The Run 4 Phil 5K

It was 90ºF. I hadn’t run in two weeks. My goal was to run without pain and, hopefully, well.

Between the heat and my layoff to deal with the plantar fasciitis in my right foot, I was not looking for a PR at the Run 4 Phil 5K. I wasn’t even sure I was going to do the race until yesterday morning when I woke up with my right foot feeling good enough.

The race was a fundraiser for Phil Prygoski, an instructor at Cooley Law School, who suffered a stroke in March of 2012. He was in the process of training for a half-marathon and is now confined to a wheel chair.

I had signed up to do the race because Phil’s wife Mary is the piano teacher for our neighbor’s son. Their son is our son’s best friend. Our neighbors, who also happen to be wonderful people, had asked their family and friends on Facebook if they would sign up for the race or donate to the cause.

Before the start of the race, Mary made several remarks, thanking all who attended and participated in the race and explaining how the money would help cover the costs of his recovery. Phil said a few words of thanks. It was obvious he was moved by the support from so many people and the dozens of sponsors (including Mid-Michigan’s running resource Playmakers), and the large turnout at the race itself.

As of the start of the race, they had raised over $70,000. That’s the kind of thing the community in which I live will do for its people.

If you’re so moved, you can still donate. They are still accepting donations through their website.

How did I do? At the first mile marker it read 7:10, and I knew I had started more than 10 seconds behind the start. I was going way too fast, so I slowed down.

There were water stations at the half-mile, mile, and two mile markers. I grabbed cups, sipped a mouthful and dumped the rest down my back. And I kept going. It felt like running inside a giant oven, the hot air compressing your body.

When I saw the Start/Finish line in the parking lot I was relieved. “Finally! The race is almost over,” I thought. And then I saw that we had to make a small loop through the lot and I felt let down.

I did the loop and crossed the Finish line with a time of 23:06. Given the conditions of my body, my training, and the heat, I’d say it was pretty good for me.

Though I felt no pain in either of my feet, I intend to take another two weeks off, maybe three, for my right foot to fully heal. My eyes are still focused on that 15K at the Istanbul Marathon in November.

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The Only People Dancing and Eating Dessert in the Moonlight

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The whole point of going to Live Aqua in Cancun was to have a vacation where my wife and I didn’t have to think. That’s why we left the kids with my in-laws and chose an all-inclusive resort. We didn’t even rent a car. We hired a service to pick us up from the airport and deliver us to the resort and then pick us up at the resort and take us to the airport.

On our last day at the Live Aqua resort, my wife and I spent the morning and early part of the afternoon (to paraphrase the words of a wise man) “doing nothing, and it was everything we thought it could be.” Oh, I suppose it wasn’t quite “nothing.” We sat under an umbrella on the beach, caught a bit of sun, read a little, listened to the waves, dozed, and had drinks brought to us by the waitstaff.

(My wife, an immigration scholar, did a little work. Instead of some mindlessly entertaining novel, she read The Politics of Belonging by Nira Yuval-Davis. I have a picture of her in her red bikini reading that on the beach.)

We ate a late lunch at the Sea Corner, the same place where we had been joined by the iguana the other day.

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Poor Stephanie, with her fair skin, managed to get a small bit of sunburn on her shoulder and chest, despite having stayed in the shade of the umbrella.

For dinner we chose Azur, the restaurant overlooking the gorgeous white-sand beach. Here’s what it looks like early in the evening, after everyone has finished camping out at the pool.

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Reviewers on TripAdvisor will tell you that you have to be there early in the morning to snag a spot by the pool, and they are not kidding. This is just as well because we preferred to be on the beach. Even with the occasional plane flying by with a banner ad for Coco Bongo.

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You can not escape the ads for the disco extravaganza known as Coco Bongo. Somehow we managed to resist the allure.

Here’s the infinity pool.

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We sat inside the restaurant. Apparently, it was too windy for anyone to eat a meal at any of the tables on the restaurant terrace.

After we ordered our food, I excused myself to use the restroom. I had diarrhea. Not bad. But diarrhea nonetheless. I did not tell my wife, thinking it would pass soon. (It wouldn’t finish with me until the following morning.)

I headed to the nearest restroom, which was by the pool, but there was no toilet paper in the men’s stall. I would have told the staff, but my immediate needs were far more urgent than alerting the staff to the lack of toilet paper in the stall of the men’s room.

I walked quickly into the hotel and used one of the restrooms on the lower level. Then I quickly walked back out and into the restaurant, where my meal was waiting for me (seared white tuna).

As we were eating, a pair of musicians began to set up their equipment right next to our table. There was going to be a performance by Ramon and Roxanne. This was fine except it would mean my wife and I would not be able to speak to each other during our dessert.

I suggested that we ask for a to-go box and some plastic utensils so that we could eat our dessert down on the beach. My wife thought that was a great idea. We asked our waiter if we could get the dessert to-go but he said they didn’t have any to-go boxes at that restaurant. He said he could bring us the plates and utensils but we had to promise to bring them back. We said that would not be a problem.

Ramon and Roxanne began to perform. Roxanne had a nice voice as the duo performed classic and contemporary pop tunes.

“Would you dance with me?” asked Stephanie.

As a general rule, I am dance-averse because I am not good dancer. But that’s not why the look on my face probably registered horror. It was the diarrhea.

The next song they performed was Etta James’ “At Last,” one of the songs that was played at our wedding, and one of my wife’s favorites. I stood up, tightened my sphincter, and said, “let’s dance.”

While I was dancing with Stephanie, one of the waiters gave me the thumbs up. I smiled. We slow danced until the song was over. The restaurant was about 2/3 to 3/4 full yet no one else joined us in dancing. We were the only ones.

We sat back down and our waiter brought us the crème brûlée and some spoons. We picked up the dessert, promising to return the dishes and utensils. On our way out, the waiter who had given me the thumbs up shook my hand and said, “That was great!” I thanked him and we talked about how we were surprised that no one else had danced. Little did he know it hadn’t been my idea and that I had diarrhea. (After we had returned the empty plate and the used utensils, and were walking toward the hotel, I broke the news to my wife about the discomfort in my bowels. I didn’t want to spoil the mood during the meal on our last night at the resort.)

We walked down the stairs to the beach and sat on some chairs. There was no one else on the beach. We set the dessert on the table in-between us. The salty, humid wind coming from the sea was steady and firm but far from overpowering.

The sky was clear with a half-moon. Between the moon and stars and the soft glow of the lights from the resort there was just enough light to illuminate my wife, me, and the dessert.

My wife cracked the surface of the crème brûlée with her spoon. To the sound of the waves in the moonlight we took turns spooning the sweet custard into our mouths.

Smiles, Swans, and Hearts All on a Bed

During our trip to Cancun last month, my wife Stephanie and I stayed at the Live Aqua resort. It was a big indulgence that we had bargain-hunted heavily several months ago. We managed to get a great deal through Travelocity for both the stay at the resort and the flight.

We had never before stayed at an all-inclusive or luxury resort. We usually stay at more humble places. Both of us in our early adulthood have traveled through Europe with nothing more than a backpack.

Which means that we were blown away by the level of service (not to mention the amenities) at Live Aqua. I could write a very long post (or two) about all the amenities and service. But I’m going to focus on one aspect and the attention to detail it shows.

The resort provides both the daily housekeeping service and an evening turn-down service. When we returned to our room in the afternoon of our first full day at the resort, we had been left this by the staff,

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Which we thought was fun and sweet. The pieces that make up the smile are dyed pieces of rice, as you can see from this detail photo taken of a later drawing.

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The next day, my wife took those little colored pieces of rice and wrote this on our bed.

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We went out for the day. When we came back, we found this:

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Two swans in a basket forming a heart, made out of folded towels. I don’t know how to do paper origami, let alone towel origami. The best we could do was this:

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The next day brought this,

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and this,

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We had to open the drapes so we could enjoy our terrace. We weren’t sure what the N and R inside the heart meant. But it was a nice heart. Stephanie did this in return.

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In return, they left a large flower on our bed.

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We made sure every morning that we left a tip for the housekeeping staff. We were so impressed with the service and these touches that we asked the hotel for the names of the housekeeping staff for the both the housekeeping and evening turn-down service. On the morning of our departure, we left them this:

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I have no idea if the staff appreciated our playful thanks or thought we were annoying. Maybe this level of detail is no big deal for a luxury resort, and maybe my wife and I are easily impressed. Regardless, this was one of the many reasons we had a wonderful time at the resort.

Some Housecleaning

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Picture of the Bean and the sky taken two years ago in Chicago in Millenium Park.

It was time to change to look of the blog. Overdue, really. The monochrome design had outlived its Sell-By date. This new theme is called Newsworthy.

There has also been some literal housecleaning around our home. My wife and I (with a big assist from my father) have painted several rooms in the house. This is in preparation for renting it out while we are in Istanbul.

This home improvement work has kept me busy. Plus, the kids are out of school for the summer. They need attention and stimulation and structure.

But now that the big home improvement stuff is done, I’ll have a little more time to finish a few posts about our trip to Cancun and some minor mishaps since returning.

So I promise to post a bit more often. Though as many of you know, I only post when I’ve got something to say. I dislike posting for the sake of posting. It feels like a chore. Blogging is something I do for fun. I have enough work offline to do. 😉

Have a great weekend!

Running Is a Pain

There are times when running sucks. Those are the times when you’re running in pain or can’t run because you’re in pain. I’m in one of those periods right now.

The tendonitis in my left ankle I suffered from in the Fall has come back. The ankle pain started making my left calf muscle hurt during runs. The “soreness” in my right heel I’ve been trying to massage away has refused to go away.

I’ve iced. I’ve taken Ibuprofen. I’ve stretched. I’ve exercised. The pains my feet refuse to yield.

The frustrating thing about this is that I thought by now I’d be able to keep increasing my weekly mileage. Last week I ran 15 total miles in three runs. Only one run was pain-free. (In the future, I plan to break up my runs over four days. I’m wondering if that’s part of the problem.)

I’ve been running for well over a year and a half now. But there has been time off for a pulled groin muscle that took nearly four months to heal, then two and a half months off for the tendonitis in the ankle. Now more time off for what is clearly plantar fasciitis and more tendonitis.

Awhile back I signed up to run a 5K which takes place in less than two weeks. I think I might be able to run it slowly, if that. Truth is I might not be able to run it all. I have my heart set on the 15K that’s part of the Istanbul Marathon in November. It would be cool to run on the Boshporus Bridge. I don’t know when that opportunity will be available again.

In my short time as a runner I’ve come to realize that if you’re going to run, you’re going to get injured. If you want to keep running, you have to stop running to let the injuries heal.

It’s enough to make you wonder why you should even bother lacing up the shoes. Oddly, it’s heartening to see that so many (all) runners deal with injuries at some point. This goes for elites on down to us mere mortals. Desi Davila had to withdraw from the Olympic marathon in London and this year’s Boston Marathon. Ryan Hall has had to withdraw from several marathons because of injuries in the past year. The list goes on.

Put me in the Injured Runner category now. I’ll stop running for the short-term because I want to run across the Bosphorus in November.

Since We’re Already on the Boat…

I had it in my head that we would take the ferry to La Isla Mujeres, rent bicycles, ride around the scenic island to a park, rent snorkel gear, and then snorkel along a reef.

Where I got this idyllic illusion I do not know. My wife would like to know. As far as I can tell you can’t just go and snorkel, unless you have your own boat.

My wife Stephanie and I took the public bus (8.5 pesos/per person or 1$ per person) from our hotel to Playa Tortugas and caught a ferry (17$/person roundtrip) to La Isla Mujeres.

This man stood on the top of the ferry, played guitar, and sang. He set out a cup for tips. We figured anyone who could play guitar and sing without losing their footing on the rocking, bumpy ferry ride deserved a few bucks.

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The ride gave us an opportunity to look over the waters with their many shades of blue.

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You could easily wile away an afternoon attempting to count and name each of the many shades of blue that the waters near Cancun display depending on the time of day and the cloud cover. There’s navy, powder blue, opal, azure, turquoise, cobalt….

At the ferry terminal on La Isla Mujeres, we waved off the tour hawkers and walked across the street to a bike rental shop. Told of our plan, the proprietor of the shop said we would need to hire a tour boat to snorkel, that we couldn’t ride our bikes somewhere on the island, rent snorkel gear, and go snorkeling.

So we returned to the ferry terminal where there were still plenty of tour operators offering snorkeling tours. We booked what we thought was a short excursion of two hours, with no lunch. We wanted to make it back to our resort in time to eat a late lunch or early dinner snack at the ceviche bar.

We were told to wait there at the terminal, that the boat was leaving at 11 o’clock. My wife looked for a place to change into her swimsuit. I had worn a white polo with my long red swim trunks. Many people on the ferry to the island were wearing their swimsuits.

I bought a few granola bars at a small snack shop in the terminal, just in case I needed them, and waited for my wife. Stephanie returned saying she couldn’t find a bathroom in which to change.

We saw a group of people get up and leave toward one of the piers. We waited. We looked at the time. It was 11 o’clock. We were wondering why no one had come to get us. So we asked at the desk where we had booked the tour. They said our boat was pulling away from the dock. We should be on it.

The tour people waved down the boat and the boat returned to the dock. We were able to get on the boat.

There were four American tourists, a pair of women who were friends and a young hetero couple, all from Connecticut. The crew consisted of Diego, the Pilot, and the Assistant. We introduced ourselves to the other tourists. The boat left the dock.

Diego spoke English and explained everything about the tour. The trip was going to last four hours and there was lunch. My wife and I were like, well, we’re already on the boat….

Stephanie went into the storage compartment and changed into her suit. Diego told us we could not put on sunscreen unless it was biodegradable because we were going to be swimming in protected areas. No sunscreen under the Cancun sun would eventually have the expected result.

One woman, was what you might call “water resistant.” The Water Resister had never been snorkeling before and wasn’t much into swimming. She had agreed to try snorkeling the night before with her friend, after having drunk several tequilas. Diego pulled her along while she held onto a life preserver. Diego would shout to us and point at something, and the Water Resister would dip her head into the water to see what the rest of us were seeing.

We snorkeled near some small reefs, seeing many different kinds of colorful fish, including Angelfish, barracudas (not the dangerous kind), and even a small squid. The current was strong and pushed us along. Swimming against it even with fins was hard.

We all climbed back into the boat and took off our snorkeling gear. The water Resister wanted to be let off the boat. Diego said he could drop her off at the restaurant where we would meet later for lunch. It was located on the beach between our first snorkeling stop and our second one. The boat crew were kind enough to stop at the long wooden pier and drop her off.

My wife Stephanie gets motion-sick very easily. We were on a boat. The waters were a bit choppy. Diego warned everyone that at the second stop the waters would be even more choppy. Stephanie asked to be let off so she wouldn’t thrown up. So she joined the Water Resister on the dock.

They were followed by the wife of the young couple who found that she, too, was getting motion-sick.

The three of them walked toward the restaurant where they sat and ordered drinks. This left me, the young husband, and the other woman. We sat on the prow of the boat. As the boat headed to the Underwater Art Museum and the waters became very choppy, I remarked to them that it was a good thing my wife got off the boat because I was sure she would have ended up puking. The woman was laying on her back, getting some sun. After a few hard bumps, she made me and the young man promise to dive in to get her if she was bounced from the boat.

The Underwater Art Museum near Manchones Reef was located in much choppier waters. We didn’t see the whole museum. We only saw the installation “Silent Evolution.” I wanted to get a closer view of the sculptures but the life jacket around my waist didn’t allow me to swim down.

I’m still not sure why we didn’t see the other sculptures. (Choppy water?) I’m still not sure why our tour was longer than two hours and included lunch, either. If we had to do it over again, we would have just taken a taxi from the Ferry terminal and gone to Garrafon Reef. I’m pretty sure this is where I got my idyllic vision of bike riding and snorkeling. Maybe next time.

We rode back to the dock where the women had been dropped off. We ordered drinks at the restaurant where my wife and the other two women were all sitting comfortably in the shade. Diego and the other two crew members went off to get lunch prepared. At this point my wife and I were concerned we would miss the 3:30 ferry back to Cancun. We said goodbye to the others, thanked Diego, explained we needed to get back to the ferry terminal, and went out front of the restaurant to catch a taxi.

On the narrow two-lane street there was no traffic. Stephanie and I weren’t sure we were going to be able to hail a taxi because there was so little traffic. Yet, within five minutes an empty taxi pulled up. We told the driver we wanted to return to downtown. He drove us right to the entrance to the ferry terminal; a dramaless taxi ride.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland, took the bus back to the hotel and headed straight to the Sea Corner restaurant at the resort where they served seafood tacos and ceviche. An iguana joined us.

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We did not share our ceviche with him or her.