Friday, July 31, 2009

A real run for your money

Short on cash? Stop shelling out $50 or more a month to LA Fitness and just lace up your sneaks and run outside instead. It’s free.

Or…maybe not.

You’d think that compared to joining a gym, signing up for expensive Pilates studio lessons or enlisting the attentions of a personal trainer, running would be the most cost-effective way to get fit. But you’d be wrong.

Did you know, for example, that you need three pairs of really “great” running shoes (great meaning tres cher) to alternate and that you need to replace all three of these shoes for every 300 miles completed?

I didn’t know this. But my orthopedist, the dashing Dr. Sheldon, kindly explained it to me when I went to see him today. After identifying my shin splints with a Sharpie pen on my legs (kind of the way plastic surgeons draw on their patients’ bodies—and I made the mistake of wearing a skirt to my appointment), he took a look at my running shoes and said, “Aha!”

He’d found the culprit. In addition to having too much mileage on them, my much beloved Nike Zoom Air Road Explosion IIs are too long and too wide. My poor feet jostle around, putting undue pressure on my upper shins.

So I’m off to see a shoe specialist. A guy with a ShoeHd. That’s not his real degree—it’s actually a CPed, which is a degree given to people who can expertly measure feet. I’m sure this shopping extravaganza will be a lot more expensive visit than my $25 co-pay today.

A few other running expenses I didn’t anticipate:

iTunes. My father and stepmother gave me a $100 iTunes gift card for my birthday, which was in March. I’ve already spent it. When they gave it to me, I remember thinking, Wow! This will last me a long time! How many new songs does a girl need when there’s the radio, Pandora, etc. But then I didn’t realize how quickly I’d bore of “Boom Boom Pow.” At almost $50 a pop, these incredibly comfortable skirts (which look like a cross between a tennis skirt and a “Grandma” bathing suit bottom) mean not having to deal with pants elastic tearing halfway into a run, chafing or the saggy-bottom blues. They fit much better (on my body type, anyway) than the Target knock-offs. But they are almost $50!! And they never have my size on sale, unless I want to buy the pumpkin-orange one, which I don’t.

Little rewards. I’m proud of myself for running as much and as far as I do! I’m proud that I wake up at 5:50 am every day, run through rain, dodging bats and mosquitoes and yippy dogs, even with shin pain. When I’m proud of my 6 year-old son, I’ll buy him a pack of Pokemon cards. When I’m proud of my 3 ½ year old daughter, I’ll buy her a Snow White tiara. And when I’m proud of me…well, I did need a new Kate Spade purse, anyway. And, I got the small one.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunctions

The thing about running is: there's a lot of bouncing up and down. So if...things...aren't tightly secured, there's always the possibility that you'll accidentally moon the man driving slowly behind you on Indian Trace. It's not that you wanted to moon him--you meant no disrespect, of course--but there is, it turns out, a very good reason why they call yoga pants YOGA pants. It's because pants with a drawstring are meant for standing in the same position, very still, for an extended period of time. Not for jostling up and down on uneven pavement.

Since I began my regular running routine this spring, my poor neighbors have been privy to the following privacy violations, head to toe:

Hat Mishap: If you run wearing a baseball hat, you really need to make sure it's on tight enough. Otherwise the visor part could slip in front of your eyes, obstructing your vision, and you could accidentally run into a pedestrian walking a dog--not "run into" as in, "Hey, Al, how're you doing," but run into as in collide bodies. This could incite the "attack" instinct in said dog, and a very belligerant "Hey, watch where you're running!" from said pedestrian.

"Top" This One, Janet Jackson: I wear with a heart rate monitor chest strap that occasionally isn't on tight enough--I'll look down to check what my rate is and if it's registering as 00, that usually means my strap has slipped out of my sports bra. I've made the mistake of trying to rearrange the chest strap while running. It's a good thing I generally run before the sun rises; I think an accidentally topless runner probably wouldn't do much to improve the morning rush-hour traffic if I'd made this faux pas in broad daylight.

Bottoms Up: We've already discussed the yoga pants that couldn't keep up with my pace. Unfortunately, running while gripping folds of fabric with both hands is something I've done a number of times. I never believed in spending a lot of money on workout clothes--I'd much rather save the cash and sink it into a crisp new Kate Spade tote than something that's going to get mildewed and sweaty. But eventually stretch pants do stretch out, especially if you wore them as maternity pants through two pregnancies and recently lost a good deal of weight. You'd think the pant-dropping problem would have gone away when I finally gave in and bought new things, but I didn't realize the size-inflation epidemic (you know, how a size 8 in the 1980s is now a size 2) extended to athletic gear and the "mediums" I bought were even baggier on me than my stretched-out stretch pants.

Sad Feet: Blisters, plantar fascitis, wearing old socks and toe swelling have all made for footwear fiascos; unlike my other wardrobe malfunctions, though, these wouldn't seem to result in indecent exposure. But, they have resulted in indecent language.

So for that, the flashing, the mooning and the running into unsuspecting pedestrians, I do humbly apologize to my fellow Westonites. I repeat again: it really is a very good thing that I run when 99% of this town is still sleeping!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Gel Spell

Today I finally got to try out the Powerbar Performance Gel Shot during a long run and I have to say: wow! Do the kids at the clubs know about these yet??

I do remember in my extremely brief "party girl" period (considering I had a terrible fake ID and began dating my now-husband a few months after turning 21, indeed, "brief" might be overstating it) how a sugary alcoholic drink would perk me up after a few hours of dancing. Especially anything with caffeine, like a Kaluha and cream--one of those and I could grind to "Groove Is In the Heart" until the club closed or my ride for the evening threatened to leave without me. If I'd known about Powerbar gels back in those days, I probably would have done more than dance all night; I would have jumped into one of those dance cages, done handstands and back flips, ran a few laps around the bar.

The gel that I tried, the latte flavor, was 110 calories of sugar, electrolytes, sodium and more caffeine than two cups of Starbucks. I took it just when I was starting to hate my run, 48 minutes into it. I was wearing new shoes and I'd developed a giant, swollen blister on my instep, it was close to 100 degrees outside, and yet again I'd put together a less than wonderful playlist; it wasn't a good day for "Paint it Black."

I was expecting an immediate reaction--to suddenly start flooring it like the Energizer Bunny. When that didn't happen after the first minute or two, my feet and my will power had the following conversation:

Feet: We hurt. Can we stop now?

Will Power: No way! We've got another 15 minutes to go!

Feet: You're mean. You never let us have any fun.

Will Power: It's not my fault you're always getting into trouble. Bone spurs, blisters, plantar fascitis--what's next? Gangrene? Now hup hup!

Fortunately a sudden burst of energy put an end to this conversation, and W.P. won the debate once again. My heart suddenly started pounding and my feet began flying. Hup-hup, indeed.

But hours later, they're starting to grumble again; one of my blisters is the size of a pebble. Which is too bad: no way I can put on a pair of platform heels, pop another Powerbar gel and groove around the house tonight to the songs that were popular in between the months when I was 21 and zero months and 21 and six months. But then again, it's my house: who says I can't do that all barefoot?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Please DO stop the music!

I’m having playlist issues. I need music to run, and nothing quickens my pace faster than a good song, especially one I haven’t listened to in a while. I’d forgotten all about Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” and when I was running to it a few weeks ago I was really jamming to the nostalgia of her bitterness. “’You said you’d love me until you die, until you die—WELL YOU’RE STILL ALIVE!’” I shouted along with her, startling my poor neighbor, who’d padded out of the house in his socks and robe to pick up his morning paper when I stomped past him, dripping sweat and 1990s-era angst.

But that was a few weeks ago and now I need to take Alanis off my playlist because today when I heard that song, instead of getting all riled up and angry, I just said, “Honey, you just need to get over him already!” (Fortunately my neighbor was not around for that outburst.)

A few other songs I really need to take out of my regular rotation:

"Disturbia": When Rihanna sings, “What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this?” I always start to get a little queasy, particularly if I’ve eaten anything pre-run. It seems like the next logical lyric should be, “I think…I’m going to throw up!”

"Rockstar": Unfortunately the song after “Disturbia” on my playlist is this Nickelback hit, and whenever he says, “I’ll have the quesadilla—ha ha ha” I get even more nauseated. Any song mentioning a heavy, greasy Mexican restaurant entrĂ©e is not good to run to.

"Low": Who doesn’t love a cute little song about Applebottom jeans? Run to this one 80+ times, though, and you might actually tune into the lyrics and find out that they’re not just about the denim/fur-lined boot fashion faux pas. It’s TMI, Flo Rida, major TMI! I’m glad you had a fun evening with your lady of the evening, but do I really need to hear about every position??

"Hips Don’t Lie": I know I’m reading too much into this, but of course hips don’t lie. That would be lips that are capable of giving shape to mistruths. Hips? They’re good for shaking, shimmying, balancing a kid or a grocery bag, but not deception.

I’ll probably always be happy with the rest of my playlist—an eclectic mix of Bob Dylan, the Black-Eyed Peas, Nina Simone, Simon & Garfunkel, Salt n Pepa and more…but these other songs have got to go!

If you have a playlist you think I’d like, please submit it or email me. I’m desperate for some new tunes!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In through your nose, out through your mouth

Forget “Couch 2 5K”—how about “Heart Attack 2 Half Marathon”?

People who’ve known me a long time undoubtedly are surprised to be getting emails from me about my half-marathon training. I was not exactly an active child.

I’ll never forget when my middle school gym teacher began lecturing me one day about why I should quit smoking, and she seriously didn’t believe me when I insisted I did not smoke. “I’ve seen you run,” she explained. She was probably referring to the multiple times I’d stumbled off the track, clutching my chest, wheezing, “I’m having—gasp—a—gasp—heart attack—gasp. Help.”

When I was a few years older, I lost my “body image virginity.” Every woman knows what I’m talking about: the moment it suddenly dawns on you that your legs are paler, thicker and squishier than the legs of all the models in Seventeen, and the word “diet” becomes part of your daily lexicon (and sadly for most of us, never leaves it.)

I immediately stopped buying pizza, French fries and Tastykakes at the school cafeteria (choosing an orange and a giant hot pretzel instead; my nutrition knowledge was very limited then), and because I’d heard thin people ran, I started waking up early, well before the 7:15 school bus came by, to run outside. I would run until my “heart attack” came on, which at first was about three or four minutes after I started.

So for three or four minutes every morning, I’d run halfway up the street and walk back, my throat sore from the cold and my whole body shaking. This lasted a month or so, and soon I could do seven or eight minutes without feeling like I was going to die. Then I was running up the whole street—and back again. I’d always stop right when I hit that “heart attack” feeling. I usually got to listen to one side of a cassette in my Sony Walkman.

That summer, I went to sleepaway camp and tried to continue my running routine—which was by then up to 15 minutes—by jogging halfway around the lake before breakfast. Leaving me in their dust was a pack of “real” runners, including one of my counselors. One day she was kind enough to observe that I wasn’t breathing correctly and taught me the in through your nose/out through your mouth technique that is useful whether you’re running, doing Pilates or going into labor. “Your legs are strong—it’s your heart you need to strengthen,” she explained. She was right. I was able to go four times as far when I changed how I breathed.

I’d like to say I became an athlete after this, but when I went to college, I outgrew my fear of not looking like a Seventeen model and became so involved in other things that mattered to me that I gave it up. I did eventually become a regular exerciser again—mainly again for weight loss purposes after my children were born—but it wasn’t until recently that I resumed running.

Amazingly, I really did pick up right where I left off—this time running for 45 minutes and then an hour at a time without stopping. No more “heart attacks”—in fact, my 35 year old body could go further and faster than my 17 year old body had been able to run.

The last time I was back in my hometown outside of Philadelphia, I decided to run down the same street that had once been such a challenge to me. I’m sure I’ll feel great when I pass the finish line in Miami in January, but I’m not sure it will be quite as significant an accomplishment as racing down Woodbine Avenue, feeling stronger than I ever did during the years when I presumably should have been in prime physical condition.

At the rate I’m going, maybe I’ll hit my peak when I’m a senior citizen. I’d love to have my grandkids cheering me on at my first Iron Man!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mission Im-possum-ble

I'm off to the gym to get in my Sunday run on the--blech--treadmill.

I really am not a fan of the treadmill (hence the blech.) I know lots of people prefer the air-conditioned comfort of a gym, the camraderie of fellow exercisers sweating next to them, and seeing every calorie burned and mile completed tracked on a large glowing LCD screen--but I'm not one of them.

Me, I find all of that kind of boring. I think it's actually sort of lonely to run alongside people who might be next to you in physical presence, but emotionally couldn't be more far removed--as they listen to whatever song is playing on their iPod or flip through whatever magazine it is they have in front of them. It's true that in July, in South Florida, air-conditioning makes for more comfortable running conditions than 100 degree humidity, but the changing landscape and the people watching you can enjoy while running outdoors are so interesting that the extra sweat is worth it.

Except when running outdoors gets just a little too interesting--like today.

I was so excited about my run today because I had all kinds of new stuff to try out. Upon the suggestion of several readers, I'd purchased some Powerbar gels to try out 45 minutes into my run today. I also had purchased a belt with a water bottle (so I could wash down the gels), and because my plantar fascitis had been acting up, I'd replaced the insoles of my Nike Zoom Air Road Explosion IIs (the best running shoes ever if you're an under pronator like me) with orthodics. I'd also created a new playlist on my iPhone and couldn't wait to groove to Nina Simone, the Bodyrockers and Liz Phair.

A few problems:

1. The Nike Zoom Air Road Explosion IIs might be the best running shoes ever--but they don't fit a traditional orthodic. So about five minutes into my run I realized my feet were in agony and were being scraped up on all sides by the ill-fitting footwear.

2. The water bottle holster I bought kept rotating around my waist, and the water sloshed around and got me completely soaked. I wasn't used to running with an extra 30 oz. of water weighed down my torso, and between that and the shoes and the heat, needless to say I didn't start off my run on the right foot.

3. I had accidentally touched the "recurring loop" button on my iPhone so I never got to hear any of the new tracks I'd added to my playlist. Instead, I heard the same Black Eyed Peas song, "Let's Get It Started," over and over again. Maybe four times.

4. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK! After the third time hearing, "And the base is running and running and running..." I saw a large animal that kind of looked like a rat, but the size of a cat. Or maybe it was a rabbit without long ears. Sitting leisurely in the middle of the sidewalk. I got so scared I bolted and ran into the bike path, freaking out a family of four that had been cycling leisurely beside me.

Later when I got home with bruised feet, a wet back, and my heart still pounding, my husband, a Florida native, explained that I'd probably just seen a possum, and that it wouldn't have hurt me.

Well, isn't that comforting.

Well, I am off now to the YMCA to hit the treadmill. I know it won't be an exciting run, but today I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I hate to eat & run (I mean it, I really hate it! Advice??)

I wake up, I run, and the parasites eat their breakfast. I’m so thoroughly devoured from my pre-dawn trips through damp, mosquito-infested paths that I’m just waiting for the other members of the animal kingdom to discover me. It would only half-surprise me if one morning I returned to my doorstep wearing an armor of head-to-toe leeches, with a dog chewing on an ankle and a bird's claws entangled in my hair.

But enough about what’s eating me. Can I get some advice on what I’m eating?

I run as far as I run because my legs are strong and because to say that my will power is “relentless” is a bit of an understatement; I haven’t let fevers, walking pneumonia or even a burst ovarian cyst keep me off the trail. (I’m not bragging about this, by the way—I recognize that the adage is “starve a fever, feed a cold,” not “run for 3 miles if you have a fever, 6 if you have a cold” and that it’s not the wisest thing to stress your body so much when sick.)

As I’m running, though, particularly for long distances, I start to feel weak about 45 minutes into a run, which is probably why after 60 minutes I am very tired and 80 minutes is as long as I’ve been able to go without getting woozy. 80 minutes at a 9 ½ minute mile pace is not sufficient to get me through a 13.1 mile half marathon.

I know when I start running with Team in Training in August, I’ll get some pointers, but it would be nice to be able to go beyond 80 minutes before then.

I am pretty sure the issue is what I eat and not my leg strength (it’s definitely not lack of will, I can promise you that!) Which is why I’m hoping to get advice from any regular runners out there.

I’ve tried pre-run breakfasts of pancakes (wayyyy to0 heavy!) a single wheat waffle and an egg white (wayyy to0 light!) and just about everything in between—and have had to deal with either sluggishness, nausea or both, or worse.

My faithful blog reader, veteran marathoner and long-time BFF Kelly had recommended I try a slice of wheat toast and peanut butter, and that suggestion has been great. No more tossing my cookies—or, err, pancakes—during a run.

But while it’s prevented severe gastrointestinal distress, it’s not been a cure-all. I still get weak at that dreaded 45 minute mark of my run. I still think I might need to switch up my diet a little—maybe what I eat the day before, or even everyday—to be able to complete the half-marathon.

I know “carb loading” is important, but overdoing pasta and pizza the night before a long run actually seems to backfire on me, making me more sluggish the next day. Currently, being a Weight Watchers veteran, I have a pretty balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables, berries, whole grains, lean dairy, “good” fats like olive oil and avocado—and a little bit of fish and poultry. (I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m a very unenthusiastic carnivore.)

So what am I doing wrong? Let me know if you have any suggestions on a good runner’s diet—or if there’s something else I could do to stay strong longer.

OK, off to go soak in some Calamine lotion…

If you’d like to support this bug-bite-covered, pancake-puking but extremely dedicated runner’s efforts to raise money for leukemia & lymphoma research by sponsoring her at the Miami ING marathon, click here to view her fundraising page.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 unladylike confessions about running

I think most people would describe me as a “lady,” or if that kind of old-fashioned term isn't their style, at least “very polite.” I always say thank you, rarely curse, and my passive-aggressive response to being given the finger by an angry driver in a traffic jam is to shrug, mouth a rueful “I’m sorry!” and—if I’m really ticked off—blow a kiss.

What most people don’t know, though, is how truly disgusting and un-ladylike I am when I’m running. A few particularly unsavory confessions:

1. I stink. After a run, I smell like a male bodybuilder who just spent half his day in the sauna. The combination of bug spray and sweat, even after applying half a stick of Secret, in 100 degree humidity is probably toxic to some animal species. (Though not mosquitoes, unfortunately—hence the need for the bug spray.)

2. I listen to raunchy music and shout out the most illicit lyrics right around the time that “runner’s high” kicks in. If you drive with me in the car, you’ll hear Suzanne Vega or Crosby, Stills & Nash, and I love to see Bruce Hornsby and U2 in concert—but when I’m running, I’m jamming to “Applebottom jeans and the boots with the fur, the whole crowd was lookin’ at her….”

3. I spit. Like an ostrich. Sorry if that was your sidewalk.

4. The following situations prompt swearing like you would not believe (a lot worse than my usual “Oh no!” or “Well, gee that stinks!”): seeing a rodent, stray cat or possum on my path; a bug flying into my eye; my heart rate monitor chest strap falling off mid-run and losing all my calories-burned info; forgetting to turn off the “Shake to Shuffle” option on my iPod meaning that with every move I take, the cool raunchy song I'd been grooving to switches to a different one.

5. I rudely ignore kind elderly people who pull up to me on the side of the road to ask me where the nearest Publix is. I run right past them. Look, clearly I’m in a hurry: maybe they could ask the casual walkers where Weston Road is instead.

I can assure you, though, that by the time you see me at work or the supermarket or wherever it is that we see each other, I’ll be clean-cut again in appearance, scent and demeanor, and humming a folk song instead of Flo Rida. Even if you step on my foot or cut me off in traffic, I will keep my temper, spitting and potty-mouth in check.

Such debase behavior, believe it or not, is for a good cause. I’m stinking, cursing and spitting as part of my mission to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research and patient care. To learn more or to make a donation, please visit my Team in Training fundraising page.

I'm still working on a blog about the embarrassing things that have happened to me while running, like when I ran north and my pants stayed south. Check back in a few days.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What did I get myself into??

Hi, I’m Jorie Mark, and I’m getting ready to train for my first half-marathon, the ING Miami race in January. I’d signed up for the race months ago, planning to train on my own, but then heard about Team in Training, which raises funds for blood cancers including leukemia and lymphoma.

I thought this was so cool. I got into running to become healthier—to make the most of my life. How wonderful that by participating in this program, I could help save someone else’s.

Plus, I’ll admit it: I might have been at risk for burning out before the race without this higher purpose. When I first started running, I was really loving how as I racked up the miles, I seemed to be leaving my excess weight in the dust. (You can count calories and avoid carbs all you want, but nothing will get you into a smaller size more effectively than running 20 miles a week.) Having crossed the “finish line” of my goal weight, though, I probably would have been able to maintain it without getting up at 5:50 every single morning, sometimes in the rain, to run through sidewalks littered with ginko-berry mush and the occasional dead frog or lizard.

But running with the goal of raising money to support leukemia research and patient care has really given me a reason to trudge on. 13.1 miles, here I come!

I hope you’ll follow along with me as I gain endurance, learn more about the true heroes I’m running for—and hopefully gain some kind of yoga-esque sense of balance along the way. (People are always telling me, as I can be quite high-strung and Type A, that I should do yoga, but the truth is, I get bored saluting the sun and find that the closest I get to “meditation” is actually when I’m flying down the street with my heart rate jacked up to 164 with Bob Dylan’s “Highway 51” blaring in my earbuds.)

This blog will journal my training days. Thanks for reading it and for supporting me. If you would like to sponsor my running—every little bit helps, even a few bucks would get me closer to my $1800 fundraising minimum—please click here to donate.

Stay tuned for my next topic, coming later this week. I can't decide whether to title it "The Blooper Reel," "Wardrobe Malfunctions," or "When Your Pants Can't Keep Up With Your Pace."