Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fear and Loathing in the Chili Chilly Chill

Runner's high is real.

Any doubt I had of that vanished when I tried to interview a bunch of runners post-race at the Chili Chilly Extreme 5K in West Liberty last weekend.

It was like trying to talk to a bunch of drunks.

Focus, people. Focus. Bunch of Chatty Cathys, all talking at the same time and none of them finishing their...

Oh look! A picture! You gotta see this! And I was all runnin' and then it was muddy.... And the water was so coooold.... Only up to my knees they said.... I didn't expect that much shrinkage...”

The drunks/runners parallel only hit me when I tried to read my interview notes. They looked suspiciously like the checks I used to write at the bar at 1 a.m.

After the run I was too busy scribbling illegible notes and trying to keep up with the 7-minute-mile pace talk to work off my own post-race energy. So the Princess got it all (and then some) when I took her to lunch. After I had taken a warm shower and finally quit shivering, that is. Not only did she get my race-course recap (the same as my interviewees'), but I got to share their stories with her as I organized my slowly thawing thoughts.

“There I was, finally changing out of my wet clothes in that tiny bathroom stall, shivering so hard I coulda' been twerking, wishing I could have had a bowl of chili while I was asking questions because it looked so good and everybody else was enjoying it while I was scribbling and dripping all over the floor and my paper was all wrinkly because my sleeve was still wet. Still wet! But anyway, I thought “What's that awful smell?” And I realized it was me because we had to go though the creek  and the culvert once -- and I don't know what died in there! -- and my shoes REEK, and I mean REEK like you wouldn't believe! And then I wondered how I managed to sweat so much because my bra was still wet and I realized I SLIPPED in the creek and the water was up to my pits and it was SOOOO COOOOOLD, but I only brought dry sweat pants AND why does my thumb hurt? How could I have hurt my thumb running?”

The Princess: “Yeah. You know, with this mix-and-match thing I could just order eight pieces of bacon.”

She has quite the way of putting things into perspective.

Speaking of perspective, some of the race participants and organizers said they hoped the event could some day draw closer to 100 runners. The numbers were way down this year (only about 30, being generous). It's a fundraiser for the Muscatine County Fairgrounds and it was a lot of fun, so I can see where they're coming from.


I managed to place first in my age group.

I kinda like that. In fact, the last three races I've participated in, I think I've placed first in my age group. Granted, I've been the only one in my age group each time. There is something to be said for being old, decrepit and stupid enough to run in November.

Of course next year I'll be one of the youngsters in the really old age group, so I may still have a chance to place in the top-ish for my age group. It brings to mind that venerable quote from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: “Face it honey, I'm older and I have more knee cartilage left than you.” At least I think it went something like that.

Then there's the fact that this Xtreme run involves a lot of narrow trail running – in other words, single-file. Once you've established your running order it's tough to move up the food chain (and unless you're the lead dog the view never changes).

Not that I would know about moving up. I was pretty well occupied just trying to keep the runner ahead of me within view so I didn't veer too far off course. But I did feel sorry for the poor soul (souls?) slogging along behind me.

And I need to apologize to them and all of the south end of West Liberty for the foul language I used when I fell. And when I crossed the really, really cold creek. And when I climbed up the really, really muddy creek bank. And when I realized we were no where near the end of the run. I can either control my feet or my mouth, but not both at the same time.

One good thing about being at the back of the pack: the trail is well established. One bad thing about being at the back of the pack: the trail is a well-established smooshy, wet, slippery, mud fest. And the creek banks are nothin' but a sheet of slime, which makes for fun sliding down but not so much fun trying to crawl back up.

I did manage to improve my position early on in the run when I sprinted out ahead of a pack of runners so I could take pictures to accompany my newspaper article. Unfortunately that burst of energy – and stopping a couple other times to take pictures – ruined my planned pacing-strategy. I was just never able to get my head back in the game, and I think my time really suffered because of that.

Yep. I can explain my slow time and frequent walk-breaks.

Runners also have a lot in common with fishermen.

And did I mention that I hurt my thumb?

Just wait until next year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carpe Birthday

I wanted to make my 49th birthday special and -- boy howdy! -- was it ever! I started celebrating by preparing a bribe for Billy Joel and ended up on stage at a concert.

But first, the backstory.

I realize 50 is supposed to be the milestone year, but I figured why not celebrate everything leading up to the milestone? It’s like celebrating Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, or TGITh.

Forget carpe diem. Carpe anum!

In that spirit I began celebrating my birthday, which officially occurred Sunday, on Thursday. How else to kick off a big celebration, than by baking nearly eight dozen cupcakes and almost as many chocolate chip cookies? Those treats were the key to my brilliant plan: Operation Bribe the Students to Bribe Billy Joel.

Carpe Piano Man.

I figure Billy Joel might be able to ignore my request for an autograph, but how could he ignore a bunch of junior high and high school students writing him in support of their teacher's request? In exchange for a cupcake or a cookie, I asked students in my classes (and any random student who happened to wander by) to write a short note to Billy Joel explaining what makes me so special and why he should send me his autograph.

What I wanted was an autograph. What I got was a day as one of the most popular teachers in the school (who doesn’t love cupcakes, cookies or the person who gives them to you?), and a bunch of complimentary notes that made me feel warm and fuzzy. 

Carpe Sugar Rush.

Not everyone who took a treat wrote a letter, but that’s ok because the smiles and thanks (and puzzled looks of disbelief) they gave me were a gift, too. I had almost forgotten how much fun it is perform random acts of kindness.

Carpe Pay It Forward.

The down-side to my brilliant plan is that kids are already asking me if there's been a reply yet. Obviously I didn't think this through. Some how, some way, someone's autograph is going to have to be hanging on my wall by May.

Carpe Snail Mail.

Flash forward to Sunday and the concert.

After I managed to not embarrass The Princess at the One Direction concert this summer, she graciously invited me to a concert for my birthday: a concert she wanted to go to, but couldn't convince any of her friends to go with her (or they couldn't convince their parents to let them go, not sure which).

Carpe Cool Mom.

And that's how I wound up at a bar in Iowa City on my 49th birthday with a bunch of 21-and-youngers at a concert by hip-hop artist Huey Mack.

I'm going to give you a moment to let that soak in.

I'd like to say I was offended by the language. But let's face it, I'm the woman who gives up swearing for Lent. Every. Year. (Or as they would have said at the concert, “every mother f****ing year.”)

Carpe Potty Mouth.

I'd like to say I'm appalled by rap and hip-hop lyrics. But let's face it, as an English major and writer I admire the story-telling and that poetic ability to create rhythm with words.

Carpe Mad Writing Skills.

I'd like to say I didn't like the music. But let's face it, I was jumping up and down and waving my arms just like everyone else.

Carpe Dance Shoes.

I'd like to say I didn't get a kick out of it when Huey Mack said “We've never had a Mom in the audience before. Come on up here!” But let's face it, I did.

Carpe Are You Kidding Me?

I'd like to say I didn't chug a beer on-stage with a 22-year-old hip-hop artist. But of course I did.

Carpe Budweiser.

I'd like to say going to a concert with my daughter, laughing and dancing with her, and having her think it was cool that I was on stage with Huey Mack was probably one of the best birthday presents I've ever had.

Because it was.

Carpe Birthday.