The Little Things Matter

February 3, 2016 — 5 Comments

I’m a big believer in the big things are the big things–which, triathletes, you all could stand to remember. Swim, bike, run. Stop worrying about everything else so much.

But I spent a lot of last week listening to the heads of triathlon talk about all the big changes that need to come to the sport. They needed to do things totally differently to attract more women, more minorities, more newbies. We must think big!!

Maybe.

Maybe you need women-only events and manicures and non-threatening shorter swims. Or maybe it’s actually in how you do all that in the first place. Maybe it’s in the small things.

I raced a Spartan Race down in Temecula on Saturday. Obstacle course racing has, generally, done a really good job marketing itself. There are other broad social reasons its participation is skyrocketing (and is definitely going to surpass triathlon or running, if not already), but one of those reasons is that it’s done a really, really good job creating a distinct culture that both frames itself as incredibly challenging and also inclusive of anyone willing to try hard.

I thought about this as I was racing the women’s elite heat. When you’re in the women’s elite heat, you pass a lot of guys at the back of the men’s elite heat. Like, a lot. And almost all of them will move out of your way, if they can, and let you pass. Because, seriously, this is a culture that is basically like: Hey, dude, get the fuck out of the way of that woman who started 15 minutes after you and is totally kicking your ass; have some goddamn respect. They usually cheer for you too, in an aggressive sort of way.

Then, towards the end, I was running fairly hard again — there was a period where I was definitely NOT running hard — and was about to catch another girl. Both of us were wearing tight spandex, because that’s the most reasonable thing to wear in mud and barbed wire, and both of us had just run past a couple of guys. And as I passed the two guys, when I was barely 10 feet ahead, one said to the other, “That’s why I like to watch them go by, so you can get the view from behind.” Ewwww.

See, that’s a little thing that matters.

No, it doesn’t really change my opinion of myself. No, random dude doesn’t stop me from wanting to do another race. But. BUT. Random dude does make me feel sort of weirded out and gross for a second. It’s weird to say something like that generally. And it’s super weird to say it as if I couldn’t hear them. There were lots of hot shirtless guys at the race, and it never even occurred to me to comment on them. And I really didn’t feel the need to comment while they were right there, as if they weren’t real people with ears.

If I was the kind of woman all these endurance sports are trying to attract, it’d be little things that would make me feel welcomed and comfortable. Or not.

 

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  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Nap on the couch
  • Watch TV
  • Read a book
  • Nap some more
  • Go to the Verizon store
  • Buy groceries

Basically, I managed to do my workouts and that was pretty much it.

Yesterday, I was at Marin General and it made me start reminiscing about all the times I’ve been to the hospital/emergency room. Here are all my personal trips to the ER (not counting when I accompanied someone else), as I can think of them:

  • Shattering my teeth in the mall parking lot (a classic, obviously)
  • Biting through my lip when I accidentally slammed a weight-lifting bar into my face — which was also a key part of my Best Week Ever
  • Knocking out my front tooth in college at a pick-up soccer game
  • Hitting a curb and my bike in my first-ever mini-practice triathlon, which caused a concussion and a not-a-seizure
  • Passing out in the training room in high school, after getting hit in the face with a medicine ball, and having a not-a-seizure
  • (I can’t remember if we actually went to the emergency room or just to the doctor either 1. the time I slept-walked in the middle of the night in high school and dove off my bed into my bookshelf and then went back to sleep, or 2. the time I passed out from some weird combination of cold winter running/hot tub/shower, and hit my head on the kitchen floor when I fell. I do know that all those times prompted a whole rash of tests and visits to the Children’s Hospital.)
  • Falling off the slide in 5th grade (I think) and having a not-a-seizure
  • When they thought I had appendicitis in 3rd grade and were all set to take out my appendix, but then I mysteriously got better; memorable because we took a cab to the emergency room, which was the first time I’d ever been in a cab and it was quite exciting
  • Getting my thumb slammed in a door as a kid, and we weren’t sure if it was broken or not
  • Jumping off a pool backwards and slamming my chin into the cement — also the only time I’ve had to get stitches (which got infected and then I had to get more stitches)

I feel like I’m missing one and, obviously, there were plenty of other accidents and injuries that didn’t warrant an emergency room visit. But, as you can see, when I say I don’t need to go to the ER and it would be pointless, I know of what I speak.

I was watching the 2015 Crossfit Games on ESPN this weekend, which included a swim-paddle-swim as the first event, which was predictably amazing. But that just reminded me of the time in 2012 when they included a mini-triathlon. It remains one of my favorite sports videos. But you have to watch it in its entirety to fully appreciate it.

2016: My Race Schedule

January 11, 2016 — 5 Comments

People at the gym have this tendency to ask me, “Are you training for the Ironman?” To which, I’m always like, “Sure.”

But also, this:

Spartan Super Temecula (1/30): Last year, I filmed this race for my grad school documentary, which was part of the whole short-lived ‘maybe obstacle course racing could be my sport’ thing. (Spoiler alert: it’s not.) But I am still a bit curious how I’d do in an elite race that was actually over a distance in which I might have some endurance advantage, as opposed to a sprint through a baseball park, or an epic-ly cold nasty marathon-length thing that I quit. We’ll see.

Kaiser Half-Marathon (2/14): Who knows. WHO KNOWS. As in, I’m going to go out there and run my hardest, and hopefully that’s fast.

Tucson Training Camp (3/10-3/14): Contrary to popular belief, I actually highly enjoyed my last training camp experience. Really, for real. Except maybe the part where I had a breakdown and had to buy a bunch of beer and KitKats to make things better. But whatever, that happens sometimes. So I’m actually, for real, looking forward to this year’s training crash weekend — especially since I won’t be following it up with a second training camp two days later (which was a mistake last time) and because Hillary’s coaching me now, so you know, that’ll be a new experience.

Galveston 70.3 (4/10): This is what I’m primarily trying to get ready for in the early part of the year. This is the year of the halves.

Wildflower (4/30): I probably will do the long course. I should do the long course, given my strengths and training, etc. But there’s a part of me that’s still like ‘Oh God, it’s so hot and hilly and long and that one time I ended up with an IV in my arm after the Olympic.’ I’ll get over it, I guess. Also, heat training.

Pacific Grove (6/11): Yes, all the yeses. This is the best race ever.

The Dipsea (6/12): 1. You have to do the race or you lose your automatic spot. 2. It’s a classic. 3. Doesn’t this sound like the most fun/crippling weekend?

Vineman 70.3 (7/10): The year of halves. See above. I haven’t done this race since the 2011 mess. Actually, I haven’t done many halves at all since the mess of 2011 generally. But I am optimistic. Also training more, which is a key.

SF Tri at Alcatraz (8/21): Alcatraz is awesome, but Escape from Alcatraz is now $750 because triathlon is The Worst. In steps TriCal to bring back their Alcatraz race — complete with amazing marketing that was totally sub-tweeting EFA. Naturally, I signed Steve and I up.

Sunshine Coast 70.3 World Championships (9/4): OK, I’m not really signed up for this. But, in theory, if we’re going already, then shouldn’t I race it anyway too? Of course, I’m only giving myself one chance to qualify right now, so it may not happen. And that’ll just be that.

Kona (10/8): I’m not sure what it says that I keep having to look up the date for this race. Yes, I’m excited about it. Yes, it’s my A race. Yes, I’m going to be training my ass off this whole year. Obviously. But I’m not just training for “the Ironman.” That’s a long way away right now.

(Also, I may do other local things, like Folsom Triathlon or Morgan Hill Sprint or the Sactown 10-Miler, or whatever.)

2015 and 2016

January 2, 2016 — 5 Comments

Most years I generally do some kind of recap of my training and what I did over the previous 365 days. (Here is 2013 and 2014.)

But this last 365 days (or really 367, since it’s already Jan. 2) were a bit much — Steve jokes that if we wrote a Christmas newsletter it’d end with “oh, and Kelly also got her Masters” — and I didn’t really keep a detailed log of my training the whole time, so I can’t tell you how many miles I biked or how many yards I swam. I kept an approximate log in the spring, but it got a little loose after the L.A. Marathon fiasco. And after I handed the reins over to Hillary, I stopped thinking completely (I mean, for me). This, by the way, is my secret, if I have one. Stop thinking, be boring, get faster.

So I don’t really have a lot to say about this year. Or I don’t want to say anything, rather. I’m just going to keep doing what I do.

 

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Instead, here is a list of the books I read this year:

  • The Ten-Year Nap – Meg Wolitzer
  • *Fate and Furies – Lauren Groff
  • *Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon – Ed Caesar
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan
  • Leaving Before the Rains Come – Alexandra Fuller
  • Funny Girl – Nick Hornby
  • Reamde – Neal Stephenson
  • *The Oyster War – Summer Brennan
  • *Us – David Nicholls
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.  – Adelle Waldman
  • One More Thing  – B.J. Novak
  • The Financial Lives of Poets – Jess Walter
  • When to Rob a Bank – Steven Levitt
  • Seige and Storm – Leigh Bardugo
  • Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
  • *Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing – Erin Beresini
  • Man of My Dreams – Curtis Sittenfield
  • *Run – Ann Patchett
  • The Best American Sports Writing 2014

* means I’d definitely recommend it; some of the others I’d also recommend depending on who you are

And I re-read The Hunger Games (because, obvs) and I’m pretty sure some other books, but I don’t remember what. And now I sort of want to re-read all the Harry Potter series (because, why not).

I also wrote stuff, since that’s what I do. Some of it I liked; plenty I didn’t. Here are my favorite things I wrote this year, in case you want to read about sports that aren’t football or baseball:

I also liked a few of my blog posts this year (most of which are about triathlon, hah):

We’re in Tahoe right now, which I find slightly funny (and picturesque, etc), because I’m pretty sure four or five years ago I told Steve, “Of course, I don’t ski. Skiing’s for rich people.” And now I’m the proud owner of hundreds of dollars of ski clothes. (Not that I downhill ski more than once every four years. I am not the biggest fan. But after the last time we were up here and I was wearing Vans with holes in them and multiple sweatshirts as a coat, I insisted that I needed some actual winter clothes.)

This past year involved a lot of traveling places — living in L.A. for part of the year; racing in San Diego and San Luis Obispo and Clemson, South Carolina and Wisconsin; going to Ireland and Vancouver and Seattle and Eugene and pretty much everywhere in Northern California; Ragnar in Utah and family reunion in Florida; and weddings in Phoenix and Boise and L.A. (again) — so you’d think 2016 would be less hectic. But you’re wrong. Plans are already overwhelming. That’s OK, though. I’m just staying the course. The only thing I’m hoping to do differently in the next 363 days is ‘be more me,’ which sounds stupid, but basically means that I want to actually say the things I want to say and do the things I want to do. Which you probably thought I was already doing. So, hah.

Too Tired to Sleep

December 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

Which is pretty much what has happened to me.

Lance Armstrong raced a local 35K trail race this past weekend in Woodside. A lot of people think he shouldn’t have been allowed to, and it’s not like that argument isn’t without merits. I don’t think, though, that it’s for us to ban him from every local race ever.

Look, I get the argument for lifetime bans for dopers. I do. You want to raise the stakes, make the incentive to dope less appealing, because right now there’s way too much to gain and not enough to lose. (Plus, there’s increasing scientific evidence that there may be lifetime benefits to part-time doping.) So ban anyone who gets caught doping from ever competing in a race with a prize purse, from making any money off it, from WADA-sanctioned events. They violated the rules of their profession, so never again let them partake in that profession again. Fine.

But to argue that they should never ever be allowed to participate in any kind of recreational race just doesn’t even make sense. And in the vein of not perpetuating the insanity of the Republican debates, let’s try not to make vast proposals that are neither reasonable nor logical. How are you going to ban every doper from every small local event? It’s not possible. Here in Marin, we have these monthly pick-up running races that cost $5 and are definitely not sanctioned by any governing body. How would you even stop someone from doing one of those? You think there’s some kind of master database of every informal competitive gathering ever? People wouldn’t have even know about this race except that he’s Lance Armstrong.

What it really comes down to is if the individual race directors want to ban dopers from their individual races (assuming they’d know by name and be able to spot every doper who registers for every small race). To a degree, race director can let in or not whoever they want, with some obvious exceptions—you can’t not allow women, for example, or minorities.

What you’re fundamentally arguing then is that there is some line past which people are too terrible to be allowed the privilege of getting on a starting line. OK, fine. So you get to decide what that line is? And you think it’s doping?

Yeah, doping is cheating. Yeah, it’s really bad for the sport. But you’ve read a newspaper this week, right? You know that there are a lot of worse people than Lance Armstrong, right? And, yet, we aren’t banning racers based on the crimes they’ve committed. In fact, we acknowledge the ability of running races to help former inmates, former criminals. Either you believe in rehabilitation and you believe in the power of sports, of goals, to give focus and structure to people’s lives. Or you don’t. You can’t just believe in it for some people.

Would it make a difference if Lance was really really sorry?

Because, fundamentally, what it seems like is that people really want to stop being confronted with the conundrum of Lance Armstrong. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: when we vilify an individual, instead of actually examining the entire system that helped create that individual (which includes our role in that system), what we’re really doing is trying to get out of actually fixing the problem.

There was evidence for a long time that Lance Armstrong was not a good person. But people ignored it because they wanted to ignore it. They fed the machine that created the incentives for him to do what he did in the first place. To pretend that he did those things in a vacuum absolves us of our responsibility. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching so much Law & Order: SVU it’s that the line between victims and perpetrators isn’t always dark and straight. I don’t know exactly how many of those Russian athletes who were asked for bribes to cover-up positive tests were part of what is clearly a corrupt Russian system and how much they were the instigators. I think we now know that many of the Eastern bloc athletes were victims of their country’s system, and some weren’t. Yes, I think Lance Armstrong organized and masterminded much of the doping push within the cycling world at that time. But if you really want to fix the whole thing, then heaping punishment on one person isn’t going to do that. It’s only going to make you feel a little better for a little while.

Now, if I was Lance Armstrong’s PR person, I would probably advise him against getting back into competitive sports. I’d suggest laying low. But he’s clearly pathological and I’m not his PR person. So it’s not for me to tell him what he can and can’t do with his free time. I don’t have the right.

Or, maybe, more accurately, be generally in the same vicinity as Olympians. Because, to be clear, I think 238 people beat me at the National Cross Country Club Championships who weren’t Olympians. And I was 240th. Out of 380.

But the point still holds. Sometimes you just have to race against some people who are going to kick your ass.

This past weekend I did the national XC champs, because they were in San Francisco, so why not. I sort of knew it was going to be fast and intense, but it wasn’t until the night before that I realized how fast and intense and big and insane it was going to be.

There’s me about 300m in to the muddy race:

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After that, it got ridiculous. I basically alternated for 24 minutes between “Can you run harder? Run harder!” and “Why even do this anyway? Does any of this really matter? etc.”

I “held back” in the first mile and still ran a 5:52, because it was ridiculous. Then I tried not to start walking, but my arms hurt, so that was challenging.

We ran up a trail, through a muddy field, down a trail, through some trees in some wet sand, up a hill, around the polo fields, and I dunno some other stuff for 6 kilometers. I ran a 6:20ish mile and then a 6:40ish mile, but really who even knows, because it’s cross-country and I wasn’t looking at my watch. I just listened to the people yelling splits and tried to do math, so that was fun too.

This was actually from the Oiselle blog, which I clicked on randomly because today is my chilling out day, but it just cracked me up, because who looks like they don’t belong and needs to learn to pick up their feet when they run?:

Cathleen K

And then we were finishing. And it turns out that I’m about the same speed as the 5th runners on a lot of these teams who were taking it super seriously. (My team did not have a full team, so we were, uh, not?) So, as we came in for that last kilometer, all these coaches were screaming at the runners near me that “every place counts” and they “need to kick now.” They definitely listened, and I basically got passed by everyone.

I think I passed the one girl on the left back:

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It was hard, surprisingly so, and I basically had to nap the rest of the day.