Zoë Stagg

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Rheinzabern Osterlauf 10k…

This was a bonus race — a “I wasn’t even supposed to be here today” race — tacked on to the spring schedule when an hour in the car for a early Saturday afternoon start sounded like an okay idea late in the week.

Most races here start way later than the typical 8 or 9 a.m. starts you find in the States, and it makes a huge difference in terms of fueling. You can eat and hydrate and still have time for it to get to your muscles before you have to start. Inadvertent race strategy points!

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Heading into the race, I was thinking about a recap Kate wrote during the week:

I often feel pretty self-conscious when I’m really burning it up on the run course, huffing and puffing and pumping my arms, face all violet and mouth hanging open in a desperate gasp — I’m a solidly mid-pack runner (I was 4-5 minutes slower than the winner in my age group, for example), so I sometimes feel like maybe it looks a little pathetic that I’m trying so hard to be mediocre. Like, hey, look at her, racing so hard for … no particular reason. Isn’t it adorable that she tries so hard?

ALL OF THIS. Which is why I occupied my thoughts during this race by cataloging all of the insane things I do during a race to finish “fast for me.” The first is, why even bother? Why drag everyone out, pack food and layers and translate maps and on and on, when I could just run 6 miles from my front door?

Maybe there are some people who can push themselves to race pace alone, with no one to try to catch and no finish line looming. I am not those people. Plus, chasing races here means I get to practice all of my running and color-based vocabulary (quickly becoming my biggest category) and see little towns I wouldn’t normally. Two bonuses, there.

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But then, there’s the real effort. All of the ridiculous carrying on required for a back-of-the-pack, not-running-for-fun finish. Things like:

  • Don’t look at any sort of timing device, or even think about the rest of the race until you get your breath under you. Once you do, pick a mantra based on how you feel. This race was “Easy. Run strong. Relax” at the beginning, and “GET IT DONE,” at the end.
  • Don’t waste effort coughing when growling like a monster accomplishes the same doesn’t interrupt your breathing rhythm.
  • Feel no shame barking at yourself. “GO.” “COME ON.” Yeah, out loud.
  • Windmill that arm around like an airplane to help change your BLISTERING momentum at the turn-around. No biggie.

And if the weather is cooperative, I don’t waste time at water stations for 10k or shorter. I do check in on my pace at the halfway mark. And I’m serious. If I feel like it might be a solid finish for me, I’m SERIOUS.

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And while I was obsessively hitting refresh Saturday night, waiting for the official results to post (isn’t that everyone’s Saturday night jam?) it does start to feel exactly like Kate said. WHY AM I TREATING SIX NINE-MINUTE MILES LIKE IT MATTERS?

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Because I guess it does, to me. 56:56 is good for 341st out of 389 (Germans, fast, ugh) but a solid PR for me.

I broke an hour in 2009 with 59:20. I hit 58:22 last spring. and 56:56 this weekend. A 1:26 difference. Ten years ago, I ran a 1:11:41.

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So I guess I have to justify all of the ugly-run-face determination like that. I’m never going to beat ANYONE out there…but myself.

How to Be an Adult (on Facebook…)

Let’s ignore the ironic elephant in this week’s NYT piece about posting photos of your kid on the internet — that sharing conversations conducted in presumed confidence as anecdata for your personal essay is quite the same as posting a pic — and delight that the topic is getting wider consideration. The most interesting and glossed-over gem in the piece is this:

Aristotle saw children as essentially moral beings in training, while Kant viewed morality as a simple matter of relationships between free and rational beings.

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So what does Aristotle say about the intellectual components of adulthood? From my understanding, it’s less about the morality of the child in question, and more about whether it exists in great enough quantities for the adult in the relationship to be considered an adult. The piece hits on precisely what I’ve said before — publishing images and details of your kids’ lives is a fishing expedition for ego strokes for yourself. While Aristotle does mention that while virtue is a mean, yielding to every immediate desire is what makes a child, a child. The “moral being in training” part mentioned in the Times’ piece is the move away from that, toward temperance, morality, and adulthood.

QED: It feels good to post cute pictures and get likes. Adults don’t cave to that desire.

Aristotle also talks about the role of being the “responsible agent” for children and animals. Children and animals act from simple desire. “Responsibility requires a state of character, since responsibility requires a capacity for choice, and the capacity for choice requires a state of character.”

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QED: An adult is a being capable of action. Kids and animals are capable of motion. The former is the responsible agent for the latter.

I know St. Klosterman has taken up this ethical debate of guardianship and responsibility in the same pages (and erred on the wrong side) so the less slippery answer is to deal with the concept of desire. Do I WANT to post pictures of Frankie on the internet? Of COURSE. A) It would implode with her adorableness; B) It would streamline my daily 1500 filing deadline for “photos to ancestors;” and C) I KNOW “Likes” feel good. Validating.

But I’ll add that as my coda to the Aristotelian equation, and as a TL;DR Times' summary:

Adults earn their OWN validation.

Mapping…

We’re on a mission this spring to collect as many sights as we can. There’s an as-yet-undefined clock ticking, but it sounds a little like make.hay make.hay make.hay.

The next map pin is Bruges, by way of Ghent.

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It’s a little different planning trips with an army of three instead of one. I suppose we could still roll into the train station and just start walking, my M.O of yore, but it’s a lot less stressful in the moment if you have an idea of what you’re looking for when you’re not riding a schedule of naps and snacks. (Mine, obviously. What, I’m old now.)

The first mission is finding a hotel, a strategic cross-reference of hipmunk and yelp, with the keywords: parking, WiFi, and breakfast. I care way more about clean floors and bathtubs now than I did in Yore. Then a quick check make sure the actual website of the hotel matches their clearinghouse description of it, and you might also find a useful map of the hotel in relation to sights.

Sometimes I old-school book dog-ear and circle, but this time I found this collection of printable brochure/maps with tips from locals like “Expensive Peeing! Think twice before you choose a tree in the park, ‘wild peeing’ can cost you 250E!” That’s how you gauge a thorough guide, right there.

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It’s hard and weird getting a feel for a city from the outside. Scale and perambulation (in every sense of the word) and not wanting to run the weekend with a clipboard makes creating an itinerary foolish. But a list of highlights! That’s not an itinerary. That’s wishes infused with a little knowledge like, “Ghent’s market is on Fridays, yay.”

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It’s nothing revolutionary. Google. Pick a small but thorough guide to take with you. Canvas broadly beforehand and have a vague idea of what’s there. Pick a manageable list of wishes to hit. Pack snacks. I’d say even mentioning any of this is ridiculous and insufferable, but going back through the tags of being here? It’s a record that I wouldn’t trade for anything. So here it sits.

But mostly I just want to take Frankie’s picture under the same Belfry sign that Frank stood under 15 years ago.

Beyond that? It’s all icing on the canal.

Numbered…

In what has to be rarer than a “Golden Year,” I just realized I’m turning 36 on 6/6.

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And that James Earl Jones was in Mathnet. Multiples of what? I don’t remember that at all. If YOU remember George Frankly and Kate Monday, they did a couple of interviews fairly recently, complete with a pretty interesting ASVAB gender anecdote from Beverly Leech (who also happens to be on twitter.)

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In any equation, Mathman. Mathman. Multiples of old. Mathman.

On Christmas morning 1983, hard-fought, multi-state collusion resulted in me triumphantly unwrapping a Cabbage of my very own.

If you’d asked anyone then what would be the chief difference 30 years would have on the Children of the Patch, I doubt anyone would venture that one of the big hallmarks, next to the bottom signature and the birth certificate — their wacky, random, oddball names — would someday seem really tame in comparison with real kids. 

We visited the shelf tonight, and the names are all so NORMAL now. Except maybe even less so, because there wasn’t a single Scout or Harper.

But there also weren’t riots in the toy aisles, so maybe it’s okay this way too.

On Christmas morning 1983, hard-fought, multi-state collusion resulted in me triumphantly unwrapping a Cabbage of my very own.

If you’d asked anyone then what would be the chief difference 30 years would have on the Children of the Patch, I doubt anyone would venture that one of the big hallmarks, next to the bottom signature and the birth certificate — their wacky, random, oddball names — would someday seem really tame in comparison with real kids.

We visited the shelf tonight, and the names are all so NORMAL now. Except maybe even less so, because there wasn’t a single Scout or Harper.

But there also weren’t riots in the toy aisles, so maybe it’s okay this way too.

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