Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Sports

Running in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon

Team BAM (Brittany, Anna and Mallary)

Last weekend I ran in my first triathlon — the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Fla. I was part of a relay team of girls who I hardly knew a month ago but who I grew closer with as we worked together to complete each leg of the race.

Our team came in sixth out of the female relay teams, which we were pretty happy about. I ran the 10k at an 8-minute mile pace — not quite as fast as I had hoped,  but decent.

Afterward, I joked with my teammates, saying I felt like a slacker for only doing the running portion of the triathlon. Now, we’re each thinking of doing a full tri — a goal that doesn’t seem so far off after having experienced what this type of race is like.

Trying to stay strong at the end of the race ...

There was a tremendous amount of energy among the athletes, and it was invigorating to see so many people — young and old — push themselves to accomplish a goal. My next goal is to run another half marathon. I hope to visit a good friend from college in Minneapolis this August and join her in running one that’s being sponsored by World Vision. There’s also a triathlon in Clearwater in July that I’m tempted to do. We’ll see how well my knee, which has been in pain recently, holds up.

Funny how runners have a tendency to run through the pain. Running has always presented me with the challenge of learning how to listen to my body and respect it when it needs rest. I tend to push myself too hard, which usually results in me experiencing greater pain for a longer period of time. I’m learning, though, that every now and then it helps to slow down.

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On a ‘Running High’ after Finishing the Disney Princess Half Marathon

Just about to approach the finish line at Epcot.

My wake-up call was much too early. Saturday night, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. and set my alarm for 3:15 a.m. — the time I usually go to bed on Saturday nights. The Disney Princess Half Marathon was starting at 6 a.m. the next morning, and my friends and I had to be at the starting line by 5:30 a.m.

Why in God’s name, I asked myself, was I waking up in the middle of the night to run 13.1 miles? Was I crazy?

Maybe. But after flipping on the light switch, splashing my face with water and eating some toast and peanut butter, I was awake enough to get excited about being a running princess, if only for a day.

In the days leading up to the race, I was pretty worried. How well would I do? What if I couldn’t fall asleep the night before? What if I got cramps in the middle of the race? I spent months training for the race, and had run more than 13 miles, so I knew I could do it. Running is so mental, though, so it’s easy to let doubt impede your speed.

It helped to be in the company of two of my closest friends — Linsey and Colleen. They both flew to Florida from Massachusetts to run in the race. Linsey’s mom, my high school cross-country coach, also ran in it and warmed up with me at the starting line. I told her I wanted to finish the race in two hours, but that so long as I finished my first half marathon, I’d be happy.

Running through the Magic Kingdom.

When the race began, I felt strong. I started out running an 8-minute mile and continued at this pace throughout the race, finishing it in an hour and 45 minutes. Colleen came in about the same time I did, and Linsey ran it in an hour and 27 minutes, placing 9th out of nearly 13,000 runners. (Pretty amazing!)

Crossing the finish line gave me such a great sense of accomplishment and made me remember why I spent so much time training. All those mornings I woke up to run when I would have liked to have just stayed in bed had paid off.

Now, five days after the race, I’m still on a running high. I want to train for another half marathon, like this one in Minneapolis. There’s also one in Boston this spring that I’d like to run, but I should really be focusing on swimming, not running, over the next month-and-a-half. I’m part of a relay team for the St. Anthony’s Triathlon and need to train for a mile-long, open water swim on April 25. Eek. Time to kick my aquatic training into gear! I like swimming, but it’s not usually something I look forward to doing.

After running the Disney Princess Half Marathon, all I really want to do is run. …

Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon This Weekend

I'll be donning this Claire's tiara for the race. Very classy.

I’ve bought my tiara and am ready to be a princess, if only for a day. This weekend I’m running the Disney Princess Half Marathon with two of my best friends — one from my hometown and one from college. I’ve been training for a few months for this race, getting up early in the morning before work to run, or going to the gym after work and (begrudgingly) running on the treadmill.

Training has forced me to make more healthy choices about my diet and the amount of sleep I get and has given me a goal to work toward. It has also become a healthy release. Like many people, I don’t always make time for myself, so running daily has forced me to enjoy my own company, have some quiet time outside and reflect a little.

Long runs by the water are often when I do some of my best thinking — about my personal life, work, and why I’m running. Sure, there are mornings when I just don’t want to get up and run six miles, and there are times when I’m in pain and wonder why the hell I’m putting my body through this. But there’s a certain level of gratification I get from running that helps keep me driven and focused, not just in running but in other areas of my life, too. For that reason alone, it’s worth it.

Staying focused on long runs can be tough, but once I get about three miles into them, I start to find a rhythm. The longest I’ve run is 14.5 miles, so I know I can run the half. I just have to pace myself so that I can accomplish my goal of running the race in under two hours. I’ll be focused less on time, though, and more on finishing. So long as I can cross the finish line and celebrate with my friends, I’ll be happy. (Perhaps the biggest challenge is making sure I get enough sleep before the race. I’m a night owl, so it’ll be difficult waking up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. …)

I can do it, though. Here’s to getting enough sleep and running my first marathon — with friends and with the hope that all my training will pay off. Check back here early next week to see how it went!

Journalists, Community Help ProPublica with its ‘Super Bowl Blitz’ Investigation

In timing with Super Bowl XLIV, I wrote a story about ProPublica’s investigation into which Congress members were going to the game and whether they would be fundraising there. ProPublica reporter Marcus Stern is the lead reporter on the “Super Bowl Blitz” project, which is one of several projects he hopes to pursue this year as part of his investigation into political fundraising leading up to the November elections.

To help expedite the reporting process, ProPublica asked the public and journalists to contact their local Congress members to see if they were going to the game. ProPublica documented the results of the crowdsourcing effort on its Web site and has reported follow-up stories since my piece about the project ran on Friday.

You can read my story about the Super Bowl Blitz project here:

“ProPublica reporter Marcus Stern will don his press badge at the Super Bowl this Sunday, but he won’t be covering the game. He’ll be looking for members of Congress who are there, figuring out how they got their tickets and trying to attend whatever fundraisers they’re holding.

“Stern, who plans to reveal his findings in a ProPublica story on Monday, has had some reporting help along the way. Knowing it would be too much for one person to contact all U.S. Congress members, ProPublica turned its “Super Bowl Blitz” investigation into a crowdsourcing effort and asked professional journalists and the public for help.

“The project is an example of how one news organization can tap into professional journalists nationwide to turn an 11th-hour idea into a collaborative investigation.”

[READ MORE …]

Oh, and congratulations, Saints!

Training for a Half-Marathon on List of Goals for 2010

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. If I want to do something badly enough, I try to do it during the year. This year, though, I’m feeling more motivated to think about my goals for 2010, in part because I have a lot I want to accomplish in the months ahead.

I’ve found that writing down my goals helps ground them in reality and sometimes makes them seem more feasible. And publishing them for an audience of readers creates more of an incentive to actually live up to what I say I’m going to do!

So, here’s some of what I hope to accomplish in the year ahead:

Start cooking more for myself — and others. After a long day at work, it’s much easier to heat up a veggie burger or some soup than it is to make a meal for myself. I have no trouble, though, cooking for others, and I love seeing people eat the food I make. Since coming home, I’ve prepared more meals than usual, probably because I have a family to make meals for here. I find that the more I cook and bake, the more relaxing and enjoyable it becomes.

Help out with some Habitat for Humanity builds. Nearly every Saturday morning, the local Habitat for Humanity chapter for St. Petersburg, Fla., has organized construction days for people who want to help build a Habitat home. I’m not a morning person, and Saturday is my one day to sleep in, so I often don’t wake up in time to volunteer. I’m hoping to help out with at least a few builds, though, this year.

I led Habitat for Humanity groups all throughout college, and spent three of my four spring breaks building homes in Rocky Mount, N.C., Baltimore, Md., and Concord, N.H. These were some of the best weeks of my college career. Even though I hardly knew the people on the builds prior to our week-long adventures, I always came away with a sense of accomplishment and a new group of friends. Seeing how happy the soon-to-be homeowners looked when they saw their houses being built was enough to remind me why I spent my spring breaks putting up drywall, painting walls and hammering lots of nails.

Continue to write more personal essays. Someday I want to write a memoir. It’s a lofty goal, I know, but I already have a lot of material for what could become a book about my mom and how her death has shaped me. In the past decade or so, I’ve written dozens of personal essays and filled up more than 20 journals. I don’t journal as much as I once did, but I still write a few entries a month in addition to the personal essays I write for my blog.

When writing essays for publication, I try to be truthful to my own experiences while addressing universal themes that others can relate to. The best indication of a “successful” personal essay is one that touches others. If I can help just a small group of people through a piece of writing, and make them realize that they’re not alone, then the time spent writing was more than worth it. In 2010, I hope to write more personal stories and draw greater connections between my more recent essays and those I’ve written in the past.

Run a half-marathon. Since I started running cross-country in high school, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. I’m not quite ready for one yet, though. So I’m going to attempt a half-marathon — a Disney Princess half-marathon. I’ve been running regularly, and I recently ran in some 10K road races, so I feel up for the challenge. My best friend from home is flying from Massachusetts to run the race with me, as is her mom, who was our high school cross-country coach. We’re planning to wear tiaras during the race, and there’s been talk of even wearing a tutu. We can’t help but want to embrace the race’s theme. …

Swim in a triathlon. One of my friends recently signed me up for the St. Anthony’s triathlon in St. Petersburg. I’m going to do a mile-long swim while my two other friends bike and run. When I first heard that I’d have to swim a mile, it didn’t seem as though it would be that difficult. But I was thinking from a runner’s standpoint. An open-water, mile-long swim is pretty far, especially for someone like me who doesn’t swim regularly. I’m willing to do it, though, so long as the waves aren’t too rough the day of the race. My plan is to swim two to three times a week when I get back to Florida after the first of the year, and do a few open-water swims. Any training-related tips would be much appreciated.

I’m still thinking about how I plan to measure the success of these goals. I’ll keep you updated on my progress in the coming months.

What are some of your goals for 2010?

Went to My First Pro Football Game, Watched Saints Beat Bucs 38-7

Fan in the background got in the way!

I went to my first professional football game today. (Yes, insert “What?!” reaction here.) Growing up, I never went to football games. My dad wasn’t much into sports other than Nascar, so going to games was never something we did together. In fact, it wasn’t until college that I went to my first pro baseball game at Fenway. I’ve never even been to a college football game because my college didn’t have football. Apparently, I missed out.

During today’s Saints vs. Bucs game, I ended up watching most of the plays on the jumbotron because we had end zone seats. I liked being just a few yards away from the action on the field, though, and feeling the energy of the fans. Who dat!

The Saints beat the Buccaneers 38 to 7, so they’re now undefeated 10-0. You have to admit — that’s pretty remarkable, regardless of whether or not you’re a Saints fan.

Recent Poynter Online Stories about Orange County Register, Kansas City Star Columnists

My last two stories for Poynter Online have been about two columnists who made headlines after making decisions that readers and journalists found fault with.

Mark Whicker

Mark Whicker

The most recent story, published Thursday on Poynter Online, talks about the backstory behind a sports column that the Orange County Register‘s Mark Whicker wrote earlier this week. In the column, Whicker uses sporting events to measure what Jaycee Dugard missed out on during her 18-year-long kidnapping.

After a friend (thanks @andymboyle) sent me a link to the column Wednesday afternoon, I wanted to find out more about Whicker’s intent in writing the story and what the editing process was like. When I interviewed Whicker later that night, he told me he wrote a similar piece about journalist Terry Anderson back in 1991. Deadspin picked up on that aspect of the story Thursday afternoon. Romenesko also linked to the story, which you can read here in its entirety:

“Orange Country Register columnist Mark Whicker asked readers Wednesday to forgive his ‘lapse of professionalism’ in writing a column that noted all the sports milestones that Jaycee Dugard missed after being kidnapped and held in captivity for 18 years.

“But in a phone interview, he defended the premise of his column and suggested that the fast-moving, quick-to-judge culture of the Web was behind the wave of criticism.

” ‘I vehemently believe I wasn’t insensitive about the fact that she was kidnapped,” he said Wednesday evening while at his son’s soccer practice. “I never made light about the fact that this woman was abducted. I don’t think anyone can cite anything in the column that says I did.’ ”

[READ MORE …]

Mike Hendricks

Mike Hendricks

The other story I wrote a few weeks ago centered on a job query that Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks sent to a public relations firm. Hendricks’ query, in which he suggested he was over-qualified for the PR position, backfired on him when it landed on the “Bad Pitch Blog.” The story I wrote generated some interesting discussion — on Romenesko and in the blogosphere.

Here’s the intro to the story, which you can read here in its entirety:

Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks recently learned the hard way what not to do when looking for a job.

“Earlier this month, Hendricks wrote a job query to Topeka-based Ogden Publications, expressing his interest in a public relations opening and declaring that he was overqualified for the position.

“His approach backfired after his e-mail exchange with the company was made public last week on the Bad Pitch Blog.

“The chain of events no doubt serves as a cautionary tale for journalists who are searching for jobs outside the news business. It’s a reminder that not everything that’s intended to be confidential remains so.”

[READ MORE …]

What’s your reaction to the news in these stories?