The New York Marathon Coverage

Can you imagine if the big three sports were covered the way running is covered?

There’d be the story each weekend of the player overcoming tragedy and the third-stringers doing it for their own reasons. You’d have the strange play-by-play that’s more about the weather than the game and the self-reflective essay. And, what would you do without the off-beat slightly related story with its vague misunderstandings of the stats of the sport (not that I don’t like Ben True, because I do, but I’m not sure he’d “get bored” at 4:20 pace)?

Yes, these are all New York Times articles, but it was the New York Marathon, so if anyone should get it right, it’d be them. And, no, there’s nothing particularly bad about any one of these stories. Some of them are a little bit interesting. I’m sure all of them were probably aimed right at the paper’s target market. That’s fine.

But, all together it creates a picture that isn’t entirely accurate or true. It’s like the Kona coverage on NBC that’s almost entirely full of sob stories and people overcoming looming obstacles. It’s not that those people weren’t there or that their stories aren’t important. It’s just that they’re important enough to be told with more honesty.

Stop Asking Me Why I Run

In one of my classes the other day, we had an editor come in to talk about his experience and listen to our story pitches. He was funny, a former high-flying New York writer who succumbed to drug problems back in the day and is now on the rebound.

It was all cool until we got to my pitch. I had decided to write about what it’s like to race as a pro triathlete, yet never quite be good enough to actually make it. I thought it’d be interesting to people and interesting to talk about the system of never-was athletes underneath all the successful ones.

I got one sentence in — “I raced as a professional triathlete for three years.” — and he interrupted to say, “As an addict, you know what it sounds like to me, it sounds like you’re addicted.”

Um, yeah, I dunno, shrug, shrug.

He kept going: Why else would you do it? You must be addicted to it. Endorphin rush and stuff, right? I’ve heard of that.

Everyone thought this was genius. I kept shrugging — yeah, I dunno, this sounds more about you than me — until eventually I got really annoyed. Later, the rest of the class couldn’t quite figure out why it was really annoying, what if he just called it “passion” instead of “addiction.” And, anyway, they just all find the question of why anyone would do these sports so fascinating.

It’s not.

People tend to think that comparing a desire to run (et al) to an addiction is super witty. So original. So funny. See it’s supposed to be healthy, but it’s an addiction, so it’s not healthy; you’re addicted to being healthy. Hahahaha, I am so clever.

It’s actually probably the second or third most common thing people say. The first being, “Oh my god, that’s just soooo amazing. I could never do that. I don’t even know how you do that. It must take so much discipline.” Not that I’m not amazing, obviously, but there’s a creating of otherness here that I find strange. At the highest level of sports, yes, there is a degree of commitment and self-sacrifice that is not normal and that is also no different from what you would find at the highest levels of music or dance or writing or competitive holding your breath to see how deep you can dive. Any of these things are exceedingly hard and require a stunning degree of discipline, talent, and luck. But, I am not at that level. Neither are most of the people who run or do triathlon or bike or swim or Crossfit or whatever. I have very little insight into what it takes at that level. I am, most likely, at the same level (in our respective interests) as you, as the person asking the question and acting like I am so different from them.

Some people play video games. Some people sing a cappella. Some people are in competitive chess leagues. Some people are recovering drug addicts and former hard-partying New York writers. And, some people run. We are not so different, you and I. And, we are not all the same either.

Here’s the answer to your question: People do sports for all the different reasons that people do anything.



A Day at the USC Track

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.

Awesome Marin Run Route: The One Hour Run

Phoenix Lake is MY running spot. From Protrails.
Phoenix Lake is MY running spot. From Protrails.


Yesterday, since I’m home from LA for five days, I did my favorite one hour run. A warning: it’s only like 6-7 miles (depending on your route), but has about 1,000 feet of elevation. So it’s not the easiest one hour run ever. But, it is the best.

I started out tired and hurting — because I decided to get back into things again by strength training and box jumping the other day, which totally makes sense — and it’s so easy once you’re not working out every day to just keep not working out. And, anyway I’m slow and out of shape and this guy who did not look like he should be faster than me just kept speeding up to stay right ahead of me on the trail and it’s probably because I suck (or because I’m judgmental). I was not feeling the run.

But, it’s hard to not feel it once you’re up on the single track on the ridge all by yourself. So. That’s probably why it’s one of my ‘re-motivate yourself’ runs. Try it:

  • I always start at Phoenix Lake. Phoenix is my bang. (Which is something I have weirdly started saying, even though the phrase is actually “my bag.” But I’m sticking with my version.)
  • If you park at Ross Commons and run in on the road/path, then it’s a bit over a mile longer and just under an hour. If you park at the Lagunitas Country Club and run the same speed as me, then it’s more like a 50′ run.
  • From the trailhead, go up the fire road and stay to the right/straight around the edge of the lake until you get to the base of a hill. Go straight up Shaver Road at that intersection, which is actually a large trail. It’s about a 1.5 mile climb, but it’s not too steep or rough.
  • At the top, at Five Corners, where there’s a number of trail options and a bunch of signs that warn you to watch for mountain lions, take the insanely steep trail to your immediate right.
  • The steepness only lasts about 100m, then you’re on a single-track ridge trail that winds in and out on the side of the hill.
  • Eventually it dumps you at another trail intersection, Six Points (or maybe this one is Five Corners and the other one is Six Points, I can never remember). Don’t take the trail to the immediate right, because it’ll drop you back down into the valley. Take the trail to the right that says “Yolanda Trail – to Phoenix Lake.” Like this:


  • (If you are an avid reader of Sunny Running, you may notice that this is the same start of the route I usually take to get up Mt. Baldy, but in that case you would go left towards Worn Springs here.)
  • The single track continues up and down along the ridge. This is the best part of the run, because it looks like this:
Not my photo. Someone on Yelp's photo. But pretty accurate.
Not my photo. Someone on Yelp’s photo. But pretty accurate.
  • The trail rolls and some of the short little uphill sections can feel like a bitch, but on the whole you’re headed slightly more downhill than up. As you go, it gets noticeably more down because you’re dropping back down to the lake. Duh.
  • You will want to look at the awesome views of Mt. Tam and the hills and the drop into the valley. But, it is a rocky single-track trail, so you may also want to look at where you’re setting your feet. Don’t step on the newts! (Or rattlesnakes, obviously.)
  • You’ll hit one more kind of Y-intersection. Stay to the right to get back down to Phoenix Lake. That last section is very downhill and can be narrow and overgrown, depending on the weather and the district’s budget for maintenance. Don’t think too hard about what might be in the bushes and brush yourself off for ticks at the bottom.
  • At the bottom, it’ll dump you out back on the fire road around Phoenix that you started on. Turn left to head back to the trailhead and your car, or loop around the lake for an extra 2-2.5 miles. I sometimes like to loop the lake first just to get some running in before heading uphill. Plus the singletrack on the backside of the lake is fun.
  • Last step: Feel better about yourself and running.

What’s your favorite go-to run? (Can you tell me one in the LA area?)


Boston Marathon: My Plan


Tomorrow I will be running some of this route. I will not be running all of it. I will, likely, jump in (with my official bib that I paid for, but without the timing chip so nothing get’s messed up) and run some part with some friend near the middle or end. I feel like people may think or do think I’m doing something bad in doing that, but I don’t really see how it’s any different to run the first six miles or a random six miles. If I get up early and catch the bus to the start and then run the farthest I’ve run in a month (7 miles), then I’ll end up somewhere out in the suburbs having to wait for an injury shuttle back to the finish. It sounds much, much better to take the T out, cheer some people, run some distance without hurting myself MORE, then take the T back home.

So, hopefully, that works out.

Everyone keeps Instagramming and Twittering their Boston experiences. My experience so far has been: out late in Harvard Square drinking and eating cookie sandwiches with Melissa, sleep almost none, run 5 miles along the river (with every other person in Boston), spend a stupid amount of time figuring out the Hubway bike share, lunch with Courtenay, hang out with Ilyce, dinner with Vishal and Deanna, exhausted time for bed. I also spent maybe 10 minutes total at the expo to get my packet and number. I walked into the other half of the expo — the half where they sell shit and give away shit and talk about shit — and I just wasn’t in a place where I wanted to do that. I thought I was. I thought since I’m not running, it’ll actually be more fun to do all the random stuff you can’t really or shouldn’t really do before a race you actually care about. But, I just wanted nothing to do with any of it. And, my foot was hurting — my other foot, the one that hasn’t hurt in months.

So, tomorrow, I will cheer, I will run some, I will swim some, I will finish some work, and I will go to the after-party in the evening and lie outrageously about how fast I ran the whole marathon. Too fast for you to see me.

Boston Marathon 2014: Less Than Two Weeks Away

What are your transportation plans?
What are your transportation plans?

It’s time for #Boston2014 (#BostonStrong #WeAllRunBoston #RunTogether) and I’m repeating a tune that sounds very familiar. It’s unlikely I’ll run it or, if I did, I’d finish. But, I have a ticket and I’m planning on going, so who knows. A small part of me thinks I could just wing it, but the 5 miles I ran slowly yesterday would suggest otherwise. And the soreness in my foot today would suggest that even if I could, it’d be a bad idea. I’d likely re-tear whatever is finally healing along the arch.

The race organizers don’t know my personal issues, though, so they keep sending me emails asking me to tell them if I’m taking the shuttle, tell them if I’m attending the pre-race dinner, tell them my emergency contact, tell them what “my story” is. Man, Boston Marathon people, I really wish I had answers for you. I do.

It’s hard to stay focused on the long-term goal: Ironman Canada. I really wanted to run Boston this year and actually finish. I also want to sleep indefinitely right now. (I don’t feel good today.) Those are hard to reconcile.

Right now the plan is: I’m flying to Boston because I’m going from there to Chicago. I’ll hang out, see how I feel. I sort of want to jump in and run part of the course, just for the fun of it — if I’m able to run parts of things. Or, alternatively, I’ll drink a bunch and heckle runners.

I should probably just buy all the merch and make up stories about my finish time.


What would you do?

When the whole ‘magazine mocks a cancer-survivor runner’ gets into Jezebel, you know it’s relatively mainstream. But, let’s all step off our outrage (and stop trying to boycott everything all the time) for a second and recognize our complicity. When every magazine runs a chart ranking things that are cool v. lame at the back of the issue and every media outlet makes fun of whatever is deemed fair game — and, don’t even lie, you probably make fun of people too — it seems disingenuous to be disgusted now simply because this girl you laughed at had cancer. It’s not the cancer that makes the laughing wrong. At least own that. Yes, the magazine misjudged its audience, but really the nasty lie was asking her for her photo and not telling her what it would be used for. That lie is the only lie that’s worse than the ones we’re telling ourselves.

So, What’s My Plan Anyway?

When I was at training camp people kept quizzing me about how I coach myself. Isn’t it hard, weird, etc. And, I kept saying: “Well, I make an actual schedule and calendar. It’s not like I wake up each day and don’t know what I’m doing.” Haha, that would be crazy.


Since the foot injury on the very last run of the very last day of the very last camp, I’ve been sort of winging it. I was pretty sure at first that I had pulled or torn something in the arch of my foot, but everyone convinced me I really had plantar fasciitis. And, even though it didn’t have the tell-tale signs, I went with it because PF generally means that you can run through it if you can handle the pain. But, still, I’m not stupid, so I rested a week and tried to run briefly. Then, I took another five days or so off running and tried again. I managed to convince myself that if I could run some by the end of this week, then I could still get enough time on my feet in before Boston that my fitness would translate fine.

Well, yeah. It turns out my initial guess was right. I do have a torn muscle or fascia in the arch of my foot according to the fancy doctor. There’s not much to do about it besides let it rest, which means at least another 1-2 weeks of no running.

That means that right now this is pretty much my official training plan:

Rationally, I know that my fitness is good and won’t erode that quickly, that my biking and swimming will translate, that I can do some water running, and that I should take this time to build strength. Logically, I know that a month off running in March is better for an Ironman in July than limping along until then–even if it means that I may have to miss early season racing (or already have missed some). But, really, I’m freaking out. And, the fact that any given day I don’t know what exactly is on my training schedule doesn’t help, since I’m just waiting to see how the foot feels.

What if it doesn’t get better? What if my fitness disappears too much? What if I have to miss HITS and Boston and even Wildflower? What if this turns into one of those seasons where everything just keeps going wrong??

Plantar Fasciitis: What I’ve Tried So Far

It turns out my foot hurting is probably plantar fasciitis, which is convenient/ironic because ‘how to avoid plantar fasciitis’ happens to be the story I’m working on for Competitor this week. (Fortunately, I didn’t get Achilles tendonitis last week working on that story.)

I’m not 100% sure plantar fasciitis is what it is. It didn’t have all the classic signs at first and the extreme pain came about from a cramp that I overstretched/over-rolled, which isn’t normal. But, whatever you call it, it appears that now the plantar fascia are definitely messed up. As I was doing research both for the story and for my own personal problems, it turns out everyone on the internet has their own solution. Some people were able to run through the pain when they got new shoes, others with taping their arch, others were fine after ART. I definitely am planning to run through the pain as long as I can manage the pain and if I can figure out what works for me, so I’m trying different things. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • ART/chiro — which, combined with this electro-stim, totally made the pain disappear
  • electrostim machine
  • rolling and stretching the calf muscle
  • rolling and stretching the arch of the foot
  • KT tape on the arch of the foot
  • icing
  • rest
  • anti-inflammatory patches
  • arch support and orthodics in all my shoes

It sort of has helped. It sort of hasn’t. I ran today and it was fine, but sore. Now, it’s really painful. My plan moving forward is: more massage and ART/chiro, stretching and rolling everyday with Yoga routine, rolling out arch of foot, icing arch of foot, walking in only supported shoes, hardcore taping (instead of KT tape) for running and working out, pulling back on the running, and possibly trying other shoes.