On one hand, we have a female character who’s dad is, somehow, a Catholic priest. On the other hand, we have Patricia Lockwood’s “Priestdaddy,” billed as a memoir about growing up as the daughter of a Catholic priest.
If you know me at all or if you’ve read “The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival,” it’s pretty damn clear why I’d be drawn to Lockwood’s book. In my precious little baby of a first published novel, Father Steve meets and befriends Vicky, the daughter of the priest he’s come to Grand Prairie to replace.
On the surface, that’s where the similarities end. Vicky’s fictional father and mother were never married. We don’t see any of her dad in the book, in fact. Vicky is more of a no-nonsense sort, a nurse rather than a wandering poet. She’s also firmly Gen-X rather than Millennial. Oh, and obviously, she’s a character in a work of fiction.
With more than a dozen half marathons and a handful of marathons under my belt — some of those run with coaches — I know the pre-race script. But for my first half marathon in an international locale, I went off script. As one tends to do in Jamaica.
Now before you conjure up an image of someone in a smoke-filled room, listening to reggae and surrounded by Rastafarians, let me assure you that’s not what happened. But only because pot makes me paranoid.
That said, left to my own devices and swept up by the excitement of my first visit to the country, I did make some rookie mistakes in the few days before the Kingston City Run in Kingston.
And you can do the same! Here’s how:
Don’t prepare for the weather: Perhaps there isn’t much one can do about training for a tropical race from the depths of a New York winter—even if it’s a mild winter. But it was almost as if I went out of my way to make the transition as jarring as possible. Two days before landing in Jamaica, I was in Iceland. I guess I could have arranged for a treadmill in a hot-yoga studio or run in place for extended periods of time in a steam room, but the former seems impractical (and expensive) and the latter seems like the sort of thing to get me barred from the gym for life and possibly arrested (and expensive). So to say I was unprepared for the heat would be an understatement.
Don’t familiarize yourself with the city by foot: I’d had every intention of getting a short run in, not only to get used to the weather but to see where I’d be running. But it turns out Kingston traffic is nuts and, get this, they drive on the wrong side of the road. Also, it was hot and, frankly, the pool at the hotel seemed more inviting. So I ran two miles inside a very small, very flat and very lovely Emancipation Park. The race, of course, wasn’t six loops around this park. More on that in a bit.
(Over) Indulge in the local customs: Jamaica has a carnival season. But unlike Catholic-influenced countries like Brazil and my homeland of South Louisiana (it’s a separate country; trust me), Jamaica’s does not shut down when Lent starts. Jamaica’s goes straight through to Good Friday. And on the Friday before the Sunday race, participants were encouraged to attend the Bacchanal Party outside National Stadium. The Jamaican Tourist Board folks were keen to take us. After a rather chaste (i.e., non-alcoholic) dinner, I figured it wouldn’t be too out of control. We arrived fairly early: 11 p.m. And upon stepping beyond security (where I received one of the more intimate friskings of my life), a rum drink was placed into my hand. After getting in two more rum drinks and taking in the sights of this outdoor bash, my compatriots decided that … we needed a more legit party. So off to another club where, in the words of local realtor Andrew Griffiths, we spent some quality time with Uncle Wray and his nephews listening to the hottest tunes in Jamaica. Wray & Nephew is 126-proof white rum. And it was served in a manner I’d last seen 20 years ago in a Zydeco dance hall in Louisiana: We were given a pint bottle in a bucket of ice and allowed to mix it as we saw fit.
It wasn’t a complete rager, though. I was back in my room by 1:30 a.m.
Do some aggressive sight-seeing: Saturday could and should have been a day of rest. But one of the other reporters on the trip had heard about a café up in the Blue Mountains and a trail that led to a waterfall. The previous Saturday I’d literally been hiking on a glacier and the day before we’d toured all over Kingston, so this seemed easy enough. Turns out some of the trails in Blue Mountains National Park are steep. And in some places they’re wet. It wasn’t so much the exertion I was worried about, it was breaking a leg. While branches whipped at my bare legs and I tried not to slip and plummet into tropical ravines, I could practically hear previous running coaches screaming, “What are you doing!?!”
Ignore advice (or: Fall for your own mansplaining): This ties into not familiarizing yourself with the course. A member of our group, Pat Montague, a radio personality and marketing entrepreneur – and a Jamaican – had run the race before. She warned us about inclines. Despite the fact that I’d literally spent the day before the race walking up and down a mountain, my thought process went something like this. Inclines? I actually do hill training on my own. Incline sounds like such a friendly word. Not like HILLS. Besides, hadn’t I run two miles around Emancipation Park and not seen any hills?
Guess what happened. Go on. Guess. I screen grabbed the elevation change from my Garmin. It looked like so:
The only saving grace was that the race started at 5:45 so the heat wasn’t as bad as it could be. Oh, and because an overzealous security guard doing his rounds shut a neighborhood gate on the course, meaning our Half ended up being 10.8 miles. I’m tempted to special order a 10.8 bumper sticker. But I don’t have a car.
Despite all that, I had a blast. I wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone to spend the couple days before a race pursuing this sort of itinerary, but at the same time I wouldn’t NOT encourage you to do so. Even if I have no earthly chance of winning or even setting a PR, I usually end up stressing in the days before a race. Partly because this had been a last-minute addition to my race calendar, but mostly because of the Jamaican vibe, I went with the flow. I prioritized tourism over running and said in advance that I’d take the race easy, enjoy the 120 or so people running the Half, take in the sights and snap some pictures. It not only gave me peace of mind, it gave me plenty of excuses to stop and walk.
And I still got a medal.
Kingston City Run
Half Marathon, 10K, 5K
From US $20 to $75 for International participants
Expo/After Party: Yes
Last week, I went down to Atlanta. I’d been invited by SCAD Atlanta to talk to a couple of classes, do a reading and a book signing.
(If, for some reason, you’ve never bought my books drop dead you can check them out here or bug your local bookstore.)
I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve been to Atlanta other than for airport transfers.
I was only in town for a couple of days, so I didn’t get to experience much except The Georgian Terrace (nice hotel; I got a suite), Empire State South (refined Southern cooking), and, of course, Atlanta traffic. Oh, and I obviously enjoyed a few jokes at the expense of the local football team.
I’ll cut to the chase. I want to end cancer. And to do that, I want you to donate some of your hard-earned money. If you’ve got another cancer or charity you like to give to, give to them. But if you’re here and have five bucks or a hundred or whatever, let’s do this thing. I’ll be chipping in my own money. And I’ll be running a marathon.
Fact: A kid diagnosed with blood cancer in the 1960s had a 4% chance of survival. A kid today has a 90% chance. And that’s thanks to scientific advances made possible by the money you donate.
After over a decade of attending and planning and participating in panel discussions, I’d become pretty convinced that a) panel discussions suck and b) there’s no reason for them to ever go longer than 25 minutes. But last night I sat through a panel that ran a little over two hours and I didn’t want it to end.
The topic was brisket. Yes. That’s right. Two hours about brisket.
This isn’t exactly a fair comparison to my panels of the past. Most of the panels I’ve dealt with over the years have been marketing, advertising and media related. And something happens to even interesting people when they get on a stage with talking points from a PR team and some message to sell.