Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Great Gatorade Debate

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:

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.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Children Remember

I saw an article that reminded me, it's been forty years since I was sent for by the Commandant's Office at the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California. I raced across the campus straightening my uniform tie and looking at the shine, or lack thereof, of my shoes, wondering what it could be? Surely they hadn't received a complaint from the Institute's chaplin? I did not know that girl was his daughter. Had our room failed inspection again? Goddamned that slob of a roommate!, I said as I trotted up the stairs.

"Who?" the sargent asked.
"Nation, Joe, Airman First Class, sir!"
"Oh yeah, your father called. Call him back. Phones're in the hall."

Have you ever seen frostbite? It's really interesting. The skin and the flesh under it get crystallized and they turn, in the parlance of 1967, a whiter shade of pale, but even whiter than that. I saw my face as I exited the office in one of those "Look Sharp!" mirrors,... it looked frostbitten.
I dropped two dimes in the slot.
My father had never called me before. Never. Not ever. I didn't remember him even using the phone, what could he be calling about??What was it?
Mom was sick. Oh my. Oh my God.
No, there'd been a horrible accident and she was on the edge of doom.
No, HE was sick and wanted to tell me himself.
No, all my brothers and sisters were upset that I had left without saying goodbye and they never wanted to speak to me again.
No. It had to be something really bad about Mom.

The phone rang twice. The operator came on.
"Uh, Joe Nation calling person to person collect to Ben."
"ThinkQ" she said and we waited.
The phone rang five more times.
There was a click and my father's voice said "Halo."
"You have a collect call from Joe Nation to Ben. Do you accept the charges?"
"Oh yeah. Sure." my father said, "Hello?"
"Hello," I said, "What wrong? Why did you call me?"
"There's nothing wrong."
"There's nothing wrong with Mom?"
"No! There's nothing wrong with anybody. I just had some news for you."
(Oh, no, did that girl from Emerson call about carrying something of mine?)
"The Sox won the pennant."
"The Red Sox are in the World Series. People are going crazy around here about it." "! That's great!"
"I thought you'd like to know. Been a long time coming."
"Yaz hit like over .500 for the past two three weeks. It's been nuts."
"Wow, the Sox in the Series. I'll have to find a way to watch."
"Well, okay. It will be a good one." he said and then the line went dead.
"Dad,?" I said into the dead phone, "Thanks for calling me."

You never know what your children are going to remember, remember that.

Twenty years later I was telling this story to my brother and my father said he didn't even remember making the call.
"You said 'everybody was going crazy', maybe you got a little crazy?"
It was a crazy time, 1967, crazy and going to get crazier, but as I walked back to my language class on the edge of the war I felt a little connected to the real world.