Archive for the ‘Training’ Category


It’s never a good sign when your physical therapist kisses you good-bye.


What that kiss on the cheek means is, “It pains me to pain you. Though my job dictates I hurt you by grinding your muscles into chopped meat with my forearm, my humanity dictates I offer you compassion.”

It does not mean “I like you,” or “You’re cute,” or even “I want to kiss you.” Especially when the kiss is preceded by a tribal handshake and a salutation of “Dude!”

On Tuesday Fabian used something that looked like a palm sander on my glutes. (He called it an “oscillator” but we know better.) After I did my foam rolling, Sticking, lacrosse balling and soleus stretching, he put me on a table on my front and proceeded to lay into my glutes and hips with the “oscillator” (rhymes with “Terminator” for a good reason).  I was all like, Fabs, you have me laying on this table with my fat ass in the air and you are provoking its jiggle with what seems to be a palm sander?! For realz?! (My spelling degrades when I go to PT.)

But I was all  like that for only a second or two. Because after that I was just in pain, and couldn’t really form sentences of speech or thought. I would have never guessed I was that knotty and tight throughout my glutes and hips, but there I was a day later, sore. It was like Fabian was trying to disintegrate the pebbles and stones in my muscles into sand. It fucking hurt, yo. In between moaning and gritting out repeated owe‘s, I deep breathed and told myself to relax. I’d pick a muscle group–shoulders and neck, or glutes and quads–and tell them, Ssh reelaaaxxx, sweet musclesssss, reelaaaaxxx. It lasted until the hand sander hit another pebble; in other words, for a second.

Fabian might have said, “You’ll be sore tomorrow.” I can’t recall much beyond the ringing in my ears and the gray haze of pain that descended whenever the man would lay his hands upon me.

But the next day? When I pulled my tights down to pee? The pressure of the elastic waistband sliding over my butt was enough to remind me that my ass muscles were pulverized by an asexual vibrator yesterday.

Oh and that wasn’t the end. Fabs surveyed my back, hamstrings and arms–even the survey hurt. I am a rock–in no good sense of the word. My whole body is a tangled, petrified mess. He also worked on my calf muscles some more with his forearms. I’ve explained this before. It hasn’t gotten better so let’s not revisit.

The paradigm remains the same: he hurts me against his will but for my own good, I suffer for my redemption, and just before I’m ready to quit or hate, I receive tenderness enough to return.

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And they both were cute!

Sadly, they were both far, far more concerned about the knots in my muscles than the fact that they had their hands all over me and I wasn’t enjoying it.

I was whimpering. And groaning. The rest of my body tensed up too, so much so that Fabian gently took me by the shoulders as he stretched out my hamstrings and shook me, saying, “Ssh, relax.” You all know the PT hamstring stretch, right? I mean, it’s so suggestive, even someone who was a total innocent would notice it (not just sex addicts like myself).

If you don’t know this stretch, here’s a sketch I made to demonstrate how it works.

This is what I did today in physical therapy, in order:

  1. Had my quads palpated for a hot second
  2. Rolled my quads on the foam roller (4 minutes)
  3. Rolled my ITB on the foam roller (4 minutes)
  4. Used the Stick on my soleus (4 minutes)
  5. Stood on a lacrosse ball on pressure points (30 seconds x 3, once each foot), opening and closing my toes
  6. Got stretched out by Fabian
  7. Got some kind of electric shock treatment on my quads for 20 minutes that made my thighs jiggle in a horrifying, hilarious manner. I read The Art of Fielding on my nook and tried to ignore how disgusting my thighs looked during this treatment.
  8. Andre/Anton (not sure of his name, he reminds me of Hans und Franz but skinny and literate–he started talking to me about Atlas Shrugged) had the dubious honor of working on my calves. Basically, he took his evil, pointy fingers and ran them up my muscles until he found a knot, at which point he’d pressure it until it surrendered or said, “Fuck you!” Wait, maybe that was me saying Fuck you! It’s a little foggy.
  9. Fabian stretched me out again, telling me to shush and once again setting up the pain/pleasure dynamic by telling me, as he was causing me intense discomfort by pushing my leg up until my knee was by my ear, “Much better! You are much looser! You feel great!”
  10. Fabian worked on my feet, loosening up the joints while also pressing so hard on the bottom of my tootsies that I saw flashes of white.

Then I was released to the locker room, floating on a rush of the ecstasy that sweeps in with knowledge that the pain is over, at least for now.

Just to be clear: physical therapy is not SEXUAL but it sure as fuck is PHYSICAL.

I am getting better. I’m not cured, but the constant, searing foot pain has ceased.

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Moaning and Writhing

As I mentioned earlier, I have some issues with tight muscles that are preventing me from running, and instead have sent me to physical therapy. My physical therapist is a kind man who wants to help his patients get better; he is also very good at causing me intense, searing, mind-erasing pain.

If I didn’t know any better, I would think he was a sadist.

This is how it works. Fabian spots me the second I walk into the gym, “Hey TK, how are you?” That makes me feel special. Also, he is in charge of the PT team, so I have the boss taking care of me. That also makes me feel special. After I do my warm-ups with the foam roller and lacrosse ball, he comes over and “works on me.” Today he “massaged” my quads, my soleus muscles, and my calf muscles, which I learned are called the gastroenemius. While we was working my my quads, I was facing him so he talked to me. That was nice, we caught up on the neighborhood, common acquaintances, and Mike Greenberg. Anyone who has ever had PT knows it’s bizarrely intimate. The intentions and procedures are clinical, and it certainly isn’t pleasant to get physical therapy massage. Nevertheless there’s just no way around the fact that that kind of touching is personal. So, he’s working on my right quad and it’s uncomfortable but not even close to unbearable. He moves to my left quad and I start grimacing, wincing, squirming and can’t hold up my end of the conversation. Fabian feels badly so he takes pity, and stops working on that muscle to give me a break.

But, when he has me roll onto my tummy so he can work on my soleus and my gastroenemius, there’s no more chatting. In fact, I don’t even have his attention anymore. Rather, my muscles have his attention, but I do not. He’s laughing with the other dudes about some sports story, perhaps not even aware of the intense pain I’m in. This is how he hurts me: he takes the bony part of his forearm, starts on one lower side of my leg, and pushes it as if he’s trying to strip the muscle off my body all the way up until he reaches my knee. He does this along my soleus, and along my calf  muscle, at least 30 times on each leg. Each time he does this, it burns continually with stabbity bursts of even greater discomfort when he hits knots or swelling. I writhe in pain, gasp for air, and squeeze my hands shut around the towel I’m laying on. I cover my face so no one can see the tears popping into my eyes. Also, I break out in a cold sweat. All thoughts are wiped from my mind as the only thing I can sense–I’m not even sure articulate thoughts can occur through this kind of agony–is the pain that takes my breath away and causes my whole body to convulse.

Has anyone else ever gone through physical therapy this awful?

I’m pretty sure the last time all thoughts were wiped from my mind, my breath was taken away, and my body convulsed, I was actually experiencing intense, fantastic, ecstatic pleasure. But that was quite some time ago, so my memory can’t be trusted.

I am not complaining, I swear. Between every 5 or six swipes of his forearm, Fabian gently grasps my foot and shakes it, to give the muscle he just tortured a breather. In comparison to the vicious massaging, this shake-out seems like the tender, loving gesture of a compassionate person. This back and forth, between punishment and salve, is bewildering. And since I am a glutton for punishment from way back, it is also motivating. When Fabian finishes, sits me up, and asks me if I’m OK, all I can do is nod mutely. As long as he’s not trying to peel the soleus off my leg, I’m OK.

Some people might not fault me if I felt bad for myself. And certainly, there are moments where the longing to go for a run is so keen that I do slip into self-pity. But I would be a crazy person if I denied the part I played in fucking up my body so badly, and because of that, there is no room for moping. There is only room for action, and for recovery. So, Fabian, bring on that bony forearm. I’ll gasp and writhe through your therapy. I’ll do whatever it takes to repair the body I abused over the past six or seven months.

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Addiction is a very serious disease and I would never joke about it. It can result in harm to self, harm to others, and death.

At the risk of inspiring you all to start citing Hamlet, I will say this: I am not addicted to running.

However, I do abuse it. (Running, not Hamlet.)

How do I know? Because the past several years have been characterized not by a steady routine of running, but by intense periods of training interrupted by months of injury, rehab and basebuilding. I am not physiologically deformed; there is no reason for these chronic injuries other than my own unwillingness to stretch and cross-train properly. I am a problem-runner the way frat boys are problem-drinkers (except I’m way less offensive, not nearly as clichéd, and my habit results in puking with much less frequency). I am a problem-runner because I participate in the activity to a degree that I cause myself harm (today, that means plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and swollen soleus muscles that make me want to weep in pain whenever they are touched), but I can still stop running and take care of myself when it becomes obvious I need to do so. (If I was a running addict I would not be able to stop training, no matter what.)

Here are other injuries I’ve worked my way through over the years, in order:

  • Tight ITB, which caused sharp knee pain–2006 (training for Arizona Marathon)
  • Strained hamstring, caused by sprinting up a hill during a NYRR race in Central Park–2007
  • “Pinched nerve in my heel” (self-diagnosis)–2007 (training for Disney World Marathon)
  • Heel pain/knee pain–2008 (training for NYCM)
  • Sprained adductor brevis (right)–2009 (training for London Marathon; race deferred)
  • Strained adductor brevis (left)–2010 (post-London Marathon)
  • Strained adductor brevis (right)–2011
  • “Pinched nerve in my heel” (which I now realize was the beginning of plantar fasciitis)–2012 (training for Houston half-Marathon)

For now, we will not discuss the fact that all my injuries started appearing once I began training for marathons.

A week ago Monday, my podiatrist took one look at the x-ray of my feet, gave a few squeezes of my arches and pronounced his diagnosis (PF and AT). He wrote me a script for 8 weeks of twice-weekly PT appointments, sold me a Thera-band foot roller, told me to take as much Aleve as I wanted*, and frowned at my high heels. Dr. Abramow, you are a kind man with warm hands, but don’t EVER frown at my high heels again.

Yesterday was my first appointment with the physical therapist. Fabian. I love this guy. He was my first-ever physical therapist back in 2006, and he is great at what he does: talented with the diagnosis, an excellent listener, patient, encouraging. He has a New Agey, sensitive guy vibe that is nicely balanced by his affection for swearing, kickboxing, and inflicting pain as the gateway to healing.** I wish he had a taller, skinnier single straight brother with short hair and a job that paid six figures. In the absence of that, I will let him “massage” my soleus muscles even though it’s so painful it makes me gasp and cry. TEARS people, he pressed his forearm up my soleus 3 x 5 times per leg and when he helped me sit up I was crying. He wasn’t hurting me to hurt me; that’s just how fucked up my muscles are.

If I wasn’t so interested in getting healthy to run again, I would be offended by his severe judgmentalism. First, he pointed out that my right hand is way larger than my left. WTF, dude, the injury is like, BELOW MY KNEES! Then he said that my soleus muscles were cement, my hamstrings and glutes were superweak and underdeveloped, my quads were tight and too strong, my ITBs were “jacked up the ass,”*** and my knee caps were dangerously immobile. Oh I need therapy, alright–psychotherapy to bolster up my athlete’s ego he just knocked down.

Fabian refused to stretch me out. He said that he was giving me two weeks of massage to loosen the muscles before they’d even stretch me out and give me exercises. Great! I thought, Massage! Yeah well, “massage” meant he timed me for 16 minutes on the foam roller, gave me a little Theraball to stand on for 30 seconds x 5 per foot (each time on a different tender spot), and then proceeded to hammer my soleus muscles with the Stick and his forearm.

I want my Happy Monday runs with MP back. The West Side Highway Rec Path never looked so good. Instead, this Monday I did the elliptical for 30 minutes. By the end of it, my left foot was burning.

Today, I had the temerity to ask my feet to carry me around from home to subway, subway to work, and desk to coffee machine. The resulting pain was so sharp I limped into my afternoon meeting with Mike Greenberg. (He’s HOT. Strangely, he was not moved to swoop me up and carry me to the conference table when he saw me limping. Again, I must exclaim: WTF dude.)

But despite all this pain and dark humor, there’s good news:

  • I do not feel like running broke up with me and started dating a hotter chick, the way I did when I got injured in 2009
  • Honestly, I was a little burnt out after training for Houston and I am not overly bummed about this forced break in running
  • It’s too cold to run outside anyway; now I don’t have to force myself to
  • I get to sleep in on weekends
  • I get to sleep in on weekends

What I really mean to say is, for the first time ever, I am able to keep an injury in perspective, and see it for what it is. This is part of being a runner; it’s not the end of my story as a runner. It’s a helpful lesson; I had been willful in my training, in denial about my body’s ability to recover without stretching and cross-training. Also, it’s an opportunity to stay up late, drink more red wine than usual, and get some reading done while getting in my cardio. The elliptical isn’t all bad. Yeah, I have a problem; but I also have the solution.

*2 in the morning, 2 at night

**Also, he lives in my neighborhood!

***I wish.

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I loved it so much, I boldly asked for more.

I’m in town with my family for Thanksgiving, which adds a whole pool of gravy atop my pile of mashed potato gratitude. I suppose you could say that these two runs through Doudy Draw Trail and around El Dorado Springs are the cranberry dressing on my plate of things to be grateful for this year.

Tuesday, I met Green Mountain Relay teammate and host of the podcast Dump Runners Club @runnermatt (MT) and Twitter pal and Saturday Morning Zen blogger @smzrunner (LR) in the lobby of my hotel here in Louisville, CO for a 7-miler through the foothills. LR, a self-proclaimed trail runner, led MT and I up a few miles of climbing, cutting across grassy, yellow hills and through an aromatic pine forest. The trail was that dusty red color I always associate with Colorado, ever since I saw my first concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in July 1998. The sky was the Platonic ideal of a sky: light blue with white clouds that cast no shadows. The pines stood green, the deer hopped brown, the flatirons and rocky walls rose rusty and silvery. Nature was doing her part; and I did my best to do mine. The altitude made the climb tough for me, but I hung in there and we paused several times so I caught my breath while catching glimpses of “the pretty,” as LR so cutely calls the casually gorgeous landscape of Boulder County.

MT told me about racing a 5k dressed as a gorilla with his daughter, about his work (he’s one of the few people I know who truly loves his profession), and about his plan for Thanksgiving (cherry pie). LR told me about her two children, her profession (career counselor), and her quest to train for her first marathon while managing multiple food intolerances and GI issues. I didn’t do much talking, as I was breathing very hard throughout most of the run. I was content to listen, or to just run by myself. The scenery was such a  switch from what I run through every day in New York City, it was impossible for me to take it all in on just this first run. Often, I regretted not having my camera.

So when LR tweeted that she’d be open to squeezing in another run with me before I left town, I jumped at the chance and asked her to go back to Doudy Draw. I think she was a little surprised; I was thankful she was willing to head back there with me, and could accommodate me in her schedule. And, I was happy to  have some one-on-one time to talk with her, since we have each been through a year of big life changes and could relate to each other. Other things we have in common: we’re both the same age, and in fact our birthdays are only six days apart! I enjoyed her company very much, and felt at ease with her right away (this week was the first time we ever met in person). Once again, Twitter has brought an excellent person into my life! Love when that happens.

What follows are some of the photos I took during that second run up Doudy Draw Trail, through El Dorado Springs, and down El Dorado Springs Drive. I’ll be back to run this trail again, for sure!

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Seven Is the New Five

Life has been blessedly full. I say this not to make you jealous (don’t hate me because I’m beautiful) but as explanation as to why I’ve been an absentee blogger. Hear me: I haven’t wanted to stay away. I love writing, and even more than that I love writing for you, in this space. What’s kept me from chronicling my training and racing for you? 2011 has been a year of massive change, restructuring, and obligation. The restructuring has been slow, and largely invisible. Here is one of the many metaphors I wish I could have woven into a blog post for you: what’s happened in my heart and mind this year has been just like the electric work in my kitchen renovation. It was the most time-consuming part of the process, taking weeks of chopping, channeling, careful rewiring and finally smooth patchwork so that by the time the paint was applied, I would never believe the work that lies beneath if I hadn’t seen it done with my own eyes.

Dearests, I want to keep up the trust you have in me, yet I fear that if I start setting PRs you will not believe me (or even worse, it will not move you), since I have kept you from witnessing the rewiring I’ve experienced in my training.

My Twitter followers will have a vague notion. I’ve been doing a lot of chopping and channeling at Astoria Park Track, over hilly Route 940 in the Poconos, and through the streets of Queens, mostly in the bike lanes of 34th and 31st Avenues around Jackson Heights. (Occasionally I get a little shock when I circle the Great Lawn in Central Park—what a different world surrounds that green pasture. 7 AM Manhattanites, with purebred dogs, designer camp jackets and Starbucks in hand are quite another crowd from the 6 AM Latino carpenters and custodians heading to work on their bicycles in denim and fleece with their lunches packed on their backs. I love them equally, my city would not be the same if one set were missing.)

Here’s something: over the last few weeks, nearly all my workouts are either specifically designed to have me run 7 miles, or they end up that way (excepting my long runs, of course). Two months ago, I was lucky if a workout neared 6 miles.  Without a doubt, 7 is the new 5, and I love that. Eleven will always be my favorite number, but seven is special, too. I’ve been waiting practically all year to get my weekly mileage above 30; now it’s there, and it’s all because of these thrice-weekly 7-milers. Seven, seven—Amen!

I’ll say Amen again, because not only is my mileage at the level where I’ve seen breakthroughs come in the past, but I have also been injury-free for months now. My training was interrupted in early October for nearly two weeks because I had a cold that leveled me, clogged up my lungs and drained all my energy; but Betty, and the phantom knife that has twice stuck itself into my heel (it’s a pinched nerve) simply haven’t been. Consistency in training is the gift of their absence, and my gratitude to them is so great it compels me to run until I get a cramp in my side. That pain I do not mind.

So speed—or something approximating speed—has been filling the void left by Betty and the Knife.  Coach Meg has me running some sort of Fast about three days a week, sometimes more. Maria’s Monday is always recovery; necessarily, since I usually have three hard workouts Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I take Tuesdays and Thursdays or Fridays as my rest days. The other days are filled with track workouts (ladders, or 800’s), interval runs like 5 x 1k, progression runs, and fast-finish runs. Some days Meg just says, “7 miles, HARD.” What does “HARD” mean when I wake up at 5:15, am out the door by 5:45 (panting over my bridge in the dark, admiring the glint of the river and the skyline) churning towards Midtown? The incentive to beat the sun is meager, since that’s more a game of timing than speed. I usually determine that “HARD” means “faster than my last attempt at 7 miles.” Faster, TK, faster. And not just plain old faster, but faster when it matters most: at the end, in the final miles and meters.

I love this shit. Let us pray: God, If I may not succeed, may I at least crash and burn. I will take the smash and the flame to mean that I was giving it everything I had.

PRs would be nice; PRs would be just. While I do not expect to be first female again, I would like to beat my time from two years ago in the Duck Trot 8k in Eisenhower State Park this Sunday. After that, I would like to beat my time in the Ted Corbitt 15k, again from two years ago. And finally, I am aiming to break 1:45 at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in January. I want that time so badly the thought of it is a spur in my flank when I would otherwise relent in an interval, or dial back on a day’s measure of “HARD.”

All things considered, 1:45 is only slightly faster than average for women my age in the half-marathon. I think it’s about the sixtieth percentile.* But for me, for me it would be the flick of the switch that turned the lights on.  Only those who knew the work that had gone into rewiring would marvel at the shine. Yet marvel or not, the shine would be irrefutable.

*when looking at the 2011 NYC Half results for women 35-39, 1:44:58 is an AG% of 63.33 (or 84th in my age group); when looking at the 2011 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon results for the same group, I would have finished 15th.

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If you are racing, tweet or email me your wave and anticiapted finishing time/pace per mile and I’ll add you to my “watch” list.

I’ll be at my usual corner at Vernon Boulevard and 45th Road in Long Island City, Queens. I stand on the near corner, on the runner’s right. This is right before Mile 14, and usually right after a water station and port-a-potties (there might be a chance they’ll change that this year, who knows.) I’ll probably be bundled up in a black puffy coat.

CLICK HERE to see my cheering corner on a map. (I couldn’t figure out how to embed the image from Google Maps. I suck.)

Additionally, I will be holding this sign and possibly ringing a cowbell.

NOW: run strong and beautiful. Be your freest, best self out there tomorrow. You are all little beacons of light, shining towards the finish.



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There are few sensual pleasures as pleasantly uncomfortable as that slight chill a runner feels when she steps outside on an autumn morning for her workout. The air slides crisp and cool off my skin, and if I stand around for longer than it takes Little G to locate a satellite I’d start to get cold. I’m underdressed for the weather but not for my workout.

I got a new pair of Brooks Adrenalines last week, so they glow up at me in their unsullied whiteness. I’m out so early, the sun won’t rise until I’m just about done with my run. 30 minutes, with three 30-second pickups in the middle there. I got this.

As has been typical of my early morning runs this entire year, my legs feel heavy and my body still sleepy. The emotional strain of my divorce has basically entirely passed, but my body’s need for more sleep than ever before has not.

I’ve been running this new route from my new home here in Woodside. I head up Skillman, jot down 56th Street to Woodside Avenue, and run two blocks to 58th Street where I hang a left. I run all the way down to 39th Avenue, where I go right and take that into Jackson Heights. It’s a great out and back course, as 34th Avenue is a gorgeous straight shot of small yards, cute houses, and stately brick apartment buildings. Nearly everything seems nicely landscaped, including the tree-filled median that divides the avenue. For an element of the marvellous, the route passes a couple of stores with their own parking lots (exotic birds in this city).

My Sunnyside loop route is still the same, but just with a different start/end point, and I run the same way over the bridge, except it’s now 6 miles roundtrip instead of 5 (home from work is now 4 miles instead of 3.5). I notice that my body is still tuned to my old subway stop: when the 7 train pulls into the 40th Street/Lowry stop, I always look up from my reading for a bittersweet reminder of my was. Most likely, the moment my body resets itself to 52nd Street/Roosevelt Avenue will pass by unnoticed, which is a shame because it will be a remarkable shift.

I plugged my pickups into my run once I’d turned around. In 30 seconds I could just about run two blocks, or .07 of a mile. They felt good, apart from Betty whining at me a little. Those damn high heels I wore yesterday were a bad idea as my legs recover from Saturday’s half-marathon. As I approach the turn back onto 58th Street, I realize the slight tinge of humidity in the air has me sweating, and decide that feels good, too. Even though I’m slower now than I was this time last year, I know it’s because my divorce pounds are weighing me down, and because I don’t have the same kind of training beneath me that I had in 2010. No shame in that, however; I know that when I have that shift in my running I’ll notice it right away, and that will be plain old sweet.

3.48 miles run in 34:52 minutes, average pace 10:10. 3 x 30 second pickups, split paces: 7:21, 7:18, 7:04.



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Dear TK,

I think by now we know each other well enough that I can spare the formalities and cut right to the chase. You have grown as a runner, but I don’t mean that you’ve gotten faster. I won’t lie to you about such things (or anything, anymore). Despite your speed lagging behind last year’s, you can still legitimately claim improvement. No, I’m not referring to the PR you ran in a 4-mile race earlier this summer (low-hanging fruit). What I’m talking about when I’m talking about your running is your attitude towards your sport, and your ability to recognize the difference between forcing an issue and persistence and determination.

Remember in 2009 when you stubbornly trained through the winter despite never quite feeling 100%, and never really enjoying the training? Oh yeah, you got injured, had to defer your marathon a year, and then slipped into a depression that lasted four months. Sure, you exhibited persistence and determination in the face of inhospitable weather and what I’ll call a Qi Depletion (blame that hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo on the acupuncturists). But you also were pigheaded, proud, and living in denial about what your body was capable of accomplishing that year.

Remember in 2010 when less than seven days after racing the London Marathon you embarked on a running streak of at least 1 mile a day for 30 days? Oh yeah, you called it quits after four weeks, the streak having thoroughly exhausted you and leeched all the fun out of running. Once again, persistence and determination were clearly on display, as was resourcefulness (how did you manage to fit in a run every single flipping day?). But oops, your blind insistence to push the agenda despite warning signs once again caused problems and a mandatory cessation of training for a while.

Remember in 2011 when you were so emotionally depleted from the great upheaval in your life, that you could barely make it out to run more than twice a week? Remember how you felt like you were simultaneously bouncing off the walls and pegged to the floor by gravity? Remember how one run along a snowy trail (you were trying to be accomodating to your friend) aggravated Betty so much that you nursed your adductor brevis for seven months?

Oh. Yeah.

Sometimes our memories turn around to face us and give us the double Fingers, don’t they? Not accepting the truth is no different than lying to yourself (the slang term for that is denial). Lying! How often do we lie to others not to hurt their feelings? (Your hair looks great! Love your dress! I heard every word you said!) Well, I have also done a lot of lying to myself, so as not to hurt my own feelings. There have been more moments than I care to remember (fear of the double Fingers) in which I have carried on in denial about my physical preparedness. It seemed less painful to avoid the disappointment that accompanies scaling back on mileage, deferring race goals, and acknowledging the way my body has let me down. Remember when you were benched, and you’d watch others run by and feel like they’d stolen your boyfriend? Well those days are over TK, because now you know something that makes no sense, but is true: EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT RUNNING, YOU ARE A RUNNER.

Essentially, TK, your improvement as a runner has to do with surrender. You know that your running is not in your hands. Running is a gift that is presented to you over and over until you accumulate training, the same way a race is a step you take over and over until you accumulate a PR. Running is something you do on God’s time. You mocked Ryan Hall and the way he brought God into his running, but now you understand–it is only through the grace of the universe that you are here to move forward at a clip. And not only that, but you don’t run for yourself. Your running is a way to be of service to others. Perhaps you inspire others to take on their athletic dreams, or to dare to attempt what was previously thought impossible. Perhaps you write about your running in a way that helps new runners find a workout schedule, or understand how to prepare for race day. Perhaps by inviting others to run with you, you give them a chance to talk through their troubles and find an easier way forward. Ryan–your running has been a service to me: by bearing witness to your graceful form and Amerian Records, I attempt to approach my finest effort as a runner the way you have. Our finest effort–that is what God asks of us, though She is happy with an honest effort, too.

Don’t buck at the God talk. It’s just another way of saying “inexplicable,” “luck” or “beauty” and you know it. You don’t need to wear that cynicsm, it is not the most flattering dress on you after all.

TK, you precious thing. Tell them, go on. You’re not racing a fall marathon, are you? More momentous: you’re STILL A RUNNER! And also: you grieved your marathon plans and aspirations for 24 hours before you realized they haven’t died, just stepped aside to let other others claim your attention. You just improved your recovery time from four months to 24 hours. And there you have it, the crux of your improvement as a runner is surrender. Ultimately, this will serve you better than additional speed, since speed is like physical beauty (fleeting, subjective, and an illusion).

You are a treasure! Run when you can. Write when you feel inspired. I’m here for you to remind you that you are still a runner whenever you need it (the reminder, or the running).

Run strong and beautiful,

Pigtails Flying

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Precision is not a relative term. In fact, it’s imprecise when people describe something as “so precise” or “very precise,” since precision is about being exactly one thing, not about degrees of exactitude.

Today’s intervals were not precise. However, if I were less precise in my use of the word precise, I would be tempted to say they were precise enough.

This, of course, is a fallacy. The precise description of this morning’s workout would be: My intervals were on the mark, give or take three seconds.

I ran my 8 x 400 workout at the blue track that belongs to Pocono Mountain West High School. Coach wanted me to complete each split in 1:52, which is my target 3k pace. This is the first time I have ever attempted a track workout by myself–in the past I had always believed I was unable to find a pace and lock into it (since I have had such terrible luck with tempo runs). After a 2-mile warmup, I greeted the oval and started my workout.

I was halfway around my first split when I heard the bleachers on the front straightaway getting pelted with a hard rain. Pingpingping! But, in one of those odd weather SNAFUs, I wasn’t getting rained upon! I knew it was only a matter of time…for a few laps I ran in and out of the rain, but then there was no escape. It was the Media Challenge Race all over again. I was the rain’s bitch, getting soaked as I timed myself for 16 laps around. My sneakers were like sodden sponges, my pigtails slapped my neck like little whips, and the rain occasionally slanted at me and pricked my face like nettles. Reminder: water can be sharp.

Being the only nutter out on the track this fine Sunday morning, I was free to give myself audible pep talks after each split. OK TK, only seven left! Or, Just because you’re getting tired doesn’t mean you can slow down. I was pleasantly surprised to realize it wasn’t hard to lock into an approximate 1:52 pace for each interval. This was a huge boost to my confidence, the first proof I’ve ever had that I can do a track workout on my own. Kind of crazy, since I’ve been running for ten years. I’ve always been a late bloomer, though. Now I’m just grateful for the knowledge I can do it!

Here are my splits (assume a 400-meter recovery lap taking between 2:45 and 3 minutes): 1:49, 1:51, 1:49, 1:53, 1:50, 1:54, 1:49, 1:45. On that last one, I gave myself permission to push as hard as I could. I took it as a sign that I’d done the workout correctly since I wasn’t markedly faster than my second-fastest interval. My legs were fatigued for the seventh and eighth interval, but they didn’t feel like lead. Again, a sign that I’d done it right.

Afterwards, I took my soaked self and went to the grocery store for some last-minute supplies for tonight’s barbecue. We runners are like that, aren’t we? Kind of crazy, and kind of lacking in self-consciousness when it comes to post-run presentation in public settings. It wouldn’t be very precise of me to say I wasn’t proud of myself, drip-drying in the baking supplies aisle, for having laid down eight close-enough splits in the middle of a thunderstorm. Here’s another audible pep talk: Nice job, TK!

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