Wednesday, August 31

In case you haven't seen it yet

In case you haven't seen it yet, this is JCPenny's idea of back-to-school fashion for girls still too young to try out for a spot on next season's 16 and Pregnant.
Yes, folks. You read that correctly. The shirt says: "I'm too pretty to do homework. So my brother has to do it for me."

Excuse me while I hurl.

After public outcry, the shirts have been pulled from store shelves. But seriously, how does this sort of train wreck happen?

Don't get me wrong: I have a sense of humor. (Um... hello. Read the blog title.) I am not on an anti-attractiveness campaign. (Seriously. I have a closet full of dresses, for when I'm not wearing running clothes, and I am a pedicure junkie.) But, as Cordelia Fine documents so thoroughly in Delusions of Gender, studies repeatedly show that gender priming results in real, measurable decreases in academic and athletic performance among women who would otherwise be smart and strong.

Is this really the message we want to broadcast to our little girls???

Laptop rant

Less than 2 years ago I purchased a new Dell Inspiron laptop, from which I have been blogging to you, dear readers.
Dell Inspiron i1545-4583JBK 1545 15.6-Inch Laptop (Jet Black)
Earlier this year, the Dell suffered a hard drive failure. I tried reformatting the disc and reinstalling everything, to no avail. She needed new hardware. "No worries!" I thought to myself. Hard drives are easy to replace.

So the Dell got a new hard drive.

Then on Sunday she spontaneously shut down and would not turn back on. The symptoms pointed to a power supply meltdown. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say: we did the best we could, but the Dell is dead.

I blog to you now, dear readers, from my shiny, new laptop. (From which I've spent the last hour deleting factory-installed bloatware like quick-links to eBay, and other assorted useless garbage. But that's another rant for another blog...)

I have a shiny new laptop. Hooray!

But I have a beef. And that beef is: I cannot understand why it is at least as expensive to replace components or repair a laptop (or cell phone, or any other gadget) as it is to BUY A NEW ONE. This boggles the mind. How can replacing one simple, little power supply cost as much as a brand new laptop? And, I might add, the repair expense does not guarantee that the repaired laptop will be fully functional after said repairs. Because there might be other problems. And those will cost even more money to fix.

This makes me angry. Angry enough to want to reenact the "fax machine" scene from Office Space:

But since that won't solve anything, and I still have photos to rescue from the dead Dell hard drive... I'll just go run instead.

Do you think it's wrong that it's more expensive to repair than to replace our gadgets? Or do you think there's a benefit to "buy new?"

Tuesday, August 30

First impressions: a photo anniversary

One year ago today I got my first glimpse of our new home. To be honest, after 10 days in the car, it was somewhat underwhelming.

Our first taste of Pensacola was at a dive bar known as the Flora-Bama, which straddles the state line between Florida and Alabama. It was pouring rain. (As you might be able to tell from the photo above.) We split a can of Corona and a plate of grilled oysters. (Yes, Flora-Bama is so divey Corona is the best beer on the menu. Also note the plastic plates and flatware. Super chic and very environmentally conscious.)

But... oh, the oysters! I drool just thinking about them. I had been worried that the BP oil spill ruined local seafood. And indeed there is evidence that the ecosystem will be damaged for decades to come. Eating the oysters here will probably take years off my life. But damn, they're good.

My first impression, sitting in this ramshackle beach bar in the pouring rain: I started out this trip near Mexico, and ended up (on the Gulf of Mexico) at a bar that looks like it belongs in Tijuana. Why did I have to travel thousands of miles for this???

It continued raining. We waited for a break in the rain. Laced up our shoes. And went for a run. (Had to run off 10 days worth of greasy roadtrip food.) It rained on us during our run. I worried this was a bad omen.

But we had sailed through the ultimate test of a relationship: the extra-long road trip, with no personal space or time apart, and a trunk full of smelly running clothes, for 10 days straight. And we still really liked each other. Surely that was a good omen.

On our next run, we went to the beach for a 6-miler right before sunset. In all the places I've run, this might take the cake for prettiest run ever.

We wrapped up our run that night, got back to the car, mopped off the sweat, and started snapping photos. While we were taking pictures another runner stopped to introduce himself. We chatted for 20 minutes or so. He filled us in on some great local places to run. This Southern chatty friendliness continues to amaze me on a daily basis.

So my first impressions of Pensacola: damp, redneck, friendly, beautiful, and very very different than any place I have lived before.
...and the oysters are damned good.

Monday, August 29

Sea turtle Sunday

Yesterday morning hubby and I woke at the butt-crack of dawn because we couldn't stand one more half marathon training run on the dreadmill. At 6am it was blissfully cool outside: 72 degrees and lower-than-normal humidity. (Of course it was. It was still DARK.) The run felt almost... good. Not fast, yet. But not turtle slow, either. And it felt so good to be outside.

We logged our miles, and then decided to treat ourselves to a mostly lazy day followed by an evening stroll on the beach. So we strolled, sugary cocktails in hand. Hydration is imperative after a long run! (Side note: One thing to love about the Gulf Coast is the cocktail culture. No beach booze ban here! But I digress...)

The point is that we had a glorious Sunday that felt like a vacation day. (Yes. We do wake up insanely early to run while on vacation. There are worse habits to have.)

During our vacation-like stroll, we came across this sign:
I took a picture to make sure I wasn't having post-run or post-margarita halucinations. The sign does indeed show that the area is roped off to protect a sea turtle nest.


I have yet to see a sea turtle in the wild, but I am pleased to have them as neighbors. They are definitely more cuddly than their reptile cousins: the alligators. I could do without the alligators. (Mostly I fear that I cannot outrun a hungry alligator. Hopefully I'll never find out.)

So Florida scores a win for beach cocktails. And another win for sea turtles. Not so much for the gators.

Sunday, August 28

Proper or prudish?

Black plastic wrappers around magazines like Playboy would seem extreme in Europe, but are common in the States. I suppose I understand the practice. I really don't need or want to see boobs when I'm buying a pack of bubble gum.

But my grocery store seems to have taken this practice to a whole new level.
Really, Publix? Really?

I lifted the modesty panels, just to see what could possibly be so shocking that it needed a cover. (Curiosity is either my strong point or my weakness. You decide.)

Here's what I found:
Apparently the September cover of Oxygen is inappropriate for the grocery store checkout line.

I'm so confused! Remember, this is the Florida panhandle. Standard summer attire for men is shorts. Only. From the backyard to the bayou and certainly out in public there are nearly-naked men everywhere here in the summer. Summer attire for women is a bit more modest. But while exercising outdoors the uniform for Florida ladies is shorts + sports bra. How else can a girl run in this heat?

So I can see my neighbors running around in various states of undress, but I can't see a photo of the same attire on the cover of a magazine?

And, more importantly, Florida's panhandle is in the nation's obesity alley. In nearby Alabama and Mississippi one third of adults are obese. Perhaps we should put modesty panels over the chocolate bars at the checkout line, not the fitness magazines.

Am I wrong to be shocked?

Is this proper? Or prudish?

Saturday, August 27

Four times the fun

Speedwork x 4
Yesterday was interval work day, so I ran 4 x 800 @ 7:30. Slowly but surely I'm undoing the damage caused by a hot and humid summer.

Around the web in 4 posts
This week there were four posts on the interwebs that captured my attention so thoroughly, I'm passing them along to you.

I do this all for you, dear readers!

1. Funniest thing I read this week:
Claire, at Will Run For Beer, posted a laugh-out-loud funny commentary on what’s in her “go bag” in evacuating from Irene. One gem (among many):
Gu. If anyone survives this, it's gonna be us runners, since we're used to eating disgusting shit as fuel for survival.
My suggestion: Read it. Especially if you're on the east coast. If you don't snort with laughter at some point, you need to get out more. (Just not out into the hurricane. That would be dumb.)

2. Things that make you go "eww:"
The Boring Runner graced the world with a summary of extinct foods. Sounds harmless, right? Wait for the picture of purple ketchup. You'll never look at a french fry the same way again. (Note: This might be good if you're trying to drop weight to improve your race times.)

3. Helpful hints:
Ever need a comeback for the joker who tries to tell you that running is crazy? Silly Girl Running tackled this topic with some suggestions on how to stick it to 'em. My only quibble: she missed the obvious "you're just jealous because you're pudgy and lazy." (Though her response in 2 comes close.)

4. Completely not running-related (but I'll dream up some way to link these all together):
Coming full circle from #1, on GOOD there was an article "Quiet Storm: Why Some New Yorkers Don't Know a Hurricane is Coming." Mostly I'm sharing this because in this era of communication overload it's nearly incomprehensible to me (and any of us in the blog world) that anyone could not know that a hurricane was on its way. I mean, it's not 1938. Doesn't everyone read Will Run for Beer?

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Friday, August 26

Fill in the blank Friday (and giveaway news)

Happy Friday, friends!

Last week, Tara over at Dashing in Pearls had a "fill in the blank" Friday. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and since she asked people to fill in their blanks), I'm using the concept to fill in my Friday blog. Thanks, Tara!

And before we get to that, I have giveaway news to share. (Just) Trying is for Little Girls is giving away a book after my own heart: Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives. Visit her post for details.

Good luck with the contest! Now... on to fill in some blanks!

1. My idea of pure perfection is ___.
My idea of pure perfection is a 90-minute sports massage.

2. ___ makes the world go 'round.
Coffee makes the world go 'round.
Coffee is also my idea of perfection, but sports massages are pretty fantastic, too.

3. If it weren't for ___, I'd ___.
If it weren't for Hubby, I'd never have moved to northwest Florida. Despite a rocky start, life on the Gulf Coast has become a fascinating experience.
I considered answering this "If it weren't for coffee, I'd never get out of bed" but I was afraid that if I used "coffee" for every answer someone would put me in a 12-step program.

Any other coffee addicts out there? C'mon. You can admit it.

4. If I had ___, I'd ___.
If I had legs like Kara Goucher, I'd quit my day job.
Or at least I keep telling myself I would. Most days I still really like my day job.

5. I'm glad it's Friday because ___.
I'm glad it's Friday because Fridays usually involve some of my favorite things: speedwork, wine, and my favorite food indulgences.
...including coffee.

What are some of your blanks?

What other questions would you ask?


Thursday, August 25

Thursday thanks

Thursday thanks is on vacation this week.

The family has other issues that need attention, so I'm saying "thanks" by spending time with them and skipping the blog post about it. ;)

Thanks (on the blog) will return next week.

Tuesday, August 23

Yoga challenge continues

The 21-day yoga challenge continues.

I am on Day 11.

(Hmm... that intro makes me sound a bit like a castaway on a desert isle... but I digress.)

I think I am supposed to pause here and describe the deep sense of enlightenment I have achieved.

But my mother taught me not to fib.

I love the practice, but any honest person (and any good yoga instructor) would tell you that life doesn't change in 11 days. Life just is.

So what have I learned so far?

I learned that I have a very short attention span. (Maybe I already knew that, but got distracted before I could write it down?) But if I try very hard to focus on my breathing, I can lengthen that attention span a little bit.

I also learned how to do a mean Crow Pose. And these little victories make each class, podcast, or video a highlight of my day. (Maybe that's close enough to enlightment?)

And last, but certainly not least: I found three free yoga-at-home downloads, to share with you! There are a variety of lengths and styles to choose from. To be honest, some were excellent, some less-than-excellent, but they all have strengths and weaknesses:
  • David Farmar's audio yoga pod/broadcasts: Far and away Dave's are my favorite. The classes are tough, in a keep-you-focused sort of way. You hold poses for longer than you think possible, and that's the point. (This is good for those of us who are borderline ADHD chronic multi-taskers. Which is why I do yoga. Now what were we talking about?)
  • Yoga Download: The audio + illustration format is great for poses that require a bit of extra instruction. However, the site requires an email login and only offers 20-minute sessions for free. And you can only listen to those once. All other lengths cost money. Listening twice costs money. And if it's going to cost money, you might as well get an honest-to-goodness in-person teacher who will prod you into perfect alignment. Plus, the class I did incorporated weights into the yoga routine. Weights? Are you kidding me?
  • Yoga Journal's streaming videos are packed with useful information. The videos associated with the 21-day yoga challenge had no ads or other gimmicks, and were extremely clear in their pose instruction/demonstration. The style is a 2 out of 5 on the "hard" scale, involving mostly gentle stretching. And let me tell you: I am thankful for the kinder/gentler style after a couple of days of Dave's strenuous classes.
If you try any, stop back and let me know what you think!

Monday, August 22

First 5k advice

A very dear friend of mine is about to run her first 5k. I awoke to find the following message in my inbox (convenient timing, given yesterday's commentary about facing new challenges):
On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 5:49 AM, wrote:
Subject: Bibs are not just for babies

So, my bib came in the mail today. Wanna give me some race day tips? :-)

My first thought: That might be the best email subject line. Ever.
My second thought: Oh, where to begin???

After careful consideration, I came up with my list of five things that every runner should know before his/her first race. (Some are practical. Some are amusing.)

Did I miss any? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I'll pass them along to the soon-to-be racer.

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 8:33 AM, wrote:
Subject: Re: Bibs are not just for babies

Tip #1 - Do nothing on race day that you haven't done already. No new shoes. No new food. No new clothing. If you've been running without music: keep running without music. If you've been running with an mp3 player: make sure it's charged.

Tip #2 - Rest and be good to your body in the days leading up to the race. Get to bed a little earlier starting mid-week race week. (I can never sleep well the night before a race... so extra sleep earlier in the week helps.) I also skip alcohol for 3-7 days before a race (yes... you read that right. But that's probably more extreme than you need for this race.) Drink a little more water and don't eat any stomach-upsetting foods the day before the race. (Under no circumstances should you eat curry before the race! Going hungry is preferable to pre-race curry. See #4.)

Tip #3 - Figure out the basics that you need to bring with you (including what you're going to wear) for the race. Lay those things out the night before. (Minimum: Clothes. Socks. Shoes. Bib pre-pinned to your shirt. Timing chip secured to your shoe, if the race is using a timing chip. ID. $20 or credit card. Key(s). Sunblock(?).) Figure out whether or not you're going to bring a cell phone,* and if so, where you're going to put it.

Tip #4 - Pack a small wad of toilet paper or one of those little packaged wet-wipes (like they give you at seafood and BBQ restaurants). This is key. Port-o-lets sometimes run out of TP. Most race organizers have figured this out and stock accordingly. But I can't tell you how many times I've been glad I've packed my own. Nothing ruins a race like lack of TP.

Tip #5 - This is going to sound trite, but it's true: HAVE FUN. Write "My First 5k" in huge letters on your shirt** so more people will cheer for you. Take photos (or have ____ take photos). SMILE when you see the official race photographers - even if you are faking it. But don't fake it. Have fun. This is huge. You should be proud!

Side notes:
*If you do run with your phone, consider putting it in a snack-sized plastic bag to protect it from sweat.

**Awesome things I have seen racers do: Writing or painting slogans on T-shirts. Pinning similar slogans to the back of a shirt -- in case you don't want to "ruin" running clothes. Writing your name on your arms in Sharpie marker so people know to cheer for "____." The marker washes off in <24 data-blogger-escaped-5k.="5k." data-blogger-escaped-a="a" data-blogger-escaped-blockquote="blockquote" data-blogger-escaped-earned="earned" data-blogger-escaped-feel="feel" data-blogger-escaped-first="first" data-blogger-escaped-free="free" data-blogger-escaped-get="get" data-blogger-escaped-ham="ham" data-blogger-escaped-hours.="hours." data-blogger-escaped-it="it" data-blogger-escaped-little.="little." data-blogger-escaped-one="one" data-blogger-escaped-only="only" data-blogger-escaped-to="to" data-blogger-escaped-up="up" data-blogger-escaped-ve="ve" data-blogger-escaped-you="you">

Note: Names, email addresses, etc... are clearly edited for my friend's privacy. But the conversation text is otherwise unchanged.

Photo (of sign) courtesy of MethodDan. Photo (of the loo) courtesy of Nationaal Archief

Sunday, August 21

On this day: Anniversary of a major life change. Or the road less traveled.

One year ago today I boarded a plane in San Diego, flew to Seattle, hopped in a car, and began the cross-country road trip that was the first step in a very scary bold move from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast.

Hubby (then: fee-ahn-sey') had just wrapped up graduate school in Seattle, and we were about to spend a week driving, running, and eating our way across the vast United States from the top left corner of the map to the bottom right en route to our new home.

We plotted our trip to get as much sight-seeing and family-visiting in as we could. At the end of the trip, I'd have enough time for a one-day glimpse of the place I'd spend the next 2 or 3 years. Then I'd return to San Diego for a couple of months to tie up loose ends. I'd repeat the cross-country trek again in November, and by December I'd turn in my old apartment keys and have a Florida driver's license.
What was I thinking?!? I was about to spend 10 days in a car with only one other person. Cross country road trips have been known to kill even the strongest relationships. And then I was going to uproot my very comfortable (if a bit predictable) life to move to a place I had never seen before.
Cue panic attack!
Over 10 days we covered 2,900 miles on four wheels and about 20 miles on our two feet. We ran almost every morning before hitting the road. We ran in Missoula, MT, Yellowstone National Park, Fort Collins, CO, Fort Worth, TX, and eventually at our new home in Pensacola, FL.

The running helped to stave off the inevitable butt-numbness that comes with long-haul road trips. It also gave us a chance to really see some of the places we might have missed if we had only been looking out a car window. We dove in beyond the parking lots in Yellowstone and saw amazing geothermal pyrotechnics - not to mention bison and bears. We startled a deer eating her breakfast in Colorado. We got rained on in Pensacola. (Note to my future self: This will happen. Often.)

After each morning's run, we'd shower, change, and hit the road. We counted state license plates. (Never did see Hawaii.) We counted antelope. (My revelation of the trip: Antelope really do roam in Wyoming!) We counted miles. (Miles traveled. Miles run. Miles left to go.)

This photo from Missoula sums up how I felt about the whole trip: My back turned on the familiar. Running headlong down a trail I've never been on. Having no idea where I'm going. Loving the rush of a new adventure. Being just a little bit totally terrified that I have no idea what I'm doing here.

But life, like running, is measured in the miles we travel. Not the ones we don't.

Saturday, August 20

Sticking with the plan

Yesterday's plan: sprint, yoga, wine. (Sounds like a good Friday, right?)

Friday is speedwork day, and since I have made my peace with the dreadmill, I did my intervals indoors.
Workout: 1 mile warmup 6 x 400 @ 7:30 (with 400 rest interval)
This is not my fastest interval workout ever, but I haven't done a sprint workout since early July. I wanted to use this workout as a check-in on whether or not my speed has suffered from the sweltering summer heat and slogging-pace workouts over the past two months. (For those of you unfamiliar with interval training, read the notation as: six repeats of 400 meters at a 7:30 pace, with 400 meters of rest between each).

This is just the beginning of half marathon training, and I felt strong through all six intervals. In fact, I think I could have pushed a little harder. (My toes grazed the top of the treadmill a few times. Oops!) But I tried to keep in mind the sage advice from Claire over at Will Run For Beer:
"develop a plan and stick to it"
And I have a plan. So I stuck to it. (And yes, I had visions of the Will Run For Beer blog post in my head as I considered pushing just a little harder on my last sprints... But as I'm learning in the yoga challenge, sometimes what you don't do is as important as what you do.)

And since yoga has also taught me that all things in life should be in balance, my kick-butt workout in the morning required an equivalent level of debauchery in the evening. So Hubby and I made a plan to go to BBQ Heaven for their weekly wine tasting and an order of the world's most amazing smoked potato salad.

What? Yoga teachers doesn't encourage gorging on red wine + potato salad after a hard day's work? Maybe the teachers should try it sometime... It seemed like a great balance to me!

Sticking with that plan was easy.

What do you have planned for the weekend?


Friday, August 19

Birthday month

I'm a Leo, so August is my birthday month. My driver's license says I'm another day year older, but not quite in a new age bracket in racing.

This is one of those birthdays that you don't get to make a big deal about, and I'm OK with that. If you don't believe me, ask comedian Patton Oswalt:
Patton Oswalt - The Big 9-0
Read Patton Oswalt's biographyWatch Patton Live at the New York Comedy FestivalFind more from this comedian in the Shop.

Do you go all-out in celebrating every birthday, or just the milestone ones?

Do you look forward to the 5-year birthdays because they bump you into a new racing age bracket? (And is it weird that I do look forward to those?)

"Minor" birthday status notwithstanding, I did get a sports massage and flowers. (Thanks hubby!) And I scored a new pair of Mizuno Wave Riders from my parents as a birthday present.

The shoes are becoming an annual tradition. When my parents ask what I want for my birthday, it's either "nothing - I have everything I need" (in part because that's what they always say -- drives my brother and I crazy!) or "new shoes" which they know means "new running shoes." (Maybe at Christmas I'll ask them to throw in a pair of Injinji toe socks, too.)

Do you ever ask for running gear for your birthday?

What's the best birthday gift you've ever gotten?

Speaking of which... Time to break in the shoes. See you all later!

Thursday, August 18

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful, very thankful, for a "cold front."

Nevermind that this is Florida. In August. And by "cold," the weatherman meant mid-70s. I'm beginning to learn that hyperbole is a way of life in the South. For example: "It's drier than happy hour at the Betty Ford clinic" or "It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a pool table." So perhaps I should have taken the forecast of a "cold front" with a grain of salt...?

Do you have any favorite southern sayings?

But I digress.

The weather this week has been such a nice change of pace that neighbors stopped me on my morning runs to exchange delight over the cool breezes.

I know that the Dog Days are not over yet. (Florence + The Machine lyrics are just a tease...)

But a girl can dream.

And I'm thankful that this week the Dog Days were over, if only for a moment.

Wednesday, August 17

21 day yoga challenge

I've run myself into a bit of a rut.

For the past two months I've kept up a 6 day/week workout schedule. But I can't remember the last time I did a truly challenging sprint workout or lifted weights 'til I had that "good hurt" muscle soreness the next day... (I could blame the rut on working two jobs, but really that's a cop-out. I dug myself into this rut. I'll have to dig myself out.)
Time for a change!

To start, I picked a November half marathon and updated my training schedule accordingly. (Nothing gets me motivated for weekend long runs like an impending race deadline!)

But that's still pretty normal for me.

So I decided to do yoga. Every single day. For three weeks straight.

My criteria were simple -- the change needed to be something dramatic but low-cost (read: no $$$ investment in a brand new kayak or pricey gym membership). Bonus points if I could work the change into an already crammed schedule (read: at-home workouts get double-extra bonus points).

And just as I was looking for a way to shake up my routine, I heard about the 21-day yoga challenge.

Funny how things work out sometimes.

I had been going to a once-a-week yoga class until June. My shoulders were getting a level of muscle definition that usually only occurs south of my hips. Then my teacher moved away, and I fell completely off that wagon.

What better way to get out of a rut than to hop on the next wagon?

So I'm on Day 5 of yoga every day for three weeks straight. (Minimum requirement = 15 minutes a day, but most days should be 45 - 90 minutes.)

I am already sore in muscles I forgot I had, but it's a pleasant ache that reminds me I'm making my body stronger.

What's the craziest (or most effective) thing you've ever done to bust out of a rut or shake up your workout routine?

Have you ever done a "challenge," yoga or otherwise?

Photo (of rut) courtesy of The U.S. National Archives, plus some editing magic by yours truly. Photo (of shoulder stand) courtesy of yours truly.

Tuesday, August 16

Cold front!

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!
Last night the weatherman said the magic words: Cold front!
Break out the Gortex and ice skates! A cold front is coming!

But let's be serious.

This is August. In Florida.

By "cold front" the delusional weatherman meant "still bathwater warm, but not scalding tomorrow."

Whatever! I'll take what I can get. Temperatures are in the low 70s. I was, frighteningly, ecstatic when the temperature was only 81 on a recent run. (Yes. I realize that this is a symptom of the Gulf Coast version of Stockholm Syndrome.)

Temperatures in the 70s are like a gift from the heavens (literally).
After weeks of 100+ Heat Index temperatures it felt positively brisk outside today. The morning weather lady said it was 70 degrees at 7am. My run felt fantastic, and I kept up a pace almost 90 seconds/mile faster than what I've been running in the warmer weather. (Hooray! My legs still work!)

In fact, it was so nice to be outside, if I hadn't had to go to work, I would have kept right on going...

Do you change your workouts to take advantage of great weather? Or do you always stick to the schedule?

Photo (of ice-skater) courtesy of Nationaal Archief and photo (of bayou skater) courtesy of your truly.

Monday, August 15

Yoga for free (seriously)

Thanks to Girl in the Pink, I just tried a free yoga podcast from Dave Farmar.

I've been practicing yoga for years... with more or less regularity. I am a firm believer that yoga makes my running better. (My IT band issues went away when I added low lunge and pigeon pose to my routine!) But I tend to be a practice-at-home girl, because, really, how many of us can afford to go several times a week at $10-20 per class?

Do you practice yoga regularly?

For most of this year I was lucky enough to have a free class available to me once a week. (Score!) But the teacher moved out of town in June, so I have been in a bit of a yoga slump. I tried other teachers, but haven't yet found one that "fits."

That is... until GITP posted about the podcasts.

There are a couple of wonderful things about Dave's yoga "classes"
  1. They're 100 percent free.
  2. There are dozens of classes of 60, 75, or 90 minutes each that are labeled beginner, intermediate, and "all levels," so you have a wide range of options.
  3. You can download to iTunes OR stream live (follow the liberated syndication link).
  4. There are no gimmicks. No place to enter your email address and get bombarded with spam. I heard no ads. I am not getting paid to rave about the podcasts. As best I can tell, Dave is just one really generous yoga instructor.
  5. Did I mention FREE?
To try the yoga downloads yourself, visit:

If you try, stop back and let me know what you thought!

Sunday, August 14

Sunday superlative

This Sunday Superlative goes out to my friend C, of the PB&J cookie fame.

Last year, C ran 2010 miles for the year, just because she could. (That's more than 38 miles per week, in case you were counting.) This year she's going to top that by running 2011 miles, biking 2011 miles, and... drumroll please... just wrapped up a 50 miler for her birthday.

Yes, 50 laps of a one-mile loop.
As a birthday party.
Now that's something to be proud of!

C is the kind of friend who shows up to group runs with a tray of homemade cupcakes or cookies for every birthday she knows about. So it was only fitting that two dozen runners showed up last Sunday to show her some birthday love in return.
She earned it.

(And at least two friends, S and R, a ran the whole 50 miles with her! It takes a pretty special person to run 50 miles... and an even more awesome one to get other people to run it with you.)

Photos courtesy of R (who also ran 50 miles last Sunday) and the Galt Museum and Archives

Saturday, August 13

Book review on the run: Wonder Girl

In 1932 a lone woman won an entire track and field meet, beating the reigning national champs, who fielded a team of 22 against her. That woman set five world records in the process.

That woman was known by many names during her life: Mildred Ella Didriksen/Didrikson/Zaharias, but was most commonly called "Babe."

In late June, I first heard about Babe Didrikson thanks to an NPR story and helpful friend who made sure I heard the NPR story. In early August my book club selected Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, by Don Van Natta Jr., as our book of the month.

I finished most of the book on a recent flight, and have been struggling to write a review that does the story justice.

Despite teaching Sociology, and understanding the finer points of gender inequality, I found myself aghast at the breathtaking gender stereotypes Babe faced in building her athletic career. For example, I am aware that women were barred from the Olympic marathon until 1984. However, I was not aware (until reading this book) that the level of gender disparity was so stark that one of the founding fathers of the modern Olympics (Baron Pierre de Coubertin) is quoted as saying:
"The Olympic Games must be reserved for men" and the winners should look forward to "female applause as their reward." Women competing in sports "violated the laws of nature"... a sweating female athlete was "the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate."
By 1912 women were permitted to participate in a few events (though several were only exhibition events), such as figure skating and gymnastics, because these sports were "ladylike activities and aesthetically pleasing."


Fortunately for Babe, by the time the 1932 Olympics rolled around in Los Angeles, the rules about female competition had been relaxed somewhat. She won two golds and one silver in track and field events. (The silver medal was for a tie in the high jump. The record was later changed to reflect the tie for first place.)

Unfortunately for Babe, public sentiment at the time was still extremely gender biased. Many sports writers attacked her personally and publicly for her athletic abilities. Joe Williams, of the New York World-Telegram wrote that:
...many male high school athletes could have easily beaten her in Los Angeles... "in athletics women didn't belong"... and "it would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring."
(Is it just me, or does Joe sound jealous?)

The part about high school boys stings, in particular, because it wasn't true. But what reader at the time would know that? And Williams wasn't alone in his criticism of Babe's womanhood. Many writers piled on with unflattering physical descriptions of the Olympic medalist, and insinuations that she wasn't "much interested in boys."

(Can't a girl catch a break?)

To be honest, in reading this book, there are times when the author suggests that Babe lived up to her rought-and-tumble reputation. In fact, if there is anything I finally tired of in the book, it was reading over... and over... and over again... that Babe was a pushy, loud, and aggressive competitor. (Particularly in her early golf-playing years.) By about two thirds of the way through the book, I wanted to throw up my hands and yell "enough already! I get it!"

Despite the fact that the author, Van Natta, is seemingly trying to shed light on the gender inequality Babe faced, he seems to fall into the same trap of focusing on the "indelicate" aspects of Babe's personality. Maybe the historical records focus exclusively on Babe's tough demeanor in the 1930s and early 1940s, but there is plenty of evidence that she took good care of her parents and siblings (financially and personally) and that she had close friends. The beginning and end of the book are nicely balanced, but the middle threatens to mire down the whole book.

That said, the end of the book brings us back around to a balanced story.

And what runner girl doesn't want to read about a woman who was named Woman Athlete of the Year SIX TIMES by the Associated Press -- a feat no other woman or man has ever matched.

Thursday, August 11

Thursday thanks

This week I am thankful for the San Diego Running Meetup (SDR, for short). Or, more precisely, I am thankful to be a part of an amazing, inspiring, encouraging group of runners. When I leave San Diego at the end of a work trip, it is the SDR running community that I miss the most. (Yes. I miss SDR even more than I miss chile relleno burritos and picture-perfect weather.)

True story: When hubby (then new boyfriend) asked me to go out for a run with SDR more than three years ago, I worried that I would not be fast enough to keep pace with the speedy folk. I had ten solid years of running under my belt at that point, but still felt nervous like it was my first day of junior high. I was afraid I'd be the odd-runner-out, and I would be ridiculed behind my back. I felt vaguely ill imagining the outcome.

I couldn't have been more wrong if I tried.

What I know now is that new SDR runners are treated like old friends. And old friends are treated like family.

These days, with my relocation to Florida, I only have the opportunity to run with SDR every other month. But when I'm there, it's as if I've only been away a few days, not a few weeks.

This past week was a perfect reminder of how thankful I am to be able to maintain that connection. I ran four out of the six days I was in San Diego, sneaking two solo runs in before work, and arranging my schedule to make time for two SDR runs. The two SDR runs included a birthday 50-miler and a retirement run and potluck for two people with whom I've covered hundreds of miles. Dozens of people who showed up to give well-wishes to the birthday girl and the retirement boy.

The retirement run was a five-miler through the hiking trails in Balboa Park (one of my personal favorite places to run). The turn-around point of the out-and-back course is a sprint up a steep and dusty hill. The faster runners crest the hill and turn to cheer on the runners who are still on their way up. The slowest runner winds up with the loudest cheering section and dozens of high-fives. Some days I've been the cheering section. Some days I've needed the cheering. Both feel pretty great.

There is an unspoken code of ethics that makes SDR such a strong group:
  1. Every major milestone and PR will be celebrated as though the runner just qualified for Boston.
  2. Put-downs will not be tolerated.
  3. Everyone is warmly welcomed, as long as they respect 1 and 2 above.
I keep looking, and while I've found people to run with here in Florida, I haven't found a group that compares.

Do you run with a group? If so, what do you love about your running group?

Photo courtesy of Nationaal Archief

Wednesday, August 10

Seeing a thunderstorm at eye level and other in-flight entertainment

Last night I was flying back from another week in San Diego. I settled into my seat and finished the last few articles of this month's Runner's World. Partway through the boarding process, I looked up to see a tall man hunched over in the small plane, wearing a t-shirt that read: "I love my wife."


T-shirt man was followed by four identically blonde children, ranging in age from 4 to 11, and a very blonde woman. (This must be his wife.) The children were lined up like ducklings between the two parents.

I wondered to myself: Who wears a shirt that says "I love my wife."? Is it supposed to be ironic? If not, I am pretty sure the four kids are proof that you love your wife, buddy. Posting it on your t-shirt seems like overkill.

The family settled (or rather, the parents settled, the kids bounced like Mexican jumping beans) in seats next to and around me. I finished reading, folded up my Runner's World, and switched to Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias (awesome book - review to follow!), but flying past a thunderstorm at eye-level caught my attention. Nighttime summer flights provide some of the best "fireworks" as in-flight entertainment.

I put my book down, and was staring out the window watching lightning arc from one cloud to another, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, expecting to see hubby (who was sitting a few rows back) but instead found t-shirt man.

He asked: Excuse me, but do you mind if I borrow your magazine? Or are you going to read it later in the flight?

I was done anyway, and said: Oh, of course. I finished most of it already anyway. There are some great articles this month.
I handed the magazine over.

T-shirt man said: Yeah, my daughter has been asking when I'm going to "get back into the Olympics." But by "Olympics" she means running - too young to know the difference. Do you run?

What I thought in my head, and what I said out loud are two different things.
In head: Hello, Captain Obvious! First you wear "I love my wife" on a t-shirt. Then you ask someone wearing $100 Mizunos and carting around a copy of Runner's World if she runs. Really, dude? Really? Then the "other voice" in my head kicked me for being snarky, and reminded me that maybe he was just being nice. Really, he seemed to be an OK guy...
Out loud, and with a kind smile: Yes. All the time.

I turned back to my lightning-watching, wondering if our conversation or inspiration from Runner's World would be the little nudge that t-shirt man needed to lace up a pair of running shoes.

I hope so.

Photo courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum

Thursday, August 4

Thursday thanks

This week I am thankful for the successful end of a super-short summer-session semester with an excellent group of students.

We all managed to survive 16 weeks of study, quizzes, writing, and grading crammed into a mere 6 weeks (on top of our "day jobs"). All of my students had one, if not two, jobs in addition to their studies, but yet they made time for class and turned their assignments in on time. Given the time crunch, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they all did. I am fairly confident that they all learned something, and I certainly learned from them, too.

I even managed to keep up with my running, despite my worries that I would backslide with the overloaded schedule. Running-wise, the teaching weeks weren't my best weeks on record, but I managed 10-17 miles each week, and lifting, and cross-training. Plus, I won my age group at a 4th of July 5k.

My students were partly the motivating force behind my refusal to "take it easy." After all, if they can work two jobs, go to class, and care for their families, I have no excuse to skip a run.

So, really, I have much to be thankful for:
  • An excellent class of students who made teaching a pleasure,
  • The health and stamina to balance two jobs, running, blogging, and home-life,
  • And the beginning of a few weeks of "vacation" where I can sleep in AND still go to the gym before my "day job" starts.

And last, but not least, I'm thankful for today's photo, which made me smile. Photo, titled "Pen and Paper" courtesy of Nationaal Archief.

Wednesday, August 3

Massage addict

Hi, My name is Beth. I am a massage addict.

(The first step is to admit you have a problem, right?)

But here's the thing: I don't think massage addiction is a problem.
(Cue collective 12-step groan.)

I have been a massage-per-month girl for almost as long as I've been a runner. It started when I was experiencing stiffness in my shoulders (job induced) that slowed my swimming pace. I had a triathlon coming up, and decided to see if massage might help my aching shoulders. I found a clinic that specialized in sports massage, and have never looked back.

The worst massages were just boring. The most interesting, and quite possibly the most effective, was a Thai-style massage that involved quite a bit of active stretching (fully clothed through the whole routine). The therapist bent me into pretzel shapes that would have made my yoga teacher proud, and pulled my limbs to stretch them out. I would not call it "relaxing" but it was definitely rejuvenating! The next day I knocked a good 20 seconds off my mile pace. (It's just too bad the speedy side effects didn't last long!)

All in all, the best massages have left me feeling like I had an extra spring in my step.

After all, that's how addiction starts: It feels good, so you go back for more.

Any other massage addicts out there?
How many of you get massages on a regular basis?

Granted, if you've never had a massage before, the whole process can be a little intimidating. I am embarrassed to admit that I went in to my first massage wearing a one-piece bathing suit, because I wasn't sure what to expect. I had seen photos of relaxed-looking people laying (seemingly) nude under crisp white sheets, but how did they get there? Did they have to disrobe with the massage therapist nearby? What about underclothes? Keep them on, or take them off?

So I put together a few suggestions for any first-timers to make sure you have a relaxing and rewarding massage experience:
  1. Before you go, get recommendations from people you trust, and make sure the practitioner is licensed. (Requirements vary by state.)
  2. At the start of a massage, the therapist should ask you if you have any trouble spots and what area(s) you want to work on. For a 30-minute massage, pick one target area. For 60- or 90- minute massages, the therapist can cover more ground.
  3. Once the initial consultation is complete, the therapist will give you some privacy to disrobe and get under the sheets on the massage table. He or she will knock before re-entering the room. No surprises.
  4. Disrobe to "your level of comfort." If that means keeping your clothes on, they'll work with that. If it means birthday suit, that works, too. You'll be covered by a sheet and/or blanket anyway, and the therapist will only uncover a leg, arm, or your back as necessary, keeping the rest of you modestly "draped."
  5. For the therapist's sake, shower before your massage. For your sake, plan to shower again afterward. You may be greasy at the end of the massage, depending on what product(s) the therapist uses.
  6. Communicate with your therapist! Certain types of massage, like deep tissue, may be uncomfortable for a moment or two. But if something is painful, let the therapist know!
But don't say I didn't warn you: it's addictive. Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, August 2

Slacker? Or smart?

So today, I am not going for a run. I walked 3 miles. I will stationary bike another dozen "miles." But I will not run.

Quote: Dangerous heat index. Outdoor exposure should be limited.

Tonight is the weekly pub run. On any other Tuesday, I'd put in my 3-5 miles. But a few weeks ago the pub run organizer mentioned that we should "take it easy out there." And he cautioned, especially, that people running with dogs should be very careful. To quote the organizer "Unfortunately a dog died on the run in this heat last summer. We don't want that to happen again." Yikes!

So, who am I to ignore such clear warnings?
(I don't know how those Badwater Ultra Marathon runners do it. 135 miles with temperatures of 110 and up? Really?)

Quote: You can have brain damage. You can have internal organ damage.

Right. I'll be staying indoors today.

Maybe that makes me a slacker. Maybe it makes me smart.

Frankly, it's too hot to care.

What's your strategy when the temperature soars?