Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Track and Field: Drawing From the Arena

Cassandra Jones shot a series of photographs a few years ago that were inspired by track and field sports. She shot with with 35mm film and layered multiple exposures to create a kaleidoscope effect that (to my eye), renders the sports arena into a cathedral. In Cassandra's photographs, the field becomes the basilica and the track is the outer nave, or great isle. The arena as a whole is a cloisters, with images layered to mimic stained glass windows, and the running lane markers curve out like great flying buttresses.

'It was this amusement that brought me to the arena itself. Lingering over my collection, it occurred to me that whether you are at play or in competition, an athlete or a spectator, running solo or on a team the sports arena is a place specifically constructed to promote the human heart to beat faster. This body of work is an on going photographic expedition into the euphoria of the space itself as if it had a lasting beat of its own.'

Viewing it this way makes competitive sports a form of worship. The arena is constructed to exhalt the human machine and all it is capable of, so get your running shoes on and praise be, bitches.

Can I get an Amen?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Music Monday

Last minute Music Monday! This one is for my brothers and sisters who are running the NYC half next weekend! I will not be joining you on the course, but I WILL be there to cheer you on. If you choose to ipod this one, here are two great running albums from start to finish.

Sometimes I forget that my best running music isn't the newest. These two albums that have been on my shuffle for months (and in the case of the second...years). No song is wasted, and both help me pick up when I need it.

First is Girl Talk. Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) is known for complex sample layering, and his album 'Feed The Animals' was a huge party hit last year. Check out this sample map from 'What Its All About' while you listen.

What Its All About - Girl Talk

Some of the album can be found below, but I recommend you download the whole thing. Its prime 1st half race pacing material.

Feed the Animals

Second half of the race, I'd personally go with (and I'm seriously dating myself here) Underworld's live album, Everything Everything. Its made for running. The songs are set up to put you through a warm up, steady early pace, tempo, rest, and then two high energy songs for your kick at the end. The live crowd cheering makes it super fantastic. I never get tired of this one, its helped me through so many long runs. Check out my kick songs: play them in your last two miles and tell me you don't push harder!

Rez/Cowgirl - Underworld

Born Slippy [Nuxx] - Underworld

That's it! I'm super excited to watch the race this weekend! Was feeling bad that I have to skip it, but if I ran, I wouldn't get to watch some of the top distance runners in the world today, including:

Ryan Hall


Deena Kastor!

See you on race day!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Marathon Sunday: THE Marathon!

Its for serious now. Just got my Marathon gear and handbook in the mail! I definitely plan on putting my name on the front of my singlet, but the question I go with Dani, or DMC?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

NYRR Team Championships Race Report

Just got back from the Team Champs races in Central Park. I forgot how FUN race day is! I'm still on the comeback trail, so I didn't race, but I made sure to cheer my teammates on, and damn, it was a beautiful day for it! Nice breeze, wonderful sun, but not too hot, and a fast field of dedicated runners to watch blaze past. I positioned myself at the 4.5 mark of the 5 mile race to cheer my ladies on into their final kick, and I have to give Becky and Paiger a shout out for making it look easy. You say you were tired, but you didn't look it. Nice job, girls!

Have to give it up to Ren, who ran this one 40 seconds faster than his last race. The last race was just a 4 miler (compared to this 5 mile distance), so BIG ups to Ren for turning those legs over and laying down some fast miles!

Also saw Raul fly by at about mile 3. Raul, I don't know what your time was, but even on my fastest days I can't even come close to catching you. Great work!

It was fantastic to see all the teams come out and represent. Every team cheered their runners on (and every other team's runners. its a pretty open and supportive community, which is awesome), and afterward everyone stuck around for team picnics and socializing. It has definitely renewed my interest in joining a team after the Marathon, but now....who do I join? I know people on the Central Park Track Club, the New York Flyers, and the New York Harriers, and they all are great teams! Its probably going to come down to who has happy hour closest to my apartment, because I saw runners from each team tearing it up in the front of the pack, so I know any of them will get me running faster.

I'm still feeling out this injury, so I didn't race. I did take a slow 6 mile run in the opposite direction, so I got to see the men race while I battled it out with my nerve pain. I was planning on 10, but didn't make it that far. A few days ago I would have been devastated, but it was OK because that run gave me some good news. The nerve is FINALLY being released, and I have significantly less pain on my left groin. It still feels a bit tight, but I was able to get my stride open, and I have at last shaken the 'dead leg' feeling behind my right knee, so my leg turnover was also much improved. Now the tightness is mostly in the left side of my lower back, which is where Chris thinks the root of the problem is. I've been working on my core strength at pilates most every day in the past week, and I've started some deeper stretching to open my left hip and keep my hamstrings loose. Have also developed my own glutes/hips massage program involving a tennis ball and my dog's hard red rubber kong ball. I roll my butt around on the tennis ball and then the kong ball until I feel the knots loosen up, and then I go to work with my thumbs and then The Stick (if you don't have one, go get one. it gets your hamstrings and quads loosened up quick smart, and gives you a deeper massage than you could do on your own) in my groin/hip crease and down the inner thigh to loosen up all the muscles and tendons that like to seize up on me. Its all starting to loosen up, and I think the next few weeks are going to be key in finally putting this to bed. Head Coach Frank says I'm doing fine, I'm keeping myself in good shape, and my fitness level is still high, so 'stop worrying so much'. OK, Frank. I'm going to stop worrying, and this time, I mean it.

But I've saved the best for last. As I was walking from the subway station to the team warm up spot, I walked beside a group of 14-16 year old baseball players on their way to play at the 102nd street east side fields. As we passed the line of port-o-sans, I heard one player say to his friend, 'Yo man, don't use those bathrooms. They are setting up for a race, and those runners take some odious shits'. Then they both looked at me and apologized. I was laughing too hard to tell them that was the best use of the word 'odious' I have ever heard.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Adidas

Waiting for UPS to bring me two pair of my favorite running shoe. The ones I started in back in January. The ones I should have never ever ever been talked out of. MY AAAA-DIDAS!

They are white, which makes my feet look even bigger. And they have pink detailing, which does not go with my bad ass 'Racer X' persona, but they are still the best distance running shoe I've tried, they have never failed to get me through long workouts, and they will take me through my first marathon.

Listen to the original DMC talk about HIS Adidas, and why they wrote the song.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Attack! Attack!

Very sorry for the long absence, I've been so overwhelmed with work and recovery from injury, I've barely had time for anything else. 40 hours a week of work is not that bad on its own, but I was also trying to get in all the pilates, physical therapy, massage, pool running and weight training I have to complete in the picture as well, and it left little time for anything else. But I have a whole week off from work, and I'm able to focus on one or two things now, rather than a dozen. And I've learned things.

Things I've learned #1...The cause of nerve pain is rarely where the pain presents itself. Go look for it.

So the injury has been improving. As one symptom is relieved, two others show up, and its been a bit like peeling an onion. I think we are getting to the heart of it, and I'm pretty happy with my recovery these days. The ART massage has been doing its job of releasing my psoas muscles, and my muscles no longer tighten up when I run. I'm still getting some nerve pain in my left groin, so we've added a lot more work with my lower back and hips. Chris has been stretching me on a chiropractic adjustment table that really is The Rack. Once I'm strapped in, he extends the table to stretch my lower back, and then there is some serious muscle grabbing around the muscles at different points of my sciatic nerve. The pain presents itself in my left groin, but Chris says this is a lie (see above). I was skeptical the first few times he tried it, but it definitely helps. After the treatment, despite a little residual pain for the next day or so, I feel better. By day three, I feel 100%, and can do my PT without nerve pain.

Things I've Learned #2...Your body is not Jenga; You cannot pull blocks from the foundation and expect the structure to stand solidly.

I keep whining about work. They worked me too hard, too many hours, I had to grab my workouts when I could. These things are all true. But I cut out the wrong workouts. I cut out a lot of my cross training, which was....core work.

A lot of the reason my groin hurts is because my core has been weakened from sitting such long hours. I'd skip cross training, cut back on my shorter runs and then expect my body to handle a long 8-10 mile run with no foundation laid during the week. My hip flexors and quads would have to put in too much effort to compensate for my weakening core, and it just puts too much strain on muscles that are being asked to headline, but were designed to be in a supporting role. So I've been focusing on building up my core. A lot. Its been a little over two weeks, and we are already seeing improvement. The pain is mild enough to run through, and I am building my mileage back up on a steady clip. A month ago I could barely run a mile. Two weeks ago I could run 4. Last weekend I ran 6 with the juice to run more. Its hard to hold back when I feel things improving, but dumping on mileage too soon will strain the muscles again, so we're adding a mile or two every few days to see what happens. Tomorrow is going to be 6-8, and Saturday we will try for 8-10. Baby steps.

Things I have learned #3...Stretch. But don't stretch too much.

I like yoga. I like the strength and discipline it takes to do well. I like being able to turn my focus so strongly to my body for 90 minutes, and let my breath guide me into every pose. Yoga is awesome, but in my experience it comes with two problems.

Yoga in NYC is competitive. I know, I know, its not a competition, but honestly, the intense way so many New Yorkers practice, it can be hard to find a class that isn't about focusing on pushing to the most advanced level you can reach. If I weren't training so heavily for this race, I'd be happy to challenge myself a few times a week, but right now I need something to compliment my running, not conflict with it. I may need to (gasp) go back to a gym based yoga class that is designed for athletes can overstretch.

I never thought you could, but every time you hyper extend a muscle, you weaken the fibers. Ideal flexibility is relative to your sport. I was stretching too hard, and that made it easier for the hip flexors to become strained. But if you DON'T stretch, you are creating tight little muscles that have less ability to recover and are more likely to tear. My hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, calves and ankles all need to be kept loose, but bikram yoga level of stretch is out of the question for me right now. I'm still trying to find the right balance. And I'm still trying to find the right yoga class, so if anyone knows of a great restorative class that doesn't happen in the middle of the work day, let me know.

Things I have learned #4...Hey Lady. This ain't a runway and you ain't a model.

I walk funny. I'm 5'11", and like most tall people, I've been told throughout childhood to stop slouching to hide it. When I wear heels, I can tower over mere mortals. Kind of fun, but it means sometimes slouching down a bit to hear shorter people at a noisy party (seriously, watch any tall person talking to a shorty when standing too close to them in a noisy, crowded room). First my parents, then my friends, and then my husband ALL have nagged me to stand up straight. But that would mean people would notice me more, and so I still wanted to hide, so I developed The Supermodel Slouch. Hips forward, back a little concave, shoulders back. Its the bored runway walk of the model army, and I am captain of the auxiliary civilian brigade. My new pilates teacher is a former runner, and she noticed it immediately when she put me on a treadmill. 'Oh my god, you run like a model.' This is indeed hilarious, but I can't supermodel my way through a marathon, so we're using the magic of pilates to help get my alignment back on track.

My deep water running classes have also been a big help. You are wearing a light flotation belt, which helps you stay afloat, but if your form is not perfect-you start to sink. I like the immediate feedback of possibly drowning. I also like the way a 45 minute workout can make my whole body feel super toned with no joint soreness, so I think deep water running will be staying on the training roster even after I've fully recovered.

Things I've learned #5...Stop. And breathe.

I've developed a daily meditation practice that has seriously changed the way I live my life. The short way to describe it is; the world is an easier place to operate in, and I'm an easier person to know. Daily meditation gives me the space I need to respond rather than react, and just that difference has made life more enjoyable. It also makes me more aware of patterns and habits, which is a great way to track how my body is responding to training. Unfortunately, when I was working so hard, I dropped meditation as well. If I had kept it up, I might have felt these stresses coming on when they were more manageable. But I didn't, so now I'm picking up where I left off, and have noticed that it really has helped my recovery. Of all the work I've been doing to get my strength back, this is probably the most important. Being aware of everything that happens in my body and in the rest of my life is key to understanding what went wrong. Running without an ipod has been a form of meditation. Being in the present moment, listening to the breathe, tracking the pain, and trusting my body to tell me when to push through it and when to stop has helped me get back on track more quickly than if I had JUST rested. Many injuries require complete rest, but in my case that would have relieved the symptoms and not the underlying problem.

I recently read an interesting article on injury in the current issue of Runners World magazine. The author has pain similar to mine, and can't seem to find the whole answer to complete recovery. I noticed there was a bit of controversy in the comments section about how he finally got himself back to 100%, but I have to say that what he found didn't surprise me. Injury doesn't always happen because of one specific physical trauma. You have to look at it from all angles. Our bodies and minds are not two separate entities, they work together. The overworking of one can contribute to the weakness and injury of the other, much like the weakness of one part of the body can cause injury to another. It all comes together, so we have to take care of the whole package.

I loved the quote at the end, and his take on it.

The French General Ferdinand Foch is credited with sending this message back to headquarters during the 1914 battle of the Marne: "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack." That's the attitude. You can rest. Rest is good. But don't surrender. Don't ever give up. Attack! Attack!