Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going Mental

This week has not lead to great mental preparation for the California International Marathon. There is that mega storm system that will dump a "moist flow" on Northern California. Work has been so work like, which isn't great but isn't bad. Our apartment has decided to bite us at night and our fantastic management company hasn't been able to call an exterminator for well over two months. But after bugging them (sorry) for that entire time they finally did schedule a bug guy and he is "scheduled" to come an hour after we had planned on leaving for Sacramento. Nice. At least the organizers say the race will go on no matter what, so it is reassuring that we will at least get to run. (Where have I heard that before?)

So I have turned to the wonderful world of videos and GIFs to get me going.  Here are some of my favorites. Let me know if I should add more.


YES I DO BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


YEAH GO OUT AND KICK ASS, and stuff.


Sorry about the music but come on!! This is the best. I remember this like it was yesterday. 

USA USA USA USA



A great race.


I love this commercial.  Nice work Dick's Sporting Goods.

Again: USA USA USA


I mean can you have one of these without this scene? No. You can't.


#makeitcount

Ah, good times


WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Perfect Race Day Conditions

I was scheduled to run the New York City Marathon and then this happened.

Hi Sandy, you bitch.

Then this happened.
Yeah, I know you know.

Now with the California International Marathon scheduled for this weekend, Northern California is bracing for an Atmospheric River to hit and impact Sacramento.  According to The Weather Channel, if it stalls, say when it hits those big ass mountains near the California-Nevada boarder, "significant flooding can be the result."

COME ON MAN!
Here is the kicker:
Most importantly, that plume of moisture [a.k.a. the atmospheric river] won't move appreciably for a couple of days, perhaps through Sunday, aiming its firehose of moisture at northern California and, perhaps, southwest Oregon.  
Therefore, some locations, particularly in the coastal ranges of northwest California and the Sierra foothills, will likely pick up over 10 inches of total rainfall through this weekend, leading to flash flooding, river flooding and, in recent burn areas, debris flows. (emphasis mine) 
If they cancel this race due to a little sky stream coming to town, I am going to lose my shit.

But as with most weather events, the use of phrases like "aiming its firehose of moisture" give me some pause and reassure me that the bored California-based meteorologists want a big storm to play with...but then again, I thought that was the same thing with Sandy.

I am confident that the race will go on...and perhaps the snow will support the extremely low water levels in Tahoe.  That part is good news. It isn't like I haven't run in the rain and it isn't like it makes much of a difference.  A marathon hurts no matter what and I am going to be running one, rain or shine.

When the gun goes off, rain and all, here are the goals:
  • A Goal: 3:35 - 3:45
    Revised based on weather and hi-po for painful chaffing.
  • B Goal: Sub-4
    This is the same as NYC.
  • C Goal: Don't Die
    This is the same as always.  
Here we go. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Report: The Brothers Ashkenazi

I.J. Singer’s The Brothers Ashkenazi is fantastic.  The fictional biography of two brother spans what can only be described as the most important period of modern Jewish life.  As a student of modern Jewish history and a sucker for a good story, this book was a perfect novel to get me excited about reading quality literature.

The characters are developed so completely and the story line weaves expertly in and out of the home town, the book’s main location.  The period aspects of the book come through perfectly and the translation lends itself well to its original Yiddish, or so I suspect based on sentence structure and flow.  It was easy to forget that this was written in the 1930s rather than during the Brothers’ life times or in the present day.

I am not sure if I would have liked this novel as much if I did not have the history background to understand the nuances.  A somewhat expansive understanding of turn of the century Eastern European history and a working knowledge of the Haskalah are almost a pre-requisite to enjoying this book.  Familiarity with Capitalist, Unionist, Socialist, Bundist and Bolshevik political theory also help.   I would like to thank Dr. Hoffman and Professor Biale for the help in this regard.

Now I am sure Zionists will take offense in my saying that this period in Poland is the most interesting and important period in modern Jewish history.  To them I say you are wrong.  Without this period in Germany, Poland, and Russia (East to West, no value) there would be no truly modern Jewish life.  The Jews who pushed off the yoke of ancient restrictions and those who adapted it made it possible for all the other movements and experiences to take place.  Without these events and what came after them, Israel would be nothing more than a dream without will.

I enjoyed every aspect of this book.  Some of the life cycle transitions were a bit short but I believe that makes perfect sense considering Singer’s upbringing and his immigration to the United States.

Read this book. That is all. 

Five Out of Five Stars

Friday, November 23, 2012

FIRST PLACE FAT BOY!

A few months ago I realized that I wanted to win a road race.

Now we all know that wanted and having are two very different things.  While I work very hard at my running and train hard, I am never going to be the fastest dude on the course.  I am also currently in the age group of the guy who tends to win the entire race.

But I am fat, giving me my chance to sneak in for a win in the Clydesdale division.* 

A very well run race. Nice work Fleet Feet
I have decried this division in the past, but it is a chance for bigger guys to win something. I don't know where my drive to come in first in something came from, and if you really break it down you could say winning the Clydesdale division isn't winning but I would come back with shut your face.

Since signing up for the Tulsa Turkey Trot I have been gunning for first place fat boy...and today I won the Clydesdale division. I even got a coffee mug with a spoon trophy.

FIRST PLACE FAT BOY!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It speaks to my social and religious world view. It is a forces slow-down to be grateful and to acknowledge what you got. 

Like every year, this year other stuff is happening making it hard to be comfortable with being able to be Thankful. 
Gaza is Burning, Israelis are Running
While I stay far away from the blame game, it is clear that both sides have skin in this game. Israel shouldn't launch a ground offensive.  Hamas should stop lobbing rockets towards civilians.  The world should see this for the extremely complicated and convoluted situation it is and stop placing all the blame on one group. Ach.  Anyway, it is hard to be all happy happy joy joy when I have friends in harm's way and others digging out their boots and greens.

Remember that Storm that we Forgot About?
Yup people still don't have power and such.  Kids are still out of school.  Pets are still unclaimed. Sandy's impact won't be fully calculated until Q3 of next year.  That is nuts. We are talking BILLIONS and BILLIONS in damage but we should get back to talking about idiots waiting in line for Black Friday deals.

Complicated Number Things
Yeah the Fiscal Cliff is also getting me down. It could be the end of the world as we know it or other such doom's day things.
But, we get to eat pie.  So that is great. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Media and the Israel Gaza Battles

In case you missed it, Israel and Gaza are fighting again. Hamas and others are lobbing rockets at Israel.  Israel is launching "eliminations" of Hamas leadership in broad daylight.  However the Twitter fight is something new.

Them's Fightin' Words
BuzzFeed is calling it how to fight a war for real and online.

I suppose this is to be expected.

It is the new face of war...Twitter. Something to think about. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Report: Run to Overcome

I read this book because I love Meb.  I kept reading this book because I love Meb. 

In short, this wasn't a great book.  But Meb is a really great guy.  He does great work, loves his family, runs really hard, is the personification of the American Dream, and currently the best American marathoner.

But he isn't a writer.

The story of his life should be and could be documented in more complete and interesting way.  There is no doubt a fantastic story to be told that unfolds in Meb's life.

I finished it because I love this guy, and respect him very much.  I still hope he runs and wins another marathon. 

2 starts out of 5

Runners, don't be assholes

On Runners' World's website, there was an FAQ about the 2012 New York City Marathon.  It had more information than the NYRR has been able to push out to its members and marathoners.  I, like so many runners, am disappointed at not being able to race.  I am also not so pleased about shelling out many hundreds of dollars to change my flights, eat, and get around New York when the race was off.  I was lucky in that I have a place to stay.  Some out of staters spent upwards of $2500 to get to and stay in New York.

Those people calling for legal action against Bloomberg, or getting all their money back from the city are assholes.

Plain and simple, they are assholes.

Deduct the cost of your bib from your taxes. Talk to you accountant about ways to mitigate other expenses.  Never go back to the best city in the world. But to bring legal action against a city that still has well over 50,000 people without heat or power is not even close to ok.

Sure be disappointed.  Vent online but don't even kid about bring legal action, asshole.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Movember

With one week of scruff on my face, I had wanted to have pushed my man-cancer-facial-hair-race a bit more this month, but something came up. Regardless of natural disasters, men are still getting cancer and research still needs to be funded…so I am growing a mustache.



Here are some stats about man cancers, some of which I just made up:
  1. 100% of men are at risk of man cancers.
  2. 97.5% of men don’t mind getting checked for man cancers; in fact they kind of liked it.
  3. 72% of men vigorously self-check for man cancers.  100% of them like it.
  4. Early detection of man cancers increase the likelihood of the man surviving.
Man cancer is bad news.  Even without my fake stats above, testicular and prostate cancer kill entirely too many men every year.  Because of the Breast Cancer Awareness bonanza, pink-washing and all, women have begun to take significantly better care of themselves in this regard and now have wonderful research to rely upon if their awareness finds something bad.

 You could say the mustache is the pink ribbon of November.  My current plan is to just let the beard go for two weeks and then get rid of everything but the stash.  This will make for the best awareness building tool and hopefully fundraising juggernaut.

But most importantly, I now have the excuse, nay obligation to sport the creepiest of facial hair options.  I am so excited about wearing a mustache.  I also hope to raise a few dollars for cancer research.  But more, this is about the facial hair.

So throw me a few bones as I grow my stash.  The more you give, the bigger the stash will grow, I think.  Give the most you get to choose the style for the last week of November.  If you give big money, I will continue to wear the stash during the California International Marathon.  That Monday I will shave because I am sure my wife would like that…and I am not hipster scrum.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The 2012 New York City Marathon - Race Recap

Today at about 2:15pm I looked at the clock and said, "I would have been crossing the finish line now."  I was sitting with friends, some who had no power just a day ago, others who have yet to hear from co-workers, others who were spared Sandy's wrath.  I wore my marathon shirt.  But this day was about 72 hours in the making. Well more like four months in the making but that is a different story.

I made no bones about my issues with holding this race. I was relieved when it was canceled. But that doesn't mean I wasn't disappointed.  I am trying to wrap my head around the entire weekend of events but I am having some serious trouble with it right now.  But this is what I am thinking now.

Friday
After picking up my bib and other stuff, with thousands of others, we came back to our apartment to do some work and relax a bit. The Twitter rumor mill was rumbling and it was a matter of hours until the race was canceled.

The SFRRC was slammed with media requests and I fielded a number of them. I was "a lot mad" at the mayor for his late game move but it was the right choice to make. However, he should have made it on Tuesday.

 
The interviews, one from the NY Daily News and one with the SF Chronicle, both stressed runners' frustration with Mayor Bloomberg for not making the obvious call earlier.  People around the city and on the social medias were talking about conspiracies about getting the people to the city to salvage as much economic benefit from the marathon as possible.  I have a hard time believing that but I can't say it didn't cross my mind.

We went to services on Friday night at our old congregation and ordered in Thai food for dinner, so I could be at home for the interviews.  And while it is hard to say when so many are out in the cold, Friday was the first good night of sleep I had since the storm.

Saturday
In that I am still running another marathon this season, I set my alarm to get up and run but that did not happen. After checking in with the volunteer activities list from my State Senator, I saw that there was no longer a need for just walking up stairs but for people with cars, we left and got out to Brooklyn to check in on friends and spend some quality time with them and their baby.
Blog, this is Ruthie. You met last time we were in NYC. She is bigger now.
We exchanged some stories about the storm and were pissed at the Mayor together.  Walking around their neighborhood, you would have a hard time believing that just a few miles away entire sections of the city were destroyed.  It was surreal.

After a nice day, we took the train/shuttle bus home.  Again, it was like nothing was wrong and that was strange.  I came home and made a donation to a friend who is doing some grassroots work to get stuff into the hands of those who need it.  If you want more info, let me know.  She is trying to keep it small so it can be effective.  I do have to say it made me feel a bit better.  I do hope to help organize some "next week" relief efforts through our Synagogue and running club in San Francisco.

Marathon Sunday
The weather was perfect today. Cold. Crisp. Sunny. A perfect day for a marathon.  I went out to get in 17 miles for the CIM training and was joined by at least 10, 000 runners in the park.  It was strange.  I had a little trouble with it all but it was very powerful to see all those people out there getting something out of their trip.  Many, many runners joined a relief run, where they collected goods and cash for the worst hit areas.  But most were international runners who were just out for a run in their marathon gear.
This doesn't do it justice. (via Catie Becker)
My buddy Steve and I ran the last nine or so miles of the course together and met up with another guy in from out of town for the race.  The three of us went up First Ave into the Bronx.  We ended up flying along the course at about race pace.  I got to run my 5th Ave hill and got to the finish line.  It wasn't the finish I wanted but it did just fine under the circumstances.

Thanks to a nice Canadian,  I have this finish photo.
People in the park were excited, disappointed, and understanding. 

Parting Thoughts
  • I don't know how to feel.  I wanted to get my hands dirty and help but I didn't. I feel a bit guilty about that.  But I know that I would have been in the way for much of it and I know what most people need right now is money.  I have done some of this disaster relief in the past and honestly right now, hands on the ground can just be an additional burden. This knowledge doesn't make me feel any less guilty.
  • Mayor Bloomberg really screwed up here and the NYRR should have canceled this race with or without the Mayor.  In light of pushing off the cancellation, the organization should have written a better explanation, something like this would have been better.  
  • Not living in this city and being here this weekend made me feel like a disaster tourist. I believe that is part of the reason why I didn't volunteer during this trip. Perhaps next time we are here we will do something, you know when everyone has forgotten about Staten Island, Stony Point, The Rockaways and Red Hook.
  • Nearly 100 people died earlier this week in this city and many more throughout the region. Ten thousand or so runners were celebrating in Central Park today. It is a hard thing to get your head around these things.  But as our rabbi noted at services on Friday night, even in the face of such unimaginable tragedy, we still celebrate.  We did get to see loved ones. Babies and wish congratulations to expecting parents personally and open our (empty) apartment to friends. And thousands of runners did help out today and thousands of others celebrated their own accomplishments.
  • My automatic bid for the 2013 New York City Marathon may go unused. 

I still have no idea what to make of this trip and the race that thankfully was not.

Friday, November 2, 2012

No longer conflicted

They canceled it.


I am not conflicted.

I am upset.

I will volunteer for a few hours during the day instead.

A longer post later. 

I am running, for now

The Expo was packed.
Sitting on the shuttle bus back to Grand Central, Abby and I spoke to two women from Westchester who are without power, water, or heat but are now with their bibs for the marathon. One couldn't drive her car to the train station because the huge trees that used to provide shade in her front yard are now barricading her street.

They were conflicted about the race but they are running it because it is on.  And I feel the same way.

But it seems that rumors are flying on a cancellation.

Regardless of if it is canned or we run on Sunday, I will say that I am still unbelievably torn about the event.  There has been a long back-and-forth on my Facebook page about my last post in which many of my friends, calmly and respectfully, shared differing opinions.  And I respect that. We heard both we should for sure run and we should for sure not.

One thing that seems to be completely out of place are the threats of violence against runners. There is no place for that. It isn't the runner's fault nor should we be blamed for running.  Those who choose not to run are right and those of us who choose to run are also right.  The people who are wrong here are threatening to storm the course or throw eggs at us. If you have time to throw food at me, you have time to do what you think I should be doing.

All I can say is that this is a PR disaster made completely by NYRR and the Mayor. I would have been extremely disappointed if the race was canceled but I would have understood. But now the rage of the storm has a face and that is Mary Wittenberg and every other runner who toes the line. People are mad and will make poor choices.

Now, if the mob keeps growing, and keeps threatening bodily harm, the "for now" might change.  I remain unbelievably conflicted about this race.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conflicted

Since July I have been training for November 4th.  I have logged over 1,200 miles to train this year so I could toe the line on the Verrazano Bridge.  I did hill repeats and tempo runs.  I cut out meat and dropped pounds specifically to run faster in New York.  I did it for the love of the sport and for the love of my former city.

Super Storm Sandy completely changed the reality.  What I was getting ready for was not a tour of destruction but a celebration of New York and my progress.  Now it is being billed by supporters as a Race to Rebuild, or some such nonsense, and wasteful, dangerous, and callous by those opposed to it.

I sent a note on Tuesday to the San Francisco Road Runners group that is running the NYC Marathon saying we should make alternative plans for this race.  There was no way they would be ready for us.  But then on Wednesday the Mayor said it was a go and we boarded our rescheduled flights and now I am sitting in our completely unscathed apartment on the Upper East Side.

Upon landing, the military guys sitting across from us on the plane said something to the effect of Mayor Bloomberg is an idiot for allowing this race to go on. My mother thinks it is a waste of resources. My running chum Kai, who is running the race, also thinks this might not be the best of ideas to run a race through a city that is just days off from a catastrophic event.

But then there is a runner friend of mine who is currently living in the dark and says that the race is a fine thing to do now, and it is silly to say no to millions in revenue even if it is less than other years. There are people celebrating the city for its resiliency and ability to, as the mayor put it, move on with life. It is notable that the NYRR, the marathon's host, and ING, the marathon's named sponsor, have already given $1.5 million to the efforts and are calling on all runners to give at least $26.20 to the cause.  And not for nothing, people worked hard to get to the marathon.

I don't know how to feel. I know I feel guilty for wanting to have a good time.  I am worried that no one will be out supporting the race and if they do come out they will have nasty posters telling us to get off the streets.  I want to be principled and say I won't run. But then again, I want to run very badly and I want to PR. The wife and I always have a party and celebrate the marathon but now, after Sandy, it seems out of place.  The race will happen, and it will be toned down, but it is still an accomplishment for all the runners and the city.  So...it is hard.

The issues of the aftermath and canceling a road race don't even come into the same worlds.  But thanks to the powers that be, I have been given the choice to compete, gain a personal best while millions in this area are without power, water and heat. And honestly I thank them for this opportunity to run this race. I have wanted to run it again since I started running it in 2009. But that isn't without internal conflict.

I am hopeful that the race will be a nice distraction for people who have had a really bad week. I pray that it isn't a major drain on resources.  I also hope people are excited for the runners and the city.  This weekend will be one to remember. No matter what happens, it will be a hard day for all involved.

Not really the prep I was expecting

**WAYS TO SUPPORT THE RELIEF EFFORT**
The Mayor's Fund
URJ's Hurricane Relief Effort
American Red Cross
Give Blood

Now that this has been said.


I wasn't really expecting it and was planning for the worst.  But New York is the best city in the world and if anyone can dig out (or pump out) of a mess quickly it is New York.

A few notes about this mess:
1. Cory Booker is a bad ass.
There isn't much to say about that besides the fact that he is just in fact a bad ass.  He opened his home to anyone who needs help.  He is calling grandmothers to talk.  He is also saving puppies from burning buildings.  He is the perfect example of leadership and calm.

2. Chris Christie is a strong leader. 
I don't like his politics or his style but in this case he is doing a great job and understands the bigger picture.  His work with and praise of an arch rival such as President Obama is telling to his character.  I still would never vote for the man but it is nice to see.

3. WOW what a mess. And I am SHOCKED this race is still on.
But I am very happy it is on. It might be a great day for the city and it might be a drain on resources, but whatever it is, it will be and it will be one hell of a story. 
4. As always people are good.
The extension cord pictures. The adding people to cars to get into the city. The offers of bunking up.  We live in a great country and we should be proud of how we are working through this.
 I will update as we learn more about our beloved city.  Wish us luck.