Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York State of Mind: Part Three - In Which I Run 9 Miles And Nearly Throw Up - OR - The Things I'll Do For Free Beer

The plan was for me and Rachael to hit the road by 11am. Then that Julia Roberts movie came on TV -- the one where she fakes her own death to escape her abusive husband. I got sucked in, then Rachael got sucked in and then some how we didn't leave Brooklyn until 3:30. Whoops.

We were heading to Utica on Saturday to run the Boilermaker 15k on Sunday morning. The race attracts about 12,000 runners each year, perhaps because it ends at the Utica Club Brewery, where racers are rewarded with unlimited free beer.

Last year we'd both run the 5k version of the race, along with my mother and sister. This course is less popular and less celebrated. I felt great when I got to the finish line and joined the post-race party. But then as the 15k runners started arriving, I got the feeling that maybe I was second rate. I should have - could have - tried harder and run the big race.

So this year I was determined to make it happen. For months I'd been training, usually running 6 - 7 miles at a time, though pushing myself to 8 on occasion. And twice I'd come just shy of running the full race distance of 9.2 miles, but I wanted to save that accomplishment for the race itself.

I felt really confident that I'd kick the boilermaker's ass because whenever I ran in training it was a breeze. Well, not totally a breeze, but I could keep a good pace and keep my energy up.

Of course, there was the matter of my bad foot. Two weeks before the race, while I was at a friend's house, I was making my way to the fridge for a beer (hey, we all have our pre-race diets) and halfway there my foot started to ache. I shook it out, rotated my ankle a bit and kept going. Throughout the rest of the night my foot would feel fine one moment, and absolutely terrible the next. The following morning, when I got out of bed and first put weight on it, I nearly collapsed because it hurt so badly. I presumed I must have hurt it while running and it took a while for the full effect to kick in.

I decided to stay off it until the race and fortunately, in that time, whatever I'd done to it reversed itself and I was no longer limping and hobbling through life. However, this meant I hadn't run in two weeks and I wasn't sure if I'd messed up my endurance.

The day before the race I was well behaved. I ate good food and drank plenty of water. Too much water, perhaps, as I had to get up and pee like 5 times during the course of the night and as a result I missed out on some valuable sleep.

The following morning, the house --Devin's parents' house in Utica -- was abuzz with runners: me, Rachael, Devin's sister's friend, Devin's mom, my mom (who planned to run the 5k again because "9 miles? What am I gonna do that for?"). I honestly didn't feel nervous. Rachael was anxious, but I kept saying, "Just do whatever. Walk if you have to, but you've been training so I'm sure you'll be fine."

Here we are before the race.

And here we are after, at the post race party.

I know, we look sort of the same. But what you can't tell from these pictures is that for the hour and a half between them I was dying.

I started off doing ok. I felt like I always do. Hotter than usual, and not used to the humidity, but otherwise nothing unusual. It was around mile 4 that I started to feel barfy, sluggish and dizzy. This was unexpected. At this point in my training 4 miles was a piece of cake. And I never felt ill when I ran. What was happening to me?

I kept on, ignoring how I felt. At about 6 miles, I got the attention of Rachael, who was running near me, and told her I was going to fall back for a bit to see if I could regroup. She trotted ahead and I slowed my pace. Sadly, it didn't really help. I was willing my legs not to stop, and yet they seemed to have a mind of their own. They were ready to walk. I was not. I kept going.

By the time I got to mile 8 I'm pretty sure I was nearing total meltdown. I was so furious with my body for failing me. For months I'd been running several times a week, waking up early to fit in 7 miles before work in the morning, sacrificing a Sunday of sleeping in to make sure I completed a long run before it got too hot outside. And now here I was, at the main event, and I could barely put one foot in front of the other.

The problem with wanting to give up during a race is that you actually can't. Even if I just walked off the road and sat in a shady patch of grass, I'd still have to some how get to the finish line to meet up with everyone else. So I walked for a minute, then ran a little more, then walked a little more, then ran a little more. It was heartbreaking to be at my worst when everyone else whizzing by me was thinking "Almost there! I'll just give it my all!"

Anyway, I made it to the end. My time sucked. I felt awful. I was really proud of everyone else, and sorry for myself. But such is life. After a few minutes of standing still, a bottle of water, and a cold beer I was feeling good again.

Now the question remains -- do I try again next year?

Following the race I rode with my parents to their house, where I spent 2 days doing nothing. Really. Nothing. It was great. Of course, my relaxed state of being was destroyed by my spontaneously canceled return flight home and the panicked rescheduling that followed.

But I won't get into that here. I'll end on a happy note: At least the race is done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New York State of Mind: Part Two - In Which I Am Obsessed With Dinosaurs

Day 2 of my trip to New York meant making my way into Manhattan to meet up with Yasi --on her birthday!-- for some more good ol' wanderin' around.

We began by heading to High Line Park. Starting somewhere around W 12th street, this park is the transformation of an unused elevated railway into a little slice of nature reminiscent of a marsh.

We walked the existing length of it, which ended at a chain link fence sealing off the still-in-progress part two of the park. Then we made our way down the steps to ground level, fighting an onslaught of tourists who emptied out from a nearby bus.

From there we stopped for a quick bite, then on to the American Museum of Natural History. This was my idea, suggested in a casual "well if we have the time it might be cool" manner, though what I meant was "I want to see the dinosaurs now!!!" I have this ongoing fascination with paleontology and prehistoric things, leftover from the dinosaur chapter in 3rd grade science class. From what I can tell, there isn't much your average grown woman can do to make such an interest a hobby, unless it's super dorky -- dinosaur models?-- or completely impractical -- take a leave of absence from work and join an excavation in Hungary? So I'll get my kicks from museum exhibits.

And this one was awesome. Here, I took too many pictures:

This creeper is some kind of prehistoric tiny deer. Look at his stick legs.

And the ancestor of the elephant, my favorite living creature.

After the dinosaur wing we searched for 20 minutes to find the display of living reptiles, only to discover that there was an additional fee for the exhibit. Peh.

And so we retired to Yasi's apartment where we fitfully tried to get ready for her birthday party. I hated the choice of clothes I brought to change into and felt fat and sweaty from the day of walking around in the heat. So I stomped around, changing in and out of my dress like 6 times before realizing there simply wasn't enough time to lose 15 pounds and shop for an entirely different wardrobe.

Off to the party! (In a cab that made me really really car sick.)

The cool night air was just barely starting to role in as we arrived at the bar with an outdoor "beer garden," a loosely used term meaning "picnic tables out back." I was starving and thirsty by this point and plowed my way through some nachos and a beer before most of the guests even arrived.

We had a lovely evening and in addition to spending more time with Yasi, Rachael and Anne, I was also reunited with several other college friends who live in the city.

Yasi and I were simply thrilled with the green wall. I swear this pose made sense at the time.

For the after party we walked a few blocks west (east? north?) to another bar, but I was still fantastically hungry and forced Rachael to stop at a pizza place with me. Really, if I lived in New York I'd gain 30 pounds from pizza alone. There's a pizza place on every corner and they are so inviting.

After our slices, we had some Fruit Stripe gum from this pack I'd impulsively bought earlier in the day. I remembered the included temporary tattoos being more impressive. Or maybe they were just better made when we were kids?

Then after the after party, Rachael, boyfriend Joey and I took a cab back to their place. We crossed the bridge to Brooklyn --which bridge? I don't remember, and that's a shame because Joey did a terrific job explaining the various bridges and their histories-- and then we were asleep within 2 minutes of walking in their front door.

Coming up next, the exciting conclusion, Part Three: In Which I Run 9 Miles and Nearly Throw Up -OR- The Things I'll Do For Free Beer.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New York State of Mind: Part One - In Which I Practically Move In To A Bar in Brooklyn

Whoops. Wandered off there for a bit. Where have I been? Why, I've been traveling the world! Well, the east coast. Or really New York State. Some of it.

This excursion to New York was an idea that came to me a few months ago during a particularly difficult morning at work. At times like these, I find myself zoning out and unconsciously browsing travel websites. Must. Get. Away.

My plan was to fly into the city to spend time with my friends, then head upstate to Utica to run The Boilermaker 15k, then to Liverpool to spend a few days with my parents.

Because Devin never knows his work schedule, we always hesitate to plan trips. And then we never end up going anywhere. So when I presented him with my brilliant Tour de NY idea, and he replied "Sounds good but I don't know if I'll be working," I flipped out and bought myself a plane ticket anyway. This is how much I needed to go somewhere. Anywhere.

And so I'd go it alone. I couldn't actually remember the last time I'd traveled solo and in a way I looked forward to it.

I arrived at JFK at 5:30 am on a Thursday, feeling that nauseated zombie feeling that accompanies being awake at the crack of dawn, or really 2:30 am by my internal clock, following a 3 hour snooze sitting upright. I made my way to the AirTrain, which I'd take to the subway and wind up at my friend Rachael's place. I swear I once figured out that whole train system by myself just years earlier, equally bleary following a redeye. But this time I was an idiot.

I got on a train. I got off at the next stop, convinced I had gotten on the wrong train. I wandered. I followed other people that seemed like maybe they lived in NY and knew what they were doing. Oh shoot, they are following me to see what I'm doing. I don't know what happened but by the grace of god, the skin of my teeth, and the assistance of a particularly jolly transportation employee, I found my way to Brooklyn and Rachael's apartment.

Once there, she hurried off to work, and I hurried to her couch where I slept for several hours.

It was later that morning, while I was getting ready, that I found The Spoon nestled in between some folded clothes in my suitcase.

Seeing as I had not packed The Spoon, and because I could not imagine the use of a utensil with this particular shape and with a hole in the middle, I was troubled by its appearance. I carried it into the kitchen, where I asked Rachael's boyfriend what the heck it was.

Me: What is this?
Him: A spoon
Me: I know but what is it for?
Him: Spoon things
Me: But why does it look like this?
Him: Maybe it's a tuning spoon.
Me (hitting spoon on counter as one would a tuning fork) No that's not it.
Him: Don't hit my counter.
Me: Sorry.
Him: I'm kidding.
Me: Right.
Him: But seriously.
Me: What is this doing in my bag?
Him: It's not yours?
Me: No.
Him: I don't know.
Me: Crap.
Him: Were my directions helpful this morning?
Me: What directions?
Him: On how to take the train from the airport.
Me: I didn't get any directions.
Him: I sent them.
Me: Shoot. Those would've been good.

Later in the day I would apologize for this immensely weird conversation on what was only my second instance of meeting him. Also, I discovered that I had in fact received an email with extremely detailed directions on how not to be an idiot when traveling from the airport. Oh well.

Since everyone was at work I actually had nothing to do. I set out on food to explore Brooklyn. This was amusing for about 20 minutes, and then I was hot and had to pee. I kept marching down the street, thinking perhaps I would encounter something like a Starbucks or a Walgreens, but darn these hip people and their resistance to franchises with semi public bathrooms.

An hour later I was nearly limping and so I ducked into a bar/restaurant. To justify my being there, I ordered a drink at the bar and then hurried off to the bathroom. I meant to finish my drink and then leave, but it was really really delicious and refreshing. Something with gin and mint and cucumbers and fizzy water. The whole street-facing wall of the bar was made up of doors that pulled open, giving the illusion of sitting in the fresh air, while enjoying the air conditioning.

I decided to stay for another drink.

I had plans to meet Kat from Pink India Ink at 4. It was about 3 at this point, so I thought, why try to do anything else? I will just sit here.

So that's how I spent the better part of my afternoon sitting alone at a bar drinking fizzy ginnys. That's not what they were called.

Kat arrived and I gave what was probably a very loud first impression, owing to my pair of fizzy ginnys. NICE TO MEET YOU BLAHHHHH I'M FALLING OFF MY BARSTOOL!!! CUTE DRESS! HAVE A COCKTAIL!

That can't be what I was actually like, but it sure felt that way. After chatting about husbands, writing, work, and sharing some snacks, it was time for the rest of my friends to get out of work. Thus commenced a great flurry of texts and phone calls that made me look super important.

It appeared that the simplest plan, since I had 3 friends coming from different directions, was to just stay put. And so as I waited for my other friends -- and as Kat departed for other less staying-in-one-placey plans -- the hours passed. All in all I spent 7 hours on the same darn bar stool while people came and went. Fortunately the bartender and waitstaff changed shifts so none of them knew how long I actually sat there. I'm really quite the inactive tourist.

The evening wound down as I grabbed some dinner with Rachael, Yasi and Anne, followed by a giggle-filled screening of Wet Hot American Summer for the umpteenth time.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - In Which I Am Obsessed With Dinosaurs