Friday, November 25, 2011

Earning Her Supper

Lately, I have been feeling a little bit down on my running. Since the NYC Triathlon in August, my motivation has been waning and, consequently, my pace has been getting slower and slower.

In an attempt to jump-start my competitive drive, I signed up for a nice short race: a 4.4 mile Turkey Trot. Because it was located in Webster, NY--where I would be spending Thanksgiving with my boyfriend R___ and his family--I figured it would be a reasonably small, casual race. This assumption was completely wrong.

Compared to most other races I have run, the Webster Turkey Trot was a casual affair. There were no pace-based corrals, only one midpoint mile marker, and the start of the race consisted of one man raising a large yellow flag and telling the front line of runners "Go" (prompting the runners behind them to follow, and the runners behind them to follow, etc.). However, the race was chipped (i.e. each runner is timed electronically), we received race T-shirts, and--most significantly--there were 4,800+ runners registered to run. This was clearly not just a neighborhood jog.

Because the start was so disorganized, I did not get up to speed until well into the first mile. I've been running so slowly lately and my internal barometer has been out of whack that I wasn't quite sure what that "speed" was; however, I was determined to break the 8-minutes per mile pace that I've been holding lately.

I felt pretty good on the course--it was reasonably flat, and the sun was warm. Then, we reached the last quarter mile. The path narrowed and veered off of the pavement, and I found myself stumbling and tripping down a slick mud and tree root-covered hill, along with the other hundred people pushing for the finish line. I made it down the hill in one piece, only to be confronted with a muddy grass swamp, at the end of which I could make out the finish line.

Slipping and sliding across the field, I made it to the finish line without falling. However, I was feeling awfully disappointed. Even if I ran at a good clip once I made it out of the crowd at the start line, the end is where I typically shave off an extra few seconds. I can negative split a race much more easily than I can power out of the gate. But now, this perilous mud pit finish ruined my usual strategy. I might not have broken an 8-minute pace.

Then I looked at my watch. 30:36! That couldn't be right. How could I have run 4-and-a-half miles at a sub 7-minute pace?

As it turns out, my watch time was a bit faster than my actual clock time (30:51 on the clock vs. 30:36 on my watch), and the race was slightly shorter than I had thought (4.4 miles in reality vs. 4.5 miles I had thought was the race distance). However, the good news is that when I need to "turn it on" for a race, I can. Average speed: 7:01/mile!

And so, I ate Thanksgiving with an especially thankful heart.

Results for this race:

Race Length Finishing Time Average Pace Overall Place Gender Place (All Women) Age Group Place (F25-29)
4.4 miles 30:51 7:01/mile 268/2,535 44/1,271 8/225

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday in DC: A Public Transit Adventure

Anyone who knows me knows what a proponent I am of public transportation. I will gladly tell anyone who asks how thankful I am not to own a car. In the next 5-10 years I don't expect to live anywhere that requires me to own a car, and if I can get away with being car-free for longer than that, I will. My reasons for a carless life are numerous, but one of my strongest arguments in favor of an extensive and user-friendly public transit system is that it enables independence and flexibility in new and unfamiliar places. This point was proven once again on my most recent trip to Washington DC.

I arrived in DC on a Thursday in order to set up for the Society for Neuroscience's 41st annual conference. Exhibits at the conference were not scheduled to open until Sunday, and since we were finished setting up by Saturday afternoon, I was left with the rest of the day free to do as I pleased. After making plans with various friends, here was my route around the city:

  • First, I walked back to my hotel from the conference center.

    Walk 1.1 miles, ~21 minutes

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  • Then, I walked from my hotel to Union Station, where I met my friend K___ for coffee and a stroll around the city.

    Walk 0.5 miles to Union Station, ~10 minutes; ~3 miles around/across the city in ~2 hours

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  • Next, K___ put me on a bus that took me up through Georgetown, to a 50m pool I had scouted out in Tenleytown. There I swam laps in a facility nicer than almost any pool I have ever seen, and which also happens to be free to DC residents. My jealous was palpable.

    Bus ride ~40min

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  • After I finished swimming, I took the bus back to Foggy Bottom. There, I got on the Orange line and took the metro out to Arlington, VA in order to have dinner with my college friends B___ and G___.

    Bus ride, ~40 min in the opposite direction + metro ride, ~22 minutes

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  • Finally, after ample dinner, drinks and discussion, I took the metro back to my hotel.

    Metro ride orange line to Red line to Union Station + walk to hotel, ~40min

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    All in all, it was a busy but successful day. Now, imagine if I had had a car! I would have had to deal with the stress of traffic, navigating unfamiliar streets, paying for parking. Instead, I spent less than $10, got some exercise on foot, took a nice bus "tour" of Georgetown, and enjoyed reading my book on the subway. Why can't every city in America be like this?

  • Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Idioms and Idiocy

    I guess if you're a "branding specialist" you have to be both corny and corporate. However, before actually meeting a "branding specialist," I never considered how that particular combination (corny and corporate) would manifest itself in a human being.

    Then, the other day, I attended a presentation about a re-branding or brand-consolidating initiative my company is undertaking, and as I listened, I could not help but be struck by the outrageous number of idioms that crept into the presenter's speech. When I finally regained the presence of mind to write these down (about halfway through the presentation), here is what I came up with:

  • Where the rubber meets the road
  • Don't need to recreate the wheel
  • Everyone's an expert
  • The sizzle and the steak (I personally have no idea what this one means, but he said it more than once, so someone must know!)
  • Very finger-wagging
  • The cart before the horse
  • Roll it out (This is right up there with my all-time least favorite corporate-speak terms; it should be used in reference to pie baking and nothing else)
  • Take the learning and bake it into our process (Not an idiom, but it was such a bad metaphor I had to include it)

    And perhaps the best of all:

  • I'm not going to teach my grandmother to suck eggs

    This last one I had to look up on Wikipedia when I got back to my desk. I invite you to do so now.

    Please consider all of these constituted only half of his presentation, which was maybe a half-hour long at best. I challenge you, reader, to use all of these idioms (and bad metaphors) in a single day. Your achievement earns you . . . my undying admiration. But isn't that worth having?