Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Freak of Vacation

I've found that the amount of exercise I do is perceived in different ways depending on the person I'm talking to.

People who are moderately serious runners, former college athletes, and the like usually shrug after I tell them I "only average around 40-45 miles or so a week" and tell me I should train harder.

On the flip side, a large portion of people look like I am A SUPER FREAK when hearing this mileage figure that I see as being very moderate.  Because of this, I generally tend to avoid talking much about my running in detail with most people.  Luckily for them, most non-runners don't give a shit about my 5 mile tempo run, so my avoidance of discussing this part of my life is really keeping them from dying of boredom as well.  Win-win!

I mean...I kind of get it...like when I was in middle school and we had to run the mile it was about the worst experience ever.  So if someone had told me they ran by choice on a daily basis, I would have thought they needed a mental exam.   But at this point....easy 5 mile runs are about as easy as walking down the street.  It's just a way to clear my head and get some fresh air.

There are a few times, however, when my policy of "non-running discussion" is not an option.  One of them is when I visit my boyfriend's family mid-marathon training and I try to sneak out of the house before his sweet mom pounces on me to make me a bacon and eggs breakfast.  (don't try to do a long run after this, you will regret it the entire time!).

The second time is when I'm on vacation.  I know I may be in the minority on this, but I really enjoy running when on vacation.  Not workouts, but slow 40 minute jaunts as long as the schedule permits.  If it can't happen, it can't happen, but as long as there's a safe stretch of road and some time, I figure why not.

Like this last weekend, I went on a quick vacation.  I went to Vegas for a bachelorette party!  It was good times!

And for both of the mornings...even after heavy boozing....I got up and went on a run.

When people on a group vacation who don't know you very well realize you are running the mornings in a place like Vegas, they become perplexed and give you the super-freak look.  It brings forth comments like "Oh wow, you'll really earn this buffet!",  "You know I ran a half-marathon once", "Wow good for you...SO healthy", "You don't need to lose weight" and "Maybe I'll go on a run later..I DID bring my workout gear...".

All well-meaning comments.  But I never know what to say in response!  There are a number of reasons why I went on a runs in Vegas and it has very little to do with health or being virtuous.   It's just something I do, just like getting dressed, eating meals, and going to the grocery store.  The questions and comments make me a little uncomfortable because I don't think I deserve any compliments for going on a short slow run, and frankly it's slightly addictive behavior on my part.  And I am certainly not trying to make anyone else bad for not exercising.   So I tried to think of why I enjoy running on vacation:

1) I'm obsessive about patterns and routines as shit and so doing a daily run helps me feel normal and not freak out about other things.   This is the main one.  I admit it.

2) It's kind of fun to get a little time to myself in the mornings because I get overwhelmed in large social groups.

3) Why not?  We got hella free time!

4)  I've got some dope music on my ipod I want to listen to.

5) People watching, people watching, people watching.

and secret option 6)  It's a nice day out and I like to run!

So unless the weather is bad, I usually just go with option 6 as my explanation.   Unless the person is a psychiatrist and I'm in a chair, it's probably the best response.

I guess there's no end in sight to the "Super Freak Vacation Runner" looks, unless I manage to sneak out of hotel rooms at 3 AM and slip back into bed, sight unseen. I figure this pattern will just continue.  I'll keep running when I can in random places, people around me will continue to comment on the fact that it's surprising that I'm running, and I'll continue to feel slightly like a freak when I try to explain why I went on a run.

I suppose worse things could happen :).

Monday, April 15, 2013


I'm not sure if I have anything to add to this conversation but I feel compelled to write. 

I am angry and sad. 

First and foremost I am thinking of those who lost their lives.  I am so sorry for their loved ones.   It makes no sense and I have no words.  Why.

I am thinking of those who were injured in the blast today.  I can't imagine what they are going through. 

I am sorry for the runners in the Boston Marathon who trained for months only to not be able to finish the marathon because an explosion occurred before they could reach their goal. 

I am sorry for those who did finish the marathon, but tonight, instead of celebrating the glory of their finish, they mourn like the rest of us.

I am thinking of the people of Boston, who had their city attacked and one of their most cherished and happy traditions targeted. 

I am also thinking of those who won the marathon.  This moment is one of the greatest happiest moments one can have in the sport of running, and it was stolen from them. 

I am sad for the running community.  An attack at the finish line of Boston feels so personal to so many of us.  Whether you've run Boston before, are an avid runner, or are just a part of the community, it's hard to explain how this feels, or what it means. 

I am thinking of anyone reading this, who feels like normal everyday activities like going to the movies, going to school, or attending a sporting event are not safe anymore.   To anyone who feels like they are losing faith in humanity, don't lose hope.

I know that many stories of heroism will come out of this tragedy.   And I know that the running community will slowly heal.  Thinking of all of you. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The thing about the shill...

Have you guys read Roserunners latest blog entry?  Like a lot of her posts, there's a really interesting discussion going on in the comments.  And it's inspired me to write a post on a similar topic that's coming up in the comments on her blog.

Products and Bloggers

In the running blogging community, there seem to be two extremes on the whole "shilling / product placement" thing.

I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle.  I certainly don't mind getting free stuff, especially free stuff I would have bought anyways (Mizunos..Nuun...).  To be honest I've saved a considerable amount of money as a result of Mizuno's generosity.  But then...writing about products is awkward.   Even if I like the product.  Not only am I am fully aware that a lot of people don't enjoy product placement type posts, I don't blog that often, so a post stays up forever.  And I almost never blog about products or "what I wore" outside of a brand partnership.  I am pretty sure no one cares what I wore or ate because I certainly don't :). 

So what's appropriate in the blogging community when it comes to promoting products?  Obviously you can't make everyone happy all of the time, but here's my opinion on the whole thing.

The Blogger

While I don't really agree  with the "if you don't like it, don't read" philosophy (there are a lot of things that I don't like, but still can't stop reading), I apply this to constant giveaways and promotions on blogs and not even by choice.  This is because I get bored and kind of forget about blogs that are constantly promoting products.  Everyone has their own reason for reading blogs, and mine include looking for a laugh, good training advice / inspiration, or just keeping up with a friend.  I don't need more reasons to be encouraged to buy more random shit I don't need.  

That said, it's just mildly annoying for me.  If someone tweets that wearing compression socks helped them win the race, I usually just roll my eyes and move on.  I figure, the blogger doesn't necessarily owe me an entertaining experience.  In the case of misrepresentation (saying something is awesome that sucks or not saying that they were compensated), I guess that's wrong, but I don't really take anyone's product opinion posted online that seriously anyways.  People write fake reviews on Yelp, people post living social deals on Facebook just because they want to get it free for themselves, and people write random-ass product reviews on blogs.  For better or worse, readers should be careful when reading any advice online.

The Companies

All the anger directed toward companies that work with bloggers doesn't make that much sense to me.  In my day job, the main things that would influence my working with a blogger would be :
1) The amount of revenue/exposure that could be gained in the partnership
2) Are they a fit with the brand
3) They are not an ax-murderer.  

I don't care if the person is the worst writer in the world, if they have a huge loyal following, I would want in.   As part of the company, it's not really my opinion to form.   The way I see it, these companies are just trying to make a buck, and for smaller companies, it can be a good way to get some brand awareness and traction.

People don't get angry in the same way when Coke shows up in a product placement in a movie, or when they constantly hear the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl", and I don't see how working with bloggers is that much different.  It's annoying to be bombarded with the same product over and over again in social media, but it doesn't mean the company owners are assholes.  Seems to me like they are just trying to make a buck like the rest of us.

Is there a way to do it right?  

Even though product placement doesn't bother me that much, it clearly annoys the crap out of a lot of people.  And that needs to be considered, because unfortunately for my ego, my opinion and emotions are not the only ones that matter.  

I think in running blogging, it's a particularly sensitive subject, because there are elite runners out there who don't get anything for free, and people who run 15 miles a week who get valuable products and compensation.   It's not like being a fashion blogger where someone can't say "she sucks at dressing herself, how come this elite dresser didn't get these Chloe boots instead?".  Running blogging is less subjective.

So...is there a way to still partner with a brand in a way that feels authentic and not in a way that's comes across as fake, annoying, or misleading?  The only thing I know that has worked for me is to work with a brand that or product that I'd buy anyways.  So that way, if I tweet about something, I feel a little awkward but at least I don't feel like I'm lying.   But who knows.  Maybe I still annoy everyone.   I don't really get much more than occasional products and Starbucks money off my blog anyways as I'm not in the class of bloggers trying to make substantial cash off their blogs.

What do you think about product placement / giveaways on blogs?

Is there a good way to partner with a brand?  Or is it all just too annoying?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Locking Down That Man in College

Have you guys heard about some Princeton Alumna named Susan Patton advising current students to "Find a Husband on Campus Before You Graduate"?    Basically Patton is arguing that when you are in an elite college, you're surrounded by people who are as smart and ambitious (and rich?) as you and so this is the best time to lock down a man.  Not a husband OR wife...just a husband. Because this was directed towards straight girls.

There has been a huge response to this, with many people saying "What the F" and then a number of others saying that she may actually have a point.

First and foremost I have no problem with the prioritization of relationships at any point in someone's life.  If someone really wants to find a mate at any point in their life, more power to them and best of luck in finding what they are looking for.   So that's not my issue with this.  Here are my issues:

Snottiest attitude ever!!  It seems that Patton is assuming that people at Princeton are the most desirable...period.   Forget things that student may really be looking for the most like sense of humor, being generous, humble, loving, etc. which are not exclusive to the school.   Or even wanting intelligence and ambition which believe it or not, exists outside of the Ivy league.  

Why was this just presented as an argument for girls?  Studies show that men who get married are happier and make more money than those who stay single  (I couldn't find the happiness study, but it exists..).   In the case of earnings women tend to earn more when they delay marriage or do not marry at all.   So if we're just focusing on shallow stuff like status already, why not focus on this earnings stat and encourage the men to find themselves a Princeton woman?

Is every girl at Princeton both straight, and wanting to get married?   Seriously...you'd think after all this press about gay marriage, Patton would have remembered to include groups that won't be needed or wanting to lock down a man.

Friends and Networking: I 100% agree that college is more than about just classes.  And I would encourage any girl or guy going to college to make friends that are smart, ambitious, friendly, caring, loving, etc....that way they'll have a wonderful network of friends to have as a personal and professional support as they go through life.  And if one of those friends happens to be one they want to marry, wonderful.   If not, that's fine.

Do what you want, but if marriage is your only goal, don't take the spot of someone who actually cares about the education.  If someone is really coming to an Ivy league school with the main purpose of finding a spouse, I would argue that they should GTFO and give the spot to someone who cares about the education.  If you really just want to meet Princeton boys, live by the campus, hang out at the coffee house while wearing a cute sundress, and go to their frat parties.  I'm sure something will work out.

If you're not ready you're not ready.  When I was in college, I had a really wonderful boyfriend for about 2 years.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with him, he had a ton going for him and I am sure we could have gotten married afterwards.  But I wasn't ready.  I don't know why and I can't explain it, but it's true.  I know it's a jungle out there if you are dating the real world, but you can't rush feelings, and the ability to commit.

Become an engineer!  Ok this one is kind of a joke.  But if you want to be surrounded by a bunch of smart dudes in college, get in the engineering program.   The closer you get to completely male dominated disciplines like Electrical Engineering, the better.  I guarantee, at least 20% of the class will have a crush on you.   If you're lucky, you'll find your man in college.  If not, rest assured, you have the rest of your working life to be a minority surrounded by intelligent (although potentially nerdy) boys.  Hooray!

So.  Thoughts on the article?  Should I be sad I didn't lock down a Rice University man?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hard Work Beats Talent?

You know Evan Jager?

Yeah...that gangly long-haired steeplechase dynamo who you know...holds the American Record in the 3000 meter Steeplechase.   Well this is what his twitter profile looks like (not that I'm stalking):

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

Hard to argue with that in his situation.  Although...I suppose it depends on the level of talent.  I feel pretty certain Shalane Flanagan could kick my butt in the mile even if she decided to stop running for 5 years and race me while doing the backwards crabwalk.

So maybe "Fairly talented/ hard work beats ridiculously talented when ridiculously talented doesn't work hard".  Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Of course, there are some pretty crazy stories of what has happened to people who weren't at the top from day one:

 There's Ariana Hilborn who went from running her first marathon in 4:38 to getting an Olympic Trials "A" standard just a few years later.   Or Desi Davila who, while she was a high school standout, there was nothing in her 19:10 5000 meter college debut that indicated she would be an Olympian.   On a smaller scale, I get to watch many of my running friends run PR after PR and improve to run times that are truly great.

Amazing and inspiring stuff!   Obviously the product of crazy hard work and countless hours doing workouts.

But then I can think of my own anecdotes of the differences in talent in people:

Like during my high school track days where...honestly, it was just obvious who had more natural talent.  We all ran similar workouts.  As a high school mid-packer, there were people that would never ever beat me, and girls who I would never beat in a million years.  It wasn't that one person was working a lot harder than another....some people just seemed to benefit from the training or were just fast out of the gates from their first season.

source.  This is the cross country team from my high school 8 years after I graduated creepily taken off their website.  Because I don't have any pictures of my own team.  Go figure, no social media or digital cameras back in those days. 
People are different too in the amount that they see improvement.  I'm a decent runner out of the gate, but it's really hard for me to see major improvements.  Although who knows...maybe I'm just not working hard!  I certainly don't put in the miles that many others do.

This can be a sensitive topic.  You don't want to tell someone who has gotten really fast at running that they didn't work hard to get there, or assume that someone who trains hard but is near the back of the pack doesn't train hard at what they do.  

So here are my conclusions:
1) If there is room in your life to work harder, there is the capacity to improve, even if it's by a few seconds.
2) People are different in their natural talents, but also in their ability to reap benefits of hard work AND their capacity to train really hard without their bodies breaking down.
3) You can be fast and lazy, and slow and hard-working, but to be anywhere near the elite scene you must be both.
4) There is probably a great benefit in learning all the technical stuff like VO2 max and lactate threshold  etc etc to make training more effective.  Not that I've done this.
5)  Super Fast People:  Remember to count your blessings on the running front and not just hashtag how much you believe in yourself.  If you're near the front of the pack, it's likely a result of both hard work and talent.

So what do you think has the greatest part in being a successful runner?  Have you improved a lot through training over months / years?