Friday, January 31, 2014

Fixing My Carb Deficit: Pre-Run / Recovery Muffins

Friends, you know I am an unapologetic foodie. I shared the Leg of Beast dinner at Incanto with friends & reveled in God's Butter. I attended the "Farewell to Foie" nine-course pre fixe at Michael Mina & wept at the beauty of the third course. I worship at the alter of craft microbrews, embarrassingly good wine, and painstakingly-created cocktails.

I use real butter. I do not skip desert.

So you know I am not about to shove some healthy-living-clean-eating-skinny-what-have-you crap down your throat. When I want a full-fat, artery-clogging, insulin-spiking party in my mouth, I damn well throw one.

On the other hand (sigh) I can't be wolfing down lavender-infused French toast with honeyed mascarpone and bourbon-maple syrup every day before my morning workout.

All this can be yours at Mission Beach Cafe.
(Be sure to ask for the "rock star" mimosa.)

So, lately, I've been on the lookout for something baked and pumpkin-flavored that I could grab quickly in the morning--something with enough carbs to get me through my morning workout, but not so heavy that it takes an hour to digest. And then it also occurred to me that something like that would also be great to throw in my car for replacing the carbs post-afternoon workout & holding me over until I can get home & have a proper dinner. For these purposes, I was looking for real-legitimate-reasonably healthy-weekday-breakfast muffins, not weekend-mouthparty-brunch-n-mimosas-with-friends muffins.

I tried out a few different recipes & was mostly pretty underwhelmed. Eventually I just ended up taking this & that from different ones, & through trial & error, stumbled onto this:

Super Tasty Pre-Run / Recovery Muffins!

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • .25 tsp salt
  • .75 tsp cinnamon
  • .75 tsp nutmeg
  • .25 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I buy the 14 oz cans & just use half of one per batch, which is close enough)
  • .5 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 T canola oil
  • .5 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl, mix the wet ones together in a different bowl, slowly add the dries to the wets, spoon into muffin tin, & bake at 375 for 20 minutes (or until toothpicks come out clean). Sprinkling the top of the pre-baked muffins with a little extra cinnamon & sugar is optional, but tasty.

It's like I'm a real food blogger!
(Ha ha not really. Ever.)

They've come out soft, moist, & delicious for me every time. (Er....except that one time when I accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda. That was pretty gross.) I am working on getting more carbs (which apparently I royally suck at, according to The New Rules???), so the muffins have been another great way to get a few extra from a healthy source. (Newsflash: You don't get to fix your carb deficit by stuffing your face with ice cream. Woh-woh-woh.)

Don't forget elevensies!!
And I have to say, they've made a big difference in my morning, which now goes breakfast (6 am, pumpkin muffin pre-workout), second breakfast (8:30 am, peanut butter & banana sandwich post-workout), elevensies (11am, green smoothie).

Since I started actively figuring out how many carbs I should be getting each day, keeping track of them, & working on getting closer to the right amount (not as easy as you might think!), I feel So. Much. Better. Even though I'm only cross-training right now and not actually running, I've still been getting in doubles on most weekdays (with the occasional triple if I get to karate and/or yoga), making it through the afternoons feeling awake and energized, & getting up 45 minutes earlier than usual feeling alert & ready to go.

(If you know me, you will appreciate how insane--absolutely *insane*--it is that I've been getting up at 5:45 am nearly every weekday morning for strength work, elliptical, or bike. I am not kidding that before this month I could count my post-school pre-work day workouts on two hands.)

Happy weekend, everyone! And those of you running KP Half, kick the SHIT out of the Great Highway for me! ;)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bone Scan, AlterG, & Future Trail Adventures

So last Wednesday I went in for a bone scan to determine whether the doctor's (and my) suspicions were correct & I was dealing with a stress fracture in my left fibula. If you've never had a bone scan before, it's pretty cool. First, you get an injection of Technetium-99m, which is a radioactive isotope that gives off gamma particles. Also in the injection is a bone-binding agent, which will cause the Technetium to bond to bone tissue. When a bone is injured and trying to repair itself, there will be more uptake from blood flow than usual; this area will receive more of the Technetium and the bone binder will help it to "stick."

(Also, if you have a Geiger counter at home, the 2-3 days post-bone scan can be pretty entertaining.)

Right after the injection, the technician will put you in the gamma camera for a Phase 1 scan in order to verify that the tracer is circulating & bonding properly. In some tests, the Phase 1 or 2 scan is the diagnostic one, but if a stress fracture is suspected, you'll have to go wait ~3 hours for your body to fully metabolize the tracer & give it enough time to bond properly to any healing areas. (This is a Phase 3 scan.)

The scan itself takes half an hour to an hour. When you return for the scan, the technician will position you in the camera, and then have you hold completely still for 10-15 minutes while the camera detects the gamma particles emanating from your body. I want to say that the technician said the camera takes ~10 images per second, but because there is so much variation in the radioactivity that's emitted, they record say twelve minutes' worth, then "stack" or average the hundreds of images to construct a more accurate picture of what's happening.

There's nothing painful about it except getting the shot (which looks a lot scarier than it is since the cannister is covered in a larger, lead cannister to protect the technicians); for me, the hardest part was holding completely still in one position for twelve minutes, and then another position for eight more minutes. They turned the monitor to where I could see it, but the images are so grainy that it was hard to make out much. These were also in color with all sorts of black and white and gray and red and orange and yellow dots, so I really had no idea what I was looking at.

My doctor was on vacation until Monday, but when he released the report that morning, the results were pretty clear, even to me:

The bright white patch on the little bone? Stress fracture.

When I saw the doctor that afternoon, he didn't have much to add. No question about the diagnosis. No, they have no idea what caused it. No, there's nothing to do but stay off of it. (He did echo RoadBunner's creed that bones heal 100%.)

It happens occasionally that I go to doctors and only realize much later that I'm unclear about something or think of questions I wish I'd thought to ask. Initially he said after about six more weeks I could start trying some short, easy runs and see how it felt. When I reminded him that I'd already been off of it for five weeks, he kind of did this half-shrug-sigh & pointed out that it was still showing up white-hot on the bone scan and I've still had some achey-ness after ~2 hours of walking, which are both signs that there is still a lot of healing to do.

"But the good news is that you can do anything low impact. Biking, elliptical, swimming, all of that is fine," he continued. "At this point it will all be symptom-driven. If it doesn't hurt, it's not doing any damage." The question I wish I'd thought to ask is if running for a few minutes at a time didn't hurt in say, 3-4 weeks, does that mean it would be okay?

(Obviously I'm not going to try to run on it any time soon. Not until all of the aching & tenderness is completely gone. But from everything I've read 11 weeks seems excessive.)

On Thursday I went to see my PT & updated him re: visiting the sports doc / orthopedic / stress fracture / bone scan / etc. He did some more work on my left calf & said he would not be surprised if the primary issue was the tight knotted-up-ness of my calf muscles, and that had led to a strain, which had in turn led to the stress fracture. So, in his opinion, the best way to prevent a repeat is, just as with my hip flexors & quads, to stretch stretch stretch and roll baby roll.

We talked a little bit about the prognosis, which just depressed me, and about how I'd been doing what I could on the bike & elliptical. Then he gave me a sad, pitiful look.

"Would it make you feel better if I let you run on the AlterG for like 20 minutes?"

I could have cried. That pretty much made my day.

If you have never had the experience of running on an AlterG treadmill, I encourage you to take the chance if you ever get it. Basically it lets you run at a given percentage of your body weight (which you can set) so that you can get the cardio, neuromuscular, form, etc. benefits without the impact. First, you put on a pair of super-tight neoprene shorts with a kind of hoop around the waist with a zipper attached:

Then you climb into the treadmill, which is like a regular treadmill except sort of encased in a giant bubble with a circular opening in the top. You step through the opening, and then the zipper on the shorts zips you into the opening.

First the treadmill weighs you & calibrates; then you enter the percent body weight you want. (I was doing 50%.) The air-tight compartment around you inflates accordingly, causing the neoprene shorts to lift your body ever so subtly so that they are supporting part of your weight. At first, this feels kind of like walking on the moon--you can take giant, leaping steps & feel like you're just floating through the air. Just like a regular treadmill, you can adjust the speed & incline.

After a few minutes on the AlterG, I noticed a few things. First, when you're only supporting a portion of your body weight, you can run STUPID fast. I found I could run at 5K pace & barely breathe hard. Second, the lack of impact made it really easy to focus on form stuff--I could really pay attention to leaning forward with good posture and using my hamstrings & glutes to get a nice solid follow through with my shin coming all the way to parallel with the ground. Third, there is a camera down on the belt in front of your feet that feeds to a monitor right in front of you so that you can watch what your feet are doing, which also meant I could see how effective my efforts to land more on the inside of the ball of my foot/midfoot were & adjust accordingly. Fourth, I could immediately tell which muscles running uses that spinning & elliptical do not.

Oh my god, I wish I could run on that thing every day. Not only because it would let me do something that more closely resembles training while my leg heals, but because I think it would do wonders for my form and for strengthening the muscles that need the most work. The next time I have $75,000 to blow, that's totally where it's going.

* * *

Grand Total: 55.35 miles

    * 22.25 easy (bike)
    * 4.75 speed (bike)
    * 5.75 tempo (bike)
    * 20.1 elliptical
    * 2.5 AlterG


Sick again; lay on the couch / drink tea. God I am so *over* this.


a.m. elliptical, 5 easy / p.m. elliptical, 2.1 warm up, 4 x (5:00 @ 5K effort / 3:00 easy), 1.85 cool down = 8.5 speed. I find it a lot easier to do speed / tempo workouts on the bike than on the elliptical, but there were no bikes of the brand I like to use available and working and I could not figure out how to use the other brand, so I did the best I could on the elliptical. It worked better than I remembered, actually, but I still prefer the bike.


a.m. strength work / p.m. 17 bike. Again my preferred bikes were unavailable (HMPH), so finally sucked it up & figured out how to work the other ones. From this, I learned two things:

1) Apparently not all spin bikes are created equal. Both of the two brands have 25 different difficulty levels, but this new kind was definitely WAAAY easier than than ones I usually use. Level 7 on the new bike felt like Level 2 on the old bike, so I upped it until I was getting about the same RPMs at the same level of effort as usual. However, whereas on the old bike this would usually translate into 85-90 Watts, on this new bizarro bike it hung out around 130 Watts the whole time. So either Watts is something different than I thought it was or one of these bikes is broken. Also, where as an hour on the old bike at ~90 RPMs at moderate effort usually gets me ~13-13.5 miles, on the new bike it got me 17. So....yeah. This is why I never trust cardio equipment. It makes no sense to me. Whatever, an hour at moderate effort.

2) The seat. Has sharp ridges on it. Why???? So, so much losing.


a.m. 6.6 elliptical / p.m. 2.5 AlterG.

Legs were tired Thursday morning, but it still ended up being the fastest elliptical session I've ever done, so I'll take it.


a.m. strength work / p.m. bike, 3.3 warm up, 3.85 @ marathon effort, 1.9 @ LT effort, 1.95 cool down = 11

Don's parents were in town this weekend, so we spent most of Saturday & Sunday tooling around San Francisco with them & eating fabulous food. On Sunday we spent some time in the Presidio, were I discovered the Presidio Coastal Trail.

If you've ever been injured on the multi-week scale, you know how depressing it is to see people jogging happily along a beautiful trail.

Clearly this warrants some investigation once my leg is better.

Friday, January 24, 2014

How To Not Be An Asshole: Urban Running

Before I lived in an actual city, it never occurred to me that running on a sidewalk in a perfectly nice part of town in the middle of the day could potentially be dangerous. But it can. Hazards abound. Ass-hattery is commonplace.

It would be one thing if these hazards were unavoidable (in the same way that, say, bad weather is unavoidable). But they aren't. They are by & large a result of people failing to pay attention to their surroundings and/or take into account how their actions affect other people who are also trying to use the sidewalk.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not like one of the Tour de France fan boys who ride their bikes on the Golden Gate Bridge walkway at 40 mph & yell at pedestrians to get out of their way like they are somehow entitled to use it as a training course & how *dare* anyone inconvenience them for the half a second it takes them to jump out of the way. When I'm running in crowded parts of the city (usually unavoidable, since I live in one of them), I do my best to pay attention to who is doing what around me and accommodate other people as much as I can, and most of the time the other people around me are lovely, and everything works out fine.

But at other times, some people will insist on making this INCREDIBLY difficult. Let us count the ways.

Friends, I give you: A Full Taxonomy of Urban Sidewalk Douche-Baggery.


I know many thoughtful, law-abiding cyclists. This section is not about them. This section is more about the ass hat minority that seem to lack basic common sense or courtesy for their fellow citizens or both.

If you are over the age of 13, you should never be riding a bike on the sidewalk. Period. In fact, in many areas in San Francisco no one should be riding a bike on the sidewalk. The Valencia Corridor, for example. Yes, it's technically legal for kids, but use some judgment, here, parents. Hipsters are congregating. Activists are activating. Artisinal coffee is being lined up for. Somebody is going to get hurt. I have been three times hit head-on by a cyclist and two of those times, it's because the (adult) cyclist was riding on the sidewalk. Two feet from the bike lane.

I hate you. We all do, actually.

If you're on a bike path that pedestrians share (ie, The Panhandle), a) stay in the right lane, b) use a bell / your voice to warn pedestrians that you're coming up behind them, and c) use a light in the dark. The third time I was hit by a bike, it was because the cyclist was weaving in and out of both lanes in the dark with no light. I tried to get out of her way & it was like she followed me, off the path, right into the grass. There was blood.

Dog Walkers

Again, responsible law-abiding dog walkers, I am not railing at you.

But GODDAMN. There is a limit to how many dogs one person can safely walk on a sidewalk at one time.

Extreeeeeeeeme dog walking!!!!

Livin' la vida loca!!!

Look, People Walking All Teh Dogs: I can't go around you. And neither can anyone else. This sidewalk ain't big enough for the 14 of us.

Extreme dog walking has become such a big problem in San Francisco that we've actually passed a law about it. Look what you made us do.

And it's not just the extremists that cause problems. Urban runners, I'm sure you've met This Guy:

There are places where it's reasonably safe to have your dog on a 30 foot leash. Like in a dog park, or a large open area. But on a busy urban sidewalk, this situation is going to play out one of two ways: 1) Despite my best efforts to navigate it, I trip over your seven hundred foot long leash and go crashing to the pavement, or 2) Your dog decides between my feet looks like a GREAT direction to go and one of us gets brutally kicked in the face. (I am not saying who but one of us is a LOT bigger than the other & wearing shoes.) I have lost count of the number of times this has happened.

I also love how too-long-leash guy is always like, "Oh, sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Forget your sorries, dude. Sorry doesn't bandage up the bloody spots. Apology NOT accepted.


Children are all brain-damaged. You can tell this because they will see a fast-moving object coming directly at them & just stare at it. I get that; I taught school for eight years. In & of itself, this isn't really a problem. As long as there aren't too many hipsters waiting for coffee or clipboard-wielding Sierra Club members, I can probably just move a foot or so to one side. The trouble is that the all-time favorite activity of children (as far as I can tell) is to move with blinding speed in *completely* unpredictable directions. Sometimes it is like they are actually trying to block your path, while also effecting complete & total obliviousness to your existence. I think I have only actually ever knocked over one small child, but this is only due to preternatural agility & significant gymnastics background on my part.

Look, this ain't suburbia. Busy urban sidewalks are not the place for free-range children. If your child is at or below the brain-damaged age, maybe put them on a leash (not 700 feet long) or in a back pack or in one of those wheeled cart-things. Or, I dunno, pay attention to where they are & what they're doing. That works too.



Double yes.

Not good very bad abort abort
(You have to imagine the seven hipsters & three Sierra Club ladies.)


Friendship is just awesome. This is my opinion at all times *except* when I am running alone on a busy urban sidewalk. Then, ooooh, I hate friendship SO EFFING MUCH. So. Much. Because this:

What is your damage?? I know you see me because we made eye contact. I know you know I am moving in your direction. I assume you are capable of comparing the width of the sidewalk to the width of your group. I also assume you don't think I can quantum tunnel through you and/or your besties or collapse all the particles in my body so as to slip through the four-inch gap between you guys and the nearby stoop / storefront / artisan coffee line / gaping whole in the ground.

Don't get me wrong; I love living in the city, but some days it is almost enough to make you move to the 'burbs & scout out some nice, safe fire trails.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Diagnoses, Deferments, & My Future As A Radioactive Superhero

So last Wednesday I got in to see a sports medicine doctor (not my regular one, but a good one that I trust) as well as an orthopedic. After talking with me about everything that had happened, examining my left calf, & considering different things that I could do and not do, they both agreed that it sounded an awful lot like a fibular stress fracture. As my PT pointed out, I've likely strained a bunch of surrounding muscles as well, but the main symptom that seems to indicate a bone issue is the crazy sensitivity of the outside of my leg to pressure, right along / behind where the fibula runs. (As in, if I lean against the couch too suddenly or try to cross my left leg over my right, it's like 6/10 pain.) They did say that it's more common to have pain lower down close to the ankle or higher up close to the knee where there is less muscle padding, whereas mine is worst right in the middle, but occasionally it presents this way too, depending on where the fracture is.

Of course the treatment is the same no matter what the problem is: stay off of it, avoid impact, and DEFINITELY don't run on it until the pain (both with impact and pressure) is 100% g-o-n-e GONE. That said, the doctor was pretty clear that he wanted a definitive diagnosis for my medical history and also to give me an idea of how far out I am from 100% complete & utter lack of pain, so he scheduled a bone scan this coming Wednesday. This means I get to get shot up with radioactive goop, chill for 3 hours, & then get stuck under a special camera. I am told I will continue to be radioactive for ~3 days after. By then, I fully expect that my super powers will have emerged.

I'm expecting it will probably be a lot like this. Note the glistening adornment of radioactive isotopes.
So, while that's not exactly great news, there are a few up sides. First, even since that appointment, my leg is feeling much, much better. I can walk on it totally fine, it's only slightly tender to the touch, and (shhh don't tell anyone) the short little jogs I've done across the street to make a red light or down the hall at home have been completely pain-free, so if the bone scan shows no bone injury, I can probably start running again soon (albeit in very, very small quantities).

Second, the benefit of having the worst of it happen over Christmas & not getting to a doctor for weeks is that at this point I've already got four weeks of zero miles under my belt (& will have nearly five by the time I get the results of the bone scan), and the healing time for a fibular stress fracture is typically only 4-8 weeks. Somehow facing just a few more weeks, worst case, of no running at this point seems a lot more psychologically manageable than two months would have sounded the day I started limping on it.

Third, I had the foresight (by which I mean dumb luck) to register for one of the only marathons out there that will potentially defer your entry. I requested a deferral last week and the race director granted it, so I'm only out the administrative fees for that rather than the entire $125 reg fee. So that's pretty sweet.

In the mean time, I am allowed to bike, swim, strength train, & elliptical (basically anything that's low-impact & doesn't hurt), so people with tips / encouragement around that, do not worry that your advice came too late. I have been putting it to good use. :)

This was not a stellar training week as it was book-ended by two bouts of cold-and-sinus-general-unpleasantness, but since I'm not officially training for anything right now, I didn't feel too badly about it. I got some good cardio in on the elliptical & bike & also some strength sessions, and have also been using the extra time / brain space to continue working on my nutrition.

Grand Total: 31.3 miles

    * 16.2 easy (bike)
    * 2.6 speed (bike)
    * 5 tempo (bike)
    * 7.5 elliptical

Monday & Tuesday:

Sick as a dog; mostly lay on the couch / drink tea.


a.m. strength work / p.m. 3.25 warm up, 3 x (.33 @ all-out / .15 easy), .5 easy, 3 x (.33 @ all-out / .15 easy), .5 easy = 7.5 bike; 3.5 easy elliptical.

I'd intended to do another easy half hour on the bike after the intervals, but about 5 minutes in I was having some weird pain in my right knee / quad & instead decided to see if my leg could handle the elliptical. It didn't hurt, so I did the last 25 easy minutes on it. I think I'm getting better at figuring out how to make the elliptical mimic running. Back in June / July I REALLY hated it because it felt *nothing* like running.


4 easy elliptical; 6.75 easy bike. Clearly I'm in better shape than I was in July when I was coming back from the hip injury; 30 easy-but-not-too-easy minutes on the bike used to only get me 6.2 miles, so that's reassuring.


a.m. strength work / p.m. 3.2 warm up, 4 x (1.95 @ LT effort / .33 easy), 2 cool down = 14. (This is my bike equivalent of LT intervals.)


I took Saturday as an intentional rest day & had planned to check out Koret Pool at USF courtesy of Kimra on Sunday, but then the nasty sinus stuff reared its ugly head again & I once again spent a lot of the day on the couch hydrating like a champ.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ladies & Their Running Clothes: The Tizzy Over Toplessness

Hello & welcome to Part 3 of Ladies & Their Running Clothes. If you missed parts 1 & 2, you may want to check out "The Scuffle Over Skirts" and/or "The Brouhaha Over Booty Shorts" for a bit of context before reading on.

Case Study #3: Sports Bra, No Shirt

So back when I first started having Strong Feelings about this issue in the early 'aughts, there was a LOT of bitching about it online & IRL, directed *at* female runners, *from* female runners, which just broke my heart (as it still does). Ten or so years later, it makes me incredibly happy that this isn't as much the case anymore, certainly not to the extent that it seems to be with running skirts or booty shorts. With sports bras, the majority of women runners polled on the topic seem to mostly just shrug their shoulders & go, "Dude, it's HOT out there!" or, worst case, "Well I wouldn't, but if you feel confident, more power to you, lady!" This is awesome news.

No; the main difference I've noticed when it comes to criticisms of running in only a sports bra vs the first two posts is that most of the criticism seems to come from non-runners. Certainly not all, but for the most part, female runners seem to get it, even those who don't feel comfortable going sports bra-only themselves.

By virtue of the fact that running in only a sports bra instead of a T-shirt or tank shows more skin / curves, many of the complaints tend to align with those about booty shorts -- "She only does it to get attention / look sexy / feminine / etc." or "That's not a flattering look for her / nobody wants to see that" or "It's slutty / trashy looking." We already covered a lot of that ground in the booty shorts post so I won't repeat it all here, but there are some points in which I feel like the discussion plays out a little differently.

So what new and different arguments are people bringing to the table when they tsk-tsk about ladies going sports bra-only?

  • It is distracting to "some people" (and from context, it is usually clear that "some people" is men) + if you do it, you are complicit in the objectification of women (generally by men)
  • You might offend people who have different modesty standards than you and are not expecting to have to have to "deal with that kind of thing unexpectedly," ie, a mother out with her child, an elderly person with traditional views, someone with strict religious beliefs around modestly/women's bodies (I am not even kidding that the statement in quotes is in fact an actual quote and the examples are basically cut & pasted from a popular running forum)
  • You could be making other women with less confidence in their bodies than you feel bad.
  • A sports bra is still a bra, ergo it is still underwear. Would you go out in public in just your regular bra? Would you go to the grocery store in only a sports bra? Would you go to the grocery store in just YOUR REGULAR BRA??

I'm not going to lie to you. Every time I read or hear this kind of crap, I feel like I'm about to channel Feminist Hulk (HULK SMASH!!). If the choice is between attempting rational, civilized discourse and investing in stretchy purple shorts, though, my way seems clear.

So let's get started.

"She only does it to get attention / look sexy / feminine / etc." + "It is distracting to 'some people'" + "You are participating in the objectification of women by 'some people'."

Part of this is just a matter of re-capping what we discussed with both running skirts & booty shorts.

  • Unless she specifically told you that she wears x thing for y reason, then no, you don't know that that's why, and just because two or ten or two hundred women tell you that's their reason does not make it the reason for everyone.
  • If it is the reason, so what? Big freaking deal. Some ladies like looking sexy / feminine / getting attention when they run. No one is making you do it, so chill.

Review Part 1 & Part 2 for more elaboration on these points.

But there's this other argument that seems to come up when people rail against sports-bra-only but oddly enough not usually with the booty shorts, and that's the one about distracting "some people," ie, men (I'm not saying non-man people might not also be distracted; I'm just saying that the subtext when I've heard or read this complaint has pretty much always been in regard to straight men), plus the yucky corollary that if you go sports-bra-only you are somehow participating in the Objectification of Women and Ruining Feminism and if men only like you for your body after that it's Your Own Fault.

2012 Olympics: These slutty slutty sisters better put on some real clothes around the menfolk; otherwise SEX OBJECTS 4 EVA.
Exhibit A: This blog post, in which a Catholic* man mansplains to young women why sports bra/no top is no good for them or him:
    Can I ask you why you're wearing just a sports bra?

    It's probably because you want to get noticed, isn't it?


    You see, by wearing that sports bra, you're getting attention, no doubt! But is it really the kind of attention you want? I'll be the first to admit that when I saw you, my first thought wasn't, "Oh, she looks like a wonderful human being with a kind heart and a great personality, I should get to know her!". It was more like, "Man, look at that body".


    When a girl wears revealing clothing, she doesn't get noticed...her body gets noticed. If you want to stop being treated as an object for sexual pleasure, then you can do something about it! I'm gonna be real with you for a second: When you dress immodestly, it makes it really hard to see you as a human being, and easier to see you as just an attractive body. The more skin you reveal, the further a man's imagination can go in thinking about what the rest of your body looks like. If you want to be treated as a human being and not just a body, then you need to do your part and dress in a way that reflects that. I'm not saying you're the reason that men objectify women. But I will say that if more women started dressing modestly, more men would stop objectifying women, and start loving them as human beings. It's a team effort, we both have to do what we can to help each other become the best version of ourselves.

I won't blame you if you had to go vomit once you finished reading that.

There is a profoundly dangerous & damaging myth operating in the world that goes like this:

  • Straight men are animalistic creatures ruled completely by their libidos, which they are only *barely* holding in check at the best of times, and when they are around pretty ladies, they just *cannot* be held responsible for what their eyes/brains/hands do, therefore:
  • It is the job of women to control the sexual thoughts/actions of men and not tempt/distract them with sexy clothes/body parts/facial features/hair/make up/words/movements/generally being a woman in public.

Not to get too heavy here, but when girls & women get told that it's on them to "cover it up" so they don't distract boys/men / "send the wrong message" / "attract the wrong kind of attention," the same societal standard that blames women for their own rapes or sexual assaults ("She wore a short skirt!" "She let him buy her a drink!" "She went off alone with him!") is in operation.

(*Catholic men: I don't mention he's Catholic to suggest you all think this way. I only mention it because his blog is centered around his religion, and he ties a lot of the modesty talk back to it. There are many lovely Catholic / otherwise religious people in the world who don't blame the decline of the western world on the bodies of women, and plenty of atheists who are patriarchal dicks.)

I am here to tell / remind you that that is the worst kind of bullshit.

Learning to deal with distraction is part of learning to function as a grown-up. Sometimes I work in my local coffee shop & the folks at the next table are engrossed in a fascinating conversation on a subject I have strong feelings about. Sometimes at races there are people wearing crazy, boisterous costumes. Both of these things = SUPER DISTRACTING!

But I don't get to regulate those behaviors. As a grown-ass adult, my distractibility is my problem to deal with, up to & including going somewhere else / looking somewhere else / not going to places & events where I'm likely to have to deal with them. Those are choices I have.** It is not the job of these other folks to solve this problem for me, nor is it the job of women to solve the problem of distractible men by figuring out what exactly those men prefer we wear in order to not distract them. (And let's be real; for some of them, it wouldn't matter anyway. Men who can only see women as sex objects are going to do that no matter what. Your clothes are not the problem.)

Not only is this thinking unfair to women; it's insulting to lady-loving men. Like just about everyone else in the world, most of them are fully-functioning human beings with all of their cognitive faculties intact. (I personally know many of them! They're great!) They have the same ability to tune out distractions and choose where they focus their attention as the rest of us. Like everyone else, some of them are better at it than others, and we all have some things that are harder for us to ignore than others. But just being a dude attracted to women does not make a person utterly helpless in the presence of a woman in a sports bra.

**(Obviously, there are extreme situations where creating a highly non-distracting environment is expected of everyone present, for the benefit of everyone present. You shouldn't wear a bikini to a funeral. You also shouldn't wear loud colors or belt out "La Copa Cabana." You shouldn't chew gum loudly or incessantly tap your feet in a standardized test. Those types of situations are different than what I'm talking about.)

It's refreshing to hear that the myth of women & girls being "responsible" for men & boys' ability to concentrate is finally getting some legal pushback. Until very recently, students at Stuyvesant School in New York City were subject to a dress code where many, many more of the rules applied to traditionally female clothing (skirts/dresses, tights, close-fitting/sleeveless tops) than to traditionally male or gender-neutral clothing (pants, loose-fitting tops). The rules were also enforced in a way that made girls' outfits and how much of their bodies could or could not be seen about their sexuality. The Justice Department ruled that this constituted violation of Title IX under what is known as disparate impact, meaning an organization is using a neutral procedure or practice (student dress code) that has a disproportionate impact on protected individuals (girls). Because of the way the dress code was written and enforced, girls were essentially being harassed by their teachers and administrators in a manner to which boys were not subject.

The thinking behind the Stuyvesant dress code sends a dangerous message to young women – that they are responsible for the way in which society objectifies and sexualizes them. To quote the principle, “Many young ladies wear denim skirts which are very tight and are short to begin with, and when they sit down, they only rise up, because there’s nowhere else to go...The bottom line is, some things are a distraction, and we don’t need to distract students from what is supposed to be going on here, which is learning.”

Say it with me now: "It is not the responsibility of female students [or females runners] to mitigate the male gaze. You find female bodies “distracting”? That’s your problem, not women’s. Society teaches that women exist to be looked at, objectified and sexualized—it’s up to others to make sure that they don’t contribute to that injustice."

Mainsplainer extraordinaire Catholic helper man, that is exactly what you are doing in your blog post. She is not making running in a sports bra about sexuality; you are. The fact that you think only about her body when you see her, and are driven to distraction imagining what the rest of it looks like, and have trouble thinking of her as a human being and not a sex object is YOUR PROBLEM, dude, not hers. It is not the job of women to mitigate the male gaze.

The flip side of that coin: Ladies, you are not responsible for the thoughts of people who look at you, regardless of what you are wearing. You can't 'make' anyone objectify you anymore than you can make them not objectify you. Men (or whoever) who are going to view women as sex objects are going to do that regardless of whether they are looking at ladies running in sports bras or not. Men who look at women as whole people who they also may possibly find sexy-looking will behave that way no matter what you're wearing. You are not ruining feminism. It is not your job to mitigate the male gaze.

Which sort of brushes up against "You might offend people who have different modesty standards than you." (As an aside, how much do I love the comment from the super-conservative mom who was like, "What if I am out with my child and not prepared to deal with that kind of thing unexpectedly???" I can just see her rounding a corner with her five-year-old in their perfectly respectable neighborhood and OMG MIDRIFF AMBUSH!!!!!!!)

Again, I say: People just can't be responsible for how their clothes make people feel when they're just going about their business in a public space. (Can you imagine trying to manage this? For everyone you might encounter? All the time?) The lady in the sports bra probably didn't KNOW you feel that midriff / visible boob contour is amoral and specifically PLAN to ambush you & your child with it. She isn't going topless AT you. She's probably just doing her thing, in a way that makes her comfortable. The midriff-terrified mom and her kid are not a captive audience.

Note that this is not the same thing as "Everybody wear whatever you feel like all the time with complete disregard for others!!" Attending a funeral? Visiting a country with strict cultural norms? Absolutely, in those situations respect for the occasion or culture is clearly warranted. But people in your own city who are terrified of/can't deal with the female form? They don't own All of Outside. They don't even own the park where they take their walks/their kids play. No one has ever been scarred for life by bare midriff/boob contour.

On the flip side, just because you don't owe it to others to dress a certain way doesn't mean that you can't choose to wear something different out of consideration for them if you feel so moved. In college I had a friend who often ran sports-bra-only in the summer. She also occasionally ran with a group from her church that included several slightly older, more conservative women and on those occasions she chose to always wear a tank top in order to make them more comfortable. She was not obligated to do this; she didn't owe it to them (and I feel pretty sure that if they'd ever tried to institute some kind of dress code she would have been out of there in a second). She just felt like it was worth a marginal bit of discomfort to her on warm days in order to maintain good relationships with a group of women whose company she genuinely enjoyed.

While we're on the subject of not being responsible for other people's feelings, let's maybe slay the beast called "You shouldn't go sports-bra-only because it might make other women feel bad." At its heart, this objection seems to be less about the clothing involved and more about how some women feel about their own bodies, particularly in comparison to the bodies of others.

Ugh, this is such a hard one because we've ALLLLLL been there. At some point in our lives, we've all had the experience of looking around and comparing what we are or have to what others are or have. How do I stack up? Is my thing/situation/whatever better than his/hers/theirs or worse? How much better or worse? If I'm not extraordinary, am I at least pretty good? Am I at least not abysmal?

When you feel like something about you is not as good as the people you see around you or like you don't measure up, it never feels good. It's particularly bad when it's something about our bodies, since we live in a society that is constantly judging people by how they look against a fairly narrow, mostly unattainable standard of physical attractiveness.

Chillin' w/ Eleanor.
I have a lot of empathy with people who are in the habit of comparing their bodies to others'. We are socialized to do it from a young age and it is an incredibly difficult habit to break. If that's something you're struggling with, I have a quote to share with you often attributed to my girl Eleanor Roosevelt:

"No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent."

Read it. Memorize it. Repeat it to yourself every morning and every night. Feelings of inferiority require a willing victim. It takes a lot of practice, but you can choose not to be one.

Sometimes it helps to remember that, as with the conserva-mom & her kiddo, the woman running along happily & confidently in just a sports bra isn't doing it AT you (even if it feels like it sometimes). Most likely she has no wish to make anyone feel bad about their own bodies and would feel very sad to find out that had happened. But, just as she's not responsible for the impure thoughts of distractible men, she is also not responsible for the feelings her clothes or body invoke in others about their own.

It's not possible for another person to "make you" feel good, bad, smart, dumb, ugly, beautiful, fat, skinny, etc. No one else can "make" you feel anything. Ascribing that kind of power to other people is dangerous, because it takes you out of the driver's seat & puts your self-esteem and self-confidence at the mercy of other people. It's victim thinking. It's not the job of others to "make" you feel good about yourself through their choice of clothing. It's your job to create good feelings about yourself in a way that is not dependent on what the people around you are wearing. (I'm not saying that's easy, and I'll fully acknowledge that it's a much, MUCH longer road for some of us than for others. I'm just saying that's how it is.)

And, because I find it just so stinking precious, let us consider the semantic argument against sports-bra-no-shirt: "A sports bra is still a bra; if you wouldn't go out in public in just a regular bra, you shouldn't go out in just a sports bra." I find this logic utterly patronizing, not only as a runner but also as a martial artist. I remember reading about a male martial artist who was not used to training with women, and he was completely taken aback to learn that the women in his dojo wore only a sports bra--not a T-shirt or tank top--under their gi tops (which tend to be a bit floppy & loose). The women were like, "Do you wear an extra shirt under your gi top? "No, that would be hot and uncomfortable." "Then why would we do it?" "But what if your gi top comes open and I see your sports bra? AWKWARD AND/OR SCANDAL!!"

The attitude of these women martial artists was one of complete practicality. They viewed themselves as serious athletes dressing appropriately and comfortably for their sport. To them, a sports bra was just another piece of equipment, like a mouthguard or pads, that they needed in order to participate safely & comfortably. The objections of the male martial artist, on the other hand, were grounded in an idea of women as lingerie-clad-sex objects. At that point he was not capable of interacting with them first & foremost as athletes, of seeing them as anything but women first, as havers of breasts and lingerie & other lady/sex object things that made him completely uncomfortable. Once again, this was his problem to deal with, not theirs. It was not their job to take care of his awkwardness and embarrassment around their female bodies by making themselves physically uncomfortable. (Sensing a theme, here?)

The first-ever sports bra, made from two jock straps sewn together. Not joking.
A couple of years ago XLMIC posted about this article on the history of sports bras and the woman who first came up with the idea in the 1970s, Lisa Lindahl. It's a fascinating read and I highly recommend the whole thing, but germane to this particular discussion is this line:

    "'I made a decision early on that this was not lingerie,' Lisa says. 'It was sports equipment, something you needed like you needed your shoes.' But sporting-goods stores saw the Jogbra as a tough sell, and their overwhelmingly male owners reacted squeamishly to sample cases full of sports bras. Lisa was fond of countering, 'You sell jockstraps, don't you?' That always stopped them cold."

I have a hunch that the squeamishness of the male '70s sporting goods purveyors at selling sports bras is not unrelated to the embarrassment of the male martial artist above: A result of seeing women first as female-bodied people with conspicuous, sexualized body parts and being unable to reconcile that viewpoint with women attempting to deal with those body parts in a completely functional, non-sexualized way. I have a hunch that this is why some people can't let go of the idea that sports bra = lingerie.

(I also think this attitude is in play when people try to argue that it's fine for a man to run shirtless but not a woman. If you really push people on that one, it pretty much boils down to women's chests being overtly sexualized and men's significantly less so. Ie, we can sometimes look at the bare chest/torso of a dude & think about something besides ALL TEH SEXXX; a woman in a sports bra? Not so much.)

Would I go to the grocery store in only a regular bra? Of course not. But I also probably would not go to the grocery store in a bikini top, even though there are many situations in which wearing a bikini top in public is completely acceptable. A sports bra is not lingerie anymore than a bikini top is; it's a specialized garment with a specific purpose, and there are absolutely contexts where it's appropriate & contexts where it's not. The fact that it's a bra is completely, entirely irrelevant.

Here endeth my rational, civilized exposition of how the phenomenon of women running topless except for a sports bra is not trashy, shameful, gross, ruining feminism, or responsible for the Decline of Morals in AmericaTM. If you've been thinking of trying it but hesitated because of any of that, go forth & bare thy midriff. If you've been talking trash about women who do it, I hope you'll rethink why and what it really accomplishes. And if you've been supporting the ladies in your life in wearing whatever lets them exercise in physical and psychological comfort, go on witcha bad self. To quote Diana E. Anderson's Modesty Culture and the Fear of the Confident Woman, "I am an average American woman, and I will dress in what I feel confident in. And that, to many, is the scariest thing I can do."

**Post-script:** Just a quick reminder about the ground rules in terms of commenting: 1) Feel free to respectfully & thoughtfully express disagreement, and 2) don't be a dick. I won't delete a comment just because someone has a critical question or different point of view (I have gotten some interesting & poignant comments that did just that!), but I will not abide ranters and pool-poopers that insist on making things tiresome for everyone. Of course you guys are the coolest, and I've never yet had to resort to that. :)

References & Further Reading:

  • Men Who Explain Things, by Rebecca Solnit. "Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence."
  • A Cultural History of Mansplaining, by Lily Rothman. "The idea [of mansplaining] wasn't political in origin, and mansplaining happens in academia and offices and dining rooms. But it makes sense that politics brought it to the general public's attention. When it comes to politics, it seems men have been talking about the female experience since basically forever."
  • Modesty As Fauxgressivism: Co-Opting the Language of Empowerment and Ignoring the Real Problems, by Diana E. Anderson. "It is not because of willingness to be objectified that women dress immodestly, nor is it because of an inability to stand up to sexualization that we wear miniskirts. The very concepts of what is modest or immodest extend from a patriarchal, cultural male gaze. As such, whether or not I wear a bikini or a one piece to the pool this summer has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I will be objectified...I am not responsible for men deciding to objectify or sexualize me, just as I am not responsible for making sure they do not have lustful thoughts. The power to change the male gaze lies not with my clothing choices, but with the men who choose to see me as an object."
  • Targeting 'Slutty' Students, by Jessica Valenti. "In addition to the violation of female students’ rights, the thinking behind the code sends a dangerous message to young women – that they are responsible for the way in which society objectifies and sexualizes them...It’s not the responsibility of female students to mitigate the male gaze. You find female bodies “distracting”? That’s your problem, not women’s. Society teaches that women exist to be looked at, objectified and sexualized—it’s up to others to make sure that they don’t contribute to that injustice."
  • If You Don't Want Girls Judged by Their Hemlines, Stop Judging Them by Their Hemlines, by Amanda Marcotte @ Slate XX Factor. "Telling women to cover it up is just as surely a form of sexual objectification as telling women to take it off. Either way, you're reducing a woman to her sexuality instead of considering her as a whole person. Either way, you are, to quote Maya Dusenbery of Feministing, "looking at a woman and instead of seeing a full, complex, and multifaceted human being, all you see is ALL TEH SEXXX.""
  • Stop telling girls their hemlines are too short, by S.E. Smith @ XOJane. "The hyperfocus on what girls are wearing with a healthy heaping of judgment sends precisely the opposite message, underscoring that girls should be constantly concerned about what they are wearing and who might be judging them for it."
  • Your Body Is Never the Problem, by Hugo Schwyzer @ "Have you noticed the way this works yet? If a girl is thin, she’s accused of being “anorexic”; if her weight is higher than the cruelly restrictive ideal, she’s “fat” and “doesn’t take care of herself” or “has no self-control.” If she wears cute, trendy clothes she “only wants attention” and if she wears sweats and jeans, she “doesn’t make an effort.” If she’s perceived as sexually attractive, and—especially—if she shows her own sexual side, she’s likely to be called a “slut.” If her sexuality and her body are concealed, she’s a “prude.” As you’ve probably figured out, the cards are stacked against you. You cannot win, at least not if you define winning as dressing and behaving in a way likely to win approval (or at least decent respect) from everyone."
  • Seven Ways to Love Your Body, by Heather Corinna at "This is not another diet guide. It will not show you how to lose ten pounds by Thanksgiving. It will not introduce you to a new set of "miracle ab crunches" or rave about the latest liposuction advances. And there will be no butt pads, silicone, or fat-free recipes to share. I'm writing this because I, like many women, used to diet until I was dizzy. I looked at my body and hated the parts that stuck out, and the ones that didn't stick out far enough. And I believed that having the so-called "perfect" body–at any expense–would guarantee success and eternal happiness. Do I need to say it? I was deluded."
  • The Scarleteen Do-It, by Heather Corinna at Scroll down to "Put a kibbosh on comparing & dissing."
  • Modesty Culture and the Fear of the Confident Woman, by Dianna E. Anderson @ Faith and Feminism. "By not kowtowing to the male gaze, by asserting that she sees herself as worthy in ways that modesty proponents think she should not, modesty culture exacts a harsher punishment by demanding not only that she cover up those assets which are impossible to hide, but also reinforcing that she should do so precisely because she is exhibiting a confidence in herself that is not dependent on the male gaze...I am an average American woman, and I will dress in what I feel confident in. And that, to many, is the scariest thing I can do."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014: Year of the Classics

The Mission: One classic novel per month in 2014. Which means, like, actually making choices. There are a lot of classic reads I have to admit I just don't have any interest in (War & Peace, Moby-Dick, Infinite Jest, Crime & Punishment, etc)*; also anything with more than three parlor scenes is automatically eliminated via the Austen / Brontë Clause.

Get me out of this parlor forthwith, Darcy, or
I shall straight-up cut a bitch. Looking at you, Elinor.

(While we're at it, let's just all agree that Mr. Darcy is a creepy, creepy man who remains, to quote CaptainAwkward, "the supposedly totally dreamy main character of what became the boilerplate for every romantic comedy ever." Pretty much sums up Pride & Prejudice, eh?)

The Fitzwilliam Darcy School of Victorian Pickup Artistry: "If seducing
her via telepathy / brooding looks fails, just vomit your feelings at her."TM

So I spent the last few days combing through my Goodreads "To Read" list & trying to pick out some classics that sounded interesting & like they wouldn't make me want to shoot myself in the face after. (Under The Volcano, anyone?) I totally reserve the right to change my mind later, but here are the twelve I chose, and a few pinch hitters in case I finish them before the year is over or abandon something.

Update: Okay fine, it's fourteen now, since two of my original selections are less than 100 pages & it kind of doesn't seem like they should count as part of the one-per-month deal. Still. Books I plan to read this year:

JANUARY: A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller. "In a nightmarish, ruined world, slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infantile rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From there, the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes." Wicked.

FEBRUARY: Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. "Eliza Harris, a slave whose child is to be sold, escapes her beloved home on the Shelby plantation in Kentucky and heads North, eluding the hired slave catchers. As the Harrises flee to freedom, another slave, Uncle Tom, is sent "down the river" for sale. Befriending a white child, Evangeline St. Clare, Tom is purchased by her father and taken to their home in New Orleans." This is my Black History Month selection.

MARCH: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. "Anna Karenina seems to have everything - beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky." I am terrified of Tolstoy so this will be my attempt at getting un-terrified.

APRIL: A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster. "A chance encounter… a murder in the Piazza Signoria … an impulsive kiss…and Lucy Honeychurch’s world is forever changed. Torn between settling for a life of acceptable convention or the calling of her true passion, Lucy epitomizes the struggle for individuality and the power and passion of love." Since we are going to Italy in April/May, some Italian literature seems in order.

MAY: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Set in the closing months of World War II in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy, a bombardier named Yossarian is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever, even if he has to die in the attempt.) I've heard this book repeatedly compared to "The Daily Show" in terms of tone & political poignancy, which is probably mainly what sold me on it. A classic that's actually funny? Sold. Not Italian, but set there, so good enough.

JUNE: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz. "Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku: the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim." Comes highly recommended from several nerdy book friends.

JULY: To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. "Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up." Awwww, this one's going to break me, isn't it?

AUGUST: Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. "Set amid the stifling atmosphere of 19th-century bourgeois France, Madame Bovary is at once an unsparing depiction of a woman’s gradual corruption and a savagely ironic study of human shallowness and stupidity. Neither Emma, nor her lovers, nor Homais, the man of science, escapes the author’s searing castigation, and it is the book’s final profound irony that only Charles, Emma’s oxlike, eternally deceived husband, emerges with a measure of human grace through his stubborn and selfless love." Sounds suspiciously like a parlor book, but how can you pass on something hailed as "possibly the most beautifully written book ever composed"? I wanted to read this one for Banned Books Week, but it overlaps with Hispanic Heritage Month in September, so August it is.

SEPTEMBER: One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. "The story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Rich and brilliant, it is a chronicle of life, death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the beautiful, ridiculous, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America." This is my Hispanic Heritage Month selection.

OCTOBER: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. "When a brute of a man tramples an innocent girl, apparently out of spite, two bystanders catch the fellow and force him to pay reparations to the girl's family. The brute's name is Edward Hyde. A respected lawyer, Utterson, hears this story and begins to unravel the seemingly manic behavior of his best friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his connection with Hyde. Several months earlier, Utterson had drawn up an inexplicable will for the doctor, naming Hyde as his heir in the event that he disappears. Fearing his friend has been blackmailed into this arrangement, Utterson probes deeper into both Jekyll and his unlikely protégé. He is increasingly unnerved at each new revelation." Jekyll & Hyde is my Spoooooktacular Halloween selection.

NOVEMBER: Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne. "Noted geologist Professor Liedenbrock discovers a cryptic message hidden in the pages of an ancient volume purporting to show the way into the center of the earth. Liedenbrock determines to make this fantastic journey, insisting his 16-year-old nephew, Henry, accompany him." Something on the lighter side for Sci-Fi Month.

**NOVEMBER BONUS READ**: The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. "The story of a young traveling salesman who, transformed overnight into a giant, beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. Rather than being surprised at the transformation, the members of his family despise it as an impending burden upon themselves." November is also German Literature Month, & since this book is like 60 pages & I have been meaning to read it since college, I really don't have any excuses.

DECEMBER: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. "A pilot stranded in the desert awakes one morning to see, standing before him, the most extraordinary little fellow. "Please," asks the stranger, "draw me a sheep." And the pilot realizes that when life's events are too difficult to understand, there is no choice but to succumb to their mysteries." Seriously, how have I not read this yet?

**DECEMBER BONUS READ**: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Because seriously, it's like 80 pages and how have I never read it??

The Pinch Hitters:

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. "In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying."

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. "This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel." I have a hit-or-miss history with Steinbeck, but got a lot of recommendations for this one.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey. "Tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned."

Middlemarch, by George Eliot. "Dorothea Brooke is an ardent idealist who represses her vivacity and intelligence for the cold, theological pedant Casaubon. One man understands her true nature: the artist Will Ladislaw. But how can love triumph against her sense of duty and Casaubon’s mean spirit? Meanwhile, in the little world of Middlemarch, the broader world is mirrored: the world of politics, social change, and reforms, as well as betrayal, greed, blackmail, ambition, and disappointment." Better not be too many parlor scenes.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. An Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.

Any other classics I should add to my list of pinch-hitters???

*If anyone can give me a really convincing reason to take on any of the books I've already ruled out, I will totally give them a shot. But it's got to be reeeaallly convincing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why Injuries Suck: Part 7,926

My house is so clean, you guys. Also, I have been planning meals, grocery shopping, & preparing days' worth of food ahead of time like it's my freaking job. These are the types of things you have the time to do when you can't run and have gobs of mental & physical energy to burn off as a result.

I have some advice for you and that is that if you ever decide to injure yourself bad enough to interrupt your running for multiple weeks, don't do it just before / during the holidays / travel. Over the course of mid-December, my achey left calf got progressively worse and worse even as my runs got shorter and less intense until, after an easy 4-miler in Spokane, I could no longer really put weight on it.

Since then, it's all been kind of a blur of limping & travel & phone calls in airport terminals various & sundry to about a dozen doctors and clinics as I desperately tried to find someone with a medical degree who could fit me in & maybe tell me what the heck is going on. (This is why late December is a terrible time to injure yourself. Obviously no one can see you unless you're dying, and afterward they're swamped trying to take care of everyone who managed mild-to-moderate damage to themselves during the holidays.)

For the first two weeks, I could barely walk & couldn't bear any weight at all on the ball of my foot, & was routinely waking up at night in really surprising amounts of pain. In the last week I've been able to walk pretty much normally as long as I keep to less than say half a mile at a time, but there's still a reasonable amount of pain, even just to the touch in some places, and running is still so, soooooo far from happening.

I couldn't get in to see a sports medicine doctor until this coming Wednesday, but I did manage to get in for x-rays on the 3rd. Predictably, they didn't show anything; stress fractures generally don't show up on x-rays until they start to heal (usually ~4-6 weeks later), so even if that's what it is, only an MRI or bone scan would catch it.

(Don't ask me what that other stuff means; apparently they aren't concerned about any of it, but I'm still curious to know.)

I spent Thursday dejectedly explaining the situation to my PT & getting his take on it. His bullet points:

  • Kind of presenting like bone, but impossible to confirm without MRI / bone scan.
  • Regardless of the bone situation, there is definitely a pretty bad muscle strain in a few different places.
  • Realistically, the bone situation kind of doesn't matter since the treatment is still "don't run on it until it stops hurting."
  • WOW, your left calf is *obscenely* tight, ie bad strain = completely not surprising. (And yes, cupping did indeed ensue.)

We'll see if the sports medicine doctor has anything new to add on Wednesday.

So this week has been emotional and hard. The hip muscle I tore last May has been feeling great for a couple of months now and I was just starting to get back into the rhythm of training and building mileage, so suddenly finding myself saddled with another injury and likely *another* month of no running has been utterly demoralizing. It's also been tough trying to come to terms with the fact that (sigh) there is just no way I'll be ready to run a marathon on March 2nd. Even if my leg magically gets better tomorrow, it's not as if I'll be able to jump right back where I was. Once my leg is pain-free, my PT says I can start with a quarter mile to a half mile of jogging per day, & gradually work up from there based on how it feels, which is obviously very very far from what I'd hoped to be doing seven weeks out from NVM.

I don't know yet whether I'll be able to run KP Half or not. Absolute best case, it will most likely just be as an easy training run, as I haven't been able to do enough speed / tempo runs (and probably won't for a while) to feel confident about racing it.

So. All that sucks.

Still. The way I see it, my options are "Sit at home & feel sorry for yourself" or "Do whatever you can & like it," which is not a particularly difficult choice.

Please direct complaints to 1-800-waa-waaa, ext. Life Is Hard.

Until things get better, I am taking full advantage of my gym membership & loading up the week with strength sessions, yoga classes, & spin workouts, plus whatever bits of martial arts my leg can handle. I've been trying to simulate the runs I would be doing via minutes & effort level, & gradually figuring out how to translate certain paces into Watts.

Ie: 2 miles warm up, 3 x (800 @ 6:00/mile / 1:00 jog), 30:00 @ marathon pace, 3 x (800 @ 6:00/mile / 1:00 jog)

Becomes: 15:00 ~85 Watts, 3 x (3:00 @ 130 Watts / 1:00 easy), 20:00 @ 90 Watts, 3 x (3:00 @ 130 Watts / 1:00 easy)

(I had to hack off 10 minutes in the middle that day due to time.)

And: 2 miles warm up, 4 x (1600m @ LT pace / 2:00 jog)

Becomes: 15:00 @ ~85 Watts, 4 x (7:20 @ 105 Watts / 2:00 easy)

Yes, it's a little like living on protein shakes & rice cakes instead of actual food, but it's also keeping me half sane (and hopefully keeping me out of a massive cardio hole somewhat).

* * *

Grand Total: 44.5 miles (biked, obviously)

    * 29.9 easy
    * 6 speed
    * 8.6 tempo


a.m. 8.5 easy / lunch time yoga


a.m. strength work / p.m. 3.8 warm up, 3 x (.8 @ 5K effort / .2 easy), 4.6 @ marathon effort, 3x(.8 @ 5K effort / .2 easy) = 14.2 miles

I've learned some new cool strength exercises lately, so it was fun to try them out. More on that later....


a.m. 8.6 easy / lunch time yoga / p.m. karate + light strength


Rest; super-tight schedule with not a moment to spare.


Lunch time strength work / p.m. 3.1 warm up, 4 x (1.9 @ LT pace / .33 easy), 1.5 cool down = 13.2 miles


Since my gym is down by my office on the Peninsula, there's not a lot I can do on the weekend besides basic strength stuff. Which was just as well, since Don & I were both sick as dogs with some kind of nasty cold/sinus thing. At least we don't have the flu!

Next week's goal: Get rid of leg pain, run some amount that is not zero.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Pithy Motivational Quotes

So the other day I bop over to one of my favorite web comics,, to see this:

Which really just proved yet again that Natalie Dee is totally my homegirl. (Seriously; you should check out the whole week.) No disrespect if pithy motivational quotes & images are your bag; we can still be friends. But personally, every time I see one I kind of throw up in my mouth a little.

This probably explains why one of my other favorite internet places is

The Natalie Dee comic kind of reminded me of the time I made the mistake of browsing the Health & Fitness section of Pinterest, & instantly went from thinking I was doing pretty well for myself (running 30-50 miles most weeks, martial arts Monday & Wednesday, not too terrible in the strength work department, eating lots of vegetables) to realizing that no, in fact, I am nothing but a giant slob of a failure:

{Backs away slowly...}

In theory, these little images & cute sayings are supposed to be inspiring; I don't know about you, but frankly, they just make me tired. (And to be honest...kind of afraid.)

Don't get me wrong; I understand the general sentiment, and there is sometimes a grain of truth. Delayed gratification is tough sometimes. Sometimes we do have to be a little audacious to talk ourselves into working hard for something. And in this sense, the pithy motivational quote/images aren't horrible. Realistically, they are a lot like porn, or bodice-ripper romance: all fine and good, as long as everyone involved understands that what they're looking at has a specific purpose, which does not happen to include representing reality.

In the case of "run/fitsperation" (and a lot of inspirational/motivational quote-images in general), I think the purpose is to help your brain do a little trick: believe something it really doesn't, want something it really doesn't, enjoy something it really doesn't, at least perhaps not in that very moment. It may not last for very long, but it gets you through whatever it is you felt like you needed to do & really kind of didn't feel like (because let's be real. People who are super pumped & really feeling whatever it is they're "supposed" to go do don't need inspirational quotes to get them out the door). So I'm not railing against the existence of this stuff; it doesn't do much for me personally, but it serves a purpose for some folks, and I think I understand why I can't go into a sporting goods store or read the internet without being inundated by it it has such a following.

As for why I kind of roll my eyes and derive so much glee from the spoofing of it? Because so many people just don't get that it isn't reality, that cling to these platitudes & clichés as if they are literally true and not just a device to help you temporarily tolerate a bit of unpleasantness. And when the pithy little quotes don't deliver, when the fledgling athlete's actual experience doesn't live up to the slick images and snappy slogans, she concludes that there's something wrong with herself. That she's doing something wrong, that she's an exception, & running/exercise/whatever it is just isn't "for" her. And that becomes a reason not to try.

Friends, I am here to give you the straight dope on motivational sayings. Heed me.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Pain is your body's way of sending a warning to your brain. Obviously, no one is getting through a speed workout or setting any new PRs without a little discomfort. But there's a difference between the *discomfort* of a brief or infrequent all-out effort or pushing your body slightly further than it's used to as part of smart training and the *pain* of impending damage. There are many, many instances where easing up or stopping because of pain is the smart, safe choice. (You can ask me about that sometime, if you want...)

Pithy quote:

Reality: GIRL. Unfuck your shit. Stat.

I mean, get the sentiment here. I do. It is a great gift to be able to use running (or whatever) to get some endorphins going and take your mind off your problems. But that's different than running from those things. Bills/work/routine/commitments got you down? By all means, go for a run & get your head straight; then go back and actually deal with your problems. Going for a run to feel better doesn't actually count as addressing them.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Sometimes this is true. It's okay if it's not. You aren't broken or doing it wrong or anything. Running just doesn't fix everything all the time.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Not necessarily. The run you go on when you're sick or hurt or sleep-deprived or have other responsibilities to deal with is probably not better than just letting it go. While it's rare that I'm like, "Well that was kind of a bad idea" & wish I'd just stayed home with a good book & a bottle of wine, it does happen. In fact that's pretty much how I'd categorize every run from the week of December 16.

Pithy quote:

Reality: You might not love the burn. It's okay. I personally detest the burn. In fact, I am a firm believer that there are two kinds of people: those who abhor the burn and liars. Also that picture is photoshopped.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Honestly, relying on a recreational activity to define you as a human being is a lot to ask. It is something I've seen people try more than once and it rarely ends well because the real, true, underlying problem has not been addressed. If you're truly having an identity crisis, taking up a new hobby or setting a big goal isn't a bad idea necessarily, but again, please also do something to help you address the real problem.

Pithy quote:

Reality: What. Tha. Eff.

Seriously. Get some help. That shit is above my pay grade.

Makin' Fun of Pinterest: Part 2