Category Archives: Running

thoughts on weight and elite running

I read today about yet another professional female runner diagnosed with an eating disorder.  She stated on her Insta that she’s entered treatment and is hospitalized.

Which sucks.

There’s a popular hastag on Instagram, #strongnotskinny.  The biggest proponent is probably Allie Kieffer, and female 10K / marathon runner whose best result was 4th place in the New York Marathon.  Allie Kieffer’s theory is that she was injured due to being too thin.  And that may be true.

The problem is that when you look at the best 10K runners and marathoners, they are very thin.  They are, in fact, emaciated.

First of all, most women – like not almost all – cannot maintain that weight healthily.  Most women will experience amenorrhea, which results in bone density loss and all kinds of other problems.   My theory is that everyone has a healthy minimum weight, and for most women, that healthy minimum weight will disqualify them from being an elite runner as much as an average VO2max.

Even for women who are in the minority that can maintain a weight like that and be healthy – and such women do exist; they are the ones who win – the mental part is huge, particularly for people living in the United States.  It is really hard to maintain the level of emaciation necessary for elite long distance running success while living in the US, especially for women, without developing mental issues.

And so a HUGE percentage of elite women runners develop eating disorders.  It’s hard to know how many, but some suggest that it’s on the order of 50%.

I don’t know what the solution is.  But there are a few obvious things.  For a start, weight should never, ever be mentioned to high school athletes, male or female.  With rare exceptions (like, perhaps, wrestling), female college athletes should not be talking about weight either.  Pretty much, no woman under 21 should be thinking about her weight.

After 21, there may be occasions on which it’s appropriate for female athletes to lose weight.  (It’s notable that one of the athletes pictured above elevated her running to the next level after getting a breast reduction.)  But the benefits of the weight loss obviously have to be weighed against the risk of developing mental issues or eating disorders.

Then, today I was watching a documentary on Dara Torres.  In case you have forgotten, she is a SWIMMER.  Her college coach badgered her to lose weight.  Honestly, it just makes me sick hearing about it.  Weight isn’t even particularly important in swimming.  Look at the best swimmers – they aren’t skinny!  They are large and muscular and have fat on their bodies, too.

running in the time of Covid

I’m fortunate that my number one hobby these days is mostly compatible with Covid restrictions.

(I’m also fortunate that I don’t live in, say, Ireland, where there has been a rule in place across the entire country that you may not venture more than FIVE KILOMETERS from your home for the last several months.  Insane, especially when you consider that Ireland, which bears many similarities to Western Washington, has a significantly higher death rate per capita.)

Mask guidelines are perhaps the biggest challenge.  Here in WA, you are supposed to wear a mask if you cannot maintain six feet of distance outdoors.  Normally, I barely even notice wearing a mask.  It doesn’t restrict my breathing in any way.  However, at an easy jog, it becomes annoying.  At a moderate effort, I feel decidedly oxygen-limited and uncomfortable, and at a hard effort or race pace, I feel like I’m suffocating.  I have always been a huffer and puffer, so I don’t know if I find it harder than some others, as I do see runners with masks fairly regularly.  In any case, I’ve mostly abandoned the scenic lakeside trail I used to run on, and have expanded my horizons and found less popular, wider trails to run on.   When it’s raining heavily and in the 30s, I return to my old favorite trail and enjoy it in solitude.

Races are interesting.  Currently, up to 600 people may race in a day.  However, the specifics of HOW the DOH guidelines are interpreted vary from race organizer to race organizer.

1.) Some race organizers say they must start the slowest people first.  Others start the fastest people first.  Others say they are supposed to purposefully spread people of similar speed across the start times.

2.) Some race organizers say you must wear a mask before and after the race – masks only, no gaiters allowed!  Another race organizer requires all runners to wear a gaiter around their neck throughout the race that they can pull up over their face as needed.  (I bought a gaiter so I could run races put on by this group.)

3.) Some race organizers say day of race packet pickup is not allowed due to Covid.  Others say ONLY day-of-race packet pickup is allowed due to Covid.

Most races here are run since Covid are run by outfits that run eight or more races a year.  Independent races have mostly disappeared.  This makes sense, because it’s become a lot more complicated to put on a race, and there’s a lot of up-front work that needs to be done only once, making it much harder to put on your FIRST race.  I’m planning to run a 5K this weekend put on by an independent group, and I’m a little nervous about how it’ll go as they don’t seem as organized as the professionals.

I’m grateful WA state is having races.  Many states aren’t.  I see runners on Instagram traveling to Florida and Texas and Arizona to race when they can’t race in their home states.  It seems to me to make more sense to set out guidelines for safe racing, as WA has done, than to have your runners getting on planes and racing in states that have lax guidelines.  (Mid-size races in TX and FL are nearly back to normal at this point, though very large races are still not happening.

Winter running attire – 2020 edition

Winter is here and with it, the joy of cool weather running.  Since I’m still doing the stay-at-home mom gig, winter running has been much warmer so far.  Running in mid-morning gives me a good ten degrees over running at the crack of dawn, as I’ve done in past years.

While a cold gray day or rain makes it a lot harder to run, I think correct attire makes all the difference.  I can’t claim to know much about running at temperatures under 30 F, but for cold, gray rainy days, I feel like I’ve got things dialed in.

1.) Start by buying an indoor-outdoor thermometer.  Everyone is different in terms of attire preferences, but the best way to dial in your own choices are to at least know how warm or cold it is.  Online weather services are often off by up to five degrees, which is huge.  I received mine as a gift, but it looks a like like this one.   At this point, we have two indoor-outdoor thermometers, and I always look at it before dressing to go running.

50 F +

If it’s not raining or extremely windy, temperatures 50 and higher, even if it’s overcast, call for shorts and short sleeves.  Since motherhood, I mostly wear tight shorts, but any kind of shorts will do.

These shorts from Lululemon are have a pocket big enough for my phone at the back of the waist (where I prefer to carry it) and side pockets on the shorts for a key.  They’re quite stretchy.

For loose shorts, I’m a fan of Zoot.

I really like these short-sleeve Nike running tops.

If it’s rainy or windy, I add gloves and/or a very lightweight headband that I can take off once I warm up.

High 40s

If the temperature is in the high 40s, I consider switching to capri tights and will generally bring along a lightweight headband.  I prefer my Capri tights short – just below the knee, ideally.  Oiselle sells a number of “knickers” that meet this spec.

If it’s windy or rainy, I’ll probably switch to a long-sleeve half-zip top.  NOT quarter-zip, not one-third zip – a full half-zip, so I can unzip it fully if I get warm, which I usually do.  One of my pet peeves if retailers selling “half zip” tops that are really quarter zip.  A half zip top should unzip at least to the midpoint between the collar bone and belly button.  I love my Sugoi half zip tops, but unfortunately, they are no longer sold.  This Lululemon top meets all my specs – tru half zip, thumb sleeves, pockets (to store gloves and headband), not too short, too tight, or too long.

Low to mid 40s

Often, in the low 40s, capri tights plus a LS half zip top, gloves, and a headband are sufficient to keep me warm. However, if it’s raining or threatening rain, I sometimes like to wear a lightweight water-resistant vest and a hat with a brim, or a visor.  (I have a different lululemon vest that’s no longer sold – mine may be a bit more lightweight than this one.  The more lightweight, the better.)  Keeping the rain off my face makes a huge difference.

Around 40 degrees

At around 41 or 42, I switch to full-length tights.  I am a fan of the Epic Lux line by Nike.  Like Lululemon and Amazon, Nike has free shipping and, crucially, free returns.  I don’t remember paying this much for my Nike tights – maybe they’ve raised their prices?  It looks like they’ve added some pockets, so they’re not quite the same as the ones I own.

If it’s raining with the temperature around 40, I like to wear a super-lightweight Gore-tex jacket without a hood.  Vents a must-have feature.  The Patagonia jacket I own is still available on eBay, and if you live in a cool rainy climate, it’s a 1000% worth it.  Note that it comes in men’s and women’s sizes, so make sure you know which you’re buying.

Near 40 degrees, I like to add a more robust headband, like this one.  It’s a couple layers and makes a big difference.

Low to mid 30s

When the weather drops into the 30s, I like to switch to Sugoi MidZero tights.  Be careful to buy *mid*zero tights, not SubZero tights, which are for much colder temperatures.   Near 30 degrees, I might add a light layer over the tights if it feels particularly chilly due to wind or something like that.

In the 30s, I switch from a headband to a hat.

We rarely have temperatures below around 30.  If it gets that cold, I just stay home.

convalesce

We’re on Day 5 or so of a cold.  Maybe only 4.  It’s funny how the days seem longer when either you or baby is sick, or both of us in this case.  It’s supposedly a very mild cold, but it’s still quite difficult when layered on top of what is not exactly a leisurely lifestyle.  Currently baby is sleeping on my chest.  I often try to do a little sewing at times like this, but I’m just not feeling up to it today, so my everlasting quilt is stagnating this week.  Not having sick days is very high on my list of things I dislike about being a SAHM.  If I were working, I would definitely have taken a couple days off this week to convalesce.

I’m currently going through a minor English Paper Piecing obsession.  As in, I’d really like to try it, but because I have almost zero free time right now, it’s a purely theoretical obsession.   I am mentally planning a very simple quilt with a *little* bit of EPP for my brother’s baby, expected in August.  (I’m so happy for him, as it’s a double rainbow.)   He and my SIL do not find out gender in advance, so it needs to be gender neutral.  I’m thinking squares on point, perhaps in white or mostly white, with a simple hexagonal flower appliqued on top, probably in blue.  Hand sewing is where it’s at for me these days.  I’m even contemplating doing some hand quilting.

This weekend is the marathon Olympic trials.  In my opinion, it’s the women’s race of the year.  (Men’s marathoning isn’t in a great place right now in the US.)  I’m more excited about it than the Olympics.  I’ll be cheering for Jordan Hasay and Sara Hall, not to mention all the sub-elite women who are living a dream by merely competing.

track and field and qatar

It’s been a great week for track and field, and for American track and field in particular, with both the World championships going on, and the Berlin marathon (one of the top 5 marathons in the world.)

A few of the great things that have happened:

1.) Kenenisa Bekele missed setting a new world record by a mere 2 s.  I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I knew he had it in him!  So yay.   He’s been plagued by injuries but finally had an amazing race.

2.) Sarah Hall, who I’ve been cheering for for nearly 20 years, set a huge PR and ran 2:22 at Berlin.  Basically, as a marathoner, she moved from the pack to being one of the top three or so in the US, and top 10 US marathoners all time.  Awesome!

3.) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price won the women’s 100 m with a very fast time a year after giving birth by C-section.

4.) Allyson Felix won a relay gold medal 10 months after giving birth.

5.) Roberta Groner, basically an unknown American, placed 6th in the marathon.

However, holding the WCs in Doha, Qatar has been an utter disaster.  Consider the following:

1.) It is way too hot in Qatar.  The marathon was run in 90 degree heat with a “feels like” temperature of over 100 due to humidity.  40% of the competitors dropped out.  This is RIDICULOUS.

2.) There are no fans.  750,000 people turned out for the last world champs, when they were held in the UK.  During the women’s 100 m, there were apparently 1000 people in the stadium, despite the government giving away 10s of thousands of tickets for free.  Absurd.

3.) Qatar is a ridiculously sexist country.  I can’t help but wonder if the *women’s* 100m specifically had no spectators for this reason, though viewership has been lower in general.  The 100m is a marquis event.

4.) Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.  The penal code stipulates years of prison time for sodomy, and there are multiple cases of people in fact being imprisoned for this.

All in all, I think it’s completely ridiculous.

sports bras

It seems like whenever I find a sports bra I like, it ends up becoming unavailable.  With pregnancy, the problem became a bit more pressing, so I ended up ordering a bunch of bras.  When I was younger and skinnier, I was an A cup, and I could wear basically any old sports bra worth its name.  I liked the champion ones you could buy for $20 on Amazon.  I put on some weight and became a B-cup, and needed a more supportive bra, but most moderately supportive bras worked for me.  Pregnancy and breastfeeding is a different story.  I’ve taken the two-bra route for breastfeeding in past, but it’s uncomfortable and not my favorite.

Currently, there are two bras that work for me:

New Balance Women’s Metro Run Crop Sports Bra – not available anywhere as far as I can tell.  

LuLuLemon Pace Perfect Bra – available only at $100 on eBay

This one is awesome because it has a handy back pocket for my phone.  Love it!  But not enough to pay $100 on eBay.  I think.

Since neither of these was available, I ordered a bunch to try:

Brooks Juno Crossback – This is a super popular bra, but I’ve always been un-enthused about a bra with hooks for working out.  In the end, it was just tight and uncomfortable and unflattering.  Maybe I just needed a bigger size.

Nike Indy Hyper Femme – I honestly thought this one was cute, but it looked horrible on and just didn’t provide anywhere near enough support.  I think it’s more of a bra to look good than functional.

Oiselle Bra-Zen Bra.  This one was too stretchy and didn’t provide enough support.  I own an Oiselle bra, and it’s also not sufficient supportive when I’m pregnant.  It’s fine otherwise, but it won’t work now.

Lululemon Zip Front Enlite Bra.  I actually really like this one.  It was comfortable, easy to get, and supportive.  It comes in true bra sizes instead of just Sm, M, L.  However, unfortunately, I think I’d need to size up the band for pregnancy, and then it wouldn’t fit afterwards, and this is a $100 bra.  If I was desperate, I’d pay, but I’m not, so I’ll pass on this one for now.  I think this one is a good option for more busty women, a category I don’t normally fit into.  I’m just a tourist.

Lululemon Energy Bra – This ended up being the one I decided to keep.  I love the floral pattern.  It’s supportive, not too hard to get on, and was reasonably comfortable.  While I liked the Enlite Bra a little more, this one is more forgiving (and less supportive as a result) and should fit fine after pregnancy, too, so I don’t mind paying $50 for it.  It ran in it yesterday, and it provided enough support for comfort.

 

Caster Semenya

I find the popular media Caster Semenya coverage horrifying.   I wonder if most of the columnists are just firing off snap reactions without really understanding the situation or what.  Reading the NYT, as an example, you’d think Semenya was just a woman who was being discriminated against because she happens to have higher than normal T and happens to look a bit butch.

Back to Semenya.  She has XY chromosomes.  This was acknowledged in the CAS report, and this is why they made the decision they did.  IN FACT, the new rules apply ONLY to athletes with XY chromosomes.  So if Caster was XX, it wouldn’t matter if she had elevated T.

It’s typical for female athletes to have elevated T, but there’s a range women fall in, and a range men fall in, and the two don’t overlap.  It’s one of the fundamental differences between the sexes, which is why Semenya, with XY chromosomes, no ovaries, and testicles, has such high T.  I actually think it’s generous and unfair to XX women that she be allowed to compete at all.

In the last Olympics, XX women were shut out of the medals in the 800 m.  I think feminists sometimes get carried away in the “men and women are equal” mantra.  Sadly, men and women are NOT equal.  Women have the privilege and burden of being designed to carry children.  This makes us vastly inferior athletically, especially in certain arenas.  The 800 m happens to be one of these.  An above average high school boys’ runner could win a gold medal in the Olympics.  A high school runner!  (High school girls do not compete in the Olympics in T&F, to be clear.  This is not gymnastics.  It does not reward child-like body shapes.)  My brother was a fairly average runner at a small school.  He never won anything of note, but he would have been national class had he elected to compete as a girl.  In fact, he could have been national class at a number of events – the mile, the 800 m, the 5K, and so on.

Anyway.  The incomplete coverage is making me crazy.  But I am thankful that the playing field has been leveled again, and the XX women who have been shut out for the last decade will once again have a chance to compete.