Sunday, August 06, 2017

Wisconsin Summer

San Francisco Half Marathon/Moonlight Marathon

This summer I ran two half marathons. First, the Davis moonlight marathon on July 9th in Davis, California. I had been training for a couple of months building up to the San Francisco half marathon at the end of July, but I always look for races around places where I'll be staying, so when I saw this was about 3 miles from the NEH seminar I attended this summer I went for it. I usually like to get in a "practice" race before the real one to estimate what time I might expect. Considering this was a couple of weeks prior to the San Francisco race, but San Francisco was supposed to be hillier, I thought that I ought to add about 5 minutes to whatever time I ran here and I was estimating I would finish around 1hr 50 minutes.

What I did not consider was the heat. Davis is away from the coast and although it looks close to San Francisco on a map it does not share it's weather patterns. On the day of the race it was 105F at peak of the day and about 100 when I started running at 7pm. Add on top of that that I thought the race was the next day, had gone out drinking with buddies the night before, only to realize at 3pm on race day that the start was in 4 hours... So, I considered not running it, but I had been hydrating all day and felt ok. I biked to the race (I know, biking to a race then biking home? madness) and by the time I got there around 630pm there were a lot of people milling around. To make a long story short, the race started just about on time and the course was a pretty nice loopy bit of bike trail going through quiet neighborhoods and parks. As the race went on I realized that the heat was slowing me down. In the first hour I must have stopped for water/to walk at least 5 times. It was at about 8pm that the sun really started to leave the sky and the temperatures dropped. I think by the time I finished, just a few minutes after 9pm, that the temperature was 75F, a big difference from the start. It was noticeable on my timing as well. The second half of the race I ran faster than the first with about 1hr for the second half and 1hr 5 min for the first. So, I didn't hit my time of 1 hr 50 minutes for the whole race, but I completed it and was pretty proud of that. Then I got on my bike and pedaled the 3 miles back to campus.

Two weeks later I was in San Francisco for the 1/2 marathon there. By this point in the year I was very well prepared to run this race, having trained hills and distances beyond the 21 km required. When I arrived in SF it was late afternoon so my plan was just to chill and eat a mild dinner, but then I remembered that I hadn't even picked up my race pack yet! Ok, so I checked out an Uber to the pick up place, about 3 miles away. Unfortunately Uber doesn't work for me in the US (with a Chinese CC) so I ended up walking to the expo center and then walking back, a 6 mile loop. I then had a spaghetti dinner and hit the hay around 9pm. It took a long while to get to sleep though since my window went to a shared courtyard where some women where (literally) yelling at each other in conversation.  I finally got to sleep around what must have been 1030. I had set my alarm for 445am since the start time was 530am and I wanted to eat a bit before leaving. In the darkness of the morning a door slammed and woke me up. Being race day, I thought, I better check my phone to see if I should get up. Good thing I did! I don't know how, but both of my alarms failed to go off so now it was 5:07am, 23 minutes to race start and I was a mile away from the start line and just waking up. I jumped out of bed to get my clothes on and decided there wasn't time to eat, but I had a couple of gels for the race so I sucked down one of those as I half jogged/power walked to the start line. I shouldn't have gone so fast because when I got there I stood around for another 30 minutes waiting for waves to start. I didn't actually cross the start line until around 6am.

The race was marvelous. Early morning in the bay area was very beautiful and slightly cool, but I was sweating and there was fog pretty early on. I felt really good going onto the Bay Bridge and pretty much the whole race I was passing people. I actually put myself a wave back further than I thought I could do with the idea that it would be encouraging to pass people and it was. The bridge was shrouded in fog and really I couldn't see more than 100m in front of me let alone get a view of the ocean or bay.

By the time we came off the bridge I was thinking that I might hit my goal of 1hr 55min. That is a bit slower than my normal 1/2 time, but SF is a hilly race. The next 1/3 of the race was mostly up and down hills and then finally on to the finish. Overall it was a great event. I then boarded the bus back to SF which was sunny and clear. An hour later, after walking to my hotel, showering and packing up, I was on the road to fly out of San Jose and to Wisconsin.

Yes, it was as hard as it looks, but I loved it!

NEH Hannah Arendt

What can I say about NEH programs and especially the Hannah Arendt seminar under Kathy Jones? Not enough, but I will try. 
This is my third NEH seminar and I have loved every one of them, but this one was definitely the best and I would argue the most intellectually challenging. For the first week or so I was thinking each day, do I belong here? Who are these people and how did I end up among them? They were so passionate about a text which, I must admit, was very hard to read and interpret. Sometimes the full meaning of what we were reading or discussing wouldn't hit me until a week later (I think some things I am still trying to sort out). Reading through Eichmann in Jerusalem and then Origins of Totalitarianism, both by Hannah Arendt, with one of the world's premier Arendt scholars was really a treat. Being surrounded by peers of high intellectual pursuit and a curiosity similar to my own was challenging and at the same time really rewarding. I had a lot of doubt and anxiety in this seminar, but it pushed me to thinking about things in a whole new way and questioning much of what I didn't before. 

The seminar, which at least for 2018 has not been renewed (after 7 years running! bummer) took place over a month long period at the UC Davis campus. As with most NEH programs, participants were housed in student housing with daily interactions during the week and free weekends. At first I thought, oh, there are only  3 hours each afternoon we are expected to be in discussion, the rest is free, how nice. I soon realized that the three hour discussions were heavy and dug deep. I was drained after each one, but eager to read the next section assigned, which would usually take me another 4-5 hours a day as I had to read and re-read each section just to glean most of the meaning. We were also visited by other scholars such as Uda Ispis and Ayten G├╝ndogdu

On the weekends we, of course, wanted to unwind and at least push the weight of the holocaust and banal evil to the backs of our minds. So we went hiking(to Feather Falls), did trivia, and took day trips together to San Francisco. Some of us lounged by the pool and read Origins of Totalitarianism, a funny sight to see 4-5 people around a pool all reading the same big black book and not one of them making a peep. Often we would meet in the dining halls or out for a drink in the evening and those conversations were almost as valuable as the seminar discussions themselves as we talked about the current political climate and how that related to the banality of evil, or how it did not at all. 

It is had to say enough about this program and about the thoughts of Hannah Arendt, but maybe it is enough to say that I now understand how the average man or woman can commit atrocious acts and how whole societies can go along with them.