Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Boyfriend Dresses Better Than Me (and other things I've noticed recently)

You know those things that have been there all along, unnoticed until suddenly--wham!--they hit you out of the blue? I have been experiencing a lot of these lately. For instance:

The other night--like on so many nights--my boyfriend R___ and I went out to dinner. It was not an extravagant affair; we spent most of the evening hemming and hawing over what we wanted to eat, and then finally at 8pm, we peeled ourselves off of the futon and walked to a restaurant less than two blocks away. When we arrived and sat down, I took a good look at R___. He was wearing approximately the same clothes as he wears to work every day: a striped button-down shirt, navy blue slacks, and sandals (which, when going to work, he substitutes with dress shoes). I, meanwhile, was wearing dirty sneakers, gray sweatpants, and a T-shirt from a basketball camp I attended back in 2000. That is when the full realization came to me: my boyfriend dresses better than I do. I still haven't decided if that's good for him (he dresses very well!) or bad for me (I dress very pooly). Then again, it could also be bad for him (he dates a slob) and good for me (I date a fashionable dude). I haven't decided yet.

Another realization came to me this morning, on the subway. As often happens, the train i needed to take was operating on a delay, which meant that when it arrived, I and the nearly hundred other commuters waiting on the platform faced the ever-pleasant task of jamming ourselves into an already-overstuffed train. As I mashed myself between suited shoulders and looked for the nearest railing to grip, I made eye contact with a young, petite Asian woman who happened to be pressed up against my chest. She was also looking for something to hold onto, but whereas I merely reached over a few shoulders and took a hold of the metal ceiling rod, she had nothing. Stuck like she was, in the center of the train car, she could not reach from her 5'2" height to grasp any of the surrounding railings. And that's when I realized: on the subway--in spite of how much greasy hair I might have to smell--taller is better.

One more realization came to me out at dinner the other evening. I ordered miso soup as an appetizer, and when it arrived and I began to slurp it up from my Chinese spoon, I started to think: what was really in this soup? Three or four tiny little cubes of tofu (each smaller than a cube of sugar), three lonely pieces of seaweed, a few chopped pieces of scallion, and a bowlful of broth. I happen to have my own container of miso paste at home (which is what you use to make the broth), and that cost me four or five dollars. If you go to the right bodega, scallions can be fifty cents a bunch, and even tofu is not that expensive. Yet, here I was in this restaurant, drinking down the dregs of a two-dollar cup of soup that probably cost twenty-five cents to make. If my soup was marked up 300%, how much must the restaurant be making on a tuna roll, or shrimp teriyaki, or cabbage stir-fry? Yet going out to eat gives me a destination, even an "event," if you will; it makes me feel as though I accomplished something, simply because I left my apartment. This was what I suddenly realized: when I go out to eat, I'm not really paying for the food; I'm paying for the experience.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Results of the 10k swim

We did it!
And I even won an age group award....
Results for this race:
Race Length Finishing TimeOverall Place Gender Place (All Women) Age Group Place (F25-29)
10k 1:36:42 63/240 20/102 4/16

Now, the question is: will we do it again next year? Will we attempt something even longer?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mind Over Matter

It's been a long time since I worried about merely finishing. In fact, the only other race I can think of about which I felt this uncertain was my 2009 marathon, and even then I felt confident enough after my 20- and 22-mile runs to set myself a goal time. This Saturday, however, I will be quite literally diving into a race I am honestly not sure I can finish: a 10k open water swim.

For all of you non-swimmers out there, let me explain what "10k" means in terms of distance. Runners will recognize 10k as being 6.2 miles which, in the scheme of running races, is not a terribly long distance. However, think about this distance in terms a pool: The average lap pool is 25 yards long (swimmers refer to this as a "short course" pool), and 1 lap is equivalent to two lengths, or 50 yards. A distance of 10k = 10,000 meters or almost 11,000 yards. Therefore, 10k = 220 laps (440 lengths).

Now, I am no stranger to swimming long distances. I swam on a club team and on my college team for two years each. At the peak training point in their seasons, both of these teams swam 6 days a week and held "doubles" (i.e. 2 practices a day) on 2-3 of these days. Yet even in our most yardage-heavy practices, the farthest I ever remember swimming in one practice was ~7,500 yards. That is still 50 laps short of what I am about to swim on Saturday.

And that is simply the distance of the swim. Now consider that in a nice clean, clear pool, swimmers can keep their heads submerged and see everything around them, including lane lines and big bold stripes along the bottom of the pool, which keep them swimming in a straight line. In a lake, river, or ocean (my swim will be in a river), the water is murky, which requires swimmers to lift their heads in order to look in front of them--a practice called "sighting." Swimmers must sight in open water in order to a) make sure they are staying on course, and b) navigate around any foreign obstacles including trash, natural debris, and other swimmers. The choppier the water, the more difficult it is to sight...never mind breathe.

Now, even if I felt confident that I could swim 10,000 meters (which I don't, since I've swum no more than 5,500 meters at any given time, none of which was in open water), had ample practice sighting (which I don't, since I have only swum in open water about 4 times this summer), and knew for certain that the water would be calm (which I highly doubt, having swum in the Hudson on several previous occasions, none of which were "calm") there is one more crucial factor to consider: temperature.

A regulation Olympic swimming pool is kept at 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit. As I write this, the Hudson River temperature (at Sandy Hook) is 64-65 F. The last time I swam in water under 70F, I only managed to stay in for 20 minutes and spent the next two hours trying to get rid of the pins-and-needles sensation in my fingers and toes.

So yes, I am extremely nervous about this race. That being said, I find nothing more exhilarating than attempting something completely new. This year's Olympic-distance triathlon was exactly that: an athletic feat I had never before attempted. What I love best about these new challenges is that apart from completing the race, I can hold absolutely zero expectations. There is no precedent, no prior time to beat. Just crossing the finishing line is goal number one. While I do always set a projected goal time, whatever time I finish will be my PR (personal record), so there is no real way to be disappointed.

Looking at last year's results and taking into consideration my training, the water temperature, and the race course (most importantly, river current!), I would love to finish this 10k swim in under 2 hours. However, I think 2:15:00 is probably a more realistic goal. Either way, I suppose I can say that as long as I finish, I won't be disappointed.

...well, not too disappointed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: One Day

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An unusually enjoyable romance novel, One Day gives us something more than lust and longing. Nicholls spends equal if not more time on individual character development, as Emma and Dexter spend the majority of their lives apart from one another. This provides a refreshing break from the "yearning to be together" format of most novels in this vein.

I will admit: I do want to see the movie now!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: The End of Everything

The End of EverythingThe End of Everything by Megan Abbott

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book simply tried too hard. Abbott needs more practice with language; she writes like a poet trying to delve into prose. The amount of repetition in this novel makes the prose tiring instead of beautiful, which I am confident is the effect she was striving to achieve. The narrator sometimes strikes a poignant note with her observations and insights, but more often she seems too wise and reflective for her age. The topics covered in this novel are deep and sometimes disturbing in ways that are recognizable (e.g. having a crush on someone else's dad; hating a sibling for taking love and attention away from you); however, The End of Everything doesn't quite hit the right note. Abbott tells too little when we want more of her exquisite details, but then she tells too much when she should hold back and let us wonder.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: Wuthering Heights

Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Grading this novel:
B Grade for being a "classic"
C Language/Writing style (B+ if just considered within "classic literature")
B Story concept
F Mood inspired in reader (i.e. deepening depression and a thirst for redemption that is gradually extinguished until the single decent event of the novel happens in the last 10 pages

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