Feb 15

Roadkill. Or, Marathon #3: Los Angeles

I usually like to include an image to set the tone for the post, but it seemed rather inappropriate to go looking for the kinds of pictures that this post would require: road kill, wreckage, breakdown . . . So no picture.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: yesterday was not my day. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did.

But let me back up. I registered for the LA Marathon last March, during a brief pre-registration period that immediately followed the 2015 race. I watched that race on TV, and I felt an immense wave of homesickness. Plus, the Olympic Trials were the day before! So that settled it. And I’d been looking forward to the race ever since.

My training for officially began in the last week of September, and it went really well. I only modified two workouts, taking them to the elliptical because one of my knees felt a little more sore than is usual. I wanted to head off any potential problems at the pass, and that seemed to do the trick. I killed all the speed and tempo sessions, and I felt strong and fit heading into the taper. I had a few niggles, but nothing that I was worried about. All signs pointed to a major personal best and a potential BQ. Instead, I ended up with a personal worst and a lot of lessons learned.

In retrospect, there were a few things that I could have done better in the build up. Primarily, I should have stuck to my paces, especially in the speed and tempos sessions. I ran my paces or faster. The result of that was that when the rubber met the road, I had a hard time finding my pace by feel and had to rely heavily on my watch. I also used music for my longer intervals and tempos. Music definitely makes these workouts (and pretty much all the others) more fun, but I relied on it too much, and when I decided at the last minute to race without it, I struggled to run by feel alone.

As race day grew near, another factor entered the mix: the weather. All fall I had been expecting a rainy race day because signs pointed to an El Nino year, and El Nino in Southern California means rain. But instead, the weather gods called for sun, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but they also called for unseasonably warm weather, which is a bad thing for a marathon. It’s especially a bad thing when the weather in South Carolina has been unseasonably COLD. It was 19 degrees on Wednesday during my run. It was 75 on Friday. My coach and I discussed adjusting my pacing for the heat. We also entertained the possibility of running the race as a training run and pushing my Race Day back a few weeks. Ultimately, I decided that the risk of injury in running two marathons in a month was too high for me given my history of other injuries. So we decided that I would aim for a time 5 minutes slower than we originally planned.

Race weekend was amazing, but again, I made a few tactical errors. I made a point of drinking a lot of water and Nuun (my electrolyte drink of choice) from the moment my plane touched down in LA, but I could have eaten more, especially on Saturday. Speaking of Saturday, I went to the LA marathon expo early Saturday AM. That was fun, especially because I ran into a couple of my teammates on the way there, and we all went in together.

After the expo, we went to meet up with our teammates at the designated cheer spot (AKA Cowbell corner though it was not so much a corner as a whole city block–80+ awesome Oiselle teammates!). We had a great spot between miles 5 and 6 of the loop that the runners would have to complete 4 times including the last mile or so of the race. We were there by 9:30, which gave us almost an hour until the women’s start. I had been sure to wear sunscreen, and I had my American Runner hat, my “Go Fast Take Chances” tee, and my American flag socks. I was also wearing my birkenstocks, because I was running a marathon the next day, so even though I looked a bit like a fashion victim, Birki’s and flag socks, yes. The Trials race was awesome. It was truly phenomenal to see so many world-class athletes laying it all on the line to chase their dreams. BUT. It was hot. And standing on the pavement for several hours in the sun was not awesome for my pre-marathon legs. That took more out of me than I thought, but I didn’t know it until I started the race. I also needed to eat more on Saturday. I should have had a bigger breakfast and probably could have eaten more for dinner.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before the race–only 4 hours, but the real problem was that this was the third of three nights where I didn’t get enough sleep. I had to get up really early Thursday to get to the airport, and then I didn’t sleep well that night either thanks to jet lag. Plus, it was an exciting weekend. I didn’t feel especially nervous for the race, but I was definitely keyed up getting to meet so many people that I admire from the running world.

Race morning came early–I had set my alarm for 4, but I woke up about 3:45. I ate my usual pre-race Mojo Bar, had coffee and tea, and got ready to head out. I was breaking a couple of rules in my race-day kit. One of these was fine. The other not so much. Since the forecast was calling for heat, I decided that I would abandon the outfit I had planned to wear, which was my Oiselle singlet, Roga shorts, and a belt. I knew that the heat would be a factor, so I decided to wear my new Oiselle 3/4 top and a different pair of shorts. I hadn’t planned to race in just a bra top, and I’d not gotten the chance to run in it AT ALL, let alone for a long run, but I decided that chafing would be better than melting. And I also decided to ditch the belt since anything touching my skin would make me sweat more. I applied my SPF, my anti-chafe (side note: 2Toms wipes are awesome for destination races!), and then threw on a long sleeve tee to wear until it was time to run since it was a bit chilly at 5AM.

The other rule breaker, that seemed like less of a risk, was my shoes. I’ve been running in Brooks Transcend 2s for the majority of my training cycle, and I currently have 3 pairs in various stages of mileage. I brought the pairs with the lowest miles with me to LA planning to wear the ones in the middle. But I’ve had a bit of inflammation in the ball of my right foot for the last couple of weeks, and the newest pair felt better on that foot. I had wore them probably 4 times plus some general walking around. And I assumed they were good. They probably were for shorter races. But I learned the hard way that they were not ready for a marathon. More on that to follow.

Dressed and ready to go, I met my teammate in the lobby, and together we walked to the shuttle. She had grabbed a banana for me the day before, so I ate that while we waited for the shuttle, and we were off to Dodger Stadium. We had opted for the Pre-Race Hospitality package, which meant separate porta-potties with shorter lines, a tent with water, gatorade, Clif bars, and bananas, and a separate gear drop. Also we got fancy LA Marathon water bottles, but I forgot to put mine in my gear bag. I ate another banana and a pack of Sport Beans before we went to the start, Michelle dropped off our bags while I held our spot in the porta-let line for one final pit stop, and then we walked over to the start area. She and I were in different corrals, so we went our separate ways at that point.

I lined up at the front of my corral, within sight of the 3:45 pace group, which was my newly adjusted target. I found a couple other teammates to wait with, and we chatted a bit before setting off for the race. My first mile was slow for my goal, but the pace group was right there, so I thought, okay. I had set my watch to tick off half-mile splits instead of miles so I could better track my timing. After the first mile, I was seeing splits that were faster than the 3:45 end goal and was moderately concerned about this (red flag 1), but I felt mostly okay. My legs started to feel heavy early. Very early (red flag 2). And then we got to the first uphill, and it was really hard (red flag 3). Once the uphill ended, I caught my breath and felt a bit better. I’m not sure I could have taken that hill without being winded no matter how slowly I went, but I should have slowed down.

I was carrying a throwaway bottle with Nuun, and even with my own bottle, I still took Gatorade and water at all the aid stations. In fact, at mile 5, I ducked into a portalet for another pit stop–figured I would rather err on the side of excess on a day like that. But the aid stations were plentiful and well-stocked with both fluids and volunteers, so I made a point of drinking water and gatorade at every one, and I also grabbed water to pour on my head and body to try to stay cool.

HIGHLIGHT: Seeing my friends Matthew & Megan around mile 6! It was really early in the morning for non-runners, and I was so excited that they came out to see me! I was a little worried that we would miss each other since I wasn’t sure how crowded the course was, but I saw them and ran over to hug them both (it only occurred to me afterwards that they might have preferred not to be hugged by a wet runner . . . sorry M & M!

Legs continued to feel heavy. I told myself that I had trained for this, that I was ready for this. But I was a little worried that I was feeling heavy legs so early on.

And then a new sensation–the bottom of my left foot started to feel fiery (another red flag). Not good. It was the start of a blister. And I was a few miles from the half. I could keep running, but this added to the discomfort factor in a big way. Get to the Sunset Strip. You’ll feel better on the Sunset Strip because you’ll be on your home turf. And mentally, I did feel better, I was very cool to run down the middle of the Strip. It was also very cool to run down my old street and down the middle of Santa Monica Blvd., if only for a few hundred meters. By the time we headed down Doheney, I started to think, just get to mile 18; there will be Oiselle teammates at mile 18, but that was 3 miles way. On a regular day, 3 miles is no big deal, but it felt far on that day. I continued to tell myself “I am awesome. I am awesome.” even though I didn’t feel awesome. In fact, I felt pretty much the exact opposite of awesome. I knew that I was going to positive split, which bummed me out, so at this point I was just trying to hold on and keep running (red flag #TooManyToCountAtThisPoint).

Finally I made it to mile 18, and I saw my teammates, some of whom I had met earlier in the weekend, thankfully. I say thankfully, because when I saw them, I burst into tears (I am not usually a crier). They were awesome and really helped me to regroup psychologically. After a few minutes, I was on my way. My quads and IT bands were on fire and the blister really hurt. So much so that I started to think that I should stop at a med tent if I saw one (I didn’t). I started to walk through the aid stations, and at that point, it was all I could do to keep moving forward, whether running or walking. Walking was less painful, but the sun was now a factor, and I could feel the it on the back of my neck; I felt myself getting burned, and I definitely didn’t want to be out there in the sun for however long it would take me to walk the rest of the way to the finish. At one point in Westwood, heading under the 405, one of my calves started to cramp a little, and I both wanted to laugh and cry. What else could the universe throw at me?? It wasn’t a big cramp though, and it passed quickly (not to return).

So I walked and ran as best I could for the final stretch. By this point, my system was starting to go haywire across the board. If I had a dashboard, there would have been all kinds of blinking red, orange, and yellow lights. Emotionally and psychologically, I was running on empty. Here is where having music might have helped. Might have distracted me from myself. Physically, in addition to the problems with my screaming quads and IT bands and the blister, I started to have a hard time getting fluids in and was feeling pretty queasy, though I forced myself to drink at least one cup at every aid station and I continued to pour water on my head, though it felt much colder and usually resulted in a sharp gasp. When we got close to the beach, suddenly we were in the marine layer, and it turned cold and damp. This was both welcome and unwelcome since I was drenched at this point, and I started to feel cold. I managed to run the last mile and a half to the finish though I really, really, REALLY wanted to walk.

 

A few parting thoughts:

  • Overall, the race course was well managed. Fantastic crowd support from pretty much beginning to end. Aid stations were plentiful and well-staffed with lots of volunteers and plenty of supplies.
  • I completely underestimated the difficulty of the course.
  • I also had a overall different strategy of trying to run even splits. I am a slow starter. I know this about myself. I should not have tried to run even splits.I think the 3:45 was probably a little ambitious overall, but trying to start at 3:45 was a mistake. I need to build into the plan at least a few slow miles.
  • I am very sore on the day after, but I’m not injured and learned a lot from this race. It wasn’t the day I imagined for myself or even close, but it was still worthwhile and I’m glad I finished.

 

 

 

 

Nov 28

Books For Which I Am Thankful

Image of bookshelves on left and right with light shining in the center

I came across one of those listicles this morning where 12 authors gave thanks for a book and really liked that idea a lot, but I couldn’t come up with just one book. The more I thought about it, the more books I came up with, some for personal reasons; others have been important professionally. But the thing is, when you are a professional reader, which I am, that line between the personal and the profession often blurs.

In any event, I decided to make a list of my own.

The Waste Land (T. S. Eliot) It’s hard to overestimate the effect that Eliot’s poem has had on my life. I can remember being introduced to it as an undergraduate. I was taking an honors seminar on Noise (the title was more interesting than that, but I don’t remember exactly what it was). The class was exploring different ways to think about noise and sound and meaning. As a music major, this interested me. Little did I know that classically trained music major me was about to have her neatly logical world spun off (the course would also introduce me to literary theory for the first time). We talked about post-modernism and jazz and somewhere in there, The Waste Land fit in. I didn’t understand much of it. I didn’t really understand much of anything in that class, as it turned out, but I really liked the discussions just the same. In many ways, my life has been a series of returns to The Waste Land. I encountered it again in graduate school at Penn State with a professor who would become my mentor and close friend, and then again when I got to UCLA and was asked to be the graduate research assistant for another professor, who would ultimately become my advisor, Michael North. That project was the Norton Critical Edition of Eliot’s poem. Perhaps it was only fitting then that The Waste Land would be the subject of the first chapter of my dissertation, and it’s a poem that I enjoy teaching whenever I get the opportunity. I still don’t understand all of it. But then, I’m pretty sure that understanding all of it is beside the point.

Paterson (William Carlos Williams) Another poem that has opened doors for me both personally and professionally. I encountered this poem for the first time in grad school. I was sitting in on a class on the Modernist Long Poem with my director–mostly because I figured that if I didn’t, I’d never make it all the way through The Cantos on my own. My dissertation was imploding, which is to say that many of the primary texts I had planned to write about became less relevant, the more I wrote about The Waste Land. I remember going to a meeting with my advisor during the weeks that we were reading Williams, and I remember him saying to me in that meeting, “You know, maybe you should write about Williams.” I had been thinking the same thing but in a much more vague and unspecific way, and when he mentioned Williams, it was as if I had been expecting it all along. As a result, I not only wrote about Williams for my dissertation, but I also went to my first Williams conference and met several people who would become both good friends and important mentors. It also would lead eventually to a run of MLA panels and service for the Williams Society.

House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski) When I was asked to switch TA assignments right before the term began, I had never heard of any of the novels on the syllabus, but I really liked the professor (Kate Hayles), and I didn’t mind the last minute shuffle. Little did I know that HoL, would not only become one of my “Desert Island Novels,” but that it would become a cornerstone in my teaching career. Part noir, part Gen-X angst-fest, part theoretical engagement, part mind-fuck, this book is one that readers either love or hate. You can guess which camp I fall into.

A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) One of my most favorite novels of all time.

Pretty much everything that Stephen King has written though some more than others. Especially, 11/22/63, Revival, It, and everything to do with The Dark Tower including The Talisman, and Salem’s Lot.

 

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Longborough Library]

Nov 17

The War on Christmas, Or Red Cups and Refugees

I originally posted this to my FB page, but I decided that it should also live here.

I try to keep religion off my Facebook, but I have to get this off my chest. It probably won’t be here for very long. But here goes (update: I guess it’s sticking around. the FB settings for it were changed to public after a few people asked to share)

Let me get this straight. Last week, (many) Christian Americans were proclaiming a “war on Christmas” because Starbucks elected to use an unadorned red cup this year instead of one decorated with snowflakes or other signs of the season.

This week, many of these same people are upset about refugees fleeing religious extremism and violent atrocities by seeking shelter in various communities across western Europe and the United States. There has been much talk about refusing them entry into many of these United States because they represent the very threat from which they flee.

All of this as we prepare to celebrate a holiday based exclusively on the idea of undeserved hospitality that some of our ancestors received from the indigenous people of North America when they came to what is now New England, many of whom, the settlers, were themselves fleeing religious persecution.

And only a few weeks later, Christmas.

Do people think that Mary and Joseph (those of the Bible, just so we’re clear) came from Ohio? That the manger in Bethlehem was in Pennsylvania?

If there’s a war on Christmas, Starbucks is the least of our problems. Instead, let’s think about the xenophobia and hypocrisy that blind us to the suffering of others both at home and abroad.

As another Black Friday approaches, perhaps it’s worth remembering that as a holiday, Christmas isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about retail–whether coffee cups or door-buster sales. It should be about love. It should be about compassion. It should be about generosity. It shouldn’t matter whether a person is from the Middle East or the Midwest or Middle Earth (that’s for you, my Hobbit reading friends).

This, right now, this moment, this debate about letting people in or keeping them out–this is the moment for a true demonstration of Christianity and the Christmas spirit.

And let me just say: YOU’RE BLOWING IT. Big time.
That’s all </rant>.

Jul 31

Weekend Reading: July 31 Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Happy end of the month, ProfHackers! When you you are enjoying a bit of relaxation or riding the productivity wave, we hope that you’ve had a great July. Here are a few links to give you something to think about or talk about (or both) over the weekend.

From Gamergate …read more

Jul 10

Weekend Reading: It’s About Time Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Happy weekend, ProfHackers! We hope that you’re staying cool in the heat (or warm in the cool if it’s not hot where you happen to be).

After another week of turmoil and debate, the Confederate flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol building this morning …read more

Jul 03

Weekend Reading: Fourth of July Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Happy holiday weekend to our readers in the United States and happy regular weekend to everyone else (and a belated happy Canada day to our neighbors in the north)!

According to an article in Vanity Fair, technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “How iPhones Ruined Summer Camp.”

Also, for …read more

Jun 26

Weekend Reading: “Interpretive Jiggery-Pokery” Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Happy weekend, ProfHackers! This week’s subtitle is thanks to Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent against the Supreme Court’s vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act. More on that decision and others below.

*When I initially drafted today’s Weekend Reading, I had a paragraph with links about the Confederate Flag and the …read more

Jun 19

Weekend Reading: Juneteenth edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Happy Friday ProfHackers! It’s been a difficult week to be in South Carolina between the unseasonably hot weather (it’s the South; we are used to hot summers, but not this hot this soon) and the horrible events in Charleston. Many people have offered their thoughts on the shooting at …read more

Jun 03

Open Thread Wednesday: Summer Reading Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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Earlier this week, I shared my summer reading lists. Now it’s your turn. What book(s) are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Do you have recommendations for our readers, either books that you loved or that you are really excited about?

Do you have plans to do any …read more

Jun 01

Summer Reading: 2015 Edition

By Erin E. Templeton

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As summer looms, reading lists are starting to appear:

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