Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Spartathlon

Okay readers: If I ever come to you and say that I want to run the Spartathlon, you have my permission to talk me out of it.  This sounds intense!
These are the last few minutes before the start of the Spartathlon, one of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons. The 310 runners in this year’s race are doing their final stretches. Energy supplements are being taken; running belts are being checked; caps with neck flaps to protect against the sun are being adjusted. Many athletes have a crew to support them during the race; there is time for some final words of encouragement before the runners edge towards the starting line.
At 7am precisely, as dawn approaches, the race begins. The field strings round the Acropolis and past the agora, the heart of ancient Athenian life, before heading into the early-morning traffic. The pace is gentle: an average runner can keep up for the first kilometre easily. But this race is about distance, not speed. After that first kilometre, another and another and another lie ahead. Everyone in the field has completed at least a 100km (62-mile) race. For this event, they will have to run 245km (or almost six consecutive marathons) within 36 hours. Only 72 of them will end up making it all the way to historical Sparta.
 From The Spartathlon: The Lunacy of the Long-Distance Runner, via The Economist

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Operation Sub-2:00 Half-Marathon, Second Attempt

With 2012 coming to close, I've been looking ahead to my 2013 race calendar and racing goals.  As of the beginning of this month, I've registered for two races: the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  And, I'm certain that I will sign up for a few smaller races during the first half of the year.

Last March, I missed my goal of finishing a half-marathon in under two hours. (Actually, I've missed it a few times before.)  I can give any number of excuses for my failure.  I was just coming off a cold. I was focusing on marathon training. I walked through a few water stations.  I just didn't run fast get the idea.

I've come close so many times before, and I'm convinced that I can do it this time. 

There are 11 weeks between me and this year's Rock 'n' Roll USA.  Instead of creating a plan myself, I used the Smart Coach tool from Runner's World to form my half-marathon training plan.  Here are the first three weeks:

I like the idea of three easy runs, but, most weeks, I will do at least one short run closer to my intended race pace. (This plan suggests running an 8:59 pace during the race for a finish time of 1:57:46.)

I'm really excited to do this!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh Really: Black Women Avoid Exercise to Preserve their Hair

The Huffington Post covered a study that found that two of five African-American women avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair.

"To find out if women were putting hair above their health, the researchers surveyed 103 African-American women who came to the dermatology clinic at Wake Forest University in October 2007.

They found that more than half of the women were exercising for less than 75 minutes per week, which is less than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

That's also less than U.S. women on average, according to a 2007 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found about half of all U.S. women were exercising close to 150 minutes per week.

More than a quarter of the women in the new study said they didn't exercise at all.

About a third of the women said they exercise less than they'd like because of their hair, and half said they have considered changing their hair for exercise.

McMichael and her colleagues found that women who avoided exercise because of their hair were almost three times less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. That finding, however, could have been due to chance."
Ignoring the survey methodology (this is hardly a representative sample) -- this can't be an actual thing, right?  There are women in this world who are more concerned about their hair than living a healthy lifestyle?  In the words of Mr. Oblaski, such an excuse is "one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard." I fail to see how this can even be considered an excuse especially when African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. 

I mean, to some degree, I get it.  I'm a black woman who has spent many hours (and dollars) at the salon on haircare.  But, a perfect hairdo will never be as important to me as getting exercise.  Then again, I guess it's a matter of priorities...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quoted: Is “Fitspiration” Really Any Better Than “Thinspiration”?

Looking at rock-hard body after rock-hard body it occurred to me that fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra. After all, the problem with thinspo is that the images represent a mostly unattainable ideal that requires great sacrifices (both physical and mental) to achieve and I daresay that most of those “perfect” female bodies, albeit muscular instead of bony, are equally as problematic. Many people will say that while it’s rare to be born with skinny genes but that muscle can be built with hard work in the gym. And I agree. But in most of these pictures, we’re not looking at your average woman who does Bodypump twice a week and can now lift her children with ease. We’re looking at a very exclusive set of dedicated athletes that train very hard and eat a very particular diet to maintain extremely lean figures. A second argument would be that super skinny is unhealthy while exercise is very healthy. Again I agree. Except that for the majority of women to look like the girls in these fitspo pictures they’d have to be young, probably not have had kids and quite possibly have an unhealthy devotion to exercise and eating. And let’s remember that women need body fat not only for spawning but also for our own health. I’m not saying every fitness model has an eating disorder. I promise! I am saying though that compulsive over exercise can be just as deadly as other eating disorders and yet it so socially sanctioned that it’s often promoted as inspiring.
-From "Is 'Fitspiration' Really Any Better Than 'Thinspiration'?" via The Great Fitness Experiment

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jingle All the Way 8K - Race Round-Up

It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas!

I've started my shopping, trimmed the tree (read: pulled the pre-decorated tree out of its box and fanned its branches), made several holiday playlists, and have started holiday baking.

My dad came to town this weekend for the annual Jingle All the Way 8K.  I've run this race a few times, and it's always always a lot of fun.  This year, the bonus was seeing my dad line up for his first race longer than a 5K since he started running last year.

My goal this year was to run a 40-minute race, which, with the running that I've done lately, seemed like a reasonable goal.  I started off strong and caught up with Stef at the beginning of the race. I settled into a comfortable pace after about the first mile and maintained it for most the race.  I didn't PR, but I'm really happy with my time.

Gun Time: 45:28
Net Time: 44:58
Average pace: 9:03
Division: 239 / 978
8K Personal Best: 43:46, Run! Geek! Run! 8K
Jingle All the Way 8K Course Record: 44:38, 2011

Unless another race comes up, that's it for 2012! I've got a few races on my list for next year, but I'm looking forward to planning my calendar for next year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quoted: Sandied

I took it very hard. There’d be no finish line delirium of pain and happiness. Instead, there was just the awful feeling that New Yorkers hated runners—we were self-indulgent and selfish, and how dare we want to run when people needed help.

When my running buddy Terry and I decided to do the Bucks County Marathon in Pennsylvania two weeks later, it didn’t really stand a chance as a substitute. We didn’t know quite what to do with our extended taper, being complete novices. And we just assumed that one marathon could be substituted for another. We’d been told that the crowds of spectators in New York City could somehow transfer their energy to the runners to help them along. But since we’d never actually experienced this, we found it easy to discount the effect. Surely just one spouse or relative would be just as energizing. Plus, our training had gone well. We had two comfortable 20-mile runs under our belts and felt marathon-ready, even if we’d been hitting the bottle while our apartments were dark and cold post-Sandy.

Bucks County had different plans. A dirt course that included several miles covered with newly laid gravel and lacked masses of cheering spectators put paid to my hopes of a 4:20 finish. I spent the last six miles doing a whimpering run/walk, my pace bands long since ripped off in frustration as I fell further and further behind my goal. I crossed the finish line in tears. I was crying for my own shattered expectations and for the pain I was feeling. These were not the delirious tears of happiness I had imagined. I know not everyone had such a negative experience at this race—I just couldn’t get over the fact that it was so different from what I had trained for.
 From Sandied by Noirin Lucas