Friday, September 30

Nike takes a stand

I have a hate/love relationship with Nike. Their history of sweatshop labor* is enough to make the most stoic person cringe. But I have to hand it to them: Their marketing is nothing short of brilliant.

A new "You can change the rules, but you can't change history" ad on the Nike Running Facebook page has gone viral. Given my none-too-subtle stance on the IAAF ruling -- both the initial world record rule change and the subsequent retroactive rule application, which stripped Paula Radcliffe of her 2:15 marathon world record -- it would be impossible for me to not love this ad.

I think this replaces Nike's 2005 "Thunder Thighs" ad as my all-time favorite PR piece.

*According to Businessweek, in 2004 Nike implemented a system of factory inspections, which does not solve the sweatshop labor problems, but is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, September 29

Thursday thanks

Yesterday intense thunderstorms knocked out the power in my neighborhood (quite a messy situation when you work from home and are expected to participate in web meetings during the power-outtage).

The storm also messed with my training schedule. I took a lesson from Jim, at Run Far and Prosper... Don't run in lightning storms!

But when I woke up to go for a run this morning, this is what my day looked like.

That's enough to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, September 27

Shopping spree

I went on a spending bender and spent $50 on...
... socks!
I know.
Sexy, right?
(It's a good thing Hubby is a runner, too...)

Five brand-new pairs of injinji toe socks arrived today. For me, this is like Christmas! (Except the postman dropped the socks at my door, instead of Santa dragging them down a chimney. And I had to pay for them. So, ok. Not like Christmas at all. But I'm still psyched.)

While I am at no risk of being labeled a fashion maven, I am a sartorial snob when it comes to my socks. I might consider running without a pair of toe-socks, but only if I were being chased by wolves.

This is particularly amusing given that I used to mock toe-sock wearers. I thought the concept was ridiculous. How could they possibly be comfortable? Then a kind, but convincing, running store salesperson was giving me pointers on how to avoid losing toenails. I had just lost one of mine in the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll marathon. He asked if I had tried toe socks. I laughed. He said "Try a pair. If you hate them, bring them back." That was five years ago, and not only did I not return that pair, I went back a couple of weeks later and bought two more. And later a couple more.

Unfortunately socks don't last forever. Last week I could poke my thumb through the hole in one of my last pair of injinjis. Hence: Shopping spree. And happy feet.

And speaking of happy... Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner is having a giveaway, featuring a "Run Like a Girl" necklace. Stop by her page for a chance to win.

Monday, September 26

You know it's autumn when...

Despite continued balmy weather in Florida, you know it's autumn when:

  • You no longer need to wake up at 5am to start a long run, because the sun isn't up, and it isn't sauna-temperature, until nearly 7.

  • On Sundays running your long run on the treadmill is more tempting than running outdoors because it's a great way to catch the first half of the morning football games. (Also, dreadmill miles seem much faster when you imagine yourself running in for the TD.)

  • Spending the rest of Sunday on the couch or at a sports bar, eating nachos, watching the afternoon games, seems like a brilliant post-run recovery strategy.
  • Football photo circa 1910.
    Image source
  • Oktoberfest beer is on tap. 'Nuff said.

  • Before your morning run, you spike your coffee with pumpkin-spice creamer, and pumpkin bread is your post-run food of choice.
Peanut loves pumpkin, too!
Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.
What do you love about this season?

Sunday, September 25

Sunday superlative

This week a San Diego legend passed away.

I'm not talking about a rock star or a politician.
I'm talking about a community college teacher.

In addition to his day job, Jerry Schad opened up the southern California backcountry to hikers and trail runners through a series of books, guided hikes, and a column in the local weekly rag.

To say that Schad's books are well-respected would be an understatement. His "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" is considered the bible of backcountry and beach trails. (If you think I'm exaggerating, check out the LA Times article.)

My personal copies of Afoot and Afield are dog-eared, water-stained, and filled with notes in the margins. In short, the books have been often-used and well-loved. Without those books as a guide, I would never have found even half of the amazing places that I've hiked and trail-run over the years.

The collection of photos below represent just a handful of the treks I wouldn't have taken without Schad's tireless work to document trail locations, distances, elevation change, and other useful pieces of information.

Area M-5, Trip 4: Three Sisters Waterfall
Area M-8, Trip 2: Garnet Peak (yes people, it snows in the San Diego mountains!)
Area D-2, Trip 8: Hellhole Canyon
Schad will be missed.
San Diego's backcountry won't be the same...  

Saturday, September 24

5k from a volunteer point of view

This morning I woke up before dawn, had a coffee, and rushed out the door to the starting line of a race.

But I wasn't running.

So why would I wake up at an ungodly hour for a race I'm not running?
I volunteered at the Seafood Festival 5k. In the process I got a behind-the-scenes peek at race-day. I also got a pretty sweet tech t-shirt to add to my collection.

I worked the packet/t-shirt pickup table for an hour and a half, helped set out food, then moved over to the finish line to hand out waters. A couple of things I noticed:

  • The post-race party area is eerily calm between the start and finish of the race. In all my years of running, I've never seen the food tables without a gaggle of sweaty, chatty runners around. While the runners were out on the course, the place looked like a ghost town.

The snacks: calm before finish-line chaos begins.
  • Spectators have no shame about helping themselves to post-race goodies intended for the runners and walkers. Seriously, people, unless I see a bib number, the koozies are not for you! Get your paws off!
The finish-line water station.
  • It is pretty fantastic to watch the winner cross the finish line. Unless you're a spectator (or the winner) this is a sight runners rarely witness.
The winner.
So my overall perspective on volunteering: I'm tired (from less than 5 hours of sleep last night), soaked (from handing out water), and I'm in desperate need of another cup of coffee. But being behind-the-scenes gave me a different perspective on the race experience, plus I got a free t-shirt, so it was a morning well-spent.

Friday, September 23

Shouted at by strangers

Normally I get a little totally creeped out when I'm out running and people yell from passing cars. Often the shouts are incoherent, but some I've heard recently (true story) include:
"Yee haw!"
"Hey baby, want a ride?"
(Um... really? You can't be serious.)

I live near a busy(ish) road. For the life of me, I do not understand why drivers on this road yell at runners on the adjoining sidewalk. Occasionally (very rarely) I also get a wave, and I think: "Oh, that person must have confused me for a neighbor."

But really, nothing ruins the cadence of a good morning run like being shouted at by strangers. Except maybe stepping in dog poo. That can ruin a run, too.

Yes, I jump every time a crazy motorist shouts out the window. No, teenager-in-your-dad's-car, it's not funny. (And why aren't you in school? It's 9am on a weekday!)

But today was different.

Today I was running hill repeats on one of the few hills in the state of Florida. (Note: My definition of "hill" has eroded greatly since moving here.) A local fitness boot camp group was wrapping up their workout in a nearby park. From the top of the hill, I could see boot-campers heading back to their cars. I finished the sprint I was on, trotted back down the hill, and started all over again.

As I was hauling ass huffing and puffing my way up the hill again, one of the boot camp women slowed her truck, rolled down her window, and shouted:
"You're doing great! Keep it up!"
Now that's some shouting I could hear every day.

Thursday, September 22

Thursday thanks

The highlight of my week was a long-distance call.

Through a series of job-changes, new addresses, and unlisted telephone numbers, I fell out of touch with a couple of very dear friends. (We'll call them M & P.) The last time M called me, he and P were still living in Alaska, but were about to move to a new home. That was more than three years ago.

I miss M & P every time I run, hike, or have champagne. During the years when we all lived in Southern California, we covered hundreds of miles of trails together, and celebrated each trek with copious amounts of wine. We trained for, and hiked, Mount Whitney together. (That adventure didn't turn out as planned, but that's another story for another time...)

Resting at the top of Mt. San Jacinto, 2003.
(From left: P, me, M... lady to far right? Who knows. It was crowded up there!)
M helped me craft my first triathlon and half-marathon training plans. He taught me how to walk the fine line between pushing my limits and overtraining. M was a world class runner in his college days (think Olympic trials) and ran 60 miles on his 60th birthday, just because he could. He also has an endearing sense of humor. What better mentor could a new runner have?

So when I finally found current contact information for M & P, I thought my luck might be too good to be true. (Let's just say that M & P have names that show up more than once in a phone book.) I sent an email, hoping it was going to the right place...

And I received a reply less than an hour later.

We set up time to talk. After more than three years, two new home states, two new jobs, and a wedding (mine), our catch-up conversation was as natural as if we had just finished a hike last week.

And it turns out their new home isn't so very far from my new home.

We'll be trekking and running together again soon.

Wednesday, September 21

Radcliffe record changed

About two weeks ago I wrote about sexist new rules approved by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). The new rules only allow women's running world records to "count" if they are run in women-only races. The only question remaining at that time was whether or not the rules would be retroactive.

That decision has now been made, and, indeed, the rules are going to be applied retroactively. According to today's report on ESPN:
For full story, see
"Under new rules passed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Radcliffe's 2003 mark of two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds is no longer valid as a world record because it was run in a mixed environment. 
The new rules, designed to discourage male pacemakers from helping women to achieve quicker times, means that Radcliffe's mark, set at the 2003 London Marathon is no longer a women's world record, but a world best. Her 2005 London time of 2:17:42 has been upgraded to the world record."
And just to prove how controversial this ruling is, two major world marathon organizations, World Major Marathons (WMM) and the Association of International Marathons (AIMS), threw their combined weight against the ruling, stating in a joint letter:
"The Boards of both WMM and AIMS have reviewed the recent Congress decision and believe that it does not represent what is required by the sport of road running...They further believe that there should be two world records for women's road running performances, separately recognising those achieved in mixed competition and women's only conditions...AIMS and WMM will continue to acknowledge both types of performances as world records and will discuss this matter further with the IAAF, recognising that the vast majority of women's road races throughout the world are held in mixed conditions..."
And perhaps the most telling line from the letter:
"The current situation where the fastest time is not now recognised as a record is confusing and unfair and does not respect the history of our sport."
But unless the ruling is overturned, the women's fastest marathon time drops back to Radcliffe's 2:17 (in 2005), not her much faster 2:15 (in 2003).

Tuesday, September 20

Aging and running

According to research published by Stanford University in 2008, running slows the aging process:
Regular running slows the effects of aging, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine that has tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years. Elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths, the research found.
But aging also slows the running process...

In his article "Coming of Age" in the October issue of Runner's World, Peter Sagal interviewed Dr. Ray Fair (Yale University) on the effects of age on runners' pace.

The bad news: it really is all downhill after age 35. Or, rather, it's an uphill battle. Our finishing times increase (as pace decreases) as we get older. Dr. Fair conveniently created a web-based conversion system if you want to see the details. And, for your viewing pleasure, I've turned the data into a chart summarizing how uphill the battle is:

Coincidentally, today's word of the day just happens to be acme: the highest point of something; the highest degree attainable.
Let's use that in a sentence: By age 35 nearly all runners will have reached the acme of their running performance, and can no longer expect to set PRs.

Wow. That sounds horribly depressing. But...

The good news: The slowdown is very gradual as we age, until the mid-70s. By age 88, we can expect that most running distances will take us about twice as long as they did at age 35. Or, put another way, by age 88 we will run at about half the speed we did 50 years earlier.

But really, if we're still running at all at age 88, isn't that good enough?

Also...for one of my favorite stories of 80-year-old words of wisdom, see "Enjoy it while you can."

Monday, September 19

In the long run

Yesterday's half-marathon training long run went off without a hitch. Well, ok. There was one hitch. Hubby and I started about an hour later than we intended to, but we'll just call that "replicating race conditions" (the half will start later than we'd like) and move on.

I've been running my long runs without music for the past couple of months because #1 - in Florida heat I sweat so much I'd short out my iPod, and #2 - my iPod hasn't been holding a charge for more than half an hour anyway. (I don't know about you, but I can't run 10-15 miles in 30 minutes. If I could, I'm pretty sure being faster than Usain Bolt would have gotten me a Nike sponsorship and a wall full of Olympic medals by now...)

Yesterday I decided to give the ol' mp3 player one last chance, and a good, long overnight charge. It must have worked because both my tunes and I lasted through 95 minutes of humid, shade-less, coastal trail running.

This morning my quads and ankles feel like someone whacked them with a tire iron (result of a long run on uneven terrain and soft sand) but it's that "good ache" that tells me I pushed my boundaries yesterday. I just wish I recovered as quickly as I did 10 years ago! (Cue clairvoyant voice: I see more ice baths and foam rollers in your future...)
Hubby finished his run before me (no great shock there) and snapped pics of me at the finish. This is the least unflattering of them (which is saying something about what I look like after a long run). But hey, at least I finished strong, right?

My favorite song from the run: Silversun Pickups "Growing Old is Getting Old" which came on in my last couple of miles. (Confession: I played it 3 times in a row.) Aging + running is definitely a theme from this weekend, but more on that later...

What song motivates you most at the end of a long run?

Have you noticed any changes in your running (or recovery) as you've gotten older?

Saturday, September 17

Carb loading

In the spirit of carb-consumption for tomorrow's long run: I baked bread.
(I promise not to pretend to be a food blogger often, but this baking event is runner-specific.)

The focaccia recipe I use (available here) calls for rosemary and olives. I skipped that part tonight because the leftover bread makes really excellent french toast. (Perfect post-run breakfast!) But olive and rosemary french toast sounds like a candidate for the Worst Thing I Ever Ate. So. No rosemary. No olives. Otherwise no deviations from the recipe.
Only 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast.
Kneading (and yes, that is an oven burn / battle scar on my wrist)...
Those little yeasties do amazing things!
Into the oven.
If this doesn't give me enough fuel for a long run, nothing will.
Have you ever tried baking bread?

What are your favorite foods to eat the night before a long run?

Rookie mistakes

This week in the "I should know better" files:
Cool morning weather tempted me into thinking I could switch my interval workout to the track, instead of the treadmill, for the first time in months. What followed was not my most graceful morning ever.

I should know better: Exhibit A
I should not attempt to run at the track on base on PT day. The track will be full of personnel in bright yellow shirts and navy shorts. Running intervals is not an option when 100 identically-dressed people in the infield are doing 100 crunches and 100 push-ups while chanting. Loudly.

Using the track under these conditions would be unpleasant at best, but more importantly the PT-ers are bound to switch between infield and track at any given time. And on PT day, I (lowly civilian) do not have the right of way.

Me at the track in 2009. (Blurry = superfast, right?)
Fortunately I'm not entirely daft. The sea of yellow shirts screamed "treadmill instead!" before I even got out of the car.

I should know better: Exhibit B
When running a "ladder" interval workout, it is not wise to start in your highest gear.

A ladder workout looks like this:
1600 meter sprint. recover.
  1200 meter sprint. recover.
    800 meter sprint. recover.
      400 meter sprint. cool down.
Given that 2 of the sprints are 1600 and 1200 meters, starting out at my normal 400-meter pace was... (how shall I put this delicately?)... f-ing stupid.

I managed to hang on through the first 1600, sucking wind and clawing at the "slow down" buttons when I finished. This should have set off the alarm bells in my brain (no not "those" alarm bells), but I let ego get in the way of reason. Each interval is supposed to be hard, but not heart-exploding, grasping for the treadmill handles merciless. You are supposed to finish feeling like you might puke, but you could run "just a little more" if forced at gunpoint. You are also supposed to get progressively faster (not slower) through each shorter distance of the ladder.

After ignoring the 1600 warning signs, I completed (what I thought was) an appropriate recovery and started my second interval (1200). I knew I was doomed in the first 200 meters. By 400 meters the treadmill handed my @ss to me. (Can treadmills laugh?) I attempted to hang on for another 800, but could not. When I stopped, I checked my heart rate. Um... 197. Not good. One minute later, still 196. Clearly I screwed up. Royally. I took a much longer recovery. I let my HR get back down out of the stratosphere, you know, to something more like 160. I salvaged the "final" 800 meters of that 1200, and completed the final 800 and 400 without further incident.

I left the gym embarrassed, which is weird, because no one else had any idea what my workout was "supposed" to be. Only I (well... and now you) know that I made a huge rookie mistake. Inside I was beating myself up, thinking I've been running this workout for years. I should know better!

Normally speedwork is the highlight of my week.
This week it was my "Doh!" moment.

Have you ever had a workout (or a race) that makes you feel like a rookie runner?

Friday, September 16

Lunk head?

When I first saw the Planet Fitness segment on the Daily Show this week, I thought "this has to be a joke. There can't really be a gym that sets off a siren if someone grunts while lifting weights." That's just obnoxious. Who would pay to work out in a gym that sets off alarms for infractions?

Watch for yourself:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Plight of Muscled Americans
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

I kept thinking that it all must be some big Daily Show joke. If such a gym existed, it wouldn't also claim to be a "judgement free zone." Right? That would be... absurd.

If setting off a "Lunk™ Alarm" isn't passing judgement, what is?

Apparently it's true. Quoted directly from the Planet Fitness website:
As the most innovative health club brand in the United States, Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our absurdly low prices, our Lunk™ Alarm, and most of all perhaps, for our Judgement Free Zone® philosophy, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.

Just wow.

Have any of you been to a Planet Fitness, or any other gym with bizarre rules and regulations? Is there something I'm missing that helps this all make sense?

Thursday, September 15

Thursday thanks

This week I was on the receiving end of a Random Act of Kindness.

On Tuesday, I decided to take my morning walk to the beach. There is a bridge toll along the way. I had 4 quarters lined up to pay the toll.
But when I pulled up to the toll-taker's window, a strange thing happened. The toll-taker waved me on and said:
"The lady ahead of you paid for you."
For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, that lady made my whole week.

Thank you random act of kindness lady, wherever you are!

Now... what should I do to pay it forward?
Or better yet: What would YOU do to pay it forward?

Wednesday, September 14

Music for running

During my lunch break yesterday, I turned on the radio. (The house gets quiet when you work from home, and the cat gets tired of me talking to her.) Apparently my timing was just right. I happened to catch a Talk of the Nation segment about music and running. Score!

While I ate my veggie burrito, Dr. Costas Karageorghis, head researcher at the School of Sport and Education at Brunel University, summarized his research on music and athletic performance. He had some fascinating statistics. But as I listened, I wondered how much of this we runners already knew (without a doctor telling us)? To quote from the transcript:
Background music typically will reduce an exerciser's perception of the effort they are expending by about 10 percent," Karageorghis says. When there is no background music playing at the gym, or if someone is working out without headphones... there's still a benefit to the music in your head. "Nowadays athletes are not allowed to use music" while competing, he says. Instead, he encourages athletes with whom he works to "imagine a particular piece music" while competing. "This has a pacing function, so they synchronize their music to the tempo of the music, ...This has a workout enhancing effect ... Imagining music is often just as effective as listening to it 'proper,' in terms of neurological responses."
Ok, so I've been playing Beautiful Day on the jukebox in my brain during long runs for the past couple of years. I always thought I was crazy, but clearly I was onto something! (And I discovered this trick before the illustrious Doctor, it seems?)

The doc also has some suggestions on beats per minute (bpm) to maximize workout potential. He recommends that bpm be similar to heart rate, with most folks preferring a tempo between 125 and 140. (Am I the only person with a heart rate of 180 running?)

For some excellent pointers on how to find the beats per minute on your favorite songs, or suggestions on where to go for running playlists, Lifehacker has some helpful hints.

Speaking of playlists... Here's my actual playlist (the one on my mp3 player, not the one in my brain).

Do you run with or without music? 

What's on your playlist?

Photo courtesy of Phil /

Tuesday, September 13

A little change of pace

I have a fairly consistent exercise routine during the week that involves running, yoga, lifting, walking, and some stationary bike on rainy days. I have my "normal" routes. But this morning I wasn't quite ready to let go of summer, so I decided to head to the beach for a long walk before work. (Oh, the joys of starting work at 10am!)
So, with a cup of coffee in-hand, this is how I started my day.

I really should do this more often. I live in a place where other people go for vacation. But it is all too easy to take this sort of thing for granted when you live right around the corner.

Do you take full advantage of the place you live?
How do you mix up your weekly routine?

Monday, September 12

100th blog post

Today I've reached one of the critical blogger milestones: the 100th post.

I fretted over what to write, since this post seems momentous. (But then again, it is really just like every other post...) Should I write something reflective? Should I gush about the blogger community? Should I write a retrospective on all the years I've been running, or how much my life has changed (or not) in the past 100 posts?

In honor of this special occasion, and in the spirit of keeping things simple, I decided to take a brief look back at the blog so far.

Superlatives, flops, and things I've learned:
The (surprisingly) most popular post so far has been my book review of Bad Shoes and the Women Who Love Them. The popularity of this post is, at least in part, thanks to Pete at Runblogger, who Stumbled the post and has been generating regular traffic ever since. (Thanks Runblogger!)

The second most popular is Running in the Buff... Don't even get me started about the weird search terms that have generated traffic for that post. The popularity of Running in the Buff made me wonder if I should start blogging about nudity more often. (It generates traffic!) But seriously, I've seen Avenue Q. I should not have been surprised by the search results.

(Viewer caution: The Avenue Q video contains no nudity, but is NSFW)

The post that I had the most fun writing, but flopped royally, was Spitting Mad (about running etiquette, especially not spitting on your fellow runners). I expected at least a few "eww gross" comments, but instead got silence. *crickets chirping* Then again, Yes, Folks. I Run Like A Girl was only a baby blog then. Even my family wasn't reading it yet. (I do wonder if Spitting Mad would get more traction today?)

The most controversial post, by far, was Sexist New Rules (about the swap to women's world records now only counting in women-only races). This post blew up into a raging debate on my facebook wall, with dozens of comments on both sides of the argument. To everyone's credit, the debate was heated but civil.

My thanks to all who have been reading along with me so far. I look forward to sharing the next 100 (miles and posts) with you!

Sunday, September 11

Community where you least expect it

Earlier this month I told myself that I would not post on the 9/11 anniversary. We all have memories of that day. My story is no more poignant or noteworthy than most and is less important than many. My story merits no telling.

But then a strange thing happened. I received an email that changed my mind.

In my inbox is an email from the founder of It wasn't a personal email. If you're a Meetup member, you probably have one, too. I'll tell you why it changed my perspective, but let's take care of the important part first.

In the words of Scott Heiferman, Co-founder and CEO of (text excerpted from email):
     I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.
     Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we've got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me.
     When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly. A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way.
     So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet -- and grow local communities.
Meetup was launched 9 months later, and is now "home" to 100,000 local groups with a total of more than 10 million members.

I've participated in running, hiking, and book-clubbing meetups. The network has helped me get to know the locals when I've traveled, but most importantly has helped me meet my neighbors when I've moved. Who would have thought that the electronic world would make the in-person one so much more friendly?

Again in Scott's words:
     Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's powerful stuff.
     It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.
     Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.
     9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!!!!
So how did this one email change my mind?

The center of my running universe is the San Diego Running Meetup. I've written before about the amazing strength and support of the SDR community, so I'll spare you the sappy love story here.

What I want to focus on today is that a small, concerned group of citizens changed the lives  thousands (maybe millions?) of people for the better.

On an anniversary that is so tragic, I can think of no better tribute than celebrating those who make the world a better place.

11am update: Shortly after (initially) posting this piece, I came across the "30 Days of GOOD" challenge. Today's challenge: Do something nice for a neighbor. Excellent idea.

What would you suggest to make the world a better place?

Photo courtesy of arkorn /

Friday, September 9

Christmas in September

You may (or may not) have heard, but there was a massive blackout in Southern California beginning mid-afternoon yesterday. Initial reports suggested that the blackout could last well into the day on Friday (although Facebook status updates show that the lights, in my social network at least, started going back on at around 2:30am).

Regular readers may ask: What does this have to do with you? You're in Florida!

To which I reply: My day job is a telecommute to sunny San Diego. Through the marvels of modern technology at midnight last night (FL time) I received a call and email stating that the office would be closed on Friday. All San Diego county public schools are also closed.

The local electric company has already restored power to all 1.4 million customers, but who am I to argue with an "office closed" notice?

I had none of the troubles of the power outtage. No commute problems. No difficulty cooking dinner or keeping my perishable foods fresh in a not-running refrigerator. (The power does go out in my Florida neighborhood at least every other week... but that's another story for another time.) I just get all of the work-cancelling benefits of the massive So Cal blackout.

It's like Christmas in September!

I had planned to work all day, but instead I was able to sleep in and then linger over a second cup of coffee instead of rushing to get my morning run in before work. Now I am planning a beach day instead of a work day.

Heck, I might skip the run altogether and go for a hike instead! When else will I get to hike mid-day on a Friday?

What would you do with an unscheduled day off from work?

Photos courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / and

Thursday, September 8

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful for a hanful of R words: recovery, rebirth, restoration, rebound. All for a river.

Starting in the late 1700s, the Blackstone River was a primary force driving America's Industrial Revolution. Alongside the river, a transportation canal (completed in 1828) served as an aquatic highway in the decades before internal combustion engines made rail and auto travel possible. The river bustled with activity. However, 200 years of industrialization took its toll.
Ashton Mill: a reminder of the river's past.

When I was young, I was a Girl Scout for a year. That year my troop did a river cleanup. As young as I was, I recall being disgusted by the sheer volume of refuse piled in the Blackstone and along the riverbanks. The junk included everything from old tires to rotting metal, and a kitchen sink, not to mention the chemical sludge lurking just beneath the water. Back then no one fished in the river. The fish were too toxic to eat.

The Blackstone wasn't the only dying river in the 1970s and 80s. Other rivers, like the Cuyahoga in Ohio (1969), had caught fire.

Baby snapping turtle: a sign of the river's future
But over time, things began to change. Some of the mills closed. Others adopted more environmentally-friendly practices (many with a nudge from new environmental laws). The first Earth Day took place, raising public awareness of environmental concerns.

A group of citizens began the long process to clean up the river and turn its banks into a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trail. In 1998 the first segment of the path opened. Today a runner is likely to see turtles, birds, and deer along the path, not car parts and kitchen sinks.

Running photo: what the river trail looks like today
More than a decade ago, some of my first runs took place on the newly opened bike path. I may have moved far away, but the trail along the Blackstone remains one of my favorite places to run.

This past weekend, while at the river, I was lucky enough to spot a just-hatched baby snapping turtle. The baby snapper was no longer than my index finger. She'll toughen up as her shell hardens, but she was tiny and vulnerable in her just-hatched state. Fortunately today, unlike that cleanup day 25 years ago, the river will be a good home for her.

In researching the background for this post, I learned that earlier this summer the National Park Service began the process to turn the path into a national park.

The river has come a long way in a couple of decades.

This is change I'm thankful for.

Wednesday, September 7

Sexist new rules

This morning I learned that the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), the record-tracking agency for all things running, just ruled that only:
"World Records for women to be recognised in women only races. The IAAF shall keep a separate list of “World Best Performances” achieved in mixed Road Races.”
Their logic: women run faster in co-ed races, so those should not count toward record setting. (So by this logic all marathons should be run on closed courses with no hydration support or cheering crowds, right?)

According to Running Times, the only issue remaining to be decided is
whether the rule will be applied retroactively. USATF’s Glenn Latimer seems to think so, and that Joan Benoit’s 2:24:52 at the 1984 Olympics will become the American record. In this case, note also that Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 would no longer be the world record, as she had male pacemakers during that race (as did Deena Kastor when she ran 2:19:36). The Road Race Commission member also thinks existing records set in mixed races will be thrown out.
I have never heard anything so sexist or ridiculous in the running world.

Tracy, over at Go, Tracy, Go! wrote a much more eloquent analysis than I can right now. (I'm almost too mad to type.) So for more details, please see: Tracy's post.

Am I overreacting, or is this ruling unfair?

Image courtesy of digitalart /

Tuesday, September 6


I have several confessions to make about this weekend.

Confession #1 - I have not run since Friday.
About this I feel no guilt whatsoever.
I flew 6,170 miles in 6 days to see two halves of the extended family. Those halves just happen to be in opposite corners of the country. I love to travel, but three cross-country flights in 6 days (Florida to California. California to Southern New England. Southern New England to Florida) tested even my frequent flier endurance. My brain survived the travel, but my body needed a rest. So I rested by hanging out with my family, lounging in the garden, and drinking copious amounts of wine. Fortunately this "sin" is easy to correct. I'll be lacing up my running shoes the moment I click "publish" for this post.

Confession #2 - To my friends: As you may have guessed from Confession #1, I snuck into California on Thursday afternoon and back out on Friday night without telling any of you. It was a family event, and I was in town for less than 36 hours. Family had to be top (and only) priority, but I still feel guilty. The same goes for friends in the northeast. Please forgive me!

Confession #3 - I covet... my parents' garden.
On Saturday we picked potatoes, green beans, eggplant, and tomatoes and cooked them all for dinner. I may have been resting my legs, but my stomach definitely got a good workout!

Sunday, September 4

Athlete's tan, take 2

This Code of Conduct was written for cyclists, but some of the rules apply to runners as well.
Rule #5:
A prominent line where one’s kit ends and where one’s deep tan begins is essential to one's image. Artificial tanning is BANNED. The tan shall reflect the level of training commitment.

So I suppose that answers my question from earlier this summer:
Is it vain to consider spray-tanning before I go outside in a bathing suit? (Or is it more like a public service?)
Or should I consider the runner's tan a badge of honor?
Badge of honor it is!

Do you wear your runner's tan with pride?

Saturday, September 3

The things I carry

In this photo are four items that I always have with me when I run, and one that I never do. Can you guess which is which?

If you guessed that I ditch the phone for my runs, you'd be 100 percent correct. Yes, I know it's all beat to hell around the edges, but that's because I'm clumsy in general, not because the phone comes running with me.

I never run with my phone.

I tried once.

The result was less than optimal.

I carried my phone during a Rock 'n' Roll marathon, thinking it would help me locate my family post-26.2 miles. (It did.) However, my at-the-time landlord called me, repeatedly, mid-marathon. When I finally answered, he informed me that he was bringing a potential new tenant over to see my apartment THAT DAY. Despite the fact that it was illegal to not give 24-hours notice and that I was running a marathon, he insisted that he'd be bringing a stranger into my apartment in a few hours.

I was so angry, I ran faster. But that's the last time I carried my phone during a run.

Running is my away-time. I enjoy the hour (give or take) away from technological distractions and my OCD obsession with checking my email. (Yes, the phone is old and beat, but I have web access!)

In terms of concerns about running safety, I carry pepper spray. I figure that's a more effective deterrent than a phone, knowing that in a confrontation my hands might be too shaky to dial, but that pepper spray doesn't need a direct hit to work like a champ. (And hopefully you and I, dear readers, will never need to find out whether the spray or phone works better in a pinch.)

On the other side of the spectrum, I have seen runners not just carrying a phone, but full-on talking on the phone while running! And last week I caught sight of a woman running, talking on the phone, and walking her dog. Now that takes some skill. If it were me, I'd have dropped the phone while tripping over the leash... but I digress.

To be honest, whenever I see a phone-runner, a catty little voice in the back of my head thinks: "How can you be running hard enough if you're chatting? Put down the phone and RUN!" Then again, that's what people probably thought about me for answering my phone mid-marathon.

I should have turned it off.

What do you always/never carry on a run?

Do you ever run with a phone?

Friday, September 2

Bad hair day

In her efforts to battle the obesity epidemic by encouraging Americans to exercise more, Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General of the United States was quoted as saying:
“Oftentimes you get women saying, ‘I can’t exercise today because I don’t want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,’ ...When you’re starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons.”

So, first question: Is she right? She's talking about exercise newbies, but have you, dedicated exercisers, ever skipped or postponed a workout for the sake of your hairstyle?

And second question: If this is an "excuse" women are using, does this matter enough to warrant comment by the Surgeon General?

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Thursday, September 1

Thursday thanks

All through the month of August, I kept getting reminders to be thankful for discomfort.

I know that sounds crazy, but keep reading and I promise I'll explain. (I swear it's not the August heat or the yoga-challenge talking. Well... mostly not.)

To be clear, I don't mean being thankful for chronic pain. What I mean is being thankful for being shoved forcefully out of my comfort zone. Comfort is a deceptive mistress. She makes it difficult to want to try new things, because the status quo is so easy. It might be boring, but it's... comfortable.

Hence: I am thankful for discomfort.

Cases in point:
I just finished reading the book I'm not an Alcoholic, I'm just European!: Living in Spain, Adventuring Through Europe. The book is a witty non-fiction tale from a man, Jamie Wakefield, who wakes up to his comfortable (if a bit predictable) life in Vermont, day after day, wondering "Is this all there is?" And, through a series of events, Wakefield quits his job and moves to Madrid. He bumbles through language barriers and has successes and failures navigating a new culture. In the final analysis, Wakefield realizes that while he thought his life was "complete" before the big shakeup, what he really had was comfortable inertia.
Lesson: Comfort is not the same thing as happiness.

Quite by accident, I read the last pages of Wakefield's book on the anniversary of my own cross-country move.
Lesson: Despite panic attacks at the time, I'd do it all over again tomorrow. If I hadn't been dragged asked to move across the country, I would still be in the same ruts I was in last year, and the year before that... and the year before that... Instead I started a blog, picked up a teaching job (which I've always wanted to do), and toured a corner of the world I would never have chosen to see otherwise.

Summertime running on the Gulf Coast is decidedly less comfortable than my prior 10 years of summertime running in San Diego.
Lesson: I am not as much of a weather wimp as I thought I was. I also sweat enough for six runners... Gross, yes. But this has also become a point of personal pride.

During one yoga class I spent 60 minutes imitating a pretzel, being challenged by Dave Farmar to step outside of my comfort zone. In pushing the boundaries, I succeeded in a pose that I formerly thought I "couldn't do."
Lesson: Our bodies can do so much more than we give them credit for... As runners, it is all too easy to think "I can't run faster" or "I can't run that distance." But I recently heard a radio commentator say: "Can't really means won't or don't want to." So... which one is it? Because it's not "can't."

And just as I started to piece together the ideas for this Thursday Thanks, one of my favorite bloggers provided me with the perfect capstone. Sarah over at Yes and Yes published a guest post on "Beating the 'Is this it?' Blues."
Lesson: I'll let this one speak for itself.

Just think of all of the things we couldn't achieve without some discomfort: marathons, childbirth, college graduation, inoculation against infection, career change, mountain climbing, world travel...

What else would you add to that list?
What discomforts have you faced to get where you are today?