Ironman (DNF) Dispatch: The Medical Postmortem, and Tips for Beginners

Hello blog friends. That was a bit of a hiatus there, wasn’t it? And I don’t even have the excuse of Ironman training anymore. I’ve been filling my hours not with biking, riding, swimming, or running, but with being blissfully……lazy. Skipping a workout because there wasn’t time and I wasn’t going to get out of bed before dawn to get it done. Sleeping in on Saturday mornings?! What frightening new world is this?!

A while back, I met with my endocrinologist for the first time since the Ironman. In fact, it was the first time I had seen her in nearly nine months. Hey, she’s popular and my A1C has been okay. We debriefed on various races and talked for a long time about my race experience at IMWI. I’m sharing here in hopes of providing insight both for diabetic athletes and aspiring Ironmen without diabetes.

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The Five Stages of Grief for Your Ironman DNF

Denial:

[on the bike course]
Of course blood sugars oscillating from 336 to 65 to 224 is acceptable!
How can I be dehydrated, it’s only 65 degrees right now!
I can’t stand the thought of taking in my fuel, but surely that feeling will pass!
Hills are soooooo easy!
I can DEFINITELY go the same pace in the second loop as I did in the first loop….with barely any calories in me….
This headwind is no problem! No problem at all!
I refuse to believe that I’m going to barf if I keep eating or drinking my sports drink!
Wait…is that the sweeper van? Nope, can’t be. Lalalala.
I’M TOTALLY GONNA FINISH BEFORE THE BIKE CUTOFF wait there’s my family YUP I CAN GO FASTER THAN I EVER HAVE ON MY TRAINING RIDES they have a car AND THEN I’M GONNA RUN A MARATHON ON AN EMPTY STOMACH nope it’s mile 85 and I’m cooked

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I’M NOT FINISHING THE RACE?

Anger:

[dismounting, informing the volunteers I’m dropping out, shuffling to the car to drive to the nearest restaurant]
I wanted to finish, dammit! I worked so hard for this! Now I can’t tell people that I have diabetes AND I’m an Ironman triathlete. I can’t brag to my running teammates or coworkers. I can’t get an M-dot tattoo now! And I never even WANTED an M-dot tattoo!

I fantasized for months about crossing the finish line and Mike Reilly telling me I am an Ironman. In fact, he said on Friday at the athlete’s dinner, “You will be an Ironman!” LIES, MIKE, NOW IT IS ALL LIES.

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Bargaining:

[At restaurant, spending 90 minutes trying to choke down one glass of water and a plate of tortilla chips]
Are there spots left in, like, Florida? Chattanooga? Cozumel? Something soon that has an easier bike course?

No??

IF I FINISH I’LL GET THE STUPID M-DOT TATTOO! ON MY FACE!

Depression:

[Coming back to the finish line, that night, the day after the race, the day after the day after the race….]
I killed approximately 3% of the Amazon rainforest with all the tissues I used from crying. It would have been 4% but my bike jersey served as de facto handkerchief on the first round or two.

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Acceptance:

[past, present, future]
Packing up to go back to New York was arduous. I kept stopping for crying jags when unpacking my transition bags, or realizing that a special homemade shirt I had in the run special needs bag was now in the trash because Ironman doesn’t save your shit. I found a new respect for divorcees because I realized that this is probably what a divorce feels like, but that moment every day for several months on end.

Then “Better Days” by Springsteen came on shuffle, and he sang, “Every fool’s got a reason for feeling sorry for himself…” and I told myself to put my big girl panties on and deal with it.

Then a U2 song came up that reminded me of a mortifying moment in high school, and I told myself that the whole world probably wouldn’t care about this in 10 years…..just like high school.

But forget the world, because I knew no one but jerks would judge me for dropping out. I cared.

My first attempt at Ironman and I DNF’ed. I felt lucky to start, lucky to even be healthy and able to train at that level. And I was simultaneously crushed that the months of time, effort, and sacrifice I had put in to this goal….came up short.

I had a lot of little things pile up– often against my plan or previous race experience– that resulted in a bad day. Couldn’t have predicted things like going low during the swim or getting so queasy that I couldn’t handle the fuel that I typically loved to stuff in my face. September 13th, 2015 was not my day to become an Ironman and there’s nothing I can do to go back and change that.

So I sucked it up and packed my stuff, throwing away as much Ironman-brand crap as I could. I flew home to Brooklyn and went that night to hang out with my Team in Training athlete friends, who were universally supportive and encouraging. Hell, everyone’s been supportive and encouraging. My wonderful, badass friend and teammate Aimee, who DNF’ed her first Ironman last year, remarked that only by having a bad race and dropping out did she realize how blessed she was. It’s easy to support someone in the good times…..but when people show up for you in the bad times, you know it comes from the heart.

I’ve complained (stage 2) and bawled (stage 4) some more since then. But I’ve also taken many, many deep breaths while re-reading everyone’s emails, texts, Facebook messages, buttons (yup, homemade buttons) and more. The crushing disappointment will pass, but I hope to have such amazing friends and family in my life forever.

I read Meb Keflezighi’s biography, “Run to Overcome,” cover-to-cover on the plane to and from Madison. After discussing a series of back-to-back triumphs and failures in his running career, he wrote this:

Winning in life doesn’t happen when you overcome one thing– do or die. It’s persevering, knowing that difficulties are bumps in the road, not the end of the world. It’s continuing to do the right things, knowing your time will come. After all, you have to conduct yourself like a champion before you can ever win a championship.

Whatever you do, then, give it your best. Persevere in overcoming obstacles. When you do, you’ll be running to win.

He signed my book with the same trademark phrase– “To Caroline: best wishes and run to win, Meb.” So I’m going to follow his advice and give my best to my next challenge, whatever that is.

Well, I know what it’s going to be. I’m doing the Brooklyn Marathon, because there’s NO WAY that I’m letting all this endurance go to waste. I guess that’s a blend of stage 3 and 5?

Race Report: Ironman Syracuse 70.3, 6/21/15 (Or, That Time I Got Pulled Off the Course and Finished the Race Inside My Hotel, Part 2)

Part 2 of the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 race report! Sorry for anyone who’s been hanging on to the thrilling conclusion for the past 2.5 months. Training makes you busy….or a slacker. You can read part 1 here! And part two is after the jump.

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Ironman Dispatch: Ker-SPLAT

I have christened my Ironman training with a bike crash!

Two Saturdays ago, I was riding on Route 9W, the road city cyclists can take from the George Washington Bridge all the way through New York State. My plan was far less ambitious. I was just riding from my apartment, up the West Side Highway, over the GW, and then enough out-and-back on 9W to total 55-60 miles.

The “out” portion took me past Piermont, through Grandview and almost to Nyack. As I was riding back, I came to a rare intersection with a stoplight. The light was red and no cars were coming. Two cars on my side of the road were stopped. I decided to slow down and pedal through.

Except there was a patch of gravel in the space between one car and the curb, and it was deep enough to cause my wheel to lose grip and spin out.

Like any fall, it was both immediate and endless. Before I knew it I was on the ground, and yet I had enough time to think, Oh no, I’m wobbling. Oh crap, I’m not going to make it through this. Here I go. I’m going down!

Splat.

I can’t remember how I got unclipped, or how my bike was positioned in relation to my body. All I know is that I leapt up and immediately grabbed my bike, afraid the cars would run me over with the (now green) light. One driver stared blankly at me; the other rolled down his window and asked if I was okay. I glanced down and found no major pain, bleeding, or broken bones, so I waved him off and they drove on while I pulled over to the grass to collect myself.

Heart pounding from the shock (and efforts to maintain a cool exterior after wiping out in front of strangers), I checked myself over first. There was road rash all over my left leg and right elbow, but otherwise not too bad. Then I looked down at my bike.

The front wheel was turned 90 degrees and the left handlebar was wedged UNDER the top tube.

I grabbed the tube and pushed on the handlebar edge. Nothing.

I set the bike against the stoplight pole and pushed some more. Nope.

The effort got progressively more Herculean. I tried with my feet, with my hands. It wouldn’t budge. I tried pulling on the top tube, just enough that it might flex and I could pop the handlebar with the other hand. Still nothing. I was panting, and now covered with sweat along with blood and gravel.

I remember hearing about some study that found that shouting curse words is a constructive release of emotion compared to other activities. Or maybe it was just Facebook clickbait. In any case, nobody was coming, so I laid into it. Like the dad in A Christmas Story, I wove a tapestry of obscenities that may still be hanging in space over the swamps of Jersey.

“PIECE OF SH{_}T!” Yank. “SON OF A LYING TOOTHLESS B{_}TCH!” Pull. “DON’T F[_}CK WITH ME, YOU PATHETIC PILE OF–” Struggle, heave, go cross-eyed.

Finally, with one foot on the top tube, both hands on the handlebars, and a resounding shout of “MOTHERF{_____}CKER!!!!” I pried it free.

I let out one more exultant “F{_}CK!” for good measure. Just in time, as a cyclist came whizzing through three seconds later.

Now it was just a matter of getting home. I had another 13 miles or so until I reached Manhattan, and any train that could return me to my doorstep. I wheeled my bike back on to 9W and hopped on. The handlebars were still crooked.

Glancing around to make sure no cars were coming, I took off and started to pedal. Hmmm….gears turning smoothly. Wheel is okay. I can still steer even though the handlebars are off. Can I make it?

An hour or so later I did, just with a killer shoulder ache from my crooked stance. I texted my beau to request a shower beer and a pat on the head for the return home, and descended to the A train for the 90 minute ride home.

“How long was the ride?” a stranger asked me as I was eating my last Honey Stinger waffle.

“Fifty-five miles.”

“What?!” he gasped. “That’s crazy! I only go, like, ten or fifteen! Fifty-five? You’re nuts.”

I just nodded. “I know.”

Sadly, my blood sugar was atrocious post-ride….something around 256 once I got back. I ate that waffle on the train without bolusing, which was dumb because often BG will spike after endurance events (because the body is still spitting out glucose etc. for muscle uptake, even though activity has stopped). Plus, the physiological stress of skidding across the road and wrestling with my bike couldn’t have helped. So close to a shower beer, and yet so far! (Spoiler alert: I drank it anyway. Bad diabetic.)

It’s far from the worse bike crash I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t fun. That said, I knew it was coming, and many other triathletes on Facebook echoed that sentiment. Up next: tipping over because I can’t unclip in time. And butt chafing. I still have those two things to look forward to. Until now, I have some more scars to add to the collection!

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I am training for Ironman Wisconsin as part of team Riding on Insulin. This terrific nonprofit runs diabetes camps for children and adults alike, providing both practical experience and hope. I’d love it if you supported my fundraising efforts here: https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=350567

Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon, 5/16/2015

The Brooklyn Half this year was one of the goofiest races I’ve ever done.

I signed up a while back, excited to finally be able to run it after several years in a row of inconvenient scheduling (travel, May marathons, etc.). Following my Ironman training calendar, I had originally planned on running it comfortably hard. That plan went down the tubes the night before the race with my second or third happy hour margarita. Much like all those margaritas ended up down the toilet tubes. Twice.

5 AM and the resulting hangover came really fast.

Then at 6 AM there was a broken rail on the 2/3 train to the start, so I was rerouted and underground for an hour despite being in the same borough. Then, since we had to get off a different stop, I had to walk an additional mile or so. Missed my original wave 1 start. Fortunately, this gave me plenty of time to rehydrate and contemplate the last time I had gotten that sloshed. (Don’t worry, it was a long long time ago. I only had so much fun because an out-of-town friend was visiting and we were celebrating his recent promotion and he holds his liquor much better than I do and SURE A PITCHER OF MARGARITAS SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA!)

So there I was, in the wave 2 start line, having finally cleared the bag check, metal detectors, and porta-potties, when I turn around and spot a giant Maggie Simpson head.

I rubbed my eyes. I can’t still be drunk, can I?!

No, it was a giant Maggie Simpson hat, upon the head of….my running teammate Dana!?

I look next to her and there’s my teammate Jess, wearing a bee costume that I had definitely seen before.

And next to her were a group of other Team in Training friends.

And at the other end….our teammate Mara. Dressed in a full-body cow suit.

I elbowed my way through the crowd and hollered, “Hi guys!”

“Hi!” they all said. “We’re doing a 3:1 run/walk. Want to join us?”

NEW RACE PLAN ACTIVATED.

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Everyone in the group had a reason to take it easy, whether it was illness, a recent race, injury, or wanting to relax and have fun during a backyard race. So we ran for three minutes and walked for one minute the whole way. We stopped at every mile marker and body-spelled “GOING HALFSIES.”

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Not wearing a costume, I felt a bit like the nerdy girl who crashes the cool kids’ party. SO many people pointed and laughed or said something. I get that some athletes get annoyed at the costumed runners, the run-walkers, or those who otherwise don’t appear to take things seriously. I’ve been stuck behind the cast of the Wizard of Oz in a race, I get it. But this was HILARIOUS. People buzzed and mooed at us. Nobody could remember Maggie Simpson’s name and kept calling Dana Marge or Lisa. Or “chickenhead.” We spent many miles coming up with cow and bee puns….dressed in all our bovinery, this is udderly fantastic…..running too fast would certainly sting, but we have to bee aggressive (be! be aggressive!)….

Relaxing during a local race means you can stop and hug and high-five any friends who are out on the course. Including our teammate Flegar, whose tradition is to hang out around mile 11 dressed in little else beyond an American flag Speedo.

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Despite feeling like bollocks (although the hangover did melt off somewhere in Prospect Park), I had the best time. I think I spent most of those 13.1 miles laughing. We finished in some absurdly slow time that was certainly my personal worst. But I consider this one a PR in fun for the half marathon.

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Adding to the fun? The afterparty was at MCU Park, the ballfield, and the band was Slavic Soul Party! One of my favorite bands, and a thrill to my Balkan-brass-loving heart!

When I got back home, I remembered that this wasn’t the first time I had experienced costumes at the Brooklyn Half. Here’s the 2013 race, when I cheered for friends after a tapered long run. One of those friends was Pam……dressed as a Nathan’s hot dog.

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Diabetes Blog Week: Cheese and Other Things I Eat

In honor of Katy and her birthday, today’s prompt is hers:  Taking a cue from Adam Brown’s recent post, write a post documenting what you eat in a day!  Feel free to add links to recommended recipes/shops/whatever.  Make it an ideal day or a come-as-you-are day – no judgments either way.  (Thank you, Katy of  Bigfoot Child Have Diabetes for this topic.)

There’s only one thing I eat almost every day.

CHEESE.

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I actually found this image on a site for vegan cheese, SSHH DONT’ SPEAK OF THE ATROCITY

I love cheese. Diabetes plus Scotch-Irish guts means that I can eat pounds of it and be the happiest camper. I love hard cheese, soft cheese, packaged deli cheese, fancy cheese that gets paired with wine, fancy cheese that gets paired with beer, gooey melted cheese on sandwiches, string cheese in cute packages, stinky cheese from France, an entire plate of fried cheese that’s meant to be an appetizer but really I can devour it all myself…..

I’m salivating just writing this.

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PARADISE

So I’ll eat cheese and deli meat for breakfast if I wake up with a high blood sugar. I eat cheese on sandwiches for lunch. 75% of my life, lunch is a sandwich from Subway. Because it’s tasty and moderately healthy and carb-countable. Coworkers make fun of me but HATERS GONNA HATE, PANCREAS NOT GONNA PAN-CREATE INSULIN ANYTIME SOON.

I eat cheese as a snack when I get home from work because I always want something to nosh on then, even if I’m not hungry.

Sometimes when I get home late from choir rehearsal or running practice, I’ll eat a snack beforehand and just have cheese and crackers for dinner.

As for Actually Cooking Food, I’m not blessed with much talent or interest in that department. I do it so my dude and I can have dinners together. Bless my lucky stars, he LOVES to cook and will often whip up delicious Asian food for us to eat.

Or we just get noveau-Mexican delivery from up the block and veg out.

I really like food, I’m just bad at planning for it, making it, or eating the leftovers of it before they start to go bad in the fridge. To inspire creative use of food, and also because I LOVE CHEESE GUYS, here is a picture of a cheese dress.

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Dress courtesy of http://www.facepalm.com

Read more Food on Friday posts here.

Diabetes Blog Week: Is My Business…Your Business?

It’s day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week, and here is the prompt.

Many of us share lots of aspects of our diabetes lives online for the world to see. What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet? Or from your family and friends? Why is it important to keep it to yourself? (This is not an attempt to get you out of your comfort zone. There is no need to elaborate or tell personal stories related to these aspects. Simply let us know what kinds of stories we will never hear you tell, and why you won’t tell them.) (Thank you Scott E of Rolling in the D for this topic.)

When I say “business” above, I mean literally.

Diabetes and healthcare became my career path when, as a soon-to-be-unemployed college senior, I started looking at job and volunteer postings with gusto. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to live. The economy was in the tank. Well…., I thought to myself, what am I passionate about? What do I care most about?

While I wish I could be a professional U2 groupie, I also have at least a scrap of logic. So I started searching for listings that included “diabetes.”

Lo and behold, I found an Americorps position in New York City through Community Health Corps. I applied, got in, moved to the Big Apple, and…it stuck. Six years after those Google searches, I still help patients with diabetes, through counseling or encouragement or concrete services like yelling at insurance companies for not covering test strips.

My business life has given me great insight into issues facing the diabetes online community and my personal life with the big D. I try to chime in when there might be useful information to share. Before the Affordable Care Act passed, I shared info about patient assistance programs for insulin and test strips. I’ve waded into conversations about clinical guidelines for newly diagnosed T2s, and whether or not they need to see an endo. (Answer: generally not right away! Usually a PCP works with a T2 patient to manage diabetes, and refers to an endo if their A1C remains persistently high.)

But there’s a world of patient stories that I don’t have the right to share. There are my own feelings of burnout, both with healthcare and with my own diabetes after talking D all day at work. There are worries about our broken healthcare (sick care) system that nag at me, and especially the ways in which hospitals as we know them are very bad at fixing the root causes that make people sick– namely, poverty and social inequality. I’m bad at talking about that last point as much as I should.

For privacy I try to stay semi-anonymous about my work, although I’m sure anyone with a certain amount of google-fu could figure it out. There are two sides to my diabetes life, business and personal. If you read here, you’re much more likely to get the personal. Most of the professional stuff…..I’m keeping to myself for now.

Read more Day 2 posts here.

They say it’s your birthday (doo doo de doo)

Sunday was my birthday and it was a lovely day! For the first time in a few years, I didn’t have external woes on my mind. (2012-14 featured, respectively, my boyfriend’s kidney stones, a terrorist manhunt, and my grandmother dying. Who said life was orderly?)

I went to church and we were graced with the presence of former soloist and friend, Bertilla. Our anthem, “Jesus Will,” was a ton of fun and you can see the Spirit moving us all in this video. By the 5:10 mark, the whole congregation was on its feet!

That’s me towards the back. Thanks to Mark for taking video.

Afterwards, I hit the bar and spent the afternoon drinking with my sister and a few friends.

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In the midst of all those birthday shots, my man’s mom called and asked what he was up to. When he told her it was my birthday, she invited us out to dinner. I sobered up and we had a terrific dinner at Burger and Barrel.

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Even my coworkers surprised me the next day with tiramisu and more off-key renditions of “Happy Birthday.” I couldn’t stop laughing because I was COMPLETELY oblivious to their whispers and plotting (apparently, the candle broke!).

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I feel enormously grateful to all the people in my life who made it such a fun weekend (or week, if you count Lord of the Rings as the beginning of birthday festivities. Wheee!). I’m young enough to realize I’ve got a lot of life and wisdom to gain still……but old enough to recognize that this is my only shot at it. Soon my twenties will be over, and that’s a decade I’ll never get back. (Would I WANT to get it back, though? There’s a lot of quarter-life angst that I’ll be happy to never revisit, thankyouverymuch.)

Here’s to the next year– may it be filled with growth and pleasure for all of us!

LORD OF THE RINGS IN CONCERT!

BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER: I very strongly suggested to my boyfriend last September that he get me tickets to the Lord of the Rings Symphony, occurring the week before my birthday. He (thank God) appreciates directness in gift-giving and rewarded me with a multi-day nerdgasm:

Fellowship of the Ring…

The Two Towers…..

and Return of the King…..

With the soundtrack being performed LIVE by a symphony orchestra and chorus!

And a signed program by Howard Shore!

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The LOTR trilogy are far and away my favorite movies. They came out while I was a high schooler and my friends and I were more or less obsessed. I had a shrine to the LOTR cast hung up in my locker. Pretty sure I had a crush on 75% of that cast, either the actors or the characters themselves. (Okay, sorry Gimli….not you.) There was fanfic and midnight showings and fervid adolescent emoting.

And of course, for years before and after this I played cello in the orchestra. I still sing in a choir. So the instant I heard about this…..I was approximately this excited:

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After anxiously waiting for months, the extravaganza was finally under way. FOTR on Wednesday, TT on Thursday, and ROTK on Friday. All with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, flown all the way from Switzerland to perform at the Lincoln Center. This was the first time that the entire trilogy had been performed in the United States.

God help me, how do I even begin to describe how amazing this was?! Here is but a taste of the greatness:

Except this was my vantage point every night. Fourth row!

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I’mma try to break it down:

The movies: they never fail to be mindblowing. But this time, the movies took a backseat to the music. Someone else said it was like the score became another character of the films. Yes! What I lost in ability to be visually immersed in the movie, I gained in being able to watch the musicians work their magic.

The musicians: They were exceedingly talented. That much should be obvious.

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It had to have been exhausting to perform for three hours over several consecutive nights, but dammit if they didn’t look like they were having a good time doing it. I loved watching the double bassists go to town on the marches and battle scenes. And at every turn there were new sonic textures I picked up from the live orchestra that I barely noticed in the film soundtrack. Not many people pop in a LOTR DVD and think to themselves, “Wow, listen to that French horn line!”

The conductor: Ludwig Wicki conducts with astonishing precision and verve. Sitting so far to the side of the stage, I could see few musicians clearly but was able to watch him well. I’ve never been so delighted by a conductor! I learned later that he has a monitor on his stand, which gives him a flashing light signal to indicate score pickups and tempo. Like a drummer’s click track, in a way. Ingenious!

The soloists: Fantastic! In a twist of fate, the soprano Kaitlyn Lusk lived in my hometown growing up. I remember hearing her sing at assemblies as a teen. Granted, she had already recorded an album then and was Kind of a Big Deal, but how fun to see that she’s now internationally famous! The Brooklyn Children’s Chorus also performed, and those boy sopranos KILLED IT.

The audience: An integral part of the experience! I got over my bewilderment at people applauding the soloists relatively quickly (bewildered not because they weren’t amazing, mind you, but because orchestral performances rarely have applause after solos or between movements). As the trilogy progressed, the audience grew more and more responsive, both to the music and the movies. People laughed at the jokes (“PO-TA-TOES!”), and at the unintentionally funny memes (“One does not simply…walk into Mordor”). There was enthusiastic applause for Kaitlyn singing elven music, the concertmaster performing the Rohan theme (GUH MY HEARTSTRINGS), and Legolas’ ridiculous battle tricks. And the house went berserk when Eowyn ripped off her helmet and declared, “I am no man!”

(Let us pause for a moment of recognition for the principal violist. He had a solo during ROTK and nobody applauded. Violists never get any love, man.)

I was hoping to make friends with my seatmates. I figured everyone that close to the stage would have also gotten the deluxe package and been there all three nights. But alas, the crew changed with each performance. A family with two young boys sat next to me during Two Towers (and adorably, they covered their eyes and grumbled during every kissing scene). Lacking small talk and avoiding the astoundingly long bathroom and bar lines, I wandered to the front row during intermission and started checking out the stage setup. That’s when I met these dudes:

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{Thanks to the LOTR 2015 Instagram for this photo!}

“Wow, I just have to say…your shirts are fantastic,” I said, by way of introduction. The guys were instantly sociable and we started gushing about how stupendous the experience had been so far. Emilio and Anthony had roadtripped to NYC from Toronto to see the performances. While I’ve only once watched the entire trilogy in a single day, they do it together every year. (Extended editions.) Then we started talking to a guy who was celebrating his birthday that night….his girlfriend told him they were going to the opera, then surprised him with the Two Towers tickets instead! “Best birthday ever, although I feel ridiculous wearing a suit,” he said. Then after the show, we went out for drinks at the hotel bar with some of the orchestra members, and I got in a long and involved discussion of fandoms with a musician (LOTR! Harry Potter! Game of Thrones!) I had finally found my tribe!

Howard Shore: The man is a genius. Perhaps for a future birthday gift I’ll request Doug Adam’s comprehensive guide to the score, “The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films.” The details in my program of Shore’s thoughtfulness and expertise in composing a half day’s worth of music were fascinating and impressive. For example, he designed each race’s theme with their characteristics in mind (e.g., the mountain-dwelling dwarves are written with lots of percussion– and a strictly male chorus, hearkening to Gimli’s line, “It’s true you don’t see many Dwarf-women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they are often mistaken for Dwarf-men…”)

I didn’t get a chance to meet him, but my fellow members of the Rohirrim fanclub took this photo of us inhabiting the same physical space on Friday after ROTK:

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The aftermath: I met the orchestra manager later that night at the bar. More drunk on emotion than the beer, I clutched his arm and begged, “You have to come back to the US! YOU HAVE TO!” One can only hope that this was a cash cow for all involved, given seven sold-out shows and secondary-market tickets going for several hundred dollars. But as the manager then reminded me, it isn’t cheap to travel and house 180+ musicians, either….

Who’s to say whether my impassioned pleas or the cold hard cash will have an effect. I sincerely hope so…..even though I’ve decided that I would absolutely travel to see the trilogy live again. I felt bereft for days after it was over. Like when you escape a cold and weary winter for a tropical beach vacation, and return to gray slushpiles and the smell of wet wool and misery. That feeling.

But….why? Why the hell did I love it so much, even more than I expected to? Because the 21st Century Orchestra & Chorus are fine musicians? Because epic quests appeal to us on a deep cultural level? Because Aragorn is still really hot?

Because my life is content, but perhaps in a Shire-like way. I live within a circumscribed emotional plain. Life is good….far from the margins. And in this space, sometimes music or film simply seizes you. Sometimes, an artistic experience comes along and reacquaints you with the vast and wild landscapes of the heart.

My buddy Larry innocuously asked me on Sunday how my week was. After listening to me crow for several minutes about WOW Lord of the Rings and how AMAZING and INCREDIBLE and MINDBLOWING and COLOSSALLY AWESOME it was, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been as passionate as you are about Lord of the Rings….ever. About anything. In my whole life.”

I grinned and shuffled my feet. “Sorry?”

“Nah,” he said. “You’re crazy, but I love that about you.”

Farewell, fellowship. Until next time….may it be fewer than 111 years.

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Race Report: Shamrock Marathon 2015

Last Sunday the 22nd, I ran my eighth marathon! shuffled my way through my eighth and WORST marathon yet! Thus follows a race report.

tl;dr I did a marathon, it sucked for me. I don’t know why it sucked, but I can make some guesses and learn from them. And I have cool teammates and friends.

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Okay, here’s the full version.

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