17 April 2014

"It's not your fault, but let's punish you anyway."

I biked to work today; I'm lucky in that I have a pleasant ride, in bike lanes and parks and along or above the water. I got to work in a good mood.

The nice security guard at my job gestured toward the service elevator, and I crammed myself inside with some smiles at the workers going to various floors. They were nice and I'm sure admiring what a lovely bike I had.

When we got to the 10th floor, one of the construction workers in the elevator got out, and one of his passing colleagues said, "Nice helmet" in a sarcastic, obnoxious way. It is a nice helmet, and it's much better than having your skull cracked open and brains on the pavement.

"How obnoxious," I said to the elevator operator.

"Yep. That's why the construction workers take these elevators, and why we don't have the regular people in this building take the service elevators."

I got out on my floor, and as I wheeled my bike into the file room in my office, I thought, "Why do they have to do that? Why can't they just have the construction workers act in a respectful way instead of saying that they don't like having the office workers in the service elevators?"

Then I thought how our society does this - punishes the victim. "What were you wearing?" we ask the rapist. After I complained of sexual harassment, I was asked, "What did you say to him?"

Can we get to a point where the victim does not have to be punished - and the complete jerks are the ones who have to change their behaviors? 

13 April 2014

Hot, Hot, Hot

I started practicing yoga really young - in elementary school, I watched a yoga show on PBS. I hid in my room and did it along in secret, not sure why I was doing it in secret except it seemed weird. Then I got a book which I brought to school and showed everyone "Lion." I had a lot of fun with my practice when I was younger, but I wasn't really serious until I went to Naropa. To fulfill my contemplative requirement, I had to take a yoga class, and it was the best yoga class I ever took, the one that taught me what I love in a yoga class and what I need in a yoga class. For me, yoga is about the mind and the body, and is a spiritual practice. I love the cleansed feeling my body and mind have post-yoga. 

It's been a while since I practiced yoga. Before I started running ultras all the time, I practiced yoga 3-4 times a week. As I upped my mileage and my time in the gym, my yoga time decreased...and then my beloved yoga studio, Kusala, closed. I was really sad. I occasionally go to my gym, or another studio, or practice on my own, but not as much.

Last year, I hurt my wrist. Tendinitis meant any kind of pressure caused pain, so I stopped yoga. I tried, but it was just too hard, and painful. I was sad.

Wayne's back is completely messed up, and with a diagnosis in arthritis, I finally was able to convince him to go to yoga. Someone suggested hot yoga would be good, and since I've heard some negative things about bikram, we went to the hot yoga studio in Williamsburg, Yoga for the People.

The room was 105 F, but didn't feel that awful actually. You just dripped sweat the entire time, which was really lovely. The room had a sweaty stench that you quickly got used to.

I wasn't used to the style - the instructor was yelling, clapping, counting. It seemed more like a boot camp class at the gym than yoga. I felt like when I was breathing at my own pace, I was going to make her mad (I'm asthmatic and can never breathe as long as everyone else). Weird feeling to have in yoga.

Post-class, Wayne and I headed out to our bikes where the cool air (It was not really that cool, but felt AMAZING post-class) relaxed us. My ankle felt a little weird, and I remember reading that sometimes people stretch themselves too far in the heat and can hurt themselves. I drank a bunch of water, Wayne made us refreshing cocktails (St Germaine, gin, and grapefruit soda, anyone???), and we relaxed together - and for me, that was the best practice. Relaxing, doing things at your own pace, and feeling the peace.

07 April 2014

Umstead 100: Misery, Party, Blisters, Hallucinations of Jesus, and Sub 24 (though far from my goal)

 Umstead 100 is always a fun 100 miler. There are good friends, reunions, friendly volunteers, runnable course, Ray K, proximity to my sister, lots of runners, and so much fun. Of course you have to do it. Of course.
Tony is Da Man (photo by John Price)

I had a lot of trouble in the race. In fact, when I finished, I sat on the steps to the lodge bawling. "Why can't I just run a good race? Why is every race I run terrible?"

But it was fun. I spent time with good friends. We had great weather. I got to see my sister and super cute nephew. So it was a good race for those reasons.

Umstead is a great race because the course is great - fairly runnable, with some challenging hills. The weather is usually mild, in April for North Carolina, with usually pleasant race-day temps, though it can get cooler at night. The footing is good. There are port-a-potties twice on the 12.5 mile loop, and real bathrooms. There are two big aid stations with TONS of food, and a few smaller ones with limited amounts of food and Gatorade and water. It is a real fun party ultra, with great crowds and smiling folks. I love it. Also, it's ten minutes from my sister's house, which is even better! I had John Price crew me, and he's an amazing crew too, so everything was perfect.

Lap One
I began running with Tony, which was fun. We went out too fast - 1:55 for the first 12.5 miles. I didn't remember it being so hilly. We flew in and out of the aid stations, not stopping at any except the main HQ. We caught up on each others' lives and laughed and talked.

Lap Two
My tummy began hurting and I ran into the Port-a-Potty. Oh no, would this be a repeat of my first Umstead? Ugh. I ate chewable Immodiums at the aid station and washed it down with SNOWCONES. I love Umstead.

Lap Three
Tony and I began feeling somewhat crappy - my stomach, his legs felt dead. (He ran a 50 miler on sand two weeks prior.) We suffered and were quiet in our heads, chatting occasionally.

Hal Koerner was in the lead, and passed us. He was running up a hill - blasting it, actually - and Tony and I were walking. Tony yelled, "Good job," and I said, "Running? You're amazing. You're supposed to be walking it and complaining, like us!" He laughed.

(John Dennis also passed us, saying nothing more than screaming, "ON YOUR RIGHT" because he NEEDED that tangent. We moved over quickly for him.)

Lap Four
I was feeling better, and trying to swallow my gus. I ate poptarts when I could, and Tony was suffering a lot. I tried to cheer him up.

We were running on the flats in the hilly section after the second main aid station. It was Hal Koerner. I recognized him from behind. He was walking the flats. We stopped and walked up the hill with him. He told us he had a crazy week, and we chatted for a few  minutes. A really nice guy. We laughed when he said, "Didn't we meet here last lap?"

Running so fast I'm a blur (photo by John Price)
A bit before the aid station, I began running and Tony was still walking. We separated then, and Tony made it one more lap before leg cramping left him with a credit for 50 miles.

Laps Five and Six
Toast of gingerale (photo by Mary Shannon)

My pacer Carter Swampy met me. Carter is the nicest guy; we barely knew each other and now I adore him. We met at Croatan, and he offered to pace me. He paced for me two awesome laps, and we had a blast. He pushed me, let me set the pace, let me be ridiculous, told me entertaining stories, acted as my therapist, laughed, looked at my blisters, watched as I ate poptarts, and had fun - all while running or cursing at the hills.

My sister met us in the middle of lap five. It meant a lot to me; she had a baby three weeks ago and was recovering from surgery a week ago and couldn't walk far. We hung out for a few minutes, chatting, and she even brought my adorable nephew.

My headlamp stopped working. I hated gus. All food was awful. Drinking a normal amount sloshed in my stomach. My feet were hurting. My hamstrings, my hamstrings. That blister - the one I always get. OW.

Lap Seven
Kevin and his awesome fiancee Isa met me. They were incredible. They fed me, they made me run, they listened to me whine, they took care of me. I was miserable. My blisters sucked, it was dark, I was tired, and running sucks.

Lap Eight
Before lap eight, I hopped on Denise's massage table for a mini-massage. My legs felt better and Melissa began pacing me with a run-walk mixture. Unfortunately, my blisters felt like hell, worse, and my feet were so swollen I could only hobble. Misery. I was crying and wanted to stop. I wanted to curl up and nap. I hated everything. Everything. Melissa was telling me stories about deer attacking people and I was wondering if one would do that to me.

At the second big aid station, I had them pop my blisters. It took time, but now I was able to run again. They also gave me a cute throw-away fleece, and I felt warm. Melissa and I ran to the finish.

I sat on the steps and cried. What a disappointment. I trained so hard and to fall apart? Do I just not have it? Is the end just too difficult? Should I stick with 50 milers? Do I need to run in bigger shoes? Should I amputate my little toe? Am I too slow? Should I stick to roads? Am I crazy for doing this?

I don't know. I love ultrarunning. I am hungering for a good race, for a PR, for a race where I know I ran my best. It's been a while, but I'm hoping I'll have that soon.

Even if I didn't run my best, I know I did all I could do. I ran sub 24, which is still quite good. I need to talk to my podiatrist about my recurring blister on my pinky toe, eat more sweets, and figure out my tummy. Life is good. Umstead was fun. I finished, and running is almost always a blissful, beautiful thing.

02 April 2014

Ladies First in this Half!

Hello, the logo was a version of Rosie the Riveter? Hell yes, this hardcore feminist is signing up.

NYC Runs was putting on another half-marathon on my PR course, Shore Road: the women-only Ladies First Half Marathon! This is not the best course to run in cooler temps – it can be windy, cold, and the waves tend to splash up on the course on windy days. A week before Umstead 100, run a half? Why not. I wouldn’t race it hardcore, but have fun.

Unfortunately, my hamstring began hurting. PT on Thursday, a suggestion to go back to my old sneakers, and advice to tape on both sides were taken. I decided to scale my goals back….and run slow.

I ran easy, chatting w strangers. I felt good, and did not wear a  Garmin – who knows my time? My main goal was to not hurt myself more, and to run under 2 hours. I did both.

It was pouring on the flat double out-and-back course. It felt colder than it was, because it was windy and raining. I wore many layers, but didn’t regret.

The last few miles, I slowed down, having to go to the bathroom and feeling crappy. I pushed, saw 1:58, and happily accepted my most-feminist medal ever. I ate some of the fab NYC Runs post-race fare, hopped on a bus to a train to another train to home for a very hot bath and pumpkin pancakes.

01 April 2014

K Tape Confusion

I always thought ktape was stupid BS. I thought the same thing about chiropractors, until my doctor had me go to one for my migraines and after I saw him, I didn't get a migraine for three or four months. I changed my mind the same way about the ktape. 

When I went to Burning Man with an injured wrist, I didn't want to destroy my nice wrist brace. With Wayne promising to do all the heavy lifting, I left my brace in the car and wore tape all week.

And discovered my wrist felt better.

Perhaps it was a combination of things, but I hadn't felt so good in ages. I'm a fan more of the Kinesio Tex Classic than the Pro (I find the pro tends to peel off much quicker and I often don't want the exact size they have picked), but I find it to be great. Yes, when running races, they tend to peel off, but right now it's Tuesday and I'm wearing the same tape I put on Saturday. And I think it will go kicking a few more days.

I was walking down the street with Dite, having an intense conversation, when someone woman grabbed me. She hissed and I said, "What?" wondering what she wanted.

"You have something down your leg."

I immediately thought, "Blood," but I don't have my period. I saw nothing on my beige and gold-flecked tights.

"I don't know, I think I'm fine."

"No, no you're not. You have something."

Still, I saw nothing. But this woman wouldn't let me walk. She hissed, "Something fell...maybe a 'light days pantiliner. Fell down your leg."

And then I realized she could see the kt-tape through my tights...

"Oh, that? That's just tape to support my hamstring. Nothing to worry about."

31 March 2014

Ultrarunners are gross, focused, and crazy. I'm proud to be one.

Run Love

How would it be to never run?

Wayne and I met through our running club. On our second date (what I have often joked, still hasn’t ended), we woke up the next morning, blissful, and headed upstate to go trail running. I felt so happy to finally have met a runner – but there were so many things other than running that we had in common. Like biking around Brooklyn, or eating good food, or talking about politics or good books or what we heard on NPR, or street art, or traveling, or Burning Man (eventually for Wayne; I had to introduce him to it.), or the beaches, or heading to the parks for summertime picnics, or petting the Luna Dune, and basically, everything else. But still – it was nice to run.

All our runs together weren’t blissful, but it still was fun to have a built-in running partner. In the cobblestone streets of Peru, or the beaches of Zipolite, Mexico, or through the gorgeous eternal spring-like streets of Medellin, we ran together, exploring, laughing, talking in English when Spanish was all that filled our ears otherwise. He met me on Valentine’s Day on the Williamsburg Bridge, and we stopped home and bought a bottle of champagne to drink post-run. We ran through the streets at night, streets that were so empty we felt like we owned them, finishing off in Kellogg’s Diner, eating food that only tastes good at 3 a.m. In the Marin Headlands, and in Big Sur, Wayne paused so I could hug the giant trees we ran past. We crossed the finish line of the Brooklyn Marathon together hand-in-hand. In his first ultramarathon, Burning Man 50k, when I saw him at the turn-around point, he just bawled in my arms. “Cherie, this is so hard. I love you.” And I kissed and held him tightly.  

This year, he didn’t run the Burning Man 50k; he was injured. When I came in for my last four mile loop, he was laughing, drinking a beer. “Please, come out with me. I’m having a terrible race.” I had spent approximately 40 minutes in the (thankfully clean) Port-a-Potties that dotted the course. He ran into our tent to pull on running shorts and sneakers. “Let’s go!”

We ran down C, making a right on 7:30. I ran like a maniac, weaving in and out, stopping at Bubbles and Bass for a cup of champagne. We finished, and I spent a good two hours hunched over sitting on a cooler, clutching my miserable tummy, in between handing out medals and sweaty hugs to finishers. It was so hard for him to watch and support and believe in my race, as an injured runner.

He has been having issues for a year and a half and was told this morning that he shouldn’t run again. Nothing impact. He has a form of arthritis and now is starting a round of oral steroids. Next up, injections.

It sucks so bad when you can’t do what you love most. He is hoping that the steroids and if he does strengthening and core that he’ll be able to start running someday. He is signed up for the Brooklyn Marathon this autumn, as am I; I had hoped we could celebrate together.

From so many misdiagnoses to a depressing diagnosis, I hope he can get to where he can once again, do one of the things that he loves most in the world.

30 March 2014

Tutu Love

After finishing the NYC Marathon in 2013, I was overcome with emotion. Not my fastest marathon by far (3:45) BUT I had run a PR for 24 hours (nearly 116 miles) the week before, where I also placed second USATF woman and won $750. I started sobbing of what a long running journey I had been on and who even knew? Most people in NYC really only care about the marathons, not these crazy long-ass races I like to do. But I can do both, and enjoy both.
copyright robert james reese

Recently, Self Magazine criticized a woman who ran a marathon in a tutu, ranking it high on their "BS" meter as "lame." (BTW Self, calling something "lame" is not exactly PC or sensitive. HELLO!) Turns out, the runner was fighting cancer and was running through chemo. Pretty impressive and amazing. There was zero reason Self should have been nasty, condescending, and cruel - esp about a woman fighting cancer.

Self, I will never buy your magazine.

23 March 2014

Merge 25k: "That's a downhill in the opposite direction."

Superchunk has been one of my favourite bands since high school. When I heard that Merge was having a 25k race in honour of their 25th anniversary, I knew of course that I should go. I really hoped I would see Laura and Mac in sweaty running clothes, and we'd talk about gus and pacing and that twinge in my hamstring. Oh, and my sister was having her second baby right before, so the timing was perfect.

I headed down to NC on Friday to spend some time with my sister and her adorable babes. Saturday found me shivering at the starting line of the Merge 25k with 10 other NBR peeps - yep, 10 of us flew down from NYC. People were baffled by us and our North Brooklyn Runner shirts, "Wait, where are you from? Brooklyn, NY? Really? And you flew down here?"

Yes, Merge Records is awesome and why not fly to run someplace different?

My hamstring was feeling kinda crappy, so I vowed to take it pretty easy. I wanted to keep my pace between 8 and 9 minute miles, and I spent many of the early miles chatting with fellow runners, cursing at the hills, smiling. I was wearing my pink tutu, so I got a lot of cheers for that.

Around mile 8 or 9, my hamstring cursed me out and began to really hurt me. I stopped and stretched but yep, it still hurt. I slowed the pace, tried to smile when inside I hurt. Why is my hamstring not getting better? I have Umstead 100 in two weeks. Eeek!

Oh, and there were approximately a million hills. Steep up, steep down, and some gentle ups and downs too. Fun times. They had signs everyone kilometer, and some of the signs had fun facts about beloved Merge bands like Superchunk and Arcade Fire. The course was full of pretty quiet roads, lots of hills and pretty houses and cheering people here and there.

I finished and felt crappy and went straight to the PT tent. I used the foam roller and felt nothing; then one of the friendly PTs gave me a mini-massage and more info.

I hung out in the sun with everyone from NBR. I watched an amazing performance - a combo of jump-roping and gymnastics. And no one messed up once! I cheered for them.

Mac also was djing at the finish line, and played Pavement. I was walking around, looking for NBR, and I couldn't help by sing along with "Shoot the Singer." I saw some random runner indie-rocker-type singing along too. Awwww. I felt at home.

The bands started. First up was Cosmic Punk and they were INCREDIBLE. I was dancing and so happy to be bopping around. Post-race, awesome music - YES! Bomina and I both wanted to buy their CD only to find out they don't have a CD and they are just in high school. And they're THAT awesome? Yes!

The rest of the day, we hung out, drank, had food, danced, listened to music, spent too long in the sun. It was fun to see a combination of music fans and runners and beer drinkers (sometimes all three were the same!). Also, I stood behind Laura from Superchunk and gawked.

Post race, local ultrarunner Mark Manz showed up and he came with the NBR crew + Ray to get brunch.

Merge, I love you for putting on this super fun race.

19 March 2014

SC 24 Hour: Not a Way You Want to Run 24 Hours

In a recent Ultrarunning Magazine, Ann Trason talked about running a 24 hour on the track. She said, "It's kind of zen."

Well, yes. In a way, that really oversimplifies things. It is that, but so much more.

I thought I would hate running a 24 hour on the track. When Ray K. told me he wanted to put on the South Carolina 24 Hour, I thought, "Well of course I have to do that. But it will suck." It didn't. The constant support, everyone cheering each other on, the energy...it was wonderful. It was a party.

The fearless 24 hour runners!
Ray had his high school runners as timers. My timer was the super friendly Harriet who was out on the track for most of the race (though she went home to sleep, smart girl!). We made eye contact every time, and she'd say things like, "40k" or "68 laps" or whatever. Plus everyone else cheered me on. The kids LOVED the race, and we loved them.

Logistically, the track was easy to set things up. The high school runners brought out SCHOOL DESKS and we set up our little personal aid stations on the school desks. It was great for us out-of-towners who flew in and didn't have chairs and much of anything. Fantastic.

Most everyone was friendly. Zach Bitter (who ended up breaking the 200k AR during the race, and currently owns the AR for 100 miles and World Record for 12 hours) said encouraging things nearly every time he passed. Harvey ended up qualifying for the World Team, but started the race chatting and laughing with me. I made new friends - the runners, their crews, and the timers - and it was really a lot of fun.

"I want to puke!"

I started out feeling okay. Some of the women were hammering (Go Katy - she got the 200k AR and ran one of the fastest 100 mile times ever - but she always had a kind word and compassion, especially as she could see I was suffering.) and I probably went out a wee bit fast, in the 8:00-9:00 range, occasionally faster. I felt good, drank water, laughed, chatted, enjoyed the run.

That lasted for about an hour.

My stomach turned into a nightmare. I began feeling queasy. I kept up my pace the best I could, and began begging Wayne (who was timing) for cups of iced ginger ale when I came through.

My stomach grew worse. I ran through the aid station at one point and cried, "Wayne!" He ran over as I cried while dry heaving. Miserable.

I slowed down. Walk. Run. Cry. Dry heave. Cry. Walk. Run. Run. Run. Dry heave. I was not eating and I knew this was dangerous. I didn't know what to do. I asked Coach K for advice; he tried to get me to drink watered down Coke and I threw a fit and it made me more nauseas.

My tummy felt  little better, and my hamstrings - yep, both - seized up. I ran, walked. I wished I could eat. I found myself getting lapped and lapped and lapped - "Hi Zach, Hi Katalin, Hi Harvey, Hi Everyone..." and the sufferfest went on.

Should I quit? Was I pushing myself unnecessarily?

Ray suggested I take a nap. I did and it was good but I was still sick. I ran some more. I walked some more. I drank some ginger ale and cried. I went to lie down again. I got up. I ran. I walked. I dry heaved. I cried. I wished I could eat. Everyone said such encouraging things, even the kids as I told them, "Don't tell me I'm doing a good job! I'm not! I'm sucking." Oh, but you are, they told me, repeatedly. "I am feeling miserable and running horribly for me. Maybe you could say other things?" So they began talking about how nice I looked and how they liked my outfit and rainbows and unicorns and I loved the kids at Wilson High. I thanked them profusely at the end, and really I cannot thank them enough.

I ran with lots of different people. I walked with different people. I was in my head. I listened to music. I didn't listen to music. I felt the heat of the day (probably why I was sick) and the cold of the night. I pushed beyond what I could and it still wasn't enough.

My friend Iliana arrived to crew me approximately 6 hours late. I was freaking out, with stories in my head that she got in a car accident and was dead and now everyone would blame me because she was driving to see me. She arrived around 5 am and took charge, organized all of my stuff, and was an amazing crew. She said encouraging things.

In the end, Shannon and Harvey qualified for the National Team for World Championships. I envied them and admired their amazing performances. It was not my day at all. 

It was a day to have Alec, Lara's husband take a knife and attempt to pop my blister mid-race. It was a race where I ran the last 50 miles in shoes with the toes cut out. It was a race where the volunteers (including my boyfriend) ate more than I did during the race, much more. It was a race with blazing sun that burnt me, and rain that led us to our finish. It was race with so much fun (Colorful characters like Andy, who suffered immensely but pushed through with his pink power to complete 100 miles.). A lot of the other runners has issues with nausea, but apparently I had the worst problems, with nausea dominating 23 hours of my race.

I ran with Chris at the end, and then took a walk break. The last hour I found myself running pretty strong, knowing the end was near. I finished with nearly 90 miles, and was so grateful to finish.

Thank you to Ray, all of the runners, their crews, the volunteers (yes, I love you all), Iliana, Wayne. I had a blast, even if my stomach hated me. And I ran while carrying a slurpee. That was awesome.

Total food consumed:
  • one vanilla gu (33 minutes into the race)
  • Some cliff shot blocs (not too many)
  • 2 pop-tarts (Thank you, Max, for letting me raid Meghan's food supply)
  • a handful of cheese nips
  • some broth
  • a couple of crackers
  • two pretzels
  • a popsicle (Thanks Kelley!)
  • a slushee mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

09 March 2014

TGNY 100 Miler Training Run #1: Bushwhacking, Snow, Getting Lost, Donuts, People Dancing on Railings...

Running is only as much fun as you make it.

The trick about TGNY 100 is that the course isn't really marked; this year, American-record-holder and RD decided to host training runs along the course so we could figure out the course a little bit better.

We started from the starting point in Times Square, and I only planned on running 12-15 miles because I have a 24 hour race next week. No problem, right? Easy peasy? Well....

We started out and I hung towards the back. My hamstring has been feeling funny, so why not take it easy?

We started out on the streets, chatting, laughing. Overheard dialog included, "The cock was exposed..." Beth and I tried to get further details, but did not. Oh, well!

I felt pretty good and was cheerful. The hamstring was behaving and I walked anything that somewhat looked like a hill. It was cold, but not too bad. Everyone traded running partners and got to know each other.

Then we got to a big mess of snow and ice and it took me forever to brave with, with Byron letting me cling onto his arm. Then we got to the bridge to cross into the Bronx, only to realize we could not cross. Alas, the photo below.

We ended up walking on some other icy, snowy paths. And Melissa and I were chatting with Mat, and somehow got caught behind, alone, and took the wrong path. We got lost, and bushwhacked a bunch until we got to this lovely photo.

We met up with everyone at Twin Donut, and I was so hungry I ended up eating half of Beth's donuts, even though I really hate donuts. But ultrarunners have to eat Twin Donut in NYC; it's kind of a rule. So I did.

Beth and I ran for a bit longer, than hopped on the subway. I got probably 14 + miles in for the day (when you counted getting lost) though some of that was falling into the snow (Does that count?) and then we took the super long journey of the 1 train back downtown.

Pancakes, eggs, tea, and relaxing...that's the rest of the day for me!

Get the Runner's High!

In college, we wanted to get t-shirts that said "L.S.D.: Get the Runner's High."

L.S.D. of course stands for Long Slow Distance!

Our coach wouldn't let us. But I still say to this day, running is a real high.

I definitely get an endorphin high, and whenever injured, feel down, depressed. Last time I couldn't run, I picked a fight with Wayne, cried for no reason, and ate too much food. From ages 17-22, I was a hardcore raver, but straight-edge - I never did any drugs or drank. My friends didn't understand. Why would I need to - I had fun and if I wanted to feel great, I just ran.

But sometimes, we get high when we run. It's a natural, uncontrollable high....and then of course, we hallucinate sometimes, so it's kind of like drugs. Just much better for you.

I first started noticing how running altered my mind and my body in weird ways. I remember running back to my parents' house in high school; I never carried keys because I'd just ring the bell - they were usually home. And standing at the door, ringing the bell repeatedly (because that's the way we do things in my family!), I remember feeling my legs move up and down and suddenly confused that they were no longer running.

At Iron Horse 100k, I stopped and stretched a bunch. I'd lean over, and the ground would almost COME UP at me - it would be moving and swaying. Do you know what I mean? Wow, how interesting the dirt is!

I also have a tendency to hallucinate a lot more than others. At Croatan 24 hour two years ago, Wayne said, "Will you please stop telling me what you see - it's freaking me out." Thanks, darling.

I wonder what causes more hallucinations. More wobbly leg feelings. More visions. I know it's the more running, but why do I hallucinate more than some of my other friends?

Caumsett 50k: Why Not?

I signed up for the Caumsett 50k, with the intention of running a fast 50k. That did not happen, but I did have fun!

The day before the race, I was doing the best run my running club offers (You run over the Williamsburg Bridge and then everyone gets coffee and tea and hangs out. Yay!) and Mary and I were chatting, running an okay pace - not too fast, not too slow. Suddenly my hamstring began hurting me. Stupid ego got in the way - I was with my running club, I couldn't walk! - and it was WAY too cold to not be running with what I've worn, and I ran with pain the rest of the way. Then we sat with our tea talking for a long while and Wayne picked me up in his car. Hmmm, bad sign.

The rest of the day, I headed to the Russian Banya for Menachem's birthday where we sat in steam rooms, drank tea and fresh juices, and relaxed. I tried to stretch.

I woke up the morning, and did a test run a few blocks away. No pain. After talking with my coach the illustrious Ray K., I decided to take it easy. Run when I could, walk when I couldn't.
Very serious at the start of our 50k!

Mary and I ran the first 12 miles together. We had a lot of fun, talking, sharing stories, walking the hills due to pain in both our hamstrings (my right, Mary's left). Some snotty woman was like, "What, are you walk-running?" Mary responded, "No, we're injured."

Mary was in a lot of pain and wanted to drop out. She decided to walk a lap and then ended up running again and finishing not that long after me. Yay, Mary!

It wasn't until the halfway point when I thought, "Yes, yes, I can finish this." My hamstring was hurting me, but I walked many of the small hills which gave me a good rest.

The course is flat with a few small hills, and a 5k loop that you do 10k. It's nice to not need to carry a water bottle or much food. They have two water stops, and the main aid station has lots of food, including CAKE!

I notice 8-something miles as I was toward the end - not bad for a semi-injured runner! I finished in 5:18 and was very pleased. I stretched, ate a bit, and then headed home for a session in the bathtub with lots of Epsom salts and some stretching. What a fun day with great crowd support, a John Budge to help with scoring, and good friends en route!

25 February 2014

Papa, My Dear

My Papa died three and a half years ago. I still miss him.

I went down to visit my Gram and it's funny how pain recedes, but often flashes so fresh in certain instances. 

Gram still keeps his sweater hanging off the back of the chair. Greg, their neighbor, who died last year after a long, painful struggle with bone cancer, used to call him "pinky" because of it. Gram also has his ashes in the house, and his leopard-print Snuggie that my sister and I bought him because he was always cold.

Three and a half years ago, I talked to my Papa the day before I left for Burning Man. He was in the hospital, but moving to a rehab center. He sounded in good spirits. I told him to feel better, and that I loved him.

And then I went to my favourite week of the year, to Home. I thought of him, but I wasn't worried. He was getting better.

Thursday morning, while I biked with my good friend Rachelle to the Black Rock City Farmers Market, to much on carrots and pickled cauliflower and laugh and flirt and smile and be free, my dear Papa died. 

Gram was woken in the middle of the night, "Come quick; he's doing poorly." She sat by his side, watching her husband of so many years, of so much love and adoration, pass. He was unconscious, but she held his hand, whispering, "I love you." In reply, he squeezed her hand.

That night, while my Papa rest in a funeral home somewhere, and my family members suffered, I biked deep into the playa, shimmering in sparkles. I went to the temple and wrote on the wall. "Papa, I don't want you to be in pain anymore. Please get stronger and happy. I love you." It was impossible for me to know that he had died. He was already gone. Without cell phone service, reality was lost.

I left the playa, full of love and light. While Rachelle was driving, I called my mother.

"Is everyone okay?"

"How was it?"

"Is everyone alive?"

"Did you have fun?"

"Mom - did anyone die?"


With that, my world collapsed. My beloved Papa...The pain ripped through my whole body as I began bawling with a force that left me feeling ill.

I texted my boss, who was so understanding and told me to take all the time I needed. I went home, and cried, and washed my clothes, and cried. My sister flew to NY and we drank and I cried and I cried.

I flew to Florida to visit my Gram; she was holding up well. I slept in my Papa's side of their bed but couldn't really sleep. I'd wake up at 4 or 5am every day and head out for long runs,  five, six hours. I'd stop and fill my water bottle in parks along A1A, and cry. I'd hold it up in front of her, and play Rummicube, helped her go through his stuff. It was just so sad how much love she had for all his items, when I knew it would go to a thrift store where no one would care about it or know what a sweet man he had been. I hugged my Gram and tried to keep in most of my tears as we threw away medication, old shoes, and rearranged things. She was keeping busy.

When I got to the airport, they told me my flight was cancelled. I had to get back to NY the next day; I had a presentation at work. More than that, all the pain began leaking. I bawled at the ticket counter. Somehow I got on a plane and got home.

"My papa died," I told the guy on the plane next to me.

"I'm sorry about your father."

"No, he was my grandfather. And he was wonderful."

And he was. I miss him still, every day. I wish I could get a sloppy kiss on the cheek from him, give him a hug, hear his thick British accent. Even in death, love still doesn't die.

I love you, Papa.

23 February 2014

Can I bottle up moments like these and savor them at a later date?

The subway was made for dancing.

And meeting strangers.

And being completely overwhelmed by the music.

Enjoying the moment.

Trains flying under your feet.

And my feet never skip a beat.

Michael has been putting on the amazing Silent Disco Parties for a while. The idea is brilliant - everyone wears wireless headphones with two channels, and dances. No one else is subjected to noise, so no one is disturbed, conversations are easy - thus leading to the mobile silent disco parties. Brilliance.

After dinner and wine with Menachem and Beth, Beth and I hopped in Colin's car and headed over to the loft to pick up our headphones. It was a smaller group, full of amazing people.

The music was amazing. My feet ache from dancing. On the subway, passengers would watch, amused. We'd share our headphones, and they'd bop along, loving the music. I felt so free, dancing, letting the music invade my soul. I was nearly sober (Just had a small bit of alcohol, not enough to make my tipsy.) but the music was infatuating and overwhelming me. It was taking over. I was music.

I danced, arms lifted, embracing the strangers, the love, the energy, the view from the bridge. It was beautiful, only in a way that the unexpected can be.

If life isn't about dancing late at night on subways, then I don't want to hear about it. This is my life.

A Slice

Covered in sparkles, re-reading William S. Burrough's The Yage Letters. Waiting for the G.

"Excuse me, I didn't think angels walked on earth," mumble mumble mumble.

He was so young - maybe 17. With shyness, and an awful pickup line. He told me I was beautiful, asked me my name, my age. And suddenly, for the first time ever, the G arrived on time. I ran to the front, with my book, and thought, "These moments won't happen forever. I'm not sure what they are, but they are temporary."

And, feet aching from dancing, I sat and I read.

17 February 2014

Iron Horse 100k: A Good, Painful Kick in the Butt

Tears. Pain. Suffering. Agony. Swollen feet. Sugar sand. Palm trees. Friendship. Getting lost.

And that sums up Iron Horse 100k!

I went into the race, thinking it would be my kick-my-butt-back-into-shape race. When I was in Colombia, I ran daily but minimally; I ran generally around an hour a day. I ran 90 minutes once or twice. Then I flew back into NYC winter of snow and ice and cold cold cold - so training was greatly reduced and miserable. Very sad.

I headed down to FL to visit my Gram, see some friends (Jessica & Chris) and help with a Chaos Cooking

As Jessica and I drove to the race, it began to downpour. I could barely see the road; I didn't want to run in it. Ugh. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time we began running.

Jessica was to crew me and pace me at the end and chill out with the runners; she hadn't been running for a while so was looking for a bit of inspiration. Chris let me store my gear in his car during the race (so it wouldn't get soaked on should it downpour again) and was also the Medical Director of the IH100.

The course was different this year. You head out and run 1.75 miles on a paved bike path, then turn around. You arrive back at the start and run about 2 miles on the same paved bike path (but in the opposite direction) and then turn and head onto a sandy trail. Then you do two different lollypop loops in the woods, and then head back out on the sand trail to the paved path - and that is a total of 25 miles. If you do the 100k, you have a weird turnaround but everyone runs the same race.

The aid stations are pretty basic, the volunteers uber-polite high school kids ("Can I get you water, ma'am?" Ma'am? What?! I'm such a New Yorker.), the trail pretty and a little static scenery. It was a nice race; I did it last year and I wouldn't mind doing it again.

I started out feeling good. It was a little chilly, but not bad. I had arm warmers on, and a long sleeved tee that I took off after a few miles.

I felt good and then after around 20  miles, I was running with a girl named Megan in the 100 miler. We saw a pink ribbon on a tree on either side of a gap, so we assumed we entered and ran on in. After a while, we saw some other pink ribbons so figured we were on course. Not so. According to my watch, we ran over 2.22 miles extra. Ugh. It took us a while to figure it out, and the ribbons I saw were faded pink - so probably up from last year or another event. UGH.

After getting lost, despite having led the 100k that entire way, I felt mentally defeated. Being a lollypop course, I saw how many people had passed me in the time I got lost. My head was lost.
I really was miserable but Chris made me smile.

I got back to the start/finish in tears. Jessica and Chris cheered me up and I was pretty low. I headed out for another loop.

I started to perk up. This wasn't so bad. I'd pick it up. Maybe even get my 100k lead back if I really felt good? Unfortunately, I crashed into the second loop. I had my ipod in my pocket for "emergencies" such as this. I slipped my headphones into my ears as tears pricked the corners of my eyes.

I ran. I stopped and stretched. I walked a baby hill. I stretched. I ate a gel. I ran, walked, stretched, cried.

And then Major Lazer came on with "Watch for This" and I began dancing. Why the hell not? My race was shot. Why not have fun? 

I came into the aid station again with just 12.5 miles. I asked Jessica to please pace me the entire rest of the way. "I'm run-walking. Please. You can keep up."

And she did. We talked, told stories, chatted about Burning Man, about running, love, families, work, life. The moon rose in the sky as we plodded on and I felt sick. Thank you, Port-a-Potty-Gods (or the RD, Chris) for placing a port-a-potty right by the aid station.

And then I stumbled into the finish. I was so relieved to be done. I think I was second woman? Another buckle (yep, this 100k gives you a buckle), some food, and of course, a mandatory stop at Dairy Queen.

What did I learn? I'm out of shape. I'm going to use the next few weeks to gear up, to train myself as hard as I can. Also, when it sucks, blast Major Lazer. And dance when you can't run.

Winter Misery Land

Some people love winter. They love snow, they love skiing, they love the cold.

I am not one of those people.

I hate the cold. I hate snow and ice. I hate winter. I don't like skiing - I've never tried it but I know I won't like it because it's in the cold. Ever since I got frostbite nearly three years ago, I especially hate running in the cold. My feet turn numb and everything becomes painfully cold rather fast - within an hour - so racing in the north during cold temperatures are pretty impossible.

I missed the "Polar Vortex" of cold in NYC when I was in Colombia, but we've still had some cold temperatures. And snow. And ice. And yes, NYC normally gets some of it, but not all of it at once, and in such a miserable way.

My training has gone to hell. I hate the treadmill and don't understand how some of my friends can do things like set records and run for 12 hours on a treadmill. I'd rather run 24 hours outdoors. As much as I hate the cold, I curse the treadmill.

On the super cold days, I layered up. Dress tights, running tights, thick wool socks, a sports bra, t-shirt, three long-sleeved shirts, a running jacket, buff, hate, super warm mittens. I feel puffy and find running difficult. But I do it anyway. Slowly. Ugh.

Icy days are the ones I must head to the treadmill. I do a max of an hour on the treadmill (I tried 90 minutes and only made it 85), and then will hit up the rowing machine and the elliptical too. Time on your feet, I tell myself.

When I run outside, even when the sidewalks are clear and I'm running, I'll get to an intersection and there will be piles of snow that I'll have to slow down and navigate. Sometimes I'll run to McCarren Park where I can run mostly uninterrupted, as they plow that pretty well.

What can I do? I do the best I can. But right now, it's not enough. It's too miserable. I know there are many worse place to live (Alaska? Yukon? All those northern places where the snow keep falling in depths of FOUR FEET and schools are closed because "it's too cold.") for me - I'm sure they are lovely in summertime, but I really don't like winter. If I did adore NYC as much as I did, I would be out of here in a second. But still, I'm pondering escape routes from the cold.

What We All Need in Life

Thanks to Pomsey for sending this quote:

"There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

--Jose N. Harris

10 February 2014

What Sexual Harassment Really Is Like

The men in my life don't really get what sexual harassment is like. They never can. Sometimes they get a taste of it - like when my dad and I were chatting on the phone as I walked to the library and he heard me curse out someone. Or when they see me upset and hear the stories after.

This video really upset me. I have been in places like this - not had a knife to my neck, but I have been taunted, followed, teased. And when I reject advances, I've been called ugly, stupid, bitch, whore, slut, cunt. 

So men, if you don't really get it, watch this video. You may start to understand the everyday hell that many women experience.

02 February 2014


I'm under the light, believing

How to Buy Burning Man Tickets

People have been asking me about how to buy Burning Man tickets, and as the RD of the Burning Man Ultramarathon, I've answered this question many times. Here's what I hope is a slightly-easier-to-understand explanation.

Directed Group Sales
Are you a core part of a critical theme camp or some other important project on playa? If so, you received an email to invite you to be a part of these from your group leader (camp or project). You'll know if you are a part of this. After you created your Burner Profile, you will be able to buy tickets at noon PST on the 12th of February.

General Ticket Sales
First, create a Burner Profile.

Next, between February 20 and February 23, you have to REGISTER to buy tickets. Not buy, but register to enter the sale.

Then, on February 26, starting at noon PST, you can then buy tickets - if you did everything.

Read the full ticket information very, very slowly. And then hold your breath. Let it go because you may have to wait. You may wait in virtual line for over three hours. It is a little overwhelming, but once you get the ticket, it's only seven or so more months of waiting. Woohooo!

Note, everyone needs tickets - even if you are just running the ultra. Even I buy tickets as the Race Director.

"I'd Like You to Meet Amanda."

My bursitis grew. I could feel the lump in my knee, and knew it was bigger, despite Wayne saying it wasn't. But Wayne would probably not notice if I shaved my head, so I didn't trust Wayne. I made an appointment with the awesome Dr. Marci Goolsby, and because I was afraid perhaps I couldn't run after, I ran to my appointment. I drank three glasses of water after I entered her office, and she confirmed my thoughts that it had grown bigger.

She told me they could drain the bursitis, but they didn't need to. "You have a 70% chance of it not coming back. So even if I drain it, it might re-inflate. Oh, and you have to take some time off of running?"

"How much?"

"Not long. Maybe a couple of days."

"Um, so I wouldn't be able to run home?"

"I really wouldn't recommend that. It might re-inflate sooner."

"And it hurts?"

"Not that much."

"Hmmm...I want to run home. Maybe I won't get it drained."

"You don't need to - it's annoying and the appearance are the main reasons people get it drained. But if you're fine, keep it. Name it."

I say the first thing that pops into my head. "This is Amanda."

"Nice to meet you, Amanda."

23 January 2014

"It's Probably Not Gout."

"Hold on a minute; I want to do some research on tropical diseases, and then I'll be right back."

I waited in my shorts at the sports doctor's office for about 15 minutes, reading The Lost City of Z as the paper on the table stuck to my lower thighs. I'd be back a week, getting back into life, work, running, when I noticed a weird lump on my knee. "Marshmallow knee," Wayne baptised it, but I called it "Water balloon knee" in my head. I stopped running, worried, and was forced to stay in shape by cross-training at the gym (which was honestly not such a terrible thing in the bitter, horrendous cold we have been having here in NYC).

"You don't have a history of gout in your family, do you?" said the doctor when she returned.

"Um, no. Not that I know of."

After my knee was proclaimed okay, and that draining it was only optional, I headed back to the subway. My head was in a fog, perhaps damaged by the cold, and maybe the lack of oxygen my body was getting as a result of my asthma. (Actually, I don't think my asthma was that bad. But it was brutally cold.)
Bundled up for winter running. I hate the cold.

I got on the subway. I had a lot of unanswered questions in my head. I wasn't really sure if my knee would hurt while running, but there's only one way to find out: try. I had a lot of other unanswered questions, mainly, the cliched, "What am I doing with my life?" You know - why I am not writing; career questions; location questions. A big issue I have is the cold - I love New York City, love my lifestyle, my friends, my family, my community, my neighborhood. But since I got frostbite a few years back, my feet get cold very fast and it can be quite unbearable. It's also very painful. And sometimes, I want a different life - more relaxing, more quiet, more peace, warmer. I like being outdoors in gardens, sitting in the sun, enjoying nature. Maybe New York's not the best place for me? Or do I want to give everything up and travel for a while - but then what? I can't do that forever.

I ended up taking the 7 train in the wrong direction. I was confused as why we were at 5th Avenue instead of Vernon Jackson. Then I stood in the bus in the cold, waiting, tears in my eyes as my toes grew more and more painful. Ray cheered my thoughts as his voice rattled in my phone about a 24 hour race he was planning on putting on so I could hopefully qualify for World Championships.

Nothing is solved, but it's another day, not a terrible one, and I'll keep moving ahead, hoping to figure things out soon.

15 January 2014

Reflections on Colombia

Do I like Colombia? Everyone kept asking me. Yes, but it wasn’t my favourite country.

I found the people overall to be very rude and aggressive. They’d shove you. They would accidentally kick you and not apologize, even if you made a yelp in pain. They’d cut you in line.

But some of them, individually, were friendly, asking questions about you and where you came from.

There were offers to buy coke. I didn’t accept any of them, but yes, it’s there.

I didn’t have any security issues, but on my last night in the hostel, I heard of two people getting their daypacks (with all this credit cards, passport, etc) stolen from the seat next to them at the airport while they were there.

I felt unsafe at times, but that’s mostly because I was so paranoid. I mainly felt safe. My unsafe feeling was my nervousness because of all the warnings.

The country is pretty, the climate and environment diverse.

Arepas really are best when you get them on the street. In restaurants, they tend to be dry and flavorless.

Juices are amazing and I tried to drink as many as I could. The cheapest I paid was 50 cents for a maracuya juice.

The fruits are unlike anything I’ve ever tried. They were lovely.

The mosquitoes were lethal.

It gets cold in the tropics, sometimes.

You find yourself as you get lost in the city streets.

Bogota, the Final Time

I arrived in Bogota off a mini-bus, and met a girl at the bus station who was going to my hostel. We shared a cab.

I didn’t do too much on my final day; I walked around the streets, taking in the square, Calle 7, eating salted freshly-made plantain chips. I went back to my hostel, where we swapped travel stories, ate a barbeque, and then, it was time for a few hours of sleep before my flight.

The airport was a chaotic mess. I waited in line, found out I had to go pay a tax, went to pay it and then learned I wasn’t in the country long enough so I didn’t have to pay. I went back in the original line and then answered a lot of questions about my bag and security. Then I went to another line and this guy tried to make me print out my boarding pass but the machine sucked and he singled me out because I was American. I just wanted to have someone help me in person because I had a question about my ticket. Then you give your bag to someone and then they bring it to you when you check in. Then you have immigration and then you are in Duty-Free, where I bought some cheap liquor and had a breakfast.

It’s sad – it took me longer than normal to get into this trip, and I think the main thing this trip has left me with is a lot of questions. What do I want to do with my life? How much more do I want to travel? Is this all worth it? What should I do next? I am left with even more questions, and no answers, but it will figure itself out eventually. I hope. And if not, I’ll sling my backpack over my shoulder and head out to another country to find more questions and more answers.

The Charming Villa de Leyva

I had wanted to go to Barichara, but didn’t have enough time, so I ended up in Villa de Leyva – and I’m so glad. What a great place.

It was a gorgeous, charming little colonial town. There were some museums in town, but just wandering the gorgeous cobblestoned streets, stopping in cafes, or shops is likely to be enough.

I barely caught the express bus (Liberatadores) and sat next to a friendly Colombian woman who kept trying to give me food. When I arrived, I couldn’t find a cab right away, and then I found a chatty driver. The road to the hostel seems desolate and dark and scary and I was worried about express kidnappings and such – but no, he was a good man and I got to my hostel, Renacer Guesthouse. It was a great hostel/hotel/guesthouse, and the on-site café was great because it meant you didn’t need to walk the 1.2km into town.

My first night, I chatted with other backpackers, ate a rather salty but good falafel from the café, and passed out pretty early.

In the morning, I got up and ran an hour and a half, ate again in the café, and went to do a lovely hike just beyond the hostel. You get to see three miradors, and a small waterfall. On my way up, I met some rather friendly English backpackers. We hiked it together, laughing and talking the whole way. After, I went back to my hostel, swapped my stuff, and headed out to walk around the town. It was gorgeous. I tried to sort out my bus ticket for the following day, but you can’t buy it until the next day. I went to sit on the bus to Santa Sofia. After waiting an hour, I realized the bus would take forever and I wanted to do a lot. So I hopped in an 18,000 peso cab ride and headed out to the ruins. It’s a small site, but almost all of the ruins are phallic sculptures. When the guy at my hostel told me about it, he said “las ruinas son penises.” Yep, Spanglish. I wandered around, but it’s pretty small, so after taking some phallic photos, I confirmed my directions with the guards, and headed to the next site, Pozos Azules (a set of five small gorgeous lakes of a lovely turquoise colour – unfortunately that did not come across in photographs). After walking for a bit, I asked a guy working at the antique car park for directions and he verified. Okay, so this desolate way is the right way. I came to a fork and took the one the cabbie told me about but it seemed wrong. I went into someone’s house where there were geese quacking all over the lawn. Yep, keep going. I kept going. I was supposed to take another fork after a bridge; I saw a fork but no bridge. I took it, nervously. Then I walked for a long time without seeing anyone. Finally, I saw a bunch of people working in an onion field. Yuck. I asked them to verify I was going the right way, and they told me to keep going and ask at the Fossil Museum. This was new. When I got to the Fossil Museum, I should have continued straight but went to the museum, which was small and not fantastic. Then I got new directions from the staff of the fossil museum, which I verified with a jewelry seller. Still, I wasn’t convinced. It was desolate. I yelled at a house where I saw someone on the terrace; the woman yelled to keep going. Turns out, I was sent on a back road that was an okay way to go, faster than the way I was told about earlier. Finally, I found a parking lot and asked where Pozos Azules were. “Aqui.” I had arrived.

I walked down into the lakes and they were gorgeous. There were just a few people there, so I sat for a bit and wrote in my journal and meditated on the beauty of the lake. After a while, I headed out on the road to walk another 1k or 2k (I probably ended up walking 15k that day; I spent most of my day walking.) to Casa Barro, a house made entirely from mud. Mud furniture, mud steps, mud shelves. Well, not really mud, but clay. It was gorgeous, and inspired from Gaudi. The bathrooms were gorgeous with lovely tiles and small squares of mirrors.

After I left, a man in his seventies began chatting me up in Spanish. He was really friendly, and we conversed for a while. He told me about the history of Villa de Leyva and we discussed the atrocities committed by missionaries to the indigenous people who wouldn’t convert. Horrifying. Then he gave me a fist bump and a kiss on the cheek and I walked back to town.

I had a lovely dinner, stopped in some shops, and then chilled at the hostel, chatting w other backpackers until the morning.

In the morning, I went for another lovely run on cobblestone, and then had a long wander around town. I stopped at the market, eating avocados, buying  bocadillos, enjoying the sites. I had a final maracuya juice, and then I went to the bus station. The direct bus was sold out, but I got a seat on a minibus that arrived rather fast.