Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm Naming Names...

Who are the people in your neighborhood? Well, I have no idea what their names are, and sadly, if one were to say hi in the grocery store, I'd be clueless as to how I knew him. But put me in a local race, and I'll see faces and legs I've run against many years.. And I don't want them saying hi to me either! During the race, that is.. So a few months ago I was very distressed about folks talking to me during a race.. They saw Tamar running slower than her usual pace, and figured she must be taking it easy, so it's fair game to start a little conversation.. But no, I wasn't taking it easy, I was just germinating a flu that would give me a temperature of 103 later that evening (the same cold which forced Deb to take me to the doctors office and also gave birth to this blog.. No Deb, didn't give birth to it.. That sentence needs revamping..) So.. Ah yes, that fateful day, three people talked to me; One asked if I was training for a marathon, which right off the bat, isn't a compliment.. The logic being, 'well, she's running SLOW, she couldn't possibly be taking this race seriously'; Coming from Tara, I knew she meant no harm, an honest question.. Still makes you aware that people are scrutinizing things, and you best not become too damn slow, or you will hear an even less complimentary comment such as, 'Wow, you must have been run over by a truck, the way your feet are dragging'.. Next comment comes from Steve (told you I was naming names!) Upon passing me, 'Hi Tamar.' No return greeting from me, as I was really working hard, regardless of how much slower it was than usual.. Steve felt he should check on my health, because surely if I didn't answer him, there could be a serious health risk.. He continued: 'Are you OK?' I felt exhausted from the run and the flu, and then degraded by someone that was passing me, and what I thought, playing some kind of a psychological game (don't think this is paranoia, it's actually quite common for competitve runners to test others in mid-competition.. Bill Rodgers, who has won the Boston Marathon four times*, was famous for pulling this trick.. Amazingly, I still think he's a really cool guy..) OK, so I had a talk with both of these parties, and cleared the air.. No harm was intended, I think they were shocked that I had confronted them (Did they not know how seriously I take this stuff?) but that was then, and this is now.. Over the past 2 months my hamstrings have been acting up and not allowing me to get quality runs in, such as speedwork, which of course, is essential to doing well in races.. It was pretty discouraging, but this seems to happen to me every time I try to make a breakthrough in the 5k.. That short little bugger gets me everytime.. So at least, I consoled myself, I can still do normal training runs so I won't become completely unfit.. Just not very fast.. So there was a 10k race today that I decided to run to just see where I'm at.. I figured if my hamstrings didn't give me too much trouble, I could maybe run a 46 minute race, which would have pleased me, because the course was hilly, too.. So I get there, see a lot of people I know.. I'm relaxed, because I have my handy hamstring excuse to fall back on if questioned.. Runners are so insecure.. So the race starts, I'm feeling good.. I keep telling myself to 'run within yourself', meaning don't push the pace harder than what I can maintain for 6 miles.. My breathing is smooth, we're in the first 1/2 mile, and I find it odd that the front runners are still within grasp.. They must be taking it easy to warm up, I think.. Then we hit the first mile in 6:49.. Whoa! I guess all that resting has paid off! So I'm excited.. There's one woman with braids in front of me.. Then another woman, Terri, passed both of us calmly.. Terri will win this race, I already know.. The woman in braids puts more of a distance between us, so I forget about her for now, and continue concentrating on the zen of this race.. We start up a dirt hill, and Steve from the last race catches up to me.. He says, as he passes me, 'You look strong Tamar, keep it up'.. I guess I trained him well.. Then a new guy enters the club of 'talkers to Tamar in a race'! Scott says, as he's catching me up that same hill, 'How are you doing?' I don't answer him, because, buddy I'm here to run a race, and sorry, but breathing is more important to me right now than giving you updates on my state of well being.. He doesn't get it.. He has to add a new inquiry: 'Is everything OK?' Now lets really analyze this one.. Why would you ask such a question during a race? This guy was clearly pulling a Boston Billy.. I waited til we crested the hill to answer.. 'Actually', I said, 'I'm feeling a little tired.. Can you help me out?' That got a good laugh from another guy, and Scott just said, 'This is a piece of cake for you!' as he zoomed ahead of me.. Whatever, I was feeling a real lactic acid burn in my legs between the hill and mustering up that sentence for Scott.. Then a real cool thing happened.. I started getting closer to braid woman, and this guy Rich V. said, 'Atta girl, you can get her!' I had a friend on the course! How rare.. Racing is like feeding with piranhas, NO ONE is your friend! You're as physically maxed out as you're ever going to be in this lifetime, and then knowing that if you slow down, there are five people that would be thrilled to pass you .. Is so mentally stressful.. So hearing this man genuinely cheer for me made me want to stop and kiss him! Of course, I couldn't do that, because then all the other people that I had worked so hard on conditioning to not talk to me would immediately demand they be kissed too, as all groups of people seem to demand equal attention.. That's how it is in my world, anyway.. I remember when I was 10, I had this friend named Tiffany that one day decided she wanted me to kiss her! I refused, but then my friend Tara (different Tara) made the same request on a different occasion! WTF, as Jon from Colorado would say.. But let me get back to the race.. Over 1/2 a mile til the finish, I passed braid woman, and the ugliest part of the race is upon me.. A long long stretch to the finish line.. The clock is so tiny and far away, but I know if I don't maintain the effort, I will either get passed by a woman or risk losing my great time.. So suffer I must.. I run all out to a 44:55 finish.. Second woman overall, I'm so happy.. I shake hands with all the people that helped me.. Braid lady, as she really motivated me to keep going.. And Rich V. especially.. Racing really is like (I imagine) being in the trenches..
I even punched Scott in the arm affectionately, after it was all over.. Maybe a little harder than acceptable..

* Thanks to my friend Quentin for correcting my info on Boston Billy; I had previously stated that Bill has the most wins at Boston, which is incorrect; That honour goes to Clarence DeMar with an amazing 7 wins there, the first one set in 1911 at the age of 22 the last one in 1930 at the ripe old age of 41, which still stands today, SEVENTY SIX YEARS later as the oldest man to win Boston!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cinderella and the والخفاف زجاجيّة

Ten dollars to the first person to translate this post title! OK, this one's going to be a little more modern, as far as my posts have been going.. I've noticed my little pattern of telling stories that are slightly dated, chronologically speaking.. So here's a story from my life as an adult.. Just to prove that I have a little more on my mind than running ahead of my competition.. It's subtle, but you may see it..

My best buddy from college, Mike, got in touch with me via an email forwarded from someone in my running club.. Mike and I had completely lost touch.. Back in college we were both math majors, and the long hours spent studying left us in complete need of frivolity during our free time. We often entertained ourselves trying to find Mike a new girlfriend.. No one took us seriously, as our approach was more of the slapstick variety.. I would drop pennies on the floor of the student union building, and Mike would chase after them and as he would pick them up, he'd attempt an uninvited glance up some poor unsuspecting girl's dress.. Needless to say, Mike remained without a girlfriend throughout our friendship, which worked well for me, cause I could keep studying with him.. So back to our reunion.. I was happy to get the email from him, and reminisced about the goofy times we had together.. I wondered what he had been doing with his life these past 10 years.. I had heard that he transferrred to a different college before we graduated, and was studying macrame and dog sledding.. I did a quick search on the internet, and to my complete shock, discovered that Mike had been living in Morocco, spoke fluent Arabic, was employed by the UN, and was devoting his life to humanitarian causes.. This couldn't be the same Mike. Impossible. I called him up.
"Hi, Mike?"
"Yes? Who is this?"
"Say a few words. That voice is familiar."
"Ok, you should know who this is.. "(laughing)
(Giggles from Mike) "I know who this is! Are you naked?"
"Ah, some things never change! "
So Mike was still the same.. Yet he'd also added this completely different dimension to his life. He was involved in an Arabic Culture club, and invited me to his rooftop party in the city.. I was excited to go.. We don't have rooftop parties upstate in the country.. Our roofs are slanted here and everyone would slide off.. But in the city it's romantic.. You can see buildings of all different styles and heights, sprays of neon colors, all in a swirl of urban regalia.. Mike was the perfect host. In honour of my visit, he walked down the five flights to greet me at the door (no elevator in this building).. He looked exactly the same! A serious looking man in a business suit was by his side, apparantly the first guest. Before we knew it, lots of people started arriving. As I was introduced to people, the question of my connection to the Arabic club kept coming up.. My response was the same to each person: Mike is an old friend from college.. And I speak Hebrew, which is also a semitic language.. That line fell flat and generally ended the conversation.. The author of an Arabic instruction book was present as well.. I figured I'd have more of a connection with him, as I am really fascinated with language structures.. I mentioned that Arabic and Hebrew seem to have many similarites.. He agreed, and for emphasis, had me recite the numbers in Hebrew from 1 to 5.. I obeyed, and after each recitation, he would follow with the Arabic equivalent. 'see the similatrities?' He asked excitedly.. I wanted to, but they sounded as different to me as Chinese to Amharic.. I was still pleased with he exchange, and felt a renewed interest in learning Arabic.. It's such a suave, smooth flowing language.. When I was studying Childhood Education at university in Tel Aviv, my favorite class was Arabic.. I had to drop it because I think the concept of learning a new language instructed in Hebrew was too mind-boggling for my brain to process.. I'd stop and think about it, and then start dreaming in Spanish altogether.. So back to the hafleh on the roof.. I met all the women.. Very diverse group.. From 18-40ish, some dressed in traditional muslim attire, some completely modern and revealing.. There was an air of all wanting to meet Mr. Right.. I got that same sense from the men too, come to think of it.. Well let me rephrase that.. The men that looked clearly like Arabic was not their native tongue fell into this category.. Single New York City guys just trying to meet a nice girl.. Some were very odd, but that's to be expected at semi-random gatherings of people.. I had spoken to almost everyone there, when I noticed this small gathering of people sitting in a dark corner of the roof. One man seemed to be looking at me, and I remembered greeting him earlier as I was ducking out of the building for a little bite to eat.. I remembered he had very beautiful eyes, and a calm, intelligent face.. I walked over to him and started a conversation.. I may have been a little tipsy at that point, but the wind at that altitude seemed to sober me up, so I know that my thinking was clear. I'll call this man Said, just because I saw a film with a character with this name, and he had the same, steady gaze.. But that character was very, very serious, and didn't seem capable of light conversations with people of the opposite sex. My Said was very involved in our conversation, or more commited, I should say.. I was aware of being a bit of a conversation hog, but I was just so pleased with this man's ability to follow me.. Somehow I got onto sagas of famous female distance runners.. And this man was completely up-to-date with the BBC'S commentary on the subject! Wow! How many of my recent suitors even watch the BBC let alone follow topics I'm passionate about? Said also had a very centered continence, as though he could survive equally as well on a deserted island isolated from humanity as with a roomful of his closest friends.. But the real sign that he found favor in my eyes, was that I didn't even realize that he was a smoker until after I had left.
I looked down at my watch at one point, and realized that if I ran the whole way, I could make it to Port Authority to make the 12:30 bus back home.. There was no time for any further exchanges.. I said 'goodbye, it was lovely meeting you.. Visit my blog', and the other three men in our circle said in unison, 'We'd like to visit it, too'.. I said my good-byes to a very disappointed Mike.. He was hoping for a help-mate in the after party clean-up (sometimes living far away is a great advantage).. And off I went, down the five flights of steps, the only person running in Hell's kitchen this breezy Friday night..

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sunny disposition continues, even in lockdown

Yes, I snuck out of the office! I broke rule #47, 'it is forbidden for employees to leave the grounds during their 15 minute breaks'.. And now I'm documenting the deed on my work pc! But I felt this exceptional jaunt was justified, as I had to mail my three Mother's day cards in time for the next mail pick-up.. So I marched myself to the mailbox, dropped the goods, hurried back.. The sun was bright, I had the guilty feeling of an escaped felon.. And I saw a car getting ready to back up.. Oh no! I better not get run over, cause then they'll fire me! I make it back to my desk, notice I haven't pressed the start button of my break-timer.. We are hiring soon I've heard, anyone looking for employment? Gotta get back to work..