At the end of my run, I called wifey to tell her that I was on my way bach home. It was already 10:45am so she was going to head over the farmer's market with some friends and I would meet up with them there after I showered.
Let me take a minute to explain what just went down there. First, wifey loves to food shop. She is one of those people that will go down every aisle of the super market--even the aisles she will clearly not be buying anything from. She just enjoys going to the grocercy store and spending hours there. And the farmer's market? If wifey had her way, she'd talk up every farmer about their growing technique and what is in this sausage and how are these plum tomatoes different from those plum tomatoes. I, however, do not have this love for groceries. I am surgical when it comes to food shopping: get in, get your list, get out. I try to make it as brief a process as possible. Now, combine that with the general fatigue from running 14-miles in late July, and you will understand why I was ecstatic when I found out I would be spending minimal time at the farmer's market.
Anywho, so I get home after the run to find that wifey has left out everything out for me in bathroom (deodorant, q-tip, etc.) and even took my favorite shorts out of the laundry (the clean laundry). All this was in the effort to get me out of the apartment as quickly as possible, but I did get a smile across my face when I saw all this laid out.
After showering I headed over to the farmer's market and eventually found wifey and two friends bobbing around the sea of people that had flooded Union Square just in time to have brunch! Score! I love brunch after a long run. We went to a place called the Farmer's Friend Country Cafe where I ordered the Boomer Special: scrambled eggs, ham, home fries, and two pumpkin pancakes. Sooooo good! As you can imagine, the food did not last long.
After the feast, we walked around a bit and eventually left our friends and headed uptown to the land of furniture stores. You see, we have had this couch for three years now:
There is one major problem with this couch: it is a love seat and not a couch, therefore it is tiny and can't really be used for couchy things, like laying down to watch TV or seat more than two people comfortably. We have had our good times with it, but it's time to move up to big people furniture.
Since it was only about 4pm we decided to browse through some of the furniture stores in town to see if there was anything we liked. After a store or two we get to the good ol' Crate & Barrel. Halfway through the furniture department we found this guy:
This picture isn't flattering, but it is a really nice couch: it's wide and deep, and is made of some space age microfiber velvet concoction that is allegedly able to repel everything. Which is good, because very few things stand up to the sweaty runner test. Not that I would sit on the couch drenched in sweat, but there have been occasions that I don't get to shower before eating Saturday morning breakfast on the sofa.
We poked around the store a bit more, but we were really in love with this couch--so we bought it! Woo hoo!! And thanks to the fact that we live so close to the shipping center, it'll only cost $79 to deliver it to our apartment. So this time next week (actually, by Thursday of next week) I'll be blogging from a new couch.
Fresh from our couch purchase we started heading over to the subway and realized that our new couch is a very similar color to the walls of our apartment. Which means we get to paint! Yeah for big people arts and crafts! We stopped by The Home Depot and picked out Embellished Blue for our living room. (Now you know what we're doing today.)
When we got home with our paint cans, rollers, and veggies (yes, we were carrying around produce all day), we noticed a moving truck parked outside our building. Ooooo, new neighbors! I look inside our building and notice that they are taking the unit right underneath ours--which is fantastic, because the people that lived there before were not happy people. So we struck up a conversation with our new neighbors and turns out that they were really cool people. They were excited to be moving to Astoria after spending a couple years in Washington Heights.
When we finally got in the apartment we plopped down on the soon to be replaced sofa. We ordered in Greek food and watched Dan In Real Life (eh, it was alright). I was passed out halfway through the movie--I was pooped.
Miguel is my favorite gym carnie. Sure, he doesn't have the most interesting nickname, but one time I think I heard someone refer to him as Miguel and since then that is what I call him. I also respect Miguel and so have purposely not given him a funny nickname. He doesn't have a peculiar mannerism or curious trait. He doesn't embarrass himself by wearing a neon 80's track suit or grunting loudly while lifting weights. Actually, Miguel doesn't even workout at the gym. Miguel happens to be the janitor assigned to the men's locker room on weekday mornings.
I love Miguel. I have never spoken more than two words to him, but I love him none the less. He's at the gym often before the sun rises sweeping and mopping and moving towels around and putting up with the manager's crap--it's all pretty thankless. Then, on top of that, Miguel has to deal with me.
What, pray tell, does he have to deal with? Take Thursday of last week for example:
I go to the gym to run for 60 minutes with some inclines sprinkled in. By the time I get there the GU and gallon of water I had at home kick in and I take a pre-run bathroom visit. Great idea because it turns out that I had more waiting at the back door than I thought. I get out of the stall and guess who's there in the locker room collecting the dirty towels? That's right, Miguel. He makes immediate eye contact with me, says "Hello." I say "Buenas dias" (because I'm respectful of our mutual heritage that way) in return and walk out because I have a look of "I just did very dirty things to the toilet you're about to clean" written all over my face.
I hit the treadmill and start going. I feel great for the first 45 minutes of the run, but right after I finish a "hill" at mile five my stomach starts growling--it is not happy. It is not happy at all. I look at the timer, only 12 more minutes to go, I can
hold out...I can so hold out. But my stomach has a different idea.
I have to fart and it is not going to be a silent one. I can just tell. It's going to be loud and quiet possibly a little messy. But I only have ten minutes left! I keep pushing through, concentrating hard on making sure nothing comes out my rear. I feel extra sweat roll down my neck as I try to make it go away. And then it's gone. I won! I won! It's gone and I can take it easy for the rest of the way. Or so I thought.
A fierce tremor rips through my abdomen. If my shirt was off I would see the flesh move. The fart is gone, this is true. But now comes the poop. I have just five minutes to go--less than a mile!--and I will be off the machine. Just hold out sRod! So I'm buckling down trying to do everything to calm down my stomach: shorter strides, regular breathing, straight posture. But no matter what I try, the sensation doesn't get weaker: my stomach knows that this is the end of the run and it is not going to let a thing like public decency get in the way of poopication.
Five, four, three, two, one. I slam on the "stop" button and get the hell off that machine. I left my water and keys on the machine: I can come back for those, but this poop is coming fast. I'm hobbling over the empty treadmills, behind the ellipticals. Come on sphincter, down fail me now! I pass the first desk and round the corner, walking as nonchalantly as you can when you feel like a cantaloupe is about to fall out of your shorts.
I'm halfway down the hall when a big wave comes down from my stomach and I stop dead in my tracks. Oh no--I'm so close, just 30 feet away. I pretend that I got a "cramp" and that I need to "stretch" and look way too concerned to notice the people passing me. But really, if I take another step a cantaloupe will fall out of my
I stayed there stretching my "cramp" for about 30 seconds. The wave passes. Whew. Onward to the bathroom. I dash for the first stall I can find--I can feel another stomach wave building up, but I'm here! I've made it! I'm free and clear (and clean)!--and as I'm about to close the stall door someone says "it's wet." What's wet? Are my shorts wet? Did I lose the battle with my stomach???
It's Miguel. He's cleaning the stalls and hasn't finished the stall I ran into. I get out of the stall and he quickly jumps in and wipes the seat dry. He can tell I am a man on the verge of pooping his pants, he knows that no wet toilet seat can stop me, he knows that I just need a toilet. But he insists on it being a clean toilet. I thank Miguel and then rush in, lock the door, and...well...you know: test the plumbing, drop a deuce, release the hostages, drop the kids off at the pool, purge the cache, talk to a man about a horse, take the Browns to the Super Bowl.
I wrap up my business--and what business it was, thank God I made it!--and get out of the stall. I hate those "I know what you just did looks" when you come of out the stall, so I try to avoid eye contact with anyone. But who do I see first as I come out of the stall? Miguel. He looks at me and instead of steaming with resentment for facilitating the defacement of his work he flashes me a smile. A genuine, "thank you for pooping" smile. I kid you not. There was no hiding what I did in that stall. Even people in Alaska were waking-up from their sleep wonder what that sound and God-awful smell were. But here is the man entrusted with keeping this stall clean smiling at me as if I were his best friend.
So Miguel is my best friend, mostly because he puts up with my shit (pun intended). He keeps the bathroom clean, so that when I bust in the locker room ready to explode on the spot, I have a dry seat to sit on. Thank you Miguel--whatever your real name may be.
- I got sunburned. Saturday we went to the beach with a couple of friends. My sunburn from Independence Day weekend had soothed away and most of the peeling had subsided--which I took as a clear sign that I could go back to the beach and be fine. Wrong. Even though I applied generous amounts of sunblock before even going outside I still managed to not only get sunburned on my shoulders and stomach again, but it appears that since my skin hasn't fully recovered it has turned an alarming shade of red in those areas.
- I got stung by a jellyfish. While at the beach getting said sunburn, we went in the water. And what was in the water? Jellyfish. But I didn't need to go in the water to see that: the carcasses of dead jellyfish lined the entire beach, and momma always said "when there's dead jellyfish on the sand, there's live jellyfish in the water." Ok, momma didn't always say that--but I'm sure she thought it once or twice and meant to tell me. But amazingly the water was also full of people, so I thought that maybe they were the non-stinging variety. Also wrong. Every time I came out of the water some part of my body would sting for a couple minutes before gradually fading away.
- I ate really hot Thai food. The menu said that drunken chicken was only two stars. One star = mild spicy. Two stars = medium spicy. Three stars = hot spicy. Oh Jesus, medium spicy is not medium. Medium spicy is opening the front door to hell hot. I was sweating out of every gland on my body. I went through two napkins just in padding down the sweat from my face. So good, but so spicy.
- I saw "Be Kind, Rewind." Why do I keep on watching Jack Black movies?
- I was running afire. Running in July is just asking for pain. It's hot, it's humid, and there isn't a cloud to be found. Now compound this with the sunburn from above and you have a catch-22. While I was running, the wind blew my body's heat away from my sunburned (and super-senisitive to heat) skin. However, I was getting fatigued faster because of the high temps and high humidity. But if I did stop, the heat emitting from my body wasn't being away and would set my skin on fire. So I didn't want to keep on running, but I couldn't stop.
- I chafed my man-parts. Oh yes, I did--even sRod Jr. got caught up in the painfest. I was wearing new shorts and I noticed they were a bit snug when I put them on before the run. Nothing was uncomfortable, just not as loose as usual. Since I had never worn this brand before (Insport) and they were my usual size, I just figured that was how they were supposed to fit. I mean who's ever heard of shorts running small? Anywho, I proceed to stuff the shorts pocket with my phone (in it's plastic baggie) and a bag of Clif Bloks--which only serves to make the shorts feel more snug. I don't notice anything unusual until I hit the shower after the run. At which point I let out a scream like a Catholic school girl and shouted some words that a Catholic school girl should not know. It felt the same way that my nipples feel when I forget to put Body Glide on--ouch! Could you imagine if I was running for more than 12 miles? What if this was a 20 miler? Oh Jesus. Let's not think about that.
I think I'm done. This is enough pain to merit the hair on my chest. Now to go lube up in aloe vera.
Oh sweet Jesus.
You must go see this movie. Skip work. Drop off the kids at mom's. Tell your friends you came down with the scarlet fever. Find a way to see this movie.
I don't rave about movies to like this--ever--but I just could not believe what a good time I had and what a quality production it was. My expectations were high and they were all surpassed. You will not be disappointed. Here, I'll even help.
No plans + car = road trip!!!
We decided to take the scenic route upstate (i.e., no expressways). It was a pain to get out of the city, but once we did, it was a really nice drive. It's hard to remember that outside of New York City the rest of the state is 1) pretty rural and 2) very picturesque. We took Route 9 straight north. It twists and turns around hills and forests. Every now and then the road would come up against the Hudson and you'd see the river lined by lush green hills.
We appeased our nerdier sides and visited the Home of FDR and drove around the Vanderbilt Mansion (the house was closed by the time we got there). The FDR house was very interesting--definitely not the stately manor I expected it to be. I also learned that during all the years that FDR was in politics he never considered himself a career politician and he always put down tree farmer as his occupation (since that's the trade he learned on his parent's farm).
We drove around a bit more and made it to Woodstock (still the hippie capital of the world) before we decided that we needed to find a place to stay for the night. Eventually we found a B&B in the tiny town of Saugerties.
The next morning I went for a run around the town. Oh man--that was an experience. The cool dry air was a welcome change from the heat and uber humidity of the city, but there was one major problem for this city dweller: no sidewalks! Most of the run I was on the shoulder of the road and constantly listening for cars. I was freaked out for the whole run because I kept on thinking: I'm going to get hit by a car and fall into a bush and then never be seen again. That's probably why I managed to finish the 10 hilly miles in an 8:48 pace when I was trying to come in at 9:00.
Back at the B&B we had delicious French toast and headed off into the Catskills. We didn't get too far when it started to rain, which flushed out all of the outdoorsy activities we wanted to do. We headed back to the city, making a quick drive by Mohonk Mountain House to find out what it was all about (pretty fancy place).
When we crossed into Westchester we loaded up on groceries at the Super Stop & Shop. Man, I miss having big-ass grocery stores like Winn-Dixie and Publix. After that I managed to get completely lost on the expressway in the Bronx and went from the east side to the west side and down to the south side before finally getting onto the bridge to Astoria.
It was a great weekend with Wifey. Lots of fun and no rush to do anything whatsoever. I love it when we get to have these weekends.
Going home is always easy when home is Miami and a short drive away from the beach. But beyond the climatic comforts, there is the comfort of being home with family.
We spent most of Thursday at my grandparents house trying to learn how to make my grandmother’s frijoles, natilla, and flan. I have to say that it is the most fun that I’ve had with my grandparents ever. We were cooking (and eating) from 9am until 5pm and ended up making delicious home-cooked food for an army.
We sharing a bunch of stories. Wifey got to hear about the time when I was three years old and backed into the pool, the time in Madrid that I tried serrano ham (it has been a love affair ever since), and how I was mislabeled as a girl in the hospital when I was born. We got to tell them about our trapeze adventure, my failed attempts at making frijoles myself, and the horrible smoking habits of the people in our Greek neighborhood.
Mind you, both of my grandparents are old--in their early 80s--but man are they energetic. My grandmother spent all of Thursday on her feet in kitchen, grabbing pots, cleaning pans, climbing step ladders, moving stuff here and there. I--the 25 year old with the Marathon legs--sat more than she did that day. My grandfather, just a few months out of open heart surgery, was showing off his chest scar the same way a child shows off their knee scrape. He said how he gets his daily excercise walking around the warehouse of his business (yes, he still goes to work, everyday) and how he couldn't take being in bed for three days after the surgery.
It was wonderful to spend a day with my grandparents. They are full of wit and wisdom amassed from living long lives, facing hard challenges and wonderful triumphs. And they are infinitely generous with themselves: when wifey and I visit we are the only things that matters in the space of their world.
It always hurts to say goodbye to them because in the back of my head I always think "this could be the last time." And I don't want it to be the last time because I will feel robbed. Robbed of all the life lessons I have yet to have learned from them. Robbed of all the experience they have and are so willing to share. I have learned much from them already, but there are still many questions left floating in my head that I just haven't gotten to yet:
- How do you get to The Louvre?
- How do you leave everything you have and start over in a country where you don't even speak the language?
- How do you raise a child?
- How do you invest wisely?
- How do you deal with a family you can no longer see or talk to?
- How do you embrace change?
- How do you live on a prayer?
- How do you hold onto your heritage?
- How do you remember?
- How do you forget?
- How do you cook a turkey on Thanksgiving?
- How do you cook a pig for Noche Buena?
- How do you start a business?
- How does a marriage last for 10 years? 25 years? 50 years?
- How do you forgive?
- How do you age gracefully?
- How do you not fear the future?
- And on, and on, and on
A few days before heading down to South Florida to visit the family for a sun drenched holiday weekend Jess convinced me to run the Weston Independence Day 5K with her and Viv. A nice little blogging friends meet and race (vs. a meet and greet). Little did I know that Weston is the land of PRs! It's true: they were giving them away like water! I PR'd by default since it was my first 5K (yes, my first), but Jess managed to shave 20 seconds off her 5K best and Viv did some trimming around the ol' 5K hedge too.
I was actually sitting next to Jess and Viv for about 10 minutes before I realized it was them. Once we finally found each other we all chatted for a bit before heading over to the starting line.
I mentioned to Jess and Viv that I was discovering all the peculiarities of 5Ks this morning, but I had three major ones. First off, there are so many kids. The place was just crawling with them. Jess informed me that they are also called "hurdles" and that I should be careful around them because they are know to stop without warning in the middle of the road.
Second, the race felt so casual. The mood in the air was one of "good morning, it's turning out to be a splendid day, let's have 5K." By comparison, a marathon starting line feels like a funeral.
Third, there are a lot of casual runners in a 5K. Once again, I'm used to the months of preparation that Marathoners and Half-Marathoners have under their belt. I'm used to three miles being a warm-up. I'm not used to seeing people throw up before the one mile mark or walking before the three mile mark--yet I saw both during this race.
I crossed the finish line in a palindromic 23:32, a pace of 7:40 per mile. Whoa, not too shabby for someone who’s used to racing at an 8:30+ pace. I'm sure I left something on the table for my next 5K because by the time the race sarted the sun was high and beating down hard. If it was any longer it would have been torture.
Jess finished a few minutes after me and Viv and Shane showed up a few minutes after her. However, Viv and Shane managed to find the free food tent before meeting back at Starbucks and were holding the food of the gods: cranberry bagels. I think any bagel would have been tasty after the race, but there is something particularly delicious about cranberries baked into a circle of doughy goodness.
My other Independence Day weekend run was the very next morning. It was my first long run in preparation for my autumn double header: The Maple Leaf Half-Marathon and The Breakers Marathon. I woke up at 6:10 in order to start running before the sun got too intense. I was on the Hollywood beach boardwalk by 6:30, just in time to see the blood orange sun crawl out of the ocean. Fortunately, there were lots of clouds to keep me covered—but I knew in no time the mercury would hit 90 and the faint sea breezes would provide very little relief.
I headed south along the boardwalk. All the restaurants and bars that were exploding onto the boardwalk the night before were empty and closed. The stark contrast made the scene feel a little post-apocalyptic.
I crossed over the Intercoastal waterway onto Hollywood Boulevard and went to Young Circle and back to A1A (for those of you familiar with Hollywood). On the way back I started getting a rumble in my stomach...and not the good kind. I made it over the bridge back to the beach and knew that I couldn’t go much further without a bathroom break. I started thinking of what bathroom I could possibly use at 7:15 in the morning: there wasn’t a Starbucks for miles, all the restaurants were closed, and I would get lost in a hotel before I could find the public bathroom. I finally had to stop and walk the rest of the way to the amphitheatre (about mile 5.5). It was a bit further than I wanted to walk, but I knew there was an open bathroom there because I passed it on the way down the boardwalk.
I did my business and got back on with the run—which was much easier to do than I anticipated. I went up A1A to Sheridan Boulevard, hung a left, and did a repeat of two bridges as the sun emerged from the clouds and cranked up the heat from “uncomfortable” to “fry cooker." My shorts were soaking wet and sticking to my legs. My shirt felt like a mop. Then my remaining good earphone gave out. Kaput. Dead. I had sweated them to death. They served me well, but daaaaaamn they didn’t even last five months.
I finished the run staying just under a 9:00 pace--which is exactly what I wanted. And then I topped it all off with a dip in the ocean right afterward. The water was cool and calm (both rare for July in Miami) and I was able to just float for about 10 minutes. Every workout should end like this!
Then the bad news. I got out of the water, collected my shoes, shirt, iPod, and rather moist phone, and went to the shower to get the sand off me before going inside the hotel. After rinsing off I noticed that even the inserts in my shoes were sweaty--and that never happens. So I decided to check on my phone. I had been on several sweaty runs with my phone before so I wasn't concerned about carrying it in my pocket for the whole run.
What a mistake. What a BIG mistake.
Turns out that I sweated my phone to death. I turned it on and it started dialing all these crazy numbers. The screen turned black and I could see the drops of dew that had formed behind the screen. It was a goner. Monday morning I had to go to the Sprint store to buy a new one (yea for the new toy, boo for having to pay for it).
- I PR'd! Yes, it was by one second, but as a few people have pointed out, my previous Half-Marathon PR was on a super flat course--actually the flattest course I've ever run. So the fact that this course was monstrously hilly and I still managed to come at just under my best time means that I have improved significantly.
- No bowel issues! My body has this weird way of knowing that it's race day and puts the whole system on lock down. However, not so during training. There have been plenty of near misses on training runs, and even a few hits...but there has only been two races (Disney and Queens) where I've had to stop to visit the little runner's room. If only there was a way to harness that race day lock down.
- No medal! I found out on race day that there would be no medal. That means yet another state that I have no medal for. Sigh. It seems a lot of the smaller races just don't believe in medals. Which I don't understand. How much are medals? $10 a person? Can't you just tack that on to the race fee and give everyone a memento of the race? Or use the money that you're using to pay for t-shirts to pay for medals instead--race t-shirts tend to be crappy anyway. But back to the point: I had originally stated that I would count a state as complete if I got a medal in that state. Well, from here on out I'm waiving that criterion: as long as I have a bib and finish the race, the state is counted. Although the NYC Marathon and Boston will stay on my list of long-term races because I feel I have to run them, some day.
- I will experiment with my playlist for the next race. I don't think I have the right progression of speed worked into my playlist methodology. For the next race day playlist I'm going to try starting off with a few upbeat songs to keep me excited through the first mile or two, then move onto slow songs gradually working faster until the 5-star songs.
- Despite the hilliness of the Fairfield course I still enjoy hills, if they are spread out and not in immediate succession. Hills give me a short-term goal to work toward: I have to run hard, push, and concentrate to make it to the top. And then you get a reward with the downhill. It's like a purge followed by a binge...but not detrimental to your health.
- For the many reasons I listed in my previous post, I will avoid driving to a race on race day morning. That should be pretty easy to accomplish since I've done every state within a three-hour drive radius.
In other news, wifey and I will be heading down to Miami for Independence Day weekend for a much needed trip to soak up the sun and see family. Might also get to run my first 5K and meet a RBF while I'm there. So if I'm MIA for the weekend it's because I'm in MIA. Oh God, did I really type that?
Speaking of family, two of mine have recently joining the endurance sports blogging world. About a month ago I got an IM out of the blue from my aunt that she and my sister had signed up for a century ride in October. While my aunt has always had the athletic bug, my sister, well, hasn't. So I didn't believe my aunt until she said that she witnessed my sister fill out the forms and turn them in herself.
Then, a few weeks ago, they started a blog. (Imagine that.) Within a few hours of posting a comment on their blog I was outed. Not that I was hiding my blog, but it just never came up. And really, how do you inject that into a conversation? "Merry Christmas mom and dad, I started a blog about running back in April." Ah no.
So now I've added the Cycling Divas (sister Sami and aunt Tia) to the blogroll--and no coincidence that the current post is about me. Give them a visit and if you have a few dollars lying around, donate in their name to Team In Training.