Monday, December 29, 2008



Give me 'til New Year's, kiddies.

It's not that I'm busy. Just highly unmotivated.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Check it out

Love these spinning bikes. Where can I get one?

Women riding exercise bikes at Krylatskoya Physical Fitness Clinic. Moscow, Russia, 1989.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lesson Learned: Always Look First

It's snowy outside. We probably have about 3" of accumulation. And for Wisconsin, Colorado, or Boston, that's nothing. But here it is a big deal.

So it was a big deal when I decided that running 10 miles on a treadmill simply would not do and headed to Pawnee Prairie Park for a trail run.

It was very cold, but not uncomfortably so (at least while running). Actually, the only real discomfort I experienced was an unbearable need to pee.

In the summer, that wouldn't be such a big deal. Pawnee Prairie is equipped with some adequate (if not exactly nice) facilities. But those facilities are closed during the winter, it seems.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

I was only a couple miles into my run when I decided that I simply could not hold it. Fine. Okay. It's cold, but it's not unbearable, and there's no one around anyway. The only real issue is properly positioning myself so that I don't end up misfiring and dampening any of the three pairs of pants I'm wearing. To that point and purpose, I used a nearby tree for, um, balance.

Got things done without incident, stood up, and started readjusting the layers of clothing. At that point, I felt something poking me. I looked at my gloves and saw that they were polka-dotted with about a dozen little burrs. And as I continued to re-position various articles of clothing, I soon realized that I had gotten these damn little sand burrs everywhere.

No, really. Everywhere.

So the lesson for the day is this: ALWAYS look first.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Race Report: Jingle Bell 4-mile and 1-mile

Because I raced both, suckers.

4 mile, took off like a rocket. Wasn't sure where the starting line was, so who knows how far off I was in starting my stopwatch. I had been vacillating up to the last minute, not sure if I wanted to race or not. Really, all I needed was 5 miles, and it didn't matter what pace I ran. But $20 is expensive for a training run, so I was intent on racing. The first half mile or so saw the usual clutter and dispersal, people sorting themselves out into what paces they would eventually run. At about the 1/2 mile mark, I fell into step with an older man. I had tried to convince my dad to come do the race with me, but he wasn't confident about his ability to run 4 miles at this point. So I pretended that this guy was my dad. He was just fast enough to challenge me without pushing me too hard. After about a mile and a half, he sped up just a touch, and I wasn't quite ready to go that fast.

So I immediately fell in with a woman in a green, fleece pull-over. She was running at about the same pace as me (maybe a little faster). Just fast enough not to push me, not fast enough to break me. Or it didn't seem fast enough to break me at the time.

She must have been counting on a negative split, because she picked up the pace quite a bit after the 2 mile mark. And it was about that time that we headed uphill, and she put on a little acceleration. I'm not sure if she was trying to drop me or not, but I was half-conscious at the time that it would probably work. Oh, I stayed with her up the hill--there was no way I was gonna let someone pull that kind of shit on me in a 4-mile race!--but I knew I was going to pay for it later. I continued to dovetail her, matching her stride for stride, until we came up to only aid station on the course. I hadn't been up early enough to get enough water in, so I had been thirsty from the beginning of the race, and I needed that water. She apparently didn't need any, so she ran on while I grabbed a little paper cup and drained it. By that time, she had put maybe 15 yards on me, but I let her keep it. I was pretty sure that I could gradually work my way up to her before the end.

Past the 3 mile mark, I really started to hurt. That uphill acceleration was coming back to haunt me. Green-sweater girl was still a good 15 yards up, but I knew I could still catch her if I could suck it up and just run. About that time, a lady in bright green tights and bright red socks pulled up alongside me. And there was no way I was going to be passed by a lady in bright green tights and bright red socks (especially since she looked well into her 50s). We ran together. I told her, "I'm trying to catch that girl in the green." She said, "I'm trying to catch that girl in the blue" (who was about another 5 yards up from my mark).

With maybe half a mile to go, I started to accelerate, and she came with me as long as she could. I did manage to catch that green girl, but about the time we caught up, we hit another hill. She had the gas to go up, and I slowed way down. So I didn't finish with her, but I did at least catch her. Which wasn't really enough, but whateveh. I was pretty happy with the run, but I'm disappointed with the time on the last mile. I don't know that I could have gone any harder than I did, but I wish I had more to give. I'm pretty sure that by next year, all those splits will have an 8 at the beginning instead of a 9.


And then I had about 45 minutes to hang out. Drink water. Eat a banana. Have some coffee. Except that there was no coffee because the lady in charge of the coffee pot was having some issues with getting it to brew! So no little pick-me-up for Jamie. So I meandered over to the start line to stand in the cold, instead. There were the usual ankle-biters and munchkins there. Oh! And there was this middle-aged woman with a little girl (about six, maybe?) who I assume was her daughter. They were stretching, and this woman was saying things like, "Now, remember, there will be all kinds of people here who have had a lot more practice with running than we have, so don't go too fast at the beginning!" and doing the kind of stretches that you do in elementary school P.E. classes like she knew what she was talking about. But not in an annoying way. In an endearing way. Here's this poor woman who probably hasn't run a mile since high school, just trying to go outside and do something active with her daughter. It was sweet. But dorky.

Oddly enough, at the starting line for the 1 mile race I met a professor who teaches at Annenberg. As in, Annenberg School of Communications. At USC. And of course I was fully outfitted in USC Tri merchandise, so we chatted about that. He was in town to see family, and decided that he would do a little 1-mile race while he was there. Which is pretty awesome, if you ask me.

I tried to go out hard at the starting, erm, airhorn, but of course I was not going to go out with the munchkins or track stars. They could have their 5-minute mile. I would be happy with anything less than 8 minutes.

And of course it hurt. It always hurts. It's supposed to frickin' hurt. I think I could have gone faster if I hadn't already run 4 miles hard. But I'm still happy with the result: 7:49. Not quite a PR, but the 7:47 mile came with a friend (who runs cross country for Newman University) pacing me. And afterwards I told her never to do it again, it hurt so bad. So the fact that I did that speed on my own without a pacer and without even thinking I would puke at the end gives me hope. Hope for next year, and the year following. Hope for--who knows?--maybe sub-7:00.

It was a good day. Good weather--sunny and cold with very little wind. And there were hamburgers at the end. Really, really good hamburgers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Runner's High": Running Anyway

Sunday, November 30. I want to do a 10-mile run. Somehow sucker my dad into getting out in the cold Kansas weather to jog the first couple with me. Fifteen minutes before we had planned to leave, it starts sleeting. Not raining. Not snowing. Sleeting. Like hail, but colder. And the wind is blowing so hard that the sleet is coming down at a 45* angle to the ground. Wind from the north. Like really cold wind. It stops after 5 minutes, but the clouds still look menacing.

We run anyway.

Wednesday, December 3. I wake up at 6:00 a.m. to reports of a severe wind advisory. Seriously. The National Weather Service issues tornado and thunderstorm and flash flood warnings. Well, in this part of the country, they also issue severe wind advisories. Our local NPR broadcast journalist reports in a friendly voice that the today we'll have a high of 39 degrees, a low of 18, and winds from the north at 30 miles per hour gusting to 45. I crawl out of bed and throw tights, arm warmers, leg warmers, windproof pants, a scotch-guarded top, a hat, and gloves into my (too small) bag. I go to work. The wind howls around my car, and I spend my first two training sessions watching the trees outside the windows bend in the semi-darkness and listening to the scratchings and creakings of blowing branches.

I don't care. I run anyway.

Running is empowering. Whether it's too hot or too cold or too windy or too rainy or too snowy or just plain miserable outside, an athlete (or anyone, actually) who really wants to run is going to go outside and run. And that's it.

What's more, if the athlete is worth his or her salt and has any measure of endurance experience, he or she is not going to whine or brag about it. He or she might casually say, "Oh yeah, I ran earlier today." But will not regale listeners with tales of brutal conditions.

That's why I'm falling in love with running. It makes me feel tough. It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel that I don't need anyone or anything to approve or praise me. Or need anyone or anything at all, for that matter.

That's why I run. It's difficult to start running. It's difficult to keep running. And if it doesn't hurt by the end, then I'm not doing it right.

But afterwards, in the glow of the runner's high, I feel strong and capable.

And that's enough to get me out there again next week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Current conditions in Wichita: Cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Temperature 38*F. Humidity 55%. Winds N at 28 MPH, gusting to 45 MPH. Visibility 10 miles. (thanks, KMUW).

Hills? Bah! I laugh at your puny hills!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beginners' Guide: Choosing a Race

I started this post with a plan. There were bullet points. There were practical applications. There were links.

But I deleted all of that.


Because choosing a race isn't a step-by-step process. It's not about finding something local, or about a pool vs. lake swim. It's not even about distance, or about what you think you can handle.

It's about a passion. It's about friends doing races, prompting you to say, "If Jenny can do it, I bet I can." It's about trolling the internet, coming across a blog, and realizing that the unachievable is achievable. It's about watching TV and seeing something truly amazing and determining that you will be a part of it, no matter what it takes.

It's that time of year. If you want to race this summer, now is the time to find one. So troll the internet. Check Trifind. Hang out at bike shops, at run shops, at the Y. Get in touch with your local swim/bike/run club. Keep your eyes and ears open. And eventually, you're going to stumble onto something that really, really excites you. "Yeah," you'll say to yourself, "this one looks good. It's nearby. I can do those distances. It looks like fun."

And that's your race.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Starting to get little, niggling feelings in the back of my head. Like worms are nibbling on the base of my brain.

I got so burned out and tired at the end of this season--due in part, I'm sure, to the crazy hours I was keeping and the crazy responsibilities I took on at work--that I haven't even wanted to think about next year. In fact, I wasn't sure I would still want to race in 2009. Maybe it was time for a change. Give tri a break. Do just biking. Or just running. Or something completely different.

So I started to get back into climbing (long story, but there's a girl involved). I'd go to the Kansas Cliff Club (local indoor climbing gym) once or twice a week and spend 2 or 3 hours climbing and belaying (and getting nowhere with said girl, ahem).

Thing is, climbing is one of those all-or-nothing things, at least around here. Because if you're going to be into climbing and live in a state where there is absolutely no significant climbing available within a 6 hour drive, you've got to be really serious about it. Because it's not like you can just drive to the nearest good climbing (in Arkansas, by the way) on a whim.

But I am not hardcore about climbing. At all. In fact, I don't think I even really like it, right now (even with the love interest). You know what I like? Swimming. Biking. And--yeah--I really like running. I like doing those three things more than I like climbing or lifting weights or even doing yoga. And I don't know why I like those three things so much, but I fully intend to keep doing them.

Which has got me thinking about next season.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Part of the World: Appearance (Part II)

Previous entries in this series: Appearance (Part I), Eating, A Part of the World, Conquest


It's hard to know where to go from there.

What is natural is not popular. What is popular is not natural. What is popular is not healthy, and does not lead us toward healthy behaviors or healthy attitudes.

And we, as athletes (or, if you don't consider yourself an athlete, health-conscious people), have very special relationships with our bodies. We move more than other people; we're more active. We exercise! Which means we build a degree of kinesthetic awareness and proprioception that is greatly above the norm. In other words, we know our bodies better.

Oddly enough, this doesn't necessarily mean that we love our bodies. In fact, it can mean just the opposite. Instead of seeing the body as a tool, an ally, a friend that allows us to do some remarkable and crazy things, we see it as an enemy. There's too much of it (or not enough). It's too flabby. It's too short. It doesn't look the way it should. So instead of having an exceptionally close relationship with our bodies because we spend so much time one-on-one with them, we end up (in some cases) developing ever-greater animosity towards them.

And this is not okay. This is not living as part of the world.

So what are we to do?

Oh, nothing too big--just completely revamp our perception of what "healthy" and "fit" look like.

It wasn't that long ago that bustles were considered attractive. Or--even better--hoop skirts! The Modern Victorian Woman says, "I don't care that this fashion makes my butt and hips look enormous--I am wearing it!" Similarly, fashionable Victorian men and women cultivated pale skin; tan was the look of peasants, because they were always outside working. Granted, the peasants were probably much healthier than the fashionable aristocrats, but I am trying to make a point here.

And the point is that we (21st century "civilized" people) have made a habit of tricking ourselves into believing that pursuing what is (currently) fashionable is actually healthy.

Look around the health clubs. People are not necessarily helping their bodies, there. They are doing asinine exercises in pursuit of larger pectorals, bigger biceps, flatter abdominals. Why? Because our cultural perception of how a healthy person looks is so screwed up that we equate those things with fitness, capability, wellness.

And it's just bullshit.

On the other end of the spectrum, we do have to take into account that a large segment of the population is carrying too much body fat on its collective frame. Which has led me recently to ask, "Man, what would these people look like if they were lean and toned, the way evolution predisposed them to be?" Really. What might America look like behind the fat?

Man, this point is so hard to make. What I'm saying is that there must be something between this and this, between nausea-inducing obesity and hyper-focused fitness (you know, the kind of fitness that would prefer a six-pack to a stable spine).

I've said it before: the problem of being part of the world is too big for us to tackle all at once (Tyler Durden, are you listening?)--we have to start with ourselves. So although it would be great to try to change America's perception of a "healthy" appearance, why don't you change your own? Stop trying to fit the frickin' mold! If you're anything like me, your genetics will make that impossible anyway. And don't go too far in the other direction; if you're carrying too much weight, you know it, and it needs to come off.

Now assuming you're still with me and you're willing to change your perceptions, here's your practical application (step 1: change perception, step 2: change yourself): let a healthy appearance be a result of your healthy lifestyle. Stop trying to look "healthy." It is not a goal; it is not an end, in and of itself. It is part of the entire package. The clean, healthful eating. The regular, sensible exercise. The meditation. The spiritual pursuit. The enriching relationships. Rather than trying to look healthy and fit, you are healthy and fit! It's a pursuit of being a better, stronger, more capable person. Of being who and what you were meant (either by evolution or by a higher power) to be. Of being part of the world.

Which does not necessitate a six-pack.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Race Report: Turkey Trot


I have been remiss, my friends. I'm behind on blog posts, e-mail, phone calls . . . looking forward to catching up, this week, so if you've been waiting to hear from me, your wait will soon be over.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my first race as a bandit!

I had a friend in town this week (from L.A.), and I didn't really want to take the time to register for the race in person. And $25 seemed a little steep for a 2-mile race anyway. So I elected simply to show up and run as hard as I could for 20 minutes, take advantage of the post-race food if I could, then take off. My dad was also running the race, so that provided extra incentive.

The beginnings of races like these are always interesting, and consist mostly of dodging ankle-biters, who sprint-walk-sprint-walk, and ask their moms, "Are we half-way there?" after 200 yards. But once I got past the knee-height nuisances . . . well, by that time, it was almost over. Really, how much is there to say about a local 2-mile race?

So let me just say that I finished in 17:08 (according to my watch; bandit, remember). My first mile split was 8:14, and my second was 8:54. I probably could have run the second mile harder than I did, but I don't have the sense of pacing at such a short distance, right now. I was pretty happy with how I ran, although my left calf and right rhomboid weren't. The calf especially locked up extra tight (deep, deep in the calf--I think in the soleus, which is underneath the gastrocnemius), so I've been giving it lots of love (read: punishment) on the foam roller and stretching it out constantly. Although the foam rolling treatment basically consists of me sitting with a foam roller under my leg, as the pressure is too intense to put any weight on it.

That's much more than just a race report. Bonus! Keep an eye open for the second part of the Appearance dialogue which Amanda opened on Saturday. Also, I wrote a guest post for Mizfit that she published on Saturday; go read it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Part of the World: Appearance (Part I)

For previous entries in this series, read here and here.

I started to write this post myself.

But then I realized that I don't have a great deal of insight to bring to the subject. Like all western women, I'm conscious of my appearance. There are times when I'd like to change it. I work on "problem areas" (ahem, half-heartedly, because I don't really care). And my feelings about my body probably affect my behaviors and attitudes more than I realize (or would like to admit).

However, for this post, I wanted to invite an author and fellow blogger who has (and does) deal with issues of self-image in a more concrete and immediate way. As a result, we have a wonderful guest post from Amanda, who was kind enough to provide her insight on the matter. Amanda is a dedicated runner, a college student, and an aspiring nutritionist. She also has a great, timely post about Thanksgiving that she posted recently (for you Americans who are staring Turkey Day dead in the face). So visit her and get to know her; she's smart.

By now, you're probably familiar with Mark's Primal Blueprint, and what it means to those of us concerned about how to live in this world.  I think of my body as the part of the Earth that I most directly affect.  I can change it, move it, use it to do things that are good for the Earth.  In that way, it is dynamic.

But it is also static, in the sense that when other people see it at any given time it is like a picture, something at which they have to look, and something that can only look one way at any given time.  And I have never seen any sense in not making it the best picture possible. In this respect, my body is property -- it is my "yard," if you will.

Have you ever passed a (literal) yard that was ugly, unkempt, or simply not aesthetically pleasing?  Overgrown and an eyesore?  Did you judge the yard negatively?  This is what I do not want people to do to me.  Judge me negatively based on my body.  Judge me by my property and how I maintain it.

So when I look down and see that my body does not meet others' expectations or standards (real or perceived), I feel like a failure.  Shouldn't my tummy look the way "a tummy" should?  We all deal in images, in patterns, and if my tummy does not fit the specifications of "a tummy" laid out by society, then it is not "a tummy" any longer.  It is not a "big tummy" or a "tiny tummy," but an eyesore, a failure as a human being, just as something that looks like a field in front of a house is not a field but a gross, unkempt yard.  To me, such a failure is akin to being given a small plot of land (by the Powers that Be, by the Earth, by whatever it is you believe in) and have let it go to waste, to ruin.  Because I do not meet the specifications for "human" laid out by society, I am no longer human.  And that, for me spiritually, is a death sentence.  It is a lack of definition, and without definition or identity, I feel (as many would) that I am nothing compared to what I could be as my best human self, what I believe I was intended to be.

And I realize that my physical appearance, and even my entire physical manifestation inside and out, is just a snapshot of who I am, of my humanity.  So in that respect, I could "cut myself slack" if my property was not the most beautiful -- after all, there are other dimensions of me and of my humanity, right?

But my body is not just my property, or my yard: it is also a tool.  It is both currency and a signal to everyone who sees me.

When my mother used to help me with projects for school, she'd always tell me, "Presentation is everything."  I feel that
he same holds for our physical appearances.  People rarely think "Is she a doctor," or "Is he Catholic?" when seeing a person for the first time.  Observations -- and judgments -- are made based on physical appearance.  If you're pretty and slender, you get things other people don't.  Free drinks.  More opportunities.  Presentation affects the way your teachers, coworkers, boss, love interests, friends, and enemies view you.  If your best friend became goth, what would you think?  Would you view him/her differently?  If your best friend gained 100 pounds, what would you think?  Would you view him/her differently?  These are all physical aspects of your friend, and surely you care about and appreciate the other aspects, but even to you -- who is not judging your friend based on his/her initial appearance, I would be surprised to hear you say that your friend's physical appearance doesn't matter at all or doesn't at least provide you with some new opinions about your friend.  Now, take that same friend -- how would those seeing your friend for the first time judge him or her?

Your physical condition and your presentation says a lot about you, and discrimination against people based on physical traits (including weight) is not news.

Finally, and along the same lines, your physical appearance is also a signal, telling others about -- among other things -- your socioeconomic status, the cleanliness of your lifestyle, your upbringing, profession, religion, age group, sexual preferences, and outside interests and hobbies.  It is an indicator of nearly everything about you, simply because meeting you begins with seeing you, and is the first indicator of you as an entire person (in all your varied dimensions) that other people have.  They have to make initial judgments based on your appearance and do judge based on your appearance.  Racism, sexism, and weightism are just a few of the ways people discriminate and stereotype, simply because humans are pattern-oriented creatures.  And while this says something about humans and humanity and the way we operate, it has definitely been a cause of stress in my life, as my obsession with perfecting my appearance has taken me to the point of anorexia in previous years.  But this is, of course, my human struggle.  Even the classic novel Candide ends with a call to "cultivate our gardens."  So sometimes I much is too much?

Many thanks to Amanda for sharing her ideas and experience. Check back later this week to read my personal opinions (read: Ishmaelian analysis) of the appearance question.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Race Report: Route 66 Half Marathon

I forgot to put up a pre-race post for this race! Well here's what it would have said:

"13.1 miles on Sunday. Longest run since August? 8 miles. But am I nervous? Hell no! Actually, I think I'm in denial."

Or something like that.

This race was a brand new experience for me. I mean, I'd done a half marathon before. Last year, my dad and I did the Wichita Marathon as a two-person relay. So I ran 13.1 miles that time. I was a lot better prepared then, too, and hadn't been fighting injury all season. But this half marathon felt way different from that. I'll explain how in a minute.

Tulsa hosts the Route 66 Marathon, which includes a half, a quarter, and a 5k as well. The mayor of Oklahoma challenged her city to log a million miles of walking and running leading up to the marathon, which doesn't have anything to do with my story, but is pretty encouraging. My parents were kind enough to accompany me; we drove up on Saturday night and settled into our relatively cushy hotel room.

Sunday morning involved a relatively late wake-up call; I didn't have to be up until 6:45! That's way better than your standard 4:00-5:00 triathlon wake up call. Navigating to the race and parking once we got there were ridiculously easy. The race was very well-directed in that respect.

We got to Veterans Park just in time to see the full marathon start at 8:00. I knew that this would be a relatively large race, but I didn't understand just how many people were involved until I watched them all run by. Relative to a race like the LA marathon, or even San Antonio, which was also this weekend, Route 66 was tiny. But I think that this may have been the largest race I've ever been in.

It was certainly the biggest mass start I've ever experienced. We packed into the start corrals, self-seeded (and I think most people did a good job of seeding themselves appropriately). I lined up right behind the 2:15 pacer. I thought to myself, "2:15. I can do 2:15. No matter how I feel, I can do 2:15."

Of course, as soon as the crowd started thinning out, I jetted ahead, running about a 9:30 pace. I figured the 2:15 group would probably catch up to me eventually, at which point I could always hop back in with them. My hope was to pick up the pace again in the last two miles, and finish well ahead of the pace group.

There isn't much to say about those middle miles. The 2:15 group did catch up with me about 1.5 miles in, although I don't know how; I was still running a 9:30 pace, so they must have gone out a little fast, too. At mile 2, there were port-a-potties, and I availed myself of their presence. Of course, while I was in there, I completely lost the 2:15 pace group. I wasn't sure how much farther ahead they were--too far away to see the balloons, at least. I fartleked my way through the next mile (I can't help fartleking when listening to music), and caught the pace group again just a little bit past the 5 k mark.

And there's not much to say about the next 7 miles. The course followed the Arkansas River away from downtown Tulsa on a long out-and-back. The sun was warm and bright; the light had that autumnal quality that makes fall such a wonderful time. The road was completely closed to traffic and littered with a handful of spectators. There were trees lining the lane. It was really a beautiful course. And all this time I was getting to know the few people who remained in my pace group.

The out and back took us through mile 9, and we had about another mile of running through peaceful, pretty neighborhoods. Then, just a little past mile 10, the hills started. And didn't stop.

I got dropped on the first big hill. I got dropped on the second hill. I got dropped on the third hill. Every time, I tried to stick to my own pace, then booked it on the downhills (which is a skill I possess, at least) to catch the group again. We rolled through miles 10 and 11, and I was starting to suffer a little bit. It was getting harder and harder to hang on to my pacers's heels. I just kept telling myself, "2:15 isn't bad. I can run 2:15. I can run 2:15." Knowing that I could hold that pace enabled me to hold that pace, and I kept picking it up to stay with the group, ignoring my heart rate monitor, which was starting to tell me that I was working a little harder than I normally should.

There was a long hill that led us back into downtown Tulsa, and that's where I got dropped for the last time. For the rest of the race (about 1.5 miles to the finish), I kept trying to reel in the pace group again, but I never did. It hurt to let it go; I'd worked hard to stay with it for 12 miles, but in the end it was taking all I had just to keep my feet shuffling along.

I was helped along greatly, that last mile, by one of my favorite songs. To spectators and fellow competitors, it sounded something like this:

"I can't explain all the feelings that you're makin' me feeeel! *pant pant pant* My heart's in overdrive and *pant pant* steering wheeeel *pant pant.*"

No joke. At the top of my lungs. The weird thing is that no one gave me strange looks. No one looked at me at all, really. At that point, we were all focused on our own suffering, on getting ourselves to the finish.

The downside of allowing myself to have such a great time singing was that I paid less and less attention to my running form. At that point, I was so tired that it might not have mattered, but my quads sure took a lot of pounding from the downhills! I noticed at one point how sloppy my running was, and briefly tried to fix it. But then gave up. It was too much work, at that point, and I was almost there.

Coming around the final turn, there was a guy holding a huge sign that said, "SUCK IT UP!" And I really wanted to; I really tried. But by that point, I had so little left that my "kick" was just enough to bring my back to what my pace had been the first mile. Maybe.

Long story short, my time was 2:13:46. Last year, I ran a half marathon in 2:29. That's like a 15-minute PR. And I did it on way less training, with way less pain. And something else extremely significant?

I enjoyed it.

That's right. Before the race, I remember thinking, "Why am I doing this? I don't even like running!" But somewhere around the turn-around for the quarter marathon (when I found, to my surprise, that I wasn't wishing I were running 6.5 miles instead of 13.1), I realized that running actually is enjoyable. Which isn't to say it's easy or even fun all the time. But something about it makes me feel strong and empowered and capable and good. It feels right.

And that's why this marathon was a new experience. It didn't feel like the hardest thing I've ever done. It didn't suck. I didn't spend the last 20-30 minutes thinking, "I am never doing this again." In fact, the race seemed like part of a process; I was excited about this race, because after this one there will be another one. And in that next race, I'll be faster and stronger and better. In short, I couldn't wait to do it again.

So a half marathon no longer seems like a big deal. Which probably means it's time to schedule my first 70.3.

Note: Pictures to come as soon as I find the time to upload them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mark's Daily Apple: 10 Steps to "Primalize" Your Pantry

Remember when I mentioned Mark's Primal Blueprint in the discussion about eating as "part of the world"? Well, what I failed to mention is that though I think his ideas are well-founded and certainly one of the best ways to eat, I don't follow them myself. Haven't fully wanted to commit to it.

Until now.

That's because Mark has broken down getting started in the Primal way to the very basics; consider it a Primal primer, a step-by-step for caveman eating. So if you've been looking for ways to become more a part of the world, go visit Mark for a quick-and-easy guide.

Note to the raw foodists: I longed for such a straightforward, simple guide to stocking my raw pantry during that phase of my life. Get on it, guys!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Podcasting Issue (we hope) Resolved!

It's been a puzzle to everyone (including me): why won't iTunes do what it's supposed to do with my podcasts?

I hope I've cleared the issue up by creating a blog specifically for the purpose of podcasting. You can view that blog here. If you'd like to subscribe to that blog in iTunes, click on the orange button on the upper right part of the page (the Subscribe Now! icon). That will take you to the Feedburner feed, which gives you several options for subscribing.

Or I suppose I could make it really easy and just provide a link here

And it's a long process, but I'll also work on getting the link to the podcast in the iTunes store straightened out. Let me know if things still aren't working!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spinning Workout 27 - Sweatfest

Have I ever mentioned that the middle-aged women of my cycling classes are often uninspired by my musical selections? Um, to the point that they have walked out in the middle of class. "I'm sorry, but I just couldn't take that music!" they say. I don't understand. Muse, Less Than Jake, Yellowcard . . . it's good music!

Anyway, the music of this podcast was all selected from a pool of what I thought my class would accept. So lots of 70's rock, with a few more modern songs that have the same sound and feel.

Now without further ado:

Spinning Workout 27 - Sweatfest
One Way or Another (3:29): Warm up
Gimme Gimme Gimme (4:50): Warm up
White Room (4:57): Terrain track
Born to Run (4:31): Climb
I Believe in a Thing Called Love (3:36): Terrain
Hit me With Your Best Shot (2:51): Spin
More Than A Feeling (4:45): Terrain
Life in the Fast Lane (4:47): Chase
All Right Now (5:34): Terrain w/ big climbs
Dani California (4:40): Spin
25 or 6 to 4 (4:53): Climb
Kyrie (4:26): Cool down
Dream on (4:28): Stretch

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Part of the World: Eating

For the intro to this series, see here.

Living as a part of the world isn't easy. For one thing, it's not a one-off decision, a one-step process. It took millenia for our human cultures to stray this far from nature; it'll take more than a few months (and a few articles by yours truly) to get back.

A second significant barrier that stands in the way of living as part of the world presents itself when we start looking for how (exactly) we're supposed to do that. My topic for this initial article is eating as part of the world, and for an example of what I mean, read here, here, and here.

See? Everyone has their own idea of what the most natural diet is like. Raw foodists believe that we should eat everything raw, because our most primitive ancestors wouldn't have had the capability of cooking food. Mark's Primal Blueprint advocates eating plenty of meat, because "Grok" would have had to eat meat to fill out his diet through the bare winter months. And fruitarians . . . well, I have to confess that I think fruitarians are a little bit weird. The point is that every one of them claims that their collective lifestyle (because it becomes more than just eating, you know) is the most natural, which is why you should be following it with them!

So what's a neophyte Ishmaelite (Ishmaelist? Ishmaelian?) to do? How do you determine which style of eating is actually the most natural, the closest to the world, and therefore (we suppose) the most beneficial?

Um, I don't think you can.

What you have to do, I think, is determine first what manner of eating is going to make the most sense for you. I, for example, tried to eat raw. It was a mess. I am not going to be able to eat raw all day every day (at least at this point in my life). Nothing wrong with that. You can eat healthy and be healthy without being a raw foodist. Furthermore, there's no reason to assume that you have to agree with one of these pre-fabricated eating plans; you can figure out your own way as you go along.

That said, you need to follow your common sense and your conscience. Common sense should tell you that high fructose corn syrup is not good and natural, no matter what they say. Use your brain (and a little low-key research) to figure out which foods (and food additives, if you must) are naturally-occurring. From there, your conscience takes over. In your heart, do you believe that people really shouldn't be eating animals? Do you prefer only to eat foods that would have been available to your ancestors? Do you draw the line at corn on the cob? Corn meal? Corn syrup? These are questions that need to be addressed individually, according to what you know and what you believe.

In short, I can't tell you how you should eat. What I can do is give you a few broad guidelines as a starting point for eating as part of the world.
  1. Make your own food. You don't want nasty additives (unnecessary sweeteners, flavorings and colorings, preservatives) in your food. You don't want HFCS. You don't want MSG. The best way to ensure that those things are not in your food is to make your food yourself. Come on. This is your first step. Stop buying convenience foods. No more TV dinners. No more 100 calorie bags of snacks. No more spray cheese. No more canned pasta sauce. Do you really need those things? No. Make good, clean food for yourself!
  2. Grow your own food. If you can buy produce, good; if you can buy organic, even better. If you can grow your own, though, that's the best. And you can make it as easy or as extreme as you like. Maybe you keep a few potted herbs on your counter so you don't have to buy dried. Maybe you buy a bison every year, slaughter it, and freeze the meat (I really did know a family that did that). You have options here, you know.
  3. Store your own food. Connect the dots from the last two. You want all-natural applesauce. You happen to have some apples from a tree in your backyard. See where I'm going with this? Canning isn't that difficult!
Sacrifices will have to be made, but you can make them gradually. And you can pick and choose which ones to make. One of the advantages to the advances that we've made, culturally, is that we have consistent availability of a large variety of food. I can eat kiwi. My ancestors wouldn't have eaten kiwi. Grok probably wouldn't have eaten kiwi. But I get to eat kiwi. And you know what? I really like kiwi. So I'm gonna have kiwi, every now and then.

The point of all this "part of the world" stuff isn't to see how tough we can make it on ourselves; it's not an exercise in some survivalist mentality. The overarching purpose is to begin re-submitting ourselves to the laws of nature--those same laws which we've spent years conquering.

Because as long as we willingly choose not to follow the same rules as the rest of the world--exempting ourselves from drought, famine, natural disasters--we won't have a good reason for actively caring for the world. So keep the big picture in mind. What and how you eat is important, but it's about more than simply being healthy.

It's about being part of the world.

Beautiful stock photo by FantasyStock, not me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Sufferfest: Tri Harder Indoor Cycling Podcasts

DMcQ wrote up a pretty cool review of my podcasts this week. Big thanks to him for the recognition, and for ways in which I can improve my offerings in that regard.

A reminder: if there's something in particular you'd like to work on, let me know! I'm totally willing to put together workouts by request (it's what I do for my classes here at the gym). And if you have ideas for how those podcasts can be better, feel free to leave constructive criticism. I'm tough; I can take it.

(Also, if you know how to do the podcast thing so it will work in iTunes, please help me!)

I'm currently recording the next podcast, so be on the lookout for that within the next week. This one is all about working up a sweat (because that's what my real-life cycling class wanted)!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Race Report: Smithville Cross Festival Day 2

In retrospect, it might not have been the best plan to drive 4 hours each way to and from a race that only lasted 30 minutes. And I had to go alone. My Cross Yoda had a busy weekend, and my parents wanted to go to church. It would have been a great time to have a supportive girlfriend.

Anyway, the day was ridiculously windy. Like can't walk in a straight line kind of windy. Like trouble staying upright kind of windy. And the course was also much more exposed to the wind than the course at Chris Cross.

I'll only talk briefly about the course, because I just don't have the energy tonight. It wound back and forth quite a bit. Like a very long snake. It made for some pretty sharp turns. There was some off-camber riding, as well. And, in one part, a realllly steep run-up. You'll see that in the video, when I post it (it'll be a short one).

So my race, once again, was the last one of the day. Our race left five seconds after the masters' men and five seconds before the juniors. Eight juniors in the field, by the way, and that was really cool.

I probably went out too hard on the first lap. I was in third place for a while. But after that first lap, I knew I had pushed too hard. The second lap was really hard. I wanted it to be over. But coming to the end of the second lap and seeing that were only two laps left gave me . . . well, let's call it hope. So I was able to push through the final two laps. There was one other woman whom I passed in the first lap and then worked really hard to hold her off through the next three laps. And I did!

I managed to finish in 6th place out of 12, which is a far cry from second-to-last. And I was happy with my performance. I still think that I can do better. I think I could win. But it's only my second race, still, and there's still plenty of time for that later. I'm extremely happy with the way my cycling skills are coming along--my handling, my cornering, my accerating, my body position. It's all coming together, and it feels awesome, especially after so little time doing it. Also? Totally nailed the mounts and dismounts. Didn't so much nail the run up. My borrowed mountain biking shoes are about half a size too big, and my feet kept sliding out of them while I was trying to run up this super steep hill. Had to pause and jam my feet back into them a couple times. But once I got past that run up, I was golden.

Unfortunately, I think the racing and driving, combined with two cycling classes and a 4 mile run today, may have taken some kind of toll on my body. All day, I've felt sluggish, hungry, thirsty, and cold. It may just be low blood sugar and dehydration, but I'm a little concerned that I'm getting sick. At any rate, I'm exhausted right now, and that's why this race report is so boring.

Note: Thanks to Lanterne Rouge Racing for the pictures, again!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pre-Race: Smithville Cross Festival, Day 2

Note: In my haste to get this post up last night, I failed to link to the rightful owner of this picture (whose cross photos are way better than mine). Sorry, Cross Guru!


Big thanks to Jamie, whose race report inspired me to go out and practice mounting and dismounting this afternoon.

I am totally going to own those flying mounts tomorrow!

Also, if you haven't checked out Manda Pants's blog yet, go read it! She was kind enough to accept some of my mediocre writing for a guest post to her blog (thanks, Pants!)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Runner's High: Sara Ramirez

It was a good day. It began with a few miles of cross-specific bike training (which was quite the cold, muddy, rainy adventure). In the middle there was some core training (not like that) and a kick-ass cycling class. Seriously. Kick. Ass. I kicked my students asses. And they were kind enough to return the favor. I could have had a swim workout in the lake underneath my bike when I was done.

But the best part of the day was the end. The part after my 7:00 client. You know. When Grey's Anatomy came on and I decided to do a long run on the treadmill because if I drove home to watch it I would miss the first half.

Now I was really hating the treadmill tonight. But I had no problem running fast after that, I can tell you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recipe File: Buffalo Chili

I love this chili. It's adapted from a recipe I found in Men's Health. The taste is fresh and lean, and benefits greatly from sour cream, parmesan cheese, or corn chips. And I'm sure that crackers would also be delicious (if predictable).


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground buffalo chuck (or any ground/chopped game you have around. My family usually has some elk in the freezer. Rabbit would be nice. Beef is acceptable, but be sure it's grass-fed and organic, or else the flavor won't be sufficiently strong.)
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and diced
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 serrano chili, seeded and diced (leave the seeds in if you want an extra kick!)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 big can (28 oz) of diced tomatoes (watch out for unnatural gunk in the ingredients list, and buy organic if you can. Or, even better, use fresh ones!)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce (again, be sure to check the ingredients)
2 cups beef stock (good luck finding all natural. Make your own if it concerns you.)
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I used dried, and it turned out okay. But I'm sure fresh would have been much better)
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1 cup cooked black beans
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat a heavy skillet with the oil and heat it on medium-high. Cook the buffalo until it's brown. Add the jalapeƱos, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook over medium until the onions turn translucent. Add the tomato sauce, beef stock, tomatillos, cilantro, paprika, and cumin. Boil. Then simmer for 1½ hours. Add beans. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6

These directions are the basic version, for those of you who aren't fortunate enough to (have parents who) own a crockpot. If you are so blessed as to have one of these ingenious devices, brown the meat in oil. When it's mostly cooked, add the peppers, garlic, and onion. After the onions turn translucent, dump all remaining ingredients with the meat mixture into the crockpot. Cover, turn on, go to work, and come home to the delicious smells of chili in your home. Particularly satisfying if it's cold outside.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Stop Slouching!": Lordosis

Note: Videos and pictures of exercises to come. Just really wanted to get this up today; I've been working on this one for weeks.

We talked a while back about kyphosis, or the "dowager hump" (which sounds like a new-fangled dance move) and some of the steps you can take to reduce that (stop slouching! I know you're slouching as you read this). Today I want to address a problem that I see occurring more frequently than kyphosis in the athletic population: lordosis.

Lordosis isn't exactly the opposite of kyphosis; it's the same thing in a different part of the spine. Where kyphosis describes an exaggeration in the primary curve of the spine, lordosis is an exaggeration of one of the secondary curves--the lumbar curve. Lordosis, like kyphosis, can be highly pronounced (don't click that unless you're ready to be grossed out), but you'll see much milder manifestations on a day-to-day basis. I get to see it everyday when I look in the mirror. You'll know that you have it if your butt sticks out (ghetto booty, natch), you thrust your stomach and hips forward when you stand, you've been told you're swaybacked, or if you've ever been mistaken for a pregnant person (if you're actually pregnant, chances are good that you're lordotic also, in which case you'll probably need to come back here in a few months and work on regaining correct posture after delivery).

What causes lordosis? There's a matrix of factors that can come together to produce this postural misalignment, but I'll focus on how it can happen for endurance athletes. At the most technical level, lordosis occurs when someone has tight hip flexors, weak abdominals, glutes, and/or hamstrings, and overactive spinal extensors (could be a combination of any of these factors). If you're reading this blog, it's totally safe to guess that your hip flexors are tight from cycling and running so much, your back extensors are overactive from swimming when you're tired, your hamstrings and glutes are weak because your run and bike form reinforce already existent biomechanical imbalances, and your abs are weak because you're too busy/tired/lazy to work in core strengthening and spinal stability with a full schedule of swimming, cycling, and running. Either that, or you're doing the wrong ab exercises.

For the majority of the population, the cure will involve strengthening the abs and glutes. And endurance athletes (particularly triathletes) will also need to do significant stretching and possibly myofascial release of the hip flexors.

But how do I do that, Jamie? Ah, fear not, gentle readers. I shall tell you how to work towards proper posture in ways that (primarily) will not require access to a gym. Here's a start:

Hip Flexor Stretch
I showed you this one a couple months back, when we discussed lumbo-pelvic stretches. Here's a refresher!

Stretch one leg back behind you, drop the knee, and tilt the top of the hips back (this is called a posterior pelvic tilt). Keep the chest lifted. Stand next to a wall if you need to hold on to something for balance. Variations: you can drop the back knee, continuing to maintain upright posture and a posterior pelvic tilt. In either position, you can lift your ipsilater (i.e. on the same side as the stretching hip) overhead and back behind you. That's a more advanced stretch, so be sure you can hold your balance before you try it. Hold that stretch 20-30 seconds 2-4 times on each side.

Pelvic Tilts
This is one of the safest and most basic abdominal exercises you can do. And I don't care if it looks too easy; it's going to be helpful for you, so do it even if you think it's too basic!

Begin by laying on your back, knees bent and feet 3-6 inches from your derriere. You'll need to keep your knees aligned with hips and feet, so if that's going to be hard for you, grab a yoga block (a thick paperback or two will also do the trick) and stick it between your legs. Squeeze together for a little bit of inner thigh work as well! Take a deep breath in, and direct the air into your stomach; make your stomach swell up with the air. As you exhale, force the air out of your stomach and keep tightening down (the rhythmic breathing is to make sure that you engage your deep abdominals). While holding your abs down (still exhaling), pull your hips towards you (posterior pelvic tilt, again) without lifting your bum from the ground. You should feel your low back press against the floor, but don't let your hips come up. On your next breath in, relax, then repeat. Do this 15-20 times, or for 30-60 seconds. Make sure you're engaging your abdominals with each repetition.

This is the next step up from the pelvic tilts, and should activate your glutes and hamstrings along with the abs. Bonus? Do it right and you get a mild stretch through the hip flexors as well!

Start like you did with the pelvic tilts. You still need to keep your knees aligned, so keep using the block/books, if you need to. Also? Turn your toes in, a bit, so that you're pigeon-toed. Breathe in, fill the stomach with air. Breathe out, tilt the pelvis towards your chest, push through both heels at once, and lift your hips up into the air. Concentrate on squeezing your butt cheeks and pushing your knees forward (still holding them in alignment). Take a deep breath in at the top of the movement, and as you exhale press each vertebra deliberately into the ground. Repeat 6-12 times.

12 times feel too easy? Try these variations. At the top of your movement, take several deep breaths, focusing on filling your stomach with air on the inhale and tightening your abdominals down while pulling the pelvic floor up (tighten your sphincter muscles--the urethra and anus) on the exhale. You can put your feet on a bosu ("and the butt-ocks") or stability ball (and is it just me, or is that stability ball far too squishy?). You can lift one leg up (think of it as a continuation of the line of your body, i.e. don't lift it too high) and do a one-legged bridge (note that in the video the guy is lifting his leg too high) . . . Lots of options here, guys, if a plain old bridge seems too easy!

Back Extensor Stretch
First off, stop doing spinal extensions. Seriously. Stop it.

There are many stretches that will work to loosen up those erector spinae; most of them involve rounding the back like a cat. Here's my favorite one. Start in a standing position. Stretch both arms up overhead and cross one arm over the other. Flexing at the hips, knees, and back simultaneously, reach over and grab hold of your legs just above the knees (arms are still crossed). Anchor yourself there with your hands, then slowly extend the hips and knees. Allow the back to round. Do this stretch right, and you should feel it all the way up your spine, into your neck, even around the crown of your head and forehead. You might also feel the muscles across your thoracic spine and shoulder blades stretching. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then do the same thing with the arms switched. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

Self Myofascial Release
Of the thoracolumbar fascia (hell yes, I just worked that into a blog post!). Too long to put it all in a heading. This is an above-and-beyond kind of exercise. If you have access to a foam roller, it'll probably help with the posture, and if nothing else it'll feel good.

But first, do you have lower back pain? If so, don't do this one. Too risky. Go back to stretching. If not, you may proceed.

Lay with the foam roller under your low back. Gently contract your abs to support your back. Roll slightly to one side, so that the foam roller isn't contacting your spine. Slowly roll yourself on the foam roller from the top of your hips to the base of your ribs. If you find a tight spot, pause there for 30-60 seconds. Look for those little spots, and hold yourself right on it; avoid rolling back and forth over those trigger points. Switch sides. Give yourself at least 5 minutes on each side; if it's too intense, switch back and forth, side to side. Try to relax into it a little more each time, but remember to keep the core lightly engaged to support your back.

But Why?
But Jamie, you say, this just occurred to me: you are a random person on the internet. It is entirely possible that you are full of shit. Why should I listen to what you say, let alone bother fixing my supposed excessive lumbar lordosis?

A fair point, my friend. And if you're concerned about following the advice of some random person on the internet, you can feel free to come in and see me at my gym. I will be happy to train you.

As to why you should bother with correcting your posture, the first is a structural concern. The excessive curvature of your spine indicates that the space between your lumbar vertebrae is decreased on the posterior side. Couple problems with this. First off, you're at increased risk of lower back injury, particularly when performing standing or lying hip flexion exercises, spinal flexion or stabilization movements, and weighted overhead activities. Additionally, if you have some pretty serious lordosis (the kind you see when female gymnasts finish their routines), the backs of your vertebrae--the facet joints--might actually be acting to support your spine. And they weren't designed for that; they were designed to sort of steer your spine. In short, you don't want those facet joints knocking together. And apparently (I didn't know this until I researched this article) if the facet joints get too close together, they can cause pain that is very similar to the pain or herniated discs, as well as sciatica; in fact, sciatic pain is more commonly caused by facet joints rubbing together than by bulging discs. So avoiding back pain is a pretty good reason to correct your posture.

For athletes, there's an additional incentive to improve posture, and therefore stability. Ever heard of the concept of energy leaks? The idea is that there are certain points where athletes lose energy. If you've got specific shoes for cycling, you've experienced what I'm talking about: the stiff soles of your cycling shoes allow you better power transfer to the pedals than the flexible soles of regular sneakers. Same idea with your body, whether you're running, swimming, throwing shot, or swinging a golf club. If you cannot use your muscles to maintain the structural integrity of your joints, you're going to lose some of the power that you could be delivering into propulsion at your extremities. I mean, you're going to lose some of the power anyway. But the more effectively--and, for endurance athletes, the longer--you can maintain appropriate biomechanics (in this case, posture), the better you'll perform as an athlete.

And I'd never really thought about it until I started researching this article, but this is a central concept for us triathletes. Possibly one of the most central concepts. Think about it: because we do three different sports, the one commonality between everything we do is posture.  Everything comes back to that basic ability to keep your body functioning properly, and it happens from the core out.

It's for that reason that I intend to make my next installment in the "Stop Slouching!" series about spinal stability. It's a big project. It'll take a while. It'll take a lot of research. It may take multiple posts. But if we, as athletes, can nail the spinal and core strength and stability, we will all get much, much faster and be safer while we're doing it.

Other "Stop Slouching!" Articles
Lumbo-pelvic Stretches 
Winged Scapula (and the MOVIE!)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Swimming Hack: Notecard technique

Ideally, I wouldn't need to keep notecards around with my favorite swim workouts on them; ideally, I would have a photographic memory and all of my swim workouts (not to mention my splits) would be memorized.

But I do not have a photographic memory. What I do have is a plastic baggy, a stack of notecards, and a rubber band.

Each of the notecards has a swim workout written on it. The rubber band keeps the notecards together, and the plastic baggy keeps the whole thing from getting soaked.

As I was thinking about my 1-page guide to swim technique, I realized that it would be very helpful to have a list of focal points for technique that would fit in with my workout. That way, I could keep track of my workout and my form simultaneously.

With that in mind, I present to you the Single Notecard of Swimming Excellence. Actually, it's just a PDF of swimming focal points, but if you print it out, glue it to a notecard, and stick it in a plastic baggy (or laminate it!), it may become the Single Notecard of Swimming Excellence.

Because your swimming is never too good.

To get this on a notecard, right-click (or control-click, if you're a sexy mac user) and save the picture as a file. When you go to print it, set the print size to 3 x 5 inches. If you'd prefer a PDF of the notecard, you may contact me (jamielynnmorton [at] and I'll send you a link to the PDF on Google Docs.