Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eighteen miles

What brutality!  Today was the official marathon "Tune Up" race, 18 miles through Central Park, three scathingly repetitive six-mile loops.  Because I expected it to be cold and rainy, I wore long pants and a long-sleeve shirt (my official 2007 marathon shirt, as a matter of fact - I wanted some of its mojo today).  As soon as I arrived at the race I realized I must have made a grave miscalculation.  Everyone else was wearing standard warm-weather running gear, and there I was, wearing basically an athletic burqa.  At some point during the race, around mile 6, a woman ran alongside me and said, "You're really overdressed compared to everyone here, huh?"  Who says that?  "I feel great," I said huffily, "Have a great run."  I pulled away and was happily convinced that I had left her in my dust, until I saw her trotting along ahead of me a few minutes later.  Oh well.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a high point of the race.  It was hot and humid and I was drenched in sweat.  I tried to stay well-hydrated with gatorade and water and allowed myself generous walking breaks.  I even tried one of those disgusting goo packets, full of carbs and electrolytes in a liquid with the consistency of motor oil.  After the race ended, as my leg muscles blazed and the sweat continued pouring, I jumped in a cab to head home - L had to go to a work function on Staten Island and I needed to return to watch Alice as quickly as possible. 

"You look a little piqued,"  L told me.  I felt horrible.  I couldn't stray far from the bathroom.  After L departed it was just me and LB (Alice), which meant that during my long sojourns to the bathroom, I had to leave the door open to keep an eye on the baby.  So during the same period of time when it felt like I was losing all of the fluids (and several of the major organs) in my body, thus rendering me basically incapacitated, Alice was sitting there merrily unrolling toilet paper or playing with feminine hygiene projects.  The low point arrived when I had to inform L by text that I had just thrown up into a trash can while sitting on the toilet, and that Alice had watched the whole thing.  She stared at me with a disconcerting mixture of innocent curiosity and prurient interest. 

At this late point in the day I have finally managed to keep some food down, and my skin is no longer the color of paper.   Was this an obstacle on my marathon journey?  Yes, yes it was.  Over the coming days I will try to figure out how and why my body betrayed me so.  But am I giving up on my marathon dreams of 2011?  No, sir, I am not.  I'm busted, but not broken.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sixteen miles

Saturday's run was a sixteen-miler.  I was very anxious about it overnight; I kept waking up wondering if it was time to go yet.  I was worried that my dinner wasn't substantial enough to fuel me through.  The run was okay - I am still being slow and generous with myself, but my leg muscles were just exhausted by the end.  I feel like I am good cardio-wise, but I am trying to work on my leg muscles.  I have accumulated an almost silly regime of preparation and recovery: Nip guards!  Vaseline on the thighs!  Two bottles of Gatorade!  Ice baths!  There is no glamor in this task.

In other news, our nanny quit on Wednesday, after missing work on Tuesday for health reasons, and announced that Friday would be her last day.  Amid a week of bad news and unpleasant events, this one took the cake.  We pulled it together and hired a delightful new nanny on Saturday, and so far she is great.  Our third nanny in about 14 months.  I'm feeling like Destiny's Child up in here, but hopefully now things can settle down.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th, ten years later

For the last couple of days I've been immersing myself in a lot of the immediate coverage that followed the terrorist attacks ten years ago.  It's hard not to watch the footage without a rock in my stomach.  The newscasters' fumbling narration in real time, the background whine of sirens that seemed so feeble in the face of such destruction. 

When I think about my life, I tend to believe that the Modern Era -- that is, adulthood -- began when I graduated college and moved to New York in 2002.  September 11th occurred during the first few weeks of my senior year at UVA.  My memories of that day are stark and clear, and many of the people with whom I experienced that day are still deeply involved in my life (most especially, my wife).  When I arrived in New York months later that experience was still burned onto the short-term memory of the city.  Every summer hordes of young people arrive in the city determined to start their lives, and I felt proud to be part of the first wave of new arrivals following the attacks.  Yet I also felt like an interloper -- someone who skips the funeral but attends the reception afterwards.

Living in the city has given me a new intimacy with the events of that day, a new understanding of the geography of grief.  I used to run by Ground Zero all the time when we lived downtown.  My wife's old workplace was near the scene of a major staging area for the first responders.  The same hospital where the victims were sent, where Cardinal Egan stood outside administering last rites to the dead and dying, is where my daughter was born.

Today L and I took Alice downtown to get out of the house and go eat at a burger joint from back home.  Impromptu memorials had been established all around the old neighborhood, in front of firehouses, along the chain-link fence where people have hung dozens of ceramic tiles commemorating that day.  On the subway we saw many law enforcement personnel in dress uniform.  We saw people who had come from the major memorial service, relatives of the victims, including someone who wore a badge identifying them as a reader of the names.  I felt frivolous sitting there in my shorts with my soda, frivolous and irreverent in the face of their grief and the tragedy this city -- now my city -- endured. 

And yet life goes on.  Just like ten years ago, this weekend felt like one of the last vanishing weekends of summer.  Today Alice enjoyed her french fries and milkshake, and she was smiling and chatty for her momma and daddy.  Events that were unthinkable ten years ago have somehow been folded into our understanding of ourselves and our home, and we all move forward, more or less, with an even keel.  Resilience and grief, change and memory, ever forward, ever forward.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fifteen miles

Fifteen-mile run today, enough of a distance to make me feel proud and want to tell other people about it.  Three five-mile loops in Central Park, which was almost immediately boring.  I listened to music, thought about work and family, thought about the act of running: what each muscle and joint was doing, how far I had traveled, how much farther to go, always calculating times and percentages.  When I am in the middle of a grueling run I tell myself that I have already completed it, that the act of wanting is the same as achieving.  "Action is intention," I repeat to myself, and somehow it works well enough.

Starting around the halfway point today the uphill segments of the run began to feel unusually grueling.  The slightest change in slope would threaten to wreck me.  I was generous with the walking breaks, but it got to be extremely difficult.  I was hungry and wanted to sleep.  My proudest moment was during my final ascent up the Great Hill, when I maintained a running pace up the entire thing when every fiber of my body wanted to stop and walk.  A small victory over myself.

I was fairly useless for much of the day after that.  I came home and showered and went to Chipotle for some protein and carbs.  L left the bed unmade for me so I could take a nap, but that felt indolent at two in the afternoon.  I just took an ice bath and now my entire lower body is quivering, not in the good way.

I had to remind myself that the training process actually will make me stronger.  Today it felt like these longer runs merely sap the energy and power that I already have, draining me of what I will need to complete the marathon.  Today I saw two runners in particular whose t-shirts resonated with me: the first,"Running sucks"; but then the second: "If you're still sweating, you're still alive."  Amen to that.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Status updates

Today I was walking along on the street when I inadvertently stepped on a Capri Sun juice thing on the ground, causing a stream of liquid to shoot through the straw and across some girl's thighs and butt.  She was audibly shocked, and started gasping and looking around.  I had to explain that I had stepped on a juice box, apologize profusely, and walk the hell away as fast as possible.

Also today I went to get a haircut, and the woman cutting my hair said to me, "How much do you want on top, well you don't have much on top, heh heh."  Only women barbers say things like this.  And yet I tipped her. 

I didn't see much of L last weekend, because of the hurricane.  And I haven't seen much of my family either, because work has been crazy.  This is one of the most hectic weeks of the entire academic year, as we launch a new academic year and welcome the new students.  There are moments when we participate in the life of the school community, when the students' youth and naivete erupts in moments of genuine enthusiasm and gratitude, that are actually quite moving.  And then there are moments when I have pull back the reins on my irritation, such as when students march directly into my office without invitation and start talking at me, or when I receive an email from someone with a completely inscrutable email address who doesn't sign their message.  "Who sent this email to me?" I replied back, before I could stop myself. 

I have been a negligent marathon trainee, I regret to report.  For the first time ever, I missed my long run last weekend because of hurricane-related childcare responsibilities.  I only had time for one early-morning three mile run this week.  And I don't know if I'll get in a long run this weekend.  But then I will get back on track. 

But tomorrow: we are packing up a rental car and driving to Rehoboth.  A couple of days at the beach, a couple of days to introduce Alice to important things like Funland and Grotto Pizza and Browseabout Books.  Jumping in the waves.  Walking in the cool evening sand.  The cry of the seagulls, ice cream on the boardwalk.  It's important that she knows this.