Sweat and Salt: Summer Training Blog

The Experience; the end

Officially two week since the marathon and well, a lot has happened since. On the 6th, I ran the NYC Marathon, then two days later, on November 8th Trump became president to my dismay. Then the following week, I was laid off from work, in what i'll call Fusion carnage. But now it is Thanksgiving week, my favorite time of year, and I do have a bunch of thankful things to say: 

About the marathon...

YOU all helped me raise: $3,280 which is beyond my goal of $3,000! The morning before the marathon, I was met the wonderful organizers of Hole in the Wall during for a last pre-race run and bagels. Then that Saturday evening, we had a charity dinner where I not only met my fellow runners, but met a family whose two children spoke to us about what camp meant to them, which is everything; the one thing they look forward all year. It was humbling, it was human and it hit home. And as runners we shared our stories of why and how we became involved with Hole in the Wall. There was a great sense of community, to know i'm doing something bigger than myself. So, for the donations and support, Thank You, thank you once again. 

I finished 25 minutes faster than when I ran London and while I didn't quite make the time I had in my head, I am very proud to have improved on a much harder course. But I think I have my friends to thank for that. From everyone who tracked me on the app, down to those standing outside waiting for me to come past. I went into the day with so much support and a happy heart. I literally had someone to look for every few miles of the course, which not only distracted me from the pain of running, but kept me focused on the faces of the crowd. And most importantly, when the going gets tough around mile 18/19, and the mental battle normally begins, I had a crowd of friends waiting for me posters in hand, whooping and hollering! Let's just say I had no mental battles this run. I was just doing it. I saw these friends again at mile 25 before I headed into the home stretch and another incline running along 59th street and then at the end when it was all over. My sister-in-law had flown in from L.A. just to cheer me on and it meant the world to me.  London vs New York. I wouldn't mind running London again and really beating my time. But I can't do it without a cause to motivate me onwards. 

Now, it's is Monday November 21, the birthday of a dear friend of mine and the start of the best holiday week, Thanksgiving. The weather has turned cold and I spied a few snowflakes this morning. I'm thankful to have friends and family who are too good to me and supportive in the good times and bad. Back in May, my friend and I were cruising on Ha Long Bay, on the east coast of Vietnam, talking on the boat with foreigners about the upcoming Brexit vote and a crazy man named Donald Trump. It's shocking to think what has transpired since then. 

For Viewers: The Look

This is it. This is the outfit. This is the bib number. And when the going gets tough, these are my mantras, collected throughout this training process, from advice given, reading and thoughts. 

Marathon Tracking App (Apple & Android): 

Start Time: 11:00AM
Matra: You're doing it! 
Reminder to myself during mental battles: This is for the kids and camp and for something bigger that i'm needed for. This is a commitment. This is going to hurt. Hurt makes it real. Hurting knows it means something. 
The look:

About Friends and Thank Yous.

With exactly 6 days left; 8,6400 short minutes until I run 26.2 miles, I want to say:


For all the support I have been given during this process - donation, emails, suggestions, tips, general running advice and for all the encouragement - this post is for you. And for all those of you who came out to Mother's Ruin for a drink on debate night, thank you! We raised $400 drinking rum "a drink for charity" cocktails. Slurp. I have a just under $1,000 to raise before Sunday! #fuelmyruningrattitudeforyourdonation

Lastly, and most importantly, sometimes an in-person hug isn't possible so these I send to you with all my gratitude. 


AN ENTHUSIASTIC STRONG HUG for how much your support means to me.


No need to move, I'll do all the hugging. And head patting. And thanking. 


A sincere, feelings filled hug. 


Don't like a hugs? Here's a nuzzle. 


For the sentimental and emotional and Friends loving, this hug is for you.  


And lastly, for those who really detest hugs, *muah* thank you! 






A Dedicated Post.

On Sunday I left my apartment rip roaring and ready for my longest run. I felt good and although it was a little warmer than usual I was ready to take on the 20 mile challenge. In fact, I knew what my Instagram post was going to read. I had it all ready. I began my run. When I entered the park it was apparent that an event had taken place that morning, the pedestrian barriers were up and pink signs lined the road. People decked out in pink were walking in small groups around. The American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event had just ended. So, naturally, while running and faced with endless time to think, I thought about all the women in my life that have been hit with breast cancer. I thought about the men, women and children I was passing by. I thought about the survivors and I thought about their families and I thought about mine. I thought about courage and bravery and medicine and carrying on. I thought about pain. And I thought about hope. 

And then after a few miles, I started to crash. My watch kept beeping at me, I was in a very high heart rate zone and slowing my pace wasn't helping. My legs started to feel like lead and while I didn't feel dehydrated, I didn't feel great. I stopped, drank some water, and then continued on my loop. Hitting 6 miles, I was at the beginning of my second loop and I pulled over to stretch, eat a gel and drink some more water. My foot kept cramping, my body felt heavy and my heart monitor was still beeping at me, despite the fact my pace had slowed considerably. I battled with this for the next 5 miles, completing another loop around the park. At nearly 12 miles I stopped running. I was exhausted. My heart wouldn't calm down and despite the gels I felt like crap. Was this the runners wall I had heard about? Or was this poor pre-run fueling on my part? I had 9 more miles to go, but two more loops around the park in the same manner sounded like hell. And I was afraid i'd push myself too far. What good was a practice run if I was battling to get the miles completed?

I went to the lawn and I sat down. I thought maybe a break would calm my body down, while my mind battled with 'giving up.' Do I have time to fit in another 4 hour run this close to the end? Couldn't I just keep going? Why was my heart racing? Why did I feel like this? And then I walked out of the park. I would try again another day. My logical brain took over and while I had anxiety for the 24 hours of when I'd fit in another long run, I'm glad I gave myself permission to walk away. Continuing on would have done more harm than good. And while I detest giving up, it was the right choice. In what little brain power I had left, I exited Central Park, thinking of the women in pink: how courageous they are; all of anyone connected to a cancer fight. And while this isn't a new thought for me, it was enhanced knowing that I could walk away from my pain. Signing up to run a marathon is voluntary, cancer is not. The future is a blank mystery so I acknowledged my luck as I walked away. And if ever needed, I hope I posses their bravery within me.

International Running and Weddings!

International running is commitment. It takes time to find a route and to work in a run while traveling. Last week I boarded a plane to Munich to watch my two good friends, Alina and Emanuel, from Graduate school get married; two wonderful people that I introduced. I was met with rainy and cold weather, a reminder our of London time together. Suffice it to say, that I tried to run. I really did. My first run was met with a downpour of rain the moment I started. 1 mile accomplished. My second run, I ran as far as I could down to the lake and back. 2 miles. Not very much. The rest of my trip was chalked up to wedding and walking, which to be honest, is the more interesting part of this post.

The best thing about weddings is the reunion with old friends. The best thing about good friends is that no matter how much time has passed, friendships pick up right where they left off. 

In the case of Alina and Emanuel, I had always joked with them that if they ever got married, I'd want to give a speech and of course, maybe they should name their first born daughter after me (or her middle name). After all, Emanuel is my "brother from another mother" and i'm his "American Sister," and Alina is the first person I met in class at Graduate school, so naturally I feel connected to them both. But joking aside after all these years, I was touched when they asked me to write the story of how they met and read it during their wedding ceremony. (The below text is the result.)  I won't lie, I was nervous standing up to speak, despite the audience of Germans everyone knew English. And while my story was met with many lovely compliments, I'm more just glad that I had the occasion to give it. How can I say this without being cheesy? There is nothing quite like witnessing two individual people that I love find love in one another. And while I take full responsibility for their meeting, I think Bruce said it the best, "You can't start a fire without a spark." 

I'd like to tell you the story of Alina and Emanuel, but first I'd like to take you back to September 2010 and set the stage. I met Alina at City University on our first day of graduate class when we both walked into the wrong classroom and sat next to me avoiding the other American who was sporting an American flag. A few weeks later, I met Emanuel at dinner in Liberty Hall, where we both lived in London. I made a lasting impression by accidentally breaking his wine glass while cleaning it. And a few weeks later, his plate. These chance encounters spawned two important friendships in my life.
Flash forward to November of that same year. Emanuel and I were to attend the birthday celebration of a friend of ours from Liberty Hall. I asked Alina to come with me to the bar because there was a boy I was trying to avoid, so I was desperate to have company. At the time she was living in Chelsea and needed some persuading to come all the way to Islington. I told her I had another German friend attending the party and maybe they would hit it off! I believe she scoffed at me, in the way that she does, protesting that just because I know two Germans that doesn’t mean that they'd be instantaneous friends! Didn't I know anything? I tried again, "maybe you'll meet your future husband!" That comment was met with an eye-roll. 

But lucky for me, a little begging and pleading, I convinced her to join me. In a nutshell, that night Alina not only met Emanuel, but that evening, Emanuel ended up pretend marrying Alina to his friend at the party! I distinctly remember leaving the bar with Alina, giggling. She had just gotten pretend married, so in a way, I had predicted she'd meet her future husband! My comment was met with a "Yeah, well, okay," from Alina, giddy from the evening.
And after that night I did not hear about Emanuel from Alina. They met and that seemed to be it. Or so I thought. The holidays passed and we returned to London after Christmas. In January, freshly back from the US, Alina invited me to her new flat one evening. When I arrived, I was more than a little surprised to see that Emanuel was there. It seems young Emanuel was helping Alina hang up new shelves. Alina and Emanuel hanging out? That was news to me. I knew something more was up. And so I pestered them. Were they dating? Alina insisted that Germans do not date like Americans do and that they were just friends. Until April, when it surfaced, maybe they were in fact dating and they did in fact like each other. I was so happy. Two of my favorites, together.
Flash forward years later to this moment. It is with the fullest heart that I stand here at the wedding of Emanuel and Alina, telling you how we got to this very moment. 

Lovely Day!

I wish it would stop raining. I am just getting over being sick; the kind of sick that makes it very heard to breathe while running. I struggled, therefore my running has struggled. I ran shorter distances when, instead, I should have been concentrating on not be sick. But the anxiety - 6 weeks left! - drove me out onto the pavement in an effort to run some miles. Think of a car running out of gas and sputtering to a stop. That was me on every run I attempted. 

On the one hand, not feeling great taught me to that it really sucks to be sick, even just the I-have-no-voice snotty kind of sick. But it is nothing like the being really sick. In perspective, I was reminded by I'm running this marathon in the first place: to help kids with serious illness attend camp; to have fun! 

One week later and I can finally breathe, and well, it is raining. It has been raining and it will continue through the weekend. One more week down and the opportunity for a long weekend run, but noooo the sky wants to cry. For me, it has proven a challenge to scoop out large chunks of time for running, but trying to fit long runs into my weekend activities AND dealing with the weather or personal illness, has been beyond. Next weekend I'll be in Munich and then it will be 4 weeks until the November 6th! Eeeek!

At this point, here is hoping, the hours I've carved out of my Sunday are crisp, cloudy and dry!! Hell, let's hope it's a Lovely Day:

Wish You Were Here

Author’s Note: This is a different type of ‘Running’ and ‘Salty’ post.

Left, my mom and her friend Judy, in London. C. 1960-something

Left, my mom and her friend Judy, in London.
C. 1960-something

Last week, a friend of mine said to me, “I’m sorry it has been a year already.” Her words were the perfect summation; the perfect phrase.  Exactly, two weeks ago was the first anniversary of my mother’s death; today is the first anniversary of goodbye; her funeral. Seasons come and go. We roll out the holiday decorations, we count down the days, we bake the cookies and attend the parties, and then we pack it all up again for the next year. And we can’t believe another year has passed as we ring in the New Year. But this feeling is different. It is a year counted in loss; to think about what I was going through this time last year and what has happened since. Somehow I have made it through a full year without a hug, a conversation or a kiss from someone who was present in my life for 30 years is astounding. A year without. A year in which I survived, and in which I feel a bit guilty for doing so. Shouldn’t I be visually cracked? Isn’t that how we know it’s important? Do silence fractures and fissions adequately portray enough sadness? Or maybe it is perpetual bruising under the surface that indicates a loss that is ever present but deeply personal. This is why my friend’s words were so perfect. Acknowledgment that death is still hard a year later and that time is not a Band-Aid, loss is not diminished. Time is a goon.

This time last year, I had pillars of support; a Corinthian column who was living with me when my mother’s health was in decline and after. And an Ionic column who was standing beside me in Peru the day I learned of her death. The worst part of death is going through it alone, so being surrounded by company made the situation less lonely. My friends did as pillars do: provided strength and a body to lean on and comfort. This year, in fear of being alone, I escaped to the only place I knew I could go to combat sadness, London. London, where I left part of my heart in 2011 and the city my mother first introduced me to in 1998, which I not only credit for instilling in me a love of travel but with an obsession of England. Off I flew to be surrounded by different pillars of support, yet these friends didn’t know it. Not really. But maybe that’s the best part of friendship, they were just happy to see me as friends would be. There is no running away from the weightiness and the importance of a day, no spell that can fix grief and no invisibility cloak to hid from loss, by I was happy to be in the company of great friends. On the Friday, I combated sadness by crafting a day I know my mother would love. It included Butterbeer, Harry Potter, views of London, crafty cheers, a great meal and friends I am happy to count as pillars in my life.


And, on my last day in beautiful London, I went for a 5 mile run in Regent’s Park, where 6 years ago I strapped on a pair of Lifestrong Nike Running shoes and started running.


Just Do It

Last night I didn't feel like going for a run. It had rained most of the day, and earlier when I was out it felt humid. But as I prepped myself for my evening run, Nike reminded me: JUST DO IT


[scroll down]

And then I saw this view and I got giddy. Expressive clouds are my favorite. 

A Pep Talk, from August 19, 2001

This day, August 19th, fifteen years ago, I completed an epic journey; not dissimilar to the training for a Marathon. Fifteen years ago, "I was standing knee deep in the cold, beautiful, blue-green Atlantic Ocean while parents, friends, and family circled me snapping pictures, yelling and laughing. I had just biked 3,500 miles, from Seattle, Washington to Rye Beach, New Hampshire on my trusty, Jamis bicycle, named Dmitri." 

I could sit here and recite some of the paragraphs from my college admission essay or from the various short vignettes I've just re-read from my senior year high school English class, but I will resist that urge. (Although the one about my sleeping bag 'orange' is a gem - read here.) But I digress. I think the gist of my cross country biking trip can be summed up in this: it was an eye opening time in my young life when I learned that I have grit and determination. And I was convinced that trip would be the greatest achievement of my life.

I rarely talk about this trip. I'm not sure if it's because the act itself sounds so grand, and while it started as this big adventure I was scared. But having accomplished it, I have a new perspective, anything is possible (hey, it's a cliche for a reason!)  I went up a mountain and it turned into a molehill. And well, are molehills really worth talking about? Which is to say, something is grand before it's accomplished, when it has been accomplished it's doable. It is smaller; it's a mountain that's been scaled. 

A few nights ago I found myself at an City University London event sending off the next wave of postgraduate students, eager to start their Masters and MBAs in London. And in true Tori fashion, nostalgia mixed tinged with envy coursed through my veins as I was reminded of my own journey nearly six years ago. I chatted with the new students about my favorite bits of London, the must-dos and everything in between that made my experience shine. I was also reminded of the stressful time I had packing up my life in New York before the moment of departure. Getting into Grad School, is a high-five in itself, but shifting my entire life into storage, obtaining visas and waving goodbye to all that I had known for a new country was an endlessly overwhelming check-list of 'to-do's' that I had to rely on myself to figure out. With hindsight, what seemed impossible at the time, now seems kinda brave; kinda courageous. Possible. So possible in fact, I often daydream about doing it all again.

Possible. I believe this has morphed into a stream of thought self-imposed pep talk as I train for what seems an impossible marathon. Some days running seems like a chore, while the heat and humidity aim to disarm me both physically and mentally. I hope the air cools down and my mental thoughts stay positive as I scale the mountain or at least the Harlem Hill from Hell (HHH as I've dubbed it) in Central Park. Perhaps next run, i'll meditate on August 19, 2001 and picture the 10 of us (cyclists) lingering in the frigid ocean, arms around shoulders, standing in a straight line, like the never-ending Montana Road, grinning of our newly completed journey. And while I do not have 9 individuals on this running journey (back then, we were often asked if we were cycling for a charity) at least now I can proudly say I am running for one. 

Happy 15 years of friendship. Photos below. 

Postscript: While I write this O-Town came on my iTunes. Significant because I have thousands of songs on 'shuffle' and because I was "All or Nothing" was basically my anthem on that trip.   

Cross Country Vignettes: Orange and Night and Cake 

Horoscopes and Running

Every Tuesday I am emailed an unbelievably wacky and odd horoscope that I put little stock in, but read for the chuckle it consistently exudes. (Intrigued? Get yours here). And with that said, today's horoscope is setting the stage of this post:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Your assignment, if you choose to accept
it, is to compose an essay on at least one of the following themes: 1.
"How I Fed and Fed My Demons Until They Gorged Themselves to Death."
2. "How I Exploited My Nightmares in Ways That Made Me Smarter and
Cuter." 3. "How I Quietly and Heroically Transformed a Sticky Problem into
a Sleek Opportunity." 4. "How I Helped Myself by Helping Other People."
For extra credit, Capricorn -- and to earn the right to trade an unholy duty
for a holy one -- write about all four subjects.

Bolded sentience: "How I helped myself by helping other people." Let's start there. I'm not sure that sounds so great, rather more self-serving and self-involved? But I guess at the essence of this little running adventure I am helping myself by helping others. By fundraising for 'Hole in the Wall' I am not only giving myself a goal (running and fundraising) I am getting into shape (I think). I like goals. And I like to feel good about doing something for someone else. But it does seem sort of selfish, in a good/bad way. At the heart of it, the ones who are helping others without helping themselves are YOU. You the donors who are supporting me and this charity. YOU who are fueling my runs with good vibes and a helping hand of belief. That's pretty selfless. So, for the first of many to come, thank you. 

(Consider this an essay; even if I didn't meet the correct word limit ;)

That time I took a hip hop class...

See title. Did your jaw drop? Pick it back up. Yes, I looked as hysterical as you're picturing me dancing.

As a self proclaimed white-girl-with-no-beat, I was invited to attend a hip hop class with a new friend of mine who goes regularly on Mondays. "Heck," I thought, "it's going to rain again and I could use it as a 'cross training' day." So, on Monday night, I found myself on the West Side, in a studio room with a diverse group of individuals ready to learn a routine. First, we went through 30 minutes of stretching, warming up by isolating parts of the body in a rounded motion, generally moving my hips in shocking ways. (At least I was stretching all those running muscles). For the next hour, we proceeded to learn a series of dance steps, breaking down the routine in small batches. To sum up the experience:

Did I have fun? Yes, I really did.  But it did confirm one thing, my beat is off, my hip movements aren't fluid and remembering a series of steps is quiet hard without trying to hit a beat. But next week I plan on improving.  And maybe in a few months time, I won't avoid watching myself in the studio mirrors.

And for full effect, this was what the dance should have looked like: 


It's hot. It's humid. In my head it sounded like a good idea to run at night around the Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park. And it did feel good until I hit a wall of gnats. Yes, those little tiny bugs that swarm around in hot, cooler places. Running through the wall of invisible tiny bugs felt like running through a spider web - sticky, sold and gross. Good protein? Hopefully? Suffice it to say, it was good practice for running with a closed mouth. Lesson learned: it may be slightly cooler to run at night, but running around a small body of water on a humid evening will land me in vat of gnats, which will stick to the droplets of sweat covering my overheated body. What a sight.