Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things that go through my head when I run

I went for a long run yesterday at MacRitchie Reservoir, as I did last Monday. I was disappointed last week because there are signs everywhere advising visitors not to feed the monkeys but I saw not a single monkey. Only a giant lizard. Doubly disappointed.
This week I was pleased to see that monkeys really do live in the park. Some moron was feeding fish in the lake with bread or something, and got upset when a monkey showed up for a handout. I am no expert on the habits of Singapore's wildlife, but I learned very quickly that where there is food and a bunch of trees, monkeys will show up looking for a meal.
Running here on the equator is hot. And humid. And miserable. Until I am finished, and then I think, "I can't wait to do that again." Last week I tried out these trails for the first time, and I did not know that there were lockers and changing areas available. I had brought nothing other than some water, my keys and my iPod. This was not a problem for me, but it was for the other passengers on the train and the bus that I took home. Yesterday I decided to be considerate, and bring a change of clothes now that I new I had a place to store things while I ran. Last week my iPod had not been charged, and it lost what power it had almost immediately, but yesterday I planned ahead and made sure it was charged.
When I run, and listen to music, lots of things go through my head. If I am running a race its all numbers. I look at my watch constantly, and calculate how fast I have to run to make my goal time, etc. I ran a few races back in the spring where I made a conscious effort not to look at my watch. That combined with the shape I was in at the time proved to be a successful strategy for a PR in two back to back half marathons and a 10k. But I am back to staring at my watch. On yesterday's run, I was totally unconcerned about time, only about being on my feet for nine miles, regardless of how long it took me. So my mind was free to wander. The great and mysterious thing about running is that my mind almost always stays in a happy place. I listen to music, and I start making lists of top 5 songs of this or that category, a la one of my favorite movies, High Fidelity. Top five covers, top five true rock and roll songs, etc. So yesterday, I was thinking about songs that are perfect, just the way they are. Songs that could not be improved upon, in any way. These are not necessarily my favorite songs, but they are great, and I love them. Also, when I do this, I have a hard time rounding out 5, so this list only has 4. Also, this isn't necessarily a category that is limited, since its not truly a "top" 5, just a short list I came up with. Here goes:
"Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals - this was the song that inspired the list. I was listening to it, and thought, this song is amazing. Its absolutely perfect.
"Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan - I have said before that I want to believe that Dylan is over rated, then I hear something like this, and I know I am wrong.
"Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley - Simply... Beautiful.
"Here it Goes Again" by OK Go - Silly pop can be perfect, too. I may be unduly influenced by the fact that this song has the greatest music video of all time, but I don't think there is anything that could make this song better or catchier.

What have I left out? Comment and share what songs would make your list.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Birds

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some laundry in our outdoor laundry area (the washer is on the porch, and the dryer is in our storage area off the porch), and a bird came and sat on the ledge a few inches away from me. It freaked me out a little, and no matter how much I tried to get him to go away, I couldn't. I didn't resort to flailing or poking at him, for fear of him attacking me, but I made noises, and shooed at him and the like. I ended up going in side, and leaving the laundry out by the dryer until later in the day when the bird had cleared out. For a half hour after I went inside, PJ sat at the window meowing at the bird and batting at the window. Again, no reaction from the little critter (he is a small to medium size black bird, kind of like a really small crow). Flash forward a few days and the same thing happens to Erin. I tell her that I had this experience, and it freaked me out, and she implied that I might be a wimp. Flash forward again to Monday afternoon. Erin and I are enjoying some National Day rays by the pool, and this same bird (I am sure its the same bird), comes and perches at the top of a deck chair right next to Erin, inches from her head. She gets freaked out (I do not imply that she might be a wimp). She eventually shoos him away.
The next morning, Erin is taking Benson out for a walk on the second floor. There are some condos that have patios that face this walkway, and on one of these patios is a small barky dog. Erin stops to talk to the owners, and the bird is sitting on own of their shoulder's. Apparently, they have taken care of the little fellow since he was a baby and fell out of his nest. He is sort of their pet now, but also flies around free, wreaking havoc on people doing their laundry or trying to enjoy a nice afternoon by the pool.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I was reflecting on running earlier this evening, and my thoughts turned to how it all got started. In the spring of 2005, I watched my brother run the Monument Avenue 10k. That year there were about 15,000 runners, I think. It was a big race. We waited at the finish line, and watched the runners come in, my brother among them. It was amazing. I had no idea what it took to run that far. In high school, I had difficulty completing the one mile run. And the best part of the Monument Avenue is the crowd. The finish line is crazy. I was inspired. I thought, "One day, I want to do this." The following year was a big one in my life. I got married, I changed jobs and began my career in Clinical Research, I started doing some things differently, and in late December, 2005, I started running. I am usually not one to make a resolution about some kind of life change and stick to it, with one or two notable exceptions. I was not hopeful that this would stick, but as soon as registration opened at the end of December, Erin and I signed up. We started small. I ran around the parking lot at our apartment complex. I did the elliptical at the gym for 15 minutes. A week before the race, I ran 6 miles for the first time. Like many races, the Monument Avenue asks for a predicted finish time when you register. I had pulled a number out of the air... 55:00. Race day came, and I had done the work. I finished in just under fifty five minutes. That fall, my brother ran his first marathon. Again, I was inspired. I had kept up the running, going six or even eight miles at a time. I thought, "I want to do that, one day." A month later, I started training. And in March of 2007, I ran my first marathon. Again, when I registered, I picked a finish time out of the air. My brother was one of two people I had met that had run a marathon, that I knew of. I didn't know what was fast, or what was reasonable. When asked for my projected time, I thought 4 hours sounded reasonable, having no idea that many serious runners (not olympians, but people fitter and healthier than me) agonize for years to break 4 hours. And I did it.
In the few years since, the Monument Avenue 10k has grown to over 30,000 runners, and its still a great race. I have run three more marathons, and never broken 4 hours again. I have run a bunch of half marathons, coached a 10k training team two years in a row, and traveled pretty far to run some races.
Every time someone asks me how I got into running, I tell the story about watching my brother run the 10k. He really inspired me. I'll never be as fast as him. I can only chase him. He ran a marathon, I wanted to run a marathon. He qualified for Boston, I hope one day I will. He has inspired me. Really. In a very specific way. I can point to this thing in my life, and say, I do that because he did, and I wanted to, and he was a really great example. And because of him, I have inspired other people. Other people have seen what I have done, seen how excited I get about it, seen me at dinner parties, and heard me talk of nothing else when I zero in on the other runner in the group, and maybe they have thought, "if he can do it, then surely I can to." In most cases, they would be right.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Benson Update

We discovered quickly that we learned the names of the dogs at the park very quickly, yet we know none of the people's names. There are Carlos and Emma, the poodles, Timmy and Bobby, the miniature schnauzers, Muffin, the golden retriever, Blue, the chihuahua, Duchess, the shih tzu and Toby, the labradoodle, among many others. I know all of these dogs, and I recognize their owners, but don't know the owners names. And they know Benson. Lots of people know Benson. Today, I was taking him out for a walk, and we were walking through the gate at our condo complex. A man looks at Benson, waves at him, says hello, and calls him by name. Here is the strange part. I don't remember this guy. He is not a dog owner from the park. I described the guy to Erin, and she didn't remember him. We must have met him at some point, but only once, and apparently very briefly, maybe in the elevator. Benson is becoming quite a celebrity around the building and around the park. Maids, nannies, dog owners and others... the boy makes an impression. There is one maid that we see most afternoons who walks a Westie. Every time she sees Benson, she starts calling his name and waving at him ("Ben-Son! Ben-Son! Ben-Son!"), from across the park, until I bring the boy over to say hello to her and the Westie. Other reports from the Benson front: there are grates in the parking lot, narrow things that drain water, and Benson insists on either walking around them, to the narrow piece of the driveway where the grate stops, or he gets a running start and jumps over them. I guess he is getting used to walking on a leash in a new environment. When we take him to the park, he also insists on sniffing every lamp post that we walk past, which is a little tedious, since they are placed every 20 feet or so.
Also, anytime I eat a peanut butter sandwich or a pop tart, he sits next to me and barks until I share with him.