Monday, January 31, 2005

Signed on the dotted line....

When I was little, I went to Hebrew school every Sunday. And for all the nerdy that I was in my regular life, I got to shed that image in Sunday school. I was one of the cool kids, with all the ironic detachment thus entailed. My friends and I would sit in the back, pass notes, and make fun of all the other kids in our class (like the son of my orthodontist, who was a prime example of suburban white kid gangsta). Oh, we were so cool.

My point is this. On Saturday, I had my official, first meeting, kick-off event (plus breakfast) with Team in Training. I was planning to channel all that cynical, angsty, meanness, and make snarky comments about the proceedings and the people involved, which I would then faithfully transcribe for all of you (forget that I was there voluntarily, and so was one of them…).

But, despite myself and the very early morning starting time, I couldn’t do it. First of all, I was far too distracted by the fact that I had really, truly, not kidding anymore, signed up to run (not walk) a full (not half) marathon.

But also, it was kind of inspiring. Here’s what I learned:

1. I am a hero. It’s official. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society lady told us, and she named a bunch of other heroes, so I know she knows what that word means. Plus, we all got issued our super secret hero powers. I can’t tell you mine (super secret, after all) but I can tell you that it involves a lasso and a lie detector (shoot. I gave it away, didn’t I?) It’s not the most useful for the task at hand (I could really have used, well, pretty much any of Superman’s powers) but I’m sure it’ll come in handy at some point.

2. I am an athlete. This one, the sports doctor told us. First, he made all the athletes in the room stand up. About 30% of the people in the room stood up. Then he yelled at the rest of us that we were athletes too, and we’d better start acting like it. It was pretty scary. And I’m not sure I believe him, because saying you’re going to run a marathon is pretty different from actually running a marathon, but I suppose he has a point.

So this week marks the beginning of training. For real. We got a training schedule for the next five months, and it starts tomorrow. It’s not too scary—as I expected we’re meant to run Tuesday through Thursday, plus Sunday, with our long runs on Saturday as a group. The weekday runs never get longer than 6 miles, which is actually a lot easier than many of the online running schedules I’d found, so that’s reassuring. And I think I may substitute some non-running cardio activity at least some Sundays, which I’ve read can be good for developing complementary muscles in your legs, and so helps prevent injuries.

And tonight I get to go buy fancy new running shoes. I [heart] shopping.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Early Morning Blues

True to my word, I’m ellipticall-ing the hell out of the gym this week. Honestly? I kind of miss the running. I see the people on the treadmills and I think, “I’m one of you now.” Or I see the people running outside, and I think, “dear god it’s cold. Am I supposed to be one of you?”

But I’ve always enjoyed the elliptical in the past (and by “enjoyed,” I mean gotten my masochistic thrill from the sweat and the out of breath and the “no way—that has to have been twenty minutes already—you’re telling me I’m not even halfway yet?”) so I’m not minding it now. And I’m appreciating the rest for my knees.

Alors, here’s my whine of the day. My gym routine has been pretty steady. I get home from work around six, snarf down a pound and a half of carrots and hummus (at my fitness assessment, they determined I was 30% fat, and 85% hummus, and that DOES add up, because one of the ingredients in hummus is oil, which is a kind of fat), and head to the gym. That gets me home in plenty of time to cook some dinner and park my but on the couch for hours of primetime entertainment. (Who’s been watching Wickedly Perfect? Don’t be embarrassed. It’s kind of fantastic, isn’t it?). This also has the added benefit of sparing me from hours of crappy sitcom reruns, because god forbid I should crack a book or watch the news or something.

So I had my routine, and it was great. Except that my incredible physical fitness seemed to be getting in the way of my having any sort of social life AT ALL, which is not necessarily something I wanted. I mean, I’m not sure I didn’t want it, but, in theory, I enjoy social interaction with my peers. Of course, when something more interesting came up, I usually just skipped the gym or squeezed in a fast workout before heading out. But now that I’m starting this marathon thing, I’m going to have a SCHEDULE. With ASSIGNMENTS. And we all know how anal I am when it comes to homework. As in, I never (really, never) had to pull an all-nighter, because clearly I had started the paper before the night before. And the only other person I know who can claim that is Anna, which doesn’t refute the anal claim even a little bit. (I say that with love and admiration.)

Then I had a brainstorm. If I worked out in the morning, I would be free in the evening. And this week provided a helpful test for my plan, as I was invited to three separate super exciting evening activities in a row.

I’m not that great at waking up in the mornings (unless it’s because I need to finish a homework assignment, because, anal, remember?) but I was inspired by this article. I mean, I’m just like Hilary Swank in every other possible way, so if she can wake up for exercise, then probably so could I.

Tuesday was kind of a failure, because I didn’t get to sleep on Monday night until way too late, and I was still extra tired from my debacle of a train trip on Sunday. So I slept in, still managed to get to work late, and decided to skip the Aussie* Day concert in favor of the gym and a very early bedtime. But yesterday and today, I got my butt out of bed at 6:30 am, which, by the way, is when the world is a cold, dark, unwelcoming place, and I went to the gym.

Here’s what I learned. That’s not enough time. If I want to get in my full workout, especially on weight training days, I need to wake up EVEN EARLIER. Because my workouts? Apparently take, like, an hour and a half. And that’s before my schedule starts calling for 5 or 6 mile runs midweek, which is totally going to happen. Then you add another 35 minutes for the shower and blow-drying my hair (because I am NOT going out with wet hair in this weather, and also, I have learned, finally, how to make my hair all cute and straight, instead of a frizzed out puffball of Everest proportions). And breakfast takes another 10 minutes.

When I was in high school, I used go from bed to desk in under 20 minutes, and that included a shower. I’m not saying I aimed for that, but sometimes the snooze button worked a little overtime.

What I’m trying to say, wombats, is that I like my morning sleep time. But I also like my exercise time. And I like my happy hour time.

I am a modern woman who believes she can have it all. And I’ve already given up my “stuff my face with piles of chocolate chip cookies time”. Where will this end?

Seriously. Should I quit my job? That might free up some time.

* A helpful hint: pronounce that as “Ozzie” (like Kelly’s dad), so real Australians don’t think you’re stupid. I learned this because I pronounced it as “Ossie” once, and my Australian friend said, “You’re stupid.”

Monday, January 24, 2005

Quarantine: Population 1

I don’t want to scare you guys or anything, but I appear to have contracted a pox. The entire front of my torso is covered is an artistic array of pink spots, bumps, and, er, freckly-looking things. Actually, they’re more of a dusty rose. And also actually, my back is probably covered, too, but it’s harder to tell. Too bad I don’t have a boyfriend to look for me. Maybe I should advertise on Craig’s List?

Me: Cute, brunette, tends towards the masochistic (run a marathon before breakfast, anyone?)
You: Tall, dark, observant.
We’ll spend our hot, steamy nights comparing my mottled skin to sexy internet descriptions (WebMD: Rash, age 12 and over).

Hmmm, maybe my skin doctor would do a better job than my skin-rash fetishist, pedophile boyfriend (please confine your rash-looking to age 18 and over, sir).

So this pox first showed up about a week ago, and doesn’t seem to be getting better. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but, show of hands, how many of you think it’s possible I’m allergic to running?

I know, that sounds kind of out there. But listen to the facts:
  • I have not bought any new clothes, gym or otherwise in months.
  • I have not changed my detergent or soap recently.
  • I have not changed my exercise routine recently (meaning frequency or time of day), EXCEPT
  • I recently switched the bulk of my cardio exercise from the elliptical machine to the treadmill.

It’s a little hard to argue with the facts, non?

The only other possibility is that it’s somehow related to the dry air due to sub-freezing temperatures and over-active heaters (perhaps with slightly dusty filters, as would decidedly NOT be the case in my apartment).

But that doesn’t seem very logical, does it?


In other news, I had intended this post to be about how much I loved my long runs, and how, at seven miles, with a little judicious rounding-up, I was practically at marathon distance already.

That was before I did the seven-mile run that was supposed to prompt these poetic musings. Yeah, my run on Saturday sucked a lot. I ran too fast in the first couple of miles, and I started hurting by mile four, especially my knees, which are what I’m most paranoid about.

But, I did a little internet therapy, and I think it’s just a little Chondromalacia of the patella (hee. Say that three times fast), which doesn’t sound tragic. I’ve decided that this week—which, according to my pre-training training schedule, was meant to be low mileage for recovery—I’ll go back to the elliptical to give my knees a break, while also doing to weight training to help develop my shins and quads. Plus, I clearly need some new shoes.

Hey, if my rash goes away while I ellipse all week, does that prove I’m allergic to running?

Friday, January 21, 2005

It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock'N'Roll)

So the main thing that scares me about this marathon is how incredibly long it is. (Woah, I better slow down with the mind-blowing revelations here.) But, no joke, unless I wake up tomorrow and become a speed-demon (does anyone know any pills for that?) this thing is going to take me four-and-a-half hours at best (that’s my reach goal time).

Do you realize how long that is? That’s like if you watched the extended version of the third Lord of the Rings AND the Behind the Scenes featurette, which, sorry to offend my Lord of the Rings-loving readers, might spur me to suicide.

Actually, I can’t decide if that’s a motivational analogy for me or not. On the one hand, Lord of the Rings was so painfully long and boring, running does sound kind of better. On the other hand, all I had to do when I watched that movie was sit still, and even that made me want to cry.* Running is a lot harder than sitting.

But on the other other hand (hey, do you think I could run faster if I had eight legs, like an octopus?), if I imagine four-and-a-half hours of something else, like watching a Gilmore Girls marathon, well then, that doesn’t sound impossibly long. But in that case, wouldn’t I rather be doing that than running?

You can see what a quandary I’m in.


In other news, I’ve been keeping track of my stats on a cool website (Winning Stats) (do I really have stats?) and it turns out, I’ve already run a marathon. It’s taken me almost two weeks, so I’ll probably want to shave a little time off of that, but so far I’m doing pretty well.

For those of you keeping track at home, after Thursdays run, that makes just over 29 miles total (check out my stats box on the left). Rock.

* I’m sorry guys, I really didn’t intend to turn this into a bash of LOtR (are you mollified by my adoption of the nerdy acronym?). It was really the first movie that came to mind, when I was trying to think of something as long as running a marathon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Universe to Naomi: Fuck You

I totally had it coming. Yesterday I was feeling so great. I’ve lost about fifteen pounds since my birthday in September, at least the last time I weighed myself, which was a few weeks ago. The pants I wore to work—embarrassingly tight, last year at this time—were hanging off my hips. I ran 6.2 miles on Sunday. Six. Point. Two. And I felt great when I was done. Like I could get back on the treadmill and run another six. Not that I could run another six, mind you. But I felt like I could.

I was thin. I was strong, I was fucking amazing.

Heh. Then I went to the gym.

It started off all right. I did my “easy” three-mile run in record time. Not world record, I know that. But Naomi-record, and that’s what I’m looking for. When I was done, I wanted to do some weights. Normally I do a body sculpting class on Tuesdays. But this week there was a scary looking, ultra-buff substitute teacher.

I thought about just doing my twenty-minute crafted-especially-for-me weight machine workout. But, hey. I am thin. I am strong. I am fucking amazing. I can take whatever this asshole throws at me.

Hah. Oh, I am so very funny.

This guy’s class. Kicked. My. Ass. And not in a good way.

Just one example, because, frankly, I don’t want to relive too much of the experience.

He wanted us to do 100 push-ups. Three months ago, I could barely do one modified (from the knees) push-up. Now I can do twelve in a row. I think that’s fantastic. I’m not going to be pulling boats with my teeth anytime soon, but who the hell wants to do that anyway (besides Jack Lalane, and he’s crazy).

But this guy was willing to make a deal. He would cut us down to seventy-five (75?!) pushups, if we did alternating sets of ten as full plank push-ups (the rest could be on our knees). That’s not a deal. I can’t do 10 full pushups. And I don’t really feel like trying. Because if I can do twenty modified push-ups, that’d be just dandy with me. You know what? Don’t set impossible goals for me, when you don’t even know me, and when setting a difficult but achievable goal would be so much more productive. You can tell me to do 100 pushups and wait all night. I’m still only going to do twenty or thirty (with some resting). But now, instead of being thrilled with the accomplishment, I just feel crappy for barely doing a quarter of your task.

So I suffered through his whole class, doing a seriously half-assed job, and getting a fraction of the exercise (and fulfillment) I normally do, because I felt dumb leaving (I’d have to walk all around to room to put away my weights, my body bar, my step, etc, etc, etc.)

But then, the icing on my Assday Cake, was that, as I was walking home, sweaty and gross, with an ugly hat on to keep me warm in the arctic cold front, I ran into Mr. Popular Croton boy. A nice guy, someone I’ve known literally my entire life, but one who never fails to bring me back to my middle school insecurities.

Yeah, that was real fun.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood….

Welcome to my marathon training blog. It’s not all uplifting stories of sunrise epiphanies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Part the Third: How, Why, Where

Okay, now that I feel you have sufficient backstory, I’m ready to talk details, like the title says. Where, How, and Why.

The first two are easy. Where is Anchorage, Alaska, on June 18th, for the “Midnight Sun” marathon (and hey, look at that, I stuck in a When for free). Actually, it’s not at midnight, though there will hopefully be sun, which there wouldn’t be if it were at midnight, since Anchorage is below the Arctic circle. If you see what I mean.

I know next to nothing about the Anchorage marathon, and chose it solely because it’s an excuse to go to Alaska, which seems like an awfully neat place to be, especially if someone is paying for you to be there, which will be the case.

Which leads me to How. I’m doing Team in Training, which is a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The deal is, I raise a buttload of money for them ($4,000) and they provide a coach, nutrition advice, shoe shopping advice (“oh, honey, those shoes are FABULOUS, you absolutely must buy them”), a group to train with, travel, accommodations, and registration for the event and the extras (like the all-you-can-eat pre-marathon pasta dinner—don’t lie, Kate, now you’re jealous).

In short, 25% of what I raise goes towards my training, and the rest is charity goodness.

So the only remaining detail is Why, which, given my last post, is kinda tricky to answer.

Okay, so here’s the story. About three weeks ago, when, by the way, it was still gloriously, and unseasonably warm (my warm and fuzzy thoughts about the Arctic were considerably dampened this morning when I learned that it was their fault that we are now suffering through seasonably cold weather here in DC. Screw you, Arctic cold front. Screw. You.)

Sorry, tangent. So, a few weeks ago I woke up somewhere around ass o’clock in the morning to pee (which, by the way, is what they don’t tell you when they’re talking about how healthy it is to drink eight glasses of water a day) and I couldn’t get back to sleep. It was just after New Year’s, and I started thinking about resolutions, and what 2004 had been like, and after lying around for about 45 minutes, I decided to get up and watch the sunrise. (Don’t ask—no, this is not normal behavior for me).

So I got all fleeced up, grabbed the ol’ iPod (best gadget EVER), and headed outside, since my north-facing window wasn’t going to provide much of a show. You can’t really see much sky on the other side of my building either, so I started walking south on Connecticut. About halfway to Dupont Circle, there’s this spot that’s at the top of a hill, and you see the Washington Monument in the distance. During the day, the street is packed with cars and the sidewalk is jammed with people, but that morning everything was still closed, and it is was almost completely empty, except for parked cars lining both sides of the street. I parked my butt on the sidewalk, and waited for the sun to peek through.

I was still in the midst of my very deep and philosophical “what shall the new year bring” reverie, and I realized that 2004 was pretty much a big wash. I mean, I had some fun, but I didn’t really do anything. I worked in the same job I’d had since I graduated, which is fine, but not really going anywhere; I didn’t meet new people or start new things. I didn’t even read that much. I did watch a lot of TV though, so, you know, that’s something.

So I pulled out my “To Never Do” list, because I think it was Sean Connery originally who said “Never say never”, and anyway, I bet Jean Valjean had “become Mayor” on his “Jamais Faire” list, and look how he ended up, and right there, on page 47 of the spreadsheet, (sorted alphabetically), just as the first real rays of sunlight were showing behind the Washington Monument, I saw it: run a marathon. And right then and there, I stood up, and started running. I ran straight through downtown to the Mall, past the Lincoln Memorial, out to the Roosevelt Memorial, and back to Georgetown, which, it just so happens, according to Mapquest, which I checked after I cabbed home, is exactly 26.2 miles. I know, crazy.


Okay that story is not even a little true. Or, well, it’s at least, let’s say, 94% fake. (What gave it away? Was it the 47 page “To Never Do” spreadsheet? Or could you tell as soon as I said “watch the sunrise.” Because seriously, y’all, I don’t think I’ve ever done that voluntarily.) But when my life gets turned into a Movie of the Week starring Jessica Biel (of 7th Heaven fame. Yeah, I know, I was hoping for someone better, too, but Nathalie Portman doesn’t exactly run to the phone when Lifetime is calling, y’know?)…

Man, I have got to watch out for those parenthetical tangents.

Anyway, my point is, that makes a much better story than, “I was bored at work, and I thought, why don’t I run a marathon? Yeah, I should do that. K.” But that’s essentially the truth. I mean, there’s a little more to the story, like the fact that I’ve been a total exercise demon for the last five months, going to the gym five or six times a week, and the idea of having a new goal to keep me motivated seemed like a good (and realistic) plan. And I do want to do things in 2005 that I’ll be proud of.

So there you have it. I’m going to run a marathon and raise $4,000.

But this is turning into the LONGEST blog entry EVER, so I’m going to stop for now.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Chapter Two: In Which Our Heroine Reveals Her Past

Okay, first of all, we will be ignoring any name-calling from impatient readers. Your questions, dear porcupines, as to the how and why and where of this marathon will get answered. But first, for you to really appreciate what’s going on here, you need some more background. Today we will have a brief account of my history with running.


The end.

Hah! AH HA HA HA! Oh, I slay myself, really.

Actually, there’s quite a bit more to the story. First you have all the very quotable things I have said in the past. What, you don’t all have your copies of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations marked on all the pages with my quotes? Well, let me help you out.

Overheard during the elementary school Presidential Fitness tests:
“I don’t mind exercise, but I hate running.”

Overheard in my Middle School locker room:
“Running is fine if it’s got a purpose, like when you’re playing a sport or something. But god, just running for running’s sake? I can’t think of anything more pointless and boring.”

Overheard some other time:
“I use the elliptical machine at the gym. It is SO much better than running on the treadmill. God, I HATE running.”

Of course, there were what I like to call the Winter Track years. According to New York State rules (at least at the time), high school juniors and seniors could be exempted from one quarter of the yearly gym requirement if they played a varsity sport. There was also a nifty corollary to that rule which stated that upperclassmen could not be on the junior varsity teams, regardless of athletic ability or experience in the sport. So all I had to do was convince a coach to let me join a team, and I could get out of a full quarter of gym class. Gorgeous.

In my two seasons on the winter track team, I competed in exactly two meets. I ran the 50m dash (easy, it was over in less than 15 seconds, even for slow-poke me) and did the high jump (at the first meet, my last place finish was good enough for a medal!). I missed so many practices my senior year that the coach (very passive-aggressively, I might add) told the gym teacher that I hadn’t fulfilled my varsity sport requirement, and I ended up having to make up the gym classes later that year.

Do I sound like the Michael Phelps of marathon-running or what?

(On a complete tangent, I’d like to point out that if I wanted to, I could make my history sound completely different. For instance, I was a three-sport athlete: volleyball in the fall, track in the winter, soccer in the spring. And on top of that, the volleyball program in my town won the state championship, and my soccer team went undefeated for two years. Of course, some key details missing from that telenovela: I was on the volleyball and soccer teams in 8th grade, and only for that year. The 8th grade volleyball team, unlike the JV and Varsity teams, was dismally bad, and we won only a single game that entire season. And the JV soccer team was fabulous, but the coach thought I was so bad, he questioned my basic knowledge of the sport—“Do you understand what a fullback does? You’re supposed to STOP the offense from scoring goals. You get between them and the goal, and you STOP them. Does that make any sense?” And you’ve already heard what my track experience was like. I’m just saying though, be glad for my unswerving dedication to complete honesty. Because I could be feeding you a very different version of the truth.)

Parenthetical tangents aside, my friends could be forgiven for thinking that a marathon would be the very last thing I would want to do. But I’m ornery like that.

More to come.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

An Announcement

For the past year and a half, I’ve been trying to convince myself to apply to the Johns Hopkins non-fiction writing program. My work has tuition reimbursement, 85% up to $3,600, or something like that, so it’d be cheap. And the classes are held right down the street. And several of my co-workers take classes there, so I’d be in good company. And it would teach me how to be a better writer, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is a goal I claim for myself.

So yeah. It hasn’t happened. Apparently, writing an application essay is waaaaaay too overwhelming. I mean, that would require, I dunno, writing something. Which would be work. And I’d much rather, you know, not do work. Except when I’m at work. Not that I’m really ever that busy at work, either. But rather than, like, being productive in my down-time, I’d much rather read blogs about random strangers. Like this one woman who’s struggling with infertility, and is now trying to have a baby with a surrogate. Or this other woman whose high-functioning autistic son has been making incredible progress.

You know, stories I can totally relate to.

The thing is, the stories are very well written, and totally inspiring. Like, if my son had autism, I’d completely have renewed faith that I could help him overcome it. And if my uterus were deformed, which, who knows, I’ve never really checked, I’d be totally inspired to find a surrogate who could carry the baby for me. I mean, this woman’s surrogate sounds really fun. But, of course, I’m not exactly at the “let’s have a baby (through IVF) (who may be autistic)” stage in my life.

Still, there was the blog of the woman whose first novel was just published and who just finished the first draft of her second novel (under contract with her publisher). But reading that one, I just felt awed and kind of jealous. Not really spurred to action.

But I have a new plan, guys. And yes, it may have been inspired by some stranger’s blog, but this one really spoke to me. And I don’t really understand it, because it’s basically a total aberration for me, but I’ve got to go where my heart tells me. Or run there, as the case may be.

I’m gonna run a marathon guys. In Alaska. In June. That’s 26.2 miles (and yes, that point-two totally kills me, but who am I to argue?).

And since this is totally unprecedented for me, I’ve decided to document the experience here. Plus, I’m going to need your help.

More on that later.

(For the record, I do read some journals written by men, they just didn't make as funny examples.)