Master of My Domain

The running world has some interesting vocabulary words. A woman runner who is over 150 pounds can choose to run in the “Athena” division, or, according to this obviously reliable site, in some races, though not those in my neck of the woods, you only need to be 140 pounds to be an Athena.   Men over 165 pounds can run in the “Clydesdale” division.

You need to self select to be listed in these divisions, but I suppose the theory is that runners over a certain weight (no matter their muscle mass? their height?) run slower?  Not really: according to the results of a recent race, one of those Athenas outpaced me by nearly 4 minutes, though I would have placed 2nd if I ran in that division (I’m not eligible, but it wouldn’t take a lot of extra food and drink to be eligible).  BUT, why place yourself in that division for the pleasure of just being listed as having placed in that division? Or are those women (more women select that division than men, it seems) making the statement that their weight (for most, 150 at least is still about average for American women) doesn’t really hurt their performance?

Another interesting term is “Masters”: “Masters” are not the best of the best, but a division for men and women who run races after age 40.  Most races already group us by age (40-44, 45-49. etc), but for some big races, there is also a special division for all Masters.  Unlike the Athenas and Clydesdales, everyone over 40 is automatically eligible to place in the Masters division.

I’m guessing that the thought behind this category is that older runners are slower runners. Of course, in a recent half marathon I ran, the 3rd place overall finisher was a woman in her 40s! Or perhaps such a category gives hope to those who were fast in their youth, but now creaky with old age and injuries? Since I didn’t start running competitively until I was 40, this lost youth issue presents no problem for me: in fact, I’m looking forward to running and winning in the 60-65 division someday (of course, all those fast 40+ year olds will be aging with me…I may need to move).

In a recent race, I placed in the top 10 of Female Masters.  It was not my best time (damned tight quads) . It was a hot day (and I’ve been training in unusually cool weather). And, lucky for me, the really fast 40something women must have been running other races that day. But still, it’s nice to be recognized out of a crowd of hundreds of runners.

But I think Female Mistresses has a much better sound: don’t you agree?

The Eye of The Tiger

A colleague and I have been giggling for weeks over this song.  It came up during a faculty meeting, oddly, and he and I were the only other folks who remembered the Survivor tune created specifically for Rocky III: it seems our other co-workers were either not into popular culture 28 years ago, or under the influence, so to speak, and thus missed the fabulous early 80s.

Since that meeting, my colleague and I have heard this song regularly–almost weekly–on a variety of tv shows, the radio, at his kids’ concert. We call each other up every time we hear it and have a giggle over it.   It’s quite discombobulating.

But, tomorrow is the half marathon I’ve been training for, and that song is going to be on my Ipod’s playlist.  It’s the perfect running song.  So think of me running in my  running skirt, bopping along the 13.1 miles and singing:

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the cream of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the tiger

Oh, if you missed this song, here ya go:

Running Skirts?

Last week during the Sunday half-marathon training run, the coach chatted with us about running skirts.

It seems, running in a skirt is the latest thing, and something she highly recommends, especially for long runs.

She demonstrated the “go off the trail, pretend you are stretching while what you really are doing is peeing” move that she says is a vital skill during long races.

In fact, during last year’s trail half-marathon, I do remember envying the men who blithely freed themselves from their shorts and  started peeing against a tree, not even bothering to hide what they were doing, often only a few feet from the trail.

I’m getting me one of those skirts, but I think I’ll need to practice the “pretending to do lunges” maneuver, and I assume one wears a g-string of sorts under the skirt?

Forthcoming, February 2010

As I whined about a few days, I am in the midst of grading.  I have 18 papers left, and, dear reader, my eyes literally hurt. My fingers are numb. My brain has rebelled. The essays are mostly fine, so at least I don’t have constant ogida.  The stress is mostly all of the other stuff I need to do (finish writing several projects; lecture/class prep; search committee business; working on my college’s blog–I’m an editor–etc etc etc).

I did manage to do other things this weekend (a department gathering at a local pub; running both mornings; chores; lunch with the hubby at yet another local pub).

So, this is a placeholder posting, identifying more for myself than for anyone else what postings are potentially forthcoming next month:

  • Mary McCarthy’s 1963 best selling novel, The Group, has been reprinted by Virago Press: I’ve been reading the latest re-views and recently reread the novel, and I have oodles of reflection: who would have thunk it?
  • I finally started using the little Nike/Ipod thingy that tracks my distance and speed when running.  It’s no GPS device, so it’s undoubtedly not entirely accurate, but I’ve got to say that I’m even more motivated to run each morning than even when I was only mildly obsessed pre-Nike/Ipod thingy (note: I actually do not wear Nike running shoes–so this posting will also be a review of the many pouches available to the anti-establishment running shoe wearers). 
  • Amazon has made Kindle software available to PC users: I’ve downloaded a slew of “free” e-books (Alcott, Austen, etc) to test out on my Netbook.
  • The trials, tribulations, and joys of teaching Chopin’s The Awakening in a general ed. survey class where male students outnumber women students (a novel that is on a dream high school reading list that Dr. Crazy has started, but not on very many actual high school reading lists, like Quills, mostly because it’s a beautiful novel about SEX).

I Ran Like Hell

Despite the injury I’ve been recovering from; despite running a 5K earlier in the morning as part of my weekly group training; despite being dressed up in an apron and donning red braids and a plastic cap, I ran like hell on Halloween during a local 5K race: 27:46.

[Serious runners, please stop laughing. Everyone else, bow in awe.]

Since it was a fun run, I also placed higher than I ever will again: 2nd in my age group (and in my town, mine is quite the competitive age group), 41st overall (out of 150+ runners).

Not bad for an old hag!

[Correction Nov 11, 2009: It seems I HAVE run a faster 5K recently: s recently as June I ran a  26:06 3.1 mile race.  Great. Now THAT’S my goal for the turkeyday run.]

Running Writers

 “Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be. In running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms. Ideally, the runner who’s-a-writer is running through the land and cityscapes of her fiction, like a ghost in a real setting.”

—-Joyce Carol Oates (2003)

Post-Injury Running: A Love Story

This weekend posting is for runners; academics, please return in a few days for a week 1 of the quarter rant posting.

After heavy training this spring for my two half marathons in June, and continued running throughout the summer (in preparation for another half in October), I, no surprise here, injured myself.  It was no surprise because the ache in my hip area began in May or so, and I gleefully ignored it for months, despite screaming out one day during a stretch class.  Then, in late August, in the 7th mile of my regular 9 mile run, I nearly fell down the downhill portion of the trail when a sharp pain attacked me below my hip flexor.

Since then, no running (let’s just say the elliptical trainer is the most boring invention on earth, with the stationary bike a close second).  I’ve been going to a physical therapist a few times a week (he’s 6’5″, 220 pounds, with a charming, non-western U.S. accent—and, no surprise, most of his clients are women) to work on the various muscles that simply were overused all these months (the outer quad muscle, the glut, and fasciitis in my foot). 

It’s working: I’m stretching daily, and plan to take yoga (sigh) in addition to the stretch classes I’ve been attending.

{An aside about those stretch classes, geared to “seniors”–an age group I’m not yet part of: those women ROCK. I can only hope I am that nimble and strong and balanced when I’m 70 years old!}

Cute doc and I decided it’s  time to slowly start running again, and I chose to join a class of beginner runners at one of our local running stores. I signed up a few days ago: 10 Saturdays of training with coaches who will go over the basics of injury-free running, culminating in a group run at the local Christmas 5K in December.  Despite my lack of running for the last month, I was put in the “experienced” subgroup (versus the inexperienced, but active, or the fast walkers group): that was a good call.

We met for the first time today (60 women and 3 men) and it was truly an energizing, revitalizing experience. I wish I had done this a year ago: I probably would have avoided injury in the first place.  THREE coaches followed each group (so 9 coaches altogether, including 2 physical therapist/runners) as we ran for 2 minutes, then walked quickly for 2 minutes, for less than 2 miles.  They talked to us individually about our strides, breathing, body postures, speed, and adjusting to whatever injuries we were suffering from (I’m not the only runner in this “experienced” group with an injury, obviously).  Afterwards, I even learned some new stretches.  Then we were given a training guide for the week, and told that our t-shirts and water bottles would arrive next week.

I’m VERY committed to this: I want to run again (obviously no half marathon this fall, but next spring is doable), and I want to do so for a couple more decades, injury free, so I’m taking this seriously.  There were some challenges: running for barely 2 miles at a relatively slow pace was a big one. I wanted to sprint (and sprint I did for the last 20 seconds with a few others who were obviously also fighting the urge).  And running for only 2 miles: it’s almost like sex that’s too quick.  Almost.

 But, I ran with no pain, and now several hours later, still no pain.  I feel energized.  Those endorphins came back! I do love my endorphins.


1. To the odd recent overabundance of male midlife crisis novels: 

  • Spending by Mary Gordon. No longer a new novel, but the first one I’ve found in my stack that provided just what I needed. The Times reviewer concedes that the sex scenes are “prettily written” (!), but they are truly erotic. And the novel appeals not just to the physical, but to the emotional and psychic desires of a middle aged woman (writer, artist, intellectual)  reader, too. 

2. To the heat of the day:

  • 7am runs along the river (with, finally, a lightweight water bottle that is easy to carry).  I had no idea how much I see that early: interesting couples (who probably don’t want people to know they are couples); groups of mothers and strollers (try that on a single track trail); runners in their pjs (really–they are not in running clothes); lots of dogs (off leash of course); oh, yes, and deer, rabbits, fish, osprey….

3. To lugging the laptop to do work elsewhere:

  • A 10.1″ HP Netbook.  Ok, so some of my antidotes are a bit consumerist, but really, the netbook is light, fits in my purse, and at least the version I have has a keyboard that is 90% full sized, so I can really type on it.  I’m using Open Office on it, not storing anything important on it (so no Quicken), and it’s much faster than my 4 year old laptop.  It’s been a treat walking downtown to one of the many local coffee or tea houses; and I can’t wait to try flying with it once conference season begins this fall….

4. To a messy, dusty, disorganized, full of 10-year-old files,  office:

  • Being forced to pack everything for the big move (in 3 weeks!) to my NEW, larger office.  I’m going lite: trying to get rid of paper files that I rarely look at, and all those versions of the Norton and Heath anthologies that I have (because I don’t want to lose the NOTES I have in each version).  All being discarded.  My blue recycle bin overfloweth (much to the custodial staff’s displeasure).  New office: a bit further up the hill on campus, but it has THREE windows, on two walls.  Hanging plants may actually survive…(thus, this is also an antidote to claustrophobia and lack of oxygen during the school year).

5. To the high cost of student textbooks:

  • On the quarter system, we currently have 3 quarter-length required writing courses (soon to be downgraded to two, but that requires an entire blog whine to write about).  Students rarely take the same professor for all three courses since professors rarely get the same time block or teach all three courses fall, winter, spring.  As a result, students end up buying three textbooks for the year—and it’s nearly impossible for an instructor to make full use of an entire textbook in 10 weeks. So, this year I found 2 texts I”m using for Composition I and II: Faigley’s Backpack Writing 2nd, ed., (Longman, 2010)  and Graff/Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say (Norton 2006) (other instructors use both texts, so I am hoping that at least some students will benefit). Of course, I’m now totally revising my syllabi (or should be: see below).

6. To the need to balance solitude time with social time:

  • I don’t have an antidote to this, yet (unless I actually replace all social face to face contact with Facebook since most of my friends are there, too). I’m really quite social–I LIKE seeing friends regularly. I love when they drop in or call for a get together. But then, the next day after a long run (something I obsessively never give up) I regret the lost hours of reading and writing. 

7. To peri menopausal/hormonal sleep disorders:

  • I do NOT sleep well, and when I do, I toss and turn. I regularly get up after midnight and read on the futon.  This, as you all can imagine,is somewhat disruptive to our wedded bliss.  Hubby and I (who are not large people–sort of on the smaller size at 5’3″ and small framed for me  and thin despite the beer belly 5′ 10″ for him) are considering getting a king sized bed.  I have great reservations about this for a variety of reasons: a. our bedroom barely fits the Queen sized bed, so the dresser will probably have to go somewhere (where?) else, and b. the floor heating vent is in such an odd location that it would have to be moved to fit a king sized bed, and c. it seems so damned decadent. 
  • Does anyone else have a king sized bed? Wanna try to convince me that it’s going to actually allow us to sleep together all night long?  Or should I just wait another 5 years or so until menopause arrives and passes?

8. To life’s little things:

  • Blogging about them here or on FB.