#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Monday, November 25, 2013

Not Beyond My 50 Years, But Wise Nonetheless

My best work.

So many ways to think about it. Fifty is, of course, half a century. Fifty is 25 times two. Fifty is the age my parents were when they dropped me off at college, and they seemed pretty "wise."

It's a bit scary, but it is what it is, as they say.

In some ways I still feel like a kid, especially when I spend time with old friends, as I did this past weekend after the Manasquan Turkey Trot. We laugh at dumb jokes, pull stupid pranks, turn back the clock.

But when I step back and think about having a 15 and a 17-year old son, who have relied on me and Linda to raise them, support them, mentor them, suddenly, I feel like maybe I'm "wise," too.

To say time flies does not do justice to just how fast the years go by. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was riding a school bus to a baseball or soccer game with my high school buddies? Is it too late for me to tell the baseball coach at North Carolina I want to give it one more year? No, I'm not going to law school because there's a job offer from Sports Illustrated and I'm gonna give that a year or two. Did I really cover the Yankees for the New York Daily News? Was I really part of the editorial group that launched ESPN The Magazine? No way I spent more than a dozen years writing features for The Mag, right? Did that guy really just tell me, "You're a good dude, but" before telling me he was putting me on the unemployment line? Was it really two years of working as a baseball columnist at the Star-Ledger? I don't remember much.
My partner in everything.

Scary, right?

And it's good.

It is especially good because, all these experiences, good and bad, I share with Linda, Tyler and Beau. I don't mean this to disparage any of the workaholics out there in my business, who accept the long road trips, embrace the absolute need to be plugged-in to every single bit of information that's streaming through the internet. But it's not for me.
Here's to good friends.

All it took was a few weeks into last baseball off-season for me to realize it's not for me anymore. I'd taken one for the team at the Star-Ledger (or so I thought), moving on to the Yankee beat when our young and talented beat writer moved on to greener pastures. I'd plowed my way through August and September. Through the American League Division Series and the AL Championship Series. I finished what I'd set out to do for the Ledger, or so I thought. Until a couple of days went by and the texts and emails started hitting me. Did you see what the Post wrote about CC Sabathia? Why didn't you write about Jeter's appearance at a toy store in Manhattan? There's a lot of stuff on Twitter about A-Rod... One day, as I tried to sit down to watch Beau play soccer, my phone went off and I was told to write...not later, but now. One night when I tried to take Linda out for dinner, I was told to write...not later, but now.

Soon to be joining the Half-Century Club.
It occurred to me. I thought I was a hard worker. But I was a slacker compared to everyone else. It also occurred to me. I wasn't happy. Not even a little bit. Working for a newspaper -- something I had not done in 15 years when I took the job at the Ledger -- was not for me. Not at the age of 49.

So, when I got my package from the Ledger last January 15, as much as it sent my family into a mild state of panic, deep inside, I knew it would end up being the best thing for all those who are close to me.

I move into the next half-century a happier, more fulfilled guy. Less secure professionally than I was at 40, but we will figure out how to make this all work. Me, Linda, Tyler and Beau.

No one can stop us.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Worst Is Best

Personal Worst, Personally Best
I recently ran my sixth marathon. My sixth marathon, but my first in eight years. As I sit here at my kitchen table, my leg muscles in knots, my knees feeling like they've been stabbed with a knife, I'm proud of myself.

I completed the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, a week before my 50th birthday, in a time of four hours and 13 minutes, 28 seconds, which is my Personal Worst by at least 20 minutes. But I finished.

My inspiration to run the marathon came from two people. The first was Debby Gammons Brown, the niece of my long-time friend Peter Gammons. About 20 years ago, my parents bought a house in Bay Head, N.J., and from time to time, we'd see this petite young lady logging all kinds of miles. That was Debby, whose father was the pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Bay Head. Peter had told me about his niece, who ran cross-country at Trinity College. Bragged about her. But Debby and I never actually met.

I recall vaguely that Debby and I spoke on the phone once when she was working for a sports agent in Boston and I was working for ESPN The Magazine. But that was it until Facebook came along and we became "friends." After the Boston Marathon bombings, Debby began posting that she was coming out of retirement to run the Philly Marathon in honor of those who were unable to finish Boston, which prompted me to say, "I'd love to do it, but I haven't run 26.2 in eight years and my knees seem to reject runs over five miles." All Debby said was, "Just do it." So, I started to train...a little bit, anway.

My other source of inspiration was an old college baseball teammate named Paul Devlin, who has been a great sounding board for me the last couple of years as I've been laid off from two jobs. Paul is a talented on-air sports reporter who was also going through some tough times professionally. He took out his frustration by getting into great shape. He competed in triathlons and half marathons and then told me he was going to run his first marathon, the New York Marathon, in November.

About two weeks before New York, Paul told me he was in agony. He did something to his leg and was worried he would not be able to run the race he'd trained for. It was not until the day of the race that I saw Paul's photos from the race. Not only did he complete his first marathon, he crushed it.

As I began to tell Paul how I'd not trained properly, didn't have the time to put in a run any longer than 14 miles (and I walked a good bit of that run), he would have none of it. "It's all in your mind."

Debby and Paul got me to the starting line. But I'd be lying if I said there were no doubts in my brain. Memories of past races started coming back to me. Memories of runners collapsing on the side of the road. Memories of my own struggles (without getting too graphic, I'll just say Port-a-Potty) in past races.

I told my wife, "There's a chance I stop at 13.1," because in Philly, the finish line for the half and full marathon are, basically, one and the same. I also told her and my sons, "This could take a while."

The race started at 7 a.m. and I vowed to run slow. My goal was simply to finish. From my first step, I did not feel comfortable. My calves were tight and my feet were achy. One step at a time.

I do not - cannot - run with ear buds plugged into my ears, so I tried to take my mind off the pain by reading as many signs as I could along the way. Philly is a smart-ass sports town and that was reflected in a few early signs like, "You're not going to win, so why bother?" and "Pain is temporary, but your lousy time is forever on the internet." I must thank these people for keeping me going through the early part of the run.

Now, I have a friend who likes to say, "There are two things I don't want to know about. One is men's breasts and the other is your golf game." So, I'm going to assume you don't want race details.

In a nutshell. I ran a decent half-marathon. And I limped a really horrible half-marathon. But the feeling I got as I stumbled down the stretch, past my wife and kids who cheered for me as I crawled along the final half mile, may have been the greatest feeling I've had in any of my six marathons. I didn't train properly. I've not felt comfortable on any of my long training runs. In fact, I've felt horrendous.

But I finished.