Numbers (and how I’m bad with them) (and other things)

Today is May 5, or Cinco de Mayo if you’re into adopting holidays from foreign countries in the name of excessive celebration. It’s also Kentucky Derby day, which for me is a little like Christmas; even though I generally find the fluff with which NBC fills the Derby broadcast mostly unbearable, I do enjoy watching the undercard races and feeling that little chill go down my spine when the gate finally opens and the race begins.

It is ALSO a playoff-game-day for the Capitals, and the second game in a three-game series between the Nationals and the Phillies, so it is apparent that I have a lot of sports to watch when I get home in a little while – I’m waiting for the last of my students to drop off their final exams, so I can take them home and laze about on the couch all afternoon, grading and watching three channels of sports programming at once. (Or at least trying.)

I’ve earned my lazy afternoon; I ran ten miles this morning, because I wanted to (and, okay, because I got a secret thrill from adding the fives of 5/5 and getting ten), and it was a pretty good run. Not great, but not horrible, just sort of in between, though I did stumble across the phrase “happiness is a choice” written on a sidewalk square in bird seed. I nearly tripped doing the double-take, but it made me smile nonetheless. It was a beautiful morning, which is always appreciated; my pace was good, my legs felt good – though they are sore now, boy howdy will I be massaging them later! – and by and large my breathing was good, which I was a little worried about given the lingering effects of the sinus infection and all. What I’ve learned from this week is that running actually helps clear a lot of crap out of my sinuses and nose, and eventually makes me feel much, much better, which is good to know for the fall when the inevitable autumn sinus infection(tm) strikes during marathon training.

I’ve not yet really gotten to numbers, though, so I guess I should do that. In my first few miles – which are always my least favorite, because it takes me a full 5k to really get going – I started thinking about Cinco de Mayo-Kentucky Derby days coinciding, and wondering when the last one was. So I started doing the backwards math, taking into account leap years, and I worked it back to 2007 as the last occurrence. (This is actually true.) I then worked backwards again, getting to 2002, and got excited because it meant that maybe this whole Cinco-Derby thing happens every five years, which, whoa, 5/5 every 5 years! Someone play 5-5-5 in Powerball or something! And I got way too enthused about this. And then I thought, okay, well, let’s think forward to 2017 and see if it holds. (Insert sound of air hissing out of a popped balloon here.) Erm – no, it doesn’t, because the next one as I calculated, should be in… 2016? Argh! I got annoyed, and tried to do the math again, and came up with the same thing. And then I was somewhere deep into mile 5 and forgot about it, because I knew I had a (pre-planted, which is a brilliant idea) water stop coming up and decided to get excited about that instead. (My life is terribly exciting, can’t you tell?)

As it turns out, I was only right about one of those Cinco-Derby doubles, the one in 2007. The one prior to that was in 2001, not 2002, and the next one after this is in 2018 – and then there’s not another one until 2029. Yikes! So, embarrassingly, this exercise really just proves how poor I am at counting, though I counter (ha!) that my math was so wonky because I was doing it while running, when my blood is not really in my brain and is instead taking oxygen to other places. It’s kind of amazing that I actually manage to ever get where I’m going when I run, because I’ve had this duuuhhh-gone-stupid thing happen before on longer-ish runs. I guess what I’m saying is, if you ever want to sell me something, track me down at, I don’t know, mile 14 and make your pitch. (wait, no, on second thought, don’t…)

Anyway, this is apropos of nothing, but I was also thinking about how it takes me a few miles to warm up and really get going, after which I always finish strong and (relatively) fast, and I was thinking about horse racing and how my favorite style of running is the come-from-behind victory. Personal Ensign, a filly from the late 1980s, never lost a race in her career, and she ran in this fashion, stopping my heart pretty much every single time – most especially in her last race, in which she looked totally defeated but came back in the last furlong to win by a most desperate nose. More recently, the mare Zenyatta got a lot of attention for doing the exact same thing; she won 19 straight races – against both the girls and the boys, something Personal Ensign never did – until losing in her final race by an also desperate nose. She was a massive horse; most female race horses are easy to pick out because they’re, well, a little on the dainty side, but not Zenyatta. She was a monster (and I say that in an admiring way); she stood 17.2 hands, or 5 feet 9 inches (that’s TALLER THAN I AM), and weighed over 1200 pounds. To put that in perspective, height-wise at least, the cutoff between a horse and a pony is 15.2 hands, and most race horses are about 16 hands tall. Zenyatta was BIG. And it took a while to get that mass moving, but once it did, it was pretty much unstoppable, and watching her move into gear and then gather all that and just mow horses down through the stretch and pull out the win – well, it was just thrilling.

Some days I liken myself to Zenyatta, which I know is silly, but I play this game in my head of “if I were a racehorse, which one would I be?” And the answer I usually come up with is “Zenyatta”. I’m not tall – I’m only 5 feet 4ish maybe 5 inches – and I’m not, you know, 1200 pounds, but compared to what people normally think of as distance runners, I’m rather more wide than they are. (I’m okay with this: my frame carries muscle well, but it can make me look stocky sometimes.) So I take it as a point of pride to liken myself to Zenyatta; I’m a little bigger than what you might expect, but it’s the right (to me) kind of big. I take a while to rev up and get going, but once I do, watch out – that’s me, flying past you in the final tenth of a mile. And if you engage me in the run to the finish, I’m going to do exactly what she did – snort (figuratively) and dig deeper and beat you there. Pppbbblllltt. 🙂

Okay, all of the exams are in and I see that Ovechkin has scored to put the Caps up 1-0 at the end of the first, and the Nats-Phillies are still scoreless, so I’m packing up and going home! Happy Cinco-Derby day, y’all.


2 Responses to Numbers (and how I’m bad with them) (and other things)

  1. Alex says:

    I got home just in time to watch the Derby, and was kinda pissed I didn’t get to watch all the pre-race stuff like I usually do. See, I finally landed one of those job things, I’d almost forgotten quite what it was. LOL It’s… sign waving, so damn am I ever getting in to some serious shape really fast. Specifically what shape that is, I’m not really sure, but you know…

    Zenyatta was certainly an impressive mare, though I was more partial to Rachel Alexandra. Sure wish they’d met on the track at least once… 😀

    Saw a cool thing the night before the Derby, mostly about Derby horses from the ’80’s. It reminded me that things sure have changed, how the quality of most horses has dropped significantly, and we have very very few incredible horses out there anymore. Sad. There are obviously exceptions, but I know you remember the days when so many races were filled with multiple high quality horses and one always wondered in which order they’d finish. There was also a brief segment on Easy Goer and Sunday Silence… really cool to see again.

    Also a piece on Ferdinand… minus his tragic ending to life(of which the same could really be said for Sunday Silence.). :\

    • kmt4n says:

      OK, so I’m way late on this, but better now than never… or something. Anyway, you really really didn’t miss much from the Derby pre-race show; once the people from E! started taking over the screen and analyzing hats and dresses, I hit the ‘mute’ button and suddenly found myself enjoying it much more. (Bonus: you can make up for yourself the words they’re saying!) I also looked up the post times for the undercard races, so I knew when to un-mute again.

      Sign-waving? I can’t picture this, so I want proof. 🙂

      I adored Rachel too, and I still wish her owners had let her run in the Derby that year instead. I think she’d have kicked all sorts of ass. But yeah, I agree, I do wish that she and Zenyatta had met at least once in a race. Even a match race would have been hella awesome.

      Aw man, I wish I’d seen that piece on the 80s horses, especially what with the bits on Sunday Silence/Easy Goer and Ferdinand. I was a little peeved that the “classic” Kentucky Derby races ESPN was showing on Friday were of, like, 2006 and 2009. Dude, you can find all that on Youtube. (actually, you can find most major races on Youtube now, which is something I love the Internet for) Show me Alysheba’s ridiculous stretch run in 1987. Or Winning Colors wiring the field in 1989. Or Frances Genter’s gigantic smile when Unbridled came home first in 1990. You know?

      I totally do remember those days, too, when you had to actually *earn* a spot in the Derby and the fields weren’t filling the gate to 20 horses, 8 of which easily didn’t belong. Ugh. I hate how unsound and shallow the talent pool is these days- though this Derby seemed like a stronger crop than most. Maybe 5 horses that had no business there? But still. What I wouldn’t give for a rivalry of a group of 5 or 6 really *good* horses like we used to have.

      Anyway, getting off my soapbox now… gotta get these damn kids off my lawn. 🙂

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