Saturday, October 31, 2015

Please chart that training course for me.

When my running buddy at work Leah killed her half marathon a year ago with a 1:50, a PR of over 25 minutes, she immediately started thinking 3:59 for the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon.  After all, there was plenty of time to train, over a year.

Never mind that her marathon PR was 4:51, she now had a substantial base and a plan.  She asked me to coach her, which was very flattering since she had just beaten me by almost four minutes in the half.

I thought she could do it, with the proper training.  Ah, there's the rub!

We ran the year round, but there were certainly no 15-milers, or even any 10-milers in there, and her base reverted to the 6-mile base we both normally have which is the maximum distance we can run at noontime and get back to work without being too delayed.  She hyper-flexed her knee in a hockey collision over the winter, an injury that bothers her to this day, and she couldn't run for many weeks, but she didn't ask me for any running advice and I saw no training plan emerge as spring turned to summer, and suddenly her 26.2 mile race was a mere 12 weeks away.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Blood Draw Deferred.

You might know that runners are obsessive. Perhaps you know that I donated 100 whole units of blood over thirty years and then, once I hit the century mark, I started in on donating blood products. Lately, every time I become available to donate, I drive out to the INOVA donation center and give.

Two weeks ago my next blood donation was due, but my running buddy Leah, who was trying to break four hours in the marathon, had asked me to run the last 7 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon with her the very next week. I wanted to donate blood on schedule, and I thought I could maintain the 9:09 pace necessary to break four hours, but I didn't want to let her down by hitting the wall because of depleted red blood cells. For a week after a donation I can often feel fatigue or a lack of energy during the difficult part of a run, whether doing a fast pace, during the fifth mile or on a long hill.

Leah's marathon PR was 4:51 so nobody thought she could throw down a 3:59, except for her. As for myself, I thought it was possible but unlikely, although I thought for sure she could achieve a huge PR. Last year she ran a 1:50 half-marathon with less-than-optimal training, lowering her PR at that distance by over 25 minutes.

I would do anything for Leah because she is my friend and one of the wisest people I know, and I seek out her counsel when I have an intractable problem. She has been making tremendous strides the last two years as a runner and has surpassed wherever I am, although we still run together. Soon I'll tell you how she did, with minimal training, but suffice to say that I'm glad I didn't donate as soon I could have, or falter in the steady, unchanging pace when I jumped in to accompany her for the last seven miles.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

She Broke Two Hours.

My running buddy Leah, a co-worker and friend, runs at noon with me two or three times a week.  We both came back to running from long layoffs due to injuries in 2011 and have worked diligently since then to get back into shape and maintain it.

I was always faster than her, by a lot.  Before my layoff, where I put on a lot of weight, Leah and I wouldn't run together except on certain occasions like, say, an evening Holiday Season Festive Lights run from work.

That was, Back Then.  Now she's faster than me and makes me work to be able to even hang with her on our noontime runs.

I saw this coming while we were training for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in mid-September last year and suddenly I was seeing nothing but the back of her on hills and I couldn't catch up, and on the flats too unless I made a conscientious effort to get even with her and stay there.  She posted a 1:50:59 at that race, a huge PR of over 20 minutes, and I came in at 1:54:53, my second slowest half marathon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Other Race

On May 25th I ran the Falls Church Memorial Day 3K Fun Run, a self-timed, short (1.76 mile not 1.86 mile length), flat and free race that has participation t-shirts at the end.  It's open to everyone.  No times are listed for anyone, you can just note the time on the race clock at the finish line for your own purposes if you want.  (At noon on Memorial Day, I had lunch at noon at the Stray Cat Cafe because you never know who might show up at one of these holiday lunches in Westover someday.)

I have my own way of running this affair.  At exactly 9 o'clock in the morning, the time the run kicks off, I run a mile by myself in the neighborhood on a little route I have laid out that brings me into the race course as it traverses down a public street from a different direction, slightly past its midway point.

I join the other runners seamlessly from the side, having already run the same amount of distance as them, and finish the race from there with the rest of the participants.  Actually, my "course" makes the fun run a true 3K length instead of it being a tenth of a mile short.  (After the race, I chatted with another past president of the DCRR Club, my friend Bob Platt, who made sure to point out that he had a faster time than me.)

That has the added advantage of avoiding the incredible crush of massed participants hemmed in on the roadway at the start with kids, strollers, leashed dogs, fast runners and walkers all jostling each other to get to open jogging or walking space, plus I don't have to use up time to go downtown to the start line beforehand, I start the race right from my doorstep.  My "time" this year was 14:52 by my watch for a real 3K(7:58), although the race clock said 16:30 when I finished (I misjudged the race's actual start by a minute and a half since they always have remarks by the mayor beforehand).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Commish, Final.

At the annual ACLI 3-Mile Capital Challenge race in May, I suddenly found myself on the starting line, unexpectedly so.  A team member had gotten delayed and was not present for the race.

I consulted one last time with the team captain, Commissioner McSweeny, whom I had been coaching for the race and who was a novice racer but a powerful runner.  "There's a lot of sideways running at the beginning of these crowded races," I said, "so stick close behind me, follow me wherever I go and we'll   get through slower clumps of runners as best we can by shooting through holes that momentarily open up between runners to try to get to open roadway."  She looked dubious but said she was glad I was running with her, at least for the first mile.

That was the hurried plan conceited in the last two minutes when it became clear that I would be subbing for a missing, much faster runner.  I would take her out at a proper pace for her, a sub-8-minute mile first mile and she would power it in in the last two miles from there.  I don't have many sub-8-minute miles left in me, and certainly not three consecutive ones or even two in a row.

The gun went off and we started out.  The three fast runners on our team were gone already, far ahead. It quickly became apparently to me that by lining up at our proper station, with the 8-minute mile group, that we were too far back and too jammed in.

After a few hundred yards of darting and dodging, going from side to side of the two-lane roadway to find clear spots, some space opened up that we could operate better in.  The commissioner was still there, just off my hip.  I glanced back every twenty seconds or so to make sure as I set a fast but manageable pace of what I judged to be mid-sevens (7:30-minute miles).

I'm experienced enough a runner to be able to do so by feel.  I've run several hundred races, all but a half dozen in the last decade though.  Things seemed to be going well now, now that we had some open space, although runners were still all around us.  I settled into a good, fast pace, with my head on a swivel as I looked back for the commissioner.

She was gone.  She was definitely not there any more.  Was it possible that she passed me, I wondered?

Nothing up ahead, and I certainly hadn't seen her go by.  I slowed perceptibly, and runners started flowing around me like moving water rushing around the edges of a large stone sticking above the surface in a fast-moving stream.  Where was she?

Five seconds passed, ten seconds, fifteen.  Then suddenly, "Here I am!"  She had caught up to me from behind.  I had dropped her off the back by going a little too fast but now she was caught up again and I adjusted my pace.

So now we started slogging up the out-and-back course.  The minutes passed and the burn came on in my lungs and legs.  Up ahead was the first milepost.

We passed it at 7:50 according to the race clock set up there.  My stop watch, which I set as we actually passed the starting gate, said 7:31, which was within a second of what I wanted for the first mile.  It had taken us 19 seconds after the race started to cross over the starting mat because of the congestion of runners at the beginning.

I told the commissioner to go ahead, that I could no longer match her speed as her youth and strength were now coming into play.  She always finished strong and ran negative splits, at least in the three-mile runs Greg and I had run with her.  Off she went and she soon disappeared into the crowd up ahead.

Now I was struggling.  I know I slowed, although I willed myself on.  The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak.  That's why you train long and hard for your races, like the commissioner had but I hadn't.

My pace fell out of the sevens in the second mile and I was wallowing around, I was sure, at around an 8:30 mile pace.  I was hot and sweating profusely.  I passed around the midway cone and started back, looking for the second mile marker.

I passed it at 16:05 by the race clock, a notable diminution from the first mile.  I think I got even slower in the third mile, although I picked it up with a quarter mile to go and passed everyone who was slightly ahead of me on the roadway during that stretch, five or six runners, and didn't allow anyone behind me to pass me.  The race clock said 24:20 when I finished.  Ugh.  That was a personal worst by a minute and a half.

It got worse.  Somehow my official finishing time was listed as 24:29 (an 8:10 pace).  What are you going to do?  Whine to the scorers about it?  I was DFL on my team.

The commissioner time, officially, was 23:32.  I know she ran faster than that but what are you going to do, whine to the scorers about it?  She ran a great race, sub-eights the whole way.  In addition to our official times being mysteriously many seconds slower than we each thought, our delay in getting over the starting gate wasn't taken into account (chip-time versus gun-time) despite it being a chip-timed race.

By my reckoning I did a 24:01 and the commish did something under 23:13, perhaps a 22:54.  The other runners all had times in the 18 minute or 19 minute range.  My participation perhaps made the commissioner half a minute faster but the fifth team member, me, turned in a time about six minutes slower than the missing team member.  What are you going to do, cry about it?  

I was barely in the top half of runners.  Our team was 17th overall out of 104 teams, ninth in our competitive division out of 34 teams.  We missed eighth place by one point; if only I'd started my finishing kick earlier and picked off one more runner!  The commissioner had the same exact time as three other runners yet they placed her fourth among that group of four.  Places matter in the scoring.  She later said she didn't remember that any runners finishing in a dead heat with her, much less three others.

Greg, who was credited with a 19:40, and I ran back to the office from the race site to begin our work day, a run of 4 more miles.  It was a delightful start to the morning.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Commish, Part Six.

I have run two races this year, and this would be one of them, quite unexpectedly so.  Where was our last team member?

To avert disqualification, because all five runners must run in order for the team to be scored, two minutes before race time I went to the scorer's table, picked up the last bib and pinned it on.  "Just call me Andy," I said to Greg.  (I was a volunteer at the race in 2010, and I met Meb for the 2d time.)

Greg was delighted.  "Do you think you can pace the commissioner to a 7:30 first mile?"

"Sure," I said, "but that's as good as it gets with me these days and it will use me up for the rest of the race, Greg."  I really hadn't trained or prepared myself for a fast three miles but I was going to try to get the team captain off to a good start while the three burners on the team jack-rabbited off.  (The 2010 team was captained by Commissioner Brill, white-framed sunglasses.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Commish, Part Five.

Race day for the team 3-miler dawned.  I was the coach for my agency's entry in the ACLI Capital Challenge and I got up early to take Metro to Anacostia Park so I could cheer my team members on, especially the captain, Commissioner McSweeny, who I had solicited to head up the team and been training with since she was new to running a competitive race.  (The last time I actually ran the race was in 2009 when I finished the 3-mile course in 22:54, my slowest time in the series.)

The race started at 8 o'clock in the morning and I exited the Orange Line at the Eastern Market stop and jogged down Pennsylvania Avenue the mile and a half to the race site, running across the bridge over the Anacostia River which afforded me a grand view of the entire 3 mile race course.  It was a simple one and a half mile run down the embankment-hugging roadway entrance to the park, a turn around a cone set in the road, and a return to the start line which now would be the finish line.  (Meb was there that year, fresh off his NYCM win.)

The team members showed up early, all but one.  The commissioner was already there, and Phil, Tom and Greg soon showed up, with only Andy being tardy.  (Where was Andy?  Should we be worried?)

As race time approached, I warmed up with the commissioner so she could get off to a fast start because the way she runs, slow to start but strong to finish, her first mile would be crucial.  She had been worried about her pacing that first mile and since she didn't have a sports watch with a stop-watch timer or pacing-distance calculator, she had hit upon the idea of wearing her I-Phone tunes with a specially selected music selection which as it played out as soon as the race start gun went off, would alert her by the conclusion of the first or maybe second song to the arrival of the seven-minute and thirty-second mark, which was the goal time we had set for her her for the first mile.  (Our team captain in 2009 was Commissioner Harbour.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Commish, Part Four.

The ACLI Capital Challenge 3-Mile Race in Anacostia was scheduled for Wednesday morning, May 20, 2015.  I had assembled our team with four fast male runners, all of whom could throw down an 18 or 19 minute 3-miler, including one who had actually won the race a few years earlier, and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, who was new to the team and an unknown factor since she doesn't race much and was very humble about her athletic ability and competitive fire.

I used to run the race myself for the team, but my time was always around 22 minutes and I had deferred to younger, faster runners after my chronic ankle injury set in at the turn of the decade, and limited myself to forming the team each year and doing coaching as necessary.  In the past, two of our commissioners had won awards and the team had come in second one year in its division, which is super competitive since it includes all of the military service teams.

Leading up to the race, once it became apparent that the commissioner, who was a novice to training for a race but did run for conditioning, was faster than me for short runs I turned her over to a faster team member, Greg, for her tempo runs while I ran with her once a week for her LSD of around 5 miles.  I really enjoyed those runs because she is an interesting person with whom I otherwise would have a very limited opportunity to speak with and I always enjoy introducing newer runners to hills, as we did Capital Hill and then the Washington Monument Hill whenever we could.

Greg and I were thinking this might be a very good year because although sworn to secrecy by the commissioner about her progress, we could see that she was a strong runner and a good finisher who could probably run the race several minutes faster than any other commissioner had done in the past.  Greg wistfully said to me, "If only you could run the first mile with her and pace her to a fast but not overly so start, Peter, she would have a super run I am sure."  (The course is controlled because there are many politicians who run this race, so there is security along its length and no bandits are allowed!)

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Commish, Part Three.

It had turned out that my agency's newest Commissioner, who was going to captain our entry into this year's 3-mile Capital Challenge race, was faster than me so her speed work was turned over to the fastest guy on the team who ran with her at least once a week and practiced 3-mile runs in the 24 to 25 minute range.  She needed to be encouraged to maintain a fast but steady pace at the start because she had a naturally strong finish at the end of those runs, capable of reverse splits once she had warmed up and caught her second wind during the runs.

I still ran with her, doing a weekday long run of four to five miles with her while she ran once on the weekend on her own.  In the limited number of weeks we had before the race to practice with this busy commissioner, who traveled frequently and could only run at odd intervals during the day whenever her schedule allowed it like at 3 pm or sometimes in mid-morning, that was the plan.

It couldn't have been done without Greg, of course, the Federal Tread Company's fast runner who filled in at those oddball hours on short notice and ran fast with the commissioner, training her in fast pacing. I enjoyed my long runs with her where I could keep up with her, talk with her about running and racing techniques and, generally, be as fast or faster than her at the end of those runs because her base was less than mine.

Age and its concomitant wisdom will have its limited advantages over youth and energy.  In the meantime I assembled the rest of the team, four fast male runners and the required female runner (the commissioner), one of whom had to be an agency head (the commissioner).  (A team from the last decade.  Captain of that team, Commissioner Rousch, is # 840 and Greg, the speedster, is between him and me in the center.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Commish, Part Two.

Having found a commissioner to captain my agency's entry into the Capital Challenge 3-Miler team race, I went out on an initial 3-mile run with her and discovered that this unschooled runner was virtually as fast as me.  She was capable of throwing down a series of sub-9-minute miles.

A week later we tried the three mile loop I had created on the Mall again.  Now it became clear that she was indeed faster than me.

At the midway point, as I was straining now to keep up with her, I told her to finish ahead of me and she did, finishing her run at in 24:24, almost a two-minute improvement over the week before while I huffed and puffed to come in a full minute behind her.

Hmm.  It was time to turn her training over to one of our agency's fastest runners, a team member who had always come in fastest at our team's prior races.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wuthering Heights

I am currently reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  She died shortly after she wrote this classic, one year in fact, when she was barely 30.  As one reviewer stated, "She poured the secret thoughts of her tormented soul into her one prose creation."

Here's a paragraph I read that I paid close attention to.  The malevolent Heathcliff, speaking to the faithful servant Nellie, the story's main narrator, of the young, practically helpless "whelp" that he created, Heathcliff says of his own son:

"I despise him for himself, and hate him for the memories he revives!  But that consideration is sufficient; he's as safe with me , and shall be tended as carefully as your master tends his own.  . . .  I do regret, however, that he so little deserves the trouble; if I wished any blessing in the world, it was to find him a worthy object of pride, and I'm bitterly disappointed with the whey faced whining wretch!"

A classic passage in a great novel about a disappointed father's reflections on a child of his.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Commish

I head the running program for my agency as a wellness committee board member, and I'm responsible for assembling the annual 3-mile Capital Challenge racing team.  As always, our entry had to captained by a commissioner.

It was suggested to me to ask the youngest commissioner, who comes from an athletic background.  She's a former ballerina dancer who, although she hadn't run any races, runs two or three times a week to keep fit, and I took her out on a 3-mile run on the mall to see what she had.

She had no trouble keeping up with me.  We ran the three miles in 26:14, an 8:44 pace.

 The good news was she was indeed a runner and the bad news was I didn't know if I could keep up with her.  It looked like our run was pretty effortless to her, although she did appear to need a little coaching on pacing, especially at the beginning of the run because her finish was strong.

Monday, October 19, 2015


I knew that my friend Art from boarding school was gone, but until recently I didn't use the magic of google to hunt down the reference to his passing.  I did it this month when I was reminded by a passing reference to him in the Class Notes in the quarterly alumni magazine.  He died in 2001 at the age of 50 after a long battle with a brain tumor.  I remember the last time I talked with him, around that time on the phone, and I particularly remember that he said, "Every day is a good day."

The last time I saw him was when we departed the environs of our rustic campus at graduation, when we were both 18.  That's the image of him that lives on in my memory, the way he still is residing there even more than a decade after his passing, a tall, lean, athletic, blond young man, smart, powerful and easy-going.  After we graduated we just passed on into different worlds, he went to school at LaSalle near his home in Philadelphia, and I went far away out west to CU.

But I have my memories of our four years together, which I'll always treasure.  It all started when I showed up at the boarding school for ninth grade (second form) as a nervous 14 year-old.  Soon we were ensconced in a room with a bunk bed, Art took the top bunk, two second formers in a houseful of third and fourth formers.

We got along fine.  My first appreciation of Art was when we were arrayed in a boyhood battle against the entire Dickinson House, it seemed, and I was holding our door closed by bracing my legs, seated on the floor with my back to the door, against two small pillars in the walls to the entrance to our room and Art was holding the door closed standing facing the door with one of his feet braced against the bottom of the door.  We were prepared, and as the door slowly opened due to the force of five or six older boys pushing against it from the other side, Art sprayed the aerosol shaving cream can he had been holding in his free hand out the crack in the opening door at our tormentors in the hallway and the door slammed shut and the assault was never, ever rejoined.  Oh, yeah.

In third form, our rooms were singles, adjacent to each other on the third floor, so I spent a lot of time in his room surreptitiously during the interminable, every weekday-evening (including Friday night) study hall hours.  If you listened real hard with the door ajar you could hear the housemaster, Mr. Graham, come out of his quarters on the second floor to do a study hall check and you could quietly creep back into your own room before he came up the stairs.  One warm New Jersey autumn night I remember Art eating a cream-filled pastry he had purchased after dinner at the Jigger Shop across the highway in front of campus.  He didn't like its taste so he tossed it out his opened window.  Two seconds later we heard a distinct "Plop!" as the food missile hit the sidewalk three stories below.  Two fifteen year-old boys thought that was the funniest thing ever and just couldn't stop laughing about it or relating to each other the sound of it hitting the ground, which provoked another round of peals of laughter.  Silly but innocent times.

As sixteen year-olds, we played house football together.  He was a tight end while I was a linebacker and occasional halfback.  My salient memory of him that year, our fourth form year, was him catching a short pass, spinning away from a tackle and sprinting to the end zone eighty yards away.  I was on the sideline watching, matching him stride for stride down the field, him on the field of play and definitely slowing down as he tired while I excitedly paced him off the field of play and exhorted him to make it to the end zone before he got caught from behind.  I issued the ultimate threat during our separate runs towards the end zone, I yelled at him that I would hide his cigarettes if he didn't score on that play.  You see, in those simpler times, boys could smoke at boarding schools, during specified times and in certain common areas, if they had a letter permitting them to from their parents, which we both did.  I didn't have to resort to my threat, as he did sprint into the end zone on the play.

As seniors, or fifth formers, he came to my parents' house one weekend with me.  He had a driver's license and I did not, as he was slightly older than me.  We borrowed my father's car, which had a stick shift which he didn't know how to operate but I did.  I remember my hurried instructions to him as he tried to put the car into first gear to pull away from the curb in front of the house, hoping desperately that he would accomplish the unfamiliar task and get the car around the block so I could take over driving.  He could not, driving a manual-speed car is a learned trait, and my father came out to the curb after a couple of minutes to ask, "Young man, perhaps I didn't ask the right question when I asked if you had a driver's license.  Do you know how to drive a manual?"  Art admitted that he did not, and out incipient adventure was over.  Good times!

And what is my ultimate memory of Art, who died so young?  Parting ways with him at graduation, where unbeknownst to me I would never see him again, he shook my hand upon parting and informed me that for four years I'd been mispronouncing his name as La-moan instead of La-Mon.  I'm a jerk.  What an easy way for him to let me down!  Art, you were a prince and I miss you!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The circular red taillights.

I received my quarterly alumni magazine from my high school, Lawrenceville Preparatory School in New Jersey.  I casually opened it and started in on Class Notes.

I discovered that my Second Form roommate had died, "prematurely from a brain tumor."  I remember Art as an 18 year-old athletic giant, young, fast, a top high jumper for the track team, running down the field on an 80-yard touchdown jaunt as I watched from the sidelines and urged him on at the top of my lungs.  That's the last year I saw him, so in my memory he never aged.

I also read that my science teacher had died.  Mr. Loux wasn't that much older than us, in his twenties I'd say when he taught us chemistry.

I remember he was a dry personality, brilliant but understated, who revealed a hidden wild streak in the form of his Camaro convertible.  One night I watched out the window as he drove around the campus Circle and out the Alumni Gate at an elevated but not reckless speed, off on some late night bachelor's  adventure while us students finished study hall in our rooms.  In my mind's eye I can still see the red lights of the Camaro's circular tail lamps winking out as the young teacher made the turn onto the main highway and sped off, symbolizing what was then but what is not now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Joe & Pat's.

Thin crust.  You don't even have to say pizza after it.

The best pizza in the world is thin crust pizza, and the best is made at Joe & Pat's on Staten Island at 1758 Victory Boulevard.  Its sign out front doesn't even say "pizza".

A half vodka and half arugula pizza pie is a thing of beauty and that's what I ordered when I visited the restaurant on Staten Island last weekend.  I had the vodka sauce side.

All too quickly it was done.  When we left the place was humming with business, a lot of it for people dashing in for carryout.

Friday, October 16, 2015

You can't go home again.

My boyhood friend Erik from Staten Island got married last weekend in New Jersey in a beautiful Catholic church and put on a sumptuous reception nearby at a spectacular mountaintop restaurant in upstate New York.  His bride, a divorcee, could get married in the Catholic church because her first marriage was a civil ceremony and so never occurred (a nullity); Protestants like myself find the convoluted rules governing Catholic membership and available services incomprehensible.

Afterwards I returned to Staten Island for a trip through nostalgia.  The street beside the house I lived in when I was twelve, which I remembered to be plenty big enough for our numerous games of touch football and kick the can, seemed too narrow to be suitable for such activities to an adult eye.

The garage to that house with its simple one-level rental unit above it (the third story was a mere loft used as an attic) was sold off separately later as a carriage house and the property was separated.  I spoke with the papergirl delivering the Sunday Staten Island Advance and she filled me in on many of the folks I knew in childhood, who still had an association with the neighborhood.

For instance, the boy next door who was exactly my age and wanted to be a priest grew up to be a real estate agent, always lived at home, inherited the house and now lived there alone as a recluse with major health issues starting with "bad teeth," and the fireman on the block, a friend of my dad, had passed on recently and his widow lived on in their home with their son, a friend of my brother, who had never left the house and worked for the post office.  I eschewed knocking on any doors in the old neighborhood although apparently, half a century later, I would have known several of the people who answered.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You can go home again.

After attending Erik's wedding this past weekend in Ridgewood, New Jersey, I spent the night on Staten Island, where I spent my boyhood.  The Holiday Inn where I stayed was horrible, check out the view from the window.

Sunday morning I got up and went to the old hood in Westerleigh.  The house I lived in from 1963 to 1973 was there, in all its grandeur.

Later I went to the old homestead in Stapleton, where we lived from 1958 to 1963.  It was a pretty fine house in its own write.

That part of Staten Island is quite hilly and close to the water.  Check out the view from the top of the hill behind where I lived.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Erik got married.

Erik was my best friend as a boy.  Practically every weekend we played army or Rebel and Yankee together on the hills of Staten Island or conducted interminable battles with little green army men on the floors of our bedrooms.  (I saw Erik in late 2012.)

He was 364 days older than me so one day a year, on my birthday which was a day before his, we were the same age.  We were inseparable, having sleepovers, going miles and miles into the hills, assembling models, going to the Army Navy store to buy left-over WWII equipment to equip ourselves for our "patrols" on the Haystack, a nearby hill, or purchasing another set of lead soldiers for 19 cents each (they were the Americans in our massive battles on the floor) at the dimestore.  (A wedding in Ridgewood, NJ… .)

After 50 years of having lost touch we reconnected on Facebook.  Then in 2012 tragedy struck and he lost his wife and almost lost his life in a small plane crash.  (Erik with his sister-in-law Gerta, who took care of him for months after the accident while he recovered, and brother Mark before the ceremony.)

This past weekend he got married to a wonderful woman he met while recovering from his injuries.  I attended and could observe that they are obviously very happy with each other, and I wish him and Nina all the success in the world.  (Erik dancing with his 91 year old mom at the reception.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Final Dental Visit Post

Having fallen in on my 10 mile run home from the dentist's office on the W&OD Trail with a friend I hadn't seen for years, I passed by my house and went 2 miles further down the trail to retrieve my car.  Although I was sore all weekend long from the unfamiliar distance of running 12 miles, I was glad to get a long run of that distance in.

The weather (it was raining and windy) hadn't been a hindrance; I just determined when my dental appointment was over that morning to proceed with my plan and run home.  As my new-found friend, a personal trainer, said, You just put one foot in front of the other and you're on your way!

The ten (or twelve as it turned out) miles had been a time of reflection now that my series of dreaded dental visits was over and observation of natural beauty in rural Fairfax County.  The feeling of having the miles steadily pass under my feet made me feel invigorated and alive.

It had been a long journey from my my two-year hiatus in running due to injury till now, and now I was back to near my pre-injury weight and my former steady routine of running five times a week, albeit at reduced mileage and a slower pace.  I used to feel that running was life, although life is not running (life is more than just running, and it interferes with running sometimes), and I was back to that feeling again.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Ten.

On my long run back to my house from my dentist's office in Reston, I fell in the last couple of miles with a person I hadn't seen in several years, whom I had known from my days when I associated with the DCRRC.  I was president in 2009 and she was on the board later, after I left the club over disagreement with the direction the club was headed in under an upstart group of puissant twenty-somethings who constantly disrupted my meetings and surreptitiously usurped my intended programs, out of personal malice towards me fostered by my being twice their age I think.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Stephanie as we loped along eastwards on the W&OD Trail towards Falls Church.  She too left the club, after some inane remarks found their way into a Washington Post article about running in the District two years ago by the then-president (the ringleader of the afore-mentionted band of pissants) speaking on behalf of the club and dripping contempt towards "recreational" runners (as opposed to "competitive" runners like himself). 

Stephanie is a personal trainer now, working for herself and raising a family, and she was finishing up a 14-miler as she gets ready to run the Richmond Marathon this fall.  When I first saw her, she was on the bridge, tongue planted in cheek, filming a weather and traffic report on the approaching hurricane (which hit the Carolinas instead of us) and its impact on traffic on the beltway below (none).

The miles fell away easily now as both of our paces picked up a little in conjunction with keeping up with each other and chatting easily.  I decided to turn my 10-miler into a 12-miler to travel further down the trail with her into Arlington so I could pick up my car, which I had parked close to the East Falls Church Metro station when I took the silver line to my dentist's office that morning.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Nine.

I was on a ten-miler going home to Falls Church from Reston down the W&OD Trail from my final of half a dozen dental visits in three months.  It was raining, but the run was invigorating as my $6,000 worth of dental procedures, just before my trusted dentist retired later this month, were done!

Eight miles in, as I was wearying, I saw up ahead a solitary runner running about my speed.  I caught up with her and lo, she wasn't wearing earbuds.

"How far you going?" I asked.  She looked at me and said, "I know you!"

A friendly runner, not wrapped up in his or her little world as is the won't of many contemporary runners these days, excluding everyone else by dint of displaying a white wire running up each side of the neck connected to earbuds nestled deep in the inner recesses of the ears, ostensibly serving up inspiring running music but also effectively shutting out the rest of the world as undesirable.  As I have learned, here's how the process of offering a friendly hello to a white-wired runner usually goes--an ignored query, then an annoyed look in your direction (you're into the "exchange" by now, unfortunately), and then a petulant ripping out of the bud from one ear coupled with a clearly exasperated ejaculation of --"What did you say?"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Eight.

Having left the dentist's office on a rainy morning and started running ten miles home on the nearby W&OD Trail, I was passing through Vienna, the approximate halfway point.  I was getting tired, since I hadn't run more than six miles in quite awhile.

But the run was definitely clearing my head and I enjoyed the quietness on the mostly deserted trail.  The rain had let up so even that wasn't a hindrance anymore.

I passed Gallows Road where, the last time I ran seven miles, months ago, I had found the trail after getting lost on Gallows Road on that run last spring, and hoofed it home from there.  Next up for me, I knew, was the bridge over the Beltway (I-495) and shortly after that, the bridge over I-66.

I passed over each bridge in turn, now a mere two and a half miles from home.  Somebody was up ahead on the last bridge, taking an extended video selfie of her run in the raw elements, and I quickened my pace to catch up with her to see, if she wasn't tucked into her own cocoon of selfhood with earphones, whether she would be good company for a mile or two.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Seven

I was running home 10 miles from a dentist's appointment in the rain and it felt liberating.  I was free from the anxiety of further dental work, alone on the W&OD Trail with the elements and my thoughts.

There was no turning back once I'd gone a mile because now the silver line Metro station was far behind me and I might as well go on.  Ten miles west of my house, the trail is much more rural with more natural growth, adjacent water and occasional wildlife.

I saw a crane fly by, its wings outstretched, as I traversed a bridge over a rushing stream.  The rain was pattering but not pouring, and it soon stopped, leaving behind puddles and a wet trail.

At Vienna, I was halfway home.  I could have veered off there to a nearby orange line Metro station, but although my legs were getting weary and heavy, I was enjoying the peace and solitude the outing was providing to me.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Six.

Early last Friday morning I was inside the warm office of my dentist, while outside it was raining steadily with a raw wind, the precursor in our region to the landfall in the Carolinas of Hurricane Joaquin.  I would have much rather have been outside, however, in the wind and rain than inside at the moment getting permanent crowns cemented onto three sensitive teeth.

I was looking forward to being outside the moment the procedures were done so I could get on the nearby W&OD Trail, a 40-mile paved-over railroad bed that cuts straight and level across Northern Virginia from Alexandria to Leesburg.  I was going to run home from the dentist's office, a distance of exactly 10 miles, and thus put my dental woes to rest in my mind directly after this last of half a dozen visits to the dentist's office in a three month span.  (In my mind, I was already starting my trip home.)

After having to shoot up all three operative areas with Novocain so that I would sit still, the dentist finally had no further trouble, and I had no further zing moments, and the task was completed by 9 a.m.   A week later, the teeth are all doing fine, the doctor did beautiful work and I wish her a long, healthy and happy retirement.

By 9:05 a.m. I had paid the bill (rather, I had put the amount on a credit card) and I was hitting the trail at MP 17, headed east for MP 7 which is exactly where the trail passes by my house.  I felt liberated, footloose, happy and free, even though I hadn't run 10 miles in over a year and it was raining steadily with a westward sometimes-whipping wind.  (Rain?  What rain?)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Five.

Two of the three teeth waiting for permanent crowns had been anesthetized now, and the dentist and her technician turned to the third, non-deadened tooth to cement its crown into place.  The dentist placed the molded porcelain cusp onto the tooth, pushed it down and seemed to be pleased with the fit.  Then she pulled it off so the bonding cement could be applied to it.

ZING!  I practically leapt out of the chair and the dentist, two of her gloved fingers deep in my mouth holding the little nub of a faux tooth, struggled not to lose her grip on it while it was still in my mouth.

That was the worst jolt yet because the onset of the pain was so sudden, unexpected and intense.  She took her fingers, clutching the crown, from my mouth and said, "It's the metal on its base that creates that shock effect on the tooth, but we'll deaden that tooth too before we place it in permanently."

As yet another long needle appeared before my face, I croaked, very earnestly, "I can't wait for my ten-mile run back to my house as soon as I leave here."  "In the rain?" she asked.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Four.

The dentist came back in and after looking at the fit of the new crown on the top side, she pulled it off so it could be emplaced permanently.  Zing!

"Sensitive, huh?" she remarked, seeing me wince.  "We'll just shoot that up with a mild sedative before we go further with it."

The long needle loomed in front of my face, carrying with it the prospect of needle holes in both sides of my mouth, again.  I sat there glumly, mouth closed tight, for fifteen or twenty seconds composing myself while both women waited patiently before I opened my mouth to accept the shot.

It had been a long three months at the dental office and my pain tolerance was definitely weakening.  While the Novocain took effect on the second tooth, they started in on the lower tooth on that side, the only non-deadened tooth left of the three being worked on that day.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Three.

A little background on my final dental visit this year (hopefully).  In any case, come the thirty-first of this month, I'll have to find a new dentist if the need for further dental work comes up because that's when my dentist is retiring.

Friday was a miserable day, raining, with the DC area awaiting the possible approach or arrival of Hurricane Joachim, and did I mention that the dentist's office is at MP 17 of the W&OD Trail and my house is at MP 7?  Yes I did in a previous post about my dental visits, and I showed up for this final appointment in my running togs with a Metro card (I took Metro to the visit), a credit card (to put the couple thousand plus "change" charge on) and a bottle of water.

Back to the action in the dentist's chair--after a come-to-Jesus moment when the tech removed the first temporary crown with her prongee, she placed the permanent crown on and it fit in nicely.  Maybe it'd be alright after all, I thought.

I still hadn't found the rear exit in the back of the chair, though.  It turned out that I really should have known where it was.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Final Dental Visit, Part Two

The first thing that happened as I settled into the dentist's chair on my final visit, to get three permanent crowns cemented in, on three of the four far-back teeth in my mouth, two lower and one upper, was the dentist shot the particularly sensitive tooth up with Novocain.  She left so the sedation could take effect, and the technician hooked her metal prongee-thing under the temporary crown on one of the other teeth, the one on my upper left side, and jerked it off.

Zing!  "Did that hurt?" she asked.

I nodded miserably.  It was going to be one of those mornings at the dentist's office.

She wrapped the metal point of her prongee in cotton linen and gently rubbed off the residual cement from the tooth surface.  No further pain was provoked, yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Running From The Dentist

Because my dentist is retiring this month, I decided to take care of all of my dental problems before she leaves.  She's excellent, and how could I trust anyone else?

Got an extra six grand this year?  Send it to me.

There's a reason that I don't go to the dentist, unbidden by an actual problem.   My dentist wryly commented that my pattern of dental health was emergency management.

Well, yeah.  It hurts and it's expensive.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Final Dental Visit

In my imagination, I'm in Dr. Lipscome's dental office alone on Staten Island as a 10-year old boy over half a century ago, getting seven cavities filled without Novocaine or a parent present; this is not so uncommon back then, either the shocking lack of sedation as teeth are drilled or the lack of a parent accompaniment, as confirmed by friends my age from the same region.  It manifested itself in my psyche when I became an adult as a refusal to go to a dentist unless it was absolutely necessary.

But stuff happens with your teeth.  It's even promoted these days that you should go get your teeth cleaned twice a year (!) by persons who scrape sharp-pointed metal prongs around your teeth.

Ever felt that metal pronger touch somewhere on a naked tooth that produces the Jolt even if you are sedated?  The sudden pain is enough to catapult you out of your seat.

Now well into the next century, no dentist would go any further when he or she sees you jerk in pain without stopping and shooting you up with more with Novocain, and then waiting for it to take effect.  Today I went to the dentist to have three permanent crowns emplaced.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Heathcliff Is the Model

I'm reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  Here is a quote from it that I dedicate to the mother of my three children who, during our divorce proceedings last decade, acted in concert with a coterie of agenda-driven "professionals" to overbear the wills of these tender young minor children, the end result being that their dad was ripped away from them extra-judicially.

On the night she dies, narcissistic Catherine bespeaks her true inner self to her paramour Heathcliff, the dark foundling who bestrides the pages like a super egoistic Iago.  All will be destroyed at the altar of self-worship.

"' I wish I could hold you,' she continued bitterly, 'till we were both dead!  I shouldn't care what we suffered.  I care nothing for your sufferings.  Why shouldn't you suffer?  I do!  Will you forget me?  Will you be happy when I am in the earth?  Will you say twenty years hence, 'That's the grave of Catherine Earnshaw.  I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her, but it is past.  I've loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and, at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her, I shall be sorry that I must leave them!'  Will you say so, Heathcliff?'"