Thursday, December 27, 2007


My dearest ones,

Please forgive the lack the blogging, and running. I have been working 15 hour days here at the Caldwell Theatre Company (yes, it's the "-re" spelling!) or, to put it more precisely, the brand spanking new Caldwell Theatre Company's Count de Hoernle Theater. Yes, my home away from home, the Caldwell, has built their own theater after 30 years, and this is the first show that will be in here from start to finish (the current show, "Doubt," rehearsed at the old space next door, but is performing here in the new space.) For those of you who are not regular theater-goers, for a theater to have its own space, as opposed to converting a space into a theater, is a rare and exciting thing. The Caldwell's three previous incarnations have been in the College of Boca Raton, the Boca Mall and Levitz Plaza, where it converted part of the Levitz warehouse (yes, everything in Florida IS in a strip mall) into a theater.

What this means is, I have not only been preparing for rehearsals for the world premiere of "Suite Surrender," but also putting together the Stage Manager's office, which is in boxes here in the rehearsal hall, and also at the old theater, and Lordy only knows where else. So some very long days, with not a lot of time or energy left for running, or much of anything else.

I did get some runs in, however, and I must say, I MISS THE COLD WEATHER!!!! I don't know how Southerners do it! I hate the heat! The first time I got out there, 80 degrees and muggy. Yuck! And of all the places I run, only two of those routes have a public water fountain. A fountain. One. So it's Fuel Belt, a loop run that allows me to hit the fountain, or suffer. I've tried dropping water bottles off, but they're stolen by the time I get there, and I leave them on the out part of an out-and-back. Sigh.

Give me a few more days to get things settled here, and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah and Happy Holidays to you, and I will get back in the running, and blogging, swing of things. After all, we do have a half marathon to prepare for!!

much love,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Madness, and Even A Bit of Running!

Sorry for the lack of bloggage; between holiday fiestas and finishing up school before the vacation / heading to FL, there's just been no time. And I mean, no time.

Check out what could have been my schedule this past weekend, had I attended every event:

AM breakfast with out-of-town friend
2pm one-act festival OR movie with friend
5pm cocktail reception for one-act festival OR movie (same one from before -- either see the play festival and skip the cocktail party for the movie, or see the movie first and hit the festival's cocktail party)
7:30pm another movie with another friend
11:00pm another cocktail party

AM brunch with family
4:00pm to NJ for friend's performance in Festival of Song followed by party OR co-op holiday party

I can't keep up with all that merriment!!!!

Everyone is leery of planning anything for the actual weekend of Xmas, thinking that folks will be busy, so everyone plans every holiday event for the weekend prior. We all know that everyone would be more than happy to attend a cocktail party on, say, December 24, because they either have nothing to do (like me) or want an excuse to get away from family obligations for a few hours. Couldn't we maybe spread the merriment out over, say, two months, like we do for the shopping season?

Anyways, it's been not the most productive week of running, but a few observations I'll share. First off, I'm really happy with my new speed -- my pace has dropped to somewhere in the 8ish minutes per mile range, which just continually amazes me. I'm also just breaking through in the steno speed, too -- I'm pretty sure I passed my 180 jury charge and I think I may have passed a 180 lit today, too. Again I marvel at the connection between steno speed and running speed. Is it a mind-body thing, a body-mind thing, or what? I don't know, and as long as it keeps working, I'll take it however it comes.

I find that most of my runs these days are feeling like tempo runs, which are runs that are done at a moderately difficult pace. I'm not pushing, everything feels great, but I'm breathing harder, so I'm moving faster than I think/feel I am. In the latest podcast episode of Fdip, guest host John Ellis talks about base training and how we should build a lot of slow miles in order to progress. I totally agree, but I wonder if this whole year has been my base training? I was not a turtle, but I spent the majority of the year at a 9:30-10:00 minute mile pace, gaining my speed only weeks before the marathon. This would mean that my current pace, or maybe a little slower, would be my new base pace. Again I swear I'm not consciously pushing myself when I run, except when I'm nearing the top of a hill. Here's the thing: I know I am exerting myself because my breathing is harder, but my perceived level of exertion in all other respects is much lower. Anyone else have that happen to them?

Tomorrow night is the first annual Jingle Bell Fun Run around the Central Park reservoir, in memory of NYRR swim coach Doug Stern. Doug passed from kidney cancer this year. I never took classes from him, but he was a good friend of coach Jeff's, and a lot of Teammates took his classes, so we're coming out to participate. A $10 donation -- 100% of the $$ will go to MSKCC's kidney cancer research unit -- buys you a jingle bell, which we'll all wear and jingle as we run around the Res. Untimed, unsupported, just a lot of people running. As it should be. I'll take pix.

I need to start thinking about the Miami Half Marathon, my next big event. I already got the email registration slip that has to be brought to the expo. I'm a little concerned that my longest run since the marathon has been 9 miles, I should probably get a couple of tenners, or even an 11 in over the next few weeks. I wanted to wait until I was down in Florida, to be in the correct weather for the race. I also feel that at this point in my running I don't need to train so hard for a half-marathon, although I do need to train. Once I get down there, I need to add maybe one more day of running, and do at least 2 more long runs. My best half time was 1:58 in 2005, for the Brooklyn Half (my first ever!) I'm thinking I may be able to top that. Place your bets!!!

Out of all of the things I did manage to squeeze into my crazy weekend, one of the highlights was heading out to NJ to hear my friend Greg sing at his church's Festival of Song. This wasn't a church service, just holiday songs. Greg had three solos and sang with the choir, plus there were other solos and also a few instrumental numbers. Very beautiful, and Greg's got an amazing, amazing voice! Who knew? Well, nearly everybody else knew. I had never been able to see him perform before except for one time at one of his parties. We begged and begged him to sing, and he agreed to one song on the condition that everyone turn around and not look at him. Seeing him sing Sunday afternoon, you'd never think he was shy about singing. He sang one of my favorite Xmas songs (yes, even us Jews have our favorite Xmas songs!) "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Afterwards, back to his and Tim's apartment for munchies and pomegranite cosmopolitans. Oh, did I mention that Laura decided to bake cupcakes to bring over to Greg and Tim's house? These dastardly delights are from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook; the batter alone contains three sticks of butter. I ate two. And licked the bowls for both the cupcakes AND the frosting (one pound of confectioners' sugar.) The recipe should include instructions to call your doctor after consuming.

All right, must finish laundry and watch the last "Ugly Betty" DVD. Love that show! Next post will be from sunny FLORIDA!!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lots of Little Updates

Hello, dear readers.

Sorry for taking so long to update, I've been both extremely busy and yet not doing much of anything, you know? Between the holidays and school and getting ready to head down to Florida for a few months, it's been a whole lot of running around and being double-booked. I'm even trying to do double-duty here by typing this on my steno machine. I have a program that allows me to type on the steno machine and it translates directly into English. Usually. As long as your dictionary has the word, it will translate, but if it doesn't, or if you misstroke a word, it looks something like this: /WUPBG can be /KPAUFG sometimes. You figure it out. (answer at the bottom of the post.)

I confess, I'm watching "America's Next Top Model," my not-so-secret guilty pleasure. It's an orgy of cattiness and Cover Girl product placement. Rumor has it that the actual winner is picked when the "final 13" are first chosen, but who cares, it's just so much fun! Best line ever, from Xiomara a few years ago: "Aside from being born, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me." Yeah, can't top that.

So this week I went to the cookie bake-a-thon held by Band of Parents, the group of parents with children being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Their mission was to sell, bake and ship 96,000 cookies and give the proceeds to MSKCC. Well, there was no problem getting orders for the cookies, but they needed a lot of help with the baking, packing and shipping. So I went down to Brooklyn last week to volunteer some time with them. They were in a space called Kitchen For Hire, which is exactly what it is -- a kitchen for people doing stuff like this. It was really tiny, and both very cold and very hot at the same time (I ended up standing next to the space heater) I helped with the packing, so don't worry if you ordered from them, your cookies are safe. And as a bonus, I finally got to meet Gretchen! It was crowded with five people on the packing/shipping line, but as I was getting ready to go, ten firemen showed up (Gretchen's little boy, Liam, is something of a mascot around her local firehouse, and they all came down to volunteer.) Oh, boy. It was hard to leave, and let me tell you, there's nothing like seeing a burly fireman tie a little ribbon around a box of cookies. but my school decided to have evening tests at my speed, and I wanted to get the extra chance to test. PS, those cookies were good! We got to eat the broken ones.

A word about testing, if I haven't bored you with talk of steno in earlier posts. Steno school is not like regular school in that you progress at your own pace. The ultimate goal is to get to 225 words per minute, at which point you graduate. Classes are broken up into 30-40 wpm increments (70-90, 100-120, etc.) At least once a week, maybe more, the teachers will test. A test is a five minute take at the speed. You write the take on your writer -- yes, the machine with the paper strip coming out of the top -- and then you have an hour to transcribe it back into written English. Sounds easy, I assure you it ain't. Between misstrokes, strokes that you did correctly and yet still can't figure out what you wrote, dropping words and sentences, trying to make sense of bad grammar that may or may not be what the teacher actually said, it can be a mess. And you would be surprised at how fast you forget what was said during those five minutes. The ideal for a court reporter is that the minute you're done doing a job, you forget everything that was said. That means you're writing automatically -- in the ears and out the fingers.

Okay, they're doing the big finale fashion show part of ANTM, it's ridiculous. Imagine stilt walkers and giant umbrellas and the worst part -- an audience of what must have been prisoners -- or at least they must have felt like prisoners -- wearing coolie outfits (I apologize for using the term but that's what they were) and sitting evenly-spaced and in the exact same position on the ground. Yeah, real world fashion show. Not staged for the cameras at all.

I think last time I mentioned steno I was at 120 or 130 words per minute, and now I'm testing for 180. The amazing thing I've noticed over the last few months, especially in the thick of marathon training, is that my speed on the track and my speed on the machine kept pace. I don't know why, but since I was getting faster at both, I wasn't complaining. So now I feel I'm getting so much faster at running, and my steno speed is now just starting to catch up, right when I'm getting ready to leave. It's a little frustrating and I'm pushing myself to pass at least one 180 before I go, but I'm not there yet. I know that speed will come, it has before and it will again, but I want it now!! I know that I'll get a lot of good practice time in Florida, and hopefully when I get back to New York, I'll be able to fly through the 180s and get to the last class, the 190-225 class.

Speaking of Florida, I'll be working in Boca Raton -- in my other life, my life away from running and cookie-baking and stenography, I'm a professional stage manager. One of the theaters I've worked at a number of times, and one of my favorite places to work, is the Caldwell Theater Company. You know you're in good hands when you first arrive at the theater, and the first thing you see is the bar, and the first thing you're told is that staff drinks are half-price. Quite honestly, if I had to deal with the audience instead of the actors, I'd drink a lot, too. Oh, wait, I do. Yes, my liver is back in form, more on that in a second. Anyway, the Caldwell just opened up their own brand new state of the art theater, the first time they have ever owned their own space, and when they called me to come work there, I couldn't say no. I normally can't say no to them anyway, but the added treat of the new space is impossible to resist! So if you're in or near the Boca area and want to come see a show (which I heartily recommend!!) or just meet up for a run along A1A, drop me a line.

Yes, I did run a bit, too. I've been a bit unmotivated lately, but I'm pulling myself out of it. I indulged my lazy side for a few days, but between all the holiday eating and my own desire to keep up my new speed, I couldn't let it go for too long. Besides, I have my new toy, the Nike+, to play with. The weather has been cooperating here in NYC, although tonight we're supposed to get snow, so while I can, I've been heading out for a few more turns of Central Park. Strange how nicer running around the Park is now that the marathon is over, there was a point when I went to Staten Island rather than make one more loop, that's how sick I was of the Park. My average pace per mile has decreased to about an 8:15, and I couldn't be happier about that. I can't wait to put it into use in January, because that's when I will be doing the ING Miami Half-Marathon. Yeah, that's the next race! Thought about the Disney Half, but it's during tech week, and thought about doing the full marathon, but I don't think I have the motivation to train for a full one by myself, and also, I don't think I could get back to Boca in time to get to work afterwards if I do a full one. That's okay, a half in Florida in January is enough for me. For now.

Oh, did those of you who are runners know that Saucony has introduced the Pro Grid Triumph 5? Replaces my beloved 4. Lighter, and I think a little less cushioned, but also uglier. The ones I got come in white and gold and they look like boy's shoes. Not that I really consider what I look like when I run, as anyone who's seen pictures of me can attest. But I love my green Triumphs! I've spent the past few years experimenting with sneakers and finally found a brand and style that I like, and now...sigh.

One more thing before I go: yesterday I went to see "Mary Poppins" on Broadway. The Actors Fund was doing a benefit performance and they gave me some tickets. I went to my doctor earlier in the day to pick up a prescription for physical therapy for when I go to Florida, and I mentioned to her that I was seeing the show. She's one of the "theater doctors;" she sees a lot of people from the Broadway community and is one of the doctors most people call for performer related emergencies. So my doctor says, "At intermission, you've got to get a cocktail at the bar, they serve them in sippy cups and you can bring it back to your seat." Let me just say about the show, I'm not sure who it was created for. It was way too long (Act I alone was 90 minutes) and too depressing for children, and too much of a children's show for adults. So at intermission I went to the bar and got one of the very expensive -- and may I add, very potent -- signature cocktails, served in a sippy cup.

Doctor's orders!


PS: the steno phrase -- "Running can be exhausting sometimes." Did you get it?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Short but Sweet, and a message to a reader

Today was a run that made me remember how much fun running can be.

Now that I've figured out how to use the Nike+, I'm a little obsessed with it. I know some people HATE Nike, but I gotta admit, this Nike+ thing is pretty freakin' cool. I wanted to take it for a real test drive outside.

Thirty degrees and windless here in NYC, with a light dusting of snow. A one-mile calibration run from my apartment to the Central Park Boathouse, followed by a loop around the Res, down the West Side, across 72nd Street to the East Side and down the 63rd St. exit to 5th Ave (to the Apple store, to see if they have a sports armband that fits the new Nano with the Nike+ doodad attached. They don't.) I wore enough clothing to keep me warm but not overheated, the light covering of snow made everything look clean, it was quiet and uncrowded, and my ass barely hurt! I could just be in the moment and run. As I was rounding the north end of the Res, I saw Bow Bridge and it was so beautiful and I felt so good I thought, "This is why I run." It was perfect, and renewed my love of running. Altogether, 5.3 miles in just over 42 minutes, and my new pace is the icing on the cake, because I never felt that I was pushing myself.

I confess, I love hearing that calm female voice on the Nike+. She sounded so proud of me when I finished! But I'm thinking, instead of hearing nice stuff like, "Halfway point! You have 2.5 kilometers to go!" and "400 meters to go!" maybe there should be an option where you hear, "Move it, slowpoke!!" or "Run! Run! Pick up the pace!!" Now THAT's motivation! (hee hee!)

I received a comment from an earlier post, and I wanted to respond, but because I wasn't able to get the person's information to respond privately (other than their screen name) I'll respond here, with apologies for sounding coy -- it was a comment critical of something I had talked about, I'd prefer not to mention it by name.

FinanceGuy, I'm sorry you had a bad experience and feel the way you do. I never had any problems. Then again, I've never had problems with Verizon, which I know puts me in the minority, but because I haven't had problems I will sing their praises. I will take what you said into account, though, and be on the lookout. Thanks for letting me know. (also, apologies for not responding sooner -- normally when someone comments, I get an email letting me know. For some reason, I wasn't notified of your comment, I stumbled on it in my "unmoderated comment" box.)

That's it, y'all!


Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Altogether Great Day

Dadgum, but that Hot Chocolate 15K was a cold race!

Yes, I said DADGUM!

Yesterday was a crazy day in a good way. It started with the aforementioned Hot Chocolate 15K in Central Park. First really cold day of the season -- 31 degrees and windy. Got there around 9:00 for a 9:30 start. It was super-crowded. For those who don't know, if you're a NYRR member as of January 1st and run 9 qualifying races during that year, if you are still a member January 1 of the following year you get an automatic entry into the marathon. So a lot of people have a lot of catching up to do, and the last races of the year are packed. There were about 5,000 people signed up for this race (normally it's closer to 4,000.) The problem was, they had a teeny-tiny little bag check, and of course, everybody brought a bag. And for security reasons (their term) they cordoned off a huge section of grass right behind the bag check. Because it was so crowded, all the NYRR coordinators were yelling at everyone not to hang out in the baggage check and not to linger in the road to get INTO the baggage check, and then also yelling at those of us who crossed through the cordoned off area simply to toss our bags into the check area without either lingering on the road or in the baggage check. Aggravating.

By 9:15 I was freezing and miserable. I don't even know why I was there, I already had my nine races. Not true, I do know why I was there. I was very curious to see how I would do on a longer race at my new and improved pace. And a bunch of Teamers were going to be there, and I promised my friend Tom I would run with him. I run slower than him, but he says he tends to go out too fast and crash, and he wanted to run a smart race. It's been so long since I ran in the cold that I couldn't figure out what to wear. I had a hooded coolMax shirt under a long sleeved cotton race shirt, pants, socks, etc. but the question was, what, if anything, to wear over the shirts? I had a sweatshirt and a running jacket. At the last minute I decided to keep the jacket on, I figured I could take it off and wrap it around my waist if I got hot. Also, today was the debut of my Hanukah present, the Nike+. It was a choice between that and a Garmin. Hmm, $29 vs. $299. I wonder what I'm going to get? Oh, and PS: 2 pairs of gloves, a running pair under a throwaway pair.

The course: 2 loops of the Park starting at the 102nd Street transverse, the first loop without the Great Hill, and the second loop without the Great Hill and cutting across at the 72nd Street transverse.

So we start, and the first mile is PACKED. The transverse is kind of narrow to begin with, and they had cordoned off the finish line area there, making it even narrower, so a lot of jockeying for position. First mile took us 10 minutes.

Then Tom took off. I kept up with him, but he was weaving in and out of the crowd. Our second mile was 8:20. I told him I had to slow down, he says, "Sorry, I'll walk the water station." I said, "I can't run 8 minute miles and walk the water stations for 30 seconds." He apologizes and slows. A little. Mile 3 was 8:33 and at this point I was getting mad. My goal was to run the first 2 miles at 9:15 and then start knocking 10 seconds off each mile. I told him I could not keep this pace for 6 more miles and he should go, but he kept apologizing and tried to slow, and because he was trying I ignored the voices in my head telling me to ignore him, and kept up. There would be no negative split for this run, which is what I really wanted to do, and my anger at this actually fueled me for the rest of the race. I tried to turn it around, saying, well, you ran 8:08 average for the Race to Deliver, maybe this is your new "slow time," but I could tell. I wasn't enjoying the run the way I wanted to. It wasn't that I was struggling with the speed, I wasn't. It was just that the whole race was a little push, instead of starting easy and then progressively pushing.

Let me show you:

Actual times per mile: 1 - 9:56, 2 - 8:26, 3 - 8:33, 4 -8:41, 5 - 8:25, 6 - 8:51, 7 - 8:35, 8 - 8:41, 9 - 8:11, and the dividend (what is it, .32 miles or something) -- 2:29.

Had I run it my way, it would have ideally been more like this:

1 - 9:45 (nothing you can do about a crowded start), 2 - 9:15, 3 - 9:10, 4 -9:00, 5 - 8:50, 6 - 8:40, 7 - 8:30, 8 - 8:20, 9 - 8:10, and the dividend -- 2:15. End result -- maybe a minute slower, but for me, it would have been a lot easier.

To top it off, I started getting hot almost immediately, and because I had put the iPod in the jacket pocket, I didn't want to deal with taking off the jacket and the iPod and everything. So I unzipped it, took off the second pair of gloves, took off the hood, and dealt.

Even when I was slower I was still good on hills. Not so much speedy as consistent. Don't know why. Miles 4 & 8 -- you can see a little slowdown, those are the Cat Hill miles. On the second ascent up Cat Hill Tom started falling behind, and I had to slow down to wait for him. He told me after he was getting a side stitch there (and not to belabor -- even though I will! -- but the first and only time I got a side stitch was the Staten Island Half, where I ran 7 miles beforehand at a pace much too fast for me, and bonked hard at mile 6 of the actual race, reinforcing my respect of negative splits!!!)

Hey, ever wonder why Cat Hill is called "Cat Hill?" It's because this statue is hanging over it:
Still and all, there was enough left for a big finish, as you can see by the last mile and change. But here one more thing happened, and now I understand what some people mean when they say they hate it when spectators say things like, "C'mon, you're almost there!" -- as we were sprinting towards the finish line I started breathing audibly, and Tom started saying, "C'mon, you can do it, almost there," and I don't know if he was talking to me or to himself, and he is the SWEETEST person in the world with all good intentions and not a mean bone even near his body, and I wanted to PUNCH him! (sorry, Tom, but I did!)
So we cross the finish line, and I stop the Nike+ and it tells me -- "Distance -- Point oh seven miles."
Long story short -- did a LOT of searching through the Nike and Apple databases, and realized that I was wearing the sensor upside down. I don't wear Nike shoes, I put the sensor in a chip pocket that attaches to the shoe. Apparently the logo needs to be face up. The sucky thing is I downloaded the run to the nikeplus website, and I can't figure out how to edit it. Grrr.

Anyways, time for the race: 1:20:53, or 8:40/mile average, which I am thrilled about, and even though I didn't run the race the way I wanted to, maybe it was good to do a tempo run. I will think of it as a good training run for the ING Miami Half (which I am doing January 27th, by the way!)
Lessons I learned:

1-negative splits rule
2-run your own race
3-repeat numbers 1 and 2, maybe even stitch them on a pillow

I need to embrace not being a good running partner. I'm just not into running "with" other people. I can run alongside them, of course, but unless they're pacing me for speed I would much rather be on my own. Yes, there are times when I do enjoy it, like when I got to run alongside my friend Greg in the Rock and Run this summer, in honor and memory of his brother, and running with Lynn, Harrie and Rich when we did the final 10 miles of the marathon course as our last Fred's Team run. And I do love our group long runs. I guess I like knowing that I have friends on the road with me. Even if I run by myself the entire time, I don't feel lonely, like I do if I do a long run solo. But in general, I don't like to talk much, and I don't like feeling that I have to keep up with someone. I just want to be in my own head, maybe working through a problem that'd been bugging me, maybe listening to music or my running podcasts (Phedippidations, The Extra Mile, and The Final Sprint are my faves) or just enjoying being outside and running. So no offense, but the next time I am asked if I'd like to run with someone, the answer is going to be "no." I'll race you, though. And who knows, maybe I'll let you win!

As soon as the race was over, I had to hightail it home to get ready for a bridal shower. My roommate's friend Margaret is getting married in February (she's my friend too, but I know her through Laura) and Laura and Shirley, as the bridesmaids, threw the shower. it was at a great little restaurant, Bistro 1018, and I had a really nice time. Very girly. We ate little sandwiches and salads, and made Margaret open her presents for all to see. Who knew that garbage cans could be so entertaining? But they were.
As soon as the shower was over, I had to get home and prepare for the evening's activity, a Fred's Team potluck dinner at Rich's apartment. It's where we had that great brunch after one of the longer races, the Tune-Up, I think. Anyways, it was so nice. About a dozen people were there, and who knew that there were some great cooks in the group? Not wanting to kill people, I brought salad. It was also Lucy's birthday, so we had 2 cakes (Karen made a homemade strawberry shortcake, and I had to ignore my lactose intolerance to have some of that!) as well as some killer chocolate-chip cookies and the real surprise of the evening, Martin's -- well, I'm not sure what to call them. They were little squares, the top half was solid dark chocolate, the bottom half was a combination of Rice Krispys and melted Milky Ways. Oh. My. Gawd. They were the most decadently and devastatingly amazing concoction. It was difficult to limit myself to just one (but I did, sigh.) Martin is Scottish, and apparently this dessert is a Scottish invention. I remember when Lynn (also Scottish) brought those Scottish candies to our workout, and if it's possible to add sugar TO sugar, that's what these candies were. What is it with the Scots? I asked if Scottish children were prone to hyperactivity and the two simultaneously said yes. Wonder why?

Anyways, great people, great conversations (some not even about running!) and just a great day. I hope y'all had an equally good one.