April 2nd, 2013
How many of you readers have, at any point, ever clicked your way to the FasterSkier home page, perused my stories about cross-country skiing, and thought, “man, I wish that I could read that kind of aggressive reporting and original writing about the corrupt officials in the paper in my own city, which, by the way, also happens to be an excellent place to live, full of snow, cross-country ski clubs, and smooth roads upon which one can ride a bicycle?” Okay, admittedly, probably not very many of you. But, if you have, now is your chance to act!
There are a lot of great things about New York–Chinatown, subways, tabloid newspapers, people gawking at you while you rollerski in Central Park–but there are a few other elements that are generally in absence here that I have come to realize are requirements for me to have a fulfilling, soul-nourishing existence. Like, easier access to the outdoors/snow, abundant open space, etc.
Over the past few weeks, I have been compiling, in my head, a list of acceptable places to move. So far, it includes, in no particular order: the Twin Cities, Seattle, the Bay Area, Bend, Denver, Anchorage, Boulder, Boise, Bozeman, Missoula, Salt Lake City, and a few Canadian cities that seem rad (Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary), but that I have written off because they cling to their maple syrup and their parliamentary style of government and make it difficult for foreigners to move and become employed there. I would also consider living in other exciting places that have not yet occurred to me.
This is where you come in.
I imagine that most FasterSkier readers are a well-connected bunch, presumably with close ties to people in senior positions at newspapers in all of these metropolises. Or, at least, with much closer ties than mine. If you read this blog post and feel so moved, please consider recommending me, or even putting me in touch. Then, we can all go skiing.
In all seriousness, I am really, actually, looking for a new job. Ideally covering politics/government/cops/courts/crime/business/real estate (or any combination) for a daily newspaper (or website), large or small. And, I figured that of all people, FasterSkier readers are the most familiar with my work, and probably live in good, wintry places…so why not ask for some help? If you have any ideas, email me! natherz[at]gmail.com
Also, as an example of my qualifications as a dirt-digging reporter, here’s a picture of my desk. Also, yesterday I was reprimanded personally by the New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly.4 comments
February 20th, 2013
Some of you might know that I live in New York City. For those of you who don’t, I live in New York City. While New York City is known for and very good at many things, producing quality cross-country skiers is not one of them, Caitlin Gregg notwithstanding.
There are actually a couple of other exceptions to this rule. Namely, Tim Donahue and Sproule Love, a pair of impressive athletes—role models, really—who have somehow figured out a way to be pretty damn good at skiing by dint of hard work, perseverance, and acceptance that they will have to sometimes resort to some peculiar training methods, like climbing the stairwells of downtown hotels. Some of this acceptance has rubbed off on me.
(If you want to read more about Tim and Sproule, you can, because they’re SUCH HUGE BALLERS THAT THERE WAS A WHOLE STORY ABOUT THEM IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.)
Anyways, while stair workouts are good, most of ski training in Manhattan is decidedly less glamorous. It consists, mostly—okay, actually pretty much entirely—of outings in Central Park. Typically, laps—big ones and small ones. For long workouts, 10 k laps of the road around the whole park, and for interval workouts, 2 k laps of the North Loop, which features what I’m pretty sure is Manhattan’s largest hill, which takes about 2 minutes to ski up, and about 3:30 for an interval when you tack on a flat prelude.
I was living in Manhattan all of last year, then moved to Long Island for the summer and then back to Manhattan in the fall. I trained primarily for skiing, mostly by rollerskiing, through this entire period. Some people might ask why I wouldn’t just take up another sport that makes more climatological and geographical sense. In fact, in recent days, I’ve been seriously asking myself that question, and I am pretty bemused by the fact that honestly, I did not seriously ask myself that question all summer and fall—not before, during, or after rollerski sessions on the access road to the Long Island Expressway in sweltering heat, or during 4×4 interval sessions on the one big hill that I found near the state college I was living at in the middle of the most unpleasant suburban car-packed part of Suffolk County. I will point out that through the early part of the summer I had a foot injury that made running difficult, and that bicycling in the most unpleasant suburban car-packed part of Suffolk County is about what you would expect. But that does not explain the fact that from about June through the middle of February, I persisted in trying to make myself good at a sport that I would only very rarely actually get to practice in its idealized form. (Meaning, going skiing, as opposed to rollerskiing, which in general is tolerable and sometimes fun but largely sucks, in my opinion.)
Anyways, I am pretty sure that obtaining a true understanding of my motivations will probably require some Freudian psychoanalysis or something like that, which in all likelihood is not what most people come to my blog to read. Bottom line is that yes, I might be a little bit crazy, but for whatever reason, I spent a fair amount of the last several months rollerskiing around Central Park, occasionally with training partners, but mostly by myself, in the dark, before or after work, and increasingly, as winter set in and the Central Park people decided to salt the ever living bejeezus out of the road, in conditions like this:
(For the record, training in Central Park can be pretty awesome, and can give rise to some awesome things happening, like this one time a few weeks ago when this skateboarder told me, as I approached the top of the hill at the end of an interval: “You’re the fuckin’ man, bro!”)
Anyways, at a certain point in December, it occurred to me that, if I was going to be doing all of these Central Park workouts, it might make sense to actually enter a race.
I’ve always liked racing marathons, and plus, since it takes a while to get from New York to anywhere that has legit races, I figured that I might as well get a lot of bang for my driving buck and race for a long distance. Fortuitously, I am friends with former FasterSkier Canadian Bureau Chief Kieran Jones, who lives in his country’s capitol city of Ottawa, which hosts an annual World Loppet race called the Gatineau Loppet. (Yes, technically the Gatineau Loppet takes place across the river from Ottawa in Quebec, but no one I know knows where anything in Quebec is.) He kindly agreed to allow me to sleep in his spare room for a few nights, and even offered to give me feeds during the race. Given that Kieran is a PROFESSIONAL COACH for a local elite ski club, this seemed like an offer that was unlikely to be topped by anyone anywhere—professional feeds at a World Loppet race!
So, last Thursday, I did a very adult thing and rented a car. It was definitely on the expensive side, but since I live in New York City, I get paid enough to rent a car even if it’s on the expensive side, which is pretty sweet.
After renting the car, I drove it to Topher’s house in Williamstown, crashed for a night there, where I ate part of one of Topher’s cows and also acquired some gels for the race. (They were not cow gels.) Then, on Friday morning, I woke up, drove to Middlebury College, watched the Bowdoin Polar Bears kick some Colby Ass, and proceeded to Chalet Jones. The Canadian border guard was kind enough to wish me good luck when I told him I was on my way to a ski race.
After a good ski with Kieran’s club and some other fun shenanigans on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday morning mostly excited for some racing. However, there was one thing I was not particularly excited about, which was the temperature. The general perception of the Gatineau Loppet seems to be that it is both awesome, and reliably butt-ass cold—and clearly, the race organizers had done a good job coordinating the competition with a deep dive of the thermometer.
Now, minus 17 Celsius or whatever that chart says for Sunday may not seem all that cold to a lot of readers—okay, actually, I take that back. If minus 17 doesn’t seem all that cold to you then you’re fu—ing insane. I suppose that people who live in more northern climates than New York City’s might be able to get somewhat used to fu—ing insane temperatures. In any case, I do live in New York City and have for a year and a half, which means that even though I grew up in Maine and went to high school in Vermont, I now bundle myself up in a down jacket and hat whenever the temperature drops below 50 degrees, and carry an umbrella everywhere. (This is not actually true but I’m trying to make a point here.) And which further means that for me, minus 17 degrees is really, extremely fu—cking cold. I wanted to go to the start line looking like this:
Unfortunately, instead I had to rely on spandex and double windbriefs. However, the eminently rational race organizers did give the athletes the courtesy of delaying the start of the race half an hour, giving me ample time to make sure that my gels were well-pinned to my tights.
At about 9:15 (the race start was at 9:30), I went outside, jogged around in my down jacket, and went to the start line. Based on my last marathon finish of 2:27:21 in 2009, I had been assigned to the “D-Wave” for the Gatineau Loppet, with the “D” signifying the domination that I was about to apply to my fellow “D-Wave” competitors. At 9:36, six minutes after all the fast people had departed, the “D-Wave” was released, from which I shot like a cannonball from a cannon.
A few disjointed observations from the race:
1. I had an extremely meticulous feeding plan, thanks to Coach Jones. It involved Coach Jones giving me a banana at 10 k, then following up with a gel, conveniently safety-pinned to my tights, every 10 k thereafter.
Unfortunately, as I neared arrival at the 10 kilometer mark, Coach Jones was too busy walking or chatting or making snow angels or something to notice my rapid approach. (And trust me: it was rapid.) He proceeded to rummage around in his backpack for like five minutes before handing me an unpeeled banana. UNPEELED! So much for being a “professional coach.” Henceforth readers should automatically add air quotes to any reference of Kieran Jones as a professional coach. After giving me the unpeeled banana, said professional coach also did not appear at any other locations along the course to deliver feeds of lobster, or poutine.
2. Racing a ski marathon from the D-Wave is both awesome and decidedly un-rad. Awesome because I did officially Dominate all the other skiers in the D-Wave—that’s right, every single one—and also felt like a total champ as I passed the hordes of skiers who’d gotten a head start. I even told one that I was coming by on his left so forcefully that he sat down on his skis out of sheer terror. (I felt bad, but it really was hilarious, and it wasn’t my fault.) Un-rad, however, because I had to pass like a bajillion people, sometimes on sections of single-track trail that made for a lot of painful double-poling, or even waiting, at times. And also un-rad because I didn’t find any friends to ski with until like 35 kilometers into the race.
3. Do not eat spicy Sri Lankan food the night before a ski marathon. (I think I’m making myself fairly clear here, but if further explanation is warranted, email me.)
4. Sometimes two pairs of windbriefs are not enough—specifically, at times when you’re racing for three hours at like 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s windy. Re-warming on the occasional downhill was sometimes necessary.
5. Gels are hard to eat when it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I’d say that gels actually become solids when it is 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
I estimate that all of these problems—solids, D-Wave shenanigans, TBFD (total banana feed debacle), partially frozen reproductive organs—cost me about 16 minutes and 17 seconds. Apply that correction to my finishing time of 2:46:25, and one gets 2:30:08, which is coincidentally three seconds faster than the time of the race winner, Ian Murray. (I actually would have been a lot faster than that, but I slowed down at the finish to take an American flag to pre-emptively celebrate my victory.)
[If I were to deliver a serious appraisal of the race, which I hate to do because being serious is no fun, I would say that it went pretty darn well, save for some of the traffic and some pretty bad cramping at the end. I did, in fact, win myself a bronze medal for being such a huge baller and crushing all but two of the other 24-29 age-group participants in the race.]
After the race, my professional coach redeemed himself by taking me for the only acceptable recovery meal for an Ottawa ski marathon, which consisted of a cheeseburger the size of my face, and a poutine. While some people are skeptical of poutine’s nutritional benefits, I have it on good authority that Quebec native Alex Harvey subsists on it exclusively, which actually makes a lot of sense, because the dish includes all of the important macronutrients: carbohydrates (potatoes), protein (cheese curds, duh), and fat (gravy, and trace amounts in the other elements of the dish like the french fries and cheese curds).
The recovery meal was followed by a shower, and then skating down the Rideau Canal. I’m really bad at skating, but this was still an exceptional way to spend the afternoon, especially since I could do it in a down jacket, not spandex.
There are a few more vignettes I wish I could include, but right now I’m tired, having just arrived home after 8 hours of driving, a $13 toll to get over the George Washington Bridge (seriously?!), and a subway ride home.
All things considered, I am calling this an extremely successful vacation. Hopefully I will get to ski race again this winter, because it’s pretty damn fun.
(Editor’s note: Kieran Jones is a highly competent and eminently professional ski coach, as well as an excellent host. Just not when it comes to delivering peeled bananas to his needy houseguests.)3 comments
November 22nd, 2012
Ah, November…it’s that time of year. When the U.S. Ski Team heads to Northern Europe, and the members of the Manhattan Nordic Ski Club drive two hours up the New York State Thruway for the Kingston Rollerski Race.
You might be asking yourself why anyone would name a rollerski race after a rotund Jamaican-America rapper. However, the classically trained Mr. Kingston performed at Bowdoin during my senior year, and I can attest that his artistic prowess more than merits a rollerski race bearing his moniker. It doesn’t get much better than Fire Burnin’ on the Dance Floor. I also hear that he performed this song with Odd-Björn Hjelmeset in an attempt to woo Therese Johaug.
Anyways, on Sunday, I skied up the hill from my Harlem abode to meet my friends Sproule, Tim, and Sean for the drive to Kingston. Sproule’s GPS decided to take us on the scenic route, via some pleasant cornfield-lined backroads, but we arrived with more than an hour to spare.
My thinking about how the race would unfold is as follows:
–I am not as fit as Sproule or Tim, but I have been training enough that I was under the impression that I could go fast enough so as not to embarrass myself.
–Given the quality and number of skiers I was aware of residing in the Hudson Valley Area, I would probably finish third, and return to my Harlem apartment triumphant with the spoils of victory, which hopefully would include a fresh-baked pie, or something.
Upon our arrival, I noticed a disturbingly large number of athletes who actually appeared to be at least semi-competent on skis, including several from clubs that I’d actually heard of, like HURT Nordic. Who knew that when you drive two hours north from New York City, you end up close to places that actually get snow and have skiers? However, I still felt pretty confident when I lined up at the start, behind a guy who was wearing a bike jersey, and filling just about every inch of it.
My feelings of confidence lasted about as long as the 50-meter double pole zone—at the conclusion of which Mr. Heavyset Biker took off like he was on an actual bicycle, along with like five other people. I watched, and breathed heavily. After the somewhat frenetic start, I found myself in a group with three extremely skinny and gangly kids (one of whom I later learned was actually 32 years old), which I desperately clung to for two laps of the dead-flat 5-kilometer course, drafted like a true master blaster, and managed to sneak around one of them for an impressive 11th place finish, only two-and-a-half minutes behind the 46-year-old winner of the race, and roughly the same time behind the similarly aged Mr. Heavyset Biker. Results.
Lessons from the day?
–A reminder that despite the fact that I do relatively frequent interval sessions in Central Park, and am almost certainly the third-fastest cross-country skier in all of New York City (that’s 8 million people, for the record), those 7,999,997 other people will generally not be my competition in most rollerski and real ski competitions over the course of the winter. Instead, the competition will be people who also do frequent interval sessions—likely of higher quality—train more than me, and have more talent and potentially other helpful things like coaches and Scandinavian heritage.
–The Hudson Valley actually contains some residents who are legitimate cross-country skiers.
–Re: rollerski wheel speed– Do not bring a pea shooter to a gun fight. Or, if you’re going to show up with a pea shooter, be prepared to have the guns inflict grievous wounds to your pride.
Other than that, I would like to offer mad props to Kingston Nordic Skiing for putting on a fun and rad race for the low price of $20, which included a bag of free stuff like gels and drink mixes, and also lunch.
Finally, I will relate the following humorous anecdote, facilitated by my friend Peter Minde.
Peter: “Nat, this is my friend Josef. He lives in New Jersey, but he used to be on the Polish National Biathlon Team a while ago.”
Nat: “Oh, so you probably didn’t get to know Justyna Kowalczyk then, huh?”
Josef: “Kowalczyk? Oh, I know him! He lives in New Jersey, right?”
Josef: “He lives in New Jersey?”
Nat: “Uh, never mind.”4 comments
July 19th, 2012
Okay, so I have now officially become one of those people who gets a blog on FasterSkier, updates it for a while, and then drops it when they realize that it actually takes work and does not lead to instantaneous fame, fortune, and book deals like Bill Clinton’s. Apparently, my last post was in November, which is just embarrassing.
Now, I know that pretty much the only reason you people even go to FasterSkier is to read about what I’ve been up to, so I’m sorry to have kept you on pins and needles. But, wait no longer! In this post, I will try to update you on all the things I’ve accomplished in the last eight months without putting anyone to sleep.
So, going back to November. Actually, I don’t really know what happened in November, but in December I left for Europe, and went to the Tour de Ski. Unless you were living under a rock (or like normal people you don’t pay attention to bylines), you probably knew that, so I’m not going to go into it in any detail. Suffice to say that highlights include a Topher locking himself in a bathroom, risottos of various flavors, and a Sarah Palin sighting in Oberhof. If you want to see my personal photos from the trip, you can look at this album.
After I got back from the Tour, I went back to school in New York, and cross-country skied a grand total of two more times over the entire winter. Then, between January and April, I spent pretty much all of my time doing schoolwork, as one might expect a graduate student to do…even a journalism graduate student.
This “schoolwork” really consisted of writing a bunch of stories. Of these, the most important one was my masters thesis. As far as masters theses go, I’m pretty sure the one you have to write to make it out of Columbia Journalism School has got to be the easiest out of any Ivy League graduate program—it just has to be 5,000 to 7,000 words, which for those of you who are out of academia or the writing profession is a mere 20 pages. My cat could do that, and I don’t even have a cat. However, for me, at least, this was still pretty hard.
Fortunately, because I managed to sneak my way into this rad investigative journalism program at Columbia, I had the privilege of working with a pretty awesome advisor. His name is Wayne Barrett. If you want to know what Wayne is like, you have two options. Your first-and-more-comprehensive option is to read this article. Your second option is to think of Marty Hall, subtract eyebrows, and replace skiing with journalism, and then you’re pretty much good to go.
Wayne basically gave me and his other advisees a few suggestions of stories to work on; in my immeasurable wisdom, I decided to pick the one that involved public finance and pension funds because those seemed like two things that would be good to learn about. Wayne gave me all his files on this story, and then I started accumulating files of my own, and eventually my locker came to look like this:
For this story, I spent a lot of time in the basement making phone calls, went to one meeting, and met one anonymous source in a Starbucks, which was pretty cool except for when the guys at the next table tried to have the homeless guy sit down with us. Eventually, I got the story published in the Daily News—though it ultimately got pulled down due to some miscommunication (not due to any errors!). Its permanent home is here. The whole process of writing, editing, and publishing it was a pretty fun experience, and though I’d like to think I could have tackled projects like this if I’d stayed at FasterSkier full time, the truth is that while Bill Marolt may have a six-figure salary, he is not yet to the point where he is developing large condominium projects, paying for lobbyists to do his bidding, or slamming Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policies as he gears up for his campaign for mayor in 2013—at least, not to my knowledge. (If it is to your knowledge, I can be reached at email@example.com or 207-841-4199, and documents can be shipped to me care of my mom, 87 Second St., Hallowell, ME 04347.)
Other stories I wrote in the spring included the ones I did for my radio class. If you didn’t know, radio is pretty cool. Don’t take it from me—Andy Newell and Sam Evans-Brown think so too. In any case, over the course of the spring semester, I learned how to make radio stories by sticking microphones in peoples’ faces and then cutting up their answers with fancy computer programs. I also hosted our weekly broadcast a couple of times…shirtless. (The best part about radio is that nobody knows you’re not wearing a shirt.) (Also, for the record, I don’t know why that show that I hosted sounds like it’s broadcast out of a didgeridoo, but it’s not my fault.)
Eventually, it got to be the end of May, so then I graduated, which was pretty rad. Also, I am selling a blue gown. Or trading for a pair of Carbonlites or a mountain bike.
Seriously though, once I got my masters degree, it was only a matter of time: the New York Times was on the phone three days after graduation, and now I’m working as a metro reporter making seven figures and living in a sweet studio apartment on Park Avenue, since that’s what people with masters degrees do, right?
Haha, wrong! Gotcha! This may seem baffling, since most people, like me, do get into journalism for the money and women, but in fact, I am not making seven figures and living in a studio apartment on Park Avenue.
Instead, I am living in a single dorm room at Farmingdale State College on Long Island. There is no kitchen, and there is no alcohol allowed inside, but fortunately, there is a good consolation prize in the form of a high-quality dining establishment just across the street:
Okay, seriously though…starting a few weeks ago, I became an intern at Newsday, which is the daily paper covering pretty much all of Long Island, and a little bit of the city. It’s a pretty awesome paper—first of all, it’s a tabloid, so I get to have headlines on my stories like this one:
Second, they actually do really good journalism, and it’s been a good place to work. It doesn’t have the same name recognition or horsepower as the Times and the Wall Street Journal, but they’re very well respected, and have won a whole bunch of Pulitzer prizes. If the Times was APU, Newsday would be kind of like the Craftsbury Green Team.
Among the things I have discovered so far is that in general, Long Island is a pretty horrendous place to try to exercise. Outside my dorm (next to the Hooters), the road is a six-lane north-south race track that connects two of the island’s main east-west highways. I do a substantial amount of my training on the service road for the Long Island Expressway, which affords me an excellent view of people sitting in traffic on their way to work while simultaneously supplying sufficient particulate matter for my lungs to get a double workout. (Mom, don’t worry, I’m not actually training ON the expressway—the service road is, like, outside the guardrail and has a huge shoulder and generally no cars.)
There are a few bike paths, including one that goes to this sweet beach, but I’ve only done it once because they’re not actually that friendly there:
Anyways, I’m here for about four more weeks, then I have a 10-day vacation to go see my sister in Canada, and then I start a new, real job at this place called the New York World. It should be pretty sweet—I’m going to be covering city politics—and extra special bonus is that it comes with health insurance. While the job is in New York City, it’s only for about 10 months, and then most likely I will be trying to get a job somewhere with more things like snow and mountains, and hopefully equal levels of corruption to be exposed.
I’ve kind of fallen off the FasterSkier wagon, but hoping to maybe get involved a little bit more some time in the near future. If anyone’s ever in NYC and needs a rollerski tour of Central Park, you know where to find me.No comments
November 27th, 2011
This week, I logged into Facebook and noticed something that was pretty funny: “Thomas Alsgaard shared BACKSTREET GIRLS’s status update.”
I’m not really sure what or who the Backstreet Girls are, but perhaps I should back up, because you might be wondering: How did that dweeb Nat Herz get to be Facebook friends with Thomas Alsgaard?
It all starts four weeks ago—last Saturday, the day before the New York City Marathon.
I was hoping to interview Thomas before he participated in the race, since I figured he wouldn’t be too busy during his time here—I’d e-mailed him way back in early October when I learned he’d entered, and he’d agreed not only to an interview, but also to a rollerski tour through Central Park with me and the three other members of the Manhattan Nordic Ski Club. We were excited.
As the date approached, I e-mailed Thomas to fix a day and time for our excursion…and, I heard nothing. So, I e-mailed him again. Still, nothing. There was a phone number under the signature on his e-mail, and I thought about calling, but I also had a ton of work to do that weekend, so I figured that Thomas and I just were not destined to meet, and that it was for the best for me to focus on school.
That morning, November 5, I woke up at about 7:00, and checked my e-mail. Among the new messages in my inbox was one from the NYPD’s media distribution list. I thought about pasting the whole message below, for effect, but I’m worried that I might get arrested for doing so, so instead I’ll just say that the e-mail said that a guy in the Bronx neighborhood I cover had been shot one (1) time in the chest early that morning. He was rushed to the hospital, but was pronounced DOA (dead on arrival).
One of the reasons I moved to New York for journalism school is because it would occasionally present me with opportunities like these. This was the third guy that had been killed in the last eight days on my beat; I decided I should probably head up there and check it out, even if I had some other stuff to do. (Plus, there is a Mexican restaurant up there that supposedly makes really good tamales, but only on the weekends, and I wanted to try them. Having now tried them, I can state for the record that they are awesome.)
Reporting on cross-country skiing is one thing; reporting on gang violence is quite another. I took the D train up to the Bronx and spent the morning trying to figure out what had happened. Nobody was really interested in telling me anything, but through a somewhat absurd series of coincidences (recognizing a guy who I had seen once at a meeting who happened to live on the block who happened to be the vice president of the local police precinct community council; running into an outspoken local pastor on the street), I ended up with a pretty decent story, and I even got some confirmations from my sources deep within the NYPD. (Kind of a joke, kind of not.)
As I’m getting ready to head back to my home on the Upper West Side, I check my e-mail to see if I’ve gotten a response to the request I’ve sent the NYPD for an interview request. Instead, there’s a message from Thomas that says his e-mail hasn’t been working, that he’s not running in the race, but that he’s still happy to meet with me—just send him a message on his phone. So, when I get home at 1:30, I do. Still, for two hours, I don’t hear anything, which is actually okay, since now I’m trying to write up this story as quickly as possible so that I can be really important and pitch it to all the big New York City newspapers like the Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Then, at 3:39, this exchange ensues:
Thomas Alsgaard (who, yes, is now in my cell phone as “Thomas Alsgaard): “I stay at 96 st and Broadway. We could meet some place there?”
Nat: “That’s great—I am at 115 and Broadway. There is a Starbucks coffee at 95 and Broadway—when is a good time for you?” (Subtext: tomorrow? Later this evening?)
Thomas Alsgaard: “As soon as possible?”
Right. Well, given that this is Thomas Alsgaard, and I am Nat Herz, we agree to meet at 4:15, which gives me approximately half an hour to get myself 20 blocks downtown and come up with whatever questions I possibly can. I do wish I’d had a little more time to prepare, but I think it ended up okay—Thomas seemed to be in a very good mood despite his having to pull out of the marathon, and he was incredibly accommodating…although he did let me pay for the coffee. (Topher, you owe me like $5 for that, by the way.) Things that didn’t make it into the interview: he was wearing skinny jeans, which I think is hilarious; he was entirely anonymous in the diner (Starbucks was too packed); but yes, Olympic champions still do have a pretty intimidating aura. (Nonetheless, we are now Facebook friends.)
That’s about all, except for one other story that I think is worth relating. So, I’m sitting at school last week, working on some stuff, when my phone rings. The caller ID says “private,” which is what my mom always shows up as. So, I answer the phone:
Me: “Hi mom!”
Phone: “Uh, hi. This is Rabbi Katz—I’m looking for a Nathaniel Herz who left a message for me earlier today.”
Me: “Yes, hi…”1 comment
October 5th, 2011
So, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog—even longer, in fact, than it has been since Reese updated his blog. It appears that I am joining the long list of delinquent FasterSkier bloggers.
My lifestyle has undergone some serious changes over the last couple months, since I moved to New York City and started at Columbia. For example, instead of typing this post in my underwear and a t-shirt, as I would have done in the past, I am now typing it in my underwear and a collared shirt and a tie, something I would have punched myself in the face for doing just a few months ago. (For the record, did you know that a collared shirt and tie on top and underwear on bottom is perfectly sufficient for conducting video skype interviews? Just sayin’.)
Other ways things have changed: I have become a hardened New Yorker. How? Well, mainly, I got mugged. Fo real. No joke. I am now more badass than Andy Newell and Kikkan Randall combined.
So, as part of school here, I cover this neighborhood in the north Bronx called Norwood, which, I concede, is a place where you might not want to leave your valuable rubies and emeralds unattended on a park bench for more than a few minutes at a time. However, it is not a place where people regularly fear for their health and well-being.
A few weeks ago, I’m walking around on my beat, minding my own business, checking out some basketball courts under construction in a busy park in BROAD DAYLIGHT while wearing a backpack and collared shirt. In retrospect, I had not actually drawn a logo in block letters on my collared shirt that said “please mug me, as I am from a rural area of Maine where people smile at each other when passing on the street,” but I think that that is how two area youth may have interpreted it anyway.
So, yeah. I finish up looking at these basketball courts and try to leave the park so that I can go, of all places, to the police precinct, where I am trying to make friends with the cops. (Yes, I know, irony: I am about to get mugged while I am on my way to the police precinct.) Sample conversation between me and the NYPD:
Me: Can you tell me about any of the unusuals that have happened here over the last few days? (Translation: I just used the word unusuals, which makes me a hardened police reporter who knows what he’s talking about—will you please give me information that you’re not authorized to give me even though I am wearing a shirt that says “please mug me, as I am from a rural area of Maine where people smile at each other when passing on the street”?)
NYPD Officer: No. (Or some variation on this theme.)
Anyways, back to the story of me getting mugged. I am trying to leave this stupid park. But instead of finding the exit, I run into this fenced-off construction area, and there’s a guy walking the other way who says that I can’t go through there. So I’m like, okay, and I turn around, and then there is another gentleman who is walking towards me who decides that, instead of returning my friendly nod, that he will heed the instructions on my shirt and take the opportunity to lunge towards me and punch me in the throat.
Keep in mind that this is all unfolding with like one dude watching from behind a fence but apparently minding his own business, and then a handful of other people within a hundred meters or so, pleasantly enjoying their day in the park. Just another day in the Bronx. Anyways, I humbly offer the contents of my wallet and backpack to these dudes, as well as my dignity, and they proceed to make off with my iphone, $10 from my wallet, and my dignity, leaving my computer charger, library books, credit cards, and even my subway pass intact. Which is fortunte, because it means that I don’t even have to call my mom in Maine to have her drive me back to Manhattan from the Bronx! Also, my memory is not 100 percent clear on this, but I think they left the day’s edition of the Wall St. Journal, as well.
After a brief stop at several local institutions that do not let me use the phone, I walk the rest of the way to the police precinct, which was my intended destination in the first place. A wait ensues. Then, I am led up to the stairs to be interviewed by a detective.
Me: “This was not how I wanted to get inside the precinct office.” (Translation: I am a reporter who would like to view the interior of your offices without being subjected to physical violence.)
Officer: “At least you’re not wearing bracelets.” (Translation: handcuffs. Fair enough.)
After telling the detective that I don’t have much of an interest in looking through, no joke, 7,483 mugshots to see if I can identify the perpetrators, I depart, and my work for the day is finished.
Other than that, things are going pretty well. The Manhattan Nordic Ski Club, which consists of me and three other exceptionally friendly dudes, has already had its first team practice, and we are excited for Thomas Alsgaard’s visit to the city in a few weeks.
I have been busy reporting. And I also managed to con some people into letting me sneak in the back door to an extremely awesome investigative reporting program that runs concurrently to all the other classes I was already signed up for. One of the teachers is a private investigator. So suffice to say that if anyone is laundering their SuperTour prize money, I will be the first to let you all know, unless Chelsea or Topher or someone else at FasterSkier beats me to it. Over and out from NYC.1 comment
August 24th, 2011
So, I’m not sure that anyone really cares, but I’m planning/hoping to keep updating this blog throughout my year of grad school in New York City. I do hope to write about ski-related stuff at some point along the way, but if that’s what you’re looking for right now, I’d suggest you head back to the FasterSkier main page.
I moved down here on August 1, into an apartment that is awesome, large, ideally-situated, and also, literally, infinitely more expensive than my lodging in Williamstown, where I was living rent-free.
The arrangement is kind of interesting. I came by the apartment through my sister, who went to school at Barnard for a year. Two of her friends were moving out of an apartment that was owned by one of their aunts, and they asked me if I was interested. I ended up getting a good deal, but because the place is rent-controlled and in a relatively nice building, it’s not actually supposed to be sub-let. Which means that I have no lease, and also that when I moved in, I had to do so between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. My mom was kind enough to help with this process.
School started on August 4th with orientation. And if you anything about orientation, you know that it’s scintillating: epic sessions of deans and administrators presenting information that is simultaneously delivered by way of printed materials. I had assumed that if Columbia thought you were smart enough to go to their grad school, they’d trust you with being able to read, but apparently this is not the case. To be fair, judging from some of the questions that were asked by my peers, perhaps some of them don’t know how to read. But anyways…
After four days of orientation, we started a month-long session of multimedia training that includes lessons in audio, photo, and video. We just finished the audio unit (you can check out my pieces here http://soundcloud.com/nat-herz/bond-parade-floats and here http://soundcloud.com/nat-herz/raymond-myrie-jr-profile-v-2 ), and now it’s on to photo.
Starting in September, I’ll be covering a neighborhood in the Bronx for the remainder of the semester. Most likely it’s going to be Norwood, a formerly-Irish community with now-shifting demographics. Needless to say, I don’t think it will be very much like covering skiing. So far this year, through August 7, there have been three murders in the area’s police precinct, which, while a 50 percent decline from last year, is (I think) three more murders than I covered at FasterSkier last season. Demographically, I think it will also be somewhat different. For example, according to the 2010 census, there are 7,391 people of Dominican descent residing in Norwood, or, approximately, 7,391 more than reside the cross-country ski world. I had hoped to be able to at least do some stories on waxing and grinding technologies, but my google search for “ski shop Norwood Bronx” did not turn up very much.
As for physical activity, things have been going fairly well, if not very ski-specific. My apartment is just five blocks from Central Park, which makes it very easy to access for morning runs, bicycle rides, etc. My excursions in Central Park are almost always the highlight of my day. Why? Well, I thought that it was because I was living in New York City, and people living in New York City are ridiculous. For example, in my first few weeks here, I have seen both men and women riding bicycles while wearing skintight pink clothing (the woman was in a one-piece, complete with pink shoe covers but no helmet), a woman pushing a dog in a baby carriage, and a 200-plus-pound woman go absolutely rocketing past me on a triathlon bike in impressive fashion.
At first my attitude about the people exercising in Central Park was kind of condescending, as I was sure that they looked strange because they were bizarre New Yorkers, while I looked completely normal and badass because I am normal and badass. But upon further reflection, I have come to the conclusion that with the exception of maybe Petter Northug and Kikkan Randall, we all have our own idiosyncracies and look pretty silly when we are exerting ourselves. Of course, this is a matter of degree, but the thing about exercising in Central Park is that you go past about 1,000 people every morning, and even if the factor of ridiculousness is constant between here and Maine, you’re more likely to run into hilarity in New York because of the sheer numbers.
That’s it. Actually, that’s not it. You know why? Because even in New York Effing City, you can’t escape those god-damn guinea hens:1 comment
August 1st, 2011
The beginning of August marks the end of the summer for me: I start orientation at Columbia Journalism School on the fourth—this coming Thursday.
But before any more discussion of my impending move to the city, there’s some important business to attend to—namely, a wrap-up of the last few weeks of my summer.
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to participate in my first multi-race weekend since my escapades at the Craftsbury Spring Tour. First up was the Old Hallowell Day 5 K—a pleasant jaunt down (and up) the streets of my hometown. The race literally went past my front door, which was pretty awesome.
Any time I go to a 5 k or a smaller road race, I always hold out a little bit of hope, usually until I arrive at the start line and get a look at the competition, that I might be able to win. I suck at running, but every once in a while you can look in the local paper and see results for 5 k’s that have the winner running it in like 19-and-a-half minutes, which is achievable even for me. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the registration table, there was a disappointingly large number of legit-looking skinny people wearing visors and sunglasses—not to mention a really tall, really skinny shirtless dude with a chestful of tattoos, including one that said “sic semper tyrannis.” Prancing around shirtless with ridiculous tattoos is okay if you’re legit, but as it turned out, the guy didn’t even win, so, bummer for him.
Anyways, the race started, and for a couple hundred meters I ran with the huge pack of people that sprinted out of the start, including a very not-legit-looking girl with tie-died leggings who looked like she was 15 years old. Initially, this did not seem like a promising start for me, but after about 45 seconds of running she got tired and all the people who sprinted out of the start died and the pack thinned out. I settled into about sixth place and did battle with a handful of folks over the rest of the race. Highlights included when I dropped a guy wearing those stupid running slippers, and also when I accidentally spit all over some poor woman’s car. (It was totally unintentional—there were like 200 meters to go and I was dying—but it was still hilarious enough to make me laugh through the excruciating pain.) Ultimately I finished seventh, as well as FIRST PLACE IN MY AGE GROUP, which meant that I got a kickass mug that I meant to bring with me to New York City but forgot at my house.
The second event of the weekend was a bike race at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the very next day. My friends and I call this race, simply, “the Clam Fest,” but to Yarmouth residents, spectators, and readers of the local newspaper, the event is known as the Yarmouth Clam Festival Professional Men’s and Women’s Professional Bike Race, which makes it sound about 10 times more badass than it actually is. For whatever reason, the Clam Fest bike race holds some kind of mystical appeal to the people of Yarmouth, and apparently, if you do it, you are a badass, even if you’re like me and you haven’t cleaned your bike, you have hairy legs, and you haven’t actually used your bike in eight days because you’ve been busy moving all your sh-t to New York City. Fortunately, however, nobody in Yarmouth was aware of my personal history, and thus all morning people looked at me like I was a huge baller, including many long stares, and questions about how far I’d come to participate. (Answer: I woke up half an hour ago and drove the 15 miles from Brunswick.)
The treatment continues at the start of the race—there’s always a national anthem (helmets off!), and approximately one zillion spectators yelling and screaming. Technically, I suppose the Clam Fest is actually a “professional” race, since the top six get paid, but in reality, it’s about 50 local amateurs for whom the race is the focal point of the season, 48 or 49 regional elite amateurs, and one or two actual professionals. Just to hammer this point home, this is a professional bike racer:
This is not a professional bike racer:
All this is not to diss the race at all—it is far and away one of the most awesome athletic spectacles I have the privilege of participating in, year after year. It is just to highlight the wide gap between perception (of the spectators, that the race is a Lance-Armstrong-style production) and reality (that I ride a bicycle with mismatched bar tape and a dried leaf that has been stuck to the front derailleur for six weeks).
The race was extremely painful, and not actually very much fun—the best part about it was when it was over. It was very, very hot—my estimate of the temperature pegged it at somewhere around 350 degrees F—and because we were hurtling at breakneck speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, I was too scared most of the time to pull out my water bottle and drink from it. By the time the race was over, my internal temperature had reached the point where it could only be cooled by one thing: a lime rickey, which consists of seltzer, lime, and sugar, and which I think is the only consumable item at the Clam Festival that costs less than $300. It made me feel a lot better. I finished with the group and I didn’t die, which were the two criteria I had to fulfill for the race to qualify as a success.
With the conclusion of the epic race weekend, it was time for my athletic focus to shift to ultimate frisbee. I’ve been playing in a summer league in Portland since June, and the weekend following the Clam Festival, we gathered for an awesome barbeque and lawn games session to prepare ourselves for the next weekend’s season-ending tournament.
That tournament was Saturday, and after a regular-season campaign that saw us go 19-1, our juggernaut of a team swept five straight games to win the summer league championship. It was awesome, although our team captain is known throughout the region as a huge jerk, so our victory was met with disappointed silence by the dozens of spectators who had been rooting ardently against us.
Today (Monday), I’m on a bus on my way to New York City, where I’ll be living through next May while I spend a year at Columbia Journalism School. That’s half of the reason I’m moving; the other half is so that I can really ramp up my post-collegiate cross-country skiing career as a member of the Manhattan Nordic Ski Club.
I will not be employed by FasterSkier on a day-to-day basis for the next year, but I do plan to stay involved and in touch with the website as Topher, Matt, and the rest of the robust and talented staff keep it growing and changing. I also plan on continuing to chronicle my athletic shenanigans on this blog, whether it’s rollerskiing in Central Park or Alleycat racing in Brooklyn. Thanks for reading!No comments
July 8th, 2011
Hi there. It’s Chelsea Little here. I work for FasterSkier too but Nat is better at his job AND a more entertaining blogger. I’m not sure I can live up to expectations here but I’m going to try.
Last weekend I was working at USA Track and Field National Championships here in Eugene, Oregon. Nat thought that it was pretty cool and said something like “keep FasterSkier in mind and see if you can write something up.” But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t come up with a legit reason to write about track on a skiing website. Since Nat’s blog is sometimes about the experience of being a journalist, I asked to do a guest spot here instead.
So, while it was really rad (to say it like Nat):
It still wasn’t as rad as this:
Skiing still wins, hands down. Being at Holmenkollen for World Champs was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Period.
Having said that, I think that Hayward Field might be the Holmenkollen of track. It’s a totally sweet venue and the spectators arguably care more about track than anywhere else in the world. I mean, the University of Oregon sells season tickets to track races. How many other places can do that? Every day of the four-day event the stands were packed with more than 10,000 people (okay, that’s 1/10 of the fanbase at the Holmenkollen 50 k, but they have a lot more space there!). The spectators got psyched for every event, even the masters racing.
And their level of bias and support for anyone who is or was a University of Oregon or Oregon Track Club Elite athlete is definitely analogous to the Norwegian support of their own home team. It was crazy. I sometimes felt bad for the other competitors.
As far as venues and atmosphere go, I guess one major difference is that you can’t bring alcohol into Hayward Field, although it’s possible to be sneaky. But I definitely wasn’t going to have the same experience I did when I was skiing around the Holmenkollen course before the men’s 50 k and getting offered various unidentified alcoholic beverages from spectators’ flasks and water bottles. It’s not as rowdy and obviously, there are no tents or campfires or sausages roasting away, which is a strike against track as far as I’m concerned
Here are a couple of stories, and then my list of the top ten reasons that track is different from sking, including a Serena Williams wannabe, tattoos, and Twizzlers. But first:
Our story starts when I biked down to Matthew Knight Arena to pick up my media credentials. It was a much simpler and easier process than when I was hiking around Holmenkollen with my klistery skis in hand and my laptop in my backpack, and hoping that none of the klister would end up on the laptop over the course of the day.
I walked in the door and the helpful lady directing everyone to the right registration table asked, “So you’re here to register for the junior meet?”
No. No, I was not. I was pretty torn between feeling flattered that I apparently looked like I was in good enough shape to be competing at junior nationals, and being insulted that I also apparently look like a teenager. I’m 24, people! 24!
The name above me on the list of media was someone from the New York Times. I was kind of intimidated- for obvious reasons but also because this isn’t something that happens at ski races. Not at national championships, not at World Championships, and only maybe at the Olympics. Holy crap. I was there working for a regional NH/VT newspaper with a circulation of 16,000. I’d be up against some big guys when I tried to snag Andrew Wheating for an interview….
Journalists, Photographers, and King of The Hill: TV
I later realized why that nice lady thought that I must be a competitor. I spent a lot of time in the photo zone at the finish line on the track, and I think I saw three other women there, total. (One was a kind of overweight woman from the University of Minnesota who obviously wasn’t used to big events, because she kept walking in front of people’s cameras and ruining their shots and never even realized it. party foul!) I was definitely the youngest of the ladies and also one of the only people there who looked like I ran fairly often.
Bottom line: sometimes when I walked in there people would kind of look at me like, uh, what are you doing here? The upside was that I didn’t actually have a photo pass, but nobody checked or gave me shit about it because they just didn’t really know what to do with me.
I didn’t experience the photo zone in Oslo – that was reserved for Topher – so I don’t know what it was like. But here in Eugene, the photographers felt very entitled to getting their shots. The senior guy from Sports Illustrated seemed to run the show and would occasionally joke with younger photographers that he knew their bosses before they were born. Was I scared of him? Yes. According to Nat I should have chatted him up, but I’m kind of a wuss.
Here’s a typical story though. Before the final of the women’s 100 m hurdles, two women began rolling out a tape at the finish line just as they had in the 800 m races before. The photo zone began to buzz with complaints.
“They’re going to ruin the shot! I can’t see the hurdles!”
Mr. Sports Illustrated was griping about how he had discussed it with the meet director and they had agreed: no tape on the hurdles. He talked to the media attaché who was organizing all of us. Still, those two women held the tape. The situation was becoming more desperate. The announcer called runners to their marks. The stadium went quiet.
“Lower the tape!” the photographers shouted into the silence. I cringed, but the two women kind of squatted down a little bit and the tape sank lower. All of the sudden the hurdles were in each camera’s view. The photographers were happy. The race went off, and they probably all got their shots.
Even the photographers didn’t act as entitled as the NBC TV guys did though. I was over on the far curve to watch the start of the 200 m heats and was standing behind a meet official who was checking whether any of the runners stepped on lane lines. As the runners took their marks he stood up to get a better view.
There was a camera about 20 feet away on the curve and the cameraman became agitated.
“Please sir,” he said. “Excuse me. Sir. Sir? Could you step back please? Or sit down? You’re in the shot.”
The meet official grumbled, but he tried his best to accommodate the TV guy. He later told me that he also wasn’t allowed to stand in front of any of the signs lining the sides of the track, either, because he couldn’t obscure any of the advertising logos.
“It gets hard to do you job,” he said.
While these stories probably give media a bad name, mostly everyone was really nice. Just like in Oslo, where we ended up talking to a journalist from Sweden when Alex Harvey decided not to race the relay, people were interested in talking to other journalists who might know more specifics about something they were interested in.
The first interview I did was with Andrew Wheating after the 1500 heats. Andrew had won his heat and was in a pretty good mood, so rather than wait for him to go through the athlete area and out into the mixed zone, I approached him on the track. You’re technically not supposed to do that, but I didn’t want to miss the other heats so I just went for it. He sat down under a tent to change his shoes and I sat down next to him. Andrew is a really nice guy and was pleasantly surprised to see someone from his hometown paper, so we chatted for a few minutes before he went to cool down. I returned to the photo zone and everyone kind of looked at me.
Then a guy approached me, handed me his business card, and said, “Pitch me a story about Andrew Wheating.”
Some similarities I hadn’t thought of
If you had asked me where else I expected to see the pig-snout masks that some skiers use when it’s really cold out, Hayward Field wouldn’t have been high on the list. But there one was: distance standout Galen Rupp started both the 10,000 and 5,000 meter races wearing a breathing mask, supposedly because he struggles with all the pollen in the air in Eugene. Even though Rupp went to Oregon, nobody really likes him and he got a lot of boos, especially with the mask. I mean, he looked like Darth Vader. Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when he took that mask off and threw on the side of the track.
Also, you can still fall down even if you’re racing on the track, which hadn’t actually really occurred to me. It happened a couple of times but I felt the worst for this lady in the steeplechase.
Top Ten Differences Between Track and Skiing
1. Doping, meh: One of the first events I saw was the 100 m prelims. As he came onto the track Justin Gatlin, who is returning from a four-year doping ban, waved to the stands and tried to get the fans behind him. Very few of them responded and it must have been pretty discouraging. But by the time he made it to the finals, he had full crowd support and everyone loved him. In the ski world, would he have been able to win in the court of public opinion? Probably not. Nobody will ever like Andrus Veerpalu again, which is too bad because he has the nicest blue eyes.
2. Victory celebrations that make Petra Majdic look subdued: There’s screaming, there’s jumping up and down, there are tears. The whole gamut. The 100 m hurdles had two of the biggest celebrations in a single race. It was intense.
3. Food in the media center: in Norway, there was coffee, some fruit, and a lot of waffles. Every once in a while there would be a display of local foods and they’d have crackers and fancy cheese, jam, and even sausage. At Hayward field, there was coffee, Gatorade, and Twizzlers. A few battered-looking apples and brown bananas went mostly untouched. Did I take an extra pack of Twizzlers when I left for the last time? Yes, I did.
4. Diversity of suits: This isn’t the land of Swix and Adidas domination. There is no smattering of Craft and Toko and Oneway. While Nike was definitely the predominant attire, I saw lots of interesting outfits, including a male javelin thrower in what appeared to be a neon green bodysuit. It was bright. I also saw some triple jumpers in pink and black leopard print bootie shorts and rainbow tiger print spandex. Finally, there was this woman, who was probably trying to be the Serena Williams of sprinting. My only comment there is that as a fellow woman, I can’t imagine sprinting in that getup. Where’s the support? Lady, you’re not doing yourself any favors! Also, a lot of women sprinted with their hair loose… not sure how they do that.
5. You can actually see tattoos: A lot of athletes who have been to the Olympics get tattoos of the rings. For example, Canadian biathlete Jean-Phillipe Leguellec has some big ones on his calf, which I noticed at a rollerski race last year. But when skiers are racing, you can’t see them. Here, tattoos were everywhere, and not just in sleeves covering the sprinters’ massive biceps. A lot of distance runners had their school logo tattooed on the side of one thigh. Nick Symmonds’ rings peeked out from under his jersey as he waited for his start in the 800 m final.
6. Girls who make Marit Bjoergen look like a twig: Much has been made of that famous picture taken of Marit Bjoergen’s back while she’s flexing her muscles. But let me tell you something: you haven’t seen anything yet and if Marit wanted to kick these girls’ butts, she would have to get on a serious lifting regimen or maybe take some steroids. There were some big athletic women out there. Sprinters have big butts and they use them.
7. On the flip side, Athletes who make Therese Johaug look like she eats Big Macs three meals a day.
8. Generally, more diversity: Not only does track feature some people who aren’t white – what a revolutionary idea! – there were a wide variety of body types at work. You had tiny distance runners. You had muscled-up sprinters. You had pole vaulters with bodies like gymnasts. The guys who throw the hammer are HUGE. Also, unlike in skiing, you don’t have to have Scandinavian blood in your veins to be good. It was pretty refreshing to see a wide swath of Americans excelling.
9. Heptathlon: Multi-events are the coolest sport that doesn’t make any sense. The decathlon and heptathlon have arguably the most athletic people in the world in them. They are badass. But the problem with these events is that in order to get an overall score they have to convert everything to points, which makes it harder to get psyched as a fan. The times and distances aren’t what get you the win; it’s the overall points. For instance, look how much this girl won the 800 m race by. And she finished third overall.
10. Friends: Well, to finish up, nationals wasn’t as cool as Oslo because I didn’t have the wonderful FasterSkier team there with me. Missed you guys!No comments
June 27th, 2011
If you ever have the opportunity to eat your 3-hours pre-race breakfast BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP, you might want to reconsider your racing plans.
For better or worse, I was too stupid to do so this morning, which was how I found myself toasting bread for a peanut butter and jelly at 4:15 a.m., in anticipation of the half marathon that I was about to run at 7:30. The birds were chirping, and I’m pretty sure it was getting light out. I couldn’t find peanut butter, so I went to bed instead of eating the sandwich. Then I got up two hours later and drove to the race.
To step back a bit: thus far, this summer seems to be dedicated to me making a mockery of my body, and endurance sports in general. What happened this time? It starts last night at Bowdoin College, where we were having a ski team reunion.
Ski team reunion—how cool is that? This was not, just, like, me and a bunch of friends deciding that we wanted to get together and screw around over the weekend. (Not entirely.) This was official, organized-by-head-Bowdoin-ski-coach-Nathan-Alsobrook, legit ski team reunion, featuring past coaches like Marty Hall, athletes dating back to the 1980’s, and a scrapbook featuring absolutely awesome party invitations created by the legendary Badger brothers, who I wish I’d had the privilege of skiing with. (Example: one of the party invitations in this scrapbook had a condom taped to the inside, along with a postscript to the directions to the off-campus house that read, “If you get lost, pull over your car and drink all the beer in your trunk.”
After the official part of the reunion was over, a group of recent graduates departed and engaged in various shenanigans, which included, in no particular order, brownies from scratch, at least one game of Go Fish, and streaking. A good time was had by all, and we left Bowdoin College at about 3:15 a.m. for the drive back to my house in Hallowell
I had been planning to do this half marathon for the better part of the last week. I had not spent the $40 to pre-register, so in theory I could have backed out, but you really can’t do that after telling like a dozen of your friends that you’re going to run a half marathon.
Secretly, I was hoping that I might be able to turn in a performance a la Kikkan Randall in last year’s Spring Series, when she won the U.S. 30 k title after 300 races in 12 days and singlehandedly flying her airplane from Sweden to northern Maine via the Bermuda Triangle and the International Date Line. I was thinking that when I was interviewed by the local newspaper after winning the race, I could tell them all about my Go Fish exploits and give them a quote like Randall’s: “My body really doesn’t know what to think. But it’s in good shape, so we’ll just keep rolling.”
Unfortunately, the difference, in this case, is that Kikkan Randall is a world-class athlete, and I am a barely fit weekend warrior/borderline master-blaster/idiot who stays up with his friends until 4 a.m. And running is definitely not my sport of choice—example A: what my running shoes look like.
So, yeah—I don’t really know what I was thinking not rolling over and staying in my bed at 7:30 this morning. Instead, whatever the reason, I was on (or at least near) the start line in Augusta when a gigantic cannon went off and scared the bejeezus out of the 200 runners that were milling around and waiting for someone to organize them.
For the first mile, I ran behind NENSA Executive Director Pat Cote, before realizing that doing this was decidedly not following my race plan of “start slow, and don’t die.” So I had to let Pat go, and he went on to utterly destroy me by like five minutes—apparently the morning after his sister’s wedding, as well as despite a bathroom break, which really put a damper on my potential excuses for a slow time. (Fortunately, I did manage to beat Pat’s wife Tracey, who is the head coach of the Colby College Ski Team; if I hadn’t, I probably would have gone to the zoo and fed myself to a polar bear out of shame.)
After Pat went away, I ran with some people who looked like runners for a while, before this girl Anna who still goes to Bowdoin caught up with me. Anna is really little and cute, which meant that I could not let her beat me, because then she’d be really nice about it afterwards and that just wouldn’t work at all. So instead, I drafted her for like two miles. And then she dropped me just before the turnaround at 6.5 miles.
Yeah—the turnaround. That was the point at which I realized that I’d already been running really hard for 45 minutes, and that I would have to continue doing so for at least that long again, which made me really upset, because my body was really starting to hurt all over. Especially my knees and legs. For the next three miles, this caused me to go slower and slower, whereupon I was caught by another woman, and a couple of dudes.
But then, at like 10 miles, this guy with a red shirt came by me, with another guy who looked kind of legit. Red shirt guy was moving pretty quickly, so I hopped onto the back of the kind of legit dude, but then he stopped briefly for some Gatorade, so I decided to make an effort to bring back red shirt guy. Surprisingly, it didn’t turn out to be all that hard to reel him in, which in turn led to a Eureka moment: my knees and legs might be in excruciating pain, but they did not seem to be in greater pain the faster I went. It was a pretty exciting feeling—first, I reeled in red shirt dude and chilled behind him for a while, while we caught a couple of other folks, and then I was actually able to make a Kikkan Randall-like move with two miles to go (if Kikkan Randall were running seven-minute miles in a half marathon instead of winning World Cups) and drop everyone around me, including Anna from Bowdoin. (It’s okay—I was very nice to her after the race was over.)
With two miles to go, I ran through my town and past my friend Nick, and I asked him calmly to please to get me my fu-king bike out of the garage so that I could ride the rest of the way, but he ignored me so I had to keep running. Which I did.
So, yeah—I ended up with, given the circumstances, a reasonably adequate performance of 1:31:42. How anybody could possibly run twice that distance at the same speed, or potentially much faster, (and want to) is way beyond me. But that’s beside the point. More to the point is that the race was sweet, and I won a hat in the raffle. And now I’m going to bed.No comments