Friday, October 31, 2008

Arlington's Ridge Road

Arlington Ridge Road is as it sounds, a long hilly road that offers a magnificent view of the District stretching out underneath it to the east, past the Potomac. We ran along it a lot in the recently-concluded DCRRC 10K/10M Group Training Program, for which I was a roving coach. I loved going up there because I like to do hills on 6-10 mile runs; it throws variety and difficulty into the workout.

The houses up there are magnificent, in the million dollar range, I imagine. Even now after the meltdown. They're big, usually white and columned, and nicely spaced out. Between the imposing structures you can see snatches of the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the Lincoln as you run past.

Lately, practically each front yard up there has been festooned with campaign signs. And guess what they all say? McCain/Palin. Even though Northern Virginia is not the real America because it's going to deliver Virginia into the blue column for the first time since 1964.

As we ran by each week, I joked with other runners that a midnight sign-gathering foray might be in order. (Just kidding! I wouldn't do that.) Practically anywhere else in Arlington, Obama signs pre-dominate. It's clear up there, though, what wealth does to political preference. (Right: This is part of the Not-Real America, the District as seen from Northern Virginia.)

But there is one funky house up there that sports an Obama sign. Just one. That house is a little different from the rest, sort of angled into its large lot, so it affords passerbys a better view of the vista below. It's more ramshackle than the rest too, and has vans and old VW buses out front instead of sleek long black sedans with tinted windows. I call it the hippie house. Maybe they grew up in the 60s and made their money in a instead of in the 80s and making their money managing or mis-managing other people's money.

I wonder if the occupants of the hippie house have to replace their Obama signs each morning in that little blue island in the sea of red up there.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I missed!

I didn't run in this month's noontime Tidal Basin 3K race for the first time since September 2006. Back then I was out in California to run the Inaugural Disneyland Half-Marathon and see baseball games in three different baseball parks (Padres, Dodgers and A's). This month I had to file a case in Tampa for my agency. Sometimes work intrudes upon running. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

When I returned I jogged down to the Tidal Basin and lined up. 14:05 (7:33) later I was back, having completed my virtual race. Heh, heh, I beat my doppelganger Peter, who ran in the actual race, and he doesn't even know it.

Before I missed this month's actual race, I had run in 89 of the last 98 of these monthly races. So, how do I count this virtual race? Runners aren't obsessive, oh no.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another friend breaks four hours

I want to congratulate my friends in blogland who ran in the recent 2008 Chicago Marathon, like CewTwo (who had the courage to DNF so he could come back to run another day), David, Petra and everyone else who participated. It was another hot run. The brutally hot 26.2-mile Fun Run the year before was my least favorite marathon race ever, so I know the obstacles these athletes had to contend with at Chicago.

You might remember H, who I coached in a couple of my club's 10K and 10-Mile Programs a few years ago. I ran with her the last six miles at last year's MCM, when she finished her first marathon in 4:07. As she limped away from the finishing line, she discovered that her car had been towed. Who said running marathons wasn't hard?

She trained hard all this year, sending out a regular weekly email and running every Saturday morning with all takers on the W&OD Trail. This dedicated runner is an inspiration. At Chicago earlier this month she ran 3:57 in the hot conditions. Congrats, H!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The bug bites deep

I have a hard and fast rule in life. I never disagree with a pregnant woman or a first time marathoner. The answer is always, Uh-huh. Peanut butter at 3 a.m? Sure. Can't do it? Uh, huh.

Sasha just ran her first marathon on Sunday, the MCM. Recently in training, she put me away in the twentieth mile of a 20-miler we did, a race. She scorched me the last mile, after I was so proud that I had HdTFU and caught back up with her from 20 meters back at MP 19.

But she still wasn't ready. Knee hurt. Lost a day. Ran slow. Was tired. Had to travel. You know.

She emailed folks saying she wanted to do 4:00 (she put it out there) but feared she only had a 4:15 inside her instead (we all should be so lucky!). She didn't know, but maybe marathons weren't her thing.

So she merely reeled off a 3:51. Whew.

And yesterday she emailed that the California International Marathon in December looked good. Maybe her BQ of 3:40 was there. This race is evidently the Left Coast equivalent of the Steamtown Marathon. Do you suppose she spent the morning after, when she should have been sore and shuffling around her house quaffing aspirins, surfing marathons on the Internet instead?

She's gone down hard. You go girl.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sasha's first marathon.

Over the weekend I took a coaching certification course offered by the RRCA, along with six other coaches from my club’s recently-completed 10-Mile Training Program. It was an intensive session of two 9-hour days, on Friday and Saturday. What we learned was that almost everyone runs too fast for proper endurance training almost all the time.

It has to do with how the body fuels itself during long races, whether it uses fat or glycogen, and how the body deals with lactate. It has more to do with time on your feet rather than intensity of your run, a classic case of less is more. You can’t skimp on the hours (miles) you run, but less intensity over the same time or distance is most often more beneficial, as you train your body to push its lactate threshold further out (the point where the production of lactate exceeds the body’s ability to disperse it). Also you want your body to start using fat for a fuel earlier so you don’t deplete your glycogen store so quickly. Very technical and very thought-provoking stuff in terms of training.

Sasha was there taking the course. She also ran her first marathon yesterday, the Marine Corps Marathon. I have avoided her these last few weeks, as she had a classic case of first-marathonitis. She wasn’t ready. Her knee hurt. She got sick three weeks ago and missed a couple of training days. She only did one twenty miler. You recognize the symptoms.

In the class late on Saturday, she went to fetch another chair upon which to prop up her balky knee. Carrying it across the floor over to her chair, she dropped it accidentally four times in a row. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Then five restless minutes later, she abruptly got up and left. Man, she had a marathon to do the next morning!

I looked at another veteran marathoner and wagged my hand as if to say, She’s on the edge! We both chuckled, after first making sure that she didn’t see us laughing.

I went out to MP 11 on the course yesterday morning to run the last 15 miles of the marathon with her. At least, that was the plan. Remember, I used to coach her. Now she is a valuable coach of mine in the club programs I actively direct. I was going to help her out.

Today I am sore as heck. She was awesome. She smashed her objective of finishing under four hours. When she came by and I hopped in, we ran a steady stream of 9 minute miles from MP 11 to MP 22. Then suddenly I hit the wall, not her. Our pace was actually creeping up at that point.

So I dropped out at a water table to fill up her fuel belt bottles. I picked her back up at MP 24, having rested myself, and I noticed that we did an 8:04 on that next-to-last mile. I could barely keep up.

Then she kicked up the pace in the last mile into a scorching sub-8 range and dropped me off the back end. I called out "Good Luck, Sasha!" as I ground to a halt and she left me behind! She waved goodbye and kept on blazing up the road. She finished her first marathon in 3:51.

Obviously I created a monster.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"The number you have dialed has been temporarily disconnected."

I have said that this has been a momentous year. While I was healing through the balm of the forgiveness which I embraced last winter, even going to church and whispering prayers that I would never contemplate Sharon again and that God would protect the well being of my boys even while He allowed me to get past them, things happened that roiled my emotions again.

So I related three painful little vignettes here from my interminable divorce, a horrible story relating to each of my three then-minor sons. Divorce is a barbaric proceeding in America and the pain of losing children to PAS is a raw open wound.

I almost always call Sharon's number on holidays to leave a message for my sons who are under 21. I ask them how they are doing in school, tell them that I would love to take them to lunch at a nearby restaurant, and say that I love them. Then I go to that restaurant at noon and order lunch for myself and one or two phantoms.

Seven years ago on Columbus Day, Dr. Victor Elion of Fairfax, a charlatan psychologist in my opinion, suspended my visitation over NOTHING, after Sharon called him to complain that I had brought one child back from visitation tired. I didn't see nor speak to any of my sons again for well over 90 days.

I won't bore you with all that went on during those incredible three months before a court finally heard the merits of this extra-judicial suspension and ordered visitation to resume immediately, but this is an extremely painful memory, even today. This period effectively killed my relationship with my children.

On Columbus Day 2008, I called Sharon's number to leave a message for my under-21 children. Her address in Arlington and this phone number are the ONLY links I have to my children in the whole WORLD. I still persist in calling them and writing them there although they never answer or return my calls, or communicate with me in any way.

A recording came on that said the number had been disconnected. I drove over there to knock on the door to ask for them. Sharon had moved. The house was empty. The for-sale sign out front said "Under Contract."

I always knew this day would arrive someday. I don't expect I'll ever have a way to reach any of my children again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just Say No.

My son's face was leaning into the open passenger window of my pickup. I was sitting in the driver's seat, my hands on the steering wheel, a pleasant smile plastered onto my face.

It was my court-scheduled visitation time. Her "harassment petition," wherein she had our three minor children file a "fiduciary" suit against me during the divorce litigation, had been thrown out the week before.

"Their" lawyer, Joseph Condo of McLean, and her lawyer, William Reichhardt of Fairfax, had conducted the hearing which had gotten their Mother sanctioned almost $10,000 for this "unconscionable" lawsuit. Those two lawyers also signed the briefs and argued the motions which got her assessed costs of almost $40,000 more for the "unjustified" appeal they filed. Little did I know it then, but no child of mine would ever again visit with me at my house, which was only two miles away. This was in early 2003. Do you suppose that's why it's against public policy to have children be parties in divorce litigation?

I couldn't get out of my car to talk to my son because that might be menacing to him since I'm bigger. Dad can't "touch" any child, utter a "hurtful" word, use any kind of "tone," give any kind of "look" or do anything that might "frighten" the children except grin and nod when his kids are alienated from him by the custodial parent in classic PAS. These are words that estranged children supposedly come up with when talking about the targeted parent.

I was a dumb, smiling and nodding fool now, just sitting in my car at the far curb across from her house, having just called for her to send my children out ready to go with me. I received no answer, but one child did come out, circle my car and thrust his head into the far window.

"Dad, do you remember me calling you last night?"

"Yes. Yes I do, son."

"Do you remember me telling you that I wasn't coming. Do you remember that?"

"I'm sorry son but just like I told you then, that's not your choice to make, or even mine. You need a paternal influence in your life just like you need a maternal influence, and wiser heads than mine have decided that we're going to have this time together. Let's start recovering our relationship this very day, and put the past behind us. Will you help me with this? I'll try to be the best Dad I can for you, starting right now. Please, get in and we'll work on it together." It was my stock answer. Sharon was nowhere in sight, as usual.

"Dad, dad, just answer me this one question, will you? Can you do that for me?" He leaned his head in real close to me.

"Sure, son."

"Uh, dad, tell me, what part of 'no' don't you understand?"

Yep, this old fool just drove away, still grinning, after receiving that insult from a child, smarting that his kid would dare to talk to any adult that way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I saw the papers Dad.

"Mom showed me your draft visitation order, Dad. I saw that it called for me to be at your house every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think it should only list every other Saturday. I'll come over more, but Mom said it's easier to get more time later than to try to visit less often once an order is in place. That's over 150 days, almost half the year. That's too much to commit to, because I might have stuff to do."

We were at a restaurant about a month after Sharon had taken our three children out of the house on a pretext, demanded that I leave before she would return with them and then filed for divorce. This was my second meal with my child since then. In a month, I could count the number of hours I had spent with him on one hand.

"Unfortunately you're a minor, son, and you're not allowed to set the schedule, or even supposed to see the draft pleadings being exchanged. It's not close to being half the time because it's only every other Friday evening to Sunday evening. And if you have places to go, I'll take you there. After all, I live only two miles away, in your boyhood home, and everyone will have their own bedrooms again."

"Well, she said since it affected me I should have a say in it. She said you'd be like this. Why won't you respect my wishes?"

This is one way PAS is perpetrated, wherein the custodial parent alienates the child from the targeted parent by convincing the adolescent that the other parent is too rigid or inflexible or controlling or domineering or uncaring (choose whatever word you'd like) to respect the desires of the child. The draft schedule, which never should have been shown to him, called for visitation every other weekend from 6 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. on Sunday, 50 hours, which represents 14.9% of the 336 hours every two weeks.

This child nevermore stayed over at my house. His counselor, Meg Sullivan, LCSW, also counseled his Mother. I didn't know about this until after the divorce litigation began. It took over a year for a judge to order this grotesque conflict to cease.

During the divorce litigation, my son told people he was "afraid" to be in my presence, especially when he spoke with me because of my "tone." This isn't the way boys speak. (Another son, an All-Star football player, told people he would never play sports again because I had "crushed" his "spirit." As the story went, he told me that he had scored a touchdown and before I praised him, I'd asked if his team had won. Apparently, this had "crushed his spirit.")

During the custody trial, my minor children had faxed a letter to the Judge's chambers stating their custodial preferences. This isn't the way children act.

My son never went to college. He changed his name to her name on his 21st birthday. He hasn't communicated with any relative of mine in over half a decade. He lives in a basement bedroom in her vacant house, which is currently on the market.

PAS, a form of child abuse, is alive and thriving in this country.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Help I'm Claustrophobic And Don't Know It!

My son was fidgeting. He kept asking if we were halfway there yet.

We were driving from DC to New York City in my extended cab pickup truck. We were going to stay with my brother for two nights, so we could see the city lights. We weren’t even out of Maryland yet.

I asked my child him why he kept asking if we were halfway there. He said, "Mom told me to call her when we were halfway to New York, so she could tell if anything was wrong."

I asked him what he meant.

This pre-teenager said, "Well, Mom said that she knows how you always overpack the car on trips and a pickup is small anyways. She said I might be claustrophobic and not even know it. So she told me to make sure I called her when we were halfway there, and she would be able to tell if I was alright or not."

He sounded a little scared. I reassured him as well as I could, while driving down the highway, that if he were to suddenly become claustrophobic, I would help him with it and we would deal with the situation together.

His Mother had filed for divorce a couple of months earlier, after taking our children from our home on a pretext and going to her parents house in another state with them. This was my first opportunity to spend over 24 hours with my child since then.

Making repeated, insidious suggestions to impressionable young children about potential frightening situations involving the other parent is a way that custodial parents perpetrate Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). It is effective over time at causing immature children to perceive the targeted parent as having flaws that could be dangerous, whether true or not. It can have an enervating and pernicious effect on the children and cause them to become alienated from the targeted parent by making them fearful of being with him. It is hard for the non-custodial parent, who typically has been allotted less than 20% of the children’s time, to overcome these constant, scary innuendos, especially since he is probably unaware that the children are uneasy about something (or, really, nothing).

In my case, I haven’t seen nor spoken meaningfully with this under-twenty young man since 2003. He hasn’t communicated with a single relative of mine during that five year period. Ditto for my two other children, both now of majority age. There are subtle mental-machination stories I could tell concerning each of them, too.

Some people claim that PAS is child abuse. Many people deny it exists. What I know (along with thousands of other American dads) is that PAS absolutely afflicts our western society. What I think is that it absolutely cripples children emotionally for life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Seven Years War

A Jewish friend, being more religious than I, tells me that the old and new testaments are full of seven year epochs. Plagues, wars, that sort of thing.

Sharon took our three kids out of the house for "spring break" in 2001 and they never came back. Having plunged the children into the middle of our troubles, she filed for divorce. The "children" sued me in 2002, with Sharon as their "best friend" on the papers because one child was too young to be a party. That suit was tossed in 2003 and none of my children has communicated with me since. They live two miles away.

It's called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), where one parent, usually the custodial one, turns the children totally against the target parent. It's a form of brain washing, and also child abuse, too. A hallmark of it is that children sometimes become litigants too. I don't care whether you believe it exists or not because I know it does. Me and thousands of other American dads know this fact.

Anyway, this has been a momentous year personally for me. My running has sucked but my restoration from the depths of despair over having my children "taken" from me really started this year.

I have never woken up one morning with it all "better." When I was a young man I believed that life was two steps forward and one step back. Now I believe that life is complicated. Both beliefs fit. It's a work constantly in progress.

It started with my trip out west in February to see family. For a week I drove around the high country in raging snowstorms visiting relatives. Uncle Harry in Durango who fought at both Battles of the Philippine Sea. Aunt Betty in Parachute who worked in the defense plants. A sister in Santa Fe who is an attorney. Another person who, enraged at a post of mine, asked to never be mentioned in a post again. So bid adieu to that person forevermore. Sorry!

That solitary white-knuckle driving allowed me plenty of time to think in between bouts of terror on snow-slickened two-lane no-guardrails shelf mountain-pass roads. I came up with the notion of forgiveness. Perhaps I saw or was introduced to the presence of God. Who knows?

Forgiveness is a Christian tenet, from what I gather. I guess it exists in other religions too. It has helped.

I forgave those awful people who participated in stripping my children away from me. I forgave my children, who sought to demolish me in court and who religiously took my money without ever uttering a word to me. No calls, thank-you notes, return messages or cards on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Father's Day, my birthday, their birthday, graduation day, no day no way, nope, nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero.

But this is 2008, seven years later. Seven years of heartbreak and heartache, of feeling depressed and unworthy of even familial love, of struggling to make ends meet financially amidst lifetime alimony and crushing child-support obligations. Things have happened this year. I'm going on travel for work in a few hours but more later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A twenty-miler.

A week ago I ran a 20-mile race. After not running much all summer, I was happy to see that I still have that as a base, apparently. I made it the whole way, albeit in my slowest time ever for a 20-miler, 3:19:43 (9:59).

A friend of mine is going through typical 1st-marathonistis as she gets ready for the MCM, bemoaning that she isn't ready, can't do it, etc. She determined to do this 20-mile race as a test of her conditioning, because she had never run past 16 miles before.

As a surprise to her, I showed up at the race too. We ran together. I ran at her pace the first ten miles, 10:30s. She can run faster than that but she was afraid of crashing and burning.

Then when she was confident she could finish the race, she dialed down the times. Soon miles were flashing under our feet at 9:15s. We passed by MP 19 stride in stride. But I don't care that we did the first ten miles at a relative snail's pace, and that I had saved some gas in my tank the first half of race. It had no effect in that last mile. Nineteen miles at my age is nineteen miles.

Youth was served. (She's 20 years younger.) She found a new gear, one which I didn't have anymore at this late stage of the race. I wished her well and told her to pick off all those runners ahead of us as she moved out. She was two blocks ahead of me as we went into the final turn leading to a concluding lap around a school track. I fell behind a minute or two more when I stopped at my car in the parking lot before I finished and rummaged around in it for my camera.

It was a good training run. I was pleased that I was able to run the whole way without having to walk. I worry that I couldn't respond in that last mile but that's the way it is. My friend is ready though!