Thursday, October 20, 2005

I'm not dead.

Nope. Not dead.

I’ve just been busy, what with the holidays (Happy Rosh Hashanah! I’m sorry! Safe fast for Yom Kippur. Happy Sukkot! … and I think I’m caught up) and the traveling for the holidays, and the catching up at work after the holidays, well, I’ve been busy.

Because I’m so ridiculously out of date, I’m just going to plow through this. It’s long. But there at least two funny stories. It’s like a scavenger hunt! On your mark, get set…


Swimming: I haven’t swum since the (not) floating incident. I’ve been waiting for K1 to have free time to come coach me on how to float, because I feel like I’ve made as much progress as possible without some extra guidance. I’ll report back, and give you all tips on how to defy gravity and sting like a bee and think fluffy, buoyant thoughts. (Naomi: I am not a rock. I am not a rock. I am not a rock. I anticipate wild success.)

Cycling: I picked up my bike on Monday, exactly one week later than I was supposed to (That’s right Snobby Bike Shop Repair Guy. We ride by MY schedule). SBSRG was not in attendance and the Alternate BSRGs were quite friendly. I bought a helmet (I keep wanting to type helmut, which makes me think of Helmüt Kohl. Which or course means that my bike is now called Helmüt. Excellent).

I celebrated by riding the three miles to my tap class (see below, “Dancing” section), which was all uphill, and therefore harder than I anticipated (I have had it up to HERE with the whole “oh yeah, THIS is why you’re supposed to do cross-training” soreness) but very satisfying. It was a beautiful fall night, and, riding on residential side streets (so as to minimize the death, and by the way, shut up, DC drivers), I felt like I had regressed to my suburban childhood, when I used to ride my bike to my friends’ houses, and race down the hill to my house with my dog, who was a herding dog, and therefore horribly panic stricken that his sheep (me) was recklessly speeding through the STREET, and used to hurl himself at my front wheel to get me to stop and go back to the LAWN where it was SAFE, which added plenty of death and excitement to my childhood rides.

I also took a spinning class this morning (my second ever) which was not nearly as death-inducing as the last one. Progress!

Dancing: After months of running like it was my goddamned job (and, actually, can we make that be my job? Because my real job is not nearly so rewarding), these past few weeks have been a veritable orgy of variety. And here at 26.2 miles vs. Naomi, it’s not just about tri-sports. I considered, what with the impending winter, adding the traditional BI-athlon sports, but I couldn’t really see the body-sculpting potential in target practice, so I went back to my old standby: dancing.

I lurrrrve dancing. Especially tap dancing. As I know I’ve mentioned before, I don’t so much have the “rhythm” or the “groove” or whatever the kids are calling it nowadays. I also don’t so much have the “skills” (or “skillz” for that matter). But. Lurrrrve. Plus, now that I don’t have to perform in front of a jury of my peers (audience, whatever), nobody cares if I suck it up in class, as long as I’m paying having fun.

Oh, but this Monday? I arrive in plenty of time at the dance studio, start chatting amiably with fellow dancers (I am nothing if not amiable), and pull out my shoes, and… Giant spider. GIANT spider. Giant SPIDER. In my shoes. Which had been in my bag. On my back. And were at that moment in my hands. Furry, giant, HORRIBLE spider. I was practically TOUCHING the SPIDER.

Well not for long. Because I promptly flung my shoes out of my hands, far away from me. Tap shoes, remember, with metal on them. Winging through the air. At, it turns out, the charming classmate with whom I’d been amiably chatting only a moment before.

I was still dealing with my shock (SPIDER) and only realized that I’d attacked this girl several seconds later, when I finally managed to tear my gaze away from where the SPIDER had landed, and saw her staring at me, in a not entirely impressed manner. I quickly explained the source of my not at all embarrassing panic, and she mostly didn’t laugh in my face. Someone else killed the spider (which, actually, was optional at that point, once I’d re-established my personal space as spider-free).

And then we did some tap dancing. Flap. Shuffle. Improv. Woo.


More dancing: Bet you didn’t see this coming.

Meet Naomi: The Dirty Hippie. I have signed up for a West African dance class at a Yoga studio. Shut up. I know. I’m embarrassed enough for all of us. But it is the most purely FUN thing I have done in ages. Think barefoot, live drums, and… I don’t know how to describe it, but in some ways, it feels like a massage. It’s like the antithesis of ballet, where everything is tense and sucked in and painful. Here, everything is loose, and waving around like a rag doll. It’s also incredibly hard work: my legs, especially my hamstrings, were sore for about three days.

So I love it, but y’all have to promise to intervene before tie dye or (heaven forfend) white-girl dreads begin to sound like a good idea.

Running: For God’s sake, just how long has it BEEN since I’ve updated this thing? So, two weekends ago, I skipped running on Saturday (so as to avoid death by drowning) and went to my first African Dance class. (I also threw a hissy fit at my gym because I showed up late for the pilates class and they wouldn’t let me in. Hi. The world revolves around me. Shut up.) Sunday I had a horrifically bad run—so bad that I couldn’t even manage to keep up a running pace on the DOWNHILL portion, which is usually my favorite part. But I chalked it up to the hippie dancing, and even managed to squeeze in a second hippie session after the run. (Oddly, I was perfectly able to dance for an hour and a half, even though an hour earlier I couldn’t manage to run. I don’t understand it, but then, that’s nothing new.)

I ran again on Tuesday, with K1, and renewed my faith in the sport, with a lovely loop around the White House and up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We had planned to head back after that, but we were having so much fun, we decided to run to the other end of the Mall to the Capitol, and then, on the way back to the Washington Monument (about one mile) did a weird speed workout thing, where we sprinted for the distance of three trees and recovered for one tree. Which, depending on where the trees were, was either hard or really damn hard.

I didn’t lace up my shoes again until Saturday, planning an 8-10 mile scenic run around a reservoir. It was a disaster. I haven’t decided whether I blame it on having fasted for 24 hours on Thursday, or the brisket and meat loaf on Friday (or, why not, both) but I was only about 2 miles in when I realized that things weren’t getting better. I was feeling pretty slow in general, but that was when I realized how badly I needed a bathroom. And—

Okay, fair warning: this is probably more information than most people want. Feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs. I’ll signal when it’s okay to start reading again.

So I needed a bathroom, and not because I needed to pee. And there were no bathrooms around. And I was two miles away from my car in either direction (the road around the reservoir is about a four mile loop) and a fifteen minute drive to my house after that. I thought I could make it, but after about another half mile, I realized there was no hope.

Here’s the problem, though. There weren’t any bushes. Just trees. With plenty of space between ‘em. With ever-increasing desperation, I saw a stone wall that I thought I could hide behind. So, managing to soak both of my sneakers in the stream that was flowing down the hill, under the road, and into the reservoir, I ran up the hill, where it became clear that the wall only hid me from people approaching in one direction. Plus, the stream ran directly adjacent to it, and apparently, I draw the line at polluting NYC’s water supply.

A little further up, I saw a slightly larger tree, so with no other option, and no time left, I dashed up the hill to “hide” behind the tree. Desperate times, people.

I hastily conducted my business, and ran back down the hill, (once again soaking both of my shoes) and in my best “nothing to see here folks” manner, started running again. I didn’t see anyone pass while I was up there, so I think I’m in the clear. Needless to say, that was basically the end of my run. I finished the loop back to my car, and headed home.

Then, this past Tuesday K1 and I went back out to the Mall and had a good, but much shorter, run.

Okay, story’s done. You can all start reading again.

Moral of the story: Only run on Tuesday.

I bet now you wish you'd read the story. Ha!

And I think that brings me back to today. Oh, except for the people who wanted to hear more about Peace Corps. Next time. Also, stay tuned for a post from my crystal ball.

I'm it!

So recently I was "tagged" with this "meme" about the "23rd" "post". And I was all excited, because I've never been tagged before. I have arrived! People like me! I am an Internet!

So of course I raced off to post my... what do you call it? Reply? Iteration? Whatever. And of course, I didn't race off to do anything. I waited for days to get around to it.

But that's okay, because here I am. And in my 23rd entry, which was dated March 22nd, 2004, do you know what my 5th sentence was? Are you ready for it? It's going to blow you away. And I'm totally not just saying that.

"I know it’s true."

That's it. "I know it's true."

I don't... get it.

Actually, I don't know where this meme comes from. What was the point of picking the 5th sentence of the 23rd post. Was it supposed to reveal something about me? About my blog? Boil me down to my deeper essence and hand me the truth on a platter? Is there biblical significance to the numerology 23:5?

"I know it's true."

What does it MEAN?

The next thing I was supposed to do, was tag 5 other people to play this game. And I was all excited about that, too, except then I realized what a minefield it was. What if I tagged people who don't read my blog? Then they'd never know they were tagged, and EVERYONE would know that nobody cool read my blog, and then they would realize they were ALSO too cool to read. Or what if I tagged someone who'd already had a turn. And then left out somebody who still hadn't been tagged, who then felt like nobody cared about THEIR 23rd post, 5th sentence.

I can't handle the weight of my middle school angst.

But I hate being the girl who's like, "I tag you! You who are reading this right now!" because everybody knows that's lame.

So I tag no one. This meme dies with me.

I don't think I get to be an Internet anymore.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Two steps forward, one step back

I was all gushy and glow-y and righteously sore after my triumphant Army Eleven Point Four Ish Miler. I am Super Athlete Woman! Hear my roar!

Enter The Universe, stage right.

Naomi: I am SUPER WOMAN! All look on me and despair!
Universe: [Snicker]
Naomi: I can do ANYTHING. For my next trick, I will ride 100 mile—er… KILOMETERS—with absolutely no training, ON A CRAPPY TEN YEAR OLD HYBRID!
Universe: Hee!
Naomi: And then I will—hey. What? What’s so funny?
Universe: What? [Snicker] Nothing! Heh.
Naomi: Seriously, what are you laughing at? I am amazing. I can do anything. Did you see how well I ran those eleven point four ish miles?
Universe: Hee! Right. Totally saw that. You’re fantastic. Can’t wait to see you ride that Seagull Century. Gonna be a superstar.
Naomi: What? You don’t think I can do it?
Universe: Nah, you’ll be fine. When is it? On Saturday? You might want to put some air in the tires. And, well make sure the gears still work and stuff. If you have a minute.
Naomi: Whatever. I was totally going to do that this afternoon. I’m going right now.
Universe: M’kay. Laters.


And I was totally planning to RIDE my bike to the Georgetown bike shop, because that’s just the kind of athlete I am, but then I remembered that there was no air in the tires, and that I’d have to figure out some way to get home afterwards, and there’s no metro in Georgetown, and running the 5 miles back after eleven point four ish miles that morning sounded like a pain in the ass. So I found another bike shop in Silver Spring that had a parking lot, and headed out.

I should probably get a bike helmet, too, I reminded myself on the way. Ooh, and some of those biking shorts, so my butt doesn’t fall off during the 100 km. Oh, or maybe some tri shorts instead, so that I can use them for triathlons too. And maybe some… No, enough. Let’s wait to see if this biking thing sticks before investing an arm and a leg.

SCENE: Silver Spring bicycle shop. Repair section in rear. Snotty bike shop repair guy, tatted up and in bike lifestyle gear, is working on a bike.

Naomi rolls her fuscia fuji over to SBSRG, who lifts it on the repair-lift-thingy and snickers.

SBSRG: What do you want me to do with this thing?
Naomi: Well, the tires need air. And the gears are kind of wonky. And, you know, whatever else needs doing.
SBSRG: [Starts spinning the wheels and gears, inflates the tires, plays with the breaks with a look of bemused disgust.] Okay. It been sitting around for a while? [Naomi nods] And, what were you planning to do on the bike?
Naomi: Well… My friend is trying to talk me into a bike race next Saturday. (A convenient fiction. I’m as keen to try it as she is.)
SBSRG: [Looks at Naomi with unabashed derision] A race? What kind?
Naomi: 100 km.
SBSRG: The Seagull Century?
Naomi: Does that one start in Salisbury? [SBSRG nods] Then, yeah.
SBSRG: On this?
Naomi: Well… yeah. Bad idea?
SBSRG: Yeah. Bad idea.
Naomi: I know, it’s not a great bike. But come on, it’s not that bad.
SBSRG: If you want to tool around town or whatever. You want to do a century on this? Have you registered already?
Naomi: No. Should I have?
SBSRG: Sh’yeah.
Naomi: Oh. Well then I guess we won’t be riding that race.
SBSRG: Uh, yeah. Anyway, we’re scheduling repairs into next week. Which means the week of the 11th? Because today? Is Sunday? [He gestures at the bike themed calendar on the wall.]
Naomi: Right. Well if I’m not doing the race, then I don’t particularly need the bike for this Saturday.
SBSRG: Well, I can give it a tune-up. It’ll cost about $60. [Undertone: but it’ll still be a piece of crap]
Naomi: How much would a basic new bike cost?
SBSRG: [Rattles off some model names, confers with colleague] around $260.
Naomi: So yeah. I’ll just do the tune up.

Naomi exits the story. Universe sidles up next to her as she walks to the car.

Naomi: I don’t want to hear it.
Universe: What? What did I say?
Naomi: I’ll do another race. And I’ll have some time to train.
Universe: Cool. Good plan.
Naomi: I’m still fantastic. And tomorrow morning, I’m going swimming. I’m getting so much better at that.
Universe: Awesome.

And so, bright and early the following morning, I met K2 at the Y to practice swimming. At which point we determined that I? Don’t know how to float.

Floating? Come on! I vividly remember doing the “dead man’s float” when I was a kid and just learning how to swim. It wasn’t hard. Seemed like basic physics. Rocks sink. Styrofoam floats. Lead sinks. People? Float. I mean, what’s the dead guy doing that I can’t muster?

And so when I started swimming with the Ks, and they suggested we start with floating, I confidently told them that we could skip that step because I? Could float. (Internal check list: Am I a rock? No. Made of lead? No. A person? Yes. Cross-reference: People float. Therefore I? Float.)

But as I watched everyone else in the pool relaxedly crawling through the water, and compared that with my flailing, sinking, and rising, I had to conclude that I was doing something wrong. K2 suggested I practice floating for a while.

Despite my insistence that I certainly could float when I wasn’t doing anything else, it was just all that swimming getting in the way, I acceded to K2’s suggestion that I just try it already and see what happened.

Yeah, I totally don’t float. Especially my legs. Sink like a rock. But a lot of the rest of me sinks too. Dead men? Float. Naomi? Sinks.

Which means that I need to start all over again from the beginning. And learn how to obey physics.

Universe: [Snic—
Naomi:: Shut it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Meet Laura. She's part Kenyan.

You all know me by now. No big suprises. A happy, healthy, mid- to back-of-the-pack runner.

You don't know Laura, though. Laura is the woman whose number I used in the Army 10-miler this morning.

The real Laura and I run at about the same pace. However, when she registered for the race, she wasn't paying attention, and she wrote her anticipated finish time for a 10K, not a 10 MILE. She put down somewhere around 60 minutes. Which in this race, you'll note, would mean 6 minute miles. And last year's overall female winner? 57:32.

There were more than 20,000 runners registered this year. In races like this, they assign numbers based on expected finish time. My number in the VA Beach Half Marathon was 18 thousand something. The lower the number, the faster they expect you to be. In this race, my number was 189.

That number? Was making big promises that my legs would not be keeping.

I was a little intimidated to even wear the number. But I wasn't going to let the little matter of a race number psych me out of the race. So, okay, Naomi is no 189. But Laura? Let's talk about Laura.

Laura, I decided, contrary to her ghost-like pallor and stocky East-European build (describing me, not the real Laura), is part-Kenyan. She is a world class runner, who is using this race as a training run. Plus, she's running with a friend. She could totally smoke you, yes, you, Mr. 8794, so don't be all cocky that you're outpacing little miss 189, okay?

The story got more involved as I metro-ed over to the Pentagon for the race start. In order to get there, I had to switch from the Red Line to the Blue Line. But both Blue and Orange Line trains stopped on the platform where I was waiting, and, not paying attention at 6:45 in the morning, I stepped onto an Orange Line train. While all the other runners on the platform just stood there. And then started calling to me that I was on the wrong train, and I'd better get back off if I ever wanted to get to the race.

Okay, so Naomi has lived in DC for more than two years. She knows better than to get on an Orange LIne train when she needs the Blue Line. But Laura isn't from around here. I glanced at the tote bag I was carrying--something my mother had gotten from some conference--which read "University of Michigan, School of Social Work." Clearly Laura was in town from Ann Arbor. She came in to stay with family for Rosh Hashana (on Tuesday), and decided to register for a race while she was here.

I glanced at my shoe, where I didn't have a timing chip, since my friend didn't want to be responsible if I lost it or if anything happened. But that's not why Laura didn't have a timing chip. She wasn't wearing one because she owns her own chip, but she forgot it back in Ann Arbor. Of course, she wasn't taking this race seriously, so she didn't mind not having a net time.

And Naomi always gets to races ridiculously early, and stands around for ages waiting for the race to begin. But Laura, not being from around here, assumed that, since the race that was encouraging all local runners to take the metro, the city would be running trains frequently. Naomi knows better—such an arrangement would imply forethought and organization on the part of the city. Naomi would not have been surprised to have to wait almost ten minutes for the first train, and then more than 15 minutes for the second train.

Laura was meant to meet her friend at the First Aid tent at 7:50. She walked off the metro at 7:40. She still had to check a bag and use the toilet. She joined the toilet line at 7:45. There were still 15 people in front of her when the gun went off to start the race at 8 am. But since she wasn't planning to run with her usual elite-runner cohort, she knew she had plenty of time while the first 15,000 runners crossed the start line. She waited (forEVER) and finally made it across the start line at about 8:10. She never managed to find her friend.

But Laura, experienced Kenyan runner that she is, knows not to start too fast. So, unlike Naomi, Laura kept the first mile at a comfortable pace (9:59), and maintained it (9:52; 9:46; 9:50; 9:47) for the next several miles. Laura carries her own gatorade, and doesn't slow down for refreshment. In fact, she ate a gel during the next mile, and still managed to run it faster than any previous (9:20). She made up that time on the following mile (9:54), but when she passed the 7th mile marker feeling strong, she knew she could start to push the pace for the last three miles. She missed the next mile marker, but she hit the following one at 17:40, which meant that the two miles averaged about 8:50.

With one mile to go, Laura poured it on. She watched her watch, knowing that she only had 8 minutes to go, then 5, then 3. She couldn't see the finish line, but the course turned up ahead, and she knew that the finish line must be right around that turn, because it had been more than 8 minutes since the last mile.

She got to the turn, and there was no balloon arch. In fact, all she could see, somewhat further ahead, was a mile marker, reading "1". Could the 9-mile marker have been misplaced? Her watch passed 10 minutes, and she was running harder than she'd been the whole race. How could she be going so slowly?

She turned to another runner and asked if the race was really 10 miles. He scoffed (his eyes quickly noting the yellow 189) and said, of course.

But now her watch read 15 minutes, and she still couldn't even see a finish line. She was frustrated and confused, still running hard, but unsure how long she could maintain the pace, and unsure how long she'd have to. There were some runners who had already finished walking back along the side of the course, shouting encouragement. "Almost there!" "Just another six minutes." "Half a mile to go!" "Just keep it up. You'll be done in a minute and a half."

Her total time had long passed 1:40, which would have been a 10-minute pace for the 10-miles. But every mile she had clocked had come in faster than that. Where the hell was the finish line?

Finally, she saw it in the distance. Chariots of Fire came on her iPod, and she tried to give everything she had left. But she was completely bewildered. By the time she crossed the finish line, her watch had clocked that final mile at 19:40. 19 minutes and 40 seconds of running as hard as she could. Okay, well maybe not running as hard as Laura could, but certainly running as fast as Naomi could.

And, finally, as she was gulping down some much needed water, she heard it. "Congratulations runners," the announcer bellowed. "You just ran 11-plus miles. The course was re-routed at the last minute.*** Way to go!"

"I knew it!" Laura couldn't help exclaiming. A man nearby glanced at his Forerunner and said, "11.36." Later she heard 11.4 and 11.38. Which put those last 2.4-ish miles at an 8:15 pace. And her overall pace for the 11.4 miles? 9:16 (she finished at 1:45:49).

Which seriously rocks. Naomi might have to become Laura full time.

*** Rumor has it that there was an unidentified package on the 14th Street bridge, which they had to treat as if it were a bomb. And I guess re-routing 20,000 runners is easier than just moving the damn package. Safety precautions, protocol, whatEVER. That was a LOOOOONG 10th mile, is what I'm saying.