Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Shamefully slow in New York

Jen Mason

Jen Mason was at my starting table at the recent IPO. I pointed out that she had also been at my first table in the European Deepstack (the first major live event I ever played) a decade ago.

“That’s the one you ended up winning, right?”
“Yes but that’s not why I brought it up. It’s striking how little you’ve changed, something which definitely can’t be said about me”
“You’ve had an awesome life though”

Jen Mason wins at everything, including compliments.

Typical Americans

We go out to eat our first meal in New York this trip to an Italian restaurant with our friends Russ and Nancy, and their running friends who are in town for the marathon. The waiter is having a language off with Mrs Doke (which he lost). It turns out he was born in Italy, and grew up in France before moving here. That life trajectory has equipped him to excel in the related disciplines of condescension and snootiness.

The Americans want to order wine. He scoffs that it is more correct to choose what one wants to eat first, as that should dictate the wine to choose. The Americans order a nice Chianti.

“Typical Americans”

Everyone decides what they want to eat, but some of our hosts want to make minor adjustments to their dishes.

“Typical Americans”

The Americans don’t rise to the bait, maintaining their silence. But their faces say “Just get our food, buster”

Shamefully slow

We are in our first Uber of the trip. The driver eyes us up and down, then throws out a probe to Mrs Doke (I’m buried in my phone as always).
“In town for the marathon maybe? Did your husband run it?”
He looks at me again.
“I guess he’s a bit too old?”
“No! He runs a marathon as training every Wednesday!”Oh.....”“It’s just that he doesn’t want to run a time much slower than his peak. Much much slower. Shamefully slow”

Mrs Doke giveth, then snappeth away.

Making a play

We went to see the excellent new play “The Ferryman” on Broadway with the Bleemers Russ and Nancy. After the show I return from the bathroom to find one of the ushers trying to shoo Mrs Doke towards an exit.
"I'm waiting for my husband. He'll be here any minute"

She doesn’t see me as I approach so I decide to stage an impromptu mini play of my own, whispering to the usher “I’ll take her from here. Her husband died almost ten years ago, it’s very sad”.

The usher’s expression instantly transforms from one of impatience to extreme sympathy.

As I lead her away, Mrs Doke glares at me and the usher suspiciously.

“Why is she looking at me like that all of a sudden?”
After three decades she knows me well enough to suspect I must have done something. But not well enough to know exactly what.

We love New York

I’ve been coming to New York for over 30 years, since my very first trip abroad as a student on a J1 visa. It’s one of my favourite places, and also one of Mrs Doke’s. I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, the food is great, and yes the entertainment options are phenomenal, and sure you can’t turn a corner without seeing something iconic....but that’s every major city, right?

Maybe it’s the people, who are both real and friendly, a point reinforced from the moment we stepped off the subway from the airport. As we tried to work out how we were going to get three large bags up to the street without Mrs Doke having to do any heavy lifting, literally the first passerby offered his assistance.

Maybe it’s the many happy memories. In 2005 I took a short cab ride from the Bleemer apartment to Central Park. Two weeks earlier, I’d crossed the finish line in Dublin in my last ever marathon, disappointed with a time that was ten minutes outside my best. The worst part was I could find no reason apart from the one I could do nothing about. My training had been perfect. I was injury and illness free. The conditions were perfect. I made no pace or other errors in the race. I had no digestion problems, and I slept well the night before. So I shrugged, and told my Raheny team mates that I’d just run my last ever marathon. At 40, age had finally caught up with me, and I would never be able to match the time I had run a year ago no matter what I did. The thought of a long slow decline to shamefully slow was not an appealing one, so it was time to move on.

But before I did that, I decided to run one last race. I’d always wondered what it would be like to run a race even longer than a marathon, an ultramarathon. So I figured I’d give one a try, before I lost all my condition. The next major ultramarathon on the schedule was New York, and so it was that less than two weeks after crossing the line in Dublin terminally disappointed, I was toeing another start line in Central Park in what was meant to be my last race.

I distinctly remember looking around the starting line trying to see if I could “pick the winner”. There were quite a few sleek elite looking athletes, some apparently with their own film crews in tow, but I failed to spot the winner. Instead I had the consolation of being the winner myself, unexpectedly crossing the line about four and a half hours later in first place. Nobody was more surprised than me. It was the start of a brief but brilliant career: over the next two years I won more races, broke national records, became Irish 24 hour champion, represented my country at world championships, but none of those memories will ever top that “Holy shit I’m about to win the New York ultramarathon” moment.

I’ve known Russ for almost the full length of my marriage. So long he’s seen three different incarnations: we first “met” in the early days of the Internet. He shared my nerdy obsession for David Bowie and every aspect of his career and music, and we wasted more hours arguing about it than was sensible. After Bowie’s heart attack and decade long retreat from music and the limelight, my obsessive nature found a new outlet in competitive running.

We stayed at the Bleemers' apartment a few blocks from Central Park whenever I ran in New York, and as my running career wound down and my poker career ramped up, our excuse for visiting became a mid series break from the World Series of Poker.

So maybe it’s the people, or the vibe, or the food, or the shows and concerts, or the happy memories. More than likely though, New York is a favourite of ours just because that’s where the Bleemers live.



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More