Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pushing Past the Pain of Exertion

Sorry, folks, I always have to share when I have a fitness feature in the New York Times. This article is about pushing past the pain of exertion, a topic I'm personally fascinated by. I spoke to intriguing experts (alas, I only had space to quote five of them) as well as three amazing athletes--Kara Goucher, Chrissie Wellington, and Dean Karnazes. It was a thrill and honor.

Please let me know what you think about the article and the topic in general. I might be writing about it for a magazine as well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Note to Self: Look Forward to Challenges

Reading in front of an audience and racing: The two activities don't sound very similar. But this month I came to realize I feel the same about both of them: I don't look forward to the event, but then I enjoy the heck out of it. Silly me!

Two weeks ago, I took part in a reading from an anthology I contributed to called P.S. What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends. The editor is a friend of mine who also lives here in Portland so I took part in the reading as a favor to her. It didn't even occur to me to get excited about it--it was crammed into a busy work week, the night before I flew to San Francisco for the Nike Women's half marathon. I frantically practiced reading aloud twice, but didn't give it anymore thought than that. I didn't even change my outfit, wearing what I'd thrown on post-shower, pre-carpool. I trust I put on some lip gloss, but I could be wrong. Several friends and rowing teammates were at the reading, which meant a lot to me. Yet it wasn't until about a third of the way through my short letter that I paused to listen to the audience chuckling at my words. A paragraph later, a thought flitted through my mind, "enjoy this--it's fun!"

Fast forward three days, one plane ride, and 12 hilly miles, and I was in the final stretch of the half marathon. I spotted my pal Lindsey ahead of me, and I turned on the juice to pass her. As I trotted down a sweet incline toward the Pacific, I was again struck by the realization that I was having fun and I should luxuriate in the moment. As I cruised toward the finish line, I tried my belated best to soak up the experience.

I was reminded of all of this during a phone interview last week with my new sports hero, Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington. It's for an article in this Thursday's New York Times about dealing with exertional pain during a race. Chrissie was giving all sorts of great tips and sharing anecdotes, including this: "After every race, I take time to bank the feeling in those final miles and crossing the line. That feeling is so hard to bottle, reflecting back on that is incredibly empowering and uplifting."

Right on, Chrissie. Right on.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arm warmers anyone?

Alas, my reference to Kara Goucher got taken out (she and Chicago 2009 winner Sammy Wanjiru wear the Nike one reviewed), but check out the Gear Test I wrote about arm warmers, appearing in today's New York Times.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Big Smile at Nike Women's Half

I crushed the hills of San Francisco this Sunday in the race! While I can't tell you official time (argh! Nike marathon site really needs help!), my unofficial time was about 1:50:17, almost 4 minutes faster than last year--and in 2008, I felt I had jammed. I felt good the entire way, comfortable in my intimate knowledge of the race course. I could tell the hills proved daunting to many runners, especially when the hills stretched on and on. But having lived--and run--in San Francisco for eight years (in the 1990s) and having done the course several times before, I knew the false crests, knowing slightly more hill lurked beyond it. I had started up near the front, so I was surrounded by speedier runners, but my confidence was boosted again and again when I passed runners near the top of a hill.

I worked my familiarity with the course to my advantage, cutting a true course through the turns and taking in gels on the flats before the two hilliest sections.

I tried to smile like Ironman phenom Chrissie Wellington but it didn't work too well until the final mile, a gradual downhill where I passed my pal Lindsey, who is about 12 years my junior. By that point in the race, I knew I had it in the bag, and I could let gravity have its way with me to pull me toward the finish.

This post is pretty scattered, but suffice it to say: I adored this race this year (as did Dimity, who ran a speedy 1:54 after much sandbagging). Such a blast. And I loved meeting some of you post-race. We're all awesome runner chicks!!

photo: L-to-R: SBS, good pal Dana Sullivan, Dimity

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smile and the World Smiles with You

No matter my mood, I usually go through life with a stern look on my face. It’s not uncommon for someone on the sidewalk to tell me to “cheer up” or to say, “things can’t be that bad.” These strangers are missing the fact it’s not that I’m unhappy, I’m just not a natural smiler.

But after being in Kona and watching Chrissie Wellington crush her third straight Ironman championship on Saturday, I am committed to flashing my pearly whites more often. I am in awe of Chrissie’s athletic accomplishments—winning her first Ironman championship a mere 10 months after becoming a professional triathlete; coming in first in all seven Ironman races she’s competed in; finishing 23rd overall at Kona this weekend; running a 3:03 marathon at the end of an Ironman, and more—but I am even more impressed by her attitude throughout. I swear Chrissie wore a smile for all 141.6 miles of the race. Even underwater, I’m convinced.

She looked exuberant as she ran through the hoses in the swim-bike transition. Chrissie was wearing an enormous grin as she whizzed through the aptly named “Hot Corner” near the bike transition area. And she was beaming—yes, positively beaming—as she ran up a steep, steady hill at mile 10 in the marathon. (My photo, above, doesn’t begin to capture her cheery face. Dratted iPhone photo-delay!)

After cheering my heart out for Chrissie as she broke Paula Newby-Fraser’s 17-year Kona record, I knew I had to do something to be just a bit like Chrissie. I decided wearing a smile as I tackle San Francisco hills this Sunday in the Nike Women’s half marathon will be my homage to this phenomenal Ironman athlete. Chrissie shows that smiling in the face of adversity is the way to go.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Ideal Athletic Day: Rowing Plus Marathon Pacing

Sunday was a banner day. My rowing team, Portland Women’s Rowing, raced in Portland’s Row for the Cure. Last year we’d had a disappointing row. With a new coach and an infusion of new rowers, we were looking for vindication. The water on the Willamette River was almost perfectly flat under an equally flat grey sky. No wind. It was our time to shine.

After a few jokes and talk of “Glee” in the starting area, we were off to a strong, steady start. And we stayed on it the entire race. We moved smooth and steady, pushing our puddles past our stern. I felt I was able to apply my power well, and my running-honed endurance served me well throughout the entire 5K race. We never caught the 8-woman boat that started 10 seconds ahead of us, but no need: With age handicaps figured in, we won our Masters division.

No time to celebrate, though. I swapped out my rowing unitard for a running skirt, and caught a ride down to the 24-mile point of the Portland Marathon. By then the sun was peering from behind scattered clouds. I cheered on the runners as I waited for my pal Jill to come trotting by. Jill and I met through this blog, and she was running Portland, her 10th marathon, largely on my urging. I wished I’d been able to pace her for longer, but 2.2 miles would have to suffice.

I spotted Jill with my good friend Ellison, who had paced her since mile 21. Jill had a grim look on her face, but was still moving relatively well. She had told us over plates of pasta that she wasn’t much for chatting during a marathon, so I tried to offer simple words of encouragement and pointers about upcoming terrain. Soon, though, I realized Jill needed more to distract her from the painful remaining distance. Yet my mind was a blank. I’m usually a chatty-Kathy on a run, but on Sunday I could only come up with a few short anecdotes. Ack!

It sufficed. Despite an ear infection and an injury or two, Jill ran her second fastest marathon ever, missing a PR by a mere 15 seconds. Later that day she emailed me words that was icing on the cake of a fantastic day. “I cannot thank you enough for your support the last two miles. I was totally done with that thing and had you not been there, I think I would have stopped and walked.”

P.S. Like our Moeben arm warmers? Check them out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Running with a Stroller article in New York Times

Not sure which I'm more proud of: the fitness feature I wrote that is in today's New York Times Thursday Styles section about running with a stroller....

Or the Gawker article trashing it!