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Lindsey Kuper

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"She sought the shadow of iris where the bow should be." [Mar. 5th, 2012|01:43 am]
Lindsey Kuper

Today, I reached the halfway point in my current round of marathon training! Something I've learned over several years of marathoning is that I can pretty much do what I want during the rest of the week, as long as I faithfully do the long runs every weekend. This time, I'm doing the long runs from the venerable Hal Higdon "Intermediate 1" training program. I haven't been following the program during the rest of the week at all; I just run when I want to, and that ends up being only once or twice a week aside from the long runs. So I'm running rather low weekly mileage for someone who purports to be training for a marathon, but it seems to be working out okay. I've managed to keep paring down my marathon PR over the years, and I've never had an injury.

When I train, I can't go as fast as I can go when I'm in a race. This is true for a lot of runners, but I'm always amazed at the huge effect it has on me. For example, here's a post I wrote in 2008, a week before my fourth marathon. I had just done my last long training run before the race, and I'd had to push myself hard to run 12.6 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I reasoned that even if I were able to keep up that difficult pace for the whole marathon, it would have meant a time of 4 hours and 51 minutes. Therefore, I surely had no hope of beating my previous PR of 4:40:40. At the time, I figured that some slowdown was inevitable, because I weighed 20 pounds more than I had when I'd run the 4:40:40. But in the actual race a week later, I PRed with 4:39:46, additional 20 pounds and all.1 Since then, I've had a lot of respect for the mysterious power that race day holds. The energy coming from the crowd, the anxiousness to perform well, the fact that people are handing you cups of Gatorade -- these things really help!

Since I know that my body is capable of my race pace, if I somehow could get myself to train at something like that pace, maybe that would mean that in the next race, I could go significantly faster. With that thought nagging at me, I've been trying to work on upping my training pace this year. Today the schedule called for running a half marathon, and Alex oniugnip came along to help pace me. We don't do all that much running together; he's a lot faster than I am, so it's no fun for anyone. But I thought that with his help, I might run at something more like race pace. And today, it worked pretty well! We ran 13.47 miles (we were defining "half marathon" loosely) in 2:14:26. I'm not going to make any promises at this point, but if I could keep that pace up for a whole marathon, I'd be running 4:21:40, which would be a new PR and one I'd be very happy with.

In other news, I continue to use Fitocracy to track my workouts, and I've got a funny story about that. On Fitocracy, you "unlock achievements" upon reaching various fitness milestones, and a lot of the achievements have cute names. For instance, the one for logging 20 miles in your lifetime (which is the only running-related one I've gotten so far, although I'm on track for the 200-mile "Hallowed Harrier" achievement by probably April or so) is "I Seem to be Lost". A few weeks ago, I noticed that the biggest and best running-related achievement, for logging 1000 miles, is called "The Shadow of Iris" -- or, at least, that's what I thought it was called. I wondered what the name meant, so I googled a bit and eventually concluded that it must be a literary reference, a line from near the end of D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow. I was impressed! I wasn't sure what it had to do with running, but it was more than I expected from, you know, three snot-nosed startup kids.

But then, after looking at more Fitocracy profiles and seeing what achievements various people had available to them, I realized that the name of the achievement differs for male and female profiles.2 It's "The Shadow of Hermes" for men. Hermes, of course, is one of the Twelve Olympians you probably learned about in middle school; he's the god of athletes and has winged sandals. Iris, it turns out, is another Greek god; she "travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other" and shares "messenger of the gods" duties with Hermes. Okay, cool, but how silly that the name of the achievement has to be gendered. Why can't everyone seek the shadow of Iris? Or the shadow of iris, for that matter? I kind of enjoyed believing that the Fitocracy founders were more well-read than I am.

  1. Incidentally, these days I'm still 10 pounds heavier than I was when I ran the 4:40:40, but my current PR is 4:29:16. Losing weight isn't what makes you faster; training is.
  2. Those are the only two options Fitocracy offers, and you have to pick one when you sign up to use the site. Yeah, don't get me started.

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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2012-03-06 03:17 am (UTC)
Any thoughts? Well, one could easily spend a career studying the issues around gender and sports. Maybe someone qualified will come by and comment. But, in the meantime, you've got me!

Aside from conflating one's self-reported gender identification with a particular mode of the "how many pull-ups are a challenge for you?" bimodal distribution that sex-dimorphic differences follow, a problem with Fitocracy is that a user might not identify as male or female -- or even if they do, doing so in public might be dangerous for them.
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[User Picture]From: _tove
2012-03-07 12:13 am (UTC)
Right; when I first skimmed this post and got that the gist of the story was about gendered running achievements on Fitocracy, I assumed that they were time-based. That would sort of make sense, as (as I understand it) there are some statistical differences in speed across genders (though I would very much doubt the data include trans or non-binary folks). But if it's just cumulative miles logged, that's ridiculous. Also, I don't really know much about the site, but if it's primarily about beating/tracking your own times, that makes it even less justifiable to require gender information.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2012-03-07 06:45 am (UTC)
A lot of the achievements do vary based on the reported gender of the would-be achiever. For instance, to get the "Monster Squat" achievement, I'd have to log a "Barbell Squat" for 1.6x my bodyweight. (You also tell Fitocracy your bodyweight when you sign up, although that information isn't visible to anyone else.) For Alex to get the achievement of the same name, it would be 2.3x his bodyweight. That's why the site asks for gender information -- so it knows which of those options to offer you. But in either case, it's called "Monster Squat", and if you ask Fitocracy to show you people who've earned that achievement, it'll show both groups.

The running and cycling achievements are just about cumulative miles logged, and they're the same whether you've listed yourself as male or female. That's why it's particularly interesting that the 1000-mile achievements have different names. They're the same thing! (...Or are they?)
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