28 June 2011

For Jessica

We stumbled into the cab that squealed to a stop in front of Cindy's South Bronx apartment. We somehow found out way in, limbs twisted as we sloppily piled in, laughing. Lipstick in our hair. There was glitter streaked down my face, and I didn't care. We opened the windows.

The cabbie ignored us. We ignored him. That's how it goes. That's how this went.

We looked over the bridge as we sped onto the bridge that connected us to Manhattan, to where we wanted to go, to the party in that illegal loft downtown. The skyline seemed more beautiful than ever. There seemed like no other place in the world.

You stuck your head out the window. You hair whipped and swirled around you, and probably added to the beauty of the scene. I did it to my side, and I'm sure the cabbie rolled his eyes as he jabbered away on his cell phone.

"I love New York," you yelled.

"It's the only place!"

We pulled our heads back in the cab as we slammed into more potholes. I was drunk, very drunk. So were you. This is what happens. My thighs stuck to the uncomfortable plasticky cab seats as my miniskirt rode up.

"You know, I love Madonna, and I love New York, but I don't like that Madonna song," I told you. Deep insights after vodka.

You agreed. "Madonna was disappointing."

Yet today, running home over the bridge, seeing the skyline's beauty, I couldn't help but get Madge in my head. And while it's not Madge's best, I do think Madonna addresses much of my deep affection for my favourite city in the world.

26 June 2011

Cherie's Running Secrets: How to Handle an Ice Bath

Ice baths SUCK. They are cold, miserable, cold, not fun, cold...But here's my little tip on how to actually survive one.

  1. Gather reading material that you don't mind getting wet next to the bathtub. 
  2. Get in the bathtub and turn the faucets on full blast cold. Oh, this is cold.
  3. Once the water covers your legs and hips, you can turn the water off. Then add all the ice you have in your house. I like to add 1-2 bags plus  whatever other ice I have.
  4. Sit. Read magazines. Try not to shiver.
  5. When the ice is melted, or around 15-20 minutes, get out.
I found if you try to slide into an already full bath, it's incredibly hard to sit down. This sucks, but it sucks less.

23 June 2011

Going Home: Burning Man

It might seem to weird to be homesick at a place I only spend a week a year, but that's how I feel. Stuck in the life of work-run-eat-friends-sleep-repeat, I am sneaking in my Burning Man prep. And there's a lot. Cleaning tent and figuring out which tents to bring. Figuring out our shade structure (probably a monkey hut). Organizing the 2nd Annual Burning Man Ultramarathon. Doing prep for the Librarian Cocktail Party. Making clothes. New bikinis, for our Camp Twin Bikini. Working on medals for the ultra. Figuring out supplies. Renting a car. Figuring out meals for the week. New makeup. Subletter for when I'm gone.

And it's a lot of work. I won't deny it. The prep, the set-up, the getting there even. The coming back, cleaning up, decompressing. But it's so worth it. When I voiced these things before my first year, Gwendolyn told me, "Yeah, but Cherie, that's what keeps the assholes out. If it was easy, everyone would go. You have to really want to go to go." And she's right.

17 June 2011

What Life Means and What Life is For

"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer
is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer
must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect
of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior
of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn
our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But
otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single
bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not
find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise
food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is
something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and
goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself
upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get
from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end
of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money
to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is

--George Mallory, 1922

12 June 2011

Gunks Fatass 50k

The Gunks are my favourite place to run. This is partially due to the fact that I went to college at SUNY-New Paltz, where I regularly trained on these beautiful trails. I have so many happy memories of running around these trails, from then and from when Crista and I trained for our first 50 miler.

Super awesome Jeff organized a Gunks 50k Fatass; last year, Jeff, Ray and I had run the course, and had a blast. This time I recruited three of my fabulous teammates from NBR, Erin, Des, and Helen, and got to run with others, like Chris Jaworski, and new friends Jim, Jim, Lisa. This group ran the first 25k together, which was unfortunately very foggy. I hope they believed me when I told me about how amazing the views can be if it isn’t foggy.

The trails are lovely carriage trails, though lately they’ve been dumping a lot of stupid gravel lately on the trails. There are lots of rolling hills, some hills you want to walk, but most of them you can run (though everyone seemed to want to walk most of the hills). I decided to take it easy in light of the hard week I had, and enjoy the day.

A Fatass is a type of race with no entry fee, no numbers, no schwag, no scoring, no whining. Of course, some of these things are often included (Jeff gave out homemade circles of wood for us to make our own finishing medals), but it’s more a chill type of group fun run than a hardcore race. And they are SO fun!

Topics discussed included: censorship in libraries; dry towns; races; chafing; crazy exes/library patrons; where we grew up; audacious running and racing goals; injuries. It was geeky, it was fun, it was chill and a great run.

I had no real problems – a little tired, yes, and the last few miles, while I hammered on the black trail downhill back to the Awosting Parking Lot, all I could think about was food. Strawberry scones. Banana bread. Pretzels. How much I wanted a nap.

And I was so proud of my NBR teammates – Des, who besides a 12 miler last week, had never run more than 6 miles – and here she was, running 25k on trails! And Helen, with sore hamstrings, pushing to finish this 25k as well. Erin ran her first 50k, finishing strong on these beautiful trails! (I was also excited that they got to see a glimpse into the geeky world of ultrarunning that I so am enamored with.)

A few things I learned:
·         Smart decision to put on so much body glide
·         Fruit gels and chewy thingies taste better in the summer than vanilla or chocolate things
·         When you wear a short that says “North Brooklyn Runners,” this will elicit conversations from passing hikers
·         There will never be arm warmers small enough for my arms
·         It’s time for a new hydration pack
·         Don’t wear a narrow tank w/ a hydration pack
·         Those athletic body wipes are a great temporary substitute for a bath
·         Never trust the weather forecast
·         Jeff rules for organizing this race!

10 June 2011

Night Running

I'm running tired, but I'm not tired of running.

I thought that to myself as I pushed the pace down Bedford Avenue last night, past the drunken hipsters with cigarettes limping out of their mouths, staring at me, mouths agape, "Is she running - at 12:30 in the morning?"

Yes. Yes. What else should I be doing? Well, usually I'm sleeping, so I can get up at 5:30 to run. But when Dee asked for company on a 35 miler at 1a.m. on a Thursday night/Friday morning, four others decided to join her.

Because I had some pretty tough runs the past week (hills, speed, tempo runs, plyometrics, heat, and I also ran 1hr40min yesterday morning), I decided to only run part of the "course."

Why night runs? During a 100miler, the toughest part of the race can be the night...it's later in the race, so you're slowing down. Your adrenalin levels have dropped. You get tired...yawning...eyes closing...you walk zig-zag-zig-zag. In my first 100, Vermont 100, I slowed down due to major blisters and could barely walk, much less keep my eyes open. Overnight runs on no sleep really help your body train. I also enjoy those 5 hour energy shots to keep me going. Wooooohooooo!

Zandy (training for Finger Lakes 50 Miler) and I ran over the bridge, catching up, about races, life. Then we met up with Dee (training for a 100miler in SD), Jacqueline (training for a 24 hour and The Beast of Burden 100 Miler), and Mike (doing Leadville again, the warrior). It was nice to catch up with friends.

Night in NYC can be magical. The skyline from the bridge is just beautiful. And there's few people around, so there's more room on the sidewalks for runners. It was hot, but much cooled down after dark and rainstorms. The moon and the stars were up there, somewhere beyond the edges of the buildings and heavenly rooftop parties. People tend to be more chill because during the day, they're stressed about work and their kids and how it's been months since they've mopped the kitchen floor. At night, most people are relaxed, maybe had a glass of wine or two or three, seeing friends, really being themselves.

We took a few photos...we talked...I felt like I was flying. I forgot about my super tight calves and my exhaustion and chattered on with Zandy and Dee and Mike and Jacqueline. I felt great. 

I left everyone to go home - couldn't push myself as much as I wanted, at least not tonight. I ran alone, and when I turned back on 11th Ave, I saw a long street of lights - white and green. It was truly beautiful.

A woman sitting on a bench said, "Wow. You're badass. You're badass. Wow. A badass."

I took it as a compliment.

09 June 2011

California Running

I fell in love with California running the first time I went out to San Francisco, pushing myself up the hills past the purple houses with their overgrown, lush gardens, past the ageing hippies smoking cloves on the corners, past the oblivious tourists and the too cool for school hipsters dominating the appropriate neighborhoods. But when I discovered California trail running, that’s when I really fell in love.

Even our feet are in love!

Cherie Hearts Redwoods!

North Face Challenge San Francisco 50 Miler. Dick Collins 50 Miler. Miwok 100k.

When I run out there, I vow I want to live there. I want to know the trails by heart that causes me to pause in my steps to gasp, “Oh, oh!,” as I run past.

We first headed to Tahoe for Wayne’s brother’s wedding. On our first run, we headed into Eagle Falls, a beautiful trail where my asthma and hatred of snow turned the run into a run-hike. Day, snow was slippery and hard to run on, and I hate snow in general so I thoroughly cursed everything as Wayne boldly blazed through. We headed to a different trail a bit down the road that was much flatter, but my asthma was really bothering me. Stupid altitude. I don’t like to give up, so Wayne pushed me to stop.

The next day was Wayne’s brother’s wedding. We took out the groom for a great 45 minute run. Wayne found this trail on a trail map and it was fun – ups, downs, rolling hills, pretty views, giant pinecones. It helped de-stress the groom and we all felt good after the run. It was pretty – but cold. The temperatures in Tahoe were in the fifties when we were there, and often raining or misting.

The following day, we left Tahoe, heading to Big Sur to celebrate my birthday there. We ran Buzzard’s Roost at Big Sur State Park, heading uphill over 800 meters. The run was breathtaking. I carried my camera, and kept stopping to snap pics of the Redwoods, of the beautiful views. The Redwoods are amazing – their sheer massiveness is so impressive. It saddens me to think of how they are chopped down for patio furniture without a thought.

We had a bit more time the following day so we headed back to Big Sur State Park. We followed the Pine Ridge Trail, which was my favourite type of California running – ridges! Great views, uphills, though stupid me forgot my inhaler so had to take it easy on the uphills. We saw tracks of an animal, and fresh poop and began to get scared, realizing we were gaining on whatever animal it was. We turned around, enjoying the awesome downhills.

The rest of the day, we spent driving up and down Highway 1, stopping in random parks and beaches to hike, walk, enjoy the view. I wanted to run again, but we didn’t have time.

We headed into San Francisco, and then to one of my favourite places to run, Marin Headlands. It was gorgeous. I’ve run both the San Fran 50 Miler and Miwok 100k here, and loved the views. We walked around, gasping at the Redwoods, enjoying the sunset, taking photos, inhaling the view…It was amazing.

We wanted to head to Auburn to do a little running in the morning (Western States 100 Miler course, hello!), but Wayne wasn’t feeling good, and was doing the driving so we randomly stopped in Fairfield, CA. In the a.m., he slept, still not feeling good, while I headed out. I found a pretty creek to run alongside, with a long stretch of about 400 meters. I did 6 x 400, as well as 3 x my plyometrics workout. It felt great.

And back to NYC, with its grey streets and skyline views…I’ll miss the trails, the awe-inspiring views, but I’ll be back. I know for sure.

Cherie’s Running Tips: Don’t Know How to Pop a Blister?

Gross, right? People always tell me it’s wrong to pop a blister, but if it’s hurting you, and done right, it will heal quickly and you’re much better off that way.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend doing this during a race. It can become further irritated. You can ask medics at your next ultra to help you, and at the Vermont 100, they did pop quite a few blisters at Bill’s Barn (Mile 88) which helped, but also hurt. Use your own judgement.

Safety pin or other pin
Rubbing alcohol
Neosporin or some other medicine like that

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Clean the painful blister with alcohol. Don’t be stingy with the alcohol.
  3. Sterilize the needle. You may also wish to light the needle on fire before cleaning it with rubbing alcohol. Thoroughly clean it.
  4. Push the needle into the blister. If it is a big blister, you may need to stick the needle in several sections. Make sure you leave a big enough hole so all the liquid drains and does not re-fill (in which case you have to pop again the next day, which I’ve done). Iliana has these great scissors for cutting open blisters.
  5. After pushing out all the liquid (I push it out into a tissue), clean again with more alcohol.
  6. Put Neosporin or something similar on the drained blister.
  7. Cover with a bandaid.
  8. Wash your hands (because you just got foot blister all over you!).

Grown Up

When you're 22, you think you have your life figured out.

When you're 32, you doubt you ever will.

I just turned 32 on Sunday. I've been thinking a lot lately, about growing up, about what it means to be an adult. When you turn 30, you suddenly are really not a kid anymore. In my twenties, I still thought I was a kid. But I'm not. I haven't been a long time. I pay bills. I pay rent. I work a real job. No, scratch that. I have a career. I have responsibilities. I have to mop a kitchen floor, I have a cat to look after, I have an ultrarunning lifestyle. 

I can't imagine if I had to do the other stuff, like kids and polishing fences and getting the oil changed in my car. I mean, who has time for that?

I live in a city. I have an active social life, some might think too social. Ultrarunning. Burning Man. Lots of friends. Cramming life in. But I want that cup filled all the way to the top - otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten such a large cup.

But what does it mean to be an adult? It just is when you have a job and pay bills and all that. I still ride my bike in pink miniskirts and leg warmers, wear my hair long, laugh until I'm crying, enjoying friendships, writing. So I have pink hair sometimes, and like to wear tutus. I have a different adult experience. I mean, we all do. Sometimes the way mainstream media tends to frame adulthood scares/depresses me. I want more than that. I want...to follow my dreams. I don't want my dreams to die with age.

And your dreams? They change, yes, with falling in love, with partnership, with kids, with mortgage payments, with seeing someone you love die. But don't lose who you are. Ever.

And remember, when you're not sure who you are - step back, maybe ask some friends. They may remember better than you did.

P.S. Best of all about being an adult - I can eat chocolate in bed and stay up all night dancing and go out for a run at 1a.m. without anyone telling me no or worrying. I like my reality of adulthood.

01 June 2011

The Stink: Cherie's Running Tip

I like to think I smell like roses, but after running for a few hours, well, roses might wilt next to me. 

Even worse, your running clothes (yeah, the same ones that "wick" the sweat away from your skin) stink, even before running for hours. Even after you've just washed them.

You can do different things, like wash in WIN detergent, which is effective (though a little pricey). However, I'm Little Miss Environmentalist, so I try to use a more eco-friendly detergent on the regular. You could do a once-every-so-often WIN wash, which is effective.

During Wagathon 50k, a few hours in. I probably smelled bad.
What I've found is pretty effective AND easy is a pre-wash without the rinse, let it dry, then wash. If you have a washer in your home, you can always soak in there but I live in NYC and utilize the 24 hour laundromat on my corner. 

  1. After a particularly sweaty stinky run (I do this for any long run or when it's really hot and humid in the summer; basically, if you're clothes are wet when you're done, this is a good idea.), fill your sink with cold water and detergent and your clothes. Let them soak for a while - sometimes I'll soak them for a few hours. That's fine.
  2. Squeeze out the water and soap and let them dry.
  3. Put them in your laundry bag once they're dry.
  4. Wash as normal.
  5. They should smell better!


National Running Day!

It's National Running Day!

Some say it's Run-to-Work Day, but I say that must mean I-hate-my-coworkers-day because if I was sweating and stinking all over the place, they wouldn't be happy.

I had a nice recovery run with Nelson. We ran along the water in Queens to a park that not only has water fountains, but those awesome sprinklers little kids sometimes play in (but I always run through!), which of course I ran through. We talked about the future, the past, the present, what's going on in our lives...Nelson always gets me to think. And the pace was great, and I felt like my legs were getting stretched out and feeling heaps better from Sunday's 50 Miler.

My blisters are not getting better, however. They are popped and cleaned, but the one on my left arch, which formed and popped during my race, hurts a lot. I couldn't run in my running shoes; I ran 2 minutes and it was excruciating. I ran in my Vibrams, which felt great. Anyone have any tips on healing blisters quicker?

I'm not sure what's next race-wise....a Fatass 50k up in beloved New Paltz in two weeks...and I have no other scheduled races until the Burning Man 50k and Rio del Lago 100 Miler. I need to add in a couple 50milers, 50ks, and some of the fun Thursday 5ks in Van Cortlandt Park. I know I need to do more speed training. And I haven't done weights in a while. And oooh, lots of long Saturdays on the trails with Iliana eating her meat-and-cheese sandwiches while we talk about everything of importance doing one of the things we find to be the most important...

It all comes back to running.