Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Dublin Bandit

It started with a Facebook post, telling the world that I was in Dublin.  An old camp friend named Ray who works in Dublin saw the post and invited me for a drink downtown.  One drink turned into several, as they so often do, and in the course of the night he mentioned a 5 mile race (Irish Runner 5 Mile) he was doing the next day.  I asked if I could still sign up, but online registration had closed and there was no day-of registration.  I would have to bandit.

After drinks with Ray, it wasn't long before I found myself as the only American at a Brazilian ex-pat party near Christ Church, drinking and singing along to Brazilian folk songs I didn't know the words to...

I finally made it back to my couchsurfing host's place by 1am.  Up at 9:00 and out the door by 9:15.  I had to run from Croke Park to Phoenix Park where the race was being held and I was to meet Ray at bag check.  Ray had failed to tell me the race was on the other side of the park, so it took me longer to run there (all told it was about 3 or 4 miles).  Ray had waited for me as long as he could but had to jump into the starting chute.  I made it to the starting chute just as the race was starting but couldn't find him, so I jumped in at the very back of the pack and just started running.

It was a lovely course through the park, with a few hills and intermittent rain, and quite a change of pace (literally) to be running at the back of the pack.

I finally caught up to Ray around mile 3.5 when I unknowingly passed him and he called out my name.  We ran together for the rest of the race, Ray stopping occasionally to walk due to shin splints.

The runner and the bandit

After crossing the finish line, I was kicked out of the finisher's chute because they were handing out bottles of sports drink and finishers' shirts, though I wouldn't have taken anything anyway, being a bandit.

We caught up with Ray's girlfriend, her sister and her mother, and then caught a ride back to my couchsurfer's place.

It was a great morning, roughly 8 miles total, running with an old friend, my second ever international race, and a great start to my trip this summer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

rooftop cookout

Cooking turkey burgers and drinking beer on the roof with my dad, while Stevie and my stepmom Debbie wait downstairs drinking wine.

Leaving for Europe tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend in North Jersey

Spent the weekend in North Jersey with Stevie, and on Friday I crossed item #7 off my bucket list: "visit a nudist resort."

No seriously.

Stevie and I spent the night at the Rock Lodge Nudist Club and did several activities in the buff, including but not limited to: ping pong, swimming, hiking, and getting to know an awful lot of old hippies.  I also did a 20 minute trail run wearing nothing but socks and shoes.  Pictures, I'm sure you're sorry to hear, are not forthcoming.

We also camped out on Saturday, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, and on Sunday we completed 8 incredibly rocky miles of the Appalachian Trail.

It was a fantastic, active weekend.

Stevie playing with fire

At the end of an 8 mile hike on the AT

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Life on the Run

I finally have more time on my hands to spend on reading, so first up is Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run.

I read it nearly in one sitting.  It's an enjoyable book by one of the best known guys in running, and creator of the infamous Yasso 800's (a training session I have yet to implement, but will probably try when the next marathon rolls around).  While never a powerhouse runner along the lines of Dick Beardsley or Alberto Salazar, Bart Yasso is nevertheless a talented runner with a great personal history in the sport, making the book and his recollections truly entertaining.

As a runner, any running book I read leaves me wanting to sign up for the next race I can find, and this book is no different.  But reading this book left me more jealous than anything.  Bart Yasso is a man whose job combines running, writing and traveling.  He has traveled all over the world for various races while writing about them for Runner's World.  What could possibly be better than that?

In the meantime, I'm preparing for my own bout of traveling.  I'm leaving next week for Europe; starting in Ireland and making my way east through England, Germany, and hopefully finishing in Turkey.  I'll be sure to blog as much as I can, and will hopefully do some running over there as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My future with 26.2

About to finish the Sugarloaf Marathon, one month ago

One month ago today I ran the 2012 Sugarloaf Marathon, but it was clear going into it that I was fairly burned out from running.

Last fall I posted my YouTube video on the one year anniversary of qualifying for Boston.  Stevie had never seen the video, and like many, she remarked on the elation seen on my face the moment I crossed the finish line.  She encouraged me to try again, and that encouragement was a large factor in my decision to once again train for Boston.  Unfortunately it didn't pan out the way I'd hoped.

Marathoning takes extreme dedication, hard work and sacrifice, even more so when attempting to qualify for Boston.  It's easy to say it's all worth it when you only have to go through it once. Two years ago I made one serious go at Boston and made it on the first try.  I also didn't have a full time job, and my girlfriend at the time lived an hour away.  Now everything has changed.  I'm a full time high school teacher, I have a live-in girlfriend, the qualifying time is now five minutes faster, and simply put, I'm wary of dedicating training cycle after training cycle to chase this dream, in the process straining Stevie's patience and my own sanity.  Boston is something I still desperately want to achieve, but if all I accomplish through training is to make myself miserable, then what's the point?

At the moment, the plan is to replicate my training from two years ago.  That means running the Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half in September, the Atlantic City Marathon in October, and then the Philly Marathon in November.  This may be a last ditch effort before I finally put away marathoning for awhile and stick with shorter distances.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My first yoga class

Just after finishing my first yoga class

Now that school is out, I have to find more ways to fill my time.  Stevie invited me to come to her weekly yoga session this morning, and since I'll try anything once, I joined her and several other ladies for an hour of stretching.

It was pretty much everything I expected - all women, new age music playing, faint smell of incense, and an instructor telling us in a soothing voice to "find that place in your body that produces fear... Maybe go there a little."

I was pretty bad at it, too.  Despite being a former gymnast/diver, and a current runner, I'm about as inflexible as you can get and always have been.  I had to modify several poses during the class.

I also couldn't stop thinking of this episode of "Penn & Teller: Bullshit":

It's a show in which two Las Vegas magicians call bullshit on different aspects of American culture and take those responsible for it to task.  Though I wouldn't go so far as to call yoga bullshit - if yoga has a positive impact on your mental and physical well-being then have at it - I think it's obvious that yoga isn't for me, though all told, I'm glad I gave it a try.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

End-of-year party

I decided drinking champagne wasn't enough of a celebration to mark the end of the school year, so I invited some theaterfolk over last night.

Scene from a party (and a half-finished mural)

It was nice to cut loose and not have to worry about a stack of papers/tests to grade the next day, or 20 miles to run.

I made a giant vat of my vegetarian chili and played bartender all night.  Only one person ended up hugging the toilet and the rest of us ended up on the roof at 1am.  

Party success. 

2 am: the aftermath

Friday, June 15, 2012

School's out for summer

Celebrating the end of the school year

Last day of the school year today.  The last two weeks in particular were rather tough as I prepared for finals week, so as soon as I got home this afternoon I went on the roof with Stevie and a bottle of champagne.  I fired the cork well out of sight, poured two glasses, and then chugged from the bottle instead.  We spent an hour or so on the roof, Stevie listening as I voiced the pros and cons of the year and what I plan to change next year.  It was nice to think out loud and process all that I had just been through.  My first year was certainly challenging, but not without its rewards.

Tonight at graduation, my five seniors all found me after the ceremony and we took a group photo, then had a group hug before parting ways.

And tonight I received an e-mail from a parent/fellow teacher:

"Scott, thank you for everything this year in regards to my son.  He speaks highly of you and enjoyed your class.  Have a great summer."

And now, I relax, and enjoy some time off.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Back Flip Day

A small but vocal contingent of students in my study hall have been pestering me all year to do a back flip at school.  At some point I promised them that I would do it before the end of the year.

They did not forget this promise.

Because today was the last day of classes (final exams next week), it was marked as "back flip day."  Ever a man of my word, I brought my gym clothes to school today, and we all took a little field trip to the nearby grass.

Not quite as good as the time I did a back flip in a 5th grade classroom as a reward for all of them doing their math homework, but good enough.

And here is a video one of the students took on his iPhone and then e-mailed to me:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The return of Do Life

The last time I wrote about Do Life, I was encouraging some of my students to check out Ben Davis and his video.  These days, I'm not so sure.

Photos by Suze

I went to the Philly 5k tonight because Suze was going, but the truth is I've lost a lot of interest in Ben Davis and his Do Life Movement.

Ben's achievement still stands: losing over 120 lbs. through running and racing, while overcoming a deep depression, is certainly laudable.  It was this story that galvanized a fanbase and began the Do Life Movement.  While I stress that Ben is a great guy, my issue is that he seems content to milk this one achievement for all it is worth.  He spent ages in college and then immediately thereafter boarded the gravy train, never learning the discipline and responsibility one acquires with a real job.  What Ben did is certainly inspiring, but nothing he is currently doing is inspiring.  Grandly announcing new plans, then failing to follow through, charging followers money for poorly thought-out challenges, gaining nearly 40 lbs. back while writing a book on weight-loss...  Most will cut him a break and say he is only human, but I say that if you want the job of fitness role model and source of inspiration for thousands, and earn money from it, you need to be held to a higher set of standards.  Frankly, and I know how harsh this sounds, but if I was as bad at my job as he is at his, I would have been fired long ago.

The last straw came a month ago when he decided to run the Lincoln Marathon.  The day before.  After having blown off training all spring.  Sorry, but nothing about a 6 hour marathon on no training is inspiring.  In my opinion, the marathon should be a celebration of months of hard work, not a decision born of peer-pressure the day before.  I've been told I tend to put the marathon on a pedestal, but so be it.

The 5k, incidentally, was certainly enjoyable.  We started at Eakins Oval, near the art museum, ran out and back along the Kelly Drive, and finished up the museum steps as per tradition.  It was a gorgeous evening, only my second time running since the Sugarloaf Marathon nearly three weeks ago, and I felt renewed doing circuits up and down the steps, watching the skyline rise and fall in a rhythmic procession of hearbeats and breaths, doing life, being my own inspiration.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A surfeit of athletes

According to an article in the current issue of The Economist, "Kenyans have an abundance of marathon runners."  If you know anything about marathoning, that's kind of like saying the ocean has an abundance of water.  Or a bar has an abundance of liquor.  Or The Economist has an abundance of non-athlete subscribers.

You get the idea.

Apparently with so much talent in the country, they've had trouble narrowing the field to three men and three women for the Olympic Marathon this summer.  Even Patrick Makau, who set the world record in Berlin last September, didn't make the team.  That's like holding auditions for a Beatles tribute band and Paul McCartney not making the cut.  That's like holding a hot dog eating contest and not letting Kim Kardashian enter.

Thanks folks, I'll be here all week.
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