RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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Why gender disparities in ultra running isn’t just about self-confidence

Someone shared an article yesterday on my local ultrarunning group’s Facebook page that provoked a visceral response in me. It was a female blogger/runner who talked about her experience lining up for her 99th 100 mile race and seeing only men at the starting line. She then went on to discuss the dearth of female runners on the ultra scene, particularly as distances get longer, and then correlating this to a lack of self-confidence. I am oversimplifying the article a bit, but that’s the essence. There was no discussion of time, economics, etc. As a full-time working mom with a 6- and 8-year-old and a husband that travels every week, who is struggling with training for her first 50 mile race, her overly simple “self-confidence” response really got under my skin.

Perhaps this hit a nerve  because it popped up in my Facebook feed right after a post where someone (in a women’s running page) asked about how they fit in training for ultras and the answers threw me. There were a huge variety of answers, from stay-at-home moms to single moms to folks who just worked long hours, but I saw multiple posts about getting up to run at 3 or 4 in the morning on treadmills to accommodate family schedules. I even saw a few posts about partners who resented their training and actively working to sabotage them.

And I thought, THIS, THIS is what women work against. It’s not just about self-confidence and believing you can run 50 or 100 miles. It’s also about all the millions of things women are expected to do in families that wears us down and nibbles at our hours. There have been countless articles about “the invisible work of motherhood.” Go ahead and Google it. It details how–even in supposedly equal partnerships–the mental burden of running and maintaining a household primarily falls on women (These issues would probably be just as applicable for women who are primary caretakers of aging parents as well.). So even though your partner might say they are willing to “help” you with something, the semantics of that word “help” implies you are still the primary actor in it. You are still the cruise director.

Case in point, even as I’m out running 20 miles, my children use the land line to call me on my cell phone to ask when I’m coming home, whether I’m bringing donuts, whether their friend can come over, whether they can play on their iPad, all while there is another parent unit at home (usually sleeping, but sometimes not).

So I would challenge the pat answer that it’s lack of self-confidence that drives smaller numbers of women lining up for 100 mile races, but the very real demands that are placed on women to “have it all”–which in my experience translates to “have a whole lot of things to do half-assed and berate myself for not doing better.” And while I believe that some women DO struggle with self-belief and the self-confidence to think they CAN do something as difficult as 100 miles, I take issue with a post that doesn’t at least begrudgingly give a nod towards other reasons women may struggle with showing up. I’m not trying to make excuses or demand any kind of gold star, just a simple acknowledgement that some of us are hustling out there just to keep moving.

And just because I can’t write about being a mom without including at least one photo of the ankle biters, here’s the youngest being smushed under a mattress by her older brother (cuz he “told me to”)IMG_4324.JPG.


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It’s been a minute…

Ok, it’s been more like a month, but this quarter has been kicking my butt at work. There are a lot of changes at my university, and between that, kiddos, traveling husband, and the ramping up mileage, it’s barely left me time to do anything else but sleep and eat. This weekend was all about the massive back to back long run. I had 18-20 on the plan for Saturday and then 10-12 Sunday. However, Saturday was an insanely beautiful day and my friend David was doing 50 (yes, 5-0) so I decided to take advantage of the weather and the company flip for the next weekend’s 20-22/9-11. Not a HUGE difference, but still…

David was starting at 5 and hoping to finish around 2. The idea of waking up at 4’ish to be up and running in the dark was too painful, so I shot for pre-dawn. That view of the morning sun coming up was lovely (and a full moon peeking out from the clouds on the drive). My friend Lindsay and I were up and moving by 5:45.

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Because 50 miles is a lot of miles to run alone, David coordinated an event for our local ultra-running group the Flatlanders. It was an all day event, so these were just the “early birds” at 7 am. I was excited to run with some new folks. Somehow, though, other than Lindsay, I ended up running with a bunch of guys (including David).

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We ran Waterfall Glen, which is a 9.5 mile trail around the perimeter of Argonne Labs. Because it was easier just to finish the loops than to cut it short and do an out and back, I ended up doing just shy of 23 miles. We started our first loop with a group of 7 of us, and finishing the second lap left only 3 of us. I was pretty beat by the hills and a week of heavy training, so don’t let those smiles fool you! I gotta say, though, I learned the joy of mint Oreo’s from David on that run (he’s the one on the right).

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And because I mainly run so I can eat with wild abandon, I got the most decadent salty, savory deliciousness I could muster. A Cubano-ish sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit from my favorite pie shop Spilt Milk. Meat, greens, sauce, and eggs on a huge biscuit. Heaven. I also got a slice of pie (ha) but ate that before I remembered to take a photo.

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I also took a nap afterwards while the rest of the fam went to a local St. Patrick’s Day parade. Mr. RunNerdier is a champ for letting me do that.

I gotta say that I had a fair amount of trepidation for running the next day. I was feeling pretty beat up, but I did a decent pace with the help of a friend, Julianne. We trained quite a bit together several years ago, but she’s been struggling with injuries when her mileage gets too high so she’s been doing alot of tri’s lately. We did about 7 miles together and then I finished up solo. When I was fishing out my headphones for the last couple miles, though, I realized a bunch of crumbs had got super jammed inside my headphone jack. Enter Julianne’s husband to the rescue, and his compressed air thing.

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I was able to get all the crumbs out, receive some advice on where I can get decent belt (I ripped mine earlier in the week at work), and hit the road with some tunes to finish strong. Not your usual Sunday morning adventures, but that’s why I love running. Keeps you on your toes. I owe a race report on the crazy Yeti half I did a few weeks ago…that’s up next! Until then, keep truckin’.


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Things I will #NEVERdo

Today I ran 19 miles on the treadmill. Something that I thought I would never, COULD never do. I went so far as to poll my local ultrarunning group about what to do instead. I knew we were going to get 8-14 inches of snow, I had to run 18-20 miles, and I knew I couldn’t get it all in during school hours (which it wouldn’t matter anyway, because it ended up being a snow day)–which meant I would be paying a sitter so I could run and needed to maximize time. Also, I have a head cold. I know some people talk about changing to running for time in order to adjust for conditions, but I’m not entirely sure how that works. The miles are the miles…I can’t cut a course and say, “Well I ran for the right amount of time!”

Considering how difficult it was just to get in and out of my garage and the fact there was probably close to a foot of snow this morning, I decided to run on the treadmill instead of driving somewhere that might have slightly clearer running (like the lakefront path or the Arboretum).

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I actually upgraded to the fancy gym to do the run cuz they have waynicer treadmills (like treadmills that do incline AND decline).

I cashed in a free “trial day” ha instead of going to my local Y. To keep myself from completely losing my mind, I downloaded the last 4 (4!!) episodes of the Netflix show Travelers. I finished the first season with 5 minutes left on my run, so pretty perfect timing.

My friend Patty met me and she did her long run also, although she wasn’t doing as many as I was.

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And then we ran into another local running friend, so we were a fun little trio lined up. I won’t say the time flew by, because it didn’t. But there were different little routes–including Heartbreak Hill–as preplanned routes and elevations on the treadmill so that helped break up the monotony. I also am enjoying Travelers so it was fun to multitask in that way. I have weird guilt about watching shows and not doing something productive instead.

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I have to say it was weird eating my Gu waffles on the treadmill, and I even swapped out my shoes halfway (I stubbed my pinkie toe a few weeks ago on the trail and it’s been sensitive since), but I got through. My friend David assured me that if I could run 19 miles on the treadmill, I could run 50 on the trail…let’s hope he’s right.

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DONE

I felt pretty crappy after the run–probably because my nutrition was off, and even though I drank two giant bottles of water, I still felt thirsty–so I treated myself to a full Chipotle burrito. I’m always semi-health conscious and get the bowl, but I went with the actual burrito and it was amazing. IMG_3831So, all in all, I learned something about myself. That I can do anything…HA. No, I learned I can run double digit miles on a treadmill and not die. Now, wish me luck on tomorrow’s 15 miles in the snow…


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That time I became an ambassador for running in skirts…

After a month of watching videos on running skirts, capris, materials, social media, and so on, I’ve finally been accepted to be an ambassador for Skirt Sports. Yes, the girl that used to roll her eyes at people running in skirts has become an ambassador for a company that mostly sells running skirts. I never thought I would have kids either, so go figure. Ha.

I will say that part of me wonders if I’m cheery enough to be part of this amazingly supportive group of women. There’s a lot of pep and enthusiasm. A LOT. BUUUT, as someone who struggles with depression, perhaps being in a group of highly charged up, supportive women isn’t the worst thing? Am I right?

I think what clinched it for me, though, was seeing Mirna Valerio join the group. I first saw her in a Women’s Running article, which talked about her journey as an obese ultra runner. She also blogs under “Fat Girl Running.” Her body positivity and strength and overall energy was amazing to read about. Paired with Skirt Sports’ #REALwomenmove hashtag movement, I was in. This was something I could get behind.

I think what initially swayed me towards skirt running was seeing how many amazing women trail runners I’ve seen wearing skirts (You can check out an article about how skirts have come to stay here). I’ve mostly loved running in the skirts on the trail. The freedom of movement and easy access pockets have been fantastic. I also wear a wool blend skirt over my winter tights for running in single digit temps of Chicago winter. I’ve been less interested in wearing skirts around neighborhood runs. I think it’s my throwback fear of seeming “attractive” on a run. Running in city neighborhoods over a decade ago, I got a fair share of catcalls and weird attention as a runner. Maybe it was the neighborhoods I lived in, but it made me averse to wanting to seem attractive or doing anything that brought undue attention to me. And to be frank, more recently, I’ve also been afraid of seeming unduly “girly”–whatever that means. But maybe it’s time I grow up and just wear whatever makes me feel good. Huh, there’s a thought right? [insert massive eye roll]

So, fellow readers, if you want to go out on a limb–or you’re already out on that branch with me–and try skirt running (or their tanks, capris, or bras), you can take advantage of my personal discount code: 470Kim

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Aaaaaand I’m back

It’s been awhile, right? Almost a year actually. And I’m back to writing because I re-booted my commitment to writing for 30 minutes a day (at least weekdays, ha). Technically, that’s supposed to be academic writing buuuuuut, baby steps, people.

It’s funny, I’ve been itching to write–mostly because I’ve been wanting to think through a bunch of runnerdy things, like intermittent fasting, different training plans, sleep cycles,  stuff that the general everyday person in my life doesn’t want to hear about. But some of you must, right? *insert desperate eyes* I was just telling my undergrads how writing can be a great way to “think through” complex things. Considering these students are in there because they’re on academic probation, I’m not sure they believed me. It’s true, though. I get my best mental sorting of the chaos through writing.

So what’s happened since I last wrote? I bonked my two attempts to qualify for Boston. I got approved for a sabbatical for next spring (a full year away, sigh), I published a book, I turned 40, I got chosen as a Skirt Sports ambassador, and I signed up for a 50 miler. My kids turned 6 and 8, the world turned around the sun…so yeah, life happened. So about that 50 miler…

I decided to do a 50 mile race because 1) I’ve been hanging out with some bad influences (as in people who run multiple 100 mile races) and 2) I was pretty demoralized not qualifying at two different marathons last year. I needed a new goal to work towards and to take a break from chasing the unicorn. I always said speed wasn’t my thing, and while I’m generally not a back-of-the-packer, I do feel like I have to scrap pretty hard for any speed I get. The more accepting attitude trail and ultra runners have towards pace/speed/time was alluring. I’ve also really appreciated not pounding the same pavement day after day and forcing myself to get out to the trails more. And I’ve been running with some different people because of that. Change can really be good.

HOWEVER, part of me is freaking out every other second about the 50 miler. I think when my friend said, “I think you could run Ice Age around 10 hours, but most people would say you should just worry about the cutoff” and then I looked up the cutoff (12 hours), I might have had a slight heart attack. I think the fact that 50k and 50 miles share the number 50 makes it sound “not that bad” to go from one to the other. However, running a 6 hour’ish 50k (31 miles) to running a 12 hour 50 MILES is a different thing. A way bigger thing. That is almost double. So, yeah, freaking out.

But don’t worry, doing things like affixing screws to the bottom of your shoes so you can run intervals on hills covered in ice totally makes you feel better

Not convinced, huh? Yeah, neither am I. But that’s enough chit-chat for today (i.e., my 30 minutes is about to be up). More on the 50 mile plan tomorrow…


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Rage Against the Dying of the Light

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written here. And there are a million reasons as to why I’ve stayed away. Writing about running seems so inane when there are so many other things going on in the world that deserve more attention, more words, more light. But I just got back from a run because I needed to clear my head. Because I needed to feel my body and realize I’m alive.

You see, that is resistance. That is survival. That is what it means to fight back against forces that feel overwhelming.

I have alot of friends who have felt paralyzed, crippled by overwhelming despair and depression around the onslaught of policies that further marginalize peoples. Personally and professionally, I have also been dealing with a number of other issues that have made me want to throw up my hands in despair and yell, “Can I have no respite?! Must I be on defense in every aspect of my life?”

But on  my run today, I realized something. I am alive. And I have choices (something others in many parts of the world don’t). And marginalized peoples have fought back and resisted and survived since the beginning of time. We will continue to do so.

When I was in 9th grade, I was walking through a subdivision with two Asian American friends. At some point, a group of white middle school boys on bikes chased us, yelling racial slurs and sexually explicit things at us. We ducked into an apartment building until they left, shaken and feeling utterly vulnerable. Why am I telling you this story? Not to get sympathy. But to raise the fact that things haven’t changed so much. The ugliness and harshness that are in our current society have been there, under the surface, waiting for their moment to emerge. Maybe that’s why so many friends of color weren’t surprised by all the events that have unfurled.

Those boys didn’t grow up and change into upright citizens. They just grew up and found a bigger playground to terrorize. While every day seems to bring a new horror, a new injustice to rage against, we have to remember that people will survive. They will resist and fight back. The will to live and to thrive is one that we can not sell short. So take heart, we may need to take the long view, but we will get through this. So rage, rage against that dying of the light. Just because the candler flickers doesn’t mean it’s gone out. Oh, and go for a run.

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By serendipity, I got this in the mail today right before I wrote this.

I find it serendipitous I just got this in the mail today as well.

 


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When you fall out of love

With running

Life

The usual

It’s been a long hiatus. And to be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll keep this updated either. It’s tenuous lately. My resurgence of interest in running and such. And the school year is starting, which for some parents is glorious, but for me means the startup of my regular work calendar again. So…here’s a stab.

The last couple of months have been rough. I’ve been pretty straightforward about my ongoing struggle with depression, but it reached a pretty bad low point a few months ago. I think what further compounded it was the fact that I felt like I was doing every possible thing I could to deal with it, but it wasn’t enough. It feels unfair that I have to be doing so much more to stay afloat or feel “normal” (whatever that is) than the average person. Is it a chemical imbalance, family trauma, psychic wounds, blah blah blah? I don’t know. But I cringe every time someone asks me if I exercise or sleep enough or whatever, because I want to scream, “All of it, I do all of it!”

And actually, the last couple of months, even the running has fallen by the wayside. Yes, I’ve been trying to get myself to grind out at least a run or two a week. I had been hating even that minimal amount, though, and was mostly doing it to stave off the creeping weight. I eat ALOT, and mostly run to eat. When you’re not marathon training, it begins to catch up with you. And while it really is probably just 3-5 pounds, it was enough to make me feel worse physically and emotionally. And I realize that nothing was giving me pleasure. I wasn’t interested in anything. Maybe sleep. More B horror movies. Escape. Not life, not my kids, not my writing. Definitely not my running. Nothing that required me to engage.

So I’m trying some new meds and starting to feel better. I’ve even begun ramping back up my running. I’m actually watching the Olympics track and field events. Hitting double digit long runs. Thinking about races. But it’s still a struggle. The new meds make me tired, so early runs have been difficult. I’ve had to play around with dosage and timing to figure out what doesn’t make me feel like I need a 3 hour nap at 10:30 am or that I’m treading mud at 3 pm. Which means running alone and in the awful heat and humidity. I’ll say that running while playing Pokemon Go has helped motivate and distract me (and give me excuses for stopping).

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll stick with these meds or need to get back on that merry-go-round, but for the first time, I’m being pretty open about my struggles with folks. Even the fact that I know a couple of my students read this blog, and I’m talking about this is something. My less-than-perfect behavior has probably been most indicative of my struggles. I’ve had alot of impatience, crankiness, and general snarl near and far. My ability to have any emotional reserve in response to life has been about nil. I’m sane and grounded enough to know (mostly) when I need to make amends for that behavior, but it’s still not fun. It would be better if I just didn’t do it to begin with. And I’m still leaning towards isolation. My general belief of, “If I don’t interact with people, then I won’t have to act out and apologize later” isn’t really a great one.

On the road back from this cycle of depression, I’d realized that I had slowly been socially isolating myself. Other than kid-oriented activities or running with friends, I was engaging in almost no social activities. A friend took me out for dinner in the city, and I realized it had been literal years since I had done that. Years. How did that happen?

So I’m not saying I’m cured, but I felt the impulse to write today. So that’s something. But one could say it’s something for any of us to show up in life today and engage. To do what you can. To try your best. Even watching the Olympics, I thought about all the athletes at the back of the pack. The ones with no chance to win a medal. How do they motivate themselves? How do they push to keep going? How do any of us? But we do. Onwards and upwards friends.