Learning to Run

People often refer to me as “The Redhead,” but in pre-school, I was a blonde. The kind of golden-streaked blonde you’d associate with a child who spent her free afternoons outside frolicking in the sunshine. I wasn’t that kind of blonde.  No, my toddler-age blonde locks were either simply explained by “it’s her first head of hair,” or a recessive Aryan gene that wouldn’t show itself again until my teen years when I developed the kind of tree-trunk like legs I can only associate with those German Recklings  who, I’m sure, also had names like Heidi and Gertrude.

No one gave me this lesson
No one gave me this lesson

I was just never one of those kids who got a thrill out of running around outside.

The pre-school I attended had a playground nestled on the base of a huge, steep hill. Sitting in the sandbox, the grassy slope looked like it stretched straight up to the sky. When I go back now, I think I need a climbing harness to scale it. When my classmates and I were 4, all we needed was our lunchtime chocolate milk. We’d joyfully trek to the top, our teachers huffing and puffing behind. I realize now that they only allowed us to do this because recess was immediately followed by nap time and what better way to tire children out than let them climb up Mt. Everest, without oxygen. Once at the summit, we’d let loose and run, at full speed back to the bottom.

It only took one misplaced step and a badly grass-burned knee for me to realize this was a terrible way to have fun.

Long and short of it, running didn’t suit my build. I was bottom heavy and plump. Plus it caused injuries. But my tumble and the subsequent gauze bandage flicked on a light switch. Why run down the hill when you can roll down a hill?

As a rotund child, trying to power my legs in coordinated circular motions at high-speed seemed inefficient. Rolling, on the other hand, was just a simple case of transferring my weight from one side of my body to the other, in the same direction. Something I did on a regular basis, like when I was getting out of bed. Gravity would take care of the rest. All I had to do was steer away from the occasional rock and keep my eyes closed.

This must have been how the cavemen discovered the wheel: they pushed the fat kid down the hill and watched him roll.

The truth was I hated running. Relay races were the bane of my existence. The only reason I batted clean-up in Little League was that I had learned that if I hit a homerun, I wouldn’t need to outrun a throw to first. In fact, if I hit a homerun, I wouldn’t have to run the bases at all – I could quickly stroll around them. I hit a lot of homeruns. I also walked a lot. I guess you could say my distaste for running helped me develop a “good-eye.”

Running suicides really was suicide for me, and the Presidential Fitness Test’s Mile Run usually put me under for a week — even if I was relatively sporty.

But then came life as a Division 1 Collegiate Athlete.

In college, I seemed to find my legs as a runner. I’d wake up and hit Riverside Park before class. I wasn’t fast, but I had endurance. It was part of my cross-training between competitive seasons. And when I was having a rough stretch in class or in my social life, I’d hit the road and let my legs go until I thought they’d fall off. Running became a way to clear my head and heal emotional wounds. I became rather good at it.

I can’t run anymore. A sport-related accident makes running painful again and to my inner-4-year old’s surprise, I miss it.

On the up side, I can still roll down a hill, carelessly, and joyfully.

panda!

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Talking Burpee Before It was Fashionable

There’s a chance you read the recent NYTimes Sunday Styles piece called “CrossFit Flirting: Talk Burpee to Me.” I read it too and rather than inspire me to use my morning work-out site as a potential pick-up spot, I was reminded of the story of the rugby players and the tea cups, or how I earned the nickname Tanya Knockyourballsoff…

Real men play rugby... and drink herbal tea.
Real men play rugby… and drink herbal tea.

When I was in college, my father volunteered to help coach my school’s men’s rugby club. He had “professionally” and briefly coached a rival college team when I was in high school — I think he thought helping the fledgling club at my college would be a good way for us to “bond.” (I hoped this would lead to a hunky piece of arm candy,  while he hoped it would mean I would have a team of bouncers keeping other college men off me when I went out on a Friday night… much to my chagrin, my dad’s plan won.)

While my father was up in Riverdale teaching former football players how to tackle like real men, I was in the Varsity Weight Room in Morningside Heights with my female team mates… and the football team.

“Yesterday, I worked in an extra set of push-ups with the 25lb plate,” the girls and I were swapping training stories one afternoon when my father offered to play the part of father and give us a ride back to campus after we came north to watch a rugby match.

“I really like the new plyometeric work-out with the resistance bands the trainer gave us. Think it would be too much to do that with the other lower body work out we’re already doing?”

“Did you see the plan for next week? 150 abs warm-up. I can’t wait!”

etc.

My father, who couldn’t help eavesdropping burst out into almost uncontrollable laughter.

“What!? What’s so funny? Get a hold of yourself, you’re going to drive into a lamppost,” I shouted.

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Getting good at picking things up and putting them down was how I earned the nickname Tanya Knockyourballsoff

“Well, it’s just, 15 minutes ago I was standing in a huddle with my rugby players,” he started. “There was this big 6’4 Greek, a 6’2 body-builder, and your buddy ‘Bruiser,’ and they were swapping tea advice — you know, green tea versus oolong versus herbal, cups versus mugs, ceramic versus cast iron pots. And now, here I am, in a car with my daughter and her girlfriends and they’re talking about kettlebells and how much they can bench press…”

“Dad, might I remind you we’re not just any girls. We’re athletes.”

The following week my father sent me a note to say one of his players was in a bluegrass band and that I should go to his concert.

“He likes tea and plays the guitar. He’s sensitive… but he’s also one of our best guys on the frontline, so he can pick things up and put them down. You can talk to him about how many burpees you can do, Tanya Knockyouballsoff.”

Tanya Knockyourballsoff was, according to Dad, a Russian female shot-putter. My affinity for kettlebells, apparently, inspired this new nickname…

Meanwhile, I put his note about the burpee pick-up line in the “shoulda listened to my father” column, along with his suggestion we open a father-daughter business together — a gourmet hotdog shop called Kat’s Dawgs… maybe next year #FathersKnowBest

 

 

 

 

Some Weekends, I wish I wasn’t a Sports Fan

These are the kind of headlines I’m used to as a New York sports fan…

When it comes to reading the newspaper, I tend to leave out all the sections that highlight “bad” news: News, Business, International, and frequently, Metropolitan. When I’m done sorting “bad” news sections from “good” news pages, I’m left with Sports and Arts/Style. Probably, to most people it would seem I get very little “real” news at all from my daily New York Times. Of course I beg to differ.

Sports and Art are the core of my being and the principle sources of my income, after all.

When you’re a New York sports fan, you’re not used to getting bad news. Mediocre news. Tragic news. Great news. Yes, all of those. But not bad news. And certainly not bad news on a regular basis about all your favorite teams at once. It’s one of the great advantages to being in a metro area with a professional sport franchise in every division in every league — even when one team in one sport is having a losing streak, another team in another (and sometimes the same) sport is on a winning run.

But then Mariano Rivera twisted his knee.

It was the domino that started the cascade. Sure, a day later the front page of the section ran with that quintessential photo of Mo running to the field from the bullpen and the headliner quote: “I’m coming back. Write it down in big letters.”

But that was the only spark of good news.

Rangers Fall Flat

Bats Go Quiet as Yankees Lose Again

For Rangers, Questions and Negative Answers

End is Likely for Knicks

Back when the Knicks Won One

I felt like someone had swapped out my Sunday Sports for the week’s Wall Street Recap. Were these articles secretly about Enron and Goldman Sachs? Because surely, they couldn’t be about my Yanks and Rangers!?

Luckily, by Tuesday, thanks to an overtime goal and 10 runs in Kansas City, the sports section is once again safe to read and chock full of good news.

NCAA Men’s Basketball, or How Much Older than Him Do I Have to Be to Qualify as a Cougar?

I rolled into downtown Pittsburgh to find the streets lined with banners carrying a familiar logo — the minimalist blue orb of the NCAA. On a Cincinnati-bound round trip, I had accidentally made an over-night pit-stop in the city hosting part of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.

For a single girl in her 20s, arguably, this was a very good accident.

My hotel entrance was adorned with welcome signs — a sure sign that inside I would likely uncover the gold at the end of the rainbow. When I found myself in the lobby surrounded by a heard of college boys in track suits, coaches, trainers and chaperones, I was glad I had opted to put on lipstick before exiting the highway.

The testosterone was palpable and there was only one thought on my mind: how much older than the guy do I have to be to qualify as a cougar?

Coming back downstairs in heels and my little black ensemble was going to be a wasted effort. It was clear these boys were all business.

But then again, that’s what March Madness is all about — the business of being an athlete.

I was an All-American in college. Not in basketball — in fact, I’m terrible at basketball, like, even embarrassingly terrible at H.O.R.S.E. No, I was an All-American in fencing. So even though my March Madness and their March Madness were very different, standing in the lobby, surrounded by the NCAA Championship banners and athletes in warmups, brought back a flood of memories.

March was always a month I dreaded.  There was always pressure, and in my sport, earning a berth at the championships meant out-performing and even beating your own teammates. In the heat of it, qualifying to go to the NCAA Championships felt like something I was not only expected to do, but entitled to do. Qualifying was something to take personally. For a long time, I felt like I’d failed because I only qualified to compete at the tournament 3 out of my 4 competitive years.

Earning one of these trophies is a pretty big deal, and we couldn't wait to get our hands on that piece of wood

That was a silly attitude to have. But as they say, with age comes wisdom.

In my hotel in Pittsburgh, I was excited… and not just because of the smorgasbord of unsuspecting, 6’4 college-age boys at my finger tips. I was excited for them and what they’d accomplished.

Over the next few days, all but one of these teams will get knocked out. On their way home, they’ll feel like they failed — you’re only as high as your last win. But one day, like me, they’ll turn to look at their top-4 trophy and realize that making it this far is pretty awesome.

Very awesome. Go get ’em.

If You were a Hamburger…

The Lin Burger that sounds absolutely delicious

“If you were a hamburger, you’d be something independent and classy,” my co-worker Lisa said to me after reading about the new Lin Burger New York restaurants are cooking up.

The Knicks’ newest sensation is apparently characterized in patty form as a pork burger with 5-spice seasoning and an Asian slaw. Yum.

I didn’t know what it meant to be an “independent” burger, so I asked for some clarification.

“No fills. A burger that’s meaty enough to stand on its own.”

I was flattered — I always wanted to be perceived as an independent and classy piece of meat.

“If you were a hamburger, you would be…” was an interesting exercise for someone who hasn’t eaten an all-beef patty since November 2009.

The last time I had a burger, it was here and the scene looked just like this

I remember the date well — it was the first time I’d eaten red meat since 2007, the summer I drove cross country more than once and spent large amounts of driving time alongside cattle drive trucks. It was a late night and I had just exited a rather disappointing MoMA event with a ravenous friend in tow. He suggested the Prime Meridian’s Burger Joint. I agreed.

I ate the burger.

It was delicious.

When I got home, I threw up.

He doesn’t know about that last bit — all he knows is that my doctor encouraged me to return to eating red meat because I’d turned anemic. I’ll let my friend continue to think he did good by my health…

Anyway, back to the KathleenBurger…

When I think of a classy burger, I think of one with truffles. I’ve never thought this seems right — I mean, truffle is a powerful taste. With mac & cheese, okay. But on a good burger? No. Too. Much.

What about a Kobe burger? No fuss, just salt and pepper in the mix. That’s pretty independent. Grilled to a medium… juices dripping.

For a girl that doesn't eat red meat, she's sure getting a craving.

Yes.

Now we’re on to something.

Add some thinly, thinly sliced red onion.

No cheese.

No ketchup.

A soft, not too thick whole wheat bun.

Some chutney, with a mild kick.

With a pickle on the side. Gotta have my pickle.

Yea, that’s my kind of burger.

Okay, now I’m hungry. There’s an Energy Burger across the street from my gallery. I think I’m going to go order me a veggie burger… that tastes just like Kobe beef.

 

What Superbowl XLVI Revealed About my Relationship History

I'm armed with my Giants t-shirt. Too bad my date rooted for the Patriots.

Who would have thought a Superbowl Game could reveal so much about my romantic history? Gearing up for this weekend’s New York-New England showdown put me face-to-face with a startling trend in my dating habits.  Apparently, there’s a part of me that’s a masochist, because as I look down the timeline of relationships and dates past, all this Yankee sees is a string of New Englanders in their Red Sox caps and Patriots jerseys.

I was still carrying the bag housing my freshly-purchased Giants t-shirt when I met Robert for drinks. Robert and I seemed a nice fit. Putting aside his boyish good looks, he was an artist and environmentalist, and for both of these I have a particular soft spot. But then the trouble begins. Robert is a Rhode Island born, Vermont educated Patriots fan. I am a Giants fan (newly-minted, albeit, but still a fan), and when our discussion turned to the pending Superbowl, we both started to get prickly.

It's a modern day, sports world Romeo and Juliet. If they can make it work, why can't I?

The story of Romeo & Juliet is one of the most over romanticized in the history of English literature, and yet I find myself destined to play the part of the New York Montague consistently attracted to a New England Capulet.

That boy my senior year of high school. My first love in college. The last 4 guys I’ve been on at least one date with. Red Sox fan after Patrios fan after Bruins fan after Harvard alum. It’s my tragic flaw – I always seem to fall hardest for men who root for my teams’ arch-rivals.

I blame New York men, mostly, for this. If New Yorkers canoed more, if they were more transcendental, if they had served time on turkey farms  in their youth, I might find it easier to fall for one of my own men in pinstripes. But there’s something about that rugged New Englander with a well-worn copy of Walden in his back pocket and a knack for layering sweaters that I find totally irresistible.

Given my type, this may very well have to be my wedding cake.

Luckily, Robert hates baseball, so if anything comes of this, I won’t wake up to find my Jeter t-shirt slashed to bits or my traveling Yankee gnome beheaded.

Back in 2008, when my MA thesis advisor recommended I apply to Harvard for my doctorate, I practically spat at her:

“I’m a New Yorker! I can’t live in a city that roots for the Red Sox.”

In the wake of Superbowl 2012 and what it reveals about my dating history, it occurred to me that this may have been a foolish display of stubbornness. In December, I’ll be applying again for PhD programs. I suppose I’d better apply to some Boston schools, because apparently this pinstriped Juliet is in the wrong city to find her Romeo.