Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Week of Joy

I woke up 15 minutes ago and wanted to run. Of course. That's the way tapering is! You stretch yourself out...resting....resting.....almost there....until BAM! you spend all of what you've put in the bank in one spree.

Yesterday I had a fantastic 10-mile run. My McMillan plan called for doing the last four miles at marathon pace. I wanted to do them at 8:20/mile and did 8:29s. I feel OK about that. It was hilly, and 8:20s would have been a stretch given my training paces. By the end, I felt so good and full of anticipation for my race I decided to call this last week of tapering the Week of Joy.

Fittingly, the rest of the day was wonderful too, as fun as Labor Day was last week. I got my hair cut and colored, something that happens only once in a blue moon because of the expense and length of time it takes (three hours! it's not like I have that much hair or do anything fancy with it, but my hairstylist, Carrie, is super careful and thorough, so it's worth it). Afterwards I was starving so I got a Jamba Juice berry shake with whey protein in it, which my stomach did NOT like (note to self: no more whey protein). Then we went to a cookout with my relay team. I got my pint glass and shirt (which I had forgotten to take after the race). It was fun to see them all again (and we were all CLEAN and well-rested), and everyone's kids got along great.

At one point the TV was on with NASCAR--the kids were riveted. None of these kids watch much TV (my kids watch none at home), and it was really funny to see them so excited about something that all the adults (runners, you know) thought was pretty boring. Now Will and Ruthie want us to take them to a car race. I told them they could go with Daddy. I just don't get car racing. Human racing, yes, obviously. Horse racing too! Even dog racing, though I don't like what happens to the non-talented greyhounds (I love greyhounds--I want one). But car racing? Uh-uh.

I had too much food and wine yesterday, but Dan just laughed at me when I asked him if he thought it would make me fat for the marathon. "It's just one day," he said. So I'll be careful today, and the rest of the week...until Saturday.....

Today is 9/11. On the original horrible day, I was teaching English at my little school in Far East Russia. I had been in the country for two months, and at my site for two weeks. In Russia, it was actually already September 12 because of the time difference. I was writing vocabulary words for the 5th graders on the chalk board. My principal, Sergei, came in and said he needed to speak with me. He told me Peace Corps had called him, that two airplanes had hit the World Trade Center. I thought it was some kind of drill. He shook his head. Usually he liked to joke with me, but I saw no laughter on his face.

He took me back to his parents' apartment and over and over again I watched those planes hit those towers. I understood almost nothing of what the newscasters were saying--my Russian language skills were still too weak. Four months prior, still at my former job as a news editor at the Wall Street Journal, I had worked right across the street from those towers. My bank branch was in their basement mall. I often bought a falafel sandwich from a vendor on the sidewalk outside. I had interviewed people who worked on the 102nd floor. I had eaten several times at Windows on the World and stood on the observation deck with my mom. When my sister had visited once during the three years I lived in New York, we walked by and she had touched the massive base of one of the towers, saying, "It just feels like it might not be permanent." (Not kidding about that...psychic sister...)

On that September day in Russia, I was worried about my former co-workers, other friends in the city and my family. Communication was hard, but I managed phone calls to Dan and my parents and emails that got me answers ("Not one hair on the head of anyone at Dow Jones was harmed," wrote my friend Carlos). I spent the next few days and nights riveted to the BBC on my short-wave radio. My new Russian friends were amazingly kind, some embracing me in the street and crying on my behalf. Sergei's mother said, "I believe God brought you here, because you are much safer in Russia." And gradually my days returned to their new, weird Russian normal.

Back home, I know it didn't become any kind of normal for many of you for a while. When we volunteers were sent home almost a year later, the USA for which we had all been homesick was changed (most obviously at the airport). I'm grateful that in the ensuing decade, for now anyway, the fear has subsided, that a new tower is rising in that spot (which I later went and looked upon), that I was able six years ago to run the streets of that amazing city and that many of my new running friends will do so this year, ten years later.

We human beings are lucky that time heals. Another reason why this taper week will be a Week of Joy.