Elementary

Putting off the run on Wednesday was a conscious decision. In my head, Thursday makes more sense anyway: no stores to open, no evening plans.

Something that looks like plastic has collected along the edges of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Inches thick, long angular shapes, shining slightly in the noontime light. It takes me about the distance between the pump houses to realize that those are sheets of ice. Large, rectangular sheets of ice that have stacked up on top of each other. It looks as though the wind blew the sheets up onto the shore, where they broke and sat, and were then covered by a second sheet of ice, which also broke and stacked.

Spring is, slowly, starting to come through. The ice sheets are a sign, I choose believe.

What strikes me as interesting, as I piece all of this together, is how strikingly complex and powerful the human mind is. I have no evidence, aside from what is in front of me. I am also in the middle of running, and arguably distracted by that process. Yet, somehow I am able to reach all of these conclusions because of my ability to form connections and imagine.

The brain is a laboratory. I can test my hypothesis a thousand times inside it, all while exercising, and form a working explanation. I’d have to test it scientifically to be certain, but at least in my head, the plastic-looking ice sheets have a reason for being, and the reason is: Winter is nearly at an end.

(Full disclosure, I have spent the better part of the weekend watching Sherlock Holmes.)

Of course, come Monday, I am disappointed to find that I somehow picked up the tail end of a cold. A sore shoulder, and the general brick-headed feeling I have disincline me to start my day with a run. Which, considering I missed a third run last week, makes me feel a little lazy.

Or, it’s a chance to adjust my running schedule to one that fits better. In my mind, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday runs could fit better, considering Wednesday has been a day I’m tempted to fink out on

Shirt of the Day: Retro Gaming Heart (8-bit drawings of game consoles arranged in a heart shape)
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Advertisements

Randomly Recalled

“If anyone ever tells you that they’re from Chestnut Hill,” the police officer is chatting idly with me while the funeral service runs inside, “You tell them ‘Bullshit. Are you from Brookline, Newton or Boston?'”

I laugh, and remark that a fellow Patch reporter and I fight over who doesn’t want to cover things in Chestnut Hill. “Fighting” is a strong term, and mostly it ends up being me trying to pry a story off of her already-overloaded plate. I am standing outside of the first funeral I’ve ever covered–for the first journalism job I’ve ever held (I hesitate to remark that it may be my last, but journalism is not an industry I am actively keeping my resume open for).

Today, I ran past the same funeral service and remembered that brief exchange. I can’t recall for whom the service inside was. I recall she was a humanitarian of some kind, and active in the Jewish and/or Russian communities in town. I am trying to say ‘Myla Goldberg’ is her name, although I realize a few blocks later that this is because I am a hipster, and am thinking of a Decemberists song (about a real, but different person).

In spite of it being spring, temperatures have dropped back below freezing. In protest, I am out for a run, but in deference to the fact that it’s cold, I am shortening that run. Which is why I find myself passing the funeral home, and why I also find myself thinking about the way memory and location works. I am very much prone to forgetting things when I walk through a door, but I am also prone to associating certain events with certain locations–after a tough break-up, it took me months to walk past a particular tree where we had met up a few times over one summer.

In the same way, I had a hard time breaking the association with the Reservoir and a missing persons case–which ended tragically–during my time as a reporter. A young man who went missing after a night out with friends washed up at one particular corner of the reservoir. I still feel for his family when I recall the story, heartbroken as they were. I got wistful for months passing the reservoir and thinking about them, and the man he must have been for both his family and his school.

The story hit me more than I had expected, and in a weird way, I am glad. I am glad that that kind of thing never became commonplace to me as a journalist. I am glad that I could still connect to the sorrow of a situation, even as an outside observer. It may not have made me a fantastic reporter, but it’s what makes me a good writer and a good human being.

In the same way, I always remember that one time I turned a corner at what I like to call False Corner Cove and discovered I still had about a third of the Reservoir track to go, each time I hit False Corner Cove. I recall slipping and falling whenever I hit the appropriate intersection on Comm Ave. I recall turning around when the ice got too thick around the back of the Reservoir, and heading further up Commonwealth.

I also recall the feeling of glory–long after the fact--when I realized I’d completed my first 5k (equivalent).

If memory is a part of what defines us as people, then I really hope that more of the memories of good runs and odd moments continue to make me into a better, more determined runner.

Which, remember, I still find a fairly odd sentiment to actually write down.

Shirt of the Day: “Trust Me, I’m the Doctor”
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Nothing Of Insight Happened Today

Having had a fairly hectic week, and finally getting around to writing about my runs this week, I find myself with an interesting form of writer’s block: I have nothing really insightful to say about it.

I went for a run on Friday afternoon. I was tired: my Fitbit tells me I’d hit my 10,000 steps before I even laced my shoes up. I nearly collapsed on my couch for the afternoon, but was able to drag myself out to help a friend with a project first; they live a five minute walk away, so I showed up in running gear.

Then, I went for a run. Around the Reservoir and home again. Listened to some music.

It still seems odd how routine running has become. Which, I suppose, is all of insight you’re going to get out of me. It’s gone from something I have to force myself to do, into something I feel weird when I don’t. This is a shift that I still don’t fully understand. But, I have noticed it in my writing here: It’s less about the pain and effort of running, and more about the context in which I am running.

Which, I suppose means that it takes about 5 months for something to go from a good lifestyle change into a routine. Although, your mileage may vary.

(Regarding the title, George III did not, in fact, write in his diary for July 4, 1776, that “Nothing of importance happened today.” If for no other reason than King George did not keep a diary)

Shirt of the Day: Pitfall cover art
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

The Poorly-planned, Terribly Executed Excuse

While performing the bed time rituals on Tuesday night, I stopped to pick up my phone and gave some serious thought to my alarm time for the next morning. I was to open one of the stores I worked at, which meant at least a 7:30 wake-up. If I wanted to get a run in, I’d better aim for 6:30.

If I run after work, I started to tell myself, I could get some more sleep.

After work, however, I was going to meet some friends for drinks. I could go after that. 

As I brushed my teeth, I caught sight of myself–and my shirt–in the mirror and thought, I seem to write about running in my Portal 2-themed shirt, with the Space Core floating past the NASA logo a lot. If I go after work, I’ll be wearing a different shirt.

Somehow, this excuse won me over. I will not entertain any questions as to why.

With the extra hour of sleep under my belt, I managed to get to work 5 minutes earlier than expected. Things seemed to be going my way. My lunch plans canceled, but I went with the flow, and soon was on my way to Fenway, where there would be beer and half-priced appetizers (the latter, a pleasant surprise). Three beers, and a number of great conversations later, we were on our way to the T. Which, we had to run to catch.

Anyone who has ever noticed the bubbles gather on the side of a glass of soda, and seen the way they all rise to the top when the glass is set down, can imagine how my stomach felt as my dinner and I lurched into the train. Still tipsy, only slightly ill, but overall pleased with my lot, my friends and I parted ways at my stop.

The staircase at my T stop has the distinction of being the place my cell phone became part of the legion of Millennial Phones. A few months ago, I tripped while climbing the stairs and (rather stupidly) texting a friend. As I put my hands out to stop myself, the glass on the front of my phone suffered the consequences. Like so many of my generation, my cracked phone is not so bad that I can’t use it, but I can’t afford to replace anything. It was at the top of this staircase, that I realized there was no way in hell I was in any shape to run right now.

I collapsed onto my couch and drank at least two fillings of the water bottle I got from work–someone returned it to the store, and after calling the makers we determined it was actually fine. “Damaged” as it was, I took it home.

 

Thursday morning, before heading to my other job, I laced up my shoes and went out. A short jog up Comm Ave, around the Reservoir and home again by way of Beacon. Fortunately, I am willing to be flexible when others change my plans; and when I do it to myself.

Shirt of the Day: Earthbound – Onett Little League
Current FundraiserBoston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 2014 Walk for Change.

Setting Goals, Sort Of

Yesterday, for the first time in about a month, I went to my mother’s house and remembered to hop on the scale. More people have been noticing my appearance lately, so my curiosity was piqued. I was, I believe, 11.4 pounds lighter than when I last visited; also at a later point in the day than I had weighed myself previously (TMI: I still had lunch in my tummy).

A friend/former co-worker asked what my goal was, and it occurred to me that I haven’t really set one. I’m at 35 lost, and about 10 lbs away from my fairly arbitrary goal on MyFitnessPal. I told him I was about halfway to my goal, which I guess is what I’m shooting for now. Ideally, I’ll get a little below that, but I’ll see how things feel when I hit that number. Another friend (former roommate) asked if it was all from running. The short answer is yes, the longer answer is that and tracking my food intake. The goal of that was to track my sodium intake, for the sake of my blood pressure.

Of course, with St. Patrick’s day, my family decided to do boiled beef and cabbage. The latter is fine, but the former contains about a day’s worth of salt in just one portion. So, I was grateful for a run come Monday morning–hopefully, it would sweat out some of the excess.

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir track was about 95% clear. I returned to the familiar landmarks, the pump houses, false corner cove, and the newly-named Sunless cove (so called because it was still covered in a thin sheet of ice). It was a lovely return to a familiar place for, what feels like, a new chapter in my running career. I tossed on a half-hour free-run program on the RunDouble app, the same one used for my C25k program, and laced up in my warm weather attire.

I completed the C25k program mostly on the Reservoir, and most of Zombies, Run 2’s first season on the streets around my home. My hope is to be back on the Reservoir as the warm weather returns. As I learned before, two circuits of the track is a full 5k.

This is important to know, because I am aiming to run a 5k come June. A friend of mine, who also runs, works at the AIDS Action Coalition, who are hosting a fundraising run.

In the meantime, I have also signed up for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s annual Walk for Change, which takes place on April 13. I grant it isn’t running, but BARCC provides an incredible service free of charge to survivors of sexual violence; so I intend to hit my readers here up for money. If I manage to beat what I raised last year, $500, my running partner and I intend to complete the race dressed as Adventure Time’s Finn the Human and Marceline. I’m just sayin’!

Thus, while I am raising funds for one or the other, I’ll put a link at the bottom. Donate. Or don’t.

Shirt of the Day: Coast City Comic-Con 2013 Staff shirt.
Current Fundraiser: BARCC

Positive Feedback Loop

“Have you lost weight?”
“You’re looking good lately!”
“I’ve been meaning to say, you look phenomenal.”
“[Wordpress User] liked your post!”
“Your beard is coming in nicely.”
“You’re not so bad yourself.”
“Mission completed.”

In a theatrical or stage production, acoustic feedback happens when a stray audible sound from a speaker gets picked up by the microphone, which in turn feeds back through the speakers and back into the mic. This creates an audible thrumming squeal.

Fortunately, what I’ve discovered at the end of my second running program (Today marked the last of my Zombies, Run missions for season one), is that the same thing happens with positive feedback. In the last few months, I have been getting more comments and compliments–some due to running, while some are related to other things.

Out on the street this morning, I found some of these were playing through my head–along with the aftermath of an explosion in the Zombies Run mission, and a New Pornographers album–I found them pushing me along a bit–despite the cold. Which, is what got me back to my amateur acoustic engineering moment.

These voices, I also found, were competitive with the internal voices that tell me I’m going to fail. Which, I realize now is an odd thing. At one time, those negative voices were strong enough to supplant anything positive I got from friends and family. I seem to have weakened them with a healthy boost of self-confidence, and also with an excellent group of friends–two things that I didn’t seem to have years ago, the last time I was at a low point.

This is, all told, a good thing. I’m sure, if my hunch about the way this works is correct, this will continue to be a good thing.

Shirt of the Day: Portal 2 – SPACE.

Personally Blocking Efforts

Monday, I woke up with time to spare–an hour early, thanks to the other end of Daylight Savings Time. I also woke to a thin layer of snow gathering on the sidewalks. Just enough to trip my still-developing policy of not running when some form of ice is on the ground.

So, I put it off until Tuesday morning. In the half-hour I had before my alarm went off. My phone informed me that it was 37 degrees F outside. 37! That was practically the summer. That, and my tablet had no battery left, scotching my plans to sit in bed and surf the web.

Hastily gathering my shoes, and attempting to do the math: how would I dress if the weather were just shy of the 60s? It’s still not quite there, I told myself pulling on a low pair of socks and my running pants. No need for gloves, though.

Less than five minutes later, I wished I’d brought gloves with me.

At the least, it would have made no difference to my alarm, which started ringing every five minutes after I took off. I use my cell phone to wake me in the mornings, and it snoozes for 5 minutes if I do nothing to it. In order to turn it off, I have to slide an X button to the side. However, as I was running, reaching over to my phone in its Tunebelt pocket, I was unable to tap and “grab” the button to turn it off, because the phone kept rotating the screen as my arm moved.

I eventually gave up, and let it play out. Three times.

On the third, it crashed Zombies, Run 2, in the middle of the final mission of season 1.

I was already on the verge of calling it a day, and that was the final straw. I had things I needed to do. As I walk back to my apartment, I shrug off the idea that today will be a day where nothing goes quite as planned. Not defeated, but a little frustrated.

Welcome to Spring…

Shirt of the Day: Earthbound – Onett Little League

Crowd Phasing

There was a guy in high school, my freshman year, who had taken a particular dislike to me. I am not sure why, to this day, but he spent our mutual study hall needling me. He was a lesser football player, one of those people who lacked the skill, wit or charisma of the stars of the team, but was still part of their ilk. He was also at least a year older, although about a foot-and-a-half shorter than I was; many of his cohort had the privilege of free periods–he did not.

I never felt all that bullied, more exasperated; although I tried ignoring him, and I tried disarming him with my ill-developed high-school wit. I recall being disappointed when the classroom moved, and he came with me. Thus it had been about three quarters of the year when the clash came. The bell had run, and the hall was filling with students. He came up to me–I will never recall what exactly he said, what the final straw was that broke the camel’s back. The kid, channeling the sitcom eras of the day, threw out a line and walked away. 

I very vaguely recall a look of terror when he realized I was following him, but what I do recall was him running through the hallway just me. I was chasing him, zipping between passing students and trying to gain ground on him. He bumped into people coming to him on either side, I breezed quietly past them. Eventually, I caught him–just at the edge of the wing, before going into the main connective hallway. I tossed him roughly against a bank of unopened lockers.

Through gritted teeth, I growled, “Don’t. Ever. Talk to me. Again.”

I walked away from the encounter on a high, feeling not only proud for standing up to some jerk, but also like I was in possession of some animal agility that I had never seen before. He left me alone for the remaining months.

I never saw it since, at least until my run last night: I found myself running just as rush hour was dumping people in Cleveland Circle. As I came down the rise, I found myself confronted with a stream of humanity leaving the train station. Which is when I found myself weaving: a sudden burst of speed, and an equally surprising fleetness of foot. I found myself passing through, just brushing past one person.

This time, this ability came forth without anger, without frustration, with just the need to keep rolling. Which, I can only assume is how my mutant power will manifest. If we have learned anything from watching superhero movies, those abilities usually come out at times of stress or emotion, and are later channeled with practice. Clearly running is my practice, and this is my timing.

Coming around the corner, heading down Beacon Street, I found myself trapped almost behind a slow-moving family dragging a handful of children. On my approach, I had visions of bowling them over, but again, speed and agility puts me through the eye of the needle: I find myself passing through them like a mist.

I start to think about a conversation I’d recently had with a friend about runners. She was frustrated by the number of runners who called “On your left!” behind her as she was walking down the sidewalk, already trying to give them enough room to pass. I feared, briefly, that I was becoming that person, as I shoot between family members trying to go about their business.

I comfort myself with the fact that, as a novice runner, that instinct is not in me. I recall, vaguely, that being a rule from dabbling in track in high school gym classes. My instinct, as a pedestrian, is to try and move around other people. I hope that is how other people view me…

Shirt of the Day: Venture Bros. Spanakopita!

Scarfing it Down

There is a small basket on the top shelf of my closet, filled with a half-dozen or so scarves. Being as fashion-senseless as I am, this is too many by at least five. However, with the polar weather outside bringing temperatures down to 13 degrees, I have the basket in my hand and am considering options for running.

Minutes prior, I was perusing the web, and then feeling silly for not having looked this information up when it started to be cold. One website recommended a scarf over the mouth to keep one’s breathing air warm.

WinterStillHere

I decide on a thin, short grey scarf and try to put it on. Then realize it’s too short to really wear, unless I take off my long-sleeve T and wrap it like a gaiter, half beneath my outer layer. It’s still not going to complete it’s intended effect: Solving the frozen spit ball issue.

After a few seconds’ brain-fart about what stretches I actually need to do (I mostly stood against the door frame arching my back awkwardly), I got myself ready and headed out. Within steps of my front door, the scarf was already hanging below my chin. I ignore it and keep going.

Now I am at the nadir of a hill on Comm. Ave, and the cold air is starting to get to me. Breathing is becoming labored, so I tug the scarf back over my mouth and try to hold it in place with my teeth. This works for half a minute, before my body realizes I’m not sucking enough air in.

At the crest of the next hill, I am thinking of my body in terms of molasses–specifically expressions about being slow as molasses in winter months. My suspicion is still that the cold weather is robbing my body of some of its speed, and that I could be going further, faster if temperatures were more habitable. Instead, I am running as slowly as near-frozen sugar extract.

About halfway down the hill, I start feeling guilty for this, considering molasses in January was responsible for the deaths of 21 people and 150 injuries, in 1919, when a tank in Boston’s North End burst and sent a wave of the liquid cascading down the street. I admit (with apologies) that Great Molasses Flood still sounds somewhat comical to me; perhaps, I think to myself, I should come up with a better analogy.

Zombies are chasing me, through my headset, as the characters in “Zombies, Run 2” prepare for a siege from another camp. I feel slightly guilty as my character is bringing false hope to that other camp, as I use the transmitter from one of their runners to spy on them. However, they are the ones who nearly captured me, and have caused other issues throughout the story.

I resume my vigilanteism as I come across the still-caked icy sidewalks of Washington Street, reflecting on how, as soon as I get home and into the shower, my ire at these lazy homeowners will have faded sufficiently that calling the police will not feel worth my time. I zip up my street, and stop just after the mission ends.

It feels good to be back on track.

Shirt of the Day: Portal 2 Space (Nasa Logo with “space” and the Space Core)

In other news:

Walking it Off

“Ugh,” I mutter, mostly to myself, as I regard the piles of snow lingering in the tiny parking lot across the street from my apartment. “I can’t wait for winter to finally end.”

The Polar Vortex is back, bringing with it sub-freezing temperatures. Bringing with them a sharp desire to stay in my pajamas and sit at home, leave the running shoes in their spot under the chair, and make a cup of tea instead. There is internet to catch up on, there are blankets to wrap myself in. There are a hundred reasons to call it a day before I even go outside.

Yet, for reasons I can’t begin to explain, I am still pulling my gloves and long-sleeve T-shirt on, and slipping into something a bit more athletic. Pajamas discarded on the edge of my bed, muffling the call of the warm sheets.

I make a few more of my awkward stretches, plug in my headphones, and head out the door.

Almost immediately, I’m hit with a regret. I forgot my hat. It’s too late. If I turn back now, I’ll give up entirely (Note: I probably would leave my house again, but I sometimes like to play things dramatically).

Friday’s run was cut short by simply running out of steam. With about half of the mission still to go, I immerse myself back into the Zombies, Run world, but realize I may have missed a couple of details. Either way, the zombies aren’t really the motivating factor anymore. They’re more of an entertaining background; if they ever had been anything more.

Running and walking are two different breeds of exercise entirely. A couple of years ago, walking was my jam. It was a great way to get out of my house, and immerse myself in my own headspace. I’d get some space from my thoughts, but also have time to process them. Often, it was equal parts exercise and stress relief; and living a short walk from the gorgeous Jamaica Pond meant it could also serve as a distraction.

Running seems to be the opposite. There is a lot of blankness and space from my thoughts, with a few moments of lucid clarity. Minor epiphanies strike between lengthy minutes at speed, otherwise full of my brain rapidly cataloging all of the ways in which my body thinks it’s about to break down. Occasionally, a smaller voice will call out between the clangs of mental cacophany, “hey, dude, don’t forget, you can do this!”

I had a lot to process, a strange Saturday packed with ups and downs: weird events in my professional life, and possibly wonderful ones in my personal. Solutions, possibilities and drafts of conversations-to-have prickled through the clangor of physical complaints. At the end of the run, turning onto my street for a short cool-down period, I was no nearer parsing out the events of the previous days, but I felt something else.

The end result of a walk has, in my mind, always been tranquility. What I’m finding is, after a run–especially after a run where I meet or exceed the arbitrary goal I set for myself before leaving–I am overcome with a feeling of victory.

Shirt of the Day: Retro Game Heart (8-bit drawing of old video game consoles, arranged in a heart. It glows in the dark!)