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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Drink for Girls on the Run

A few of you have met my friend Marit, who has come to the Sunday Joe run a bunch of times, and the Saturday run a few times over the summer. During the school year, she can't make it to the Saturday run because she volunteers on Saturday mornings coaching 8- to 12-year-olds for a group called Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a health and wellness program that introduces girls to the fun of running and paves the way for an ongoing active lifestyle and healthy self-esteem. The meet weekly during each school semester for a session that includes warm-ups, stretching, running, and games -- culminating in a 3-mile run at Asphalt Green.

As someone who 1) grew up in Manhattan and 2) until a year ago, hated running, this concept seems pretty cool. There are lots of great things about growing up in New York, but at least when I was a kid, running was not one of them. Unlike basketball, soccer, or softball, it wasn't activity that could fit neatly in a gym or on a playing field. Also - and this isn't specific to New York, of course - compared to team sports, running didn't seem fun to me. Soccer and softball were games; running was what you did when you were late or being chased by something.

Obviously, I've come around to running in my old age. But as much fun as I'm having with it now (thanks to the Joe running team!), it does make me think how much sooner I could have come to it if it had been more accessible to me and appealing when I was a kid.

Anyway, enough about me. And running. Let's talk about drinking! Girls on the Run is having a fundraiser next Wednesday, and you're all invited. Come by on April 28th, 6-8 PM at Lugo (1 Penn Plaza/Eighth Avenue at 33rd Street; 15% of all food and drink sales will be donated to the Manhattan chapter of Girls on the Run. There will also be a charity raffle, which, according to the email I got, includes "cool accessories from the Bikini Thief." Not sure what that is, but clearly, it's not to be missed.

For more information on Girls on the Run, visit

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pope is More Like It

Yesterday, the Central Park Conservancy dedicated the path around the reservoir to Alberto Arroyo -- aka, the Mayor of Central Park -- who died on March 25th. Arroyo claimed to be -- and was lauded as -- the first person to run around the reservoir. He made his first loops around what was then a maintenance path in 1937, after being kicked off the bridle path for disturbing the horses.

Arroyo was both beloved Central Park runner and a champion New Yorker. In 2001, he beat out Ed Koch, George Plimpton, and even Dr. Zizmor (!) for the cover of this book called New York Characters. I love this quip from a 2005 NYT article on his view of the afterlife: "You just go from one apartment to another." Only in New York, right kids?

For many years -- and well into artificial-part-age -- Arroyo ran the 1.6 mile loop up to ten times daily. By his own he count, he figured that he'd run around the reservoir more than 200,000 times -- more than enough to bring him from here to the moon.

Arroyo was known as the mayor of Central Park, a self-proclaimed title that not even greedy Giuliani could get his grubby mitts on. I have to say, though, this guys sounds less like a democratically elected official than divine leader of Her Lady of the Urban Joggers. No offense, Jackie O., but this guy ran circles (sorry! couldn't resist the pun!) around your eponymous reservoir. He hung out at the reservoir yelling "looking good" to runners as they made their way around the path. He let the Parks Department know when something needed fixing. Though he himself took a vow of poverty and lived on a single meal a day, he managed to raise $100,000 for an organization that helps disabled runners.

And he gave footrubs to runners he met in the park. The guy was totally running Jesus.

Let me end with noting -- should there be any unbelievers among us -- Mr. Arroyo lived until the age of 94.

Can I get an Amen?

Further Cross-Country Joejogging

Just to add a couple of other Joesters-Running-Around-the-Country recent race tales since a full race calendar means I've been absent from weekend Joe runs recently....

I recommend the Richmond, VA 10K - a fun, fast 6 miles through the city centre with plenty of musical entertainment and costumed runners along the way.

The 13.1 series half around Flushing Meadows Park (OK, not really 'out of town'...) - the course is a bit repetitive, but it's flatflatflat and hence speedy, and you get to circle the Worlds Fair Globe etc.

And thirdly, the Danbury Half Marathon - a small and very hilly (jeyzuz, them hills) 13.1 miler in western CT. Good spring marathon training if nowt else. And they give you tasty pizza at the end.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Tacos to Cherry Blossoms: A Tale of Two Cities, and Two Measurement Systems

My story of my - yay! - very first ten mile run, DC's Cherry Blossom Run, starts, as I'm sure many good stories do, in Denver. To be more precise, it starts on the carpeted floor of the city's convention center next to an outlet as I simultaneously juice the iPhone and call the husband in between panels on Thursday, the first day of the American Writers & Writing Programs annual conference, known as AWP. (Writers are good with words; not so good with acronyms.)

"I think if I run tomorrow, then I can take Saturday off when I'm in DC, so I'll be fresh on Sunday," I say to Alex, briefing him on my ad hoc training plan. "And it's so beautiful here - maybe I can run to the mountains!"

"Caitlin, are you INSANE? Why do you think they call it the Mile High City? If you tried to run outside tomorrow, you'd probably pass out, Miss Altitude Training."

It is then that I realize that the chronic headache I've had since getting off the plane the night before isn't from bad soave in the JetBlue terminal but from the great heights of the city. So I bag my training plan, and instead focus my efforts on energy -- specifically, eating enough good Mexican food to power me through an Iron Man -- with a quick stint on the treadmill in the Marriott fitness center for good luck on Friday morning. Then it's bye-bye Mile High, hello Potomac!

I spend the day on Saturday walking around with the friend I've recruited to this race with me, alternately worried about the blister I'm sure I'm developing from my ballet flats and excited for this challenge I've inadvertently gotten us into. In DC, apparently, there are lots of ten-mile races. Here in New York, at least as far as I've seen, it's 5ks, 10ks, and half-marathons. So when I convinced my friend to do the race with me last fall after I finished my first 10k and she finished her first 5k, I thought I was signing us up for a 10k -- not a 10-mile run. My friend, being French, was, to her credit, extremely gracious when I corrected my metric mistake.

The morning of the race -- Sunday -- is much warmer than the day before. We powerwalk to the start line, picking up another (French) friend of hers along the way. I down this energy shot thing she gives me even though it taste like super concentrated Tang. We giggle nervously as we wait for our wave (actually, we couldn't figure out how to get to our wave, so we started with the last wave, which I nicknamed "the Rainbow Tribe"). I run the first mile with the Frogs, and start to pull away - slightly - when we make it to the bridge. I turn around a few seconds later and they are gone. Totally vanished in the crowd. Guess I'm running the next eight and a half miles myself.

And you know what? It was FANTASTIC. I thought I would be bored, or in pain, or just pissed that I had lost my friends, but instead I had the best time watching the other runners, the crowd, and the scenery
(though not the cherry blossoms - they'd all been fried in the previous week's heat wave), and thinking about - really! - my run. When I got to mile 8, I felt like I still had a lot left, so I sprinted for the last two miles, which just felt amazing. My time was 1:35:46 - way faster than I would have guessed.

1sts are good places to draw lessons from, so here's what I learned:

1) There really are hills in Central Park! Who knew?! I didn't realize what a difference a totally flat course would make.

2) Running sunglasses are cheap and awesome.

3) Those energy/electrolyte beans are a good choice for someone like me who would absolutely gag on goo, but even those are not as easy to eat while running.

4) DC is a great place to do a big run like that because there are tons of hotels so it's very easy to avoid the port-o-potties.

5) Starting with a slower wave is annoying in the beginning but psychologically great during the race because you pass EVERYONE.

Perhaps a half-marathon is next? Or a 13k?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

So, why didn't I run the New York Half?

Because I was busy running the Canyonlands Half Marathon. As part of my project to run 25 half marathons in 25 states, which is the subject of a whole other blog post, I was in Moab, Utah that weekend, running along a canyon that was completely different from our more urban canyons.

The race began at 10, but they started busing us from town to the start, 13.1 miles away at 7:30. The first 11 miles of the course follow the Colorado river, which is nice, because the course is quite flat compared to, say, Central Park. And when I say nice, well, here's an idea of the scenery:

No cars, no buildings, no distractions. Since we had to wait for the start, they did have the most scenically situated row of Port-a-Potties in the world:

You'll notice that the sun had not reached the bottom of the canyon, which meant that we were all standing around, freezing, despite the coffee and hot chocolate that were being handed out. By mile three, however, we were running in sunshine, and did I mention that the scenery was glorious?

It wasn't my fastest race, but I think you'll agree I look happy at the end of it:

If you're tired of running past sky-scrapers, you should definitely consider the Canyonlands Half. Keep in mind that entry is by lottery (just like the New York Half), and hotel rooms book up fast.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Shape-Ups. I am in fashion hell.

Do these shoes make my feet look fat? That would be a resounding yes.

These are my new look. Apparently, they can be worn with jeans, shorts or cocktail attire.

One thing's for sure: this look will separate my true friends from the hangers-on.

I used to make fun of people who wear these. Then my podiatrist told me I need to wear them to take the pressure off of my arthritic toe. I put them on in the store today and Anthony, who is now stuck to me for life(poor dear), burst out laughing. I joined in. I mean, hey, if we can't laugh at ourselves, we have no right laughing at others!

P.S. I was running the Scotland 10K today with Laura and Mary, and they started calling me Bone Spur. I like how it sounds. It reminds me of an old Western. The outlaw Bone Spur meets The Sherif at High Noon for a shootout. Bone Spur gets 2 bullets to the toe.

The End.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Have Arthritis. In My Toe.

Really?! Could I feel any older?

This is what I get from running for 14 years, 2 marathons, many half-marathons, working on my feet, running to catch lights, etc.

I went to a podiatrist with pain in my right big toe. There was also a strange clicking. I was assuming it was a broken toe or metatarsal bone. That would have been okay, minus the fact that I have to dance at a wedding in 3 1/2 weeks; my wedding.

X-Rays revealed that I have a bone spur in the smaller joint on the toe. Doc says it's not new and must have been cooking for a long time. I guess I have a high tolerance for pain.

Here is what I found on WebMD,

"What is a bone spur?

A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth formed on normal bone. Most people think of something sharp when they think of a "spur," but a bone spur is just extra bone. It’s usually smooth, but it can cause wear and tear or pain if it presses or rubs on other bones or soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, or nerves in the body. Common places for bone spurs include the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, and feet.

What causes bone spurs?

A bone spur forms as the body tries to repair itself by building extra bone. It generally forms in response to pressure, rubbing, or stress that continues over a long period of time.

Some bone spurs form as part of the aging process. As we age, the slippery tissue called cartilage that covers the ends of the bones within joints breaks down and eventually wears away (osteoarthritis). In addition, the discs that provide cushioning between the bones of the spine may break down with age. Over time, this leads to pain and swelling and, in some cases, bone spurs forming along the edges of the joint. Bone spurs due to aging are especially common in the joints of the spine and feet."

My new doctor advises icing, advil after runs, and wearing Sketchers Shape-Ups that mimic the heinous Boot that doctors tend to make patients wear.

The one good thing to come out of this is that I have an excuse to wear slippers at the wedding after the ceremony!

So who's doing the Scotland 10K Saturday? I am!!! It will be the only run I do this week, but I'm not missing it.