Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Run Woman Show

"What if the race of your life is your life?"

After the 5th Avenue mile was over and done with on Saturday afternoon, I headed down to Brooklyn with fellow runner and cat-lover, Maria , in search of The Old Stone House and a highly praised show called Run Woman Show. We chatted about our expectations of the show on the subway ride down, but neither of us really knew what to expect even though we'd both read the website and seen the trailer. All we knew was that our friend Julie (aka Races Like a Girl) had been talking about this show for months and she'd so kindly gotten us some free tickets.

When we got to the Old Stone House and saw the "check-in" tent for the show, I recognized Hilary, who I didn't know at the time, but I had mistaken her for a friend at the race earlier in the day and taken her picture. It was probably a bit creepy when I said "oh hi, I'm Amy and I took pictures of you today at the race." After pinning on our race bibs (also your program) and listening to quick instructions on not breaking the iPods lent to us, we were putting our headphones in and following the lead of one of the producers who would escort us to Prospect Park for the performance. It was very fun and mysterious, just walking along with really great music in my ears and other runners walking on either side of me. What were we getting into? We followed Suchan along the most beautiful, green, alive blocks of Park Slope until we entered the park and found our narrator, Melanie Jones.

I would do the performance a complete disservice if I were to try to explain what happens during the hour or so that you walk, run, climb and explore Prospect Park with Melanie's words in your ears and her emotions crashing into you and tossing you like ocean waves. I will say that what I experienced in the park during Run Woman Show is like no other performance I've ever been to (though it is in the same family as Sleep No More). You're not just watching, following and listening but you're a part of it, and not in a honeymoon resort talent show sort of way. From the first few minutes of Melanie's story, and there's a story, you're invested in it.

I was rooting for her from the very first step of her marathon journey; as a runner, as a woman, as a fellow ponytailed athlete. You don't need to be a marathoner or even a runner to enjoy this show, but as a marathoner I was able to laugh at myself as I related to nearly everything she said in regards to training and obsessing over training. Melanie takes you from the starting line to the finish line in detail that made me ache for the exhaustion and elation that comes from running 26.2 miles. She reflects on the things that lead up to this day, this race, this point in her life where running this race is more important than anything else because this is not simply a race, it is a metaphor for her life. She means it when she asks "What if the race of your life is your life?" You'll probably raise an eyebrow at this if you aren't a marathoner, but at some point early on during the show I thought to myself "running a marathon changes your life, people think we're crazy but it really does make you a better person." Melanie's words and performance will definitely make you think about your own running, and the running of those friends and strangers around you, in a completely new light, but the show really is not about running at all. The show is about life's ups and downs, challenges and scary, difficult parts. The show will make you reflect on the reasons that you lace up your shoes on a frosty winter morning and make you think, "shit, what am I running from?"

As you make your way towards the finish line, kilometer by kilometer, Mel's words will probably remind you of some of your own running experiences, one that really made me laugh was when she talked about the joys of mile 8. I have distinct memories of mile 8 from the NYC Marathon in 2010 and they are pretty close to what she describes and I thought "oh thank god I'm not the only one who thinks this ridiculous shit when I'm racing."

"I pass mile 8 smug in the knowledge that I am on track and I will make my top secret goal time. I am 30 seconds fast. Shouldn't think about that, but it is impossible because the endorphins are here and I still have glycogen left in my muscles and I am on pace, so as far as I'm concerned- I'm the athlete of the year... When I begin my pro career I will do workshops with young people and homeless, unemployed, amputee Cancer patients and I will teach them my secrets of success and how happiness is easy- you just go for a run. "

The show is designed for everyone, not just speedy marathon runners or elite milers, there was a slower walker in our group who enjoyed the show equally and at her own pace. There are plenty of opportunities for the group to run after Mel as she darts into the trees or across the green meadow, but I enjoyed the performance with my cranky ankle without any problems. I recommend that you buy tickets for your best friend, the girl you pass while running in your neighborhood, your sister, your kid's 1st grade teacher, your mom, your personal trainer, your entire running group and yourself because while I can't guarantee you'll want to run a marathon by the end, I can guarantee you'll enjoy yourself. Heck, you might even learn something about yourself as a runner, as a person and as a self-critic. The show starts at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn, NY on 3rd St and 4th Avenue and ends in Prospect Park. You can get tickets for the upcoming Sat/Sun 10am and 3pm shows in October on Mel's website for $25.

The trailer:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

5th Avenue Mile- Elites Edition

I forgot these in the last post, but I don't mind having a separate post for the locals and the elites. I'm an elitist, what can I say? I didn't have my camera ready when the local elite women went by, oops. Again, if you use one of these photos, don't forget to give credit. Thanks.

The Men

Local Elite Men

Lagat won the race in 3:50.5 with Laalou in 2nd (3:51.7) and Torrence in 3rd (3:25.4)
You can see from this photo that Fam (in blue) was really pushing the pace. I was standing just shy of the 1/2 mi mark. Lagat and Garrett were stride for stride at that point.

The Women
Jenny Barringer Simpson was just steps behind Sally Kipyego at the 1/2, but was able to out kick her for the win in 4:22.3. Kipyego was 2nd (4:22.6) and Hanna England was 3rd ( also 4:22.6).
There is such a difference in the kick of a professional runner, so many of the "regular" runners barely get their knees flexed beyond 60 degrees behind them. I enjoyed watching these amazing women fly by.

5th Avenue Mile

I'll try not to jam this post up with too many words and just let the pictures do the talking. I had a really great time out there watching the 5th Avenue Mile. Many friends ran and kicked ass and I was really happy that I could be there to watch. Watching the elites fly by was incredible, they were gone in a flash but I managed to capture them in action. Enjoy and please, if you use a photo from this blog don't forget to give credit where credit is due. Thanks.

I wondered how many of these women did not belong in the front row. My $ is on Capris with her hair down over on the right.
Women 30-39

Mary Wittenberg, CEO of NYRR, ran back and forth several times during the course of the morning including during her own heat of women 40-49. (She ran 6:11).
Men in their 30's (there were two heats) and some random women
Those quads are no joke
The Vannie on the right is figuring out which bus to take to brunch. The M4? The M1 Limited?

This guy pulled a major John Landy while Tall Guy blew past him

That's my friend Julie in black on her way to kicking sub-6:00 in the ass

And a new friend, Hilary, that I thought was someone else. I ended up meeting her later in the day at an entirely different event.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Keyword Search Fun

Wow, I draw a weird crowd. Here are some of my favorite Google keyword searches that led you weirdos to my blog:

-barefoot stab torture (mm hmm, yes, of course)

-"just fucking stay inside" image (alright..there were several more similar ones too)

-Alliteration about thanksgiving (Turkey Trot Tragedy anyone?)

-Barefoot bike

-Barefoot bike pictures (oh, now we're talking)

-Houston Heatwave joggers shower (Ok, seriously- WHAT?)

-Inwood white runners (We typically go by Inwood HILL Runners, fyi)

and one last gem:

-destroyed building (who searches for things that broad?)

Please keep 'em coming, you made my night.

Bicycle Sunday and progress with my ankle

Last Sunday I ventured up to Westchester County for a new adventure and really, really enjoyed myself. Thanks to a blog post by JT over at Races Like a Girl where she mentioned Bicycle Sunday and some tips from the very generous and helpful Joe Garland, I found this great event. In the early summer and then again in Aug/Sept a 7mile section of the Bronx River Parkway is shut down to cars and opened to bikes, rollerblades and runners. I even saw a man on an Elliptigo at some point. Those things are so bizarre and awesome. I can really see my friend, Matt, riding one of those someday.

At the south end where I started

I set out in the late morning for the Village of Bronxville which is a mile or so south of where the highway portion starts. I've been to Bronxville before and really loved it. It's a charming and fun little town with a main street that is lined with restaurants and shops. I had a 30 mile ride in mind, so I set off on the serene and beautiful tree-lined pathway that runs parallel to the highway. Upon reaching the Bikes only section of the Parkway, I was thrilled to see so many other people out and about. The highway is two lanes wide in each direction with a guard rail between them and though there were hundreds of people out and about, many with children, everyone was following the rules of the road. The slower folks and those with kids stayed right and I was able to zip by in the left lane without anyone cutting me off. It was a whole new cycling experience after riding the west side of Manhattan with the rental bike morons. I was working hard and pushing north up the hills, but I was having a great time. I was in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey, but some folks were decked out in their fall and winter gear. I'd worn long tights on a ride on Saturday and nearly melted, so I knew better. I was sweating as I headed north through Scarsdale and was happy to turn around at exit 22 to head south with the wind at my back. It took a lot less time and effort to make the return trip. There were still some good hills going south, but there were great downhill sections too. I recall seeing 28 mph a few times on my bike computer. Whew. I stopped for a snack when I reached the start again and then set off for another loop. My neck and shoulders were really tight and I had a numb foot for much of the second loop, but the weather was so amazing and the road was so smooth that I hung in there and had another great loop.

Somehow I got grease inside my helmet and I noticed this when I got back to my car.

This coming Sunday is the last Bicycle Sunday of the season, which is really sad because October is typically the best weather month of the year, but I will definitely be putting this on my calendar for next year in the spring. I am keeping my eyes on the weather for this weekend, but it looks like it might be raining on Sunday, otherwise I'd be making a second trip up there for another 30 miles or so. I'd like to really explore that whole area, hopefully with a guide (ahem Joe, ahem Julie) because I can tell that it is an amazing place to run as well. As soon as I'm cleared to get back to training I'm taking a trip up to run the path along the Parkway. I bet it is incredible when the leaves start changing.

A sweet 30 miles

I stopped in the Bronxville Running Co. after my ride, they were really nice.

Speaking of getting back to running, there is a glimmer of hope in my recovery! I went to PT today and after trying some new "running-like" drills on Wed and today without pain around my ligament my PT suggested that I bring my running shoes next week!!! He thinks I'm finally ready for a trial run on the treadmill. I don't even care that it is on the treadmill, which I hate, because I can try RUNNING!! By next week's session I'll have been off of the road for NINE WEEKS. Whew. It has been a long road, but it has been a good stretch too; I've started doing yoga twice a week; I've been working twice a week or more on my core; I've also been really diligent about strengthening my hips and keeping them limber. Some good has come of this whole ordeal and I'm happy about it. I also think I might try to play matchmaker with my PT and a good friend, but not until after my PT is finished...just in case.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me next week, I hope the trial run goes well and doesn't lead to any swelling or pain!

The elevation profile for the ride:

The map:

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's dead.

I've finally admitted defeat, my ankle has beat me once again and I am canceling my plans to do the Pocono Mountain Half Ironman. I signed up for the race nearly a year ago and had been really looking forward to it for most of the season. I planned my year around it, not starting the tri season too early in an effort to avoid peaking before October 2nd. I have now bagged two races and plenty of $$ as a result of my injury, but the $ wasted isn't worth racing on a *nearly* healed ankle and throwing away the 12 weeks I've spent trying to get this thing better. In the end it could cost me several more MONTHS if I re-injure it and it would probably require surgery. The reality is too obvious to ignore anyway, I haven't run in 6 or 7 weeks and even if I were cleared to run today that isn't enough time to train for the half marathon after the swim and bike.
Yes, I'm bummed that I can't do the race and that I still can't run, but there is literally nothing I can do about it. There isn't even anything I could have done to push my rehab along faster. It is out of my control and I have simply accepted that. There will be another race next year and the year after that and the year after.... Right now I'm focused on getting stronger and staying fit for the moment that I can run again! I'm going to go back to the ankle specialist later this month with my fingers and toes crossed that this thing shows improvement on the big screen. It doesn't really feel that much better, unfortunately, but I am hoping that most of the pain is attributed to the tendinitis around the joint and not the ligament itself.
In other training news, I've been working hard at all sorts of other aspects of fitness including strength and flexibility. You know, those things most of us runners skip over and avoid like the plague. I've been doing two-a-day workouts twice a week with cardio early in the morning and core/strength in the evening with the Inwood Hill Runners DL. I'm feeling strong and beat up at the same time. I'll also be back at that yoga class on Friday morning, making a pretzel of myself in an attempt to get stronger, longer and more balanced.

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, September 12, 2011

How to find out you're not in good shape, aka Try Yoga

I have been trying to get into a routine that includes a day or two of yoga a week for a year or so now. I've done it here and there, but not at all consistently. This past week I saw a post by a friend on Facebook that was a small list of her goals for the month of September and #1 was to do yoga twice. It made me realize that instead of feeling overwhelmed by the idea of doing yoga 2x a week, I could set a small, attainable goal like that and actually have a chance to achieve it. I did just that and I've already done it twice in 4 days!
I took a small yoga "awakening" class on Friday morning at the gym at 8am. I like the classes at my gym because they're not crowded and I had plenty of personal space. The teacher was cool and casual about things, which I prefer over a very serious, new-agey class. I am just getting into this and I'm really tight and uncoordinated so I need to be able to laugh at myself when I topple over. The class was an hour and 15 mins and it was really tough! I had done a new core and upper body workout the night before in the park, so I was a little sore to begin with. By Saturday morning I was really sore, but I felt great! I had accomplished what I really wanted to and it was nice to feel sore from working hard at something new. I swam after yoga to help loosen my arms, shoulders and back and it was really tough at first but I finally found a rhythm. I think it ultimately helped shorten my recovery time because by Sunday morning I was feeling good again. The best news is that it didn't hurt my ankle too much so I have the green light from my PT to keep going with it.
I did learn some things though during that 75 mins of sweating and grunting: my old knee injury is still there, just quieter, I am so, so tight in my hips, my quads are weak, and I need to focus on activating my deep abdominals throughout the day to retrain them because they're half asleep.
There's nothing quite like trying something "new" to keep you honest.
I did two different yoga videos (sunrise and core) this morning before work while the sun was rising red outside my windows. It took a few minutes to shake off sleep, but then I felt great. If I can't get out and run, this is the next best way to wake up.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A good week

Labor Day weekend always comes too soon, but the one good thing about getting back to work is getting back to my routine. While I was able to get in several good bike rides and swims each week of my vacation, I truly am a creature of habit and I like my weekly routine. This week also reminded me just how much physical activity my job requires. Whew, I'm beat! I woke up this morning with a sore ankle and realized that it wasn't from my swim yesterday morning or my balance activities last night, but from a full day of work. I spend my day from 9-4:30 doing lots of lifting, chasing, kneeling and getting down to and up from the floor, sometimes with a kid in my arms. No wonder my ankle was sore! The 2000 yds in the pool before work were just a warmup for the rest of the day!
I did manage to have a great workout week and lose a few of the lbs I brought home from our holidays in August. I had a fun 17.5 miles on the bike Monday morning, a good workout at PT on Tuesday, a solid and speedy 2000 yd swim on Wednesday morning and I just left the gym after a very sweaty elliptical and bike workout! It hit me sometime today that maybe I should try the elliptical for some variety in my cardio routine so I emailed my PT and he said it was a great idea. I rarely go to the gym for that kind of workout because I'd rather run or bike outside or swim, so today was kind of fun. I sweat all over the elliptical for 20 mins or so before making a quick transition to the stationary bike for another 20. I was drenched from head to toe as if I'd been doing Bikram. The man on the bike next to me actually blurted out, "wow, you sweat a LOT." Haha. I'd almost forgotten how great it feels to sweat like that, you don't get that same sensation from swimming (obviously) or from biking, because of the wind. I'm heading home tonight to meet up with the rest of the injured list from the Inwood Hill crew for a little something we like to call "CORE-ture." I'm also looking forward to my first Friday morning off of the school year because I am going to hit the gym for a yoga class and a swim before PT and work. I have been trying to get to yoga for months, but I just can't seem to get there so I'm really looking forward to it. I NEED to regain some flexibility and balance in my muscles, I can tell that one side is stronger than the other around my hips and pelvis. Hopefully this class is good, otherwise I'm going to need to find another class that is also at a convenient time either at my gym or elsewhere. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to move on Saturday morning, but hopefully swimming after yoga will help ease some of the DOMS headed my way.
How was your Labor Day week?

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 83rd Annual Pageant Swim

This past Friday morning I woke up a bit late and was feeling a bit sorry for myself. Not being able to run is really starting to get to me. I wanted to just roll out of bed and get in a quick run before going to the beach, but no, I couldn't. Instead I had some coffee and sort of just slumped around a bit, thinking that I'd like to go for a bike ride but didn't have enough time. At some point my Mom yelled from the front door that she'd be back in an hour (what?! I had just put on my bathing suit for the beach!) so I took a look in the mirror and said "that's an hour on the bike- GO!" So I did, I got in a 40 minute ride or so and felt much better for doing so. It was no run, but it helped me feel a little more productive before lounging on the beach for the rest of the day. I can't even walk on the beach with Mom because last time I did my ankle swelled up and was sore. Lame.
Anyhow, sometime during my moping and whining that morning, I got a tweet from a fellow NJ ocean swimmer and Chesapeake Bay swimmer, Sarah (@rosemarymint) suggesting that I come down to Atlantic City on Saturday morning for a 1.5 mi ocean swim. I thought about it and instantly knew that it was exactly what I needed to snap me out of my funk. I somehow convinced my Mom and husband that it would be a fun day trip and we all piled into the car Saturday morning for the ~1hr drive down to AC.

When I got to the beach on Saturday the ocean looked lovely and gentle, like it was just waiting for us to get in and kick some butt. I was excited and nervous about the swim, so I wasn't thinking about the tide or the current much at all, but in hindsight I should have known that the tide was coming in quickly. I met up with Sarah and another friend of her's before the swim and we chatted and laughed until they finally blew the horn. We were to swim way out from the shore, far enough to clear the Steel Pier just to our south, and then continue on south parallel to the shoreline until we passed 2 other piers (one small, one very large) and turn right to swim back to shore. I was cautious during this swim to really give myself plenty of room to clear the piers because the waves had already doubled in size and let's face it, no one wants to get washed under the Pier in the surf. I probably swam closer to 1.75-2.0 miles because of that, but I didn't care because I'd been warned about the underwater pilings at the 3rd pier and definitely wanted nothing to do with those.

The actual race was pretty wild and really, really fun. The current was pulling us south from the minute we touched the water so I was really grateful for that. As I swam out from the shore I could see the Steel Pier on my right and the vast sea on my left, I stayed pretty far north for a while because the current was so strong, but I probably didn't need to be that far away from the pier.

Better safe than seagull food. When I reached the end of the pier I had allowed myself to drift closer to it and I simply turned my body to swim parallell to the shore for the main part of the swim. It was BEAUTIFUL swimming out there, the towering, glittering casinos along the shore were shining bright in the morning sun and the water temp was perfect. I was happily churning along, mostly alone but occasionally I'd encounter another swimmer and make it my mission to pass him. The waves were pushing me all over the place, up and down and side to side, but I just kept on moving. A few waves started out so far that as they rolled over me I was worried that I was in too close to shore, but I was way out there and the waves were just getting bigger. At some point I passed one of the lifeguard rescue boats that was trying to stay straight in the surf but nearly (or did) whack a swimmer with his oar. They were trying to keep us from swimming too close to shore, but their intention wasn't entirely clear to us in the water. It was hard to see and nearly impossible to hear, so I just tried to steer clear and stay out as far as I felt I needed to. It was really fun seeing the casinos and the boardwalk every time I took a breath on the right side, but less fun getting clobbered in the face by a wave every couple of breaths on the left. Oh well, I was having a blast. Someone asked me after the race if I ever get nervous or panic in the ocean, and thinking about being out there far from shore in the rolling waves makes me anything but nervous. There's a sort of peace and calm out there surrounded by the sea. That said, I'm well aware of the dangers of the ocean and don't recommend that inexperienced swimmers go out in search of what I'm talking about here. Respecting the power of the ocean is of the utmost importance whether you're floating in the waves lapping at the shore or if you're half a mile out.

As I approached the last pier, a looming glass structure, I was passing a few more guys but I seemed to be swimming stroke for stroke with a woman in a pink cap and suit. Despite my very wide turn around the pier, I found myself right next to her again on the way in to shore, both of us swimming hard to get to the beach. I had the good sense to take a glance behind me with every other breath to look for oncoming waves to ride in and I caught a sweet ride. I bodysurfed a great wave from halfway out to the point where I could stand up and gained a lot of ground. I always forget how painful it is to stand up after a long swim and I winced a bit as I tried to run up the shore. I know I'm not supposed to run on my sore ankle, but I had to run through the finish line! I looked back and saw that I'd put about 3 guys between myself and the other woman in the pink cap. Victory! I crossed the line with a smile on my face, seaweed in my suit and tucked in my watch, and a tingly tongue from the salt water. Just like everyone else who crossed the line, I had a "sea beard" from the sand and sea water gunk. Thanks Mom for wiping it off for me.

I crossed the finish line in 42:30 ish (results aren't up yet) which was 89th place out of ~185 swimmers. I was 5th out of 8 in my age group. I was really happy with the results, especially given that the waves ended up being 6ft high and very choppy. Sarah's friend Hillary put it best when she said "Now I know how my clothes feel in the washing machine!" Ha! Sure we got tossed around, but I remember at some point actually thanking the ocean for giving us such an awesome day with a current and tailwind in our favor, despite the big waves.

It turns out I was right, that swim was a nice kick in the butt for me. I was really sore and tired the next day, a type of exhaustion that I haven't felt since I had to stop running. I'm really motivated by this swim to start looking for a swim in the early spring (someplace warm) so that I have something to train for over the winter.

Finish photos coming soon...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad