Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sandy On The West Coast

Right now, running 26.2 miles seems like the easy part. The hard part started last Thursday at 3 a.m. in the form of vomit down the front of my 3-year-old’s pajamas. A few hours later, after what felt like a few minutes of sleep and more vomiting, I woke up to read about the approaching Hurricane Sandy, which was heading for the East Coast and scheduled to hit around the time we were supposed to arrive there. After sobbing into my pillow alone, I tearfully called my mom, “Mom, this hurricane thing…”

The plans we’d made six months before, including our NYC Marathon trip and East Coast vacation, felt like they were about to unravel.

We’ve now been through two flight cancellations and two vomiting boys. I wish I could say that I’ve been handling the up-and-down, keeping-an-eye-on-the-storm situation with grace and good cheer. Quite the opposite. I’ve been irritable, short-tempered and stressed. I wish I could say that the days have been filled with baking homemade Halloween treats and other creative, fun-filled ideas. Nope. The uncertainty has gotten the best of me. I stare off into space, wondering if the race will even go on (it will) and if we’ll even get there (this remains to be seen. But we’ll try. On a flight tomorrow afternoon.) It has been a lesson for me—a reminder—about having absolutely no control over anything. Over the past few days, I’d probably have to give myself a flunking grade in the going-with-the-flow department.

The East Coast is already bouncing back. I’m hoping to do the same. I’m hoping to be a part of the action. The Marathon website reads “the Marathon has always been a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this City.” I’m hoping to be one of the people at the starting line Sunday who embodies that NY spirit —one who shows that you never give up, you never quit, you keep on going. Despite vomit. Despite storms. Despite cancellations.

The thing is, on this Halloween morning, I just don’t know. And for me, that’s the hard part.

We will do what we can to get there, knowing that ultimately much of it remains out of our hands.

But there is one thing I will do today: I will keep on running.

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Trust In The Taper

I am officially into my NYC Marathon taper. For the next two weeks—until the big day, November 4—I’ll be running significantly less than I have been. While I will certainly enjoy a little extra time to sleep in, it’s a strange feeling to know that I’ve put in the miles and minutes and to realize that the bulk of my training is behind me—the hay is in the barn, as I’ve been told—and I’m now in the phase where I let my body rest, relax and prepare.

The November issue of Runner’s World magazine has a graphic in a story about tapering. It reads “KEEP CALM AND TRUST THE PROCESS.” Running —as it always does, mirrors real life—I find the idea to be one that’s easier said than done. And while outwardly I may appear to be keeping calm, and even think that I’m doing so, the charred baby running out of a burning house to spitefully stick out its long, lizard-like tongue at me in my dream tells me differently.

But here’s what I’ve discovered the past couple of days. While all my running has been solo, keeping calm and trusting the process relies heavily on other people. It’s taking a step back and taking a look around. It’s knowing that my sister—who likes flying about as much as I like the Dallas Cowboys—is taking a red-eye by herself to be by my side. It’s spending an afternoon at McDonald’s PlayLand with my trusted running pal, swapping stories, sharing laughs, talking about the marathon and pondering new goals. It’s hearing a friend’s voice two states away, realizing that even though we’re not together, I still feel like I’m standing next to her on the beach, and that really, we ARE together. It’s hanging out at a preschoolers’ Halloween party eating Mummy Dogs & cupcakes and being surprised and touched by a thoughtful card and token of inspiration for the trip East.

Whether it’s running or life, I don’t think Keeping Calm and Trusting the Process is something we just do alone, internally. It comes from all around: from friends, family, community and words of support. It comes from letting people in. It comes from being surrounded by people—near and far—who believe in you.

As I take these two weeks to trust in the taper—and enthusiastically carbo load on New York pizza and bagels—I also carry with me a heaping dose of gratitude: for the experience, and for the friends, family, well wishers and fellow runners who believe in me.

Technology + The Crüe = One Terrible Long Run

It was to be my last really long run before the NYC Marathon in three weeks. It was a rainy, blustery morning. Ducks frolicked cheerfully in a stream that had formed overnight. I set out with an iPod that we purchased a few weeks ago for Angry Birds on the airplane. My training has been time-focused, rather than mileage-focused; for most of it I’ve simply used the good, old-fashioned stopwatch on my Timex. But this morning I was interested in keeping an eye on my pace as well as the distance during my three-hour run so I was going to use the Nike iPod function with my shoe sensor.

I strapped on my new fuel belt and stuck the iPod in the zippered pouch. It was not a snug fit, but I thought it would be OK. I started running. Over the course of the first two hours the workout monitor lady repeatedly advised me that she was “pausing workout” when I hadn’t stopped it, and then immediately followed that with “resuming workout,” over and over again. Perhaps it was flopping around too much. Whatever it was, it was annoying. “Shut up” I scolded, at least four times.

By the two-hour mark my workout somehow ended. I didn’t know what button I had pushed incorrectly. The rain dampened my fingers and blurred my vision; I couldn’t make out the screen, especially with no reading glasses along. I became flustered. Despite a slight twinge near my right ankle, I wasn’t ready to give up. I wanted to do my full three hours. So I decided to just begin another sixty minute workout. I picked up the pace a little and started downhill. I don’t know if my workout was paused or running, but I made up my mind to ignore it no matter what, and just got back to basics. I simply ran.

Out of the blue I heard something that sounded like a transistor radio. I wondered if my iPod was picking up some weird wireless signal in the neighborhood and acting as a ham radio. I soon realized that the sound was coming from my pouch. I finally placed it. It was a song from Motley Crüe’s greatest hits, the only songs my husband has downloaded on the iPod. The songs skipped and shuffled. I had no idea how to shut them off.

The last 45 minutes of my run, the songs blared through my bag. A motorcycle revved. “Girls, girls, girls” rang out. The wind blew me back. “Kickstart My Heart” pushed me forward. With 15 minutes to go “Dr. Feelgood” joined me as my pace slowed to a crawl. Up my final short incline, “I’m on my way, Home Sweet Home…..”

Finally back in our cul-de-sac, I walked around for my cool down. The run had been long, slow and painful. I had no idea about my distance or pace. But my trusty, reliable Timex told me I had made it three hours. The tunes continued to blare, and I still had no idea how to stop them. As I climbed the porch, I hoped that this wasn’t the runner who’d show up in three weeks for the Marathon. I hoped it’d be the other one I’ve met along the way, the one who’s finished training runs feeling good and strong, not exhausted and weak.

I carried the iPod in my hand as I kicked off my shoes.

Vince Neil screamed “Girl, don’t go away mad. Girl, just go away.

I echoed the rocker’s sentiment.

That’s exactly what I told the runner who showed up this morning.

Sharing Words, Healing Hearts

It’s a warm, clear September day. I’m sitting on the deck, talking to my sister on the cell phone. She’s just finished reading Harlan Coben’s first Young Adult novel “Shelter.” (It’s the genre. Not wishful thinking). We’re discussing intricacies and details relating back to some of his other thrillers, amazed at the connections between them. I use the word “brilliant” and am not exaggerating in the least.

“I just admire him,” I say to her, speaking of Mr. Coben. For emphasis: “I have such deep admiration for him.”

My sister agrees. I can almost see her nodding.

The words seem to linger. 

And there it is.

All of a sudden, it makes sense.

You see, I’ve been a Stephen King fan. I’d crawl back into bed on Christmas morning with his latest novel, always looking forward to a good yet creepy read. I followed Mark Purdy’s sports columns in the San Jose Mercury News when I lived down there. More recently, I’ve read and enjoyed books by Nicholas Sparks, Kristin Hannah, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, John Grisham.

But feeling such admiration for a writer is not something I’ve done.

Not since my dad.

It seemed to be something that was reserved for him. At least as far as my emotions were concerned. I held my dad in the highest regard as a writer. He was the best I knew. And then after his stroke, his written words ceased, and he began “taking notes in his head” as he liked to say. My sister and I could go back to his old columns if we wanted to revisit his words, his strong yet unwavering opinions, his perspectives. There were no new written words. They seemed to be suspended in air. We missed them. We longed for them. We hoped for them.

So maybe that’s what’s happening here.

We’ve found an author who weaves stories, characters and words together so skillfully that we are eager to read more. We talk about characters like we hang out with them, we wonder openly about questions that haven’t been answered, we lament the fact that we have to wait for another book. Yesterday after I hurriedly finished Mr. Coben’s second Young Adult thriller “Seconds Away,” I immediately dialed my sister to talk through it.

It’s become something we can share. We don’t have to go back to the old. We anticipate—with great enthusiasm and excitement— the new.

In 18 days we’re heading back to the East Coast. My 9-year-old has a few things he hopes to do:

1. Go to the top of the Empire State Building.
2. See the Statue of Liberty.
3. Buy some authentic Yankees paraphernalia (please, nothing A-Rod).

Here’s my list:
1. Cross the Finish Line in Central Park.
2. Enjoy lots of cousin time.
3. Stumble upon Harlan Coben.

Just to shake his hand. Just to say “thanks.”

Happy Marathon, Stinky Face

We have a Halloween book (which we read throughout the year) called Happy Halloween, Stinky Face. I find it a cute yet somewhat annoying tale. In it, the child, Stinky Face (to this day I’m not sure if it’s a boy or a girl), goes through hypothetical, worst-case trick-or-treating scenarios and presents them to mom. For example, “But Mama, but Mama, what if Reese’s butterfly costume turns her into a real butterfly and the big wings flap-flap her right up into the sky?” And “What if Lily Kate, who is a black cat, gets her long tail stuck in the door at one of the houses?” Or “What if my teeth get stuck in my caramel apple and I can’t get my face loose?”

You get the picture. This little one is obsessing over every detail, worried about things that won’t happen and, quite simply, kind of irritating.

Sounds like someone I know.

I am the grown-up version of Stinky Face.

Only it’s not Halloween. It’s the NYC Marathon.

It’s one month from today. As we finalize details and lay out some plans—as our marathon trip becomes reality— I am the annoying, irritating one. I’m the one going over hypothetical, worst-case scenarios in my head. “But what if every single seat on every single public transit system bus (and subway) is taken and I can’t get to the Staten Island Ferry and I miss the ferry and can’t make it to the starting line?” Or “What if I get on a subway, miss the transfer, and end up at Yankee Stadium instead of the start?” And “What if something happens with Daylight Saving Time and trips the alarm clock function in the cell phone, so it won’t go off, and I sleep through the Marathon?” Or “What if I end up trying to take a cab and every single driver ignores me, scowls at me and passes me by?” Finally “What if I am stuck in a throng of runners and when I attempt to pick up speed and pass some a spectator in Brooklyn curses me out?” And on and on. And on.

I know that a huge aspect of running the marathon is the mental piece. Just like I’ve trained physically, now it’s time to kick my mental training into high gear. These what-ifs are definitely not accomplishing that.

I realize that my perspective is off, my focus is blurred. With one month to go, I need to get back to the basics: trusting in the experience, letting go and simply letting things unfold as they may.

The mental fortitude I need is going to come through prayer.

When I read Happy Halloween, Stinky Face, I want to tell the child to relax, chill out, have fun and that everything is going to be OK. Because I know that’s the reality.

In real life, with one month to go, I need to do the same for myself.

So, Happy Marathon, Stinky Face.

Just trust. And let go.

Friendship Etiquette

My Third Grader’s social life is really starting to blossom, just as a dear friend said would be the case for this particular grade. Hanging out with friends is becoming his favorite thing to do on the weekends. While we are excited for this newfound camaraderie and these budding relationships—and we are grateful that he’s calling friends and even extending invitations—there were a few pointers we felt like we needed to offer Saturday:

1. Don’t invite yourself over. Requesting to spend time with people, inviting someone to your home or perhaps even suggesting another venue is a great idea. However, inviting yourself to someone else’s pad? Not necessarily so. Here’s the text message I discovered that my 9-year-old sent to his friend’s dad Saturday morning: “Can I go to your house for about five to six hours.” (We also mentioned that it’s not actually necessary to include a duration of time.)

2. Don’t call another friend while you’re playing with one. After years of being the lone house on the cul-de-sac, it is inspiring to see neighborhood friendships starting to flourish. But when you’re hanging out with someone from the ‘hood, it’s not the wisest idea to call another classmate – it could be interpreted as rude somewhere along the line.

3. Don’t say “I like hanging out with so-and-so better than so-and-so.” It’s important to embrace and enjoy a variety of friendships, however expressing a preference while you’re in the company of another can be hurtful. Some comments are better reserved for a conversation with your parents…or even kept to to yourself.

As our son wades into the friendship waters, we are thrilled to watch this once-reserved boy delve even deeper — and glad that he’s receptive to a few of mom and dad’s hard-earned tips in the process.