Monday, July 28, 2014

The Power of Music

"Music only makes me stronger."

I almost titled this blog, "A Terrible Run". Because that's how it started out. Tonight was an incredible evening for New York City. Cool, calm, quiet for a Monday. I'd just come out of an hour and a half of ping-pong with my annoyingly-talented-on-the-table Italian friend (play with the best if you want to improve!), and I wasn't ready to call it quits for the evening, as I mosied home from the 116th subway stop. Late summertime in New York City is absolutely fabulous. And up by where I live, next to Riverside and Sakura parks, there's never a shortage of dogs and their owners, new parents with their baby strollers, and oh, of course, the ever-inspiring runners and walkers who are indulging in every ounce of non-gym-time before the summer finally shuts its doors. I trounced into my apartment, semi-folded my work clothes back into their corners, grabbed my new favorite Nike "Miles Ahead, Worries Behind" tank, training shorts, headphones and headed out.

Within a few steps, the ankle that I'd destroyed in soccer last Thursday night, huffed, puffed and moaned at me that this run wasn't going to happen. I limped through my first two blocks, convinced that I would push through it. What did I do? I turned up my music. Should I have been running? Nope. Does loud music cause long term damage to your inner ears? Yep. Was I going to resist a beautiful night out on the Hudson River? NOPE.

Don't run this late on unlit paths. Like I did.

Wow, this city. Well, OK, so that's actually Jersey that you see. But, you know what I mean. Anyway, limping along, I wasn't sure which direction to go. I ended up running from 130th Street, down the water's edge to 96th street and back up through Riverside Park. As I usually do in races as well, my body naturally starts to run faster and faster once I've reached my halfway point. When my music is pumping, I stop listening to my body and concentrate on the instruments composing the song. Since most of my workout music is house and techno beats, there's not too much to dissect, but focusing on each measure of music takes my mind off of how far I have left to run.

The paths through Riverside Park are open and breezy. Local security patrol the paths, but in remembering those horrific stories of runners being attacked in NY parks, well in ANY park ever for that matter, I ran with my car key between my pointer and middle fingers, ready to mercilessly stab it into an attacker's neck. (Hey, you can never be too careful.) By the time I made it up to 116th street, I was audibly panting and moaning, practically dry heaving. My ankle was killing me, and I had to stop for traffic lights to cross through Columbia University. Yet, I couldn't stop. The music was driving me. I wanted to run faster and faster. I sprinted across campus and finally slowed down about a block from where my car was parked on Morningside Drive (New Yorkers have to move their car four times a week to opposite sides of the street for the street sweepers.) It ended up being just over 4.5 miles-not bad for a Monday! Best of all, I could go guiltlessly hoark down some pasta and dark chocolate.

The funny thing is that my soundtrack tonight was my slower music. I remember the first time a slower song accidentally snuck itself into one of my playlists. I realized that the beat of the music wasn't what necessarily kept me going. It was the lyrics. Depending on what mood I'm in, what kind of a day I've had, what parts of my life I need to reflect on, the lyrics of the music are what will motivate me through a run. When I run, I don't worry about troubling things in my life. Running is an escape. A source of freedom. I let the music pierce my body and surge through my veins. It has a way of finding a source of worry or concern, and smoothing it out by reminding me that there's only so much ever in life that's truly in my control. Sometimes, all you need to do is let the music empower you. Whether it's slow or fast, it will touch you in ways you never expected. Just listen. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Second Place

Damn, we lost our championship game tonight, with my corporate volleyball team. I wanted this one so badly, considering our massive victory in the semifinals against the number one team.

I started this team exactly one year ago. We were a hodge podge of sizes, shapes, talent. As Sid says in Ice Age, "We're the weirdest herd I've ever seen." And I've grown so attached to them; their hearts; their individual progress and growth in their technical skills and their attachments to each other as team members. I love seeing people have a good time because of an idea that I put into action. It pretty much lights up my heart. Does that sound stupid? Probably. But I sincerely mean it. What a source of joy for me.

And how far we've come! Fifth place in the first season, second place in the second season, and second place again in the third season. I'm tired of second. It's justifying to know when your team's done well enough to be considered the top of the league; the best. It's validating. And I want to give them a relief from all their hard work. I wanted to just scream when we lost by ONE POINT in the third game. But, as a captain, after both teams have shook hands and you've walked past them hugging their giant first place trophy, new sweatshirts and free-bar-tab goodies, my team huddles together and no one has a word to say, except me.

You have to put on a brave face. You can't be overly chipper and all "Well, we sure did our best guys!"; that's super obnoxious. You just have to verbalize what everyone's feelings inside, and lightly spin hope for the next season. You've gotta keep it short and sweet. Everyone wants to go their separate ways and handle it with their own beer glass, I mean, means and methods. Confidence, a gentle smile and strong, comforting words are really all you can supply. Don't ever make excuses for why the other team won. Thank and congratulate your players, the team. And let them be on their way.

...of course this is all to be followed up with a post-work team happy hour some time next week, so we can REALLY talk about how we feel!

Well, like I told my teammates: "We'll get our day in the sun, and until we do, we'll make it hard as hell for anyone else to enjoy theirs."

Silence at Sunrise

"Silence? What can New York-noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, story, turbulent New York-have to do with silence?" -Walt Whitman

It's deafening. To find yourself in complete silence, unaccompanied by another human, not even by sight, at sunrise in Manhattan, is terrifying and beautiful. 

I wasn't aware that I had set my internal alarm clock for sunrise-o-clock (4:30am?? Excuse me, what??) Ok, ok, so maybe I was a little heavy-handed at Forcella's happy hour with my soccer team last night. Here's glass number one. 

A little vino?
It looks incredible, doesn't it? And on a rainy, Tuesday night? Seriously, how could anyone stop at just one...? I think I woke up so early because my body needed to drink its weight in water. 

Regardless, I couldn't get back to sleep and of course there was a million and one things racing through my head, so I had another one of those
putmyshoesonandgrabmyheadphonesandwalkoutthedoorbeforemybodyknowswhatshappeninggg!!! moments. I think I should rename my blog. Tricking my mind and body is clearly becoming a theme to getting myself out the door.

But WOW. What a morning. I jogged slowly up to Riverbank State Park and started around the track. There were four walkers out there with me. I have no reason to ever run on a track, with the abundance of parks near me, so naturally I found an incredible beauty in this nostalgic experience. It took me back to the paper I wrote in 8th grade about "What Freedom Means to Me". I wrote about how free I felt when I ran up and down the soccer field. I got a D on that paper. I think the teacher was looking for something a little deeper than running down a soccer field, and singing in the shower.

I, oddly, felt the same feeling of freedom on the track. I truly felt completely free; my mind lost every single worry, concern and care that I'd been carrying for the mile or so that it took me to get up there. On that track, there's no competition. No one's better than me. I don't have to worry about sideswiping another runner or dodging a yellow taxi. I won't trip on a tree root or a crack in the sidewalk. I'm not looking for the next landmark in my route and I certainly am not watching the clock to get back home. No one's looking at what I'm wearing, no one's wondering what my story is. I'm not looking at what other people are wearing and I'm certainly not trying to guess their story. It's me, the feeling of fresh air in my lungs, my quads gently pulling me forward, a clear, empty mind and that magnanimous, grey sky. 

Cash Cash's "Take Me Home" broke my hypnosis and the urge to engage in sprints overcame me. I probably took four loops around the track and would sprint on the stretch featured above. 

This is how my body feels about sprinting at 6:10 in the morning. 

But this is what I got out of it. 

There's something about clouds that make everything seem so much quieter. I could barely hear the early morning traffic over the GW bridge. 

And when I finally couldn't bear the sound of silence any longer (and the mosquito's discovered how delicious my skin tasted), I gathered myself together and found the road to take me home.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beach Thoughts

I took off two days last week, to slow things down a bit, and ended up out on Long Beach, Long Island on Saturday afternoon. The weather was incredible, blue skies covered the expansive beach. I brought Sadi, my new soccer ball (yes, it's the end of Adidas spelled backwards, and yes I not only gender-characterized my pink ball... but also yes, ... I named her!!) and went for a quick dip in the ocean.

Just the smell of the salt water, the feel of the sand, flavorful crab cakes and lobster bisque for lunch. It really transported me out of New York City. This was one, happy girl.

Of course this became a day of reflection; my thoughts on life on a broader scale, particularly in this very undulating chapter of my life. A very wise friend gave me some great advice which I sketched out and saved as the background on my cell phone. It couldn't be more positive, through my clouds of uncertainty. Whatever the future holds, the moments that are good, and the moments that are bad, they are all still moments; which must be cherished.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Morning on the River

I really wouldn't have done it if it weren't for my amazing, incredible, inspirational girlfriend, Fran. We were out at her movie premiere last night and she told me she was going to take a jog the next morning. She asked what I was planning to do. "Um, sleep the eff in?" It was already about 11:30pm on a Saturday - wayyyy past my bedtime.

So my internal, corporate-slave clock woke me up at the obnoxiously early hour for a weekend, 8:30am. I can always tell what the weather's like by the amount of light that's filling my room and, oh mama, it was going to be a gorgeous day. I texted Fran and asked her if she was going running. She was still sleeping. But I had it in my head, so I just putmyshoesonandgrabbedmyheadphonesandwalkedoutthedoorbeforemybodyknewwhatwashappeningggg!!!

And, OH! What a day to run. Say hello to the GW bridge!

I'm sure I've mentioned before how unfortunate it is that you can't wear short training shorts, the tight, biker kind?, in Manhattan like you can in Miami. For as progressive and liberal as this city is, there's apparently no place for the tops of your thighs to be seen while you're running. (People judge you. "Oh, you think you're hot stuff with those super short, super tight designer shorts?" They judge. I know it. I know they do.) Well, too bad for the upper west side today. I threw on my sky blue Nike Pro Core 3" Compression shorts because they make me feel like I'm wearing absolutely nothing.

See that awesome dent in my leg? That's a first world sports injury. I was sailing last year on my dad's hobie cat and sure enough, we're riding high and as one of the hulls plummet under the surface, I grab my little sister to pull her off the back of the boat before it capsizes, but oh no! Her ankle was caught under a black strap on the tarp annnnnd we got stuck on the boat longer than we wanted. My leg hit some piece of metal on our way into the water and, well, it apparently took a chunk of my leg.

And in honor of the World Cup, here's a picture of my favorite fields. Soccer on the Hudson? *heart flutter

It was an awesome run. Balanced by some unusually healthy grocery shopping later in the day? Good start to the week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Burgers, Baby

I never EVER make burgers. Yet so inspired by Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals over the weekend, I wanted to try a burger. Into the meat I tossed:

- crushed red pepper
- black pepper
- Vermont Maple Mustard (from Fox Meadow Farms)
- thyme
- Japanese style Panko seasoned breadcrumbs

The pan was turned on Medium-Low and the burgers cooked for just about 8 minutes on each side, crisping the outside a deep brown and leaving the inside just a teeny bit pink. I threw freshly shaved American cheese on the top for a few minutes at the end, then took them off the heat, covered the pan and let them sit for a few minutes.

Burgers included: fresh pickles, tomato slices and garlic cooked kale.

The burgers were incredibly flavorful - quite unexpectedly so! I'M A BOSS BURGER COOKER!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tough Mudder Tri-State 2013

Victory headband!
I'm finally able to lift my arms to my keypad to type this post. Do you happen to have an extra spine lying around? TOUGH MUDDER WAS AWESOME! I would abso-freakin-lutely do it again.

Originally we were planning to run as a group of ten. Well, things happen, and my particular group ended up being two co-workers, super fit Brian and both Tough Mudder and Mudderella champion, Polina, and my 21-year old cousin Steve, who just happens to be a Marine. Four was a perfect number. We were of relatively the same fitness level and got along splendidly; always positive, encouraging and constantly making jokes. I couldn't have asked for a better crew.

When we arrived at around 9:00am, parking was directly on site and we gathered near registration to start assembling our gear and getting tags on our clothes. It was overcast, windy and chilly. All I could think about was the Arctic Enema obstacle (jumping into a ice-water-filled dumpster, swim under a wooden board, and swim out the other side) and how much I was dreading it. I decided to wear my Under Armour Cold Gear shirt (collared and long sleeved), UnderArmour Run Stretch Woven 17" Capri's, fingerless lifting gloves, extra thick Under Armour socks and my most comfortable Nike Lunarglide running shoes. (FYI: Under Armour sponsors Tough Mudder, so do yourself a favor and try to wear Under Armour!) My shoes are a little heavy, as they're trainers, not racers, but they got me up, down and over the obstacles with out any problems.

Tire Walk
By the time we got started, it was closer to 10:30. They got us all psyched up and sent us on our way! I had no problem trotting along with my friends; in fact the most controlled part of the entire race is when you're running between obstacles. The walls that you have to pull yourself over... well, I wouldn't ever be able to do that on my own. It wasn't awkward at... all... having my co-worked hoist my butt over wood planks. Hey! It just brings you closer together! Running through the woods was the only part that tripped me up. I mean, you're literally wading through feet-deep of water and mud. You can't see what's at the bottom, and you pray you're not going to trip over a root. Monkey Bars and Just the Tip were the most difficult ones for me. A word of advice: always keep two hands on each bar as you go across the monkey bars. I tried to swing from one to the other and fell on the SECOND one! Mud Mile was a lot more physically taxing than I thought it 'd be. That was a lotttt of little muddy hills. Everyone looked exactly the same; zombies covered head to toe in mud. The Arctic Enema ended up being a relief. Seven miles in, covered in mud and sweating, I was relieved to get into some crisp, refreshing water. Then... subsequently just as happy to get the hell out of there because that dumpster was COLD.

What do I do with these...?
When we finished, to be perfectly honest, I could've kept going. I was on an adrenaline high and my muscles felt good. Bring an entire change of clothes. Socks, shoes, underwear, everything. You really might never be able to use those clothes again. I was able to wash my shoes out (!!!), but I had a hole or two in my Under Armour shirt. That was tough to swallow. What's the purpose of Cold Gear if it's got holes in it? Three weeks later, I was still q-tipping dried mud out of my ear.

Two weeks later, my husband and I volunteered at the World's Toughest Mudder. Those guys are insane. And super nice. We were stationed at the A-Frame Berlin Walls and after the first two hours, I had my favorite Mudders and was looking forward to seeing them on their next circuit. I'd absolutely recommend volunteering - the Mudders were constantly thanking us for our service... while they were carrying giant logs. Made it all worth it!

I should start training for another race. Tough Mudder won't pick up again until next year, so there's lots of time to train for it! But it's so so bitterly cold outside and hard to get motivated. Help!