Sunday, March 28, 2010

And Then I Went for a Run

The Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K holds a lot of symbolism for me. 4 years in a row, it's had a big impact on my life.

The first year, 2007, was the first time I ever tackled it. Amanda and I ran it together, and while I vowed never to do it again because of all the damned walkers who insisted that they should be in Group A, Amanda decided that it was an event that she would do annually. We really did have a great time running it, and we ran into a bunch of friends afterward, and it was really just a lot of fun. I fell off the training wagon shortly thereafter, figuring I was done.

But not Amanda. It was when she was first starting to prepare for the 2008 race that she realized Something Was Wrong. An initial run outside saw her get no more than 4 blocks before she came home with a racing heart and feeling very ill. She decided to skip the race and gave her bib to her friend Kim Thies the night before being admitted to the hospital. The race was run the same day our hell began in earnest.

Last year, the race was 3 days after her death. I'd just returned from Texas the night before, had just told Alastair that his mother was gone, and we spent the night with my dad, who lives on the 10K route. We got up the next morning and cheered on the runners, several of whom were running in Amanda's memory.

This year, because she loved that race so much, I decided the best way for me to commemorate the anniversary of her death was to run the thing myself. I'd put down a pretty good pace in '07, and figured with 3 months to train, I'd match that time.

Two months into training, my back decided that running was not my friend. I hurt so bad I could barely walk, and had to give up running for 3 weeks to get the pain back under control. With two weeks left before the event, I started again, managing only 3 miles the first run, and just over 4 in my last training session. I was devastated. I went into the race yesterday very upset that I was going to fail her memory. She'd endured so much pain just to survive, and I was going to let a little pain prevent me from doing something to honor her memory. It was sickening.

The whole race I felt off-pace, and when I got to 4 miles, it became a misery to put one foot in front of the other. At 4.5 miles (roughly), I stopped to kiss my boy, who was sitting once again on my dad's porch. It was a serious struggle to get going again, and at 5.2 miles, after getting a sip of water (and choking on it badly), I gave up and walked a couple blocks.

People look at you strangely when you stop running and start walking, especially in some of the faster run-groups--I actually got a couple of scornful looks. I really could have used some encouragement, and I found it thinking about Amanda. I picked my feet up and ran again, promising myself I'd walk again before the finish line. I never did, and ended up crossing the timing line 6 seconds faster than I did in '07. My final time was 52:11, and as soon as I crossed the line I started crying. It's really really hard to cry when you can't inhale, and I felt like there was a stone on my chest. But I'd finished, and I'd done it for her, and I was so upset and just couldn't get the emotions out.

And I'll do it again. Absolutely.

I really appreciate all the support of my friends who contributed to my fund-raising efforts. All told we raised $790 for Massey Cancer Center. Whenever I felt down and out in the race, I'd think about all of you and your support, and it gave me strength to push just a little bit farther.

A Very Pleasant Distraction


Planes, trains, and no goddamn race cars. Can you please shut up about the race cars? I'm sorry I told you there would be race cars. Jeez. We have one at home.

To mark the anniversary of Amanda's death, we went and did some of her favorite things. It got us out of the house, out of our routine, away from the Internet and work and all the things that give me time to sit and reflect on my loss. And it was fabulous.

We got up bright & early Thursday morning, the electricity of impending adventure filling the air in the house as we scrambled to eat a quick breakfast. We got to the train station with only 5 minutes to spare (perfect for traveling w/ a 4-yr-old, but Amanda would have been vomiting with angst). The ride up was gloriously uneventful. Alastair was delighted and maybe a touch bored with train travel, though he had to admit it was far more comfortable than going by car--he could get up, pee, play with toys, and even had a fold-down table for his snack!

That same manic energy pervaded at the thought of underground trains, and he was making hardened DC locals giggle at his continual announcements on the Metro that our stop was next.

We checked our bags at the hotel and wandered off to the Air & Space museum, only to realize upon entering that there was no coat-check, and that we would have to throw our lunch bag away if we wanted to enter. This was not an ideal solution, and neither was walking the 7 blocks back to the hotel, but walk we did. Now, a 4 year old can do 7 blocks. He can even do 14. But asking him to do 21 because you didn't realize you'd need to store your lunch bag makes him crabby & tired. It will also make you crabby & tired because at some point you'll be carrying him.

Ultimately we got to Air & Space, and his mind was blown. All the airplanes hanging from the ceilings were cool, but the walk-through exhibits left him gape-mouthed, and the rockets! The scale-model of the shuttle! Exploration of space and hands-on exhibits and...and...and...! We even spent the $14 to ride in the flight simulator, which got us off our feet for a while and was actually pretty convincing, if a touch nauseating.

That child spent 2 solid hours in Air & Space. Every time he'd ask if we could leave, his eyes would catch something else that he HAD to explore. And of course, we HAD to go check out the gift shop, where he got a little toy space shuttle that became the GREATEST TOY EVER (if only for 24 hours).

Exhausted, we walked back to the hotel again, ate our lunch, checked in, and I passed out cold for an hour while he played on the floor. Honestly, where does the energy come from?

After my nap, we took the Metro to the Natural History museum, where I'd promised dinosaur bones. This child--this 4 year old child--walks into the dinosaur exhibit and immediately begins accurately identifying skeletons. Skeletons! He'd never even seen bones in his whole life, but he's identifying bodies by bones. Holy junk!

It took some prodding to get him into other parts of the museum, because really: what can compete with dinosaur bones? But explore we did, and with some pretty awesome results. When he saw the right whale suspended above us, he immediately identified the seemingly-inverted jaw-structure. He watched a video on octopi and marveled at the cephalopod remains. We identified species from "Finding Nemo", including the giant jelly-fish. He had an AWESOME time.

Once again we hoofed it back to the hotel, got ready for dinner, and headed out to the District Chophouse to meet some very dear friends.

The District Chophouse, I must mention, is one of my favorite places in the world to eat. Amanda and I discovered it quite by accident on a trip to see Curve play at the 9:30 Club back in '98 or '99, and I have never been to DC again without stopping there for a meal. Amanda quite enjoyed it, too, just as she enjoyed trains, museums, and travel, so it was important to me that we eat there.

Alastair hated it.

Oh well.

After a delicious dinner, it was time to take the Metro one last time for the day, take a bath, and put a boy to bed. I went downstairs with the worst possible book in the entire history of the world, and proceeded to weep openly in the lobby. Pro tip: on the anniversary of your wife's death (esp. to cancer), DO NOT read The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Friday morning, we got up, headed downstairs to a really wonderful buffet breakfast, donned our swimgear, and headed out in the cold windy rain to the rooftop pool. Now, before you think I've completely lost my mind, it bears mentioning that this particular pool is both heated and enclosed within an inflatable structure, so I was not endangering my boy too much. We splashed around for about an hour before dashing our way back through the cold wind to prepare for our final museum: the American History musuem. And that's where the wheels came off.

I had made the mistake of telling him that there were trains, motorcycles, and race cars. Because dammit, there used to be race cars there. Oh, sure: there were 4 big, completely awesome trains, a bunch of old cars & motorcycles, a Mack Truck, and even a trolley, but I failed my child because there were no discernible race cars. We even found a helicopter there--something he'd desperately wanted to see (but didn't) at Air & Space--but no race cars.

And he let me know his dissatisfaction. For hours. Dear sweet Jesus, we have a fucking race car at home. One that he can crawl all over with NO repercussions. It's not roped off, it's not behind a glass wall. He can sit in it, wear my helmet, and flip all the switches. But there was no race car in the museum. STAB STAB STAB.


We got out of American History with less than an hour before our train back to RVA, high-tailed it back to the hotel, grabbed a quick McD's lunch, scrambled with our bags through two Metro lines, and got to Union Station with 10 minutes before our train boarded. Again, Amanda would be puking and probably not speaking to me, but with Alastair the timing couldn't be better.

And he passed out on my lap for about an hour of the ride.

And he wants to go back. We had a really great time, and he's been running his mouth to anyone who'll listen about all the awesome stuff he saw, and he's excited about the possibility of going back. AND he started getting really excited about going back to the beach, too. Every time we were in the hotel he'd start yammering about how much the room was like the one we had at the beach.

So I think it's gonna be an AWESOME year with my bold little adventurer. And I can't wait. All aboard!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


So now it's been a year. Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of her death, but today marks the anniversary of our last conversation. You'd have to rewind all the way back to March 7 to find the anniversary of our last embrace, and somewhere in the middle of that is Alastair's last
physical contact with his mother.

Last night I found several old videos that I'd forgotten taking. They covered Alastair's birth, our first overnight trip with him, and one perfectly serene video of them gibbering at each other.

To say that I was upset would severely undersell the sentiment. I'm very good at repressing memories and emotions, but when they well up, they do it with a vengeance. And now, for the first time in a long time, I feel lost again. Rudderless and alone.

Tomorrow Alastair and I are taking the train to DC. We're gonna distract the hell out of ourselves with trains, subways, museums, rich food, friends, and swimming. Then Friday we're coming back after doing EVEN MORE museums.

Saturday I'm running the Ukrop's Monument Ave 10K in Amanda's memory. A number of truly fabulous people have contributed to my fund-raising efforts (and you can, too!), and a bunch of folks are also running in her memory.

I'm touched and deeply grateful for all the support and prayers of the last two years. I'm grateful to be super busy at work. I'm grateful for my boy and all the joy he brings me. I'm grateful for 14 1/2 years with a beautiful, smart, sassy lady.

Miss you, 'Manda.

Friday, March 19, 2010

19 Days? Really?

Has it really been that long since I last posted?

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. The sun came out and dried up all the rain. The boy's been in a great mood. Facebook Scrabble occupies HOURS of my night. And of course there's the Wii. Oh, and it bears mentioning that my weekends have been off the chizzain.

And work? Oh my God I've rarely been so busy. I'm in the middle of several pilot deployments right now: Google Apps, WebSense hosted security, SAML 2.0 Single Sign-On. And since we're investigating SSO, it's causing us to re-think our login processes for other hosted solutions.

We're booting our offsite backup storage vendor, too, so that's a major overhaul in the works. And, as if all that weren't enough, I'm rolling out Active Directory to new international sites AND I'm still the only dude supporting the servers.

Busy much?

But it's good, because I'm too busy to let my head really wrap around the fact that it's March.

I have the 10K coming up next weekend, and I had to take almost the last month off from training because of a worsening back problem, but yesterday I got my first chance to run on the street. And that's when the emotions really broadsided me. I was less than half a mile from the end of my foreshortened run when I started tearing up. The emotion of WHY I'm running this thing took over. The fact that I was listening to a sad song about lost love probably didn't help,

So anyway, there's all my excuses for not posting. I would promise a post for the anniversary, but I will be out of town visiting museums with a very special boy. But I'll try.

Hope everybody had a good St. Patrick's Day. I drank far less than I should have, but hopefully I can correct that this weekend.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Odd little weekend

First a big shout to all the Jibans. You guys rock.

We've had a big week. Last weekend was action-packed, we saw the doctor on Thursday, and Alastair got to see a movie on Friday night.

We started Saturday morning bright & early with a trip to the dyno. I've had the Miata for 4 years and never once stopped to actually check the motor. Alastair helped out by getting up early, eating his breakfast really well, and generally being very amenable to the morning's activity (we watched one pull before he asked to go back into the relatively quiet office, where he got to play with the shop puppy).

Then it was off to the Little Gym for "Bring a Friend" week. Alastair's friend Kaden met us there, and they had such a great time playing together. It's fun to watch them play in an environment where you're not really responsible for their behavior.

But then lunch was an absolute chore. We went to Panera, where he took forever-and-a-day to eat a sandwich, twice as long to eat his yogurt, and then dropped most of his cookie on the floor. He wasn't happy, and his unhappiness made me unhappy, so nap time was most welcome.

I dropped him off at his Grammy's after nap and headed down to Williamsburg for a night of bowling (followed by an afternoon of karting).

The boy I picked up yesterday afternoon was the same bad-mood boy I dropped off, augmented by a bad spill he took on the driveway as we left. And a runny nose. Oh joy, we're gonna be sick again.

Toys R Us, Mexican for dinner (sopapillas for dessert), and a bit of Mario Kart before bed.

A fairly busy weekend, so really it wasn't surprising that we got on each others' nerves a bit.

But then we both woke up with nightmares this morning, and he's been coughing horribly all day. My nightmare consisted of me being in a group therapy session (something I've never done), puling about how much I wish I'd been there in Amanda's last conscious moments. The therapist then asked me if there were any two or three things Amanda could have said to me that would have been life-changing. In other words, could my having been there have really made a big difference?

And it's been on my mind all day. I suppose I wish she could have explicitly named the school she wanted him to attend, but if I'd been there, would I have been quick to call her parents, or would I have pulled the plug too soon, thereby robbing them of the opportunity to say their goodbyes? But really, the way it went down is the way it needed to. Her father was there, and he's much more level-headed in those types of scenarios than I am. He was able to make the necessary calls and arrangements.

Why this would wake me up in a cold sweat is truly vexing. It's perfectly rational stuff to wonder--it's not like I was dreaming of being chased by an ax-wielding madman.

Alastair's nightmare was that Vivienne had died. He woke up extremely upset that she was gone, and I curled up in the bed with him and assured him that she was just fine, that she wouldn't die for a long long time.

I'm not really sure what to make of this. I'm guessing our choreographed nightmares are as much a result of our dietary choices as anything else, but the fact is that he's been talking about death more and more. I hadn't seriously considered putting him into counseling because most of it is geared for slightly older children, but given how much of his time it seems to take up, he might be ready for more help than I can provide in understanding the meaning of death.