Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Je Ne Sais Quoi

While I'm trying to gather my thoughts for a coherent decade wrap-up post, I can't help but wonder what I must have done to anger the universe. I've learned some valuable lessons this year, such as:

What Goes Around, Comes Around

This is entirely false. Not that I cure cancer, but I certainly don't steal or commit murder. However, you would think I do based on the punishments I've received this year. Meanwhile, I've noticed a number of people who just constantly are coming out ahead and this bothers me. In a similar vein, this also encompasses the "no good deed goes unnoticed" ideology.

When it Rains, it Pours

This is entirely true.

It Could Always Be Worse

This is a big one. No matter how impossible it seems, or you feel like you're constantly being Cleveland Steamered, it could always be worse. Never forget it. You learn that certain things are just simply out of your control and there's no point in worrying about them. Once something's happened, that's it. Just do your best to put it behind you and move on. Easier said than done, but we always have two choices.

1. Accept, move on, make the best of every situation

2. Deny, complain, get angry

I woke up yesterday morning to a smashed passenger window. I was annoyed because it means I have to pay for a new window, and it's cold out. I was originally happy that nothing was taken. Then this morning I went to look for my lucky backpack, which I thought was in the house. I was wrong. I've had this backpack for 10 years and if you've ever seen me you know what backpack I'm talking about - the black Maryland Track and Field one. That thing has been with me everywhere I've ever gone, usually posing as my only piece of luggage. I didn't have anything super important in it, other than 2 pieces of Under Armour pant type things that I enjoy having in the winter. I didn't pay for them, at least, but I will have to if I want to replace them. Mostly I was sad to lose the backpack, just as I was sad when I lost my Terps hat in 2005 and my student ID in 2006. They were just some of the things tying me to school, and the backpack was probably the only possession I truly care about in the world. Its value is immeasurable and cannot be replaced.

But then I realized, maybe it's time to move on. You can buy a new backpack and get new things that you lost. I know it must sound ridiculous that I'm this sentimental over a backpack that was falling apart anyway, but it was important to me, and when you can't go a few days without another rainstorm, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

I had always considered this piece of material lucky, because it kept me safe in my travels, but how lucky could it be if it was around me through this year?

I have one more day and then 2009 is over. I have never been more excited for a year to end.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forgot About Elf

In the past week or two I've managed to get out for karaoke 3 or 4 times. It helped bring back a little bit of joy to my heart. Karaoke was something I had never done until I moved to Baltimore. Every Wednesday back in summer 2005 I would head down to Shucker's in Fells Point, usually armed with cousin Emily, Spider, Thais, Sgrizzi, sometimes a few others would show. Jimmo was the karaoke DJ and since very few people would sing, I would get to sing 10 songs a night. It was the rmcgrath show, and we all know how much of a fan I am of that.

One Wednesday we went and Jimmo wasn't there. We found out that allegedly the karaoke was "killing their business" - when in reality of course it was their terrible food and poor service. I stopped going there altogether.

I had to find a new karaoke jam. Tried a few places with mixed results. On Tuesdays, after TNT, I started heading to Frasier's on the Avenue in Hampden with Jake, Godsey sometimes and Brusewitz. It was cool, until the roller derby girls started taking over. It was at Frasier's, however, that Jake and I perfected our "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the style of Old School, which has brought crowds (and girls - psyche!) to their knees ever since. I also had some great performances of Outkast's "Roses" and D12's "My Band".

Moving on from Frasier's, I also had a secret Wednesday night spot in Brooklyn Park - Maynard's. DJ Tony had the hugest assortment of jams, a great sound system, wireless mics, a stage - it was sick. Thais performed here a few times with me, as did Godsey. Not sure that many others made the trip down. I soon grew weary of driving down there and had nobody to go with.

Recently, the arrival of Patty Mac into the group has brought a resurgence of karaoke. Walt's Inn, on O'Donnell, has become a favorite of ours. We've hung out with Mike Tirico there. We've run into friends from days gone by. I've gone on Sunday nights, Monday nights, Wednesday nights and of course the normal weekend nights. Every time brings something different. A few times ago I rocked the crowd (on a busy Friday night) with my renditions of "Nuthin but a G Thang" and "Forgot About Dre". I am super gangster so it's very natural for me to perform these well. Then of course I'm always reminded of my old AIM screen name, which was "forgot about elf". The double entendre of course insinuating I was a fan of the song, and I had also somewhat forgotten about my nickname of Elf.

Last night (Monday) it was a throwback to 2005. Meeting up in the Square was a crew I don't think I've ever seen all hang out at once together, and certainly not for as long as we did. It helped that the few teachers in the crowd had off today. The group was composed of Mike and Shane Prada, Kipchirchir J. Bitok, Brian Godsey, Andy Gell and then Joel Brusewitz, fiance Alix Ruth and Dave Berdan joined us. I have barely seen any of them in the past few years. We walked into Walt's like Gangbusters to find it was completely barren of any patrons. Nevertheless, we rocked the shit out of the place. It was like the Rolling Stones at Altamont, or when Elvis returned to Vegas after he was banned.

We stayed until close, so of course I'm pretty exhausted today. It was a tiring weekend - a whirlwind of houseguests, being snowed in, staying out late and driving people around. I'm glad it's over as I really need to return to normalcy after this week. I also definitely need to begin Christmas shopping. I love going to the Mall on Christmas Eve, I am so much more efficient when I'm under the gun.

As far as training goes, Friday was a pretty sweet run. 4 miles with BG and Kip, used to be the old crew. 7:28 first mile, started to pick it up a little, then dropped a 6:38 last mile uphill. I was pretty impressed. The snow began to fall on Friday night, and by Saturday morning it was full-on snowstorm. I drove my "new" car to get Zero, Jen and Chrissie, then while on Fallsway we narrowly escaped the totalling of my car. We were volunteering at Celtic Solstice, which went on as planned. 3200 had registered; 400 showed to run. BG got the win, wearing spikes, and Julia Rudd got the W for the ladies. It was an unbelievable race and I'm psyched it took place.

Last week I managed a shade over 17,000m in the pool, which represented M-F swimming. I had 4 really good workouts but by Friday I was a little tired. I took the weekend off and got back in yesterday and felt awful. I think the mornings I swim immediately following PT are tough because I get beat up by the PT session and then just feel like I'm dragging. Today I felt much better in the pool.

I rode Tues and Thurs last week, the snow and the guests hampered my ability to ride this weekend so I'll probably have to bring my bike and trainer home with me so I can do something over the next few days. I'm heading down to P's graduation from FBI training and on my way back through Baltimore if I have time I'll try and sneak in a quick swim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Santa

I really only have three things on my Christmas list this year; unfortunately, none of them can be answered or gifted:

1. Find gainful employment
2. Get a better knee
3. Have my lawsuit settled

I've never felt so "stuck" - however some of my friends and family have been quite helpful and supportive so that's been a positive.

I haven't written anything in a few weeks. There were times I intended to, and tried, but just couldn't do it. I just don't feel like I have much to say. I could list my swim workouts, my attempts at running and a handful of boring bike rides, but it didn't seem inspired.

The one good thing I've finally done with myself is that I purchased a car the other day. Used, but a 2006 so not terribly old. Somehow, at age 28, this was my first ever buying experience at a car dealership. Thanks to my friends at Bob Bell Ford, the process was really easy and they gave me an absurd deal. And, thanks to the check I received for my totaled bike, it made purchasing the car as a cash deal much easier. Of course that means I have no money to buy a new bike, so I was quite sad as I wrote the check for the car. I'm hoping that, since I no longer have to rely on car/walking/rides from others, that I can be motivated to be more proactive in my job search.

It's silly to me sometimes to think of how proud I am of these miniscule baby steps I have to take right now.

We had our 3rd Annual Awards Night the other night - as always a great celebration of our accomplishments for the past year. I try and make sure I prepare awards ahead of time so I can say something about each person, then because it's me I get jumbled in my index cards and inevitably forget about one or two until I'm reminded. Our team is unlike any other I've ever seen, and I'm reminded of that each year when we do this. Thanks to the race timing that we did this year to earn a little extra dollars, we ordered some pizzas and had the party at the store.

My friends then surprised me with an amazing gift - a new digital camera! For the last decade I've only owned my manual SLR Pentax K1000, which has been through a lot. And since it's become increasingly difficult to find places to service cameras like that, and film/developing are expensive, I knew I'd eventually have to move to the digital world. I wish I had this for the whole year as I spectated at something like 22 races this year! So for 2010 I'll have it, and I'm pumped because I definitely won't be racing for a while. My friends routinely go above and beyond for this gift, which I really don't deserve and wish they would just not worry about!

Another ritual of Awards Night is I hand out index cards and everyone writes down their goals for the next year. Because we are more than "just" runners - meaning, we have other things in our lives that are important to us - I always ask for a few running related goals, and then personal related goals. I love being able to watch as the group strives to hit their marks, and then review every so often to make sure they're on target. Of course sometimes things come up that prevent you from reaching any of your goals, then you feel like the year was a waste. For the record, I don't actually feel like my year was a complete waste, but that's for another post.

The bad news I have is that my PT says I really am not doing well with my progression. It's weird to think that I'm not doing the best of any post-ACL surgery patient of all time, because I feel like I could still beat most people at a sprint tri right now, but it's the truth. There are two other dudes who had ACL surgery right around me and I asked the PT how I stacked up. He told me I'm the worst by far and we just can't figure out why my knee refuses to straighten out completely or bend better. I go into PT every MWF and feel as if it's the first time I've ever been there sometimes.

At the same time, I've seen some pretty unbelievable progression. Obviously I've been swimming well for 5 months. That sucks. I'm tired of the pool. But I'm getting faster and stronger. If I have any shot of competing at Columbia or Eagleman, I need to know that I can swim in the 20:xx range (Columbia) and 27:xx range (Eagleman). I say this because there is no way on earth that I run as fast this year as I did last year.

It also means I have to get back to (minimum) where I was last year on the bike. This is a tall, tall order. Ideally I'd need to be even faster. And unless my lawsuit is magically settled in the next 2-3 months or I find a job that pays me more than I was making previously, I just can't rationalize spending the money on a time trial bike just yet.

If I can continue with the 4-5 hours per week in the pool (not much need for more), and start getting up to 6-8 hours on the bike, I think I should be in good shape. Running is going to be in the 2 hour per week range for now I think, at about 30-40 minutes every other day. I managed to run about 5.5 minutes at 6:20-6:30 pace on Monday night with the guys as they finished their run. It felt like an absolute sprint. Wednesday I ran down to the Square to meet the guys for WNR. 7:34 to the Square (1 mile, mostly downhill). Probably ran about that pace with them until 19 minutes on my watch. Walked about a minute, then ran uphill for 2.5min. Then walked downhill for a minute and started to run the last mile home (uphill). The uphill feels easier than downhills right now, so I got to the top of the hill in good shape to be under 7, but then the last two blocks are downhill to my stoop and it hurt. 7:00.5.

The only thing between me and full recovery now is that my knee refuses to cooperate and get better like I ask it to. Is that too much of me to ask?