Archive for September 2016
Surely I can’t be the first person to plug the misery of being a Cubs fan directly into the Alien franchise. Surely others have equated the feeling of some marauding beast bursting out of your chest with the feeling the Cubs have left fans with year to year over the last seven decades: Just when you think everything is fine, you’re wracked with body-shredding pain that comes out of nowhere, and you can only look at your bloody hands and the guts hanging out of the huge hole in your body as you fade into oblivion. Your last mortal vision is of a slimy, malevolent creature with the head of Dusty Baker or Lou Pinella emerging from the gaping wound, and you’re left thinking that’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! Unlike the victims in the Alien films, though, as a Cubs fan you get to experience the pain and carnage anew each year.
This unusual connection came to me a few weeks ago when I was chillin’ on vacation and happened to tune into Aliens on late night TV. I mentioned to the girlfriend that there will be a double fesature of Alien and Aliens playing in late October at a nearby drive-in theatre. We plan on taking in the sci-fi horror fun as the season turns to haunting. Usually, Cubs fans wouldn’t think twice about an October 22 night-time engagement. Why would we? So few of us were alive the last time late-late October meant anything that optimism has been bred out of our genes. But I had a nagging feeling that committing to the drive-in might not be a good idea. What if there’s an important World Series game that night? The thought of one involving the Cubs was so unexpected and so foreign to me that I was struck dumb. I had to check the playoff calendar! When has a Cubs fan ever seriously done that? But there I was fully believing that the Cubs were going to play in the World Series—and believing it with a degree of certainty I’ve never felt before when I thought about the northsiders.
It turns out there was no need to panic, and now life has returned to a calm restfulness not unlike the stasis the crew of Nostromo was experiencing before they touched down on LV-426. There is no World Series game scheduled for the night of the Alien double feature, so we can enjoy the horror and bloody carnage on celluloid before it has a chance to happen for real at the corner of Addison and Clark.
I rolled into Home Depot yesterday morning about 9:45 and picked up the Weber grill I bought Friday but needed the girlfriend’s SUV to pick up. The salmon and chicken were already thawing on the counter in the kitchen, and the potatoes only needed to be wrapped. It wasn’t long until I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up some new bath towels and a garbage can. I ran into a few neighbors on the way back and boasted of my new disposal system. But I’m not some smug jerk who brags about something like that and lords it over my neighbofrom their new ownerrs or shows up to condo association meetings to talk about my new garbage can, so I encouraged them to stop by if they have something to throw away and want to try it out. I cautioned the girlfriend about the new bath towels. I knew I’d be at yoga when she rolled out of bed this morning, and she’d most likely have showered by the time I got back. As such, I asked her to keep quiet about the new linens, no matter how great or disappointing they might be. “I like to go in clear when it comes to new towels,” I told her. “So don’t spoil anything for me. I want to trust my basic instincts and first reaction.” I figured the towels deserved that in their new home and from their new owner. I was practically bursting at the seams throughout the afternoon with all the excitement from my new purchases. I got the grill put together and chilled out with a late-afternoon slow roast on the new apparatus. It was a good day, mostly.
I also ran a 5K at Independence Grove yesterday morning. Felt like shit. Couldn’t catch my breath. Came across in 26:50. This is thirty years of running slow and still somehow thinking I can get faster. When will running be enough without worrying about time? Probably after my next injury. Maybe I need to approach this like the Poem-a-Day Challenge and just get caught up in the grind of it and not worry about much else. I’ll think about it over the next few weeks, until I race again. Until then… my back is tired. My IT bands are tight.
I couldn’t think of much that would be more novel as a runner than to run down the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago the wrong way and in the middle of the street, and to do it twice. Hell, I don’t even want to walk down the Magnificent Mile most of the time. Thankfully, last Saturday morning the stretch was blocked off to traffic as a 5K and half marathon rumbled through. I didn’t want to pass up the chance since I’ll be relying on novelty to keep things fresh if I’m going to run thirty 5Ks, so there I was. If you have any questions about which race I was running, then you know too little about my size, my age, my perpetually tired back, and the piano wires I have for IT bands.
I wasn’t thrilled about the early start—7 A.M. is pretty early to be wedging yourself into starting corrals with 2,300 other sweaty runners, but the weather was cool and overcast. There was some mist in the air that was periodically turning into rain. It was classic Cross Country weather. I figured I’d get stampeded first thing since I was in the second corral and I never start fast enough to get out in front of a crowd, much less a massive mob. The staggered starts helped, though, and before I knew it I had turned onto North Michigan Avenue and was keeping a steady pace and feeling good. I was definitely digging the vibe of running through the retail heart of the city and across the river. My new shoes kept me feeling comfortable, and by the time I turned onto the home stretch I felt like I was doing better than I expected. I came across at 26:34, even though the race felt like it went by a lot faster than that. I checked results and saw that I finished 5th in my age division, which was totally unexpected. I’m still running varsity!
Sometimes when you run a whole messload of 5K races, especially on the same course, they fly by without you noticing much. Especially if nothing noteworthy happened during the race. That’s what happened last Saturday morning about 9 A.M. I was at Independence Grove again. As I remarked to a lady also running the race as she was scanning the course: I’ve raced there probably twenty times, and run there for fitness or fun or whatever probably thirty more times. I know the place. I know every way they can lay out a 5K, down to the point where I know if somebody measured the course wrong (btw… that’s exactly what happened two weeks ago–as I mentioned here! I went out and measured the course on my bike, and it came up at 3.2 miles).
So the gun went off, I went off, and twenty-six minutes and twenty-four seconds later I came across the finish line. I hit a good enough pace along the way and remember passing a few people, but I couldn’t catch a guy at the end who had walked directly in front of me the last quarter mile of the race. I hate when people do that and I can’t catch them. But I had been fighting a cold and the consequences of uneven sleep as I readjust to going back to school, so I’m not worried. My best racing is still ahead of me this year, and will remain so until it’s too cold to run. And despite my ambivalence about yoga, damn I’m glad I’ve been doing it. I rolled out of bed Sunday morning and felt like I was 56 instead of 46. Or perhaps I felt like most other 46-year olds feel on a frequent basis. I don’t know. I’m displaced regarding my actual age, my emotional age, how old I feel, how old I think I look, and how people my age are supposed to feel and look. The only thing I can think to do is keep running. And yoga helps one helluva lot to help me bounce back.