Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let the river run

It's ten weeks to M-Day and my schedule calls for me to run six miles, including one mile at (what is for me a) high speed. The alarm went off at 6:00, I struggled awake, got into my gear, and headed out... and a minute after I got out the door, it started to rain. I'll run in the rain if I have to, but an hour in sopping wet shoes isn't ideal, so I turned around and went in to wait... and wait... and wait... and wait... and wait it out.

Hour after hour, I corrected papers and planned and ate breakfast and surfed the 'net and read, checking every five minutes to see if the downpour had stopped. It hadn't. It was a strong, soft rain, coming straight down without fuss or spectacle.

By 2:30 or so it finally stopped, so I got my gear back on and headed down to Yangjae Cheon (Stream), only to find it flooded, wall to wall, a genuine river, if only for a few hours.

It's funny, metaphorically we know about rivers of blood and the river of time and the river of dreams... what's the metaphor for a river of... water?

Every minute or so, some poor soul or other would come tooling along on a bike, eager to shake off the rust of a day spent looking out at the rain... wait a minute, wouldn't there be rust from being in the rain... ah, never mind... somebody would come along, looking forward to a nice ride along the stream, and come to a skidding halt on the ramp, a big black interrobang forming overhead, and turn around and go back.

I made my way on the streets and sidewalks and through Citizens Forest Park to the rubberized surface above the water a mile from home and put in my time there, around and around, down the path and over the bridges and through the woods, to grandmoth... ah, never mind. I'll fix that in editing.

And finally, six miles and 62 minutes later, with the sun shining for the first time in years, I made it home, got my camera, and headed back down to Yangjae Cheon to take a few pictures... which may have been a tactical mistake after an hour of humid running... disheveled and bedraggled isn't a great look for me. Oh, and craggy... don't forget craggy. You do gotta love the Alfalfa cowlick, though...
Apres le deluge, moi.

(Everything to the right of that strip of grass by my head is usually the running path.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Infinitely yours"

I'm really frustrated right now, as I've been trying for ten minutes to embed a video from Youtube, which Blogger apparently doesn't let us do anymore.

But please go here:

(Then come back here. I get lonely.)

This video, featuring Korean superstars Super Junior and Girls Generation, encapsulates "Infinitely yours" Seoul in four quick minutes, complete with captions in hangeul text, its Romanization, and English translation: "Sometimes inside my tiring routine my body is won over by exhaustion", indeed.

It's got K-pop (better than most), pretty young people (the boys only slightly prettier than the girls), scenery including the Han River and Seoul Tower, smog (better than usual), imperfect English grammar (better than standard), cutesy cheerfulness, and scary mascots with giant heads.

It *is* life in Seoul.

Join in: "S.E.O.U.L. Scream out together, happiness that lets us to laugh anywhere."

Monday, August 23, 2010


This is pretty much my personal life right now: 60 percent running, 30 percent cat, 10 percent junk on the floor.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Well... all right the words of one of my favorite Buddy Holly songs.
 (Do you like my new glasses?)

My funk seems to have lifted. (Not the funk from running in ninety-degree heat, just the one in my mood.) The Seoul weather is still hot as the hinges, as they used to say in my family. (Implied: as the hinges. Further implied: on the gates of Hell.) But it's just August hot; that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad skin-crawling humidity has abated. School's back and my classes look good and my schedule, unlike last spring's, is quite tolerable.

I feel back on track with my running, having done six one-mile runs below goal pace this morning wearing my wonderful new sockses and shoeses. I'm counting on the cooler weather 11 weeks from now to help my speed, along with my weighing less (and for the first time in a long, long time, I've actually dropped a few pounds: six in two and a half weeks, or roughly half of what Buddy weighs in the above picture.)

The cross country club is back, though of the eight kids who came out the first day, six were wearing Chuck Taylors (which will rip up the kids' lower extremities if I don't make them buy running shoes). On our first day out, Wednesday, we got a half-mile from school and started running when the skies opened up and we all became drowned rats, even the girls who huddled under the bridge as long as they could. I wonder how many will come out tomorrow and still come out next week after they have to buy new shoes.

Still, the air's better, school's better, and I still have that crazy marathon dream...

Well, all right, so I'm being foolish.
Well, all right, let people know
About the dreams and wishes you wish
In the night when lights are low...
Well, all right, well, all right.

Marathon Day is November 7, which I hope won't be the day that I die.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The new school year (rugrats and all) starts in ten hours. I guess I think I reckon I'm ready. I hope I get some brainy kids.

I'm hoping still to be ready for the marathon, but I'm worried. Two weeks ago I fell a mile short of my 17-mile goal; today the schedule called for me to  20 miles (run four minutes/walk one all the way). I set the alarm for 5 a.m. but at 3 I woke up to torrential rain and thunderous thunder and didn't get back to bed till 4:30. The forecast was for 80 percent precip all day, so I turned off the alarm. Major folly.

At 8, I walked down a few blocks to Yangjae Cheon and found to my surprise that the creek hadn't overflowed, so I decided to do my run after all. Oh, lordy, I found out why we get out at dawn. I was running down (and down and down...) at 17 miles... well, I'd been dealing with 80+ temperature and 80+ humidity, but when the sun came out around 12:45, once again I couldn't... run... one... more... step... I shuffled and reeled three miles back home at a zombie pace.
 yeah, like this.

So that's two long runs in a row that I failed to finish and the race is 12 weeks off. I decided to withdraw from the Joongang Marathon on November 7 and enter the Chuncheon Marathon on October 24, since that one allows six hours, not five, to finish. But, wouldn't you know it, registration for the Chuncheon closed two days ago. So I guess I'm stuck; just praying that the cool, crisp November weather will make all the difference.

Anyway, as I did in the last three miles today, starting tomorrow at school I'll be looking for braaaaaaains once again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early autumn the title of my favorite of all of Robert B. Parker's forty-plus Spenser novels. (Yes, I've read them all; familiarity breeds content... um, ment.)

It's also what's been dumped all over us today like the splattery slime on that Nickelodeon show.

Yes, our three-day (five-day if you count the weekend) vacation at the end of summer school is over and it's back to work; I'm leaving in 20 minutes for our first faculty planning day. The kids arrive on Monday and it's back on the chain gang.

Actually, I'm looking forward to the fall semester, but you know how I produce more whine that Ernest and Julio Gallo.

Yesterday, in a newbie blunder, I managed to throw away a hundred bucks. Faina, the new English teacher, flew in to Incheon and I went to meet her. The school gave me 100,000 Won with the expectation that I'd take the bus to the airport (15,000 Won) and grab a cab back (50,000 or so).

Well, I waited and waited with my little sign at the egress and finally Faina emerged. As we were headed out with her 37 bags to grab a taxi, a guy came up to me and asked if we needed a cab.

"Yes," I said.

What. A. Maroon.

He took us to his van, which had "AIRPORT LIMOUSINE" painted on the side. It was highly legal; he had a meter and a license and all.

...aaaaaand the trip cost 159,000 Won, a little over triple the standard taxi rate. In my defense (and then I throw myself on the mercy of the court and plead temporary, but not necessarily short-term, insanity), I had never in my life taken a taxi from an airport before.

I'm hoping that Mr. Park, our boss, will spring for the whole fare, but I wouldn't blame him if he didn't.

I dragged the jet-lagged Faina around the neighborhood for a bit, took her to the neighborhood equivalent of Mecca (E-Mart), and left her to her sleep, however much she could grab.

I'm sure my mad transport-acquiring skillz made a great impression on her.

To end on a happier note, I've been wanting a Mets t-shirt (has to be blue, not that noxious black they wear these days) for a long time. Faina, bless her, brought me a present, completely out of the (Mets) blue: a blue Mets t-shirt.

And now I have ten minutes to get out of here. I owe, I owe...


Edited to add: the taxi driver gave me a receipt, which I didn't look at till this morning. Fare: 159,000 Won. Receipt reading: 7,500. Seventy-five HUNDRED.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I wouldn't be caught dead in these shoes, but the locals like abominations like this. These are neither the 760s nor the 993s mentioned below, but blogs are more interesting with pictures, don't you think?

I had it all planned out: a nice cheerful blog entry about how things are looking up: the weather's turned (hot hot hot, but sunny and not skin-crawlingly humid), our new teacher's flight here and my trip to meet her at Incheon in two days are finally all booked, and-- thank Pheidippides-- my wonderful (and largish) new New Balance running shoes arrived today, in plenty of time to save my toes on my next long run (this Sunday, twenty miles).

And then I got home and opened the package.

I ordered two pairs of New Balance model 760, size 11 1/2 D from Road Runner Sports in San Diego.

They sent me two pairs of New Balance model 993, size 12 1/2 B.

These damn things are so long and skinny I think they may be leftover cross-country skis. That's not the type of cross country I do any more.

I paid $265 for these shoes ($75 a pair, $65 for shipping, $10 for a club membership in order to get a 10% discount, and $40 in Korean duty charges). And now I have to wait till morning to yell at some poor sales rep and wait a couple of weeks more to get the right shoes. (Umm... I want the left shoes, too. I meant the correct shoes.)

And I'm not paying $65 to ship 'em back, $65 to ship the good ones here, and $40 for the duty on the new ones.

And there's still that little 20-miler in too-short shoes coming up this weekend...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The summer of my discontent

I've hardly posted at all recently and when I have done so, the entries are almost all about running... or apologies for not posting more. This mirrors my inner world lately; I've just been off this summer, listless and grumpy. I can think of a lot of possible causes:
 At least it's a tiny bit cooler without the mustache.

-The weather has just been horrible, gray, wet, and skin-crawlingly humid. It's combined the worst aspects of my two former homes, Ithaca's eternal grayness and St. Augustine's moisture-laden air. It just goes on and on and I move around in a thick coat of my own sweat. I feel sluggish in more ways than one.

-The regular school year provides structure and meaning; it's no secret that I haven't found the two classes I've taught in summer school to be terrifically worthwhile, and every day I've come home at 2:00 and wondered what I could do for the next eight or nine hours, especially when it's so unpleasant to be outside.

-I think that my visit to family in California punctured my feeling that I wasn't missing a lot by spending years of my life over here. I spend too much time alone and Korea, while fascinating in many ways, will never be home. It may be the best place for me for quite awhile, but I'm an eternal visitor.

-For the first time, I've had doubts about my ability to complete the marathon in the required five hours. Last Sunday, my schedule called for me to complete 17 miles (four of every five minutes running, one walking) and I... just... ran... out... of... gas. At 16.2 miles, I couldn't trot another step; I felt like collapsing. I made myself zombie-walk till the 17-mile mark, but this was bad. I'd done everything right, going slowly, ingesting water and energy gels, and it was a miserable failure. I wonder how I can traverse 26 miles, 385 yards at a much faster pace than I failed to cover 17 miles in.

-There are a host of annoyances, such as the follies of trying to get running shoes that fit and won't continue to hurt my toes (yes, the nail finally came off this week and it feels much better), the pointlessness of trying to go to a ballgame when it's probably going to storm, the disgusting collapse of my never-fail-to-disappoint Mets, and the creeping conviction that my country has gone socially and politically around the bend. I don't know if this laundry list of gripes is a factor in my discontent or a result of it.

But I'm pulling myself out of the rut as of today. Summer school ended yesterday and planning for the fall semester begins on Thursday (and the semester itself four days after that). I'm looking forward to new challenges and to meeting Faina, our new English teacher, whom I interviewed and have been making friends with online. It's less uncomfortable to run without that nail, the shoes are on the way from the States, this weather can't go on much longer, running becomes incredibly easier in cooler weather, and I damn well am going to beat the marathon.