Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'd look awesome in Dri-Fit and puka shells.

So I'm turning 40 in January (audible gasps, I know it's simply unbelievable), which is kind of a big deal in my family.

Call it our really effed up preoccupation with aging (we think birthdays that deserve black balloons are cool, not an excuse for locking yourself in a closet with a bottle of pills), but everyone who has turned 40 has had a blowout party that we all make, no matter where we're located. We all flew to Minnesota for my sister's 40th (props to us for making that trip in January, eh? It's like the frozen freaking tundra. I have never been so cold in all my life.) and we flew home to California for my brother's 40th as my sister-in-law Trish threw him a huge surprise party ... huge as in hundreds of people and a commercial margarita machine. Because every awesome party has a margarita machine.

We do these things big. So 6 months out, Trish has already started bugging Mike about what we're doing for mine. Now by contrast, Mike and I are total last-minute planners. I think I threw together Mike's 40th (I got the 'aging ROCKS!' gene and embarrassed him with a surprise party, complete with Mike masks. He hated every second of it, which thrilled me to no end) in about two weeks. I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying, this is who we are. Trish went on to explain that they are trying to plan a work/family trip to Hawaii in January, so they didn't want a conflict with my birthday.

I gave it about 43 seconds of thought before I Googled "marathon" and "January 16 2011." Imagine my surprise when I found one ... in Hawaii. No joke, the Maui Paradise Marathon, held on my 40th birthday. Could it be that we could get the whole family together in tropical paradise for the big 4-0? Upon reading through the website, however, there was this small note:


June 30, 2010, Aloha! While conditions are improving on Maui, unfortunately they are still not conducive to putting on a world class marathon, half marathon, and 5K events for Sunday, January 16, 2011. Runners and participants deserve the best when coming to Maui. Unless the MPM team can guarantee that to its participants, they will not hold the event as much as they would like to do that for all of you who want to come to Maui to run/walk and combine it with a first class vacation. Therefore, the January 16, 2011 event will not be held on a formal basis.


What?! Not held?! Do you know what January 16th is?! Okay, call me dense, but I refused to believe that a few potholes would delay an entire marathon on my birthday. Don't they know who I am?

I emailed the head of the MPM, who promptly responded with an "Aloha, Cindy!" (Let me just say here that I want to live in a place where you have an alternative to "hello." Yes, one could make the argument that "Hey, asshole! Move your truck!" is the official greeting of New York City. But if you're looking for warm and fuzzy with a hint of exotic, Hawaii's version of "hello" is for you. And if you say "hello" back, they know you're not from there. Love that!)

Anyway, he tells me that yes, they've decided to hold off on an "official" MPM. But behold the rest of his email:


Aloha Cindy. Sorry for the delay in responding but we were doing some things that might have an effect for January but nothing happened to change it. There will be no formal event at this point. However, we are going to start gathering names of those who might want to do a group type run, informal if you will. Means you would need to carry your own supplies, no cops, none of the things with a formal race. However, if we get enough to do it, I will see about getting finisher's shirts and medals and then have a low fee to cover those items. Couple other things could go along with it but in effect, it would be very low keyed.

We can always do a special birthday party run for you and your family! We have the course laid out so you could easily enough do it. I fully understand why you would want to do something like that seeing how it also is a new age group! For us runners, those are the only birthdays to celebrate.


He then signed off with a "mahalo" for my interest. (I might start using "mahalo" in grocery stores and banks. Do you think people in Manhattan would think me odd? Or perhaps just recently returned from the islands and not yet grasping being stateside again?)

Even though it seemed improbable that there would be an island marathon for me to run on my 40th birthday, I couldn't get over how touched I was that a running club on the other side of the Earth was willing to basically throw something together for me. Okay, so it wasn't just for me ... and yes, they would dig having a bunch of tourists on their island spending money ... but it all goes back to this weird runner's kinship that I've often tried to describe.

My favorite story since beginning this odyssey is still when Mike gave up his shoes to the runner at the Queens Half Marathon last year. (And if you don't know the story, read it here. You won't be disappointed.) Although Mike isn't a runner, he gave them up without thinking twice. But what I might love more is that the dude who asked for them - thought nothing of doing so, assuming that everyone at the race that day was of like mind.

I'm reminded of my friend Erin. She's a high school friend and in my group of girls who have managed to stay close all these years despite careers, husbands, children, diverging interests and miles in between.

On paper, Erin and I couldn't be more different. Her politics are conservative and she's a Sarah Palin fan; I studied at Berkeley and think Bill Clinton was the Second Coming. She's heavily involved in her church community; I'm a "twice a year"-er whose church prayers usually begin with, "crap, God ... sorry it's been so long." I drink and swear like a sailor; the hardest thing I've seen her drink was an ice tea with a shot of Splenda. Although we've known each other for over 20 years, sometimes I imagine I appear to her as strange rebellious teen.

But our common ground is running. Erin is an avid runner and has finished - and finished well - many marathons. Here she is during the San Francisco Marathon this past weekend. Oh, and she did it as a training run. Show off.

Erin is currently training for New York in November. When she got in through the lottery, I was as happy as if I had gotten in myself. She got in, along with a girlfriend, and they would be travelling cross-country to run one of the greatest marathons in the world. Would Mike and I be able to house a couple of runners come the first weekend in November? Of course, I replied. There were disclaimers: there will be an airbed involved, and most certainly a shihtzu staring at your face every morning, but if you can handle it, then mi apartamento es su apartamento. This is what runners do.

Our pasts are the reason we met - and our presents are diametrically opposed - yet going forward, I'm happy to have someone else in my life who understands the native tongue. We both speak the international language of "Holy crap, where's the stupid finish line already?!"

Mahalo for reading.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We ran 13.1 miles and all we got was this stinkin' wine glass.

Ah, but you know me too well. That beautiful glass was rarely empty!

Yes, we did it. Kerry finished her first half-marathon ever. Me? The most enjoyable race I've ever run.

And then ... we drank a crapload of wine.

One cannot fully appreciate the finish however, without first understanding the beginning and the middle. In a word, the whole weekend kicked big ass.

Let me start at Friday. Kim and I coordinated so that we'd arrive SFO at the same time and cab in to Kerry's pad. The mere fact that Red left her three kids in the dust and came all the way up from San Diego to watch us run still boggles the mind. She also came up for my marathon last year. Hands down the best cheerleader-slash-friend a girl could ask for. I heart her.

Going back to my neurosis about finally having a decent Brightroom photo, we decided to paint the town red.

Then on to dinner with Lynette and Renee.

The next morning, I got up early to take a quick jaunt through Pacific Heights. Kerry lives right near the Presidio, which - for those of you not familiar with it - sits on an enormous hill. Frankly, the whole damned city does, but the Presidio is a particularly steep puppy. It's a beautiful park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge that's a joy to run through. Now, Mike and I lived just blocks from the Presidio and we also got married there. But sometimes? It's like my 11 years out of the city has erased all memory of its topography. About a quarter-mile down the first winding hill it dawned on me: I have to run back up this mother.

After walking back to Kerry's pad, we picked up Peet's and scones (and if you don't know of these things, I simply can't explain bliss in the course of a short blog) and all headed up to Napa along with CC.

A quick word about CC.

CC is one of Kerry's college friends and although I have heard about her for years, I didn't really get to know her until quite recently. She is, in short, a totally down girl. Supportive, sweet, ten tons of fun, and - for being 8 1/2 months pregnant - has a wicked body with totally toned arms. I secretly hate her.

But when Kerry told her she was running her first half marathon, there was no pause before CC started asking about hotel arrangements. Because there was no way she wouldn't be there to yell very loudly for her. That's the kind of girl she is. And I know this because that's the kind of girl Kerry is. Red's right up there, too. Girlfriends who want to make me be a better girlfriend.

How in the world they still want to hang with the bitchy, judgmental person I am, I have no idea.

So this was the expo where Kerry and I picked up our packets and our badass numbers. Can you see that I am just a number off being James Bond?

It's a beautiful venue that also happens to be where CC got married. Which is why Kerry thought it was fun to re-enact her role as bridesmaid.

Well, she thought it was funny.

We headed back to the hotel in Napa to hit the pool:

And then a great Italian joint to carb load:

And oh yes. This is a pregnant woman with a glass of wine. Deal with it.

Race morning, 5am.

Kerry said she tossed and turned all night. I slept like a rock. She seemed nervous. I was calm, steady, and being the BFF I am, most likely mocked her. In any event, we looked way cute in our new Lululemon getups.

Please note the pigtails. I told you people I was shaking things up for this race. Black clothing and single ponytails be damned!

So here's where I should say a little something about my promise to provide video. Yes, it's still coming. You'd think that because I do this for a living, I could figure out how to edit and upload my video easily. Not so much. So tune in later for totally exciting video clips.

We got bussed to the starting line at a nearby winery and the gun went off at about 7:15. We started out with one really killer hill ... only to be followed by a couple of miles of downhill. It was exhilarating. And when you finally see that video, you'll know what I mean.

Just before Mile 2, we spotted our cheer section: Kim and CC on the side of the road, camera snapping and both jumping up and down.

Yep, that's the Flip cam in my hand.

This is what the whole course looked like. Miles of vineyards and dirt roads with locals who had carried their chairs out to the ends of their driveways to cheer us on. A few had canisters of steaming hot coffee, settled in for the morning with their newspapers. Totally quaint and charming. So unlike me to like that.

At some point between Miles 4 and 5, Kerry nonchalantly popped her ear buds in. I had been attempting to just chatter away at her in hopes to keep her entertained. But I've heard me. My stories aren't that interesting. And at some point when I started remarking at the scenery, she (somewhat sarcastically) asked, "what are you talking about?"

When a glance at my watch at Mile 5 told us that we were running at just around 10 minute miles, she was visibly disappointed. I knew she wanted to pick up her speed, but she resolutely told me, "this is where I am." And with that, I felt like our run together was about to end.

It's the runner's dilemma. My normal pace is a bit faster than Kerry's. While I was having the best time running alongside her, something unspoken was happening. I started itching to go a little faster ... while Kerry started itching that she was holding me back. She wasn't. But in deference to her, I know that as long as I ran with her, she'd be thinking about it. And then we both would.

So I did what every really good person who strong-armed her friend into training for and then running a half-marathon would do. I took off and left her in the dust.

All right, no dust-leaving here. I'm not that fast. But I have to say, something kicked in that I have never before experienced.

Not sure if it was the scenery, the perfect running weather, the homespun crowds that yelled my name as I passed or the anticipation that as soon as I finished I could drink all the wine I wanted until noon ... but I started hauling. And I felt amazing - not once did I even enter the Bite Me Zone.

Knowing that I had been at around 10 minute miles, I did some quick calculating in my head and realized I could still go under 2 hours. Wouldn't be a PR, but maybe even better: my first negative split. Which means the second half would be faster than the first. I tore down the country roads. I off-roaded onto the shoulder to get around slower runners. (Oops, sorry about the dust! Should I leave a note?) I paced behind people, reeled them in, then smoked them.

I went sub-8:00 for nearly 7 miles. I don't do that.

And when I came into the finish chute, smile on my face and barely a sweat (yes! me! barely a sweat!), I knew what I had to do.

I found the dudes from Brightroom and I made sure I took a badass picture.

In the end? 1:58:33.

I picked up a cool medal:

And doubled back to the finish to watch Kerry cross at an amazing 2:11. Seriously? 2:11 for your first half-marathon? Insane. She was ecstatic, as she should have been.

We found CC and Kim at the Sonoma Square and headed to the wine festival.

2o wineries, all pouring ... free tastes. Oh, hello, Perfect Day ... have we met?

As if it couldn't get better, I got a great surprise. My mom and Ken drove up to surprise me at the finish!

I don't get to see them often, so it was great to spend even just a little time. So nice of them to come up to see us. Of course, they wine tasted too. (What do you think, I was brought up by wolves?) Hi Tina!

At noon we looked around and realized we had been the first ones to the tasting tables and were most likely now the last to leave. We took the final drops of the muscat being poured (it was noon, the cabernets went early and beggars can't be choosers) and headed for lunch. Great Mexican joint. Which means you're actually not allowed to eat without drinking margaritas. I think it's like Mexican law. Like if you don't follow it you're shot or something.

Thank god for pregnant friends. CC was our designated driver and our day was far from over. When she headed back home to San Francisco, the ruffians that Red, Kerry and I are went back to the Square for a little more wine tasting.

And somehow. Somehow. We managed to rally for cocktails and dinner at El Dorado Kitchen.

At the end of a day that began at 5am ... wound through 13.1 miles on our feet ... and through a lot of laughs and even more wine ... we crashed at our hotel, got breakfast in the morning and hit the road.

It was tough to say good bye to sunny Wine Country ...

Even a little tougher to say hello to my foggy San Francisco, knowing that I'd be soon boarding a plane back to New York.

Kerry drove Red and I back to SFO and the only thing that kept me from crying - other than the fact that my lack of emotion keeps me from activating any tear ducts I may have - is knowing that I'll see them again in a few weeks when we all head to Mexico.

I may have annoyed Kerry a tad when I emailed her like 28 hours after the race, excitedly telling her that we should register for the Healdsburg Wine Country Half in October. She used some excuse about doing a 65-mile bike race in September and the Nike Half in early October and most likely needing a rest. Blah blah blah. Whatever.

Maybe all I wanted is to once more capture the feeling I had on Sunday.

It's not often you have a perfect day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Let's face it, we're just in it for the wine.

I'm off!

Well, technically I am still sitting on the plane and people are still boarding. But as long as I have a bag packed and I am no longer in the apartment ... I consider that traveling.

The girls and I have been non-stop texting and emailing in the last few days, firming up all of our plans for the weekend in San Francisco and Napa. Kerry has decided to look at this as a girls weekend, replete with wine, food, sun and fun ... and then we'll squeeze in a small 13.1 run on Sunday morning. I think that's what's keeping her from freaking out a bit.

Me? I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.

Something interesting happens to me as I get closer to home. Something that really doesn't happen often in my everyday life, save for when I'm running a few quiet blocks early morning on Fifth Avenue, with only the sound of my Vomeros and a few doormen sweeping their front walkways.

I feel calm. Like this really amazing peace that overcomes me. Much of it is anticipation, but most is that intangible and indescribable feeling you get when you're going home. The feeling you get when you know how to navigate every highway, every street as you head to your destination.

So the whole half-marathon thing is, to me, totally secondary this weekend. I'm much more excited about enjoying every second with girlfriends who totally get me.

I'll try my best to blog in the next few days, but I'm making no promises. When I get together with these girls, we find our time is much better spent ... well, just spent together. I am, however, trying something new. I took my Flip camera and will be attempting to get a little video of Kerry and I at every mile. (While I thought this was a totally bitchin' idea, I discovered Kerry quietly updating her running playlist on iTunes, indicating to me that she will most likely tune me out. We'll see about that.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's not the heat. It's the humility.

Holy melted gum under my shoe, it's hot!

As in soupy, drippy, stagnant humidity that hangs in stifling 90+ degree temperatures. This is ridiculous, even for a pretty tough California girl familiar with 103-degree summers. But growing up in the Bay Area, if you complained about temps spiking over 100, people were like, "At least it's a 'dry heat'." And then I was all, "Omigod, huh? Like what do you mean?"

But now I totally get it!

Humidity was a foreign notion until I moved to NYC. Yet I have lived here long enough to now have a huge beef with the third "h." (TV weather people here think it's cute when it gets like this to call it "the three 'h's": hazy, hot and humid. Maybe they think fewer people will go nutso and punch random strangers if the weather has a moniker.)

Besides the obvious mind games humidity plays with my hair (I have many times been lulled into a sense of security while inside my apartment, thinking it was okay to use a hair dryer - only to walk out my front door and instantly turn into Rod Blagojevich on what he would consider a good hair day), it also turns on the sweat glands by like a thousandfold. And I have super active sweat glands. I sweat like no woman ever has before. I sweat so much that early on in my training with Lynne, I had to finally address it when my hands slipped off the mat during pushups. It was like my level of perspiration had become the big sweaty elephant in the gym. I tried to chuckle it off: "I bet I'm you're sweatiest client!" I knew when Lynne wouldn't meet my eyes and just gave me an unconvincing "No, not at all ..." that I had actually just become her sweatiest client.

I also sweat in the most adverse conditions to sweating. Like, say it's 15 degrees outside. I'm bundled up, shivering, walking to the 4/5/6, which is only a block from my apartment. By the time I get to the platform, heat will be emanating from my scalp. And by the time I am on the train, surrounded by huddled masses all trying to keep warm with body heat, I am maneuvering my bag to create a pocket of space-slash-air-slash-no-human-contact around me, nonchalantly patting the beads coming down my face. People notice this. Not that I care, but I am usually the only one fanning herself during a blizzard.

The only other person who totally gets this? Is my friend Claudette:

Not sure why we're so simpatico on this. Is it because we're both Italian? Capricorns? Totally judgmental but absolutely right in every instance? Whatever the reason, I know when I update my Facebook status, grumbling about the stupid MTA keeping the heat on in the trains in February (how brazen they are in their idiocy!), Claudie will always give me a sympathetic "UGH! Bastards!" in response.

But Claudie is not with me on my runs. You know who is? Hundreds of unknown New Yorkers. Half who cock their heads as they pass me, wondering if they need to find a park police officer and a stretcher. The other half trying to just steer clear of me in fear that my ponytail might fling a few wet drops their way.

Last week was particularly brutal. I started out with a small perspire but by the time I was a couple miles in, my shirt was drenched and I was feeling quite dude-like. I had to stop wearing anything other than black shorts since colored shorts - plus my ability to sweat from even unknown pores - equals looking as if I had wet myself. At least once when I rolled in from a run, my doorman, not taking his eyes off me, slowly put his hand on the phone, knowing 911 was just three short digits away. (And don't think I didn't hear you: "Crap my shift is almost over please don't drop in the lobby please don't drop in the lobby crap crap crap ...")

In the end, I'm always glad to finish a run strong, no matter what the weather. Wise men and women have long extolled the virtues of sweat, noting that anything worth the effort is going to take gallons of it. So there's the bright side of sweat: by sheer volume of wetness expended, I'm obviously working my butt off.

(And for the record, an even wiser man named George Carlin said "don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff." Not applicable here ... but still way funny.)