Protected: Give till it hurts.

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On meeting and exceeding goals, plus oh hi, I’m back.

My friend and coach of sorts wanted me to get in another 5k so that she could see how I did doing, essentially, a tempo workout (going “comfortably hard” for a sustained amount of time, as opposed to the quick bursts of speed and short recovery jogs of speed sessions) and the HoBOOken 5k was today. I had conflicted feelings about running it, but when she said the timing was perfect I sucked it up and registered. My friend Al registered with me, even though he is normally just a little faster. He hasn’t been keeping up with running so it worked out.

Me? I did not feel ready. Even though the speed sessions I did over the last couple of weeks have definitely helped me already, and I’ve been fairly consistent about logging miles over the last few weeks, I was very doubtful that I could sustain a minimum of 9:30 pace for 3.1 miles, which is what I needed to hit a sub 30 minute 5k. Sub 30 is a popular goal for many people because it is fairly easy to attain and also kind of seems impressive, at least to non-runners. My very first race was done in 37:19, so a long term goal of mine is to shave ten minutes or more off of that result. But for a long time now, sub 30 has been something I’ve worked towards. I was very unprepared for the 5k I did in May, and even without work I got 30:35 so I knew that it was just a matter of time and miles.

Well, I got to the starting area today underdressed and tired, with a headache in my temple from too much beer celebrating a dear friend’s birthday and rather flat emotions, as I do after a night of drinking. I was excited, as always, a little nervous, but generally just wanting it to be done and curious about how it was going to go. Since it is so close to Halloween, costumes are encouraged. I had wanted to dress up but work and life made it hard enough for me to keep running, let alone plan and train in a costume. Next year, I definitely will. There were some awesome costumes out there, and it made the normal race day atmosphere even cooler. About 1500 people signed up and the race was sold out.

My friend did not manage to show up in time to grab his bib, since he somehow thought the race was an hour later (as did I earlier in the month), but he did get there and cross the start and finish so maybe he can get his results posted. Another dear friend showed up to hold my stuff, as I have never done bag check and he lives very close to the race.

Honestly, the whole race is kind of a blur. We started on a residential street and moved to the waterfront as quickly as possible, and I was in disbelief that I was as fast as my watch was telling me. I’m still not sure if it was ahead of the course or not, but I just ran as fast as I thought I could sustain and fought to hold onto it. There were so many runners that it was hard to get a decent pace going at first, and we were shoulder to shoulder. Al caught up to me about a quarter mile in, and we ran together for most of the rest of the race.

At 1.5 miles, I started to feel the pace (and maybe the beers). Knowing we were almost halfway done fueled me and I dug a little deeper to keep going. Al asked me how I was doing, and I replied, “I’m doing.” I could get out a couple of words but I was definitely not at my usual conversational pace. I also started picking out runners to try and pass at this point, which is not a strategy I have employed before. I guess I was really racing this one, and when the going got tough, I got going.

Mile 2 came and I thought my energy was out, but I gritted my teeth (figuratively, my mouth was definitely open) and pushed through. I was NOT going to be like the people I saw walking with so little to go. Not to knock them if they absolutely needed to walk or were injured, but at that point, I always know that I can do another mile. The finish line was in sight and we just had to get there. At almost 3, my friend split off from me and went ahead. I pushed through, thinking I couldn’t keep going but doing it anyway.

As I rounded the corner to be within 100 yards of the finish, I saw a 28 above the mat on the clock and found a little tiny reserve of energy to run hard and try to beat it. Since I was timed on when I crossed the finish line, not the actual start of the race, I knew I could shave a few seconds off of whatever it said. Still, I had to try.

I didn’t quite make it to the finish line before the clock rolled around to 29 minutes, but even with that I had far exceeded my previous PR and I raised my hands in elation as I flew across the mat. Official results are now up, and I did it in 28:56, nearly two minutes faster than my last 5k. It felt so amazing, even if I just felt a little dead after the hard running. I walked around till I found Al, and we got water as I looked around for my friend who had my stuff. His girlfriend and a friend of theirs were also there and they were lovely and supportive.

We got food after, and I had to try really hard not to geek out too much over the technicalities of the race. Still, I had a few moments of “I really did that… and I did it hungover!” I texted my coach and she was very pleased. It was a great morning.

I don’t have any other races coming up this year. I’m looking for a 10k sometime next year before the Pittsburgh Marathon. Hopefully I find something that my friends and I can do and enjoy. It will be an automatic PR since I’ve never done the distance!

Also, I had stayed away from here for a little bit, but I’m back. I had an issue that was bothering me but I’ve since sorted it out. Huzzah. This is my blog, my space, and I can say what I please here. If I seem arrogant or presumptuous, trust me, I’m neither. I have awful self-esteem, but running is one of the things that helps me bump up my feelings of self worth. I work hard at it and because I work, I see results. And that is something to be proud of.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Yay cliches! Frankly, I’m way too tired to figure out something cleverer. I’m doing overnights in Edison, NJ for a few weeks to help out on a big remodel project. I’ve done several over the years in different places, and I’m pretty good at them at this point. I enjoy the work, for the most part, and I really love feeling like a big part of something.

But I’m also trying to keep a whole bunch of other plates spinning. My relationship has historically suffered because of my workaholism, especially when I travel far away for things, so I’m trying to make sure I pay attention and gratitude to M. I have several social events in October, which I’m still going to be attending even though it means pulling off crazy shift changes and too little sleep. I still want to make myself feel valued, and, of course, I still need to run.

Luckily, the place I’m working is actually pretty nice for running. The streets can be a little weird but it is generally safe and scenic suburbia. Nobody understands how I have the energy after a ten hour physical shift, but I have a million reasons why I have to keep up at least 20 miles a week. The effort of putting the miles in now is way better than me being unfit and disappointed in myself when November rolls around. I need to counteract my stress eating somehow (no, I didn’t have an entire bag of Asian trail mix, what are you talking about?), and I just feel better when I run.

I am finding that I am good at things. I am good at navigating public transportation. I am good at planogram implementation (except when I mess up, but don’t we all). I am good at getting along with other people, though it does help that the rest of the crew is awesome.

I couldn’t get back to sleep after Misha got up for work at 2pm, so I stayed up and bleached and dyed my bangs (purple, again) as well as painted my nails and did the dishes. I am good at these things.

I am also realizing that there are some things that just make me Sus, and those things don’t have to fill me with shame and embarrassment. Sure, my bad teeth and crazy history and perpetual tardiness are a part of me. But so are my tattoos and my purple hair. So is my love of black nail polish, and being a vegetarian, and my weird music that makes my coworkers look at me curiously. So is my work ethic and my wry humor and my resourcefulness. So is being a runner and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and yes, sometimes entire 600-calorie bags of trail mix.

No matter how hard I have tried in the past to be someone else, someone more worthy, someone more like what others want, I have never been able to be anyone but myself. There are many different versions of myself, but something ineffably Sus. Maybe it will mean something different next year than it does today. And I am embracing that day by day as I figure out exactly what it means.

Saturday morning’s alright for running

Fridays I head to bed as early as possible so that I can get up bright and early for a long run on Saturday mornings. This month is going to be crazy since I start a three-week overnight project an hour and a half away from home, but I’m determined to run as much as I can. There’s the HoBOOken 5k on 10/26 that I was hoping to set a new personal record in, but I’m not feeling the speed work right now, and I might just don a costume and do it for kicks, while still having a conservative time goal. Perhaps I will run it in a banana suit I found at Target. Do you have any suggestions? Any costume I run in will have to be cheap, have no mask and be reasonably comfortable.

Today, I ran 10 miles in an hour and 52 minutes. I’m incorporating hills into my runs again in preparation for the Pittsburgh Dick’s Sporting Goods marathon, which I signed up for a few days ago. It will be my first full marathon. I plan on hitting at least one 15 mile run before the end of the year, which will be the longest I have run ever.

I’ve been having some bad body image days lately. I’m not sure if it is because my scale has been either broken or out of battery for weeks, so I haven’t had the reassurance that I am in the range I want to be in, or if it is from not running as much as usual (I was only able to hit 3 days/20 miles this week), or just a general mental stress reaction. But I’ve felt bloated and tired and generally unhappy with my body, as well as generally being pretty down on myself.

But when I run, or especially when I am done running, I don’t hate myself nearly as much as I usually do. I don’t hate myself at all. Sure, by the end of the day I might start the negative cycle again, but for at least a little while, I am impressed with myself. I kept thinking today how incredibly easy 10 miles felt, even when I did a crazy uphill bout for almost a mile. I enjoyed being out and nodding to other runners. I saw my legs reflected in some long windows and was thrilled at the muscle definition.

And when I got home, I took off my I Believe In The Blerch shirt and I looked in the mirror… and I really liked what I saw. My hair was wild, my torso was dripping sweat, but I liked who I was in that mirror. I liked the person I had been for two hours, and I wanted to capture that and nurse it and try to be that way all the time.

So here ya go. Here’s who I liked seeing today. Try to do something or be someone that makes you like what you see today. And don’t forget to suggest a costume for me!


Approaching women, how does it work?

So, I had some minor street harassment today. Nothing major, in that I did not feel actively threatened and nothing very gross or obscene or scary was said (and how sad that these are my standards), but enough that I was annoyed and a little uncomfortable, and very glad it was broad daylight.

This led to a good friend who is actually really nice and respectful of women to question why women are baffled at being approached when they are not looking or feeling especially attractive, like in “frumpy” clothes or without makeup or, in my case, about to throw up after running with a hangover.

I kind of went off on a major tangent on Facebook about the dos and don’ts of talking to women who are not obviously soliciting your attention. Because while I am a lot less concerned about a nice guy’s feelings about having trouble approaching a woman than I am about not feeling threatened, I guess I still want to start that conversation. My boyfriend approached me in a way that could have made me uncomfortable but didn’t, because of how he did it (more later) and I do have several male friends who were strangers at one point. How to get from one point to the other?

These are my thoughts on it. They are not a be-all and end-all, and you might disagree with some things. But these are what would make me feel better. I also stuck to gender binary terms, but these and more do apply across the board.

1. Pick your battles.
While every new friend and lover was once a stranger, let’s be real. You’re a lot more likely to make a connection at work or online or in a bar than you are at the store or on the street. This is just probability and also makes more sense. You want people in your life who share similar interests or goals or something, and you can’t know that about someone random on the street based on their face. I guess it is a little different if they are wearing a band tee shirt or have a fandom bag or something, but at least then, your conversation can start out about that thing and not about their physical presence.

But if you absolutely must approach someone totally out of the blue, use common sense. Try not to approach her while she is totally isolated. Many women will immediately be on the defensive because that can be scary as hell. Don’t approach someone about being friends/going on a date who is clearly sick or busy. And if you get a very uninterested response from the start, consider dropping it. Immediately. This leads us to…

2. Pay attention to clues and cues, both yours and hers.
If you are going to approach a woman, especially at night or when she is alone or relatively secluded, be as nonthreatening as you can. Take your hands out of your pockets and walk slowly. Make eye contact so you are not hiding your face but don’t stare. If you are very tall or wide or otherwise physically intimidating, try to minimize how threatening you could appear.

If she has headphones in and you aren’t just approaching her about a quick question or a short comment, consider not approaching. Generally, if my headphones are in, I don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes I wear them with nothing on just because it is an extra signal to leave me alone.

If she walks more quickly to get away from you or puts extra space between you, respect that. If her responses to you are very short or vague (let’s say you ask her where she lives— don’t do that, but if you do— and she says “around here,” for instance), drop it.

Many of us are very good about telling when someone is uncomfortable around us. Sometimes it can be a little unclear, especially because women are often socialized to be nice even when we don’t wish to be or we are threatened, but really pay attention. It is better to be more cautious than to make someone’s fear response kick in.

3. Be clear about your intentions.
Let’s say I am standing at a bus stop and you are a guy waiting there too. My headphones are in, but your cell phone died and you really want to know the time. Just get my attention by getting in my field of vision (but NOT BY TOUCHING ME) and ask. When you’re done, step back to the side and leave me alone.

Say you want to compliment my hair (which, let’s face it, my hair is really great) but you don’t necessarily want to have a whole conversation. I like complimenting people and, when I feel safe, being complimented. Just tell me your compliment, accept my thanks and then step away/focus your attention elsewhere. Just make sure your compliment is not about my breasts, butt or other assorted body parts. That is what your private thoughts are for.

But what if you’re attracted to me? Well, personally, I don’t get why someone would want to ask someone out based on seeing them for a few minutes doing something like shopping or waiting for a bus. But whatever, not the point. Maybe you’re just feeling lucky.

In that case, spare us both a lot of trouble and tension and just ask immediately. I hate thinking that someone is just bored and engaging in small talk or needs a question answered and then feeling trapped when they ask me for my Facebook or Instagram or email. Which leads us directly to…

Number 4: Give her YOUR contact information.
Guys don’t like hearing us say it, but I know many of us women feel that men approaching us puts us at a disadvantage, especially if they are physically bigger or stronger or we are alone. Even then, the fear of rejecting someone (especially a stranger, when they could react violently) is strong. So when the time comes and we say “no” to giving out our phone number or full name or online handle, the reasons behind that should be clear.

But they aren’t. Nearly every time I say “no” to giving out my personal information, I am hounded about why not. I am pleaded with to give some form of communication when I obviously don’t wish to.

A really good way to avoid all of that would be for the person approaching to give out his information. You’re expecting someone else, someone more vulnerable, to do it, so do it yourself. And if you feel uncomfortable giving that information to a stranger, well, take a step back and look at yourself.

This is how my now-boyfriend (of five years and three apartments) and I became friends. He and I were coworkers for a month or so and he gave me his AIM name and email so that if I wanted to talk to him, I could. While we at least had some level of familiarity, I wasn’t sure if he was hitting on me (he wasn’t back then) and was a little wary. But because the ball was in my court, I felt a lot more comfortable going ahead and talking to him.

Another plus side to this is that you will know she is interested in at least being friends if she contacts you back, as opposed to wondering if she is only responding because she feels obligated to. And this is something you should be concerned about if you are actually not a creep.
And finally…

5. Don’t let your friends be creeps.
This one is going to be pretty short because I don’t really know how groups of male friends work. I personally have no problem telling my close male friends that they are being uncool in regards to women, which happens occasionally.

But if a guy friend of yours complains about a woman he approached out of the blue not being receptive, tell him that she isn’t obligated to do so. Ask him if maybe she felt threatened.

I wouldn’t want to be friends with known creeps and you shouldn’t either. Because whether you’re a woman and you wouldn’t want to be treated that way, or a guy who doesn’t want assholes making it harder for you to form genuine and non-creepy relationships, everyone has a vested interest in stopping creeps. Except for fellow creeps. But then, you wouldn’t care about how to approach a woman at all, would you?