me. It removed some pressure.

I still kept hold of the Trials dream. But it was slipping away. While February allowed some progress on the running front finally, it was my low point mentally. The running was kind of the only thing that was working as I otherwise held on by my fingernails.

March

In early March the bear got me again. I had a dental crisis. I was in a bad, bad way. But I was taking steps in my non-running life to right my little dingy. It was hard work, involving facing a lot of very unpleasant stuff and giving it the credit it was due. By month’s end, however, I was seeing progress.

A few days later I ran Coogan’s and it was alright, perhaps even pretty good. I started to reacquaint myself with the human race too. Another good call.

Then Sally Meyerhoff died. That really affected me. I paid tribute to her at the tail end of our little podcast. I thought a lot about time’s value and what a crime it is to squander it.

During March the work I was doing on myself started to pay dividends. I emerged from the mud, escaped the clutches of the bear. But I would only get a short reprieve. Life would rear its head again soon enough.

But, still, I was running and running pretty well again at that, despite lots of little setbacks and frustrations. That was worth a lot.

April

I regained fitness, slowly but surely.

We saw one of the most exciting Boston races in years. We also lost another great.

I also decided to not go to Chicago and instead eat the registration fee and go closer to home in Syracuse. Yeah, I still believed. Dream not dead. Yet.

At the tail end of the month my stepmother nearly died of complications from heart surgery. This was an ordeal that went on for weeks and weeks. My running dropped off tremendously in April and May. I took 14 days off in May alone. Something had to go.

May

I ran one of the worst races in my short competitive career, out on Long Island. Some of life’s greatest gifts come in the form of being kicked in the teeth, and this was no exception. During this race I had the epiphany that I needed to have: I wasn’t ever going to run an Olympic Trials qualifying time. Moreover, maybe long distance wasn’t for me at all.

By this time Sandra was no longer coaching me, which was fine since I would have been wasting her time given all the changes and interruptions. I found a 10K training plan online and just followed that for awhile.

I also realized that my cat is a lot better at meditating than I am.

I started a crazy freelance gig that required a three hour commute every day and had wildly unpredictable hours (I was there until 10pm with no prior warning some nights). Nevertheless, I committed to getting up at 5am to do training. I also decided to spend the next few months trying to shed extra weight through aggressive calorie restriction.

June

By June my stepmother was better and out of the hospital. But I was full bore freelancing this crazy gig. Which had me rushing through pre-dawn workouts, and it’s never good to rush a warmup because — you guessed it — I got injured! Fuck. Again! Bad calf pull.

That had me out of the Mini 10K, which I’d really wanted to run. But, okay, whatever. Things were basically on the upswing.

July

This month would represent a turning point in many respects.

My June injury healed up. My running would start to improve in a dramatic way.

On July 4 I committed to training to run the fastest road mile I could (this year): the Fifth Avenue Mile. I finally got smart about my training, keeping the mileage low and cutting workouts from three a week to two (with any races substituting for a workout). I would remain uninjured for the remainder of the year. And I’d get faster. Good job, Julie! You can still learn things through observation.

A few days later an outstanding person from Canada Googled “marathon” and “Brooklyn,” got me in the results, and then invited me to the world premier of her show, which I almost didn’t go to because the words “one woman show” strike fear in my jaded heart. But I followed my instinct and went. And I loved it. Then I somehow managed to trick her into becoming a good friend for the absurdly low entry cost of a sandwich. Then getting to know a real performer put some crazy ideas into my head that would start to take root in the fall.

Then I had more lunch with some far flung blogger friends (and some who are closer to home). That was fun.

Despite all the lunches, I was 15 pounds lighter by month’s end.

August

My nightmarish freelance gig concluded and had a couple of weeks recovery before beginning another that was much, much saner, one that allowed me to sleep past 7am most days. My training was, I dare say, going well.

Then I capped off the month with an exciting hurricane weekend in the Poconos with two runner lady friends.

September

I had a kind of spectacular track workout.

I waxed rhapsodic about social media.

I started taking baby steps, with a small group of strangers, toward realizing a long-festering dream of performing, disguised as an attempt to get over my terror of public speaking. But I really just wanted an excuse to talk about myself and try to be funny.

I had a couple of good tuneup races (in Tuckahoe and in Riverside Park) while keeping my eye on the prize: the run down Fifth Avenue late in the month.

I had the race I’d waited three years for. I broke six minutes. Then the day just got better. It was a happy day. And you know what? I fucking deserved it.

October

I lamented the backward slide of track and field policy. I may have even changed (or at least opened) a mind or two in the process.

I considered that perhaps my running a sub-20 minute 5K is not a patently absurd idea after all.

Also, my recently listless, skinny and perpetually thirsty Zen cat was given a diabetic death sentence.

November

I got up on a stage and told a story. People laughed. Or were horrified. But in more or less the right places.

I also won a big-ass trophy.

December

I nabbed a new 5K PR in Bethpage, Long Island.

And here we are. Next stop: 2012.

What are my goals for this year? They are huge, for one thing. Mightily ambitious. They are the kinds of goals you think about setting for yourself when you read about a woman in her twenties getting hit by a truck.

Some of these goals have to do with running and some not with running.

I am not sharing them ahead of time because that’s never worked out well for me. But also because many of them are more qualitative than quantitative in nature. As such, they are harder to measure — and maybe harder to reach. Many of them are not limited to this year. I’m starting them this year, is all. I’ll see where they go and how long it takes to get there.

I will, however, let you know when I reach them. And I do intend to reach them.

Also, Zen cat is still alive, and once again broad-shouldered, energetic and no longer thirsty. Anything’s possible when you throw enough expensive cat food at the problem.

Happy New Year!

The me (not me)

(Warning: Non-Running Post)

I was going to wait until New Year’s Eve to write my “what happened this year” post. I’ll still write one. But I thought I’d get a jump on writing about one aspect of what was a terrible-yet-wonderful year.

In the fall of 2010, while attempting to stay in shape as I recovered from a stress fracture, I was spending huge amounts of time running in the pool, spinning and doing whatever it’s called when you use the elliptical. I was in the gym for many hours each week and, unlike running, there was no joy in the activity. It was just a tedious, boring, time-consuming grind.

My playlists of music got old quickly. So I turned to podcasts. I listened to lots of different podcasts but ended up only sticking with a few that were reliably good. Two of them, WTF! with Marc Maron and the RISK! Show, remain my go to podcasts. I wrote about them in February. The first is an interview program hosted by standup stalwart Marc Maron. The second is a storytelling podcast, a weekly show that typically combines 2-3 true stories, told either before a live audience or in a studio, with musical interludes between them.

These two podcasts mean a tremendous amount to me personally, although for different reasons. There was a period of time during January and February when I was completely mired in one of the worst periods of depression that I’ve experienced in years. Coupled with the despair and hopelessness was a near total inability to sleep for several weeks. During that time, because I was so restless, I moved into our guest room and spent many nights listening to archived WTF! shows. Between the highly personal stories of what happened to host Maron during the week (usually a mixture of hilarity and unforgiving self-examination) and his intelligent, empathetic interviews with guests, I was often moved. His voice was like an audio life raft that I clung to in the night.

The other show, RISK!, whose tagline is “True tales, boldly told,” was a similar mixture of comedy and tragedy. Some stories were better than others, but they were usually honest and unflinching. I forgave the more self-indulgent or boring ones because when the stories were good they were incredibly good. Yet, during some shows I’d find myself thinking, “I could probably do a better job than that guy.” Even months after I’d emerged from the depressive mud, that thought stayed with me.

For decades I’d been attracted to the idea of doing standup comedy, yet was terrified by the prospect. And I do mean terrified. I have (or had, up until a month ago) an intense fear of doing anything in public. Public speaking was torture for me. Even business meetings were (and, oddly, still are) a challenge. So the prospect of getting up on stage and trying to make people laugh seemed like the craziest, hardest thing one can do. It’s the purest form of failure — you’re there to make people laugh. That’s hard to do. And you’re doing that as yourself. So if they don’t laugh, in a sense, those people are rejecting not just your jokes, but also you. Like I said: terrifying. I still have trouble imagining it.

But these podcasts, especially RISK!, were a revelation. You could tell honest stories about yourself and people would listen. You didn’t have to be funny, although you could be if you wanted to.  For me, storytelling falls somewhere along a spectrum that spans monologue and standup, as illustrated below. I inserted names of entertainers and where I feel they fall along that spectrum. I in no way include myself in their esteemed company — they’re just there to help you get a picture of what I’m talking about and also because I admire them all in their own way. I can only hope to achieve an originality and consistency of performance, perspective and persona that each of them has managed to.

Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment, yet it was news to me. I’d sampled the storytelling podcast, The Moth, which is the one everyone knows. But it didn’t grab me the way RISK! did and still does. In fact, I was so affected by RISK! that I started scheming ways to get on it. I started working on story ideas and struggled with how to pitch them. But the biggest obstacle was the performance issue. If you want to tell stories, you have to get up in front of people and tell them. There is simply no way around that. So I started looking for classes. I needed help not just with the “how to” of constructing a story, but also with the mechanics of telling it without being totally petrified on stage. And, what?! It turns out that Kevin Allison, the brains, passion and voice behind RISK!, teaches classes! In storytelling! It was fate! It was fate. I signed up for the September class at The Story Studio.

It was a great experience. I met other talented people. Kevin is an excellent teacher and listener. I got everything I wanted out of it, including the encouragement I needed to keep working on it.

This and some related activity in the theatrical realm has given me a new lease on my creative life. It’s introduced me to some wonderful people — other performers, new friends, potential collaborators. It’s given me the confidence and curiosity to take an acting class to further plumb the mysteries of performance and onstage persona. I am finding themes in my stories that may eventually drive me to doing a longer piece consisting of a cycle of related stories. But I’m getting ahead of myself already.

I invited several friends to my end-of-class performance. Jonathan came too. I deliberately did not share the story I’d tell with him — although he’d heard less-detailed forms of it over the years. I did not invite him to come to the two open mic story slams I attended to get some experience with an audience that was not my class. I needed to do this on my own, unsupported (and unfettered). The act of keeping him at a distance throughout the learning process had one fantastic side effect, though: I got to watch him in the audience, watching me. During my 13 minutes on stage, he wore an expression that was some combination of delighted and dumbstruck. Later, I asked him what it was like to watch me and he said, after a long pause: “It was like seeing you, but some other version of you.”

I knew what he meant. I was me. But I was also not me. I was a transformed, perhaps better version of me. The me I’d like to always be. But I needed a story and an audience to be that person. It’s the person I’m not yet. It’s a start.

A few years ago, when I was still struggling to write short stories, I registered the domain modernstories.com. I was surprised no one had taken it. A bit later someone offered me a few hundred dollars for it. Even though I’d abandoned fiction by then, some instinct told me to hang onto it. I’m glad I did. I’ll do something with it, although I don’t know what yet.

Telling stories to strangers is gratifying, fun and very hard work. I am lucky to have found it, especially while living in a suburb just north of New York City, which seems to be ground zero for live storytelling. There are so many shows to explore. The Moth is not the only game in town. Nor is RISK! For the next month or two I’ll sample other shows and see what’s a good fit, then see if I can fit in somewhere.

Anyway, here’s the first of many ventures I hope to make onto various stages starting in 2012. To honor what RISK! did for me, I decided to tell the truest, boldest tale I could think of. The name of this story is “The Beast.”

Why I love social media

Over the course of the day yesterday, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, I was connected with others, if not directly through a social medium then indirectly through other activities (writing down ideas to share, emailing a query) that ultimately came about because of a connection I’d made through social media.

I’ve been using message boards since the launch of AOL, circa 1990. I started this blog in 2006. I’ve been on Facebook for around a year and a half. I’m a relative newbie to Twitter, but now use it extensively. At this point, the impulse to connect and share is so frequent, ingrained and automatic that I don’t even think about it anymore.

It’s incredibly easy to dismiss blogging, Twitter, Facebook, online message boards and other components of social media as time wasters. The implication is that we don’t benefit from being in this realm so much as we fritter away our lives. The relationships formed in these media are often similarly rendered illegitimate because they are “virtual” and, as such, assumed to be of lower value by virtue of some assumed ephemerality.

I would like to counter that point of view in this post, by describing the ways in which social media has enriched my life.

It’s helped me find my voice. I’ve always gravitated toward writing and knew that I was good at it. I began making a living at it around 10 years ago, and I enjoy a lot of the writing I do for money. As a profession, writing and editing copy is both fun and challenging. But over the past few years my biggest source of satisfaction has been the personal writing I’ve done for this blog. Now I’m branching out and seeing if I can write for other media and forms of delivery (stay tuned). Finding my voice online has helped me to find it offline as well, which is uber valuable for an introvert who often has trouble dealing with people in general.

It’s made me a better writer. From a practical standpoint, writing for social media has helped me to hone my writing chops, beyond the improvement that comes simply from writing something every day. Web readers demand brevity: short paragraphs; simple sentences in the active voice; tight composition and structure. The extreme, of course, is Twitter. With just 140 characters at my disposal, I’ve learned a lot about editing and rewriting.

It’s helped me to help others. I’m reading a book right now, one that violates the brevity rule (at least in terms of its title). It’s called The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good. Aside from resembling my daily to do list, this is a book about how our brains work, specifically why certain behaviors trigger the brain’s reward mechanisms. If you read the title carefully you’ll see that “generosity” is among those addictive behaviors. I like helping people by sharing  my skills and knowledge and lately I’ve used social media to identify opportunities to lend a hand in ways that go beyond the obvious.

It’s helped me establish new relationships. I have quite a few actual, in the flesh friends whom I would not have met ever were it not for social media. As a side point, I’ll also note that whereas I used to view purely virtual relationships as somehow lacking, I now think they have their place and can be valuable in their own right. If you want an old school example, consider the lowly “pen pal” relationship. I’ll bet lots of pen pals never met each other, but that doesn’t lessen the value of the connection that can be forged through a virtual exchange of thoughts and feelings. Sometimes a friend can be someone you never meet. But I’ll grant you that IRL friends are the bomb by comparison.

It’s deepened relationships I already have. I have a few friends who I knew long before the advent of social media, but for various reasons we drifted apart, only to eventually rediscover each other through social media. In other cases, I knew someone through a non-friendship venue (such as a work project) and discovered a lot of common ground through social media, which helped to advance the relationship from the friendly acquaintance or “work friend” to “friend friend” stage. This is great.

It’s given me the opportunity to try new things. Social media is directly responsible for my running journalism career (such as it is), my having joined a running team, my becoming a host of various podcasts, my decision to travel to certain places, and my exploration of new forms of creative outlet or consumption, just to name a few. Social media gets me out of the house and around people pretty regularly.

It’s provided me with a free publishing platform. For a quiet person, it seems that I have a lot to say. Social media lets me say those things. Whether it’s writing haiku (well, three years ago), or satirizing the kind of taglines I get paid to produce on a regular basis, or presenting an interview project, or just telling some stupid jokes, all I have to do is start an account and I have my own megaphone, instantly. I even have a secret blog that no one knows about.

It’s helped me find support and solutions. Like you, I have problems. Lots of them. Through social media (message boards especially) I’ve found members of my various tribes who are chock full of information, ideas, resources and empathy.

It’s kept my serotonin levels steady. See “problems” above. I don’t know whether I did too much acid in the third grade or something, but my mood will easily plummet without constant vigilance. I’d say about half of the people I follow on Twitter are either professional comedians, comedy writers or regular Janes and Joes who happen to be hilarious. I also write lots of funny stuff (or at least I think it’s funny) throughout the day. Reading and producing this stuff on Twitter elevates my mood. It’s that simple.

It’s shown me that activism is still alive and well. Lastly, there’s other peoples’ use of social media for the greater good. You’ve got things like the It Gets Better Project, which strives to keep gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered youth from killing themselves. Or the Enough Project, which seeks to dismantle warlordism in Sudan and the Congo. Then you’ve got activism that demonstrates social media’s unintended consequences, like Nancy Upton’s hijacking of an ill-conceived American Apparel contest for use as her own personal platform for scathing social commentary. Fucking brilliant. Try doing that with television.

What has social media done for me lately? A lot. What’s it done for you?

Race Report: NYRR Club Championships

Yesterday I was reminded of several things:

  • How daunting a prospect it is to excel in the NYRR club series when so many of the points races seem to fall in the summer
  • What a thrill it is to watch the faster local runners coming over the finish line
  • How many new people I’ve met in the past year since joining the New York Harriers, and how many new people I continue to meet
  • When it’s very hot and humid, it pays to be conservative in the early miles

Using my dad’s pied-à-terre on the west side as a home base, it was easy to get to the start area on 102nd Street, a 10 minute jog at most. Which makes the fact that I woke up at 4:15am even more irritating. But I can’t say I was surprised by this, since after three months of waking up at 5am to run before my commute (this fact amazed a coworker on Friday), I can’t sleep in no matter how late I go to bed.

But anyway. So we had a leisurely (very leisurely) breakfast and hopped over for number pickup with plenty of time for Jonathan to warm up for the men’s start at 8am. I bade him adieu, went to the start and shot video showing almost every single starter. I say almost because then I went to bag dropoff, used a portapotty and as I was heading over toward the ball fields to do a warmup two guys were frantically running toward the start. “It’s our first race!” they screamed (which didn’t make sense to me because you have to have run in at least two club points races previously this year in order to compete in the championships, but whatever). Even though they were 10 minutes after the start (the usual cutoff), they were allowed to go. All I can say is that I’m glad they weren’t Harriers. So embarrassing! (Just kidding; I once started the Bronx Half 10 minutes late).

Here’s the men’s start.

Speaking of Harriers, I saw shitloads of them. They were everywhere. I was saying “Hi!” right and left before the race, during the race and after the race. Harriers in the corrals, Harriers running on the course, Harriers screaming from the sidelines, exhausted Harriers wandering over to Harrier Rock in search of post-race alcohol and corn dogs, or whatever it is that Harriers eat when they socialize. It was a Harrier frenzy.

Unfortunately, we missed both the Harrier post-race gathering (the annual picnic, in fact) as well as the Warren Street post-race fete because we’d scheduled a Saturday afternoon soiree at our place (one runner, two non-runners, if you must know) since it was the only date available for everyone. We had to dash back home, as there was wine to be chilled and food to be prepared. But I’ll check out the picnic(s) next summer.

Hokay. So, Julie, how was the race?

It was pretty good, for such a hot and humid day. My time of 36:54 was nothing to write home about for a 5 miler normally, but I was happy with the way I ran yesterday. Jonathan’s advice was, “Keep some energy in reserve to get through mile 4 and you’ll be passing people like crazy in mile 5.” This turned out to be wise advice, although not always easy to follow. It took much patience, grasshopper.

I started at the front of the second corral, but the race was so small (around 500 women) that I was only about 8 rows back anyway. We started running and immediately there was a problem in front of me: a near pile up, with no apparent source, starring one of my favorite local bloggers, Washington Ran Here. Women were stopping, swerving, gasping in surprise. I was looking for a runner on the ground, but didn’t see anyone down when I ran by. Fortunately, everyone was okay.

We cleared that mess and then I spotted Emmy Stocker — outstanding Taconic Road Runners masters queen (she’s in the 50+ group) and sometime guest on the New York Running Show — just in front of me. Emmy always beats me. I caught up with her and said as much to her as we made our way west along the transverse toward West Side Drive.

“Hi, Emmy. You’re going to beat me again today.”

“Well, I don’t know. I ran an ultra last weekend.”

“You’ll beat me anyway. But if you don’t for some reason, you’ll have a great excuse.”

“Yeah. It’s called ‘old age.'”

I was going to reply that age seems to have no effect on her performances, but it took me a few seconds to formulate that thought into a coherent sentence. By then she’d taken off and was quickly headed out of earshot. That was last I saw of her.

Heeding Jonathan’s advice, I decided to run the first two miles like a hard tempo effort. No racing yet. The first mile is a rough one with lots of rolling hills, mostly up. I got passed sometimes, but was basically running with the same people for that mile. During mile 2 people really started to pass me. That was difficult to accept, but I was thinking a fair number of them would regret taking off so early on. The heat was rapidly becoming oppressive, especially in sunny spots. First two splits were 7:21 and 7:14. Breathing was one breath for every three footfalls. Not very high effort yet.

As we rounded the bottom of the park, people were still passing me and I was beginning to question this strategy. It was dispiriting, to say the least. But I kept at the same effort, passing mile 3 in 7:21. Now we were headed back uphill in that steady slog up the east side, culminating in Cat Hill. This is where the strategy started to pay off. I passed a few people on Cat Hill. Mile 4 was a not-terrible 7:53, meaning I lost about 30 seconds on the hills.

By this point I was breathing once every two footfalls. That was okay. It was time to race. We made the turn onto the straightaway that parallels Fifth Avenue. I love this part because I can recover a little from the hills and get ready to motor to the finish. There was a phalanx of people cheering on both sides near Engineer’s Gate. That was a boost. Then, beyond that, pockets of Harriers. One of them yelled, “Go, Jules!” which made me giggle, and a little sad, since my only friend who calls me that has moved away and I miss hearing that from her.

The last half mile was where the earlier miles’ discipline paid off. I overtook a few people as we made our way up toward the transverse, and nipped a few as we came around the turn toward the finish. Mile 5 was a solid 7:05.

Average pace was 7:23, which I’m pleased with considering that it was 73 degrees, 81% humidity and sunny.

Like an idiot, I wore black.

Race Report: Scotland 10K Run (squeak!)

My Low Expectations World Tour 2011 continues. And it’s going well.

I ran just under 45:00 (44:59), a 19 second PR for the 10K (my previous one being on the same course at the Mini 10K in June). I had no expectations for today, and no goals other than to race hard. While I wore my simple Timex and took splits, aside from mile split 3 (which I saw by accident when trying to locate the button), I did not look at the watch until crossing the finish mat.

Today was a near-perfect day for racing: wind chills in the upper 40s, overcast, not humid, and almost no discernible wind. I even had all my usual pre-race events that are indicative of racing success: a plumbing crisis yesterday, nightmares about our house being flooded, terrible insomnia and a messed up GI system in the morning. Seeing those bags under my eyes in the mirror, I thought, “Damn. You’ll run well today.”

I’ll cut to the chase. Since NYRR was doing a much better job of enforcing corral placement today, I was able to get up toward the front of the second corral, and crowding was not an issue after the half mile mark. I guess it wasn’t an issue at all, since it was my fastest mile.

The splits: 6:58, 7:11, 7:10, 7:37, 7:10, 7:17; 1:32. Mile 4, which comes around the top of the park, the second of two big hills, always kills people. I passed a lot of people in mile 5, which I was surprised to see the split for, since it felt like I was crawling through that mile. There was a lot going on in my head at that point in the race. I was getting very tired, but telling myself, “The weather is perfect and no one’s in your way; you have no excuse not to apply yourself.” But I was also aware of how spent I was between mile 5 and 6, so much so that I am now seriously doubting my ability to race a half marathon in three weeks. I’ll have to see how things go.

Nevertheless, I was happy with the effort and a PR is always a good thing, although I have run a faster 10K segment in a half marathon (the 43:00 range) way back in 2008. But I am coming back and it’s early days yet. Not looking at the watch helped, although at times I was dying to see how I was doing. I will keep racing blind in this way, since I’m finding that doing so removes a whole dimension of stress, especially in the final miles.

Stats: I was 7th in my AG (there’s a guy from Australia mixed in with us in the results), 132nd (or maybe 131st, given the guy) out of close to 4,000 chicks. Second New York Harriers masters woman (there were only two of us out there today). The big news is that Jonathan raced today too, his first race in 10 months. Given that he’s just started running hard again and his mileage is quite  low, he did not have great expectations either. But he ran without foot trouble and I consider that a major victory.

I saw lots of Harriers both on the course and out spectating. It does help to get acknowledged, even if I’m in danger of keeling over if I try to say anything in response. I also saw many kilts. Was there anything under them? I’m not sure, but thinking about that was a fun distraction while nearly puking my way to the finish. Two Front Runners guys effectively served as my pacers today. I thanked them afterward.

After the race we headed over to Ditch Plains on 82nd and Columbus for brunch with fellow New York Running Show co-hosts TK, Joe, Brenn (and his lovely wife and cute baby) and Steve. There, I eagerly shoveled eggs Benedict into my face, followed by s’mores. The shoveling has continued through the afternoon.

Podcasts I like

During my six months of cross-training purgatory, I got sick of my music mixes and turned to podcasts for distraction. In that time, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. Since I’m doing nine out of ten runs on the treadmill these days (and still hitting the other machines and pool sometimes), I’m still listening to them often. Most of them have some comedic element. I like funny stuff and it helps to counter my foul mood when I am pool running.

Here are some favorites, with top picks first. All are available on iTunes.

RISK!
This podcast features either live or studio-recorded stories from people who have tales to tell that fit into the week’s chosen theme. These are usually writers, comedians or actors who have something interesting to say and know how to say it well, meaning they are good storytellers and monologuists. Sounds easy. But it’s not. Most of the time, it works. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving, sometimes shocking. Always a good listen.
Starter episode: The Chase. Highlight: “The Freak Magnet,” Kerri Heidecker’s story of being stalked, scrapbooked and rendered in wax fetish form by a school acquaintance.

What The Fuck
Stand-Up Comedian Marc Maron has been a fixture on the comedy scene for a long time. But who knew he was such a skilled interviewer? With a mixture of empathy, wit and intellectual curiosity, Maron is able to establish a rapport and intimacy with his subjects that I can only envy and aspire to.
Starter episode: Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and Talkradio fame describes his harrowingly awful first marriage, struggles with dyslexia and current status as child-support-poor, reluctant stand-up comedian. Sounds like a depressing drag, right? Well, it’s actually sidesplitting in spots.

Savage Lovecast
Dan Savage has been giving advice about sex (and both garden-variety and not-so-garden-variety romance) for…well, a long time. I used to read his stuff in the Village Voice way back when I was a commuting wage slave. He recently got some well-deserved press for his It Gets Better project, whose genesis was a call from a 15-year-old, stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere gay kid who could not see through his current sense of isolation to a happy future for himself. Anyway, the podcast covers everything under the sexual sun and more often than not I learn something new. I usually agree with Dan’s advice too.
Starter episode: In Episode 218, Dan gives good answers to questions like these: Her new boyfriend sometimes wets the bed; dealbreaker? Why does this straight man keep finding himself being mysteriously fellated by his gay neighbor? Is a mom who busts her daughter for sending photos to middle-aged men on the Internetwebs being nosey or heroic?

LetsRun.com’s Training Talk
Weldon Johnson, co-founder of LetsRun.com, interviews coaches and runners. The interviews are few and far between, but I always find gems among them, and he has gotten more confident as an interviewer over time. This is really for hardcore runners or fans of the sport.
Starter episode: Stephanie Rothstein talks about how she went from being a mediocre high school runner to breaking 2:30 at Houston about a week ago. She has a lot to say about injury, confidence and perserverence. A great listen for anyone who cares about their own running.

Judge John Hodgman
Viewers of the The Daily Show will know John Hodgman as the show’s “expert” on all matters, as demonstrated in the segment called “You’re Welcome.” Hodgman extends this persona out, acting as a Judge Judy of sorts (but much funnier), to help couples, friends and others who are in disagreement over something resolve their conflict. The show is uneven, but when the right combination of subject and guests is present, it’s a good listen.
Starter episode: Are Machine Guns Robots?

I won’t get out of here alive without also plugging the two I’m sometimes on: the New York Running Show and The Runners Round Table. Those are good too.

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