I’m running the Hamptons Half Marathon in Southampton tomorrow. It’s sort of a return to the beginning for me.
Prior to running it for the first time in 2010, I had actually run the New York City full marathon twice. But the Hamptons was the first time I ran a race with Team in Training. And it’s where, thanks to the kick-ass coaches of Team in Training, I learned the proper way to train for a long-distance race without doing something stupid or hurting myself.
It was one of the more Texas things I’ve seen. The big guy walked into the place and took off his jacket, exposing the holstered pistol on his hip. He joined his two friends, each of whom were working on an $80 prime-rib steak. The big guy sat down to a rib that looked like it had come off of a T-Rex rather than a cow.
I’ve seen plenty of guns before. I’ve used guns before. I have family members who walk around their own houses with guns in their pockets. I’m okay with guns. But I kept stealing glances at this one.
Because I wasn’t in Texas. And the guy wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. The big guy and his friends were all wearing yarmulkes.
In the 1980s, a rag-tag group of misfits band together for an underground adventure in order to save themselves — and their town! Come for the journey, stay for the laughs — and the scares! You’ll laugh, you’ll scream — you might even cry! I’m going to type a complete sentence — and then set off another related sentence with a dash!
You may have heard of the runaway success of this small indie film, “It.” It’s based off of one of the less-well known works of a relatively obscure short-story author who sometimes dabbled in horror and science fiction. Previous successful movies based on his work– “Stand by Me,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Misery,” “The Green Mile” — came mostly from his more literary work.
Last night, I took a break from binge-watching Season 1 of TNT’s “Claws” to watch “Game of Thrones.” After a perfectly fine episode of “Thrones” — and by fine, I mean one in which numerous ridiculous decisions are made by characters who are supposed to be leaders, as well as Arya being a total snot and neither she nor Sansa actually mentioning the name Littlefinger, which would TOTALLY clear up their issue — I went right back to “Claws.”
I actually started watching “Claws” because of actor Hunter Burke’s tweets about the show. Hunter plays Jew for Jesus Hank Gluck on the show. Who’s Hunter? He’s a multi-talented Hollywood type, but from Louisiana and, in an appropriately Southern connection, he’s my brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend. Or something like that. (Actress Teri Wyble, who’s currently in “The Sinner” and was in “The Walking Dead” and more, is my sister-in-law’s sister. Does that sound simpler?)
I figured I’d catch an episode or two over the weekend, but ended up watching the entire first season. Why? “Claws” is like someone huffed three kilos of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen (and some coke) and then decided to write about a multi-ethnic group of women who work at a nail salon and are involved with the Dixie Mafia’s Florida chapter. And this particular chapter is led by a crazy, over the top, bi-sexual Catholic guy with rage issues.
I know Hollywood likes to describe a thing by comparing it to other things, so let me take a stab at this. It takes the best elements of “Dexter,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Get Shorty” and swirls it all together.
It’s entertaining as hell, completely bonkers and I don’t think there was a bad episode in the bunch. It’s funny, disturbing, sexy and even touching — I got misty-eyed by Harold Perrineau’s autistic character more than once. While Perrineau’s acting is great, the women are the ones who make this show. Niecy Nash is the leader of the crew that includes Jenn Lyon, Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes and Karrueche Tran.
All of these people should be getting Emmy nominations, but I won’t hold my breath. Not only because it’s a really diverse show (that doesn’t make a point of yelling “We’re really diverse), but also because it’s classified as a drama. I guess if it’s an hour long, it’s a drama? Sure, it’s plenty dramatic, but it’s also plenty funny (apparently, it started off life as a half-hour comedy pitched to HBO).
But when it comes to marketing, execs like their labels and boxes, I guess. Even if humans repeatedly show that they not only can handle some mixing and matching, but actually love it.
I’d been told a couple times over the last two years that Elmore Leonard-type books are a hard sell for publishers these days. Which is sort of odd, considering half the good shows on TV (and there are a lot of good shows on TV, Netflix, etc., these days) seem like they’re based on Leonard-type books. But that’s just me. (And, yes, I have a Leonard-type book I’m trying to get published. Could you tell?)
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