Newport – a 1/2 marathon and a full weekend

I’ve had exceptional Columbus Day weekends over the years – some great, some not so much. This most recent one, I’m happy to report, was pretty fantastic thanks to some good friends and 13.1 miles.

Following an exceptionally fun Friday night out at an event  in Albany, we were on the road before noon on Saturday for the drive to Newport, RI. The road trip was uneventful under an overcast sky, but as we crossed the bridge into Newport the sun welcomed us. We went directly to our beautiful airbandb, got settled in and then hopped on our bikes for a quick ride to the beach to check out what would be our race start early the next morning.

Our ride was less than two miles, yet filled with beautiful homes and aggressive drivers. While the first was pleasing, the latter certainly wasn’t, but it was a good introduction to our general experience with drivers as both cyclists and pedestrians – disappointing. Drivers in Newport were not cyclist friendly at all. For a city that invites exploration, this was really unfortunate.

Following a great dinner at home of Cardona’s takeout brought from Albany, and an early night, we were back at the beach Sunday morning 30 minutes before our 7:30 a.m. start time. We had been warned about large crowds and closed roads, but had no issue getting dropped off in a convenient location – good job, JT. Portapotty lines were long, but we managed a quick bathroom visit prior to lining up at the start, optimistically with the 2:20 wave. My half marathon times range from 2:22 – 2:28, but I was hoping to break 2:20 for my first time.  Goals are good, right?

The race opened with an incline, my favorite start to get my legs stretched, before winding through Newport with its extravagant homes and beautiful scenery. There was water and Gatorade (along with portapotties) every 2 miles or so and I grabbed a drink at every single stop following a bad experience with dehydration after my last long training run. My body felt pretty good the entire race with no problems from my right IT band or glute, and only a mild twinge in my mid-back and my usual foot pain from about 8 miles until the finish. I can’t say I wanted to run any farther than 13.1 miles, but I was feeling strong and even managed to pick up my speed for the last couple of miles with the hope of meeting my goal time.

I crossed the finish line with a somewhat disappointing time of 2:21:27, but was pleased to be able to finish strong. Following the race, I enjoyed biking around town a bit, an afternoon nap and an evening walk along the Cliff Walk and I credit these activities with my surprisingly pain free post-race body. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as good after a half-marathon before – and that was before I received an email with my official results. My adjusted finish time was 2:17:01, my new PR!

Next up: Syracuse…

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One (more) night in Bangkok

It’s been nearly three months since my middle son flew to Thailand. I last saw him in a subway station way downtown in Manhattan.  He, on his first solo trip, headed to JFK and I, returning to Albany to get ready for my own trip abroad a few days later with my oldest son. I remember the stab to my heart as he walked away, accompanied by an irrational fear that perhaps I would never see him again. Both of these feelings were quickly exorcised by an intense pride in his spirit of adventure. Should some awful, but not unimaginable tragedy occur, I knew I would take solace in the knowledge that he was boldly exploring his world. That would console me.

And, yes, I really do think that way.

His trip was long – NYC to Japan, Japan to Bangkok, Bangkok to Surat, and lasted more than 36 hours. He arrived at his destination exhausted, jetlagged and completely freaked out by the foreignness of his destination. Our first iMessages were a little dramatic. His fatigue and culture shock caused him to panic. He wondered how much it would cost for him to come home sooner because he couldn’t imagine staying in this remote, rustic area for three entire months.

I talked him down with a combination of sensitivity (you’re wiped out from the trip, take a few days to settle in) and impatience (can I just enjoy MY vacation before we look at our options?) and, sure enough, he recovered  his wonder and interest in being in an amazing new land. He shared some of his experiences – the king cobra he encountered in the composting pile, the visit to the elephant sanctuary, tubing downriver with a new friend (in their skivvies) when they missed the spot where they were supposed to portage only to find themselves walking through a fancy resort, much to the dismayed surprise of the well-heeled guests. There were middle of the night attacks by fire ants, a close call with potentially deadly jellyfish and the almost predictable motorbike accident. Definitely things he wouldn’t  have known without this trip.

He ran short on money, but gained perspective and the ability to prioritize his expenditures. There were times of homesickness that probably felt overwhelming, but I imagine his appreciation of home and all it involves will be greater.  While he may not be a student in the typical sense, he is learning how to be a citizen of the world. I can’t imagine a more valuable experience, particularly at a time when our country is as polarized as it is currently.

Time to stock up on almond milk, ice cream and popcorn. My boy young man is coming home!

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When Pollyanna met Polly

The summer after I moved into the house I currently live in, my neighbor, knowing that I would be seeking a position as a school librarian, offered to introduce me to someone who might be able to help. He offered to take me for a ride to go meet a woman who purportedly had some influence with the school district. Her name was Polly Noonan. I had no idea who she was, but my ignorance made her no less interesting on the afternoon she and I met.

I had lived in Albany for about 7 years or so, but my local history knowledge was pretty weak. I had learned a little bit about politics, mostly while serving politicians and lobbyists at either PD. Ladd’s or the original Yono’s, and what I learned took away more than a little of my idealism. I became acquainted with  who the major players were locally at the time – Jim Coyne, Tom Whalen, Jerry Jennings as an upstart and the Breslin and McEneny clans, but I had real no depth. Corning was just a tower to me. And cheap plates, of course.

On a sunny day, George and I climbed into his Ford sedan and drove over to Polly’s house. I’m sure it was arranged in advance with a phone call, but I wasn’t privy to that. We just drove up and Polly met us and welcomed us into her home. Twenty plus years later, what I most remember is an exchange we eventually had prompted by a painting on her wall.

The painting, an oil as I recall, was of a beautiful Siberian husky dog. Being a dog person and not really understanding how this dynamo of an old woman with a gravely voice was going to land me a job, I asked if it were her dog. She squawked back at me with “yes,” and then continued to say that Jack had given her the dog as a puppy. Jack Kennedy, that is. The puppy had come from a litter that had originated with a dog that had been given to President Kennedy directly from Khrushchev. Yes, that Khrushchev.

I’m certain my eyes were wide, as she matter of factly related her deceased dog’s lineage. This woman who lived in a simple house remarkably close to the thruway, (and as I’ve come to learn, near Corning Hill in Glenmont), deserved a deeper look.

Since that day I’ve told this story a dozen times, maybe even to you. It’s one of my favorite memories connected to my former neighbor, who I continue to miss years after his passing. Reflecting on it, I think it may have been the exact moment that I first began looking at Albany as being an interesting place with lively history, rather than merely a location for a good quality life at an affordable price.

I didn’t receive a job in the Albany school district, but since that day, I have gotten quite an education about my adopted beloved city. I now know stories about Albany and I find it to be a fascinating little city. Thanks, Polly.

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Celebrate yourself – like a grand dame

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From one grand dame to another…

It’s Wednesday and I’m almost recovered from a fairly epic weekend. I understand that people sometimes have complicated feelings about birthdays, or maybe more specifically aging, but my philosophy is that each one is to be honored and celebrated. You know that Pink Floyd lyric about “shorter of breath and one day closer to death,” right? Well, the way I see it, each birthday that passes is one less that I get to commemorate and I don’t want to waste a single one.

Here’s a recap for you to maybe take inspiration from –

● A hair appointment after work. A little pampering is the perfect way to fill the gap between school and dinner, I think. Maybe you do something similar?

● Dinner at a favorite spot with a favorite person – or two, as the case may be. When our cozy table for two was crashed by a third, it just made the evening more festive. Perfect doesn’t always appear exactly as what we may have planned.

Lark Fest – at least on the early side when I was there, was a fun time. I love when the street is closed to traffic and wandering around checking out booths and eating yummy food is always a win-win.

● Taking a run to work off the eggplant and red wine from the previous night and to prep for the evening of…

● Dancing at June Farms’ 80s Dance Party. What a blast! This has quickly become one of my favorite places to spend time, especially when I’m lucky enough to be with good friends, which has been the case every single time I’ve been there.

● A Sunday morning 5K expanded to a 7+ mile run with the Luna B*tches. It was a beautiful morning to participate in a great local race.

● Some time spent with the New York Times and my youngest son before heading to…

● Saratoga Springs and the Outlaw Festival with two of my oldest friends. I haven’t seen SPAC full like that in a long time and wish I had a chance to connect with all of the folks I knew were there, but it just wasn’t possible.

● My favorite pastry and coffee combo on Monday morning before the drive south.

● An afternoon massage to work out that knot in my right piriformus/IT band.

● Dinner on New Scotland Avenue with my son to take advantage of their Restaurant Week.

● A hot bath & bed.

Was it indulgent? Yes. Did I feel special? Absolutely. Is this something that is possible every single year? No way, but in a month that also includes 2 funerals and a wake, I won’t apologize for how I spent my weekend. Life is short, friends. There’s only so much time to work on becoming a legend to your future grandchildren. You’d better get busy!

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Things I’m still learning

  • How to achieve a comfortable balance between what I share and what remains private.
  • The importance of stretching and using that dusty foam roller.
  • How to get to yoga once a week.
  • When to allow my kids the opportunity to fail.
  • How to trust – both myself and the people I allow into my life.
  • Being comfortable enough with my body to dance.
  • Why I have so much (clothing, shoes, jewelry) and how to eliminate what I don’t really need.
  • How to yield control.
  • To not immediately conclude that anyone’s actions are directed at me.
  • Why people aren’t honest.
  • How to be better at remembering names.
  • Acceptance of things I can not control.

 

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Things I’ve learned during my 52nd trip around the sun

  • Honesty is free, yet more valuable than pretty much anything else.
  • With each birthday, I feel more compelled to celebrate.
  • My dog is smarter than I gave him credit for being. Last week during an “intestinal bout,” shall we say, he opened the screen door to the back deck rather than literally lose his sh*t in the house. Good boy, Jeter.
  • It’s really hard to keep moving forward without ever looking back.
  • A relationship that is healthy, positive and satisfying sometimes seems like a lot for which to ask. Settling for less, though, isn’t an option.
  • Maybe I read too many Danielle Steele novels as a teenager, but just once it would be nice to feel like someone fought for me. Not literally, but by playing their A game consistently.
  • The more places I visit, the more places I want to visit. I can’t imagine a life without travel, or at least the desire to travel.
  • I have no idea what the future holds and I’m getting better at dealing with that uncertainty.
  • My sense of loyalty is strong. Example? I’ve had the same dental practice, ob-gyn and optician for nearly 25 years.
  • Finding a good therapist is almost as hard as scoring a new patient appointment within the next 18 months with a new primary care giver.
  • A Catholic funeral mass is incredibly comforting. The tradition, complete with words, music and incense, is proof that death has been a part of life for a very long time.
  • Working to have my outside accurately reflect my inside has been my biggest accomplishment this year. There’s still progress to be made. Isn’t there always?

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Overestimating competence

FFCCC1AE-BDF2-49B7-8366-4B377C314C1EIt seems that many of us believe we’re more capable than we are actually. Sometimes when I listen to a friend (or son) list their intended plan of action, I nod my head while mentally I’m shaking it. I know there’s no way it’s going to happen – the circumstances or conditions are never going to allow the plan to occur as projected because, in part, people neglect to factor in a random variable that can impact the process. 

An example:

Perhaps you know someone who has a child traveling, maybe in Asia. That’s a big continent, right? Could be anyone we’re talking about here. Anyway, this young person was asked by their parent to under no circumstances ride on, much less drive, a motorbike. They were just too dangerous, especially for a teenager who had barely an iota, if any of motor bike driving experience. Also, while it may have been many years earlier, the mother did still vividly recall this same child as a preschooler asking for a motorcycle. And a ramp.

No motorbikes, please.

So, predictably, the young man rented a motor bike because it was the most financially prudent mode of transportation and this kid was all about saving money. Because, of course, he hadn’t really saved enough money prior to departure and he was way over budget. Naturally, within two blocks of his destination, there was a bit of a chain reaction of quick stops and our motor biker failed to stop safely. There were damages – to a tail light, to a dominant hand, and to an adventurous guy’s sense of security.

It could have been so much worse.

Growing up and parenting are life long learning activities. We can always improve on how we’re doing and every single misstep or bad decision comes with a chance to do it better next time. To learn, both to listen and to figure out how to manage the unexpected situations we find ourselves in at times, isn’t easy.

As we get older, I think we start to develop a better understanding/acceptance of our capabilities, we meet our objectives more often because we’ve learned what we can realistically do and set goals accordingly. I don’t believe it’s a lowering of our aim, but rather a more accurate assessment of what we can really accomplish. As we experience and overcome life’s challenges our competence grows in knowing both what we can do and what we are realistically incapable of accomplishing. We get better at figuring stuff out and, hopefully, there’s less falling down and more cruising forward.

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