Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cool Running

This was one of those ideas that doesn't arrive as planned. How few do, but still... .

The idea was to go to the track at 137th Street because the streets were icy. At least, that was my excuse was for not going all the way down to Central Park.

And I wanted to re-calibrate my Garmin, that's my new toy, uh, training tool.



um

It's a watch,
it's a timer,
it's a speedometer,
it's a pace keeper,
it's a heart monitor
AND it takes all the data it gets from the sensor on your shoe and the band around your chest and puts it on your computer.

But of course, the track was frozen solid. Really solid.
I did a lap like the guy above on the inside rail on the crusty snow.
Parts of it on tippy toe.
That should be accurate.


It was so cold that no one in their right mind would be...hey...here is someone who REALLY likes to paint.

I watched him for a moment getting set up. There would be three hard parts I think: 1) keeping the easel from flying off with the geese into the river below, 2) keeping the paint from freezing on the pallet before it froze on the canvas and 3) using your bare hands to draw anything like a fine line.

I did meet a couple of people, the guy running in the picture is actually a personal trainer who was waiting for his client to show up. (Best of luck with that, I said.) And a woman runner who wanted to know more about the Garmin after I mentioned I was there to calibrate the thing. "Does it measure distance?" she asked. "Down to the hundredth of a mile, " I replied, "and it will tell how many steps you took to get there." I love stats.

While I took off to do my lap I saw them head North up the river. I thought about just packing it in but ... if they could do it..... so I headed North too, thinking I would just run the three miles or so home. The path was icy and covered with water at points but mostly clear. They passed me coming back at about a mile and half and yelled that it wasn't any worse ahead. I chugged up the hill at the George Washington Bridge. The path in the woods was a solid sheet of ice and snow making the going very tough uphill. (At one point the chart shows a dead stop, but I was moving the whole time, I just had to dig the edges of my sneakers into the crust. I met a biker on a road bike, think very skinny tires in that icy stuff, coming down. He was walking his bike astraddle. I told him that after the big water at the bottom of the hill, he'd be okay. Cold, but okay.

The re calibrated thingy says it is exactly three miles to the house from the bottom of the stairs to the track. A good thing to remember for next Spring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The First Ice and the Last Ducks








SUNDAY arrived with no wind and a white sky. The little duck pond just off of 103rd Street had pulled part of a sheet of ice up over itself, getting a late start on a long winter's sleep. The ducks at the opposite end were still snoozing as 5000 runners came down over the hills for Joe's 10K.









Joe Kleinerman, that is. Who's he? Well, he's the guy who thought up the idea of running a race in age groups. You don't think of something like that as being thought up by someone. You just think it's always been that way. Like you don't think about lot of things in sports having to have come from somewhere- who was the first ref to use a whistle? Or who thought up the rule in football/soccer that the goalies have to wear other colors from both their teammates and the opposing team? Is the name of the person who dreamed up the designated hitter on the tip of your tongue?






Of course, these are all sports barely out of their infancy-- baseball, soccer and basketball are all modern inventions, running as a sports competition goes back before the Greeks and the Macedonians, before the bricks were laid in the city of Ur. Probably on some as yet undiscovered cave wall there is the declaration that Igkophra ran to glory in a race against all the peoples. Running, despite it's agedness, uh, agelessness, had remained remarkably unchanged for almost all of it's 6000-8000 years. There was a start and a finish, sometimes just two lines in the sand, sometimes the victor had to grab something like a banner or a flag to win. If a creaky forty year old wanted to run with the twenty two year olds that was fine as long as he didn't mind suffering the constant humiliation of never being close to the skinny greyhounds at the front.



Joe Kleinerman fixed that.



Now people who are 50-54 can see how they stack up against all the other codgers out there. The coots who are 60 like me run against the other 104 coots 60-64.






Oh, and did I mention Coach Kleinerman's other contribution to running? He promoted the very radical idea that women should be allowed to run with the men. (I am old enough to remember how a woman attempting to run in the Boston Marathon was tackled, yes, tackled to the ground to prevent her from competing.) Joe Kleinerman is probably the guy most responsible for the revolution in women's running worldwide.






So we all lined up in the cold to salute a great man, a great runner, a great coach and, to hear all the stories, a great friend.


I ran hard the whole way and for the very first time beat sixty minutes for a 10K, almost seven minutes faster than last year in this race. I'm getting better, stronger. It was funny in this run, as I came around the hill at five miles my brain was playing slow down a little and I was all hell no . I had to keep pretending that this was not a six mile run but a ten or a thirteen mile run. My brain likes to try to cruise in for a landing instead of pushing to the limit at the end. I feel like I have to take a meeting with it sometime over this issue.


I did see another bird in the woods after the race.


And I did check on the ducks tonight, Tuesday, those last ducks apparently intend to stay until after Christmas and with the way the world is warming maybe they won't leave at all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where are the lawyers?

This is a post by looseheadprop on firedoglake. LINK

Mario Cuomo gave a speech on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to 2,000 of the most influential lawyers in NYC. The program didn’t give a title for the speech, but Gov. Cuomo repeatedly invoked, as if she were some kind of Catholic saint, “Our Lady of the Law.” He called out “power seeking presidents” who engage in “efforts to throw off constitutional restraints” through various means. He decried in particular
Quote:

“signing statements,” “secret White House task forces,” and the “unprecedented
politicization of the Department of Justice.”
But of all the overreaching by presidents, the one that came under Gov. Cuomo’s harshest criticism was
Quote:

“the seizing by presidents of the power to declare war.”Cuomo said flat out that
the AUMF “violates the Constitution.”
He pointed out that under our Constitution the Congress’ power to declare war is non-delegable. It was one of those smack yourself on the forehead moments. It’s so obvious now that he has said it. He went into some history involving litigation about the Viet Nam War and pointed out that SCOTUS has never ruled one way or the other whether or not the Korean police action, Viet Nam, Kosovo, etc., etc., etc. are legal or not. SCOTUS has neither condemned nor approved of the president engaging in war absent a Congressional declaration of war. I lost count of how many times he used the word Monarch in his speech—but it was a lot. He said,
Quote:

“There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. This is the time for lawyers
to speak.”
Later, the following line caused quite a few members of the audience to interrupt the speech with spontaneous applause when he made reference to a march by lawyers that had taken place in NYC the previous week to express solidarity with the lawyers protesting in Pakistan:
Quote:

“If US lawyers are marching in the streets in support of the rule of law in
Pakistan, why aren’t we marching in support of the rule of law here?”
(meaning in support of the rule of law in the US) He said that Our Lady of the Law had endured for 200 years because we had upheld her, but now a timid Congress was throwing away the Constitution with both hands and that
Quote:

“We have no heroes. We are not even sure what we want to make of ourselves as a
nation.”
which I took to mean that he thought somehow we, as a nation, were failing to effectively communicate to Congress what our vision for ourselves as a nation might be. Not that we aren’t trying, heaven knows, but it is obvious that our message is not getting through to them. Cuomo said we have to make them understand that we are after
Quote:

“something sweeter than the taste of partisan victory”
The clear message was that he fully expected that it was the obligation of lawyers everywhere to speak up in support of the Rule of Law or as he persisted in calling it “Our Lady of the Law.” That he expected us to take to the streets, to the OpEd pages, the airwaves, and to every other medium available to us (I hope blogs count). He even at one point mentioned litigation that had occurred apparently challenging the legality of the Viet Nam war. Unfortunately, he never mentioned the name of the case, though it was before a Judge Judd [sp?] and there was some intervention involving Justice Douglas. If anybody has clue what that refers to, I’d like to know. There may be some instruction in the history of that case that we can learn from. [Edit: Holtzman v. Schlesinger, 414 U.S. 1304 (1973)] LINK

You know early in his speech, he went into how his grocery store owning immigrant parents were soooo impressed when he became a lawyer. And how they never wanted him to be “a crooked politician,” they wanted him to be a judge. There is some prestige and deference that people throw your way just because you’ve got that sheepskin. However, that honor comes with responsibility. Shakespeare’s famous “first let’s kill all the lawyers” line was uttered by a character who wants to end the rule of law. That character believes that lawyers are more than machine operators who know how to manipulate the cogs and levers of the law. We are meant to be its guardians and protectors as well. So, if you want to end the rule of law, you must first silence the lawyers. His final call to action was this:
Quote:

“If not the lawyers, then who? If not now, when?”
Posted in legal

I nearly stood up and applauded just reading these words last night. You know any lawyers? Make them read this.

Joe(and then start making phone calls and typing messages.)Nation

We are complicated beasties.



We are complicated beasties full of other beastie's stuff. Read here all about it or at least the New Yorker's take on viruses and how they made us grow as a species. There is a whole new world of thinking about evolution and it's come about in the last very few years. We can now look at our DNA and see the remnants of millions of years of changes in us amongst, and, and this was the surprising thing to me, the tattered remains of some of the millions of viruses which have attacked us. They are now part of our DNA, down there in the 98% of it that we don't even use anymore for anything. (At least micro biologists don't think we do right now.)
We use about 2% of the billions of links in our DNA to make new individual, unique, human beings. 8% of the remaining chains is busted up pieces of ancient retro-viruses. We are strange creatures, but retro-viruses are way stranger.
Science didn't even have a clue that there could be such a thing as a retrovirus, something that can make DNA from RNA, until thirty years ago. Now some micro-biologists and paleovirologists think, just like the fellow said, what did not kill us made us stronger.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shank's Mare rides in the Sunshine



ON what will probably be the last sun-filled Sunday of this fall, I ran a short tour amongst the tourists with their maps and frowned faces at the park's "You Are Here." kiosks, the local East Siders pushing baby carriages (Why do all the women with babies look like they are nearing fifty? Because they are.) and the runners, joggers, sloggers, walkers, gapers,bikers, scooterites and tennis racketeers (raconteurs? racketeurs?) all crowding in one last long session in the sunshine before the rains and snow begin. Down the hill from Strawberry Fields, a pedicab driver was explaining to his two riders that John Lennon used to be buried there but that the body had to be moved.(!?) There were three people feeding the chickadees in front of a sign asking that people not feed the wildlife. Maybe they thought it meant native New Yorkers.

A woman in a wheelchair stopped me to ask how far it was to the Boathouse. I said "It's right around that next corner about five minutes." Then I stopped, it was about a half a mile which for me would have about five minutes away. My brain tried to remember if there was a shorter route that she could take, but I couldn't remember if there were stairs along the shortcuts. We only pay real attention to the things that affect ourselves.

I was going to walk to the subway from Strawberry Fields, but then one of the good songs came on my headsets and I headed down the hill, past the Sheep Meadow (closed for the season) the Tavern of the Green (jam-packed parking lot) and the new Christmas Mart @ 59th Street.

All the pedi-cabs from the Theatre District have moved up to the 59th Street Circle because the Stagehands strike has killed the pedestrian traffic. They are parked side by side by side by side.

Waiting in the sunshine for someone not like me.




I go by Shank's Mare.

Friday, November 23, 2007

O' Pioneer




Are you ever surprised by a memory? Some recollection movie/slide show that hasn't seen the light of day or night in years or decades? It just appears, shimmers and slides back under your senses - a fish in a pond on a warm summer's day - you see just a brightening shadow then it's gone.




These thoughts were triggered by leftover turkey.


There hasn't been a Friday after a Thanksgiving in the past forty or fifty years that I haven't swung open some refrigerator door and picked around at the leftover turkey, looking especially for some especially juicy dark meat, what hasn't happened is my remembering the Pioneer Game.

I can't remember if it was me or my brother Brian who came up with the name. The concept was simple: take a nice big hunk of turkey, wrap it in a piece of the aluminum foil from the platter and head out for a long hike in the woods behind our house. The minute you crossed the baseball diamond you traveled back in time, sometimes you were scouts watching for Mohegans hiding in the pines, sometimes you were pioneer farmers coming back from some other adventure. You did a lot of sneaking, a lot of skulking, if you spotted anyone else in the woods they were not allowed to know you there even if you had to lay down in the leaves. (This was particularly dangerous for me because of my asthma. The dangerous part was not that I would get asthma, the danger was that my mother would find out I had been lying down in the leaves.)

Past the Sandpit, across Giant Hill, down Twin Hill and across the frozen brook the pioneer scouts would finally come to some place deemed safe enough to stop. Ah, then the feast would begin, only it wasn't turkey anymore. In our heads it was the kind of dried jerky we had seen Walt Disney's Davy Crockett eating out of a deerskin bag on Sunday nights -good ol' Fess Parker and his crusty sidekick, Buddy Ebsen sat there on the tree roots and ate their meager rations. (Wait a minute, I thought you said it was a feast? It was, but we were kids and pretending is complicated, feasting on rations is an okay idea when you are nine and making stuff up.) We ate and chewed and watched for lurking Indians.





So, ten minutes ago I went to the refrigerator to get some good dark pieces to put on a bagel with a little cold gravy and the Pioneers floated out and waved at me. There were the trees and the leaves and the tree root camp. I got out the Tupperware as Fess looked on, Buddy handed me the knife and waited until I had it all stacked together, then we all ate and chewed and wiped the extra crumbs from our chins. I could almost smell the woodsmoke from our invisible campfire.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Take your time, Autumn



Now autumn comes in a rush, she's behind schedule letting the warmth of summer linger through the first days of November, but as soon as she got to work on the morning of the fifth, she veiled the sun and dumped ten thousand colors into the woods.

This past Sunday we drove out to see the cousins on Long Island and enjoyed, even in the dimming light of the late afternoon, the golden yellows, the oranges, the splashes of red. The cousins told us they wouldn't be done raking up Ms Autumn's wonderful work until the next to the last week of the year. Autumn's beauty depends a great deal, not on your beholding it, but whether you are a gawker leaf peeper or a raker pilemaker.


The cousins are travelers, not tourists. I know a lot of people claim not to be tourists but who are, the cousins go and do more than see places. They have what used to be called experiences. They went to Machu Picchu last summer, found themselves a guide, convinced him that they didn't want the usual two hour tourista lunch at the huge restaurante. He was very happy to set them out a picnic on the grassy edge of a farmer's field halfway up the mountains to ruins. Set before them on colorful blankets was an Peruvian meal prepared by the guide's wife that morning- chewy bread stuffed with a tuna mixture and other tasty munchies. There was a clear sky, unusual for that area which gets enveloped by mists constantly and the luncheon group piqued the curiosity of some of the local wild black pigs who came wandering out of the field to have a looksee at what was what. I know that was a nice moment to have in one's life.





If we are to have any nice moments in this fall we had better hurry. Thursday looks like the last of the 60's (the temperatures, not the decade - it's really gone.) I'm going on a long run that morning while the big chicken roasts and I'm going to try to find some of those red splashes in the park. The brothers of some of Winter's winds have already started to hike down this way from Canada. In ten days they will have blown away Ms. Autumn's watercolor work and left us with bare branches trying to scratch the sun's eye out as he passes low in the sky.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Going Long Is a Long Time Coming

- The 2007New York City Marathon -
On my 58th birthday I weighed 259 pounds, the day after I weighted 262. Something had to be done. So first I started walking to work instead of taking the bus, then, after about a month of doing that I started walking fast (oh, and eating less.) Things have kind of snowballed from there.

Here's what I wrote in June of 2005
Sometime around Memorial Day 2005 I decided to start running again. It has been a long time since I stopped running, almost ten years, and I haven't a clue why I stopped. I have been running since I was twelve years old. Back then I ran around Valley Street Park's Dirt Road. That capitalization is correct, it's official neighborhood name was, and is now for all I know, the Dirt Road. I've been running on and off then for the past forty six years. There are two things are true about my running: one, I am no good at it and two, I love doing it. By 'I am no good at it' I mean I have never been the fastest or even the semi-fastest, I am a plodder, a shuffler, I run like those old Asian men you see in old newsfilms -not moving quickly but making progress, gaining ground, but hardly ever passing anyone else on the road or path. I have become, or maybe I always was - in the words of a great coach I once had who included himself in the group - one of the turkeys who make the speedy ones look good. Of course, I had to start over. Ten years is a long time once you pass fifty and in the past ten years I had had foot problems. Everyone in New York City has foot problems. Everyone's feet are pounded every day, beaten on the cement, tripped on the curbings, whacked, swacked or stepped on on the subway or the bus. There are as many podiatrists in the city as pizza parlors. Signs and ads for 'Foot Pain' are everywhere. So, two things happened, I bought a pair of sneakers that fit and my feet didn't hurt and I got the invitation to my fortieth high school reunion. Oh HO, so that's it. Can't face the old, really old in some cases, crowd being the pudgy boy, right? Well, yes. There's nothing like an honest answer to puncture a ribbing. First, I started walking, getting ready for the days in late June when I would be on the boardwalk in Avon, when I would start running again. I walked to distant subway stations, West 4th Street or Columbus Circle, or I played 'walk fast until the bus passes you' on 23rd Street anyone can be a champion at that game. Or I walked down to the Frying Pan on the Hudson to meet friends and then walked up the river park to 79th Street, anything to get a few minutes of distance. So here I go. Going.

And I kept going.I'm down about sixty five pounds from my weight of April 2005, though still carrying way too much poundage. (196) I didn't stop after the reunion (at which I was a smash) I just kept on running.I'm faster now than I was, it would be harder to be any slower I guess, I beat about half of the men in my age group, but that's not why I run.
I run because I like it.I like getting out in the wind and the sun and I like looking at the top of a hill and knowing I can just trot my way up that thing and pay it no mind. I like the cold water in the fountains and I like the feeling I get when the finish of a loop arrives.Tomorrow is going to be a good day. I'm going to run through all five boroughs of the city and finish in the park that I love so much.Thanks to all of you for all of your interest and support. It's meant a great deal to me.

So now the ING NYC MARATHON
Here I go. Going long

It's a long time to do anything

3am 7 hours to start
Wide awake. Is it the time change? The cats don't know about the time change and want me to get up. Get up. Give snacks to cats. Three greenie fish each. Lay back down. Wide awake. The fast music from the training site is playing in my head. Dit dit dit dit di boom. This is not good, I want to start out sloooow.

Ditdit dit dit boom boom. I roll on my side and stare out the window at the branches of the trees. Good. They are not moving, maybe the winds have already died.

Dit dit dit dit di boom.

4am Six hours to start.
I get up. I wash my face and weigh in. 197.2 Great. The carbo-loading of the past week hasn't pushed me over 200 pounds. I'm still 60 pounds less than I was two years ago. The cats are very excited, there's a chance I may have forgotten about the other greenie fish and they will get seconds. I grind the coffee, throw a frozen bagel in the microwave and get the espresso maker going.My running stuff is ready to put on. It was checked two dozen times, no three dozen times, last night. I pull on my shorts, the orange jersey and get my socks on just as the coffee starts flowing. I foam the milk. Zap the bagel for 38 seconds and give the cats three more greenies each. I put on my shoes. I check to see that I have ten energy gels in my pockets. In the back pocket, zipped up are my Amex, my MetroCard and forty bucks cash and emergency paper towels. For emergencies.I sign on to A2K. I re-tie my shoes.Sip coffee. Post something about here I go.I re-tie my right shoe.I re-tie my left shoe.
Here I go.

5:00AM 5 hours to start
5:frigging 20AM!! On the A train finally! after waiting and waiting and waiting. (What is the NYC Subway Weekend Rule? Right. No trains run on the weekend the way they run at other times.) Next find out number 1 train not stopping at 59th street after getting off at 59th street to catch the 1. Find that out from group of out of town runners-a woman from Kansas City with her husband and five guys from Philadelphia-New Jersey-Florida-England and Japan. I tell them I'm from the city and we will take the R from 42th. They believe me, get on the next A train and follow me through the tunnel at 42nd Street down to the N/R platform. There is much talk amongst us. I am the only one never to have a run a marathon.

I remember that I didn't eat the bagel in the microwave.

6AM 4 hours to the start
We are still on the R train. We still have to get to the Staten Island Ferry, cross the harbor, get on a shuttle bus, get to the launching area, put out baggage on the trucks, re-tie our shoes and get ready. No one is panicked. There's a ferry every half hour that can take 5000 runners.
We get to the ferry at 6:40 and I tell everyone to get as close as they can to DOOR ONE. We slip through the crowd, inching our way forward. There are at least eight thousand runners already there waiting, some sitting near the door, but most are standing back. Our little group gets within twenty yards of the door. Massa, the guy from Japan, says it's just like home.TWO ferries arrive at 6:55 and they announce boarding. Everyone moves forward elbow to elbow to elbow. It's a crush moving slowly to the door. Someone has their hand on my tush. The guy from Japan says it's just like home.
I lead our little group to the front of ferry. We'll be some of the first to get off to get onto the busses.We look out the windows. Before the boat turns they can see the Statue of Liberty. I am suddenly starving. I eat one of my gels.The Verrazano Bridge swings into view. It looks very long in the morning light.





7:30 AM 2.5 hours to Start
I've lost the group in the newest crush. There are ten thousand runners waiting patiently for the next line of busses to arrive. We are elbow to elbow again. The whole St.George Station is a sea of humanity. Slowly the mass moves up the stairs. Some people are trying to go out the side door, but I've run two Half Marathons here and know that out that door there is no way to get to the bus platform. I tell that to some folks near me. We watch as the escapees sullenly re-appear.
The mob keeps moving. There are no impatient voices. Hundreds of busses are lined up as we exit and move down the line onto them. We roar off towards the bridge.
8AM Two Hours to the StartFirst, I have to pee. So do the other 39,926 runners. I decide to wait. I need to find my baggage truck so I can put the clothes that I will put on at the finish on the truck. I need to find my start corral where we will line up a thousand at a time to get in line for the mass start. Voices over the loud speakers repeat instructions, directions and greetings in French, German, Japanese, Italian and English.There is a buzz of humanity here. I wait in a long line in front of some porta-potties. Some people are in and out in seconds. Some doors never re-open the whole time I am there.(I am one of the quick ones)

9AM One hour to go.
I cannot move. I have been caught in another massive crowd. This time all trying to get to the baggage trucks at the same time. Luckily, I know where the truck I need to get to is, many people don't know which way to go, but there is no going anyway. No one is moving. I cannot see what is holding up the crowd, but everyone is running out of time. We'd like to get our stuff on the trucks, we'd like to have some time to stretch, we need some time to breathe, maybe have another pee, but there is no moving.

9:30 Thirty minutes to go.
I haven't gotten to the truck yet but I see a skinny fellow ahead of me slide between two of the UPS trucks with his bag. As the crowd inches forward I get to the same gap and though I am a bit wider than the other guy, I slip into the space and then pray that the trucks are the same distance apart at the other end as they are at this end. They are. I pop out the other side and there is my truck and -- there is no one putting baggage on it-- no line of frantic runners, no crowd. This is so weird.
I give the bag to the lady on the truck, she checks my number and I am off to battle my way back through the crowd to the corrals. Two cops have opened a piece of fencing and are letting all the people who have their bags on the trucks pass back through.


9:45 AM Fifteen Minutes to the Start
I can't get to my corral. All the others have already lined up one thousand strong, and there are fifteen corrals between me and mine, so I have to climb over a bunch of pipes and construction material to get past and around them. It's like a straddle exercise course except that I think at any moment I am going to fall and break an ankle. I've stripped down to just my running jersey and shorts with just my old faded green biking jacket (The one I wore on five thousand bicycle rides in Oklahoma.) keeping me warm. I'm slipping and sliding on the pipes and it take me forever to get to where I can cut through to the thousand people I supposed to be with.


9:58AM
We are moving down the path through a bit of woods to toll booths of the Verrazano Bridge. Our view of the bridge is blocked by a line of busses. I stop on the left to re-tie my shoes and am joined first by two others and then three more runners, all of us, frantically pulling on laces and trying to make loops the right length, with the right tightness, we are all kneeling there like some kind of pray group for madmen.
I look up, there are four, no five, helicopters above us.
We haven't made it around the corner of the buses, there is music blasting from the loudspeakers. Every one is talking and shaking hands and adjusting hats and sunglasses and shaking first one leg and then the other. I toss my old green jacket onto a fence, goodbye old friend.
I see a woman standing a few feet away. She is wearing a fleece coat and a full length woolen skirt, a head scarf covers her hair.
"How in the hell is she going to run 26.2 miles in that?" I say to myself.
But then the cannon goes off.
KA BOOM

And here I go.


Five hours of running.


Joe(That's a long time to do anything)Nation





The Start


The cannon's boom is still humming in the cables of the Verrazano bridge when we hear the last few bars of Sinatra's New York, New York ,the emcee screams something about Bruce and "Born to Run" begins blaring. See that backwards L of buses in the picture??
The spot I am standing in is behind the bottom of the L between the bus nearest the corner and the next one. There's a guy peeing between the two buses, the lady in the long skirt has disappeared. The air is filled with people shouting in French, "Viva la France!!" and Italian, "Italia, Italia, Italia!!" Somebody shouts "Let's go YANKees!"
We inch forward until I get around the corner and the view opens up.

There in front of me all the way up the bridge's span, as far as one can see, is a river of runners.
Heads are bouncing and bobbing, floating, rising, falling.
Hands and fists are being thrust into the morning air.
39,000 sets of feet, 39,000 sets of shoulders.
There's waves of runners and crosscurrents of runners, one part of the mass slows, another surges, a great tidalwave of every form of human being there is on earth, right here and flowing to the horizon.
There are flags, there are great arcs of balloons, the air is filled with the applause and helicopter noise and cheers in languages familiar and completely unknown.
I was not prepared for what happened next...
as I began to run to the starting line it suddenly hit me that I was really there.

That,
after all the runs at the crack of dawn,
all the treks up the hill behind the Cloisters in the freezing cold,
all the slogging and jogging and traffic dodging,
all the hundreds of circuits of Central Park clockwise
and otherwise in every season and time of day,
all the races done to qualify,
all the miles up and down the East bank of the Hudson,
all those lung busting hills by the George Washington Bridge,
all those hills on Overlook and Bennett in the Heights,
every step and action from that first "speed walk" two and a half years ago,
from the twenty minutes per mile "run" to the lighthouse
to the last minute gallop for a personal record for 5M a week ago,
from buying my first real pair of running shoes
down to the two perfect doubleknots I just tied two minutes ago,
all of it
had brought me here to this moment.

The tears began flooding up on me but just before I really lost it
I heard a voice,
the same voice which had gotten me out of my bed on my days off work to run,

"Hey," the voice said, "now that you are here you actually have to run this frigging thing!! Then you can cry your eyes out."

"Okay." I said, "That's a deal."

And I crossed the start line behind six Italians holding hands as if they were finishing instead of just getting started.


Joe(and we went over the river and through the woods)Nation


The First Rule of Running a Marathon is

Do Not Start Off Too Fast

This seems like a reasonable and easy to understand concept.
It is also the easiest to break.


Hey! There I am breaking the rule!


Yes, that's me right in the center of that bunch, I'm wearing the orange shirt, black shorts and white hat? See me? See how I am surrounded by people who look a lot faster than I am? That's because I am.





On the back of that orange shirt is a Pace Team Time bib, I picked Four Hours and Forty Five Minutes because, well, because I thought I could do the race in four hours and forty five minutes.







At the start we were supposed to find out Pace Team Captains. These are people who have finished so many marathons that they can run one at whatever pace they want to. Four and half hours? No problemo . Five Hours? Sure thing.
"Just find the Pace Captain of your Pace Team and stay with them through the whole race. They will be carrying a big bunch of balloons so you can see them in the distance if you get behind. They run a steady pace, just tag along."

Yep.
The only problem was that I never saw my 4:45 Pace Captain at the start, nor did I ever see the 4:45 Pace Team Captain during the entire race, but that wasn't my problem going into the streets of Brooklyn.
The problem was all the Pace Team bibs around me in that picture say things like 3:30 and 3:15.



(Gulp.)

So right about the four mile point I began to slow down. A lot. At least I thought I was slowing down a lot, but every time at new mile marker came up, I was right on pace for a four hour and forty minute marathon.
Six mile goal? 1:05:13
Ten kilometer time?
(6.2 miles, close enough) 1:05:02.

So, I couldn't figure out what was going on. Was I out too fast? The numbers didn't say that, but all these speedy runners around me made me wonder... .

Meanwhile, the people of Brooklyn had turned out to greet the great herd of humanity, the world may have been running by them but they were the world as well. They were wonderful.
There were bands playing rock and bands playing metal and bands playing hot salsa. Everyone was cheering us, even the volunteers at the Gatorade and Water stops. Big bunches of people lined every sidewalk and every turn in the road. They shouted out Viva Italia! and Viva la France! and all the runner's names.
Stacey!
Hey, Mike!
Go, Danny, you're the man!
Stella, Stella, Stella!! (really)

(Note to self: wear your name on your front next time, you dope. No one looks at the runners once they are past them.)

Watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnxknAnBVk0 out to be the best training device of all. Although I had never been to that part of Brooklyn, (who goes to Red Hook on purpose?) I could see out there in front of me the church steeple and, at six miles, the big tall building that would mark the eight mile mark.

Joe(I was cruising.)Nation




What else does anyone do for five hours straight?
You pick:
Beat on a drum.
Rock in a chair.
Drive a car.

None of those are like running a marathon. It must be different for those who finish in two and half hours or even three hours. Those of us back in the mob are running the same distance, but moving our bodies twice as long. So what do you do when you are on the road that long?

You dodge potholes, manholes and the stuff runners have dropped.

Potholes can be round, oblong or Grand Canyon shaped. Manhole covers can from three to five inches below the surface but even if they are flush with the road, they sometimes are as slick as waxed paper. Runner's stuff includes hats, gloves, water bottles, forty dollar Fuelbelts (I saw four) armbands, kneebands, headbands and bandaids. (must have fallen off some tender spot)

The other main activity you engage in, other than the actual lifting of knees and moving forward, is obsessing about, er, attempting to be aware of, your body and it's functions.


"How's your right knee?
("'kay.)
"Really?" says the mother in your brain, "you're not just saying that?"
(Reeealllly)
Too hot?
Too cold?
Got a stitch?
"How's about your knee now?"
(sigh)


There is always something to listen to besides your body's inner whiner. There are bands of all kinds scattered along the route, some blasting hard banging metal music, others knocking out the knockout rock. Bursts of salsa and house musica flow out from the bodegas and every church has its choir out front belting out spirituals and the preachers preaching at the top of their lungs trying to save our Running-On-Sunday souls.

Some independent souls are out there helping too. Several people had Alicia Keyes on their boomboxes "Everything going to be allll right" and one guy had bagpipe music screaming out of his CD player. At one point in Greenpoint there was a woman standing all by herself on a long stretch of semi-dismal street, all by herself, but she was cheering and shouting people’s names and banging two noisemakers together loudly. Having a marathon party of one and loving it.

Hey, I just thought of something somebody does do for five hours only they do it for six. There is a high school band which plays the marathon every year. All they play, over and over, is the theme from "Rocky". Yes, that's right. All Rocky, all the time. A member of the band estimates he’s played the piece three to five hundred times over the years. (He’s an alum who comes back just to play.) It’s a six hour gig of “Gotta Fly Now…Trying Hard Now… http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/05/nyregion/05bands.html

The awareness-obsession list is checked as the miles tick off.
Thirsty?
Is that a rock in your shoe?
Is your chip still tied on?
Thirsty now?
Is it time yet for a gel?
Is your left sock trying to ball up against your big toe?
Is that a piece of glass in your shoe?

But suddenly, effortlessly it seemed to me, I was 12 miles in and on my way up the Pulaski Bridge into Queens

and, at 13.1, the marathon halfway point.

But,

I had violated Marathon Runner Number Two -


-----Don't drink too little, but sure as hell, don't drink too much.----


I had hit the Gatorade table at eight miles, had a gel, and stopped again at the ten mile mark. I was getting good at the walking/chugging fluids thing and there I downed two big cups of Gatorade. The water stops were not as chaotic as they had been rumored to be. I never had to wait more than a few seconds for someone to hand me a cup or two. The cups were pretty piled up by the time I arrived and the roadway was sticky with whatever sugars are in Gatorade. I sure it must make an interesting sound to hear 20,000 runners skiritch skiritch skiritching along.


I am usually well-hydrated before any race or run and have gone through several 10K races without drinking any fluids. On a couple of occasions like that, I have had to pee afterwards, I was so well pre-hydrated. So, what the hell was I thinking?
Now, as I topped the bridge, the awareness obsessing alarm was banging "Hey, boy, yooou gotta go."


Several cruel things were happening: right after you cross the Pulaski into Queens you see, just off to your left, the Queensboro bridge that you will race across into Manhattan. “Ah,” you say,” Manhattan is almost home”, but, just as you bring it into focus, just a little bit to the left, the race course turns to the right and the bridge slides back over your shoulder and out of sight

AND I really had to pee.

Joe(really)Nation





And so onward
I hit the halfway at 2:27:42. With a little luck, I could still beat five hours. The 4:45 on my back was pretty well out of reach unless there was a miracle tailwind in Harlem, but first I had a more immediate problem. I had to find a place to go.
It is not true that if you just keep running the urge will go away. I've found that out the hard way while training. Maybe it's being 60, but once the urgency arrives, you had better find a facility.
So, I wasted ten minutes or more, stopping at two separate rows of porta-potties to find thirty or more runners already waiting,(what a bunch of drinkers we runners are!) Some people took matters into their own hands.

But, even though I was tempted by the fences and the warehouse walls, I kept looking and trotting along finally spotting a nearly out-of-sight row of porta-johns with only TWO people waiting ahead of me.

The relief was great but all the stopping, the waiting, the cussing out of oneself for being so dumb, took something out of me besides the liquids.




It took me about a mile to get warmed up again and that brought me to the foot of the Queensboro Bridge.

We run across it's two mile span on the lower level instead of on top where there's a view. Part of the trek across you are in total darkness. I had to take my sunglasses off just to make out the shapes of the runners ahead and beside me. Somewhere about the middle we were all passed by two motorcycles with lights and sirens leading a mini-ambulance. It kind of sent a shudder through the crowd. Soon though, I was nearing the west end of the bridge and I could hear the shouts of the crowd down below us on First Avenue. I hoped that the storied "charge" that the runners get on making that final turn into Manhattan would hit me good.

Well, something hit me. The crowds were loud and there was, I admit, a burst of energy in me, but it only lasted a short while. What hit me was, unlike almost all of the rest of the course, First Avenue is a long, LONG, straight-as-a-yardstick, run. And, unlike the the streets of Brooklyn, there are no distant landmarks you can hang your mind on, no "I just need to get to that church steeple way up there" to help you tick off the distance. It becomes a long sojourn through similar block after similar block.

A real help @ the 19 mile mark was the PowerBar Chocolate gels they were giving out. Now, I had been eating a few of these chocolate Refuels during training and, to say the least, they tasted like mud. Sweet mud, but mud nonetheless. Now, at 19 miles and having had only one Tri-berry gel for breakfast (you remember I forgot to eat my bagel) and three orange gels so far in the race, I was looking forward to having something chocolate. Well, YUMMMYY!!!! That gel tasted so good, Godiva good, with just a hint of hazelnut aftertaste. My mouth just exploded with tastebud joy. I wished I had snagged a couple more. That's when I knew I was losing it. Nothing in a gel pack had tasted that good in training. It had to be some kind of cosmic joke or I was having a sensory fit. I said to myself "You could eat real mud right now and it would taste Godiva good." That made me laugh and I felt better and knew that nothing was going to stop me now.

I began to see people that I had seen at the start. The two Italians in their green and red on white, I saw a married couple who had been with me by the buses, he's a six footer, she's maybe five one. They had "I'm her husband." and "I'm his wife." on their shirts with arrows pointing in the direction of one another. I didn't think it would be possible for two people so different in size to run that far together, but there they were at 19 miles plus. He was hurting and she was chatting away like a little bird. There was the blind runner being aided by his sighted partner. There's a commitment for you. Lead a blind runner for 26 miles through the crowds and the potholes and the Gatorade cups. There's a commitment for you. Run 26 miles through the five boroughs of New York while blind. All I had to do was run.

Hundreds of people were walking by the time I got to 125th. I was looking ahead for the Willis Ave Bridge. I wanted to see how close I was to four hours on the road. As I hit the corner at the entrance into the Bronx my watch said 3:57:00. I was still on my mark! How could that be possible? Maybe I could beat five hours? Six miles in a hour? Shucks. On a good day I could do six miles in .... wait a minute....six times nine minutes and twenty two seconds is .... the crowd in the Bronx was incredible. Everyone had said that we would see all that many people at the North end of the course. They were wrong. The sidewalks were filled and there was a huge balloon canopy over the street and band after band after band. And we are only in the Bronx for about a mile! Oh, the answer is no, I am not going to run six point two miles in 57 minutes. Not today.

But I am feeling good now, I know I am just crawling along, I can see the times on my watch. It's taking me longer and longer to do the next mile, but I am moving, I am running the whole way.

Running about as slow as anyone can run and still be running, but running.

We are on Fifth Ave now and headed South towards the finish at Central Park's Tavern on the Green. I ooze past 125th Street for the second time today and here is Marcus Garvey Park. Marcus Garvey Park is where I have been running to maybe ten times in the past two weeks. I make the corner after skirting around the park and there is the final stretch of Fifth down to the Park. I can see the tree I have learned marks the corner of the park and I head for it as fast as I can go which is not fast. The minutes are clicking off now. I just want to finish in fairly good shape, not look like some of the disasters I am passing left and right. There are people standing still, holding knees, stretching hamstrings, massaging thighs. There are people, good looking athletic people, walking, semi-dragging one foot after the other. As I pass the water table near the bottom of the hill at 110th Street I see a woman foldup like a falling sheet. Several people rush to her.

Now I am at the final long hill up to the Park entrance at 90th. Twenty blocks that I have trudged up again and again in practice, dodging the buses, darting across the red-lighted streets and squeezing my way between cars to get to the top. My wife and her best friend, and my best friend from high school and her best/boyfriend and my older sister and several others are waiting for me at the 23 mile point. 106th Street. Right in the middle of the hill, it will be so good to see real familiar faces, what a charge that will be, I tell myself. Go for it, now and look really good as you run past them all. (Man, oh man, my thighs are heavy.)

Just then, something really weird happens. The FIVE HOUR balloon Team Leader bounces by.

What? I could still get FIVE HOURS? How? What? WHa! I get right behind her. She is a blond woman about thirty years old and looks as if she has just stepped out of a Starbucks. She is 22.9 miles into a marathon and she is shouting at the top of her voice," Come on, stay with me now, you'll get to tell your kids you did five hours and you get your name in the New York Times." She laughed and kept trotting along holding the stick with the balloons over her head. She and the ten or fifteen runners with her were just a little ahead of me now and I gather everything I have, every fiber, every ounce, every sweat gland is put into action and I charge up the hill with them.

The next thing I know I am at 95th Street and still churning away at the hill but the balloons are drifting further and further ahead of me and I can see that I will never be able to keep up with them. AND....oh, crap, I missed seeing my sweetie! I almost turned around to go back, but I knew that would be a disaster for me. I really felt so bad to miss them all after they had stood in the frigid wind for so long just to see 39,000 strangers drift by, but, I kept going.

That last plunge after the team leader was not a good idea. I really had nothing left now and I was turning into the park for the final 2.2 miles. Luckily, I had run this roadway more than a hundred times. I know exactly where the road dipped and turned and I was really looking forward to zooming down Cat Hill for once. I was plodding along. When I look at the numbers now I am shocked. (At one race late last year I had done the last mile of this run in just under eight minutes. This last Marathon Mile took me more than twenty-four minutes.) I had to do a kind of crab walk down Cat Hill to keep my right knee from screaming at me and I stopped for a moment by the Boat House to rub it back into shape. Once I had it's permission to continue there was still the big uphill to make and then the little downhill to the South End of the Park.

Once you are on Central Park South you think that you are finished, but you are not. It's full of potholes and it's juuuuusst a little, nearly invisibly, uphill. Then you make that final turn into the Park again and there are crowds of people yelling, exhorting, pleading, cheering (Jesus, these people have been cheering for five hours!!! How do they do that??) And there they are -- the three little hills to the finish line. I suddenly feel as if I have taken a cold shower, everything comes alive, there is the last familiar bump in the road, there is the second one and now I say I say as I say in practice "Hill? What hill?" and I am laughing and running for the brown mat finish line and trying to look up and hold my arms up so I don't cover my number and screw up my finish picture... ...... .....

And then it's over. And I've made it.



Epilogue
There are times in a person's life when a week feels like a month. I've had two of those weeks recently. The week before the run, as it's become known around here, as in "I've met two other people who were in 'the run'.", that week was at least twenty days long. The nights were sleepless or filled with dreams of varying degrees of weirdness. I was as wound up as cornered cat and had to do a considerable amount of biting the inside of my mouth to keep from speaking what was left of my mind. There was no Saturday in that week.

The week after the run was different everyday. Right after the finish and the long (one mile!) walk to get your chip clipped off, get wrapped up in tin-foil (ah..nice and warm...)find your baggage truck again and then meet-up with your fanbase and family, we went to dinner.

Or rather, the group headed to the restaurant and I headed into a hot shower to discover a large roadrash burn under my right arm where my jersey must have gotten bunched up. (That stings.) I never felt a thing during the run. I inventoried everything else: no blisters (yea!, right size shoes and Thorlos sox, no knee pain (no kidding), no bloody toenails and (hmmmm) I really felt great. I walked up the hill to a fabulous dinner with my sweetie and the two best friends a guy could ever have.

My hat says it "Life is Good."

Monday, of course I went to work! What else? I had my medal in my pocket. I showed it off. When Frank down at the florists laughed when I said I was buying flowers for my sweetie because I ran right by her at the marathon and said "You didn't run the marathon." I flashed it at him. Hah!

Tuesday, I felt awful. Why is that? Adrenalin wearing off?

Wednesday, worse. Couldn't concentrate on work and, dun dun dun dun, my right knee was doing weird things, like aching on the inside and then the backside and then the knee cap. Advil for everybody.

I don't remember Thursday.

I was going to run a little on Friday but instead I slept.

My knee was killing me on Saturday, it was hard going downstairs and my head started to fill with those kind of thoughts that only real pessimist have. "that was your last run.' "Hope you like arthritis medicine' 'What color cane are you going to carry.' My inner pessimist is a bad ass. More Advil. Massage. More Advil.

Sunday comes and I kid you not------there is no pain. It's gone. Vanished. It's as if one of the ministers from one of those holy-roller congregations had come by and healed me. I had to work Sunday so right after I locked up the store I went for a little run. Just a mile, but it was the same one mile run that two years had been my first attempt at moving at more than walking speed.

Everything I've learned during this time came floating up as I passed the gates of Gramercy Park:
No more races where I am going to meet someone without taking my cellphone.
No more drinking liquids during a race just because the table seems clear.
No more starting out with the speedy racer types just to end up at the end being passed by a couple of guys in banana suits.
And, on the good side,
all of the distance, every step of those 1200 practice miles, paid off,
all of the hills brought the hills down
(What hill? What bridge?),
all of those hours made the hours feel shorter,
(what? three hours already?)
all of the visualizations made the way seem familiar
and finally, all of the uplifting confidence building pep talks I gave myself
(Man, you are so strong!) fought off all of petulant cries of my inner whiner man.
(I hardly heard from him all that day.)


Today, I went to the gym and checked on my stash of spare clothes. I got the flyer for the winter weight training program (gawd, could you have skinnier arms?) and I just laid out my running tights and sweatshirt for tomorrow's morning run at 5am.

Joe(Here we go again.)Nation

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Paying attention



So. I almost died today, but I didn't.
Uh oh, now I spoiled the story, but only if you aren't paying attention.


That could be the case. Many years ago, I was on a double date with a couple who had just gotten married about a year before. Because one of us, I forget who, had been out of the country and hadn't seen LOVE STORY we rented it. We watched it over popcorn and pizza and beer. Very sad.


We all go to take the movie back on our way to get some ice cream. Just as I am sliding the black rectangle down the chute, the new husband says

"I can't believe she dies at the end."

His lovely, and she was lovely, looks at him for a moment and then says

"They tell you she is going to die at the beginning of the movie."

"No, they don't" he said, making that squinched 'what are you, stupid?" look.


I would relate the number of yes, they [U]do[/U]s and no,they [U]don't[/U]s here, but it would take hours because that is how long they argued. Even with we, the other two, chiming in with "Yes, it's also the first line in the book!!! 'What can you say about a girl who dies?... ."


Anyway, I had chocolate and coffee on a waffle cone with my companion while they drove back to the movie rental place. They aren't married anymore.


So this morning I got to the race, I got my number, I stretched some and then stretched some more, I watched other stretchers stretch and listened to a great band Better Off Dead a band named for another movie and really, really good, rock out. Even in the cold, (47F) they had us all moving.


OH, and then 6000 or so of us did a lap of the park.


Now hear this: Without even trying, not even paying attention as it were, --no kidding, I was just putting my feet down and listening to my right leg, I set a new personal record for the five mile: 47:20. AND my right leg made no complaints, none.


Well, okay, a little yelp after the race, but it and me are going to be fine.


After the race all 6000 wet people lined up at three (count'em -- three) lines of tables for water bottles from our sponsor Poland Spring, apples and bagels. I got a piece of dry bagel stuck in the back of my mouth and for a terrifying sixteen seconds, could not get it out.


"Wow, I said, "I could have choked right here and missed the marathon."


But I didn't and I told you that right from the get-go.


Joe(Um... this is a reflection of my state of mind. Go about your lives now.)Nation

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How did English miss this word?



Neil's mom asked Anu Garg if there was a word in English for a parent who has lost a child. Are you familiar with Anu? Google the name and discover a person who loves words.


Strangely, oddly, sadly I think, there is no word, no name, no honorific, no title, no label or tag in English for a parent who has lost a child.


I find myself using a euphemism even asking the question, I do not say 'a parent whose child has died', I say 'lost a child' which could be just a overbusy soccer mom losing sight of her two boys at the mall and has nothing remotely to do with the incredible tragedy of a child's death.


Suppose we create a word, something that means monumentally heartbroken, not permanently, we know that time will bring some healing, but shouldn't we have several words?


One for the parents whose baby, barely born, dies. They should have a word.


Another for the parents of the teenager, who wasn't even supposed to be in the car that hit the tree out on Highway 9W, last Saturday night.


Shouldn't there be a word for the parent whose child of nineteen was seen at the movie theatre parking lot eight years ago and hasn't been heard from since?


And shouldn't there be a word that solely refers to a mother or a father who have rushed to their child as they lie dying in the street right out in front of their home? ('Oh, poppie, I hurt' he said and sighed his last breath.)


And I know there are Gold Star Mothers, but as one of said to Anu, "Everyone in the family is hurt and hurting." What is wrong with English that through all the centuries none of it's speakers have coined a word to be worn by parents full of grief and grace?


When we read out the names of the dead from our wars and we ask the mothers and the fathers of the fallen to rise and accept our deepest condolences, should we not have some word of honor and respect for them in their darkest sorrow?


Joe(for Neil's mom and all the others)Nation

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

He does go on.


Obsessive???? Who have you been talking to?


Has someone told you that I wear my running shorts to bed and sleep with my jersey under my pillow? ( I would wear my shoes as well but certain people have made objections.) But that's not obsessive, that's just having a primed sense of being prepared. Or as a friend of mine says "Being pre-prepared."


Or did someone report that I asked at the hotel desk for a copy of the running course map and when presented with one which showed a four and half mile circle through the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson College said "What? That's it?" (Yes, we went to a three day wedding. Yes, I ran every day of it and then met George for a run on the Monday morning after....) but that not obsessive, that enthusiastic.



I suppose some people have spouted off about what I pack in my suitcase when we are going to Florida. I pack the non-essential stuff, underwear, dress shirt and summer weight suit, shaving gear, cameras, regular shorts and tee-shirts. In my carry-on I carry my shoes and running shorts, sunglasses, sunscreen and jersey. That way when they lose my luggage I can still have a run down the beach at sunrise. But that's not obsessive, that shows a reasonable response to a likely future scenario. I like to fly wearing jeans, a long sleeved shirt and loafers (for the frigging security checks.) What am I supposed to do when they lose the bag? Run in my jeans and loafers?



Okay, so maybe that one time, when I didn't really NEED to run in the airport to catch a plane or anything, I did spend about a hour jogging up and down the long corridor, but that was just practice in case I ever DO need to run to Gate 84. (It's about a quarter of a mile and my best interval was a 1:48. I could have done better but the frigging baby buggies and kids were everywhere.)(AND I was wearing jeans and loafers.) But that's not obsessive, that's uh, good use of available time for practice.


And now that I do not have to get up every morning at four I am enjoying sleeping in, thank you very much. I still wake up, but now I roll over and dream that I am running in the early morning fog..... A lone biker zips me past in the nearly perfect silence, only the sound of my feet and breathing, the murmurs of the waking morning breeze in the leaves and the singular call of a distant bird create this small universe. The thoughts in my head are cast aside as my eyes drift upward to gaze at the streetlights at the top of the long hill. At the crest a long shadow of a runner appears in front of me, striding out before me down the other side. It takes me a moment to recognize the shape and the rhythm of the form.


Joe(Holy Cow.. is that me?)Nation

Monday, October 22, 2007

Too Fast to Ever Slow Down


Back in the dark, dark, dark ages of computers (I'm talking Tandy 100 here.) we had a game called Moonshot, or maybe Spaceshot, I can't remember exactly. There were no graphics, just lines of text which gave you a number of choices to make. The object of the game was to take the values you were given for fuel, speed and distance to the moon and combine them to take off from the earth, fly to the moon and then use you retro-rockets to make a soft landing.
If you took off too fast, you used too much fuel and couldn't slow down enough to avoid crash landing. If you took off too slow, you landed in the Atlantic, or, if you just barely made it out of the earth's gravitational pull, the game would inform you that you would reach the moon in 157 years or so. The game changed the weight of the ship and it's cargo at the start of every game.
I'm telling you all this because that is the game I am now playing in my head. At what speed do I run the first miles?
Too fast and I might not have enough 'fuel' to get to the finish. Too slow and I will be out on the course for six and half hours.
The road in Brooklyn is pretty flat, but I have been warned about "banking extra miles in the first half." (What?) and I think I will need to have a lot left to push beyond the 22, 23 mileposts. (My crew is meeting me at the 23 which is in the middle of the hill on Fifth Ave.)
Others have told me, quote "Shit, if you make it past the Madison Ave bridge there is no way anything's going to stop you." One guy told me he remembered seeing the trees of Marcus Garvey Park, that's at about the 22 mile point, and then he said "I just floated along to the end, I didn't care what my time was." (Liar) "The crowds just lifted me up."
Right now I'm thinking about keeping it to about eleven minute miles. I finish in about five hours (maybe better if I feel really good at the twenty miles point) and it will have been a fine day.
One thing I do not have to contend with is retro-rockets.
They were always the touchiest part of SpaceShot.
From where I stand at the moment slowing down will not be a problem 12 days from now.
Joe(Watch out!! Oh, no, he's running too fast to stop!!! )Nation

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is the Fourteen Day Forecast??



Two weeks to go and I am champing at the bit.
I am also having the weirdest little bouts of paranoia?
I stepped on a cat toy.


Ow, did I hurt something. Is is permanent????




Everything I eat is turning to fat.
My shoes are 1)too big 2) too small (Check the time of day.)



I am/am not carrying my cellphone.



Why do we all have to run together? Why can't we just do a marathon in maybe a small group of ten say and then call in the results. They do that sort of thing in golf all the time. Someone gets a hole-in-one, all it takes is one corroborating witness to make it official. (maybe two, I don't really know.) But I think I could go run the 26 miles plus a little more next Sunday instead of the Sunday after. Think of the money they would save on traffic control.



I am/am not taking the subway to the buses.


I am/am not taking a car service to the buses.



Everyone I know is going to be at 106th Street and Fifth Ave.
There will be no one @ 106th and Fifth Ave. It will be deserted by the time I get there.



Why can't we have a fourteen day weather forecast? All this money spent on going to the MOON and we can't tell what the weather will be on Nov 4th? For pity's sake, scientists, get with it!!
Oh, and get with before next Friday when I can have a ten day forecast.



What if it snows??



What if it rains and I am carrying my cellphone??



The 5 mile Marathon warm-up is next Sunday. They use it to test the timing devices and such. The trailers (four big ones) were being eased into the Park past the Tavern on the Green last Friday. A whole village of stuff is set up at the finish, for the television networks, for the Road Runner's offices (they basically live in the Park for a week or so.)





In the warm-up we will do one shortened lap of the Park and finish (going up the frigging three hills to the finish) just like on Marathon day. Two years ago I was lined up with the 12 minute milers hoping I could finish the five miles. Two very speedy looking guys were lined up next to me and I heard them talking about wanting to start way in the back of these people so that they wouldn't get stepped on or otherwise hurt one week before the race.




Now I know what they were talking about. I am going to start the warm-up WAAAAY in the back and trot around the course like the winner of the Working Dogs at the Westminster.



What should I pack in my baggage bag? A peanut butter sandwich? That would taste good after a five hour run. Hmmm. And something to drink... no there will be stuff to drink.



Okay, get a hold of yourself.


Settle down.


Be calm.


Everything is in place.


Relax. Relax, Relax.





Joe(wait a minute.... is that another cat toy over there!!!!)Nation

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Great Gatorade Debate



Or
The Committee in My Head Does Twenty Miles




When you are running for four hours,( okay, three hours and 57 minutes give or take,) you have a lot of time to think about things or let the committee in your head debate. Do you have a committee in your head? I do. They constantly talk to and at each other. There's WatchOutBoy, also known as EEKwhat'sThat! and BigCoach who calms him down. There's TrueRunningMan who is mostly silent. He lets PumpIt&JumpIt do most of the rah-rah talk while he stays steady. Of course, there is TakeCareDear who is more concerned with comfort, but also likes to chime in with WatchOutBoy if there is chance of danger. And there are any number of others who pop up, speak up, speak out and freak out. So me and this crew of brains and minds headed out to do a long run on Friday morning. They kept me company the whole way.
You try to remain aware of your surroundings, especially in the beginning miles downstream from the George Washington Bridge, because the commuters on bicycles zoom by at tremendous speeds. They must ride this route at this time of the day (9am) everyday because they cover the ground with incredible accuracy. I've watched a lot of bike riders, (I used to teach long distance cycling), these men and women know their machines and the territory they are traversing. I saw two of them cut between a Parks Department truck and a fence with only an inch to spare on each side and neither one of them appeared to have touched a brake handle. Still, even knowing what good riders they are, I keep to the far right side of the path and listen for their approach, but once you get into the rhythm of your surroundings, at about Ten Mile Park, (that means it's ten miles from the south end of Manhattan) about three miles or so into the run, you can finally slide into musing and amusing yourself. I leave the awareness to WatchOutBoy and start thinking.

One thing that struck me on Friday was I think in larger chunks of ground now. When three miles was my limit or my goal, or both, I thought about getting to the next corner or the next painted telephone pole, sometimes my marker would be just the next traffic light. Now, on a twenty mile run, I break things into five mile blocks or six mile loops. I had to keep reminding myself, as I planned what I was going to do at Mile Eighteen, that I was still only at Mile Seven and to take it easy, but PumpItMan, kept saying, "Hey, we're visualizing success here. So, get with the visualizations already." Then I'd say, "You're right." and Take Care,Dear, would say "Oh good, only two miles to the water stop." Onward all of us go, me and PumpIt and TakeCare and all the others. Two miles is now just a hop around the block.

There's some music on my player that I no longer like to hear. When the opening chords come on, I reach over and fast forward past the song and promise myself that I am going to delete that song before the next run. I never do it. So freaking "Six Days till We say We're Sorry" is still on the player. For Christsakes, says BoredandIrritated Brain. He doesn't really speak much. I'm glad.

There is a point at which you think you are going a little nuts. For me, it happens when I try to add together the 45 minute intervals between the gels. (Gels are these little packets of goo that replace the carbohydrates you are burning.) I twice added 45 and 45 and 45 and got two hours and twenty five minutes. (It's difficult to think in the base 60 while trying to suck the rest of the Gatorade out of the PowerBelt Bottles) Apparently, I forgot to to take along CalculatorLobe. Then, from out of nowhere, I had a thought about stopping at the stand on the hill in the Park to buy a bottle of Gatorade. (I really didn't need more Gatorade, I think some side of my mind was trying to sabotage the operation.)
There was a great debate. You should have been there. I mostly listened as the committee deliberated.


First, one side of my mind, I think it was TakeCare, said "Great! Let's do that!"
BigCoach said : "You are out of your mind."
"Why can't we just get some?" whined SaboteurBrain.
"We only have a twenty dollar bill."
"So?" says saboteur brain.
"So, by the time you stop, find out if he's GOT Gatorade and if it's cold and get it and the change and put the change in the little bitty pocket of your belt, it will be really, really hard to get going again."
Saboteur brain had to stop and think about that, but he was joined by EvilProvocateurBrain.
"I'm getting hot and I bet TakeCare, Dear, would like a nice cold drink. Right?"
"Um," said TakeCare, Dear."Will it be really cold?"
"No Stopping!" cried RunningManMind.
Evil provocateur cheese brain ignored him, "Maybe. and maybe we can we get two."
"How will you open one if both your hands are filled?" BigCoach asked sarcastically.
"We'll think of something." sulked Saboteur Brain. (Like Stopping.)
"No Stopping!" shouted RunningManMind.
"Maybe, " (I swear this is what my mind was saying at the time.) "We could just give him the twenty and get the Gatorade, ,,,,mmmmmm cold,,,,, and then tell him we would pick up the change on the next loop."
Saboteur and Provocateur both nodded vigorously to agree with DumbAssBrain who always speaks up at the wrong time.

As it turned out, the pure of heart brains won out and we did not stop for anything except to gulp some water at the fountain at the North End and at the fountain by Coach LeBow's Statue.
Here's the map:

http://www.runningahead.com/maps/1870bd2680ed4f18b31003cab958173d

A word about running up Fifth Ave: It was the right thing to do. It allowed me to see the actual course we will be finishing on and get a sense of how far it is from the edge of the Park to the Gate into the Park. (A million billion miles plus ten steps.) There is, despite my coach's admonition NOT to run in the street, plenty of room to run in the street. There is almost half a lane between the parked cars and the lane where the moving cars are. (All of them are coming at you from behind and not all of them are as good at driving as the biking commuters are at riding, but there were no problems.) The only thing you have to watch out for is the buses.

Those open places on the curb are where the buses pull in to stop for passengers. I learned to look at the faces of the people waiting for the bus. If they looked bored to death I continued to trot along, but if their eyes were getting wider by the second and some had the look about them that said "Christ, the bus is going to smack that idiot and I am going to be late for work." then I would burst into a sprint crossing past the open area just before the bus swooped in. (I only had to do that twice in the mile and a half, but as Rugged Warrior Brain said afterward, "Sprinting at 17 and a half miles is really tough to do.")

I came into the park at Mile Eighteen (my previous long distance record) and looked forward to doing two more miles plus a little more to the end. I had a slug of water, I took a gel, I swooped off down the broad expanse of parkway towards the finish. The rain that had threatened all morning completely disappeared and the bluest sky was above and beyond me all the way down Cat Hill and around the South End and up the two little molehills to the Tavern on the Green. 20.3 miles.




When you run that far you are supposed to keep walking for at least another twenty minutes. I did.
I walked back to the vendor on the hill and asked for a cold Gatorade.




He only had lukewarm Snapple.


No one on the Committee said anything.