Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Day 2 of 7 in the Blogging My Birthday Week Series

Originally MP and I moved our weekly run from Tuesdays to Mondays because I needed to sleep in on Tuesdays (Tuesdays are the one night of the week I always get home late). And while I am definitely getting more rest now, what’s also happened is that I am looking forward to Monday mornings, because it means I get to see my friend, and run the sun up with her. Not dreading Monday mornings: a fortuitous side effect of the reshuffle.

For years I’d clung to a Tu-W-Th-Sa-Su running routine, with Mondays and Fridays as my rest days. Now, though, I’m just happy to get my run in when I can, and more often than not that means Tuesdays and Thursdays are my off days. Reimagining my running routine feels like I am walking on one of those glass-bottomed hallways you see in modern hotels or fancy Asian restaurants–my senses are telling me I’m going to plummet but in fact I’m still on solid ground. I have written before about how I cling to the plan. Routine and careful plotting of the steps from start to finish give me reassurance and motivation. I’m getting better at recalibrating when my race plans are derailed by injury, divorce or other cataclysmic events, but apparently rethinking the days of the week on which I shall run still feels like taking a flying leap. Logically, I know it’s ridiculous. It was so easy to swap our Tuesday West Side Highway jaunt for one on Monday–they are still exactly the same. MP and I meet at the same corner at the same time. We catch each other up on the good, the bad and the sublime. We muscle our way through headwinds, drizzles or heavy humidity.

Some runners train by feel, they head out when they have a few hours and go where their feet take them, without writing out a training plan or even necessarily paying too close attention to their mileage and times (or so claims Chris McDougall). I am not one of those runners. I like having a plan, even if it’s the loose one I have now: run three days a week in March, four in April, and five in May, then hold. Pilates twice a week, speed training on Wednesdays (Nike Speed out of Paragon Sports starts on March 23rd). And when I’m training for a marathon, everything firms up a lot more (the schedule, and the butt). When and how far I run on any given day becomes much less negotiable (confession: I like that especially, when my training schedule gets rough and demanding with me. I submit to the plan.).

For now, though, I’m getting used to the disconcerting feeling of walking across a glass floor (it helps if you look forward, not down).

5.49 miles in 49:53. Average pace 9:05; fastest mile 8:32; slowest mile 9:22.

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Five Lobes

We are born with five lobes in our lungs. The left side has two, and the right has three. I just learned this at 1PM on on Thursday, when the surgeon came out from the OR to tell me and my dad that he removed the lower lobe, or 30% of my mom’s lung, from her left side. Turns out, my mom had a low-grade, malignant carcinoid tumor. Also known as Lung Cancer.

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, I thought. What a distasteful prix fix menu the past six months have been for me and my family. Divorce, and now this shit.

If only my divorce had been as clean as Mom’s break with her fifth lobe. Turns out the surgeon got every mutant cell out of my mom’s body in one fell swoop, and the only further treatment he expects for her related to this tumor are periodic CT scans to ensure the stupid cancer hasn’t returned. As Dad and I say every time we get a parking spot close to the hospital elevators, SUH-WEET!

My mom is such a champ, it took her less thank 24 hours to resume aerobic eye-rolling at Dad’s and my stupid jokes. If eye-rolling was an Olympic event, my mom would definitely get the gold medal as long as Dad was there to inspire her. Today, she walked laps around the ICU, and Dad timed her on an invisible stopwatch. Oh yeah, she was so going for a PR.

I have been staying in the old family home since Thursday, making sure my dad’s not eating donuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and spending all day at the hospital chatting with mom. I have heard many, many family stories, some going back 60 years. Although some I have heard before, mostly I am grateful to catch my parents in such an open, reminscing mood. Even though I am the daughter in this family portrait, I am no longer the child. No doubt it’s a bit odd that only at age 38 do I finally feel like a grown-up, but there you have it: I am a daughter but I am not a child.

This morning I went for a run around the development I lived in for the first 18 years of my life. It’s the same route I run everytime I stay here, and I love it because it is slightly hilly but so familiar I can run it on autopilot. This morning, my only goal was to do two loops of the route, which would get me in at around 5 miles. I had no speed goals (thought I hoped to be under 10 minute miles) and would have prefered if it wasn’t painful. Unsurprisingly, my mind was jam-packed with things to think about, so the miles I ran went by in a flash. I felt a little tight in my hamstrings (wasn’t striding as loosely as I would have liked) but was extremely comfortable in my breathing.

Extremely comfortable in my breathing–thank you, Five Lobes. And on the days where my lungs are burning, where I am running so fast and hard, where I am at my anaerobic and lactate thresholds, I will thank the Five Lobes again. Thank you Lungs, for being healthy, and intact, and willing to expand and absorb oxygen so as to help me maximize my athletic performance to the best of my ability. And also, walk around, think, be alive and do other stuff even when I’m not running. Amen.

5.74 miles run in 54:48 minutes. 9:32 average pace; 9:27 fastest mile; 9:50 slowest mile.

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Sixty degrees Fahrenheit on February 18th! What did I do with this gift from the weather gods, this sweet reprieve from the frigid and inhospitable conditions we’ve endured since December? As if I had any other option! I went for a run–in shorts and a tee-shirt–of course.

I was dogsitting in Chelsea that weekend, so I ran to the West Side Highway Greenway for an out-and-back. It was 7:30 PM by the time I made it out, and I saw the first wave of people heading towards date-nights and girls’-nights; I saw relaxed workers heading home from happy-hours as I sped through Chelsea. Meh, rather be running. The air was heavy and gentle on my skin. My foot cadence was quicker than usual, and before I knew it I was pleasantly sweaty. My muscles felt supple, my breathing hard.

I wasn’t exactly giddy; rather, I felt a little smug. Many of the other runners out on the Greenway were struggling: they were run/walking, or holding their sides to relieve a stitch. Smugness can never just be enjoyed; I knew there would be a karmic backlash eventually but nevertheless I couldn’t resist feeling a little bit fitter and superior than these fair-weather joggers. I’m out there four seasons, people! Days like February 18th are my petty reward for being a foot soldier of winter running. 4 miles run in 34:16. Average pace 8:34; fastest mile 8:19; slowest mile 8:53.

I didn’t have to wait long for karma to nip me on the tush. Sunday morning I raced the Cherry Tree Relay in Prospect Park with @nycbklyngirl (EG) and @mdwstrnNYer (Tuesday morning MP) as the first runner on Team Tweet–and the “real feel” temperature was 16*F. Except for the 20 minutes I was racing, I was a block of ice from the second I left the apartment at 8:30 AM until I got home and could stand under a hot shower around 1 PM.

The race itself was a lot of fun. The 10-mile course went three times around Prospect Park, in Brooklyn. I was the first runner, primarily because I was the least fit teammate and Leg 1 was about 2 millimeters shorter than the other legs. I ran as hard as I thought I could sustain for 3 miles, and managed some decent splits on Mile 1 and 3, but the rolling uphill terrain and headwind in Mile 2 slowed me down by nearly 40 seconds! I could feel that I had lost speed and fitness since my PRs this Fall, but it was expected so I didn’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I took the race for what it was: a chance to push myself a little, a taste of the relay experience (I am already pining for the Green Mountain Relay, which I am skipping this summer), and a moment to talk running with my Twitter friends. Turns out we came in 57th overall, in 1:17:24, but 8th out of all Female teams! Not so bad! 3.21 miles run in 25:30. Average pace 7:56; fastest mile 7:45; slowest mile 8:19. EG’s race report (she has the distinction of being the speediest of us three.)

Betty continues to burn me, even though I am trying my best to keep up with Pilates and my PT exercises. At an anomalous yoga class on Monday I strained my right hamstring, so that is an annoyance but not a concern. I just hope she’s better by April, when I want to begin basebuilding for my Fall marathon training. I am mostly sure I will sign up for the inaugural running of the Empire State Marathon, in Syracuse, NY. The new Boston Qualifying requirements mean that I have a chance to run a qualifying time for the 2012 race (my time is still 3:45 for one more year). I still might not be able to get in, though, since the fastest runners will have a chance to register first. By the time registration opens for me, it might be full. It’s a chance I am willing to take while the qualifying time is still within a range I think I can hit. It’s still a goal of mine to BQ before I am 40, and since I turn 38 in a month, time is running out for me!

In the meantime, I am trying to run three days a week, go to Pilates twice a week, and hit the gym the other two days. Ambitious, yes. But when I fit it all in, I feel a sense of well-being both physically and mentally, so I will continue to strive for this routine.

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It’s been a while. It’s been a while since a lot of things have happened to me, not just since I’ve sincerely wanted to sit down and write on PF for you all. I’m leaving things behind, and this might refer to people and objects but mostly it refers to me-things. There was the girl from before, and soon there will be the woman I am meant to be. Right now, I’m in this foggy place where sometimes I can see through the wisps, but mostly I don’t know what the future will look like.

So, these are a few details you’ll need to know. I’m divorced, and I’m living in a new, temporary home (still in Queens but no longer in Sunnyside). Betty, my right adductor brevis, has been cranky and agitated since I ran in the snow in January 1st, so I have been running at most three days a week and instead my training has consisted of Pilates class, the elliptical at the gym, and my old PT exercises. Clamshells, and leg lifts, and squats–oh my! (At Pilates, I am the person in the class who makes everyone else feel good about themselves. I consider it my community service for the week.) Oh and also, work has been brutal since the turn of the year.

I ran this morning. I hadn’t scheduled it, just put it out there as a potential activity for the day. Mostly, I thought it was important I get enough rest and if that meant I didn’t have time for a run, so be it. However, I woke naturally at 8 AM, and after scrolling through the options of everything I could do this morning, I most wanted to run. That was a welcome realization. So I dressed up in pink (to feel pretty), tied up my pigtails (they are getting long), wrote up a turn sheet (I get lost), and loaded up a new playlist on to my iPod. I was smiling before I even started running. It was time to get physical, to be outside, to feel my heart pound.

Here in Astoria, I have no idea where to run. I’m not attached to this neighborhood, so I’m not enthusiastic about exploring. Nevertheless, I ended up liking the route I picked, across on 31st Avenue and up 21st Street to Astoria Park. The approach to the Triboro and Hellgate Bridges was different, and I appreciated that new perspective. Somewhere along 31st Avenue, something inside me cracked open and I could feel myself running with pure joy. It was a revelation: I loved the movement, I loved my company, I loved dodging traffic and waving at dogs on leashes. I loved skirting the park, oogling the bridges as they slyly arched away from me. For the first time in what could be months, I recognized myself. Here it was: this favorite part of me was safe and happy, just waiting to be invited out to play. I have been so busy dragging myself forward through this transition, examining myself, shining a light on the shadowed parts and feeding the starving ones, that I’d forgotten I know how to run.

I gave a little leap forward.

Oh! I suppose that’s metaphorical but I actually did give a little leap, right there on 31st Avenue. It was a bit like flying. I giggled, too.

5.11 miles run in 46:44. Average pace 9:09, fastest mile 8:57, slowest mile 9:21.


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Come Run with Me

I am not myself these days. I’ve gone into survival mode: the stress of packing up my apartment, staying on top my work during an intense time of year in the office, and transitioning through one chapter of my life to another means the subtler pleasures and energy-demanding activities have to wait until I can resume some semblance of a routine again (January 24th will be a wonderful day). What I’m saying is that I’ve been too overwhelmed to blog, and too exhausted to run. I miss my symbiotic friends; they are my primary tools for mens sana in corpore sano.

Living amongst boxes, dust and ad hoc furniture arrangements (I am sleeping on an aero-mattress and my bureau is luggage beneath my kitchen table) is very stressful for me. But with every item that I pluck out of its cabinet or off its shelf to wrap up and tuck away for the next few months, I anticipate the day when I will unpack it in my new, shiny apartment. I imagine not only the dimensions of that domestic space, but the dimensions of the life that I am already beginning to build for myself.

I ran with MP on Tuesday morning. A little over 6.5 wind-nipped miles along the West Side Highway, like always. I love running with her because her company always pops my bubble of anxiety, frustration or sadness. Running next to MP means that sometimes we bitch, sometimes we confide, sometimes we talk about girly stuff like spa days and shopping–but we always laugh about it. Every Tuesday morning I count on her evenness–in pace, and temperament. It’s not therapy, it’s just unvarnished fun.

On Sunday I ran 2 easy miles around my neighborhood in the morning. My mom was coming over later to help me pack, and I wanted to kick the day off with some full-body motion. In times of duress, my emotional setting defaults to “Angry.” I didn’t want the anticipation of packing up a kitchen ruin the pleasure of having my mom all to myself. The 2 miles took me about 20 minutes, and that was just enough time to wake me up and let the sun do its good work on my mood.

Honestly though, I’m running two days a week only because I ran in the snow for about a mile on January 1, and that triggered Betty. Now whenever I run (and even sometimes when I don’t) she reminds me that I disrespected her boundaries by getting all burny and sore. I should have more compassion for my little right adductor brevis, but every time she burns at me it takes me right back to the Winter of 2009, which was a pretty crappy time for me. I think she knows something I don’t. Maybe this muscle senses when the rest of my life becomes too much to handle and throbs accordingly, the way some old folks have joints that tell them when bad weather is on the way.

Oh the New Years’ run. Let me tell you about that. I was in Lafayette, Colorado for the turn of the year. This was 99% a brilliant thing. I tucked away with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew for five days in suburban bliss. (Just about the only way I can handle suburbia is when it involves these four amazing people. God I love them so much.) I was able to connect with some friends (thought I missed Matt because of effing snow. I hate snow, it’s official.) and really shift into a lower gear. I painted my niece’s nails. read my nephew books, and had some great heart-to-hearts with my brother and sister-in-law.  The 1% that wasn’t brilliant? The two extra hours of 2010 I inflicted upon myself by celebrating the New Year in a later time zone. At 10 PM all of my East Coast friends were tweeting and texting up a storm, “Happy New Year blah blah effing blah.” With a bitter laugh, I proclaimed, I have had just about enough of this fucking year, and went to bed soon after. But back to the New Years’ run. I headed out with my friend AC, who I lived with in Sacramento CA and have always admired as an extraordinary athlete and a centered woman. We met in Boulder for our run, and it was it was 10°F. On certain stretches of the trail the wind blew with an evil intent. I had dressed as if I was an expensive cut of meat and needed to protect myself from freezer burn. At one point in the run, AC gave me her mittens because I was convinced I didn’t have fingers that extended past the first knuckle. I simply could not feel them. Apart from the moments in the frigid breeze and the mile through unstable snow, the 6 miles I ran with AC were the best thing I could have done for myself on 1/1/11.  It set the perfect tone, the best precedent–running with a trusted friend, persisting in the face of adverse conditions.

No doubt, I’ll carry that through all the way to 12/31/11. Because even when I’m running alone (readers, get ready to either gag or be inspired), I am running with a trusted friend. Adversity sucks, but it won’t make the rules or determine the result.

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NY Running Show

People, I have finally found my cyberniche. Forget blogging, forget tweeting. I want to be an internet radio star! I discovered a forum where I can ramble on and on about all my favorite places to run in New York City, the random running tips that occur to me as I go through my training, and the pet peeves I may have towards the New York Road Runners. That’s right, I am one of the personalities on the New York Running Show, recorded live through TalkShoe.com every Sunday at 8 PM. (I say “one of the personalities” because I don’t want to make the other panelists feel bad, but really: I’m the main attraction.) Imagine The View, except on the radio, with a group of 4 to 8 runners talking only about NYC-area running and racing, Another difference between The View and the NY Running Show is that we are not obnoxious, we don’t have coifs, we don’t have celebrity guests, and we are probably dressed in our sweats when we broadcast.

Some of the recent topics we have addressed on the show include theorizing about what a second New York City Marathon would be like (the course, the time of year), tips for running outdoors during NYC winter, and a “NYRR suggestion box” episode. My co-panelists include some of my favorite runners, like Joe, Julie, Amy and Brenn. On any given episode, we offer a wide range of opinions, experience, and knowledge of routes to run in different parts of the city and environs. Each podcast lasts about an hour (despite my lobbying to keep it closer to 30 minutes) because we all like to get our two cents in.  Joe spearheaded the show, and he organizes us each week by setting the topic and getting the episode up on iTunes (which means you can subscribe and automatically download our bon mots every week).

I hope you will download a sample episode, and get to know us. Upcoming topics include brainstomring tweaks to the club system, training with a store group, and the role of social media in the NYC running community.

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Christmas is over, and I’m OK with that. I don’t think I could have staved off the humbugs much longer–I was running on fumes of positivity by 7 PM last night. But up until that point, I made the most of the holiday. I put up a tree, I attended a couple of holiday parties, and even faced the Herald Square insanity to buy a last-minute present for Nana. I also made sure I had a daily dose of running, because I always feel stronger and happier after I run.

I worked every day last week, which was mostly great. It was a little stressful because my boss was there too, bouncing me email after email and preventing me from drilling down through my “I’ll Get to This Later List” (Later had arrived). But ultimately I got a few very time-consuming projects done, things that are hard to push through when the office is fully staffed and everyone wants your attention. Thursday was the best day of all–there were only 5 people on my entire floor, and HR gave us permission to leave at 1:30.  I hung around until 3 (getting about two days’ worth of work done in six hours), then changed and went for a run. I left my office at 53rd and Fifth Avenue and slowly trotted up the avenue to Central Park. There was no running fast, because the sidewalks were clogged with tourists gawking in the windows and posing for pictures. It didn’t frustrate me though; for once it felt festive. I was happy to be running in the daylight, since it never happens for me in the winter. Before I knew it I was in the park, which was so peaceful. There were runners, but not so many. I entered at 72nd Street, to run the upper 5-mile loop, and I didn’t see another soul until I’d crested Cat Hill. The solitude felt like a gift, and I accepted it gratefully. 7 miles run in 1:03:35. Average pace 9:06; fastest mile 8:46; slowest mile 9:21 (Harlem Hill).

Christmas Eve was a day split in two. The morning was for me, and the afternoon and evening was for my family. I hate to let a holiday go by without a celebration run over my bridge, so I did that as soon as I woke up on Friday (I slept in until 7:30). Lately, the 59th Street Bridge has been kicking my ass. Between the hills and the wind, I finish the workouts feeling battered and tuckered. The wind is so bad in the winter, it really slices through you like an icy knife, and has an evil talent at always being a headwind, no matter if you’re running into Manhattan or into Queens. Because of this, I tend not to choose a bridge run for one of my mid-week, pre-dawn workouts–frigid wind without even the meager warmth of the winter sun is just too much cold for me. But on Christmas Eve, I laughed at the wind for trying to slow me down, didn’t he know I wasn’t in a hurry anyway? I had made a custom playlist with some favorite Christmas carols and sang along to four different versions of “Santa Baby” as I slid down the bridge back into Queens. 5 miles run in 48:52. Average pace 9:46; fastest mile 9:03; slowest mile 10:21.

Fast forward more than 24 hours, through Sette Pesci, bottles of white wine, a dreamless sleep, Kahlua French toast, three cups of coffee and some time spent around the tree opening presents with Mom and Dad. The last thing to do before packing up to have Christmas dinner at Nana’s is go for my run. Time was tight so I could only fit in one loop of the neighborhood, but it was sunny with no wind and I warmed up right away. My glutes were sore from the moderate hills I ran on Thursday and Friday, so it felt good to loosen them up on a flatter course. As I ran, I considered my blessings. Recognizing them, and feeling grateful for them, is not always so easy. Gratitude is an attitude I am trying to turn into a reflex, but there are moments when I lose heart. Christmas Day, however, was not one of those moments. I have a family that loves having me around, that supports me and cheers me up. That’s huge! I have all sorts of friends who remembered me on Christmas and sent me a Hello. Wow! I have myself–I am healthy, capable, smart, and hopeful. I have things like enough money to buy an apartment, enough self-motivation to maintain my training through tough times, and enough sense to know when to ask for help. Life is hard, but there are moments like Christmas that make it a little easier. I won’t ever be one of Santa’s elves, but it’s quite possible I am done with being the Grinch’s handmaid. 3.52 miles in 32:32. 9:14 average pace; fastest mile x:xx; slowest mile x:xx.

Songs I ran to 12/24: “Candy Cane Christmas” by Darius Rucker, “Blue Christmas,” “Santa Bring My Baby Back (to me)” and “Winter Wonderland” by Elvis Presley, “Last Christmas” by Jimmy Eat World, “Santa Claus Baby” and “What Do Bad Girls Get?” by Joan Osborne, “Christmas morning” by Lyle Lovett, “Christmas is Coming” by Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Santa Baby” by the Dollyrots, “All I Ever Want (Under the Christmas Tree)” by the Cute Lepers, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by the Beach Boys, “Santa Baby” by Rev Run, “Oi to the World!” by No Doubt, “Christmas” by Blues Traveler, “Christmas Song” by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

Songs I ran to 12/25: “The Chain” by Poi Dog Pondering, “Chains of Love” by Erasure, “Change” by Tears for Fears, “The Change” by Garth Brooks (NOT good for running), “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, “Chasing Pavements” by Adele, “Che Vita E'” by Irene Grandi, “Cheap Sunglasses” by ZZ Top

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The Fun Farm

I’m at this scary and exciting time in my life where everything about me, and everything about my life, is being scrutinized and surveyed. Do I like this, really? Do I want this, really? Do I even need it? If it’s not working–next! Even the gaps are being examined–hmm, maybe I would like that, or maybe I should try that. Sure, why not? If I like it, it sticks. If not, I’ve expanded my base of experience. it’s not quite a radical overhaul, but it’s definitely a bigger project than cleaning out the proverbial closet.

Playing into this is the notion of not waiting to do something or go something. If I can afford it, I make a plan. If I can’t afford it and I still really want to do it, I start saving (I am currently saving money and vacation days for four big trips in 2012). Sometimes I come across places I want to visit or things I want to try out and then forget; other times I have a free day and can’t thing of anything cool and new to fill it. Thus, The Fun Farm, the new page on my blog. This is a way for me to stay organized and accountable. Perhaps notable–it’s not just about running, because I’m not just about running.

Sunday was a day I crossed a couple of things off my list. First, in the afternoon, I attended a Krav Maga self-defense class in Chelsea. I have never tried any sort of martial arts, thinking it would be cool but then remembering eventually I’d have to actually fight (translation: take a hit). I run in the dark on quiet streets by myself at least twice a week in the winter, if not more often. Even though I know the routes, that doesn’t mean someone can’t snatch me and harm me. Being introduced to even basic self-defense skills is always a good idea, so when @SharonPaige invited me and several other lady runners to the class, I signed right up. Whenever I show up for a fitness class of one kind or another, I always feel awkward and uncoordinated. (Likely that is because I am; I run because I can’t catch or hit a ball. Remember step aerobics? I’d be the woman facing the back of the classroom trying to do scissor steps next to my step instead of up it.) Today however, I was among friends who were equally unfamiliar with the techniques of Krav Maga (except for the fierce @SharonPaige herself), so I let my awkwardness drop away and instead threw myself into the 15-minute boot camp warm-up our instructor put us through. Let’s just say she had us doing push-ups in one-minute intervals, and we all know how pathetic I am at push-ups. My abs are still sore from the crunches and it’s three days later! I can run 10 miles, but for the love of god please don’t ask me to sit up from a prone position. Anyway once that was over, we got to do the fun stuff, like learn how to smash a bad guy’s face with our elbow, kick him in the nuts or the chin (or both), and get ourselves out of a choke hold (not the wrestling kind, either). Am I ready to take on that guy on the subway who won’t close his legs and instead takes up two seats? Not quite, but I do feel more aware of potential dangerous situations. There has been talk of turning it into a series, so once a month we’d get a refresher course to the basic self-defense moves in the hopes that they become more ingrained and instinctual.

Afterwards, I came home and baked some cookies, then got things ready to decorate my Christmas tree. The day before I’d walked down to the tree vendor at 44th Street and 43rd Avenue and got myself a tree, in defiance of years of my emphatic Grinchy stance. The unexpected grin on my face as I ported it home was eclipsed only by the smile I couldn’t suppress when I set it up all by myself in its stand. Folks, it’s not even crooked, and boy does it smell so good! Sunday night was the big show–CB and I were going to bedazzle it, drape it in sparkly, shiny things. But first, we made dinner together and ate it huddled and giggling together at my desk, since currently I’m using my kitchen table as a dresser in the bedroom. Then we strung the lights and unwrapped the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. I’ve got silver snowflakes every Christmas since I was a little girl from  my parents (CB hung the one from the year I was born near the top). Adding color are a few ornaments I remember from when I was a child, and some my new ones that connect me to my adult friends. CB gamely played along, and asked me about the provenance and significance of many of the ornaments. CB gave me a silvery Statue of Liberty to hang, so I dubbed my evergreen the Liberation Tree. This dignified organic thing, elegantly carrying my memories upon its boughs, is the embodiment of my liberation from the fallback position of Scroogette. I can’t muster them up, this year, all those humbug scowls and utterances. I don’t have the energy for the bluster right now. I’d rather enjoy this moment with my best friend, drinking mulled wine and quietly celebrating our friendship, our survival skills, our talents and all that which has been given us. That’s a pretty new attitude for me, just as uncomfortable as trying a martial art for the first time. Maybe, if I practice, this new attitude will become more ingrained and instinctual, too.

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H Is for Hunt

I have to find a place to live. Closing on my current apartment is likely to be some time in January, and I still haven’t found an apartment in Sunnyside I want to buy. Well, I found one, but it fell through and now the market has been kind of stagnant. They say that sellers tend to list their places after the holidays, so I might have more options in the new year. But in the meantime, I’m still giving the apartment hunt the old college try. I saw four this weekend. One, in a building I’ve fantasized about before, is completely out of my budget. The others are within my range, but I didn’t love any of them. I didn’t love this apartment either when we bought it, and that indifference quickly grew into dislike which became full-blown intolerance. I don’t want to end up in the same situation again, so the hunt continues. In the meantime, I feel a bit like Dorothy in her ruby slippers (or silver, as they are in the novel), clicking my heels and intoning There’s no place like home [if only I knew where that would be]… There’s no place like home [none of these apartments are right for me]…

Before I met the real estate agent on Saturday, I ran over my bridge. Some of the construction in Queens Plaza has been completed so I can now take a more direct route, which takes .2 miles off the out-and-back. I am running less these days, partly due to the cold but also because I five days of running in a week remind my body it was recently in a serious car accident. I end up with unnecessary aches and pains. Acupuncture once a week has helped. No excuses, however: the Queensboro Bridge kicked my butt this weekend. That long climb out of Queens slowed me up significantly, and I even felt a little fatigue in my legs as I trotted the final half-mile towards my apartment building. It is telling that there is a 47-second distance in time between Mile 3 (which has the last bit of the Manhattan-bound incline, plus the entirety of the steep slope back towards Queens) and Mile 4, which is consists entirely of me surfing down the back of my bridge. This is a route where something is seriously kaflooie if I am not running a negative split. The hill was just painful enough that I forgot to lift my chin and look out over the river, to gauge the sky and take my city’s measure. I did, however, pass an older gentleman who was trudging up the hill with his backpack. He heard me coming and turned around to cheer me on, and on my way back I ran towards him and we were able to give each other a grin. We made it! 4.88 miles in 47:04. Average pace 9:39; fastest mile 9:22; slowest mile 10:09.

Songs I ran to: “Happiness” by Elliott Smith, “Hard Core Troubador” by Steve Earle, “Hard Headed Woman” by Elvis Presley, “Hard to Explain” by The Strokes, “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes, “He Wasn’t There” by Lily Allen, “Heads Roll Off” by Frightened Rabbit, “Heads Carolina, Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina, “Heart of Glass” by Blondie, “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, “Henrietta” by The Fratellis, “Here Goes Something” by Nada Surf, “Here’s to the Meantime” by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, “Hey Driver” by Lucky Boys Confusion, “Hey Julie” by Fountains of Wayne, “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s.

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Five Twestions

This afternoon I decided I feel like writing, but had no inspiration for a topic. So I threw it out to my Twitter friends, and they gave me five questions to answer.

1. Destination running…where and why? from @RunEricRun, who blogs at Run Eric Run.

This could be a post on its own. In fact, I kind of already wrote it when @BklynRunner invited me to be a guest writer on her blog for a day. But, if I had to give one answer, this would be it, in two parts.

a. Destination Run (done). WHERE: London Marathon, 2010. WHY: Because I have dreamt of running the London Marathon ever since I saw @RyanHall3 race it in 2008; and because I had the opportunity to use it as a fundraising event for @TeamFox. Team Fox is the grassroots fundraising arm of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Disease, and finding a cure to PD is something that is very important to me.

b. Destination Run (to do). WHERE: Le Marche, Italy. WHY: I love the hills of The Marches, a lesser-known region of Italy on the Eastern coast. I lived there as a student in 1994. I have nurtured a dream of returning there to lease a house in the foothills of the Appenine Mountains for so long that I have no doubt that one day I will actually do it. The details of this sabbatical, as I like to imagine it, change slightly from year to year but the outline remains the same: I rent a house in the hills, where I will spend my days cooking Italian dishes, trotting through the hills, reading all the books I’ve hoarded for years, and mingling with the locals in town at the bar and the market. #iwilldothis

2. Are you interested in ultramarathons? Why/why not? How would your ultramarathon goals differ from other running? from @experiri, who posts his photography and musings at Scholar’s Retreat 365.

This is an easy one. I am not interested in ultramarathons as an event I’d run or race. This is because my experience with the marathon has shown me that my body and my enthusiasm can only handle training for one 26.2-mile race a year, which leads me to believe that training for and racing an ultra would seriously fuck me up. If I were to one day get superpowers and be able to train for and run an ultra, I’d pick a really beautiful course and just do it for the adventure, moseying along and taking it all in with no time goals. I also like the notion of having a support crew out there for me (it’s like a relay, except I’m the only sucker running). This would be different than my goals from my current running because I primarily run to gain racing experience, set goals, push my limits, and set PRs. Caveat: I would love to crew for a friend on an ultramarathon. So in that regard, I am interested in ultramarathons.

3. Why do you wake up so early to run? from @rundigger, my fellow predawn runner and blooger at Run Digger Run.

Awe man! People are gonna think I planted you in the audience, Matt, this is such a great question. Practically, I run in the morning because it is the one time of day I know won’t be fucked with–if I get up to run before work, I’m guaranteed to get in my workout. If I wait until after work, there is always the chance that something will come up at the office which will prevent me from getting out there. But there are many other reasons I get up at 5 AM in the summer (and around 5:45 in the winter) to go running. I feel virtuous and hardcore, up and exercising when the rest of the city is resting; I also like the resulting sense of accomplishment (It’s not even 7 AM and I’ve already run 6 miles!). I prefer the light traffic–because I live in the city, running during “normal” hours means having to stop for more cars and weave around more pedestrians. In the summer, it’s significantly less hot (I wouldn’t go so far as to say “cooler”). Sometimes I run to work, so it’s a way of commuting. And there are sentimental incentives: I get to see the sunrise; chances are greater that I’ll have my bridge all to myself. If you were to ask me while I’m in an open and philosophical mood, I might even tell you that I run early in the morning because I imagine other hardy, dedicated running souls, other New Yorkers who drag themselves out of bed for the love of this specific movement to chase a certain dream. Even though I run alone, I am sharing a moment.

4. What kind of shoes do you wear? from @tiamo46

All kinds! I love high heels, strappy sandals, smart wedges, FMBs, flipflops, cute flats, sensible pumps for the office, though often I wish I could go to work in my LL Bean slippers…. Brooks Adrenaline 2011Oh wait! Do you mean RUNNING shoes?! Okay okay but, have I told you about my Pumas? For running, I just switched to Brooks Adrenaline GTS for my training runs (I wore Nike Elite Zooms for years, but they discontinued them at the start of 2010) and for racing half-marathons and shorter I wear my adizeros. I am not the kind of person who has a collection of running shoes. I find the pair I like and I wear them until they wear out.

5. Which literary character would you be, and why? from @RunWestchester, who maintains a friendly yet occasionally contentious blog, Run Westchester Run.

Originally Joe asked me to pick an Austen character but I don’t feel well-versed enough in her to give a proper answer. So, to find an answer for Joe I browsed through my book shelves. I ended up in tears, this is how much my books mean to me. However, I did find a character with whom I have always identified. I say up front that the character is from is a contemporary, bestselling novel from which a smash hit Broadway musical has been adapted, but I read the book in 1996, so long ago that I no longer have my original copy. A year later, when I got my first job, I was thrilled to learn that my new employer had published this novel–it was and remains one of my all-time favorite novels. The book is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, and the character is Elphaba. Granted, she is a witch, with green skin, living in a magical land with magical powers. Putting that aside, Maguire develops her character in a profound way, and Wicked remains his greatest book. He shows us that her green skin and edgy, intelligent nature as a child alienated her from her peers, leaving her with the conflicting feelings of disdain for others and a longing to be loved. Check! As an outsider getting an education within an institution, she recognized hypocrisy and cruelty. Check! Ultimately, she found love but lost him to tragedy, and withdrew to his home town. Okay, so this is where the comparison starts to fray, but I can say that I’ve lived through a few break-ups that have felt like a tragic loss. (That’s a bit of a stretch. I do love me some drama however. Also, did I ever tell you I had this fantasy when I was in elementary school that my whole class would break into a choreographed song and dance routine, in response to some question from the teacher? I of course would be lifted up and spun around as all the other girls quick-stepped away from me, fluttering their hands….) This response has nothing to do with running, and I suppose there’s nothing original about feeling misunderstood. (I read Wicked when I was in my early 20’s.)

I leave you with two other literary characters. The first is Vina Apsara, brought to life on the page by Salman Rushdie  (I met him. He was not impressed.) in what many consider one of his lesser works but which is another of my favorite books. The second is found in Not That Kind of Girl, a memoir which I greatly admire and favor. There you will find the minor character Genevieve. She is me.

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