Saturday, February 26, 2005

Living in the moment

Hey y’all.


Is it a little echo-y in here? Is there anybody still here?

It’s been a while. I’ve been running though. And there’ve been all sorts of stories I wanted to tell you guys. Like how on Monday morning, I re-ran the route that kicked my ass way back when (three weeks ago?) and it’s still limping from the pain of the ask-kicking I administered. The hills, they were nothing. They were wimpy, girly hills. I laughed at the hills. (Yes, the whole point of my story is how awesome I am. What of it?)

And I never told the other post-sunset runs, this week and last, on new routes and old ones, responsibly partnered up so that the boogie men of the urban nightscape kept their distance. It was fun, having someone to talk to, and it was even more fun realizing that I was in better shape than two of my three buddies. (Who’s awesome? That’s right, me.)

I didn’t find time to write about the friends I’m making at the Saturday TNT group runs, where there’s always somebody running at my pace, and where everyone is friendly and excited to be out there (no matter how unpleasantly early and cold it is), and also freaking out a little about raising enough money.

One day I’ll get around to talking about my two running coaches, who are like the two sides of a drama mask. Well, neither one is crying, but they’re polar opposites is what I’m saying: the everyman and the superman. The “if I can do it, and do it with these extra 30 pounds that I just can’t shake, then you sure as hell can, too” and the “I, who compete in Ironman races, frequently, with my Ironwoman girlfriend, and our Ironpeople friends (and will, one day, with our Ironchildren), will help you normal people in this easy marathon, because with my help you shall all become Ironpeople.”

And I need to update you all on the Life-Altering Orthotics (of doom)™ which I am now reserving judgment on, because although my knees still get sore, my shin splints, which I had so accepted as a necessary part of running that I didn’t even think to complain, disappeared completely. Immediately. And anyway the doctor told me to wait two weeks before following up. And Coach Niceguy thinks that the knee pain will get better with more running, because the muscles around the joints will grow to support them.

But all that is for another time, because today I want to talk psychology. Here’s what’s funny: when I tell people about this marathon, and how much fun I’m having training, I always say “but it hasn’t gotten hard yet.” Or “but we haven’t gotten up to really long runs yet.” And “well, we’ll see if I still feel this way when we’re running 15 or 20 miles.” The main reason I do that is for insurance. I am enjoying myself right now, but if it stops being fun in two months or next week, I somehow feel it’s important that no one be able to tell me, “I told you so.”

I approach every week with apprehension, that this will be the week where it stops being fun and easy and starts getting scary and hard. Last Saturday we ran six miles, and I felt great. Ergo, my warped brain concluded, six miles is not hard. But this week, well, that was going to be eight miles, and that would be hard. But guess what? I ran eight miles this morning, and even though I didn’t sleep all that well last night, and wasn’t feeling great when I woke up, I powered through, and the last two miles felt phenomenal. “So what,” my superego scoffs, “eight miles is no big deal. Wait until next week. We’ll just see how you handle double digits, sucka.”

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that this is all new to me, and that just running—let alone 5 days a week—is a feat to be proud of. And being able to sneer at four hilly miles is pretty amazing too. Last week, even before this morning’s eight miles, I had racked up 18, and enjoyed myself along the way. And while I’m thrilled that this process hasn’t become painful, I need to remember that that’s not the same thing as its being easy. I need to stop devaluing these accomplishments just because the masochist in me isn’t getting her thrills yet.

So, in conclusion, I rule. That is all.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Another day, another few miles

A few random thoughts from a run around my neighborhood yesterday

* The Life-Altering Orthotics (of doom)™ have arrived! They are in my shoes. They are altering my life, orthotically. They have not led to my doom. Yay.

* Damn, there are a lot of hills in my neighborhood. This sucks (but look how fit I am! I am running. Up. Faster than that old lady with the shopping cart!)

* I think these street lamps make my shadow’s ass look fat.

* Okay, so maybe my knee hurts a little from before. Because today they shouldn’t hurt at all. My life has been altered. By orthodics! Of NotDoom!

* It’s a good thing my knee still hurts, because if I didn’t have that to think about, I’d be bored. Now I can think about all the ways that technology sucks. Quacks. All the doctors and running experts are quacks. Anyone else want to sell me an expensive solution to my knee pain? That’s what my credit card is good for!

* Are you kidding me with this downhill crap? I just went up a hill. Figure out what you want, DC. Up or down? UP OR DOWN?

* According to my pedometer, I’ve already run over three miles. Right. If I believe that, there’s a bridge in London I’d like to sell me. (Hmm, that doesn’t work so well in the first person.) Stupid technology.

* That’s it. I’m moving. Anybody have a job for me in Kansas?

* I love contemporary indie rock, but I LOVE, for real, y’all, TRUE LOVE, 80s hard rock.


Okay, that was yesterday. Today, my knee doesn’t seem worse for the wear, after two days in a row of running, one enhanced by many hills. So maybe it’s the orthotics, or maybe it’s that I iced it when I got home, or maybe I’m just getting stronger and more invincible (never fear, Underdog is here!). Whatever. I’m going to talk to my coach about running stride on Saturday, and see where that leaves me.

For the record, I want to point out again that my knee doesn’t hurt in a searing pain, now I will die, kind of way. But it does hurt, in a consistent, every time I run, it hurts right THERE, no THERE, kind of way. And it wouldn’t bother me, except that I’m afraid that if I ignore it, it’ll become searing and awful and that was fun, that walking thing, but who loves wheelchairs, I do! Still, I feel like a wimp complaining, since, you know, it’s not really that bad.


Also, for all of you who yelled at me about running in Rock Creek Park, alone, after dark, I know. I get it. It was dumb. I basically figured that out by myself, not so smart as I am. It just sucks that one of the few nice places to run is actually scary and dangerous.

I was going to say, in my defense, that I’ve never seen anybody scary in Rock Creek Park, but, aside from the complete lack of logic in that argument (it only takes one murderer to ruin a party), it’s not even true. Last summer, in full daylight, on a sunny Sunday, surrounded by couples and families and dogs (nobody evil has a dog) this truly strange guy tried to pick me up.

Okay, so picture it. It’s sunny, it’s warm, I’m lying on a bench, reading my book, and this guy sits down nearby. I see him out of the corner of my eye, and he seems like your typical urban Phish fan. He’s got his sporty backpack, his bandanna, hemp necklace, his grungy sandals. Not really my type, but nothing to get excited about.

His opening line? “So, do you believe in aliens?” I know, awesome, right? To be fair, I was reading a sci-fi book, but still. Science fiction, so… No. Not so much.

So I look up, about to respond, and across his forehead? Is a GIANT, colorful, tattoo. Of a cross. It was weird, y’all. And not just because I’m Jewish.

I didn’t want to be rude, so I sort of mumble a reply while keeping my eyes on my book, all, “I don’t really want to talk, sir, I’m reading.” That’s what Miss Manners says to do. Honest, I read it in her book.

And before I know it, he’s telling me all about how aliens are totally real, and he’s even been to other planets, by somehow concentrating and then disappearing. Well, he used to be able to do it when he was a little kid, but he can’t really do it anymore. But he’s got a friend who can. And it was all very The Little Prince, but somehow not as cool.

Anyway, he babbled on for a while, I tried to read my book, and he finally got the hint and started reading his book about Hindi spiritualism. And then I left.

So I promise. No more running alone at night. Especially not in Rock Creek Park.

The good news is that I have running dates for the next three weekday runs. Look at me, with such sporty friends.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I'm back, baby!

If I were an international woman of mystery, my real name would be Natalya Tostordosky, but I wouldn’t tell you that.

If I were an international woman of mystery, I would frequently change my alias, and I would rendezvous with other international women of mystery to pick up my falsified documents.

If I were an international woman of mystery, I would meet strange characters on seedy, deserted street corners, and pay them to give me information about international men and women of villainy. And no one else would dare approach me for ill intent because I would have an aura of internationality and mystery that would signal to them, subconsciously, of course, that I was not a woman to be messed with.

And, if I were an international woman of mystery, I would change my routine daily, never following the same route home twice, never leaving or arriving at the same time. I would constantly be on the lookout for pursuers, who I could lose in the blink of an eye, but who I would occasionally lead on long, meandering chases through porn shops and expensive jewelry boutiques, sometimes to get a better look at them, and sometimes because even international women of mystery need entertainment.

Alas, I am not an international woman of mystery, and while I occasionally travel the world under alias, I loathe and despise changing my routine. So it is with newly rediscovered glee that I can report that I have returned to my post-work evening workout routine.

You, faithful readers, may not have been aware that I was still messing with that routine. In fact, ages ago, it seems, I wrote about how much I hated getting up in the morning to work out, only to discover that I still didn’t have enough time to finish everything. But, for a variety of reasons, including fun social plans in the evenings, and because I thought I could learn to love a new, early morning workout, I kept trying to wake up.

Well, it didn’t work, and I hated it. I managed to wake up most of the days, and to get to the gym on most of those days, but it just wasn’t the same. So last night, I ran after work, and still had plenty of time to do some weights, and make dinner, and watch Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars (oh, TV, how I love thee).


In other news, my run yesterday was fabulous. My knee hurt barely at all, the amount of hills to flat was just fine, it took the right amount of time, and there was plenty of room to make the run a bit longer as I get better at this.


I ran along Beach Drive, in Rock Creek Park, and for all that trees are pretty, it was just too scary. By the time I got that far, it was good and dark, except for the headlights of passing cars, which were just blinding enough to remove any lingering visibility of the trail. Plus, they made it look like my shadow was following me, which was extra creepy.

During the day, there are tons of runners and bikers along that trail, but last night I was the only one, and I guess now I know why. And there didn’t happen to be any rapists or murderers last night, but I can’t help but think about Chandra Levy and how she died in Rock Creek Park, not to mention all the women who’ve died in Central Park in NY. And, if I were an international woman of mystery, I’d probably know six ways to kill a person with my pinky toe, but I’m not (see above), and I promised my grandmother that I wouldn’t do unsafe things in this big, scary city.

So my search for a nice, relatively flat, 4-5 mile loop in my neighborhood continues. Sigh. Running marathons is hard.


Also, thanks for your helpful comments on the knee issue. I don’t think it was just because of the hills I ran, because I actually first noticed the problem on a treadmill run, but I’m sure the hills didn’t help. The Life-Altering Orthotics (of doom) ™ still haven’t arrived, but I’m hoping they’ll help, as will the strength training, and, of course, just being more in shape. Plus, I’ll ask my coaches for some advice on the stride/form question.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Cue the world's tiniest violin

Anyone mind if I whine a little bit?

Confused Reader: As opposed to… What?
Naomi: You know… Whatever I normally do in this blog.
CR: ….
Naomi: Oh. Right. Well, shall I carry on then?
CR: Please.

So, yeah, whining.

I’m super frustrated with my damn knee and how I can’t run. Right now is supposed to be the honeymoon of this here marathon. I’ve made the commitment and I’m deliriously happy and all (well, delirious, anyway), and it’s too soon for the really unbelievably, what the hell did I sign up for, long, painful runs, and besides which, the weather is freaking beautiful.

I just want to be able to follow my schedule, and run the distances that I so painstakingly highlighted on the calendar. Today, February 10: 4 miles. Piece of cake.

Except that my knee STILL hurts from Sunday when I ran a mere three miles (on very flat terrain). And the Life-Altering Orthotics (of doom)™ won’t get here until Tuesday, so I can only imagine that more running will make the knee less happy. And since this is only the beginning of this training, I figure I should probably let myself heal, so that two months from now I’m not having surgery. Thus I didn’t go to the gym at all today, even for non-knee-pain-causing activity, because I tried that for the past two days, and I can only assume that’s why my knee still hurts.

The worst part is that it really doesn’t hurt that badly. So I could totally handle a workout, if only I didn’t know that it would inevitably lead to further pain.

And the really worst part is that Saturday is our group run—our first real group run, since last week’s run around the track barely counted. But there’s a choice between running 5 miles and running 3, and I totally wanted to run 5 (all the cool kids will be running 5 miles) but instead I’ll just run 3 to spare my knee.


And I told you this entry would be whiny.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More reasons I'll never be a four star general

I don’t go to the doctor very often (except for routine stuff), but when I do, the absolute last thing I want to hear is “you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong.”

It’s not like I want to be told I’m dying, but generally speaking, it takes me a while to convince myself that I’m not just imagining the symptoms and that they won’t go away on their own.

So ideally, any visit to a doctor would go like this:

“So, Naomi, what seems to be the problem?”

[Insert description here.]

“Ah hah. Those symptoms — which are in no way your fault or exacerbated by choices you have made — in fact are very serious. They are certainly not life-threatening and are easily cured, but would have been made worse by ignoring them. You were exactly right to come in today.”

And then I would get a shiny gold star, and my report card would have an A+, and everybody would cheer.

Yeah, I’m tooootally normal.


So on Monday night, I headed out to the sports clinic to see someone about my knee trouble. I’m not actually sure if the guy I saw was a doctor (of the MD sort), a physical therapist, a chiropractor, or just some guy in scrubs they pulled in off the street. But the receptionist called him doctor, and the Team in Training folks recommended the clinic, and they were offering a free screening to TNT participants, which they were scheduling at last week’s marathon training clinic, so I was reasonably sure I was getting sound medical advice and not joining a cult. And the Kool-aid was very refreshing.

And the doc, as nearly as possible, followed the script above.

Well, first he scoffed loudly and repeatedly at the fabulous running shoes I bought, and rolled his eyes twice (the second time was on purpose in case I missed it the first time, he said) at the concept of a store saleswoman diagnosing my over-pronation or lack thereof from watching me walk.

But then he pushed at my knee from various angles, asking me if it hurt, and he was quickly mmhmmm-ing and saying, “good.” And then he made me stand in bare feet, at which point he said, “yup”, and asked me if I knew was over-pronating was.

Y’all, it’s not that I don’t have arches. I just don’t know how to use them. But it’s not my fault, because it’s a structural thing. He even forced my feet into the proper position, to show me how much my feet really don't do that naturally.

So I’m getting me some orthotics (as extreme as they come, apparently), which will make my knees stop hurting when I run. Yay!

Of course, the downside is that, because it was a free screening, the dude couldn’t actually prescribe anything, so I have to go back tomorrow to be officially fitted. At 7 am. Gah.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Wanna hear an embarrassing (true) story?

Who am I asking? Of course you do.

One time, when I was in high school, the gym teacher actually made us run at the beginning of class (as opposed to the heart-healthy ping pong playing that formed our usual in-class activity). So out into the chilly fall air we (unwillingly) trotted, and ran our laps.

Given what’s coming next, I’d love to tell you that we had to run a mile that day. And, you know, could’ve been a mile. But I kinda think it may have been just one lap. As in, a quarter of a mile.

And, lungs burning as I made my way back inside, I started making excuses. “This can’t be normal,” said I. “Maybe I have asthma,” I told my asthmatic friends (one of whom was frequently hospitalized as a young child for asthma attacks; both of whom were breathing just fine, at that moment, thank you very much). “I just can’t be this out of shape. I’m young and healthy!”

Y’all? I was that out of shape.

Okay, we’ll get back to that, but first let’s jump to the more recent past. After last Tuessday’s looooong and hilly run, I woke up at the next morning to give it another go. I didn’t post about it because it sucked even more than the first try, for a variety of reasons (one of which was assuredly NOT the bottle of wine I split at dinner the night before). The relevant reason is this: my lungs are in much better shape than my legs. After Tuesday’s run, I was sore and tired, but I ignored that and ran even farther anyway. (Actually, I didn’t intend to run quite so far, but that’s a different and far more annoying story.)

Anyway, based on my previous history, with large amounts of laziness and inactivity (yeah, see above), I find it shocking that my lungs are in any kind of shape. And I find it even more astounding that my motivation is so strong. In the past, the tiniest ache was enough to park me on my couch for a week, until the memory of exercise had faded into a distant, dreamlike thing.

The point is not to say, look how very hard core I am (“I laugh in the face of pain!”) because, like I said, Wednesday’s run sucked, and I probably should have taken a break and run on Thursday. But still. Look at how very hard core I am!

In other news, on Saturday, I had my first run with Team in Training, which was lovely and fantastic. First we learned all about shoes, and nutrition, and injury prevention, and then we had an easy three-mile run, which was made even easier as I ran with a nice girl whose car I didn’t hit while I was parking (no really, I didn’t hit it. I don’t care how close I got).

I also made an appointment with the sports rehab people to look at my feet (the arch-less wonders) as my knees are still not happy, even with my spiff-tastic new shoes. That’s tonight, so we’ll see what new ways the running hobby can cost me money. Good thing I’m so hard core.

And finally, a thank you to all who are reading (and even commenting sometimes!) I wouldn’t have guessed how very besotted I would become with this running thing. And when I post about it here, I feel less of a compulsion to talk about it all day long, which is a mercy for the people who know me in real life. And some of them read this journal, but that’s their choice, so I don’t feel bad being so very boring and obsessed.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all*

Today I ran outside (as opposed to on a treadmill) for the first time.

So…. Good news or bad news first?

Let’s start with the good news. I woke up without too much trouble at around 6 am, which, well… Wow. I headed out in the sub-freezing temperatures, I wasn’t even cold. In fact, I would say I was the perfect amount of not cold but not hot, especially after I took off my gloves.

And more good news. It didn’t really feel like exercise. I mean, I guess it felt more like exercise than anything else, but running when you’re actually moving forward is way better than running in place. There’s all sorts of things to think about besides how boring and painful this is. Like: where am I going? And: if yet another runner passes me going twice my speed, I’m going to trip him. And my favorite: look, the sun is finally up and now it’s in my eyes!

And the best news is that I actually did run four miles. It took me just this side of forever (I probably could have walked faster, and no, I don’t really understand how that works), but I did it.

But the bad news is, well, not to be all tautological or anything, but it’s bad.

First of all, four miles? Is A LOT farther than I thought it was. I had a whole route planned out in my head that I was sure was about 3.5 or 4 miles. Turns out, it’s 2.25.

And my neighborhood? Is REALLY hilly, and mostly up. I mean, yes, if I ran in one direction and then doubled back, there would be an even amount of up and down, but I was looking for a loop, and this morning’s loop? Was majority uphill both ways. Which is seriously tiring, y’all.

So I ran real slow. Which would be fine, because I had plenty of time this morning. But if I’m trying to run twenty-six miles at this pace… Well, I might need a hotel room for the halfway mark.

But (back to good news) the human brain is fabulous at forgetting pain. Or maybe that’s just me. So even though this morning was über hard, that memory has all but faded already.

* I am really, really hoping that six months down the line, this entry will serve as a humorous reminder: “Wow, look how far I’ve come! I can’t believe I thought that was hard.” Instead of: “Gee, do you remember when I thought I could run a marathon? I must have been on crack! Are there any cookies left?”