Thursday, January 26, 2017

Running "Hard" vs. Hard Running

Being the chronic procrastinator and lifelong learner that I am, I went ahead and did some "research" before my run this afternoon.

I Googled things like: "how slow is too slow for a marathon" (nobody agrees on a number, but a lot of people have very strong opinions about it) and "Pittsburgh Marathon cut-off time"

I'm afraid of being too slow to finish a marathon. I know my former 5k race times were pretty good - not great, but I managed a few sub-24-minute races in high school. That translates to under 8 minutes per mile, which put me right in the middle of any pack of runners in my neck of the woods. 10+ years older and out of shape, I ran my last 5k race two years ago at an 11 minute pace and was proud. I'm aiming for 12:30 per mile for the marathon - manageable, I hope, but not easy.

So it was reassuring that among the raft of articles I skimmed this afternoon there were a lot of people who sounded a lot like me: "average" runners. Most of them had finished within the time limits of major marathons. It's especially good to hear because day to day it feels like I'm not making much progress toward running long(er) and fast(er).

But then I found two articles which said: You're running too hard. Train Slower, Race Faster. In a nutshell: the best training you can do is at low or high intensity. The most effective runners, the ones who had the best race times compared to their training times, were the ones who took the "Slow" in Long Slow Distance runs very literally, ie; conversational shuffles and not a "race pace" distance run.

One article recommended for "easy" runs: "If you can hear yourself breathing, you’re going too fast."

And I thought: "Oh. Shit."

Because I can totally hear my breathing and I can not carry on a conversation during my long runs.

So today when I went out, I went out with the intention of running at a "conversational" pace - 15 minutes per mile... and it was tough!

I ran the entire 3 short miles from my running plan and running that slow was a drag. It was cold, it was flurrying a little bit, my muscles felt stiff and then achy, and it took forever to get anywhere. In short it felt like way more work (albeit way less sweaty work) than the 4 mile "comfortable race pace" run I did earlier this week. But science says that's the kind of training I should be doing more, so here's to training better, and not just training harder.

I'm registering for the marathon today before the cost goes up again. This is it, folks. I'm officially a marathon trainee.

Friday, January 20, 2017


8.12 miles today. It didn't feel nearly as torturous as I expected and I'm proud of myself. Not much compares to the endorphin rush one gets while running.

I was aiming for 9 miles, but close enough. I can now say I've run one third of a marathon! Or walked and jogged it, anyway. The important thing at this point is to keep putting miles on my legs and I feel confident at this point that I can in fact run 10 miles, which means in a few weeks I'll be doing 13 miles - which is half a marathon!

That's exciting.

It's been incredibly mild here this winter. Other than that one deep-freeze, most of our days are in the 40s and 50s and our nights barely hit freezing. I'm worried this means that February and March will be completely, miserably windy and icy. Cross your fingers.

The chickens got a half hour of outside playtime today while I pruned the apple tree and picked at the garden beds. There is so much outside work to do before Spring... prune the rose, cut the mulberry waaaaaay back (again), weed and fill the rest of the front beds, re-seed the lawn, re-fence, plan, and plant the back bed, rake the last of the leaves and compost/shred them, clean out last year's failed containers and prep them with fresh soil for this year's attempt... and don't get me started on the house projects. This year, I swear the deck is coming down. Whether we replace it or not is up for discussion, but it has to go. We pressure washed it in the fall and it's not as slippery when not covered in algae, but the boards are warped and cracking, the ends are rotting, screws are loose all over and the dogs keep wedging their lead between the loose boards and the frame.

Which reminds me I need to figure out a fence for the yard and/or a more permanent chicken tractor so that I can let the girls out in the summer and not worry that they'll fly out of their playpen or decide to cross the road.

So much to do, so little time.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Retail Never Changes

Questions I have been asked this year:

"Where's that [stuff you use to do the thing]?" (It's a good thing I speak Customerese!)

"Can you check to see if you have more of this in The Back?"

"Can you tell me how much a piece of carpet this big will cost?" (The one with the price per square foot right on it? Yeah, gee, let me break out the abacus...)

"Where's your [item sold at competitor]? I get it here all the time."
(On the phone) "Yeah, hi, do you have any clearance pallets of tile or laminate or something?" (No we don't, because I'm not your personal shopper and I'm not going hunting for the dozen clearance SKUs I know are 16' up in the racking and scattered across the width of several football fields so I can describe every single one, do all your math for you, and hear you say "Ok, great, I'll come in some time this week to take a look at them".)

And from today:

"What is email?"

When I'm 70, I'm going to be in a store some day and some bright young salesperson/bot is going to suggest that I [newfangled tech] my 3D HoloPictures to their warranty specialist and I'm going to ask them "How do I do that?" and I'll feel bad for being so taken aback by that email question. Or probably I won't remember at all.

Marathon training progresses at a crawl. I ran on the first and the second, then had a very busy couple of days at the end of the week, and then it got cold. I hate running when it's so cold your nose runs and then freezes into a miserable snot-lip-sicle, so I'm going to wait until my breath doesn't crystallize instantly before I go back out there.

...How is your 2017 going?

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The things you'll never understand.

This got too long to post on facebook. It was a response to this post: "Today I had to explain to a 60 year old man why he was banned from the pub."

I wish the managers at my workplace "Got it" like this guy does. Last time I was harassed to tears by a pair of men, called a bitch and told that I, a four-year veteran of this place and smarter than 3/4 of the men here, didn't know how to do my job, the manager on duty waved it off and served them unquestioningly and with a friendliness that hurt me more deeply than the name-calling. Like I didn't matter. Like I wasn't worthy of respect. Like saving our company's reputation for "great customer service" was worth more than my humanity.

(they were stealing, too, which made it worse.)

He waved off my upset as if I were being oversensitive. He made their anger worth more than mine. And I don't think it ever crossed his mind that he was doing something harmful; he was just "solving the problem" by appeasing the customer. The fact that the customer had just verbally attacked one of his employees never seemed to matter. The fact that their sexist remarks and the hundreds of others I have endured are among the reasons I think about walking out every day doesn't impact daily store operations. Harassment isn't seen as an issue in our store even after one of our female employees was literally stalked and threatened by a customer. He showed up at her home after being told his advances were unwelcome. He touched other women inappropriately and repeatedly. He never opened his mouth without an off-color remark coming out and the men in our store laughed and joked with him and greeted him with smiles every time he came in even as his sustained harassment was discussed openly by the women they work with. They offered lame excuses for his behavior and discounted the stories when it came out that he had prior convictions for assault. And it took months, a sustained campaign by several women, and a police report for our store to ban the offending contractor "because he brings a lot of business in and we don't want to act rashly".

Women in the service industry allow people to attack us verbally, touch us in unwelcome ways, leer and make suggestive comments on a daily basis. We do this because the other option is to defend ourselves and lose our jobs, to become unemployable over something so small as our claim to self-respect. We ask our managers to watch and listen and stop this behavior and most of them refuse. Some declare that it's "corporate policy" not to remove customers for such "minor" behavioral issues. Some claim the company will lose much-needed business if we stand up for ourselves. Some tell us that they are just not comfortable with that fight. Many tell us we are not allowed to defend ourselves, lest we offend somebody or put ourselves in physical danger. But it's okay to be harassed constantly, because that's not physically dangerous - just dangerous to our sense of well-being and self-respect and obviously those don't matter.

So many managers (both male and female) aren't comfortable standing up for their employees, but I'm not comfortable with men putting their hands on my arms, shoulders, and back in ways that imply ownership, leaning too far into my space, or whispering "You have very pretty skin" while their wife browses just out of hearing distance. I do not welcome the stares when I bend to pick up a box or pallet, or the disrespectful "chivalry" of men who won't let me lift it because I'm "just a girl".

It would be nice if I didn't have to tell the men in my life all of this. It'd be nice if the harassment (which is mild in comparison to others' experiences) never happened because little boys were raised to respect everybody, not just to see women as foreign objects. But this kind of sexism and harassment is deeply embedded. Most guys don't even realize it, and if they do their first response is "I'm not like that!" even as they continue to defend the awful behavior of their friends and coworkers.

I have a sense of humor and a little self-worth. I know some of my own strengths and don't have to hear from someone else that I am a good worker or smart or pretty. I laugh at jokes about female drivers even as I run heavy equipment. I don't flinch when people jokingly tell me to stand aside and "let the men do it" (Why would I? You want to do my job? Sure, I'll get paid to stand around and watch you!). I am also struggling daily with the kind of depression and anxiety that leads so many people to suicide, and harassment doesn't help. So yes, I can function around sexism every day. But it's not good for me. It's not good for anybody.

And because it's such a damn tiring fight and I'm not out to hate all men or make the entire world a "safe space", I let a lot slide. I know most of the time, you guys don't mean anything by jokes about my driving and that if I fire one back you won't think anything of it, either. My personal line in the sand is drawn at disrespect, especially the kind of casual disrespect that damages women professionally - the offhand comments about "that time of the month" and the discounting of women's experiences and stories. The kind that says "You need work on conflict resolution" to me when I nervously stand my ground in front of an angry customer but pats my male manager on the back when he folds like wet paper in front of that same customer and calls it "making the customer happy". That attitude hurts more than all the harassment, because it's that casual discounting of my existence as a human being with the same goals, dreams, and rich inner life as you that leads to the kind of harassment that so many women
deal with.

We are not foreign creatures. We are not sex objects. We are people. We deserve respect.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sexism and Criticism

I've been link-hopping through the article that a friend thoughtfully provided for a little writing group I'm in, on sexism in Young Adult publishing, and finally hit this thoughtful article about critiques -  specifically critiques for/by female reviewers:

"The idea is, apparently, that women are so exhausted by the intellectual labor required to produce the text in question that we are unable to withstand any subsequent critique, and ought instead to fall back on some kind of rosy-cheeked sorority of lady writers, exchanging stain-removal tips and sob stories."

*sighs and reclines onto fainting couch*

The article makes some good points.

I think this goes further than just a fear of publishing criticism in YA. Across a hundred subjects and disciplines, from literature to food blogging to college classes, people have backed off strict criticism in favor of hedged, softened words of gentle advice or worse, silence. I'm guessing this change is due to a misguided sense that communities striving to be "diverse", "inclusive", and "welcoming" can not under any circumstances allow criticism - even constructive kinds.

But let's get this straight: Constructive criticism is not mean, it is not intentionally harmful to minorities (although unintentional harm should be part of the larger discussion) or non-inclusive or unwelcoming and it is the responsibility of the author when putting their work out into the world to accept the possibility that not everybody is going to love it and further that it is an author's responsibility to duly consider all reviews, both positive and negative and not to take them as personal attacks but as what they are - reader opinion which may or may not figure into the writer's personal growth.

Critical reviews are an integral part of growing and improving as a writer. Ignoring the negatives because they make us feel uncomfortable should not be an option, and expecting that women (or men, or teens, or authors of color, or anybody else) can't handle the discomfort of a critical review is just plain insulting. We should at least read our reviews before we discard them as useless to us; we might find that a reader has pointed out a flaw we didn't see, or a habit we have fallen into without noticing. We might also find that our style or voice is better understood by certain kinds of readers. What we do with that information is our choice but I think the information should be available, which means encouraging reviews that are not all "I LOVED IT!".

This does not excuse the sorts of people who use the umbrella of constructive criticism to fire harsh words at authors they do not like. So we need to be talking openly about what constitutes _good_ critiques vs. attacks, and how we can educate ourselves as readers and reviewers so that when we read something that doesn't sit well with us, we can address it honestly and kindly.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Happy birthday to me.

Today I turned 30.

I am definitively no longer a "young adult". I'm supposed to have my shit together. Everybody else I know who is in my age group tells me they don't have their shit together either, but that doesn't help because all of them LOOK like their shit is together, at least.

I just got braces. I'm still working retail (although thankfully not still a cashier). I'm still "working on that novel". Ha, ha, ha. My shit is so disordered I can't even find half of it, let alone get it together.

All the things I wanted to do with my life seem to have slipped through my fingers like water through a sieve.

And sure, it's not too late to turn things around and do what I want to do. I have a friend who moved to Thailand and is thriving, for fuck's sake. But I'm not even sure what it is that I want any more, and I'm so tired of fighting for every tiny little accomplishment. Getting out of bed is a chore some days. Washing the dishes requires superhuman acts of strength and focus. Being at work all day drains me emotionally and often physically and I come home completely unwilling to deal with my house, my husband or my pets. Some days, my depression and anxiety play nice and I go out and feel good about myself. Most days, I do this: spend the day on the couch hating myself and feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to do and frozen into doing nothing at all, so I can stay up late hating myself some more, go to bed alone because husband's already asleep, oversleep, start the day off poorly and do it all over again.

Last week at work I was asked out of the blue to help staff a convention center booth for our local home and garden show. I made it there on Friday, lasted 6 hours, and barely managed to get myself home on the correct bus. Afterward I was cold, anxious, and exhausted. My throat felt sore and my mouth was raw (new braces and talking do not play nice together). I've developed a cough since then. Stress-related illness sucks.

So does being 30.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Winter is...

...almost upon us and as usual I've spent the last few days in a funk as the mercury drops below 55°. This time of year is gorgeous and I love the cool nights and warm days, changing leaves and the smells of drying grass and tannic leaves in rain puddles and sharp ozone before a storm. I also dread the coming chill and darkness, the four to six months of paralyzing cold when I won't see the sun at all some days, when the house's drafts make themselves known again, my hands and feet freeze, and I don't want to get out of bed let alone get anything useful done. The kitchen is drafty and washing dishes becomes a battle between the hottest water you can stand and the chill air sucking the heat right out and leaving a sink full of lukewarm suds. I hate lukewarm anything, but especially lukewarm dishwater. At that point you might as well just wash everything in cold.

Anyway, my point is that this time of year I start to reflect on what I have (or haven't) accomplished over the last 9 months. The list always comes up far short of what I hoped to have done by now, and I'm beginning to think it always will, but this year I had a resounding success. Just one.

Black currant jam.

Not only is it delicious on toast and bagels and pb&j sandwiches, it's the first thing I've ever made from my own garden that hasn't languished at the back of the fridge acquiring new forms of life before I gave up on it. I, grandmistress of procrastination and couch-weight extraordinaire, managed to not only harvest two pounds of currants from the bush before they went bad (a task I haven't completed with the mulberry tree in years), but store them in the fridge for only a reasonable amount of time (no mold! No shriveled berries!), settle on a recipe, successfully make it (no thin, watery sauce or overcooked rubber!), store it, and eat an entire jar of it in two months. I hereby declare the black currant bush the best plant in my garden this year. The tomatoes didn't stand a chance.

I'm feeling pretty good about that jam. Doubly so because I just enjoyed the last of the jar for breakfast. I have another jar, heat-packed but not canned, which I am hoping will keep long enough for me to crack it open in December and enjoy it. That will feel like a real success, both for my preserve-making and my fight against seasonal depression.

Here's to success!