Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Street Harassers

Dear Sir(s):

At some point in your life, you must have gotten it stuck in your head that women really appreciate it when unfamiliar men comment on their bodies.

Maybe you saw other men in your life do it without repercussion. Maybe you feel a need to assert your (very warped) sense of masculinity. Maybe one woman responded positively to your inappropriate advance because she thought it was "cute."

Maybe you were raised by a pack of wolves and have only just started the acculturation process.

I don't know and, frankly, don't care to know why you have such an idea. But, just so we're crystal clear on the matter, seeing a woman in public is not an open invitation to her body.  You do not have the right to make comments. You do not have the right to touch her.  You do not have the right to whistle, bark, or howl.  (Seriously, were you raised by wolves?)  You do not have the right to enter her personal space without her permission.

This might come as a surprise to you, but your invasion of physical and emotional space is harassment.  It is unwelcome, insulting, and disrespectful.

I say this to you as a woman and a runner.  Unfortunately, I'm no stranger to this type of behavior, but there's something about it happening when I run that I can't let go.  I feel vulnerable, especially when I'm running solo. Why? Because we live in a world where female runners are targets for assault. I don't know your intention.  You could be harmless, sure, but you might also be a wack-job who's out to do serious harm -- especially if you don't like the idea of a woman standing up to you.

When I run, I'm doing it for me.  The clothes that I wear have a purpose, and I can assure you that I didn't think "Gee, I really hope that someone thinks of me as a piece of meat today" when I put on my running tights.

I think it's fair to have a reasonable expectation that you will treat women as human beings who deserve respect.  If you want to say hello, smile, nod, and say hello. You do not have to whistle or howl to get our attention.  If you don't know us, don't refer to us as "baby, " "cutie," or "honey."  And, if we ignore you when you try to say hello, leave it alone and be respectful.

I wish that these things didn't have to be said, but that's not where we are.  Let's try to work together on this.



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Operation Sub-2:00 Weekly Round-Up (4)

Yikes! When did it become the end of January?

If all goes as planned, I'll be in the starting corrals at the Rock 'n' Roll USA half in about seven weeks.  The next few weeks are really the time to put in the work necessary to reach my time goal.

Week 4 was strong, and I'm really happy with how my workouts went.  I ran a total of 32 miles, tried a yoga class (and loved it), successfully got out of bed in time to run before work, whipped out my reflective gear and ran after work (on well-lit and pedestrian-heavy streets), and had a really great long run with Stef that involved running five miles at (or faster than) my anticipated pace for the March race.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the Thursday group run -- but it wasn't because of my ego.  The planned run for the group was a 9-mile loop, followed by consumption of a larger-than-life sandwich. But, after a great few days of training, my body and I had a heart-to-heart during which it begged me to take a night off from running.  For once, I decided to listen and hit the gym for cycling and strength training instead.  We'll see what happens this week...

Week 5
Sunday: 5 miles 
Monday: Speed Workout - Stef and I are going to run intervals after work.
Tuesday: Cross- and strength training
Wednesday: 5 miles (AM)/yoga PM
Thursday: 6-8 miles (hopefully with the group run)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 miles

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sh*t Runners Say

I have a love-hate relationship with the "Shit [insert group of people] Say" meme. I love the meme because a few individuals have used their powers to create genuinely funny videos and videos that force us to think about the power of privilege and the impact of our words; I hate it because everyone and their mom has made a video.  (Come to think of it, Racialicious has an excellent post about the meme, and it's worth the time it takes to read it.)

As much as I love/hate the meme, I'll giggle at a video that I can watch and think "My goodness. That's so true!"  Well, folks, here are two of those videos.

First, "Shit Runners Say":

Next, we have "Shit People Who Don't Run Say":

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh really?: Cheese and Obesity

From Sociological Images - "New Obesity Prevention Campaign Rife with Fat Shaming"
"The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) sponsored two new billboards in Albany, NY, warning residents that cheese makes you fat in what is possibly most irresponsible way ever. The first features an obese man’s disembodied torso and the words, 'Your abs on cheese.” The second features an obese woman’s butt and thighs and the words, “Your thighs on cheese.” The images make a very clear statement: fat people are disgusting."
"The PCRM advocates for a vegan diet. The aim of this campaign is to get Albany residents to reduce their cheese intake, as cheese is a common source of saturated fat and, according to the PRCM, a major contributor to obesity in the United States. In Albany, home to several dairy farms, 63 percent of adults are obese. This is higher than the statewide obesity level of 59 percent. Obesity prevention is a valid cause, to be sure, but at what cost to other health issues?"
PCRM's message is problematic for a couple of reasons.  The author highlights how the campaign uses fat shaming to further its agenda.  As if men and women aren't already inundated by images of the "ideal" body, we have to deal with images that suggest that we are somehow "gross" if we aren't thin and/or perfectly toned.

I also take issue with singling out one food as a major contributor of obesity to promote a vegan diet.  I browsed the PCRM's website, and I would guess that their advocacy for a vegan lifestyle is more about animal rights than spreading the word about the health benefits of eating less meat and dairy.  (This is not to say that the concern for the ethical treatment of animals is a bad thing, but let's be honest about motives here.)

I cringed more when I read this:
"The obesity epidemic is not caused by inactivity, bread, rice, gluttony, weak will, or a bad childhood. It is caused by a tsunami of unhealthful foods, and one of the worst, perhaps surprisingly, is cheese."  -- PCRM: Cheese and Obesity
I don't know, guys. Getting off the couch, eating appropriately sized portions, and recognizing that cookies - though delicious - are a "sometimes food" has done wonders for a lot people -- myself included. 

Of course, everyone has an agenda. Hopefully, we'll see more campaigns that educate the public about adopting healthy lifestyles without demonizing certain foods. In the end, it's all about making healthy choices. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Operation Sub-2: Weekly Round-Up (3)

I imagined that I would be running a lot more in January to prepare for my next set of races, but I haven’t run more than 30 miles each week for the last three weeks. There’s always the risk of over training but, still thinking about Saturday’s race, I want to challenge myself a little more so that I can reach my running goals.

This week, I’m going to give the two-a-day a shot and work up the nerve to go to a faster run group on Thursday.  (Full disclosure: my ego has gotten in the way of me going before.  I really don’t want to be the slow kid, but the only way to run faster is, well, to just do it.) 

Week 4:

Sunday: 45 minutes on the elliptical, 15 minutes of strength training 
Monday: 45-minute speed workout
Tuesday: 4 miles (easy)
Wednesday: 40-minute tempo run AM, Yoga class PM
Thursday: 5-7 miles, depending on the group run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 15 miles

The official race results of the 20K were posted this morning. Ninety-three runners finished the race, all under 2:30.  Reviewing all of the results was humbling. This was a fast field, and the race experience was so different compared to other races that I've run.  (Where were the power walkers!?) There are things to like about races that have larger fields and those with fields under 100.  I'm looking forward to scheduling a healthy mix of both types in the coming months.

JFK 20K Race Round-Up

Laura, who joined Stef and me for the Jingle All the Way 8K last month, sent an e-mail about running the JFK 20K.  The race is organized annually by the DC Road Runners and cost all of $5.  Since I’m running the GW Birthday Marathon (relay) next month, which is also organized by DCRR, I thought that it would be a cool idea to run a race with DCRR before I make my decision about joining the group.  And, if you've been following this long, you know that I can't think of a better way to spend my Saturday mornings than to wake up early and run long distances with awesome people.

The race was originally scheduled for January 14th but was rescheduled for the 21st.  (The 14th turned out to be a beautiful day, and I had a very solid 9-mile run.)  In the days leading up to the race, it started to look like it might be canceled due to weather.  On Friday, I was obsessive about checking the weather - hoping to see that 100% chance of ice and rain had changed.    

When I woke up yesterday, I checked once more and things did not look promising.

100% chance of rain/sleet/snow during prime race time...
We weren't sure if the race organizers would cancel, but the group running decided to head out to the course.

And, do you know why? 

Because honey badgers don’t care about snow!

(Pause.  If for some reason you don't know what I'm referencing, march yourself over here for three of the most fantastic minutes you'll spend on the internet. I’ll wait…)

The 20K course was an out-and-back along the C&O Towpath from Caderock to Chain Bridge.  I’ve done parts of that trail starting on the DC end of the trail, and it’s always a beautiful run.  The snow only added to the trail's beauty.

I started the race with the intention of keeping a nine-minute pace for the first half, and picking up the pace after the turnaround.  I stuck to the plan for the first two miles, started to slow, and lost the pack as I fell into a 10-minute mile.

Losing the pack in a race with a small field size, to be completely honest, was dispiriting. I started to beat myself up about the speed workouts that I’ve been doing for the last few weeks.  I felt a little better near the turnaround when there were more runners (and the friendly faces of my friends) to motivate me to pick up the pace.

By Mile 8, I was ready for the race to be over.  I was cold.  My feet were wet.  I wasn’t anywhere near my goal pace.  And, my internal monologue just wouldn’t shut up about my training.  I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but I actually stopped moving and audibly told myself to quit whining and run.  (Yeah, there weren’t many people within earshot of me.)

I hit the finish line with 2:04 on the clock, which kind of bummed me out since I can apparently run a half-marathon in about that time.  Of course, race conditions weren't exactly ideal.

After the race, some of the group went to Alero for brunch.  I hadn’t met most of the people before today, but I will say that it was amazing to chat with them and hear their running stories.  Frankly, hearing about the ultramarathon experience around the table was mind-blowing.

Thinking about my performance during this 20K, I have to remember that I'm going to experience a few runs and races that aren't as awesome as others.  And, there's something to be said about the dedication (insanity?) of everyone who showed up to run in those conditions.  I, for one, look forward to the day when I can tell my grandchildren that I once ran a race in the snow (uphill both ways and without shoes).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Operation Sub-2: Weekly Round-Up (2)

I’m terribly late with my weekly training round-up, and I’m going to blame the fact that the past week felt like The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on repeat.

I’ll spare you my whining about my first world problems, but my life outside of running felt like a huge disaster.  I couldn’t keep my emotions together either, which was strange because the last time I had a serious cry involved watching a Disney movie.  (Look, you try watching Tangled by yourself and see what happens.  Seriously, the music swelled and I couldn’t help it….Damn you, Alan Menken.)

Anyway, weeks like that happen and, for the most part, I was able to resolve most of the issues that came up once I stopped freaking out.  Plus, this week is showing signs of being awesome.  I mean, once an Eastern European man who’s old enough to be your grandfather invites you to see a movie and have dinner with him, the week can’t possibly go wrong.

As far as training goes, I’m three days into Week 3 and have shifted a few things around to make up for not running on Sunday and having a race on Saturday.  I skipped my run today in favor of letting Jillian Michaels whip my abs into shape with her 30-Day Shred video.  I started at Level 1 after a very long break and discovered that I lost a lot of upper body strength but continue to have the leg muscles of a champion.  Funny how those things work…

Week 3
Sunday: Rest
Monday: 40-minute interval workout
Tuesday: X-Training and Strength Training (30 Day Shred)
Wednesday: 45-minute tempo run
Thursday: 3 miles (easy)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: JFK 20K 

In other exciting news, I've chosen a spring marathon! Hooray! I'll write a full post about the details because Operation Sub-2:00 Half Marathon now has a companion mission of running a 4:30 marathon (or faster) in May in Providence.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Operation Sub-2: Weekly Round-Up (1)

I may have underestimated how tough my first week of training would be. I’m at all not discouraged, but I plan to take a closer look at my training plan and make a few changes to make sure that I don't over-train.

After a short run on Sunday, cross and strength training on Monday, 40 minutes of intervals on Tuesday, a short run on Wednesday, and a tempo run on Thursday, I had my first rest day of the week on Friday.  However, my “rest” day wasn’t much of a rest day because - happily - my dad came to down for our annual Daddy-Daughter (and friends!) Wizards-Knicks game.  When I got back to my apartment, I was exhausted and felt bad for crashing early.

Yesterday, I felt a little tired throughout the morning but decided that it was more of "I should probably eat" kind of tired than a "I should probably sleep" tired.  Stef and I went out for our weekly long run in the afternoon.  The plan was to run from my apartment, over to Lincoln’s Cottage, downtown, and back for a total of 13 miles. 

Talk about hubris but after training for and running a few marathons, I’ve allowed myself to get to the point where I laugh in the face of 13 miles.  (Bad, Alisha! Bad!  Half-marathons are still fraking hard!)  The first half of the run was challenging but manageable. About six miles in, though, everything seemed to go wrong. An upset stomach and a side stitch – sure, why not? General fatigue?  Bring it.  (Stef is awesome and was more than happy to take a walk break when I needed it.)

I was so happy when we got within a mile of my apartment and I knew that I only had to push for another nine or ten minutes.  I sulked a little around my apartment after the run but decided I just needed to ease into having multiple hard workouts in a week.

My plan for Week 2 goes something like this:
Sunday: 4 miles (easy)
Monday: Cross-Training and Strength Training
Tuesday: Speed Work, 30 minutes
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 3 miles (easy)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 8 miles – the JFK 20K was postponed to work around a scheduling conflict on the planned course

To lighten things up, I may swap the cross training for a really good stretching session on Monday and reduce Wednesday’s mileage to four.

Friday, January 6, 2012

TGI Carb Night: Curried Butternut Squash and Lentils

TGI Carb Night is making a come-back!  Unfortunately, I didn't do much experimenting in the kitchen when I trained for the Philadelphia Marathon last fall, but I'm armed with a few new cookbooks and a pledge to fuel better before my runs.  First up:

Curried Butternut Squash and Lentils - adapted from the Athlete's Palate Cookbook

You'll need:
1 cup dry lentils
1 small butternut squash, cubed with skin-on.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked long grain rice (optional, for serving)

Pour lentils into a deep pot and cover with water.  Bring the water to a boil and add the squash pieces.  Reduce heat and simmer until the squash is soft.  Remove the pot from heat, drain, and set aside.  Separate the butternut squash chunks into a bowl and mash roughly.

Add the lentils to the bowl and mix with the olive oil, lentils, curry powder, ground ginger, salt, and pepper.

I spooned the mixture over rice, but it works well as a main dish.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Operation Sub-2:00 Half-Marathon

I forgot to mention one important detail about this week:  I start training for my next set of races! Whooo!  (I’ll admit that I’m excited most by getting to look at another colorful spreadsheet for a couple of months.)

I mentioned in my 2011 Round-Up that one of my goals for this year is to run a half-marathon in under two hours.  I set this goal twice last year – first in advance of the Rock ‘n’ Roll half in Virginia Beach and, when I failed, before the Baltimore Half.  I failed to achieve that goal at both races, and, after, my mind was filled with thoughts of how I probably could have run a sub-2:00 race if I’d done X, Y, and Z during training, ate better before the race, and had run through a few water stops to save time (and spill water all over myself because I only mastered the “Drinking while running” move in Philly).

I surprised myself a bit in Baltimore, though, by running a 2:05 even with all of the hills on the course.  If I focus on strength and speed this time around, I should be prepared to run a sub-2:00 half marathon in March at the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half.

My long run mileage peaks at 18 miles before the race, and I’ll be working in speed workouts and two-a-days (with which I experimented last month and it wasn’t as bad as it sounds…as long as only one of those workouts is a hard run).  

This is what I have for Week 1:

Sunday: 3.5 Miles (Accompanied by the men pounding in my head post-New Year’s Eve)
Monday: Stretching, cross-training, and lifting session (Originally planned as a rest day)
Tuesday: Intervals, 40 minutes
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: Tempo Run, 50 minutes and Strength
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 13 miles

Tuesday Inspiration: Larry Macon

Larry Macon turned 67 on New Year's Eve.  He also ran his 113th marathon of the year on that day.

From My San Antonio:  
 "Heading into Saturday's race, Macon...had amassed almost 3,000 miles running in 2011, gone through a dozen pairs of shoes and logged roughly 200,000 miles in flying. He now has run 823 marathons during his lifetime."
Once I got over trying to figure out how this could be possible, I was awed and impressed by Macon's achievement.  Then, still curious (read: extremely baffled), I started to think about the logistics and the physical toll such a feat is likely to take.  
Thank goodness for the Internet and this profile of Macon featured in Runner's World in 2009
From the article:  
"Just consider this back-to-back performance: In August, he finished the Frank Maier Marathon in Juneau, Alaska, at 12:30 p.m.; drove to the airport for a 2 p.m. flight; landed in San Francisco at midnight; then started that city's marathon at 5:30 a.m. Or there's the time he drove from the finish of the Cow Town Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas, to New Orleans (which took him 12 hours), arriving five minutes before the start of the Mardi Gras Marathon. And thanks to holidays like Memorial Day and races with Saturday night starts, he squeezed three marathons into one weekend five times in 2008." 
The mere fact that he's able to get to one marathon to the next in such a short time frame is impressing.  Paired with his ability to run up to three marathons in one weekend, and you could probably convince me that Macon is superhuman.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Round-Up

2011 was incredible.  In 365 days, I ran 14 races, including three half-marathons and the Philadelphia Marathon. I ran 1,000 miles. I made new friends and strengthened relationships with those already in my circle.  One of the things that I’m most proud of is the progress that I’ve made as a runner, which became most apparent when I crossed the finish line in Philadelphia almost an hour faster than I did at the 2010 Baltimore Marathon.

I’m excited to see what this year has in store.

My primary running goal for 2012 is to run at least two marathons before the year ends; ideally, this would mean one spring/early summer race and one fall marathon.  I went ahead and registered for four long races to fill the first four months of the year:

JFK 20K – January 14
GW Birthday Marathon (Relay) – February 19
Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half-Marathon – March 17
Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run – April 1

I also have a few other fitness goals for the year:

  • Be a better listener to my body.
  • Improve strength and get toned.
  • Run a sub-2:00 half-marathon
  • Run a sub-4:30 marathon
  • Run 1,200 miles 

Here’s to 2012!