11

A Racecation Without the Race

The bib I should have been wearing

The bib I should have been wearing

As you already know, I was registered for, and trained for, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota this past weekend. And as you also know, I DNSed this race. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you might also be aware of the fact that I still went to Duluth anyway to cheer and did not handle it in any way at all like an adult.

Even though I wasn’t running, I still wanted to head out and support my fellow runners. Good crowd support is a hugely important part of running a marathon so I felt like I should give back a little. Plus, a non-refundable flight (the most expensive part of the trip) and a chance to see a place I’ve never seen before didn’t hurt either!

Earlier last week, my work had a 24 hour hackathon where we get to hack away on any project we want to work on. We get to build some really cool stuff and it’s always a great time, but it’s intensely tiring. There is a lot of drinking and not a lot of sleep. I was hacking away on my project until 3:30am before calling it a night and crashing on a couch in a conference room. After just two and a half hours of sleep, I was awake and hating pretty much everything, but I still had a lot of work to do on my project so I wanted to get right back to it. I knew it wasn’t going to be super functional yet and it was going to be ugly and crashy, but I really wanted to have a proof of concept to present to everyone at the end. I plugged away at full steam until the very end of the 24 hours and was pretty proud of what I had created.

Anyway, what’s this have to do with my racecation? Well, shortly after giving my presentation, I had to hightail it out of work to catch my flight. People were still presenting (some super cool stuff, too!) when I left, but there was no time to stay. I hopped on a train to Newark Airport and jumped on my flight to Minneapolis.

Remember, I’d only slept two and a half hours and had woken up at 6am the day before.

I touched down in Minneapolis just after 8pm and hustled my way over to pick up my rental car. I had a two hour drive to Superior, WI ahead of me still. Luckily, the drive was incredibly uneventful and I was able to make great time.

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

You may have picked up on the fact that I drove to Superior, WI and not Duluth MN. That’s because Superior is right next to Duluth and by the time I went to book a hotel they were all full. So I ended up staying in a dorm at the University of Wisconsin-Superior which was just a ten minute drive to/from the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. Yes, you read that right, a dorm. Apparently, this is a thing and a few of the area colleges rent their dorms out for race weekend. I had actually heard some positive things about it so I figured I’d give it a shot.

When I rolled up to UWS, I found myself plopped down in a room that looked exactly like the dorm I lived in at Rutgers many (many) years ago. It was a little weird, but also kind of cool. You don’t get much in the way of amenities, a towel, a pillow, bedding, a bar of soap, and…a Hershey’s kiss. The bathrooms are dorm bathrooms and don’t come with hairdryers or anything like that–I was smart enough to think about this and bring a travel dryer with me.

Once I was all checked in and dropped my stuff off, I asked about places to eat nearby that would still be open. It was 11pm and I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. It didn’t seem like I had a ton of good options, but the two guys working the check-in suggested a local bar with a really great burger. The burger turned out to be decent and the bar was pretty dive-y, but I was totally okay with that. The bartender carded me…which was the first of many times I was carded when buying alcohol on the trip.

I got to bed around 12:30 or so and woke up early so I could run out to Target real quick to buy a pair of cheap flip flops to wear in the shower since I hadn’t remembered to bring any with me. After a quick shower, I headed into Duluth to get coffee at Duluth Coffee Company where I planned to plop down and work for the day–I didn’t want to use a vacation day so I had told my manager I’d be working remotely. When I walked into the coffee shop, they were blasting Jawbreaker and continued playing awesome music for the four hours I was there. It was pretty damn great.

Once I was done with work for the day, I figured I should head on over to the race expo and at least pick up my packet. I had been seeing tons of runners out doing their pre-marathon shakeout runs and coming in and out of the coffee place; it was really starting to hit me hard that I wasn’t running anymore. So, in what was probably a mistake, I walked on over to the expo. On my way over, I started to think, “fuck it, I want to run…I can’t not run.” I was definitely not in any state to be running a marathon; huge lack of sleep, horrible diet, dehydrated, etc, but I was really getting close to making that decision. I started going down a mental checklist of things I would need to buy at the expo and what I’d need to do to prepare for a race I wasn’t prepared for. However, by the time I actually got to the expo, my knee was bothering me just enough to knock a little sense into me.

The expo was pretty crowded, as these things tend to be, and it was a little confusing over by the packet pickup area, but I squeezed my way through. I can’t say I was in a super good mood being at an expo for a race I had registered for, worked REALLY hard for, and wasn’t running, but I was reasonably okay.

Then it happened.

The moment I had my race packet and bib in my hand, I started to fall apart. Bad.

I couldn’t get out of that expo fast enough. I felt a huge lump in my throat and it took all my strength to hold back the waterworks. You may not know this about me, but I don’t actually cry very often. It’s actually pretty rare. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cried in the last five years and when you factor in that the last three years have been the most intense and emotional time of my life, it might actually turn out that I’m dead inside. I mean, it’s not that I don’t feel sad (I sort of do all the time), it’s just that I never quite can cry even when I start to feel like I’m getting close to.

Anyway, I got out of the expo as quickly as I could. I was probably even pretty rude to people as I tried to squeeze through the crowds to the exit. I didn’t need a whole mess of random strangers seeing me have an emotional breakdown. Tears were coming out, but I knew I needed to stop holding back. I needed to feel this and finally cry it out and process it all. I needed that, but I also needed to at least get back to the car first and not breakdown in front of people.

When I got to the car, I let it out. I cried. I hated everything. I really just wanted to go drown myself in Lake Superior. I was not okay. And I felt dumb. Really, really dumb. It’s a marathon. It’s not the end of the world. It wasn’t even my first DNS and I’m sure it won’t be my last.

The thing is, though, running is really important to me. In fact, it’s the most important thing to me. I literally credit running with saving my life. It’s so important that it’s the only real reason I have stopping me from getting gender confirming surgery (you know, the one that turns my downstairs from an outtie to an innie). I don’t want to lose three to four months of running while I recover. And the most fucked up part about this is I’m fairly certain this would actually help solve the problems I’m having which are keeping me from running right now and kept me from running Grandma’s, but more on that in a bit.

So there I was, crying my eyes out and being miserable in the car. I was really struggling to handle the fact that I put in the work for this race, more work than I’ve put in for any previous race. I was super emotionally invested in this race. It was really not pretty, but eventually, I pulled it together and decided to get dinner since I literally hadn’t all day. Dinner was nice and I chatted with the waitress for a few minutes about what the cool bars are in town.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my night. I didn’t fly out to Minnesota to hang out in a cinderblock-walled dorm room. After a FaceTime with my wife where I wallowed and felt sorry for myself followed by a reprise with a close friend, I decided I should go out and do something. I went to a bar recommended by the waitress…which, going to a bar alone is sort of a big deal for me. I have no problem doing some things alone, but going to bars has never been on that list and this was the second night in a row alone in a bar in a state I’d never been before. Groundbreaking…or something?

Drowning my sorrows

Drowning my sorrows

The bar, the Red Herring Lounge, turned out to be pretty rad. I had a couple good beers and chatted it up for a bit with the bartender who was super nice. She suggested I head on down to where the finish area for the race was to check out some local bands that were playing in a tent next to the one where the official Grandma’s Marathon party was happening. Eventually, I made my way down there and watched a couple bands with another beer in my hand. But, I was feeling pretty miserable so I called it a night before the show was over.

Yup, savory donut

Yup, savory donut.

On race morning, I was woken up at 5am by runners heading out for the half marathon. Less than five hours of sleep, of course. I took my time getting ready and really tried to hold myself together as best I could, but I knew it was going to be emotionally trying to be out there cheering. On my way over to my cheering spot, I stopped at a place called Big Apple Bagels and was reminded of my policy that if it’s not from the greater NYC area, it’s not a bagel, it’s just a roll…or a savory donut.

I had made plans with Twitter friend Teal to meet up and cheer with her. She was in a very similar situation as me, she had trained for the race and gotten injured two weeks before race day. We chatted about how much it sucked, but we did a pretty good job of keeping it from turning into a pity party.

During the more than four hours I was out there cheering at mile 24.5 I coined the term “running dysphoria.” It’s kind of like gender dysphoria, a thing I know more about than I’d like, but related to running instead of gender. This is what I have right now.

Once I was finally out of strength to keep it together, I knew it was time to call it a day and start my two hour drive back to Minneapolis. I wasn’t crying, but I wasn’t okay on my walk back to the car either.

This drive wasn’t quite as uneventful as the first. I was on a race against the fuel gauge in the car. I needed to return the car with a full tank, but I didn’t want to have to stop twice for gas. I was constantly checking the car’s estimated range against Google Maps’ distance and knew I was going to be cutting it close. The car was giving me 20 extra miles past what I needed…until it stopped showing me distance and just said “low fuel.” That’s when I started to freak out a bit. Since it wasn’t a car I knew, I didn’t know what that really meant in terms of remaining fuel. Then I got stuck in some traffic and made a wrong turn while trying to find a gas station. My anxiety level went through the roof, but I made it to a gas station in time! I probably didn’t need any more anxiety in my life after the couple of days I had just had.

After dropping off the car, I started to fall apart again. I saw runners in the airport and the runner dysphoria kicked back into gear hard. After getting through security, I started to break down again. The tears came back out. The lump in my throat reappeared. I was, again, not okay. And I, again, felt really stupid and pathetic. I went into a sit-down restaurant since I had a ton of time before my flight and tried to hide how much I was crying as best I could. I texted with a few people and tried to make myself feel better, but nothing really worked. The only thing that was enough to at least break the tears was getting rickrolled by the music in the restaurant while burying my misery at the bottom of a surprisingly decent burrito.

Then, to add insult to injury, my flight was delayed for over an hour because of rerouting issues and then us not having enough fuel on the plane (!!!). It was delayed to the point where I no longer had a ride home from the airport. Ugh.

So, yeah, that was my racecation. No race and not much of a “cation” either.

In the end, as miserable as I am/was, I think it’s good I went. Even though I couldn’t run, I got to support my (other) community and I got to see a pretty cool new place I’ve never been to before. Duluth is definitely a rad little city (more like a big town), but it sort of feels like it should another town in Nightmare Before Christmas to go along with Halloween Town and Christmas Town. Marathon Town. It feels like this whole city prepares all year for this race and it’s all that matters there. Definitely feels like the biggest thing going on in Duluth. But whatever, that’s kind of cool. Also, I was a little unnerved by “Minnesota Nice.” I don’t know how to handle everyone being so incredibly nice. Being a Northeast gal, it’s super weird to me.

tl;dr: I went to Duluth for a marathon I didn’t actually run and was intensely emotional about it.

Lake

Lake Superior and the Ariel Lift Bridge from down near the finish line (click to expand!).

Lastly, since I mentioned it up above, my current state of running… Yeah, it’s really not any better, in fact, it’s worse. Thanks to a few helpful internet friends, I do have a theory that, at the least, makes a ton of sense. My testosterone blocker, Spironolactone, doesn’t just stop testosterone, it’s also a potassium-sparing diuretic. Bummer. I mean, I knew that and I knew it before I ever started taking it. I just figured it’d all even out since I run so much. I guess maybe it doesn’t. Anyway, it might actually be that I have too much potassium in my body, the opposite problem most runners have. This would cover my symptoms of sore and fatigued muscles with a little dose of arrhythmia. And it would make sense that I run fine when it’s cold out, but two years in a row (100% of the time since I started hormones), I started to have these same problems when the weather started getting warmer. Increased sweating means increased electrolyte loss which means increased chemical imbalance in my muscles. I can’t prove it and I’m not sure how exactly to test if this is it, but it all adds up. Plus, my last set of labs, which were just two months ago, showed my potassium level at the absolute upper limit of acceptable. It’s totally possible that I just got pushed over the edge. I’m not sure what to do about this other than increasing my salt intake and decreasing how much kale and avocado and other potassium-rich foods are in my diet. I mean, really, if you eat anything close to healthy, you’re going to have a ton of potassium. Ugh.

Or…I could just cut the problem off at the source (pun intended) so I don’t need spiro anymore.

10

The decision to DNS a marathon

How I feel while writing this

How I feel while writing this

I haven’t really posted about it here yet, but my training for Grandma’s Marathon has completely fallen apart. I don’t know exactly what caused it, but it’s gotten really bad. When I say bad, I mean I’ve been heavily considering DNSing (did not start) the race for the last couple of weeks. Yeah, that kind of bad. I’m not injured, I’m just…my body hates me.

Rather than make you read this whole post to get to the important takeaway, I’ll just drop it right here. I have officially decided not to run Grandma’s Marathon in two weeks.

The last time I checked in with y’all here, it was halfway through training and things felt like a positive-leaning mixed bag. I had some good weeks, I had some bad weeks, but I was still hopeful to have a good race. I still felt like a 3:30 finish was possible, but I’d likely just go for sub-3:40 and use that as a jumping off point for the fall.

Unfortunately, since then, things have sort of nose-dived. Hard. Into a volcano. Filled with alligators…that can somehow survive the lava.

It started three weeks ago with my 19-mile long run. Two days before, I had skipped an 8-mile run to give my legs a little extra rest, but didn’t think anything of it. The 19-miler went reasonably well, that is, it felt like most long runs do. The only weird thing was my left calf felt a little tight from the start. It wasn’t too bad so I didn’t think much of it, but it stayed like that for the whole run. Because we had a wedding to attend two hours away that afternoon, I had gotten up very early to knock out my run and get ready. This didn’t leave me with any time to stretch it or ice or anything afterwards. By the time I was showered and ready to go, I could feel my calf didn’t feel right. It felt kind of like I had pulled something in there. Luckily, I was able to wear flats to the wedding, but it was outside with a lot of walking up and down hills and such to get to different parts of where the wedding was. Throughout the night, things didn’t get any better.

I took the next two days off, which involved missing one run and pushing one back a day. At first I wasn’t too worried, but the pain stuck around without getting much better. I ended up missing that whole week of running minus a four-mile trail run. I even missed my 20-mile long run that weekend.

I tried to get back into things the next week, but my body was exhausted as if I had been pushing myself hard. I had no energy and my legs felt about how they do 4-5 days after a marathon. I missed another long run. I tried to get out there to do it, but I stopped after four miles when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go the distance. Since it was a Saturday, I figured I’d just give it another shot on Sunday, but when I went out there Sunday, everything hurt right away. Calves, quads, knees. It was really bizarre. Because I hadn’t been running, my legs should have at least been rested. It was the kind of pain that said “do not run through this! Stop now!” I listened.

This brings me up to this week. I’ve done one 4-mile run and it felt like garbage. Surprisingly, the very easy effort I gave turned out to be a pretty quick pace. Still, my legs felt awful. Again, it was that whole feeling like I just ran a marathon 4-5 days ago thing.

I really don’t get it, but that last run was the final thing to push me over the edge to a DNS. Could I finish a marathon right now? Probably. Could I still finish somewhere in the mid-3:40s? Probably. But what does that get me? What does running on a body that’s clearly telling me not to do for me? I’m risking actual injury by doing that. If I didn’t have the Chicago Marathon 16 weeks after Grandma’s, this might be a different story. I might just go for it and have fun. But Chicago can still be a good race for me. It’s where I scored my PR. Running Grandma’s does nothing but put more wear on my body when I could instead take the next couple weeks to recover myself and get ready for Chicago training.

If my marathon goal is to a BQ, running a marathon just to add another tick to my marathons-run total does nothing to help me. If I were in good shape, it could be a good tune-up and jumping off point, but that’s not the case. It can do nothing but push me further from my goal.

I’m super, super bummed about this and I’ve been pretty depressed because of it for the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, running is tied very closely to my emotional well-being. This works great when running is going well, but when it’s not…yikes.

The thing is, though, there will be other races. This isn’t the end of the world and I know I’m making the right decision.

The weird thing is since nothing is refundable, I’m still planning on getting on the plane and going out to Duluth in two weeks. I’ll hang out and cheer and just enjoy the scenery, I guess. Since everything is already paid for, it doesn’t cost me anything to go.

My real concern right now is I don’t know what really happened. I don’t know why my legs feel like a boy scout troop used my muscles to earn their knot tying badges. In reality, I don’t feel a ton different than I did this time a year ago. I see a lot of parallels between now and the last couple weeks of training before New Jersey Marathon and the months following. The warmer weather is definitely a contributing factor to both, but only a small piece of the puzzle.

A lot of me wants to just say I pushed myself too much, but I scaled back quite a bit from what I did for New Jersey and I still burned out. Maybe hormones have had more of an effect on my fitness than I thought and the minor tweaks to my marathon training aren’t enough. I tried adding cross-training. I was reasonably good about strength work. I started foam rolling daily. Maybe I need to completely rethink how I train. I really don’t know and that’s what upsets me the most. I don’t know what I to learn from this and how to prevent it from happening again. I had fallen back in love with running pretty damn hard in February, March, April, and early May and I was crushing a lot of runs. I know I still have it in me. I just need to figure out what I keep tripping over.

2

A week with the Apple Watch

AppleWatchFor the last week, I’ve been keeping a diary of what it’s like living with (and using) the Apple Watch. Strapping a smart watch to your wrist isn’t the same as buying a new TV for your living room. A smart watch becomes an intimate part of your life. It changes things.

I wasn’t sure the best way to present all of my thoughts, so I decided to simply dump an unedited transcript of the diary I kept here.

For reference, I pre-ordered the 42mm space gray Apple Watch Sport at 3am on April 10th when pre-orders opened up. I did not receive my watch on launch day (April 24), mine came on April 27th.

Day 1:

My watch showed up just after lunch today. I opened it at my desk at work with a handful of my coworkers awkwardly standing over me. The packaging was nice, but seemed extremely wasteful in comparison to Apple’s other products.

The initial setup took a little while to sync everything over from my iPhone, but was otherwise easy and painless. I opted not to sync third party apps over right away.

My watch had around 67% battery remaining right out of the box.

My initial impression was that the watch felt great on my wrist, very light and comfortable. Having rather large wrists for a woman my size, I was glad I got the 42mm model, it seemed to be the right size for me. The 38mm model would have likely been dwarfed by my wrists.

Figuring out force touch took me a little while. From the keynote demos, I had the impression that force touch was more of a slamming down of your finger on the watch face, but it turns out to actually be a firm pressing down instead. This took me a few hours to figure out after struggling with a success rate of just around 10% with the slam-your-finger-method. Once I figured this out, using the watch become a lot easier.

I started with the “utility” watch face, an analog one. This seemed like the nicest looking face that provided me the information I was looking for. I wanted to try the elegance of an analog face instead of an easier-to-read digital face.

Apple Watch Utility Watch Face

The Utility face

The delay for the screen turning on when raising your wrist to look at the watch wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected based on reviews from The Verge and Daring Fireball. However, it was just enough in addition to the extra half a second telling time on an analog face takes that I switched to a digital face by the end of the day. I went with “modular” which also shows you more information about your next calendar event. Perhaps if I was the kind of person used to keeping an analog watch on my wrist, I might be quick enough to feel comfortable sticking with the utility face, but I haven’t worn a watch regularly in close to fifteen years. Though, I’m sure I’ll spend most of the week trying out different watch faces. I’m curious to see what I end up landing on in the end.

I checked my heart rate a few times throughout the day and the watch seemed fairly accurate. I’ve never worn a heart rate monitor or regularly taken my pulse before so I can’t say with much certainty how close it is to other forms of measurement. However, it did clock my resting heart rate between 55-59 bpm which is pretty close to the handful of times I have taken it in the last few months.

Sometime mid-afternoon, I switched my sit/stand desk at work to standing mode. Two minutes later, my watch told me to stand for a minute. I thought that was a little weird since I was currently standing already and had been for a couple minutes. An hour later, I dropped my desk back into sit mode and my watch again told me to stand. I had just been standing for an hour straight.

After I got off the PATH back in New Jersey on my commute home, I looked down expecting all the notifications I missed while underground to pop up, but instead my watch let me know I had forgotten to take my phone out of airplane mode. I don’t usually put my phone in airplane mode on my commute, but sometimes Tweetbot gets a little confused and doesn’t queue up favorites properly. I’ve found that switching to airplane mode serves as a good workaround to avoid Tweetbot erroring on me.

I made a quick stop at Duane Reade on my walk to pick up a few toiletries we were running low on. I always use Apple Pay at Duane Reade so I figured it was a good chance to try it from my watch. I expected this to be super awkward, but it really wasn’t that bad. The biggest issue was the numerous taps and button presses it takes to actually use Apple Pay on your watch. It makes sense though, it could be easy to accidentally trigger it if it was always on.

As I was doing my nightly strength workout and foam rolling, a friend and I started sending heartbeats and sketches back and forth. It was neat, but seemed totally pointless except for trying to be cute and waste time.

Before getting in bed, I hopped in the shower real quick to shave down the forest I had let grow on my legs over the last week. I left my watch on the entire time and didn’t have any issues.

By the time I laid down in bed and stuck the watch onto its charger, I was at 29% battery. This was around 10:30pm. Not bad after starting with only 2/3 of the battery and me playing with my new toy constantly all day.

Apple Watch Modular Watch Face

My initial configuration of the modular face

Day 2:

I woke up at my normal 5:45am to catch a 7am spin class and slapped my watch on my wrist just before leaving the house at 6:15.

Once I was on my bike and started pedaling, I started up a new “indoor cycling” activity using the builtin Activity app. I swiped the screen over to show my heart rate since this seemed like the only information I’d actually need during my class. Once my hands were back on the handlebars, the screen turned off and I only noticed it turning back on again when I actively went to check my heart rate. I felt a few notifications come in, but I didn’t feel distracted by them or wondering what they were.

My heart rate throughout the class was in the mid-160s which I guess was roughly accurate? I kind of expected it to be higher than that, to be honest. Though, I read today that Consumer Reports found the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitoring to be just as accurate as their highest-rated chest straps so I guess that’s probably fairly accurate?

After 45 minutes of what turned out to be my best spin class ever, according to Flywheel’s total power, I was eager to see the calorie count for my workout. My Apple Watch showed 251, which isn’t even in the same ballpark as the 915 calories that the Flywheel app estimates. The Apple Watch only knows my heart rate and must base on that, whereas the Flywheel app knows the time, torque, and RPM from my ride, but not my heart rate. Additionally, the Flywheel app estimates based on a person weighing 145-160lbs (I weight 145, for reference). When I entered the class into the Garmin Connect app with the time and distance (provided by the Flywheel app), I was given 584 calories. This feels like the most accurate of the three to me.

After hopping off my bike, I hopped in the shower and again left my watch on with no problems.

By 1:15pm, I still had 70% of my battery left at 7.25 hours off the charger and 45 minutes of active heart rate monitoring.

During the walking part of my commute home, I realized the proper way to think about the Apple Watch isn’t to think of it as its own thing–which because of it’s reliance on your iPhone, it can’t be. Instead, you have to accept that the watch is nothing more than a companion to your phone. A window into in existing thing in your life. Quick access.

I reveled in the simplicity of a quick glance at my wrist to check for important notifications. The red dot at the top of the watch face indicating new notifications is the almost the perfect antidote to the notification anxiety we’ve let our smartphones bring into our lives.

I started with only a pared down list of apps allowed to notify me my wrist, but I expect this to change over time, likely in the direction of fewer, not more. My Apple Watch is for the notifications I really care about, things that may be actionable or are ambient information that is only relevant in that moment. While my phone is always in reach, usually in my back pocket or sitting next to me, a quick flick of the wrist to check for anything important feels like a timesaver.

I walked in the door at home with 48% of my battery left. I had been wearing my watch for twelve and a half hours at this point.

I changed real quick for my second workout of the day, a four mile run. I slapped my Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch on next to my Apple watch and headed out the door while contemplating the insanity of going for a run with a $650 iPhone, $400 Apple Watch, and $250 running watch.

I used Apple’s Activity app to record my run since Apple doesn’t allow third party apps to have access to the heart rather monitor yet. Annoyingly, the app counts you down from three instead of just starting as soon as you hit the button like my Garmin does.

When my Garmin beeped at four miles, I stopped the run on both watches and compared. The Apple Watch measured 4.23 miles to my Garmin’s 4.01. Mapping my run using DailyMile’s route tool gave me 4.05 miles. Not accurate enough for serious running and training. As a point of reference, I had my phone (which the Apple Watch relies on for GPS) in my pocket with the screen facing towards my leg. Tomorrow, I’ll try having the screen facing out.

I got into bed at 10:40pm with 20% of my battery left. 16.5 hours off the charger and two workouts.

Garmin vs Apple Watch

Day 3:

I woke up at 5:30 for a nine mile run this morning. Again, I strapped my Apple Watch and my Garmin onto my wrist side-by-side and I stuck my phone in my pocket with the screen facing away from my leg. This time, the Apple Watch measured 8.88 miles compared to the Garmin’s 9.01 miles. DailyMile’s route tool measured the run at 9.25 miles. So this time the Apple watch measured short instead of long.

While I was cooling down, I tried to see my mile splits for my run, but was disappointed to not be able to find them on either the watch itself or in the Activity app that was installed on my phone when I paired my watch to it. For me, this is a complete deal breaker. If you’re a runner who is training for something, those splits are very important.

My hour and sixteen minute run ate 20% of my battery so I dropped my watch on the charger, which nicely snaps in to place with zero fuss and charges quickly, while I showered.

While walking to the office, it really hit me how much the Apple Watch demands very granular control over notifications. It’s a control that doesn’t really exist in apps yet, but developers will have to start thinking about this. For example, I want Slack notifications if I’m mentioned, but not for @all, @channel, or other keywords I alert on. All of these notifications are fine for my phone, but not for my wrist. For Tweetbot, I only want DMs and mentions; favorites, retweets, and follows aren’t necessary for me to know about immediately. With Tumblr (I know), I want asks, fan mail, replies, and only reblogs in which something is added. The thing all of these notifications have in commons is that they are either things I might want to take action on or are people saying something to me. Other notifications may be useful, but they’re not important, they’re fine to see whenever I actually decide to check on them myself. I don’t need them buzzing my wrist.

Right before lunch, I got this nice little notification that I was already crushing my activity for the day. The watch will periodically pop in with things like this to let you know how you’re doing on your move, standing, and exercise goals.IMG_2147

After lunch, my watch was at 93% battery still. This was five hours of being hammered with Twitter notifications. An hour later, 90%.

At ten to three, my watch told me to stand. I’d been sitting for not even twenty minutes after an hour with my desk in standing mode. Doesn’t this thing know I ran nine miles this morning on exhausted legs and was beat? It also seems that the watch doesn’t care if you’ve had a long standing session, it still wants you to stand each clock hour.

The weather outside was literally perfect today so I used Starbucks as an excuse for a mid-afternoon walk to enjoy it all. I paid for my iced coffee using my Starbucks card in Passbook. Just like on your phone, you’re given a QR code to scan. This was the most awkward thing ever. It doesn’t seem like it’d be much different than using Apple Pay with your watch, but there’s something totally awkward about how you have to contort your wrist while trying to line it up with the barcode reader. Maybe having the reader positioned differently would help.

Overall, the watch is really starting to feel useful. I find myself both more and less distracted at the same time now.

I’m more distracted thanks to a frequent buzzing on my wrist telling me something possibly important just happened. It’s like having someone screaming in your face “HEY THIS JUST HAPPENED! LOOK AT IT!”

But on the other end of things, I’m definitely way less distracted. The only things that buzz my wrist are potentially important notifications, not all notifications. The things buzzing my wrist are the things I want to know about right away and may want to take action on. They are the things I am constantly checking my phone for. Having these notifications on my wrist greatly cuts down on the number of times I check my phone or OS X notification center. I can trust that if it’s important, I already know about it. This allows me to keep up with important stuff without the distractions of the unimportant stuff. I’d often fall into the trap of checking my notifications and getting bogged down in the fluff. “Oh, an Instagram like, let me go see how many likes this photo has.” Knowing I can quickly check my wrist with all of the fluff filtered out is totally liberating. Plus, all I have to do is flick my wrist and look for a red dot at the top of the screen indicating if there is anything or not.

Today, I wore a dress with not pockets so my phone was either sitting on my desk or in my purse all day. While I was at work, I didn’t even need to think about my phone as long as I was staying on my floor. I’d go to the bathroom or to meetings and leave my phone behind. On the train, I controlled my music from my wrist. As I walked home, my wife sent me a few text about dinner. Without my watch, I likely would have missed them. Even in pants with my phone in my back pocket, I typically don’t feel my phone vibrating while walking (I keep my phone on silent 95% of the time). I was able to quickly respond without fishing my phone out of my purse using the canned responses and walk into the house with a pizza already on its way.

After nine hours off the charger, I had 68% of my battery left.

Overall, I’m really impressed with how smooth and snappy the UI is…until you open something that needs to pull data from your phone. Then things get painfully slow to the point where I give up and simply reach for my phone. For the most part, third party apps aren’t even worth bothering with.

I love the digital crown. I find myself using it to scroll over touching the screen. It just feels smooth and with the perfect amount of resistance. I love the taptic feedback when you get to the top or bottom of a screen.

I’m still fiddling with my watch face, but I think I’m pretty close now. I tweaked it to remove the moon phase. It’s existence felt purely ornamental.

Apple Watch Modular Face

My current watch face configuration.

I tried out heartbeats and sketches again with a coworker tonight. My impression hasn’t changed. Cute, but that’s about it.

I got into bed with 50% of my battery remaining after exactly 14 hours off the charger.

Day 4:

I woke up at 5:30am again for a seven mile run. I walked out the door with both my Apple Watch and my Garmin, but this time I fired up the Nike+ app to record my run with splits and the Apple Activity app for heart rate data. Sort of a pain in the ass to have to start a run on two different apps.

Annoyingly, the Nike+ app kept sounding off stats from my pocket for each mile. This is all configurable, but I’ve never used Nike+ so I hadn’t yet configured all the settings how I like them. Generally, I prefer my Garmin’s simple beep every mile. I don’t need my stats read to me.

Today, the Apple Watch and my Garmin measured very similarly. My Garmin was seven miles and my Apple watch was 7.07 miles (my iPhone screen was facing my leg). A 1% delta between the two is close enough to negligible for me.

Even harder than starting two running apps and a Garmin at the same time was stopping them all, but in the process I discovered double-tapping the digital crown switches between your last two apps. Neat!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to view my splits in the Nike+ app on either my watch or my phone. I’m sure they’re there somewhere, I just couldn’t find them easily. But when you finish your run, the watch app shows a mini map of your run for you. Why would I even want that? I almost never look at the maps of my runs. I’d much rather see my mile splits right there. I almost always check these immediately after finishing my runs.

Mostly, this all seems to be par for the course for running apps. They’re just barebones windows to basic info. Sure, it’s absolutely a tiny screen on your wrist, but my Garmin shows my overall time, overall pace, and distance (you can configure what you want, this just happens to be what I prefer). It’d be nice to get these three bits on screen at the same time. I also can’t figure out if any of these apps having manual lapping or prompting for intervals on the watch itself or if you need to access that via your phone.

iSmoothRun was my iPhone running app of choice before I got my Garmin a year ago and they’ve said they have an Apple Watch app coming any day now. I’m really hoping that’ll give me what I’m looking for. Though, Apple not allowing third parties to access to the heart rate monitor means I’ll still be running with two apps going.

My run this morning used 18% of my battery so I charged my watch while I showered again. I feel this will be my normal routine. While the battery life on the watch has been incredibly impressive given what Apple rates it for, the heart rate monitor really takes a beating on the battery. I’m kind of surprised it’s that much, actually. However, my Garmin, which has onboard GPS and no heart rate monitor, seems to get about 50 miles of running to a charge so it’s comparable.

One other interesting thing about my run today, with a third of a mile left, I found myself with a choice of darting across the light rail 30 feet from of an oncoming train (they move really slowly) or waiting. I broke into a quick sprint and went for it. We don’t need to talk about how dumb this was. Anyway, later in the day, I was looking through my heart rate data and was able to match it up to my run and see that my heart rate spiked to 194bpm from the mid-170s where it was during the last couple of miles. Really cool!

As I walked off the train on my way to work this morning, I effortlessly skipped a boring song that just came on. My phone stayed in my back pocket.

When I got to work, I pulled out my phone to check into Tumblr HQ on Swarm as I do every morning. This felt super cumbersome, even with the today Today widget. Swarm is a perfect use case for an Apple Watch app. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but it doesn’t exist yet.

Normally, I get up and walk around or just go to the bathroom a lot while at work just to keep moving. I like to stretch my legs. But some days it’s tough, either I’m really busy or just super exhausted. It’s these times when my watch yelling at me to stand is super annoying. As an office worker, you almost have to have a sit/stand desk if you want to strap an Apple Watch to your person. And even with the sit/stand desk, sometimes the watch seems to struggle to detect that you’re actually standing. My watch told me to stand at 11:50 today after I’d been standing for the last hour straight.

I’m starting to wonder if my taptics are working properly on my watch. It’s hard to get a feel for how prominent the buzzing is supposed to feel. One of my coworkers remarked that he felt like he needed to turn the intensity down on his watch, but I feel myself longing for a little more. Most people I’ve talked to seem to say literally the exact same thing I’ve said about it so who knows.

I’m also finding I have very little interest in third party apps on my watch. It’s not even just that they all mostly suck, but it just doesn’t seem like what this thing is for. The watch feels like it’s for getting quick info or performing single touch tasks. More than apps, I just really want fine grained control over notifications. With tighter control over notifications, the Apple Watch could actually save you from notification hell instead of putting you there as I was afraid it would.

Halfway through a code deploy at work today, I looked down at my watch and force touched the screen to clear all my notifications. The force touch seems to double as the perfect release for pent-up tension.

After work, I met some friends for runner happy hour. Instead of checking my phone constantly like I do when I’m out, I left it face down on the table and relied on my watch to tell me if there was anything I needed to know. Depending on how use your watch, it could easily distract you from being present with the people you’re with or it could free you from distraction.

After fourteen hours on my wrist, I unstrapped with 57% of my battery left. I don’t even check it during the day anymore. There is not battery anxiety at all. You only need to be onboard with dropping it on the charger every night…which isn’t that big of a deal, I don’t think I’d want to wear it while sleeping anyway.

Day 5:

The watch is starting to blend into my regular life and simply feel like a natural extension of the technology I already use every day. Not having to nurse the battery helps a lot with this, I think. You just let it be and it tells you want you need to know. The first four and a half hours of today only used 7% of my battery.

Just like every other day so far, my watch told at me to stand after I had already been standing for an extended amount of time. This is getting old, but there are enough times when it is right that I haven’t stood in a while that it’s worth having. I think.

This evening, I stayed in and took it easy. I just wanted to relax. I happened to fire off a tweet relating to my crush on Anna Kendrick and then my wrist started blowing up for the next two hours. Not very relaxing. It may be useful to start making use of do not disturb mode or simply taking the watch off when I want to relax.

Even with a ton of notifications today, my watch only used 47% of its battery for 14:35. However, my phone’s battery seems to be draining much quicker. That’s a bummer.

While I’m not one to invoke “this would have never happen if Steve were still alive,” it’s hard to not see how different the Apple Watch would be with Steve Jobs alive, well, and at the helm still. The Apple Watch does (or tries) to do a lot. Some of it, it’s very good at. Some of it, not so much. There is nothing simple about the Apple Watch and learning all the interactions takes some time. Steve Jobs was very much “this is what and how you’re going to use this.” The Apple Watch is “we made it do everything so you can figure out what it means to you.” It’s just different. I don’t know if that’s good or bad yet.

Day 6:

I rebooted my phone and my battery life seems much better though. So maybe it’s not an issue. We’ll have to see.

This morning’s run was 4.02 miles on my Garmin ad 4.06 on my Apple Watch. 1% difference again. It seems to be getting more consistent, but I’m not sure if I trust it yet. I just stuck with the Apple Activity app today, but I’m starting to get curious about what other apps do with GPS data. They all rely on the same data from your phone. They ask the phone where it is and it gives it a map point, but do any apps try to process that point and snap it to a road or reject points that are radically different than the points before/after? How often do they poll for data? I’m just wondering if different apps may provide difference mapping results.

After my run, I showered and my wife and I hopped in the car to drive down to Philly. My watch buzzed a few times while I was behind the wheel and it definitely took some self restraint to ignore it until stopped at a light. I don’t drive a lot anymore, but I could see the Apple Watch only adding to the distracted driving problem in our society.

When we go to Philly and walked into the race expo for the Broad Street Run, I again wished for a Swarm app on my watch. It’d be so quick and easy! As we walked around the expo, I received a ton of texts from some friends I was talking to. Getting the notifications on my wrist was a nice way to see what was worth pulling my phone out to reply to and what was fine being left without a reply. I felt less distracted than if I was looking down at my phone for every message.

We walked across the street to Reading Terminal Market and it just felt like another perfect use case for a Swarm app.

Getting into the car to head to a friend’s house, I asked Siri on my phone to pull up directions. I typically use Google Maps, but I was feeling lazy. Without doing anything, I started getting buzzing and directions on my wrist while driving. It was actually super distracting to the point where I killed navigation on my phone after a few minutes and switched over to Google Maps. I could see this being really helpful in certain situations, but for city driving with lots of turns and streets really close to each other, it was the worst.

We spent the night hanging out with our friends and I found myself distracted, but less so. I was looking at my watch a lot, but the distractions there where filtered from what was on my phone. I was taken away from the conversation few times and for shorter amounts of time. Still, I felt like I was being just as rude as I ever am.

Day 7:

I woke up at 4am today. Yes, I was surprised that 4am was actually a real time too, but it was there. The plan for the day was to knock out six miles before we headed back into Philly for the Broad Street Run. I was running perfectly on schedule, but four miles into my run, I felt my wrist buzz. I don’t typically feel distracted by notifications while running, but it was 5am on a Sunday. I knew it was either my wife telling me I was running late or…her saying she work up feeling sick and couldn’t run the race. This information was actually really helpful. Knowing our plans were going to change, I was able to stop worrying about making it back to leave in time for the race.

We ended up getting in the car and driving home and I again felt the distraction of a buzzing wrist while driving. I did my best to ignore it. Just like when trying to relax, I think do not disturb will be a must here.

After getting home, I changed to run again. I still had another twelve miles scheduled for the day. I ran out the door and finished my run at the bagel place near our house. It was about 10:30 while I was waiting in line and my watch was down to 47% battery. To be fair, I took it off the charger at 4 and had run 18 miles with it.

My two runs were measured at 6.08 and 12.08 miles on my Apple Watch and 6.24 and 12.08 on my Garmin. I sweat a lot on my second run today and it made me think about the fact that Apple made a big deal about the Apple Watch being water resistant enough to run with and avoid issues from sweat, but it requires you to keep your iPhone on you which isn’t water resistant at all. That’s kind of a problem.

Sometimes, the watch display doesn’t turn on when I expect it to and I end up twisting my wrist back and forth trying to get it on before giving up and just pressing the digital crown. This doesn’t happen a lot.

Tonight, I was doing a strength workout at home while trying to maintain a text conversation via my watch. And when I couldn’t respond with a canned response, I would walk over to my phone to type it out. It was actually way less than ideal and totally made my workout take way longer.

I crawled into bed just as my watch was alerting me that I was at 10% battery left. It asked me if I wanted to go into power reserve to extend battery life.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Two and a half of those hours were active heart rate monitoring. The watch had 10% battery left when I took this screenshot.

Overall thoughts:

I’m still trying to find a decent running app. There are a bunch out there, but I guess I’m just picky? Or maybe the problem is that I’m trying to mimic the things I like about my Garmin and fix all the things I hate about it.

When it comes to the GPS for runs, I’m just looking for some consistency here. GPS is a very imprecise technology and you have to expect a fair margin of error, but my Garmin tends to measure runs very consistently. I can usually count on it to sound off a mile in the same place every day and measure the a route the same every time I run it. This is what I’m asking for. For the short term, I plan to keep running with both watches. The Apple Watch works as a nice heart rate monitor and the Garmin is at least consistent.

Going back to what I had thought about on Day 6 regarding different apps doing different calculations with the same GPS data, my run this morning was measured at 5.07 by the Apple Activity app and 5.12 by Runtastic so it seems like there may be some processing of the data there rather than taking the points as is. I’ll have to keep looking into this.

Overall, I’m really loving my Apple Watch a lot more than I expected to. It’s not perfect, but it’s really good. As a toy, it’s definitely neat. As a communication and productivity tool, it really depends on how you use it and what you want from it. As jewelry, it’s really pleasing to look at, for me at least. And for for running, it’s probably more than good for a more casual runner, but for a serious runner it just doesn’t cut it…at least not right now.

I’m hopeful apps will improve now that developers actually have watches on their hands and with the addition of the native SDK at some point later this year.

2

Grandma’s Marathon training update: week 8

Love the view on my regular running route!

Love the view on my regular running route!

Training for Grandma’s Marathon is half over already. It’s starting to feel like the race is like a freight train coming at me!

Training is going well overall, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel ready for this race. Even when I have an amazing run and hit mile splits I didn’t think I could hit, I still feel afraid I won’t be able to keep the pace I want for the race.

Two weeks ago, it felt like I couldn’t buy a sub-8:00 mile no matter how much I gave. Even the half marathon I ran that weekend was rough. But last week, I was busting out 7:30s on seven and nine mile runs like they were nothing. My 18-mile long run this past weekend was 7 seconds/mile under marathon PR pace. It’s just been a lot of ups and downs, it seems. It’s hard to get a good feel of where I’m at.

To be fair, I’m still only halfway through training and there are eight weeks to go until the race. That’s a lot of time to make improvements and I’ve done a lot over the last two months. I’ve absolutely been converted to a daily foam roller. It’s amazing the difference in how my legs feel in the morning when I foam roll the night before versus when I don’t.

The thing that’s keeping me completely sane is that I haven’t set a hard goal yet. I’m training as if I’m going for a 3:30 finish, but I’m still 50/50 between really going for it versus targeting 3:40 and making this race a step-off point for a fall BQ attempt. Literally just now as I was typing this, I got the email that I was selected for the Chicago Marathon this year so that’s a big consideration and gives me an idea of what my fall will look like. Plus, I’m also going to sign up for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge (5k + 10k + half marathon + marathon over four days) at noon today! Obviously, that won’t be any sort of a race for time, but it’s something to think about when I plan out my fall race schedule.

I'm in!

I’m in!

10

A follow up about the Bruce Jenner interview

I wrote yesterday about my fears for Bruce Jenner’s two hour interview. In some places I may have failed to make some of my thoughts perfectly clear, but I stand by my point.

I received a lot of comments accusing me of not supporting Bruce Jenner and being bitter because Bruce’s story doesn’t match my story, as if this is actually in any way about me (it’s not). While it is true that Bruce’s story is very different from mine, it obviously has parallels. But much of this criticism came at me dripping in class privilege, without any consideration of what our community’s most marginalized members deal with. A complete lack of the intersectionality of class and race with trans issues.

To be clear, of course I think all trans stories are worth telling! To say otherwise would be ridiculous. My point was that we are all different and unique. We have different stories and experiences. Bruce’s story is just one of an infinite number of trans stories and we should be wary how much the media focuses on his. I would never try to suggest Bruce doesn’t deal with many of the same feelings and things all trans people deal with. However, Bruce’s transition is still very different. Having money can’t buy your way out of transphobia and all the dysphoria and feelings, but it can ease many of the of the struggles around being able to simply pay for shit. If you cannot see or understand this, you have a serious case classism that I can’t help you with.

I say this as someone who lives with an immense amount of privilege. I’m white, my wife and I do not worry about money, and we live in the NYC area. It makes a difference. A HUGE difference. My transition was relatively easy because of all of this. That’s not to say being trans is ever made easy or any of it is easy, but I do have advantages many do not have. While there is too much to go into around this in this post, it is still important to consider. Still, just like Jenner’s, my story matters too. As I’ve said, all trans stories and all trans experiences matter. However, trans activism and media should focus on our most marginalized and our most at risk.

We must not leave anyone behind in our fight for equality. The LGBT movement largely left the T behind and mainstream feminism has largely left women of color behind. We must not make the same mistake other fights have had and the only way to ensure we don’t is to focus on those most marginalized. Lifting their stories and focusing on them lifts us all up. I’m sorry white trans folks with money, but this means it’s not all about us.

So, yes, Bruce Jenner’s story matters, but it should never be the focus of our community.

As for the actual interview, it was absolutely not the transwreck many expected. The interview was far from perfect, but it was more a fender-bender than a wreck. I clearly underestimated Bruce a lot, but I never didn’t support him. Diane Sawyer made mistakes and drifted into a few of the standard tropes, but largely avoided any major faux pas. While the interview clearly showed just how far the media has to go on trans issues still, it was, without a doubt, an indication of progress and real effort being put in.

While I found the use of he/him pronouns and repeated referring to him as a man to be very jarring and likely to be confusing to many cis (not trans) people, I actually completely understand Bruce’s request for that. I get the compartmentalization of what is essentially a persona you put on vs the actual real person you are. I think that’s something a lot of us have had to do to some degree. And Bruce’s request for this is why I am using masculine pronouns in this piece. This is what Bruce asked us to do, at least for the interview, so that is what we should do.

For me, the biggest issue was the repeated question of what Bruce will look like “when he emerges as she.” There is just so much wrong with focusing on how a trans person will look after they transition. I know this is always the question on people’s minds, but it can really miss the point of transition. It is this thinking that creates hierarchies based on our appearance. It is because of this that those of us who “pass” or are pretty are often treated better. It is because of this that I use women’s rooms with no problem and am consistently gendered properly while my friend Robyn has the complete opposite experience despite even having a more femme style than I do. It doesn’t matter to anyone else what we look like. It only matters to us.

All of this said, the reality is we’ve been burned time and time again by the media and “good intentions.” One only needs to look back a year to Piers Morgan’s interview with Janet Mock and Katie Couric’s interview with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera to see what I mean. Or how about a couple months ago with Jill Soloway? Skepticism is completely warranted and we should still exercise it until being burned is no longer the norm. I actually think this string of tweets by Casey Plett really nails of lot of why we should continue to be skeptical.

Additionally, I stand by my fear that media will center too much around Jenner’s story instead of those I mentioned above. I want to be wrong here, I absolutely do, but until the media starts to get this right, I will continue to be skeptical.

I’ve seen a lot of cis people come out this week in support of Bruce Jenner. That’s GREAT! For real, it’s absolutely awesome to have people supporting trans people, but it’s hard to not question where these people are when we’re calling out transphobic jokes in TV shows and movies. I didn’t see people speak up when a trans woman was murdered every week for the first two months of this year. Are these people speaking up against the proposed laws in Texas, Florida, and other states to limit our right to access public restrooms? Supporting Bruce is great, but it cannot end there. This is why I continue advocate for our focus on our most marginalized and to focus less on coming out stories and more on the lived experiences of trans folk.

I 100% support Bruce Jenner, but let’s make sure we never leave anyone behind. Let’s fight for more than just the scraps that fall off the table of equality. Let’s fight for a seat at the table.

21

About this Bruce Jenner interview

Update: I’ve written a followup here and turned off the comments on this post after an inbox full of attacks. If you still wish to comment, feel free to do so on the followup post.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.11Tonight, it’s expected that Bruce Jenner will reveal they’re transgender in a two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer. For most of us trans folk, especially the ladies, this is something we’ve been dreading for quite some time.

It may be tempting to see this as a great bit of visibility for the trans community and another chance for us to talk about trans issues. It may appear we are gaining an advocate and spokesperson in the mainstream media. None of this is true, however. There is nothing positive to come from this interview tomorrow. Most of us are actually quite afraid of the world we will be living in after this evening.

(Please note that I am using the singular “they” as Jenner’s pronoun. Jenner has not yet asked us to use a different pronoun and doing so before being told what to use would be inappropriate.)

What is important to consider is where Bruce Jenner is coming from. They are a privileged white person who exists in the heart of celebritydom. They are already a household name in mainstream media…and rich. Yes, this is going to make their personal experience difficult in a way most of us could not imagine, however, this is where the problem lies. Jenner’s experience does not and will never line up with the experience of 99.99% of trans people. Everything about Jenner will be about them and not about trans people.

Jenner will never understand the fear of being fired from their job simply because they are transgender. Jenner will not have to fear violence at every turn. They will not struggle to afford treatment (hormones, surgery, etc) while fighting with insurance companies to get anything at all covered. They will not experience housing discrimination.

Jenner will literally be able to buy their way out of any experience even remotely typical for those of us in the transgender community. Jenner will be able to snap their fingers for a new wardrobe, a body guard, medical treatment, and anything else they need.

This is not the person who should be the face of our community. The face of our community should not be our most privileged and least marginalized. It should be exactly the opposite. The face of our community should be our most marginalized. Our focus should not be trickle-down in nature. We need to be lifting up from the bottom. No one should be left behind. Our focus and the face of our community should be transgender women of color.

Jenner is not equipped for these conversations, nor should they even be expected to. Even for me, it took a couple years of listening to others in my community before I felt confident enough to be having important discussions around trans issues. I needed to learn the limits of my experience and to not speak over or for those less privileged than me. I needed to learn when to elevate the voices of others and speak in ways and about things with the nuance necessary to not over-step my boundaries. This does not come automatically.

This will not be how things go with Jenner. They will immediately be treated as an expert on transgender issues by the media. Their experience will be put front and center as The Transgender Experience™ instead of just one of many ways to be transgender and experiences to have. We saw this happen recently with Zoey Tur.

Jenner is not an expert on trans issues. I don’t even consider myself to be an expert and I am involved in the community and with activism. In reality, no one can truly be an expert on trans issues because trans experiences are varied and individualistic. Being a vocal part of the trans community and speaking for trans people means having a deep understanding of this fact. It is impossible for Jenner to possess this understanding.

Going even beyond Jenner’s ability to speak for trans people, we’ve already had a glimpse of the nastiness to come from the media. It’s not pretty. Simply look at TMZ and other tabloid publications. Jenner comes with too much baggage. People are too eager to use them being transgender as another way to attack him in pursuit of a quick buck.

Much of the bullying and attacks on Jenner feel like a flashback to the 90s for me. I still have mental scars from the imagery and treatment of trans people in the 90s. Media depictions like those on Jerry Springer set me back almost two decades in figuring out who I was and how to navigate being transgender. I fear a repeat of this for transgender youth of today.

Bruce Jenner’s stardom comes with immense visibility, but visibility isn’t always positive. Each insult hurled at Jenner isn’t just an insult of Jenner, it’s an attack on all trans people. These “jokes” are at the expense of all trans people. We are the punchline. Jenner will be a magnet for transphobia and transmisogyny and while they may be able to endure it and shelter themself from it thanks to decades of experience being in the spotlight, the vast majority of the trans community cannot.

Jenner’s “journey” and this interview won’t be about transgender people and the trans community, it will be about them and all of us will be the innocent victims handed over in exchange for media profits.

Regardless of all of this, Jenner still deserves our respect. They deserve to be properly gendered however they ask us to do. But I beg for the world to not look to Jenner to speak for us.

Update: Based on a lot comments I’ve received in various places, it seems as though I completely failed to make one of my main points clear enough. I 100% support Bruce Jenner and all trans people. My issue isn’t with Bruce Jenner themself at all. It is with a society and a media that will no doubt center around their experience and their story as THE transgender story and experience. We all have different stories and experiences and they are all worth being heard. I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I don’t believe that. Bruce’s experience is just one of an infinite number of them. What I fear is what will be thrust upon Bruce and the elevation of THEIR story over all others. This will only serve to bury the stories of our most marginalized.

3

Asbury Park Half Marathon – 1:48:11

RunAPalooza Asbury Park Half Marathon 2015

Ignore the nail polish situation here. It came off as soon as I got home.

Oddly, before Saturday, I hadn’t raced a half marathon in three years. Yes, THREE! I’ve run four half marathons (raced two of them) in that period of time, but the last half marathon I did outside of Disney World or Disneyland and wasn’t just for fun was three years ago, April 2012. That’s before I even decided to transition! Really, I guess it’s just because I don’t run a lot of races and I’ve been staying focused on the marathon, but I don’t think this is doing my any favors. In order to get better at the marathon, I need to be running half marathons too.

Enter the Asbury Park Half Marathon at RunAPalooza.

I was back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to do this race. Last year, it was the day before the New Jersey Marathon and my wife ran it–she massively PRed! The race seemed reasonably well put together and it’s not too far away, so it seemed like a good candidate for a tune-race. Plus, it fell on a 16-mile long run day this year. Perfect!

Race Day

I woke up around 5:30–which is roughly when I wake up most weekday mornings these days–and was able to hop right out of bed. I wasn’t quite feeling energized, but I had no trouble getting up. I got dressed real quick, ate some oatmeal, and ran out the door. Unfortunately, I ended up being a few minutes behind schedule thanks to forgetting my glasses and having to head back to the house to get them and needing to stop for gas. Still, I made it down to Asbury Park in good time.

I parked and ran into the Convention Hall to grab my bib. Since I had 16 miles on the schedule, I wanted to knock out a three-mile warmup before the race. As I was throwing my bib on, my friend Lauren saw me and came over to say hi. We had planned to run the race together so we had to meet up anyway. After a quick hello, we set a meeting spot and I went out for my warmup. My timing ended up being pretty close to perfect and I finished my warmup with less than ten minutes to go before the race. Lauren and I quickly found each other again and snagged our spot in the corral.

Lauren wanted to keep around an 8:10 pace which sounded good to me. Ideally, that pace shouldn’t be too difficult for me right now. My only real concern was the weather. Last year, the weather was cool, but super windy. This year was nothing like that. The high for the day was set to be near 80 and the wind didn’t even exist. None of us East Coasters are anywhere near acclimated to that kind of warmth yet.

Anyway, after a couple minutes in the corral, the race started and we were off. We quickly found our pace and settled right in. Our race strategy was pretty simple, even 8:10s for 13.1 miles.

For the most part, things were extremely uneventful early on. We kept things steady with a nice conversation. Shortly before the halfway mark, we saw Aimee coming down the out part of the out-and-back in this part of the race. We waved and continued on.

If we’re being honest, I was already not feeling anywhere near how I wanted to be feeling. I felt like I was working too hard for the pace we were keeping. While I still haven’t set an official goal for Grandma’s Marathon in two months, I do know it’ll be somewhere in this realm, plus/minus 10 seconds. Considering that, I need to be able to keep this pace with no problem for a half marathon. The fact that I couldn’t is a major concern.

As we approached back towards the Convention Hall for our pass-by of the finish line on the boardwalk, I was starting to have serious concerns about keeping the pace up. We weren’t even at nine miles yet. Lauren wasn’t feeling too great either. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun last four miles.

After passing the finish line, for an out-and-back in the other direction from where we had just came, we hooked a right turn onto a 30ft patch OF FRIGGIN’ SAND! It was the worst surprise ever! That really sucked and I felt it in my legs for a few minutes afterwards. This was the final nail in the coffin for having any sort of a decent race. Lauren needed a walk break because of a side stitch and, since I already established we’re being totally honest here, I wasn’t really opposed to the idea. We walked for a few seconds and then started back up again, but it didn’t last long before we needed another break. This time, though, I decided to power on.

From this point on, my pace dropped to about 8:30. I just wanted things to be over. I was hot and not having fun anymore. After the last turnaround, I just did my best to keep up as I had been, but it was rough. As a final insult, the course took us BACK OVER THE DAMN SAND with only like a quarter mile left to go! Ah!

As I approached the finish, I didn’t really try to give much else for the finish. It didn’t feel worth it. There was a guy running next to me that I made sure to beat but that was about it.

I crossed the finish at 1:48:11 and was just glad it was over.

I grabbed some water and waited for Lauren to finish so we could lament about how much that sucked.

Thoughts

I really don’t know what to make of this. As I mentioned, if I want to hit the goal I’d like to be setting for Grandma’s, this race shouldn’t have been so difficult. On the other hand, it was hot. Take off 15-20º and I think this would have been a very different day. I’m just not acclimated yet. My hope is I’ll acclimate just fine over the next two months and then head off to Duluth to race and it’ll be a little cooler than back here. We’ll see how that works out. Besides, my legs felt totally fine afterwards and the day after the race, so that’s a solid indication I wasn’t anywhere near pushing them.

There’s also the fact that I didn’t really have a great week running at all last week and didn’t do any taper at all. All my runs were slow and tough. I was just tired and not on top of my game. I wasn’t super surprised the race didn’t go great. Taking the entirety of my training so far into account, I think my expectation that this wouldn’t be a difficult pace to keep was correct, rather than this being a huge wake up call.

And even on top of that, I haven’t actually raced any race since July of last year. I was a bit rusty going in so, at the least, it was good to have a race to just get the cobwebs out a bit.

Anyway, I’m still not setting a goal in stone for my marathon yet. I’m going to see how the rest of training goes and then make a decision.

2

Apparently, I’ve been testosterone-free for two years

Here's the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am!

Here’s the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am! I’m just spewing it all over Tumblr HQ.

Apparently, today is my two year HRTiversary (anniversary of the day I started hormone replacement therapy). Who knew? I mean, I guess I did in the back of my head, but I completely forgot about it. I only even thought about it today because of a friend who reminded me this morning by wishing me happy HRTiversary.

I feel like I’m supposed to write something about this? Honestly, these anniversaries (HRT, “full time,” coming out, etc) feel like they’ve lost any real meaning to me. Sure, these days mark very important steps in my life towards happiness and honesty, but they also remind me of how long I told myself lies to avoid all of this and all the reasons why I had to. Why isn’t this my ten or eleven year HRTiversary? It easily could have been.
So, really, I don’t have much to say about this, but I do think it’s kind of ironic this is the day after Transgender Day of Visibility, a day which I have so many conflicting feelings about. Visibility is cool and all, but it’s also dangerous and brings extra attention to us, both individually and as a community. I try to be visible every day, but that’s just how I like to live my life. Partially, it’s because I don’t want to hide being trans anymore, partially because it allows me to take control of it and my identity, and…I don’t know, there are a bunch of other reasons too. Anyway, I’m not going to really go much into that when Red Durkin really nailed it yesterday. Just go read that.
I think my point here is I live being trans every day, anniversaries of various steps I took along the way seem kind of redundant. Absolutely, it’s nice to take a brief moment and be like “whoa, I can’t believe it’s been that long already” or “huh, that’s it? Feels like it’s been forever!” And that’s kind of the thing, some days it feels like it’s only been a brief part of my life, like the days when I’m reminded I’m still figuring out some parts of (openly) existing as a woman in the world. But there are other days where my pre-transition life feels like an entirely different life. It feels like a lifetime ago, like maybe it was just a past life and I’ve since reincarnated as this trans as fuck person who only kind hates herself instead of entirely hating herself.
Either way, the past is the past and it’s important to never forget it and learn everything you can from it. I wouldn’t change anything about it because I wouldn’t risk changing who I am. But…it’s the past. It’s done. I try to look forward as much as possible. Tons of awesome things have happened and changed over the last couple of years, but I feel like making any real big deal about these anniversaries is giving the past more attention than it deserves…or maybe just misplaced attention. I don’t know. It just feels weird, okay?
Man, that was cynical, wasn’t it? I swear I’m not nearly that cynical of a person!
Anyway, on a different note, being testosterone-free for two years is pretty fucking rad!
1

Grandma’s Marathon training: Weeks 1-4

I finally have a new profile pic on Twitter and Tumblr!

I finally have a new profile pic on Twitter and Tumblr!

Sheesh, I really don’t post here much anymore, do I? Work has been keeping me super busy, but I’m not actually complaining about that. I kind of like it.

So it’s now one quarter of the way through training for Grandma’s Marathon. I feel like training is flying by so far! I’ve converted fully to a morning runner during the week and an afternoon runner on the weekends. It’s been working out for me and I’ve somehow found the motivation to wake up at 5:30-5:45 every morning to run. I never thought that’d be a sentence I’d type!

For the most part, I feel like training is going pretty well. I’m finding I’m much stronger than I thought I was when I started and I’m running much faster with the same effort than I was even just a month ago. The only concern I’ve been having is my right knee and, well, actually my whole right leg. Starting a couple weeks ago, I began having some pain on the outside and inside of my knee, my calf has been tight, and my hip has been hurting kind of all around. When it first started, I took a couple days rest and focused on strengthening. It seemed to help and my runs last week were amazing. Then I woke up Friday and everything was feeling like crap again. Saturday and Sunday’s runs were okay and as I write this everything feels almost great. I really don’t know what to make of it. Mostly, it’s been just under the “I should probably not be running” threshold, but it’s close. I’ve been foam rolling and doing strength work every day and that’s definitely helping, but I feel like I’m flirting a little too much with injury lately.

Right now, my plan is to just pay close attention to it and be willing to let go if I need to. Until then, as long as the strength work and foam rolling is keeping it controlled, I’m going to keep to my plan.

Last week, I hit 40 miles which is my highest weekly mileage since the first week of July last year and I even went to two kick-ass spin classes! I’m pretty psyched about that. It was also three miles more than was scheduled which isn’t smart considering what I just was talking about, but I didn’t plan for it! On Saturday, the wife and I met Miranda and Jim for a little group run to meet Ruthie for a runner ice cream social. The route ended up being a lot longer than was described to me, but it was a fun run and the pace was easy so I didn’t complain. I guess that pre-emptively makes up for me skipping my run today to give my body a little extra sleep to get over this cold I woke up with yesterday.

Last Wednesday’s seven-miler ended up including my fastest 5k and 10k since transitioning which was especially impressive considering it was 12 hours after a great FlyWheel class where I was second on the Torq Board and PRed “total power.” I wasn’t even trying to run fast at first, it just sort of happened.

Despite all the weirdness in my right leg, this is how training has been overall. It’s been really encouraging for me. I’m already running faster than I thought I’d be by the end of training. We’ll see how the next twelve weeks go, but as long as I can keep the issues in my leg in check, I feel like I’ll be in good shape!

This was a foggy run! Usually, Manhattan is right there all staring you in the face.

This was a foggy run! Usually, Manhattan is right there all staring you in the face.

Starbucks, does ANYONE spell Amelia like this?

Starbucks, does ANYONE spell Amelia like this?

8

I was followed

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece over at RunHaven about what it’s like to run as a woman vs as a man when it comes to being harassed and worrying about your safety. Being transgender, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place to be able to describe how different running can feel out there depending on your gender. As I do with most of the things I write and am proud of, I posted the piece on Reddit. I wanted people to read it. Of course, I’m not naive enough to expect this to ever go well. I’ve grown to accept the cesspool of comments Reddit is so great at dishing out.

The comments alternated mostly between people focusing on my being transgender–which is especially annoying because the piece had nothing to do with being trans, it was only mentioned as a frame of reference for the fact that I’ve experienced both sides of the subject–and a lot of men telling me I’m paranoid and being dramatic and “playing victim.” I didn’t engage the latter comments.

Now, let’s fast forward to last night. I didn’t wake up to run before work yesterday morning. I could have willed myself to get out of bed, but the extra sleep and hours of rest for my legs seemed more important and I didn’t have anything after work preventing me from running. Now that it’s still light out until after 7, I thought I could just barely squeeze a five-miler in before the dark. I left work a little early to give myself more time, but I still didn’t get home, changed, and warmed up until 6:45. I started to worry a bit about finishing my run in the dark, but I didn’t want to skip my run.

On the way out on my regular out-and-back route, I passed a group of three younger men. As I was approaching the group, one of them looked me up and down and I heard him say “damn, that’s nice.” While it didn’t rattle me, it was a little annoying and probably primed me a little bit for what happened a few minutes later.

I turned around at two and a half miles and made my way back home, I was feeling pretty bummed about my run. My legs just weren’t feeling great and were giving me some cause for concern (I canceled my spin class for this morning because of it). When I got about a mile and a half from home, I was still maintaining the 8:30 pace I had been running. Out of nowhere, I hear someone running behind me. I hadn’t seen anyone else around at all and I didn’t hear him until he was about ten feet behind me (I don’t wear headphones) so it didn’t seem like he had been running behind me for a while and was finally just passing me. Hearing him freaked me out a little as it was now dark in the park, but I assumed he was just another runner at first and tried not to worry about it.

I expected him to pass me quickly, considering how he quickly he came up on me. When a minute went by with him staying ten feet behind me, I started to get a little scared. At first, I slowed slightly to see if he’d run around me. He didn’t. Then, I started picking my pace up from the 8:30 I had been running. He stuck with me. There weren’t a lot of people out, but there were enough cars and people around that there was never a moment I couldn’t see another human.

As I picked up my pace more and more, he stayed right behind me, never losing (or gaining) a foot. Eventually, I was running a 7:15 pace. This is pretty much 5k pace for me and I was already four miles into my run. With how my legs felt and where I’m at right now with running, this wasn’t exactly a comfortable pace for me…not to mention the fact that it was not a pace I wanted on last night’s run.

As I made my way toward the park exit, he was still right on me. I considered stopping to tie my shoe or something as I passed other people, but I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I hooked a right at the exit, hoping he’d be going a different way, but he followed me there too. As I made the turn, I figured if he was going to make a move, this was going to be the spot. The way out of the park is a dark .15ish mile path with some high grass on the side you could easily throw someone into. I gave it a little extra here to get through quickly.

The park exit I use dumps me right onto the end of the street I live at the corner of. Five or six blocks down. Right away, there were more people and lots of light here. I figured if I made it a few hundred more feet, there was no chance he’d try anything. That’s where he finally backed off a little and turned down a different street.

Really, I have no way to know if he was some creep with bad intentions or just another runner. I’ve been trying to come up with a reasonable explanation that doesn’t involve him wanting to attack me, but I just can’t shake the feeling he wasn’t just another runner. If I hadn’t varied my pace, sure, maybe we were just running the same pace and I somehow didn’t see him coming from a different direction when he ended up behind me. But he kept right behind me when I slowed down. He kept right behind me when I heavily picked up the pace. Maybe I was just serving as motivation for him and he was using me to push himself. That’s possible. I do that sometimes with other runners. But there’s a pretty big difference between running at 8:30/mile and 7:15/mile…and keeping that 7:15 pace for an entire mile? And keeping that close to me?

I never took a good look at him. I was afraid to actually look over my shoulder for more than one brief second while he was running behind me. When he ended up turning, I took a quick look and noticed he was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. It was almost 50º out. His attire didn’t really scream runner.

But here’s the real problem, I’m sitting here trying to figure out some way to make him not be a sketchy creep. I’m trying to justify him running ten feet behind a woman at night for a mile and a half. Our society pushes us to justify aggression instead of calling it what it is. Commenters on Reddit would describe me as being dramatic and paranoid rather than simply saying “yeah, either he’s a creep or he should know better than to do that.”

Let’s say he actually was up to no good and tried to attack me. How many people would have said it was my fault for running in the dark? How much would I have been blamed for that?

We don’t live in a world where my fear in this situation is even remotely unwarranted, yet many will still blame me and dismiss me for it.