Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ultimate Family Death March Part 2

I woke up around 5:45. Immediately, I was in a quandary about what to wear. It was supposed to be cold and windy but now the local news channel was putting the temperature in the low 60s, with lesser winds. Pants or shorts? I decided to wear pants, but take my shorts in case I changed my mind at the last minute. That decided, I had my breakfast of Sports Tea and banana bread.

The plan was to gather in the lobby at 6:45. This was a gang of Culkins, so it was minor miracle we got out of the hotel just 15 minutes or so after our original departure time.

The Metro was packed with runners. Molly kept things moving smoothly, directing us to the right stop and encouraging the crowds to move to the center of the car.

There was quite a long walk from the Metro stop to the race start. Along the way it became pretty clear that shorts were the way to go for 26.2 mile run, so it was off to the porta-potties for a change of outfits.

I checked my post-race clothes and hoped I would see them at the end of the race. Molly, Kym and I waited at the start together, while the Washington Street Culkins were up ahead in the crowd. We were punchy with nervous energy, but the Neck gals looked great in their political running shirts. (In case you can't read them, Kym's says, "Fight Ignorance, Not Immigration" and Molly's says "10 Days Until Majority." The response to the shirts is Kym and Molly's story to tell, but they certainly helped balance out the "Condi's Crew" shirts worn by a group of female runners from the State Department.)

We were set to start when news came that there was medical emergency which was going to cause a delay. While you expect a few emergencies along a marathon course, you don't expect them at the beginning of the race. It turned out a man had a heart attack 100 yards into the run and was saved only because a cardiac surgeon and a firefighter were in the crowd of runners near him.

Finally the crowd surged forward. I hit my stopwatch as we crossed over the official start line and off I went.

I knew I was undertrained for this race and had no illusions about running fast or even running the entire way. My plan was to run 11 minute miles and walk for 5 minutes every 5 miles. That pace would put me at the finish line somewhere between 5:02 and 5:03. I hit the five mile mark--on a high after entering the cheering crowds at Georgetown to the strains of "YMCA"--at 54:45. So far so good.

The next 10 miles were incredibly fun. My legs felt great and the runners and the crowds had a lot of energy. The course was beautiful--we went along a parkway covered with a canopy of fall foliage and downtown on a tour of Washington's famous monuments. Francis Dugan probably never imagined 6 of his descendants would run past the Jefferson Memorial in a crowd of 35,000 people.

I hit mile 13 and realized I was running quite a bit ahead of my pace. I had been tracking my time generally on my stopwatch, but it turned out I was running closer to 10:30 minute miles instead of 11 minute miles. 30 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up. I was a little nervous and vowed to slow down. I still felt good though.

Somewhere between miles 16 and 17 things got rough. We entered onto Hyde's Point, a piece of land jutting into the Potomac that Molly had warned me about. It is actually quite lovely, but also cold and windy; encouraging groups of supporters were few and far between. I found out later that almost all of our gang started to have trouble at this part of the race.

My pace got slower and slower over the next miles. My slightly faster-than-planned pace earlier hurt me and the wind didn't make things easier. I'm not sure what shocked me more--that my legs could hurt so much or that they would keep moving even while hurting so much. I finally got to mile 20, at the 14th Street Bridge--this is the point that they cut off people who don't reach it in a certain time and force them onto a bus. I knew I was well ahead of the bus, but it was still a relief. Worse case scenario, I could walk it in.

While the first 20 miles of the race are beautiful, the last 6.2 are pretty ugly. You run on highways and through Crystal City, which seemed like yuppie urban development at its most annoying. (It may look better if you haven't run 22 miles first.) In Crystal City some people were having a beer bash and offering runners drinks--a runner in front of me actually accepted the offer. I can't think of anything I wanted less at that particular moment in time.

Mile 25 was at the bottom of a highway off ramp. Rarely has a piece of signage looked so gorgeous. Rarely has 1.2 miles seemed so long.

I shuffled along towards the end. I had no idea what my split times were anymore. People who had finished were out along the sidelines giving encouragement. Someone gave me a piece of banana, which tasted delicious. Finally, I saw the 26 mile marker. And then I learned some sick mind had designed a course where the last .2 miles are STRAIGHT UP HILL. A steep hill. There was no way I was going to walk it in at this point, but I probably could have walked faster than I ran. And then suddenly I was over the finish line. I was done and could still walk and was apparently still alive. My time was 5:05:09--despite my enormous slowdown, I was pretty close to my goal.

Marines directed us into lines, where we waited to receive our medals while looking at the Marine Monument. Then all I had to do was try to find the rest of the running Culkins and compare notes on this, the Ultimate Family Death March.

Coming Up: The After Party, The Aftermath.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ultimate Family Death March Part 1

As Jody mentioned the other day, this weekend 6 members of the Culkin family completed the Marine Corps Marathon--Billy, Eric, Marc, Kym, Molly, and me. For those of you who know me pretty well, but didn't know I was doing this, well, I wasn't fully committed until about two weeks before the fact. Molly knew I had registered, however, and kept sending me encouraging (threatening?) e-mails letting me know I was going to be running Oct. 29. A variety of health issues, as well as the summer of many critical events (both happy and sad) left me way behind in my training, so I wasn't too sure about this. Also, going to Argentina and eating steak and gelato for 10 days is not really a great way to train for a marathon. (Training for a marathon, however, is a good way to lose the weight you gain eating steak and gelato in Argentina.) Anyway, I promised myself if I could complete the 20 mile training run, I would do the marathon. And with that run down, I was in . . .

On Saturday morning, I took the 7 AM bus to DC. The movie was Bringing Down the House, which is really weird. I was supposed to meet the rest of the crew--who had arrived the day before--at the Armory, where we could pick up our race bibs and attend the Expo. The DC bus depot always seems like a kind of scary place, and when a taxi driver came up to me, I wasn't sure if I should get in the cab--in New York, there is a taxi line at the bus and train stations, and only rogue drivers come up to you. Then, he told me I wasn't allowed to put my backpack on the seat and had to put in the trunk. Anyway, the cab did seem to be a real cab, and so I got in, but I did have my hand on my cell phone. Obviously, everything was fine, and the driver and I had a nice talk about politics and horrors of the Republican Party. He said, "You would not believe the things I have heard driving people on the Hill." When I said he should tape then, the driver replied, "No way. I do that and they have someone take me over to the ghetto and shoot me, then say, 'That poor cab driver--he got killed when someone held him up.'" He probably has a point.

At the Armory, there was a huge line to get in. I couldn't get anyone on their cell phones, so I got on line. I had my backpack, so standing around for 30 minutes really wasn't too much fun. (Molly said later when she did this race 2 years ago it was incredibly well-organized, but now that all the Marines are in Iraq, there are not personelle to help keep the race running smoothly.) The line did move pretty quickly and soon enough I had my bib, timing chip, and hideous race mustard yellow mock turtleneck (seriously, it may be the ugliest piece of clothing I have ever owned.) Eventually, through the wonders of cell phones, we all met up and had a group picture taken for free at the Tylenol 8 Hour booth--I'll post it when it becomes available (an estimated 72 hours after the event.)

With Molly as our tour guide, we took the Metro to get some lunch. Afterwards, everyone but me set off on a Family Death March of another sort, to see the Jefferson Memorial, which owes its existence in part to our great grandfather Francis Dugan Culkin. I headed off to the hotel for some rest and some ice therapy. I had hoped to sleep, but watched Walk the Line instead.

We all wanted to carbo load for dinner and Molly had a great Italian restaurant in mind. Unfortunately, there was some confusion over our reservation or lack there of, or something, so we choose another one nearby. But on our way out, the desk clerk told us it was a notoriously horrible place and gave us another recommendation. We were pretty big party at this point--not only the six runners, but 5 friends of the various Culkins and Necks. The food was fine and we had a great time, but there was a mysterious 45 minute wait between the appetizers and main course. Any other night it would have been less annoying, but we all really wanted to get to sleep and we didn't leave the restaurant until after 10. Luckily it was the night to "Fall Back," so we got the extra hour of nightime. Marc and I shared a room, and before falling asleep we watched a little of the Dave Chappell Show and discussed how we both in denial about the fact we were going to run 26.2 miles the next day.

Molly taking care of dinner plans

William, Billy, and Marc

Eric and I

Coming Up: The Big Event.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

DC Marathon Tomorrow!

Bill, Eric, Marc, Kate and those veteran marathoners Kym and Molly are all running in tomorrow's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. I wish I was there. I had so much fun rooting for Kym and Molly last year, enjoying the festive party atmosphere of the weekend. I loved planning the viewing route, with the other members of our crack team of supporters and well-wishers, and timing it so we saw them at every point - giving me something to do while others ran 26 miles.

Good luck everyone! I am so proud of all of you!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Prof. Culkin

I was inspired by Gene Yang's example of teaching math/technology through Flash/Comix. I decided I needed some version of me for this project, so I quickly made some (lame) avatars of Professor Culkin. She has curly hair and glasses, as you can see. I have quite a way to go for these to work, but it was fun making them.

Apples to Apples

The New York State Apple Country has a list of apple types linked to various personality traits. I found my love of the Macoun makes me " Sharp and fun. You are to the point and don’t like to hang around." I also learned the Macoun was developed in Geneva!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GrandMary in New York

GrandMary made a grand tour of New York this past weekend, accompanied by Trish and Johnny. The trip was almost called off due to a cat bite which landed GrandMary in the emergency room (bad Nip!), but in the end all went well.

The car from Geneva arrived in New York around 8, just in time to celebrate Neilson's birthday at the party at his mother's house.

After the party the traveling trio checked into their hotel, then apparently hit the hotel bar until after 1AM.

The next day started leisurely, snacking on concord grapes and pumpernickle raisin walnut bread at the hotel. Later, we checked out Sax briefly and then visited the newly renovated Morgan Library, where Mom (Trish) and I had the "Blue Plate Special" for lunch. (Hamburger, Cajun spiced french fries, coleslaw, apple cobbler--what meal could be better). Johnny and I also checked out the Mozart exhibit, where see manuscripts actually written in Mozart's hand!

After a rest back at the hotel, we heading to the Gershwin Theater to see Wicked. The show was great--I knew it was a reworking of the Wizard of Oz sympathetic to the Wicked Witch of the West, but I wasn't expecting the political commentary on the ways governments create enemies into to solidify their power. This analysis makes it sound a little like homework, but the show was also really fun and the performances were great. After the play, we headed to Joe Allen's for dinner, which I highly recommend if you need a low-key, non-touristy place in the theater district. Once again, GrandMary got to bed well after 1 AM.

On Sunday, GrandMary, Johnny and Mom made a pilgrimage to my apartment to socialize with Elvis and Audrey. We had a delicious brunch at the Cornelia Street Cafe, then headed off to a double feature of The Queen and Flags of Our Fathers. (We all loved The Queen, but there was some dissention on Flags.) After an irritating cab ride with a driver who seemed to have no understanding of Manhattan geography, it was time for a wonderful dinner at the Gotham, where we joined by Jody, Calvin, Eric and Neilson. We ate ourselves silly and this time GrandMary was only out until around midnight.

Friday, October 20, 2006

UFW doesn't like the wall either

A view of the Rio Grande from Mission Texas that will be blocked by the 20 ft. solid wall.
Approximately 140 miles from Laredo..9 days march

The 3 Amigos, Jay on the left, John on the right and Jesse the videographer in the middle

Jay Johnson with 2 friends from the Migrant Council marching in the rain

John with his new friends along the road from Laredo to Brownsville

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Happy Birthday Neilson!

Today is Neilson's birthday. He is hard at work in graduate school, but still makes time to give Audrey a little attention.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


My friend Andy generously invited some college friends to his house in Vermont for the weekend. As usual, our time included a lot of eating, as well as some drinking and outdoor activity.

Saturday morning started with some dulche de leche crepes and bacon. I thought the combo would be a little too much, but I was wrong.

Later on, we took a walk around Lowell Lake. The foliage was a little past its peak, but it was still beautiful.

In honor of Halloween, we stopped by the Lowell Lake Cemetery, where there were several graves dating back to the 1700s. David Anderson's read: All you read with little care/ Who walk away and leave me here/ Should not not forget that you must die/ And be intomed as well as I.

We had planned to pick up some of Grafton's famous cheese, but the store was filled with "peepers" so we got a case McNeill's beer instead. On the way home, we stopped at the farm stand and the market for dinner supplies.

We were starving after our walk and shopping, so we snacked on cheese and sampled three kinds of the McNeill's. The Firehouse was a crowd favorite.

Dinner included grilled steak and vegetables. Afterwards, we had grilled apples, vanilla ice cream and more dulche de leche. That night almost everyone had weird dreams, which we attributed to the a little too much dulche de leche.