Tag Archives: caffeine

Whence Comes the Energy Redux

24 Jul


That is a picture of Lake Michigan, taken during my run this morning. My first solo run since the first week of July. And it’s hard for me to even count that early July run as an actual run because it was too short and I had to stop every block for traffic and I felt like crap and it was raining, etc… Honestly, I haven’t been running for almost six weeks now. The last time I logged anything into Training Peaks was, I think, the first week of June. Sorry, Coach.

I went out on Sunday with a friend who is, like me, just getting back into the swing of things after taking some time off. He ran a 200 mile Ragnar last month and needed some time to get his legs and mind back. He was the perfect person to go out with for an easy trot. He’s an obviously experienced runner, born of a family chock-full of running phenoms (his uncle held a world record for the fastest 10k run by, like, an 8-year-old boy or some such craziness) and I could tell that on any other day, if we were both in peak condition, he’d have made me work. Hard. But it wasn’t any other day. It was Sunday. After a long rest period. And we were both happy with an easy, conversational pace and a pleasant 40 minutes along the lakefront.

I had no plans to run this morning but the minute I woke up, I felt the urge. And not only the urge, but also the ability. As in: I felt like I had the power to get up, get dressed and go for a run. The flesh was willing and the mind was strong. Anyone who has ever been active for any length of time knows that it’s a boon when the body and mind are in sync. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your mind is OK but you’re body is wiped. Sometimes your body is fine but your mind is like, “Fuck you. It’s 5AM and it’s raining. We are staying in bed.” In either of these instances, it’s normally possible for one to override the other and you get up and you get out and you do your thing.

But when both mind and body go AWOL, it’s really hard to motivate. This has happened to me before. Actually it happens more regularly than I think I’ve ever been willing to admit. And most of the time, I muscle through. Why? Because…


Because I fear what will happen if I don’t. Which is what? Probably nothing. Nobody has money riding on whether or not I’m going to place at the next sprint tri on Key Biscayne. I muscle through because I fear what others will think of me if I don’t. Maybe people will think I’m weak. Maybe people will think I’m lazy. Maybe people will think I’m not a good athlete. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Who Gives a Fuck?

Obviously I do. Or I have. In the (not so distant) past. So for the last month, I’ve been trying to worry less about what my not-training “means” to other people (and I’ve been through enough therapy to know that, at the end of the day, it means NOTHING to other people) and more about what I can do to feel better. So I went to see this acupuncturist/chiropractor/herbal doctor and settled on a plan to eat clean, take a boat-load of supplements, sleep when my body was telling me to sleep, and focus on being a playwright. So far so good. Ish.

When I woke up this morning and felt the desire to run, I couldn’t fight it. I’ve been listening to my body about other shit, so why not listen to it when it asked me to move? I wanted to run. And that made me happy. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of the house so quickly. I was up and out the door in about seven minutes. Just enough time to pee, dress, strap on my Garmin and go. I ran pretty much the same route my friend and I had run on Sunday. Down towards the lake and then along the lakefront and then back. Right around 4 miles. And that felt fine.

For the last, oh, two years, every time I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve had some kind of time and/or pace goal in mind. 10 minute warmup then 1 mile build to lowest point of zone 5, then 1.5 miles all out, then cool down to zone 2. Or 30min at 10K pace + 15 seconds. Or 90 minutes in HR Z1-2 NO ZONE 3! This morning, my goal was to go out and enjoy running. Funny how goals change.

But now I’m on the couch, under a blanket, with my laptop on my legs, writing this blog post, feeling my eyelids getting heavy. I had a smoothie immediately after the run that included frozen berries, almond milk, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 tsp Omega oil, one B complex, 2 multi-minerals, 1 probiotic and a scoop of Perfect Food.  Then I had a cup of mate and two gluten free waffles with sunflower butter. So…where’s the energy?

Why do I want to take a nap at 11:42 in the morning? What am I not doing right? Is this STILL caffeine withdrawal? Should I have ignored my body this morning when it begged me to get out on the road? Did I really so exhaust myself over the course of the last six months that it’s going to take another six months to get my energy levels back up to what they were? And really, what were they? Have I ever really had any sustained energy? Or have I just been faking it? The truth is, I have been tired for the last ten years. But how is it possible that I’ve been training and competing in amateur sports that whole time? Why do I feel alternately great and crappy? Energized and fatigued? Calm and anxious?

These are the questions I’ve got rolling around in my brain right now. They’re sharing space with the questions I’ve got about Oedipus and narcissists and the drama of family dynamics and how to be an adult relating to other adults. And I have to work very hard to make sure that the questions I’m asking about my health don’t completely take over that space; overpower the questions I have to be asking about my work and my writing and my personal life. But this is tricky because those questions all probably, in one way or another, point to the same answer.

I know it’s not just about coffee and it’s not just about gluten or dairy. It’s not just about booze or casein or yeast. It’s not just about migraines and balance issues and yo-yo dieting. It’s not just about hay fever or eating too much soy. It’s not about pestides and GMOs and soil depletion and how none of our food has any nutritional value anymore. Well, maybe it’s a little about all of that. Honestly though, I think it’s far more likely that this is about me, and so many other young American women, fighting to hit one or two or twenty unattainable goals and making ourselves sick in the process.


Race Report: Mountain Madness Half Marathon, Steamboat Springs

1 Jul

Well I didn’t win the race but I FINALLY WON A DAMNED RAFFLE PRIZE! Got myself a sweet Honey Stinger t-shirt and a pair of awesome SmartWool socks. Two Steamboat brands to celebrate my near vomit-inducing finish at the 2012 Mountain Madness half marathon.

I did better than anticipated. Ended up finishing in 1:57:07 which I am hoping means that, barring some sort of race catastrophe, I am done with the 2+hour half-marathon finishes. Assuming, of course, that I don’t take a major training hiatus. But if I can get a sub-2 on THIS race, having lived basically below sea level for the last two years, than I feel pretty good about what’s going to happen when I go back down the mountain in August.

Here are some stats:

  • My Garmin clocked the distance as 13.26 and the race officials made an announcement that the course was, in fact, longer than 13.1
  • Starting elevation: 6,749ft
  • Max elevation: 7,169ft
  • Longest climb: 1.7 miles (!!!!!) at 3.1% grade incline, gaining a total of 276ft

I took a significantly different approach to this half than the last one. Because of the non-stop rollers, I knew it was going to be close to impossible for me to maintain a consistent pace or to shoot for negative splits. So I planned to take it easy until the turnaround at mile 8. But I wasn’t entirely sure what “easy” would mean.

The pack took off like gangbusters out of the starting gate. Seriously, I have never seen a race start like that. The field was miniature (45 runners total; more doing the 10k) and EVERYONE just bolted. I did not bolt. I stayed back and kept it as controlled as possible. So I was surprised to discover that right off I was already cruising at a 9 min/mile. I got a little worried that this was too fast for the first 5K but I was chatting with the guy next to me and felt fine breathing-wise so I just forced myself to hold the 9 until the turn onto the climb at mile 2, when I figured I’d slow considerably.

The slow down wasn’t as considerable as it could have been. The first quarter mile or so of the climb was intense. Just really,really steep. I thought for sure that I was going to have to walk the majority of this hill. But it flattened out a little as I got into it and I managed to keep running. I was very thankful at this point to have a coach who forces us to do bridge repeats every week. And very happy that I forced myself to do hill repeats ten days ago. That workout made this race possible.

The climb got worse again soon after. Mostly because it just kept going up and up and up and up. I passed the 10K turnaround point that I remembered from last year and thought, “You’ve gotta be kidding. We have to KEEP GOING UP?!” I did have to stop and walk at one point and, of course, it was like 100 meters from the highest point but whatever. Ain’t no shame in walking for a minute.

The downhill portion was SUPAH FAST! I had to hold my horses a little actually because I don’t have a ton of experience going fast down steep hills and I knew there was still a lot more race to go once I got back onto the “flat” below. Still, I got a little recovery in and got a few seconds back, which was good. Took my first gel at this point, around 45 minutes in.

Once I got out of the downhill section, it was right turn continuing down River Road for another, oh, 4ish miles. I’ve been biking this road a lot the last few weeks so by now, I know it pretty well. This was good as I was able to pace myself through the ups and downs leading to the turnaround at mile 8. I started creeping down into the 8:19, 8:22 min/mile pace and thought, “I’d better slow my roll” a little. I finished my 10K in well under and hour and was feeling good but I really wanted a sub-2 and didn’t want to lose it before the home stretch. So I did my best to lock it in at 8:44 for as long as possible. The rollers made this difficult but not impossible.

I started catching up to folks around mile 6 and passing people soon after. I absolutely LOVE running without headphones on these races because you get to listen to everyone else breathing. I’ll sidle up next to someone, listen to their breath, hear how labored it is and realize they’re working WAY harder than I am. This gives me a big mental boost and normally I just cruise right past them.

I’ve also started doing this thing–and I’m not totally proud of myself but whatever–where I creep up behind someone who’s in front of me and I just stay there for a minute or so, a few paces behind and just to the side, until they realize I’m there. I know they know I’m there because they will inevitably turn their head back just a little bit to see me. Once I know they’ve spotted me, I stay there for another minute. Sometimes they speed up, sometimes they don’t. If they do, I figure they’re scared. So I speed up too, knowing I’ve got the breath to maintain the increase in pace. If I do this long enough, they either bonk and slow down or I just end up passing them anyway. But either way, they’re psyched out and less likely to try and catch up. Mean, I know. But whatever. It’s the boxer in me.

I was really hoping that I’d be able to cruise down below the 8min/mile mark after mile 9 but it just was not happening. I even ended up slowing down a bit in the last mile. It was my legs more than anything. I took a lot of gel on this run, more than I have in the last few halfs. One 20 minutes before, one 45 minutes in and one (with caffeine) at the turnaround point. I even went back to the caffeinated gel in the last bit of race to see if there was any left. No such luck. I had an extra but didn’t want to waste the time struggling to get it open.

I checked my watch with about 600 meters left and was at 1:53. I had the very fleeting thought that I might be able to kill myself and beat my Key Biscayne PR (1:54:57). But I turned a corner and didn’t see the finish and realized I was already killing myself and since you can’t be more dead than dead, I’d just be happy with a sub-2. When I crossed the finish, I felt OK. Not sick but definitely not in my right mind. I think I said, “HOLY SHIT that was hard,” to the woman taking our bib tags for the raffle. Then I walked it all off for five minutes before shoveling a hand full of Skittles and an orange wedge into my face along with three cups of Gatorade.

The Austrian finished the 10K in something insane like 36 minutes and Danica finished in something equally absurd like 45 minutes. They both got 4th place in their respective genders. This was a really tough field, despite its being so small and I am very pleased with my performance. I ended up 21st overall and 5th in my AG. This is one of those races I was happy about as soon as it was over. Mostly because I followed it up with a Bloody Mary and breakfast at Creekside! Not a shabby way to spend the morning.

For those of you who care about such things, my roller coaster splits:

  • Mile 1: 9:09.15
  • Mile 2: 8:51.89
  • Mile 3: 9:42.23 (Part 1 of the big climb)
  • Mile 4: 9:56.52 (Part 2 of the big climb)
  • Mile 5: 8:18.06 (Downhill)
  • Mile 6: 8:44.18
  • Mile 7: 8:41.67
  • Mile 8: 9:03.49
  • Mile 9: 8:38.03
  • Mile 10: 8:33.25
  • Mile 11: 8:42.60
  • Mile 12: 8:19.71
  • Mile 13: 8:25.38
  • Final .26 Mile: 2:19.98

Nothing in the Tank (Whence Comes the Energy Redux)

27 Mar

I’m gonna be honest, guys: I am wiped. My brain is the consistency of vanilla pudding. I kinda can’t see straight. And I’ve got the slightest hint of a headache creeping up the back of my neck right now. This is the second morning of my third week of caffeine detox. At this point, I’ve stopped even drinking green tea. I have had no caffeine at all in the last 36 hours. I keep waiting for “food” to give me the boost that coffee did. Food is calories, calories are energy after all. Correct? So where is my boost?

I just ate two little almond muffins and a handful of raw nuts. That’s all good, solid food energy. I’m drinking tons of cold water. I got 38min52sec of exercise this morning in the pool. Isn’t steady aerobic exercise supposed to flood your body with oxygen and make you feel like a hero? Also, I went to yoga last night. Yoga is a gas station, or so they say.

I can not express to you exactly how badly I want a cup of coffee right now. It’s 8AM. I’ve been up for three hours already and I’m staring down the barrel of a full teaching day. I won’t get out of here until 7PM. Seriously, I don’t know how I’m going to do this without caffeine. What do people DO for sustained energy without caffeine? That is not a hypothetical question. I am looking for answers.

Oh, hello interwebs. What’s that you say? You have some suggestions.


What the hell is Palo?

PALO is a Natural Vitality Tea that provides sustained energy and balance without caffeine. PALO is brewed from Mamajuana…

Mamajuana? Really? You mean the Dominican Republic’s answer to Aquavit? You mean that insane blend of vaguely poisonous roots and leaves that are stuffed into old rum bottles, which are then filled with grain alcohol? No? Then what is Mamajuana?

Mamajuana is a blend of healthy roots and herbs which was traditionally prepared as tea and drank for vitality in the Dominican Republic and the surrounding Greater Antilles by the indigenous people.

Vitality. Sure. Vitality and waking dreams. I can’t vouche for this product. I simply Googled “Sustained energy without caffeine” and it was the first hit. Let’s see what else is on offer.

Reliv’s 24K

Boasts no caffeine, no sugar and only 5 calories per serving. So what the hell is in it then and what does it do to you?

24K’s synergistic blend of 24 active ingredients taps into your body’s natural vitality to provide energy, focus and stress relief. And with no caffeine, no sugar and only 5 calories per serving, it’s healthy energy for body, mind and spirit.

Sounds awesome. But it’s sold by a kinda creepy, Amway-like network marketing company (“NMC”), whose mission, in addition to selling product is “to help people; to nourish our world.”  I don’t know. I watched some of their videos and they just…well, watch them yourself and tell me if I’m being an asshole.

Then there’s MonaVie, by far the best name.

Fortified with 100 percent natural sources of energy, these advanced formulas features Palatinose™, a carbohydrate energy source found naturally in honey, sugar cane, and sugar beets. Scientifically shown to promote longer lasting energy, Palatinose metabolizes more slowly than sucrose and maltose—typical ingredients in other energy drinks—promoting a steady stream of energy over a longer period of time.

MonaVie is brought to you by yet another NMC.

Finally, all the way at the bottom of the page, I found an article from old faithful Livestrong. It offers no chemical miracles but rather a more detailed description of pretty much everything I wrote at the top of this post. 1) Get plenty of sleep; 2) exercise in the morning 3) shower after exercise (really? Do people need to be reminded of this?) 4) eat a healthy breakfast with a good mix of complex carbs and proteins; and my favorite, 5) have something to look forward to in the morning.

A dreary job or lackluster schedule can make you reluctant to roll out of bed, whereas a breakfast date with a friend or reading your favorite newspaper can give you the incentive to get ready and start the day with an energizing experience.

You know what I used to look forward to every morning? Coffee.

Anyway, the original point of this whole post was just to apologize for not writing anything particularly inspired today (brain = pudding) and to let you know that because I can’t focus, I’ll be running a 2nd Multiview. I hope it gives you the energy I can’t seem to locate.

Bananas are Evil, Organic or Not (with a Nod to Bittman)

15 Mar

It’s 7:59 and this day is off to a late start. I set my alarm for 5AM with the best of intentions but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get up for the group swim. My body seriously would not let me get out of bed.

It’s no use dwelling on what could have been. No use thinking about how, if I HAD gotten up, I’d be done with my swim for the day already. There’s no use because if I HAD gotten up and I HAD gone for a swim, I would be totally useless right now. And I’m already feeling useless enough on this, day 3 of Operation Coffee Ween. And yes I know I’m spelling it wrong but I like it this way and I like the band Ween and oh, did I mention that my BRAIN DOESN’T FUNCTION ON FRIGGING HALF-CAF?!??!?!?.

Sigh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I’m not mad at you. I hope you know that. I am a monster, right now. I am listless and foggy-headed. My muscles burn when I walk up the stairs. I can’t concentrate. I can’t make small talk. My head hurts all the time. I am exhausted by the end of the day and then miraculously, I can’t seem to fall asleep at night. I’ve also been really sad, which I was NOT prepared for.

I’ve also been really hungry. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the lack of coffee (which it might since coffee has been known to suppress appetite) or if it’s  because I’ve eliminated three food items that I normally consume mass quantities of throughout the day: 1) aged cheese 2) peanut butter and 3) bananas.

I’m doing fine without the cheese mostly because all I was eating was the pre-shredded, totally-fake “lite” crap I could buy 2 for 1 at Publix. It’s not really cheese anyway. I actually did have a tablespoon of peanut butter last night. I used it in a recipe pulled from Runner’s World for soba noodles with chicken and scallions. I’m not quite ready to give up on PB but I am not slathering it on bread or apples like I used to.

But the banana situation is bad because they’ve always been an on-the-go source of filling fuel for me. Yes, they’re great for the potassium and sugar post-workout but they’re also so handy. And when I buy too many and they ripen to the point of mush, I make Perro Grande muffins or pancakes out of them.

I’d already heard all the rabid dieting hoopla about bananas–TOO MUCH SUGAR! HIGH GLYCEMIC! Blah blah blah–but extensive interweb research over the course of the last TWO HOURS  has yielded some additional interesting factoids about the banana:

  1. They may not be super “green,” according to Mike Berners-Lee, author of the book and the blog, How Bananas Are Bad. For full disclosure, I glanced through various posts and couldn’t find anything related to the banana specifically. But…
  2. …surprise, surprise, according to writer Joseph Aaron Skloot, “U.S.-based companies that control banana cultivation the world over employ a cocktail of toxic fertilizers and pesticides known to harm human beings and animals.” You can read his excerpt from the book The Sacred Table, Creating a Jewish Food Ethic, here.
  3. Also, bananas are apparently bad luck for fishermen.

Yesterday, I walked right by the nanners and bought three apples instead. And I splurged! I bought the $2.69/lb organic Fuji’s. Mostly because they’re smaller than the non-organics (I have a long-standing distrust of massive fruit and vegetables. It all began with a story my mother told me once about the A&M program at UMass in the mid 1960s farming HUGE carrots that were later served in the cafeterias) but also because organic is better, yes?

I also splurged and bought the $6.99/lb free range/organic chicken breast because free range/organic is better, yes? All this coffee detox has got me to thinking that I’d better thoroughly clean up my act and stop consuming so many chemicals. Especially since I have a tendency to get all high and mighty about big pharma. If I refuse to ingest those chemicals, shouldn’t I refuse to ingest the chemicals contained in the VAST MAJORITY of what’s on offer at the local supermarche and buy only organic?

Well, this just opens up a whole new, nasty, line of thinking about the corporatization of organic farming here in North Uhmerikah. From an article by Hillary Bain Lindsay at The Dominion:

Kellogg owns Kashi, a supplier of organic whole grain cereals. Kraft has bought out Boca, a maker of organic soy burgers. The corporate interest in organics goes beyond food to include things like organic cotton and organic seeds. Select Walmart stores now sell a limited line of organic cotton supplies for yoga, bath and baby. M&M/Mars has bought Seeds of Change, an organic seed company. ‘Many organic seed varieties are now available only through a giant seed company called Seminis, which earlier this year was acquired by Monsanto,’ reports Howard.

Um…did someone say Monsanto? None of these companies have jumped on the organic bandwagon because they are particularly concerned with the healthy eating habits of Americans nor our friends to the North. People are interested in organics which means that organics are a potential revenue stream. I get it. Capitalism. Free market. Financial solvency for all. American dream! Rah rah rah.

In his amazing NY Times article, Eating Food That’s Better for You, Organic or Not, my food hero and yours, Mark Bittman, who also happens to be an avid runner and regular contributor to RW, questioned whether or not the organic debate isn’t totally beside the point. The point being that Americans eat shit and adding an organic tomato to your shopping list won’t make a lick of difference if everything else in the cart is made of white flour, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Bittman writes that the term “organic”:

…under the United States Department of Agriculture’s definition, means it is generally free of synthetic substances; contains no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.

Those requirements, which must be met in order for food to be labeled “U.S.D.A. Organic,” are fine, of course. But they still fall short of the lofty dreams of early organic farmers and consumers who gave the word “organic” its allure — of returning natural nutrients and substance to the soil in the same proportion used by the growing process (there is no requirement that this be done); of raising animals humanely in accordance with nature (animals must be given access to the outdoors, but for how long and under what conditions is not spelled out); and of producing the most nutritious food possible (the evidence is mixed on whether organic food is more nutritious) in the most ecologically conscious way.

The government’s organic program, says Joan Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, “is a marketing program that sets standards for what can be certified as organic. Neither the enabling legislation nor the regulations address food safety or nutrition.”

The USDA is happy to market organics to us but they could care less about whether certified-organic food is actually nutritious. And you can bet your GMO that those standards for certification will only get looser and more vague as your favorite big box companies and food corps. continue to crash the party.

Seriously, just Google the term “organic farming lies” and enjoy a full day of reading. There’s a lot coming from both sides of the argument. Obviously, this topic is far too complicated and I am far too lazy to dig into it completely. But start here: read all the stuff I linked to, watch Food, Inc. (great work in spite of and because it is total propaganda) and buy direct from your local organic farmers whenever possible (those of us in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Fran, have no excuse). Also, just stop drinking so much G-damned soda and eating so many snack crackers!

I, for one, will continue to steer clear of El Chiquita.

Saying Yes to Early Mornings

1 Mar

Today I joined the Alien group swim program at UM. This is great for me because when I finish I’m at work, basically. So I just shower and walk over to my office. I’ve also never used the outdoor training pool so having access to it finally is pretty sweet.

We have to be in the water at 6AM on the nose. This means that I have to be out of the house by no later than quarter to six, which means I have to be fully caffeinated by 5:30, which means I have to be up by 5:00AM with my bags already packed the night before.

Getting up at 5 today was pretty easy because I fell asleep in front of the TV at around 7:45PM last night and then got into bed for “real sleep” about an hour later. When I was a little kid I had a consistent 9PM bedtime. Lights were out at 9PM from the time I was old enough to bitch about having to go to sleep so early until, oh, I dunno, around the 9th grade. Nowadays, if I can’t get to bed by 9PM I start to bitch. But last night I fell asleep even earlier than usual because I was doped up on sedatives post-MRI. (Refer to: Tests, Tests and More Tests.)

Anyhoo, this is what UM looks like at quarter to six in the morning:


It’s kind perdy, isn’t it?

Here’s the pool before sunrise:

I have always enjoyed working out before sunrise. I also like starting road trips before sunrise or going to work before sunrise because when the sun does eventually rise you get a little boost of energy and feel very much like you’re a part of the cycle of life. By the time the sun started poking its shining little face out over our pool, I was done with my warm up.

Unfortunately, the UM swim team moves in at 7AM and we have to get outta there and let them do their thing. So we really and truly only have an hour. As opposed to when I hit the pool alone and I sorta try to kinda stick to the hour limit but never really do. My workout for today was insane. There was little chance of me finishing it in 60 minutes. The warm up itself was 500 yards. Then I had to do, get your math brain ready, 3 x (5 x 100; (30″ RI); 50 kick).

This means that I had to complete 5 100 yard swims each with 30 seconds of rest between 100s, followed by a 50 yard kick to recover. And then I had to do all that again. And then again.


I was supposed to swim one final 100 yards at race pace and top it all up with 300 yards nice and easy to cool down.

I got as far as half way thr0ugh the third set before I had to leave the pool. The workout was supposed to be 2550 yards total and I only got 1800 done. Short 700 yards. That’s a friggin’ lot of yards. BLAH. I hate not completing a workout. It makes me feel very much like I’m falling behind. Whatever. I guess what matters is that I did all I could to get the distance completed in the time allotted. More stuff to work on.

Now a full day of classes and then bridge repeats out on Key Biscayne at 7:15. Then tomorrow about 2200 yards, yoga and preparations for the arrival of the Persian Prince. And next week I get to fit in all this training while teaching and workshopping a musical. Fun fun fun!

Oh, and no one likes kids with cancer!

The Surprise Comes Now

28 Feb

I started writing this post two weeks ago. I’ve had a hard time finishing it. It’s because I stopped in the first place–I lost momentum. Momentum is a big thing for me. I am the kind of person who has made a life of muscling through. I don’t like to rest. I think this is one of the reasons I gravitate towards sports that require a lot of training. This is one of the reasons my personality is multi to begin with. One sport is not enough, one career is not enough, one project is not enough, etc…

I really wanted this post to be intelligent and well-conceived; well-executed and stylish. Perfect.

Fuck it.

This is what I wrote on Friday 2/24:

Today is rest day but there will be no rest for me. Since I took Wednesday off to have my head examined, I have to make up my hour bike and my bike te.I actually rested because Saturday was a long training day. A short bike-long run brick and then yet another 2,000+ yard swim session in the pool. Sunday was a shorter long training day: long bike-short run brick but it hurt more because of Saturday. Yesterday, I took Tito (my beloved red Impreza) into the shop for a brake inspection and came out with an $1,150 bill for work that I will admit, I’d been putting of having done for months.

This is what I wrote on Tuesday 2/21:

It’s 7:40AM and I have had no caffeine since Sunday morning. I am drinking tea. TEA! I am drinking tea with sugar in it because I figure trading one stimulant for another might be the thing that keeps me from killing an old lady today. Somehow, I must summon the energy to get into the pool for a swim test. I have to do a warm up and then swim 1000 yards; track time, heart-rate, etc… I can’t express to you how badly I want to skip it. Tomorrow, I submit myself for four hours of neurological testing to make sure that my wires aren’t so badly crossed that I might fall of my bike at some point soon.

This is what I wrote the first day I sat down to write this stupid post all the way back on February 17th:

So much gear, so many early mornings, so many miles, so many laps. And I’m still human. I still can’t fly. Or breathe under water. Such a commitment. What’s the point?

Last week, I had a swim workout that consisted of 2,200 yards and broke down like this:

2ooyds kick for warm up; 200yds mixed; 4 x 400 yards at a high level of effort with a mere 30 seconds of rest between sets; 200yds kick for cool down.

I was supposed to complete this workout in 45 minutes. I saw that on my training schedule and my first thought was that it would be impossible. Then I had a chat with myself. I said, “Self, you can try. You can at least try to haul ass and get it all done. It’s gonna be hard but what’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to drown in the pool.” My self, the smart ass, responded: “Infants and cats drown in toilets all the time! And I am only moderately smarter than infants and cats.”

But I do this: I dwell on the worst case scenario. I’m trying to stop. It’s a process. I have an open water phobia. I’m not ashamed to admit it because I know I’m not the only one. And yes, I know the chances of shark attack are slim to none but I still fear being attacked by a shark. Just like, part of me still fears drowning in four feet of water with a lifeguard on duty and at least three other swimmers in the pool. Or I fear that I will run out of steam mid-length and look stupid. And almost nothing trumps the fear of looking stupid.

What I don’t fear apparently is getting clipped by a car on my bike. I can cross three lanes of traffic against the light on my bike and I’m fine. This is dumb. Sometimes I don’t hug the curb as close as I should. This is dumb. I know. And I try to be careful because it is way more likely that I will be hit by a car in this town than I will be attacked by a shark. Or drown in the pool at UM.

Then I stopped writing and picked up again on the 21st and changed the “present” to reflect the point in time from which I was then narrating:

Miami lost a cyclist last week. His name was/is Aaron Cohen. I didn’t know him. I never rode or ran with him. All I know is that he was 36 years old, a father to two small kids and a husband to his wife. He was killed in a hit and run by a driver who has luckily already been removed from the road. This is a boon. But Aaron Cohen is gone. My heart goes out to his family and I applaud the hundreds of friends and supporters who gathered Saturday morning for a massive ride from downtown Miami to Key Biscayne in honor of his memory, despite the fact that very few of them (at least few in the crew I saw while out running that morning) were wearing helmets.

On Wednesday night,

I’m talking about 2/15, now:

I had a nice long catch-up conversation with my friend Susan. She is a long-time runner and also a triathlete. I was bitching to her about not hitting my time goals and describing all the negative self talk that started to creep in when I hit mile nine of the ING and realized I wasn’t going to finish under 2 hours. I told her that by the last mile, I’d just given up. And I started to get angry. And I started to feel the pain. And I started to hate running. She said, “Edith, I’ve got a mantra for you. For the home stretch. You say this:


During my swim the other day, I decided to do what my training schedule told me to do. Work hard. Stay in Zone 5. Push myself for four hundred yards and then take 30 seconds of rest before doing it again. And again. And again. Swim as fast as possible and try get it all done in half an hour. And when I got tired or frustrated or angry, I would say to myself: it’s the last fucking interval. It’s the last fucking half. It’s the last fucking lap. It’s the last fucking length.

I didn’t even almost make it. I swam 1,600 yards in 45 minutes. And that was my best possible effort. That is what my hard work yielded. I was almost pissed. And then I realized how selfish it would be to get angry about something like that. And how amazing it is that we get to be in the water. Or on our bikes. Or our feet. How lucky we are when our lungs work and our arms work and our hearts beat and we’re alive. And we forget this. We get distracted. By gear. By time goals. By stats. By cell phones.  By cocaine. By rage. By training to be super human or simply something just a little bit better than what we essentially are.

I have been involved in amateur athletics for a very long time. For about as long as I have been involved, in one way or another, in the theater.  I need sport because, while there is no one single way to carve out a career for yourself–success is a slippery bitch. Intangible. Incalculable–sport is Newtonian. If I put in the effort and do my speed work, my half marathon time will improve. The more I swim, the better I swim. There may be some kind of law of diminishing returns in there somewhere. There is probably a point after which I will no longer improve but I don’t think I’m there yet.

All athletes have goals.  They can often appear insane or illogical. But they keep us motivated and on-track and satisfied. Goals are awesome but too often those goals are fueled by the wrong kind of fire. Too often we get so obsessed with performing that we completely lose sight of what is most important about the pursuit.

And this is the point where I consistently lost track of the narrative through-line, got frustrated and stopped writing.

Back on Tuesday 2/21 (exactly a week ago), I wrote:

“Somehow, I must summon the energy to get into the pool for a swim test. I have to do a warm up and then swim 1000 yards; track time, heart-rate.”

I completed that 1000 yards in 23:15. I’d never swum a thousand yards straight without stopping. Ever. I had no idea what my time might be. So really, that swim was more diagnostic than anything else. I felt good about finishing in 23:15.

Today I had the same swim test on my schedule. I was very excited to beat my time. Guess what? I didn’t. I finished over a minute slower: 24:23. And I’ll tell you, I WAS PISSED OFF. I gave myself NO END OF SHIT for that lost minute.

Did I stop to congratulate myself on the fact that I had just finished a 1,000 yards (just over a half mile), without stopping, almost four minutes faster than I swam the same distance at MiamiMan back in November? Did I take a moment to recognize my improvement over the last six months? Back in August, I couldn’t go more than 50 yards without needing a rest. In six months, I have gotten 20x better than I was when I started.

But no. I was angry about 68 seconds.

The original title of this post was “The Last Fucking Mile.” But I think today I realized that it’s not actually about the last fucking mile or whatever that means metaphorically. It’s not about Aaron Cohen and how lucky we should all count ourselves to be alive and healthy. It’s not about phobias and overcoming them.

It’s about performance. It’s not surprising to me that I lost this essay around the point that I started talking about performance. “Too often we get so obsessed with performing that we completely lose sight of what is most important about the pursuit.”

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.

It is not surprising that my need for this post to be perfect caused me to stop writing it. It was not surprising when my first response after that swim today was, “You are so fucking slow.”

The surprise comes now. When I publish this post without going back over it a dozen times to make tiny, imperceptible “fixes,” to fuck with word choice; to clean up the narrative. I’m not even going to spell-check or grammar check. And that’s all good.

And a thousand yards is still a thousand yards.

The Cries of an Empty Stomach

22 Feb

I just returned home from a full day of medical tests. Nothing too invasive, just four very bizarre balance and hearing tests in an attempt to figure out what the hell is wrong with my head.

I know, that was an easy one. Go on, make your jokes. I’ll wait.

In order to prep for these tests I had to deprive myself of the only drug I still do (unapologetically, I might add): caffeine; and I had to fast for five hours leading up to the tests. Not because they were taking blood or anything but because one of the four tests involved being masked, strapped into what looked like a rotating electric chair, locked in a pitch black closet and forced to follow a red dot with my eyes and straighten a red line with two joy sticks, all while making small talk with the doctors who were sitting outside of the closet monitoring my “performance.”

After that horror concluded, I was led into another room, masked again and again asked to follow the dot. This test came with an added bonus round though, during which the doctors shot water into my ears (alternating between cold and warm; right then left) and made me list off girls and boys names for various letters of the alphabet while they recorded data. My most inspired moment came when one of the doctors said, “Boys names that begin with the letter S,” and the first one out of my mouth after Sam was Shlomo. Only a born and raised New Yorker.

Anyway, apparently, the last two tests were the ones that required an empty stomach. For obvious reasons. Sitting in a swivvle chair in the dark can make one very very nauseous. But the first test was at 8:45AM and I didn’t get into the chair until 12:30PM. So file this under, “I wish somebody would have told me” because, had I known, I would have eaten breakfast when I got up at 7AM. Whatever.

By the time I got out of there it was 2:15 and I hadn’t eaten anything since 8PM last night. Luckily, I brought a couple of my Recovery Monday Bars with me. So I gobbled those down along with the best (not really) cappuccino of my life.

I am starting to normalize. And as I type, I have a homemade Mediterranean pizza cooling down on the counter. So I should be even more normal soon. But I gotta tell ya, my body does NOT like going that long without food. 18+ hours with nothing but water? I was supposed to get in an hour bike today but I’m going to make Wednesday my rest day this week and make-up the bike on Friday.

Anyway, it all got me to thinking about an awesome article I read in this  month’s Runner’s World, entitled RUNNING ON EMPTY. It’s all about the misconception that cutting calories and dropping lbs will automatically lead to faster finishes and impressive PRs. It’s also the first article I’ve encountered that describes something called “Disordered Eating,” which should not be confused with an eating disorder. Read the article for the proper distinction.

It’s a really insightful and scary article about what can happen to athletes when they don’t fuel properly. Then another interesting article made its way into my inbox today from Active.com. It refers to nutrition as the FOURTH DISCIPLINE for triathletes. I think this is a great way to look at fueling. I saw a guy lose his legs half-way through the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Miami this year and it was one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed. He was kaput. His legs went, then his eyes went, then he was totally unresponsive. I got to watch his poor wife absolutely lose her mind while she watched her hubby be wheeled away in a medical truck.

Race-day nutrition and training nutrition are obviously different in a number of ways but whether you’re half way through a race or you’re heading out for a long run, you still need to properly hydrate and fuel with calories. Otherwise, you’re screwing yourself.

Last week my coach sent out a document detailing our calorie requirements for different workout days based on specific metrics and I was surprised to discover that I should be eating way more than I thought on days that I do a mere 60 minutes of training. It increases for longer training sessions, obvs. Now, I like to eat so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course those calories have to come by way of nutrient-rich, whole foods that deliver the biggest carb/protein/fiber bang for their caloric buck and not by way of the taco truck.

So with all that said, since I don’t feel like I’m spinning anymore and my pizza is singing to me, I’m gonna jump offline and fill my tank in prep for tomorrow’s 2,000 yard swim in the morning and bridge repeats in the evening.