Friday, July 2, 2010

Miles Run, Money Raised,& Running Cuisine

Crappy Thing They Don't Tell You About Running #10: No matter how clear you are that the chocolate-flavored Power Bar gel that you're about to suck out of a bottle-shaped packet will not taste like chocolate, when you see that dark brown color bubbling up, your tongue's thinking hotfudgehotfudgehotfudge--an unrealistic expectation that will cause face convulsions when the flavor hitting your assaulted taste buds is pretty much the anti-chocolate. Rest assured, once the initial revulsion passes, you'll realize this allegedly chocolate-flavored gel tastes exactly like the aftertaste black licorice leaves behind. And while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's most certainly not a chocolate thing.

Training update: 18 miles today fueled by distinctly licorice-flavored gel, water from two Dunkin Donuts pit stops, and a small handful of very salty almonds. Eating almonds while running is be an odd choice, I'll admit it. But when I can successfully avoid inhaling almond bits as I struggle to chew and swallow while panting, the salt and protein do wonders to stave off the lightheadedness I suffered a few weeks back. Though I do end up feeling as if I owe an apology to everyone who's had to witness my open-mouthed chomping during their morning constitutionals.

Fundraising update: With four weeks before my marathon, the Run for Grub has raised a little more than 90 percent of the cost of four scholarships for first-time Grubbies. That means we have just $204.50 to go. If you've been planning on donating, do it now. I'd love to run my final training run (20 miles on July 9) knowing that the fundraising portion of this journey was done and all that was left was the little matter of me and 26.2 miles.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Being Human

Yesterday was June 30. I intended to make much of the one-month-to-go milestone (my marathon's in Wakefield on July 30), but then I also intended to do my 5-mile short run at the end of a long work day. Instead, an urgent work project followed me home and swallowed up the end of my day.

And yet way, way too late I put on my running clothes and pulled my hair back into a tight ponytail fully intending to get my training in, dammit, before snapping safely back to my senses: Clearly, I needed to sleep more than I needed to not miss a second run. And just when I was starting to berate myself for missing a second run of my training season, a friend and fellow writer and runner sent me an email asking how the training was going:
"If there's one piece of advice that you won't hear too often, it's this: MILK IT! Eat that pint of ice cream, get a massage, let the dishes fill the sink, and yes, by all means, tell that cause-of-the-day-canvasser: 'I'm running a marathon for Grub, now fuck off.'"
But while I'm not ready to tell members of the unsuspecting public to fuck off, I'm positively a-tingle with the idea of unleashing an f-bomb (or thirty) on the harpy in my head that will not let this lousy missed run die already.

So harpy of mine, I tried to reason with you. Because really there's nothing earth shattering with a missed run here and there as long as I'm getting up on Friday mornings for my long run (I have and I will--18 miles tomorrow and why I'm not in bed right now is a riddle for another time). And though I'd say this seemed like a perfectly logical argument, my harpy just screeched all the louder (as harpies will), and I'm left with no other options. So here I am, pushing back my metaphorical sleeves, taking a deep breath, and telling my inner harpy exactly where she can shove that relentlessly shrill shriek of hers.

Now maybe I can finally get some sleep...

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

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grub Tale: Michelle Hoover

Michelle Hoover teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street. She has published fiction in Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Best New American Voices, among others. She has been a Bread Loaf Writer's Conference scholar, the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and in 2005 the winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction. She was born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families. Her first novelThe Quickeningwill be published on Tuesday, June 29.

RUN FOR GRUB: How did you learn about Grub Street?

About seven years ago I was teaching part time at Boston University and was lucky enough to befriend Daphne Kalotay there. She invited me to a few events, and since I was new in town, these became my primary social outlet. Every time I went to a party or reading, I saw some familiar faces and couldn't believe my luck at finding such a ready-made social circle of oddballs and booklovers just like myself.

RUN FOR GRUB: What has Grub Street meant to you?
MICHELLE HOOVER: It gave me a vital social network, but also the best teaching experiences I've ever had. I think I basically stalked Chris Castellani until one day he looked at me and said, 'we should try to use you.' Of course I've learned more from teaching Grubbies than I have at any other institution, more about fiction writing in general, about why people write it and its everlasting appeal, and about my own work as well. Now I'm also doing consulting projects for Grub and had a chance to lead a panel about the organization (and those like it) at AWP. The teaching, consulting, and networking opportunities Grub has offered me (as well as plain old friendship) are incredible and I'll always be grateful for them. Grub is even going so far to host a party after my Brookline Booksmith event July 6. Where else can an early writer get that kind of support? And there's not a personality in their office or among their teachers who I can't help but love.

RUN FOR GRUB: What was the best advice you ever received at a Grub Street event?
MICHELLE HOOVER: The most recent came from Chuck Palahniuk's address at Grub's Muse and Marketplace conference. He said he used writing as an excuse to go out. I'd never thought of writing that way. He would force himself to go to parties, readings, whatever, and he would write there, often stealing a line of dialogue or an interesting gesture. Of course, I don't think I'm the type to sit isolated in a corner and wax poetic during a big shindig, but he has the right idea. You have to be in the world to write about it, and if you're paying attention, if you always have your writer's cap on, you'll find plenty of true stuff to put on the page.

RUN FOR GRUB: As a novelist who runs, tell me: Is there some secret to keeping my brain on my book when I run or do I always have to wait for inspiration to bubble up whenever it damn well pleases?
MICHELLE HOOVER: I'm too much of a control freak to wait for much of anything. When I'm flat out in the middle of a book, I often decide on a certain problem or scene I want to work out and then keep it in mind as I run. Sometimes I get nothing, but I've surprised myself. Writers often underestimate the power of simply thinking. They believe they aren't working unless something shows up on the page. Of course, even while running, my head will veer toward the pain in my knee or people I have to call or why that chubby dude isn't wearing a shirt, but then snap, there's an answer to my scene. It's not always a good answer, but it keeps me going.

Editor's Note: Catch Michelle Hoover reading from her novel at the book launch at the Middlesex Lounge at 6:30 tonight, or visit her events page for other scheduled listings. The Quickening, her debut, is available on Tuesday, June 29th. If you loved "Plainsong," "The Quickening" will make your heart sing. Poets & Writers agreesthe current issue featured Hoover as a writer to watch, and there was much rejoicing in Grubdom...