Thursday, April 28, 2011

What a difference an hour makes

5.15 pm: finished my warm-up, stretching before a 5 km tempo run. This woman wanders by, does a triple take, and finally says: "Jessica, is that you?". She looked so happy and excited that I actually felt guilty about disappointing her. Without thinking, I blurted out: "No, I'm sorry. I'm not her." Yup. Literally apologizing for being myself and not someone else (you know you might be an over-apologizer when...)

6.15 pm: Endless series of chores with la cocotte. Foolishly decided not to bring the stroller. Carrying 24 pounds of sheer squirm around in my aching arms on very tired legs. Dehydrated (me). Hungry (la cocotte). Smelly (me and la cocotte). I dropped off a perscription at the pharmacy and went to the post office while they were filling it. The guy in front me was doing the most complicated transaction ever that seemed to involve sending something requiring a lot of paperwork to Ghana. Got back to the pharmacy. The line that had formed to drop off perscriptions had now moved to the other end for prescription pick up. Went to grocery store. back to pharmacy. Long line. Went to bank machine. Back to pharmacy. Long line. Went to photo store. Back to pharmacy. Long line. Cocotte now screaming and trying to launch herself from my arms by kicking off my ribs. Tongue stuck to roof of mouth with dehydration. Cannot stand my own stench. CUT THE ENTIRE LINE and asked for my prescription. I don't think I was entitled because I had a baby. I think I was just having an asshole moment. And I did feel guilty as I left (though I am sure everyone was glad to see us go for oh so many reasons).

Yup, from apologizing for being me to cutting in front of 5 people. What a difference 60 minutes (a work-out, a screaming, hungry cocotte with a dirty diaper and dehydration makes).

Here's a happier cocotte:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Race Report: In which I make a VERY STOOOPID MISTAKE

So stupid was this mistake that it does not deserve the benefit of a correctly spelled adjective to qualify it. STOOOOPID. VERY STOOOOPID. But let me back up. Race morning dawned bright and beautiful. No wait, that's right, race morning bit the BIG one. I would describe it as windy but that would put in mind white caps on the Saint Lawrence River, umbrellas being blown inside out, babies being blown down the road in their strollers... this was Something Else Entirely. This was runners being blown off the course, not being able to run in a straight line.... the kind of wind that is ferocious that it is difficult to breathe because either the air is whipping by as a cross wind and it is difficult to sample air that is passing one's cake hole at 10,000 kph (yes, the wind was blowing at 10,000 kph, no post-race rationalization-induced exaggeration, I swear) or else when it was blowing straight in my face, I was afraid to open my mouth for fear of getting more than I could process into my cake hole. Yup, it was the kind of wind where you turn your head deliberately to the side and try to sip the air. It was the kind of wind that makes a runner hit their calf with their opposite heel on every step. Ok, it was windy, you get it.

So there I am at 10 km, feeling not too bad thank you very much for asking, a little off my target pace of 4:06/km, splitting the 10 km at 41:25 instead of 41:00 but really, whatever. At this point the course leaves the formula 1 race track (yes, as in the fast car Grand Prix racing thingy - cool eh?) and comes to the Olympic basin which is a long and skinny rectangle of water for rowing-type activities. When I say long, its sides are over 2 km long. In fact I once ran a 5 km race whose entire course was essentially to run around the basin. Somewhere in the back of my reptilian brain, I registered that the runners leading the race were directly across the basin from me, heading back in the other direction. I also definitely registered the VERY strong tailwind that had just pushed me to an effortless 3:52 km. And when I say effortless, I mean that wind basically picked me up at 10 km and tossed me to 11 km without my feet ever touching the ground. There was a little pack of runners about 20 m ahead of me, otherwise I am all alone. La la la la. We come to the end of the basin and turn the corner to run the short side of the basin, la la la la la la. Suddenly it all clicks in my little reptilian brain. Windy muchy, me aloney, much work. So I sprint desperately to catch the little pack but by this time we have turned face into the wind and I am so cannot catch them. Get even more exhausted trying. Now must run 2 km into headwind after fruitless 100 m sprint. Talk about one of THE CLASSIC blunders: "Never start a land war in Asia", "Never get involved with a Sicilian when death is on the line" but only slightly less known is "When it's windy put face in ass of runner in front of you and hold on like a dog with a bone".

So those 2 km totally broke me. Then these 6 tall & wide runners appeared, as if out of nowhere and said "hey, you looked pooped. Hows about we run 3 feet in front of you in a perfect line? Then, when we're done here maybe we can go to your place and do 5 loads of laundry, buy some groceries and cook some meals for the week." Fantasies are fun. I adjusted the effort and the pace obliging scaled linearly to 4:25 per km. I tried to be patient and calm but with about 500 m to go (500 m on this particular stretch that is, there were still another 7 kms of windy goodness to come afterwards), there was a huge gust of wind. The kind that feels like it is coming after me personally. Then I got frustrated and even angry. I think I actually said out loud: "This is f**cking ridiculous". I may have even shook my fist. And it hit me, as things do when travelling 14 kph on foot, that I was actually getting angry at the wind. I was angry... at the WIND. What a fabulous metaphor. There are so many things in all of our lives that cause us frustration. The way to stay sane and happy is to sort them into those which we can and cannot control. Though it is, admittedly, a bit of a trick to sort things into what is and is not in our sphere of influence - that's what I pay my therapist good money for. Getting angry at things truly out of our control is like getting mad at the wind. A useless, energy draining waste of time. It sounds so obvious now but I rode the crap out of the metaphor until I got to the 15 km marker and some shelter.

Even buoyed by this newfound, albeit totally hackneyed and obvious, bit of wisdom, I was pretty pooped for the last 6 km. In fact I was all kinds of tired. Seriously, I discovered a new way of being tired. It wasn't heaving out of breath tired or muscular fatigure... more of a tingly, I'm on drugs and no longer really inside my body tired. Actually it was not unpleasant. But it was really hard to care whether I ran 1:27 or 1:30 at this point. Hard... to.... care.

At 20 km, I passed the guy from last week who told me about using this race as a qualifier for NYC in the first place. I screamed at him: "Go! Go! Go! Think New York! New York! New York!" before realizing that he, being a he, would have to run the BOY time of 1:24 and it said 1:23:30 on my watch and we will had 1.1 km to go. Then I felt like an ass. So I ran faster. Then my feelings of asshole-ish-ness were drowned out by the unexpected and mostly unwelcome refrain of "Dinosaur Train!", "Dinosaur Train!". And then the race ended in 1 hour 28 minutes and 11 seconds.

Dinosaur Train

Two and a half hours until the start of the 1/2 Marathon.

1. It is PISS POURING rain. And that is the GOOD news b/c it is barely above zero, so it's lucky it isn't something more solid than rain coming down, though rain right around zero is probably actually hypothermia-making than snow right around zero.

2. I forgot to taper yesterday. Well, I didn't forget but I didn't realize that I am so out of shape that 16 km very easy while pushing la cocotte in the BBJ would wind up being a work-out. It was. Now I am oh, so sore.

3. We watched the PBS show Dinosaur Train this morning and I have the song stuck in my head. Not the whole song, just the two words of it I know. Yes, those two words would be: Dinosaur and Train. So I am looking forward to 21.1 km to the rhythym of Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train! Or occassionally for variety - DinoSaur! Train!

Yes, thank you, I WOULD like some cheese with my whine.

I am looking forward to a good, hard run. Truly. The advantage of being under-trained and under-tapered is having low expectations and zero nerves.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Popular kids in high school, above average drivers and assholes

I was thinking about social angst amongst high school kids this morning. Thinking about bullying, cliques, social outcasting and the various miseries that seem to increasingly be part and parcel of the high school experience. It seems to me that there have been a number of Hollywood movies villainizing the so called "cool kids" in high school who, let's face it, are usually the source of the aforementioned miseries. Off the top of my head I can think of "The Heathers" and more recently "Mean Girls" and I know there must be more. Also the TV show "Glee" jumps to mind. I admit, I have never seen an episode (far too busy watching The Office) but from what I understand from the bits and pieces I have caught, Glee also villainizes the "cool kids" and makes heroes of the social outcasts. The problem is that whenever "cool kids" are villainized in popular culture, they are portrayed in such an exaggerated, over-the-top way, really more of a caricature than anything else so no one winds up identifying with them. I wonder how effective it would be to make a Hollywood movie about bullying or social outcasting by the "cool kids" where the "cool kids" were displayed in a realistic, believable manner. Portrayed in such a way that actual, real-life tween, and teens who are in the popular crowd might actually identify with the characters and see similarities to themselves. Then if the movie was intelligently written and had decent plot and character development and if the pain felt by the less cool victims was sensitively portrayed - perhaps this would be more effective in preventing high school miseries than public service announcements and after school specials  etc. etc. It's probably not that simple is it?

Anyhow that train of thought (which was moving at about 13 km/hour this morning - great run this morning!) got me thinking that as adults, no one ever ADMITS to having been in with the popular crowd in high school. The standard comment I always hear when the topic comes up is along the lines of: I hated those kids, they were idiots, I was totally uncool, I was an outcast - the inference being "and I succeded, I turned out great! suck on that!". As an adult no one ever identifies with having been in the popular crowd. Could it be that no one wants to admit it? Maybe. But I wonder if what is really going on is that the popular kids never existed in the first place. In the sense that, maybe no one really ever felt like a popular kid. Maybe everyone felt anxious and insecure and always on the verge of being publicly humiliated or outcast so that even individuals whom the majority of the class would agree were popular, didn't actually experience it that way. 

I don't know if this is coherent or not but let me try to approach it from a different angle. Just like I have never met an adult who, once upon a time, was a popular kid in high school, I have never met a person who will admit to being an average or below average driver. Everyone and their cousin all rate themselves as above average drivers! Yet daily experience on the road clearly indicates otherwise. Not to mention, of course, it is mathematically impossible for the vast majority of people in the population to be an above average driver. Unless, I suppose, there are HUGE outliers at the "bad driving" end of the scale. So no one thinks they are a below average driver yet we constantly see examples of egregiously bad driving on the road, where is the disconnect? No one identifies with being a bad driver because amidst the backdrop of all the chaotically bad driving out there people do not perceive their driving gaffs to be particularly significant. The omnipresent bad driving in almost every North American city is the sum of infrequent mistakes on the part of most drivers, moments of inattention, lack of consideration or impatience on the part of most drivers.  And so in making a little mistake, accidentally cutting someone off once, not letting someone in once, following too closely (by far the most common BAD DRIVING), a person becomes, de-facto, average or below.

Which leads me to assholes. I don't believe that assholes exist. Or, at the very least, I don`t believe that they are as common as most people believe. Let's take me as an example. I would very much like to believe I am not an asshole. In fact, let me go so far as to state straight out that I am not an asshole. Yet, last Saturday morning found me waiting for the bus. It was early in the morning and there was hardly anyone out and about.  My calves were cripplingly tight and I managed to get into a deep, almost orgasmic stretch against a bus shelter. I was occupying most of the sidewalk but like I said, almost no one was around. Then along comes this man down the sidewalk. I did not want to break my stretch because it felt oh... so.... good. So I half assumed/half hoped without checking that there was still room for him to get by me or secretly I hoped he would step into the street to go around me. Instead, he stopped next to me and said, itchy with sarcasm, "I hope I'm not bothering you too much?". At which point I broke the pose and made room for him to get by. Again, I'm not an asshole... but it was kind of an asshole thing of me to do... So given that that is the sum total experience that that random stranger ever had of me, from his perspective, I am an asshole. But I'm not an asshole, really. I am a mostly good person who was having a lazy/selfish/inconsiderate moment. My point is that I think most of the jerky/assholesque behaviour that is perpetrated in society (barring extremes of course) is not perpetrated by assholes... rather it is perpetrated by average, mostly good people who are having careless/selfish/thoughtless moment. But there are a lot of us out there, which sadly makes for a lot of careless/selfish/thoughtless moments which then, of course, leads to the impression of there being a lot of assholes. But humans are quick to jump and label aren't we? I guess from the individualistic point of view it makes sense - all that man will ever know of me is that I am an asshole, he has no further knowledge. But isn't it just exhausting and depressing to think that the world is full of assholes? Isn't it just so much more uplifting to think it is full of people who had social anxiety in high school, are average to below average drivers and who, very occasionally, behave like assholes?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back in the Zone

5 km race today, I am back in the zone, albeit at the very tail end of it but I managed to run only one minute slower than my lifetime PB and only 45 seconds slower than last fall - 18:37.4. So I am really pleased to have broken 19 minutes which was the goal. I am a bit less pleased to be in a state of fitness in which I am pleased about breaking 19 minutes. Ok, did I really just say I am not pleased about being pleased? Oh Piccola shut up and go read your "Now is that moment post" already.

It was an interesting race. I only had one gear. I ran a 3:45 first km and that felt really hard but then I never really got more tired throughout the race. Again, I seem to be limited by my body just not remembering how to run fast. My kilometer splits were amazingly even which is consistent with only having one gear: 3:45, 3:42, 3:44, 3:45, 3:39. In the last 400 m I was battling with this guy, both of us running step for step and suddenly it hit me... "oh yeah, at the end of a race we're supposed to kick." So I did. So did he. I took it up another notch. So did he. He nipped me by 0.3 seconds; he deserved it. But I thought it was a good lesson in how there is almost always something left in the tank but sometimes it takes a challenge by another person to bring it. True in running. True in intellectual pursuits, true in many aspects of life: it is the challenge that makes us empty the tank.

Speaking of other people bringing out the fire in us... on my way to the race I bumped into a guy I have run against often. He mentioned that he was going easy today in order to save it for the Montreal 1/2 Marathon next week-end which, incidentally is also the venue for 1/2 M.arat.hon Ch.ampio.nships. He mentioned that next week's half marathon is two days before the deadline to apply for guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon based on performance. He was gunning for a 1:23 half next week-end to get the guaranteed bib for NYC. That got me thinking a few things:

1. I have always wanted to do NYC.
2. If the men's standard is 1:23, the women's has to be significantly slower - I subsequently looked it up, it's 1:37.
3. I don't have any particular plans for next week-end.

So, I went home and registered for the Montreal Half. Surely I can run a 1:37 and likely 10-12 minutes faster than that. That would guarantee me a spot in NYC provided I apply immediately afterwards and cough up what I am sure is an exorbitant entry fee. I'm an options open kind of woman, why not? So, looks like I am running a 1/2 Marathon next week-end. I am sure that once I start doing the math, figuring out what it will cost for the transportation, room, entry fee etc. etc. for NYC Marathon, I will bail but in the meantime, I am one step closer to running NYC.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Too tired to post

But I wanted to share these: