The past few weeks, Ronda Rousey’s name has been all over the news. Her last three 3 UFC fights collectively have taken less than 60 seconds. I’m definitely not a UFC fan — I REALLY hate watching any sort of hand-to-hand combat and cover my eyes during violent scenes on tv (case in point: I saw Fight Club, but I only actually “watched” about 47 seconds of it). Anyway, Ronda is a UFC fighter who also happens to be a woman. It kind of goes without saying that the lady definitely knows her way around a gym. And with all the publicity, there have been quite a few nay-sayers who say she’s too muscular and too manly-looking. In response, she recently put out this YouTube video where Ronda says, yes, she is a woman and yes, she is muscular, but this doesn’t make her any less feminine. In fact, this body of hers, where each muscle is developed to serve a purpose, makes her “femininely badass as f*ck” and, despite my aversion to watching people beat the shit out of each other, I’m now a Rousey fan.
So why the girl crush on Ronda? No, she’s not a marathoner like other awesome ladies (tennis champ Caroline Wozniacki! Gold medal gymnast Kerri Strug!), but she is a strong voice (no pun intended) championing the body of the female athlete. A few weeks ago, a female runner friend wrote on Facebook that she was too self-conscious to run outside without her shirt on. I wanted to “like” her status 17 times. Girl, I feel you. I’ve been running for over 11 years and, no matter how hot or gross or nasty it got — and believe me, NYC in August is a special kind of disgusting — I had only run once sans shirt. After reading her status, I went out for a run and took off my shirt. She inspired me to run 8 miles wearing nothing but running shorts and a sports bra. It was surprisingly liberating. It was also a little scary because I’m such a nerd that I got so paranoid I was going to get a ticket for indecent exposure. And then I thought, wait a second. All these guys with ‘dad bods‘ walk around without their shirts, evidence of their 6 packs of Heinekens and BBQ wings hanging around their waists like basketballs from their weekend warrior game. If they can do it, why can’t I do the same, with my “evidence” being planks and crunches and those damn V-ups (that I would be happy being able to do just ONE where I don’t look like a total spaz)? And so, I’ve joined the no-shirt party. I’ve been listening to my inner “you go girl” and have been leaving the shirt at home. And I must admit, with this confidence about my body and acceptance that my “kellybelly” will always be here no matter how many crunches or flutter kicks I do, comes confidence about a lot of other things, too. Because, like my friend Ronda, I am not a #dnb.
During good weeks, I have all 10 toenails. I have calluses built up from years of cutting and jab-stepping on the basketball court.
I would never get a pedicure, and in fact should get a 20% discount (let’s just say I’m not operating with a full set). Some women go on shopping trips to find the perfect pair of jeans; my goal is to find the perfect sports bra (chafing = ouchie). I have a ridiculous watch tan line from wearing my trusty Garmin while logging hundreds of miles this summer. Two-a-day workouts mean my hair is always wet (even in the winter) and half the day I’m in some form of workout clothes (true story: after graduate school, I considered getting a job at Lululemon only for the employee discount). While at work on weekends, my lab mates would ask, “did you just come from a run?” To which I replied, “nope, this is just how I dress.” As a female athlete , it’s taken an embarrassingly long time for me to accept that I will never be one of those super skinny model-y girls who is always put together and looks like she’s on a steady diet of cigarettes and coffee. True, I’m often hungry (and never travel without at least one Honey Stinger bar) so the threat of getting hangry is never far, but I blame that on the workouts and not on calorie restriction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I may wear pink shoes and a sparkly headband, but that’s not because I need to feel more feminine. It’s because I want to. And like my mom always said, “you always do what you wanna do.” Damn straight.
It’s 15 degrees and I’m in Riverside Park at 9:25am on a windy and gray Saturday morning, focusing on keeping my hot chocolate upright as I’m doubled over. Sam asks, “but you feel good, right?” The truth is that, no I feel like shit, but what I actually say is, “I have never felt good after one of these things.” It’s my first 5k race since 2012, and that’s partially because the thought of racing 3.1 miles makes my legs and lungs hurt. This time was no different. I’m not sure if I’m doing something right, or very wrong, but I usually feel like the race ends just in time — any longer or I’d dry heave my way across the finish line.
I should have known that the day wasn’t off to a great start when my alarm went off at 5:45am. I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and then thought, “wait a second…” why was I planning on leaving the apartment at 6:40am for a race that didn’t start until 9am? Because I screwed up. I set my alarm and made my travel plans as if the race started at 8am. Mistake numero uno.
After taking the subway part of the way uptown, I jogged 2 miles to the start and saw exactly what we’d be dealing with: the course was hilly and covered in so much ice that it narrowed the path to single track (the race director actually said we might have to throw a few elbows on the out-and-back course). I just kept telling myself, “20 minutes. It will all be over in 20 minutes.”
The first half of the race, I thought I was in 4th, with the 2nd and 3rd place females no more than 15 seconds ahead of me. Just before the turn-around, I passed them both, thinking I was now in 2nd, with the 1st place woman far in front. I was feeling pretty yuck as we ascended a few hills, but knew it would all be over soon because I had mercifully passed the 2 mile marker. Just a few more minutes and the pain would be over. With 0.3 miles to go, we made a sharp left turn down a steep hill and you could just barely make out the finish line. Oh thank god, that means the torture is almost over. I was jolted from my happy place when I got passed by a girl (grr). I tried to keep up, willing my quads to go faster, but they were in no mood to cooperate. Okay, fine, if it was any consolation, I would still podium (mistake numero dos). I couldn’t keep up with her, and she finished 4 seconds ahead of me. I finished in just over 21 minutes, a disappointing time (aaand numero tres). Sam immediately came over and told me I came in fourth. FOURTH?! Ugg. You know what’s worse than coming in 4th? Coming in 4th thinking you were in 3rd the whole time. I grumbled for a few minutes (sorry Sam!), drank my hot chocolate (thank you NYCRUNS!), changed my shirt, and ran 11 miles home. I was pissed. I was cold. I was tired. I needed to declare a mulligan on the day. I got home, showered, took a short nap, and ate breakfast all over again.
I’m still a little grumpy about the morning, but am trying to use it as a learning experience. I need to get my speed up. I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Also, I need to do another 5k. Preferably faster. And preferably in warmer weather. Until then, I’ve got some training to do.