Monday, October 30, 2017

Training is Strength

I exercise a lot. I train a lot. For a long time it was an escape. I wrote as much several times. It was an escape from loneliness, anger at myself, and other generally unhappy thoughts. But I've got a pretty good grasp now on the things that were effecting me negatively and I'm choosing not to let those things drag me down any more.

Even though I'm feeling much happier and healthier in body and spirit, I'm still training a lot. It's not just routine, which I've also written a lot about. I'll actually look to squeeze in extra workouts if I have the time and opportunity. And it's not about extra energy. I'm still tired and sore quite often. It's something else.

So what is it? What keeps me going?

Seriously? What is it?
Photo Cr. Steven Gallow Photography

I love to feel strong. Maybe sometimes I didn't realize that. But it's been the common factor throughout my life. It's the reason I started training karate as a teen. It's the reason I started lifting in college. It's the reason I started running, and later got into triathlons. It's the reasons I sign up for ever more challenging races and events. It's probably even the reason I like tabletop roleplaying games; I can act out individuals who are talented in ways I could never be.

Exercise is empowering. For a lot of people though, it's not. For them, it's a chore. You should go to work, you should eat healthy, you should exercise. For those folks, exercise is an unpleasant thing, like taking the car to the mechanic or doing the taxes. It's not empowering, it's just exhausting.

Just exhausting

And I get it. They have a comfortable life. Introducing a big change that's painful and exhausting like exercise is hard. It doesn't feel empowering. It just feels like voluntary work. It's one of those things you can't experience until you've actually done it for a while. It takes time to see results. Time during which they think it's not really worth it. Many quit before they get those results, that euphoric feeling of power and success. It only reinforces that feeling that working out is a chore.

I'm pretty blessed that I stuck with it long enough to experience that sense of strength and self-pride. I lost it for many years. I struggled, as many do. I got sidetracked by frivolous pursuits and lied to myself that life was just about "having fun". That meant drinking, and partying, and making shallow connections with many different people. I forgot that it wasn't enough to just be entertained. I need to love who I am.

I included eating healthy as another thing that's often a chore. But as with exercise, I don't see it that way either. It's not enough for me to feel strong. I want to look strong. It's my identity, and I want it to be apparent to someone who meets me. I've often called it vanity in a self-deprecating way. Maybe it is somewhat. But I want my loved ones to feel safe when I'm around. I want people to perceive me as someone who works hard and appreciates life.

Sometimes folks might look at me and say, "I could never be like that." I can appear larger than life. I seem to run a race every other weekend. On Saturday I ran a total of 16 miles with some really amazing people. There were hills and trails and enlightening conversations and beautiful panoramic views of valleys nestled between orange/yellow/green hills. And of course my social media is filled with a slideshow of these never-ending adventures.

A thousand feet of climbing is worth an epic view!

That's a choice though. I know, not everyone has the same opportunities I do. Not everyone has as much time. But a lot of the awesome folks I train with are full-time parents. They work full time. And they still look for the opportunities to explore the world where there's no cell service. It's harder but it's not impossible. And these busy people are some of the most amazing I've met. They seem to have a strength and energy that even if I don't feel I could reach! And truly, they're the ones who inspire me the most.

Meghan and Geoffrey are both full-time single parents with full-time jobs. The three of us did an Ironman together. They trained even more than I did! Early mornings, late nights, exhausting weekends... whatever it took. But when they accomplish their goals, they gleam with joy and a sense of owning themselves and owning their lives. That's what it is. People often feel powerless these days. The world is becoming an increasingly scary place. And training allows you to own something, to have something that is wholly yours. A definition of yourself that's beyond the definition that society would slap on you.

Crazy Ironpeople!

I can be surrounded by a hurricane of fear and confusion. But I'm in the center of that, grounded by my sense of self and my own strength. That is a feeling I wouldn't give up for anything.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Little Humans and the Future

I'm not a fan of babies.... which is a strange way to start a post. If I was in a grocery store and I had a choice between a banana and a baby, I would go for the banana. No no, still not right. Babies are cute, but I wouldn't trust a baby to help me if my car gets stuck.

I know what I want to write, but it's not coming out at all.

I didn't used to like them. Ah, I know. I'm using the wrong word. I used to not get babies. Get as in understand or appreciate. Like, some friends would have a baby, and they would smile because they didn't want the world to know how terrified they are. But the problem was I was looking at them logically, the way I used to look at everything.

My dearest friends Marc and D just had a baby, Max. I got to meet Max when he wasn't even 24 hours old. I was actually out in the hallway while he was making his way into the world, but I was way too early so I left and came back the next day. But when I saw the joy on their faces, I got it. What they feel is unconditional and utterly limitless love.

I've been writing about love a lot lately, to the point that maybe some of my readers are getting queasy. But the reason us lunatic athletes push ourselves so hard every day is because we want to be noticed, appreciated, and ultimately loved. Love is hard. It's hard to find. Exercising for hours every day is easier than putting myself out there in front of strangers to be judged and dismissed. And it's worked. At the cost of constant pain and exhaustion, I've gotten to meet many incredible people.

But when I met Max, it all became clear. I realized that ultimately what I was struggling for was this. To love and be loved, unconditionally. If I drove my friend's car into a tree, he would maybe love me less. If I did it several times, maybe he would stop hanging out with me. But if Max fell over on the transmission and broke dad's car, the love wouldn't diminish. If he was really clumsy and kept breaking cars, they would still love him 100%.

We all want that: Love without expectation. But that's lazy, and self-entitled. Max isn't giving nothing in return. He's giving everything in return. Hope. Growth. Atonement. A legacy. A bottomless well into which they can always pour their love. But not in a way that diminishes them. Rather they watch that love blossom and flourish into something amazing.

When I saw that, I didn't think, man what I wouldn't give for someone to love me "just because". I already have that, from my incredibly amazing family. Rather I thought, the more I put out into the world, the more I will get back. Because I got to be there. I was invited into their little family, their tribe. I was trusted and cherished enough to be invited to share in the arrival of a beautiful new human in the world. And if I'm blessed enough, I'll get to be around to watch him grow into an amazing person. And knowing how awesome his parents are, I have no doubt he'll be epic.

So for those of you who are struggling here, who are thinking, "wait, isn't this a running blog? What the F are you talking about?" Let's bring it around. None of us like to run. We don't like to exercise. Oh sure we pretend and post the smiling selfies. And sometimes we have a nice bike ride on a beautiful day, or a swim that just feels ON. But generally we prefer to sit and eat. I certainly do. We exercise because of the life it provides to us.

One of health, certainly. But you can be healthy without training 15 hours a week. Arguably you'd be healthier if you only trained for 3 or 4. At least that's what doctors and scientists say, but what do they know. Exercise is a lifestyle for me; it's my identity. And it has allowed me to meet many people with a similar identity. And my family has grown exponentially because of it.

Marc and D actually aren't crazed pain-loving athletes. I've known them for a very long time. They know me beneath my vain exterior and over-the-top persona. So ours is a special connection, one that's hard to duplicate. When Max was born, it was like having a nephew come into the world. And when I gazed upon his perfect little face I just felt unparalleled.... love. He makes me excited for the future. Even if my life blew up, I'd still get to watch him grow and prosper. There's nothing else like it.

So I get it now. I was looking at babies entirely the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, I'm still too irresponsible to ever have one of my own. But now I can appreciate what a blessing they are. The future is looking very bright indeed.

 I don't know what to put here so here's a picture of puppies.

Cover image: A beautiful piece by my friends at Naomigallery.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Take on "Me Too"

I know what some of the ladies are thinking. Here's another guy writing about his opinion on a woman's issue. They roll their eyes thinking, "he's probably going to make this about himself."

I am.

Specifically, about how I used to be exactly the kind of guy that contributed to the problem. I used to buy into the whole machismo thing. That a man's worth was based on the number of notches on his bed post. That taking ANY amount of sh*t from a woman was too much. That I was just going to do what felt good, and if women didn't like it, tough. I was selfish and I was an asshole.

I had all sorts of excuses and justifications for my behavior. That I wasn't making any promises, so if they got hurt, it was their own fault. That women enjoy sex just as much as men, so it's the only thing I needed to offer. That if a woman reacted negatively to me, it was just a knee-jerk reaction and I just needed to persevere. There was a particular "seduction guru" whose method boiled down to "make the ho say no." Big surprise that guy ended up in jail. And yet at the time I found him compelling.

All of that crap I believed and my actions came from insecurity. And whereas insecurity usually only hurts the person who's insecure, in this case I was hurting other people. It doesn't matter that I did not grope women in bars, or whistle at them on the street, or make unwanted advances over social media. I wasn't doing anything to prevent that sort of behavior either, so I was part of the problem. I didn't acknowledge how difficult it is for a woman in today's world to go through even a single day in peace.  I didn't appreciate how special it was for a woman to trust me enough to be intimate. I took it for granted.

I'm not that guy anymore. I haven't even dated in over a year and a half because I really needed the time to make sure I purged every last ounce of the idiocy and misogyny I embraced in my youth. And to process the not insignificant amount of guilt I experienced due to the women I let down. But guilt accomplishes nothing. It fixes nothing. I can feel guilty all day long and all it does is poison me and those around me. I'd rather do something proactive.

How did it happen anyway? I was an introvert. I was one of the nice guys who was afraid of women and didn't know how to talk to them. So I turned myself into the polar opposite. I became hyper-extroverted. I approached women fearlessly and said whatever I felt like no matter the reaction. And somewhere in there I lost sight of the magic that was the feminine spirit. I just saw them as conquests. I tied my sense of self with my success with the fairer gender. Instead of rejoicing in every connection with a new and amazing human being, I instead focused on the failures, and on having an unending series of empty validation.

"I can't survive on empty validation! I need real sustenance!"

And now?

I love women. I really love them. I love their incredible passion. I love their strength. The strength! I've met so many women recently who just blow my mind with their grit and tenacity. I even love their roller-coaster emotions. It's as if they can encompass all of the richness of life in a single moment. I need that. Because life is joy and pain and giggles and anger and success and loss and everything in between. Guys are fine; with a guy I can just be.... chill. But women... women activate my soul. They engage me at the deepest level. They make me feel and think and experience. And to think that I once only saw them as a collection pretty bits... it's shameful.

I'm blessed that some of those women I met long ago are still friends with me today: Beautiful and loving creatures all. They've forgiven me because there's no limit to the depths of their hearts. If they read this they may say that I was never that bad, that I was always fun and caring. There are others though who I hurt who will never forgive me. I 100% accept that. The best I can do is to strive to be a better person every day. And I don't expect one of them to read this and think, "oh, ok, you're cool now." I'm not looking for amnesty. I didn't write this to pat myself on the back or to show off my growth. I write this because it is an important conversation to have. Women have as much a right to appreciation and respect as men do.

Incidentally I'm writing this on my birthday. It used to be that on my birthday I would think, "I'm one more year from those I hurt." It was a selfish thing, to escape guilt via time. I don't think that way anymore. Today I'm looking back and thinking, wow, I have so many incredible people in my life. Not all of them are women, but many are. And I met them through our shared passions. We connected because of something meaningful, something that empowered us. From that first moment, I was looking within them. I was appreciating them for the depth of their courage and the expansiveness of their dreams. And though I may have squandered many opportunities in my 20's, I'm deeply blessed that I have learned to embrace these women not only as equals, but as humans who inspire me.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dumb Things and Family

I tend to say a lot of dumb things. I've said a lot of dumb things in this very blog. Maybe you don't think so. Maybe you think I'm just being honest. But even here I have a persona. And that persona says dumb things.

I didn't talk to anyone until I was about 23. I was home schooled until I was 10. I went through high school AND college barely talking to anyone at all. I missed the entire window of time when kids learn how to relate to other people. I finally had to Google how to talk to people. No joke. Google was around when I was 23.

As a result I sometimes feel like a strange creature in a human suit. Some of my friends think I'm a unicorn. Unicorns seem to live in solitude a lot. Frolicking in the woods. Alone. Squirrels don't make for great conversationalists. And they have those horns. So anyone will think twice about saying hi to a unicorn, because they don't want to get stabbed in the chest.

By now I have a decent idea of what to say in different situations. Decent, but not great. Around my friends, I make awful jokes, because I honestly don't know how to make polite conversation. And it bores me to death. I have a switch, and when I turn it on, I'm ridiculous. Most of the time it's off, and I'll happily stare at a tree.

I meet with my boss once a week to talk about... work stuff. We always start off with small talk. And I don't want to get fired for being weird, so I have to hack my way through this. I talk to him about trucks, because he drives a truck. I ask him about his daughter, because she's cute and people like to talk about their cute kids. I try to avoid talking about sports, because I can fake that for exactly one second. My boss is a good guy though and he's probably used to programmers lacking in grace.

Speaking of work, here's an actual
sign I saw there. It's amazing.

I get compliments. Attention. I try to be gracious, but at the same time I'm like, "stop being nice to me! Don't you know how strange I am?!" And some of my longtime friends roll their eyes at my antics. They're like, "I know you're awkward. Stop pretending to be cool." Geoffrey has known me long enough that he often drops hints when I start seeking a bit too much validation.

But I appreciate that. I need that. Meghan recently pointed out a stupid thing I said in my blog. A thing that was hurtful. And it wasn't meant to be. But the intent doesn't matter. It was there, in all its awfulness. That's the only way I can learn, when someone tells me, "yeah, that thing you said? It was bad. And it hurt me. And here's why."

Part of the reason I was drawn to karate was because it gave me a family that I didn't have to pretend for. I didn't have to know how to say things. I just had to work hard and not ever give up. That's a thing I can do. I can push myself to the point of breaking and then keep going. Karate, lifting, running, triathlons. They're ways I can express myself without having to use my feeble language skills.

I was reminded of this yesterday and today. A couple of high-ranking yudansha (black-belts) traveled up to train with us. They didn't do it for fun or profit. They did it because we're all part of the same family, and that's just what family do for each other. They support and strengthen one another. It is their giri, their duty, as it is mine to teach and to cultivate other young minds. We have a warrior's bond that transcends the mundane.

Here's a picture.

My LUNAR family is much the same. We applaud one another for our strength and perseverance. Sure we have fun and giggles. But the respect and appreciation comes from our recognition of each other's will and refusal to surrender to pain. Our refusal to listen to our minds when they say, "maybe sit down and have some cake instead."

I'll push a karate student, sometimes to the point of tears, because I know their strength better than they do. And I will be the loudest cheerleader when they succeed. I'll pace a runner in a marathon, because what they're striving for amazes me, and I want to help them achieve their goal. I'm not threatened by the success and growth of others. I relish it. I want everyone to feel proud of themselves. And I love being a part of a family that lets me do exactly that.

And even when I say stupid things, they don't disown me. They don't get (too) angry. Because they know where my heart is at. Sometimes they just laugh. Sometimes they'll point out my error so that I can learn from it. But words are just words. Because when it matters, I'll be toeing the starting line with them in the freezing dark. I'll have their backs when the going gets rough. I'll be there to push them when they're too scared to push themselves. And I'll be there to catch them before they hit the ground too hard.

When I was that antisocial 20 year old, I never would have expected that one day, family would be the most important thing in my life. But it is, without a doubt it is. When I was young, I fancied myself my own pillar of strength. That I didn't need anyone else. But now I know, that pillar would collapse in a second without the many many supports around me. Also my pillar has a lot of dumb graffiti scribbled on it.

"I don't need family! All I need
are my weird kung fu pants!"
I don't know when this photo was taken,
but it was taken on film, if that says anything.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Empire State Marathon (Almost Killed Me)

Today was all about my brother Alex. He trained hard, following a plan I wrote him (with some help from Geoffrey). He ran smart and he pushed hard and he had an amazing marathon, despite the challenging conditions. And.... that's it.

I quizzed him in the car. I was like, this is going to make a really boring post. Tell me what you experienced in the marathon. He was like, I followed the plan, and I had a good race! I frowned.

"Well I don't want the post to be about ME. All my posts are about me. This race was all about you!" I whined. My body was in a devastating amount of pain, so everything I said came out whiny.

"It doesn't matter. Just do it," he shrugged.

"I suppose I could write about how I almost died, but, like, in a funny way."


Last week at Wineglass I had an amazing race with Carrie. But she broke me! Before today's race she told me to run like I was being chased by two-headed space crocodiles. If that had been true, I would have been eaten. Oooh, and how amazing it would have been to stew in the digestive juices of that voracious crocodile. Because then I wouldn't have been running anymore.

Somewhere in the vicinity of the 20's today - I can't remember, I was stumbling and saw three of everything I looked at - I TXTed Lois. Lois, whose banister I broke last week. Oh, I didn't mention that in my last post. I break her things all the time and then I message her with the following.

"This is an epic torture fest. Never again back to back marathons and never again Empire State"

"Whyyyyy do I keep waving the golf carts past?!"

"I seriously feel worse right now than I did at the end of Mont Tremblant"

I sent those three things in a row. And instantly she was extremely concerned for my safety. We messaged a bit. At some point she asked, "Are you OK?"

"Lol nope"

"Not. At. All."

You know why I said that? Because I'm a douchebag, that's why. I wanted to have a pity party and she was my hapless victim. I mean, yeah, I was in a gargantuan amount of pain. And I felt just how I felt at Musselman before I passed out on a park bench. Usually I just grin and pretend the world is amazing. But I wasn't going to finish the race without distracting myself with TXTing and venting some of that agony.

We messaged a bit more, her panic growing. And then suddenly I.... stopped. Of course she assumed I had finally passed into the great beyond.

That wasn't it though. I ended up walking with a runner named Rachael, and she freakin' saved my a$$. As I did hers apparently. We were both in a mega pain fest. But we kept each other company for the last mile and a half (which still took like 20 minutes to finish). And somehow, I don't know how, we ran the last mile. I was pumping my fist and screaming my head off. She was like, "omg, you're so positive!"
You saved my butt Rachael!

It's a lie. It's a bold-faced lie. Grin for the cameras. Pump my fist for the guy in the golf cart when he asks if I'm OK. Explode into a goopy pile of joy when I encounter other humans. Life is fantastic! I suppose I should be "thankful" for my bizarre habits. They're the reason I've never DNF'd a marathon. And ooooooh how I've wanted to, especially today. I was at mile 24 and still begging the cart to pass me again. I was like, "it's Alex's day; it doesn't matter if I finish. F*ck that medal."

Oh, right, my brother. Who I should be writing this post about. We ran together for the first almost 18 miles. Unlike Carrie, I didn't regale him with stories. I was breathing too hard. My ears did that obnoxious thing where they feel like they want to pop but don't. It hurt to talk. He entertained me, in fact, upbeat and jovial and all those characteristics we share. At some point my laces came undone and I said, "just go!" I never saw him again.

I knew he would finish strong though, and he did it with aplomb! One of my coworkers once asked what aplomb means; she didn't know. Apparently I use the word a lot. It's apt here. We maintained about an 8:50 pace for the first 12 miles. Then we hit the West side of Onondaga lake and our pace went to trash. Well, if you call 9:20ish trash. He told me that our GPS must have gone wonky. I just agreed, because if he had tried to speed up, I would have literally died.

We both survived!
Photo cr. Audrey

I didn't want to hold him up though, so at 18 I let him go. And I walked most of the rest. I used to hate myself for walking, but I've had so many awful races it doesn't even phase me anymore. I debated reading in my Kindle app on my phone to at least keep me occupied. Eventually I settled on terrifying my friends with TXTs.

An attractive lass I met yesterday asked me to tell her how my race was going. I said, "I feel TERRIBLE lol."

I suck at flirting. Seriously, look at this sh*t:

"Are you excited about tomorrow?" She TXTed yesterday.

"Haha I'm kinda blasé about it. After the Ironman, marathons are like.... shrug." I replied. I seriously said that. It was the most awful thing I've ever said. I hastily added, "Geezis that was the worst humblebrag ever. Sorry." Also, I spelled it blazé. I always thought it had a Z in it!

I am never talking to another woman again.

Alex's girlfriend Audrey came with us. She got up at 5am and went with us and hung out in the NBT Bank Statium parking lot for like 7 hours. My ex went to one of my half-marathons - once - and hated me the whole time. Audrey was amazing! She even tried to send me inspirational messages while I struggled. I'm blessed though. Despite my rampant awkwardness I have a lot of amazing people in my life.

That's why I finished Empire State today. Because the more pain I experience, the more joy floods into my life. It's some kind of bizarre karma. But I'm not going to question my good fate. I have more love in my life than I deserve, and I will literally die for these astonishingly beautiful people.

If you read my last race report, you'll know that in Corning last week, I was just obscenely over-the-top. One of my friends messaged me in the middle of the week, wanting to talk on the phone when I was available. I was like, "uh-oh, here it comes. I've earned this." You know what he said to me? He said, "keep being you. Don't change a thing."

I was thunderstruck. After a lifetime of battling insecurities and judging myself too harshly, I've found people who not only tolerate me, but appreciate me. I knew my friends were amazing, but that moment made me realize how amazing. And I want to give that appreciation and love back ten-fold.

My brother Alex did an amazing thing today.

I would've suffered the pain today ten times over to be a part of it.

Oh! I have to give a shout out to my dear friend Cynthia for feeding two stinky starving runners after the marathon. Her two small dogs were wrestling with each other the entire time and it was heavenly.

That is baked veggie pizza with fresh arugula on top!!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Napoleon's Dick and Napoleon Dynamite: Wineglass 2017 Report

If the title is any indication, the past four days were not an urbane or low-key affair. There was no sipping of tea while discussing retirement plans. The people - my unbio family - laughed uproariously as we exchanged possibly the most terrible jokes a group of humans has ever exchanged. You expect me to say that we cuddled and glowed in shared affection. Yes, we did that. But we also talked extensively about jars of dicks.

Jars of dicks is now a permanent inside joke.

Some of my extended LUNAR family may be reading this and thinking, "why wasn't I invited to that? How did I miss those shenanigans?" It's because only with extreme levels of comfort can I let loose with labia jokes. Oh, you meant labrum. Sorry Jenn.

Labias are now a permanent inside joke.

Bart Yasso came to our LUNAR meet-and-greet on Saturday. That was a fairly urbane and low-key event. Then I came over to talk to Bart while he chatted with Shawn. I stuck my dumb kilted behind between the two of them and told him a story. I told him that the day before we saw him walking across from us on Market Street. Sue looked over and said, "It's Bart F*cking Yasso!"

Bart F*cking Yasso is now a permanent inside joke.

I don't go to Corning to run a marathon. Or at least, not to just run a marathon. Carrie said to me, "it must be painful for an IRONMAN to be slumming it in a measly marathon." I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly. "I know right? I'll probably have to go on a 100 mile bike ride after this." Sidetracked.

I don't go to Corning just to run a marathon. I go there to have an obscene amount of fun with some of the people I love most in the world. The jokes we made were awful. Really awful. And that's the special thing about our bizarre little clique. We destroy ourselves every day, and we let loose the most terrible things lurking in our psyches without any fear whatsoever of judgment.

Lots of love. No judgment.

That's really f*cking hard to find in life. The whole world right now seems to be awash in judgment and anger and fear and hatred. That sh*t has been building up in me for months. And this past half-week it all boiled up and came out. It came out transformed into something we could all laugh at. That laughter was a release, a way for all of us to cleanse our souls, leaving nothing behind except happiness and love.

Those jokes weren't at the expense of anyone else. They didn't hurt anyone. They weren't an expression of bias or rage. But only with people that I deeply trust could I let loose, knowing that all that grunge would be turned into joy. When I flashed the underside of my kilt at Mike Hammond while he facetimed with Martha on her phone, it was just a very weird way of saying, "I love you." I also used to throw rocks at girls when I was 6. Apparently my methods these days are no less crude.

Chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels
also cleanse the soul

I don't know if this is coming across right. Maybe you have someone in your life who you can say absolutely anything to without fear of misunderstanding or retribution. If you do, you understand. You also understand how critical it is to have those people in your life. If you hold all of your demons in and never let them out, you will die.

Lois, my secret doggy lover, welcomed us into our home, knowing full well that we would destroy it. She gave us a - what do the millennials call it? A safe space. She's a type A and an errant fleck of dust will normally drive her nuts. She has a beautiful new kitchen, pristine in its perfection. Every inch of that house got covered in sweaty socks, Chris's coffee cups, and general refuse. She didn't bat an eyelash. Perhaps it was a release for her too. The time we were there was a time beyond reality.

Millenials? Safe spaces? When we went to school,
we had to go up hill. Both ways. In a hurricane. With sharks.

Lois had asked me to wake her kids up at 6:30am for school. I was only too happy to oblige. I ran up there in the dark in my underwear and jumped up and down on her bed. All of the other beds in the house were taken up by manic runners, so her kids slept in her bedroom. "Fee fi fo fum, Lois' kids have to get out of bed." When that failed, I pretended her son was a burrito and tried to eat him. He's an angsty preteen, but even he couldn't help but laugh. They got up in time.

While I was getting my race bib at the expo, I was engaged by a woman I didn't know. She recognized me by my kilt, which seems to happen to me a lot. She turned out to be Theresa, the expo manager. Lois came over and said, "hi Theresa, this is my Peter." I didn't miss any words there; that's what she said. Theresa was dumbfounded. Then I mashed salaciously against Lois and Theresa's jaw dropped to the floor. It took her 30 seconds to recover.

Curt, if you're reading this, one, I love you. Two, you don't have to worry. I'm obnoxious, as you well know, but mostly harmless.

Mostly harmless

I met some new people. Martha stayed at Lois'; she turned out to be shorter than we expected. We met Jenn's husband Michael, who melded seamlessly with our ridiculous bunch. At the races and the Meet-and-greet, I met Craig, Harold, Lori, Don, Tami, Kristi, Annette and her son Joe, and countless others (I'm sorry I didn't mention you by name!). I got reacquainted with Jack, Mark, Charlie, John, Todd, and many more. My brain is terrible for remembering everyone.

Martha: Shorter than expected.

Friday night we broke into the Information Center to help Sheila load up some stuff for the Corelle 5k. Wait, is that illegal? I meant we came in through an unlocked door by invitation. Cough. We went to bed at an almost decent time that night. Chris stayed out all night partying. He insists he came home at midnight. Michael and I were pretty sure we heard him stomping around at 3am.

Michael really f*cking loves apples

Chris, Sue, Lois and I volunteered to bike marshal the 5k. It was brutally cold. And raining. And cold. On the plus side, I didn't fall off my bike a single time. Although one of the runners did throw a cup of water directly at me without ever looking. The cup bounced off the frame, spraying water everywhere. I was already wet and miserable, so I just laughed. He never even knew. I may have also come perilously close to running over a child. I maybe was looking at a TXT from Sue that said, "I'm f*cking frozen." I'm not sure.

It feels a bit cold out. Nah, we'll be fine.

I do know I almost froze my labia off.

The meet-and-greet was at the Radisson. Nothing too stupid happened, beside me telling Bart Yasso that he was "Bart F*cking Yasso". He remembered me from last year's Wineglass. Can you guess why? Here's a hint: It's plaid. I went outside a lot to vape. I tell people I'm an introvert but I don't think they believe me. Random people stopped to talk to me outside the hotel. You're not even in LUNAR, I don't have to talk to you! But I swallowed my sociopathy and was polite. My mind was overloaded with social interaction and I couldn't wait to rush home and get naked on Lois' couch.

Me, Shawn, and Bart F*cking Yasso

At some point I ran into Aria on the street but I have absolutely zero recollection when. She came to the meet-and-greet with Geoffrey and Meghan. Even though it had only been a couple days, I'd felt like I hadn't seen them in a lifetime. They were there to support Aria in her first ever marathon!! But also to babysit her and make sure she went to bed at a reasonable time. It's a good thing he's sober now. Before Geoffrey and I quit drinking, we would snuggle in hotel rooms until 2am the eve of a mrathon drinking beer and wine, eating bags and bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (registered trademark symbol here).

We had a super massive potluck dinner Saturday night. I made curried pumpkin soup. I spent all day tasting and seasoning that soup in the slow-cooker. That soup was my baby. It had Lois' homegrown pumpkin, cauliflower, veggie stock, onions, coconut milk, curry spice, basil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. And when I decided it was the worst thing ever, I added honey. It turned out alright! Of course there were a thousand other delicious things there. But Jeff Holbrook went f*cking wild for my stew. Hashtag win!

I was really excited about those pumpkins...
Photo Cr. Sue

Against all odds, we went to bed at a reasonable time Saturday.

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Elros sat at the table, his eyes glued covetously to the pack he knew held the One Ring. The Black Numenorean had already tried to steal it once, but was foiled when a rock slide nearly took his life. He'd manage to fast talk away the suspicions of his party that time. They were taking it to the icy North, with the hope that the fire of a red dragon could destroy it, taking it out of Sauron's clutches forever. Elros intended the ring to never reach its destination.

He'd already planned his second attempt. This time he would not fail. Once his associates were asleep, he would slip out through the stables with the ring in his possession. He would travel to Rohan, and make those weaklings tremble beneath his new found might. He clenched his bandaged fist in anticipation.

Too bad for Elros, the ring was fake.

I told Carrie a lot of stories Sunday. As her pacer in the Wineglass marathon, it was my duty to have nearly (but not quite!) four hours of material. When Carrie crossed the finish line at Musselman 70.3, her first words were, "did Peter make it?" She had passed me on the run course right before I fell over unconscious on a park bench. So when Lois asked if I wanted to help her achieve her goal of a sub-4 hour marathon, I jumped at the chance.

Before the race

It was a brutally cold Sunday morning. There was a frost warning, which is a warning for plants to go inside and sit by a fire with hot cocoa. Lois lent me her son's robe, and that thing saved my life. Carrie had a robe too, but that's because she's a cassowary. All dinosaur-shark-birds have robes. It hides them from their prey until the moment they're ready to pounce with their vicious beaks.

The three force adepts sat in a dingy cantina in the bowels of Coruscant, nursing their injuries. The Renan Irongut barely took the edge off the pain. The two-headed space alligator had very nearly gotten them, and only a lucky swing from a lightsaber had prevented their demise. They stared dimly through the haze of tabac smoke as the Holoscreen blared over the bar.

"Once we find the Century Pufferpig, we can get out of this Sarlacc pit. Pick a point among the stars and never come back," mumbled Dak Erso, trying to figure out which glass in front of him wasn't empty. He missed his ship. Just then the Holoscreen flared with a cacophony of noise and color.

"Prepare to have your weekend ANNIHILATED by the Mega Monster Ship Rally! Featuring all your favorite ships: The Angry Cosmonaut, The Wookie Ragemachine, The Asteroid Grinder, and brand new this Carnival Week, The Century Pufferpig! Don't miss this chance to experience enough metallic slaughter and debris to fill a lifetime!"

Dak sat bolt upright, his eyes wide, "my ship!!"

We met at the buses at about 6:30am and rode with Michael and Chris, who were also doing the full. The rest of the gang were doing the half. Aria just barely missed me, but quickly caught up with us in Bath, NY. I think Carrie was nervous, but I was talking nonstop trying to drown it out. "Tina you fat lard, come get some food! Tina, eat the FOOD." We sat in the slightly warm garage for an hour.

Really wanted to be doing this instead.

At some point, I took my seventh poop. You almost skipped right over that sentence. Yes, that's right, I had SIX poops at Lois' house. Mike Hammond, eat your heart out. Lois, I'm sorry! I txted Carrie from the Port-O-Pottie. It felt super good.

You may not know this about Jenn, but she has a thing where the cold can literally kill her. She had the worst half marathon ever. It was really super horrible for her. I'm saying that because I want you to really get the feel for the arctic conditions we were dealing with. Remember, it had been 90 degrees just two days prior. I waited till literally the last minute before throwing my robe into the UPS truck. We barely made it into the starting corral before the race started.

Matt crouched next to the burnt out army jeep, his shaking hands clutching a baseball bat. He really needed another hit. He warily eyed the writhing black mass of chaos as it slithered around the encampment, searching for him. Once Matt had been a Minor League Baseball Player, a pretty good one. Then drugs had ruined his life. He thought that was bad, until the Great Old Ones arrived, bringing with them horrors from his worst nightmares. Now him and a small handful of survivors struggled to avoid having their faces ripped off by a mound of gibbering terror. He really needed another hit.

Just then motion erupted in his peripheral vision. The headless body of a soldier slammed into the window of the jeep, inky tentacles stretching from the neck stump, pushing through cracks, reaching for him. The sharp smell of gasoline reached his nostrils and he suddenly had an idea. Just then the dark tree-shaped creature in the middle of the camp zeroed in on him and rushed forward. He only had a few seconds.

This would all be so much easier to deal with if Matt was high.

Sheila had made the announcements at the start, and as we ran past her, I yelled, "see you at the finish line Sheila!" She replied, over the megaphone, "see you there Peter!" That was supremely awesome. I'm glad I'd had the chance to volunteer and help out throughout the weekend. Wineglass is the best event of the year.

I told Sheila to look tough and important in
this pic. Instead she smiled :)

I can't give you a blow-by-blow of the 26 miles with Carrie, because it went by blazingly fast. She was breathing hard and couldn't say much, so I just talked the entire time. I told her about the many roleplaying games I've run for my friends. I told her about Mont Tremblant. I told her about my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. I told her about my first marathon with my brother Alex in Lake Placid and my many subsequent races. I talked for over three hours straight.

We played marathon hockey with Aria for about the first 10 miles before she got ahead of us. We ran with Chris for a bit. Carrie's husband and kids appeared at various points along the course, serenading her with glorious trumpets. I danced in my kilt. Geoffrey and Meghan appeared many times as well, screaming their heads off. And the other spectators were all amazing as well.

Quin Deleaux stood before the wrought iron gate, its black patterns outlined in rust. The pavement below his feet passed through the gate and stretched over a tree lined yard before ending at a massive Victorian mansion. The building was on a hill, so it had survived the flooding form Hurrican Katrina. Quin wasn't a superstitious person, but he could feel ancient energy oozing out of the house like an old ghost. The night darkness only deepened the mansion's foreboding look.

Quin moved up to the gate, his footsteps instinctively quiet. He admired his earlier handiwork. He had rigged the gate mechanism to fail the next time it had opened. He couldn't simply climb the gate or the stone walls on either side as the tops were lined with motion detectors. But the gate now stood slightly open, allowing him to quietly slip through.

Luckily the owner of the home didn't have any dogs or security guards: An eccentric recluse through-and-through. Quin's holstered pistol chafed the inside of his arm as he sidled towards the house. He had a conceal carry permit but had never shot the gun outside of a range. He hoped that fact would never change, but he had chosen a dangerous pasttime.

Quin carefully popped off the front off the keypad on the door to the garage with a small screwdriver and examined the exposed circuit board. Suddenly a light turned red. "Shit," he breathed. That meant he had 30 seconds to disarm the alarm...

At mile 23 I finally ran out of material. We had run past the horses. We had run past the donuts. We had long since crossed the halfway point. The miles had flown by so fast, we often missed flags and found ourselves farther along than we'd realized. There had been several points that Carrie was worried about, parts that were challenging for her. Parts that had nearly broken her in previous years. I jammed her brain full of stories and pushed her right through those parts.

But now my brain was empty. So I yelled at her. "Come on you slimy barnacle, hurry up before I kick you in the spine!" I'd make a terrible drill sergeant. But I managed to be inspirational? I think? She told me I was the best iron unicorn dragon ever, that without me she couldn't have done it. I had gotten so wrapped up in my chatter, I'd forgotten that we were running a marathon! Marathons are hard! But Carrie was supremely strong, and I had no doubt she was going to crush her goal.

Iron unicorn dragon?

Somewhere around this time the 4 hour pace group caught up with us. Ooooh heyll no, we said. Carrie yelled, don't let them pass us! I kept yelling epic motivational sh*t. Purely by accident, I helped push the runners in the 4 hour group as well. One of them even thanked me after the race, and the 4 hour pacer told me I should be a pacer.

"Kingsbury Ave! We are running over a street in which KINGS are buried. We are crossing the tombs of royalty!"

"Thanks random lady! We do indeed GOT THIS. We are disintegrating so much concrete right now!!"

"Stop.... if you're slow! Which you're not! So freakin' keep running!"

And sometimes Carrie told me exactly what she needed to hear.

"Tell me I'll never have to run again!"

"What? Like... after?"

"Tell me after I crossed the finish line I'll never have to run again."

"After you finish you will NEVER HAVE TO RUN AGAIN. So f*cking go go go. And then you'll be done. FOREVER."
This finish line?

"Tell me I'll finish in under four hours."

"Well I've been watching your pace and I'm pretty sure that as long...."

"Just tell me I'll finish in under four hours!"

"You're totally going to crush the sh*t out of this race in under four hours! Easy!"

Spoiler alert: We made it!

Finally, after what felt like 2 seconds of epic running (but was actually several hours), we hit the bridge. We could see Wegmans! I was manic. The energy levels were insane. I was yelling nearly incomprehensibly. She was going to get across that finish line if I had to throw her.

There was no need. We turned on Market St. and she shot up the street like a bazooka. I could barely keep up with her. She was a gazelle, a cheetah, a motherf*cking cassowary. She left broken stones and flying detritus in her wake as she smashed the earth out of its orbit with her feet.

She crossed, I crossed. She had done it. I knew she would have. And now she knew it too. Carrie had finished Wineglass marathon in under 4 hours. Her net time? 3 hours, 58 minutes, and 44 seconds.

No sweat.

No sweat for a woman who
can hold up the world.

Tears and hugs were exchanged. Personal space and stinky runner sweat became irrelevant. We were a whirlwind of joy and emotion. I felt high. Drunk. It was the most awesome marathon I'd ever run. It was FUN. And I was so g0ddamn proud of Carrie. She blew my mind with her sheer will.

She wasn't the only one. Aria had finished about 15 seconds before us. In her very first marathon, she ran sub 4 hours too! She had worked her butt of all summer with singular dedication, and it had paid off. Every time we saw her on the course, Aria looked strong. And she finished strong!

There were many other runners who did amazingly as well, and a handful who had bad days. All of them though amazed me with their strength and pursuit of their goals, no matter how hard those goals are or how much they cost. I wish I could name each one of them. If you ran Wineglass and you're reading this, you're f*cking amazing. Thank you to the volunteers, spectators, police, and the many many runners and friends who make Wineglass unbelievable. And thank-you Carrie for letting me run with you. It was an honor and a pleasure.

You earned ALL of the medals.

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Jenn and Michael's obscene "oatmeal" recipe.

  • One packet of oatmeal
  • One scoop peanut butter. "Scoop" is loosely defined.
  • Handful of chocolate chunks "to taste". Apply liberally.
  • Optional: several crumbled up chocolate chip cookies
  • Water
  • Do NOT add cacao powder to your oatmeal. Do NOT continue adding peanut butter and sugar to try to "correct" the bitter flavor. Do NOT force yourself to eat a Himalayan sized bowl of oatmeal that's still totally inedible. And whatever you do, do NOT send the following TXT to your husband at work with no other commentary: