Monday, October 31, 2011

Hood To Coast: Two Minute Movie Review

Before I get my Ebert on, I’d like to remind everyone that I refuse to deploy the cliché “fine folks” to describe the company, person, or mysterious emailer that gives me free stuff to try out and review. Sure, the people that give me things are quite often “folks” and I’m also sure they are probably “fine”. But I try to avoid blog clichés so you’ll never see “fine folks” together in a single review sentence (outside of this tortured explanation, of course.) I even wrote about my feelings on this extremely important matter previously. Take a trip down memory lane. Now, on with the show…

I received a copy of HOOD TO COAST last week in an unmarked, standard issue post office padded envelope. Naturally, I assumed it was more of my regularly scheduled shipments of pornography. Instead, it was an actual movie: one I call a “Curtains Open” feature!

If you don’t know, Hood to Coast is a 197 mile relay journey from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast. It’s billed as the world’s largest relay race with around 1,000 teams and 12,000 runners being stalked by 2,000 transport vans. Most of us have run some form of relay so you know what they are all about: camaraderie, sweaty people rubbing shoulders in vans, crazy costumes, and far too much discussion about each others’ pooping habits. Also, lots of high fives, “woo hoo’s”, and side split running shorts revealing pasty white thighs.

This movie has all of that. This movie also has mothereffin’ llamas. No kidding. When you watch, take note at around the 52 minute mark as a relayer passes a group of those filthy, unpleasant devil-beasts. Funny how they always turn up around races and runners isn’t it? Filthy llamas.

Here’s where I go full fledge Ebert on you: I liked the movie. As you know, F.M.S. uses a non-standard 666 Llama Scale for movie/book reviews. I’d score this a nice high 590 llamas out of 666.

What it did right: Let’s face it, races courses are just a collection of roads, concrete, signs, and distances. Sure, some race courses have more intrinsic character than other courses but, ultimately, they are still just inanimate objects. Based on the title, I was a bit skeptical that I would be in for a bit of over dramatizing of the daunting course itself. What really gives a race its life are the people who run it. The energy, the fun, the excitement come from the people lacing up the shoes and bounding over that concrete and distance. Each has a story. Each are motivated for a different reason. The directors wisely chose to focus their attention on four distinct groups of relayers and their reason to be at this event on this day race than the course itself.

The movie follows each of these groups as they discuss their motivation, their preparation, the race, and the finish. One group is running in memory of a recently deceased father-to-be. One group – a bit obnoxious in my opinion – is an aging group of men dealing with their declining running abilities. Try not to roll your eyes too hard as they squirt down every female runner that passes them with a water gun while forcing them to run through a “power arch”. I sprained an eyeball. Another group features an older woman who had collapsed and needed to be revived at the same event the previous year. And, finally, a group of computer animators/ artists with little to no experience running take up the challenge of the course.

By focusing attention on the specific groups, the course itself becomes a constantly looming background feature to the characters. As with any good documentary, you become involved with these peoples’ lives for a few moments. You cheer them on (or, for the “Dead Jocks”, you passively root for a flat tire.)

What the movie could have done better: I love comparing us “regular” runners to the elites (i.e. their training, their approach, their mental confidence). I don’t think it diminishes what the rest of us do to prepare for a race. I don’t think it minimizes our accomplishments. In fact, sharing the course with the elites is often a thrill and one of the unique features of running. The Bowerman Elite relay team, the favorites, made a brief cameo in the film but I would have loved to see more of them. It would have been fascinating to see the approach the different groups take – and how they handle the rugged challenge – to go from Hood to Coast. Even though the movie is not about “times” and winners and losers, it is about people. And the elite runners are a differently wired people than the rest of us. That contrast could have been more fully explored.

Though she probably wouldn’t admit it, even Mrs. Nitmos seemed at least casually interested in HOOD TO COAST. At least, she didn’t run screaming from the room like she does when I review my weekly mileage splits with her. Runners will enjoy it. Non-runners should at least be interested in the story of the four groups tracked long enough to hold them to the finish. Check it out!

In addition, the flick left me motivated to buy, and retrofit, a rape van into a super awesome relay bus and start heading West. One more relay group; one less rape van! By my math, that’s mighty fine, folks.


Happy trails.

Friday, October 28, 2011

If You Are Dressing Up For Halloween...

...remember, not all costumes are for you. Choose wisely in this day of cell phone cameras and internet exposure.

Holy VHS tapes, Venom! Careful...his Spidey Sense...of Diabetes is tingling.

Either The Smurfs or the Blue Man Group fired their make-up artist. Shame.

Awww, cute kid...with the worst parents ever. I guess it's better than dressing her like a stripper. In a few years you can file for emancipation.

Okay, kind of a funny costume actually. But she could really use a Brazillian. And a floss.

Dude, at least scrub off the liposuction pre-surgery lines before becoming The Flash.

Nice furniture. Where's the lava lamp?

What will I be wearing? To be honest, I'm pictured in the photos above but I'll never tell which one. Okay, okay, I'll give you some hints: (1) I'm a bit bashful and (2) I like rainbows.

What will I actually be wearing this Halloween? Nothing, I'm an adult. Halloween is for children. However, if I were to wear a costume, I'd prefer it to be something like zipperhead here:

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Patience and Persistence

Wherein I dispense my single greatest running advice.

Most of you know that I look with sideways glance, pursed lips and skeptically cocked right eyebrow* at amateur running coaches with their neat looking online coaching certificates. I’m not going to go in to All The Ways that I think coaching should best be left to professionals. And those seeking coaches should also probably best be left to professionals (or overachieving amateurs.) You’ve read it here several times already. It’s one of my Go To targets when I need something fun to ridicule because I have no doubt that it ruffles some feathers as, ultimately, all running bloggers become coaches.** Besides lame metaphors, llama hatred, and mildly amusing sarcasm, feather ruffling is what this blog is all about after all. Suffice to say, I think amateur runners should be encouraged to explore, investigate, and experiment on their own to learn their abilities – what works for them – and discover their path to success without an amateur coach stealing their journey.

***"The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)

*** “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson (American best-selling Author and founder of the American Wellness Project., b.1964)

So, far be it for me to offer up unbelievably sage running advice right? Wrong. I’ll need four Philadelphias to tell you why. My hypocrisy knows no bounds. I talk out of both sides of my mouth so much that I can harmonize these conflicting thoughts like a grade A Philadelphia street corner a cappella group. But bear with me as I think you’ll also see I’m not robbing you of your journey like some sort of Philadelphia street corner mugger. Nor am I overloading you with unwanted running advice like so much cheese on a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Philadelphia! Four! (Wish you would have written that paragraph, amirite?)

If you are in it for the short term, a quick one off marathon and done, hire your running coach. If you have money to burn, hire your running coach. If you are so incredibly lazy that you can’t spend ten minutes of your time doing a few quick Google internet searches, hire your running coach. If you can’t motivate yourself to set down your remote and lace up the shoes, hire a running coach. If any of that applies to you and you still really feel you need a coach, give me twenty minutes and I’ll put together an impressive, official looking Coach certificate. I charge $75 an hour. Email me. When your marathon is over, you can have the certificate and now you’re a coach too. (I’ll write my name on it in pencil for ease of transfer.)

But here’s my running advice for you budding long term runners, presented in total alliterative form: Patience pand Persistence. Here it is again in much clearer partial alliteration: Patience and Persistence. That’s it. You’re welcome. That’ll be $75.

Oh, but what does that mean?

You want it in alliteration or regular? Let’s go regular. ‘P’ jokes are only funny for so long. If running is part of your lifestyle – if you do it regularly and intend to continue for the foreseeable future – you’ve already developed your Persistence. It’s a habit. Like a good postman, you do it in rain, snow, heat or gloom of night. Whether you recognize it or not, you’ve probably already adjusted your training based on your training and/or race performances. You’ve done more speed work. You’ve added hills. You started wearing magnetic bracelets and offered a pet as a sacrifice to Dick Beardsley. Internet? Oh, yeah, you’ve been to Hal Higdon, McMillan Running, Complete Running. You have a subscription to Runner’s World. You read blogs. For some reason, you’re even reading this blog. In short, you know where to find the information you need. It’s all out there. Running coaches don’t have some secret stash of knowledge. This isn't the DaVinci Code. There's nothing hidden under the Johnny Kelley statue. Then you mix and match and try things out. Persistence, you haz it.

Now, I’m going to stop right here because I can already here the 3 hour marathoner snorting derisively and saying, Nitmos, you don’t know what you are talking about. I needed a coach to fulfill my dreams. You, sir or madam, are an overachiever and in the top 2% of runners. You are not the target audience. You are not like the rest of us. You want to pay for a coach to get you into the top 1.9% bracket? Knock yourself out (but I’m guessing you don’t hire some dude or dudette with an online coaching certificate.) In my head, that’s how the conversation goes, anyway.

For the rest of us amateurs, our persistence will pay off through our…patience. That’s right, patience. I know the ultimate goal for a lot of runners is to get from A to B as fast as possible (implied: without pooping self). And sometimes you want something so badly that you speed up the process by increasing mileage too quickly or doing more interval speed work than your body is prepared to handle. Or mentally beating yourself up if improvement isn't going as fast as you hoped. You want to PR a race in two months. You want to BQ at your next marathon. In other words, forget the patience, like Violet Beauregarde, you want it and you want it now. But if you attempt to grow more quickly than your body can reasonably respond, you’ll pull a Krispy Kreme. Sure, it’ll work for awhile – remember when Krispy Kreme’s were all the rage? – but then it may just fall apart in the form of injury or frustration or a Rick Perry campaign.

Patience. It’s good enough that your race times are slowly going down - even if it is falling slower than you had hoped. Remember, you are persistent and you can be patient. It's downward trending. I always wanted to BQ and got lucky doing so in my second marathon. But I didn’t place all of my hopes on that race so I wouldn’t have been disappointed if it didn’t happen. I knew my training was getting better with each passing week, month, year. I would be patient. I would be persistent. It would take what it took but I would get there.

Stand back and look at the big picture of your running, your abilities, and how things that was so hard are not so hard anymore. It doesn’t look good over the last few months? Then stand further back and take in more of the big picture. Heck, if you need to, back up all the way to Philadelphia (!).

Patience and persistence, baby. When I get frustrated with my training, I always remember those words. They soothe me like a nipple suckling baby. And, see there? I didn’t rob you of your journey. You’ll find your own path to your goals and you’ll be the richer due to your uniquely personal introspective journey. This even applies to you goofy barefoot bastards.

But if that’s not good enough – things need to happen quicker and you believe someone is holding a secret cheesesteak of knowledge just past your outreached arms - email me and I can turn around and email back a training plan for you in about ten minutes and 12 mouse clicks. Fee, as always, is $75.

Happy trails.

*You may score ten points for Gryffindor if you tried this at home – before reading this footnote.

**Running Blogger Life Cycle:
New Runner -->Run Blogger -->Improving Runner -->Running Coach

Where are you in the cycle?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Runner Punished For Thinking on His Feet

I know we are supposed to be all Over The Moon over the preggo that finished the Chicago Marathon on Sunday then squirted out an 18 year tax credit a mere few hours later. I know this because everyone is discussing it ad nauseam like it is some morality play that needs to be debated endlessly. Then we can decipher your position and figure out who watches Fox News and who watches MSNBC based on where you come out. I love taking sides on relatively inconsequential, non-important issues that don’t concern me. Did you hear about the woman in Ohio that planted her tomatoes next to potatoes IN THE SAME GARDEN? CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? Discuss.

Besides, I’ve birthed an eight pounder myself immediately following the 2008 Detroit Marathon and it barely made news. Of course, mine didn’t provide a tax break and wasn’t nearly as cute, I’m sure. His name – Nutty Cornhead – might have turned some folks off too. (That’s why I left him in the Port-a-John. He wasn’t a keeper.) So, big deal, right? Everyone shoots something out of their posterior post-race.* I just feel bad for the folks who were not only ‘chicked’ but also ‘birthed’ (and possibly ‘episiotomied’?) at the finish. How’d you like to get beat to the finish line by a rush of amniotic fluid among everything else?

No, I don’t really give a crap about Preggo Runner and Her Fabulous Birthing Adventure. There was another marathon story playing out elsewhere in the world on the same day that was far more interesting. I give a crap about running innovation. I’m not talking about the current minimalist fad.** I’m talking about true innovation. Take, for example, Rob Sloan. Rob Sloan knows that running marathons are hard. It’s a looong way, after all. Hell, 26.2 miles is basically like running two half-marathons consecutively. Two of anything back-to-back is ridiculously hard. Ever eat at two buffets consecutively? See two Twilight movies back-to back (when even one is more than most can take)? Give attention to both of your kids in a row? Grueling.***

So Rob knows that marathons are difficult, taxing, and dangerously anaerobic. And maybe he has a bit of Thomas Edison in him. Maybe a dash of Steve Jobs. Was he satisfied with reading by candlelight? No, he invented his own electric light. You see, Rob got to mile 20 of the Kielder Marathon. Rob was exhausted. But Rob still wanted to finish. He wasn’t going to continue using his legs, lungs, and basic human decency like a fool. That’s not how an innovator works. Rob searched for another way…another solution…a better method to achieve a goal for the common good – or his own personal glory – whichever came first.

Inspiration rarely strikes like a lightning bolt from the sky. Usually, it slowly, imperceptibly, engulfs you like…fumes from an idling bus. A true genius recognizes the signs (and smells) and follows the path. Rob got on that idling bus on Sunday. Rob rode it to a point near the finish. Rob found a solution to avoid having to use his fatigued legs and lungs and his challenged moral compass. Rob emerged from the bus and hid behind a tree in a wooded area near the course finish like true champions must do. Rob must have felt like Steve Jobs emerging from his garage with the key to future technological advances rattling around his head. Rob had immediately redefined what it meant to “finish” a marathon. Rob waited for the first and second place runners to pass by. He wanted glory but he wasn’t an enormous egomaniac. His ego was merely over-sized. He waited for the one position that would attract the least amount of attention while maximizing his rewards: Third place. Third place would be his Macintosh!

Rob Sloan, executing the strategy only he invented that day, slunk out from behind the tree, rejoined the marathon and finished third! And then, in another brilliant move, decided not to slink away quietly with his ill-gotten gains. Instead, he stuck around for photo ops and interviews in which he proclaimed the course “unbelievably tough”. For those of you who have run a marathon, three cheers to Rob Sloan! In post-Sloanian days, can we really be expected to run 26.2 consecutive miles any longer? No one reads by candlelight anymore. We don’t go backwards in our advancements (see, it says ‘advance’ right in the word advancement.) We don’t take our shoes off again once we start wearing them. We don’t go back to spears once we invented guns. Heck, we won’t go back to guns once we invent laser guns. It’s called progress. And the new standard for completing a marathon is to run until you are fatigued…and then hop a bus to the finish. There’s something charmingly Amazing Racish about it.

But did we embrace this advancement? No. The heartless race organizers stripped him of his medal. He was deemed unworthy. His innovation for completing a marathon was tossed into the dustbin of history. He must feel like the inventor of Betamax. Rob Sloan, unrecognized champion of the everyman marathon runner:

The people's champion!

We salute you.

It does lead me to wonder…if an innovation like the bus-aided marathon isn’t embraced, how are folks going to accept my original concept, the Segway marathon? Time will tell. I’m sure Edison and Jobs had the same apprehensions.

In the meantime…

Happy busing.

*That’s where babies come from right?

**I know, I know, it’s not a fad. Rock n’ Roll and TV are not a fad either even though everyone thought they were at the time. And, sure, eyeglasses are just a human made attempt to correct the natural sight of the eye – FAD! – when we all know that the best way for the eye to see is through its natural state. It cannot be improved upon. Throw down your glasses and crunch them under your minimalist shoes! While you’re at it, throw down your hearing aids and insulin pumps and crush them under a Five Fingered heel! Colostomy bag? Remove that and….gently deposit that in the garbage please.

***Believe me, Chutes and Ladders never gets more fun the MORE you play. I started to see Slides in my nightmares. Thankfully, my kids have outgrown this adult torture game.

Friday, October 07, 2011

All Clear, Full Spite Ahead

As I survey the weeks ahead from the captain’s bridge of the S.S. Nitmos, everything looks clear and smooth. There is nothing – nada, zippo, zilch – on the schedule. Not a race to be found. No fun run. No Halloween adults-dressed-up-on-a-holiday-meant-for-children costume run. No post-Thanksgiving work-off-the-food-orgy run. No Jingle Bell freeze-your-ass-off run. Heck, I don’t even see one of those weird webcentric “virtual 5k’s” being promoted anywhere (at least, anywhere that I can find one to hyphenate into a mocking phrase). I literally have nothing to look forward to except death and taxes…and American Idol.*

I don’t even have to run if I don’t want to. So why I am?

Oh, yeah, that’s because the races are really just lighthouses on the ocean of my running life. I could live a nice anonymous running existence without the races or the blog. Neither drives the running for me anyhow except for as a tool to release the built up pressure of lame, over-boiled nautical metaphors. Believe it or not, I don’t derive any motivation from your snarky comments left to insult or critique me.** I run and blog purely out of spite. I comment on your blogs when I’m feeling spiteful. I definitely race out of spite. And I blog filled with venomous spite. I’m not even going to go with the obvious, cheap joke that I sit around drinking Sprite because it’s the closest thing to fuel my spite. I’m not going to do it. Out of spite, once again.

So, despite the fact that I have no races ahead and no PR’s with which to Jell-o wrestle, I haven’t slacked off on my non-existent training log one bit. I was at the track on my lunch hour yesterday rounding it in perfect concentric 400 meter ovals in the midst of a round of 800’s. The day was warm for a Michigan October. The fallen yellow and orange leaves criss-crossing the football field with every whim of the wind. Sweat was pouring from my brow, neck, and Tootsie Rolled abdomen. I was killing myself out on the track and…I couldn’t think why. Why? Why do this to yourself? There are no lighthouses ahead. I plan to stay in the ocean and eat Tootsie Rolls for the foreseeable future.*** Who needs it, right? I finished the 800’s anyway despite your expectations that I would suddenly quit and jog home. Out of spite, once again.

Well, I need it, I guess. I get even crankier if I take a few days off. I’m pretty unpleasant to begin with but, if I miss a few runs, “spite” will be the least of anyone’s concerns about me. Try “felonious assault” or “llama torture” or “Cambodian orphanage arson”. What am I running for? Uh, perhaps my sanity, my well-being, and my rabid appetite for fudge stripe cookies and Tootsie Rolls (not to say that I’d kick sour balls out of bed for melting, youknowwhatImean?)

I might be swinging in the hammock on the open seas right now, untwisting my delicious Rolls and gulping down the rum and Sprite Coke, but, believe me, I’m still putting the work in. The 800’s are still getting eight hundreded. The occasional 1200 gets twelved. The long runs, as always, are completed at a much faster pace than any running coach would desire (but what do they really know, right?). I limbo the fuck out of a few runs here and there just to show it who’s boss. It’s all clear and smooth sailing.

Eventually, I’ll flop out of the hammock into a pile of crumpled Tootsie wrappers, shave my scraggly beard, wax my anus**** and point the ship to the nearest lighthouse. When the mood strikes, that is. And that mood is spite, once again.

Happy sailing.

*Kidding, I’m an X Factor man, of course.
**By the way, the guy – don’t remember the name - who keeps popping up to point out my spelling or grammatical errors, you understand of course that I spend less than 7 seconds editing. If you would like to be my unpaid editor, call me.
***Seriously, Halloween is hard enough without all of the candy specials going on right now that get your “pre-Halloween” gorge-fest started early. Tootsie Rolls? Little gobs of faintly fecal-reminiscent goodness with a fun little pull and twist open!
****You don’t?

Postscript: I had meant to punch this little Sea Tale up with a few pirate references. You know, arrrr, thar she blows (t.w.s.s.) and a few references to lubbers and bilge rats, that kind of thing. You can go back and re-read and drop a few Ahoy ye mateys! where you see fit. Hell, go ahead and change the title to A Runners Life For Me while yer at it. What do I care? Now, hand me the second bag of Tootsie Rolls and GTFO.