Gym carnies: Hatsumomo

Gym carnies is an irregular series about the curious characters and intriguing individuals that people my local gym.

It's no surprise that when I go to the gym I usually use the treadmill. The gym is where I do my tempo runs and hill runs and serves as back up on rainy days. So being that I'm on the treadmill so often I've gotten to know other treadmillites (treadmillers? treadmillians?). FOM was the first treadmillite I became acquainted with--and not by choice. Since then I've recognized other treadmillites, some were brief spats of fitness, others have stuck around for the long run (pun intended).

One of the newer treadmillites I have come to call Hatsumomo. Now, for those of you who haven't been suckered by pop culture/your wife to read Memoirs of a Geisha, Hatsumomo is a geisha in said book who is beautiful and famous. She also happens to be one bitch-ass ho--but that is beside the point. The name stuck out in my mind because once I figured out how to pronounce it I couldn't stop saying it. I especially liked saying it like a dirty old Japanese business man who is looking for more than just company from a geisha (I get very specific in my humor). Then, I saw this woman at the gym who happened to look like Li Gong, who plays Hatsumomo in the movie. The name has stuck ever since.

There are two reasons why Hatsumomo has received designation as a gym carnie. First and oddest for a neighborhood with three sushi restaurants, four Thai restaurants, and umpteen Chinese take-out places (including a Tex-Mex Chinese place), Hatsumomo is the only Asian who regularly visits my gym. My 'hood is pretty diverse, but for some reason the Asians don't hit the biggest gym in the area, at least not in mornings. So Hatsumomo stands out in that respect.

The second reason for her carnihood, is that Hatsumomo is one of those rare treadmillites that has a death grip on the treadmill for her entire run. Not just for stretching, not just for slowing down--but for the entire four or five miles of her run she holds onto the machine for dear life. Sure, I have my weird habits while on the treadmill--I run with the TV off (which apparently is unusual in my gym)--but holding onto the machine? What is that?

Now, I should say that Hatsumomo runs with some Velcro contraption around one of her knees, so at first I thought she was running through an injury. So as a fellow runner I admired her for trying to get through her runs while injured and using the machine as a crutch. But it's been several months by now. The injury is either permanent or non-existent--and in either case it would be silly to continue running so.

What really boggles my mind is that Hatsumomo is a good runner. Usually the death grip is employed when the runner is a novice, but Hatsumomo cranks out miles at about a nine minute pace and usually runs four+ miles at a time. The woman can run--even if has has handicapped herself.

Also, she has a very particular way of bracing the machine. She'll have the TV on and with her right hand grip the screen, which is attached to top of the dash board. With her left hand she'll hold onto the side rails. It looks like her arms are stuck mid-hurdle-jump.

Of course, in my mind, I don't understand this. Mostly because I'm as much of a treadmill purest as possible. I don't do running starts (get the 'mill going before you step on it) or running pauses (leave the 'mill going while you take a breather). I only hold onto the rails if I'm stretching. I feel like holding onto the machine--especially in an asymmetrical way like Hatsumomo--just throws off your stride and makes you do a lot of unnecessary work that could be damaging. But, hey, that's just my two cents.



After a year and a half of group runs with The Super Runner's Shop I finally made it to my tenth group run and a free pair of shoes! (Insert angelic chorus here.)

Here they are, my brand new, 100% free Brooks Adrenaline 9s:

Things are just prettier when they're free, aren't they?

Now, while these shoes came at no dollar cost, there were definitely not without frustrations. In the middle of yesterday's group run the group leader/pacer asked how far along everyone was in their quest toward free shoes. The other two people with us were at three and seven times. I mentioned that this was my eleventh group run of the year and probably my 20th ever with the group--and that I was still waiting on my shoes.

The group leader suggested that I tell them at the store that I've done the 10 runs so that they can check the sign in sheets--which I had asked them to last week. Turns out they won't check the sign in sheets unless you ask them to. Then one of the other runners chimed in and said the store staff is very disorganized when it comes to tracking your runs and that my best bet would be to come in with the dates I ran with the group so that they can pull up those specific sign in sheets.

I slowly realized that I didn't get my free shoes earlier not because they start everyone at zero at the start of year, but because no one at the store was keeping track! Sheesh.

When I got back to the store the group leader told the manager that I was past the 10 run mark and then he provided me the hook up with the free shoes. That easy.

About the shoes? I haven't run in them yet--but trying them on felt really nice. The fit is a bit more snug around the toes, which might be a bad thing since I usually need a big toe box (sound dirty, right?). Also, they streamlined the design elements so it looks more like a running shoe and less like a flux capacitor. These are the second shoes in line to be rotated in, so it'll be a while before they get tested for real.


My day of birth

Since I seem to be suffering from blogger's block I've decided to do the easiest thing to cure it: post pictures!

Last Sunday was my birthday (hello late twenties!). On Saturday we went out with a bunch of friends to the destined-to-become-wildly-popular Governors Island. This little island is about 140 acres and sits between Manhattan and Brooklyn in the upper harbor:

This island has had many lives: colonial fort, Civil War fort, Coast Guard base, and, most recently, National Park. No one lives on the island now, so they have converted a lot of the non-historic buildings into artist space as well as created an outpost of the Children's Museum. This also means that the car is essentially car free, so it's a biker's paradise. The weather was supposed to be perfect for being outside, so I figured let's do it!

Here I am waiting inside the ferry terminal. We got to the terminal building at 11--30 minutes before we were supposed to get there, an hour before the 12noon ferry we were going to take, and 90 minutes before the 12:30 ferry we ended up going on.

They started boarding the ferry 15 minutes before departure. While we were parked there I got some nice pictures of the city on a surprisingly beautiful day. Here is the view from the ferry looking at Brooklyn Heights, with the Water Taxi creeping into the picture. (The row of trees at the base of the buildings are the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.)

This is a first for See sRod Run: a picture of Wifey!

This one is looking at the building we just came out of. The Governors Island ferry building is one of my favorites in the whole city.

Here's the sconce from the picture above in detail. Pretty cool.

After enjoying the breeze for a bit at the terminal we pulled out from the dock.

This is an action shot looking at the South Street Heliport. That's the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. In the mid-ground is some badass in a helicopter that is probably destined for JFK Airport in eight minutes (by car it takes about 45 minutes, without traffic).

We also caught the 12:30 Staten Island ferry departing from South Ferry.

Here's the view of Manhattan as we closed in on Governors Island (the huge ferry ride lasted about 10 minutes). Battery Park is the green area to the left.

Once we got on the island we rented bikes. I realized quickly that it has been well over a decade since I had been on a non-stationary bike. I looked like a damn fool on that bike for the first couple miles. (Sorry, no pictures of that, looking like a fool while on a bike is not conducive to picture taking.)

On the southern tip of the island we set up camp/grabbed a pinic table and started eating. Here's the view from the table. Our bikes in front of the Statue of Liberty.

Unknown to me at the time (I found out later while watching the news the next day) they were celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson into the wild of upstate New York by having historical ships replicate his trip. Here's one of the ships.

This next picture has some special significance. If you look just left of the trunk of the tree you see a faint blue tower in the background. See it? That is the Verrazano Bridge--the starting point for the NYC Marathon. There is a good chance that the next time I see that bridge I will be toeing the starting line of the Marathon.

Here's Wifey and I enjoying one of the many free hammocks in the park for the public to enjoy.

Here I am showing off my farmer's tan and the spinner form my birthday present. We didn't get to play because they closed the park. Boo!

Wifey and I getting ready to ride back to the ferry dock.

The view up the promenade to the fort with downtown in the background.

Two of our friends going bakc to the ferry with us. Due to an odd circumstance only one of them got a bike at the end fo the day.

On the ferry going back to the city. Turns out there was a Jazz festival going on all day at Governors Island and they encouraged people to dress up in clothign fromt he jazz age. Here's a couple that went all out. And what's he lookign at in his hands? A Blackberry.

Forward to Sunday, my actual birthday. Wifey snapped a picture of me just before I headed out for a speedier than anticipated five mile run on the Central Park trails.

Finally--in an inpromptu tribute to Jess, who has spent eight months off the bottle--we visited the new beer garden in our hood (yes, be jealous peoples, we have two giant beer gardens here in Astoria).


I don't feel like writing

I really don't. It's been about a week since I've posted and really, I have nothing to say. I've been in a blah mood lately between work and home being particularly stressful lately. Running hasn't been too interesting since I'm in a maintenance month.

I spent a good chuck of tonight trying to write one post (not this one) and didn't get very far before I threw in the towel.

Eh, I hoping inspiratioin decides to visit me over the weekend.


I am in!

I was planning for this to be my big, "I made it into the NYC Marathon" reveal post--the pay off from yesterday's dissertation on the lengthy sign up process. However, it seems like The Laminator has beat me to the punch--thanks Facebook.

So here's the big revel: I'm in, third time was the charm.

Training starts Independence Day and ends in the race of races on November 1. Now to pull together a training (hello appropriately timed RW July issue all about Marathon training). I better enjoy June.


Sticker Shock

As a runner in New York you are contractually obliged to aspire to and apply to run the New York City Marathon. It's actually written into the rental agreement, right after the paragraph that states all apartments with children need to have window guards. I thought it was weird too, but I checked, it's there. (Apparently, my condo-owning brethren have an odder obligation that has something to do with Bugaboos and offspring.)

So back in May I made my yearly pilgrimage to ingnycmarathon.com to sign up for The Marathon. (I've picked up the nasty habit of calling it The Marathon. But as any runner knows, especially those who, like me, lived in Boston for any period of time, the only Marathon you can properly call The Marathon is the Boston Marathon. All others are called by their proper name.)

Twice I had seen this falsely assuring welcome graphic. Well, not really twice because the date does change every year, but go with it. And twice I had been rejected. Not that I was in a rush to run this race. I already have New York state checked off my 50-state list. And I knew that if I didn't make it in this year that I would be guaranteed entry for 2011. Patience--one of the unexpected side effects of distance running.

I still can't get over the fact that when you sign up for a Marathon (any of 'em) you have to sign a waiver that essentially says you might die from this. That is bad ass.

Headphones are strongly discouraged? Why even bother saying that? It's like saying "this water is going to be very wet." It's not going to make any one not jump in.

"Never ran a race" Could you imagine the NYC Marathon being your first Marathon? I mean it could scare you away from racing forever: 4am wake up for an 11am start, massive bridges, congested route, an exit chute that is over a mile long. It could also set a false expectation. Very few other races in the world get the same media attention or crowd turn-out.

Sigh. I was hoping to have a new PR by now, but it just wasn't meant to be. And from what I understand NYCM isn't exactly the best place to be planning a PR.

Now the annoyance starts. Really, do you need to know my occupation?

Yes, now that you bring it up in the middle of my application for the NYCM I would like for ING to contact me about estate planning. I (more than most) know this part of the agreement between NYRR and ING, but really? They can't do this in a follow up email?


What? Huh? I mean, if you're some boondocks Marathon that is struggling to get sponsors and have decided to pave the course in gold I'd understand an almost $200 entry fee--but this is the NYCM. The race goes through pot-holed streets in the South Bronx! There are sponsors knocking at their door to sign up! How do you justify charging people $182?? I won't even spend that much money on GU in the course of a year!

I think we gotta water down the prize purse a bit to make sure that there'll still be a back-of-the-pack next year.

Wait, wait. So I just gave you $182--a week's worth of groceries + a reasonably nice dinner--and now you want me to sign up for your club? Nothankyouverymuch.

Ok. The t-shirts and hat I understand--I would never buy them, but I understand. My real problem here is the watch. First off, if you don't already have a running watch why would you want to buy one now that you've submitted your name for the NYCM lottery? Second, if you were going to all of a sudden buy a running watch would you really buy it online? I mean, if you don't have one already I assume you don't know about them (or you intentionally opt to not wear one, in which case you wouldn't want to buy a watch) and therefore would probably want to see it in person. Third, and this goes for all this merchandise: at this point YOU'RE STILL NOT IN THE RACE. You're just in the lottery. There is a very good chance that you would be buying this stuff in vein.

Then, the waiting game. And by game I mean I would go to the NYCM site daily to look for updates (I know there would be none) and make sure all my information was entered right. I would have to hold tight until that magical, undetermined day in June when the NYRR would decide to fire up its digital bingo spinner and start spitting out names of the chosen 50,000 who would race the (other) race of races.

Turns out that magical day was today....


And now for a full transition to something else

During training for The Flying Pig one of the things I promised myself was to use June to do all the stuff I want to do, but never get a chance to do during Marathon training. See, I'm not planning another race until September at the earliest, meaning that I don't have to start training until July.

What exactly does this mean? Well, here's the weekly schedule I've settled on:
  • Tuesdays: Five mile tempo run
  • Wednesdays: Weights
  • Thursdays: 800s
  • Fridays: Weights
  • Saturday: Long run with running group

I'm keeping the tempo run because I got my tempo runs in a really good place during training and I want to keep that. Also, I feel like tempo runs are the hardest to get back after you stop training--so I'll be easing the transition into the next training cycle.

The two days of weights? Well, I would do other cross training, but I don't have a bike, can't swim for more than a lap, and my gym doesn't have a rowing machine (WTF?). So I'm left with weights. And that's fine by me since I could stand to do a couple bench presses.

I'm bringing in the 800s to help with speed. I usually do 1600s during Marathon training, but I'm bringing it down to 800 to see what I can really do. (I've already done one 800 workout and crikey was that hard! These legs are slow!)

And the long run on the weekend? Any long term reader knows that I am trying to get a free pair of shoes out the 89th Street Super Runner's Shop. I have to do 10 group runs with the shop's group in order to get a free pair. And even though I've been at it for over a year I still haven't made it to that magical number 10--technically.

By my count I've run with the group about 17 times since I started last March, but since they renew the counts at the start of the year, my nine runs in 2008 didn't carry forward. So I had to start 2009 from scratch.

Given my traveling and conflict so far this year, I've run eight times with the group and I have no planned weekend interruptions for the next several weekends. Those free shoes will be mine!