Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Unexpected

Technically, I won a race on Saturday. I'm not listed in the results because I registered the morning of the event. As a result, I had to enter the 4K but was allowed to run the four-mile course. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, my time wasn't recorded.

Before anyone gets too excited, my time was slow. I may have run OK the first three miles, but I faltered during the last one. If the mile markers were correct, and there's a good chance they weren't, I was running maybe a little closer to 7-minute pace than in previous races, and that's on a course with a bit of a hill somewhere near the second mile. I suppose it's still considered a flat course, but I notice any hills, big or small, mostly because I love them. Then again, everything was a blur, and I could have just been running slow the whole time. All I know is that I hit the wall when my watch showed 21 minutes (I didn't see if it was closer to 21 or 22 minutes, just that it was 21 something), and I still had a mile to go.

Do you ever have those moments when you feel like you're running in mud, and there's nothing really holding you back, like it's some kind of mental block or a lack of motivation, or your mind just wandered and you feel like you're out of gas? I'm sure some of that is fatigue, but I still think I'm dealing with some emotional aspects of racing, fears, and not trusting myself. Everything is intertwined, emotions, mental focus, fitness, and that fire inside. If one is off, everything else quickly follows.

I'm not sure why races in Erie, Colorado are designed to create as much chaos as possible toward the end. This race was a lot like the Eerie Erie in that a shorter fun run that started later eventually converged with the longer race. Naturally, it's a clusterfuck with faster runners coming up on people who are more into the event for the sheer enjoyment of being together and getting outside. It's impossible to go all out because kids wobble to and fro, and runners entering the flock have to watch for scooters, baby joggers, large groups of walkers, and, in this case, traffic, though the two officials directing road crossings were pretty damn good about stopping cars when needed. Still, it's, just not easy maneuvering through the crowds. 

Complaints aside, this was a really fun race. Everyone was incredibly nice. Several gentleman who ran with me at various times were unbelievably supportive and encouraging. I wanted so badly to keep up with one guy who ran with me up to about mile three, but I felt like I stepped into a slow motion activating device right about the time the three-mile marker came into view.

After slogging through most of the long last mile, I finally saw the finish area. I figured we would follow the curve around the sidewalk and finish in the street where the race started. When I crested the short hill and started to follow the curve, though, the course abruptly ended. Everything was roped off, and I didn't know where to go. It was a dead end. One of the race officials standing in front of me pointed to her left, indicating a large water slide. I asked if we had to go down, and she said, "Yes, or you can make your way around the ropes and run down."

I've never really gone down an inflatable water slide, and I've certainly never done it in a race. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen one at a race before. I couldn't decide if I should go down face or feet first but, in the end, decided to look at it like a regular slide.

My finish time was right around 30 minutes. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Obviously, I'm disappointed that I'm not running faster, but I'm also thrilled that I'm running at all. It was also a fucking blast to be in the lead, even if it was a very small race. My foot is a little sore, but that's nothing new. It's not any more sore than it has been after some harder running, and things seem to be hurting a lot less overall lately.

I don't know what kind of goals I can realistically set, but I think if I just keep moving forward, I might somehow improve. I hope. There's a hell of a lot of room to do so.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Will It Ever Change, Or Will It Continue To Get Worse?

Do you ever read someone's posts, follow them on social media, or look at their page knowing full well it's bound to cause you distress? I think most of us do from time to time. In one particular case, a lady I used to follow who disappointed me early on is still, two years later, unknowingly supporting diet culture while continually trying to put herself in a position of authority, and I still occasionally look at her posts knowing full well they're bound to upset me.

In one of the most ridiculous scenes I have seen yet, this individual decided it would be a good idea to rip on a clothing company for posting an image of a pair of legs in athletic wear in their advertisement. OK, I can see how this kind of advertising might cause some concern. It's a form of objectifying, yes.

Actually, this company's focus is on fashion and sportswear. According to their website, they are trying to fuse fashion and comfort clothing, so to expect them to cater entirely to one group or another isn't all that realistic. This company is also one of the few that promotes models of different sizes, shapes, and ethnicities, but nobody responding to the original post seemed interested in or even aware of any of this.

In the past, I've brought up the Killing us Softly series, and I agree that we are often blind to the objectification of people, especially women, in advertising. I also understand how difficult it must be for clothing companies to advertise their products in a way that's appealing to everyone, and while it's true that cutting women into body parts to sell a product further objectifies them, I'm not sure a company can please everyone. I'm also not sure how effective advertising images of pants hanging in mid air would be.

While it's fine to bring attention to these kinds of issues in advertising, what's absolutely not OK is to make assumptions about the person attached to the legs or other body parts featured. You absolutely don't know shit about her, him, or even if it's a computerized image, so making snide comments about her or his potential to do X, Y, or Z only shows your own insecurities. Acting as if you have any idea about what this model can or can't do is not only objectifying her further, it's degrading her. It's mean. It's uncalled for, and it's reinforcing the toxic environment around beauty and diet in which we live.

Additionally, shifting the focus from thin to strong isn't stepping away from our cultural obsession with women's bodies. This is what happens when we are so lost in being products of our society that we can't even see when we contribute to negative objectification and toxic beauty culture. Shifting judgment isn't the same as eliminating it, and mocking people for wanting to look nice while working out is no giant step forward. Just because you now see a different beauty standard and think strong is better, not everyone can or even wants to look the way you think they "should".

I'm not saying that I think showing a pair of fit legs that might support an unrealistic or unattainable beauty standard is the right way to advertise, but ripping on those who take a job modeling for these companies is just as bad. I think most of us agree that we would like to see fewer ads that objectify people. Ideally, nobody would be objectified, but criticizing those who already are or might be isn't the answer.

In the case I'm referring to, people joined in the conversation and further mocked models for wearing what they were wearing, looking a certain way, and supposedly choosing to workout in a gym over being outside. Again, a model's job is to help sell the products they are promoting. If, in their own time, they want to dance, do yoga, go to the gym, or run 100 miles in the hills of California wearing what the fuck ever, it's nobody's fucking business. How in the hell is bashing these people supporting a culture in which we don't objectify others? Jesus.

I am fully behind people wanting to raise awareness when it comes to the potential harm that comes with objectifying women. I just don't see making far-fetched assumptions about models as the answer. I really thought we had come further than this. It's sad that with all the information out there, this is how people choose to supposedly address the issue. Bullying, even when it comes to strangers online, will never be my idea of promoting body positivity. God, it's just so disappointing what people do on social media.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Taste of Louisville

I'm still trying to dig myself out of whatever hole I fell into after my last race. Actually, the descent started before that. Everything has felt off for a while now, and even though I'm over the worst of things, I haven't felt like myself. Saturday was a little better, though.

Since the last race, I had some minor health issues, possibly related to low iron, and a few foot and hip issues. Regarding the iron, my blood test came back mostly normal, just on the slightly low side of normal for iron. This might explain my recent blue mood and general lack of motivation. Things are improving. Unfortunately, I can't seem to do well when I reduce animal protein in my diet. I don't eat a lot of it anyway, but when I make an effort to move to a more vegetarian diet, I don't feel well physically. It's upsetting to me that I can't seem to survive without animal products, but I have found a comfortable way yet.

Two days before this race, The Taste of Louisville, I had a cortisone shot on the top of my left foot. My doctor told me to go ahead and give it a test in the race so that we could see if we're on the right path when it comes to diagnosing and treating the issues. We are. My foot felt loads better after the shot, so we know which tendons are involved and, hopefully, how to deal with the issues. Much of this related to scar tissue after the most recent surgery.

From the start of the race, I felt better than I did last year, and nobody cut me off or ran into me. Unfortunately, my hip popped twice within the first 800, which was scary and made me consider dropping out, but I pulled back a little and got into a less agitated stride. Because my feet are wonky, I don't have great balance, so when two people came up on each side of me, I wobbled first to one side and then over corrected to the other. Even though I didn't get all that close, I still felt like I was approaching these people's personal space, so I apologized with a quick, "oops! sorry." There was no response from either, so I assume things were fine.

It was a competitive race with a few really fast runners taking the lead. Heading into the middle section, I kept thinking I should be running faster, but I have zero sense of pace these days. I knew there was a lady right behind me and a few ahead; I just had no idea how fast or slow we were going. I'm not fit enough to make any sudden moves anyway, but I wish I could have made a few surges.

This time around, the desire to quit wasn't as strong, even when I was hurting. I didn't give in to the part of me that kept suggesting loudly I slow down and let the woman behind me pass or that I stop altogether, which was good, an improvement from a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I just wasn't capable of digging very deep.

It was hot. In all my years of racing, I've never managed the drink on the go tactic, unless I'm out jogging and using my own water bottle, and even then I've had a few mishaps. Pretty much every time I try to take water during a race, it's a disaster. Most of the time, I end up with an empty cup before I have a chance to inflict any self-harm or reap any benefits. If I manage to keep some water in the cup after grabbing it, what remains usually gets shot up my nose, squirted into my eye, or tossed onto my cheek. Sometimes, rather than aim the cup anywhere near my face, it's better to dump the contents over my head, just to cool down a bit. This time, in two separate tries, I got two drops of water down my throat without choking. SUCCESS!

I was something like 45 seconds slower than last year, which sucks, but I finished in the top five for women and won my age group. My time is still embarrassingly slow, but I'm trying to be OK with everything. I say this because I know my capabilities and know I'm not reaching my goals, not because I think a particular time is necessarily slow. It's all relative. I can't help but be disappointed. What I mean it that it has been a long road with a lot of setbacks, so I know I'm lucky to be running at all. However, I'd like to be running more smoothly and with confidence instead of wobbling through a 5k that feels like seven miles. 23:12 just seems so slow, but it's also kind of a struggle for me to do even that at this point.

Probably the best part of the race was afterward when I ran into some friends. I didn't know they would be running, so it was a really nice surprise to see familiar faces. I'm so used to doing everything solo that I forget how nice it can be to have company, even briefly.