Sailing fitness: Runnin’ down a dream

Tonight I met up with my Urban Athletics sprint training group for the last time in Battery Park. I hadn’t told them previously I would be leaving because float plans are fickle and I didn’t really know which Wednesday evening would be my last time running with them. For all I knew, I could still be running with them come November.

Also, it’s not the easiest thing to explain… that you’ll be sailing to the Bahamas…not on vacation, but forever. What?!! The looks I get are usually a mixture of confusion and intrigue. The looks get even more interesting when I say we don’t actually know what we’re doing next, after we get to the Bahamas. And then the questions begin, which are pretty much along the lines of the questions I threw at Ryan 6 or 7 years ago, when we were living in Spain and he nonchalantly mentioned that it was his lifelong dream to sail around the world. On a boat. With me. My reaction was so negative he didn’t speak to me for 2 hours. “Who lives on a boat?” “What do you do in the winter?” “What about hurricanes?” “What do you do for exercise?” “Where do you go to the bathroom?” “Nobody does that…are you crazy?!”

This evening’s group workout consisted of 7 reps of 300 meters and I nearly puked from pushing myself so hard, probably out of desperation to get the very most out of my last group training session in New York City possibly ever. This probably doesn’t sound like much fun to most of you, but I look forward to these workouts just as much as I dread them. They make me a faster and stronger runner, which is always my goal. My other goal is to run the Outer Banks, N.C. Marathon on November 11th, on our way down the East coast. It’ll be interesting to see how my marathon training goes while we’re sailing. It’s hard enough as it is to train for a marathon on your own when you don’t move around. Maybe that’s why I was feeling like I was really going to miss these torturous sessions – because it will probably be even harder to train after we leave.

When the workout came to an end, it was time for me to say good-bye. Actually saying out loud to my running group that I was sailing to the Bahamas on Monday and never coming back kind of made the plan concrete for me, which I don’t think it really has been up until now. And then it made me kind of sad. The looks I got were exactly what I was expecting (shock, horror, confusion), but there were also a lot of smiles and comments like, “That is so cool!” which I appreciated. I tried to downplay the dramatic departure announcement, and found myself saying, “Hey, you never know how it will turn out… I may see you back in New York again some day.” I am so uncomfortable saying good-bye, even to people I only run with once a week. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like to admit how very attached to people and places I get.

After I said my good-byes and left my group, I still had to go back to my office to do a little work. My office is about 3 miles north of Battery Park, so on a whim I decided to run the long way back to 26th Street. I usually run up the West Side Path because it’s quicker, the view over the water is spectacular at night and you don’t have to deal with traffic. But on this night, I decided to run straight through the heart of Manhattan so I could have a good look at my city one last time.

Within a few minutes, I found myself a little turned around (I have the world’s worst sense of direction) and discovered I was right in front of the 9-11 Memorial in TriBeCa, a neighborhood I know better than any other neighborhood in New York. TriBeCa is where Ryan and I started Teaching House, our teacher training school. We had been there since 2007 until this summer when we moved to our own commercial lease space in Chelsea. We also lived in TriBeCa for 4 years (at one point, in the same building as our school) while we grew the business from just 1 classroom to, eventually, 15 classrooms. And here I was, standing in front of the 9-11 Memorial, just 3 blocks south of where our school was, realizing that I’d never even looked at or visited this place.

So, I took a moment to walk around and look at the engravings on the walls and the plaques with pictures of all the firemen and policemen who lost their lives. What struck me most, looking at the pictures, was how young a lot of the men were…many of them looked like they were only in their 20’s. It’s probably a cliche, but I really did start thinking about the impermanence of life and all the things that could unexpectedly cut our lives short. And it made me feel resolute in the decision to sail away while we’re still young and, well, because we can.

After the memorial, I ran slowly up 8th Avenue, through TriBeCa, the West Village and SoHo, and I stared through the restaurant windows at all the young, slim, hard-working, fashionable New Yorkers drinking wine and enjoying meals that probably cost as much per person as a month’s worth of groceries in the Caribbean. And it made me realize that Ryan and I have lived this life for six years now – six long, sleepless years. It’s been gluttonous and glamorous and wonderful, and also overwhelmingly stressful and rather unhealthy, in many respects. Looking through those restaurant windows, I realized I didn’t crave or need those $150 steak and wine dinners anymore. Or the fabulous theater shows on any day of the week. As wonderful as it all has been, I’ve had my fill of ambitious, wondrous New York City. I’m now ready for something different.

With that thought, I ran back to my office, picked up my things, and boarded a train back to Long Island and back to our sailboat. And I sincerely hoped that I wouldn’t have to make the commute back to Manhattan too many more times before I could say good-bye for real.

central park race nyc

My last NYC race – 18-mile marathon tune-up in Central Park