Monday, June 30, 2014

Whichever Way's The Fastest

So, I'm currently obsessed with author Sloane Crosley and I was reading How Did You Get This Number and came across an excellent description for how I've learned to occasionally deal with life. She described how liberating it can be to get into a cab and let the driver decide the best way to a destination:
"The moment you shut the cab door, you can be who you want to be...If you spend your day making decisions, you can stop, releasing yourself with those magic words: Whichever way's the fastest. Repeat it again when your driver attempts to brainstorm with you. He could tell you that the West Side Highway is closed and he'll need to swing around the moon first. Really. Whichever way."
I do this a lot in cabs myself. Actually, I've even said "whichever way is the cheapest" before, which brought unsettling laughter from my driver. (In DC, the cabs try to go the longest way sometimes just to get more money out of you. Which is one of the 78 reasons why I'm now a complete convert to Uber. Take that, DC cab mafia! You and your credit card machines that are "always broken"!) But I digress.

I feel like I take control in so many decisions in my life that it's a treat to hand over the reins when I can and just give myself over to the moment. Like while sitting in the backseat of a swerving car in northern Iraq, for instance. Or like when I run races and don't bother to view the course map. (eh, someone will tell me if I get off course, let it be a surprise! Giant hill in the middle? Random stream I have to cross? Fire? We'll find out!) or like when I blindly joined the Run Now Relay. (I loved what my friend Corey said during the Relay. "I don't have to worry about being the one in charge during this - just tell me when to get out of the vehicle, and point me in the right direction to run...") 

No decisions. Giving yourself over to the situation. It's so nice and exhilarating sometimes. I (unsuccessfully) tried to make my boss believe this concept the other day as we were discussing Food Trucks. He said he wanted to like them but was worried about how safe they are.

I disagreed. You have to give yourself over to the experience, boss! You gotta YOLO it. Sure, you could worry about potential explosive diarrhea, but then you'd miss out on delicious food trucks! Who doesn't want to walk up to a strange vehicle and order whatever a Korean taco is? 

And how could you not love seeing Madeleine Albright's nephew dressed up like this, serving you food:
Fojol Brothers
(My friend knows one of them and yes, he is Albright's nephew. Although apparently they have closed their trucks, sadly). 

See? Sometimes you just embrace risk and stuff your face in a meal served out of a car window. It's how you know you're alive, man.

I feel that way about travel, too. One of my favorite vacations was to a place I had never considered before. In fact, when my friends first asked me if I wanted to join them,  I said no. After I changed my mind (deadly case of FOMO and all), I ended up loving that whole trip and every random adventure that went with it. Which is why, come November,

I am going to Nepal.

Not because I've always dreamed about going there (I haven't), not because I've heard great things about it (I haven't), but why? Because Kim, who was in my Semester in DC program thirteen years ago, randomly messaged me on Facebook and told me she now lives in Nepal and I was welcome to stay with her if I ever wanted to visit. 

That was it. That was all it took for me. Facebook had chosen for me, and all I had to do was give myself over to the ride. Just tell me when to get out of the plane and point me in the right direction.

Speaking of direction, does anyone know which one I'll fly to get there? Because seriously, I know nothing about Nepal. I did start looking into what I might do there. First, I know my friend Susie occasionally rides elephants in polo matches there. So I considered that:

Then found out she's not doing it this year.

Ok, well Mt. Everest is there, right? Maybe we can hike on that for a bit?

We can't. It'd take entirely too long to get there and get acclimated.

Ooookaaay. Well there's Kathmandu - a place I had only heard of because of a bad Milla Jovovich movie in the 80's... -is there enough I'd want to do there to spend several days in one place?

There isn't.

So I asked Kim. She mentioned trekking in the Himalayas. 

Mmm.. trekking. That sounds nice and outdoorsy. The Himalayas...they sound tall and exotic....

So in the end, I'm approaching this trip like I approach cab rides. If Kim asks me which way I want to start trekking, I'll YOLO it, hand over the reigns, and tell her whichever way she thinks would be best.

Really. Whichever way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

DC Dating: Back to Gut Instincts. Again.

My friend Matt was talking about my blog and mentioned one post in particular about my dating life that was his favorite. It was about a guy I met years ago online who I've now nicknamed the Ninja Turtle (I'll explain more in a bit). Online dating may still seem strange to some, but it's the norm in urban areas. We are a fast-paced people, living in homogenized worlds where you quickly make out with become friends with everyone you ever see and in order to get variety, you need to look outside your circles. I also like it because it's like shoe shopping. Pick the make and model of the guy you want, then wait to see what the inventory looks like. And it's especially good for me because I'm only interested in getting serious with someone who shares my faith, so this way I can always note that I only want to see Christian inventory.

And then it never works and I'm consistently offered everyone else.

How about this atheist?


Agnostic? He's nice!

Still no.

What about this Buddhist? You might really like this Buddhist....

No! Stop it!

So I've only dabbled in the online dating world a bit. I tried a couple different sites years ago, got bored and quit them all, then joined one again just recently. I figured the guys I was meeting in the wild haven't been so great either so why not try the virtual world again?
The last guy I met in the brick-and-mortar world (as opposed to the virtual world) ended up being a closeted LARP'er. As in, he eventually admitted that he dressed up in costume and role-played in his spare time. He then went on to tell me about his ex-wife and showed me a photo of his multiple children. They were all wearing matching outfits. Matching each other...and him... Clearly, offline dating has its flaws as well... (Not that there's anything wrong with LARPing and matching clothes. It's just not my preference.) 
So I'm back to giving the online dating pool a try. And I hadn't had anything too note-worthy (well, except for the date that ended up with me and the guy discussing life sitting on top of buckets in the mayonnaise aisle of a grocery store at 2 a.m., but that is a story for another day....) until last week when a guy contacted me and I got a nagging feeling that I'd seen his photo before.

I could not put my finger on it, so I just figured that I'd probably seen his photo pop up on the site before. So I reply and I ask him what brought him to D.C. And he replies: "I said what brought me to D.C. in my first message :)"

Oh no, no. You cannot wash away a passive-aggressive "schooling" by adding an emoticon, Mister. I immediately felt scolded and turned-off.
This is a challenge I have. I believe I have really good intuition about people in general so I've learned to rely on that probably a little too much and I instantly categorize people into 'That Guys'. Oh, you're that guy. You're "uptight/'I need to teach you the proper way,'" Guy. You'll be the guy that one day walks up to me - smiling - and "kindly" says "honey, is this the way we fold the dish towels? Is it? I didn't think so." *smile*
And I know you are sitting there reading this thinking "she's wrong, she's too picky" but I gotta say, people, I'm typically right in the end. That's the problem. I've tried multiple times to go against my gut instinct, to "have an open mind," and it always ends badly. And isn't telling me to go against my instinct in love the same as telling me to go against it in the stock market? Who says "oh, you feel like this stock is going to tank? Then by all means, put your money in it!" Yet everyone says that in dating.

I end up replying to this guy with just enough to answer his questions and kind of be done. Then he replies, "Did you have any other questions for me?" And I don't even know if I want to respond.


I'm sitting on my balcony later, zoning out and watching people walk their dogs. At some point, I start to think about that blog post Matt loved and how maybe I'll re-post that again since my friends do love my dating disasters and I haven't really had any to share in a while. And in the background, another part of my brain is also thinking "I wonder why that guy online looks so familiar..."

And then both thoughts crashed together and an image slowly emerged:

He's the Ninja Turtle!

The reason this guy looked so familiar is because we went out. We must've met on a different site, years ago, and somehow found each other again! I've apparently reached the end of the dating pool and I've somehow circled back to the beginning! I'm definitely going to need to buy more cats now....

I start giggling and cannot believe this, and I start to reply to him: "Actually, I DO have a question....."

And he doesn't remember. He asks if I remember how long ago the date was.

And now I'm walking a line, because I do know when it was, I know exactly when it was, because I wrote about it. How do I remember you, Scold-y-pants? Because I basically keep a public diary. I keep a public diary, and I write about bad dates, and now people in Ghana and Azerbaijan and the Netherlands have potentially read about you. So yes, I do remember how long ago the date was.

Clearly, I had to be careful not to give too many details lest he think I'm just a creepy stalker who remembers everything about one date four years ago. I reply in vague terms and he asks (rather adorably, I must say) "Do you recall how the date went?" So now I have to say something about the fact that since neither of us really remember each other, it must not have been a spectacular date so we should call it a day.

What I didn't say was - "You took me to an underground mall, forced me to buy coffee for myself, then proceeded to scare me about a hike I was taking the next day."

But that's actually how the date went. After I made myself go out with someone I had a bad feeling about. A guy I would again have a bad feeling about years later. And what was the name of my original post about him?

"Back to gut instincts."

Back indeed. Will I ever learn....

Enjoy the original date HERE.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Run Now Relay: Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston...

After we finish our last run, we check into our hotel. In the morning we see several other flight members downstairs getting breakfast and we start chatting.

Flash back for a second. At some point before the trip, Matt C's wife (woman. planner.) texted me asking if I needed to borrow any of his (man. non-planner.) reflective gear. I was skeptical that we'd ever be able to connect on the road, but I figured what the heck, sure. 

Back to the hotel on the last day. The day when most all of us were totally done with our legs. Matt C. casually walks up to me and says

 "oh hey, did you need my reflective gear?"


The rest of us start comparing stories from the road. Apparently, the Race Horse got into his room the night before, only to find -

someone was already sleeping in it.

It was Jason, the command center 18-wheeler driver that I likely scared a couple states back. That guy can't catch a break...

I overhear other funny things like Matt C. bragging that "EK ran 20 miles yesterday! The longest he'd ever run before that was 8 miles! ...and that was Tuesday!"

We all get back on the road and head to Hopkinton, MA. We still have one more flight on the road, and the plan is to have the entire team link up with the last runner and run together to finish the relay as one. The finish line for us is the start line for the Boston Marathon, where four of our members will line up two days later to run the marathon after this crazy journey.

Everyone's tired. At some point, we get a group text from a team member that asks if we can "take a nice reflective walk" for that last mile and we all laugh. But when our last runner comes trotting up, everyone got a little shot of adrenaline and we all took off towards the line together. It was emotional, to say the least (Watch here->Post by Run Now Relay.)
The team had been on the road for an entire week. I had only been with them half that time and even I felt emotional.

We take photos, drop our stuff off at hotels, and head to a banquet where we presented a check to Dream Big!, one of our charity partners.

The next day, several of the relayers headed back to Tennessee. Like I said, most of them had families they had left for a week, so it was time to get back. (Some of which didn't even fully explain that fact, like Former Green Beret Robert. At the meeting in Tennessee I attended, his wife mused "I don't understand why people are talking about how long this is. It's only Saturday to Sunday!" It was only when someone else in the room explained that it was not an overnight trip, that it was Saturday to the next Sunday that she realized just how long her husband was leaving. I bet that was a fun drive home!)

The rest of us stayed to enjoy Boston and cheer on our four teammates running the marathon.

How do I explain the marathon? I've ran in dozens and dozens of races through the years. I've finished my own marathon, I know what it feels like to be cheered on and encouraged by strangers when you need it. But something came over me while I stood on the sideline and cheered on other runners, other strangers, and saw the look of appreciation on their tired faces. We starting watching right at the finish line, seeing Meb win, with Ryan Hall close behind. We saw Shalane Flanagan come through, and then our Race Horse.

It was exhilarating to be at the finish, but I think it was even more touching when we moved back a bit and stood along the road right at the second to last turn the runners make. Hereford. There's a famous phrase that anyone involved with the Boston Marathon knows: Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. Those are the final directions before you see the finish line. Once you hear those words, you know you are in the home stretch.

I watched multiple runners burst into tears as soon as they hit that turn.

We saw shirts noting how far a runner got last year before the bombs went off, and so much determination to finish what was started the year before. We saw men pushing sons in wheelchairs, people running alongside blind runners, people running in memory of others, firefighters, national guard... And something came over me in the midst of screaming out "you got this!!!!" at perfect strangers and waving my cowbell like I was possessed and - I spontaneously burst into tears.

This is humanity. This is what it's all about.

We got to see the last three of our runners - Matt C., Matt R., and Froto Fred - round that corner. Matt R. turning into predictable puddles when he saw us. It was so beautiful.

I raced over to the post-race banquet to congratulation our runners before I had to head to the airport. On my way out of town, I was struck by how many people were wearing the marathon jacket. When we boarded our plane, anyone who ran the race was allowed to board first. Clearly, this whole city revered this race. And after finally watching it myself, I understood why.

Thank you, Boston, for exemplifying resilience and showing love to our team. And thank you, Run Now Relay, for letting me be a part of this incredible journey. Boston Strong. Tennessee Tough.

You can see all the details and social media posts from our relay compiled here.

Below is a beautiful compilation that one of our team members put together of our adventure. A team member who incidentally just completed a hundred mile trail runI love these crazies! Enjoy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Run Now Relay: The Final Leg

So yes, someone did pee her pants at one point. It was during a run and she couldn't find a bathroom and one thing lead to another and that's how PeeWee got her name.

We'd all end up with names before the relay was over. Like "Wrong Way EK" for teammate EK who had a knack for always taking the wrong turn. Or "Puddles," our leader Matt R. who kept getting emotional during the journey.

I ended up as "Wedge," for reasons I'll explain later. But for now, let's go back to Jersey.

We wake up and roll out again about 11:30 p.m. As we drive towards the point where we'll get the hand-off of GPSy, Matt R. exclaims "Oh there's a McDonald's, we could get breakfast!"

...and then "Oh yeah, except it's not morning yet...." And the time/space disorientation gets us again.

Our next leg enters New York City - in the middle of the night.

I think everyone was a little nervous about this one. Nikki and I ended up running right next to the vehicle for most of it for safety reasons, at times we were even pulled back in if we came up on a road where the van would need to separate from us. I'm sure people wondered what the heck we were all doing most of the time, although several vehicles in our relay actually had nice people come up to them during the journey to donate money for our cause! 

That was not the case in NYC. Matt R. ended up taking the last several miles of our total leg because the route was too risky for the females. When we finally finished, we ended up in Times Square right before the sun came up. By that time, there was no opportunity for sleep because the entire team was going to attempt to get on Good Morning America.

Because the best time to be on national television is when you are drenched in sweat and haven't slept all night.

Plus it was cold so I was wearing my "I will never be asked out ever in this" running cap...sigh...

We take our place of stalk-age outside the GMA window. 

Our initial goal is to get ourselves and our Run Now Relay signs on air to promote our cause. 

One by one, the hosts come out and some of them actually do chat with us:

And we get really excited and start chattering during the segments, which we can't hear so we don't know what the hosts are discussing on the show inside. We don't know, that is, until one of the staffers asks if we "could keep it down because the hosts are discussing a serial murder case..."

and they can hear us laughing.


In spite of that, we do eventually end up on air:

But that was just the beginning. Sara Haines got in touch with us and said she wanted to do a full feature story on us for the weekend show! So now, most of us were all racing to Central Park to tape the segment while one of our vehicles continued on the relay route.

Below is how the segment turned out --- love it!

We head out again in search for food and sleep. We end up staying in the home of one of the relayer's friends. They did our laundry, made us dinner, and ushered us into their private sauna in the back yard.

Maybe I could get used to this relay life after all. Oh wait - we're running again? But I like it here in this sauna....
We get GPSy somewhere in Connecticut. This would be the last leg for our flight and it ended up just being the two female runners that ran.  Nikki runs her 6 miles, then I get out to run the last 6 miles our flight will do.

In the dark. In the cold. Basically All. Up. Hill.

I'm trucking along around 10:30 p.m. on a fairly untraveled road with our van slightly ahead of me, when all of a sudden a big Waba truck comes up behind us.

Waba (WAH-buh) truck: Me and my southern friend's pet name for large, jacked-up trucks, typically driven in rural areas. Accessories may include giant chrome exhaust pipes, enormous tires, and engines that idle loudly, making a "waba, waba" noise, and which are revved strategically, particularly during mating season or to display the driver's obvious manliness. 
This was no friendly waba driver, however. He slowly drives past us, whips a U-turn, comes back, pulls up right next to me, and starts revving the motor. I anxiously look up towards my van, and he just stays there, behind the van, creeping along. I jog a little faster, picturing some drunk redneck behind the wheel with a shotgun, and I get next to the van and yell "what is this guy doing?!" Froto Fred assures me the van is staying right with me, so I keep going. Finally, the truck starts to pass us yet again, pulling up slowly next to me, and the driver is staring at me. 

And that's when my inner New Jersey mafia member rises up uncontrollably and I raise my hands, shrug my shoulders violently at the driver and just yell "WHAT."

Shortly after that, it occurred to me that it was possible this guy was just trying to donate money, which would have been really awkward... 

He wasn't. He continued to be creepy, but since the van stayed close, I continued on. Then, all of a sudden, the van door opens and out leaps -

The Race Horse. 

He doesn't even wait for the van to stop, he just flies over to jog by my side. He looks around us - picks up a stick - and starts running alongside me, weapon in hand, staring menacingly towards the truck, daring it to do anything.

(Meanwhile, the guys in the van joked, "there goes Captain America," referring to Johnny's uncanny ability to do pretty much anything heroic, without even trying. Later, as we retold the story to another relayer, he added "Johnny was probably fastening that stick into a spear with his abs!" Ah, good-natured jealousy.... Boys are fun...)

The truck finally drove off, and while the whole thing rattled me (especially when not too far down the road, my van stopped at a gas station and I continued down the dark road alone, picturing Waba man behind every pair of headlights that approached me), it was worth it just to say:

I. Ran. With the Race Horse.

(So what if my "running" pace is more like his walking pace. If he broke an ankle.)

I finish my last mile, and the van pulls over and some of the team hops out to congratulate me and just  take in the fact that our flight had finished it's race. I get back in and Matt R. muses "you know, this whole trip, everyone has been so nice to all of us, stopping to give donations and stuff -- and Dana gets the stalker."

He wasn't surprised. 

Next post: BOSTON.