casualties of a 12 mile run

It wouldn’t be a Becky blog unless I had a horrible horrible training run in which something went terribly wrong and I thought I was going to die. Fear not, I have delivered. Luckily I did not die! 

Our training calendar demands that we complete a 12 mile run to prepare for the big day. We are woefully behind schedule so even though I have not finished the prerequisite 11 mile run, I simply must get 12 miles under my belt. If I do 11 and put 12 off until next weekend, that’s way too close to race day for a long run. I would risk injuring myself and would not be able to complete the Half Marathon at all. So I hydrate, throw back a protein smoothie, strap on my water belt and head out the door, Brad in tow. 

I feel solid for the front 5 miles. Brad and I are very sunny and smiley:

lookin' good babe

By now it’s about 12:30. Hmm, it’s getting warm out here. First mistake: running during the hottest part of the day.

Around mile 6 Brad takes me on a new route. We weave through the Venice canals, imagining which house we’re going to live in one day. It is lovely. We exit the canals and turn down a street that seems to be paved with mirrors. The asphalt is very bright, almost white, and the beating sun reflects from my brain to the ground and back up to my brain. We are on this road for 5 minutes but it’s long enough to make my brain feel a like fried egg. My body temperature rises. Second mistake: exploring a new route on an extremely long run. Third mistake: not wearing a hat.

The next part doesn’t have anything to do with why I nearly ended up going to the hospital, but it’s hilarious and I have to share. Around mile 7 I suddenly feel the urge. You know, the bathroom urge. The kind of urge that can lead to a Bridesmaids moment if not relieved immediately. So I say to Brad as quietly as I can that I have to “go.” We’re in the residential streets of Venice. None too populated, so of course Brad waits until we are 2 feet behind a group of Venice hipsters to essentially SHOUT at me “Can you wait to make it to a bathroom?” Said hipsters turn around in alarm and concern until they see two disgruntled (and now one incredibly embarrassed) runners behind them. I scoot past them as fast as I can, hearing them giggle uncontrollably at me as I pass. Mistake #4: running with someone who doesn’t realize how loud his voice is. (Just kidding sweetie.) In hindsight it was hilarious and not nearly as embarrassing as what was to come.

Back to the saga of how I lost a toenail and my dignity. Mile 8. Just 4 miles left to go and it’s a route that I’m very familiar with. Brad was going to stop at this point. He’d been nursing a calf injury the past week and started today’s run with the intention to do 8 miles but he is feeling so good at this point that he figures he’ll soldier on with me. I’m sure I can make it too, even though I feel bad things happening. My stomach has turned, my muscles have tightened, but I figure I can work through it.

Mile 9. Silence. Brad keeps talking to me and I hear him but I cannot speak. Cannot expend the energy. Symptom: extreme fatigue.

There are so many people out. Who cares if it’s a beautiful day, why are there so many stupid people everywhere!? Get off my beach! Symptom: Irritability.

Mile 9.5. What’s happening to my arm? My entire arm is cramping up from my shoulder to my fingers. First my left arm, then my right. Wait, now my jaw. My jaw is cramping shut. Symptom: muscle cramps.

Mile 10.5. The world is fuzzy. My stomach has turned incredibly sour. Every step is a challenge. This really can’t be good. Damnit. I have to stop. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. I have to stop. Symptom: dizziness. Symptom: nausea.

Damn, I have to walk home. But wait a minute. Even walking is difficult. The sun is beating down on me like a spotlight. I feel like a vampire. I cannot stand the feeling of the sun on my skin. I hate the sun! I walk (only because I’m too proud to crawl) from shady spot to shady spot. Symptom: extreme sensitivity to sun.

I make it as far as the grassy knoll that runs parallel to the beach in Santa Monica and succumb to my body’s distress. I park it right under a palm tree and sit. I can’t move… or I’ll puke. I call Brad to see if he’ll come back and get me.

I forgot to mention that by this time Brad had pulled ahead of me. He was feeling oh, you know, GREAT, at mile 10 and wanted to sprint home. He was worried about me but of course in my stubbornness I convinced him I was fine and that he should run ahead. Mistake #5: if you feel bad pain, STOP! Mistake #6: if you’re too stubborn to stop, at least run with someone so they can drag your body back home.

I sit under that tree for a solid 15 minutes. When not moving, I can manage the pain and discomfort. The second I move bad things happen. Hey, at least it’s not a terrible place to potentially lose consciousness:

collapsed runner POV

I can’t sit here forever. My body is not in a good way and I have to get home. I somehow trudge on. Uh-oh. Nope, not gonna make it. But I can’t stop now. No shade. Dying in the sun. At least there’s a garbage can up ahead. Aaannd…

A young dude runs past me just as I’m letting go of my breakfast into a Santa Monica public garbage can. He looks like an endurance runner. I’m hoping he has some solidarity. Brad finally comes to get me in his car and I make it home. I collapse on the couch and all the symptoms return at the same time accompanied by a brand new one: hyperventilation. After doing some very quick Web MD’ing, Brad knows exactly what happened to me. Heat exhaustion. He takes my temperature and luckily I haven’t got one, which is a good sign. If I had, it would have been hospital time. After one more round of the Barf-o-rama, I get some fluids and food in me and I’m on the road to recovery.

I write with my tongue in my cheek, but in all seriousness, heat exhaustion is not something to mess around with. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a life threatening condition and at the very least can cause permanent brain damage. I was dumb. I should have stopped when I felt my arms and jaw cramping up. That was a new and uncomfortable kind of running pain and I didn’t listen to my instinct which said “This is not good. Stop.” I was lucky that I was close to home, and that I have an incredible boyfriend who nursed me back to health and made sure I was ok before he left my side. Do not do as I do. Do as I say. If you ever develop the symptoms I’ve listed here, STOP. Allow me to repeat them:

  1.  Extreme fatigue (and I mean extreme, not just feeling a kick in the butt from a hard workout) 
  2. Irritability (and I don’t just mean general annoyance from having to work out. I mean having a strong and uncontrollable disgust for every face you see in the world)
  3. Muscle Cramps (not a little side-ache or foot cramp people. I’m talking your entire muscle clenching like it’s got something to prove)
  4. Extreme sensitivity to sunlight (think Maurice in Little Monsters)
  5. Dizziness
  6. Nausea
  7. Hyperventilation
And here’s how to be smart and avoid ever developing these symptoms:
  1. Run when it’s cool. Do not run during the hottest part of the day, ever. Think mornings. Think twilight. Think fall.
  2. If the sun is out, wear a hat. Your brain needs protection.
  3. When embarking on a really long run or bike ride or whatever, stick to familiar territory. You want to be physically challenged, but you don’t want to encounter any surprises that are going to put you at risk like a huge hill or a field full of rattlesnakes or a street paved with mirrors.
  4. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Concentrate on hydrating the day before. If you get dehydrated during a workout, it’s too late. 
  5. Wear clothes that ventilate.
  6. Wear a water belt so that you can sip during the entire workout
  7. Bring your phone with you on long runs. If anything happens, like your pride has been wounded in a park in Santa Monica and you can’t get home, you’re going to want to be able to call someone who won’t judge you. Or you know, 911.
Everyone is built of different stock. Brad and I did the exact same run and he finished 12 miles with flying colors. He surpassed what he thought he was capable of, and I totally tanked. Exact same conditions, totally different outcomes. Further proof that running is a customized sport. Each runner’s limitations are different. I am more of a withering violet than I would like to admit, but at least I now know where my boundaries are.
Like I said, it just wouldn’t be a half marathon training experience if I didn’t have at least one health crisis. Last year it was my blood sugar. I seemed to have figured that one out by carrying a Larabar with me on the run and nibbling on it every 30 minutes or so. I didn’t feel a sugar crash, so that’s good. I just didn’t anticipate heat exhaustion. So now of course I’m totally bummed and scared and worried that it’s going to happen during the race. I just have to trudge on. I will not be beaten. I’m finishing that race. A lot of people have donated to Running for Wonderlust and I shall not let them down. I’ve learned my lesson and will take extreme caution to avoid any signs of heat exhaustion. An ice cold mojito after the race should also help to cool things off, dontcha think?

recycle, reduce, reuse… does that apply to runners?

Last night I went for a glorious 4 mile run on the beach as the sun set over the Pacific.

hard to be sad with this at your back

 

 

 

 

It was one of those runs that made me grateful for my legs, my heart, my lungs, my location, my love, my life. Life is good. Except…. well, there’s just something that always bugs me. It looks like this:

ummm, that's not seaweed Jonathan

 

 

 

 Every time I run in Venice, the trash that lines the beach from Navy down to the pier totally bruises my runner’s high. Plastic bags, bottles, condoms, napkins, plates, cans, diapers, cups. You name it. If it’s trash, I see it out on the beach. (Think about that next time you leave a wayward red cup on the street. It ends up in the water people.) When I partake in a leisurely surf-side stroll, I make it a habit to pick up whatever trash I see and throw it away. I can at least do what the nincompoop who put it there couldn’t seem to manage, and that is walk 20 feet to the nearest garbage can. When I’m running though? That’s a different story.

I feel like a terrible person.

Confession: When I see trash on the beach during a run, I run right past it and think “what a shame.” I’m sorry! If I stopped to pick up every piece of garbage that I saw during a run, I would never finish and my average pace would slow to tortoise speed. I can’t let that happen, especially now that I’m training for a Half Marathon. So what do I do friends? What would you do? I’m open to suggestions that will make me feel like the tree-hugging earth child I am, while not sacrificing the determination of the runner staring 13.1 miles in the face.

I did pause for a while yesterday to snap some shots of a quizzical little seagull. Totally counter to my complaints above about not wanting to slow down for anything, this Jonathan Livingston Seagull stopped me in my tracks. I swear he wrestled with this empty Doritos bag for a solid 10 minutes. He would not let it go! I couldn’t tell if he wanted to figure out how to eat it, to make a nest, or he just thought he looked cool with a purple bag on his beak. Like a shiny beak sock. Who knows though. Maybe Mr. Seagull is actually a much better creature than Ms. Sigl and was doing his part to clean up the beach. You decide:

"what do we have here?"
"delicious"
"kind of delicious"
"there must be something yummy in here"
"not working out as planned"
"the garbage can is way over THERE?"

 

I’ll run one extra mile on Sunday for every person that donates to Running for Wonderlust between now and Saturday. Come on friends. Don’t you want to force me to run like 10 miles this weekend? I want that.

http://www.crowdrise.com/runningforwonderlust/fundraiser/RebeccaSigl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

they’re more like guidelines really

Just read this article in Runner’s World by writer Mark Remy. Everything in black is pulled directly from his article. Everything in purple is my humble opinion. Allow me to go through item by item and tell you why I disagree with almost everything he says:

“Have Fun”
“No other fact is so fundamental to running: Done properly, running is fun. Even when you do it improperly, running is still inherently, liberatingly fun. If you doubt this, just spend a few minutes watching a child or a dog in any wide open space. Their glee is instinctual and undeniable. I believe it was Aristotle who said, “Tramps like us, baby, we were born to run.” Enjoy it. After all, there aren’t many animal impulses that we can act on in public without getting arrested.”

Rebecca: Bullshit. Fun is definitely the wrong word. Do not run because you think it’s going to be fun. You are neither a dog nor a 5 year old child. What makes running fun for them is that they think they might actually catch that darned squirrel this time, or catch that butterfly. Runners, we ain’t chasing butterflies. It’s hard. It hurts sometimes. You should still run. Because you’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt in your life. Because your molecules will all work in harmony and you will feel electric. Because every once in awhile that elusive runner’s high will make you feel like if you run just a tiny bit faster, you will actually take off and fly. Because crossing that finish line after you’ve been training for months will instantaneously and exponentially increase your self-worth and might just move you to tears. That’s not fun, it’s euphoric. Fun. Pshaw. What a silly word to describe running.

“Expand Your Sense of Fun”
“As a runner, your definition of fun—which might once have included water parks, screwball comedies on DVD, and scrapbooking—must be, well, let’s just say broadened and might include:

Waking up at 5:30 a.m. to run 10 miles
Running in blistering heat
Running in the rain
Running in 400-meter circles
Feeling as if your lungs are about to explode
Paying good money for the privilege of turning your toenails black
Any combination of the above”

Rebecca: Yeah, see? Not fun. I agree that everything on that list becomes totally gratifying for we runners, but don’t just expand your idea of fun, get rid of it altogether. See previous response. Next:

“Black Toenails Are Badges of Honor”
“Run long enough and you’ll wind up ruining a toenail or two. Whether it’s because yourshoes are too big or too small or because you’ve run a race with punishing downhills or the toenail gods happen to be in a foul mood, someday you will peel off your socks and see black where once there was pink. Congratulations! These bruised nails are tiny trophies conferred upon you for toughing it out. Just don’t flash them in public.”

Rebecca: Totally. One of the best running t-shirts I ever saw said “Toenails are for sissies.”

“Run Like a Dog”
“My dog, a shepherd mix named Cooper, doesn’t care where we are or what time of day it is, or even what the weather is like. He doesn’t know what his resting heart rate is and rarely bothers to wear a watch. He just loves to run. And every time he does, his face and his body telegraph one simple message: This. Is. AWESOME. I’m runningrunningrunningrunning!”

Rebecca: Will this guy drop the whole dog comparison! You are never going to feel like a dog. Never! Ancient warrior running from a dangerous adversary? Maybe. Olympic legend coming out of seclusion to show the world that runners never retire, yep. Dog. Come on. I’d rather feel like a warrior.

“Let Angry Motorists Go”
“I understand the impulse when a driver has just pulled out in front of you or turned directly in your path or otherwise behaved like a jerk. I know how much you’d love to slap the trunk of that driver’s car, or shout at the person behind the wheel, helpfully suggesting that he or she “learn to drive.” Or extend a certain digit in a certain direction. Do yourself—and all runners—a favor and fight that impulse. Smile. Your lashing out isn’t likely to change the driver’s behavior, and may, in fact, worsen it. For all you know, the still-seething guy may drive extra close to the next runner he sees, just to make a point. Let him go.”

Rebecca: No kidding around here, I totally agree. Be the bigger person. Brad is so good at this. I am not. It’s worth it though. Just move along.

“The Open-Ended Question Is Your Friend”
“Running with someone who’s faster than you? Is this person oblivious to your gasping? If so, it’s time to deploy that surefire weapon of struggling runners everywhere: Ask the offending speedster a question so broad, he or she could spend 10 minutes answering it. And just might! This is particularly useful on long hills.”

“Say, how’s the job?”
“Any vacation plans this year?”
“Popular culture: How about it, huh?”

Rebecca: This one totally maddens me! In my opinion this is in complete violation of the runner’s code. If you’re running with a buddy, especially one who is generally faster than you, do not hold him or her back! Yes it’s nice to start the run together, warm up, share battle scars and war stories of that last time you puked at a marathon. If this running buddy is just flat-out faster than you, and you can feel her wanting to pull ahead, deal with it. You MUST kindly say “Hey go ahead and run ahead of me. I’ll meet you at the finish.” If you hold her back, she’s going to secretly resent running with you. Meantime, you’re going to kill yourself trying to keep at her pace and you’re going to be so wiped out, you’ll curse your running shoes and never run again. Do not get your friend to tell you a long winded story about his or her job. That is mean. People are different. People have different paces. It’s not a personal judgement, it just is what it is. Get out of denial and let your running partner have the workout that will best serve him or her. Running is after all an individual sport. You’re competing against yourself. Holding someone back from pushing him or herself is so against all that running stands for. Don’t do it. Every time someone asks to run with me, I tell them, sure! But I’m slow. If they’re still interested, I make it clear that they are welcome to run ahead of me at any time to keep their personal best going. No worries. We’ll grab an icy beverage after. Save the chit-chat for that.

“For Pete’s Sake, Stand Still at Red Lights”
“Sharks die when they stop moving. Runners do not. Keep this in mind next time you encounter a don’t walk sign at a busy intersection. There’s no need to jog in place or dance from foot to foot like you have to pee. Just chill. Wait a few moments. Note: If a nonrunner waiting with you at the crosswalk is dancing from foot to foot, he or she may indeed have to pee. Give this person wide berth.”

Rebecca: Again, totally disagree here! As I’ve stated ad infinitum, running is a personal sport. You have to figure out what works for you. When Brad and I run our 6 mile route together, we invariably hit a stop light that we never seem to make on a green. We always have to wait. I just stop and wait, and take the opportunity to chill for 20 seconds or so. Brad can’t do that. He can’t stop or he’ll lose momentum and he won’t get it back. We hit that light and he runs in circles, he doubles back for a bit, anything to keep moving. That’s what works for him. It’s totally misguided to make a blanket statement like the one above.

“Learn and Love The Farmer’s Blow”
“Mastering the farmer’s blow (or snot rocket) is a must for any runner. Here’s how to do it right: Breathe in through your mouth, like you’re gasping. Lay a forefinger against one nostril and compress firmly. Purse your lips. Cock your head slightly in the direction of the open nostril and exhale forcefully through your nose. Repeat with opposite nostril, if needed.”

Rebecca: I love the snot rocket! Got confident with this when living in London. The UK is down with the snot rocket.

“”Lookin’ good!”…and other runners’ lies”
“Lying is not something we normally endorse. But it’s perfectly acceptable to tell a runner that he is looking good at mile 19 of a marathon when, in fact, he looks like an insomniac who’s trying to sneeze, and is confused because someone has switched his running shoes with replicas made of concrete. The go-to lie is “Lookin’ good!” Or you could say, “If I weren’t so awed by the apparent ease with which you’re navigating this course, I might be angry with you for nearly knocking me unconscious with your very awesomeness!” The key is to say something. Even a zombie appreciates encouragement.” 

Rebecca: Wrong. Look, if you’re on a long run with someone and she is looking like every breath is a gift, just leave her alone. That person does not want to waste extra energy listening to your transparent compliments. The run may be affecting her body, but it isn’t making her stupid. Don’t bullshit. Chances are that your mere presence is enough comfort to this struggling runner. When I hit Mile 11 last year at the Disneyland Half, I didn’t need to hear from Brad. I just liked having him by my side. Whenever he talked to me, I felt obligated to respond, and that takes energy! A runner at the tail end of a long distance will need every atom of energy left to focus on gait, breath and pace. Don’t make her waste it.

“Running Rules of Thumb”

1. If you see a porta potty with no line, use it. Even if you don’t need to. Umm, why?
2. If you have to ask yourself, Does this driver see me? The answer is no. Wise words. Can’t be too cautious.
3. If you have to ask yourself, Are these shorts too short? The answer is yes. Dude, wear whatever you want. Runners have no shame.
4. 1 glazed doughnut = 2 miles True. 
5. You rarely regret the runs you do; you almost always regret the runs you skip. Best thing I’ve read in a long time.
6. Not everyone who looks fast really is, and not everyone who looks slow really is. Confucius?
7. Nobody has ever watched Chariots of Fire from beginning to end. Not even the people who made it. I have. Love it.
8. You can never have too many safety pins on your gym bag. Wtf? Don’t get it.
9. Running any given route in the rain makes you feel 50 percent more hard-core than covering the same route on a sunny day. True. It’s like a rite of passage.
10. If you care even a little about being called a jogger versus a runner, you’re a runner. So true.

“Pass Gas, Not Judgment”
“Runners ingest a fair amount of healthy foods, which produce gas in the GI tract, where it cannot stay forever. Especially when that GI tract is bounced and jostled. Passing gas while running is excusable and inevitable, but… You may not mock another runner for having passed gas, unless he has previously mocked you for the same or unless he mocks himself. If a runner has taken pains to mask flatulence, pretend nothing happened. It’s fun to pretend that the gas you expelled is propelling you forward, like a little booster rocket. That isn’t really a guideline, though, is it?”

Rebecca: Love this. Fart away. Although preferably not as you’re passing Billy Blanks who is in the middle of training someone on the beach. Pretty sure Brad did that a few months ago. Yeah. It was Brad. Stop looking at me!

“Never Leave a Man Behind… Unless He Insists He’s Okay with It”
“It’s fine to ask once or twice if a straggler is okay or if he wants you to slow down for him. Asking three or more times, however, is more likely to annoy than to help. Take the straggler at his word and run accordingly.”

Rebecca: As I said before, it’s fine to leave a man behind! (Especially if you’re a woman). Just be honest. If you’re running buddy is pulling ahead a little but you want him to stick with you (first of all, you’re a jerk), but just say so. Or vice versa. Tell him he can run ahead, but mean it! Don’t get all passive aggressive and mad that he ran ahead.

“Smile at Your Critics”
“A few people will never miss a chance to tear running down, or jab its adherents in the chest with a rhetorical finger. Oddly enough, the most vocal of such critics are often in terrible health themselves.”

“Bad for your joints,” they’ll jab.

“You’ll get arthritis,” they’ll jab.

“Running marathons?” they’ll ask, jabbingly, between sips of their Big Gulp. “That’ll kill ya.”

The best response is to continue running and loving it. Meantime, try inviting these critics to join you for a short run. Who knows? Maybe someday they’ll accept your invitation.

Rebecca: Ah yes, the critics. I agree with this one. Many people will try and tell you that “running is so hard on the body.” Just smile and tell them “not mine. I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.” Not everyone takes to running. That’s a fact, and that’s fine. The folks that try to convince you, though, that you’re doing something wrong by running, ignore them. They just want to justify why sitting on the couch and watching another hour of the Kardashians is “better for their joints.”

“Runners Do Not Shave Their Legs”
“Exceptions include most North American women; runners about to undergo some sort of leg surgery; runners who are competitive swimmers, cyclists, or triathletes; and runners who don’t care what anyone thinks because they just like the way smooth legs feel, especially against cotton sheets, and anyway, what’s the big deal?”

Rebecca: What? I’m totally lost on this one. Anyone?

“A PR Is a PR Forever, But…”
“You may advertise a personal record (PR) time, or otherwise claim it as your own with no further explanation for two years after setting it. After two years, however, it becomes uncool to tell people, “My marathon PR is 3:12” without providing a disclaimer–e.g., “My marathon PR is 3:12, but I ran that 63 years ago.””

Rebecca: Agreed. It’s like leaving that co-star credit you have from Columbo on your resume. Get back in the game, or let it go.

“Remove Your Hat For The National Anthem”
“Manners and common courtesy apply, even during a race and even if your hat is made of technical sweat-wicking fabrics.”

Rebecca: Uh, sure. Patriotism. Why not.

“When Elastic Is Gone, Man, It Is Gone”
“Men, this one is for you. You paid good money for those shorts. You love those shorts. You’ve raced in those shorts. But sooner or later you will pull them on and feel roomy gaping where once there was a snug liner. This means that the elastic down there has gone slack. You will be tempted to wear them anyway. Don’t.”

Rebecca: Can’t say as I’ve ever remotely had this problem. I’ve got a built in belt in the form of my Italian birthing hips.

“Never Miss a Chance To Thank a Volunteer”
“Even if you’re running the race of your life, you can still manage a bit of eye contact and a nod as you grab a cup of water from an outstretched hand. Even if it feels like your quads are quite literally on fire, you can manage to sputter a short “thanks” to the course marshal standing in the intersection. It will make the volunteer feel good. And you, too.”

Rebecca: Agreed. Those volunteers are your lifeline in a long race. Be nice.

“5 Topics Guaranteed To Get a Runner’s Dander Up”

1. Walking in Marathons: Good or Bad? Personal preference, but to me it’s bad. If you walk, you’re not really “running” a marathon are you? There, I said it! Don’t hate me.
2. Running with Headphones: Good or Bad? Personal preference.
3. Dean Karnazes: Good or Bad? Who is that? I guess I don’t know everything after all.
4. Barefoot Running: Good or Bad? Personal preference but mostly I say GOOD! 
5. Charity Runners: Good or Bad? GOOD! How could this EVER be bad? What? Meanwhile, please DONATE 🙂  http://www.crowdrise.com/runningforwonderlust

“Before You Remove Your New Running Shoes from The Box, You Must Smell Them”
“Open the box. Peel back the tissue paper. Behold those pristine shoes. Then lift the box to your face and breathe deeply. Mmmm. Smells like potential. And possibly toxins. But mostly potential.”

Rebecca: Whatever man.

So there you have it. My snarky responses to a world class running journalist and his silly list of runner’s tips. I do, after all, know way more than a world class journalist. Feel free to hire me, Runner’s World. For the full article click HERE

happy birthday… miss monroe

Today celebrates a few of my favorite things. First of all, June 1st has always excited me as it marks the entree to my birthday month. I can’t help it. I love birthdays. Countdown to June 18th.

Second, June 1st is Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. I feel compelled to pay homage to someone who eternally mystifies me, on what would have been her 85th birthday:

I haven’t always been a Marilyn Monroe fan. Of course I’ve acknowledged her beauty and iconic place in Hollywood history, but she never meant anything to me in a particularly special way, until my third year of college. I took all of three academic classes in my college career (yes, be jealous, hurray for conservatory education!). One of the three was an absolutely incredible philosophy class taught by Professor Kestenbaum. Oh how I loved thee. Imagine the most inspiring, kind, gentle, intelligent, whimsical man. Now imagine that he looks like Santa Claus. That was Professor Kestenbaum. Easily one of the most endearing and inspiring individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from.

On June 1st of that year, Kestenbaum wanted to share something with us. He pulled out the Boston Globe and showed us all a picture of Marilyn Monroe on the front page, commemorating her birthday. A small, inquisitive smile crept over his face as he softly said to the class, looking back and forth from the picture to us, “there really was something sort of, magnificent, about her.” Blushing like a schoolboy, he spoke to us as if he knew Marilyn personally, and yet retained a self-awareness that that feeling of familiarity mixed with awe is exactly what endeared her to the masses. Kestenbaum was a brilliant man. I was enrapt in that moment to see this academic powerhouse dumbstruck by the overpowering beauty of a woman. I guess Arthur Miller knows a thing or two about that.

We focused a great deal in that class on beauty (in a philosophical sense, not physical) and attention to a greater good. The curriculum was heavily wrapped up in metaphysics. Wittgenstein, Iris Murdoch, William James. Kestenbaum was not pointing out that, gee, Marilyn Monroe was just so gorgeous. He wanted to illuminate something deeper and utterly unique about her. Something that would explain why she has become the iconic symbol for icons themselves, for fame, for beauty. Kestenbaum remained intentionally ambiguous as to why he showed us that picture of Marilyn Monroe. He wanted us to meditate on it, and on beauty itself. Of course, in the past 6 years, I have.

Marilyn Monroe displays such yearning in all of her photos. It’s as if she reaches through the camera, trying desperately to feel someone there, but of course there is no one. In every photo she displays the desire to be loved by everyone, in conflict with the need to be cherished by just one. Would it have been possible for someone who so freely belonged to everyone, to belong to anyone? It’s difficult to put into words how Kestenbaum’s mini demonstration struck me that day. I just remember seeing Marilyn Monroe as if for the first time. A light bulb went off and I thought, there is something truly breathtaking about her, having to do with more than just the way she looks. What does it take to give yourself over to a camera like that? Utter narcissism? Pure selflesslessness? At some point do the two become indistinguishable? Call it photogenic, call it natural ability, call it what you will. I think there is something quite transcendent about Miss Monroe. Think about it.

the picture that started her career

Since that day in Philosophy class I’ve read many of her biographies and seen all of her movies. For Monroe-philes out there, I hope you’ve read “Blonde” by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s an epic, gut-wrenching masterpiece. Oates is so incredibly brilliant. She is the only writer out of many to realize that the  life story of the woman who most infamously represents fame and fantasy must be told through a fictional lens; and in doing so the novel becomes more honest and true than any Monroe biography available on the bookshelf. The book leaves you with such a sadness that someone at once beautiful and grotesque was snuffed out of this world. Why? There are so many answers to that question. To ensure her status as a timeless sex goddess? An icon? Perhaps as a cautionary tale against exploitation? Hollywood? Or perhaps just because a sad sick girl never accepted the love.

………………………………..

The third bit of excitement was that today is apparently National Running Day! Here I am writing a running blog and I get so swept up by Marilyn Monroe that I didn’t even get to the topic of running. Ah well, something to look forward to tomorrow. In the meantime, Happy Birthday Marilyn.

“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” -Marilyn Monroe-

so many islands, so many questions

I like to indulge in a little Tahitian research while on my breaks at work. While browsing the interwebs today (by using GoodSearch for Theatre of NOTE!) I’m feeling overwhelmed by many things. First, the abundance of islands, atolls, lagoons, and archipelagos (what even IS an archipelago?) that make up French Polynesia. Look at the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry for Tahiti and you’ll quickly understand my fluster.

“Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean.”

That’s a whole mess of groups and sub-groups. I clearly have a lot of research to do in order to get a handle on this whole Tahiti thing. See my problem is this; I’m the type of person who has to weigh every single option before I make a decision. It’s a curse. I cannot pick an ice cream flavor until I’ve carefully considered every single flavor available in the store. If I ever get married, I will be the god-awful bride that has to try on a thousand dresses before she can make a purchase. I’m just always worried that the next option I see will be better than the last. I mean how do you know it won’t be? How do you know??! I’ve never been good at that whole leap of faith thing. I realize how neurotic this is and I do actively try to engage my gut instinct and follow it blindly. That tactic has been successful at times, but I often revert back to my indecisive self. Which is why I now feel like I’m going to have to do extensive research on over 130 tropical islands before I can make travel plans.

130 islands! Yes, we’re going to running to Tahiti as our primary stop, but we want to venture to at least one other island. Out of 130, holy atoll batman, how do we decide???

More on the islands later, but if you are one of the lucky people in the world who has actually been to French Polynesia, can you help a beleaguered traveler out and send me some personal recommendations? These are the major questions on the table:

  1. Which islands are best for diving/snorkeling?
  2. How much time does one REALLY need in French Polynesia? In my dreams I’m hoping for a 2-week vacation but we’d have to bump the savings up to $2 per mile to make that happen. Will we be satisfied with 1 week?
  3. Should we stay on an overwater bungalow or are they really bad for the local flora and fauna?
  4. Which island should we visit besides Tahiti?
  5. How much spending money do we need daily?
  6. Should we use a travel agent? Even asking that question is antiquated in this day and age, but I’m seriously overwhelmed and might just need someone to hold my hand when I press the Purchase Tickets button
  7. Which island is the least populated, yet still accessible to clueless American tourists?
  8. Where can I find a zip-line in French Polynesia. I want to zip-line!

Whew! So many questions, but that is a good start. I’m glad I’ve got two years to plan this vacation. Yes yes, I know there are plenty of websites and travel books out there that I could read, and I will, but honestly there is nothing in the world like a personal referral. So if you have any advice, please do send it my way by leaving a comment on this post. I would love to hear your juicy Tahiti stories!

In lighter news, this is where we’re going. So purdy. Now if only I knew exactly which island this was:

Tahiti hut

week 2: check?

I debated whether or not to write this entry as I knew I’d be doing so with my tail planted firmly between my legs. I had a tough week, and the good little voice in my head told me I should share it with my readers. Full disclosure, that’s what they want. The evil little voice in my head said “you don’t need to write about this. Just don’t, skip a week. They’ll never know you faltered and the image of you as a go get ’em kind of gal will be preserved.” The good little voice won. I’m not writing a blog to discuss how fabulous and perfect I am. So, here I am in week 2 of Running to Tahiti, and I pretty much got a big fat “F.” I hope this doesn’t completely discredit me as whatever source of inspiration I may have been. Two points for honesty.

First, allow me the indulgence of making excuses. Last week, my whirlwind of a brother came to visit all the way from New York City (New York City!?), and anyone who knows Matthew knows that he requires time and attention. He’s like a Malamute. Kind and loyal, but if you don’t pay him enough attention, he’ll lash out and pee on your rug.

Matthew

I WANTED to spend time with him, of course. I don’t get to see him but a couple of times a year and I really love the guy. Spending time with him felt more important than going for a run. Is that so wrong? So there was that, brother time. Secondly, I had one of many events to attend at Theatre of NOTE. This one being a staged reading in a series at NOTE called NOTEworthy. Thankfully it was a great play, so the evening wasn’t wasted, but again, no time to run!

Thirdly, Matthew and I drove up to Sacramento on Thursday night to be respondents for the resurrection of the Lenaea festival, now known as the Bob Smart Theatre Festival. I knew heading into the week I wouldn’t be able to run on Thursday, however I had every intention of running Monday-Wednesday. Didn’t happen. The Malamute and the theatre took up all of my time. So there I was on Thursday night, fully aware that I would need to run 6 miles every day for the next three days to make it even close to my goal. I really dug myself into a hole and that kind of pressure, frankly, sucks.

So those are the excuses. Wah wah wah. Now onto some positives. I didn’t throw in the proverbial towel. I ran 4 miles on Friday and 6 miles on Sunday. I literally could not peel myself out of bed on Saturday and once I did, Matthew and I were running late to the festival so I had to run out the door. Whoops, I slipped in another excuse there. The long and the short of it is, I ran 10 miles last week. That’s 1/2 of my 20 mile goal. If I keep this up we’re not going to to make it to Tahiti until 2014! I grossly underestimated how hard it would be to stick to 20 miles a week with my crazy schedule. This is truly a rude awakening.

To add insult to injury and further diminish your possible superhero opinion of me, this week has not been any better. I have had more meetings and more Malamute time every day this week. I don’t get to bed until midnight and with my melatonin levels that means I’m not out of bed until 8:30 which leaves no morning run time. With the myriad of nightly meetings, events, and work in between, how am I going to do this? Well, I’m not going to give up. That I know. I need to make a plan. If I have meetings at night and work during the day I see only one option. I HAVE to make morning runs my style. If not, we’ll only make it as far as Torrance instead of Tahiti. The only productive time in the day is the time you carve out of it. I’ve got no time at night or midday so I’ll have to carve a bit earlier. It’s going to hurt. I’m a devout lover of sleep, but I have to do this. If Oprah can do it I can do it. Starting tomorrow I’m a morning runner. Wish me well. Now please excuse me while I go take a nap.

week 1, CHECK!

We made it through our first week across the Pacific. Brad and I successfully completed not only 40 miles to Tahiti, but 41. We found on many runs that we actually trekked 3.4, 3.25, 3.5 miles and rather than rounding down we’re going to count every little step. I know there will be weeks that we get busy with our schedules and get behind on our running. We’re going to need those extra fractions of a mile to keep us afloat and on track, so I’m banking ’em.

41 miles. Sweet success. That puts us just a bit past Catalina Island. Catalina, the final checkpoint. The last time our feet touch ground. Between here and Tahiti, ain’t nothin’ but ocean. Running across the ocean can be difficult. Think people would judge me if I ran with floaties?*

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be running again. My body is so grateful. I don’t know why I stopped for the past couple of months. It’s amazing how easy it is, once you’ve accomplished a goal (like last year’s 1/2 marathon), to fall back into a complacent lifestyle. Even though I’ve felt like a bloated lump of flabby poo for the past two months, I still managed to ignore my newly adopted stringent running schedule. It feels bad to be sedentary so why do we do it? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know the only working solution. Keep setting goals for yourself. With nothing to aim for, the pain just isn’t worth it I suppose. Let’s face it sports fans, although I’ll be the first to proclaim my undying love for running, it can be painful. Granted, that’s what I love about it, which I’ll save for a later post, but there IS a reason it’s easier just to veg out on the couch and play video games. There are days that my legs are made of lead and I feel like one gigantic side-ache; but on those days, get out the door. It’s better to run 1 mile, or even walk 1 mile, than sit at home and give in to the lazy devil sitting on your left shoulder. Make yourself a specific goal, very specific, and if you want it enough you’ll push through the pain. When it comes down to it, we’re really not much smarter than horses. Horse runs after a carrot. My carrot is the image of me in a teeny weeny bikini on the island of Tahiti. Run run run!

 

*Floaties joke courtesy of Nick Williams 🙂

only 4,109 miles to go

The island of Tahiti is 4,109 miles from Los Angeles. Brad Light and I are going to run there. Intrigued? Good.

The concept is simple. It all springs from a seedling of an idea I had when training for the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon in Petaluma last summer. I felt so inspired and enlightened to experience the NorCal countryside not from the windows of my car, but with my two legs and a pair of sneakers, that I thought about starting another running blog wherein I would focus on running vis a vis traveling. I shortly realized, I’m dirt poor. What am I thinking? I don’t have money to travel. The best I could do would be to write about the exotic trails I discover on my voyage to Griffith Park. Not that exciting. But gosh darnit, I WANT to travel! Something I want more than anything in the world is to SEE the world. Yes I want to visit Greece, Turkey, China, Australia, Africa, South America, Antarctica, Iceland and on and on. The likelihood of traveling to all of these places and still being young enough to go for a jog when I get there, let alone write about it, unlikely.

Let me just move a few words around and that should solve the problem. If I can’t travel to all of the remote corners of the world and write about running when I get there, I’ll run to at least one remote corner of the world and write about getting there. So much more interesting to write about the journey anyway, don’t ya think?

So now the big question, when considering all remote corners of the globe, where do you go? Choose wisely, said the old knight to Indiana Jones. Indeed. Using our affinity for tropical locales as a means of narrowing the list, first we think Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to go there. I enjoy exotic flowers and sea turtles. I don’t know though, it seems a bit too conventional. Someone says tropical vacation and most people think Hawaii. Well, if I’m going to literally run by butt off I want to run to a place that most people never get to see; and besides, Brad has already been to Hawaii. Dream bigger Rebecca. Don’t you want to sleep in some straw hut on the crystalline waters of the far south Pacific, dive with sharks, and finally get someone to explain to you the difference between an atoll and a small island? Yes I do! Suddenly it occurs to me, like a lightning bolt, Tahiti. Who wouldn’t want to visit a place painted and immortalized by Gaugin? Plus it has such a nice ring to it. “Running to Tahiti” sounds so much more luscious than “Running to Maui.” That sounds like a bad Steven Seagal movie.

Destination secured, now how do we make this interesting?Immediately Brad has the brilliant idea to figure out exactly how many miles there are between Los Angeles and Tahiti and to run exactly that many miles, after which we get to go there. Talk about a payoff. If we want to make it in two years, here’s the math: 4,109 miles works out to about 2,055 miles a year. About 40 miles a week. What?? Ain’t no way I’m running 40 miles a week. Oh no! Dream crusher! *Sigh* Why does Tahiti have to be so far away? This means one of two things. Either we make a 4 year plan, which puts us in Tahiti sometime in 2015, or we combine our mileage. I’m not waiting until 2015 to get to Tahiti. The world could end by then. Morbid, I know, but hey that’s how my mind works. Combined mileage it is. 4,109 miles, 2055 miles a year, 40 miles week, divided by the two of us means 20 miles a week per person. So it’s more like a relay race to Tahiti. We’ll each run our portion to get there. At the end of two years, Brad Light and I will have run 4,109 miles combined, and will be sipping Mai-Tais on the beach to celebrate. Oh golly, I can hardly wait.

But wait, put on the brakes, another road block. Vacation in Tahiti? That’s not like going to Catalina. The road to Tahiti is paved with large dollar signs and again, me dirt poor. I shortly come up with a brilliant solution to all of our problems that will not only pave the way to riches, but will make the journey even more interesting and further motivate us to put on our sneaks everyday. We can make it a savings plan as well as a running schedule! Not only will we run the mileage per week to get there, but we’ll put a dollar amount to each mile so at the end of two years, we’ll have saved enough to make it happen. For every mile we run, we put $1 in a savings account. If we don’t run it, we don’t save it. Gotta run to save money, gotta have money to get to Tahiti. I figure $1 per mile should do the trick. $4,109 for a two person trip to Tahiti should be just about right. It’s like it was meant to be.

This has been a brief intro into what is sure to be a bonified adventure. Brad and I have to do 3-mile runs 5 days a week, plus a 5 miler on the weekend, for the next 2 years, in order to get to Tahiti. Wow. Good thing I enjoy it.

As if you thought this plan couldn’t possibly have any more synergy, after running 20 miles a week for the next two years, I’m going to look damn good in a bikini.