Evidence of Things Not Seen Tuesday, October 31, 2006

OK, so earlier today I was complaining to my friend Jordan about the "West Wing: Sixth Season" DVD set. (Yes, the same Jordan who promised years ago he'd run the Marathon with me, but has since completely reneged on the deal.)

I was hoping to be able to get through season 6 during my treadmill workouts. Without commercials, each episode runs about 42 minutes, which is about how long my workouts are taking.

I got through some of season 5 during my previous brief stint of jogging (in March). Because my treadmill is a little loud, I turned on subtitles so as to not miss any of the dialogue.

So here's the problem with the season 6 DVDs: no English subtitles.

At first, you might think, "So what?" Well, let's stop and consider a couple of things.

1) They talk fast in the West Wing.

Ok, so Toby would roll his eyes and correct me (he talks quickly), but you know what I mean. Aaron Sorkin practically invented the walk-and-talk, and sometimes you just miss something. Subtitles help with that. A lot. (And yes, fanboy, I know Sorkin didn't write season 6.)

2) They talk about obscure aspects of government.

Sorkin is a policy wonk. So are the current writers for the show. Sometimes you miss what the hell they're talking about now because you're still trying to absorb some fact from 15 seconds ago. Like why the Secretary of Defense is trying to torpedo a uranium transfer from the Republic of Georgia for budgetary reasons. Subtitles help with that, too.

3) The plot and character development are ENTIRELY dialogue-driven.

In the West Wing, we hardly ever get to see anything actually happen. We usually hear third-hand about what happened somewhere far from the White House. Sometimes we hear the CIA director talk about how it happened. Then some guys from Foggy Bottom talk some more about what to do about it. Sometimes people talk loudly. But mostly they talk quickly. While walking around. About obscure aspects of government.

4) One of the recurring characters is played by an Oscar-winning actress who also happens to be deaf.

Savor the irony.

What logic would lead someone to include subtitles for French and Spanish, but not English, on a North American release? Boggling, just boggling. And it's interfering with my running.

Well, not so much "interfering" as "making a little less fun." But as Josh would say, that's an important ... thing.

Day Zero Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm totally out of shape, and now I have given myself exactly two years to pull it all together so I can run the 2008 New York City Marathon. Yes, it's only 734 days until the marathon, and I'm going to record how I'm doing right here, for the next two years.

You'll see at least a couple of running themes in this diary:

1) Handling the time commitment

Training for a marathon isn't something to be taken lightly. It will be an enormous time commitment, which means I'll have less time to spend with my wife. For some people that may be a side bonus -- but I really enjoy being with my sweetie, so I consider this a sacrifice.

On the other hand, if I stay healthy, I'll live longer, which will mean more time with my wife in the long run. I don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. So I'm going to be keeping track of how much time I spend exercising. I'm really hoping to be surprised when I look at time investment vs. immediate health benefits. Which brings me to ...

2) Physical health

Physical health encompasses a lot of factors. Weight loss and body fat are the most obvious -- I'll be tracking these daily, as measured by my cheap-o bathroom scale. I'll also be tracking my resting pulse rate and blood pressure (when it gets checked, which will be very sporadically).

I fully expect to get injured at some point. The constant pounding of a daily run is bound to cause problems. The trick will be to manage my training schedule to minimize the risk of injury, and to allow myself to heal when I get injured. In the beginning, this is going to mean slowly ramping up my mileage and intensity to allow my body to adjust to the beating. I'll be reading up on injury prevention, and hopefully will have something more intelligent to say on this soon.

3) Races

In order to qualify for the NYC Marathon, you have to run in a certain number of races organized by the NYC Road Runners' Club. I'll be writing about my training leading up to each race, race-day routine, race strategy, how I finished and how I felt doing it.

4) Personal Notes (Yawn)

I'll also be trying to keep a log of miscellaneous facts. "How I'm Feeling" is one thing I'll be logging. For example, I've had mild back pain for the last few months. Will running affect this? I'll let you know.

I'll also be paying attention to such earth-shaking information as: when do I get hungry? How much am I eating? How much sleep am I getting? Do the workouts "feel" difficult or easy?

Prepare to be bored. Unless you're a grad student in physiology. Or a nutritionist.

Marathon: Introduction

I blame it all on the Guinness.

Many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, living and working in the city, hunched over my keyboard for long hours every day and drinking uncountable pints of stout in smoky bars every night, when I was full of myself and knew no limits and conquered all obstacles, when irrational exuberance was the phrase of the day and Survivor was cutting-edge television entertainment, I rashly made a promise to myself: someday, I would complete the New York City Marathon.

Yes, that was many years ago. Before I blew out my knee and began showing grey in my beard, before I got married and moved to Jersey, before I gained 30 pounds and started eating too much cheese, this seemed like a really good idea. I'm not kidding. Sounds crazy, right? Like I said, I've chosen to blame it on the Guinness.

At some point, I realized that the probability of running the marathon was approaching zero unless I started some serious training. I hadn't done any prolonged physical exercise in years. Sure, there are lots of reasons to get healthy, mostly related to, um, not dying. But even that's tough to rationalize at 5am or at the end of a long day spent hunched over your keyboard. If only there was some way to get encouragement and support from someone going through the same thing ...

Then it hit me, like a ton of Fight Club soap: A support group! Super idea. I enlisted my friends in the effort immediately.

Or, at least I tried to. My buddy Jordan swore he would run it with me. Of course, that was back when he was in his mid-twenties, so he can't really be held accountable for that decision.

(Jordan was also drinking Guinness at the time. If I had paid attention to that detail, you might be reading posts about the 2006 NYC Marathon, instead of the 2008 version. More on this later.)

Instead, I got older and rounder. But I remembered what I looked like, and felt like, in my younger days. Periodically I would resurrect the idea of running the Marathon with some of my friends. I was met with kind indulgence -- like I was the beauty queen on a reality adventure show: adorable, precocious, and no way in hell going to make it very far. It looked as if the Marathon might never happen.

And then, in a textbook case of serendipity, I stumbled upon the answer (which should have been obvious from the day Jordan made his drunken oath): I talked up the idea with my friends again, but this time I did it while we were on a pub crawl.

Ah, the wonders of a pub crawl. In particular, we were at Swift's Hibernian Lounge on the lower east side of Manhattan. I brought up the race, expecting to be dismissed again. But Lo and Behold! a small group agreed to take part. I was skeptical. But all my friends are thirty-something and therefore take responsibility for even their stupid decisions.

(Yes, I'll grant you: a pub crawl seems like a boorish and immature way to spend an afternoon. But we're polite, responsible people, I swear. I'll discuss the pub crawl in a later post, but for now, let's agree that it's no more or less boorish and immature than your video games, dwarf warrior, and we'll move on.)

Within three days, all five of us had joined the New York Road Runners' Club with a goal of running the 2008 New York City Marathon. This was such an unbelievable chain of events, that I decided the two-year run-up to the run-down must be recorded for posterity. Otherwise, who would believe it?