Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear Speed Work

Dear Speed Work,

I love our Tuesday dates but I have a small, teeny tiny list of grievances. I think we’ve been seeing each other long enough to air these out in an open and honest forum, right?

First, and I hope this isn’t too direct, why are you such a fickle bitch? One day, you are easy to please and the laps just pass on by with both of us getting a good workout in. I enjoy your sultry ovalness; you relish the pounding of my feet. I leave healthier, happier and faster. The next, well, it’s an absolute slog. It feels like my legs have a pair of hungry, desperate orphans attached. Why do you have to make it so tough on me? And why don’t you warn me before I get to the track as a little friendly heads up that the Oliver Twist twins are around? Please, sir, can we have some more speed?

Is it so much to ask to cut down the amount of wind smacking me in the face around the first turn? I mean, really. EVERY TIME??? I know your home football team isn’t that popular so your stands weren’t built very wide or high but, heck, is that the fault of the runners? How hard is it to gently re-direct the wind so it is continually at my back? Or, at the very least, create a windless vacuum within which I can complete my speed session. You’ve become very selfish.

And you can plead innocence all you want but I KNOW that you make the track slightly larger after every lap. I’m doing 800 intervals but, really, don’t we both know that the second 400 meters is more like 450 meters? Clever trick. At first, I thought I might just be a little out of shape but, I checked in the mirror, and it’s not me. Is this more of your passive-aggressive nature coming through? I can hear you chuckling through my gasps, chokes, and sobs as I finish my third 850 interval.

I won’t blame you for the prolonged cold spell. That’s not your fault. But who placed that discarded green sweatshirt, crumpled in a heap in lane three? At first, I thought Oh, someone left a sweatshirt. After my second 800 and second tussle with the cold, biting wind in my face after turn one, I felt like the sweatshirt was put there on purpose. You know like, I don’t need it because I’m so hot but look at you in your hat, gloves and wind pants that flap and snap like a Sunfish jib sail coming about. By the fourth interval, it was pretty clear that the green sweatshirt was mocking me. The wind was frickin’ BLOWING in my face – if I had MC Hammer parachute pants I believe I might have taken flight – but that damn green sweatshirt just sat in its insolent, motionless heap. It was completely unaffected by the wind. And, yes, that was me that spit at you before my last 400 meters.

And finally, when will you get the water fountain working? I realize this has nothing to do with the track itself but the entire show – the track, the wind, the cold, the green sweatshirts, the water fountain – all need to come together to perfectly execute my symphony of speed. You don’t even give me false hope for water. I can see the pipes that were removed for winter have not been restored yet. How am I to complete my last 800 with the vision of a water oasis if there is no water? That’s a key part of the water oasis vision. You want me to suck my own spit from the green sweatshirt, don’t you?

I hope we can work this out. I intend to see you all spring, summer and fall and it’d be really nice if we could get along. What I’m saying is….it’s not me, it’s you. I’m a perfectly tuned speed machine. I’m quite sure that the long winter layoff from any meaningful speed work had no effect on me whatsoever. It’s you that’s to blame. You and your ever expanding oval. You and your filthy, contemptuous discarded sweatshirt. You and your annoying wind patterns. You You YOU.

As you can see, I’ve come here in an open, honest and non-judgmental fashion hoping to work things out. I hope you’ll make the changes necessary so that we can have enjoyable Tuesdays together.

In other words, stop being such a bitch.


Friday, March 25, 2011


tresseled (v.) (1) To create a façade of integrity that hides fraudulent ethics (2) cloaked in a sweater vest (3) the feeling of soul-crushing defeat created in a Michigan football player after losing another game to Ohio State

Jimmy Two-Face

Can you use it in a sentence, please?
I told my mom that I found a home for the orphan kittens – she was so proud of me -but really I drowned them in a tub, to the amusement of my imaginary friends, to loosen their skin so I could turn their skulls into bongs. I tresseled my mom. Go OSU!

If you haven’t heard of him, Jim Tressel is a successful University of Ohio State college football coach. Outside the state of Ohio, he’s been officially exposed as a liar and rule breaker with a win at all costs attitude. He’s the “Pete Carroll of the Midwest”. However, within Ohio, like Garmin itself, he is still considered infallible. There is no sense arguing with an Ohioan on this matter. It would be the same as telling me Hilary Swank is not hot.* Until recently the rest of the world, which may not have been paying close attention here, here, here, here, and here, thought he was a fine upstanding professional operating at the top of his craft. In fact, if you wanted a college coach to write an inspirational book filled with Bible stories and motivational thoughts for #winning, then he might have been the go to guy. Hey, looky here, Go To.

Now, of course, the sweater vest has been ripped off revealing the seedy underbelly of deceit and pecksniffery.

I was pondering this hypocritical public image vs. self-serving guile the other day. Barry Bonds is still on the run with his fancy lawyers fighting steroid allegations. Lance Armstrong, let’s face it, has been backpedaling for years now under a cloud of unproven allegations. Heroes once lauded for their athletic accomplishments seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in court rooms these days. I don’t want to start unsubstantiated rumors but I might have seen Michael Jordan travel with the ball every now and then too.

A few months back, Runner’s World had an interesting article about Eddy Hellebuyck, an American marathon champion and confessed performance enhancing doper. It was shocking because we simply don’t hear that too often in the running community. Doping? That’s for huge-headed baseball sluggers and rubber-legged cyclists. Cheating? That’s for Senatorial college coaches with little to no fashion sense.

We cheer on our marathon champions like the hyper-trained, well-coached, perfectly tuned runners we know they are. They have abnormal dedication to the sport. Maybe their genes are better suited to distance running than the rest of us. Perhaps their internal balance and biomechanics are simply superior. In short, they are a perfect cocktail of physical and mental preparedness. They train extraordinarily hard and we both envy and applaud them for their accomplishments. And not one of them wears a sweater vest.

But are we being deceived? What if you woke up tomorrow and discovered that world’s great marathon champions failed tests for performance enhancing drugs? Their victories were unearned. Their times were drug-aided. As a runner, would it matter to you that the sport you love has been tarnished?

Running makes such a strong, natural connection with the amateur athlete in part because the elite of the sport aren’t pampered, multi-million dollar athletes. They aren’t in rap videos pointing at gyrating booty. They normally aren’t on our boxes of Wheaties (even though they probably should be). In fact, if you participate in a popular marathon, there’s a good chance one of the elite runners will be participating in the very same race at the very same time. When’s the last time Kobe Bryant was in your pick-up basketball game? Elite runners seem just like the rest of us…just better at running.

There’s something pure and natural about the sport as well. Of course, all runners joke and laugh about the hidden costs (race & travel fees, shoes aren’t getting any cheaper) but, at its core, running is still just about you and your movement. Nothing more. You don’t need others to play a game. You don’t require pads or helmets or fancy uniforms (though I would suggest most of you need to wear a shirt, please.) It’s about how your body moves and what you can make it do with applied training. Running is the foundation of almost every sport. It’s the link that ties them together (except for you, bowling, but no one really considers you a sport.)

I’m not naïve to think that there aren’t, or won’ t be, elite runners willing to obtain their goals by cutting some corners. It would be tremendously disappointing. It’d rock the sport the same way cycling and the 100 meter sprint have become clouded. Like it or not, when the new 100 meter Olympic champion is crowned, how long does it take you to wonder if he/she's on steroids? I’d hate to have the dramatic climax of an epic marathon be the drug test administered thirty minutes later. Ryan Hall steps out of the port-a- potty with a cup of deep yellow, dehydrated urine waving to the crowd while a group of men in white lab coats signal “it’s good” with upraised arms. And the the crowd erupts! Folks, it’s official, he has won the marathon…pending second test in a week….

I hope our elite runners are making the correct choices. It’s not just about them and their race. It’s about all of us. When the marathon gun bangs, the elites, the near elites, the BQ aspirants, the ‘just finishers’ and the first timers are all taking off together as one community. I hope the elites are running to win…and not away from a secret.

Run, Tressel, Run...they are gaining on you.

Is there a wolf in sheep’s sweater vest in our midst? Are we all being tresseled?

Happy trails.

*I love outlandishly large teeth disproportionate to the rest of the face. Also, The Next Karate Kid? Awesome.

Want to see shame in action? Look, the man can’t even look at his fans – or camera – in the face. Seriously, flip through every page. The shame. The subtitle to this series of photos is: "Strangers caress OSU coach Jim Tressel's back while he's busy writing his next novel about ethics across the face of many footballs."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You Gotta Want It

I know that sounds like the title of Jack Nicholson’s next romantic comedy but it’s not. Or, at least, not yet. I’m sure he’ll get around to it. You may ask, How Do You Know? Well, it’s a colloquial phrase so…Something’s Gotta Give.

Actually, the phrase “you gotta want it” is providing much comedic relief these days around the Nitmos home. If I were into rhetorical questions, I’d probably insert a “what’s the big deal with this phrase?” right about here. Fortunately, I’m not so I’ll just tell you straight out.

My colt plays premier league soccer here in wet, rainy, population-dwindling Michigan. If you thought parents could be intense at regular youth league sporting events, wait until you start throwing around hundreds* of dollars, driving half-way across the state at 5 AM for a tournament every other weekend, and watching teenage boys learn the subtle art of referee-evading elbow jabs to the neck and mid back. Mrs. Nitmos and I normally just stand and chat with some of the more, ahem, 'relaxed' team parents, applauding where needed but, generally, staying out of the hub-bub.

There is a group of more aggressive parents attached to our team, like most teams, and they let their presence be felt with a series of catcalls to the ref (usually by completely misunderstanding the offsides rule), loud mid-game critiquing of their (or not their!) son’s performance, and an intensity that would scare the smart into Snooki. We like to keep at least a ten yard gap between that group and our group. Guilt by association, you know?! They are just a bi-colored face paint job, no shirt, and a flammable object away from being your prototypical soccer hooligan. Our normal operating procedure is to greet this group with a friendly ‘Hello’, casually check their hands for broken bottles and/or gas soaked rags, scan for the nearest exit in case of riot and then march off ten yards to our Zone of Serenity. Serenity now.

Out of that group, there is usually one voice that rises above. Now, the kids at this level don’t need to be encouraged to play hard anymore. In fact, if you don’t play hard, you just get run over. But that doesn’t stop one team parent from continually shouting “You gotta want it!” every three minutes like clockwork while the kids run around with sweat-drenched faces. “You gotta want it!” Three minutes. “You gotta want it!” Three minutes.

He’s truly become a master at You Gotta Want It. Using only those 4 four (ish) words, he’s able to convey encouragement, hope, anger, disappointment, and condemnation just by slightly changing the tone, emphasis and inflexion of the words. It always starts with an encouraging “You gotta want it!” If a few of our players lose some one vs. one battles, it turns to an angry “You GOTTA want it!” Finally, if the boys fall behind late in the game, you can feel the disgust rising from his belly as he throws his arms up and wails “You gotta WANT it!”

It’s as annoying as it is humorous. Don’t think I don’t take every opportunity to drive Mrs. Nitmos and the kids nuts with it either. If my colt loses, I’ll innocently ask him, “What happened? Didn’t you want it?”

When Mrs. Nitmos had trouble with a cake due to our constantly malfunctioning stove, I wandered into the kitchen, looked at the sunken baked good and stated, “Well, you gotta want it.”

Approaching a yellow light signal, the car in front of me chooses to slow to a stop rather than punch it and make it through. Of course, I flip them off and yell, “You gotta want it…asshole!” (Sometimes you need that extra word.)

Even the minutest thing can be an opportunity to use it. My filly can’t get the remote for the TV to work? “C’mon….you GOTTA WANT IT!”

In fact, the phrase has risen to a level where it’s now one of our much used family acronyms, like F.U., M-F’er, or PTF**:

You Gotta Want It = YGWI or "yig-wee".

Now, You Gotta Want It guy shouts his catch phrase during a match and Mrs. Nitmos and I can look at each other, nod, and say “Yig-wee….definitely a yig-wee moment” without starting an intra-fan bleacher brawl.

The phrase has even crept its way into my running. After a few loooong months of winter maintenance running, I’ve just started to get back into regular speed work. After a prolonged break, those first few track sessions can be grueling. Yesterday, I found myself puffing around the track on the last lap of my last 800 and fighting the temptation to slow when *pop* into my head came You Gotta Want It. I DID want it. Yig-wee, M-F'ers, yig-wee. Everyone needs a mantra. Maybe mine is yig-wee. Suddenly, I had an epiphany. Maybe Yig-Wee Man is right after all. You DO gotta want it. And it IS nice to be reminded every three minutes….that’s less than once every interval after all.

I finished my 800’s and took an easy pace for my mile plus cool down run home satisfied that I must have made Yig-Wee Man proud somewhere. Clearly, he's onto something here. Maybe I'll join his group for the next game and make his solo act a duet.

You gotta want it? Yes, you do. I hope you Yig-Wee your runs as well. That phrase is As Good As It Gets.

Happy Yig-Wee.

**Pass The Fudge stripes

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Joy of Six

I love six. It’s such a great number. It was my number when I played tee-ball for Trude’s Hardware as a wee lad. I remember it was my number because there is a cute little picture of me in my blue and yellow Trude’s Hardware uniform holding a bat and wearing a goofy over-sized, straight-brimmed hat (don’t bother to slope the brim for me, I'm good. Thanks Mom and Dad!) with an adorable, slightly mischievous, smile. There’s a giant shiny, ironed-on “6” on my back…the kind of giant number sticker that slowly peels off with each wash. Seriously, it’s priceless. If you saw the photo, you’d purse your lips, go “awwww” and pinch my cheeks. Guaranteed.

I also love six because of its many and varied uses. It’s the perfect way to describe my pack of abs. It’s my favorite number of beers to place on my lap to watch the NCAA tournament (after first clearing the puppy with a gentle arm sweep and yelp). Need to tattoo the mark of the beast on your children? Try doing it with triple fours. You’ll be lucky to get a disgruntled leprechaun. And how else would you know how many possible film roles separate your favorite actor from Kevin Bacon? Want to obtain '36' by multiplying the same number against itself? Yeah, I think you get the point.

Six is good. It’s great in a group but also nice by yourself. Oh – tee hee – I see how that could be misconstrued. Unintended.

Six has been showing up a lot more lately and I’m happy to see it. After a long winter of uneven, slippery surfaces, all of my mile paces started with sevens and, on a few occasions, eights. I wondered if I’d ever see six again.

Then, the snow melted, the temperatures warmed, my Sherpa running gear remained in the closet, and, lo and behold, there are the sixes again. They aren’t as regular as I would like yet. They show up sporadically in my mile splits like pimples on the chin of a “before” Proactiv celebrity. I’d like to fill the Garmin up with sixes like a real pizza face but these things take time. I’ll be content with a six here and a six there and a few sixes clustered over there on the bridge of the nose.

I’ve become such a six fiend that when my 800 interval pace dropped into the fives recently, I became a bit annoyed. Fives?! There was no Five Million Dollar Man. It took all Six Million to make the bionics work. (And seven million is just being wasteful. I think we can all agree on that.)

Next week, my tempo run should return lots of sixes as I kick the half-marathon training into full speed. The sixes will pop up with every beep of the Garmin. The question will become: what six was best? It’ll be a regular battle of the sixes.

Until then, I’m happy to see its sporadic return. Some say that a six is merely a poor man’s nine. An upside down number. A hastily drawn “G”. They don’t respect the six. But a 9 is structurally unsound. The heavy circle hangs precariously on an off-center stem. Just look at it: 9. That thing could collapse at any moment. Name me one engineer that would build something like that. No, a six is where it’s at. More stable. More pleasing to the eye. More loaded with euphemisms. Besides, it even has its own proverb:

A Six in Time Saves Nine

Or something like that.

I’m enjoying the sixes. I hope to enjoy six more often. As a solo runner, it’s something I can directly control. No matter what I do at home, when I lace up the shoes and head out, Mrs. Nitmos can’t possibly withhold six from me.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Master Me

Weird choice for me. Who's Karen?

Well, it’s done. I turned forty. I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth and grabbed my seat cushion but nothing rattled, shook, or exploded. When I slowly opened my eyes, there was nothing different but a confused restaurant full of people staring at me. Turns out, forty came in like a llama lamb (and a chips and salsa appetizer).

Now, officially, I’m a MASTER. And who thinks I’d let THAT go without an insufferable blog post? In fact, who thinks there won’t be a SERIES of insufferable blog posts about how I’m a Master? If there’s one thing I’m a master of it’s the Master of Insufferability.

There are some things that will have to change now. For one, there will be a sharp decline in masturbation jokes. Even though the root word MASTER appears within it, I’m exercising considerable restraint here not to make a cheap chicken choke joke. See how I’ve grown? I’m not going to flog that joke at all even though every fiber of my being demands comeuppance. I’m going to five knuckle shuffle along to other topics…

I can’t remember what I was talking about* but….here’s some other things I know will change beginning today:

· I no longer know how to operate a DVR. Too bad because I have some good shit on there.
· I’m too old to make fart jokes on this blog. Fartlek included.
· I’m no longer a “wise ass”. Now I’m “wise”.
· I’m too old to blog.
· Ten years until I can join AARP!
· What’s a blog?
· Looking forward to arthritis. Er, too late.
· Do they make Metamucil flavored Gu?
· Time to shop for a Corvette, gold chain, and a midlife crisis!
· When’s Matlock on?
· Last week, the neighbor kids played in my yard. Now, the little hooligans are causing a disturbance and…GET OFF MY LAWN!
· I run exactly the same times but, suddenly, my age graded finish just jumped a few notches!
· A new word to snicker at: “infirm”
· Now that I think of it, why can’t I wear black socks with shorts while mowing the lawn? Just makes sense…less to wash.
· I’m going to run in Keds now. They are sensibly priced.
· Tried on some side split running shorts. Looked sharp. Bought them.
· Wow, didn’t think hair could grow there.

Mrs. Nitmos and the kids wined and dined me for my birthday this weekend in the fashion to which I’ve become accustom: dinner coupons and cheap bargain restaurant beer. Then, I was treated to several shows – all soccer games – where the filly and colt went a combined 3-0 and were not scored upon. Nothing says “birthday” like the scent of crushed tire mixed with artificial grass and the faint hope that the kids are actually enjoying this time and money sucking activity. Now go chase that black and white ball little filly! (Implied: Score goal or walk home.)

Starting now, this Quadragenarian runner already has plans to master the USATF All American Standards of Excellence for road racing as defined by the National Masters News. Why? Because that's what old people do to stay relevant. It's either that or shuffleboard. And they have a website and arbitrarily listed times. (shoulder shrug) Seems official. I’m a sucker for numbers. And I like a challenge. Especially a challenge I can already beat. Currently, I can best every one of the listed times. But can I do it in a knee brace (I have to get one of those, right?) while fretting over my 401k and kids’ non-existent college fund? I guess therein lies the challenge.

If you thought I couldn’t toss around any more arrogance on this blog, I bet you forgot all about this whole “Master” thing, didn’t you? Time to step it up a notch. Heck, I might even be able to lure our (largely) dormant friends Ian, Blogger Formerly Known As Vanilla, and RazZ, er, other blogger guy, back to regular blogging through their futile hopes to Take Me Down A Notch. If I can land those two fish, what would that make me?

A Master Baiter.

Happy….um, what time’s Bingo?

*First Alzheimers joke!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Life By A Thousand Runs

About eleven summers ago, I went for my first run. I went about a half mile – one loop of my neighborhood – and stopped. I wasn’t exhausted but I was breathing heavy. I was surprised how difficult it was to run for 5 minutes straight. At the time, I played pick-up basketball frequently and could get up and down the court as fast - or faster - than most. I thrived at diving into a middle of a group of ballers underneath the rim, jabbing my razor sharp elbows into some ribs to clear room, and coming down with a rebound, passing the ball out, then exploding down court for a return pass. Surely a little bit of “jogging” would be easy right?

Turns out, this running thing was a whole lot tougher than I expected.

Over the first several months, those “jogs” were difficult. It was tough to go more than a mile at a time. Eventually I built up to three miles. Still, I always felt awkward and disjointed when I ran. I told Mrs. Nitmos repeatedly that I just wasn’t a natural runner. My breathing felt off. My arms and legs were hopelessly kicking out in strange angles. I thought that I must look like an epileptic having a fit while running. Nothing was smooth. No flow. Certainly it was obvious to others with every step I took that I was a beginner. My knees were chopping too high; my feet slapped too much; my elbows were unnaturally akimbo. I even remember feeling a touch self-conscious when one of those seasoned runners with the hip angular sunglasses and moisture-wicking….everything…would run by me and my cotton t-shirt.

I was 30 years old when I went for my first run. I made a goal to run a 5k in my hometown that I’d been aware of since I was a little kid. I probably would have quit running early on if I didn’t at least want to run this race first. Basketball was my thing. Running was just a short-term affair.

The race came and went. I had fun. Compared to my age group, I did reasonably well finishing in the top 40%. I was surprised that many of the other runners looked just like me…except with less efficient Adam’s apples and not as quick with spontaneous observational humor. That’s when the competitor within took over.

If I shave two more minutes, I can get in the top 20 for my age group.

If I shave three more minutes, top 10!

Maybe I’ll try one more race after a few more months of training.

BOOM. Hooked!

Over time, my running style smoothed out. My breathing is pretty relaxed even at strenuous intervals. I don’t even think about those things anymore. Mrs. Nitmos tells me that she can always spot me coming from far away because of my distinctive high front knee kick when I run. Maybe it's the Vegas showgirl in me. Or maybe it’s the same as it always was….it just feels natural now. Alas, I own a moisture-wicking burial tuxedo.*

I don’t know how many runs I’ve completed over the last ten plus years. For the first few years, I’d stop running completely for 3-4 months over winter to continue playing basketball. I still normally only run three times a week due to time constraints. I would guess I’ve run about a thousand times now, probably more. I’m still searching for PR’s. I haven’t played a single game of pick-up basketball in three years.

The phrase “death by a thousand cuts” is often used metaphorically to describe the gradual destruction of something by repeated minor attacks.** What do you call the gradual construction – in this case, of a RUNNER – over time by a series of minor actions?

I’m on the precipice of age 40. The next time I post, I’ll be on the other side. I’ll let you know how it looks. A new age group to compete within beckons. I’ll officially be called a Master. It’s about time.

I guess this is life by a thousand runs.

Happy trails.

*It’s got to be hot in a coffin right?
** source

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I Steal Your Confidence

I’m a big believer in finiteness. In fact, I find the whole concept of “infinity” infinitely boring. How can there be boundless, unlimited supply of something…of anything? It’s unnatural. The Tea Partiers tell me it’s un-American too. For every person or thing that “has”, there must be an equal and opposite person or thing that “has not” in order to keep the universe in balance. Since their shirts are more star-spangled than mine – spangled stars aren’t moisture wicking – I have to believe it’s true.*

I guess this applies to CONFIDENCE as well.

We all know how important it is to arrive at the starting line on race day with full blown Confidentitis. Very rarely can you turn a pre-race “oh, God, I just hope I don’t shit myself” shoulder slumped case of the jitters into a PR. It can be done but then you’d be the exception that proves the rule. It’s better to stare down the first 100 meters of the race course with the eye of the tiger** You’ve done the work. You’ve finally beaten Apollo in the ocean front trail race. Paulie has been playfully dunked in the pool. It’s time to ace the test. Bring it!

That type of confidence would be A-MAAZING to have come race day. But it’s not realistic.

Usually, I’m somewhere between mildly pessimistic and mildly optimistic. My confidence is never extremely low but also rarely very high. This is why most people think I’m obtuse, which I assume means something similar to “pragmatic”. There’s a simmering, modestly-filled bowl of confidence within but I’m not jumping up and down whooping it up and telling everyone how “I’m about to make them my bitches” as soon as the gun sounds. (We’ve all seen that right?)

Assuming there is only a certain number of units of Confidence available at the start line amongst the group; I need to steal some of yours if I want that PR. I arrive early to top off my bowl.

If I overhear you nervously chatting with a friend about how scared you are about your first race, I make a point to sidle on up next to you and whisper, “You are under trained. You’re going to struggle today.”

If you happen to look like you are in worse shape than me, I smile and say “thanks for volunteering! It’s people like you that make these races possible for runners like me!”

Fiddling with your Garmin? I might come up and ask if it really matters. Really? (elevator eyes up and down) Does it?

I love to ask about others’ PR’s and, when they tell me, smile condescendingly and reply “oh, it sounds like running is not really your thing then? Are you good at volleyball?”

Aren’t wearing a shirt or, if female, have a tank top on? I’ll innocently ask if “they are part of a weight-loss group activity.”

I can just feel my bowl of Confidence filling at the expense of yours. It’s like in Spiderman 2 when Doc Ock uses his reactor and all the metal in New York starts sucking into his waterfront lab. I get more powerful as you weaken. I’m sucking in your Confidence like a fatty at a Jell-o bar armed with only a straw.

If I can acquire enough Confidence, when the gun sounds, I’m off to a jack-rabbit start. The sight of your Confidence being carried off with me further depletes your reserves.

They say “a rising tide lifts all boats” but that’s really not true in the Confidence game. It’s finite. It can be bought and sold. It can be stolen. The truth is that “a rising tide lifts some boats, but others will run aground.”*** It’s more like a teeter-totter. In order for me to succeed, others must fail.

Next time you arrive at a start line, beware of a Con Man like me working the crowd, slurping up your PR with a gurgle through a straw. Think your shorts make you look fat? They do, I hiss. Not sure if today’s your day? It isn’t. Wonder what kind of beer awaits at the finish? It’s Blatz.

Consider this fair warning. Race day CONFIDENCE is key to your success. There are Con Men out there looking to steal it. Heck, they might even be inside your own head. (Your subconscious is the biggest offender after all.) When a Con Man approaches as you loosen at the start line, tell ‘em to take a hike. You feel great; you look great; you will BE great. They’ll wander off to work the crowd for their next victim.

Fall prey and, well, you’ll be infinitely sad.

Happy trails.

*Ever run a marathon with an ankle holster? The only thing that soothes the chafe is the freedom dancing in my heart.
**Or tiger blood in the veins? Dammt, I don’t know where to go with this “tiger” metaphor now.
***Gene Sperling


I’m happy to see that there aren’t many Filthy Hippies out there based on the latest poll results. Or, as commenter Jess observes, maybe they are all just 'too stoned to take the poll'? Could be.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Running the Numbers

There are two kinds of runners: The jerks that beat me and the losers I beat.

I kid, I kid. I like to do that. Don’t get your compression shorts in an awkward snag.

Runner Spike is currently evacuating his training log bowels all over his last few posts. If you are in to the numerical scatology scene, it’s fantastic! There are maps, paces, distances, elevations, graphs, charts, Spam, and decimals as far as the eye can see! Oh my, clean up needed at La Casa Nitmospants. For a numbers nerd like me, it’s like heroin in the eyeballs….like watching a group of llamas get run over by a riding lawnmower…

Lurking underneath his numbers dump, there’s a deeper conversation about the importance numbers and statistics are to a runner. Or should be. And one of the things I do real well is take someone else’s post, modify the discussion slightly, and present it as my own original idea. Do you think those endless economic term papers I wrote in college came out of my own alcohol-addled brain? Mama didn’t raise many llamas.

I think he’s suggesting that it’s better to be one of those hippie runners, that wear tie-dye shirts and over-sized headbands and tell everyone how running is so great “because, like, you get to commune with nature, man, and that’s an awesome thing…especially after smoking a box of dried Gu Tri-berry while rockin’ out some Phish”, than a number/Garmin/third decimal place spreadsheet fanatic. The reason I think that’s what he thinks is because it would so conveniently set up the rest of my discussion. Plus, I’m hiding behind a pseudonym and general protection of critical commentary on the internet has already been defined by the courts.

There are two main types of runners: The numbers obsessed and the numbers indifferent. The numbers obsessed are usually meticulous training log jockeys, PR chasers, and/or time goal setters. If you’ve graphed your pace/distance over a period of time just for fun, you’ve given yourself away. The numbers obsessed usually track every run through a Garmin or Garmin-like device. They read the results like tea leaves searching for the magical secret to speed and/or distance. The thing that makes them happy are PR’s and more appealing times to plot on the log – even if they have to go to four decimal places to get it.

The numbers indifferent are hippies. (I kid, I kid. Don’t get your bong in a knot.) The numbers aren’t the scene, man. It’s about the feeling of the motion….the wind through the unkempt hair…the hard, rough pounding of pavement under bare feet…the tunes, man, THE TUNES. It’s all about pushing yourself based on how your body feels. It’s not about the digits, man, don’t harsh their vibe with your Stalinistic Garmin. If you’ve ever created a blog post and dropped in the runner cliché “listen to your body” more than once, you’ve given yourself away. The numbers indifferent just care about the FEELING running gives them. ..the endorphin release…the thrill and satisfaction from physical exertion. And Doritos, man.

To be clear, these aren’t disconnected categories. Within every runner, a little bit of both philosophical sides exist. The numbers geek (guilty!) truly enjoy the feeling of the run, the sweat, the fatigue regardless of the statistics. Like taking the occasional hit of recreational crack, they’ll unstrap the Garmin and toss aside the over-priced shoes The Man made them buy. They’ll shuffle China Grove to the top of the playlist. They’ll run just by feel letting the air rush through their sensibly styled hair. They’ll revel in the motion and the physical exertion. When the carefree run is over, they’ll feel happy and refreshed and wonder, maybe just a little, what their pace would have been had they had their Garmin. But then it’s back to business…training logs, pace charts, DATA.

Whether they care to admit it or not, the numbers indifferent runner also occasionally checks the stove clock – the Kenmore Ironman edition – when they return from a particularly gnarly run. Then they turn on reruns of Mama’s Family and get stoned. I kid, I kid. Don’t get your Nick at Nite in a huff.

Both sides exist in each of us but there is usually a predominant force. I’m numbers obsessed. I don’t care what self-proclaimed “purists” think about that. I reconciled long ago that I’m overly competitive. I once sent the Chutes and Ladders game piece of the Little-Blond-Boy-Frolicking-In-His-Striped-Shirt flying into the wall because, dammit, he would NOT STOP GOING DOWN THAT STUPIDLY LONG SLIDE ON THE #87 SQUARE. (I’m not allowed to play Chutes and Ladders anymore.) I derive enjoyment from chasing numbers. It’s a tangible, competitive goal I can pursue in my otherwise normal suburban life. No apologies to the numbers indifferent. I love me some numbers. I love ‘em violently.

There’s no right or wrong type of runner. YOU decide what role numbers play in your experience. One way doesn’t make you more PURE than the other. It’s all about whatever gets you out the door, feeds your soul, and keeps you moving. It could be Garmins and spreadsheets or bare feet and Doritos.

Eventually, for me, I could see the pendulum swinging back from the NUMBERS side to the FEEL side as I get a little older and tire of the PR chase. But, then again, maybe not. (Does one “lose” their competitive spirit??) If - or when - that time comes, I’ll still be a RUNNER in every sense of the word.

I’ll just have shaggier hair and a penchant for quaaludes.

Happy, like, trails, man.

Your turn to speak up.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I Fired My Coach

I fired my coach today. This came after studying my post-February year-to-date totals. It’s a drastic step but something had to be done. Review the data with me and I think you’ll agree that it was necessary.

First of all, my total mileage is down 30% at this same point as last year. 30%! That’s about the same amount as Charlie Sheen’s sanity level.

I’ve done barely any speed work since December. Sure, it’s been snowy but I could have at least fartleked the dry pavement parts right? It’s like I’ve halted production on speed altogether like I’m a top-rated, though inconsequential, sitcom with a steady stream of increasingly bland one-liners.

Inspirational speeches? None. No ‘build me up buttercup’. No Adrian motivation before the big fight. No freakin’ wind beneath my wings whatsoever. Not once have I been called a 'warlock' or told that I have 'tiger blood in my veins' and those are two of the four things people primarily describe about me.*

How’s my training plan going? Well, I’ll let you know that once I find one. I’m scriptless. My coach hasn’t written a training plan since last May’s marathon. He’s so over confident that he feels like, at this point, the miles just kinda write themselves and I’m just going to laugh my way around the track.

And how about a tender massage every now and then? I don’t need oil and candles but a nice compliment about my complexion sure wouldn’t hurt, you know? I fella likes to hear that every now and then. It’s like he’s forgotten about me and is already on to his next conquest.

Forget about a diet. I’ve indulged in enough fudge strip cookies to make a Hollywood coke party think ‘whoa, that guy has had too much.’

All of this has taken place directly under the supervision of my old running coach. I can overlook the 30% decrease in mileage. I’m training for a half marathon now whereas last year it was a full marathon. And the winter has been a little harsh. But this coach seemed to be content with my 6 pound weight gain, 50% increase in wine and beer consumption (year over last), and 80% increase in Sons of Anarchy reruns. Couple that with my 40% increase in Cabin Fever coming out in the form of a series of eye-rolling “Dad jokes” foisted upon the helpless children, with no remote, and you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.

He had to go. It’s too bad because he sure was a handsome little devil. Funny too. We had really similar personalities. It was like looking in the mirror.

I think I’m going to hire this other coach I’ve seen around from time to time. He’s a bit more of a curmudgeon. He likes to flip the bird at other drivers. He’s likeable but in a completely insulting and offensive way. He says things publicly like “kill ‘em all and let someone else figure it out” and “what’s up with the hunchback?” a little too loudly for my tastes. He thinks babies are useless for interval training unless it’s to create a hurdle in lane one. He appreciates a few drinks but likes to confine it to Saturday night. And don’t get him started on the weather. That’s unacceptable excuse #1.

He’s also what I see when looking in the mirror though, as we know, the mirror reverses the image. He’s a Bizarro me and I think that’s what I need right now.

Plus, he’s promised to make me a runner with the equivalent ability of two and a half men three men.

It’s time to get serious. Run on, warlocks!

Happy trails.

*Others: asshole and douchebag.