Wednesday, November 30, 2011


There's not much to say about Thanksgiving besides the fact that it was wonderful.  Four generations around the table -- a table nearly buckling under the weight of so much good food, most of it prepared by my beautiful wife/executive chef, L.  My grandma said the turkey was the best she's ever eaten.  The weather was nice enough to allow for plenty of long walks and an excursion to Central Park.  We all had the chance to express our gratitude for the chance to be together to celebrate the holiday and enjoy the gifts and blessings of a growing family.  I don't know what more one could want.

...Oh wait!  I DO know what more one could want.  We had a huge debacle in the morning thanks to the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We had received tickets from an extremely kind colleague of L's, so my parents and I, along with Alice, trooped down to Columbus Circle early in the morning to claim our seats in the bleachers in Central Park.  We unexpectedly had to walk ten blocks north to get to the only available entrance, and by the time we got there, the police weren't allowing anybody else in.  People were walking out of the parade route area a block away, telling all of us who were assembled, "Don't bother!  There's nowhere to sit and you can't even see!  We had tickets too!"  As you may be able to tell, the people telling us this were fashionable gay men who were waving their hands in disgust.  We bought Alice a blow-up Dora the Explorer doll as a consolation prize (she loves it - ever since she has been pushing Dora in the stroller, dancing with Dora, making us include Dora in "Ring Around the Rosy," and dragging Dora to the table to eat with us).

So, rejected by the parade, we went to a little cafe to eat some breakfast, where we encountered the people I will always think of fondly as the Thanksgiving Assholes of 2011.  Let me set the scene: picture three rectangular two-top tables lined up along the window.  Simple, right?  We pushed two tables together to accommodate our party, dumped our stuff there, and went to get our food.  When we returned, we found that the Thanksgiving Assholes - a well-dressed middle aged couple - had turned the remaining two-top around, so that both seats were now parallel to the window I guess, which had the effect of blocking us from getting into our table.  I said, excuse me, please let us in, and my polite mom said, oh, we'll just sit elsewhere (forcing us to crowd around a skimpy little table), and the male Thanksgiving Asshole said, "Oh, you'll be fine, there's plenty of room there."  The woman concurred, and after a bit more completely disrespectful small talk, the encounter was formally over. 

But not for me, of course!  I spent the rest of the meal shooting them dirty looks, saying loud remarks like "that was really rude" and "we have no room for my daughter now," and subtly jabbing the man with our inflatable Dora.  Even days later, while out on a run, I thought about them and their absolute thoughtlessness and blithe disregard for us and got irritated again.  I hope their turkey tasted like sand.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hand, foot and mouth

There was a period last week when I was debilitated by a nasty little virus called Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.  Alice had it first, an extremely mild case, thank God, and then passed it to me.  On Friday night I felt feverish and exhausted.  On Sunday bright red little sores started pocking the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet.  I had a few sores on my face but thankfully I was spared the wounds on the inside of the mouth that make it nearly impossible to eat.

Over the next few days these sores blossomed into bright throbbing little nubs of pain.  I could barely walk.  It hurt to bend my fingers.  My extremities felt red-hot, contorted by this raging pressure.  I went to work on Monday but left after half the day.  My colleagues were horrified.  People asked if I was staggering because of a marathon-related malady, and I told them no.  I had to lean on my desk and lurch sideways to open the door to my students.  I didn't go to the bathroom because I couldn't bear the idea of walking that far.  At home, when I removed my shoes and socks, I felt sure that my feet would be covered in blood. 

At home I crawled to the bathroom on my hands and knees to avoid pressure on my feet.  It felt a little better to elevate my feet, so I sat on the couch, responded to work emails, and watched wretched daytime programming like "The Talk."  I stayed home on Tuesday, in a haze of Benadryl.  By Wednesday the sores started receding, yet even today my hands and feet are still slightly pocked.  The skin along my fingers and toes has been peeling for days now and I don't really know when this process will be completely over.  I am basically molting dead skin over everything. 

The key point here is: it's disgusting, and it knocked me out for a couple of days.  I just wanted to record this for posterity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marathon closure

Well, it happened.  I finished the marathon, a couple weeks back.  My final time was 4:04:27, nine minutes slower than last time, and four minutes under the stark boundary of the four-hour line.  It was a very intense experience, in some ways more difficult than last time.  Due to the demands of work and family I really pulled back on the training in the last couple months, basically abandoning my mid-week runs and focusing solely on the Saturday long runs, which generally went well through the entire program.  As a result I knew I was taking a gamble on marathon day; the question was, did I train enough?

Well, yes and no.  I trained enough so that I felt pretty darn good the day after the marathon - no injuries, no sprains, no lingering effects.  Unfortunately, though, I did feel like I ran out of steam during the final third of the race.  I was breathing fine, my legs felt great, but I just felt tapped out.  I was fantasizing about icy glasses of Coke; my mouth would actually tingle with anticipation as I ran.  I felt that if I let my eyes close, I would fall asleep mid-stride.  During the run I had to go to the bathroom four times, which never, ever, ever happens.  And I took the chance to talk to L, Alice, and my folks for a minute the three times I saw them, for three reasons: to make sure Alice understood that I was there, to reassure everyone that I was okay, and to make the whole endeavor a little more worthwhile of their time.

Running the New York marathon for a second time was surprisingly similar to the first.  I was sorry to realize it, but it felt like a diminishing return.  The great parts were great.  The tough parts were really tough.  And there were no real surprises.  The crowds were supportive when they yelled out my name, unless I was walking in pain, at which point they felt taunting.  This time around I tried hard to high-five all the little kids in Brooklyn, when I felt great and invincible.  During the final miles, when Central Park seemed absolutely alien to me through my fog of exhaustion, I couldn't stop myself from walking.  I was more generous with breaks than I have ever been before.  I tried not to hold myself to an impossible standard, but I couldn't, so I wasn't pleased with things.

After the race I staggered through the finishers staging area in desperate need of a porta-potty.  I rehydrated too quickly and ended up vomiting over a fence in the park, a few dozen yards away from Central Park West.  After we reunited, as I walked with my family searching for a cab, they peppered me with questions about the run, and I just said, "Can we please not talk about it yet."  At home I vomited again, took an ice bath, took a shower, fell asleep.  Two hours later I was awake and ravenous.  I ate heartily, drank a lot of Coke, and told everyone about the day's adventure.  I was fine, I was a champion.

I don't mean to sound negative about the experience, but I think this was my last New York marathon for a while.  Now I'm thinking about next year's Marine Corps Marathon in DC, not to break any speed records, but to give myself a challenge and a goal.  Ultimately what I learned is that my modified training schedule actually worked pretty darn well, given the demands on my time and the fact that I'm four years older than the last time around.  (As my mom pointed out, I'm also heavier than I was last time.  As I looked at her, agog, she added, "Well, we all said it!")  And most importantly, I did the race and I'm not injured.  Last time I ran it was six months before I laced up my running shoes again.  The training process had exhausted me and given me knee pain that lasted for weeks.  Yet I've already been running since this marathon, and I'm very deliberate about starting a new chapter in my running life right away.  I may not have triumphed on marathon day the way I hoped to, but I endured in a way that I didn't quite expect.  And that kind of sneaky lesson is what the marathon is all about.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Marathon eve

Tomorrow is the marathon!  The thought of this puts a weight in the pit of my stomach.  I can't believe it's here, and that this largely theoretical training program of mine is about to come to fruition.  Doing this the second time around is very different.  I'm not full of the abject fear and wonder of what the experience would be like.  I'm not asking myself, "Are you even going to finish it?"  Last time around, when there were a lot of people cheering for me and wearing homemade t-shirts, I needed that support and enthusiasm to paper over my own doubts and worries.  This time I feel more confident, more ready to enjoy the experience.

In some ways the marathon is a passive thing, like riding the rapids - you enter the current of runners and follow it, turning when they turn, pounding your feet in time with all the others.  You wear a shirt with your name on it and listen to people cheer for you.  You mentally tick off the miles, the landmarks, the boroughs, and note that the pain and discomfort you are uniquely experiencing is being shared by the people around you, all in their own way.

This time around I feel like I am making some smarter decisions.  I can't expect to beat my time from four years ago -- a simpler time, a more fit time, a time of graduate school and oodles of hours to go running in the middle of the week -- but I'm going to try.  My training schedule, slashed by the mostly welcome demands of family and work, seems to have still positioned me well for this event.  I think my concerns now are more based in the logistics of the whole thing: getting to the Staten Island ferry on time, staying warm while we wait, not getting bored or getting too lost in my head during those slow hours of anticipation.  Once we run, once we are launched out of the cannon, then all I have to do is finish it.  It's just another long run.

This is the marathon!  This time is for Alice.  Wish me well.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Moments with Alice

I worked late tonight and came home when Alice had already been in bed for about half an hour.  We could hear her burbling in there.  I thought to myself, I want to see her.

I went in and she turned around to look at me.  She stood up in her crib and raised her arms so I could lift her, first gathering up her blankie and her froggy and her little striped zebra and her board book about counting.  Her pacifier bobbed in her mouth.  I picked her up and whispered hello, and she pointed to the rocking chair behind me.  I sat down and she leaned into me, her legs around my waist, resting her head against my chest.  I could see her eyes closing beneath me.  We rocked for a while.  Hoped she could hear my heart beat.  After a bit she leaned back and we made funny faces at each other, and she would laugh quietly at me.  She poked at the buttons on my shirt, saying "boop," like we do.  "Are you ready to get back in your crib?"  She nodded. 

I stood up -- her book fell to the floor and we leaned over to pick it up.  She was silent as I lowered her into the crib.  I walked over to the side, near the door, and squatted down so that we could share a goodnight kiss through the wooden slats.  "Goodnight sweet girl, I love you."  One more kiss and then she turned to her blankie.  I went back into the family room.  Best part of the day.