Saturday, March 31, 2012

Distance Runner Shows Up to Hip-Hop Class

On Wednesday evening, my Bolder Options mentee, Violet, and I attended a Hip-Hop dance class at the local Lifetime Fitness in St. Louis Park.  I had always wanted to try out the class, but had not made my way to one yet because: 1) Of the five areas of physical fitness (speed, endurance, strength, flexibility, and coordination), I definitely need to improve the most with coordination, and it is embarrassing; 2) Related to point #1, I was a few beats and dance moves off at the last fitness dance class I accidentally attended at Lifetime; 3) I just keep getting busy Wednesdays.   

Once I had set the date with Violet, I had no more excuses.  Even better, she could be my excuse in class for why I was looking like a goof in class.  “Well I wouldn’t normally be here, but I am being such a trooper by bringing my mentee here,” I could imagine myself telling the other class participants.  “I look ridiculous, but it’s okay because I’m doing it to spend time with Violet.”

We got to the class a few minutes early, only because I thought the class started at 7:00 instead of 7:15.  As usual, we stuck out a bit with Violet being the youngest participant, having the darkest skin, and being accompanied by pale-skinned me.  We took our place at the back of the room, and, for once, we stayed out of trouble. 

The class started with some warm-up dance moves – arms pumping, butt shaking, and hips swinging side to side.   Just as I had feared, we then moved quickly into a complicated choreographed dance the class had learned last week.  Violet and I tried to follow along as best we could.  I was trying too hard to keep up to take the time to look if she was fairing any better than me.  But even though I was looking silly, I was having a lot of fun trying to get my body to move to the rhythm.  We moved to another song with easier moves, although I became pretty disturbed to be shimmying and shaking my butt to Soldja Boy’s “Superman Dat Hoe.”  I tried to ignore my feminist talk in my head, “This is degrading, objectifying, and disgusting.  What are you doing?  You brought your mentee to come shake her butt to “Superman Dat Hoe”?  She already gets enough negative messages about her worth, why are you putting her in a position to receive more?”  I was able to continue having fun as long as I turned off the dialogue. 

However, pretty soon I found myself doing a move that must be used in strip clubs: I was bent over with my hand on the floor and with my legs straight and butt shaking as I watched my other hand come over my head.  My feminist dialogue came on again, loud and proud.  Throughout the class I tried to focus on the fun and positive energy of dancing (a little bit) in sync with a roomful of other people.  At the same time, I felt angry I was compelled to do some objectifying moves to misogynistic songs.
This is the usual struggle I face with a lot of pop culture.  Most of the time, I just try to find alternatives or just my head in the sand.  But I can’t ignore mainstream culture when so many people I love and care about do enjoy it.  Violet loved the class and wants to go back ASAP, but I’m struggling with what I want to do.  I want her to have fun and improve her fitness, but at what cost to my values?  Is there a different way we can enjoy hip-hop and dancing without such problematic songs or moves?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trinidad Race Diary

Day One

Flew to Trinidad with a layover in Houston.  The trip took all day. 

Day Two

I woke up and hit a wall of heat and humidity as soon as I left my room with my roommate Ariana Fisher.  After breakfast, the team walked about 1k to the large grassy park where the cross country race will be held.  We got familiar with the course, run a few miles with some pick-ups and strides, met some kids on a local track team, and headed home.

After lunch, the coaches organized a bus to bring us to the beach.  We drove along a curving road up and down a mountain to get to the beach.  We stopped at a couple points along the way, and at one of the stops, there was a food stand.  Although I promised myself I’d stay away from street vending until after the meet, I tried mango chow (mango slices covered in cilantro, garlic, pepper, and lime) and tamarind balls (some kind of fruit covered with pepper flakes and sugar).  I loved the mango chow, but I (and the other runners on the trip who tasted it) would not recommend tamarind balls high on the list of Trinidadian foods you should try.

It was raining when we got to the beach, so we all huddled for a while in a Shark and Bake stand.  Eventually, I explored the ocean, and it felt so warm, I put on my bathing suit and jumped in.  The waves had a really strong undertow, and while most the time I was having fun trying to body serf, I was reminded of the power of Mother Nature when I was slammed to the ground on more than one occasion.

Day Three

Hanging out.  Reading.  Listening to the ipod.  Eating chicken, rice and steamed veggies.

Day Four – Race Day!

Our race did not start until 4:00 in the afternoon, so we had a long morning of waiting around, until we go onto the bus at 2:00 to take us over to the course.  When we got to the course, we were greeted by a hot and humid afternoon with full sun and, thankfully, a bit of a breeze.  The course had a festive atmosphere with coconut vendors selling from the street, loud music playing, and athletes hanging out in their countries’ tent.  The announcer completed the package of making the race seem like a fun day in the sun on “the most beautiful island in the world”.  He encouraged us to drink the coconuts because, “they are guaranteed to be refreshing and revitalizing.  And they are also an aphrodisiac” (It turns out that the other two items being sold by vendors, icees and a Trinidadian drink, were also aphrodisiacs, according to the announcer).  He encouraged visitors to ask Trinidadians about their culture, and entreated us to look at the exquisite mansion of Brian Lara, world record holder in Cricket, which over-looked the course.  I never got the chance to ask anyone how he was a world record holder.  I don’t know much about cricket, but I thought it was a team sport…

The race went out at a solid pace.  The course was flat, except for one dramatic downhill and a very steep uphill once each lap.  A woman from Guatemala took the race out hard, and there was some excitement as she seemed to get confused by the course and cut across our pack of Americans to go outside the course.  I tucked in behind Americans Liz Costello and Laura Thweatt for the first two laps.  At the end of our second lap we felt the presence of a Trinidadian woman.  With one 2k lap to go, the three of them picked up the pace a bit, and I wasn’t able to respond.  Liz won the race, followed by the Trinidadian woman.  Laura was third, and I held onto fourth place.  Hillary Orf, our American teammate was fifth.  Since they scored the top four finishers, we easily won the race as a team!

To celebrate, the senior women’s team was able to get a ride over to the 5-star Hyatt hotel, where boyfriends, family, and coaches, who were able to make the trip, were staying.  I sat on a patio overlooking the ocean, listening to live reggae music, drinking a guava daiquiri and mango mojito, and relaxing with the other women and Liz Costello’s parents.  What a perfect way to end the trip!

Day Five

Woke up at 4:00 am to fly home.  Another long day of traveling!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gettin’ Ready to Get to the Equator

A week from today I leave for the NACAC 6k cross country race in Port-au-Spain, Trinindad.  Unfortunately, I’ve not felt great this week while training.  Two weeks out from US Cross Country, I was feeling awesome and running work-outs faster than ever before.   Now, I’m wondering where the “pop” in my legs went. 

On Monday I ran two work-outs: threshold in the morning and 200m hills in the afternoon.  Although doing a double is always tiring, by the end of the second work-out, I felt like I couldn’t even run the cool down.  I felt like I was jogging in place on my Tuesday morning run, and it hasn’t gotten much better since.

I’m interested to see how my 1k repeats work-out goes tomorrow…  

On a happier note, I’m heading to bed early tonight after cooking some curry with wild goose my great-uncle gave me.  I haven’t tried goose before, but I am always excited for meat that hasn’t come from an industrial meat factory.

Also, one of my favorite things about getting to represent the United States:
A New Running Wardrobe!

Woman in the Weight Room

Earlier this evening, I went to Lifetime Fitness to do a short run, a few weights, and a core conditioning class.  I managed to slog (slow jog) through a 4 mile run on the treadmill.  I then headed to the weight area of the gym to do a couple sets of bench press/bench sit-ups.  I sat on a bench next to a dude in a University of Colorado Football t-shirt and his red-shirted buddy and had to listen to the following conversation:

Red-shirt: Seen any girls here this afternoon?

CU Football: Yeah, man.  There are some hot ones.

Red-shirt: How ‘bout that Asian girl that used to come here?

CU Football: You mean Asian Invasion?!  I haven’t seen her in at least 6 months. 

Red-shirt: Ha.  She probably got an STD and died. 

Red-shirt and CU Football: Idiotic chuckling.

CU Football: Yeah, there’s a couple girls here tonight.

Red-shirt: The one with the big titties?

CU: Nods knowingly and returns to benching.

Really?  Girls, titties, Asian Invasion?  Hilarious joke implying a woman died from her sluttiness.  Fun stuff objectifying women at the gym of all places.  It’s been a long time since I felt uncomfortable working out, but those bros’ made me want to get out of the gym asap.