From a Marathoner with Love

Closed Central Park

Dear Friends, Fans, and Family,

To those of you who’ve supported me by donating funds to Team for Kids, running with me, or cheering me along my training, thank you. I couldn’t have come this far without you.

As you know, this part of the world has been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, and I have no words to express my sadness and heartbreak for the victims of this storm. That it has begun to polarize our community about such a life-affirming event as a marathon further breaks my heart. So many of us have spent months training for a challenge designed to makes us stronger and raised donations for very worthy causes, and I believe in this marathon and that it should continue on Sunday. I believe we each should run with our heads held high, celebrating 26.2 miles of this amazing city and the inhabitants who now fight daily to keep it running in every way.

Although I think it practical and important to keep the marathon’s spirit, income and revenue rolling despite this difficult time, my heart does truly goes out to my friends especially in Staten Island, Long Island, lower Manhattan, and NJ, as well as those affected in other localities. Throughout the days leading up to the race and on Sunday, volunteers are encouraging runners to donate to help victims of the disaster. As participants, may we use this moment as a call to volunteer our time or donate as we can and not turn away from those who need our help. As spectators, please meet us with a cheer rather than a protest for our months of hard work.

Let’s not turn our backs on each other in this time of need. If you need disaster relief or volunteers elsewhere, please post where we can help in the comments. If you have a donation to give, please begin with the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief here: If you’d rather give to another similar organization, this Huffington Post article provides some good tips for giving well to the disaster relief efforts.

If you’re interested in giving also to Team for Kids, please send your donations in the way of my friend Kristen Kasarjian’s page. She’s running for the same charity I am and still needs to reach her goal. We all have goals, after all… Some of us want to finish a race, some want to replenish our incomes so we can pay our bills, some of us want heat, water and electricity, some of us need a new home. It’s the energy and beautiful stubbornness behind people like marathoners that make this city great. Please don’t hide behind the glow of your television, computer, and smartphone while criticizing people bringing revenues and hope to a city we love. If you want to help, unplug along with those who have no choice and look for an opportunity. I promise you, there are plenty… and if I can help, please tell me how.

Lifetime Investments

Child's Play

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how life has changed since childhood. We spend many of our days indoors, and most of us wouldn’t dream of recessing ourselves outside for any length of time in the winter, unless skiing or absolutely necessary. Most of us have our times at the gym or elsewhere to keep in shape, but the days of monkey bars and dangling by our knees feel like a lifetime ago (unless of course, you perform in Cirque du Soleil or hang out with the folks at the Circus Warehouse). Why?

Yesterday, I remeber waxing poetic about my fitness and flexibility as a child, receiving physical education and recess every single day, in addition to the time spent on the playground alone or with friends. Then, I decided to run over the Queensboro Bridge. I would, after all, have to run there during the marathon one month from now. As I ascended, I felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed the day, despite the overcast and drizzly weather and the somewhat inconvenient construction which had stripped away all of the pavement on the pedestrian/bicycle path.

Bam! As I flew through the air and promptly landed on my hands and knees, I tore the new capris intended for the marathon, bruised and cut my legs, and ripped open my right hand in a rather unattractive way. Looking up, I saw a concerned cyclist and the raised patch of metal that had caused my tumble and felt childishly offended, as though the universe had cruelly inured poor little me. Somehow, this felt oddly familiar.

Ah yes, it felt like childhood! Running another three miles after briefly cleaning up and begging for bandages at the nearest Starbucks, I pondered my silly though painful fall from grace. My ego cried a little about my mean and unfair boo-boos, and upon arrival at home, I had to take myself to the pharmacy for supplies, clean out my own wounds, dry my own tears, and wash the dirt and blood out of my own tattered clothes. After a few hours, I learned the lesson a teacher or parent no longer needed to instruct.

Kids run and play. They also bring home grass stains and broken limbs. With increased activity comes increased risk and investment. Take, for example, the ridiculous disclaimer I had to sign before skydiving. That said, while wounds may take longer to heal as adults, the lessons sink in faster, and the rewards are honestly priceless. As I sit today outside Lincoln Center, I know I will have many trials in life, more skinned knees, and likely bruised egos. Some years bring more challenges than others, and all of them bring opportunities for growth, investments, and action.

Here’s to the eight-year-olds on the playground and the octogenarian skydivers and triathletes – those who live all of their lives fully without excuses or fear of falling, or in spite of any such fear. Yes, I ran twenty miles in one day this week but a year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of it. I’m so glad I took the risk to run this amazing race of life. Yesterday, I fell flat on my face. Today, I took my bruised knees and bandaged hands to the Metropolitan Opera, put on a wig and a dress, and performed on one of the greatest stages on earth. Sometimes the greatest investment we can make in life is to get up, try again, and hang from the jungle gym.

Otello at the Metropolitan Opera

Run with Me

On Skydiving for Pearls, you can pretty much count on the fact that I love to seek out peak experiences. Bucket list items, challenges, excursions from the realm of safety and predictability. Why? Because when I push my boundaries now in the relatively secure confines of experimentation, then the real, unavoidable trials will later meet a stronger and more stubborn foe. As a bonus, I’ve discovered priceless joy and peace in activities I once feared or disdained.

That said, some strange part of me wants to suffer through these adventures like the heroine of Hunger Games or some similarly daring and adventurous paragon of courage. In hindsight, I think that same odd spirit in me relished dreading skydiving, as the only one of my group of twelve friends who honestly never wanted to try it. Despite my initial fears, I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Although it may take some time to gather the motivation (and money) and feel the drive to try it again, if I had to choose one day of my life to keep and loose the memories of all the rest, I would save the day where I plummeted from that very tiny plane. Hands down.

Recently, I’ve chosen a new peak to pursue that I also kind of dreaded: running in the 2012 ING New York City Marathon. In some strange imaginative portion of my brain, I expect to hate it, push through it, and succeed. Running for an extremely worthy charity, I also have the fabulous temptation of fearing not only injury, dehydration, heart and cardio concerns, and nutrition but also raising the required amount of $100 for each of my 26.2 miles.

Somehow despite the obstacles, including some ridiculous runs on which I’ve strayed onto wooded paths and tiny, busy highways, I had fun today on my four mile run. Achieving something new always feels great, but after my five miler on Monday and standing all day at rehearsal yesterday, I did not expect the sense of relief and renewal I experienced at the end of a surprisingly peaceful time. The nourishment of my food afterwards felt real and incredible, and I appreciated the dining commons at my summer gig at Bard Summerscape with no palatable annoyance at the influx of kids at their sports camps or the increasing predictability of food offerings. No. Those black-eyed peas and local baby plums amused me to no end, and my body teems with a consistent life and vigor I haven’t felt in a few years.

Does this make me a runner? We shall see. In the meantime, lucky me who gets to enjoy pursuing what I know will be a hard-won goal this November. As for the charity, I’ve chosen to run for Team for Kids, an organization that provides coaching, motivation, and inspiration for children in New York City, across the United States, and in South Africa. Focusing on inner city (can you imagine running in the city without a coach as a child?) and/or low-income schools, they give kids an opportunity to stay active, prevent childhood obesity, qualify for scholarships, and feel the genuine rush of health and of achieving something real.

So it appears the silly, grinchy side of me who longs to suffer will at least have to wait while I enjoy living as an example for the children I hope to help with Team for Kids. For my friends with me upstate at Bard and in the city later this summer and fall, please join me in a run if you like and can suffer my still slow pace. For everyone else, please consider contributing to Team for Kids in support of my run. I have a birthday upcoming on August 3… Feel free to think of it as a gift. I know I do.

Donate to Team for Kids

Vibrating away My Blues

Sometimes, I feel a little complicated. For instance, when I rattle off my diet preferences and needs: hypoglycemic, pescatarian, and allergic to shellfish. I love (and usually miss) lots of food and drink that I can’t have if I want to sing well. On vacation following a solo gig with the Ft. Myers Symphonic Mastersingers, I had to put on a blanket indoors when the air conditioning turned on… at 77 degrees. I often feel far too cold, especially when it’s just warm enough outside for the heat in my apartment to stop functioning. Brr…

Living with a restriction here or there occasionally frustrates me, so I look for ways to improve and simplify my diet and life. One recent day in NYC, I woke in a bit of a funk and thought I might strap on my Skydiving for Pearls attitude and try something new. Enter Groupon.

If you haven’t met Groupon Now yet, the app will give you on-demand coupons in your area available to redeem today within a specified time frame. Through Groupon Now that gloomy morning, I discovered a place called Amplitude Vibration Studio who offered a ten dollar introduction workout in their state of the art facility.

What the heck is a vibration studio? I asked myself the same question as I purveyed their website, watching strange videos of people working out while vibrating on a machine I’d never before encountered or seen. Seriously grabbing my attention, Amplitude Vibration Studios promised a boatload of benefits, including increased bone density (great news for a girl with an extensive family history of osteoporosis) and improved circulation.

Sold. If they could potentially improve my circulation on a chilly day, I would happily pay much more than the $10 deal through Groupon. After traversing to the Upper East Side and signing a surprising plethora of disclaimers regarding my current state of health, I met David, one of the owners and the trainer with whom I would experience my first workout.

I returned three times since that day when David first introduced me to a phenomenal exercise that did indeed live up to its promises. I stood on their vibration machine and first felt the intense vibrations coarsing strongly through all my cells at a rate of 22 times per second. Explaining that higher rates work well for exercise and that vibrations less than 15 times per second work well for people needing physical therapy and massage, David demonstrated the plates within the little box upon which I stood.

He led me slowly and carefully through each exercise for the first time, including lunges, squats, flexibility stretches, and even tricep bends and the plank. Altogether, I worked out for little more than twenty minutes and felt like I had experienced the best and most efficient training session in years. I kid you not. My muscles felt sore in places I never expected over the next two days. I felt warm for a change, days after the exercise actually briefly flushed my skin from the improved circulation. I left feeling happier and having spent far less time there than I usually spend at New York Sports Club.

While on my visit, David also told me of their regular yoga classes, TRX personal training, occasional seminars, and physical therapy options. Then I saw it, a potential savior for my marathon training: an anti-gravity treadmill! Showing me how one zips into the machine, David briefly took ten, then twenty percent of my body weight off and increased my speed with no real danger to my legs or heart, both unaccustomed to running so fast. I can see why their calendar filled with marathon runners last fall, taking pressure off their sore bodies while still continuing their practice and momentum. Brilliant.

Amplitude Vibration Studio shook my cells and rocked my world, I have to admit. Last I checked, they offered free brief demos, intend to open a store within the year on the Upper West Side, and have monthly plans comparable to a gym membership with customized and far more efficient workouts with many immediate and long-term benefits outside of a standard routine. Until you use the vibration equipment, it’s hard to imagine the full effect. Visit their website for a complete list of benefits and programs and to see if you qualify to use the equipment. I can’t recommend them more highly, and I know I’ll go again.