Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dodging the Ball

I've always hated dodgeball, and my hatred for the sport is split 50/50 between two very serious reasons. The first is the pain one feels when being whipped in the ass by a tight, hard, rubber [IS SHE GONNA TAKE IT THERE? NO SHE ISN’T] ball.  This pain is only justified by a mere half-endorphin of “yes! I hit someone else!” and brings to the surface the fact that the only real win in dodgeball is when you’ve successfully destroyed a human body. Agility, speed, vigilance…yeah right. It’s all about knocking someone da fuk out. And I’m sorry, but I do not want to base my victory on hurting others. 

 The second reason goes a bit deeper, and reaches into the realm of cross-cultural pre-pubescent rejection.  Lol ya hurd this gon be weird.  You know how you remember certain things from your childhood, and you don’t know why you remember those particular things, but you deduce that they must’ve had a serious impact on you? The situation I dealt with in grade five obviously has.  We were playing dodgeball, and my immigrant-induced drive of self preservation was still in full force, so I somehow ended up being the last person standing on my team, going against two people on the opposite team.  I knocked one of the people out, leaving just one: a boy named Javier.  Having recently moved to Canada from Nicaragua, Javier was also on the alert for common social dangers the likes of misunderstanding the symbol for the girls' bathroom leading to an unwelcomed entrance, consequently labelling him a pervert. Javier had dark skin, and pale green eyes. I remember them very well, because at five minutes to the end of gym class, he had backed me into a corner and stood just a few feet away, piercing me with the impetus in their glare. In the left was an eye booger
I remember that moment very well because it was the first time in my life that I felt my femininity threatened by the power of his masculinity. It was a right of passage, in a way.  I remembered what my mom had told me about talking to men. “Women can get by on the smoothness of their words,” she had said.  As he gripped the ball, I slowly curled my face into a smile. “Javier,” I whispered breathlessly à la Marilyn Monroe, “Don’t do it.”  He paused for a micro-second, then whipped the ball at my stomach and walked off, victoriously.  Thus began my journey as a woman.

That said, I was recently invited to play on a dodgeball team, and in keeping with my enthusiasm about team games, I accepted. As I signed up, I briefly thought of Javier. I had flashbacks of the eye booger. I could still smell the combination of fresh gym equipment and sweat.  The night of the first game, I put on a t-shirt with french fries all over it.  In hindsight, what the f was I thinking.

Let me just say: if you think elementary school dodgeball is scary, try it with FULL GROWN MEN. Men who do this for fun every day. Men who wear knee pads just for the purpose of sliding up close enough to land the perfect shot in your kidneys.  The first class was last week, and I’m still shaking.   First of all, everyone on my team is really, really good. They’re excellent throwers, they can duck, they can even do that Michael Jackson thing where you dodge a ball by lifting your pelvis off the ground.  I’m really good at cheering, I think. I’m usually pretty good at repeating what just happened while clapping. “You did that! Woo!”  “It didn’t get you! Awesome!”  "You are still inside the game!"

Although, I’ll have to come up with new material soon, or people will think I’m just being patronizing.

One thing I’m absolutely horrific at is throwing.  I tried throwing in softball a couple of years ago, and people said I was good, so I guess those people weren’t my real friends.  Here, I was  a disaster.  I’m not used to foam balls, and lets just say I’m not used to throwing in order to hurt someone.  I’m more of like a basketball leisurely thrower than a whipper.  They kept yelling “Throw low!” and while I attempted to relay the message to my brain, it, in turn whispered to my arm to create a paper mache swan out of its joints, and well let’s just let it be, dear it said. Seriously. Awful. While others whipped the ball at my legs before I even had a chance to use them, the path of my throw was that of a very precise concave downwards parabola, the formula for which is expressed by a very simple 
y = -x2 + 1, resulting in a very slow trajectory, laden with predictability and shame.  I have drawn a diagram to represent this, where x and y should equal distance and height, but really they represent my opponent’s boredom and my personal embarrassment.

 I throw slow and steady, launching my ball into a very friendly, obtuse, positive climb, followed a monotonous and reflective pause which gives everyone on the opposing team time to eat a sandwich and re-group, followed by a lingering descent calling for a bystander to merely extend their arms to cradle what’s left of my ambitions in a careless afterthought.  What a fail.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I stopped letting my negativity cloud my focus.  I decided to be fearless, and leapt towards a ball that had been discarded amidst the rubble of the fallen.  I decided this would be my chance at making my mark, this would be for the time Javier rejected my Lolita-esque attempts, this would be me, picking up the ball and whipping it at someone’s legs, like I should.  Instead, it was me, bending down to pick up the ball with the agility of a newborn elephant, and upon rising, getting slammed in the face by the opponents' sphere of evil. It hit me so fast, I didn’t even realize what was happening, except I was holding a blue ball, and what hit me was a yellow ball, so I mainly just saw green. Who even gets hit in the face? Apparently that has never happened to anyone on the team, so of course, it’s written in the official rules of dodgeball that on my first attempt, it would happen to me.  It hit me in the nose, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. Then I was all:

The absolute worst of that is when people flock to you, asking if you’re okay.  If you were okay before, having people worry about you just makes you feel like this is something to be worried about, so you tell them you’re okay and then proceed to bawl your eyes out.  But no, not I.  I gathered myself and in a very cool way, reclined at the wall.  “I’m gonna take a breather, dudes” I said.  Or something equally cool and nonchalant.  And then, when no one was looking, I casually walked out of the gym, walked into the girls bathroom (it was a public school…I know- way to relive all of those fears again), dabbed a tissue on my throbbing nose, and cried three tears. I counted them, because I wanted to make sure I was accountable for each and every one.  You know what, though, it did really, really hurt.  You know what hurt worse though? The fact that on that particular night, for that particular game, I had chosen to wear that damn t-shirt with french fries on it, so I literally could not have looked any more lame.  Hey guyze I like frize! Asshole. Fries do not belong in serious athletic environments.

Anyway, I then told myself to stop being a pansy, and walked back onto the court.  The rest of the game proceeded with mediocrity (at best) on my part, interspersed with my inner monologue of “I am never doing this again!”  but luckily ended on the note of my decision to keep going.  I told myself I would push myself this year, and here I am, pushing myself – out of my comfort zone, and possibly out of what it means to be a woman. I don't need you, Javier.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Half-Marathon #3: Goals and Their Consequences

I have a confession to make: I wasn't actually super thrilled with my time from my second half-marathon. I mean, I know in theory, I should've been proud, but I had a far higher goal in mind, and it drove me kinda crazy that I missed it by a few minutes. I was happy, but not Happy.  So, still high off the product of so many months of training, I decided to sign up for another marathon, held a month after the second one. My secret goal was to finish in 1:50 or under, and though it was still a pretty lofty goal, I just knew that if I pushed myself hard enough, I would achieve it.

My plan for this race was to follow a pacer.  I was planning to follow the 1:53 run/walk pacer, and had even met her the day before, but on the day of the race, I couldn't find her sign.  Instead, I found a 1:48 continuous runner.  Continuous. One of my most feared words in the running world.  I've never continuously run before. I couldn't even imagine what it would be like to run a full two hours without stopping.  I always take walking breaks, so I obviously hadn't trained for this at all. It was my only option, though, so I thought I would give it a try.

I forgot to mention that the race was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, so a really exciting part of it was running in a new city.  I've never really seen downtown Toronto before, so I figured this would also be a great way to explore it (while, you know, being really exhausted and sweaty).  The morning of the race was extremely cold. I've never run in October before, and here I was, back in adrenaline mode again, just a few weeks after my last "okay this is it for the year" moment. My body was definitely confused by this point.

We started running, and I was surprised by how leisurely the pace was.  I guess those walking breaks really add a lot of time, so making them up requires quite a significant increase in running speed. I was feeling pretty great for about the first hour, and felt comfortable enough to really take the sights in. So much so that I sort of forgot where I was, for while, and stepped into one of the streetcar grooves in the road. I felt my ankle roll, and then felt an immediate shot of pain. I kept running, and luckily, the pain went away after about ten minutes.  Yes, I persisted, but yes, I also cried. The real pain came at about the 1:15 mark.  We had turned to run back- the last stretch- and as I grabbed a drink from a nearby station, I realized that I needed to walk. I just wasn't prepared for this much running. The worst part about walking breaks is, as I mentioned during the above-linked second half-marathon post, seeing your target disappear from sight in mere seconds.  My pacer, from whom I had been just a few feet away for the majority of the run, was now a toned and motivated dot.  I knew I was tired when even this couldn't convince me to keep running. I walked for about two minutes, and then picked up the pace, and really gave it my all for the last 30 minutes, and finally, I saw the finish line.  What's funny is that by the time you see the word FINISH, it's not even a word anymore. It's not a finish line, it holds no meaning, people aren't really people, running isn't running. It's just a very loud silence, a bit of tunnel vision, a persistent RUN RUN RUN echoing in every step. I ran a few meters after crossing that line, because I was still in that weird zombiesque state, and then checked my race results.  I was alone in the crowd at Nathan Phillips Square.  I was surrounded by beautiful, exhausted, powerful champions: everyone. I was surrounded by trees, fences, brilliant aluminum make-shift blankets. A muffled voice congratulated us through the loudspeaker. The sun was shining on our heads. It was only me, and thousands of strangers.  And in that moment, my race results came up on my phone screen: 1:50:49.

I didn't want anyone to think I was a wuss, so I hid the tears that ran down my cheeks with my puffy hands.  Pride is the most elusive feeling to me, so, when somehow I manage to feel it, it takes absolutely everything out of me.  Looking back on that day, I really still can't believe I did it. Every song that pushed me when my legs didn't want to listen, every thought I forced myself to think to shut out the voices of pain...they were aligned just so, just perfectly, for me to finish in my goal time. What a miracle.

When we reach a goal by a mere ten seconds, when we reach it against all odds, having gone beyond what we trained to it a fluke? Is it all just random luck? Could this ever happen again?  Should I even bother trying for this time again, or for an even faster time? There's only one way to answer these questions, isn't there?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Happy New Year!

2013, why you gotta be like that?

I had a feeling that when I spent New Year's Eve 2012-2013 on a couch with a horrendous flu, that it would somehow become a sign of what the new year would bring. Though it brought about some exciting accomplishments (running my half marathons, for example) and paved the way for some major changes, like moving out of my apartment and back in with my mom, overall it wasn't an easy year.

2014, however, is off to a great start: we celebrated New Year's Eve in Toronto watching the fireworks downtown, my foot finally feels well enough for me to start running again, I got a challenging promotion at work, and I'm working on an exciting long-term project: a list of 30 things to accomplish before I turn 30.  I haven't completed the list, because I want to make sure every idea is monumental in its own way so there's a lot of deliberation involved, but I'll definitely be posting it when its ready.

Speaking of challenges, remember how I did that raw diet in January 2012? This year, I'm trying the Atkins diet. I wanted to see what all the fad was about, since even Kim Kardashian is on it, and am currently on Day 5. So far, so good..sort of....but I'll write about that later.

I'm really looking forward to the exciting things 2014 will bring.  I know there are bound to be yucky surprises, but I'm sure those will be accompanied by delicious ones too - oh my god, Nutella donuts, or something -and maybe I might even throw some fashion into the mix. Y'all knew I'd add that one in somewhere...

Dear readers: thank you for reading even when I haven't posted in ages. Thank you Canada, US, UK, Denmark, Sweden, China, Spain, and Russia...I have no idea who you are, but you looked through my little words, and found something you liked. Thank you.  I hope you have a beautiful 2014, and I hope to hear from you, if you're reading this too.