2021 NYC Marathon Training: Week 13

Lucky Week 13! Just over a month to go.

Week 13 was the first in five weeks that didn’t culminate in some sort of race – week 9’s 5th Avenue Mile, week 10’s Cow Harbor 10K, week 11’s Bronx 10 Mile, and week 12’s 18M Training Run (technically not a race) were all fun and I’m glad I did them, but it’s also nice to get back to your basic meat-and-potatoes training. Not sure why I just wrote “meat and potatoes” because I barely eat either, but it seemed fitting.

I brought the mileage down a bit this week to about 34. This was the second Wednesday morning in a row I spent running around Harlem Hills, the northern-most section of Central Park’s loop, and hilliest part of the park. I’ve decided to spend every Wednesday on these hills in lieu of speed work, something I’ve been avoiding while trying to build back a decent base. So far, it’s worked out. Hills are feeling easier.

Speaking of hills, on Sunday, I ran a “short” long run of 12 miles, thinking it would be both fun and good to remind myself what running on the Queensboro Bridge was like. The bridge comes in mile 15 of the marathon and is known to be the toughest part of the course. Not the steepest – that belongs to the first half of the Verrazzano in easy and breezy mile 1 – but considering where it comes in the race, the Queensboro is a monster. It is to be both respected and feared.

I didn’t race up the bridge but ran at a steady pace, feeling good and strong. It was a great reminder and I’m glad I did it. Here I am on the Queens side right before running over it again, back to Manhattan.

Also, it’s October and still humid, so I still refuse to wear a shirt.

As with my previous post, this one will feature my dad’s 1999-2000 trip to Chengdu, China, where he spent a school year teaching English.

Here are some excerpts from his old blog, as well as photos he took.

September 1999

Like the Sichuan food, Chengdu dazzles one’s linguistic palate. I watch a Chinese TV show, a clone of Wheel of Fortune. But this is called “China Welfare Wheel.” One student explains: “When you play, you may win which will increase your ‘wel-being’.” No wonder Sino-American diplomats are struggling.

Language surprises are a daily feature of the classroom. I show my class a map of the United States. I point out rivers, lakes–even some demographic features. I explain why Alaska and Hawaii are printed off to the side because there’s no room left on the map, adding that they were not part of the original 48 states. I say that you have to travel over many kilometers of water to reach Hawaii, and sometimes over foreign territory to reach Alaska. “Any questions?” One student scrutinizes the map and asks, “Where is the White House?”

While some of my students write well, it is not unusual to find “Chinglish.” Since there are only about 3,000 basic words in Chinese, the complexity of the language is set by the four tones, an additional neutral sound, and millions of character compound “words.” Add to this linguistic soup a language rich in homonyms, and it spells disaster. For example, those learning Chinese are told that the character “ma,” depending on its tonal variations, can mean mother (first tone), hemp (second tone), horse (third tone), or to scold (fourth tone). If the waiter brings you sugar instead of soup, you mixed up the first and second tones. Go back to Go; do not collect $200.

October 1999

I am settling in. The natives are getting used to my Chinese. Some give me the deer in the headlights routine. Often they just slap their knee, doubling over in laughter, kind of mimicking the “You Want It When?” cartoon above the copy machine.

I begin a series of lectures tomorrow for a new group of students at another university. They are sending a driver and told me to talk about anything for 90 minutes. They said not to be concerned about curriculum guidelines, grades, tests, finals, or attendance. Hmmm, I think that I’ve taught this course before.

Tonight I attend an Octoberfest party at the downtown Chengdu Holiday Inn–no HI you’ve ever seen. It is a Crowne Plaza and just received its five-star status. It makes Trump Tower look like the Bijou Motel. For 200 yuan ($21) I will eat vurst und sausage, und trink all ze beer I can. I got connected with a group of ex-pats and international business people who frequent the place, but more on that later. This should make for a brilliant lecture tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.

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