Sunday, June 27, 2010

What a Difference a Race Makes.

And I'm not talking about running one.

Cindy As Volunteer Experiment, Day 2: there is so a reason why those words have never been in the same sentence.

So on the heels of my monumentally rewarding experience volunteering for the NYC Half, I re-enlisted. And found out that a 14,000-runner race is vastly different from a 3,500 one. Namely, there are fewer people who give an eff that you are there. More importantly, without the cache of a marquee race like the Half, there is far less incentive for people to listen to you, even when you're wearing an orange vest. And something on a lanyard.

Yeah, that's me. And I subscribe to the school of thought that if you're wearing anything with reflective tape on it, you should be listened to. Unless, of course, you're a cyclist in New York City. For all you cyclists out there, sorry to offend, but like 83% of you suck hard. I have often ranted on the less-than-harmonious relationship runners and bikers have, especially when forced to share dear CP space. But there must be something about wearing all that Spandex and being stuck on a banana seat wedged up the privates that makes you all beyond cranky. You can't even be passive-aggressive towards us runners. You're aggressive-aggressive.

Here I stood, next to my little cones, being my little course marshal self. BTW, I am no dummy. It was about 973 degrees at 8am, so I shot my hand up to volunteer at Mile 2, conveniently located under ... trees. Lots of them.

One of the primary jobs I had, aside from heroically saving the life of any tragic runner who went down in front of me, was to make sure other people on the CP loop stayed out of the race lane. You'll notice that organizers keep an outside lane open for cyclists and other people while the race is on:

I thought for sure in my reflect-y vest I would be the traffic cop of Mile 2. As it turns out, I was more like the fat security guard at the mall. The only people who listened to me were families with strollers, most likely because they didn't want their babies getting trampled by the runners. When I did my best flight attendant pointing (please exit to the right!) and gave a "race is starting, please exit the course!" to an approaching Rollerblader, he actually pounded his chest and flippantly yelled back, "Oh yeah?! Where are the runners?!"

And then he stayed in the race lane.

I called after him: "They're just around the bend! And they're gonna be pissed off when they have to move around your slow, fat ass!"

I may or may not have waited until he was a few blocks up before I possibly muttered it under my breath. Lest, of course, he double back in a Rollerblade adrenaline rage. I had an important job to do and just couldn't be distracted by having to kick someone's butt.

Anyway, the biggest offenders by far were the cyclists. I got a lot of "yeah, yeah"s and "bite me"s. Only a small handful actually moved out of the course. One actually snickered at me before she blatantly weaved in and out of the runners, just for good measure.

Soap Box Time! Yay Soap Box!

Listen, we runners have to be constantly on the lookout for bikes in CP. You're faster than us and you're on a mechanism that will cause us injury if we are hit by it. We don't eff with you because that would just be stupid. So why do you feel the need to eff with our races? Most people out there are trying to improve their times and believe it or not, dodging a few bikes could mean missing a PR. Not cool, bikes. Not cool!

In the end, it was still enjoyable, even though it was hot and there were very few happy runners. Oh look! It's Happy Volunteering Cindy! (Again, those who know me may acknowledge that this sentence is about as foreign as asking for the bathroom in an ancient Greek dialect.)

Don't worry, dear readers, I wasn't just snapping pictures the whole time. I kept my eyes on the course and like a diligent teen lifeguard at the beach, dutifully watched for anyone in need of assist...hahahahahaha look at this guy!!

Yep, he has "I heart gays" on his back. I mean, it was the Pride Run. I wonder if he wears that for every race, actually.

When we finally wrapped up and pulled the last cone in (I may or may not have inadvertently bumped into a Rollerblader with a cone in a fit of vengeance), I strolled through the park. Ooh, let me take this time to make you jealous of what is essentially my backyard:

Sometimes I hate when all those other people are in my backyard.

I headed to the finish line to see my friend Adrienne, who was working at the Equinox tent. Adrienne is a reality show waiting to happen. We used to work together but she left television to get into sales, where she has been successful because as she says, "a little cleave goes a long way." I'll let you be the judge:

Adrienne was amazed at the amount of Spandex that can be found in one place during a race. So we got much pleasure people-watching and determining just how much of it was inappropriate.

And then she made me take another picture of us together because - again, her words - she thought "the girls just weren't represented." I wasn't one of the girls to whom she referred.

Wouldn't you like to watch her reality show?

Oh, and should you want a kick-ass gym (Holla! Equinox! My gym!), Adrienne can totally hook you up. If nothing else, wouldn't she just be fun to talk to?

The next day was the annual Achilles race, which I love. It's near and dear to my heart since it was the first race I ever ran. And you get a cool medal. But more than anything, it's completely inspirational. It's a run/walk for people with disabilities of all kinds; we able-bodied runners are secondary, as we should be. I love doubling back to the finish line when I'm done so I can see so many cross on their own. It's an amazing sight to behold.

And, wait! Is that ... Prince Harry firing the starting gun?!

This is an official photo from New York Road Runners because the obsessive picture taker that is Cindy did NOT take her camera with her on this run. But believe me when I tell you that PH looked RIGHT at me. Full-on eye contact. I swear. And luckily, the 43 seconds it took for me to jump onto the announce platform, get wrestled to the ground by his security team, wriggle out from under without anyone detaining me and slip back into the throngs running past the starting line totally did not mess with my finish time! Score! Given the heat and humidity, I was happy with a 41:17 finish - a 5mi PR.

And because we're being honest with one another, I can admit: I'd much rather wear a medal than an orange vest. Even with the lanyard.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There is no such thing as a good Brightroom photo.

I am celebrating the official start of my Chicago training by posting a photo from the last race I ran, the Japan Run in CP on June 6th. It's the closest to not horrific that I have looked in a race photo and yet it's actually of me and like 37 other people I had to crop out.

By nature, I don't mind having my picture taken. Mike would take it a bit further and insist that I have a chip in my head that tells me the exact location of any camera in a 50-yard radius, allowing me plenty of time to check my hair and jump into the shot. And that's whether or not I know the other people in it.

(Oooh, were you trying to take a picture of Javi? I didn't even see you there!)

So it boggles the mind that I have not been able to take a good Brightroom photo. My running friend Rose feels the same way, saying her race face captured on camera always appears as if she has been eating rancid meat. Now, I stack the deck by not wearing makeup and pulling my hair back. But I would say Brightroom is able to amplify those handicaps by also making you appear pasty white and without muscle tone.

So I have a new goal for Chicago. Never mind the time goal (yes, I have one but I am not publicly sharing for fear that I will fail miserably and have to admit it to all of you on this blog) ... I will be stoked if I can take a hot marathon picture. This will take some planning.

Once I've picked out some flattering (tight?) race clothes and developed a hairstyle that is both functional and cute as heck, I have to make sure Mike is strategically placed along the course at favorable sun times so that when he snaps me I'm not back lit. Do I wear my shades or not? Personally, I think my Nike wrap-arounds make me look positively badass.

But round about Mile 20 when I am sweating profusely and I am pumping the muscles simply to stay alive, I run the risk of looking positively Terminator. And that is so not ladylike. So shades ... TBD.

I may have to spray tan. Which I have never before done. But really, the only way to avoid looking pasty is to wear white. Which I don't do. I find light colors to be - how do I say this - a bit too revealing up on the top deck. So I wear black. Which doesn't do my fair skin any favors.

As for the makeup, I'm afraid I have to suck it up and embrace my natural nearly-40 look. The last time I wore makeup during a run (in my defense, I was rushing out the door from work to a TNT practice and forgot to take it off), I sweat every ounce of my MAC powder down my face, causing me to then wipe my eyes to get it out, resulting in mascara being smeared all over the place. Finishing up the night looking like the Bride of Frankenstein was not intended. Nor appreciated by anyone around me who thought I might then sink my fangs into their necks.

I'll get in a practice run on the look next month as Kerry and I hit the Napa to Sonoma Half. I'm really excited to head home for a race and to run it with one of my girls. Kerry has never done a half but is totally rocking her training. I may try to qualify for a corral in Chicago by attempting 1:50 ... but looking at the course, I may just say screw it, drink loads of cab the night before and do a run/walk. I refer to the hills, natch:

Okay, so you can't really tell on this. But frankly, any map that looks like it was drawn on a pirate ship circa 1705 cannot be delivering good news on the elevation.

So you start at a winery in Napa and you finish at a winery in Sonoma. And at the finish? Uh, yeah ... wine ... lots of it. The WHOLE race is designed around wine. Um, hello? Race organizers? Have we met?

That's Kerry right next to me. She may the only one of our friends who loves wine more than I do. This is what comes from growing up in the Bay Area. Don't we look so natural with wine glasses in our hands? Sometimes when I sit at my desk at work my thumb and pointer finger just curl automatically, as if someone were about to slip a Reidel tumbler into my palm.

Oooh ... do you think it would it look funny if I carried a wine glass in my finish-line photo?