Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Second Wind

Conquering Central Park's Cat Hill

Five years ago I would have laughed in your face if you had told me that I would run a marathon.  I never liked running, To be honest, I still don't enjoy it as much as swimming. It's work. It's hard. It's the completion of a challenge that I enjoy the most. So last August I signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon. The entire time I was thinking to myself what the hell am I getting myself into? The funny thing is, the more people told me I was crazy, the more I wanted to do it. 26.2 miles was going to be mine.

Running my first half marathon in Pittsburgh in 2011 was a challenge, but not impossible. How would I conquer double the mileage, the last six episodes of The Walking Dead, the year of concerts and work? I figured music would get me through it - it always does. What I didn't know is how "inside my own head" I would really be during the entire race.

January 15 - day 1 and it felt like the same old routine, at least for the first four weeks. Then those miles just kept growing - and growing. I learned the importance very quickly of not only being hydrated but having the proper electrolyte balance at all times. Good bye headache and hello actually feeling good after a run. I quickly landed a "long run" routine, making Saturday the day of choice. Eventually that meant no late Friday and a nice nap Saturday afternoon.

My first 18 miles run was St. Patrick's Day. My final lap -- the longest I would have every run to date - was clockwise in the park (while 90% of everyone else was running counterclockwise). The music was good - hearing Billy Joel's song Second Wind gave me a chuckle, but it was the smart ass 5kers that brought got to me. Why don't you run the way everyone else is? As I continues up the hill they were all running down (the Great Hill) the following words escaped from me: When you run this park three times before 8am, then you can tell me what to do.

I couldn't believe I did it. The first of three 18-20 mile runs. It didn't seem as bad or as daunting as I thought it would be. Yes - the music got me through a lot of it. Those 6 and 7 am runs can be lonely and I spent a lot of time with Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode and Motley Crue. But what goes up -- must come down -- and I thought I was going to fall flat on my face.

It seemed like a tight muscle or a strain - but eventually turned into not being able to strike the ground without thinking my femur was going to shatter. I had gone from long runs to barely being able to walk without pain. I was angry, depressed, scared, frustrated but had so much support from not only my love but from some wonderful folks on twitter (yes, this is you gpescatore, corybelcher and modejay) I had positive feedback that it wasn't over. I wasn't supposed to taper for another two weeks but was forced into it early. The good news was that no one could find anything wrong - the bad news was that the pain would not stop. Last ditch effort - a 2 hour deep tissues hot cold sport massage. I am indebted to my dave gahan looking therapist - who finally, after three weeks of pain - set me free. I had one week to now mentally prepare. Friday morning greeting me with a twitter message from Dara Torres --  It's good to be nervous...I always am b4 I race. It means ur ready! All the work is done, just enjoy the experience!

The City of Bridges welcomed us. Open, sunny, hot . The forecast was for upwards of 80 by noon on race day. Not only had I not run over 5miles in almost 4 weeks, I despise heat. Actually, anything over 70 is heat to me. I would have rather ran in the snow - 25 degrees out in my bare feet than deal with a run in the heat. But, I would do my best.

Water, carbs, water, carbs, salt, carbs .... rest rest rest. We drove some of the full marathon route Saturday -- and when I saw Forbes Avenue, I knew I was in for a challenge. The nerves began. I calmed them with a live webcast of My Morning Jacket from the New Orleans Jazz Fest. But, I tossed and turned and had that feeling that you get before the first day of school - jumpy, sick, anxious. My alarm could not go off soon enough. I soon found out that getting compression pants on after a three day carb load is no easy feat.

The cool air would soon burn off as soon as the sun touched the horizon. I was ready. We were ready. The hubby and I went to our own corrals. Little did I know, how nervous he was - for me. He knows I overheat like a 1958 Ford Fairlane Sunliner. Little did he know, I had a plan. And little did I know, the residents of Pittsburgh also had their own.

My wave started at 0740. They used Chariots of Fire type music to bring us to the start. Then we were off. I had a brief dejavu moment but quickly my thoughts turned to the journey ahead. Something odd happened though. Yes, I had my songs with me, but I was paying more "in my own head" if you will. The bands and crowds along the route were great and I actually did get a lot of energy from them. I took some advice from one of the hubby's fellow firefighters (and a recent Boston marathoner) and reserved my energy - I didn't push it the first half. I knew between the two mile - 200 foot incline hill and the increasing heat and sun, I would need the energy for final miles.

The first half was uneventful - and sticking to my plan, I was dousing myself with water at every station. It was getting hot and the sun was already burning. As the split between the full and the half on the Birmingham Bridge approached, I was greeted with the following sign: YOU HAVE NOW COMMITTED TO THE FULL MARATHON COURSE. Then I saw a man on the course for the half collapse. Slow, hydrate, finish became my mantra.

As I looked up Forbes Avenue and the start of mile 12, I noticed that we were a formation of ants, trying to stay in the shade. Almost half way done I thought. That was the longest mile of my life. Seeing the towering Cathedral of Learning at my alma matter meant that hill was behind me. It was around here that I knew how challenging this would be. The sun glared - any water I splashed on myself dried quickly. It was also here that the bustling downtown turned more into the residential neighborhoods. Around mile 14, I rounded a corner to be met with a Grateful Dead cover band -- I wish I was  a headlight on a Northbound train!!! I screamed that line with the band singing I Know You Rider and it gave me some energy, but that only lasts for so long.

The further we went, the more people understood their role as spectators. This is my favorite part of the run. Miles 19- 22 we were met with families, bar owners, firefighters. We were doused with garden sprinklers, fire hydrants were opened for us and bar tenders handed out cups of ice. Seriously, I would not have been able to make it without you all. I am humbled and deeply indebted. Ice stuffed down sports bra -- I lumbered on until I saw Heaven - I mean the city skyline and a two mile downhill entrance into the city.

Almost there. by mile 23, the water was getting warm - and the heat kept on creeping in. Across from the Church Brew Works, I saw people handing out shot glasses. Are you kidding me I thought. How could anyone take a shot. Cold Beer Here ... What?? No ... Beer? Well, that is different. I quickly moved towards the line of bartenders and took the white cup and drank cold, fresh beer. I Love You So Much - it is rumored that I said before starting the descent again.

Mile 23, 24, almost there. Almost back into the canyon of the city. Mile 25 I began to scan the crowd for my husband (who finished the half in a little over two hours). I ran in front of two girls in neon green shirts - we kept on encouraging each other -- and then I heard him. Sweetheart, I am so proud of you!!! My better half was now off the sidewalk running next to me. Do you know how hard it is to cry and run at the same time?? He promised me a Guinness at primanti's and left me at the doorstep to mile 26.

Remember when I said mile 12 was the longest mile I have ever ran -- well, that last .2 is pretty long as well. It just never seemed to end. And Pittsburgh organizers, the only issue that I had with the entire experience was the fact that you paved those last .2 miles immediately prior to the race NOT A GOOD IDEA. It was LaBrea tar pits. Complaint aside. I saw it. The finish. I crossed it and received my medal. Wow - I just finished a marathon I thought to myself. I am kinda hungry.

So yeah, it took me five hours, but I did it. It was also 81 degrees. I am proud of the accomplishment and cherish the experience. Goal set. Goal accomplished. Onwards to the NYC Marathon November 4th

As I did last year - here is the song list that played on my shuffle. The music didn't impact me as much as I thought it would - but there were moments. Delirium maybe seeped in for some of them:)

Further on Up The Road – Bruce Springsteen: Irony plays into my first song again (last year it was Travelling Without Running by EMF)

Regulator – Clutch Good powerful pace song -- made me think of The Walking Dead episode Nebraska

Same Direction – INXS Peppy song - wanted to jump up and down like Hutch would  at shows

Policy of Truth – Depeche Mode I always crank DM - good beat. Dave ran by my side

After Midnight – Eric Clapton I wish it was after midnight - I'd be done. How many more miles?

Star Dog Champion – Mother Love Bone Yes! Some MLB

Papa Was a Rolling Stone – George Michael Good energy - but church choir led me thru this mile

Maneater – Hall and Oates Hit forward on this one

Call of Ktulu – Metallica \m/ \m/ Yes!!!!!

Lonely Days – Bee Gees Good morning mr sunshine -- he brightened my day for sure

Uncle Albert / Hands Across the Water – Paul McCartney and Wings The butter wouldn't melt!!

The Weight – Umphreys McGee Sweet Jesus - I was crying when this played.

Midnight Rider – Allman Brothers I don't remember this song

Headlong – Queen Great song with a driving beat

Up Al Night – Slaughter I never would have thought I would hear this running a marathon

Fat Bottomed Girls / Good Times – Umphreys McGee I was at the show!!!!! Smiles from me

Livin’ in the City – Stevie Wonder Made me miss NY:(

Harlem – Bill Withers Really made me miss NY:(

Kyrie Elaison – Mister Mister I need this at the end -- not now silly Shuffle

Small Victory – Faith No More I wanted to jump like Mike Patton - too much energy waste though

Saints are Coming – U2 Took me down Carson street - flat, very flat Carson street

Never Let Me Down – Depeche Mode Heard this while crossing Birmingham Bridge

Slider – Gavin Friday Made it half way up Forbes and needed a faster beat

Crocket’s Theme – Miami Vice Woo hoo!!! Crocket and Tubbs

When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin My levee may break -- Half Way Point

I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones Always a good tune to pick up the pace

Desperately – Slaughter Desperately needed some dance tunes

The Drugs Don’t Work – The Verve Enough with the damn drugs -- I just want a beer!!

Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash Don't remember this song

Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers Imagined that Keidas wrote this for me (delirium)

Ballad of John and Yoko – Beatles Thought of my hubby and how proud I was of him

How Soon is Now – Smiths Too mellow -- I really needed speed metal at this point

I Got Life – Hair Or a good Broadway show tune

Angel Dance – Robert Plant Love you my Golden God but I hit forward

Me and Julio – Umphreys McGee I salsa'd this song (in my mind at least)

House is Rockin – Stevie Ray Vaughan Nice beat - kept me going

Riot Act – Skid Row Little too angry for me at this point - hit forward

Handle with Care – Travelling Wilburries Love this song - but need to rethink it being on marathon list

Letter to NYC – Beastie Boys MCA!!!! He had passed that weekend so this song was perfect!!!

I Can Hear the Hills – North Mississippi All Stars I can hear the freaking hills my ass ... I feel them!!

Too Funky – George Michael Runway walking with Derek Jeter -- long long story but go with it

Edge of Glory – Lady Haha Wondered if Gaga would run in a pair of Louboutin's

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynard Too late -- needed this song earlier

Don’t Dream it’s Over – Crowded House Fave song in the world -- but not what I needed

Yellow – Coldplay The hubby's ring tone -- I began to miss him.

Home Sweet Home – Motely Crue Skip

Alive – Pearl Jam yes - I found the true meaning to this song

Touch of Grey – DSO Made me smile - cause I was at the show throwing m&ms at the keyboardist

Cowboys from Hell – Pantera Yes -- I will destroy this course!!!!

Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Fun Lovin’ Criminals Too slow -- made me want to saunter down Delancy Street

Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode Mile 23 -- Beer -- Dave Gahan -- Me HAPPY

Never Let Me Down – Depeche Mode I imagined the crowed and Dave Gahan swaying

Lady with a Spinning Head – U2 Beer will do that to you

Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones Mile 24 into 25. I will forever relate this to the last song I heard while running my first marathon.

I let the crowd take me home


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

I can’t assume to know where our heroes go when they die. Nirvana. Heaven.The tremendous band in the sky, assembled in the round, together there on a sun-kissed, better shore. Whatever it’s called, wherever it is, you can betthe farm that today the bells are ringing there, and the people are singing.Because Levon knows what we can only guess: That there is no last waltz.That we’ll forever file in through the barn door with the ones we love, drawn by the firelight, grab our children and go round and round in a dance interminable. We doe-see-doe. We stomp the boards. Shout. Kiss. Cry. Sing.Spin. Laugh. Squeal. Study the stars through the gaps in the ceiling. Simon Felice Requiem for Levon
The Weight

I have been to many a concert in my 34 years, but I think I may have been witness to musical perfection last night at the Brooklyn Bowl. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, A Benefit to Save the Barn was held in honor of Levon Helm who passed away in April. With acts such as Nicole Atkins, Ian Felice, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo ... you knew great music was going to be played. The energy was incredibly high and positive from the first note of Ophelia to the last beat of The Weight.

The musicians played musical chairs all night, never taking a set break, and performing some of Levon and The Bands greatest songs. The crowd, a mix of eclectic hipsters and Ramble veterans (such as myself) sang, danced and reminisced together, celebrating the music of Levon. There were many highlights to the night - each moment a special musical memory. Ian Felice taking lead on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was beyond stellar. Don't Do It's jam kept going and going with incredible energy - you'd think these guys have done this song for over 20 years together. And Levon himself would have been so proud of the lovely ladies singing Anna Lee.

There have been and there will be many more tributes to Levon. But last night's show embodied the soul of the man and the pure joy that music can bring. We each had our moments that brought us to tears, made us dance up a storm and pause to reflect on that smile that Levon would get when he played. Whether you have been a lifelong fan or were just introduced to his music, the night will go down as memorable and just they way Levon would have wanted: a bunch of strangers becoming friends, singing songs together as if soulmates, laughing,loving and dancing at our ramble, our own last waltz.

Courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl Instagram @brooklynbowl