A Day at the USC Track

October 18, 2014 — 1 Comment
The track stadium at USC. Trojan Pride, or whatever the cheer is I can never remember.

The track stadium at USC. Trojan Pride, or whatever the cheer is I can never remember.

 

This is the USC track. It’s a perfectly nice track. And, yesterday, (or two days ago, I’m not sure, I wrote this on the plane to Turkey — fyi, I’m in Turkey) I found myself running there, not because I particularly needed to do a track workout, but because I had some time between things and wanted to fit a run in and am trying to ease back in to training. The bronchitis diagnosis on Tuesday afternoon and subsequent medication is actually starting to clear up my month-long illness — really one illness + a secondary respiratory infection. Obviously, this meant it was time to start running hard-ish again.

The track is a weird place. Usually you go because it’s an honest place. It’s clean and hard and there’s a truth there. It will hurt and you will get faster. But, weird things also happen at the track. Because it’s a small group of people that choose to run circles, they want to bond and talk, and spectators enjoy making comments. This is probably why I usually run by myself, but that’s a whole other problem when you lose it a little bit and start swearing you can hear the telephone wires vibrating and taste the track in your mouth.

Yesterday, there were a handful of people running and walking around the USC track and more showed up as I ran. That’s fine. Normal. The university puts barriers in the corners across the inside three to four lanes when it’s open hours, which is really annoying when you’re running hard and trying to hit times. But, I’m not fast right now, so whatever. I started running on the edge of lane four and cutting in where possible. This older man walking back and forth in lane five yelled at me to stay in the outside lanes. Yeah, ok, that’s where I am, I thought.

I thought he was just being a local vigilante to stop people from using the inside three lanes, but as I came by him again he yelled and started waving at me that I could only run in lanes six, seven, and eight — while he walked back and forth in lane five. OK, fine, he wanted to use this 50 meters of lane five. I kept running my tempo in lane six when I was near him, to give him a wide berth, and then I’d cut in to lane four or five when I could. There were other people jogging or running or walking, some of whom I’d have to run around and some of whom were in other lanes. And, yet, I was perfectly able to get around them, because that’s how running on a track works. But, not him. He kept yelling at me whenever I came by, even though I wasn’t anywhere I shouldn’t be, and he kept pacing back and forth. Then he left the track, so I thought it was ok to run on the innermost lane that wasn’t blocked by the barriers — namely the edge of lane four. Oh, I was wrong.

I finished one of the shorter harder efforts and was walking/shuffling to catch my breath and he reappears to start yelling at me about disrespecting him and how he had to wait ten minutes to do one of his intervals. Intervals? Wait? Ten minutes? I’m pretty sure you don’t get to just claim an entire lane to yourself during open hours and throw everyone else out of it. And, I’m pretty sure I didn’t stop anyone from running.

It was so strange. And, so confusing. And, what was the weirdest part was that I was 100 percent sure that he was positive I was disrespectful. He thought I was just some little entitled USC girl, who thought she could do whatever she wanted. But, all I wanted to do was use the track the way the track is used.

i am kind of old school, i guess, because i stick cheating on wives right up there not too far below beating on wives. maybe even with it.

This is a crazy discussion on Slowtwitch right now — the craziest part of which, I think, is probably this quote from the ST publisher. The discussion is about a guy on the USAT board who was charged with misdemeanor assault for hitting his wife and did the probation, community service, and counseling that was his sentence, and now still serves on the USAT board. Hitting your wife is a terrible, awful thing to do. And I, personally, may want nothing to do with him and maybe (maybe) he should have nothing to do with anyone any more. But, I don’t know that throwing him off a board is going to solve the problem of having hit his wife? Theoretically, if someone made just one terrible mistake and learned from it, then allowing them to again become a meaningful part of society is probably better for society in the long run. Theoretically. I don’t know all the details in this case and I don’t know that it wasn’t something too terrible to come back from, but I tend to believe that we have a justice system that doles out sentences and then assumes that most people can be rehabilitated. And our need to pile on top of that, to call for more extreme punishments and expulsions and boycotts, is really more about distancing ourselves from any feelings of culpability than it is about actually finding the best way to truly fix problems. This sentiment above, though, is just weird to me, because it is a sentiment locked 50 years in the past. It has not learned or changed or become any better. It has not been rehabilitated.

Training: Oct. 6-12

October 13, 2014 — 3 Comments

I have come back from being out of shape before. Way more out of shape, in fact. I remember it being physically hard — hard to run three miles, hard to breathe, hard to have any conception of ever having gone faster. But, it’s hard this time in a different way. I can’t even seem to get to the point where it would be physically hard. I can’t manage to train enough to even have to give myself the ‘you can do it’ pep talk. Of course I can do it. I only have time to swim for 30 minutes. I’m not so out of shape that I can’t swim for 30 minutes.

I’m hoping this struggling to get back to regular training hours has something to do with being sick, getting better, and then getting sick again, and something else to do with traveling every week. I’m hoping that when I get back from Turkey next week (after I go to Turkey this Thursday, after I recover from having flown back to LA from Chicago at 6 a.m. CST this morning, after I stopped coughing so hard I threw up a lot last week), then I’ll be able to really start training for the races I signed up for. Week 1 starts Oct. 25.

I just hope that I make it to Week 1.

Monday

Left the Bay Area at 5:50 a.m. to drive to LA. My sister got in to LA at 3:30 p.m. for a 20 hour visit. Keeping myself together was enough of a workout.

Tuesday

Ran three miles, drills, and strides in the evening. Running in the dark may become my secret LA weapon.

Wednesday

Skipped all classes, meetings, and events because I was throwing up all night from coughing and overdosing on Nyquil. Since I could barely move, I did not do much besides semi-sleep.

Thursday

Rode 24 miles down the beach path to Hermosa Beach. Not too hard, not too easy.

Light core and yoga routine before getting on the plane to Chicago to finally get in at nearly midnight.

Friday

Ran four miles around Millenium Park, but felt so wheezy and weak and slow. The only reason I did even four miles (although I had planned on more) was because people kept cheering for me, thinking that I was doing the marathon on Sunday.

Saturday

Ran five miles with Steve around my uncle’s neighborhood before my cousin’s wedding.

Sunday

Went to my uncle’s gym and created my own TRX-kettlebell-box jumping workout. It was actually quite an effective workout, but the only downside is that my abs hurt so much when I cough now. And I, unfortunately, cough constantly.

TOTAL: 4:55

Ugh. Gross. That’s not even one-third of a standard week of training volume and it nearly killed me. And, right now, again, I’m planning on sleeping in instead of running track in the morning. (I am not a morning person.) I just need to get better and get set on a schedule. Eventually.

OK, I get it, you’re in Kona.

Most of my internet right now is full of people’s pictures from the Big Island and tweets about panic training for the BIG race this weekend and Instagrams of the big sunsets. Your internet may not be that — Steve’s certainly isn’t — but, understandably, mine is. And I am not begrudging everyone their fun. Hawaii, as a place, is definitely fun. And, who doesn’t love watching a world championship.

But, (and, yes, there is a but) is it really as blessedly amazingly magical as we let the entire sport tell us? Is it really the only thing worthwhile in triathlon? Or, have you bought into the myth just a little bit?

Ironman may not be my thing. I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to do another before I decide. I’d like to qualify for Kona at some point, just so I can see what it’s like — kind of how I had to watch a bunch of “Girls” to make sure I was right that I didn’t like it, back before hating Lena Dunham had gotten passe and vaguely sexist. I may not ever be able to qualify, though. I need to get at least 45 minutes faster and not hurt; possibly, the woman’s amateur field needs to get less insanely competitive (and some people need to go ahead and upgrade out of the amateur field); and, still, Kona may always be out of reach. It is one of the most competitive amateur events out there, so I totally respect that. I do.

Except, or, I could just buy a lottery spot or a corporate spot or be given a celebrity spot or raise a bunch of money to get a spot. Or, I could just go and hang out.

When I was on the high school cross-country team, I was hurt at one point and had to sit out the meets. Instead, I got to just hang out, take splits, do the pre-race pep talk. I was part of the team, without having to actually be in the pain of running as part of the team. It was (in a lot of ways) so much better than actually racing. But, it wasn’t really the same. And, I wouldn’t have been on the inside at all if I hadn’t put out the pain before and earned the right to be there. The payoff just isn’t there if you don’t deserve it.

Of course, you can go to Hawaii whenever you want. You can do whatever you want. But, it seems like there are a lot more people hanging out this year. A lot more people coming up with reasons they need to be there, that they deserve to be part of the scene. I get that. If someone offered me a trip, I’d have taken it. I also eat brownies for dinner sometimes. It won’t be the same, though. It’ll be like sitting on the outside and trying to bask in the refracted joy.

You’ll say it was magical. It was amazing. You’ll say all that dessert you ate was filling. I hope it is.

 

Training: Sept. 29-Oct. 5

October 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

I stopped posting training logs when I stopped training for the last two months. But, now, I’ve written out a 20-week training plan for the LA Marathon. And, by “written” I mean I borrowed heavily from the marathon workouts Mario gave me last time I was with him and am filling in the gaps with triathlon training. Fortunately, 20 weeks starts the weekend after I get back from Turkey, so right now I’m just on a easing-back-into-things training plan until then.

And, accountability, etc. So, here is my training again — for last week.

Monday

Swam 2,000 yards moderately easy with some band swimming.

Tuesday 

Natural day off, since I’m in class all day and Steve was visiting, so we were out super late.

Wednesday

I meant to run, but I didn’t run.

Thursday

Ran 5.5 miles with Steve in the morning down the bike beach path. I may be off running with Steve until either I get faster or he gets slower.

Crossfit workout in the evening, to check out the gym (“box”) and make some contacts for a story too. Two birds. We did a lot of cleans and I am not that good at cleans, so my quads felt like they were giving out. My arms also started to fail on the dips. Basically, the lesson is I have very little muscle strength.

Friday

Drove back up to the Bay Area.

Saturday

Rode with Steve. It’s unclear how much we rode because his bike was having problems and there was a lot of hanging out and after the hanging out it’s hard to get motivated again. But, it was about 2:30 I think around Nicasio.

Sunday

I skipped running in the morning because I think I’m getting sick again (ugh). After I finished my project, though, and was feeling better later in the day, I went for my second favorite run at Phoenix. Because you can’t not run on the trails when in Marin.

TOTAL: 5:45

Yeah, it’s a start…

Hello, I Am A Trail Snob

October 5, 2014 — 5 Comments
The trail above my house that connects to the other trail.

The trail above my house that connects to the other trail.

For all that I’ve written about how the biking in LA isn’t great, it’s not the main thing I miss about training down here. Yes, there’s some nice mountains to ride in (and I understand I still need to check out Palos Verdes and more of Pasadena as soon as I actually have some free time), but none of that is super time-efficient for everyday training. And, yes, I’m commute biking less than usual, because it’s just not as easy or safe as I’d like here.

That’s all true. And saying that it is true is a completely legitimate complaint. But, biking is not actually my favorite thing. Unless I can go somewhere cool, I don’t usually love it. I didn’t even ride for almost all of 2012 because I just didn’t feel like it.

What I really like is trail running — except not of the running-through-the-dark, total wilderness variety. Since I’m scared of mountain lions, bears, snakes, and pretty much all of nature, and since I hate hike-running straight uphill, and I don’t do well in extreme heat, I’m a little picky about my trails.

It turns out I am a huge trail snob.

  • If it is paved, it is not a trail.
  • If a truck can drive down it, it is a fire road, not a trail. (Fire roads can be fine, but not exactly something to brag about.)
  • If you can’t tell where the trail is, it’s not a trail.

This is a trail:

Shortly after I decided not to quit afterall.

This isn’t even my favorite trail.

 

It turns out, many of the trails in LA do not meet my standards. I have been to all the famous ones that people brag about. For the most part, they are exposed, hot, open fire roads that go up and up and up. This is not my thing. It is some people’s thing, but not mine. I generally avoided even running on the trail right outside my door in Marin, because it’s an exposed, hot, hilly fire road. It’s just not fun. I have been to the trails by the beach in LA, which are really just bike paths. I hate flat crowded bike paths. I generally avoid those too. I found one trail I liked a lot in the Santa Monica Mountains, but it’s far from my house.

Without nice wooded single- or double-track lake trails, it’s hard for me to get motivated to run. Logically, I remember a time when I used to run almost exclusively on boring roads around neighborhoods, stopping at lights, and dodging people on the sidewalk. I remember this, but it feels like another person. I can not fathom doing all my running like that now.

Of course, I’m about to sign up for the LA Marathon, so I’m going to have to either find some good trails, get better headphones to run with up and down the bike path, or re-learn how to run on sidewalks.

 

Things I always have to do when back in Marin for the weekend:

  • Play with Tupac the Cat (who I made a website for in one of my coding classes, but it never got put on a server, so you are, unfortunately, going to miss out on that)
  • Ride in West Marin
  • Eat a burrito at Sonoma Taco Shop
  • Play with Tupac
  • Run on the trails
  • Oh man, the trails!
  • Chocolate-covered Oreos from Scotty’s Market
  • Bother Tupac some more
  • Have dinner at Bel Campo (possibly my favorite restaurant, but they just opened one in downtown LA, which I’m going to have to check out too!)

I have recently been the subject of more trolling than usual on the internet. Trolling, itself, isn’t new. Pretty much since I started reporting, there have been trolls online. That’s fine. Or, rather, it’s not fine, but it’s a fact of life. That trolling has gotten more intense as I’ve written bigger stories with wider audiences, or maybe just as more people have gotten into the anonymous hate game on the internet. The essay I wrote on the Billfold (which I had actually titled “Lessons from My Parents: Don’t Have Kids”), prompted strangers to give me unwarranted life advice and speculate about my attractiveness, sexual history, and dubious life choices. Some of the craziest comments I ever got were actually in response to a very small local news story that I wrote as straight news about a councilman arguing with another councilman and who voted what. This evidently made it clear that I hated the Constitution, was an un-American communist, and most likely a radical unattractive hack.

Now, I generally just don’t read comments, especially on controversial things I write, like about sexual assault, smoking bans, or oyster farms.

Recently, though, the trolls have left the news sites and are forcing themselves into my life. They’re sending me (lots of) Twitter messages and long personal emails. And they’re doing it in a way that is very clear that they wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t a woman — or, to a small degree, if I wasn’t a woman who looked young and small and intimidate-able.

Yes, I expected the hate for a story I wrote for the campus site on the ‘yes means yes’ law, especially since I expressed an opinion! About sexual assault! But, the long email cajoling me to grow a pair and start smiling more in my profile photos was in response to a fun piece on the best places to tailgate. Tailgating: always a hotbed of outrage. And, the funny recap of “How to Get Away with Murder” prompted both crazy sexist AND racist comments. Because, you know, that’s a totally rational appropriate response.

There’s been more written recently about how the internet is becoming a dark alley for women. It’s not just uninviting, it’s dangerous. People say ignore them. Yeah, no kidding. People say don’t feed the trolls. Just super great advice. And, after my initial reaction of “Fuck them!,” I also didn’t want to give any of it any weight. I didn’t want to respond — because that never goes well — or say anything or mention it to anyone. As if by ignoring abuse it’ll go away. When a friend asked what the Twitter handle was of someone who deliberately followed me just so he doesn’t miss an opportunity to tell me what “shitty feminist propaganda” I write, I didn’t initially want to tell her. I didn’t want to egg him on or let him know I thought about him at all or that this was even a question in my mind. But, then, I thought, “If you want to invade my personal space, I don’t see why you deserve any either.”

Now, I sort of hope she is sharing her thoughts with him online, though I doubt anyone has the same level of commitment and lack of anything else going on that so many of these people seem to have. Mostly, though, I hope we just start saying, “See that person over there, that person is a real person in real life, and it’s not ok what he says when he thinks no one is watching.” We’re watching.

USC-Oregon St

Yesterday, for one of my classes, we got to go inside the ESPN production trucks at the USC-Oregon State game. I didn’t take any pictures inside, because I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way, but above is the picture Audrey took of our credentials. That’s some fancy stuff.

The production truck is an impressive operation. Every person — and there are a lot of them — has a specific job and all the jobs mesh together into organized chaos. One person is counting down; another is calling shots into a microphone to someone on the field and to someone in a blimp and to someone in another truck; another is discussing with the on-field reporter whether or not Will Ferrell will talk on camera; other people are editing replays on the fly. By necessity, live events can only be planned so much in advance. For the rest of it, you sort of just have to plan on knowing what to do when the opportunity arises. You have to rely on the fact that you’ll rise to the occasion. And, they clearly do, every week.

It actually reminded me a lot of Sports Night, except minus the comic screw-ups and romantic entanglements:

The number of flashing lights and buttons and screens is obviously overwhelming. But, I was thinking about it while we were there, and clearly you can learn. You can learn your job, and then the next job, and the next. Until it’s not overwhelming anymore. It’s just organized (and fun) chaos. I’m actually really good at working fast on tight deadlines, but every time I have to do live events it makes me nervous. Every single time I worry that this time I’ll forget what to do. Or, this will be the time that I reach into the well and there’s nothing there to draw on.

By now I know that I’ll come through the blank panic. Usually. By now I know I can count on myself. Usually. I wonder if the people in the production truck have the same fear, if they worry that this time they won’t be able to find the shots or keep up the pace, that they’ll let up for a second and our TVs will just show nothing. I’m sure the people on the field reach into themselves sometimes and just have to hope that they’ll still have it, that the game is so deep down they can’t forget it. And, then, I’m sure they have to make themselves forget the empty fear and remember to play.