Socks, Drugs and Rock&Roll

Lieutenant Dan had a lot of good advice for Forrest — catch shrimp after a hurricane, make your peace with God, invest in Apple — but one tip in particular stands out:

Take your socks seriously.

Or in the colorful words of Gary Sinise: “There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry when we’re out humpin’. I want you boys to remember to change your socks wherever we stop.”

As a distance runner pounding away more than 1,000 miles a year, you’d think I’d give some consideration to my socks. I mean, I’ve written multiple posts dedicated to the importance of good running shoes. I buy Asics trainers in bulk when they’re about to upgrade my model. I left an old pair in Hong Kong once to make room in my suitcase and actually held a little farewell ceremony to bid them goodbye. I wish I were joking.

With shoes such a key component of my running routine, you’d think the layer that’s even closer to my feet would be even more important. Well, you’d be wrong.

I’ve never really thought much about socks at all.

My sock drawer is chock full of ankle socks in all shapes and sizes, from the worn-out Target brand 6-pack to the Under Armour “no shows” that my toes always tear through. As long as they are tall enough to cover my heels and still have their mate, I’ll keep socks in rotation forever, meaning some pairs have been on the circuit for, I don’t know, 12 years?

It never seemed like a problem to me. I mean, how can socks go bad? Then I ran the Brooklyn Half this month, and crossed the finish line with a callus so thick I had to spend the better part of the afternoon soaking my sore feet in the bathtub.

This is not as fun as it looks.
This is not as fun as it looks.

A little WebMDing, and I determined ill-fitting socks that had lost their elastic had caused friction against the ball of my foot over 13.1 speedy miles, giving me the callus. I also determined I had lupus, since that’s that kind of thing rampant WebMDing leads to.

With good socks — and my lack thereof — fresh on my mind, it was quite serendipitous to receive an e-mail last week from Stance Socks about the run they were sponsoring tonight in the East Village. Media were invited to try out (and keep post-workout, full disclosure) a pair of Stance running socks on a 2-mile jog around the East Village lead by local punk rock legend and lead singer of the Cro-Mags John Joseph. I don’t know much about the NYC punk scene, but I know I like free socks and meeting other fitness-minded people, so I signed up.

And whew, what a ride. We met at 315 Bowery, once home to famous music club CBGB, then worked our way up to St. Marks, around Tompkins Square Park and up past Webster Hall while Stance snapped photos of our socked experience and John Joseph told so many stories about being stabbed in the 70s and 80s I started to think I was watching Ghost. Wait, was he dead the whole time?

Fact: We were running into the bus lane, so we were probably dead, too.
Fact: We were running into the bus lane, so we were probably dead, too.

So how did the socks live up? To be honest, it’s too early to tell. They survived a 2-mile fun run on a steamy NYC night with no problems, but we’ll see if my new colorful performance socks withstand the pounding and rubbing that 20 weeks of marathon training will bring. They’re a great color though, so I’m optimistic.

Don't we look swell?
Don’t we look swell?

Until then, I’ll be doing my best to follow Lt. Dan’s two standing orders: “One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like gettin’ yourself killed.”

Bubba would have wanted it that way.

How much consideration do you give socks in your daily routine?

Races Running

Brooklyn is the New Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Half Marathon didn’t start until 7 a.m. last Saturday, but in the hours leading up to it, my mind was already racing:

  • Am I going to make it to the Prospect Park starting line before bag check closes at the ungodly hour of 6:10 a.m.?
  • Is it going to start pouring mid-race like this ominous cloud cover suggests?
  • Is a 9 a.m. hot dog on Coney Island a socially acceptable recovery snack?
Spoiler Alert: It was.
Spoiler Alert: It was.

But for all the pre-race thoughts and anxieties filling my head, there was one question notably absent from my stream of conscious in the days and hours leading up to my second half marathon of the year:

Will I PR?

For every past race, I’d always checked my previous PR — or personal record — before the starting gun so I’d know just how fast I’d have to run in order to beat my earlier efforts. As a middle of the pack runner, I’m rarely going to beat the other participants, but if I can shave off a few seconds from a previous race time of the same distance, it shows my hard work is paying off. A new PR isn’t the only sign of a good race, but it’s certainly a rewarding one.

For the Brooklyn Half, however, I didn’t even bother looking up my previous half marathon PR before entering my corral. Why not, you ask? Plenty of reasons. I knew I logged it in 2013 when I was in better shape. I remembered it happened when I was running with my fast friend Adam. I recalled it was a sub 1:50 time, which is at least three minutes faster than my performance in the MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon just one month ago, and my training since then has been anything but stellar.

The odds of PRing weren’t in my favor.

Flash forward to race day. I was up at 4 a.m. to meet my friends Z-Z and Leigh-Ann (and Leigh-Ann’s brilliant hired van) at 5:15 a.m. to get to bag check before 6:10 a.m. to get in corrals by 6:40 a.m. before the 7:00 a.m. start. Thank god I’m a morning person.

Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)
Who needs coffee? (Just kidding. We both do.)

I started to talk with my corral mates to pass the time, and I quickly discovered I was surrounded by some really fast individuals. “I’m trying for a 1:30,” said Kevin, the chatty stretcher by the railing. “I’m taking it easy after qualifying for Boston last week,” said approachable Alan in line for the john. “I am Meb Keflezighi,” said Meb Keflezighi as he smacked me with his Olympic silver. I could be exaggerating on that last point, but I can’t be sure. I was clearly in the wrong corral.

Knowing I was surrounded by greats, I made an important decision as the starting gun went off: I wasn’t going to go out sprinting with them. I was going to run my own race.

So I did. Miles 1-4, I kept myself at a steady 8:30 pace, even though my legs were itching to keep up. Mile 5, I was passed by a speedy friend who I decided not to chase down because I wasn’t yet ready to drop the hammer. Mile 7, we exited Prospect Park and even though the crowds were roaring, I simply maintained.

And then we hit Ocean Parkway — the 6.1-mile stretch that would take us due south to the finish line — and I let it have it.

Sure, my quads were starting to ache and my calloused feet were barking, but with more than half of the race under my belt, I felt like I still had more gas in the tank, so I started to push my speed. For the next few miles, I threw back every cup of Gatorade I could get my hands on, ate my Honey Stinger energy chews and counted down the alphabetical avenues from A to Z. At mile 11, the sky opened up to a torrential downpour, so I put my head down and cranked up the effort. As I approached mile 12, I started to do the math and realized that if I could maintain an 8 minute mile for just 8 more minutes, I might be able to finish under the 1:50 mark. So I squared my shoulders, widened by stride and tore my way down the boardwalk and over that finish line at 1:49:12.

I collected my medal and heat sheet, gathered my baggage, unabashedly stripped out of my wet clothes in the minor league baseball parking lot (sorry, mom), and met my friends for a beer and dog at Nathan’s. It was only when I was in the van headed home that I got the idea to check my existing half marathon PR just for hell of it.

And what do you know? It was a 1:49:47. With no expectation whatsoever, I’d just knocked 35 seconds off.

And who says Brooklyn is all played out?

Thanks, Brooklyn!

I was just one of 26,482 finishers, so I know some of you did it do. How’d your race go?


By Any Stretch of the Imagination

I recently found myself saying out loud nine words I never in my life thought I’d string together into a sentence.

  • No, it wasn’t “Think I’ll have peanut butter just one meal today.”
  • And it wasn’t “No thank you. I have enough golden doodle GIFs.”

Heck, it wasn’t even “I’ve filled my ‘You’ve Got Mail’ quota for 2015.”

The nine-word phrase that somehow escaped my lips was even more surprising, if you can believe it. It went a little something like this:

“This week, I practiced yoga at three different studios.”

(Fun fact: that’s also a haiku if you pronounce diff-er-ent as three syllables and channel your inner Barney Stinson to add “True story!” at the end.)

If you’ve ever seen me try to touch my toes but only get to about my belly button, you can appreciate how comical this is. But it’s not just my supreme inflexibility that makes my recently frequent yoga practice a surprise — it’s also the fact that I left the first yoga class I ever took convinced I’d never go back.

I had just moved to New York City, and as an inflexible and probably hung-over 22 year old, I decided to check out the small second-story yoga studio near my apartment on the Upper West Side. I didn’t really know what yoga was, but I knew I wanted to be fitter and I knew big city girls took yoga, so I paid the $20 class fee and went.

And it was horrible. Sitting Indian style (don’t worry, I can use that phrase, being 3/256ths Native American) was supremely uncomfortable for me, and no one thought to tell me to sit on a blanket or block. The instructor spoke in Sanskrit, not that I knew what what balasana (child’s pose) was in English, either. Worst of all, the teacher kept coming over to adjust me, which now I know can be extremely helpful, but as a frustrated and confused newbie, it just left me feeling embarrassed.

It’s no surprise I didn’t go back to another yoga class for seven years.

It was only last year that I decided to give it another try as I looked for ways to rein in potential injuries during the marathon off-season. And this time, I did it right. Instead of throwing myself right into an all-levels yoga class at some fancy studio with coconut-water on tap, I went to super basic “Intro to Yoga” in the basement utility room of the 92nd St. YMHA.

No frills. Also, no windows.
No frills. Also, no windows.

“Is this anyone’s first class?” the non-threatening instructor, Karen, asked as she introduced herself to the room. “Any sore spots I should know about?” “Does anyone not want to be touched or adjusted?”

She put me at ease, and as we moved slowly through the poses with ample guidance, I found I wasn’t just tensing up out of absolute fear and humiliation: I was really stretching. I left the 60-minute class with looser hamstrings, an understanding of downward dog, and a plan to come back every Tuesday until the marathon. And as much as I could, I did.

For about a year, I went to that 92Y intro class, but I was still too afraid to check out any more advanced classes at that gym or somewhere else. Shoulder stands? Headstands? Levitation? No thank you. I was content to stick with my basic poses and not push my comfort zone.

It was only when I received an e-mail from New York Road Runners this spring announcing its four-week Yoga for Runners series at Pure Yoga that I decided it was time to put my introductory practice to the test. I signed up for the course, arrived at the terrifyingly beautiful studio for my first session, and prepared to be humiliated again by a fancy teacher.

They have free Vogues available to read while you wait for class. FREE VOGUES.
They have free Vogues available to read while you wait for class at Pure Yoga. FREE VOGUES.

And you know what? I wasn’t. Sure, there were things I couldn’t do without a block or a blanket or a belt, but there were also poses that if I shook off my own “I can’t” attitude, I found I could actually do. Equally importantly, the class was full of other runners like me, so we ALL had tight hamstrings and hip flexors and an unhealthy competitive spirit. Those four weeks of practices flew by, and I left itching for the next time NYRR offers the series.

With that newfound confidence, when a friend recently suggested yoga and a brunch date in Union Square, I jumped on the opportunity. We went to Yoga Vida — where I’ve since learned Alec Baldwin’s wife teaches — and I survived something I never thought imaginable: a flow class. I didn’t know what it meant, but I now imagine it means something like “move positions so fast you’re always at risk of not keeping up.” Still, for the most part, my experience in the intro class had given me the skills I needed to follow along, and I left the class energized, proud and feeling like no one in the class had been watching me for comedic relief.

And for this stiff runner, that’s a win.

Have you ever revisited something you hated seven years ago to find your tastes have changed? Fancy wine not out of a box, I’m talking to you.


So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Today marked the end of an era.

This is the part of my blog where I’d usually make some kind of joke about peanut butter, or about goldendoodles, or about Shawn Hunter, or about any number of my favorite things and/or TGIF crushes, but today is no laughing matter.

Today, Runner’s World permanently shut down its classic training log.

If we know it and love it, why are you taking it away from us?!
If we know it and love it, why are you taking it away from us?!

I’ve recorded my runs on this training log since November 2011, or just two weeks after I crossed the finish line at my first ever half marathon and decided right then and there I was going to commit to a lifetime of running.

I imagine there exist other online training logs full of bells and whistles, but a one-man band I am not, and the Runner’s World Training Log was exactly everything I needed as a semi-serious runner looking to measure her progress. It let me record the type of workout I was doing, from fartleks to races, so I could see whether I was getting enough speed work in. It helped me keep track of my ever rotating arsenal of Asics so I’d know when each pair was pushing 400 miles and was ready for retirement. It allowed me to reflect back on all three marathon cycles after the fact, and marvel and the peaks and troughs a year of training can bring.

4-21-2015 4-02-27 PM

I’d diligently recorded every mile on that log for more than three years, and I was fully prepared to continue using it — well — forever. Imagine looking back as an 85 year old woman on a lifetime of workouts. It would have been magnificent.

But Runner’s World just didn’t want to give me that satisfaction. Several weeks ago, I received an e-mail telling me the log was closing forever on May 11.

“In its place, Runner‘s World is building a free training app that will have features not available on the RW Training Log, including route tracking, running analysis, and training advice,” the editor’s wrote in the message. “The app, called Runner’s World Go, is due out this summer for iPhone and later this year for Android.”

Ok, I can live with that, I thought. I’ll have to learn a new technology, sure, but who am I to stand in the way of progress? They gave us two options: either import your data into a free TrainingPeaks account, or open a free MapMyRun account, which would be rolled over to the new Runner’s World app come summer. All seemed very civilized.

So I set up my free TrainingPeaks account, downloaded my data, loaded it into the system … and it’s the worst.

To be fair, it did carry over the individual runs and weekly mileage from the old site, so all is not lost, and I do appreciate them giving us a back-up plan. But it erased in the transition all record of what kinds of runs I did, which shoes I wore, and anything beyond a simple mileage count — which my Garmin watch could give. Maybe it exists on here, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make charts, or record types of runs or do anything remotely interesting with the data. Heck, the program itself is so gray and monochromatic, it should have been cast alongside Dakota Johnson. (50 Shades joke, anyone?)

Welcome to Soviet Russia, I mean, TrainingPeaks.
Welcome to Soviet Russia, I mean, TrainingPeaks.

For now, I’ve continued to record my mileage in TrainingPeaks — sans workout or shoe details — because maybe someday I’ll still find something useful to do with this uninspiring replacement log. But part of me also wonders if this is the sign I needed to stop recording my distances, unplug, and just run for the sake of running, statistics and number crunching be damned. I’m not quite ready to make that call, but ask me again in 100 miles, when my shoes have worn out and I don’t yet know it.  That’s going to be a fun day.

Could someone from Runner’s World please explain the reasoning behind this decision? And maybe also mail me a box of gourmet pears? That would help ease this transition, too.


Milk and Cereal

They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast.

I say the most important meal of the day is my office’s 3 p.m. champagne ration, but sure, breakfast is a close second.

(Just kidding. This is from that day we won a Pulitzer. Usually champagne’s at 4.)

I’ve been an advocate of breakfast for as long as I can remember, though it’s taken different forms with each passing decade. As a kid, breakfast meant the five of us squeezed around the kitchen table over Cap’n Crunch and the comics. As a college student, breakfast meant strawberry yogurt, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and the immediate dissipation of hangovers because 21-year-old bodies are resilient like that. When I moved to New York, breakfast meant bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches; homefries; bagels and – surprise surprise – what I like to refer to as the Manhattan 15.

Or the Manhattan 45. Semantics.

It was really only in January 2011 when I started to wise up to my unhealthy ways that I began to give some serious thought to my breakfast composition. I mean, I knew from body-conscious DJ Tanner I was supposed to eat breakfast every day, but I had never really stopped to think about whether a bowl of Fruit Loops was actually cutting it. As I began to learn more about energy, calories and the importance of nutrition, I swapped my kids cereals for what I was sure were more sensible varieties. You know, the brands with important things like fiber and fruits and whole grains and riboflavin. Mmm. Riboflavin.

I ate Special-K. I ate Kashi. I ate Bare Naked granola. I felt like a grown-up!

And then this winter, I decided to look at the nutrition label on my beloved granola.


Adding a box of raisins and a cup of almond milk, and it brought me to a whopping 40 grams of sugar — or 74 percent of my daily intake — before 7 a.m. Eating granola every morning, I felt like a grown-up all right. One about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

With that realization, I decided this year to revamp my breakfast routine. After decades of carb-laden morning meals, I pledged at the ripe age of 29 to find creative ways to work more fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein into my a.m. routine., and I’ve (mostly) so far stuck with it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not always easy to forgo free cereal at work, and I have been known to backslide into the delicious world of Basic 4 when the mood strikes. But planning ahead and packing my own nutrition-dense breakfast brings so many positives — from feeling fuller all morning long to giving my sore muscles the protein they need to recover — that I’ve mostly been able to justify the added prep work and planning it takes.

I’ve tried several morning combinations with a healthy make-up of protein, carbs and fat, and these are some of my favorites:

  • Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with two hard boiled eggs for 19 grams of protein and just 6 grams of sugar.

    photo 1 (71)
    Paas Easter egg dye optional.
  • A smoothie with peanut butter, banana, cashew milk and baby spinach for 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein and two servings of fruits/veggies before sun-up.
photo 2 (65)
Why cashew milk? Because the full-page ads in Runner’s World clearly worked for me.
  • Chia seed pudding (chia soaked in dark chocolate soy milk) with a sliced pear for 18 grams fiber, 13 grams protein and one delightful day of finding chia seeds hidden in your teeth for hours on end. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture, so here’s a photo of a wheaten terrier — not Keira — I dogsat last weekend instead. You’re welcome.
She prefers dining on duck.
She prefers dining on duck.

Are there still going to be days I choose the buttered bagel or bowl of French Toast Crunch over the healthier options? Absolutely. But if I can swap out my sugar-filled breakfasts for something more wholesome at least three days a week, I know I’m making strides toward health.

And that’s worth toasting with a bloody mary.

What’s your breakfast routine?