Saturday, May 8, 2010

Running Rules I've Broken So Far

With four weeks of road behind me, I say goodbye to the relative ease of the first month of marathon training and hello to double-digit mileage goals for my long runs. Today may be Mother's Day for the rest of the world, but it's the official start of the fifth week of training for me.

One glance at the pain in store over the coming months and it's clear that if training were wading in the ocean, the crotch of my bathing suit would be pretty much soaked right now. Which means it's silly for me to stand here with my arms hugging myself for warmth. It's time to dive in. Completely.

I'm talking about giving up the bad habits I've developed in this first month of training. Yup. In the interest of finishing this marathon without killing myself (I'm not particularly keen on maiming myself, either), I'm coming clean about all the cardinal running rules I've broken during the first month:

Broken Rule #1: My record of stretching is spotty at best. Mayhap I will. Mayhap I won't. If I'm gonna stretch at all, I have to do it outside because once I'm inside I get distracted with essentials like food, water, and updating my Facebook status. But even outside, I give the stretching short shrift for three very compelling reasons:
  1. I wear tight running pants,
  2. I live on a main road, and
  3. as I reach for my toes, there's a point when it occurs to me that I'm saluting traffic with my ass, a realization that turns me a hundred shades of red that have nothing to do with forgetting to put on my sunscreen. Again.
Broken Rule #2: I forget sunscreen. I hate the smell so much that I wear light, long-sleeve shirts so I can get away with coating only my face and hands. Then I forget to coat my face and hands. Fortunately I do run with a baseball cap, but I know that's not enough. I've also noticed that I'm rocking a tan line where my ankle socks end. Clearly, I continue to deprive my legs of sunscreen at my peril.

Broken Rule #3: I sneak my runs into my day instead of creating a dedicated running time. This is a brand of stupidity I know first hand. A couple of weeks ago, I got stuck out on my seven-mile run longer than I intended to be and got home with a grand total of 21 minutes to stretch, hydrate, eat, shower, and get out the door. I showered just enough to wash away the sweaty slime and grabbed a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, and a bottle of water as I raced to my car. Halfway through my appointment, I had such a bad headache, I asked for water. When I came home I made myself a balanced dinner that I promptly threw up. Clearly, making room for a run is about scheduling time for the run and the self care that comes after. I am learning these lessons: I'm happy to report I ran my eight-mile run this week without upchucking a single thing!

Broken Rule #4: I see sleepiness as more of a suggestion than a mandate. Which means I'll often push through my drooping eyes in the interest of starting an episode of "Lost" at 11 p.m., chatting with an old friend on Facebook, or (now this is awkward) blogging for you all. If I have any prayer of getting into the habit of running before the sun really starts roasting on summer mornings, I've got to get to sleep earlier. Period.

Broken Rule #5: I find carrying water annoying. Like really annoying. Like so annoying I only started carrying it on the eight mile run. And then I didn't really drink much. Yes, I understand this is beyond stupid. But it's really hard to drink while you're running. What's that? If I can send twenty-three ridiculous tweets while I'm running, I can certainly manage to drink a little water? Yes. Yes, indeed.

Broken Rule #6: I've been sneaking a glass of wine here, a sweet or three there. Not a big deal, I know. But it's probably better if I only eat the things that best fuel my marathon-running machinery. Particularly now that I'm rocking a double-digit run every week.

So I'm going to dub this second four weeks of training the Month of More:
  • more stretching,
  • more sunscreen,
  • more sleeping,
  • more breathing space in my schedule,
  • more sleep,
  • more in-run hydration,
  • more diet perfection.
And speaking of more, could I be in any more danger of becoming one of those insufferable buffoons who can only talk about the ONE thing she's obsessed about? Or does my second obsession with Elvis round me out any?

Oh yeah.

I'm gonna be a BLAST at parties this summer...

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tweeting and Running Are Not the Best Combo

You don't need to think too hard to come to the conclusion that tweeting while running isn't the smartest plan in the world, and yet that's exactly what I did today. I could have easily stepped out in front of a car, dropped into an unseen ditch, or smacked into a pedestrian (nearly did that), but instead it just slowed me down and never let my head really get into the run.

Would I do it again? On a special occasion, maybe. So enjoy this tweeted run (it might be the last), on this the last run of my first month of training:

THE TWEETED EIGHT (as tweeted by runforgrub--and yes, I did this life via my phone):
PRE-ROAD: Today is the last single-digit long run of my training for a while. I'm celebrating by tweeting while I run. I call it: The Tweeted Eight! PRE-ROAD: Disclaimers: 1) I'm testing out some Elvis today, so if it sounds like an all Elvis run, that's why.

PRE-ROAD: Yes I do realize that by tweeting WHILE running I may in fact be asking for road rash. But I like to live dangerously...

11:10: Technical difficulties averted. "Witchcraft" playing. Me jogging starting NOW!

11:14: "The >lack --ARADEk is awesomeness....but tweeting slowing me down...
Note: that should read "The Black Parade."

11:19: Hat too big or noggin too small? Can't decide. Running only for a bit.....

11:26: Resisting siren of Revere Beach at low tide. Knees need punishment of concrete sidewalk...11:30: "Cause baby I got something to say! k Loving June Rich but almost knocked into somebody to tell you that....
Note: 'k' should be closed quotation marks.
11:38: Forgot what a dirty little song "Shake, Rattle. & Roll" was.

Note: All caps not intentional after QUEEN!!

11:42: Water bottle on my back punching me like toddler behind me on a plane.l

11:43: Kelly's Roast Beef smells like sin.

11:49: Fat man holding an umbrella over his Yorkie as it frollicks on the sea wall. Awwwww.

11:52: Halfway point with TMBG!

12:02: Feel guilty fpr setting a goal of catching up to a woman with a walker.

12:03: Doesn't help that I have M Stipe singing"baby I am calling u on that."

12:14: 2 miles 2 go!

12:16: DidnLt know men could get bunions.
Note: Capital L should be an apostrophe.

12:17: DON'T STOP ME NOW!!!

12:19: Freddie is making a supersonic woman outta me.

12:21: Wake up! Smell the catfood in my bank account!

12:23: Leaving the beach is always the bummer part of a run.

12:26: Hey! Oh! Let's go!

12:32: Guitar riff in "Atomic" from Tainspotting Soundtrack makes me feel like danger mouse!

12:36: Doner!Eight miles in 85:19. Tweeting was fun but 11 h09 per mile= fail.
Note: Doner should read done and 11ho9 should read 11:09.

12:38: Cooling down and feeling jazzed but wishing I'd remembered sunscreen.
Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Crap People Don't Tell You About Running: #6

When you tell another runner that you're training for a marathon, a disturbingly high percentage of the time the first question from that runner will be:

"Have your toenails started to fall off yet?"

Excuse me, what?

And really, I don't know what's worse here: the implication that my toenails may in fact start sloughing off or the smile that spreads across these runners' faces as they ask.

No, seriously: what??!!

So any and all advice you have about getting me through this race with all ten of my toenails intact would be greatly appreciated in the comment section below. Because I know this for an actual fact: I want to lose a toenail even less than any of you want to read about me losing said toenail.

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Musical Hallucinations

Jogging up the ridiculously pitched road that leads up to the water tower in Winthrop today, my legs started to slow, and my mind started to wander. A few of the rhetorical questions that occurred to me as I inched up:
  • Can I actually call what I'm doing jogging if my arms are moving more definitively then my shuffling feet?
  • Did I really think challenging myself to tackle what passes as Winthrop's Everest was a smart move on a day I'm doing five miles in the baking sun?
  • Do you need to be eyeball deep in lactic acid before you can actually start to hear "I can't go on forever on this steep incline" where Elvis sings "we can't go on together with suspicious minds"?
  • How have I never noticed how much the lyrics to "Suspicious Minds" sound like a rock 'n roll argument against running uphill on purpose?
And as I crested the hill at a slug slow pace and "Suspicious Minds" gave way to a Boris McCutcheon song called "Standing So Still":
  • Is my iPod laughing at me?
  • No, seriously. Is it??
Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grub Tales: Eve Bridburg

Eve Bridburg worked in nonprofits in San Francisco, farmed in Oregon and managed an international Bookstore in the Czech Republic before moving to Boston to attend Boston University’s Creative Writing program on a teaching fellowship. She founded Grub Street in the spring of 1997 in order to create a supportive yet rigorous place to study writing beyond the halls of academia. In order to expand Grub’s reach and mission, she directed the transformation of Grub Street into a nonprofit arts organization in 2001. Once Grub Street had its new legs, Eve joined The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency where she has developed, edited, and sold a wide variety of books including memoirs, literary and commercial fiction, and expert-driven nonfiction titles and continues to work with select clients. Now back at Grub Street as Executive Director, Eve is excited to oversee Grub Street’s next phase of growth with an eye toward advocating for all writers and exploring new opportunities for writers and readers in the digital age.

I started Grub Street back in the spring of 1997 by tacking
flyers on trees up and down Beacon Street in Brookline. Fresh out of the boot camp atmosphere of Boston University's MA in creative writing program, I set out to do two things: create workshops that didn't involve tears or humiliation and avoid real work at any cost.

My first workshop had five participants, one of them a friend who graciously agreed to sit in and pretend that she was interested in writing. She became my mole, helping me determine what was and wasn't working over wine on my porch after class. I learned a lot that first term. I learned that Grub Street would be the kind of place that welcomed writers of all genres and ambitions, that classes would be about craft and not identity, and that we would not tolerate posturing or snobbery. I also learned to get tuition money up front and that Brookline residents don't much like tacks in their trees.

Working as I did back then from a small room in my then boyfriend's (now long suffering husband's) small apartment, I never imagined that ten years down the road, Grub Street would be a thriving literary arts center with digs overlooking the Boston Common. Nor could I have imagined that we would host a national literary conference and book prize every year with some of the country's most beloved and popular authors. I never would have thought that Mayor Menino would host a Grub Street event or that we'd partner with the City of Boston to collect memoirs from seniors in neighborhoods all over Boston. That we'd have a volunteer-run program working with teens free of charge of that we'd offer fellowships to writers striving to revise their novels and books of poetry. It fills me with great pride and excitement to see how far this baby has come.

A few years after that first class, a student approached me and told me that Grub Street had changed her life. I smiled politely, resisting the urge to slip my shrink's business card into her coat pocket. She explained that she felt alive again and was suddenly spending her evenings writing until the wee hours. It was the people that she had met, both the teachers and the other students, who were responsible for her awakening. I've heard many versions of this story from countless others over the years. These stories are what have kept me engaged and dedicated and fully convinced of the necessity of an organization like ours.

What Grub does is quite simple. We bring people who love stories and words together. That we've managed to do this well for fourteen years is directly attributable to the people who have shown up for the party. Through generosity of spirit, hard work, imagination, and talent we've not only produced fine work, but have built a lasting community.

Crap People Don't Tell You About Running: #5

Apparently, the back of your hands can sweat. A lot. Like, enough to drip. Who knew running the soupy air of an impending storm was like pressing the sweat-so-much-you-might-as-well-be-running-in-the-rain button of this little body that could? And one more question: is it normal to stare at my sweat-slicked hands with pride? Just saying...