Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

NYC Half Marathon

Harlem to Wall Street. I could have gotten there by car, by train, or by bus but there's nothing like getting there on my own feet. Someone once said running is a equalizer, especially at marathon distance, it has no regards for what you declared on your tax return last year, what kind of car you drive, or the type of posh gym membership you have. As the miles go by we are leveled down to our core with no pretenses, privileges, or prejudices.

A half marathon seems rather insignificant but it was a big milestone for me. I've never been a distance runner. When I walked out of the door this morning I had to give myself a prep talk. I can do this. I've trained for this twice already! I trained with Champaign's Second Wind Running Club last winter but decided to not run the race due to problems with my calves. This time I got to the starting line in the best shape possible, no pain! It was such a huge relief since nagging pains are so common in running. I had ordered a customized race jersey and decided to go with it at the last minute. 31 degrees, 18 mph wind, and I was wearing a sleeveless tank. Yikes! Still, I'd rather suffer at the beginning than to overheat for the rest of the 13 miles. I'm glad I made the decision to dress light. I felt surprisingly comfortable the entire time except for the way home. It was all worthwhile.

Brooklyn Half is next. My goal is to 1-figure out what to do with nutrition, and 2-be disciplined about a negative split. I got out of Central Park in great shape and slightly ahead of my pace. I realized that having ran in the park for nearly half year I have become extremely comfortable with ever step of it. When I got to West Side Highway around mile 9 I was really starting to feel the energy drain. The wind and monotony didn't help. I tried to wash down an energy gel but the timing was off. I should have sucked that thing down at mile 6. The last few miles were really tough. My legs felt great but I just had no energy. Overall I'm happy with my result. 1:57:58 is the time to beat for Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Long Flight, Short Visit

Five days and five plate lunches later I'm back in the city again. It was good to leave before I started to look like a Hawaiian. The flight back was just short of ten hours. When we finally landed at JFK I realized that I had missed here. After all the traveling, going to and from places, this is the only place I can picture myself in at this time in my life. It's a good feeling.

The trip back home took a bit longer than anticipated. Just as I was walking out of the airport a Chinese girl caught up with me and asked me for directions to Wall Street in Chinese. She said it was her first time visiting and that her English wasn't very good. I was more than happy to help her out since we were going toward the same direction. The good thing about speaking Chinese is not that everyone knows the language but rather the fact there are tons of Chinese people scattered in just about every corner of the world. I've never visited a Chinese-speaking country outside of China but I have asked for directions in Chinese in quite a few places, the last one being Vienna. It's always good to see your people in foreign land. Now it's my turn to pay it forward.

20 degrees felt refreshing at first but my noise started to hurt on the two-block walk home from the subway station. When I got in the door I was greeted by a hot inferno. The room temperature had been set at a perfect 72 degrees all winter but now it's all out of wrack. It's as if someone wanted to make sure I come home to a warm cocoon. I was too tired before I pulled the blanket over me and slept for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

First Snorkel of the Day

Roman was leaving to go back to Cali today, but not before his last snorkel. Rose suggested that I tag along. I'm not a swimmer but snorkel in calm shallow water is ok. We showed up at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Park just after 7am hoping to avoid the formalities but alas, the park opened at 6am! So much for island time! I had to watch a safety video before getting into the water. The bay looked beautiful even under the gray sky. I got my snorkel and flippers on and instantly, I was in a tropical fishbowl! Whoa! There were so many different colorful fish! It's too bad I didn't get my GoPro to function properly for the snorkel. At one time I even saw an octopus! Rose said it's very rare to see one mostly because they blend in so well with their surroundings. It was a slightly windy day. When I took two gulp of salt water I grabbed onto Roman and shoved him into a reef. I felt terrible but Roman was a good sport about it. He calmed me down and led me to other parts of the bay.

I stayed home while Rose took Roman to the airport. It was nice to have some quiet time. I thought about sitting outside for a while but the weather had cleared up and it was too hot under the sun. I got hold of Gary over the phone and planned to meet him for lunch once Rose got back. The reunion was sweet and the food at Moke's Bread and Breakfast was delicious! I was a happy camper!
The rain started again and there was no sign of breaking. We decided to drive to Waikiki for a tour of the touristy spot. I have no interest in looking at hotels and shopping malls but Waikiki was worthy of a stop just to say I've been there. It was nice to catch up with Gary over some caffeinated beverage. He moved to HI for college ten years ago and never left. Gary is in his element here. I don't see him moving away anytime soon. Rose was born in HI and lived there for the last 17 years before spending a year in BA and 5 in Dusseldorf. I'm a none Hawaiian and don't really see myself living here. The scenery is nice but there are inevitably strip malls everywhere. I'm done with strip malls for a while. 

We took in the view from a nice lounge in the pink hotel. Later on we walked along the coastline as the sun fell below the horizon. It was a beautiful evening. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gray Hawaii

The forecast showed five solid days of rain for Honolulu but it didn't bother me. I never had much interest to visit Hawaii in the same way I had no interest to see St. Thomas. Those are places people vacationed. It goes against my inclination for travel and adventures. This time it was a good opportunity to see Rose. Having recently returned from her 5-year stay in Dusseldorf, Rose found a gig in Hawaii for a few months just in time to escape the harsh winter in Ohio. She has yet to decide on a home base in the U.S., so for the time being, she's house setting at Baerbel's. Since we had talked about meeting up in HI, I felt that I needed to keep my words. Rose and I met each other in BA seven years ago and have met up in a few different countries over the years, but never in the U.S. We have a habit of following through with our plans and this was not going to be an exception.

Thanks to the time difference I landed around 3pm local time, with plenty of time left for the day. Rose was to pick me up at the curb but it took us an eternity to find each other! The sky broke open over Honolulu and it poured and poured as we tried to maneuver through the Friday-afternoon gridlock. Having lived in NYC for over half year you'd think I'm used to seeing traffic but I'm not. I travel underground and almost never see traffic in the City. We picked up and dropped off Rose's friend Roman from one job site to another. I desperately needed something to eat so we stopped by a ramen place on the way. It wasn't my top choice but it got the job done.

Baerbel's house is situated on Mariner's Ridge in Hawaii'Kai, Honolulu, overlooking Maunalua Bay. The sun had already set by the time we got in. The little lights from the opposite valley reminded me of the Albayzí. The view was breathtaking.

We cleaned up for the evening's milonga, which was typically held in the outdoor garden at the State Art Museum but was moved inside tonight due to the rain. Once again we picked up Roman at his job and rushed to the milonga just before it ended. I had forgotten to bring my tango shoes but luckily, Rose wears the same size so I was able to steal hers for a while. There were only a few dancers on the floor but I got in two great tandas. It was my first time dancing this year. How lovely! We were hoping to run into Gary there but he had left just before we got there. Gary is the one responsible for introducing me to Rose at Salon Canning. I haven't seen him since my first visit to BA so this reunion was long overdue.

Flight to Hawaii

I sat my alarm clock at 5am and woke up at 6:45. I jumped out of bed, ran around my bedroom and threw on the first set of clothes I saw, my running shirt and shoes. Waking up late to something is a terrible feeling, even worse when it's my flight to Hawaii! AH! Thankfully I had packed my backpack the night before. I did a quick last minute check, keys, credit cards, phone, charger, feed the cats and ran out of the door. I have never gotten out of my apartment so fast. I ran through the transportation options in my head a couple of times but I was too frazzled to think straight. Instead, I waved down the first taxi I saw on CPW.

Somehow I managed to go from bed to terminal 5 in 45 minutes. That's got to be some kind of new record. Getting through security is enough to give anyone a drinking problem. I got to the gate just in time to board the plane. The flight was great as the 6'4 guy next to me moved to a different seat. With two seats all to myself I was able to perform a number of contortionist movements. For the most part I crawled up in fetal position and tried to get as much sleep as I could.

My rest was interrupted by meal and drink services. I had whatever they served since I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since I went to dinner last night at Hummus. I finished reading the book I Promise Not to Suffer by Gail Storey, the fifth book I've read on the Pacific Crest Trail. I looked up at our flight path. We were somewhere over the Sierra Nevada. As the map zoomed in I recognized names of towns the PCT come close to, Palm Spring, San Bernardo, Mojave desert. How appropriate, I thought, someday I'm going to be down there.

By now I've started to recognize names of trail towns, landmarks, mountains, other hikers and trail terminologies. I moved along with Porter-and-Gail and cried when she cried. We are where we should be and no time was ever wasted. I think back to those words from Maezen often. I remember walking into my first Dharma talk not knowing where to sit or what to say. But words are just words. I don't look for them for reassurance. Rather, it's the way our lives unfold that gives them meaning. Gail made it through 900 miles before flying back to Huston. Her husband forged on while she commanded supplies and logistics. Months later, she accompanied her mother on her last leg of the journey as she passed away from terminal illness. When the book was done I thought about my own mother. I thought her mourning over the recent death of my grandmother. The guilt she felt for not having been there, to help, to comfort, to just be there. She fainted at the sudden news. I could hear her wailing next to the phone. She gathered herself for a brief moment to tell me she's ok and that I should focus on my studies. She's been saying that for as long as I could remember. For her there are no other priorities in life. I don't disagree with her. I have a good opportunity here and I will not squander it. But studying alone doesn't fill my soul, at least not the study of law. There so many other things I want to do and experience. In time I will. Mother's pain goes much deeper than grandmother's passing. She was always plagued with remorse for picking the wrong husband that led to a failed marriage, having not always been there when I was young, and not having spent enough time with grandma.

If I could have one super power it would be the power to take away pain, physical and emotional pain. But letting go is something we can only do on our own. No one can do it for us, or convince us to do it. There are no short cuts, tricks, or special techniques. You don't need a book, a class, a religion, or a life coach. Letting go is something you decide to do and practice it over and over again even when it seems impossible. The repetition is very much like running or meditation. Cry and let go of your tears. Recognize and let go of your fears. Feel the deepest sorrow and highest joy saturating every ounce of your being and release them like you would with a hummingbird. There is no other way because our capacity to love is directly proportional to our capacity to let go. As the common Buddha inspired saying goes, "in the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Run with Me

I took my GoPro out for a run and made my first video. Working through Windows was so painful I had to take a dinner break. I couldn't get the AVI conversion to work to export the video out of GoPro Studio for the life of me. After weeding through online forums I decided to uninstall and reinstall my graphic card. That took forever and I almost freaked out when I couldn't figure out how to reinstall after I uninstalled the damn thing. The joy of running Windows 8.1! Anyways, I stayed up all night to get this time to work and then frantically cleaned up the place to get a couple hours of sleep before my flight...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


New toy for a cat lady, just about the most uncool thing you could do with a GoPro. Hopefully the videos from Hawaii will be more exciting! Cool toy though!

Monday, March 3, 2014

You Go Ahead

Grandma has done enough for us. She deserved to go peacefully. What more could we ask of her? To wait around so we can say our goodbyes? Death is not a spectacle.

It was cold. I was staring into space, waiting for the light to change. There was an old lady next to me. On any other day I may have smiled at her but not today. I made no eye contact, yet she took notice of me and said, "I always watch the light to turn yellow and then wait for an extra second."
I turned towards her and felt her warmth and kindness. I smiled and said, "yes, you've got to make sure the cars are actually stopping." The light changed. We proceeded to cross the street. She said, "you go ahead, I'm slow." I wanted to hug her but I never saw her again.

Grandma wouldn't have wanted us by her bedside as she laid dying. She brought us to this world so we can be our own persons and go out and do our own things. It mattered not whether we were next to her or thousands of miles away. I hope she knew, in her heart, that she had made a beautiful family and that she was loved. Grandma didn't go alone. She had all of us with her.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Grandma passed away. She lived to be 91. And even though she said she hasn't lived enough I think she did. It's a relief to let her go. After breakfast this morning she went to lay down and passed away quietly. No one was there except my grandfather. After all the ups and downs and turmoil in her life, I think she wanted to leave in peace. I wonder what was on her mind in those last moments. I hope she thought about the family she's built and all that she's given us. She's done enough. She's given enough. She's lived enough. We are the sad ones. Mom was devastated by the news. I had a good cry myself. Grandma named me and raised me. Everyone said I was her favorite. She was my favorite too.


They say when you're happy you hear the music; when you're sad you understand the lyric. While lying on the chiropractor's adjustment table, the song I'll Follow You into the Dark came onto the radio. I've heard the song many times before. Now I know who they're singing about.

You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
It's nothing to cry about
'Cause we'll hold each other soon
In the blackest of rooms

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the "No"'s on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Long Run

Went out for 6 and came back with 11. It's my last long run before the half marathon on the 16th. I couldn't have run a 9-minute mile a year ago, not to mention 11 in a roll. Instead of shuffling along I actually feel like I'm running now. I can feel the movement and power in my glutes, hamstrings and quads. Physical progress is a great feeling.

As far as the mind is concerned, I like the feeling or rather lack of feeling I get when I run. People say running is good for stress relief but I'm not stressed. The workout is just as hard on my mind as it is on my body. I haven't been sitting. I count when I run. It's not a substitute but meditation nevertheless. One to ten, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I loose track. I start again at one. That's the best part. After the landing of one step there's another. Like breathing, take off, land, inhale, exhale. Feel the ground. That's presence.

Seven Years Ago

I took that picture seven years ago today on a morning bus ride from El Chalten to El Calafate. The picture is blurry but not my memory of it. I remember the wind like it was yesterday. That was such an amazing place and an amazing time in my life. I'm so excited to find the next one.