Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Shavasana stepping stone

I've been horrendous at getting exercise lately. I've been exhausted all the time. So the blogging has dropped off as the running has disappeared. But last night I went to my new Ashtanga 1 class. It wasn't the best workout I've ever had, but it was (scarily) pretty good considering we only did 5 sun salutations before getting to the seated and lying down poses. But it was nice to get back to doing *something* and I think I'm going to learn a lot in this class.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

No on California's Prop 8: an open letter

Dear friends and family,

I'll be blunt. I'm writing to ask for your help in defeating California's Proposition 8, the ballot measure that would codify the discrimination inherent in the statement "marriage is between a man and a woman."

I could give you fiscal, social, familial, or personal reasons why I believe Prop 8 is wrong, but I'll just say this: it's fundamentally unAmerican to say that some people are more worthy of government sanction than others. It was wrong when we counted slaves as 3/5 of free people, it was wrong when women were denied the vote, and it's wrong today.

If you're in California, please don't forget to vote. And no matter where you are, please join me and thousands of other Americans in giving whatever you can - your time, your money, your goodwill and word of mouth - to defeat the proponents of inequality.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Foodie goodness

Today I have been thinking about food.

First off, about how I like it. And I like real food (and Diet Coke). I had a taste of a Powerbar Gel thingy this weekend and it was so nasty and chemically that I don't know how any of you choke them down and I'm definitely going to have to work on the DIY-realfood-energy sources. And about how I am glad that I don't feeel one bit guilty for eating an entire bag of baby carrots and a whole bag of grapes (and a sandwich) for lunch today. Someone somewhere who was doing weight watchers said that she counts all fruit/veg as 1 point because she didn't get fat eating carrots. Too true, so I'm munching away like a rabbit to my heart's content.

But it's so much easier to eat this way when I'm running and except for one week a month and it all goes hand-in-hand, which is both nice (for staying on track) and annoying (for getting back on track). But even so, I had a nice, relatively healthy dinner for New Restaurant Tuesday yesterday.

Nextly, I'm thinking about what my goals are for cooking. I like to have a healthy meal with as little time and fuss as possible. So when it's my turn to cook we have things like chicken breasts flash marinated in citrus on salad leaves with citrus vinagarette. Meg, on the other hand, likes her food to have FLAVOUR that screams at you, and she doesn't care if she uses every pan in the kitchen to do it. Cooking for her is an event, something to be savoured. So we get pork loin with spicy apple jelly and curried couscous. Neither is bad, except that I have to clean up after her while she gets to clean up after me. It's just something I've been thinking about. What are your goals for cooking?

Finally, I had a little time to kill so I've been reading my friend Tracy's awesome food blog. You should check it out.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Slog to the Beat

The Run to the Beat half-marathon was Sunday. I'm just now getting to write it up, but the short version is that I (barely) finished. Maybe next time I should actually train. ;)

Told Meg that she didn't have to come because the weather was supposed to be crap, and she said she'd decide on the day. I got up around 7, got ready to go - stupidly wearing my Banana Army shirt for the first time on race day. Luckily I discovered the itchy tag before I left and was able to cut it off. Grabbed a couple of Baby Bell cheeses, a zucchini muffin, and a banana to go plus a pint of water with my morning meds. Left at 7:45. Walked to the Starbucks nearest my tube station but was there before they opened on Sunday morning. Unfortunately the short walk and little bit of food had gotten things moving so I had to wait for them to open so I could take care of business and get some coffee. Get on the tube to Green Park only to discover that the Jubilee line was closed at that station. Back on the Picadilly line to Leicester Square, then the Northern Line to Waterloo, then the Jubilee ... which is now closed at Canary Wharf due to a stalled train at North Greenwich (where I need to go). "Passengers wanting North Greenwich are advised to exit at Canada Water and take the 188 bus."

At Canada Water I get off with about 100 other people and join the 1000 people waiting for the bus. One bus per 10 minutes, and always full. Finally one of the 199 bus drivers took pity on us and got us as close as he could...which turned out to be about 2.5 miles from the start, in the rain. Luckily the start had been delayed until 10:30, so we all walked. Get to the O2 area as the start gets going. Find a bag drop, peel off wet clothes, find my way to the start, cross about 15 minutes late - thank goodness for chip timing.

First 3 miles are good, feeling strong. Run to the first water stop (yay me!). It's all downhill from here. By the 10k, I'm down to walking 1/running 9, plus walking the uphills and the water stops. The rain is pouring down, my clothes are soaked and heavy, my shoes are squishing with every step. I'm mad I left my headphones at work because between the music stops (every 0.75-1.5 miles) it was quiet. I really hoped to be able to run the last 5k and was telling myself "you can do 5k in your sleep" but I literally couldn't make my legs go any faster. I just kept walking, then running, then walking again. Finally crossed the line (jogging, kind of) at a gun time of 3:06. Yuck. Chip time 2:51:17 - double yuck.

Photos are online. I am really feeling unhappy with myself for not training enough, but I guess it gives room for improvement for next time.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Unexpectedly disappointed

So, I didn't get into the London Marathon. Given how shit my (lack of) running has been lately, and some possible plans for next spring, I didn't think I would care. I'd decided that if I got in, I'd run it, but if I didn't I wasn't going to go for a charity place. And I'm sticking with that plan. But.

When I got home tonight and saw the package in front of the door, I felt sad. I entered the ballot and said that if I didn't get in I'd donate my entry fee to the official charity, and in return I was promised a fleece if I didn't get in. So seeing the package there meant I hadn't gotten in. And I was unexpectedly sad.

So, now I've got to decide what to do next...because I'm feeling ready to start running again, maybe.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

And that's why we wear helmets

Hangover Meg took my bike home on Friday. I really should not have drunk quite so much wine on Thursday. Anyway, I skidded out on some road construction and slammed myself into the ground pretty hard. I'm glad I was wearing a helmet because even with it my head is a little bruised and scraped up. I guess it had to happen sometime but it still sucked. But, on the other hand, by the time I got home and took a shower I felt human for the first time.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

It's a beautiful morning

8:30 meeting with a client [grrrrr!] so out the door at quarter of seven this morning on Betty. I stopped and fixed the light on my front wheel so it doesn't smack against the magnet any longer and I think it really made a difference - this was by far the fastest average speed (well, by 0.5mph, but that's about a 5% improvement) and according to Ascent I did it in just under an hour although my Garmin said just over an hour but I think Ascent measures active time and stops counting while I'm waiting at stoplights. And now I'm at work and feeling on fire having had exercise and coffee and meeting all before 9am. I could be annoying like this.

Credit crunch? What credit crunch?

Running commute! Didn't get up in the morning so decided to pack my things and run part way home before catching public transport. Started from my office. Got passed by a guy on a unicycle and thought, "bloody hell i'm being beaten by a guy with only one wheel." Luckily I was still in the walking-waiting-for-the-satellites-to-lock-on part so I didn't feel too bad. My route took me through West Kensington Estates followed immediately by the splendour of old Kensington and on into Belgravia and Mayfair where everyone was all dressed up for parties and hailing taxies and generally being ostentatious. Also saw the Serpies but seeing as I was passed by every single one of them I think I'm not yet fast enough to run with them. 4.9 miles at 9/1.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Clearly I need to get out of the running head-space, because while I'm enjoying riding my bike (and contemplating going out with Out to Swim later this week), every time I think about running I feel physically ill. So, I am going to try to feel less guilty about the running I'm not doing and trust in the staying-active to get me through the half-marathon in 2 weeks. If you want to revise your time estimates - or add your name to my growing list of sponsors - feel free as I'm definitely not aiming for a 2:15 finish anymore.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

What's in my head today

Not a whole lot, that's what. Yesterday rode my bike in and discovered that I'm still no good at navigating - though I did average my fastest speed yet. Left it at work to cut 15 minutes off my commute time after Meg got hers stolen and really wanted me to be at home. Convinced myself to get out of bed this morning with a stern "you're going to eat like a pig tonight" (happy anniversary, baby) only to discover that the 10 minute rule got me right back into bed this morning. Most boring blog post ever.

I did have last Friday off from work (we're merging and moving - exciting stressful times) and my officemates had given me a gift certificate to The Sanctuary after I ran the marathon. I added a Thai Ritual thingy and the therapist laughed at my tight hips. Gotta get that sorted.

No photos from the vacation - it wasn't really that kind of holiday - though I did go to the US Open one day and maybe sometime soon I'll get around to uploading those photos and put a few here as this purports to be a fitness blog.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Reverse brick with absurdly long transition

Not really a brick workout, but I am proud to say I both ran (for the first time in practically forever) and rode my bike to work this morning. Short run, but the goal of it was really just to prove to myself I can still run since the last few have been crap (some so crap I won't even write about them here). And I think something's not quite right with my bike - yesterday it derailed for no reason so I couldn't even ride my bike to work and today I felt like I was mashing away hard for not a lot of result - but I did it. And I was even on time.

Anyway, I'm back from vacation. I've missed everyone, I'm totally behind on both training and hearing about y'all, but I hope to be back on track and caught up soon.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

On solitude

I thought I ran for fitness, to lose weight, to get those sexy runner's legs. But on my vacation this week, with enough time to actually think - I've discovered I was wrong. I run for solitude. This week I've got free days and friends and companions each night. You'd think I'd be on the road every day - no "too much work" or other people's plans to get in my way. But I haven't, and I think I know why. When I'm busy, I spend all day at work dealing with problems and people. I love my job. But it's not relaxing, especially for an introvert like me. I don't have time to reflect, or just be alone with my thoughts. So I run. When things aren't busy, I do actually take time all day to give my actions a little consciousness. And when, like this week, I have nothing pulling me to be with someone else and I have all the time in the world to think, I don't need the mental space running provides. So I'm doing other things - which is awesome and fun, but isn't going to help me across the finish line! Luckily the second half of my vacation next week (I do love the European vacation) will be with tons of people so I'll probably need the solitude.

Why do you run?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

My dirty laundry: now with air miles

Leaving for a lovely long holiday shortly (vacation countdown: 2 days too many) to NYC and my MIL's house on a lake so of course we've waited until Monday to start the laundry and everything I want to take with me (namely, running clothes) is dirty and smelly. We put the laundry in the washer, crate the dog, and step out the door for work. Except, what is that horrible noise? That can't be the dog? Oh no, much worse, it is the washing machine/dryer all-in-one Euro-combo. It has filled with water, soaking them, and now the drum is scraping against something outside the drum. Open it up, take out the pile of heavy wet clothes to see if there's a quick fix for this problem. Discover there isn't. Leave wet clothes on kitchen floor (on towel) and go to work. Text neighbor. Borrow their washer to finish this load. Stand in their kitchen with all my underwear in my arms talking to them. Resolve to pack everything else dirty and hit up the laundromat in NYC. Feel like I'm in college again, taking laundry home to Mom. Except this time, Mom is the lovely immigrant lady who works in the drop-n-wash. At least she won't tell me I need a haircut.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Redemption denied

8 miles today. I thought, given that I actually ate beforehand, I might do better than last week's 8 on the 8th. Not so much. 1:40:10, but I felt better the whole time so that's something. Today's funny encounter: I stop at the half-way point (thank you, Victoria Park, for being exactly 4 miles from my house and having free clean toilets, even if you are a bit lacking in the paper department) and having done my business sit down on a bench for a minute to stretch, drink some water, and eat some gummi bears. On the next bench over is a homeless man, who immediately says to me, "Cigarette please." Sorry man, thanks for politeness, but not only do I not respond well to other people's sense of entitlement to my stuff, I don't smoke, and also, did you not notice the sweat dripping off my nose and the fact that I jogged past you? I may have emergency TP in this CamelBak, but cigarettes not so much. He looked so crestfallen when I said no.

Vacation countdown: 3 days too many...

Free Yoga on the Web

I like yoga and enjoy the odd class but am too cheap to lay out $25/class (at 12 GBP per class but I can't figure out how to make that symbol) and also sometimes I want a class *now* and there's not always a class nearby at 3:43 on a Saturday afternoon. So I have some podcasts, but I'm interested in compiling a longer list. Add your favourites in the comments - anything free is fair game.

Before you try any of these, I definitely recommend you take some classes to learn the poses and get some teacher correction on your form so you don't hurt yourself.

  • YogaJournal: an easier practice that clearly describes what to do in each pose. Very easy to follow; audio is great. There is also some video which I have never watched. Definitely a physical practice rather than a "total yoga" approach. Only a small number of choices - easy to mix-and-match to make your own practice as they have a morning or evening sequence plus a few middle sequences focusing on different areas (hips, backbends, etc); each of the middle sequences warms up, does the hardest bits in the middle, then cools down so you can end with shavasana or your prefered ending pose, or go right into another middle sequence. They also have a full practice.

  • 90 minutes of yoga with Wade: This is a much harder physical practice. Lots of vinyasas. Wade teaches an in-person class and someone (usually his wife) mics him up and records the class to put on iTunes. This means there's lots of variety and new classes coming out all the time. Unfortunately the audio isn't always great, but the biggest problem with this practice is that, because he's actually teaching to people who can see him, the directions are sometimes hard to follow, and when he gets his left mixed up from his right it gets confusing. Still, this is usually my go-to practice.

  • Hillary's yoga: This is much more a whole-yoga practice. Focus on intention and spirit as much as on the physical asanas. A bit self-promoting which gets on my nerves occasionally, but the audio quality is good and it's a nice respite from the physical focus. Another class recorded live.

So, what do you like? Kitzzy has a few ideas, including YogaDownload which has short (20 min) downloads for free (donation requested) and iYogaLife for Runners which has more articles and suggested poses, but I'm really interested in full practices we can follow.

Friday, 15 August 2008


On dailymile I was challenged to do an increasing workout. Since Fridays are a short day in my office during the summer, I decided today would be a good day to do it. I rode my bike in but before riding it home (2 bikes) I decided I would run 5 miles (1 run) and do some strength & core training (3 sets of pushups, 4 sets of lunges, 5 sets of ab work). I did everything I set out to do with the exception of actually completing the 5 miles.

On my way in this morning I made a wrong turn (surprise, surprise) and had to carry my bike down the steps near Waterloo Bridge. Something funky was going on with my left knee, and every time I'd go to step down with my right foot and have to bend the left leg, there would be a shooting pain and I'd have to clutch at the handrail to keep from falling down the steps and throwing myself and my bike into the A road at the bottom.

It feels fine walking around, but after 1 mile running today I couldn't do any more for pain and fear of falling into the Thames where the beautiful but mean swans would peck me to death. I walked for a half mile thinking I might be able to walk it off but no dice, so I walked the mile and a half back to my office to get my bike so I can complete the rest of the challenge.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Going bananas

I'm running my first half-marathon/trisko on October 5, on behalf of Leukaemia Research and as a part of the Banana Army.

Everyone who donates will get an entry into my "Guess my finishing time" sweepstakes. Simply put a note in your donation form as to the time you guess (30 second intervals) - if the time you want has been taken I'll contact you to give you another entry. The person who picks the closest time will win their choice of the following books: The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, Brain Training for Runners, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, or The Poisonwood Bible. (I've read/successfully completed a marathon with the first, want to read the next two, and the last one is for non-runner-friends who happen upon this plea for sponsorship, and is one of my favourites.)

Just click on the banner to the right to be taken to my fundraising page. Blog readers have an advantage as they can see my training log to have a more educated entry into the sweepstakes. No, I don't lie in my training logs. Maybe I should, though. :-)

Having run more recently, I finally feel I can set this up officially. Today: 4.1 miles, 50:21.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bicycle navigation

The picture below (apologies for the craptastic image editing but if you click on it I think you can see it better) shows my morning commute (in red) and my evening commute (in blue) from yesterday.

It also clearly (well, if you can actually see the image properly) shows the differentce between a just-about-one-hour commute that makes bicycling faster than taking the Underground, and a 1 hour 20 minute commute that makes it much slower, and also more dangerous as I find myself in central London swerving around bendy busses and pedicabs in the prime pre-theatre hour.

This happens to me all the time. Somewhere around Parliament Square I can't seem to go the good way in the evening. I'm learning lots about central London, though.

15.2 miles, 1:22:23.

I intended to get up this morning to run 4 miles. I very carefully set my alarm to the proper time, allowing 10 minutes of snoozing. And then I went to sleep. Notice that no where in here did I TURN MY ALARM ON. Meg's alarm went off around the time I should have been getting home. Oops. Hoping to get home in time to make it up to myself tonight.

Monday, 11 August 2008

What's Behind Door #4?

My office has showers, which makes the whole bike-to-work thing actually feasible for me. Mostly they are quite nice but this morning I went into a new one that I hadn't tried yet. Note to self: sometimes, it's better to just go with something you know is ok, rather than try something different in the hopes that it will be better. For example, shower #4, which has a dribble for water pressure and no hot water. Which of course I didn't find out until I was completely unpacked and nude, so here's me shivering and staring at my naked ass in the mirror because it didn't even get warm enough to steam up an unventilated room.

But before that, there's the commute. Reelights fitted yesterday make an at-first-annoying-later-soothing-and-rhythmic noise every time they go past the magnets. Except for the front one, which actually goes thwap thwap thwap until I look down and find that I haven't tightened the Pitlock properly and the light is pointing back at me and flashing only occasionally. Luckily today for the first time I've remembered to put my toolkit in my bag so I pull over and dig it out and tighten the nut. I also forgot to switch the Garmin back to "cycling" after Saturday's run so the display wasn't showing the things I'm used to looking at while cycling. I turn my head to check out the pace and try to convert that into mph in my head while riding and nearly drive myself into the back of a bus before skidding out and getting excited because I used the correct hand to brake with even though things are backwards in this country.

11.9 miles, 1:09:54.

Run Bulldog Run is running (ha ha) a competition wherein you can win a copy of Dean Karnazes book. Head on over to his blog if you're interested in winning your very own 50 in 50.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Speed yoga

Today's fitness activity was scheduled to be either yoga or a rest day. My hangover(s) and I had taken a few extra rest days already, so I opted for yoga. Meg had mentioned she might want to try it, so I looked a few places up and downloaded some new podcasts from YogaJournal that don't really rely on knowing the names of the poses. . But I forgot how much she *loves* the Olympics so today wasn't the day. Went downstairs planning to do "90 minutes with Wade" but accidentally pressed play on the YJ Morning Sequence instead. I was all surprised that Wade seemed to have gone soft after the birth of his kid when I wasn't sweating balls after 10 minutes. Or maybe I just wasn't doing the right practice. Could someone please give me remedial iTunes lessons? Anyway, the morning practice turned out to be exactly what I needed to stretch out some of the not-so-delayed DOMS from yesterday's 8 on the 8th, but 27 minutes was rather less than I wanted to do today. Unfortunately I only had one other YJ episode downloaded - Gentle Backbends - I wish it had been hip openers but I'll take what I can get.

I also put my new Reelights on my bike this afternon - I'm excited to try them out tomorrow, though I just realised after reading someone else's thoughts on them that I put the front one on the side away from traffic. Since Betty has a Pitlock on the front axle, it's a bit of a pain to take the front wheel off and I don't really want to redo all the screws for approximately the sixth time today. So I'm leaving it - it points forward anyway - and I'll see how it goes.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

8 on the 8th: Fit enough but lacking mental discipline

Non-Runner Nancy set up another virtual race and I finally managed to participate in one. I haven't been running much, riding my bike instead, so I was a little nervous and to be honest if Nancy hadn't set this up I probably wouldn't have done 8, especially because the weather was trademark London summer shite (cold and rainy, leaving me wishing I'd worn long sleeves instead of a tank top).

For the first time I took a Camelbak with me - I've been riding with it but have never run with it. I was really glad to have the water, but it wasn't super comfortable and I couldn't ever get it to stop sloshing.

I felt good physically - my legs and lungs are still in good enough shape to run 8 miles - but the mental discipline is completely gone. I had forgotten my iPod and could never get into the groove. I kept stopping to walk, for no reason at all. I don't think I qualify for a gold medal - maybe pity applause like when Eric Moussambani of Equitorial Guinea swam.

How do you train yourself for the mental aspects of running? I was thinking about this today - that you have to have mental discipline to get faster, but the faster you get the less you need it. I mean, Paula Radcliffe could run most of a marathon in the time it took me to run 8 miles. And closer to home, Frayed Laces ran a half-marathon faster. (Actually, most of you probably can - she was just the first woman on my blogroll with an easy-to-find PR that verified this fact.) So I'm particularly interested in hearing from those of you who are, or have been at some point, slow.

8 miles, 1:45:56

Friday, 8 August 2008

A run ... on couscous?

I went to 4 grocery stores yesterday to buy couscous for Meg's famous curried couscous for our dinner with guests last night. Seriously. No one had it. Is there some worldwide blight on the couscous plant I don't know about? (Yes, I do know it's not actually a grain and is rather more like pasta. Actually, I just learned all kinds of new things about it having gotten curious as to why there might be a shortage.)

Instead we had mashed potatoes - no shortage of potatoes in this country - and the 6 of us drank 7 bottles of wine. My hangover hurts today. But I'm still planning to run Nancy's 8 on the 8th (or 9th, or 10th) this weekend.

Oh, and I emailed the folks at dailymile to ask about the widget I wanted, and about ex-US locations for event listings, and they emailed back right away to say both are in the works! Great customer service and definitely made me want to stick around.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Social networking for athletes: because I didn't run today

I read about dailymile on someone else's blog. It's like Twitter and MySpace but with an athlete's focus - or so I hear as I'm totally not cool enough to be on either of those things. Anyway, it's pretty interesting - though I wish it had a widget so I could use it to track my training and post it here (the only widget they have so far is for putting races up on your blog). It's new though, and so far invite only. If you're interested, I'll share the love I got from the RBF myself. Just post a comment asking for an invite.

And that's what I've done for fitness today. Gave myself yet another thing to read about running, instead of running. I suck.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Cycling Commutes 6 and 7: Stay out of my lane!

Here are some things a bike lane is not:

  • extra turning space for when you can't get your big-ass car to turn around and are already blocking all the traffic lanes
  • a place for you to creep around the other cars stopped at the light so you can make your turn quicker
  • a passing lane
  • parking, however temporary your stay
  • a good place to try to flag down a bus/taxi/hooker
  • the starting line for the new "smash the biker" extreme sport you're trying to start

Monday, 4 August 2008

Cycling Commutes 4 and 5

So last week I rode my bike in on Wednesday, then unexpectedly worked until after dark. I don't have a light on my bike yet, and am not really comfortable with my routes yet, so I left my bike in the garage at work. Thursday's plan was to ride home. There was a big announcement at work and then a meet-and-greet with some new colleagues. There were drinks. I left my bike in the garage again. Finally Friday I managed to be out at a decent hour and rode home, taking in a few extra miles and hills to explore some new areas/routes, just because I could (I love half-day Fridays, even when I don't leave until 4!). About 19 miles, 1:45-ish.

Nothing active per se this weekend - Saturday met some (American) friends for brunch, then Brighton Pride, Sunday went to the Red Bull Air Races. Wanted to ride bikes but rain threatening so smashed ourselves onto the tube instead. Really wished I'd had my bike.

Quick 13 mile ride in this morning. Looking forward to riding home. Who would have thought, when I bought my bike, I'd end up like Zanne and accidentally stop running because I like my bike so much? Still, I have a half-marathon (aka a Trisko) on the schedule in October and maybe I should get with the training. Tomorrow. Fo' really reals.

Some crappy personal stuff going on that I'm not really ready to talk about but that may involve me being far from my bike for a few days. Definitely would need to run to maintain some semblance of sanity. Keep Meg's aunt (and her husband and three kids) in your thoughts.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cycling Commute #3: Free from data-geekery

I left my Garmin in my office yesterday so no data on today's ride, but just a sense that I was more comfortable and faster. I wanted to take the Farringdon route but forgot you can't turn right on Essex road so ended up going via Bank again but without the mishap of a wind through the City alleys. Near Westminster I misjudged a roundabout and got sworn at by a taxi driver but really was in no danger except from angry Londoners which is certainly safer than NYC denizens who would probably have chased me down after jumping out of the cab. Got to work on time (mostly) and at my desk by 9:20 even with getting coffee.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Cycling Commute #2: The long way home

After this mornings success it's time to head home. I decide to try to cut the riverbend jog off my route by going through the streets instead of following the river. I should have known this wouldn't work out in my favour when I missed the first turn and took a 2-mile detour. Next I discover that slightly more major streets and a little extra distance are actually my friends as I proceed to stop at every traffic light in west London. Well over an hour later I'm halfway home so I call Meg to tell her I won't be able to pick her up at her office because I'm taking so freaking long and put myself back on the river and speed towards home. I do learn a little lesson from the morning and go up via Farringdon or Barbican or somesuch instead of extra east via Old Street and the last 3 miles feel awesomely fast except that I am tired and scary hungry and also realising that right now I'm in no shape to do this AND run on the same day so it'll have to be either/or for a while. Then I came home and tried to email this post in but failed miserably so now it's the next day and I'm putting it up finally to try to hide the fact that I didn't run YET AGAIN today. And also I checked out my actual pace and the last 3 miles which felt good were actually really slow but my average moving pace was 8% slower in the evening than in the morning and I'm happy that I felt good considering it was 14% longer (yes, I'm being a data dork here.) 14.8 miles, 1:28:21

Monday, 28 July 2008

Cycling Commute #1: in which I feel awesome

After the weekend's drunken inaguration of Little Betty, this morning I decided to use her for more healthful pursuits and cycle to work. A bit of a late start and not the most efficient route left me getting to work at pushing 10am (oops) but I felt amazing. First of all, I had to ride right through the City at morning rush hour and I honestly haven't done a lot of city riding in my life so I'm not that comfortable with cars all around me. But I found several other bikers to follow and did not get hit, even by the guy driving the long flat open truck with wooden poles on it who acted like he was in a Mini. A few minor errors in navigation but I managed to not cross Putney Bridge. 13 miles and 1:20 later and I'm a rock star.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Inaugurating "The Littlest Betty": ...Pick more daisies and Monkeynuts

So Meg and I decided to go for a bike ride to get breakfast/brunch this "morning" (ok, 12:30) and on the advice of Krista decide on ...Pick More Daisies. We arrive, and except for the completely unnecessarily rude woman who yelled at us for taking her table when she went to the toilet (how were we to know when the hostess sent us to that table?) it was completely fine. Bloody Mary was disappointing - too much tomato juice and not enough Worchester or celery salt or Tobasco - but elsewise decent. They have Anchor Steam beer which Meg was happy about. I have huevos rancheros - decent except that the beans were too dry but still delich - and Meg has banana hotcakes and (underdone) streaky bacon.

Then we start walking around Crouch End and wind up in Kiss the Sky and then having dinner at MonkeyNuts (apparently MonkeyNuts is English for shells-on peanuts - who knew? - but they don't serve them there) for Brooklyn Lager (taste of home) and steaks (mine was underdone so I switched with Meg so we each had a slightly underdone steak instead of her having a perfectly done one and me having a ridiculously underdone one) and a toasted banana waffle sundae - completely unnecessary but YUM.

And then a bike ride home before it got too dark on the bikes. Loving the bike though I suspect I will be drenched after a 10-ish mile ride to work in this (English) heat.

Monday, 21 July 2008

DIY energy sources

I used Percy Pig as my fuel source during marathon training. Actually worked pretty well, and I thought they would probably be decent - all processed foods contain salt (usually in excess) and with the pork gelatin there ought to be some protein in there to balance the high GI of all that sugar, right? A quick review reveals me to be Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Yikes.

So now I'm searching for a way to make my own gels. I have a real aversion to Shot Bloks and the like - partly because I'm cheap and partly because I always hated the taste of PowerBars and partly because I don't want to go quite so processed.

The recipes I've read on the web basically all use honey as the base, with salts, peanut butter, soy protein stuff, and/or flavorings added as you like. I'm thinking I'll experiment a bit - but what do you use? Have you ever tried to go DIY?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

This could be dangerous - and tons of fun!

Meg and I bought bikes today. We've been talking about it for years (ever since our bikes got ruined in our first NY winter when we didn't have any place to bring them inside in the snow) and now we definitely have a place to keep them inside and I'm sick of the tube commute (8 miles in well over an hour - most of you RUN faster than that!). And I think this might be the inspiration for her to start exercising a bit - she was talking about going for a ride to/from dinner and I might even be able to get her excited about a triathlon (when we were in Cape Cod she was so excited to swim every day).

It could be a really expensive hobby, but it's a healthy one (as opposed to our other new no-friends hobby, the Wii) so whatever. It's going to be the impetus for me to get a bladder for the Camelbak my landlord left behind (yay!) and now Meg is looking up bike trips in Vietnam for our planned tour of Southeast Asia next year.

In that spirit - does anyone commute to work on their bike? Are the big spatulas that come with the bike going to cut it as pedals? Should I graduate immediately to those toe cage things, or wait until I'm hardcore enough to justify clipins?

(Pics coming as soon as my bike actually arrives at the shop...on Tuesday!)

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Jetlag 10k

I live an exciting life, let me tell you. My jetlag and I got off a plane at 6:30 this morning, slept until 2, did a little work (and catching up on blogs...429 posts left!), then spent Friday evening running 10k. [And Week 1, Day 2 of 100 Pushups - maxed at 4 + down but no up]

Life is finally settling down again. No photos from the holiday yet but it was amazing. The baby is so cute, and seriously the happiest baby I've ever met. My time in New York was as expected - I got to hang out with a few friends but mostly work stuff.

I do miss NYC though. My morning run there was awesome, despite the heat and humidity even at 6:30 am. I miss seeing loads of runners in the morning (London is definitely an after-work workout town), and watching the city wake up. I'd never run along the East River at that time of morning before, and didn't realize it was home to quite so many people - some of whom had amazing setups, including one couple who managed to bed down in the garden, under a tree, and were almost definitely the last to wake up that morning as it still looked cool and dark even as the rest of us were sweating. Some people might find that off-putting, but it really felt like home to me, though of course I wish there was no need for anyone to sleep on the street ever. I had a lovely chat with a guy who was fishing for breakfast as well.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

No time but an ORN

Running to a meeting (in NYC) but before I forget wanted to write today's Obligatory Running Note - 4.5 miles, 1 hour. 3 1-mile repeats (sort of). Week 1, Day 1 of 100 pushups. Maxed out at 4.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack!

Wow. I love the long holiday. I'm a total European-style-vacation convert. Like many Americans, I used to believe the long weekend, on a regular basis, was sufficient to keep me refreshed. No longer. I spent the first week renewing my spirit (Glastonbury festival - complete hedonism) and the second week reviving my body (sleeping in, a little running, swimming). I'm back today feeling alive.

I ran once in this time. Oops. Not a great run, because I did it: hung over, after a huge breakfast, in the middle of the day, in 85+ degree weather and 80% humidity. But 10k later and I felt awesome. Other than that, I plan to take my jetlag to bed early, run a long one (10 miles?) this weekend, and start up on the plan and the 100 push-up challenge next week.

I've missed you all, and will spend some time catching up on the 400 blog posts you've accumulated while I've been gone!

Monday, 23 June 2008


All things in balance - that's my desire for my life.

In my early 20s, I had a pretty good balance. I left graduate school because it didn't leave room for balance. I played rugby, and trained to a degree that would let me play at a level that would challenge me yet not require me to do this to the exclusion of all else (to the disappointment of my obsessed friends...who, to their credit, are now playing for the national team). I had friends, and a dating life, and was in touch with my family. My job, however, sucked.

In my late 20s, I had a great job that I pursued to the exclusion of lots of other things. Fitness, first of all, but also creative pursuits like writing and photography. I did, however, have a good social life and a wedding to the love of my life.

At 30, I'm not loving my job (though I try not to talk about it here too much - lack of privacy on the internet and all) so I'm taking this time to re-focus on: balance. I'm making sure I use all my vacation days. I'm leaving the job at work. I'm running and traveling and eating well. I'm making sure to maintain connections with friends and family while I'm far from them.

Which brings me to: the lack of running this last week, and into next week. I need some time away from my life, so we took a city break this weekend, and I didn't even "pretend" that I was going to run. Instead, we walked a lot. We are going to Glastonbury, and I won't be running there. I am not hashing this week - I need to pack up, and right now the vacation is the highest priority for me. But I'll be back running during the second half of my long, much needed vacation.

I'm putting my running into perspective, and finding balance (I hope)!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

In reply

In reply to some comments lately:

Yes, Jess, OFM is directly east of BFE. Both are past Over the River and Through The Woods, though less far than Mars.

Laura - let me know when you find a top like that you can run in. I'll buy 100.

Joe - Even though I've been going out with the hashers, I haven't yet really been running "with" anyone. People generally hook up with their pace-friends. I don't have any yet, though I did walk across a big field with a couple people last time. I'm kind of introverted in person so I'm not that great about introducing myself to people.

In reply to life:
I can't wait to go on holiday. I need to get out of my office for a while. I actually hate not being busy at work. It makes me surf the web all day and then I'm lazy and depressed and don't run.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

On On with the FRBs

Went out for another hash yesterday. Some familiar (to me) faces but since I haven't been in a month they thought I was a newbie again. Much older crowd than last time, and the location (Clapham South) is in outer-fucking-mongolia as far as my regular tube riding goes. Still, good to see a new area of London, and I was keeping up much better than last time. Partly I think it was that the trail was laid by a back-of-the-packer so he really thought about how to keep the group together, and partly I was feeling a little fresher, but I did find myself at the front of the pack (among the Front Running Bastards [FRBs]) in search of the trail for a few minutes. Afterwards was pretty low-key, but the pub provided snacks - a nice surprise. All in all a little less welcoming than last time, but I'll give it one more shot.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lazy weekend

No running at all this weekend. Friday afternoon was spent in search of a dress for a Saturday Bat Mitzvah. Then of course Saturday was the event, which we planned very poorly for. Early wakeup, train to Heathrow to hire a car, drive to temple, listen to Hebrew. Congratulate honorees. Now have 5 hours to kill before reception but are hours from home. Wish we had brought something to do, or had been able to figure out a way to shower so I could run during this time. Go to the movies and eat too much popcorn instead. Attend reception with loads of 13 year olds. Laugh while they dance dances with names (macarena, electric slide, etc). Drive back to Heathrow. Return car. Get on tube home with 19 year olds drunk and talking loudly. Go home, fall into bed, sleep 12 hours. Wake up in time to quick clean the house before brunch with a friend and landlord coming over. Get drunk with friend. Realise no running will be done. Fall into bed. Wake up with a start that it's Monday morning and feel sad.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Kiss your wife

The theme for this week's Take it and Run Thursday is "As you begin your marathon training, don't forget..." I suspect others will have good advice about running the thing. Not me. My advice is "don't forget to kiss your wife (or kids, or dog, or boyfriend, or or or)."

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Literally: Marathon training takes a lot of physical energy. You'll probably be up early and in bed early. Don't forget your relationships, especially the "intimate" ones. Enough said.

Figuratively: I've said repeatedly that I wouldn't have finished the marathon without Meg. She was my biggest cheerleader during the race, keeping me fueled and hydrated when I couldn't do it for my self. But the truth is I probably wouldn't have gotten to the starting line without her either. Although running a marathon is an intensely personal experience, it was really nice to hear her say how proud she was of me, and have her tell people (everyone we met, it seemed like!) that I was running a marathon.

No matter how fast you are, how early you get up, marathon training is going to interfere with the rest of your life. There will be weekend nights you want to stay in and hydrate instead of eating a nice restaurant meal with a bottle of wine. There will be mornings you miss the entire morning routine because your short run took longer than expected. And unless you're a hermit on a remote island (in which case, what marathon are you running? and how are you reading this blog?) it's going to interfere with the lives of people whose life you're in.

So, as you embark on your marathon training, remember you're not in it alone. Thank your partner for packing you a healthy lunch to keep your runner's body fueled. Thank the kids for walking the dog even though it's your turn. Thank your friends for waiting to start Saturday morning's activity until you return from your 20 miles.

Remember to kiss your wife.

That's not really the point, now, is it?

I beat back Morning Brain this morning, who reared her ugly head at 5:45 with thoughts of going back to sleep and putting off the run until tomorrow afternoon. Rational me was awake enough to say, "remember how great you felt on Tuesday when you ran before work? Get up." and I only hit snooze twice (8 minutes total - I have a short snoozer) and was out of bed before 6. Yay me.

Took the first 2 miles nice and easy, as prescribed by the schedule: 12:09 and 12:36. Next three were scheduled to be at 11:06 pace. I ran each of them faster than that (10:25, 10:43, 10:38) but I stopped to catch my breath at the mile markers, kind of missing the objective of key run #2 - to run fast when tired. Duh. Then a nice slow jog with some walking mixed in for mile 6 (13:45) and I'm home just in time to catch Meg before she gets in the shower and leaves my key-losing self locked out on the doorstep for the second time in 2 days.

6 miles, 1:10:55 (11:50 pace)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Double D Review: Glamourise Sport Bra

About a year ago, my sister and I did an Urban Dare together. (Side note - totally fun! Thanks to dad and Meg for help from home.) I was just getting into running and pretty out of shape, plus the format of the event is that there's a fair amount of stop-and-starting. Combined, this made for a sweaty me who would get cooled off and then start running again.

I have a couple of these bras. I always wondered why one fit more comfortably, while the other offered more control. I finally figured out that I bought them in 2 different sizes, so now I wear the more comfortable one for shorter runs or non-running activities and the smaller, tighter one to control the bounce on long runs - once I get going I don't tend to notice the feeling of constriction anyway!

All of this is a long-winded warm-up to my review of this bra. It's one of the most "regular bra"-like bras I run in on anything resembling a regular basis. The Urban Dare was my first foray into the world of chafing under the boobage, and still one of my worst experiences with it. I think something about the salt drying on my skin plus the movement of this bra (I was wearing the more comfortable one) contributed to the scars I still bear.

I find that this bra does leave some chafing, but it's really comfortable while I'm running and I don't generally notice until I'm in the shower. It's pretty good at reducing the bounce. There's no uniboob effect - an extra bonus if I'm doing anything other than running while in my running outfit (running errands, hashing, etc).

Pros: Considering its status as a "big breasted runner's bra", not too expensive. No uniboob. Hooks in the back - easy to get off when I'm all sweaty.
Cons: Chafing. Bounce not entirely banned.
Rating: 1 1/2 cups. I'll probably buy more but it isn't perfect.

Ecofriendly running shoes - the next frontier?

Runners go through an enormous number of shoes. Whether you donate your used ones to the homeless, get them remade into athletic track surface, or putter around in the garden with them, you've got to do something to keep them from cluttering your closet after the cushioning has worn out and they've done their required 500 miles (that could be 12 pair a year if you run as much as Betsy!). The materials that go into them aren't exactly biodegradable - yet. Apparently some elite marathoners at Beijing will be running in shoes constructed partly of rice.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

I [heart] intervals

I love interval training, I really do. It appeals to my competitive nature, and if I'm honest it gives me time to rest my lazy butt! I went out for the first Key Run #1 on my new half marathon training plan this morning - 12x400 (well, quarter miles). Target time: 2:30. Actual times: 2:15/2:30/2:49/2:49/2:40/2:21/2:14/2:25/2:45/2:25/2:59/2:15 - average 2:32. Pretty good, I'd say - but I did take some extra rest in there.

I didn't set out with any particular route in mind, just up the road. At some point I saw the sign for the New River path and decided to take it up through Haringey. A little dodgy in some places because I couldn't see much in front of me, but I felt safe since I was basically running behind people's back yards, though I have to admit I was thinking about Jog Blog's discussion of dodgy-looking men on the path and whether she'll be attacked or not. The path was really overgrown but it was so nice not to be running on concrete I didn't mind the thorny bushes attacking me. I seem to have missed the path when it crossed the road, because then I was back on the concrete pavements sucking diesel fumes. But I did not get lost even though I have never run in this particular area before (yay me) and maintained enough internal geography to be heading back home at the right time to hit Finsbury Park with one interval left to run and then just over a mile home to cool down.

Does anyone else think about food while running? I was kicking myself for not putting a pot of coffee on before I left, and planning my breakfast (toast with peanut butter, which I did not get because I didn't get to the work kitchen before they put the toaster away for the day, and a latte which I did finally get at 11:30) and snacks (deciding that the mid-afternoon desire for a chocolate bar means I need to have a yogurt and some fruit then, but I still didn't go to the supermarket before work to get them) and realising there's tons of fruit in my kitchen that really needs to be eaten up before it goes off and generally making myself hungry.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Half-ass training

Only 2 posts ago I went on and on about the 10ks I planned to run this summer, and how I was going to do FIRST-like training for them, and blah blah blah. I'm going to do the same here about my new half-marathon plan, which should have me running a 2 1/2 hour half marathon in October - that's an 11:15 pace, people! I totally know I can do it.

I did have to make a little modification, because I should have started training last week, so I had to cut the second-to-last key runs (skipping a run of 12 miles, plus a 5x 1k and a 6 miler with 3 at short tempo pace) but I think it will be ok. I probably should cut one more week in recognition of my holiday plans but I think what I'll do instead is just recognize that something will get cut and go forward as if I've done those runs anyway.

Allergy season isn't exactly the best time to start up again, but at least I'm not dealing with the heat wave the rest of you are.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

You people are prolific!

Man, I go away on holiday/work trip and then get too busy to read, and finally things calm down and I find you have written 200 blog posts and I try to be a good blogger so I read them all even though I am mostly too lazy to comment. Finally caught up...

Anyway, yesterday was supposed to be the Heart First 10k but I'd had a crap week at work so far but yesterday was awesome so I wanted to celebrate with my team, plus I felt crap. So I bailed on my £0 entry fee and didn't go - even though I have been breaking all the rules by wearing the shirt (as PJs) already.

And then I realized that I will be away for the wife's birthday for the Hampstead 10k so I should just get over myself and start on the half-marathon training already, which goes well with the training I've been doing so far - half-assedly thinking about running in the morning before hitting snooze and going back to sleep.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Consider me kicked

I asked for a kick in the pants to get my lazy butt out of bed. Consider me kicked.

I'm doing a vaguely-FIRST-like training for a couple of weeks before a 10k. I based the times off a good (for me) training run, one that would have had me running a 33-ish minute 5k, with the idea that after the 10k I will re-evaluate (or maybe just continue with these training paces) for another 10k (probably the Hampstead Midsummer 10k on June 22) (can I get another parenthetical into this sentence?). Then a fall half marathon. I got a golden bond place to Run to the Beat (expect to see me begging for donations soon) on October 5, and I'll be on holiday for 2 weeks at the end of June/beginning of July, so this schedule would give me something to train for during the next month, a couple weeks without plan while on holiday, then basically return home in time for a 12-week training program to begin.

Anyway, so today I did Key Run #1 - intervals. I cut the warmup and cooldown a little short, mostly because I didn't get up in time to run the full 6 miles on the schedule. I did all 8 intervals (program says 400s, I find it easier to do quarter-miles because Garmin is set up in miles) and managed to keep the splits pretty consistent; my recovery intervals actually got faster - I started out by walking them but was getting bored so started jogging most of them to no ill effect. I struggled a bit with feeling a little crampy during the recoveries, but felt great when actually running. Guess I shouldn't take recoveries!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I went out for my first hash last night. It was really fun, and the people were so welcoming. They tried to get me to come out for another one tonight, but the one I went to last night is supposed to be a "social" hash and and I was middle-to-back of the pack. Tonight's is a "runners" hash so I think I'll wait until I improve a bit before I join them. In any case, I'll totally be back, though I perhaps could have chosen better as a first-after-the-marathon-and-three-weeks-on-the-couch run. Wow am I stiff this morning though. And the welcome beers meant that Morning Brain was joined by Hangover Brain so I did not do the planned 6 miles this morning. Luckily I have a mid-morning dr's appt tomorrow so I can do them tomorrow without having to wake up extra early - that seems like a good way to ease back into it!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

My next run

Bill raises a good point - the way to get over the post marathon dithering is to have the next one lined up. So I picked one. It's about 3 weeks from now, so my training certainly won't make me peak, but the price is right (free!), the location is right (in London), and it's a distance I can feel confident in (anywhere between 1.25 and 10k, completely up to you on the day).

I'm planning for 10k, on the first 3 weeks of the FIRST 10k program. Any London bloggers want to meet up for this event?

After that, I may do the Heathside 10k or the Great Capital 10k. I've applied for a charity place for Run to the Beat half marathon in October.

Here's to getting back on the roads.

One step closer

I know, I know, this is a running blog. This post has absolutely to do with running, and may generate strong feeling in the comments, but it's about something too near and dear to me not to comment on.

As of May 15, same-sex couples in California have access to the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage. NY state recognizes such marriages performed in other states. It's a happy day for us.

Meg and I will be getting a legal marriage the next time we're in California (likely later this year). We had our "real" wedding, in front of friends and family, a year and a half ago. We've owned real estate together for nearly 5 years. We're clearly committed to one another without the need for a state - not even our own - to tell us so. So why do it again?

Let me start by repeating what I said above - we consider the day we stood up in front of our loved ones and publically promised our lives to each other to be our real wedding day. But the protections offered by the law are either not available at all (the right to inherit from one another without paying taxes) or only available by explicit additional legal paperwork (the right to visit one another in hospital and be considered next of kin).

I actually believe that marriage is a religious rite that should be separated from the civil benefits of committed partnerships. If your church says not to recognize same-sex partnerships, more power to you - that's the beauty of separation of church and state. But the state should not be in the business of providing rights and priviledges to one group of people and denying them to another. And as long as these civil benefits are conferred via the religious rite, they should be equally accessible to all people. So, if you don't support same-sex marriage, work to separate the civil benefits from the teachings of your church. Because regardless of what your god tells you, the Constitution prohibits discrimination.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Morning Brain vs Afternoon Brain

Why haven't I been running lately? It's all to do with the conflict between Morning Brain and Afternoon Brain.

Afternoon Brain says, "Let's work out."
Morning Brain says, "I'm sleepy. I'll go with Afternoon Brain (AB)."
AB: Remember, we don't generally get home before 7:30 or 8. The job that gets going about 11 (even though we've been there since 9) plus the hour commute and a need to eat at a normal hour and go to sleep at a normal hour mean that a post-work workout just doesn't work for us.
MB: I'm sleepy.
AB: You feel great when you work out. Just get up. Start tomorrow.
MB: I'm sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.

What I would like to do:
M: Yoga in the morning. Hash in the evening.
T: FIRST key run #1.
W: Swim (or yoga until I get my pool pass in order)
Th: FIRST key run #2. Play volleyball with the wife in the evening.
F: Yoga.
Sa: FIRST key run #3.
Su: Swim if at home. Rest if busy.
Add a random tennis match with the wife in there once in a while.

What I have done since the marathon:
M: sleep
T: sleep
W: sleep
Th: sleep
F: sleep
Sa: yoga
Su: sleep

Does anyone else see the problem here? I've been wanting to go to bed at like 10pm and barely dragging myself out of bed at 7:30. I suspect that I need to just get up and that will help me not feel so sleepy. But I haven't been able to overrule MB yet.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Updated review: Bendon Sports Max

Here's a little something for all you Googlers who are looking for a review of the Bendon Sports Max bra I reviewed in my most popular post.

As I mentioned in that post, this bra quickly became my new favourite. It had a good squish/bounce-control factor but was still comfortable enough that I was willing to overlook the fact that I had to get help to get it off after every run. (Though that may say something more about my flexibility than about the bra itself.)

I bought this bra in mid-February. I washed it - and dried it - roughly once a week. I packed it for the marathon. I brought backups of just about everything else, but I was so confident in my choice of chin protector that I didn't bring a backup bra. The night before the marathon, I realised the underwire was poking out a bit, but it was easy enough to push it back into the casing and I didn't worry about it.

26.2 miles later. I have minor gouges on the sternum side of both breasts, presumably because the underwires escaped from the casing again or else were rubbing away even inside their casings. I have a moderate bit of chafing underneath where the band rubbed on my ribs. But the worst is the 2 spots on my back where the hooks and eyes are. These are scar-inducing chafages.

So, while we've had a good run, I think this bra may be relegated to the minor leagues of the short weekday run, and it won't be long before it will have to go to the big playground of the small-breasted in the sky.

Pros: Good while it lasted
Cons: See above
Updated rating: 1 cup.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Is marathoning an addiction?

I just entered the ballot for the 2009 London Marathon. Is it an addiction? Can running 12 marathons be the 12 steps?

Saturday, 3 May 2008

The worst race map ever

I was so confused by the race map that came with my race packet. I walked all over Blackpool the day before the marathon, and felt more equipped to read and understand it, but I still got it wrong. Here's the actual race path I ran - starting from red and ending with purple (ROYGP, with apologies to my first grade teacher). Water stops, as best I can remember them, in blue.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


I realised that my race report may have given a rather dejected impression of my race. I'm still working on an objective Blackpool Marathon review, but in the meantime I thought it would be good to reiterate how extraordinarily pleased I am about my marathon.

In some ways, even, the hurdles that Blackpool (or Crappool as Bill has christened it!) threw at me make me even more proud of myself. It would have been great to have cheering throngs spurring me on for 5 hours - and the marathon would be no less of an accomplishment had they been there. But...

One of the reasons I decided to run a marathon was to strengthen my inner resolve. And the stretch of the race where I was running past chip shops and drunken stags and holiday-making families, weaving around them on the pavement, completely alone in the race - at that moment, the only thing moving me forward was that inner resolve.

Another reason I wanted to run a marathon was that I'm a starter, not really a finisher. I get excited about new things, new projects, new hobbies, new obsessions rather easily. But seeing them through to the end - that's something I wish I did better. My training log exemplifies this pattern. But I'd committed myself to this marathon. Everyone I knew, and everyone on the internet, knew I was doing it. I had to get myself to the starting line. And once there, and moving forward, no matter how much I wanted to stop and how loud the refrain in my head saying "you don't have to do this," there was the feeling that I'd be letting down myself and everyone who cheered me to the starting line if I stopped for no reason, so I kept asking myself "why are you going to quit? Just because you're tired? That's no reason. Tired goes away but imagine how good you'll feel at the end." And I kept going until I finished.

Dick Beardsley once said that when you cross the finish line of the marathon, it will change your life forever. I didn't believe it when I was on the pre-crossing side - it's just a race, it isn't as if I'm getting shot at or delivering babies in war-torn countries or even sitting down to lunch with the homeless guys on my block. I believe it now. I'm not about to become one of those "sunshine and butterflies" unrealistically optimistic/annoying people. I'm not going to stop dropping the f-bomb in polite company. I'll probably still have trouble finishing things that I start. But I've proven that I can do something incredibly difficult all on my own, and the next time, when I run a marathon with screaming hordes of cheering fans and 50,000 of my closest friends, and it's still tough, I'll always know that I did it once without those things, and I can dig within myself to improve.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

5 ways to make your first marathon better than mine

  1. Choose a big-city or beginner-friendly marathon. I explicitly chose a small marathon like Blackpool, because I didn’t want to run my first in London where I’d be shoulder-to-shoulder the whole time, and I stand by that decision. But if I had my first to do over, I’d run one that had more support for the average-to-slow runner. It’s obnoxious to have them open the road before you’re finished, especially because I was honest in my application as to the time I expected to finish in and I think it’s the responsibility of the race organisers to get a permit for at least the length of time the registered runners expect to be on the course. It detracts a bit from the sense of accomplishment when the race team looks like they’d rather be washing their cats than waiting for a 5+ hour marathoner. I know I’m not elite, but I don’t think my time is anything to be ashamed of.
  2. Do not, under any circumstances, lose your Body Glide or other body lubricant of choice the week before the marathon. Enough said.
  3. If you’re travelling, bring your own breakfast from home. I suspect this is England-specific, because things close so early here, but really I’d recommend it for everyone – it would have been a huge load off my mind and I think might have resulted in a sub-5-hour finish for me.
  4. Bring supporters who love and understand you. I don’t know that I could have done this without Meg. She met me along the course, and gave me bananas, and told me repeatedly how proud she was of me and how great I was doing, even when it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. She didn’t take it personally when I snapped at her in my glycogen-depleted state.
  5. Expect to have times when you don’t think you can do this. At my lowest, I reminded myself that “it’s just the wall, it’s normal, and you’re going to be ok.” When I could rationalise it like that, it was easier to keep going forward.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Race report

Pre-race: Friday night we packed up. I was really antsy. I bought two bags of Percy Pigs for the weekend and taped 5 20p coins to one bag for toilet stops along the race course, planning for the second to go in my post-race kit (insert foreshadowing times two here). We took the train from London to Blackpool on Saturday. Once we arrived, we dropped our things at the Warwick Holiday Flats. Honestly, I could have chosen better for a place to stay, but when I was making my selection I was looking for a place my sister’s boyfriend could join us at and a place our dog could go as well. Plus, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. Neither my sister’s boyfriend or the dog came along, and I think it would have been a good investment to spend a little more money to have a place with a bed that, to quote Meg, didn’t have a bed that “felt like £34/night.” But it was clean, and convenient, and what more can a girl ask for?

Next we went for a walk in search of the race expo. As you should all know by now, my sense of direction leaves a little something to be desired. I was completely convinced that the race headquarters was south of our home for the weekend. We walked a good part of the promenade, and asked a couple of people where the Hilton hotel was. The first people we asked were the little old ladies volunteering at the lifeboat museum. They didn’t really understand my American accent, or weren’t sure where the Hilton was, or something, so they vaguely pointed north but I didn’t really believe them. We started walking north, though, and then asked one of the horse & carriage drivers. He also said north, and said, walk, and then walk some more, and then walk some more, and you can’t miss it. I think he was angling for a fare to the hotel, but whatever – I’m about to run a marathon – how far can it be? Anyway we walked north about a mile, and lo and behold, there it was!

Race expo: a little disappointing. It was maybe an hour before closing, and they seemed pretty ready to pack up. One set of tables, with things for sale in plastic tubs and no one staffing it. One lady handing out bags for your kit. A couple people offering pre-race massages for a donation. A few more stuffing race bags. The end. I get my kit bag, and we leave. I was glad we found the hotel/race start/finish, but otherwise a totally miss-able experience. Dinner at Tiramisu on the recommendation of both the internet and our hotel proprietor – delicious. I suspect this is the nicest restaurant in Blackpool, a town which is home of fried fried. We then attempted to buy something resembling healthy for breakfast. All the big stores were closed, and the off-licenses specialised in beer, cigarettes, and lotto tickets – if you’re lucky you can get some crisps. Home again – having walked a good portion of Blackpool, I feel much better equipped to analyse the race map and try to understand it but we’re still confused.

Race morning: No breakfast to be found. No grocery stores open – most people here were coming home from the bars as we were getting up at 6:30am. I arrive at the race at 7:30 hoping someone there will be selling something other than Lucozade bars. No dice. I dig the Percy Pigs out of my post-race kit bag and eat them. I drop off my kit bag and Meg asks me how it’s organised – will I have to dig through piles of bags to find mine? I say that by the time I finish I suspect there won’t be that much digging to do. We wander around. The race commentator is talking to or about most of the people who walk by, especially if they’ve got a big contingent of supporters or are wearing shirts that say which charity they’re running for. I have neither. He ignores us. Slightly before 9 it’s time to line up.

Race: I find a couple women who are talking about planning for 12 minute miles and line up near them. There are 1900 people here, around 700 (actualyy 502) for the marathon and the rest for the half marathon. Maybe 5 wheelchair participants between the two events. They set up at the front. The race commentator says the gun will go twice – once for the wheelchair racers and once for the rest of us. I faintly hear the gun go off and assume the wheelchair racers have started. We start shuffling forward. I think that we’re just getting up to the mat for the start. Suddenly people in front of us are jogging and I realise we’re off.

Mile 1 is at a 10:30 pace. Too fast, but it feels comfortable at the time, and I’m staying with my companions and most of the back of the pack. (In retrospect, I’m glad I adopted this strategy – I think I would have quit if I’d been last from the very first mile.) Mile 2 finds my left foot going numb, but I’m determined to run the first 3 miles before breaking into the planned run-walk so I do. Around the 2 mile mark I see Meg before she sees me and I run up and give her a slightly sweaty kiss and she takes a photo of me way too close. At mile 3 I stop to retie my shoe and walk the first minute of the next mile.

For the first 10 miles I’m walking 1 minute out of every mile, eating a Percy Pig during this minute, and doing 11:30 miles or so. Then the lack of breakfast starts to get me. At the halfway point I call Meg, say “I’m at the halfway and fading – can you get me a banana?” I see her at mile 15 or so. She brings me a banana and a big water. I think I snapped at her. Apparently someone behind me commented on what a great support she is. The racers are thinning out, but I’m definitely still in it. I get her to take my phone out of my back pocket because my lower back is really hurting and I don’t want to have anything there that isn’t absolutely necessary.

My iPod has 4+ hours of unique songs on it, plus my book. I’ve listened to OAR’s Old Man Time about 7 times at this point, and several other songs (including more OAR) are in heavy rotation. This is already irritating so I try out the book. That lasts about a half hour before I need the beat again, and put my iPod back on “shuffle” so I can listen to the same 6 songs over and over. (I’m looking at my playlist now, and there are songs on there I KNOW I didn’t hear, and lots that I heard over and over and over.)

The run-walk strategy means I am constantly running past people and then being passed by them, so I see my 12-minute-mile companions quite a bit but in general we don’t run together much. From the crappy pre-race map I knew that this was a two-lap marathon, but I didn’t really realise how disheartening it would be to be lapped.

I make the first turn on the second lap, and the traffic cops drive by saying they’re going to open the road again. I say something unrepeatable in front of a family with 5 kids under 8. I’m sure the parents were less than impressed – sorry. I pass a woman going the other way who is shuffling worse than I am, and I shout to her “Hang in there, we’re going to finish this!” Some crazy drunken stag weekend guys repeat this at me. I ignore them, mostly because I don’t have the energy to give them the finger. The race marshals are encouraging me to run in the road as it’s easier on the feet but the cops are telling me I have to run on the “pavement” (sidewalk). I’m hitting the wall hard, and walking as much as I’m running. Miserable. Wondering why I’m doing this, and if I can do it. There’s no one from the race around – hardly any race officials and I’m just shuffling past the holiday-makers by myself. Lots of people who have already finished are walking back. Some of them cheer me on, most think I’m just jogging off an earlier finish and ignore me.

Mile 19 – I see Meg. I’m walking. She gives me another banana and asks how I’m doing. I say that everything hurts. She says “do you want to keep going?” I snap, “I’m going to finish.” I suspect she could have outwalked me at this point, but I made it pretty clear I didn’t want her to walk with me, taking off at a shuffle until I can’t pick my feet up any more and walk some more. I think I was probably the last racer at this point, and the marshals look bored and I have to ask where to go several times. I finish my (second bag of) Percy Pigs somewhere in here and drop the empty bag – the one that I had taped my toilet money to. This will come back to haunt me around mile 23. My hamstrings and lower back are really cramping up and I have to stop to stretch a couple of times.

I’m off the road and onto the sea wall now, which I know from reading previous years’ race reports is often the toughest part for people because it’s about 3 miles of concrete in each direction. Race officials or cops or Red Cross people or someone keep driving by, checking out my race number – I can only assume this is so they can radio back to the finish line as to how many people are still out there and how much longer they’ll all have to hang out. I think they were saying things to me but I was inside my head and with my headphones on so I would mostly just smile and keep slogging away. Part of me hopes they’ll make me stop and say I’m doing too badly to keep going, because everything hurts and I don’t know how much longer I can do this but I am too tough quit without someone to be angry at about it.

Mile 21 or so I start to rally but I also start to have to pee. I realise I’ve thrown out my toilet-opening coins. I consider ducking behind any number of structures but am afraid to stop moving forward. I consider peeing on the run, but don’t really want to piss myself for a 5+ hour marathon. I catch up with a guy that I think is walking off his already-finished marathon, but somewhere around mile 23 I realise he’s still slogging through it with me. I pass a couple guys who are walking, and fading faster than I am. I haven’t seen shuffling lady for a while. My original race companions see me about to make the second turn of the second lap and give me a shout. I’m getting hungry. I’m walking about half the time and leapfrogging with the guy I thought had already finished.

At mile 25 I start running/jogging/shuffling more than I’m walking again but I’ve lost the guy – he’s still in my sights but when I walked up a hill he got away from me and I know I can’t catch him at this point since we’re on roughly the same pace. At mile 26 I “sprint,” but have started this too soon and have to slow down from 26.05-26.15. I manage to run across the finish line, and Meg is there, cheering her head off for me.

The race officials look bored, but give me a “congratulations” anyway. I get a medal. The guy who cuts your chip off has moved up to just after the finish mat and I’m not really ready to stop moving forward at this point so when he tells me to stand still I almost bowl him over before steadying myself on his shoulders and bracing myself so he can lean down and cut my chip off. The race commentator has gone home – apparently he was there until his buddy finished at 4-½ hours and then he left. I get water and a t-shirt and some Lucozade and a bag full of snacks. Meg tells me that I got the second-to-last medal – apparently they didn’t order enough and they were going to have to give a couple of people 2 half-marathon medals or give them the option to wait 3 months to have more sent to them. She tried to get the officials to give her one, but they wouldn’t because I “can’t get one unless I finish.” Meg tells them they don’t know me, and that I will finish even if I’m crawling across the line. The race officials promise that if it’s close I’ll get one and they’ll make someone else wait. Good thing, because I think I might have killed someone at that point if I didn’t get my medal right then.

We walk back to the race headquarters. I manage to make my way up the stairs to the portable toilets. We go inside and I get my kit bag – I was right, there’s no digging to be done because there are only 3 other kit bags waiting. I’ve lost all shame and change my clothes in public. I put on the shirt from my favourite sushi place and my medal and a pair of pyjama pants and flip-flops. Meg takes pictures. We shuffle back to our hotel where I shower and find every single place on me that’s chafed.

I eat a bunch of snacks and we take the tram down to Pleasure Beach where we ride the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Europe and stop in the casino for a very delicious beer. We try to find someplace decent for dinner but everything is deep-fried grease. Finally we go to a local Italian chain-type place. I finish my pasta and say, I don’t think I want dessert, but Meg says she’s ordering some for me anyway and we order the toffee & brownie sundae for 2 to share and it’s all I can do not to slurp up the melted ice cream out of the bottom of the bowl. A half an hour later we’re trying to watch a movie and I’m asleep by 10.


*This race report was heavily edited by Meg, because she has a better memory of what happened when than I do.

I did it!

Still working on the race report (4 pages and counting...feel free to skip that post!) but I did it. Bit of a slog but I finished in 5:26:48.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Lazy Blogging

Elite Feet has given me 10 more reasons to know I can finish the marathon. Bill has agreed to "run" with me, even though he had a fabulous Boston run and is suffering through the post-race shuffle. I'm planning for a 5 to 5.5 hour finish, so I suspect he'll be ok. Oh, and I promise to bring (and wear) sunscreen, even though it looks like rain.

I'm leaving in the morning, and depending on the wireless service in my hotel may not be able to post until I get back on Monday. So - thanks for all your well wishes, and I'll see you when I can say "I'm a marathoner."

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

When to run?

Juls wrote a post that describes how I'm feeling about running these days. Slow Poke too. Must be going around these days.

I like to run. I enjoy it when I get out there. But the waking up at 6, I could do without. And by the time I get home from work, I'm pretty well done for the day and no real interest in going out to run. Plus, if Meg is home I feel guilty leaving to run especially as that means we often don't eat until 9. I'm going to try today to run after work.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Double D Review: Moving Comfort Micro Brief with DriLayer

Not too long ago, I did my longest marathon-prep run. Don't laugh. At the end, I was having some chafage in the nether regions. I searched high and low for a pair of dry layer drawers, and finally found one (1!) pair at the runner's shop in Grand Central, having been to Modell's, Jackrabbit, and any other place in NYC I could think of. I probably wouldn't have bought more than one pair, anyway, since I had never tried them out and the only size they had I thought would be maybe a little too small. I put them on and they fit great. I ran a moderate-length run on one of the warmest days yet. No chafing. Now if I can only get them clean in time for the weekend.
Pros: No chafing! Comfy.
Cons: Impossible to find. $$$$ [I can't remember precisely, but something nearing $15]
Double D Rating: 1.5 cups.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Banksy Prepares Me

Cathy from JogBlog let me know about a new Banksy near me. Apparently she found out about it from LondonJogger but I can't seem to find it on her blog so I'll have to take the word of Cathy and my recollection that I read it there too. Considering its proximity to my house it's kind of embarassing I haven't seen it yet, so in preparation for the marathon next week (!) I made sure I went by it today on my run. I took a picture but am too dumb to figure out how to get it off my phone so check out JogBlog for a photo. It's covered in plastic now to protect it from the idiots who want to re-graffiti this piece of street art. Stupid Garmin runs out of batteries less than one mile in so I estimate a run and I accidentally turn west when I mean east at the canal and get to the Islington tunnel and get irritated at my idiocy and run around for a while until I feel like I've gotten a good run in and then I go home. Maybe 7 miles? Maybe an hour and a half? Who knows. Who cares? I'm feeling as ready as I can be.

Good luck tomorrow to Bill and everyone else running Boston. I'll be cheering you from afar!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Local flavor

So, I'm in NYC this weekend (got to be here for work next week, wanted to visit with friends). I went for a run yesterday morning, but I really couldn't get into it. I walked rather more than I should have, wishing I had a book to listen to. On the way back, I was following a couple of guys and letting them pace me, which was awesome - when I started following them they were running my nice slow pace but slowly picked it up and I stayed with them for a couple of miles. It got me excited about the marathon; here's hoping there's someone planning a 5-5:30 marathon to run with me! I ended up running for about an hour and a half - not too bad.

Then we went out to sushi with a bunch of friends at our favorite place. We used to live near by and got to know these guys. Then we moved to another neighborhood, and didn't go as regularly, but they always remember us. They remembered that we'd moved to London when we came in last night, and asked how things are going. Meg told them about my marathon plans, and they came out after we left and gave me a T-shirt for the marathon! I won't wear it to run in but will bring it to wear right after and will take a picture and send it to them.

My friend ran the London marathon this morning in 5:27. Congrats, Anna!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Just a little concerned...

I had planned a nice 18-ish mile run for this weekend. Meg was leaving, so I decided to do it Sunday rather than run for 4 hours while she was still around on Saturday. Unfortunately Saturday night I suddenly had an attack of plantar fasciitis that is leaving me hobbling around (there's a red inflammation and I can feel the strings of the tendon through my skin - not a good thing, especially when it comes on all sudden like this). And I woke up to the most snow London has seen all winter.

So I didn't run. The marathon is now 3 weeks away, and the longest run I've done is 13.1 miles. I am a little concerned, because I've never practiced hitting the wall, or running for anything approximating 6 hours. I'm seriously contemplating calling in sick one day to run. But I would need to do it tomorrow, which isn't really an option, so that I can do 18-20 on Saturday in NYC. Which I will do, come hell or high water.

My friend is running the London marathon this weekend, and she's had ITB troubles that have capped her longest run at about 11 miles. I'm counting on her to show me it can be done. Of course, the beauty of a massive marathon like London is that even if she walks the whole thing she's unlikely to be last, whereas a small marathon like Blackpool leaves me with the distinct probability of the sweeper cars following me for 26 miles. Oh well. DFL>DNF>DNS, right?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Fooled me!

We got letter from the government agency that regulates gas meters saying they needed to replace something or other and needed access to our house. I got my boss to agree to a work at home day. I stayed home. I worked from my couch. About 3pm, I hadn't heard from them, so I called up the government agency. Apparently the engineer "couldn't find" our street, or our house, or his own ass, or something. So he wasn't coming. But of course now, it was the middle of the work day and I didn't really feel like I could just up and leave to go for a run. Grrrrrrr. Maybe it was just an elaborate April Fools joke.

So, at 5:30, I finally got dressed and took off. I decided that I'd take advantage of the basically unlimited time I had at my disposal (can we all celebrate Summer Time together?) and do an 8 mile run today and 2 shorter runs later in the week. I also decided to explore Regent's Canal west from my house (I've seen the east part when running the Limehouse route and also at then end of my long run last weekend). A really nice place to run, except for the bit where the canal goes into a tunnel you can't run and I had to figure out where to go without a good map and it turned out to be right through the busiest part of my neighborhood during the evening rush hour. Anyway, overall a great run including a couple of extra "quick" miles in the middle, and I'm feeling like I might be able to do the marathon. (I did notice a bit of runners brain in the shower after when I was trying to figure the equivalent marathon time and determined that I would have run a 9+ hour marathon, which didn't make any sense as I was faster than Saturday when I determined that I'd run at an <6 hour marathon pace. Oh, wait, 90*3 is not 360 but 180. Duh.)

In other news, I have noticed that my most popular post has to do with running bras, so I promise I'll post another review of the winners and losers soon. It's a subject that's near and dear to my heart, as a well-endowed lady who likes to run. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The longest one

Yes, I promised a rededication. And ... well ... there was a missed run in there. And a dog waking up in the middle of the night that led to a second missed run. So: I think, given my current pace, 6 miles before work is the longest I can do, and next week I'll take the scheduled 8 miles down to 6 so I can do it. Unfortunately, 5:15 is just not a time that my body will tolerate.

Anyway, I did my longest ever run today-13.1 miles! [Yes, it's 4 weeks from the marathon and the longest I've ever run is a half. It'll just have to be ok.] I felt pretty good, but the IT band was a bit sore by the end. Out to the marshes, both of them, then back along the canal. Honestly I can't tell you what I thought about, but I listened to The Brief History of the Dead, which was great company, but I need new headphones as only the right one works anymore. I tripped at mile 2 and almost quit but didn't. I decided at about mile 11 that I would just run home and however far that was would be far enough. I was what turned out later to be about 2 miles from home and getting sore and dehydrated and without any more money, and I saw the bus. Not my bus, but I thought this one went by my house, and it came before I could check the map [on Saturdays you take what you can get] so I got on. Unfortunately it obviously didn't go by my house and I think I would have been home faster if I'd just kept running. I was, however, able to turn up the pace a (very little) bit for the last half mile, and (a little) more for the last 1/10, so I wasn't totally knackered.

Clothing news: the new favourite bra still kicks ass. My underwear, not so much. Major chafage. I think the next installment of the Double D review has got to be on good running drawers.
The good news is that I feel pretty good tonight, and I think I'll be ok at the marathon. Meg made a lovely dinner which I scarfed down, I'm drinking wine and not getting totally trashed, and I'm still contemplating a run tomorrow to practice the "run when f*ing exhausted" thing. We'll see. 2 long runs left, and a taper, and then the marathon.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Running errands

My last 3 runs have been of the "I'll run to X that I have to do anyway" variety. It's been a great motivator for me. From the trip to the ATM, to the camping store on my long run well over a week ago, to my attempt to buy new knitting needles today that provided the impetus for me to get off my cozy couch and out into the hail/snow/rain/cold, these have been good ways to ensure I run even when I might not exactly want to. Which is good - because the marathon is now 5 weeks away, and the last month has been less than ideal in the training department. But 5 weeks is long enough to make a difference (I hope) but short enough to make me focus, so I'm re-dedicating myself to the training: 3 weeks of hard training and 2 weeks to taper. I think the 16 week training program was too long for me, and although I'm already thinking about the next couple of races I want to run, I think I'm planning to do a shorter program. I'm planning a 10k with my office in early July, so my tentative plan is to take a month after the marathon to recover, run when I feel like it, etc, then take 8 weeks to get myself ready to run a <1 hour 10k - from a 11-12 min/mile base, I think this is feasible, right?

Today's run featured quite a bit of the mantra, and a lot of time thinking about why I run, who I run for, etc, and a small bit of running "with" all my blogger friends. I had quite a long conversation with Marathon Dude Bill, in particular.

Apologies that I haven't kept up with everyone lately - I've felt guilty about my lack of running and that's translated into guilt about reading about running. But I'm back on the roads, and online.