Friday, March 30, 2012

We Are Doing This

Where’ve I been? I can tell by the many cards, letters, and strip-o-grams I received that you’ve all been very concerned that I haven’t checked in for two weeks. I mean, who leaves a picture of a marmoset up on their blog for that long? Crazy, right?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an exotic excuse to explain my absence. There are still the same number of orphans in the world that there was two weeks ago. The ASPCA animals are still walking all one-eyed and limpy. Heck, outside of a few highly insulted strip-o-gram strippers – turnabout is fair play, right? – the world is pretty much how I left it.

The fact is that my job tends to get busier at quarter end. And, no, despite what Mrs. Nitmos says, I am not an accountant. This quarter was particularly busy. So If I disappear again at the end of June, September and December, you'll know why. Tell your friends and families that I don’t need the cards and letters.* I always wondered what it would be like to be one of those people who said they were busy…and actually were. Weird. I don’t like it. I prefer the challenge of filling up my project time sheet with invented tasks. It’s my one chance each week to create pure fiction.

Though my real world has interfered with my bloggy world, there are still a few things worth noting in RazZian bullet point style:

· I learned a new word. It is German. It is spectacular. It will change your life. At least, it will change the way you view breakfast foods. In fact, I will create an entire feature length blog post about it soon enough. Prepare to be blown away. Also, prepare to spend $19.95 on the t-shirts.

· As I’ve mentioned several times (i.e. ad nauseam), my kids are deep into the world of competitive youth soccer. They don’t really want to play; we force them. Our weekends usually involve an hour drive east to watch 4-6 soccer games and an hour drive home. Maybe repeating it on Sunday. Normally, the parents are on their best behavior…until last weekend. I watched in bemused horror as sideline cheering turned into pointed comments back and forth which them developed into a chest-to-chest confrontation complete with a shouted “ARE WE DOING THIS?” Awesome. This was over a non-call on a slide tackle. I’ve long felt that, as America builds its soccer programs, the area we’ve been lagging is the full on European style soccer brawl. Unfortunately, no punches were thrown and the situation was diffused. We’re still learning how to properly view soccer.

· In the same game, my son jabbed his left leg between a rampaging forwards legs to poke check the ball away and ended up with a partially, temporarily dislocated knee cap: leg brace, sore ligaments, two weeks on the pine…which coincide with the two week Spring Break. But, alas, it could have been worse.

· To further prove my statement that my blog and running are completely disconnected (I continually read others that don’t blog when not running or feel they need to blog in order to keep up with the running), I‘ve hit all of my planned runs and am rounding into shape - even without updating this blog. Go figure. And that shape I'm rounding into is: not so round, more angular, and loaded with pointed scowls. In other words, I’m starting to re-develop my spring/summer anorexic gauntness! Others around me feel I “need to eat a cheeseburger”. I must be getting back into shape!

· My plantar fasciitis is still being present. I’ve molested the racquetball quite a bit – which has helped tremendously – but I think I over did it at the track on Tuesday. I will keep running though because that’s what I do.

· Finally, enjoy this GIF of a stumbling, bumbling Rollerblading Raptor mascot FAIL. Don’t we all just have days like this?

Did you note the pathetic drooping of the tail at the end? Now, re-watch it 150 times like I did and see if you are still laughing just as hard. Don’t forget to vote in SB Nation’s animated GIF competition.

Happy trails.

*But I prefer naughty nurse strip-o-grams. A parking meter attendant? Seriously?

Friday, March 16, 2012

One Mile Time Trial: Act One

The weather’s been so nice lately that I’ve been having a hard time coming up with excuses to stay inside the house. The kids only buy my “gamma rays activate the genetic code to transpose me into a harmless marmoset so I must remain inside” excuse so many times. Actually, warm weather makes me happy and optimistic and pleasant to be around. The problem is that I prefer sullen, despondent, and ‘a danger to self and others’* like a good Midwesterner.

But the alternative this morning was work and who wants that? So I laced them up and decided upon a one mile time trial. I’m currently base lining my fitness levels in the 400m, 800m, 1600m, 5 mile, and 10 miles by running them at a “comfortably hard” pace so I can compare them to the ridiculous improvement I seek this year and then buy myself an actual marmoset to celebrate the accomplishment. You all do this right? I’m not the only running geek with a penchant for numbers, charts, graphs, and marmosets? In fact, if I could figure out how to get data without all of the running so I could concentrate on just the numbers, charts, and graphs, “running” would be so much more enjoyable for me. AND, I’d have way more time to play with my marmoset (euphemism welcomed).

Before I list my numerous excuses for my one mile time trial time, which is really the point of this post, I better summarize the effort. The high school track is 1.3 miles from my house – perfect distance for a 9-10 minute warm up. Then, four laps of the Terrible Oval, the Ever Expanding Oval, the Circle of Doom whatever you want to call it. Then, a 1.3 mile easy run home. Now, I realize that four laps of a track does not a pure “mile” make. Fortunately, I subscribe to the “close enough” philosophy usually reserved for horseshoes and hand grenades and Viper’s syntax.

Upon rounding the third turn of lap one, I spotted a few Canadian geese, clearly directionally challenged, pecking away at the end zone of the football field. ** As long as they didn’t bother me, I wouldn’t hilariously – and cartoonishly - strangle their long black necks. But, for every pack of geese, there’s a small pack of geese groupies that hang about. A cloud of gnats had gathered on turn three. I inhaled seventeen of them before realizing that someone didn’t just throw a handful of dirt down from the bleachers. They were kamikazing into my neck, cheeks, and eyes with impunity. Do geese-following gnats carry Lyme disease? I think I have Lyme disease.

I completed all four laps without further incident. With each jaunt through turn three, fewer and fewer gnats remained as they now filled my belly. If they were high in energy, I wouldn’t care but they mostly tasted of Canadian geese feces. Don’t ask me how I know. What you do on your free time is your business as is what I do on mine.

Time: 5:39
Laps? No idea but the 4th and final lap was the fastest around 1:21. I was shooting for an even 1:25/lap but that didn’t happen.
Verdict: About where I thought having not done a full one mile hard effort in probably 4 months. If I still record a similar time in 6-8 weeks, shoot me and take care of my marmoset.

Now – if I can get a drum roll here- I present my official Litany of Excuses:

- My sinus infection still rages. I cannot spit. Too gloopy. It shoots out of my mouth but never disconnects and ends up looking like a rappeller heading to my navel by way of chin.
- Geese gnats
- Left heel plantar fasciitis still bothersome (though the racquetball foot rolling helps immensely).
- Kony
- A layer of winter blubber clings to the abdomen, refusing to budge, like Kim Kardashian clings to fame.

I’ll check back in a few weeks and have another go. By then, the geese will have moved on, the sinus and foot will have heeled, and I’ll have to come up with an entirely new litany of excuses.

Lyme disease? By then, it may be full blown.

Oh, and you can stop drum rolling.

Happy trails.

*According to police reports, psychiatric reports, school counselors, and one unfortunate drive thru window worker at Wendy’s who didn’t appreciate my threat to “biggie size” a bruise on his face.
**Clearly, the football field was marked in “yards” not “meters”. Should have been a dead giveaway to the stupid birds.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mirror Coach Reflects

Every now and again, we should all take time for some personal reflection. I spend most of my day in front of a mirror but that’s for purely aesthetic reasons.* About this time last year, I dramatically announced that I was firing my beloved running coach (me) and replacing him (me) with a bizarro coach (also me) that would shake things up by ordering training in complete reverse of how I had been doing it previously. The goal was to approach race preparation in a different manner. To move out of the comfort zone. To increase performance and speed by introducing a few new hastily internet-researched techniques. Or pills….lots and lots of pills, made no difference to me.

I named him (me) Mirror Coach because that’s just how obviously funny I am around here.

Mirror Coach was to be my salvation…my stern father figure, quick to scold but slow to praise – a bizarro Mr. Brady…a real impatient s.o.b. taskmaster. In short, the tone of Mirror Coach would be noticeably harsher and less tolerant but the handsome? Still the same! In fact, when I wink and give Mirror Coach a double hand pistol shot into the mirror, he simultaneously does it right back! We are sooo on the same page.

As training ramps up for the year, it’s time to evaluate his (my) performance last year. It’s time to see if another dismissal is in order or if Mirror Coach gets another one year lease.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest of them all?

You know what, Mirror Coach, don’t answer that. We haven’t seen the sun around here much over the past few months.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who is the fastest of them all?

Okay, don’t answer that either.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
What did we do right last year?

You, my Nitmos, completed many 800’s, mile intervals, and Limbo runs which greatly aided your PR half marathon efforts! Your mid-week 8-10 mile Limbo runs were particularly strong and a main reason for your half marathon PR.

Positive reinforcement, I like that. Mirror Coach is a pretty cool guy. He’s well hung.**

Mirror, mirror on the wall
What did we do wrong last year?

Nitmos, there are others faster than you. We should have done more mile repeats and less 800's based on the distance we were training for. We should have added an additional day of running into the week. We should have raced more. You should have spent more time running rather than looking in the mirror asking yourself if "your Garmin makes you look fat." I pushed you harder but…not hard enough. And, yes, that is what she said.

Well maybe Mirror Coach should have spent more time on actual professional running coaches websites stealing learning their training tips and less time in the Glee fan club forums.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
What’s in store for me this year?

I see a large event marathon, NYC Marathon, that will require lots of preparation. I see more mile repeats. I see the intense mid-week Limbo runs bumping up to the 10-12 mile range. I see a gentle nudging up of speed and endurance compared to the half marathon stuff last year. “Gentle nudging” because, as you know, Mirror Coach subscribes to the long-term goal of slow building – while simultaneously keeping you injury-free – rather than the short term, injury-risking spikes in distance, pace or intervals. In short, be ready to sweat a lot under the summer sun. Mirror Coach also believes there is still plenty of time left over for Glee fan club forums in the schedule.

I think I’ll retain Mirror Coach for another year. He may be a bit surly and in desperate need of a nose hair trimmer but he can internet click for training techniques as well as any coach on the market! And he’s free! If you would like to use Mirror Coach for your running needs, let me know and it can be arranged. Send me your name, mailing address, $30, and the nearest location of a Bed, Bath and Beyond in your area.

Should I fail to meet my expectations? Should I fail to increase speed and endurance? Should I fail to employ the proper techniques found through 7-8 diligent minutes of research on the internet? I’ll place the blame directly where it belongs: on my coach, of course. He’s a reflection of my performance after all.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the handsomest of them all?

Who can compete with those wavy curls!?!

Mirror Coach is a bit of smart ass. I wonder where he gets that from?

Have you checked in with your Mirror Coach lately?

Happy trails.

*If you were me, wouldn’t you?
**Get it? Yeah, you get it. Mirror humor, not as easy as it looks!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Queue the Music

We are past March 1st, did anyone start Gonna Fly Now (Rocky’s Theme) on the turntable? As I previously announced, I’m starting the hard training after a winter of maintenance miles. Who’s supposed to do the music? I can’t do everything around here. I need some musical inspiration…

…which didn’t come at my daughter’s school “music” show last night. I say “music”, in quotes, because I’m not sure what I saw up on that stage qualifies. It was the music class required, district mandated yearly elementary school music program involving half-hearted singing, ill-fitting hand-me-down clothing, poorly coiffed hair, and absolutely no rhythm whatsoever. My daughter did great. She’s a shining star. But the rest of the kids? Where’s the passion? Where’s the commitment? Where’s the pitch? (Answer: Not where you are at.)

If this school auditorium is a microcosm of what’s going on across the country, American Idol is going to suck in a few years. Or, suck more. I didn’t applaud much. I don’t encourage sloppy performance. I don’t give ribbons for “participation” either. The song choices were completely shallow and derivative. The only kid – besides my daughter – that could carry a tune was the baby three rows behind me that had a soprano E nailed! By the end of the performance, the baby wasn’t the only one that wanted to suckle a comforting breast.

I was chatting with another runner the other day about music and how we use it when training and running. We were polar opposites. He never runs with music except during a race – to enhance his concentration and block out distractions. I only listen to music when training and rarely listen during a race – because I find it distracting. I always wear my earphones but have only actually turned my music on in a handful of races. Instead, they become sweaty, nuisance ear plugs that have me cursing Why did I even wear these stupid things? every step of the race.

During training runs and, especially, while circling the Terrible Oval of 800’s, the music helps distract me from the boring miles. It keeps my rhythm going. Puts a little bounce in my step. Occasionally, if you drive past me, you may even find me playing the air drums or air guitar or air lead singer or air didgeridoo.

But, during a race, I’m only looking at the person immediately in front of me, full of venomous hate and loathing. The hate is strong…like a serial killer towards carpet fibers. I don’t want anything to distract me from that. How dare they run slight faster than me, right?

If you are reading this, (A) you are the only one and (B) you are in charge of the music. Queue up the Rocky…Ba da dum da da dum, da da dum da da dum…. And repeat.

I need something to wash away the memories of those out of sync maracas to “Apples and Bananas”. Ugh. Uninspiring.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Being a Cheapskate Causes Heel Pain

I don’t get injured often but when I do, I drink Dos Equis. Then I turn on the computer and let my fingertips, a healthy buzz, and Google analyze the problem. Who needs doctors anymore? The internet has made the entire world functionally literate on all topics. It’s true. I once gave myself a tattoo by watching a short YouTube video and then using a paperclip, thirteen broken apart Bic pens and a lighter. And then, a few days later, I learned how to treat the resulting Tetanus at home with a Penicillin injection left over from the 1970’s. And ultimately, Google taught me the early signs of gangrene and that the lockjaw was a warning that the Tetanus was getting worse (and not caused by me sleeping funny on my jaw). Ultimately, I did go to the doctor but look how far I got without one!

The internet, the solution to – and cause of – all of life’s problems!* It answers everything (including how to coach yourself as a runner - but that’s a topic for another day.)

My left heel gets tight and sore after every run. It’s been that way for a month. It doesn’t stop me from running my normal distances and paces. I don’t “listen to my body” and take a break as I refuse to concede to trite clich├ęs. (I also firmly look a gift horse in the mouth.) I knew right off what it was. It happens every winter. It happens every winter because I don’t want to pay for new running shoes that are just going to get trashed in the wet, icy unstable conditions. Every winter, I extend the life of my old running shoes by, oh, a good 100-200 extra miles past the point when they should have been retired to lawn cutting shoes.

Come late January and February, the soles are bare and there is almost no padding left in my trusty Asics. You might say that, due to my financial passivity, I become a reluctant minimalist runner. I mean, thin little strips of rubber attached to the bottom of the foot are basically what a minimalist runner wears, right? My hair’s too short, I tend to shower every day, and I rarely play the conga drums so there’s almost no chance I’m an actual minimalist. And whether by choice or by chance, since I’m running at a regular pace and not a slow, measured, controlled jog, I become minimalist…injured.

Google tells me that it’s probably plantar fasciitis. Google also tells me that it is most likely caused by running in worn out shoes. Well, duh, tell me something I don’t know, Google. Google also tells me that there is not much to do about it but rest and stop being a cheapskate and buy new shoes. Google does not support minimalism.** Google also doesn’t give two shits about my budget. What does Google know anyway?

Like last winter, I eventually introduced some new, spongy, decidedly un-minimalist shoes onto my running soles at the point where the threat of wet, icy sidewalks minimalized. And already my heel pain is lessening. By the time the spring flowers bloom, my annual heel pain will have disappeared underneath a torrent of padded miles.

The multiple lessons learned here are:

1) Running on worn out shoes causes heel pain.
2) Running on padded shoes eases heel pain.
3) Don’t “listen to your body”; don’t stop running. Ever.
4) Google is never wrong when it comes to self diagnosis.
5) Google is never correct when it says something you don’t like.
6) Minimalist runners usually play the conga drums.

Stay properly shodded, my friends.***

Happy trails

*Shamefully (and derivatively) stolen from The Simpson’s
**Unless you directly Google “minimalism”.
***The first one of you following the FIRST training method is welcome to title your next blog post “Stay FIRSTy, My Friends” compliments of Feet Meet Street!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I Ate a Garden Burger

This has been weighing on me recently and I have to confess something: I ate a garden burger.

I’m not proud of it. I do my best to avoid soy like barefoot runners avoid their true feelings. In fact, I live life by hard and fast rules and one of them is If my dinner never had a face, then it ain’t got no taste. But in a moment of weakness, I gave in and ate a veggie burger. I don’t really have a good excuse either which is why it’s taken me so long to admit this.

I spent the day watching four soccer matches (which involves all of us parents standing along the sideline pretending that we want anyone else’s kid to do well - yeah, right), then exhaustedly stumbled into the arena’s in-house restaurant and next thing you know I was saying “I’ll have the garden burger”. I knew immediately that I’d never live it down. There were audible astonished gasps from the next table. I might as well have ordered a plate full of salted puppy livers – extra large order – because even if I don’t eat them all at least they look cool piled high on a plate. Also, fuck the puppies.

Who orders a garden burger? I bet the kitchen was scrambling trying to fill that order. They probably just chucked some diced carrots into some rotted, unseasoned beef and sent it out. Who’s going to know the difference? Hippies don’t normally hang out at a soccer complex.*

In a few minutes, the light beige, vegetable bespeckled patty appeared in front me. I don’t know who was snickering but I definitely heard snickers. And don’t think I didn’t notice how the waitress set it down in front of me with a smirk and a carefully worded introduction, “Here’s your gaaar-den burger.”

I didn’t look around but I’m pretty sure everyone was staring at me and taking side bets as to whether or not I’d eat it. You know, a “fifty bucks the Smails kid picks his nose” type situation. But here’s another unfortunate hard and fast rule I live by: Never admit you’re wrong or did something uncool. If I’m walking down a sidewalk and stumble over a raised portion of concrete, I keep jogging right after I regain my balance just to show everyone that I really did want to run right now. Not an accident; I didn’t trip. If I mistakenly consume a spoonful of French dressing from a bowl before realizing it wasn’t tomato soup, I keep eating until I’ve finished the entire bowl. That way, no one knows for sure if it was a mistake or not or if it actually was tomato soup.

So I ate the garden burger. I even forced a defiant, triumphant smile to show all of the others - who I wouldn’t make eye contact with - that I really WANTED a veggie burger, don’t regret ordering it, and it was delicious, and aren’t you the fool for not ordering one for yourself! The truth is, it didn’t really taste like…anything. It was like being a POW and receiving a blob of unidentifiable gooey sustenance on a plate that you need in order to survive. You just joylessly eat it. That’s how I consumed the veggie burger. The MMMM’s and tummy patting YUMMY’s were for everyone else.

A little bit of me died that day though. It’s like when you go to chew your fingernail and realize that there was the tiniest amount of booger shard still on your finger from the nosescaping job 30 seconds before that and that booger shard is now in your mouth. There’s no walking it back. That. Just. Happened. You live with it and move on.

I like to eat healthy but only on my terms. That means, for every carrot or broccoli or Activia yogurt I consume, there’s a fudge stripe cookie or handful of jelly beans brought in to balance the equation. If nutrition is a teeter-totter rotating between Nutritious and Non-nutritious, you want to try to balance the plank without either side touching the ground. Don’t be an extremist.

It should have been enough to get a regular hamburger without cheese. Instead, I tried to go a step further and threw off my equilibrium. That night, I missed out on the lump in the gut a nice, greasy slab of beef creates. I missed out on the bloating and the inability to poop for the next 24-36 hours. Instead, I felt light, carefree and fresh just like the ladies canoeing in their white dresses and white parasols in a tampon commercial. My bowel movement was fast and furious the next morning.

I missed out on the entire uncomfortable way a burger makes its way through the gastro-intestinal system all for what? For WHAT?!?

I’m sorry that I ate a garden burger. I’m sorry to everyone that had to watch me eat this abomination. Mostly, I’m now sorry that I’ve told you about it.

I don’t even have the heart to mention that I also got a water to drink.

Happy trails.

*Unless they are playing which, truth be told, they ARE judging by the number of pony tailed men in the place.