Uncategorized

There’s Something about the Brooklyn Half

This Wednesday, the 22nd, is sure to be a big day for the New York Road Runners website, as it’s the day that registration for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon opens. In a NYRR email I got, the organization warned that the race is sure to sell out in a matter of hours (as it’s done in the past), so if you want to register, you’d better be ready.

Image via NYRR.org

Image via NYRR.org

I’d really like to run the Brooklyn Half this year, but it makes me really anxious when a race gets so big that you have to set an alarm to remind you to register the minute it opens or risk losing your opportunity to get a spot. For one thing, it turns the simple process of registering for a race into a stressful ordeal, and for another, I feel like it plays right into this endless cycle in which the race gets popular, then gets hyped up because it gets close to selling out, and then gets more popular because it sells out so quickly, and on and on. The organizers expand the field so that more runners can have a chance to run, and then you end up with a race that’s bigger than it can really afford to be, and because it’s become something of a monster, it just keeps growing and growing. Between the NYC Half and the Marathon, NYRR’s got enough high-profile, lottery-only events. If the Brooklyn hype train keeps up, is it headed for the same destiny?

When I first started running NYRR races, which was probably back around 2008 or 2009, the Brooklyn Half was one of the five races in the 5-Borough Half-Marathon Series. As the name suggests, there was a half-marathon in each of the five boroughs that collectively make up New York City. I ran the one in Manhattan, the one in Brooklyn, and the one in the Bronx. If you ran four out of five in one year, you got something, and if you ran all five, you got something else. For a while I wanted to run all five, and then I came back to planet Earth and admitted to myself that if I was being honest, I just wasn’t going to get up at the crack of dawn to take public transportation to Staten Island, run a half-marathon, and then take public transportation back home. As the kids say, eff that ess.

At any rate, over the years the races in the series, and the nature of the series itself, have changed. The Manhattan race is now the NYC Half, which uses a qualification and lottery system instead of open registration, and the only other half is the one in Brooklyn. It’s kind of sad, because it used to be that if you wanted to run a half-marathon in NYC, you could always find one pretty easily because of the 5-Borough series. Now, they’re just kind of races like all the others, a 10k here and another unremarkable distance there, E-I-E-I-O. Also weird is the fact that of the five races, people only really talk about two: the BK half and the NYC half (which really no one talked about when it was the Manhattan Half, a different race with an entirely different course that now also has a different name).

And what I want to know is WHY? Why is it that the Brooklyn Half took off while the others languished? Is it because there was that one year where they didn’t open registration for a long time because they were having problems finalizing the course or something, so everyone started thinking there was something really exclusive and important about the race and they would be like members of a special club if they managed to get in? Why is it that Brooklyn has now gotten so popular that it’s become an Event that has its own Pre-Party? When did it turn into a Thing? And will it ever not be a Thing?

All I’m saying is that I want to run a $55 half-marathon in May that starts like half a mile from my house without having to worry about whether I will be able to register or not. So, if everyone could just make sure to leave a spot for me, that would be great.

Weather Humor?

This evening before I went running I checked the weather. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing this now that we’re in thunderstorm season; I have no problem running in the rain, but I draw the line at running in lightning. Since my routine check showed that the skies would stay clear for the duration of my run, I headed out without worrying all that much.

What the widget said when I checked it five minutes ago.

What the widget said when I checked it five minutes ago.

As I started the third mile of my run, it started raining. I’d been hoping to do at least four miles, but I cut my run short because I didn’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm. Not too long after I got home, I heard thunder. At least I made the right decision.

I’m still confused, though, about the weather forecast. Weather.com explicitly stated in a little sidebar widget that I should “expect dry conditions over the next six hours”. I should have known better than to trust that stupid thing, but for some reason, I believed it and confidently threw on a white t-shirt and light gray sports bra and headed out the door. Boy did I regret that move half an hour later.

I’ve been misled by that “expect dry conditions” message so many times that this evening when I got in, it occurred to me that it must be a joke. It probably never changes, and the Weather Channel people just put it there to screw with your head! It’s some sort of commentary on how dependent we’ve become on our technology and computers and apps and widgets, when we could just look out the window or step outside to see what the weather’s like! It’s meteorological humor, right? It has to be! But then when I checked it again recently, the message was entirely different, as the image above shows.

So, it’s not a joke. It’s just…an inability to provide accurate information on what the weather is going to be like. You’ve been warned! And remember: don’t wear a white shirt unless you are 100% sure you won’t get stuck in the rain.

A Day for Depression

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up yesterday at 10:00 am (don’t judge me) feeling like I’d just come out of a coma. I don’t like sleeping late, it always makes me feel like I’ve started the day off on the wrong foot. I also find that I am much more susceptible to feeling crummy on days when I sleep in, although maybe there’s a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy involved there. Who can say? All I know is that by the time 2:00 pm hit, I’d already had a minor breakdown and decided I just wanted to spend the day in bed. I felt overwhelmed–the day was far from ideal, and I’d lost all sense of how to turn it around. I was beating myself up for not being able to establish what I might want to do over the course of the day, and for failing to accomplish anything other than sitting around my apartment staring at my laptop screen. No morning run, no yoga, no breakfast…the more time passed, the worse I felt, and eventually I just gave up and gave in.

It’s been a while since I’ve been hit hard by a wave of depression like this, and it really took me by surprise. Things have been going well, and I’ve been feeling good. It used to be that I could attribute feeling down and hopeless to something going on in my life, like disliking my job, being stressed out about money…something. Even if what I had identified as the root cause of the depression wasn’t actually responsible in any way for what I was feeling, it was somehow comforting to know that I could point to some event or set of circumstances and say, “It’s because of this.” It just made me feel less flawed, I guess. If nothing else, I could at least establish that the problem wasn’t just that there was something inherently wrong with me.

And that’s what made yesterday so hard. Out of what felt like nowhere, this huge wave swelled up and overtook me, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. Instead, I just let it swallow me up. I learned not only that depression can come out of nowhere, but also that when it does, you can’t necessarily just remind yourself of the good stuff you have going on and make it disappear. Nor can you necessarily rally and get yourself out the door for a run, or sit down to meditate, or even find some way to take yourself out of your head for just five minutes. It’s scary, and it makes you wonder if all the progress you’d thought you’d made over the past several months was just illusory.

Meditation has taught me the value of accepting things as they come, whether they are events entirely outside my control or emotional states that I feel I ought to have power over. It’s also taught me how much of everything we do in life is an on-going process of practice and mindful effort. But when I thought yesterday of trying to sit with the feelings of hopelessness, indifference, and sadness that I was experiencing, the idea just aggravated the frustration and anger I was already dealing with. So while I could have accepted the depression with a non-judgmental curiosity, I didn’t. I plunged headlong into all the negativity it brought with it, including the harsh and destructive emotions it made me feel toward myself. There’s something so cruel about the whole thing.

Today I woke up much earlier, but I know I’ve already reached a point in the day where it’s going to be really hard for me to make a conscious decision to turn toward activity and mindfulness. I can already feel the anger toward myself bubbling up. As much as I hate it, the desire to just give up on the day, crawl into bed, and become the person I’ve worked so hard not to be is really strong. Who knows? Maybe with the insight I gained after yesterday will make it just a little bit easier to live with the depression in a compassionate, mindful way. It won’t necessarily mean I’m any less depressed, but there’s a possibility that bringing that accepting perspective to what I’m feeling will help to clear out some of the more insidious negative emotions. I don’t want it to be another day for depression, but at the same time I can’t really deny it the space that it occupies as part of who I am. I guess the real trick is accepting that while it is there, it’s not all there is.

YogaVibes Class Review: Exhale Flow Focus on the Hamstrings

Yoga Class at a Gym

Yoga Class at a Gym (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time I do a yoga class through YogaVibes I find myself thinking I should review it–you know, keep track of which classes I’ve done, what they were like, and whether or not I liked them. I lose track pretty easily, and sometimes find myself going back to one I’ve already done, not realizing until I’m five or ten minutes in that it seems a bit too familiar to be entirely new…and that I didn’t like it when I did it before. Today, I’m turning thought into reality! I just finished Exhale Slow Yoga: Focus on the Hamstrings, what better time to write a review?

I’m not really sure why I chose this class. While browsing, I picked out a different practice, and was all set to do that one. At the last minute, I changed my mind. That Forrest yoga will have to wait for another time! I’ve had a chest cold for the past few days, so I was looking for something that wouldn’t be too strenuous, but I was also in the mood for something that would challenge me a little bit. As it turns out, this Exhale class was a good fit in that regard. It’s an hour long slow flow class, and I managed to get pretty sweaty. Stefanie Eris, the teacher, gets right into things and structures the class around a few sun salutation variations that open up into poses like warrior III, parsvottanasana (which, translated, is something like intense side stretch–very catchy), and what seems to be yoga’s pose-of-the-moment, hanumanasana. She also manages to work standing splits, crow, and whatever complicated name you want to call this pose. So it’s not a practice for the lighthearted. Although, I have to admit that it wasn’t until I started looking through the guide on the ‘Yoga Journal‘ website that I realized how many pretty solid poses were in this practice. I mean, the experience didn’t scar me or anything. I realized at the time that it was challenging, but I guess looking back on it I’m now realizing *how* challenging. It wasn’t something that I got hung up on during the practice–that’s a good thing in my book! Also, I think it’s important that you know that when I do those poses, I look exactly like the ‘Yoga Journal’ models. In fact, I’m not sure why they haven’t contacted me to do some modeling for them. (By the way, ‘Yoga Journal’ people: my rates are very reasonable.)

Although my overall feeling about this class is a positive one, there were a few things that I could have done without. First of all, Stefanie Eris definitely has a Yoga Teacher Voice, and the combination of that and the wireless mic that she used throughout the class were a bit much for me. I don’t know, am I the only one who doesn’t really like the microphone thing? I get it–your class is big, projecting can be draining, etc. But…meh. There’s just something about the mic–the inevitable popping and cracking? the amplified breathing? the fact that it makes me feel like I’m in the congregation of a mega-church?–that bugs me. Occasionally, the teacher would move the mic aside to talk to a student she was adjusting, but the sound would still be picked up, and she was speaking totally normally. I think I would have preferred that over the loooong draaaaawn ouuuuut vooooowel sooooouuuuunds (okay, I’m exaggerating…a little) of the Yoga Teacher Voice that she used while addressing the entire group.

Ultimately, though, the practice was well structured and had a good flow and rhythm to it. I feel really good having done it, and the positive things about it far outweigh the negative things. Would I do this one again? Yep!

The take-away:

pros: challenging practice, good length, logical flow from one pose to another, and good variety of poses

cons: Yoga Teacher Voice, megachurch microphones, occasional confusion about what pose I should be in (this might have had more to do with my chest cold-induced brain fog, though)

This Seems Unreasonable

English: The western ramp and pylon of Brookly...

English: The western ramp and pylon of Brooklyn Bridge, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m thinking of joining a running club. This isn’t the first time–I had a brief flirtation with the Dashing Whippets a couple years ago, and I’m a member of Team LUNA Chix NYC Run (but we only meet from May-October)–and it probably won’t be the last. This go-round is brought to you by a running rut. It’s starting to feel like I’m just always in one. But that’s another story for another time. Anyway, while I was looking at some Brooklyn-based club possibilities, I came across this little gem, about increased security at races throughout the city:

PPTC’s very own Steve Lastoe, the founder and driving force behind NYCRUNS, the organizer of the Verrazano Festival, urged runners not to bring bags to the races, if at all possible. Organizers are “reserving the right to search bags (and will search oversize [sic] bags) and throw unattended baggage into the river,” he said in an email interview. [emphasis mine]

I understand security concerns. I’m sure most people do. But I’m not sure how this qualifies as increased security…it sounds to me like it’s just littering. And as such, it’s unnecessary, damaging, lazy, and irresponsible.

Yes, unattended and unclaimed bags are a concern. (And technically any runner’s bag is going to count as unattended while they’re running the race, so I’m not sure if this means that bag check will just be on a big boat and that once the timer starts volunteers will just throwing things overboard or something.) But rivers aren’t your trashcan. And I don’t understand what justification anyone could have for just dumping a bunch of stuff into a river–the stuff doesn’t disappear once it flots out of sight. But I guess that once “race organizers” can no longer see it, they stop caring. I don’t think we need a floating garbage patch in any NYC-area river–we’ve got more than enough of them in other parts of the world already.

Is there really no better way of disposing of unclaimed baggage?

Yoga Science

yoga

yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

Today in my yoga class, I held my headstand for a good minute or so. Maybe longer! This is the second time I’ve held the pose that long, and while I had my feet in the air I found myself thinking about all the things you hear about inversion poses: they bring new blood into your joints, women shouldn’t do them while on their “cycle” (I don’t know, I think we’re all always on our cycles? But that’s another post for another time), they’re good for depression…when I came out of the pose, I was met with an overwhelming sensation of feeling, well, sweaty. Really, I sweat more in that headstand than I had at any point during the rest of the practice. What is that about? I don’t know that I felt any “new” blood coursing through my veins, or that my mood had been improved.

Nat and I frequently have this little argument where I tell him that specific yoga poses are good for specific purposes. “Oh, yeah, a lot of emotion is stored in the hips, so hip openers can make you a little crazy!” I recently told him. (Note that “a little crazy” means “somewhat emotional” here.) His response was, in so many words, that this was bullshit. He’s said the same thing about twisting poses being a good way to detoxify your organs, shoulder stand stimulating the thyroid (or something, I don’t remember exactly what), and just about everything else that’s vaguely medical that I’ve ever brought up in the context of yoga.

Personally, I don’t know what to think. When I come out of an inversion, I do usually feel pretty good. Inversions are hard, and when I do them, it makes me proud of myself. So technically, they do help me with depression because they give me something positive to focus on. I’ve lost weight doing yoga, but I can’t say for sure if that’s because I’m stimulating certain glands or just because I’m exercising and developing more muscle. And for some reason lately I’ve done way too many detoxifying practices–my stomach has been upset for a while, maybe trying to work out all those toxins I wrung out of my organs while holding twisted chair pose?

I’m a pretty scientific person, and a big time skeptic when it comes to anything that’s even vaguely mystical. I can understand where Nat’s coming from when he calls BS on all my yoga remedies. But deep down, I think I kind of believe they’re true. And I also think that believing they’re true makes them true.

Or maybe I’ve just spent too long in headstand, and all the blood in my head is clouding my judgment.

Points of Light

light bright

light bright (Photo credit: JonathanCohen)

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a difficult weekend. Of course, weekends have never been my strong suit, but this one has been particularly rough. The past two days have been of the sort that leave you feeling like you need to take an iron to your life–things need to be smoothed over, all the wrinkles pressed out. You have the sense that everything is running in different directions, always slipping through your fingers, impossible to get a hold of or slow down even for a second.

Days like these always make me wish I could somehow shed my skin and try on someone else’s for a while. I’d love to just slough everything off and move on, the way one might step out of a shower feeling refreshed and renewed. But because these things are virtually impossible to do, I instead end up with a frantic, nagging sense that I should be making resolutions, finding ways to change everything, make over my entire life into something better. I’ve wasted much of my day today regretting the things I didn’t do, mentally running through an endless stream of shoulda, woulda, couldas, and beating myself up because of missed opportunities. Countless times I’ve caught myself making plans for the coming week: I’ll go running every day! I’ll do everything according to a strict schedule! I’ll change the way I’m eating! In other words: I’ll make a series of changes that won’t do anything to address any of the underlying issues that are contributing to how I’m feeling, and hold myself to a standard that will probably end up leaving me discouraged.

It wasn’t until I sat down to do yoga this evening that I realized that the weekend is over and I can’t change what did or didn’t happen. The only moment I have any influence over is the one I’m in right now, and I don’t stand to gain anything by worrying about the past or the future. And because that’s far easier said than done, I forced myself to let go of all my negative thoughts and focus instead on the points of light from the past two days (also easier said than done). No matter what happened over the weekend, things did not get so bad that there’s nothing to be grateful for. And to prove it, here’s a list of what I came up with:

  1. Meditation and mindfulness practice
  2. Yoga
  3. A nice conversation with my mom about Buddhist philosophy
  4. A fiancé who continues to love me even when I’m at my most unlovable
  5. Even the smallest gestures of support from friends
  6. Giving myself the time to sit down and write a blog post
  7. This video, in which a fan of the team–a 7-year-old boy with brain cancer–runs 69 yards down the Nebraska football field to score a touchdown during the team’s spring scrimmage game. I defy anyone to watch this video and not feel a bit better about humanity.