Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moore Money, Moore Problems

I’m going mini-vacationing this week. That is, I’m taking a long weekend. Mrs. Nitmos and my running shoes are going too so I have everything I need. Oh yeah, also the kids are going but that couldn’t be avoided. How is it that a little fish can survive for 3-4 days in a bowl without adding any food but human children, oh no, can’t leave them at home for a few nights (or weeks) or the cops crawl right up your ass. It just goes to show that we all view things differently…one man’s long weekend is another’s felonious child endangerment.

Besides running, one of my favorite pastimes is people watching. I like to think I’m pretty good at it too. I don’t have no weird leer or bug-eyed, mouth agape stare or anything. I’ve only made a few families uncomfortable enough to hold their kids tight and walk away and arrests? None. Detained for questioning? A few times but that goes with the territory.

State Theatre - one of my former employers in the Nitmos early days

We’ll be back in my ancestral homeland again this weekend for the 7th annual film festival put on by everyone’s favorite left wing boogeyman, Michael Moore. Now, before the Fox News crowd starts in with the “socialist” accusations in the comments and the MSNBC crowd seeks travel directions, let me be clear that I don’t attend the event as any sort of political statement. I like to people watch. I like independent films (yeah, that’s right, sue me). I have a place to stay since both our parents (and, more importantly the kids’ babysitter grandparents) live there. We do some boating. We do some beering. We do some watching. The area is loaded with great little bars and a thriving downtown scene so, really, why not go right?

Inside the recently restored State Theatre

Plus, there are some fantastic rails-to-trails running paths.

The great thing about this event is watching this conservative small(ish) town come to grips with Michael Moore and his Big Hollywood Socialist Friends every year. This is the type of town that’ll vote around 75% for any Republican on a national ticket. If a Democratic politician sneezes, they assume it’s because he/she has a strange disease from all of the goat fornicating that person must do. Why Moore decided to make this area his home is anyone’s guess.* We’ve run into him a few times over the years at – surprise, surprise – the local theaters and he seemed to blend in with the masses even knowing most of them would love to slash his car tires while he enjoyed Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

But, for this film festival week (and its cousin, a winter comedy festival also put on by Moore in the same area), the truce flags are up. Moore’s festival brings in beaucoup bucks to the area’s conservative businessman. I’m sure it pains them to take this money - on principle - but take it they do. Likewise, a largely left-leaning crowd packs the theaters only to be met with sponsors and advertisements for those same conservative businesses. It’s fun to watch these natural enemies deal with each other. Moore needs the local conservative businessman to make this work and the businessman relish the money bonanza the Great White Liberal's festival brings in. I’m sure many hands are shook beneath gritted teeth.

And Mrs. Nitmos and I sit back at a local pub with a frosty one and take it all in. While the other tables mutter about debt ceilings, I’m sure I’ll be bending Mrs. Nitmos’ ear with more talks about my personal speed ceiling and what needs to be done to raise that.

And then we go running. Or boating. Or filming. Or whatever. Truly this is usually the most relaxing week of the year. Last year, I documented our efforts at the costume film festival 5k. I finished 2nd overall which is the highest I’ve ever finished overall in a race. So, of course, they cancelled the race for this year. Damn, had I won it, I probably would have been audited. The Man doesn’t want me to win a race.

I’ll let you know if I spot any celebrities. The best the festival has done is bring in Madonna one year but I suspect that was only because her father owns a vineyard on the peninsula (you know, free room and board makes it an affordable trip for her. She wasn’t in town to screen Shanghai Surprise.) Usually there’s a few B and C level directors and producers hanging about and the odd C level celebrity. What’s Breckin Meyer doing these days? Hope he's available for photo ops....or to valet my car.

Happy trails.

*Well, okay, it’s also a beautiful area filled with friendly people.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sweat Diaper

If you are like me - and really, you should be – you have probably found yourself needing a sweat diaper lately. We are in full fledged It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Humidity territory here. I wish I could say that I’ve only been sweating buckets during my long runs. Truth is, I’ve been sweating dumpsters. I’m flinging sweat from my fingertips with every arm pump. I’m going to put out a blanket warning to all runners in my area: Do not expect a hand wave as we pass or you’ll get a face full of my sweat.

Which brings me back to the sweat diapers. When I complete the run, I am not a welcome person in my home. I walk in trailing droplets of my salty, syrupy goodness all over the floor on my way to the fridge for a cold shandy water. My dog has some sort of sweat fetish and follows after me mopping the floor with her tongue. Sick puppy. The filly doesn’t ever seem to want a post-run hug from Dad. Instead, I’m met with a crinkle face and an ewwww sound. I am persona non grata in my own casa. I can’t even stand still for more than a second or I create tiny little floor swimming pools for the fruit flies that surround my plums (NOT a euphemism!)

So, I sit on the front porch instead: Me, my pathetic little 12 ounce water bottle and a porch swing. And I sweat. And swing. And sweat. If a human is made of around 70% water, then a good 40-50% is soaking through my shorts and onto the floor beneath my swing. Frankly, I’m sweating in such a steady stream that it looks like I’m pissing the porch floor. I need a diaper for my sweat.* I’ve gotten a glimpse of what life will be like in a few decades when I wear my uroscopy bag and nonchalantly pee in full public view while walking through a Wal-Mart. It’s liberating but, also, a little wet.

To make matters worse, I don’t wear a shirt during summer running. Why contain these pecs? I’m a firm believer in minimalist torso wear. Christopher McDougall missed the point completely in Born to Run. The Tarahumara aren’t successful distance runners because of their lack of footwear. Raise your eye level, big guy. They are successful because they don’t wear shirts! It’s the natural way and leads to a more efficient upper body posture and arm swing. Plus, we are also always told to “run tall” which, you’ll find, is something you’ll naturally do when you realize people are looking at your exposed pecs.

However, a consequence of this minimalist running top approach is that all of your bodies fluids seek a spot to absorb. And that place is your shorts. There’s not enough wicking available to wick away that amount of sweat. This is where the Run Diaper comes into play. You’ll need something to catch that sweat that can’t be wicked away. If the sweat is contained, how can anyone object if you come in for a plum? You won’t have to sit like a leper all alone on your front porch swing. You can squish your way into the house immediately post-run, grab your water bottle to suckle, and lie back on the changing table for your significant other to pinch your ankles together for a good, old-fashioned wiping (provided your significant other is willing, of course.)

I’m going to test my design out today. I have some 1200 intervals planned for the track. It’s over 80 degrees. I have a bag full of marshmallows, or “shorts sponges” as I call them. I’ll be going minimalist torso too. I should be a sweaty mess.

I’ll let you know how it goes so you too can enjoy the wonders of the Nitmos Sweat Diaper. But, please, don’t go grabbing marshmallows and tossing them all willy-nilly into your shorts. My design is a little bit more complicated than that. Ever see a kid strap a pillow onto his chest with a belt as a catcher’s chest protector? Now your wheels are turning….

Happy trails.

*Some of you may say that you don’t want to trap your sweat – that you want it wicked away and to disappear completely. But isn’t that what we want for babies as well? Why aren’t baby diapers moisture wicking then?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Somebody Owes Me Something

Let me be clear right from the start: I’m not a proponent of getting something for nothing...unless it is running gear or race entry fees or stolen cable or donation jars for a local hospitalized kid left unattended on the convenience store counter or health care or Extreme Makeover homes or Russian brides or petty cash drawers from every small business with which I’ve ever been employed. And maybe a few other things as well. But, beyond those few dozen loosely defined, ever-shifting things, I draw a strict line at receiving something for doing nothing.

But I’m getting screwed here.

My local running store is kind of a Big Deal as far as running stores go. You know those shoes they review endlessly at the back of Runner’s World? Ever notice that the individual reviewers (from which there is a brief quote about their test trial with the shoe) – from every issue over the last several years - are either from Reading, PA or East Lansing, MI? Yeah, the East Lansingers come from their affiliation with my local running store. I’m not going to mention the place by name out of fear. I’d like to race again somewhere in the Midwest. If you’ve paid attention, I’ve good-naturedly needled this store before so I may already be on probation.

The truth is that I browse this store constantly. They have many new shoes, clothes, and gadgets for the fashion conscious runner you know me to be. Then, after I browse the store taking note of the new, interesting items, I drive off to find a cheaper place to buy them. Truly they provide a great service.

They held their second of two yearly SEMI-ANNUAL SIDEWALK EXTRAVAGANZA SUPER TERRIFIC BLOW-OUT SALES again the other day. I came in armed with $120 worth of gift cards bestowed upon me by grateful soccer moms. Since it wasn’t my money, really, I was sure to find something to “buy”. And I did (though I skipped a pair of shoes. Sorry, won’t even spend $75 free gift card dollars on “sale” shoes that I can get for $55 elsewhere even if I have to pay real money for them elsewhere. No sale.)

I knew I had run a few dollars past $120 and, with tax and after gift cards, I was looking at a deficit of nearly $11. Eleven dollars? My inner Viper immediately recoiled at the thought of paying that in actual cold hard cash. I started looking over the items to see if there was something among them that I could make or buy second hand from the Salvation Army or go “minimalist” (i.e. high-minded excuse to cheap out). Eleven dollars?!? Do they think people are made of money??? I got a North Face fall jacket, Adidas running shorts, and Wright running socks and you want $11 of MY money?!?! I think you can understand my rage. I’m going to emphasize it again with a few more exclamation points with alternating question marks?!?!?!?! <--That’s some serious fucking rage right there.

Then I realized my Ace-in-the Hole. You see, I’ve allowed this store to use my image to promote themselves for years without saying a word. I’ve appeared on their TV ads in footage from previous races and currently (and for the last THREE YEARS) my image is on a poster in their front windows. Sure, I’m half concealed by someone in the foreground but I’m clearly visible, along with several dozen others, as part of a starting line shot from a local kids race (my filly was little at the time and parents ran with their kids aaaaand I WON IT! My filly came in three minutes behind me scared, confused, and crying for her Daddy. She wasn’t much cheered when I explained that Daddy kicked all of these other kid’s asses and told tales about how their little legs couldn't keep up. Through tears, she inquired, “Even mine?” I wiped a tear away and whispered back, “Even yours, sweetheart.”). My filly is in the photo too though you can only see her left arm and left leg. She’s lucky to be in that much because I just noticed the camera a half second too late and was in the middle of pushing her to the side to center myself better when the picture took. What does a poster sized ad promotion run these days? At least $11, I’d think.

So here I am at the counter with a bag full of merchandise and a bitchy saleswoman who keeps repeating that I “still owe $11” no matter how many times I roll my eyes and reach for the bag. Finally, exasperated, I motioned my head in the direction of the storefront poster. She looked out the window confused and back at me. I nodded again. She crinkled her brow and nodded back. The chick just wasn’t getting it. “Look, that’s me on the poster. I haven’t asked for anything before but, you know, you never asked to put my picture up. And you never paid me anything either. You see what I’m saying?”

She didn’t. I was forced to pay $11 and “escorted from the premises” as the manager gently but firmly explained to the security guard. Pretty ungrateful, I thought, to a customer who, on average, spends $11 a year in their store. Their loss...guess they'll have to make up that $11 some other way for fiscal year 2012.

Meanwhile, my image is still on the storefront. And RIGHT NOW their web page has an image of me AGAIN advertising one of their races this weekend as part of their rolling front page shots. You would think that, for all I do for that place, they could have comped me $11 right? What’s next, full life-size cardboard cut-outs of me in a mankini* next to your shoe display?

Next time, we’ll see if I bother to peruse their store first before buying my running gear elsewhere. We’ll see if the only money I spend in there is free gift card money given to me by others. They called down the thunder so now they get the horns. I’m not going to get mad, I’m going to get a bull. Or whatever, I’ve never been very good with sayings. All I know is that revenge is a dish best served by making the whole world blind.

Either way, I’m out $11 and someone owes me something.

Happy trails.

*I have them already made up. Just specify color of mankini and shade of bronze you prefer on my torso. Cost is $11.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Offensive Shade of Blue

I like getting free stuff. My parents did a reasonably good job of teaching me to be thankful for another’s generosity so I’m quick with a Thank You and a half-hearted smile even if I really don’t appreciate the crap I’m being given. My parents also taught me that, if you truly don’t like something, you should always remain polite to the givers face and only ridicule them when they aren’t looking or listening. Or, at the very least, leave anonymous derogatory messages on an internet site. Family values. This is why I created a blog. I like to think that I started cyberbullying before it became cool.

Despite the obvious general snarkiness of my blog, Columbia Sportswear saw fit to send me some free products to try out and review. One was a moisture wicking short sleeve running shirt. The other was their new Peak 2 Peak jacket that retails for $350. I threw on the running shirt the very day I received it and hit some 800’s and it performed wonderfully. I believe it is the Altimeter shirt and it came in a cool blue and gray color. Very manly. I felt like hunting something or, at the very least, lifting something extremely heavy from the moment I put it on. It wicked properly. It felt cool and light despite the buckets of perspiration the 800’s provided. Good shirt. By itself, it made up for nearly 3/4 of my natural feelings of inadequacy.

All well so far, right?

Now we come to the Peak 2 Peak jacket or, as I call it, Mr. Crinkly. It’s a loud jacket. It makes a wretched crinkly noise every time you exhale. You know those space mylar blankets you get to keep you warm after a marathon? It’s like the jacket is made of a couple dozen of those. Oh, sure, it wicks moisture. It’s reasonably light and cool if you want to run in it during fall or early winter. The pockets are well placed and abundant. Really, besides the annoying crinkly sound, it’s a top shelf jacket. That is, all except the color.

Seriously, what the f--- color blue is that? Blue happens to be my favorite color too. I thought I liked every shade of blue imaginable but I’ll be damned if they didn’t find one I hate. It burns my retina. I tried out the jacket because I said I would but, really, I won’t be wearing it in public. That is one horrendous color. A $350 price tag isn’t enough to overcome it. It’s like a jacket version of an eclipse. Don’t look right at it. Plus, let’s be honest, $350 for a lightweight jacket?? Uh, there's a bit of a recession going on here. I’ve got two similar jackets at home now both for under $100. And neither of them are offensive to the eyes. I could buy three jackets of similar quality elsewhere and still have $50 to get a hooker on the way home. And I doubt the hooker would be all crinkly sounding (though that shade of blue may be present).

So Thank You Columbia for the free items. The running shirt has become a regular part of my rotation. And Thank You for the jacket. It’s a great jacket - just loud and ugly and pricey if those things matter to you. Performance-wise, however, top notch! I’ll enjoy seeing its offensive blueness hanging on a hook in the corner of my closet for years to come (unless we can arrange a trade for the Black one or, heck, even the red one - I'd even promise a highly complimentary blog post for your outstanding customer support).

Happy trails.

Since I’m taking care of some general housekeeping today, let me give props where props are due. High marks for Apple. If you recall from one of my last posts a few weeks back, I announced the death of my iPod. I can only speculate that it died due to extreme perspiration intake. Well, I called Apple and explained the situation (the product is still under warranty). When I say “explained” I, of course, mean I lied through my teeth and replied “No” when they asked if it had come in any contact with "liquids". I’m not the smartest guy but I’m no fool either. They sent me a replacement iPod within 48 hours no (other) questions asked. New Soundy lives! Best part? It's gray and silver offensive blue to be found!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Shandy Fuels My Long Run

I’ll admit that I’m not much of a beerophile. Whether it’s Bell’s Oberon or a moderately chilled Schlitz in a dented can, I’m equally apt to flip the top side of my skull backwards as if it was on a hinge and pour said beer down my gullet. It’s beer. Beer belongs in my belly. Let’s send beer to my belly with the fewest obstructions possible. That includes reading the beer bottle label. I’ll assume that “high fructose corn syrup” and “phosphates” and several other kinds of “phates” exist within the beer and that way I’ll never have to read a label. Ever. It’s an unspoken deal I have with mass beverage producers: You give me legal intoxicants in sporty or sexy or heroic or metallic looking bottles and I will consume it no questions asked.*

But that agreement was broken on Friday. I was perusing the beer aisle looking for, basically, something different than my normal beer selections when I noticed several customers in a row selecting Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. I’d heard the Summer Shandy commercials on TV but had no reason to want to buy it other than so I could say “Summer Shandy” over and over again while I drank it. It’s fun to say. Try it. Summer Shandy. Tee-hee. Summer Shandy. Tee-hee. Damn, I giggle every time. And, if you know me, then you know that that’s enough to make me buy it. Summer Shandy. Tee-hee. Sale!

As I was happily plopping the gently clinking bottles into the cart, an unexpected word on the label caught my eye. Lemonade? Did that say “lemonade”? But I’m buying beer?!? Beer and lemonade go together like half marathons and cargo shorts. What’s that word doing on my label?!? I had no choice. A deeper inspection was warranted.

The label explains that it is “beer with a natural lemonade flavor” and the first thing I thought of was Zima. Ever have a Zima? Ever drink Pledge through a straw? Same thing. I instantly recoiled with the thought of an overwhelming taste of lemons in my beer. I want beer. If I wanted lemonade, I’d drink – wait for it – lemonade. I’m weird like that. But here’s the problem: The beer was already in my cart. Do you know the effort it would have taken to remove the beer from the cart, place it back on the shelf, and then make another selection all the while appearing hopelessly indecisive to the crowd of oblivious anonymous strangers in my presence? Nope too late. Summer Shandy it is. I didn’t want those people I don’t know - and who were paying no attention to me - to think I was a beer-choosing flip-flopper.

So, here’s how may weekend went encapsulated in sentences I spoke:

-“Hmmm, I’m not sure I like the Summer Shandy.”
-“I’ll try another Shandy and see how it goes.”
-“Want to try a Summer Shandy?”
-“Your neck hurts? You know what might fix that? A Shandy”
-“I hope I have time for a few Shandies before going to Harry Potter.”
-“Can I bring a Shandy into Harry Potter?”
-“Why are you looking at me like that, do you need a Shandy?”
-“I wonder if Voldemort drinks Summer Shandies?”
-“I wonder if there would be such a thing as war if everyone drank Shandies.”
-“You know who needed a Shandy?” Women’s soccer Team U.S.A.
-“I’m going to drink a Shandy in Team U.S.A.’s honor. Great effort ladies.
-“Do you know who did drink a Shandy? Team Japan.”
-“I’m almost out of Summer Shandy!”
-“Why can’t I say ‘Summer Shandy’ anymore? Are you sure you don’t need a Shandy?”

And that was only part of the weekend. Mrs. Nitmos, judging by the number of eye rolls and deeply exhausted exhales, didn’t share my enthusiasm for the words “Summer Shandy”. She especially didn’t seem to appreciate my suggestion that a Shandy might have prevented the bacterial eye infection she obtained this weekend from expired contact cleanser. All I know is, I was drinking Shandies and don’t have an eye infection. She was not drinking Shandies – eye infection.

But the true test occurred on Sunday: A long run – 11 miles – in 90 degree heat after a heartbreaking World Cup finale and a Summer Shandy (or two). I usually don’t run on Sunday afternoon and particularly not after enjoying a beer (or, in this case, a Shandy). Heck, I haven’t even registered for another race yet this year so I don’t even know where the 11 mile plan came from. I picked that number out of my shandy earlier in the week and felt obligated to commit to it.

It was a rough go but it wasn’t the Shandy’s fault. It worked hard trying to keep my insides cool but my pores were pouring out the Shandy as quickly as I could suck it through the Camelbak straw.** Also, my f.p.m.*** was through the roof!

I made it. I dragged back in to my slightly cooler, air-condition-malfunctioning house weary and bleary and dehydrated. Mrs. Nitmos inquired as to the success of my run through her red, infected, Shandiless eyes. I was parched. I was nearly delirious. The only words I could form came out stuttered and choked.

“Okay but I sure could use a Summer Shandy.”


Happy trails.

Final Verdict: Summer Shandy, fun to say, but not for everyone. In truth, I’m not sure I’d get it again. It’s not beer… exactly. Next time, I’ll choose more carefully before selecting a liquid refresher.

*This agreement even extends to my father-in-laws favored beer: Blatz. Since he offers, I will drink it when visiting. He is the only person in the known universe that still drinks Blatz. Fact #1: The company only produces 10-12 cases of Blatz a year and it is only sold out of one lonely party store just outside of Interlochen, Michigan. Fact #2: Blatz tastes similar to llama piss if the llama had a severe kidney infection. Don’t ask how I know this. You don't know where I've been.
**Not all parts of this story are true.
***farts per mile