Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gear: Running Is So Hot Right Now

Every time I'm in the market for a new tri-top or some shorts, I go to the runner's shop thinking; 'THIS time I'll branch out from plain black. THIS time they'll have a windbreaker that doesn't make me look like I am leading a 3rd grade field trip to Niagara Falls. THIS time there will be interesting stuff that isn't covered in some awful floral print or (god help me), is pepto pink.' And every time, I am let down and I start looking for the plain black gear. For a while, I decided it would be a fashion choice, and then I just got bored with it and starting thinking about all the awesome stuff there SHOULD be on the market for runners.

Yoga gear is making a killing these days. Lululemon makes a cute yoga pant, and their sports bras are seriously hot, but their running gear (while getting better) is still lacking. They had trouble getting the cuts that runners and triathletes need for function right, and the prints & colors they favor swing too far into the 'girly' camp for me. Shakti has some seriously hot cuts and they SAY they use performance fabrics (I am fast becoming a connoisseur of performance fabrics, and I am sad to report that 'yoga performance' and 'running performance' don't often match up), but again, a lot of the prints are heinous. The sports bras and tops are even hotter than the ones at Lulu, but I doubt they would hold up to strapping you down for even the shortest of runs. There's gotta be more out there, and I can't be the only one thinking about this. Well, I'm not.

Splits 59 is an athletic wear company started by triathletes. The styles are road tested by athletes, and while they are still a little boring, there is a better variety of cuts in the tops and the color palette is a little more sophisticated. And I like the way they styled their promotional shots.

Stella McCartney for Adidas has been around for a while, but she seemed to focus on tennis and light gym workout gear (for what Mr. Petes over at Runners Write calls The Treadmill Walkers), and what little running related gear she did was not only insanely priced, but barely functional. She's put out some new styles, and I have to say, this windbreaker is pretty hot. But it is also $210 flippin' dollars. Stella does the best prints of the bunch and her color palette is always interesting.

Hussein Chalayan was named Creative Director for Puma this summer, and I have to say that this is the work I'm most excited to see. Rather than producing a collaborative secondary line, Chalayan will be overseeing ALL of Puma's design; from shoes, to apparel, to accessories. Puma isn't really a performance gear go-to, and in the last few years their apré wear has veered a little too far in the wrong direction for my taste, but I'm v. excited to see what happens next.

So I've also had to adapt my personal style outside of training and post workout gear; everything had to change once the possibility of wearing heels and shoes without arch support went out the window. I needed to be office and socially appropriate, but when you are dealing with spasming muscles and have to stretch regularly throughout the day, you can't be in restrictive clothing and hawt shoes. I got a pair of Puma speed cats, and started working my wardrobe around sneaks. It was pretty easy, though I do spend a lot of time in American Apparel leggings. I am getting towards the end of my exile on jersey knit island, but I don't really want to leave all of this behind. I'm really starting to look at the Y-3 line that Yohji Yamamoto produces for Adidas. I could do without all the big logos, but I love the iconic stripes, and if I had the $$$, I think I'd start with a few pieces like this and this. Considering that I'm spending more and more time with my sneaks, I think these might be a necessity, don't you? Check out this beautiful promo spot to see how Y-3 takes the sport to street. wear design're doing better...we gotta tackle those accessories next though. Have I mentioned I'm an accessories designer? Call me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Music Monday: Kid Cudi

This song has been haunting me all weekend.

Simple As... - Kid Cudi

Also a great listen is this collaboration with Ratatat and MGMT. Thanks for pointing this one out, Ethan!

Pursuit Of Happiness (nightmare) - Kid Cudi

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Media: Running Beyond Reality

It seems like all I do is work these days. Probably because its true. I'm logging some serious hours, and haven't been able to get to bed before midnight for at least a month now. Normally I'm a very sound sleeper and don't often remember my dreams, but all the stress and no running have....made me dream about running! At least 3 nights in the past two weeks have had running dreams. My running dreams; not so interesting to anyone but me. Spike Jonze's running dreams; at least interesting to Nike and Adidas. Set the Way-Back machine to the early 2000's and look this:

Jonze produced this gorgeous piece for Adidas. Karen O sings. I want my life to be this magic.

Remember the Y2K anxiety? Remember all the people who dug underground bunkers and hoarded canned soup? Remember worries about all the computers going off-line, and all the rioting and urban destruction that was sure to happen? Well, even if it DID, runnners wouldn't break stride. A great look at the calm that comes with a daily run.

OK, back to work!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Music Monday: Drive By Edition

I'm super busy this week, so its a quick drive by Music Monday post this week. I tweeted this yesterday, but I love it so much, I'm putting it out there again. Watch these kids dance, and add Maximus to your ipod. It'll warm you up.

Marathon Sunday: Running Meditation

In light of my new status as a benched runner, and all the time I have to contemplate this new reality, this week's Marathon Sunday is more about the internal strength and stamina than it is about the actual physical race.

Every once in a while there is discussion in my meditation group about whether or not running can be considered a form of meditation. While the popular practice of putting on your ipod and 'zoning out' is NOT meditation, I believe taking to the road without distractions and focusing on the breath and the present moment certainly is. I argue this point every time, and point out that I will actually get EVEN MORE (!) meditation time in per day if I am allowed to run it! My teacher smiles, points to the cushion, and says 'park it'. Well...okaaaay, but still...lookit this:

The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei

The Japanese Tendai Priests practice in monasteries located in the forests of Mt. Hiei. The mountain is considered holy, and many go in pilgrimage because it is said to "offer the seeker every type of religious experience--sacred scholarship, grand ritual, austere meditation, heartfelt repentance, heroic asceticism, mystical flight, miraculous cures, ceaseless devotion, divine joy, and nature worship-while promising enlightenment in this very body." It also is the home of one of the most difficult endurance challenges in the world; kaihogyo training.

A monk who enters this path is known as a gyoja; "a spiritual athlete who practices gyo with a mind set of the Path of Buddha." He is given 7 years to complete his training, during which, if for any reason he cannot complete any aspect, he is honor bound to kill himself by hanging or disembowelment. The training schedule looks like this:

Years 1-3: 40km (roughly equal to a 26.2 marathon) a day for 100 consecutive days.

Years 4-5: 40km a day for 100 consecutive days - performed twice

Year 6: 60km (roughly equal to 37.5 miles) a day for 100 consecutive days.

Year 7: 84km (roughly equal to 52.2 miles) a day for 100 consecutive days,
&40km a day for 100 consecutive days.

On the 700th day, the monks must complete a 9 day meditation without food, water, rest or sleep.

During training, the monks must still participate in all mediation, prayers and duties around the temple. They regularly visit other temples and give blessings, and often will leave the mountain and walk through nearby Kyoto to bless those who cannot travel to them.

At the end of all of this, the gyoja is considered to be a kaihogyo, and has attained great enlightenment. Since 1885, only 46 monks have finished successfully!

There is a short documentary about the kaihogyo here. Check it out, and remember it the next time you feel like a daily 3-5 miler is just 'too hard'!

The Lung-gom-pa Runners of Tibet

Even more running monks! The Lung-gom-pa monks of old Tibet were known to run 200 miles at a clip, and could go for 48 hours without stopping. Lung-gom-pa (wind meditation) training was said to help the monks develop incredible nimbleness and endurance.

(from an article by H Schmid) '"The Way of the White Clouds" by Lama Anagarika Govinda explains that the word Lung, pronounced rlun, signifies the state of air as well as vital energy or psychic force. Gom means meditation, contemplation, concentration of mind and soul upon a certain subject. It has to do with the emptying of one’s mind of all subject-object relationships. This means that a lung-gom-pa runner is not a man who has the ability to fly through air, but one who can control his energy, re-channel and concentrate it in a new direction.'

So the monks agree, there is some hardcore mind training going on during a run!

So finally, I leave you with these opportunities for some Marathon Meditation:

The Great Tibetan Marathon

Adventure Marathons have been hosting full and half marathons in amazing locations for several years now. Read the list of requirements for a course to be called an 'Adventure Marathon', and you will know fear:

The course must follow the classical marathon distance of 42.195 m. Various surfaces must occur on the course, and the route cannot appear homogeneous. The surface can consist of asphalt, rock, gravel, sand, earth, ice, water, stairs, fallen branches and trunks etc. Abrupt ascents must be part of the course. As a minimum there must occur 5-10% ascents spread over 5 to 10 km, unless the marathon is taking place in high altitude. At least one of the following extreme elements must appear on the course: high altitude (more than 2,000 meters), steep, extended ascents, sand dunes, cold/frost or heat (more than 30 degrees Celsius) The course must be difficult to such an extent that the runners will be finishing 25-75% later than at an average marathon. No more than 10% of the runners are supposed to use less than 3h15min. The average time must be higher than 4h30min.

Sounds like fun! I know I'm going to get bored with only doing NYC races pretty soon. I've started looking at traveling to other states, but when I think big, I think of these.

The Great Tibetan Marathon is manned by the local monks, starts and ends at a monastery and is run at altitude on the Tibetan Plateau of Northern India. Check out the course description!

What a great way to see the world! The other Marathon that caught my eye was The Big Five Marathon. You run through Entabeni Game reserve with nothing but a handful of park rangers in jeeps and helicopters to separate you from The Big Five: Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lions and Leopards! I'm sure the possibility of being dinner adds a whole other layer to the idea of running meditation and being completely in the moment!

Look out for the lions!

So that's it! I have a lot of running mediation to look forward to in the future, but for now, I'm trying to be as patient as possible in waiting for this injury to heal. So until then, I'll be parked on the cushion and mentally preparing for the rigors of Marathon meditation at NYC 2010 and beyond!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Final Diagnosis 3D

I've been talking about this injury for a long time. I've been thinking about it for even longer. When you are so focused on a goal, and when the journey to that goal is a big part of your emotional and physical well-being, detours can be frustrating, and road blocks can be downright devastating.

Going through my list of symptoms, I have consulted my coaches, my trainer, physical therapists, and my GP for ideas of what might be the culprit. To a man, they all said 'it doesn't SOUND like a fracture'. My GP thought it was just muscles that would not relax, and the spasming was due to a pinched sciatic nerve. She gave me some muscle relaxers, and told me to get an xray 'just in case'. I got my xray back with a note that there was no visible fracture, but some 'bone thickening' was present in the left inferior pubic ramus. It was time to pull out the big guns and go for the MRI.

My insurance is shit. My MRI would not be covered unless I waited for my insurance year to roll over (3 week wait). This was agonizing, but considering I couldn't run without pain anyway, I decided to wait.

The MRI took some doing to set up. My orthopedic surgeon requested I get it done at Lennox Hill (2 MRI's at a cost of over $3200), but after doing some research, I discovered that injury required only ONE MRI, and I could get that done for less than half the cost of a single done in Manhattan if I left the city. We decided to get it done in Bay Shore and catch the ferry to Fire Island for the day after the test. It was kind of fun; we had a road trip, we took the ding dong on her first trip to the beach, and I got to pretend I was having a 2001: A Space Odyessy moment (seriously, the room was dimly lit with purple light, the machine was white and sounded like a space ship. I got a little excited. It felt like I was seriously in the future!).

A week later, I go to my ortho, who comes breezing into the room with the news; its a fracture. I asked him how big it was, at what stage it was, and when I could start rehabilitation. He blew off every question with 'stop running'. He gave me some half baked ideas that running is bad for your bones and joints (wrong-running has been proven to increase bone density and protect the joints in healthy runners), people past their twenties should not be running long distances (again, wrong-distance runners come into their prime in their mid thirties), and that past the age of 50, you don't see many runners at all (yet again, so so wrong- one of my team coaches is still racing and setting records in his 70s, and I routinely get PASSED in races by many many Olds). He finally got down to it and said that he just personally does NOT LIKE RUNNING. Which is fine, but that's like...your opinion, dude. Ok, here's mine:

Seriously, I'm getting tired of non runners blithely telling runners how horrible the sport is. It is NOT anymore injury prone than any other sport. Many sports have repetitive stress injuries (swimming, tennis, soccer, gymnastics, dance, baseball...), and like any other sport, you train as well as you can to avoid them, and honestly, I think many people use 'possible injury' as an excuse to not do it because...running is damn hard.

I said all of this in my head, because why argue with this guy? He just doesn't like running. It won't change the fact that I have a fracture. At this point, I just need to know how to fix it. I asked what I could do for rehab while I was taking a break from running, and he said 'Look, I don't have a book here that tells me how to fix it, I can just tell you that it is broken.' Well, at least he acknowledged his limitations. I said thanks, and called my Physio, who told me to lay off of everything for 6 weeks, then only water running, the elliptical machine and Pilates, adding weight training as I felt better. No marathon this year, and don't even think about running until January at the earliest.

This is incredibly disappointing, but at least I had been thinking about it for a while, and was prepared for this outcome. Those first few weeks of scrambling were so mentally taxing. It had taken over my life, and I was miserable. I wasn't seeing my friends, I wasn't meditating, and I was refusing to see anything beyond the goal of 'Marathon'. I took a step back and remembered a great piece of advice I got when I first started exploring meditation and Buddhism: 'Your desires are like a thorny rose. Beautiful, but if those thorns hurt to hold on to so tightly-ease up'. So I did, and I felt better. That's also about when one of my coaches took me aside and told me that I had the ability to do this and do it very well if I just relaxed, let it heal, and started over again. He invited me to start training with his team, and defer my marathon entry to next year. So that's what I am doing. My fund raising will carry over, and I will run a better race that I could have this year.

So, please keep reading, I still have a lot to say, and I will be detailing my comeback and all that I've learned from it. If you have donated, thank you again, and know that it will still be put to good use for my guaranteed marathon entry next year. If you HAVEN'T donated, please consider it. I'm not done yet, and these kids still need some sports in their lives.

I will leave you with the 3D part of the diagnosis. I went to see The Final Destination this week (sometimes I love a campy slasher film, and I especially love it in 3D), and the title credits were not only awesome (and in 3D), but the xray theme was appropriate for today's post. Warning: Lots of very graphic owies. Enjoy!