"Is anybody playing the winner?"
We paused at the question, because it was something we hadn't considered. We had just assumed that, whichever team won, the other team would play against them again, and the four of us would just continue playing until we got sick of the game or Bart's closed, whichever happened first.
But this was cornhole, and the etiquette is clear. "No, you can play the winner," one of us said.
Very shortly, Mr. W and I became that winning team, and the newcomers lined up next to us. Like us, they were a boy-girl team.
I'd never met the girl before, but all the same, I'd met the girl before, know what I'm saying? She was the sort of girl who approaches strangers in nightclub bathrooms and tells them she looks fat so she can hear them say, "Oh, no, you're so skinny! I'm the one who looks like a big whale!"
And she didn't know how to play cornhole. Which, OK, a lot of people don't know how to play cornhole. When this happens, you tell them, "Aim for the board and try to get it in the hole." At that point, your student is ready to play cornhole.
Not this girl. With every bad toss, she would wail about how terrible she was and how her partner shouldn't have picked her in the first place. After two rounds, the game had to be halted so her partner could give her a crash course in cornhole technique. "Hold the bag gently," he instructed as I stood two feet away, uncomfortable and uncertain if the lesson was going to be long enough to make it worth my while to join my friends across the courtyard.
As the game progressed, it began to feel less like a cornhole game between two couples in a small bar in Newport and more like a battle of achetypes - her, with her four-inch heels (by the way, Bart's has no convenient parking lot, so anyone who's there probably had to walk a few blocks), casually foul mouth and insistent whining that she was terrible at cornhole but didn't care because she came to drink, not to play some stupid game; and me, with my flat shoes, glasses and ability to at least get the bag on the board most of the time.
And yet, I still found myself playing the role of the girl in the bathroom, feeding her ego. In cornhole, this works by cheering on your own opponent, saying things like, "I knew it. You're a ringer, aren't you? Any moment now you'll say, 'Why don't we make things interesting,' and then I'll be out 20 bucks." Or you can give her tips like, "Well, it's kind of like pitching in softball." (At which point, she will huffily say, "Ohmigod, softball?")
Mr. W and I won the game, of course. The other couple disappeared, our friends returned, and we played each other for the rest of the night.
Winning at cornhole is easy enough. But I still haven't figured out how to win against the girl in the nightclub bathroom.
The Heart Mini Marathon race course heads out of Cincinnati going east on Columbia Parkway, then turns around and heads back. It's a road I've driven down hundreds of times before.
The thing is, when you're in a car, you don't notice just how hilly it is.
You start off downtown, just before Sycamore, and you run a few blocks, and you're surrounded by skyscrapers and other runners, and the theme to Rocky is playing, and you think that you will actually be able to run forever.
And then the buildings sort of fall away, and this hill stretches in front of you, and you can see thousands of runners off in the distance, disappearing over the crest. And you think, "I shall join my fellow-runners at the top of the hill! It will be a piece of cake! Dah-dah daaaahhhhh, da-da-da-da daaaahhh, get-ting STRONNNG now!"
And of course, three steps up the hill, and you think you're going to die.
But that's not all. Once you actually reach the top of that hill, you have a perfect view of the rest of the course - downhill for a while, then up another hill - come on! - where you turn around. Of course, then you get to run up the "downhill" you're thanking God for right now, before finally heading back to the skyscrapers and the cheers.
Keep in mind, my family and I only ran the 5K. If you ran the 15K, you got to run up Torrence. I wouldn't wish Torrence on anyone.
Gina likes to say running hills will rip your legs off. For me, it's more like they rip my guts out. By the time I told my dad, halfway up that last hill, that I needed to stop and walk, I felt fairly confident that if I ran another step, I would throw up. It's the first 5K I haven't run all the way, but then again, it's the first 5K I've participated in that wasn't totally flat.
My time? 39:05, according to the little Old Spice logo chip I zip-tied to my sneaker before the race. So I actually missed both of my 5K goals this race. That's OK - they're really more "guidelines." I figure if I actually make it to the starting line, I've already accomplished my real goal.
As I mentioned, my entire family participated in the race. (That's me, my dad and my sister - my mom took the photo.) In 2006, we did Race for the Cure in memory of my dad's mother, who died of breast cancer. This year, we'll be doing that again - but I told my dad we should also do the Heart Mini in honor of his father, who died of heart disease. (The health problems suffered by members of the Hudson family are one reason he and I started running in the first place.)
The Heart Mini is not anywhere near as emotional as Race for the Cure, but it is striking to see all the teams that have been built for runners' loved ones. (We didn't have a team, but our registration packets included stickers that we could write "Grandpa" on and stick on the backs of our T-shirts.)
The Mini is the place to be if you're at all sporty and live in Cincinnati. I ran into Carrie from the Harry Potter parties and her husband, which was cool. Before the race, I saw the CiN Weekly Flying Pig blogging twins, Amber and Crystal. I was going to go introduce myself, but they were talking to someone and I didn't want to interrupt. I also kept my eye out for one of Mr. W's co-workers – who I had been told would be volunteering at the Bob Roncker's booth - but I never spotted him.