Thursday, January 1, 2009

Editor's Note- 12/31/08

Sometimes I am certain that I would not be friends with me. Thank god B does not feel the same way. My NY FLY swan song. Fin.


A friend recently asked me to explain what running feels like. She runs, too, but wanted to understand why I chose to define myself as a “runner”. Seemed so odd to the casual participant.

I couldn’t answer the question. I tap danced and told her that each run felt different to each individual and, while the high was true and biological, the experience was unique. I told her how I came to be a runner and how it brought my family together. I told her that the Flyers saved my life. Sappy, but true.

“What has kept you involved with the club?” We’ve seen the same answers in almost every Member Spotlight this year, because fortunately for most it is true: the people, the social events, the incredible friendships. When my number was up last May, I didn’t answer that question. So I will now. One perk of being Editor is getting a second chance, and this is my last one.

I joined the Flyers to establish a new identity outside of my career, relationship, and college and work friends who knew me in an already-defined context. The club enabled me to determine, and then regain, who I wanted to be and have since become. The empowering safety of a ready-made network of new, potential friends cannot be underestimated.

I met B at the Awards Gala two years ago. Neither of us knew many Flyers at the time and our conversation was brief. He doesn’t remember it, but I’ll never forget his smile.

The following month, B and I met again as guinea pigs for DG's now very successful downtown run. We ran together on Mondays, then Saturdays, then any time we could evade our other responsibilities. The first weekend in March was a tough one for both of us; through completely separate but cosmically parallel events we each became ‘singles’ for the first time in years.

We ran through it, though. B distracted me. He made me laugh and offered up his unique perspectives on running and relationships to fill the hours of road. (Those who have ever run with ‘Coach B’ know this is a practice he still continues, sometimes unsolicited, to this day.) He was the first number on my speed dial that spring, leaving work early to help me move the last batch of stuff to my new apartment, seeing me at both my strongest and most vulnerable, at the exact same moment.

So when he became Secretary last January and needed an Editor, I was in no position to decline.

Early in his tenure we wrote a tongue-in-cheek Secretary’s Letter about the newsletter “process” and how it results in a near blood bath the last week of each month. B and I occupy opposite ends of the tolerance spectrum. I read each article at least three or four times and will fall on my sword for a serial comma, word choice, or tense correction. He will spend hours conceptualizing, scouring the Web, gathering images, then laying out his visual take on pagination, which I don’t always understand and have been known to dismiss. He’s the Secretary, but he’ll listen, revise, or even scrap it and start over at my insistence. (I could not do this.)

As the year progressed, I came to dread the 15th of each month, when B would flood my Inbox with Word documents attached to emails that read simply, “Here you go. Thanks.” or “So it starts again.” I made no attempt to conceal my overly-dramatic sense of exasperation. But once
each issue was completed and posted to the Web site, I was always impressed by the outcome.

We were only half-joking when we wrote that article and, as work and real-life pressures have increased exponentially over the past year, the situation has become even more desperate. Last month we took a “time out” after a particularly stressful long-distance December Newsletter editing session.

He has thanked me numerous times for my help this year, in the form of dinner and baseball games and tennis matches and my first ever trip to Carnegie Hall. It’s embarrassing and always unnecessary. I wouldn’t have done this—complaints notwithstanding—if I didn’t love it or him,
and now it’s my opportunity to show thanks.

So, just like the rest of those profiled this year, the “amazing friendships” I have made within the club are what has kept me involved. And I know how incredibly fortunate I am to have made so
many of these in just two years. But, more so than any other, one Flyer in particular saved my life—and I can’t wait to just run and drink beer with him. Cheers, B.

Game on.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

To A Woman I Will Most Likely Never Meet- 12/21/08

EDIT 1/5/09: To a woman I have now met. Maybe even, we are friends.


Runners are eccentrics who have signed the pact. I mean, perhaps if one is naturally fast or has a college scholarship, running is justified. But adult distance running—especially belonging to a running club or team—is an exercise in Type A self-loathing and -competition. In broad, sweeping terms I truly believe that runners are anti-social by nature and, in NYC especially, we use the fact that there are thousands and thousands of us to mask the crazy.

That said, once you are able to rationalize the act, the thrill is biological and all-encompassing.

I was never an athlete (true, I swam for three years in high school, always in the slow lane, I think because I had a crush on someone who was also on the swim team) and smoked cigarettes for 11 years from ages 20-30. Then I woke up on New Year's Day 2006 without the smallest desire for a cigarette. Not a New Year's resolution, just a change in my mind or body's chemistry. I did want one a few days later, for a few days, but that quickly passed.

So I started working out maniacally. Up to two hours on the elliptical machine no less than five days a week. Anything less and I was in a guilt spiral. My company entered the Chase Corporate Challenge that summer and instead of walking it, as planned, I ran the first two miles without stopping, walked the next half-mile, then ran the last full one. This is what I imagine the first drop of heroine feels like to a destined addict.

Of course, with my own predisposition to addiction, and no sense of control or patience, I ran on the treadmill the next day, and the next day, and tried to run the following one, developing what may be the most quickly-contracted case of overuse tendinitis, ever, in both ankles.

Relegated to physical therapy and the elliptical for six more weeks, I read every running blog, magazine, message board, and book I could get my hands on. When I was cleared to run again in August, I had convinced myself that I was a runner. I built up mileage quickly and joined the Flyers in October, once I could run the six-mile Central Park loop.

Had I not become a runner and, most importantly, joined the Flyers, I would not be in NYC today. I would be in Berkeley or San Francisco or living with my parents in Albuquerque, most likely, working for a small advertising studio rather than on Madison Ave. Running gave me purpose and distraction and identity when I nearly all but lost mine, and the Flyers saved my life.

I know I didn't explain to you what running feels like, just what it means to me. You would have to determine both of those for yourself anyhow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tales from the Blue Line- 12/1/08

Not much has changed on the personal writing front; the newsletter has really turned me off of everything writing + running. Below is my newsletter blurb about the NYC Marathon. Purely fluff to round out the section. Not much to preface with other than next year I have to go for it.


I was pretty much in denial about the whole “marathon” thing. Just like any other Sunday, I awoke at 5am, rode the Staten Island Ferry, used seven Port-a-Potties, and threw on my dad’s 15-year-old, XL sweat pants.

It wasn’t until after the cannon fired and JT, JB, and I were actually over water that it hit me: we were running a marathon. And the finish line was a really long way away.

Powered by Obama, JT pulled JB and me along until we let him (i.e., begged him to) go ahead. Before he took off, we made some finish line predictions, then that little blue speck of Hope disappeared into the sea of runners. He still owes me 10 GUs.

Though we hadn’t planned it, JB and I hung together until roughly Mile 24 in Central Park. We shared some surreal experiences that day, some of which are just now coming back to me, and some which I may block forever.

But I do know that had I approached this as a “race”, I would not have been smiling and singing and slapping kids’ hands and twirling my Mama around at Mile 18. Everything just came together and I thank JB for that. Friends do help share the load and, whether he knows it or not, he is now my (un)offi cial marathon partner. Let’s hope he’s game to lower my PR next year.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Race Report: Flyer White Need for Speed Relay Team- 6/8/08

I rarely write anymore. But, when I do, I still enjoy it. Below is my newsletter blurb about my running team's experience during a 50-mile relay race last weekend when temperatures were in the mid-90s with through the roof humidity. Or, rather, humility.


I don't want to make this an apocalyptic story, though that word easily sets the tone for this year's Need for Speed Relay. It was hot, it was scary, and more than a little absurd. Family and friends were worried about us and they had good reason to be. But, fortunately, all four Flyer teams made it back safely, so our grim tale has a happy ending.

What struck me as remarkable, though, was how our team, Flyer White, called off the competition long before the authorities did. "Go slow. Walk. Be careful." Those are some of the last words one expects to hear at a relay race, but that was our motto.

Last year I ran for the team, motivated by pride and friendly rivalry. This year it came down to me. So, when the heat stopped me dead in my tracks, somewhere around Mile 4, my thoughts were not about time, or rank, or ego; they were about survival. At that moment running came full circle for me: from an individual pursuit, to a team effort, to being stuck in the woods, not even halfway through my journey, left completely to my own devices…until JS from the Flyer Diamonds came along and motivated me to finish my leg. I didn't care what my watch said. I had stopped it at some point. I just didn't want my team to worry about me.

Separately, we're all accomplished, competitive runners. ES and JT ran exceptionally well given the conditions. But, as eight, Flyer White channeled our collective aggression into a fierce protection for one another. And that's a winning team.

Flyer Spotlight- 5/1/08

Below is my Spotlight Profile from the May edition of my running team's newsletter. I was featured alongside one of my best friends, JG.

I've been told that I am a difficult person to get to know, something about Fort Knox. So here's a start.


Age group: Women’s Sub-Masters

Years with Flyers: 2 years

Favorite quote?
“And on the seventh day, God did an easy three.”
- Stolen from the Runner’ discussion boards

How long have you been running?
I “officially” started running in August of 2006, a few months after my 30th birthday that June.

What inspired you to get started?

I actually started racing before I started running. I had signed up to participate in the Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5-Miler, also in June of that year, thinking that my co-worker would walk it with me. But the week of the race he told me that he had secretly been training and was going to try and jog it. I had never, ever run before but got caught up in the excitement at the start and ran the first two miles without stopping. After a brief walk break I rallied with a strong final mile, passing co-workers on my way to the finish.

I was psyched but my body was not. Six weeks of physical therapy later I was cleared to try again and—despite this foreshadowing of PT visits in my future—I have not looked back.

When and why did you join the Flyers?
I joined the Flyers in October of that year, once I had worked up to the 6-mile Central Park loop. I joined the night before the Hunter Moonlight Run and have fond memories of DG herding us up Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg while the hipsters watched in amusement and confusion.

I became very active in the club last spring and now I can’t imagine not being a Flyer.

Who has been your biggest influence in running? Who inspires you or do you have a
favorite athlete?
Growing up, my younger brother J and I had very little in common. We were seven years apart in school. I was on the speech and debate team and dyed my hair black. He played varsity basketball as a freshman and could run a 4:40 mile. I was proud of him, but had no idea what that meant.

In June of 2006, J ran the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. When I called to congratulate him I asked how him long the marathon was. Again, I was proud of him, but had no idea what that meant.

So, after my own accidental brush with the runner’s high that same month, I started to understand my brother a little bit. And ever since we have grown much closer. His support and advice, along with my parents’ encouragement, have allowed me to become a runner. And I now understand what 26.2 miles really means.

Training tip?

Everybody tells me to listen to my body and not run through injury, yet most people do it anyway. So…do as I say, not as I do?

What are your 2008 goals?

I just accomplished my main goal last month—completing my first marathon—and my body is recovering. Once I feel healthy again I want to get back into race shape and focus on speed. My relative newness to the sport allowed me to PR in every distance last season, but I haven’t been able to match my times since my stress fracture last August. However, it’s in me.

I’m also taking a $136 tour through the five boroughs in November. I hear Staten Island is lovely that time of year.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Completing the National Marathon was surreal. Afterward my dad asked me when I knew I was going to “break four” and, honestly, I didn’t even believe I was going to finish until I saw the clock over the finish line.

I am also amazed that I moved across the country from California to NYC. I had talked about moving here for four years before I had the courage to do it, and will celebrate my fifth East Coast anniversary this summer.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It applies on and off the roads and is incredibly difficult to follow.

What is your line of work?

I am a Sr. Interactive Producer for an advertising agency. The hours are long, it’s more responsibility than I have ever had before, and it’s an incredibly high-stress environment. But I love what I do.

Where did you grow up? Where do you presently live?

I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but grew up in the suburbs of Central California. To some extent, my heart will always remain in Berkeley and San Francisco, where I lived and worked for nine years before moving to NYC. I now live in Brooklyn Heights and start most Saturday mornings with a run across the Brooklyn Bridge. So I can’t really complain.

What are your other hobbies?
I spend a lot of time working on this newsletter…and have some really expensive photo equipment gathering dust in my closet. I’m going through a yoga phase right now and am also learning how to knit in an attempt to stay busy, reduce my time on the roads, and try something “girly”. But if there is a way to injure oneself while knitting I will let you know.

What is your favorite time of year and why?
Most people say fall because of the leaves, the weather, or marathon season. I’m in it for the pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes. You get the gist.

What is your favorite book?
I heard Sarah Vowell read from Take the Cannoli years ago in Berkeley and fell in love with her writing. You can’t go wrong with any of her books.

Favorite restaurant?
I grew up on Mexican food so my favorite restaurants are in California and Albuquerque. But my last meal in NYC would probably be at Momofuku.

Favorite movie?
Waiting for Guffman

Where was your last/most interesting vacation?
Paris, November 2006: running from my hotel near Notre-Dame to the Louvre, through Jardin des Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde, up Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, then over to the Eiffel Tower and back along quais de Seine. Eight miles in the rain. And I was the only girl out there.

What’s your worst habit?
I am impatient…

What do you do to relax and unwind?
…but I’m working on it with the yoga and (hopefully) knitting.

What is one of your pet peeves?
Unfortunately I have many. Most involve people who stop when they shouldn’t, such as in the middle of the sidewalk, just inside the subway car doors, at the top or bottom of the stairs or escalator, etc.

Come to think of it, we should have pace corrals for the morning commute. Through the tape!

Movie Review: Spirit of the Marathon- 3/1/08

This was published in the March issue of the newsletter, just one month before my own marathon debut. I think I enjoyed the experience of watching the film with my teammates in a theater full of runners more than the movie itself. But I will always carry a torch for Chicago and it burns even brighter after witnessing the final scenes of this film.


I’ve never run a marathon. I’ve trained for two—and hope to complete one at the end of this month—but, to me, “The Marathon” is still a daunting, awe-inspiring accomplishment. I’ve found that this feeling is shared with most of my co-workers and the general running population. However, within my peer group of Flyers and the audience at the 42nd St. AMC Theater last month, I felt to be very much in the minority. Perhaps it was this newbie excitement that made the film so enjoyable for me. Or was it just my naïveté?

The Spirit of the Marathon
is a nonfiction documentary film chronicling six runners as they prepare for and compete in the 2005 Chicago Marathon. Two elites, two first-timers, and two repeat offenders, representing the gamut of finish times from just over two hours to nearly three times that. The movie took four years to make and played nationwide in theaters January on 24th, with an encore showing on February 21st.

Without disclosing any spoilers, there were two storylines that interested me the most. The first was watching US Women’s Marathon World Record holder and Olympian Deena Kastor train through a stressed cuboid with much more optimism and grace than most runners I know would have displayed, despite having a lot more at stake. I also appreciated the intimate journey to elite marathoner Daniel Njenga’s native town of Nyahururu, Kenya, and how this provided context for his decision to train in Japan—seeing what he gave up versus what he stood to gain from a possible world-class win.

Others in the theater could identify with the mortals in the film. The two first-time marathoners, Leah and Lori, balanced family and loved ones with 6am training montages; 70-year-old “sweeper” Jerry hugged and high-fived his way through the race with the other back-of-the-packers; Ryan, the Boston hopeful, demonstrated to the camera what a five-minute mile looks (and feels) like on a treadmill. He was dying. The crowd also reacted to running truisms sprinkled throughout the film such as ‘when runners hang out socially, all they talk about is running, and when they’re running, they talk about everything else.’ A now-dated quip about Chicago always having perfectly cool race weather drew a big (though unintentional) response. As did Ryan’s off-handed remark that it’s easier for women than men to qualify for Boston.

The Spirit of the Marathon is not a technical film. If you rent the DVD, don’t look to it for the secret to a sub-three. There is some history of the sport—with cameos by running legends Bill Rodgers, Kathrine Switzer, even Ryan Hall, among others—but it’s very much in the moment. And it’s not an everyman’s documentary, pulling at the heartstrings and widening mass appeal in ways that spelling bees and penguins have done recently. But it is a film directed by a runner, for runners, about running.

So while the film has received criticism for being too much of a movie “only a runner could love,” I dare anyone to sit stone-faced as the gun goes off at the beginning of the race, orchestra soaring, watching the camera pan up and over the beautiful city of Chicago, revealing 40,000 individuals with a shared purpose, weaving in and out of skyscrapers in their journey though 26.2.

Water or not, I’ve booked a hotel room for October. Just in case.

Race Report: San Francisco Bay to Breakers- 5/20/07

This was my first contribution to the newsletter and the first thing I shared publicly in many, many years. Originally published under the title, “Bibs, Booze, and Buns: Bay to Breakers 2007”, I also liked “Bay to Breakers: Exposed” and “San Francisco's Binge to Bender” as good working titles.


“It’s like if someone came into your office while you were trying to [work] and started smashing things and throwing all your papers onto the floor,” Bay to Breakers elite athlete coordinator Josh Muxen reported to the San Francisco Examiner. And when I think of the world-renowned, elite athletes chasing after a potential $40,000 purse—the highest dollar-per-mile prize in the US outside of the marathon—while being taunted by a band of Elvises, a man in a gorilla suit, or the traditional salmon swimming upstream (they start at the finish line, finish at the start), I can’t think of more fitting analogy.

The ING Bay to Breakers 12K is actually part race, part parade, mostly party, with the requisite booze, bands, drugs, and nudity. At 8 o’clock in the morning.

Needless to say, there was no mandatory recreation lane at this year’s 96th run. The main rules of the road were, “NO ALCOHOL or NUDITY” and “wheeled objects and over-sized costumes must line up at the back”.

Neither of these was enforced.

The official race history is actually respectable. The first one, then called the Cross City Race, was run in 1912 in a noble effort to rebuild city morale after the devastating 1906 earthquake. In 1964 the race was renamed Bay to Breakers based on the course description, which starts downtown along the San Francisco Bay Embarcadero, winds through the City and Golden Gate Park, and ends on the Great Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean breakers. Things started to take a turn for the bizarre when, in 1978, the first centipede team of 13 participated in the event, paving the way for the race to become the official site of the World Centipede Running Championships, and language about twinkie feelers, stinger toxicity, Lenichi Turns, and the “exchanging of segments” became part of the race vernacular.

There were less than 200 participants at the first Cross City Race. This year an estimated 60,000 participants (35,000 registered, 25,000 bandits) and 100,000 spectators came out to play.

Even though I grew up in California and lived in the Bay Area for a number of years, this was my first Bay to Breakers experience. And I think I got it right:

- I was slapped in the face by a flying tortilla before the start
- Awaited the starting gun with the runaway brides, Dharma Initiative guards, Napa grapes, and naked cowboy (FYI—no tighty whities, no strategically placed guitar)
- Followed a 7’ Smurf over sidewalks and around newspaper stands to bypass the walkers, unicyclists, and soccer players throughout the course
- Triumphantly crested the infamous Hayes Street Hill to the tune of "Chariots of Fire" blasting from a reveler’s window
- Got slapped in the face by another tortilla
- Passed up the generous offers of jell-o shots, beer bong hits, and cigarettes from the crowd
- Edged out at least four naked runners (iBod and Bare to Breakers were wearing body paint and hats for identification)
- And smiled for the cameras as I crossed the finish line in just under an hour to secure 900th place (NOTE: don’t expect a PR at this race!)

After the race I strolled leisurely through Golden Gate Park toward the Haight for a quick bite to eat and some record shopping. I passed the Shakespeare Garden and veered toward the newly renovated de Young Museum for a little self-reflection. But my moment of Zen was interrupted by the familiar sounds of cheering, whooping, and that unmistakable disco beat that is so authentic to San Francisco. I made my way in the direction of the clamor, curious at to what could still be going on at Mile 4…three hours into the race.

The forward movement was barely perceptible at this point—the race had become a rave. So I trekked against the crowd, taking pictures as I passed one keg-in-shopping-cart after another, the crew from BoneAir (James Bombed’s posse,) what remained of a few floats, the Never Nudes, and a guy who was dressed as a keg while smoking a cigarette. Brilliant.

There were a lot of winners that day. Not just Kiplagat and Korir, but the participants who, in the fourth hour, were rallying by the side of the road, heads in their hands, empty bottles glistening in the warm California sun. Though a strong finish was probably not in the cards, I have no doubt that a few personal, if not course records, were set this year.