Sunday, January 31, 2016

January mileage

For this entire month I've wondered if I was going to continue doing these posts.  The whole point was to track my mileage to 2,014 miles in 2014, and then when I failed that, I kept up the habit for 2,015 miles in 2,015.

I eventually decided that I wanted to keep doing these posts for my own record keeping.  The mileage this year won't come close to the insane totals of last year, but here goes:

January: 59

Saturday, January 30, 2016

5 year blogiversary

If you understand this reference, congratulations; we are soul mates.

5 years ago, while in New York visiting a friend, I went over to Central Park for a Saturday morning run put together by blogger Ben Davis.  After running, we all sat and got to know each other over breakfast, and I quickly found out I was one of the few people there without a blog.  I had written blogs before, and had long since toyed with the idea of starting a running blog, but had never gotten around to it.  Peer pressure won out, and the next day I sat down to write my first entry on this blog.

I had no idea what to call my blog, as most of the good running names and/or puns had already been taken.  Taking inspiration from a sign I'd seen at a race recently, I went with I Thought They Said Rum.

A lot has changed in the last five years.  I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, and a few months later started dating Stevie.  I started my current full time job as a high school German teacher, Stevie and I got engaged, got married, moved into a duplex across town, then had a son.  All the while, I continued to blog, mostly about running but with the occasional life update thrown in.

I've pushed myself towards different running goals over the years, striving for PR's in various distances.  I've weighed in on topics in the running world over the years, such as the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the death of two runners at the Philadelphia Marathon, or that perennially thorny issue of the two terms "running" and "jogging."

I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish more people read my blog.  I would love the perks of blogging that other bloggers enjoy, like free shoes or even free trips to races, but at the end of the day I keep up with this blog because I simply love to run and write.  Any readership I've gained over the years, however small, is simply a welcome bonus.

I can't imagine the blog will change a whole lot over the coming years.  I wish I had the time to update the look of the blog, maybe even change the name, create better graphics, come up with more interesting content, but it'll probably be business as usual for the foreseeable future. I'll continue to run races and blog about them, weigh in on issues facing the running world, and update you with tidbits of my life. If you've been with me for any or all of this journey, thanks for reading, and I do hope you'll stick around.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

John Updike's Rabbit, Run

Do me a favor.  Stop reading this ridiculous blog and think for a moment about the last book to stick with you long after you read it.

All set?  Good, now continue reading this ridiculous blog.  What about this book made it stick with you?  Was it the richly realized details of the story?  Did you relate to the story or characters in any way?  Was it the style of writing that grabbed you?

For me, the book that comes to mind is Rabbit, Run by John Updike.  I read it last fall and now, several months later, I still find myself thinking back to the events of this book.  The title was what originally grabbed me, for obvious reasons, but now it's the amazing writing that I can't shake.

Written in 1960, the book details a few months in the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a 26-year-old former high school basketball star who continually runs from his problems.  This book spawned many sequels, two of which won the Pullitzer Prize for fiction.

My habit last fall was to wake up at 4am, then read on the couch for an hour with cup of tea in hand before heading out to run anywhere from 5 to ten miles.  This is one of the books I read during those dark morning hours alone downstairs, and one that I reflected on during the long hard miles on the roads afterwards.

In the following passage, Rabbit has abandoned his wife for the second time shortly after the birth of their daughter.  Distraught over his departure, his wife, who has long flirted with alcoholism, proceeds to drink too much whiskey while trying to give their newborn baby a bath:

"The wavery gray line of the water is almost up to the lip of the tub.  On the skin quick wrinkles wander and under it a deep mass waits colorless.  She wishes she could have the bath.  Brimful of composure she returns to the living room.  She tips too much trying to dig the tiny rubbery thing out of the chair so she drops to her knees and scoops Rebecca into her arms and carries her into the bathroom held sideways against her breasts.  She is proud to be carrying this to completion; at least the baby will be clean when Mother comes.  She drops gently to her knees by the big calm tub and does not expect her sleeves to be soaked.  The water wraps around her forearms like two huge hands; under her eyes the pink baby sinks down like a gray stone. 
With a sob of protest she grapples for the child but the water pushes up at her hands, her bathrobe tends to float, and the slippery thing squirms in the sudden opacity.  She has a hold, feels a heartbeat on her thumb, and then loses it, and the skin of the water leaps with pale refracted oblongs that she can't seize the solid of; it is only a moment, but a moment dragged out in a thicker time.  Then she has Becky squeezed in her hands and it is all right.
She lifts the living thing into the air and hugs it against her sopping chest.  Water pours off them onto the bathroom tiles.  The little weightless body flops against her neck and a quick look of relief at the baby's face gives a fantastic clotted impression.  A contorted memory of how they give artificial respiration pumps Janice's cold wet arms in frantic rhythmic hugs; under her clenched lids great scarlet prayers arise, wordless, monotonous, and she seems to be clasping the knees of a vast third person whose name, Father, Father, beats against her head like physical blows.  Though her wild heart bathes the universe in red, no spark kindles in the space between her arms; for all of her pouring prayers she doesn't feel the faintest tremor of an answer in the darkness against her.  Her sense of the third person with them widens enormously, and she knows, knows, while knocks sound at the door, that the worst thing that has ever happened to any woman in the world has happened to her."

The book was magnificent, but it's this passage that really takes it home.  Never before in my life have I been so thoroughly punched in the soul by a piece of writing.  The heartbreaking imagery of a woman manically clinging to hope, and the torture of acceptance that she faces at the end, and the morbid thought of what it would be like to be in her situation and lose my son... Let's just say I was moved.

The day I start writing like that is the day I may just give up writing altogether, because I want to go out on top.

Enjoy the book recommendation, folks.  Now I'm off to read the ten sequels.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Day 2016

Yesterday was one of the most perfect days I've had in awhile, so I thought I would record it for posterity.

The snow started on Friday night and was still going strong yesterday morning.  We woke up around 6:30am which is pretty standard for us and sat leisurely on the couch for an hour or so with coffee and chai.  My only lament was the timing of the storm - had it happened on a school night, I most definitely would have had a day off of work today.  Let's face it - teachers love snow days even more than the students.

Soon one of our neighbors pulled out his ATV with attached plow and began plowing everyone's sidewalks, and everyone else came out to begin shoveling their driveways and clearing off their cars.  The snow was still coming down strong, but it was a great sense of community bonding to see everyone out there in the shared struggle.

After clearing out our driveway and cars, I came back in and made myself an epic breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast (from homemade bread), and bacon.

In the afternoon Stevie, Neale and I all bundled up and went outside to play in the snow.  We played with him in the snow drifts out front, then brought him to the pristine snow in the backyard and pulled him around on a sled.

He seemed rather nonplussed by the whole episode.

Following the romping in the snow, we came inside and relaxed more on the couch, this time with hot chocolate.  Neale got to try hot chocolate for the first time in his life, and Stevie and I added a shot of Bailey's to ours.

After we put Neale to bed, we got dressed again and ran around out in the backyard some more and enjoyed the winter twilight sky only a snowstorm can produce.  When we came back in, we poured ourselves some Harpoon Winter Warmers and moved down to the basement where we set up a tent on the floor and talked for awhile.

It truly was a perfect winter day, enjoyed all the more for not having to finish a ten mile training run like so many days in the past.  Days like yesterday, filled with winter activities and over a foot of snow, are so good for my soul, and I already can't wait for the next snowstorm.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Coffee date

Let's catch up, shall we?

  • I'm back in NJ and back to work, as the picture might suggest.
  • I need a haircut.
  • I had another student teacher working with me for the last two weeks.  I brought her a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts on her first day and neglected to tell her my cup had vanilla chai in it.  The next day she returned the favor, though I didn't have the heart to tell her I don't like coffee.
  • Yes I'm still streaking.
  • I haven't raced since the Turkey Trot in November.  
  • My mileage hasn't gone above seven miles since the marathon.  Most days it's just a single mile.
  • I don't want to think about how much fitness I lost during the holidays or how much weight I gained.
  • I'm pretty excited I don't have a major race coming up this spring, which means I don't have to train so hard in awful winter conditions again.  With my luck, though, this will be a mild winter with barely any snow.
  • The 2,015 in 2015 challenge I was a part of last year is happening again this year. I constantly see articles about it on running and fitness websites and it's even being promoted by some of the bigger running bloggers I follow.  For the first time in my life, it seems I was a part of something before it became popular.
  • I'm not taking part in the 2,016 in 2016 challenge.
  • I recently submitted a piece of writing to a running magazine (not Runner's World), and less than 24 hours later they e-mailed me back saying they would love to publish it.  Seeing as the last (and only) time I've published a piece of writing they took almost two years to get back to me, I'd say this is an improvement.
  • Unfortunately, unlike last time, there is no pay for this one.  A trusted freelance friend from high school is always saying to never work for free, but I guess I'll make an exception this time.  The piece will appear at the end of February, and I'm sure I'll make a big deal about it then.
  • A history teacher at my school is leading a trip to Washington, D.C. next month to visit the Holocaust Museum, and I might get the chance to come along to help chaperone.  I'm very excited at this prospect (inasmuch as one can be excited to spend the whole day thinking about mass genocide) because I've never been to the Holocaust Museum and I'm sure it will be fascinating, albeit depressing.
  • What's new with you?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Everglades National Park

Happy New Year!

Last year Stevie and I barely even made it to 9pm before calling it a night.  This year we did a little better and called it quits just before midnight.  The good thing about being boring parents and going to bed early and barely drinking anything is not having to wake up tired and hungover.

We decided to start the new year off right with a trip to Everglades National Park, about an hour away from Stevie's childhood home near Fort Lauderdale.  Stevie's mother watched Neale for us while we stole her car and made the drive west.

I'm a bit of a National Parks fanatic, but being from the northeast, I don't get my chance to visit many of them.  We come down to Florida once or twice a year to visit Stevie's family, and I'd been lobbying for a side trip to the Everglades for years, and so I was pretty excited to visit today.

Our first stop was a commercial outfit that provided airboat tours, kitchy alligator souvenirs and alligator wrestling demonstrations.

I even got to hold an alligator:

Our second stop was at a restaurant that served fried alligator and frog legs.

Our last stop of the day was at an official national park visitors' center where we went for a walk and saw a lot of wild alligators, including many baby alligators.

This last stop included a brochure on the Everglades complete with a detailed map.  I realized we only scratched the surface of the park today, and I'm now a bit obsessed with coming back and exploring more, perhaps even camping on the beach sometime.

The good news is, after today's experiences, Stevie now tells me I'm an honorary Floridian.
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