Running While Nerdy

Spring time in Montana can be a challenging time of year when it comes to figuring out what to wear for a morning run. As I got ready this morning it was chilly and windy with impressive gray clouds in the sky. I couldn’t be sure whether it would rain or not. I found myself wishing for one piece of running gear that I just don’t have: a jacket with removable sleeves. Since I warm up pretty dramatically on a run, a jacket with removable sleeves would be perfect on a day like this.

Then I had a stroke of genius. I could wear my Star Trek cycling jersey with my black arm sleeves and it would be just like having a jacket with removable sleeves! So I threw on a singlet, zipped up my Star Trek jersey, rolled on my sleeves and off I went.

You’d be surprised how many nerds there are in the running community. I know the stereotype suggests otherwise, but there are quite a few nerds who run, cycle or otherwise work out. Think Geek sells nerdy cycle jerseys now (I wish they’d get running shirts too!) and Fitocracy is like a big RPG only instead of a character or toon, you’re actually running around earning points, doing quests and leveling up your real self!

Possibly the nerdiest running selfie ever taken.

Possibly the nerdiest running selfie ever taken.

Just to give you some idea of my level of nerdiness, you can see a bit of it here in this photo. Here I am wearing my Star Trek jersey (which was a gift, btw. Thank you James!). Behind me you’ll see a giant photo mosaic of Yoda made from tiny pictures from the original Star Wars trilogy. Below that you’ll see my Firefly DVD set and some of my Buffy DVD set. I also have Angel, Serenity, The Avengers, Doctor Horrible, the extended edition of all three Lord of the Rings and quite a few other things. I have all of Red Dwarf on VHS for goodness sake. I also read a lot of nerdy books and am a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson among other things, but if I start listing off all of the things I love, we’ll be here until next year.

The thing about being a nerd is that we love things. We don’t all love the same things. Some of us love Star Trek or Star Wars (or both) or Buffy or the works of Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein. The list goes on. Whatever it is that we love, we love it passionately and deeply. In this video, Wil Wheton (yes, Wesley Crusher from Star Trek the Next Generation) explains why it is awesome to be a nerd and he explains it much better than I ever could. Give it a watch. It’s short.

So here I am, a runner and a nerd, and I love who I am. But I noticed something today that got me a little bit down at first. While I was out today there were some folks who looked at my jersey and then scowled at me. Some people still think nerds and trekkies are bad. What’s up with that? But each time that happened, I’d run or walk past someone else who would see my jersey and light up and smile. So I realized something. Wearing my jersey out in public today made it really easy to sort out my fellow nerds and and other nice people from the jerks. Why people would judge me and scowl at me for showing my love for something is just beyond me. But some folks did.

Now that I know that wearing nerd gear helps sort out the nice people from the jerks. I think I’ll wear my nerd gear more often!

So if you’re out there and you see folks in their Star Trek gear or wearing an Avengers t-shirt or whatever it is, smile at them. Even if you’re not a nerd yourself. Don’t give them a dirty look because they’re showing their love of something. That’s a jerk move.

I have one more Sunday recovery run before my next long run, which is planned to be 27 miles. That will be the farthest I’ve run yet, and I’m a little intimidated. Check back after June 3rd to see how it went.

Keep running happy nerdy!

Here's my jersey with the sleeves that you couldn't see in the Selfie. They did not come with the Jersey, but I think they go well!

Here’s my jersey with the sleeves that you couldn’t see in the Selfie. They did not come with the Jersey, but I think they go well!

Does it Hurt to be Beautiful?

Sunday was a busy day for me and Monday night I went to see The Avengers with friends (It’s AWESOME!) so I am blogging a bit late. Our run on Sunday was a recovery run of 5 miles, with a magic mile. My time was a touch slower than my last MM, which I’m actually fine with.  It was 9:07. Using Galloway’s method of taking the last 4 MM times, throwing out the worst and averaging the rest, I get an average of 9:10, which predicts a marathon pace of 11:55 min/mile or a 5h 12m marathon.  We still have one more magic mile to run before the marathon, so that prediction will probably change a little.

Just yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for the marathon itself. I’m not sure that it’s been very clear to my friends or my readers that I hadn’t gotten around to that yet, but I hadn’t.  Part of my dilemma was deciding whether to start at 5am with the walkers or 6am with the runners.  Since yesterday was the last day to sign up at the slightly discounted price, I made my decision and registered for the 5am start. I did this to lessen the pressure I might feel to hurry up to make it to the finish line before the party is over. I also thought it might be nice to get a head start on my friends who are traditional runners, so that I can see them when they pass me, rather than having them jet out in front of me, never to be seen again. I enjoy those times when the traditional marathon training class shares part of a route with us and thought perhaps it would be nice during the marathon itself.

This coming Sunday is our 23 mile training run.  It really doesn’t seem like much more than 20 miles did, so I’m not worried about it.  My Mizuno shoes are breaking in well and have been serving me nicely on the short runs, but I think I’ll appreciate being back in my more familiar Asics for the 23 miler.

I had a little brush with a shin splint in my right leg last week, but it seems to be gone now. For a few days I would have a fairly random pain in my right shin every once in a while during the day. It wasn’t severe or particularly frequent and I think it was caused by the boots I wear to mow the lawn in causing a problem with my arch. It’s hard to be certain of course, but using my foot rubz ball and stretching/rotating the ankle seems to have fixed it right up.

Today I learned that I don’t really have a great tolerance for running in the heat yet. It will come in time, I’m sure. NOAA says it’s 85 out right now and my route was fairly sunny. I didn’t bring water, since I was only going out for a short run and I regretted it.  Halfway through my run I opted to stop at the grocery store and use their drinking fountain before heading back home. I’m not sure if that made my run better or worse, since my stomach got a bit upset on the way back, but that may have had to do with the fact that I ran a bit too fast for a little while, which I explain below.

Finally, before I explain the title of this post and the reason for my overly fast running in the heat, let me just alert you to the fact that I am a feminist. That means a lot of different things to different people and this blog isn’t where I want to go into exactly what it means to me, but part of this post will make more sense in that context.

Does it hurt to be beautiful? That is what the 50 something strange man yelled at me from across the street as I was turning onto the trail that takes me home this afternoon.  So many things flashed through my mind just then.  Is he dangerous?  Is he going to follow me?  Why does he think he has the right to yell at me or judge my appearance?  He must be sorta blind, given that it’s really hot and I feel seriously haggard.  What I yelled back was a simple, Yeah, sometimes it does, before turning and running down the trail. 

I’m sure he didn’t catch any of my meaning. He probably assumed that I meant that I dislike running in the heat, which is true. Or that beauty is hard work, which can be true depending on what is meant by beauty in a given context.  What I really meant, right then was that yes, being hollered at by a strange man on the street did hurt even if only psychologically.

Since this man was unknown to me, I cannot guess at his motivations or what kind of person he is. He may have been perfectly harmless and nice or he may have been a danger. It’s impossible for me to know. What I do know is that his question was unwelcome and inappropriate and that I ran a good deal faster than I should have for about the next half mile, until I was certain I was well away from him.

Dearest readers, if you see a person run by and feel the need to call out to them, cheer them on. I can’t speak for all runners, but I sure don’t mind being cheered on. In fact, I love it. But don’t ask questions or make comments regarding their level of attractiveness. Just don’t.  It’s pretty gross. And that’s all I’m going to say on the topic today. If you want more information on why it’s not acceptable to yell stuff like that out to strangers, please go read a dedicated feminist blog like Feministing, Feministe, or any of the thousands of others.

The Missoula Marathon is in 53 days!  I’m officially signed up and I’m really looking forward to it!


Fitocracy: A love story

Today is my rest day.  I know rest days are important, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.  I find that even though today is a rest day, I can’t stay away from Fitocracy.  I’ve joined a new group for Heinlein fans called Time Enough for Fitness, and I’ve wandered around the site giving out props.  I really am a Fitocracy Addict.

I’ve touched on Fitocracy before, but I’ve never really gone into detail about why I love it so much.  So here you are.

Fitocracy is modeled after RPGs (Role Playing Games), so as a former player of WoW (World of Warcraft) it made perfect sense to me.  Typically toward the end of a day, I log my workout activity for that day, whether it’s my running and walking or my core training.  Based on a whole host of variables including what activity I did, how much I weigh, how heavy any weights were that I used and so forth, Fitocracy awards me points for each activity I enter.  As I accumulate points, I level up.  Right now I’m level 11.

There are also quests that can be completed to gain extra points.  I haven’t been focusing on the quests so much, because my focus is training for the marathon, but I have completed 5 quests so far, including the Consistency is Key (log any activity 10 times in a week) and Oh Hai Abs! (do a set of 20 crunches).  There are a lot of quests that have to do with strength training exercises I’m not doing, but perhaps after the marathon I will get around to completing some of those.

And of course, there are achievements that can be earned as you go along. Often, when I get an achievement, it’s a total surprise.  I have 8 achievements so far.  Most of mine are related to the social aspects of the game, such as receiving props and making comments, but there are also plenty of achievements related to workouts.  I also have the I Seem To Be Lost achievement, which just requires that you log 20 miles of running over time.

Fitocracy works for me as a motivational tool for several reasons.  Obviously gaining points & levels is a nice little motivator.  It can get quite addictive, as many current and former RPG players will tell you.  Also, when you log a workout other Fitocracy users can give you “props”.  I’ve said before that having someone acknowledge my workouts, even if it’s some distant stranger, is helpful to me.  It just gives me that little boost of validation.

Recently I’ve noticed that I’m developing a little bit of an obsession with the little gold stars I get for achieving a personal record in a certain activity.  It doesn’t take a lot to get a personal record.  All you have to do is add one more crunch onto a set than you’ve done in a single set before, hold your plank a tiny bit longer, or run just a little farther than you ran last time, and so on.  I’m finding, though, that I want those little gold stars, so I push myself just a little bit during each workout.  That is very obviously beneficial to me.

Fitocracy is also functioning as an educational tool for me.  When I’m looking at the workouts other people are doing, and giving out props, if I don’t know what a particular exercise is, I can look up the description in Fitocracy’s tracking tool, and naturally I can also look it up on the internet.

Finally, the social aspects of Fitocracy can be helpful, fun or both.  People can follow each other, like friending them on other social network sites and users can join groups.  When you open the main Fitocracy page you’ll see workouts & posts from the people you follow and posts in the groups you belong to.

Users give each other props for workouts and can also comment on those workouts.  We can post comments or questions in the groups that we belong to and other users can reply.  On the helpful side, I see a lot of folks asking for help and ideas when they are struggling to reach a goal, and they’ll get so many replies from other users sharing their own tips and tricks for getting past whatever hurdle it is, or even just offering encouragement when someone is feeling discouraged.  Groups can also post various challenges for members to compete in.  Some are based on points, others are based on specific activities.  Some of the helpful and encouraging groups are Weight Loss, Future Me, Healthy Eating, Long Distance Running and so on.

On the fun side, there are tons of groups for people who share interests, many of which are nerdy and geeky in the extreme.  There’s a group for fans of just about anything you can think of, such as The Oatmeal, Hall and Oates, Doctor Who, WoW, Monty Python and so on.  Sometimes we share information about our shared interest, like Doctor Who news, and sometimes we just post silly things like quotes from Firefly that can be taken in a motivational way. Many members of the One Does Simply Walk into Mordor group post updates on where they are on their walk to Mordor, which I think is pretty fantastic.

The admins and devs on Fitocracy also encourage a supportive environment.  The whole idea is for us to support, help and motivate each other.  Nasty comments or groups are very much discouraged and the devs aren’t shy about dealing with those sorts of issues.

So if you’re thinking about starting a fitness routine, maybe Fitocracy could help keep you motivated.  I’m quite sure I’ll be using it over the next 147 days as I train for the marathon, and beyond.

In case you’re curious, here is a screen shot of a workout I did a few days ago.  I had to go back a few days to find one that would fit on my screen and showed a few gold stars and props.  Click to embiggen.

Tinkering, Progress and Zombies

Sorry if this post is a little scattered. I’m feeling like a bit of a Zombie myself.

On my lunch hour today I was pleased to be able to get outside and spend 30 minutes running around campus.  You may recall that my training plan calls for two short runs during the week in addition to my long Sunday run. Today was a great day for it.  The sun was shining and it was actually quite warm for January in Montana, so I had a really pleasant time and it helped my mood a lot.

I opted to try the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split again, and was able to keep at it through the whole 2.6 miles.  This is progress from last time I tried it (2 days ago), when I gave up and went back to 60s/60s after about 1.5 miles.  It really felt a lot easier to do this time, though.  I’m sure there’s a good explanation for that.  It’s probably part mental and part physical progress, but I’m surprised by these things sometimes.

I haven’t started the 100 push ups plan yet, but it’s still on my list of things to do.   I will have to do the kneeling push ups to start, though, so I think I might get myself to 50 keeling push ups and then start back over with the regular ones.

Have I told you that I don’t own a scale?  I haven’t had one in years.  I find that weighing myself once per month or so helps me to make sure I’m headed in the right direction, but having a scale at home leads to bad mental places.  On the other hand, some folks on Fitocracy have suggested using our measurements as a more accurate way to track our progress.  I haven’t had a chance to read through it all, thoroughly but this link to the reddit weightloss faq’s section on how to take your measurements seems very useful and leads to even more useful seeming information.

Speaking of Fitocracy, yesterday I told the folks in my Fitocracy Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group about ZombAlert pendants.  It seemed like a natural pairing to me.  I also told my friend who is one of the folks who makes those pendants about Fitocracy and the Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse group.  Today, my lovely friend sent me a coupon code to share with my Fitocracy group and I’m also sharing it with you, for a $5 off those awesome pendants.  I think they’re pretty darned cool.  Personally I think I want the “Keep as Pet” version.

I plan to run again on Thursday, after work.  We’ll see how the 2 minute run/1 minute walk split treats me again.  I hope to work my way up to 2 minutes 30 seconds run/1 minute walk, eventually.  I think I might be able to make it to the food tent in time, that way.  I also want to see how I feel about running later in the day, since I usually run in the early afternoon.  I’m still experimenting and testing, to see what works best for me.

Only 179 days to go!