Archive for the 'Harebrained ideas' category

Raleigh Reflections

Apr 14 2014 Published by under Harebrained ideas

Yesterday I ran in the fourth race of my crazy idea to do 12 half marathons in 12 months. The race was in Raleigh, NC, which put out its best spring colors for the occasion. And its pollen. It brought LOTS of pollen. Thanks, Raleigh.

Unfortunately, the amazing traffic horror that is Northern VA did its worst, and it took me 8 hours to make what should have been a 4 hour trip. It's a good thing I like podcasts and audiobooks...

But I got lucky, in a way. Enough people were also in the traffic that they held emergency race bib pickup the morning of the race, so by 5:30AM I was a real registered runner and ready to go.

The races are getting easier. I didn't think they would. I mean, I still LOATHE the terror that lies between mile 10 and 12. But I'm in better shape, and even the rolling hills of Raleigh (and boy, did they roll) could not bring me down. I ran a personal best of 1:53:29, sticking to sub 9 minute miles the whole way (previous PR 1:54:19, which I performed in Philly in...I think 2011). It brings me hope that I'll break that 1:50 mark eventually!

The weather was beautiful, the race well organized, I was with friends from grad school, and generally I had a great time. But as we stood around after the race, all was not well. Word went around that someone was receiving CPR at the finish line. He was not the only one.

Two people died at Raleigh. Two men, ages 31 and 35. One between mile 10 and 11 and one at mile 13, less than two minutes from the finish.

It was shocking. I've heard of deaths during marathons from natural causes, overwork, undiagnosed heart conditions, dehydration or hypokalemia. Of course we all feel pretty tense, as it was also just the anniversary of the Boston tragedy.

But this is the first time I'd ever heard of deaths during a half. And the men were young. One was my age. I can't stop thinking about their friends and family, waiting for them hopefully at the finish, ready to hand out Gatorade and celebrate.

We all know that things happen. The medical tents every two miles and the golf carts along the course to transport the sick and injured are testimony enough to that. I now realize that I was running near where one man went down, between miles 10 and 11, and they pulled us off the course onto the sidewalk while the ambulance came racing by.

It's a sobering reminder that I have a hobby that can kill people. Not because other people wish them ill, but because the hobby itself beats up your body.

And it's been making me think. There's been a recent uptick in race deaths, or at least, in the number I hear about. Why? Are people running it even though they are out of shape? Are they running with underlying problems? Are they inexperienced and not listening to the signals they are getting from their bodies?

No one really knows. It could be any of these things. But it did make me say to myself: LISTEN to my body. Listen to it. And if it says stop, stop. Not in the "this hill sucks and my legs hurt" way, but in the "my heart is doing crazy things, and I am having an asthma attack" way.

It can be easy to ignore your body and its signals. Especially on the racecourse. Signs around us proclaim "no pain, no gain!", "pain now, beer later!", "pain is weakness leaving the body!", you look around you and you see the people running around you, and they look ok, and you don't want to look weak. As the miles accumulate, your brain starts to get a little funny. You're tired, and those messages, the acts of kindness on the race course, small dogs, everything seems to have more meaning and seriousness than it ever had.

...and this can be dangerous. I'm getting tired of seeing all this "motivational" stuff that screams of manliness (or whatever), of embracing the pain. This is a race. Not a war. This is a race that you run because you want to see if you can. Because you want to be in shape, maybe even because you want to have fun. It is not a fight to the death against the forces of weak willpower and flab.

I worry that those messages may motivate the wrong way. They may encourage people to run through pain that is telling you to stop. They've done it to me. They've fed my inner competitive spirit (which is, admittedly, exceedingly strong), and kept me running when one knee can barely take my weight. Kept me sprinting when I am inches away from throwing up, and end up dry heaving  on the other side of the finish line. I'd like to think my inner common sense would bring me to a halt for something actually life-threatening. But well...I don't know. I need to keep that in mind.

Was this glorification of pain the cause of either one of the deaths? I'm sure not. But it did make me think. When does "no pain, no gain" cause more pain than gain?

One response so far

Life chafes, sometimes.

Mar 10 2014 Published by under Harebrained ideas

I know that The Goddess Isis sometimes refers to things "chapping her ass." I never really was able to picture this.

...until my last half marathon. I have never suffering chafing before, but HOLY CHAFING BATMAN. I'm not sure what went wrong. It was a beautiful day, warm, I was wearing my lucky running skirt that I have worn through more races than I can count. Yet suddenly, somewhere before the Gu but after the big hills, I was very conscious of my thighs and how they rub together. A lot.

Normally this doesn't bother me. I don't strive for thigh gap. I strive for muscle. But muscle is large, and rubs together. I tried to adjust stuff. No dice. More rubbing. By mile 10 I was forcing each stride through gritted teeth.  I refused to stop, and it was an out and back. By mile 10, the fastest way to stop to keep running til you get there.

By the time I toddled through the finish, I was running bowlegged and little seeps of blood were starting on the inside of my thighs.

What happened? Who knows?

But it did make me think about runners and shame. And kindness.

After a race, I found out how little shame I had. There I am, waddling out of the corral, and a couple stops and anxiously asks me if I'm OK. My normal response is to smile politely, but I've just run a very painful 13.1 miles. I've got no filters. "Oh I'm ok, I just have been chafing like HELL," I ranted. "I swear there's blood running down my thighs!"

The woman in the couple (who didn't run) got wide eyes and backed away slowly. The man, who had just finished the race himself, looked sympathetic and nodded. He didn't back away. He knew how it was to have no shame.

In the bathroom, changing after the race (no showers, and home was 4-5 hours away), I braced myself. I had to put SOMETHING between me and my jeans. Or my jeans would have some very interesting new blood stains by the time I was through. All I had was deodorant. I didn't own Body Glide then, I'd never chafed before!

And here's where the kindness comes in. A woman stopped and offered me her Body Glide. Only a fellow athlete would do that, offer a stick of something for another woman to rub on her sweaty, slightly bloody inner thighs (if I were her I would have thrown it out after, that can't be sanitary...). I could have cried with gratitude. She didn't even blink. It's what runners do for each other.

The first thing I did the next day was pick up some Body Glide.

The next race is this weekend. I think chafing will ensue. Worse, I've been sick almost continuously since my last race. I couldn't force myself to run when every swallow felt like I was gulping knives. I'd hoped to do well in DC, but it looks like this race may involve far more pain than chafing.



4 responses so far

First one down!

Jan 18 2014 Published by under Harebrained ideas

Remember that harebrained idea I had about running one half marathon per month for a year? At first, it didn't seem real. I worried I would laze out of it. Then I registered for the first six...and I still worried I would laze out of it. I told myself I couldn't. I've already spent too much money to be lazy, right?

Well, today it's real. Today I finished the Charleston half marathon. Sunny morning, quite cold (for Charleston, SC), but a nice flat course. MY only regret is that they had shrimp and grits and beer at the end, and I just couldn't bring myself to eat any (appetite comes and goes when you're running for two hours, and when you pick up the pace at the end...well it goes). I had a giant coffee instead.

At some point in the race you start to wonder what it's all for. My point for this is usually around mile 11. Up to mile 10 I have the novelty of the race, the place, the people (good crowd support, Charleston!), contemplating when to take my gel (mile 9 in this case), the weird feeling that maybe I'm losing a big toenail? (Nope, still there!) I feel good because 10 miles, at this point, is something you've done and passed many times.

At mile 10, I get the extra lift. 3.1 to go! That's only 5K! The day I can't run 5K is a very poor day indeed. So I keep going with a spring in my step.

...and then mile 11. The spring was short lived. I realize I've been running for ages. I'm hungry. My legs hurt. I start to finally breathe hard enough to notice I'm panting. I realize that if I want to break 2 hours I need to speed up a little. At 10 miles, that seemed like no problem. Now? ARE YOU CRAZY? I can't possibly.

This is the moment of existential crisis. Is the moment where I've bonked before (always at mile 11), and where I wonder...why do I do this? Why the HECK do I run distance? Aren't there better ways to stay in shape? Do I really need to love cheese so much?

Why on EARTH did I decide to run 12 of these in a year? Why would I want to run one ever again?!

Then I hit mile 12, and well, there's only one mile left to go! Only 8 minutes and 30 seconds left if I want to beat 2 hours. I better get moving.

Of course, basking in the glow afterward: sitting down, with a foil cape, a large coffee and a banana, well I mean, obviously I'm running another one! Soon! Of course! I'm a badass!

Then I try to get up. Heh.

Time appears to be 1:59:mehmehsomething. Official times aren't yet posted. I broke two hours, which was my goal. Now? Let's try to break a 1:58 shall we?

charleston 2014

4 responses so far

On speed, and cheese

Jan 08 2014 Published by under Harebrained ideas

As I started planning this harebrained idea of mine, I had several people contact me. Often they ask me to come to where they are to run races. But they also often include something about how they'll run, but they can't possibly keep up with me. This is really strange.

I'm not a fast runner. I never have been. My fastest 5K is a 23:22 and my fastest half marathon was a 1:52:19. That half marathon PR was a LOT longer ago than I like to admit. Since then, I have a knee that makes me spend a lot of time with a foam roller, and a lazy attitude that has shortened  and slowed my runs. My usual half marathon now is over 2 hours. My training runs are usually 10 minute miles. For most of these half marathons, I will be aiming for a 9:30 mile. If I CAN work up better speed, I would love to break 1:50:00 in the half marathon, but I won't beat myself up if I don't.

It's not particularly slow, sure. But it's not Ryan Hall fast either. I wish I were faster, but, well, running is running. No matter what pace we run, we get the job done. I think people are just as impressive running slow as when they are running fast. Often, slower runners are more impressive. After all, they have to keep at it for LONGER.

No matter what, people who are running (or, equally impressively, swimming or biking or walking or hiking or skiing or yogaing or lifting, or any other form of exercise) are impressive. They are getting out there, getting active, and doing something that, often, hurts and sucks until you are done. Anyone who gets out there and does more than they would normally do, in pursuit of health, accomplishment, or just feeling good is impressive in my book. And if we keep doing it, we must like it somehow, right?

I wonder where people got this idea that I was a fast runner. It is because I talk about running? Is it because I am doing the half marathon challenge at all? Neither of those are indicators. Talking about something often is no indication that you are in fact an expert (though now I wonder if there's a psychological phenomenon where if people see you talk about something often, they assume that you are an expert).

Why am I doing this? Not because I'm fast. Some people have told me I am doing this because I like to set attainable goals, or because I am awesome. Nope.

I'm doing this for cheese. I love cheese. And running half marathons means I can eat as much cheese as I want for the next year. I'd probably eat the cheese anyway, but I'd feel a vague sense of guilt. Now that sense is gone. Bring on the cheese.

800px-Peruvian_cheese_open_air_market(I will take four of each, please. Source)

Who knows. Maybe this project will make me faster. Maybe it won't. But in the end, pace doesn't matter. This train runs on cheese.



7 responses so far

Crowdsourcing Music!

Dec 30 2013 Published by under Harebrained ideas

Many people run to music. I do sometimes. Mostly for races, when I need something to keep my heart rate up. For practice runs, I prefer the company of a friend, or an audiobook. I've gotten through many, many audiobooks that way (including the unabridged Les Miserables, which is not for the faint of heart. Did you know it inclueds an entire chapter on the history of sewers in general and the Paris sewer system in particular? Riveting).

But I need some more music suggestions! I've got a dependable playlist, but often you need something new and fun to inspire you.

Some of my favorites:

Any suggestions?

4 responses so far

Switching things around...

Dec 29 2013 Published by under Harebrained ideas

Looking through the race schedule, I've got a couple of switchups I want to make.

April: I could run Charlottesville, but I'd much rather run the Phildelphia Hot Chocolate 15k. Why? BECAUSE DELICIOUS. That's not far though...I will need another race in April.

Perhaps the Dismal Swamp Stomp? Sounds pretty. And flat. I like flat.

July: Scheduled for Columbia, SC. In July. That is some HOT HOT HOT HEAT. In fact, that could be dangerous. I am from such climes, so I could probably be ok. But the desire to escape somewhere nicer is strong. Someplace like Seattle. Or Oregon. Where 100 degrees F + 90% humidity is the stuff of legend only. Any suggestions?

A full marathon: I was thinking to make Philly the full marathon, but it's well known that the second half, out to Valley Forge and back on the Schuykill, is epically boring. And boring is bad. Because when you realize you are bored, you realize you are TIRED. Baltimore has been suggested instead, supposedly a good "challenging" course. Any other suggestions? October/November a must.


Suggestions Welcome!

8 responses so far

A harebrained idea

Dec 28 2013 Published by under Harebrained ideas

As some of you may know, I am a runner. I've been one since high school. I've never been a GOOD one, mind you. Just a trotting along kind of runner. But I ran my first 5K in college, my first half marathon in grad school, and have been doing  races ever since. I haven't yet done a marathon, mostly because...well after about two hours of running I get kind of bored, you know?  I'll do one someday.

And maybe this is the year!  You see, yesterday I came up with a harebrained idea. I like half marathons, but training for them gets kind of old. It's best if you stack a bunch close together, so you kind of stay in training. So I was planning a few for May and then again for the fall, and I thought...well why not do them ALL.

Ok, not ALL of them. But my new year's resolution? 1 half marathon per month, for 12 months. It's nothing crazy, I know people who do one marathon per month (I know one guy who does MORE). I figure if they can do it, so can I!

Here I'll be keeping track of the races, posting pictures and finish times (if anyone cares). And maybe, there will be thoughts along the way. About victory, defeat, and maybe about running. 🙂

And so my idea was born. And 2014 will be the 13.1 year.I've looked up races, preferably close to home, as travel is expensive. Even so...this is not a cheap harebrained idea! Dyeing your hair blue? That's like $100. Running 12 races in a year plus travel and hotel for some of them? We're looking at well over $2000.


I'm thinking of taking up a collection, maybe with rewards? Like, say, if you funded a race, I'd give you the shirt? I don't really need more shirts. I could sign it if you wanted? Or...oh I don't know, what reward would people like for funding my pain? And would anyone fund it? I figure if I raised another $1000 I could switch one of the local races to the west coast even.

But funding or not, we're going ahead! I've already started my planning and the first three races are booked. I'll probably book the next three soon.

Proposed schedule:

Screen shot 2013-12-28 at 11.46.43 AM

But right now? I'm going for a training run. I think I'm going to need it.

9 responses so far