Words of Discouragement

For some reason when I’m running with headphones, people I pass try to talk to me despite my inability to hear them clearly. I hate to be rude and miss what they’ve said, so I generally take out an earbud and ask, “Pardon?” It’s already slightly annoying that this even happens (that’s a blog post for another day), but when they repeat themselves and it turns out to be an off-putting comment – why? Why is it that people feel the need to be “funny” by saying discouraging or contrary things to another person? If someone’s busting their ass doing something that takes effort, hard work, and/or motivation, is joking about their activity really the best way to proceed?

“That looks like too much work!”

“Slow down! You’re making us look bad!”

“I wish I could run! I’m jealous!”

I know it is, on some level, with the best intentions and I certainly don’t take it personally. I’ve just never run into this sort of behavior outside of a women’s locker room (“I’m so fat!”). I truly didn’t know how to respond. Should I politely defend what I’m doing? Should I try to make them feel better about not doing what I’m doing? Do I laugh it off? I’ve done the latter thus far. However, what I was thinking while I casually laughed was more along the lines of…

  1. It obviously isn’t too much work. I’m not an athlete, and don’t look the part. I’m short, chubby, and slow. It doesn’t matter so long as I hit the pavement. Why would you think insulting someone’s hobby or goal progress as “too much work” is a compliment? All you’re accomplishing is making yourself sound lazy, and making me feel like I shouldn’t bother. It is work, but it certainly isn’t too much.
  2. No, you’re making you look bad. I’m not judging you for not hitting the pavement. It isn’t for everyone. You can be healthy and happy in many other facets of your life. But telling me that I’m making you look bad, whether jokingly or not, is meant to make me guilty for your laziness. I’m not going to apologize, even jokingly, for my workout.
  3. This isn’t really even funny. I do sympathize and would be happy to talk about this another time. However, hearing this only seems to make me feel sorry for your injury or feel guilty for my activity. As I continue on dripping with sweat, red-faced and just trying to finish my run, I’ll feel like a jerk for not having asked what was wrong and offering an “I wish you a fast recovery!”. I don’t need your problem dropped on me in the middle of my run.

RunKeeper

If you insist on interrupting someone during their run, especially if they pull out their headphones to hear what you have to say, please give quick words of encouragement. Here are a few suggestions of things I’d love to hear during my run:

“Keep it up!”

“You look great!”

“How far are you going?”

“You got this!”

“Almost there!”

Above all, I’d much prefer an unobtrusive smile, wave, or thumbs up!

Running Outside: Lesson #3

I’m visiting my family in the Florida Keys and I was half dreading/half looking forward to running here due to the weather and adapting to something different for a couple of weeks. Luckily since it’s winter, the heat and humidity are under control! So that leaves us with what I took away from this run…

  1. Heat and humidity can be your friend. The weather for a run is like a healthy diet: everything in moderation. This time of year, Florida actually has mild temperatures (well, mild for this part of the world) and humidity; it was about 72F for my run with less than 90% humidity and a strong breeze. In California, the cold, dry air was actually making my mouth and throat super dry and almost irritated, but I didn’t even think about that once today. I never felt parched.
  2. Running into the wind sucks. In my urban Los Angeles area with loads of streets for different directions and buildings to block the way, it’s quite easy to avoid running directly into the wind. Here, I have few choices; the road goes one way and I had to run it both directions to rack up my miles. Half of my run was directly into a strong breeze, and it felt like one of those dreams where you’re trying to run and run and run but you’re just getting dragged down by a mysterious force.
  3. Getting out the door isn’t easier – or harder! I packed running gear with optimism, but little commitment. I thought if I had a chance over the weekend, weather permitting, I’d maybe hit the pavement. However, I figured I might get into vacation mode and opt to relax instead; I didn’t want to build up a commitment to run just to disappoint myself. To my surprise and luck, the stress of a LONG travel day and keeping busy helping around the house was the motivation I needed to escape on the pavement! I just had to throw on my sneakers and walk out the door. It felt no different than back home.
  4. Headphones and music can help. One of the things I love about running outside is not needing music. The sights and sounds of the outdoors, albeit a bustling city or a quaint neighborhood on the ocean, is really immersive and enjoyable – not to mention safer! However, there is no shame in using headphones anyway. I found myself getting rather bored today since I had to rerun the same residential streets (that I’m already very familiar with.) By the end of the first mile, I regretted not having music to help push me through the rest of my run. Next time!

Airline Letdowns

I have not had much luck with major airlines this past year. I’ve run into some small but manageable situations in the past (lost luggage, missing a flight due to weather delays, etc) but nothing as extreme, disruptive, or upsetting as I have in this past year. Let’s visit why I wish I had the power of teleportation!

Delta, June 2014

In June 2014 my mother was losing her battle to breast cancer. I had very limited time to purchase a flight and make it out to see her before she was gone. I managed to get tickets two days in advance to make it from Los Angeles to Key West. Come the day of my flight, I woke up to my alarm and checked my phone only to find a cancellation notification. My first flight in LA had been cancelled due to mechanical problems, there were no flights I could catch that would make the connection in Atlanta to fly into Key West, and there were no alternative routes for me unless I risked flying standby. I wasn’t going to risk spending the night in an airport to arrive in Florida so late.

Delta wound up rebooking me for the next day. I had a fairly upsetting exchange on Twitter with Delta which did result in a $100 credit, but nothing could buy back the 24 hours lost with my mom.

Then, to really seal the deal, when I got back home to California one of my two checked bags was missing. (It was eventually recovered and delivered to me.)


 

Delta, January 2015

My father had rotator cuff surgery on Tuesday which means he’s unable to use his arm for several weeks. I was flying in to drive him home after surgery. Delta has the most convenient flight times for my schedule from Los Angeles to Key West, so I prefer to go with them where possible. I went through the purchasing process, and after paying and receiving my flight information, I noticed I had no seat assignment for one flight. All of the coach seats were occupied. How did I just by a ticket for a full flight?

I called their customer service line and had a depressingly scripted and unhelpful conversation.

Me: Why did you take my money when there were no available seats on the plane?
Delta: You could have viewed the seating chart prior to submitting payment. There are seats available on the plane, but you have to pay to upgrade to receive a seat assignment.
Me: If I don’t pay to upgrade and show up for my flight, what happens then?
Delta: You’ll be given your seat assignment at that time. You will be upgraded for free if an upgraded seat is available and no coach seats are available.
Me: And if there are no seats available at all?
Delta: I’m sure there will be a seat available! Overselling is a common airline practice.
Me: You only sold me a chance to get on a flight when my receipt says I bought a ticket.
Delta: We do have a cancellation policy if you’d like to receive a refund.

Let me clarify – I do understand airlines oversell, and have been on flights where they’ve had to ask folks to take vouchers to opt to rebook on another flight. Hell, I’ve even tried to take advantage of those offers. However, I have never encountered this kind of blatant overselling and callous offering to cancel. Needless to say, I took up his offer.


 

American Airlines, January 2015

I went with American Airlines to avoid Delta per the above. Long story short, while my first flight went off without a hitch, my connection flight from Miami to Key West was arbitrarily canceled. Not only was it canceled, but I was notified on my phone at boarding time that it had been canceled. The gate agent had no idea it had been canceled; I had been notified before she was. She took my ticket from me, talked in Spanish to the person beside her, typed and typed and typed… then handed me back another ticket. She didn’t tell me what happened to my original flight, she didn’t explain anything about my new flight, and she asked the next person what they needed, dismissing me. I was utterly appalled at this total lack of customer service.

I was now unable to pick up my father who was only just coming out of surgery. Not only that, but my layover was now so long, I could have driven to pick him up faster than waiting for my new flight. After making calls for other arrangements for myself and my dad (only after stress-induced crying in public, mind you),  I tweeted American Airlines to then have to ask for an apology. Ugh.

I’m ready to invest in teleportation, please!

Running Outside: Lesson #2

Why did no one tell me how beautiful outdoor running is? I know I’m coming from a dark, depressing gym with questionable regulars and constantly broken equipment, but I didn’t realize how refreshing it was going to be to get outside and hit the bike/running trails along the water.

IMG_20150109_152656

Observations from today’s run were not quite as related to each other, but still enlightening.

  1. Have fun with your route! I’m not at a stage in training where my distances need to be closely monitored. I just want to run at least a 5K, and slowly increase my distance. Today, I plowed through my 3.1 miles and hit 4, not because I was purposefully increasing mileage but because I let myself run where I wanted. I got a little lost, I ran a new way around a lake, and I really took in my surroundings. The people watching, sightseeing, and bird sightings were endless! I also completed a steep hill I wouldn’t have normally planned to run, giving me an extra workout, which made me realize…
  2. Cold air is rough on the mouth/throat. I’m not in amazing shape (yet!), and as such I breathe very deeply when running. The frequency and amount of cold air going to and from my lungs (yes, California can get chilly) causes my throat and mouth to get extremely dry and irritated. When I got back, I gulped down water like it was my lifeline, not because I was thirsty but because I was literally parched.
  3. Technology isn’t perfect. I’d been using Nike+ for my last few runs. I love the UI, social cheer feature, and the competitiveness on the backend. However, when I got back, paused the run, and swiped to finish, the app pretended like the run never happened. One moment my map and stats were on the screen, and then next – gone. The app was on its home screen, telling me to start my run as if I’d just rewound the last 4 miles. I contacted Nike support and got little to no help. I was pissed and disappointed, but I realized…
  4. Numbers aren’t everything. RunKeeper took me back with open arms (I’m sorry I ever left, RunKeeper!) and I was able to rebuild my route. I guestimated my time based on my normal pace and what I remembered seeing before my run disappeared. Generally, what I recreated for my log is accurate, but what matters more is it that it doesn’t matter. I ran 4 miles. I knew I had a kickass workout. I knew I pushed myself harder than the day before. I felt great. I didn’t need statistics to tell me I was making progress.

… but to a numbers girl, they sure are satisfying!

Running Outside: Lesson #1

I’ve never been a big outdoor runner, but treadmill running was making me dread my workouts so I finally made a point to cancel my gym membership to force myself outside. My membership expired January 8th, and my first run outside took place January 8th.

I had built up running outside over the years as a huge undertaking, including but not limited to: finding the motivation to get myself out the door; self consciousness running past people on the street; coping with the heat of the day and the pain of pavement; and the risk of getting lost mid-route. However, last Thursday, I got off work, hit the road running and didn’t look back for my full 5K.

Screenshot 2015-01-10 19.19.04

Here are the observations I made during my first proper outdoor training run:

  1. It isn’t embarrassing running outside. Nobody stared at me, there was no pointing, laughing, or honking. Nobody really cared. If anything, I had more positive interactions with people I ran past, which leads us to…
  2. People are friendly! At the start of my run, I had a quick exchange with a lovely woman that lives down our block (“How many miles?!” “A 5K – about 3 miles!”). Later on my way back, I had a silly conversation in passing with a man while we were waiting for a long traffic light to change (he pushed the button out of frustration at the same time we could walk so I told him he had a magic touch, to which he laughed), which leads us to…
  3. Traffic lights suck. When I scoped out my route, half of it avoided lights, but the second half was through downtown and all busy streets/intersections. I thought hey, I can zigzag and go the direction of the pedestrian light to keep momentum; surely I won’t catch too many lights, and the few I do will just be a nice quick break before picking up the pace again. Wrong. My final time was disappointing, I couldn’t accurately estimate my pacing, and the “quick breaks” felt like interruptions rather than relief, which leads us to my last observation…
  4. Running outside made my workout a delight. The traffic lights were particularly cruel because running outside, albeit more of a physical challenge than a flat treadmill, helped keep me motivated better than any upbeat music or distracting movie on TV. I was going places (and fast!), seeing things, interacting with my beautiful city and awesome neighbors. As someone who works from home, I had no idea how invigorating this would feel.

After this, I couldn’t wait to hit the street running again.