Races Running

Showing Up

They say you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, but as someone who gave up taking shots after her 27th birthday, I can assure you that this aging body isn’t missing them one little bit.

Oh, it’s a sports idiom? I see. Carry on then.

When it comes to athletic feats, Wayne Gretzky had it right: there’s no way you’ll thrive on the rink or field or track or pool if you don’t at least show up and try. It’s not rocket science:

  • Unless you consistently go to yoga class, you aren’t going to be able to touch your toes. (Oh, you can already touch your toes? Show off.)
  • Unless you go to Sochi, you aren’t going to win gold.
  • Unless you lift weights, you aren’t going to build muscle, tone down and eat a delicious lunch to boot.
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… and one … and two ….

It’s with that idea in mind that I chose to sign up for the Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon next month. After a sedentary winter and the imminent loss of my best pacer to his homeland, I knew the odds of my PRing at the March 22 event were slim indeed, but the chance of PRing while sleeping late that Saturday morning were far worse.

I pegged my PRing odds at 5%, my placing odds at 10% and my drinking Bloody Marys odds with my boyfriend and his mama post-race at an optimistic 98%. I learned the race course, did my speed work, resumed my double digit long runs and prepared to at least give it the old college try when it came time to compete in my first long race of the new year.

I was ready. … And then I learned I’ll be traveling for work that weekend, and my odds of absolutely everything plummeted to a disappointing zero. They say eighty percent of success is showing up, but I don’t think I can count this absent performance as a 20 percent win.

Luckily, easing the pain is the fact that I’m not missing this race for Pittsburg. Work travel destination? Hong Kong, which is boasting a high of 77 degrees this fine February afternoon. Don’t mind if I do, you subtropical climate, you.

And heck, if I really want to aim for a PR in March, I could always try my luck in an athletic event on another continent. This one, in particular, has caught my eye. Odds of beating my speedy 10K PR? Low. Odds of completing my first ever Asian road race? 100%. That is, if I show up.

Would you do it?


Give It a Rest

I’m good at a lot of things (read: coloring, banter, modesty) but I’m aware there exist some gaping holes in my education as a citizen of the world. I never learned state capitals, for example, or to swim the butterfly. I never learned to ski or to patiently cook rice. I never learned to do a pull-up or French braid my own hair or befriend a household cat unscathed, and if you’ve ever seen me with a jar of peanut butter, it’s clear I never learned it doesn’t expire if I don’t consume all 16 ounces it in one fell swoop.

I mean, I’ve heard rumors the cap screws back on, but I’d hate to risk it.

But of all the things I never learned in my 28 years, there’s one deficiency that’s particularly clear: I never learned how to properly relax.

Sure, I can binge watch Top Chef marathons with the best of them, but you can bet your weight in Padmas I’ll be multitasking all elimination challenge long, whether that’s cooking myself or cleaning the apartment or stretching my tight legs after the morning’s long run (just kidding on that last one, clearly.) I’ll also spend all 60 minutes feeling terribly guilty I’m inside in front of the TV and not out doing something tangibly productive as I strive to squeeze every last ounce of ouput out of the day.

I could try to blame my constant need to be productive on my adopted city that never sleeps, but the truth is, I’ve been afflicted with an inability to unwind for as long as I can remember. A Saturday morning with no plans? I immediately call up a friend for brunch. An empty calendar on Friday night? Tick off another Oscar contender. A Sunday afternoon in Baltimore? Play a rousing game of “hide the chew toy” with my clever niece. I usually win.

You’ll never find this one.

My inability to simply unplug and relax is part of who I am, and normally, I don’t mind so much, as it ensures I’m getting the most efficient use out of every single waking moment.

But after another week of long hours and ramped up mileage, I entered the recent three-day weekend aching to do something I’ve never successfully done before: absolutely nothing.

And I succeeded. Kind of.

Even though I had vowed to take it easy, I still managed to squeeze in a 10-mile training run during a snow storm, two lunches with friends in far-flung boroughs, a yoga class, a dinner party and a home-cooked Valentine’s Day meal, complete with homemade flourless chocolate cake and country wheat bread.

Email me for the recipe. Warning: you will eat all two loves within 30 minutes.
Don’t let Hallmark tell you otherwise. Carbs = the most romantic Valentine’s Day gift.

I realize it doesn’t necessarily sound like I successfully did “nothing” all weekend long, but at least in my distorted opinion, it felt pretty indulgent indeed. Why, you ask? Because I also slept in all three days, lazily read my whole book club book, watched two feature-length movies and took off two entire days from my fitness routine.

I know I’m never going to be stellar at decompressing, but like most things in life — from nutrition to running to  rationing JIF — maybe this is another area in my life I can improve with consistency, effort and good ol’ practice. “Practicing” relaxation may not sound that relaxing to a seasoned  recliner, but for this wind-up toy on the go, I’d say it’s a (step-free) step in the right direction.

Do you ever fully unwind? Teach me, grasshopper!


Pour Some Sugar on Me

If you turned on the TV yesterday, you were probably bombarded with news reports touting a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that shows Americans are eating entirely too much sugar.

If you didn’t turn on the TV yesterday, $5 says you either don’t have a TV or the opposable thumbs to turn it on.

Full disclosure: I'm reusing this photo.  Also full disclosure: don't feed Keira after midnight.
Full disclosure: I’m reusing this photo. Also full disclosure: don’t feed Keira after midnight.

According to the report, which was the headline feature on every 24-hour news station during my morning workout, a whopping 71.4 percent of U.S. adults get more than the recommended 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars in foods and drinks. And surprise surprise, an elevated sugar intake is closely correlated with cardiovascular disease and, you guessed it, death. You know it always ends in something sexy like death or celebrity rehab if the top journalists in the world are using their unparalleled access to the American public to broadcast it on repeat.

As I watched identical news segments about the report on NBC and CBS while I searched in vain and irony for the channel airing Cupcake Wars, I couldn’t help but disregard the warning as something that doesn’t really apply to me. I don’t drink sugary sodas. I don’t keep Oreos in the house. I only add Splenda to my oatmeal and soda water to my vodka, and I couldn’t even tell you the last time I purchased a candy bar. Stolen one from a child? That’s another story.

I don’t even drink fancy, sugar-laden coffee drinks. A regular cup of joe with almond milk, or maybe the occasional skim latte, is plenty for me. Sure, this fat-free latte from the Upper East Side may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s still cloyingly, adorably sugar-free.

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In my mind, the “Americans eat too much sugar” story is a story about a different kind of America than the one I live in: the kind of America that supports Duck Dynasty, thinks Gushers are a vegetable and pours Mountain Dew over its Fruit Loops.

Given my daily kale intake and infrequent donut consumption, I figured there was no way that TV segment on elevated sugar intake was meant for health-conscious, cookie-avoiding, water-swigging viewers like me.

But I thought I’d check my daily food log on myfitnesspal just in case. You know, in order to celebrate my superior nutritional choices and give myself a good ol’ pat on the corn-syrup-less back.

And what do you know?

My daily sugar intake exceeds the recommended amount at least twofold, and most days, by much, much more.

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Why yes, I do get a lot of fiber. Eat your heart out, boys.

I have to step back and apologize here, Mountain Dew enthusiasts. Here I was acting all high and mighty given my soda-free lifestyle, when really, I’ve been bathing in the sweet stuff just like the rest of you.

At first glance, I couldn’t figure out how it was possible I’m taking in 70 to 100 grams of sugar on average every day vs. the recommended 30 to 50 grams for my body and lifestyle. On Tuesday, a day in which I cooked all my meals myself and limited my caloric intake to 1,400, when it came to sugar, I somehow managed to throw back a whopping 149 grams. A spoon full of sugar helps more sugary things go down, apparently.

To be fair, a large percentage of my sugar consumption is tied to fresh fruits and whole grains and low-fat dairy — the “natural” kind of sugar that isn’t the scary added stuff the study was warning about. Also, I may have indulged in the free office snack room Tuesday with a bag of 100-calorie fudge stripe cookies, pushing my counts over the top.

But beyond that, it seems added sugars are still sneaking into my diet with me none the wiser. Take, for example, by daily fruit-on-the-bottom Chobani fat-free yogurt. I eat it for the high protein and low calorie count, but I finally took a second to read the sugar section of the nutrition label, and its 16 grams – or about half what I’m supposed to eat in an entire day – vs. 4 grams for plain. The single-serving coconut waters I drink after a particularly hard workout? Another 16 grams. I never beat Number Munchers, but I can see how this adds up.

The truth is, I think I do eat healthier than 80 percent of Americans, and I’m not really sure I’m willing to give up my last few indulgences in an effort to further curb my sugar intake. But I’m hoping at least keeping sugar on the brain as I make culinary decisions should help me be a little more mindful of my problem.

In fact, in four short months, my homegirl Kat and I will be gearing up once more for the Governor’s Ball music festival, and while I’m generally down for helping out my neighbors, when Andre 3000 asks me to lend him some sugar, I’m think I’m going to have to politely decline.

Is sugar something you eat in moderation? What are your tricks for keeping your intake down, especially when the easy things to cut out like soda and poptarts and sugar cubes are already long gone?