Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year, and God Bless Hand Warmers!

Happy new year to you all!

So, my blogging new year's resolution is to, obviously, blog more. The best thing to do is probably to do shorter entries, more frequently. This will probably not be a shorter entry, as there is much to tell you. But in the future.

I'm writing this on my steno machine. Another resolution is to practice more. This ain't really practice, since it's not at speed. But at least it's something. I've been doing transcriptions for a friend's transcription company to make some extra money, using the machine. I get an audio file and transcribe it into English. So far I've done a few episodes of "People's Court," some craft shows, a few foreign movies (in English, of course) including one that was a woman reading letters from her friend who was obsessed with Japan -- good fun Googling those names -- and a soft-core porn film whose name I will not tell you, for fear that you might actually watch it some day and see my captions and think I did a bad job, as if anyone watching a porn film actually would look at the captions, even if they're deaf.

Anyway, I count transcription as practice, and I did six transcripts over the break.

But let's talk about why you're really here, and that's because you are one of my running friends and want to know about my running. First of all, let me say that I have been incredibly lazy about recording my workouts on Buckeye Outdoors. Though I have not been doing anything consistently, I have been doing something. Some time at the gym, some time on the road. In fact, today would have been a perfect day for a run. Alas, I am stuck inside, nursing a cold and my first bladder infection of the new year. Some things never change. Too much information!
I have been running, but I've noticed that my endurance is shot. Last year I was able to bounce back and did a 15 K just a few weeks after the marathon. Not so much this year. The longest I've done is the loop, or six miles. I was supposed to do the Miami Half Marathon this month, but I'm not prepared at all. Besides, I never got a hotel room or plane tickets, never got a hotel room or plane tickets, since I thought I'd be working down there again at this time. Not so. That sucks, especially since I have a bunch of friends who are doing the race, and it would have been fun to be with them. I need to defer until next year.

It's also taking longer for me to redevelop my desire to run without having a race to train for. I do enjoy it once I'm out there, but getting out there that has been increasingly difficult. If I can make an excuse, I will. Shame shame. Well, I will say the bladder is not an excuse. I actually did research to see if it would be a bad thing to run with one, but since just going up and down the stairs is painful, that quashes that. I have a call in to my doctor. Way to start the New Year right!

That being said, I have been running, and I did run a few races that I wanted to tell you about. The first is the Race To Deliver. It's sponsored by Gods Love We Deliver, an organization that delivers hot, nutritious meals to homebound people with AIDS, cancer, Alzheimers, and other serious illnesses where a person can't feed themselves properly. I've volunteered with them, my ex-roomie (sigh) Laura both volunteered for them for over ten years and worked for them in the office before joining the Foreign Service, and my current roomie Bill works for them. How could I not run this race? It's only a couple of weeks after the marathon, but it's a four-miler. I ran it using the New Balance sneakers that I was testing. I didn't do too terribly well -- finishing in 34: 35, or an 8:38-minute mile. I'm capable of 8: 10, 8:20 miles for a 4-miler. Some of that I chalk up to the shoes -- if you are a faithful reader (and if you are, you must be a member of my family!) you'll remember that one of the problems I had with the shoes was their weight. They really wore my legs out. Some of it, though, I blame on not being as well prepared as last year. And I do admit it, I wasn't as prepared going into this year's marathon. Too many other things eating up my time. I didn't get enough miles in, and I didn't cross-train enough. And, let's face it, folks, I'm old, and it takes me longer to bounce back than it did even a year ago. Blast ye, women's issues!

This race was super-crowded, as it's one of the races near the end of the year, and people realize that they need their nine races just a little too late in the year. The last few races of the year are traditionally overcrowded. But that's okay, if the race is for a good cause, at least I think so. It took me nearly ten minutes to cross the start line. Wow. But I like this race. There are a lot of people who run it specifically for Gods Love, as opposed to those who are running it to get their nine races in, so I am a little more charitable when it comes to people starting with the 8-minute milers who should be with the 11-minute milers. Just a little. Joan Rivers was not there this year, or if she was, I was so far back in the pack that I didn't hear or see her. She usually leads off the race with some off-color jokes -- always a treat at 9 a.m., and with hundreds of kids there doing the kids' races. But she's a devoted volunteer for GLWD, and if you are a "Celebrity Apprentice" watcher, she's on the next edition, playing for GLWD. And if you're not a watcher, become one.

The next race wasn't a sanctioned race. It was the Second Annual Doug Stern Jingle Bell Run. This is organized by Mike Keohane, a running coach in the area who was good friends with Doug. Doug was a legendary swim coach, and taught many runners and triathletes. He died two years ago of kidney cancer, and Mike organized the first run last year in his honor as a benefit for MSKCC. Our coach Jeff was also a good friend of Doug's, so when he asked us to run last year, it was a no-brainer. Last year's run was two loops of the Res. It was a day or two after a big snow and ice storm, or something like that. I remember it was extremely icy and also very muddy and wet in spots. We all got soaked and dirty. Fortunately, our baggage drop-off and after-party was at the 89th St. Super Runners Shop, where we could conveniently buy dry clothes! That's not the reason they had the party, but you must admit, it was very handy.

This year the race would be a relay around the Great Hill. That's the hill at the north end of the park. Teams of four. Once again, the weather chose not to cooperate. It was snowing and frigid by the time we headed out, and we had to go from 89th St. to 102 St. instead of just heading a few blocks west to the 89th St. park entrance. Still, at least 50 people ventured out from the store, jingle bells secured to sneakers and hats.

Here's the problem with a relay race. When it's freezing out and you're not running, you're, well, freezing. The first person who ran was warm through their run and the next person's run, then they started to get cold again. The second person had their warmth through the last person. The last two people didn't stand a chance against the elements. You were going to be cold no matter what. I was third. While I did warm up a little during my lap, I never really got warm. And poor Michelle, who ran fourth, never got warm at all. But it was for a good cause, and even though we were cold, we had a good time. I don't think I've ever run that hill faster. I wanted to both warm up and finish so badly!! David S. ran in shorts, of course, and finished the race by rolling in the snow.

Interesting side note --Doug was also very good friends with my father's law partner. I bought him a commemorative T-shirt and brought it to him the next day, along with the bells (my dad bought bells for himself and for Michael.) Michael got very emotional, and told me stories about Doug that made me sad that I didn't know him. He sounds like a great guy, and the world is only this big.

Last and certainly not least, the New Years run, or the Emerald Nuts New Years Eve Run, if you want to get picky. Once again, after many days of beautiful weather, it was predicted that the evening would be around zero, and that's before the wind chill. What a great night for a run! Of course, last year I did my run by myself around the parking lot in my grandparents' condo in Florida, since no one I knew was having a party, but I'm not sure if this counts as an improvement.

We started the evening off at Rich's new apartment, which is lovely. Most of the talk was, are you going to do it? Are you going to do it? How many layers are you wearing? Are you wearing pants? etc. The plan was to get there as close to the start time as possible, run as a group, stop at the mile two champagne table for a toast, and finish, heading immediately back to Rich's. There's DJs at the bandshell and dancing, and aside from the champagne, which isn't really all that alcoholic, it's a no-alcohol event. Not that I'm opposed to alcohol, but it's a relief to not have to put up with drunken fools the entire night, and it's actually a lot of fun. With the temperature being as cold as it was, though, nobody wanted to linger there before or after.

Since nobody wanted to be a wuss except for Ann, who was legitimately sick and bowed out, the rest of us suited up and headed out.

And here is where I MUST thank Ashley for her ingenius decision to bring a bunch of hand warmers to the party. Oh, man, did they ever come in handy. Brilliant! They worked like a dream!

We pulled up to the event just as people were heading into the transverse to line up for the run, so instead of heading over to the bandshell, we ended up almost at the front of the line, right in front of the speaker's platform. We huddled there for a few minutes, and then the count down began -- ten, nine, eight, seven, you know the rest.

At the stroke of midnight, BOOM, the fireworks started and we were off! The one bad thing about the run is that unless you are super-speedy, you are going to be running the majority of the race heading away from the fireworks, which sucks, because it's an amazing display. Two years ago, after my foot surgery, I volunteered for this race, and I got to watch the whole thing practically right underneath it. Ash was falling on my head. It was cool!

Speaking of cool, of course, we all realized as we started out that we were woefully overdressed. Even David was wearing pants! I had on two pairs of pants, an Under Armour summer weight long sleeve shirt, two more thermal shirts, a sweatshirt, hat and gloves. I started overheating around mile one, but there was nothing much I could do. I was too overstuffed to get the sweatshirt off. Besides, I figured I'd get cold pretty fast if I did take it off.

As promised, we ran basically as a group -- there were about ten of us, though we lost a couple of teammates when they went to the baggage check -- until we hit the mile two marker. We headed for the water table first, and the water was all frozen in the cups. Then we moved over to the champagne table, and it had turned to frozen slush in the cup, too. Remember, alcohol doesn't freeze, which gives you an idea of the amount of alcohol in the champagne. There was a camera crew there either from "Running" (the local cable show about running) or CNN, who captured our group toast and a shot of Rich and Lynn kissing, which they happily repeated for the cameras when requested.

We split off a little for the last two miles -- we had been going at the pace of the slowest person in the group, which was me. Some of the group did pull ahead after the toast and we lost them. But we chugged along, and I'm grateful that they all hung back with me as I tried to go as fast is I could without turning it into a chore.

As we neared the finish line, we all grabbed hands, which was great, but ouch, those hand warmers started to burn! We crossed the finish line hand in hand in hand in hand in hand. A great way to start off the year.

On the way home from Rich's I took a pitstop at the P & G bar to say hello to my friends there. It is their last New Years there, as they will be moving to bigger and better digs in the near future. The party was still in full swing at 2:00 a.m.

Happy New Years, and here's to a great 2009!

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