Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quick Mid-Week Report, or Why I Will Only Use UPS

First off, latest sponsors...
Thank you, Jim!

Remember how I said there were prizes and such? Well, there are. For all of the people who have sponsored me, I have for you a small gift that I would like to send you. Unfortunately, when you donate via the web (still the easiest and safest) I don't get your address until January or February. If you send me your address, I will happily send you the gift, as a token of thanks, although you may not thank me when you see the gift. Anyway, I have regular and child size, and no it's not a t-shirt. As soon as I get a free-er moment I'll email all you wonderful sponsors individually.

Secondly, it's been a crappy week. Actually, I take it back. It's been a good week, but a crappy day. It's one of those days when you say, "You know, just when everything was sort of going my way for five minutes, and then THIS happened!" To make a long story short, first off, I didn't pass 120 test #17. Then when I got home I discovered that something I mailed via the post office did not arrive at its destination and because of that it's screwing with my unemployment (I sent it Priority Mail, Delivery Confirmation, but lo and behold -- never confirmed!) So I can't send stuff FedEx, and I can't send stuff through the Post Office...UPS, here I come.

So it's been a crappy day, and I'm drinking a big ol' glass of gin (Hendricks, for those who know gin) to try to relax and get back to practicing.

To bring it back to running, since I must, I was so frustrated after failing yet another 120 test that I went to the gym and ran for an hour -- 6.3 miles on the treadmill. Too hot to run outside today. Stress is good for something.

Sunday, the Japan Day run at 8am, plus race report and more...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pushing It, or Why Running is Like Steno

First off, a correction from yesterday's post: I can't add. My actual total as of today is $475 and not $485. Of course, you are all most welcome to donate more $$ to bring that up!!!

Today's post will have more to do with school than with running. For those who don't know, and really, why would you know, I have returned to school full-time after 13+ years as a professional stage manager to pursue a second career as a court reporter. Yes, I'm learning how to learn that little machine that spits out long ribbons of paper. It's very challenging and I really, really like it. I would say about half the school is also there to pursue a second career, the other half is attending college (2 year) for the first time. Returning to school is a hallucinatory experience; the last day of the first class I took, the teacher comes in and says, "Okay, along with the grade on your test I'm also giving you your final grade for the class." We were all so nervous we busted out laughing -- half because it was their first college grade, half because we were remembering how we felt getting our first college grade. It's wild.

On the other hand, knowing I'm there for a specific reason makes it much easier to focus and get the work done. I did go at night for a while, but I wasn't getting as much out of it as I did during the day, when you're working on your steno every day instead of only two evenings. As I mentioned in a previous post, my brother graduated law school last weekend. He went as an evening student, to NY Law, graduated summa cum laude, by the way, in case you wondered where all the brains in the family went. He has always been one for the books, but being able to get through law school at night, with a full-time job and a family, that takes focus. I don't know how anyone can get through any kind of night school program. That takes determination.

For steno, learning the basic theory only takes about 4 months. After that, it's really "how fast can you get fast?" To graduate from school, you need to be at a steno speed of 225 words per minute, with a 96% accuracy rate. That's also the national certification standard. 225 isn't as fast as you might think -- it's like your friend from NY who talks too fast, but most normal speaking has a lot of starts and stops. When testing, it's non-stop talking.

After you learn the theory, you begin speed testing, starting at 30 wpm. Most people go from 30 - 60 very quickly and then start hitting roadblocks as the speed increases. The way you test is, the teacher dictates to you for 5 minutes. Then you have an hour to take your notes and transcribe them back into English. You'd be surprised how difficult that is. You've got misstrokes (misspelled steno) that you have to figure out what you meant to type, and quite frankly, steno is so weird-looking that even if you did type it correctly you might not have a clue what you did (What the hell is STHARBGT?) (that actually means "Is that correct." S = is, THA = that, RBGT = correct, the BG is how one writes the letter K. Don't ask.) The average length of time it takes to go from 30 to 225 is two years, with the halfway point being around 110, 120. I am currently at 110, and I've been there for a month.

Here's the thing: I haven't sat at a speed for more than two weeks. 30 - 60, banged them out. 70, two tries to get that speed. 80 - first time (PS: you test at least once a week, sometimes more. Ever been to a school where students begged to be tested?) I had to take two months off at the beginning of the winter semester -- went to Florida to SM a show. I practiced when I was away, and when I returned, I went from 90 - 110 in five weeks. And since the beginning of May, I've been testing for 120 and cannot crack it. To make matters worse, at the end of the semester, the school starts testing every day, to give people extra chances to move up (and maybe out.) Eleven tests in ten days - one class someone had already received that dictation as a test, so we got a second test. And I didn't get any of them. And since the new semester began, three more tests, and still nothing.

Honestly, if we didn't have so many tests so close together I wouldn't be as bananas. But to have so many chances and to whiff them all, it just sucks. And it's making me so determined to crack the speed by the end of the month that this past week I was practicing 6 hours a day -- 2 hour before school and 4 more after school, and that's not counting the 3 hours in class.

After whiffing my test, I started complaining, "After all this, blah blah," and the teacher started yelling at me, "Relax! You're the kind of student that drives me crazy! You can't push the speed like that. You're pushing too hard. If you're not patient you'll never get through this school. You're going to hurt yourself. The speed will come when it comes."

I'm frustrated because I've never felt stuck before. When I returned to school after my time away I was in the evening speed class and there were students who had been in that class for a YEAR. That scares me. I enjoy school but that's a bit much.

I know that I am setting arbitrary deadlines for myself to get to a place I may not be ready to get to. I need to be patient, and work hard, and the speed will come when it comes, just like it did for all the other speeds. But when I peek into the other classrooms and see some of the people I started with 20-30 wpm ahead of me, my competitive streak comes out. It doesn't matter that most of the people I started with are 20-30 wpm BELOW me, I just focus on those few above me.

To tie it back to running, since this is a running blog, it's like seeing Larry the Lighthouse or someone who couldn't POSSIBLY be faster than I am, and yet there they are, ahead of me. It doesn't matter how many people I have passed, or how much better I was doing or feeling compared to past runs. The only thing that matters is THAT person is BEATING me and THAT CAN'T HAPPEN!

But today, after taking the night off from both practice and running, I realize that running and steno speedbuilding are very much alike. Everyone progresses differently, be it in running speedwork or steno speedwork. Some people have a natural gift for it, and some have to struggle to progress even in a small way. Some have the speed but not the stamina, some are slow and accurate but can't master speed. If you push yourself too fast in both, you will hurt yourself. And both running and steno speedbuilding have a finish line, and no matter when you cross it, you still finish. That's one of the great things about running -- it's a competitive sport, but everyone wins. We don't win at the same time, but we all win. Steno is the same way. If we plug away at it, we will all hit the top speed. We may not get there at the same time, but as long as we persevere, we will get there. In running we call this "running your own race." I need to learn how to run my own steno race.

That all being said, it's a beautiful day out, and before it gets too hot, I need to hit the Park for a leisurely 6-miler.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quick Shout Outs

Latest sponsors --

Total thus far: $485

Slowly but surely...doesn't win the race, but it does finish!

More anon...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

FedEx Betrays Me, Race Report and more...

First, let's start out with some shout-outs:
and my PARENTS


Total to date: $415!!
You all rock!!

Before we get into the race report for the week, check this out: one of the things I am doing to raise money for my Team is to sell items on eBay, with the money going towards my Team total. One of the things I sold was this little ceramic pig that had a chef's apron it. Shut up, it's cute. Anyway, it was bought by the Comstocks. I wrapped it up and sent it to them FedEx Ground and wouldn't you know it, the box arrived damaged and the pig broken. I admit to being a maniacal overpacker, because I am paranoid of boxes breaking in transit (a side note: a couple of years ago I was shipping stuff down to Florida, where I was going to be working for a few months. The box I had my Rollerblades arrived ripped open, and instead of the rollerblades there were a dozen brown short-sleeved shirts. Go figure.) I packed the you-know-what out of that pig, and it was in a brand new box. How could FedEx betray me? Anyway, I filed a claim, and will hopefully get my money back for shipping AND for the pig, because even though they didn't ask, I'm going to reimburse the Comstocks for the pig. Which would be nice because I already made the Comstock's donation to my effort and I don't want to be out any more money.

Anyway, if anyone has anything interesting that they would be willing to donate to me to auction on eBay, with the money going to my Team effort, please let me know -- you can leave me a message on this here site, or email me at

So, onto the race report. Today was the Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park. The Healthy Kidney race is a benefit for the National Kidney Foundation, and it's sponsored by the United Arab Emirates. In 2000, Sheik Zayed (?) someone royal, came to America for a kidney transplant and was so impressed with the doctors and the care he received he sponsors this race every year as a fundraiser. Among the items they were giving away at the race tents were phonebooks for the UAE, the "UAE At A Glance" guidebook, and heart-shaped pins of the Sheik. This 10K is a full loop of the Park, going clockwise. I say this because for those of who not familiar with racing in the Park, if you race counter-clockwise you will go up Cat Hill (by the Boathouse) and up the steeper part of the Great Hill (northern end of the Park,) but the end of the race is on a downhill so you can get a good sprint in to the finish line. When the race is clockwise, you're going the way the Marathon goes, which means your finish is UPHILL. Grrr.

It was a cool, rainy day, and I finished in 56 minutes, not bad for 6 miles and change. It was about a 9:30 minute mile. A minute slower than the last 10K I ran, but considering I have a cold, not terrible. An interesting sight at these races is a guy called Larry the Lighthouse, who runs all the races wearing a giant lighthouse. I don't know how else to explain it. He even ran the marathon in that lighthouse. Well, today Larry had a girlfriend. Can you guess? That's right -- Wendy the Windmill. Most of the time I'm not running with a goal in mind, I just want to do better than Larry. I mean, if I can't outrun a lighthouse... A respectable Fred's Team turnout, but there was also a team training run this morning so some people didn't come. Some of us met up after the race and went out for breakfast.

Best of all, my foot did not hurt at all. My foot had been aching after any runs of over three miles, and I knew it was my shoes because it didn't happen as much with a different pair. I went to Jackrabbit Sports here in NYC, where they did a gait analysis, and lo and behold, we discover that (thanks to the surgery) I am no longer a pronator, which means when I run I put my foot on the ground without rolling to one side or the other. That's why my old sneakers, which correct pronation, were bothering my foot. Okay, that last part was boring to all but runners...okay, all but me. Point is, no foot pain!

Goodies I ordered will be arriving soon, to send out to all my supporters. Please support me and get yours today! Well, not today, but as soon as I get them.

Coming up tomorrow: my brother's LAW SCHOOL GRADUATION!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

First off -- new donations:
-Andrea "Spook" Testani
-Andrew Fornarola

Today was the Mother's Day 10-mile race in the Park. It was my first long race since surgery. I'm not sure that's what my mother wanted for her special day, but that's what she got (actually, I gave her a box of the best brownies in NYC -- Fat Witch Bakery.) Considering I took her name in vain most of the morning, in a weird way it was apropos.

The longest I've run to date has only been 6, 6 1/2 miles. So jumping up to 10, not the wisest move. But I needed to see if I had it in me, and I wasn't planning to be speedy, only persistent.

The stats: even though I had to stop for a few moments at mile 7 to take off my foot wrap because it was starting to give me a blister on the bottom of my foot, I managed to finish in 1 hour 36 minutes. That's about a 9 1/2 minute mile, which is actually a little faster than I was expecting. If it weren't for my *&#%!ing foot, I would've finished about two minutes earlier. On a positive note, my hunch that my Saucony shoes were irritating my foot turned out to be correct. Which sucks because I just got a new pair of the Saucony Grid Hurricanes last month. But they make the bottom of my right foot burn as badly as it did last year. Grrr. So if anyone wants a pair of almost-new Saucony Grid Hurricane 8s in a size 10 (they run small, in normal shoes I wear an 8 1/2) let me know.

I'm thinking up the rules and such for contest #1 -- stay tuned!!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Our First Fred's Team Run!

This morning was our first official Fred's Team run. We did an easy 4-miler in Central Park. It was great to see so many old friends, and there were a lot of new people there, too, about 30 in all. A lot of folks hadn't been running for a while. I have been attempting to run since February. Yet some of my Team's "out of shape"-iness is still better shape than I've ever been in. Grr! Damn thee, genetics! Anyway, I was about a 10-minute mile for the 4-mile total.

Tomorrow is a 10-miler for Mothers Day. Is this really what Mom wants?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Many small updates

If you've recently visited my Fred's Team home page and wondered where all the personal stuff went, there are some technical difficulties that should be ironed out soon. You can still donate, it's just not as chirpy and the pictures aren't of me.

First big race is coming up this Sunday (Mother's Day) a 10-miler. So far my longest run has been a little over 6. Should be OK, as long as I don't attempt any land-speed records.

Joined a gym, as per Jeff's directions. I haven't been to a gym in ages, I let my membership lapse at NY Health and Racquet, since I never went. I joined NY Sports Club, they have a branch a block from school as well as close to my home. I went this past Sunday and I'm still in pain.

They are ripping down all the buildings around my house -- a Time Warner Center Jr. is being erected on 57th Street and my building and the hotel next door are the lone holdouts in a massive buyout. Who needs an alarm clock when construction starts at 7:01 am on the dot? We are looking forward to the ten minutes of actual sunshine we'll be getting when the buildings across the alley are demolished (they're in the process of being gutted right now.)

Did a fun reading last week, COLLEGE: THE MUSICAL, which is about, yes, college. I think it's got lots of promise and the songs are still floating around in my head. Plus, the producer deferred a portion of my fee to Fred's Team, which I need to send in.

Once more donation letters go out, the contests will begin. I will also be auctioning things off on eBay, cool stuff like theater tickets and entertainment memorabilia. Stay tuned...