Monday, July 30, 2007

Be Careful Out There

It just occurred to me that the title of this post might’ve been a line from ‘80s cop show Hill Street Blues, which was the ‘Thursday night TV ensemble drama’ of its day.

In any case, it comes down to this. I’m not going to write a long, scary story about bike accidents, especially because I wasn’t in one, but I did get to be part of one yesterday, and folks... be careful out there.

I and running partner-in-crankiness Susie were headed up the sidewalk of Riverside Drive on mile 3 of a planned 15 at around 8AM when a bike rider barreling down a hill hit Susie head on. The biker (who was not wearing a helmet, she was not an athletic type, just going somewhere on her ’74 Schwinn way too fast) was thrown headfirst onto the ground, right after Susie was hit in the head and thrown as well. Two women down and bleeding from the head, and blogboy here on an empty thoroughfare.

I did not plan to get cranky, since I didn’t suffer a scratch, it wasn’t my bad day, but… why is it that when you have an emergency and need to call 911, and you run up to a stranger and beg them to use their cell phone, they look at you blankly like you’re not to be believed? Seriously, I had to ask at least four people, none of whom wanted to even answer me, until some guy finally relented after I looked back at him skeptically. I’m appreciative that he let me call EMS, but did I have to show him pools of blood first? Everybody and their brother in this town spends half their life calling idiots on their cell phone to see what time the 10 o’clock news is on and all of a sudden nobody owns a phone. Jesus.

Cutting to the chase, the cops, then the ambulances showed up. Susie was well enough, despite the blood loss, to still be her old self, and the speed demon bike girl made it safely off the ground to a stretcher. Much paperwork, explanations, and time at the emergency room followed. Susie is fine now, but she knows she’s lucky she didn’t lose an eye, or teeth, she just has a very bad cut and a Tysonesque shiner.

Like I said, it wasn’t my bad day, I’m the lucky one. But let me tell all of you, and you know it before I say it… things can happen in a blink of an eye, and then your running/biking/swimming/scrapbooking days are over, or worse. I know you do because you have to, but be aware of others who can’t be bothered to be aware of you. Daytrippers on bikes, unleashed dogs, even runners who decide to just stop in the middle of the road for no reason… watch out for them, and keep reminding yourselves to watch out. It doesn’t matter if they meant to trip you up or not; if you end up in the hospital, or dead, it’s too late.

Thanks for reading my little public service announcement.

- R

Followup: Susie is registered (as am I) in this weekend’s NYC Half, and has every intention of running it after taking a few days off. The surgeon who took care of her in the emergency room happens to be running the marathon this year (ah, fate), so he understood perfectly, and told her to go for it… Nice.

Friday, July 27, 2007

iPod Friday 14; or 13, Part II, Whatever...

Friday already, where has the space-time continuum gone… maybe it was the currently ridiculous levels of humidity that opened up a new dimension and swallowed up all that time. Anyway, I was surfing around some of my favorite music blogs earlier, and lo and behold, one of them had a posting about ‘blue’ tunes, sorta like mine last Friday. So go on over to The Lost Turntable (12” imports, etc, no pun intended, and plenty of other fun stuff too) and hear the multi-talented Ms. Marilyn Chambers lay down a track, among other things. Not sure if it will get anybody warmed up for a 40-minute run, but warm-ups can be overrated.

The Lost Turntable

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Mizunos (15 May 2007 – 10 July 2007)

Just typing the title of this post made me instantly put it to music, and if you’re like me, and I should probably feel sorry for you, you heard The Knack’s ’My Sharona’. So if Mizuno ever decides to make an annoying TV spot with a sound-a-like band singing ‘My Mizunos’, you can all be witnesses when I take them to court for stealing my idea. Well, make that food court, I don’t think blogfoolery counts as copyrighted material…

Anyhoo, several weeks back I went on about how running shoes don’t last as long as they should and how would anybody know beyond what the manufacturers and running experts tell them. I’d love to see some study in The Prince Rogers Nelson Royal Academy of Medicine Journal that correlates increased shoe wear to increased foot or leg injury, but no such luck. Pretty much everything I found, at least on-line, told me about the same thing, which is: start saving up now for your next pair, sucka. However, maximum mileage varies depending on whom you ask, and that could affect your usage by several weeks.

So I bought a pair of Mizuno ‘Gel Bee-Yotches’ back in mid-May, and they passed away quietly in July after about 350 miles of service (OK, it was more like 400, but they were nice to me). Before plunking down four or five Andrews on another pair, I re-visited my research. Just to show you some of the crap I found, here are some links that show the variety, yet spirit-crushing sameness of opinion:

The ‘Run.Gear.Run’ Store, deep in the heart of Texas, giving you a calendar calculator stuck in the year 2006…

RunThePlanet.Com says: 500 miles, maybe less, we’re all going to die anyway…

CareMark; 400 miles maximum prescribe the doctors; new shoes not covered by your plan, so just forget it…

Dick’s Sporting Goods says: 350-500 Miles. Surprising Dick didn’t just go with ’20 miles’…

Running Times phones it in: Running 25 miles per week? Get three pairs of shoes a year. Next!

So while I’m waiting for somebody to provide a doctoral thesis on the documented correlation between shoe wear, rubber degradation, and injuries, I’ll have to take the ‘experts’ word for it.

What I learned over the summer holiday:

1. The damn things last 300-400 miles total. So an $80 pair depreciates in value by 20 cents a mile over 400 miles. Two bucks down on a 10-mile run, equivalent to a Grande Drip at Starbucks. Urban barista: ‘Yo, a medium redeye for ‘Hymen Idiot’!’.

2. Buy two pair, and rotate them, just like the guy showing his buttcrack does when he inspects your car and moves the damn tires around at $150 an hour. In fact, each pair will last longer, since the rubber apparently needs time to bounce back from hard surface action. No, I will not stoop to say something crude here, you can all just move along now.

3. And what they didn’t say, which is that they’re still perfectly fine shoes after their running career is over. And keep pairs with different colors, once like colors end up tossing around at the bottom of your closet they have a habit of mixing up, and one pitch black winter morning you’ll find yourself putting on two unmatched shoes. I caused much humor and glee among running comrades once when I erroneously put on two different shoes for a sleepy, dark morning run. THAT’s a different story, I’ll save that for the blooper reel.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Race Report: Nautica New York City Triathlon

New T-shirt text idea: ‘I Just Watched a Triathlon, and Boy, Am I Tired’.

So here’s the saga. Earlier this week I sent an e-mail to the volunteer contact at the Nausea (no, make that Nautica) NYC Triathlon offering up my Sunday so that others might swim, bike, run, and talk about it for days later. Knowing full well they could have me out there at 4AM or earlier, for the 5:50 first heat start time, I cheerily let them know I would be willing to help out in the insanity. What did I hear? Nada. Not even a ‘we have all the volunteers we need, thank you’, or even an ‘our Barf Mopping Committee is fully staffed.’

So undeterred by rude event organizers, I made my way out at 6 Sunday morning to at least watch the descent into madness. Turning my travels into a nice early-morning run (and silently looking down on coffee-toting spectators while getting a 10-miler in), I made it to the finish line just in time to see some Australian team nonchalantly filing their fingernails after crossing the finish line. They looked like they were taking a brief break before heading back to their hotel’s early check-out before heading off to the next one.

At this point it would be helpful for those of you who follow such things, to let you know this was an Olympic triathlon, 1500 meter swim, 40K bike ride, 10K run. The swim was in the Hudson River; later, finishers told me the current was strong, but not ridiculously so. The Hudson is vastly improved over what it used to be, however, the average cranky New Yorker reacts with incomprehension and horror at the mere thought of sticking a toe in that water, or whatever it is out there. But the triathletes (4000 or so, I’m told), didn’t seem to mind so much. The heats stretched from 5:50 right up to 8:40. There probably wasn’t any bacteria left to cling to humans by 9, anyway…

After getting that out of the way, the bike course started with a mean little hill, and continued northward along the Hudson Parkway out of the city. Slightly uphill all the way, turn around, then downhill back to 72nd St for the next transition. The uphill wasn’t too bad, apparently, but headwinds didn’t help, either, from what I was told. After the transition, the newly-minted runners headed westward into the light, Carol Anne style, into the park. That’s where I was waiting for them, standing by the course at mile 1, clapping by myself, yelling out the only thing that can’t get you into trouble (‘Good Job!’). The whispered ‘thank you’s’ seemed more sincere than the ones you get in plain old road races, so I was glad to be there to give them I-feel-your-pain looks. As with all competitions, some participants looked great, and some didn’t, and nobody looked very happy when they had to walk. At one point, I must have seen about 25 athletes wearing prosthetics, and they were kicking ass. And I saw one guy with only one arm and no legs, riding a skateboard, effortlessly passing by. I don’t know how he did it, but I’m going to try to remember seeing him go by the next time my inner voice gets whiny during a long race.

And after about an hour in the one-man cheering section, a friend of mine running his first tri shows up, and I join him for the rest of the way. He’s a good runner, and he actually got me winded as he flew on the downhills. I hope he didn’t get tired of my sparse and direct coaching; I tried to take his mind off the course a little without telling him how he’s feeling (nobody should tell you how your feeling, how far you have to go unless you know EXACTLY, how wonderful life is, etc.). If you’re running with a friend who may not be having a great time, just stay positive enough without being so goddamned perky they want to murder you as soon as they get their strength back. Oh, and listen to them, even if they’re not saying anything, if you know what I mean.

So on we went, the miles ticked off, and he did great. Of course, after I broke away well before the finish line, I never saw him again after he made it through the decompression zone, because there was a family values reunion traffic jam. I ran into a runner later who was angry that he’d been run over by baby strollers as soon as he got out, and he was kind of right, I had been too (but I won’t complain, it wasn’t my race today). Thanks again, race organizers.

One thing I thought was odd: I asked a couple of finishers, and not slow ones at that, how long it took them to complete the separate legs, and they looked at me like ‘I don’t know, why would anybody care how long it took me to bike 40K?’ And then they had to think about it awhile to give me some kind of answer. Well, I know that when I’ve finished a grueling race I can barely remember how to tie my own shoes, but I couldn’t chalk these blank stares up to general post-race ditziness. Perhaps everybody is just relieved to be done with the damn thing, but I just assumed folks would be well into the post-mortems after the chip came off. Maybe that’s just my idea of a post-deathrace 2000 experience, looking down on myself collapsed on the sidewalk thinking ‘you should’ve downed that gel at mile 20 and shaved 17.5 seconds off your PR’.

In the end, it was a good experience to see happiness and hard work and suffering in a group setting, which must be one of the reasons we tap-tap-tap into our computers about our experiences so often. I don’t swim or bike, though I was willing to get bitten by the bug today (oh yes, ulterior motives of deep-seated masochism, Dr. Freud will see you now), though I became tired enough from running back and forth to snap pictures that I’ll reserve judgment on that. Mom, my right rotator cuff hurts from all the clapping! Whoops, just pictured that guy on the skateboard, I’ll shut up now.

And now for pictures of people you don’t know getting exercise:

‘Screw Dad and his stupid bike, I’m finishing this damn Harry Potter book even if it kills me.’

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Race Report: Run for Central Park

Almost not worth discussing, it was just a 4-mile loop of the park. Thus spake the cranky, seasoned veteran. But it sure was drier than the Jurassic weather we had earlier in the week. Jesus strikes again with happy race-day humidity, amen. Just to fill you in, following is a list of sights along the course:

-Not seeing people dropping along the course due to high temperatures and humidity. Dead people can be such a bummer!

-Seen: a team of junior high kids in basketball outfits who decided to clump themselves at the start line, at the 6-minute mile pace. Also seen: me kicking their collective asses during mile one and turning to give them a heavy-lidded glare as I passed. 'See ya in study hall!'

-And the usual ‘older’ suspects lining up way too far up in the pacing order, and later, me seeing them cross the finish line ten or fifteen minutes after me.

-Mr. Gel Belt, with SUV-size headphones on, blasting ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

-Karate Chop Woman, running with her hands pointing upwards in a permanent homage to Tura Satana in ‘Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill’.

-Tourists stopping you to ask how far the course is, and explaining that the reason they’re asking is because they’re… tourists. Really?

-Race officials along the course wanting to say ‘you’re almost there’ (and composing impromptu variations on that theme), though not quite true if you’re ready to throw up and you still have a mile to go.

-SWM Wall Street types who must sprint the last 50 feet, or else.

-Some runners grabbing several post-race bagels instead of just one, so slower runners arriving later don’t get any. Folks, the Great Depression ended around 1939, and if you spent the $15-25 it cost to enter the race, you can afford to go out and buy your own damn extra bagels. Plus New York City is practically the bagel headquarters of the world, so decent ones are not hard to find, either.

Well, there was probably more going on, but the course was too short and fast to notice much else. I don’t enter many races below five miles anyway, so it was over before my legs could really complain. Didn’t even bring the camera! I did manage to run about 4 miles before the race with Crankmistress S., who knows bad running behavior when she sees it, too. The pre-race warm-up seemed to help, because the first mile included Cat Hill, a 40-degree incline that is one of the less pleasant hills in the park. Survived that pretty well, since getting by the slow runners who had to get way up front (only to get mowed down later) took my mind off the hill. Once again, I held back a little overall, and found myself left with enough energy to finish without whining about it. And once again, missed my PR for the distance by seconds, but not by far enough to regret running the race. Came in under 26 minutes; nice to be in the top ten (#9) of my age group again, and #148 out of 4000+ runners. Next stop is the damned NYC Half Marathon on the 5th, with 10,000 runners jamming the streets, my 12th race this year. Let’s hope THAT one works out…

Friday, July 20, 2007

iPorn Friday 13

Guess I'll get a lot of hits with a title like that.

Well, it hasn’t been a particularly jolly week, the dog days are here, dramatic weather in the northeast, ‘urban volcanos’ and such. But listening to some old stuff (filed under ‘cool down’ music) makes it a little better, and some really old weird-themed stuff at that. For some reason (maybe Boogie Nights is playing on the Cineplex screen of my subconscious), I’ve been reminded of cheesy 70s porn flicks with wacka-wacka soundtracks, feathered hair, and lovably bad acting. Oh, and other stuff, too, but the silliness now seems to outweigh the soft- or hardcore aspect of hi-larious vehicles like Misty Beethoven.

So I happily bestow on you some tunes that conjure up that old, uh… theme.

Starting off is a tune that actually has nothing to do with blue movies, but somehow its disco lite vibe reminds me of the opening credits of some European porn import starring actors with names like Aqua Velva and Dick Hertz. Perhaps it’s the ‘la-la-la’s’, but whatever it is, you can just see the stock footage of Ibiza breezing by before the first cheap hotel room scene.
Silvetti – Summer Rain

This one was a fairly big disco hit in ’76, Andrea True was rumored, then confirmed as something of a softcore ‘actress’. But her breathy vocals over another lite disco production made for a nice summer radio hit. On the potentially cinematic side, it sounds like something you’d hear right after the pizza deliveryman showed up.
Andrea True Connection – More, More, More

And finally, this one is related only in that the artiste is/was a well-known star, an X-Woman, if you will. Traci Lords pouted her way to the top, among other places, and made a bigger name for herself when John Waters started casting her in his movies in the early ‘90s. I saw her at a movie premiere once, and she’s pretty short, but just as pouty in person, and really just like the girl next door, but with an edge. Right. But she made her own breathy stab at disco, and here’s one of the products, a kind-of-dated techno production from a while back.
Traci Lords – Control (House Mix)

Hmm. Don’t know what this all has to do with anything beyond a 5-mile warmup, but you can’t say you expected to read an 8th-grade post like this today.

Ha! He said ‘post’…

Oh, and here’s a fun YouTube clip from Misty Beethoven – First Class All The Way!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Race Report: Naples to New York – Park to Park Race

Nope, not a race between two cities, though you wouldn’t know it from all the gels and creams and stuff people strap on just to run 6.2 miles. People, they actually serve water here, and it’s free, you don’t need to carry a gallon jug on your hip…

Saturday morning’s race was the usual Central Park 6-mile loop plus (formerly known as the ‘Dash and Splash’), making it another 10K for the masses. And masses it was, but the real gimmick was a free pass to the gigantor Lasker Pool in the park after the race, where I dreamt about triathletes swimming 7,246 laps just to get in one training session.

The weather was fairly dry, but sunny and hot, so I didn’t plan on getting all competitive and dramatic about finishing under my PR (though it’s always on my mind). The crowd was big enough, nearly 5000, and after the gun went off I found myself yet again trying to get by the runners in Team AARP who decided to position themselves right up front to do their 12-minute per mile pace. Oh, I love Team AARP, they make my statistics look that much better, and I’ll be joining them someday, but I just wish they’d didn’t treat every race like an aggressive take-out line at Zabar’s, like they have to cut in just to get served. And the old Uncle Leo line ‘I’m old, I didn’t know what I was doing’ doesn’t hack it. If you can fill out a race application, you know what you’re doing.

Anyway, after going around the Ben-Gay crowd, it was Cat Hill, where everyone who’s running fast enough gets an ass-whooping. Got passed, passed other runners myself. After that’s over, the second mile arrives, and that’s when you hear that little voice inside telling you to pace, and to start now, not in ten minutes, but now. So I listened, even though the first mile was a slow one (for me, 6:58), and I cruised for a little bit. Had to stop at two water stations, which is rare for me to do in short races, but you listen to your body, too, not just inner voices. Something kicked in during the last mile, and I found myself picking it up and wondering why I felt so good. Sometimes I think just knowing that I’m closing in on the finish line makes me run faster, and not in the ‘sprint you idiot, you can see the finish line’ way. Two other runners did just that at the finish line, passing me and practically falling over once they got there. Well, good luck with all that, because I happened to finish right at my last 10K time a few weeks ago, and that was fairly decent (the race time posted on-line later had me at 42:18, which is exactly, to the second, what I did last time). See? Just show up with low expectations and sometimes it all works out. Of course, I started to wonder how much better my time would’ve been if I hadn’t loitered at two water stations, but I’m not going to think about it, can’t do anything about that now…

Afterwards, I made it to the chilly pool and lounged and enjoyed myself way too much. Finishing a little earlier than most of the others, especially the AARP, meant the pool was wide open and looking great. Having lost 5-10 pounds since ramping up the weekly mileage, I got over my fear of scaring small children and animals and strapped on the speedo for pool domination. My inner voice started quoting lyrics from Salt n’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’, and so ended by race/luv experience with a little R&R on an oasis in the middle of this city of 8.5 million.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Bastille Day

Today is France’s independence day, commemorating the ‘start’ of the French Revolution in 1789, the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris. Yes, it’s now just a memory along the Paris Marathon course, a traffic circle, and a water station on the route. They don’t give you little cups, but tiny bottles of water instead. That’s nice, since you can carry water with you, but everybody throws the bottles on the street so you end up dodging rolling, half-full containers while you run. And nearly kill yourself, which ties in nicely to the Bastille business, because the mob managed to kill prison officials who ‘got in the way’. So to celebrate, kill everybody in your way today, head out for a nice croissant or nutella crepe, then go on strike even if you’re not working.

Friday, July 13, 2007

iPod Friday 12

Used to be, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, you got paid on Friday. You’ve heard that old song ‘just got paid, Friday night…’ and all that, and that once implied that payday equaled blowing your paycheck on a Friday night ‘par-tay’. Now that real incomes haven’t really risen much over the last few years, the national obsession on or fear of losing retirement money and savings, and the fact that companies like ADP have maximized employers’ rate of return on their payroll budget… the likelihood of Friday being payday is less likely, and even if it is, less fun. We take life so seriously these days… the government sucks, terrorists may attack any moment, and that 35th cup of coffee might give you cancer of the phlegm glands. I’d drink a Rusty Nail* if it didn’t cause an instant hangover.

With that happy talk over, on to today’s selection. DJ Shooter runs a retro-80s blog that has nice little DJ sets he’s put together of old hits, often by theme. By request, he put one together for me. The theme is money, or ducats, or Benjamins, whatever you want to call the stuff that pays the rent. I was going to tie all this in to running by complaining about high shoe prices (true), climbing race fees (truer) and the like, but it’s Friday and I’m too damn tired to stretch metaphors again. So use the link below and hear the money mixes from back when life wasn’t perfect, but maybe a little more innocent.

DJ Shooter’s 80s Money Mixes

*Rusty Nail = 1/3 Drambuie + 2/3 Scotch + Ice. Heaven.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Five %&@# Bridges

‘Go ahead, take a bite out of the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots’ – “Shattered” - Jagger/Richards

Not being one to discuss training runs on this wankfest of a blog… I’ll do just that.

Last weekend I ran a tidy course in the City of N.Y... It was one of those adventurous and creative routes I’d been meaning to do for a while: five bridges along the southern part of the East River. The route had been vaguely mapped out in an old issue of New York Runner (a NYRR magazine that highlights race winners that got home before you finished), and I’d saved this particular article for a goofy day. Goofiness arrived early on Saturday, so off I went.

For those of you not familiar with the East River, the first bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn is the one you know best, the Brooklyn Bridge. Just north is the Manhattan Bridge, then a mile or so above that is the Williamsburg Bridge. Even further away is the dreaded Queensboro Bridge of marathon fame, which takes you into mid-town and/or Queens. That makes four, and the other bridge and only one not connected to Manhattan is the Pulaski, famous again, as the halfway point in the marathon, about a mile or so before the Queensboro. Total mileage: 16 miles.

Sorry, I don’t live next to the Queensboro or any of the other bridges, so that means I have to run another couple of miles just to get there, and then I have to run a couple more to get home, too. What? 19 or 20 miles? Just suck it up, marathon training dead ahead.

Before I describe the course, let me give you some obvious math: Bridges = Hills. Now, I don’t mind hills so much, but when they do arrive late in a long run, R-rated language arrives, too. I turn into Joe Pesci waiting in line at the DMV. Anyway, for those of you who care, it takes about 6 minutes to run up the Queensboro incline to Manhattan at an 8-minute mile pace. Did I mention the views are spectacular? And can you guess that views don’t matter by the time you get to the 4th bridge?

Well, I survived well enough (or you wouldn’t be reading this) and I can tell you it kicks your tokhes, especially in the hot summer sun. If you make it to the city and you’re tired of the same old Central Park loop, I heartily and evilly recommend the Five Bridges. As Pinhead famously said in one of my favorite lines in Hellraiser II, ‘your suffering will be legendary’.

(Following is a description of the course since I haven’t had the time to figure out all the internet map technology, and when you do print it out that map and bring it along, you sweat all over it and the colors run, too, so just forget it.)

The Five Bridges: From the east drive entrance at 36th street, head south to the Brooklyn Bridge, take a right at the crack whores on Dover Street, run up to the bridge entrance, hang a right, crossing the bridge. Once In Brooklyn, take the first cross street left, look for Jay Street, take another left, which takes you right to the steps of the Manhattan Bridge (a run of less than ten minutes since the bridges are so close together). Cross this admittedly dingy bridge into Chinatown in Manhattan. Take a right on Bowery, try not to run over little old Chinese ladies out grocery shopping, they’ll kick your ass. Head up to Canal, take a right and go straight across the scenic Williamsburg Bridge, where you get to run directly above the traffic for a change. Again in Brooklyn, do an immediate U-turn once you get off the Bridge and head behind it to Bedford a couple of blocks away. Go right at Bedford (heading north now), and run for a while, past McCarran Park, along the goddamn marathon route. Look for a major intersection where you can’t go straight (paging George Michael!), head left onto Manhattan Avenue and run for another mile or so. Thankfully, the cross street names run down alphabetically, so you can turn your brain off. Look for Clay Street, which begins with a ‘C’, that’s after ’D’, take a right and there’s the Pulaski Bridge a block or so away. Run across the bridge fast since it’s not much of a bridge anyway, and the scenery sucks. Take a right at the first intersection and head towards 21st St at another major intersection about 3 blocks away. Take a left on 21st and run north a few minutes to the #$%@ Queensboro Bridge. You’ll have to go under it and to the right to enter the bike/pedestrian lane, but once you’re on and at the top, the worst is over. Leaving the bridge, you have to veer right into a U-turn, then turn right and head south on 1st Avenue. Finish where you started, at 36th, or if you prefer, head west, directly to the park and finish where far more people can watch you collapse. Go to Starbucks, order a coffee frappachino, and tell them your name is Ivana Hurl.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Marathon vs. Triathlon

Lately, and long before that, there seems to have been a little, uh, difference of opinion about which is the better masochistic pursuit: marathon or triathlon? A couple of things got me thinking about this, one of which was the July 4th Ironman tauntfest going on at Angry’s Place, accompanied by much gnashing of teeth and the realization that life would be given over to training for the next year or two. AR’s inner turmoil sounds familiar, because I’ve heard that frightening inner voice dangle flat tires and mouthfuls of salt water at me before, too. The other thing was an evening running seminar at my gym a couple of weeks ago, where the first speaker was a sports doctor with a triathlon problem. Well, no problem for him, but before he finished his remarks, he described runners as generally ‘neurotic’ in their training; while I briefly considered raising my hand and ever so nicely requesting, if he had the time, to please S.T.F.U., I decided this in itself was proof of some running neuroses, and by doing this, the triathletes would win. Zen hits you in the weirdest places, doesn’t it? Anyway, he did go on to say that he sees far fewer injuries among triathletes because they cross-train. And sooner or later, all runners will become injured. Did you get that? As if to drive home the point, a week later the owner of my gym (who weight-trains runners, too), asked me what I thought of the seminar and I expressed some reservations about the non-constructiveness of the tri-doctor’s remarks. With Nietzschean finality, said owner stared directly into my eyes and informed me that ‘all runners will become injured’ sooner or later, just like that creepy old man in Poltergeist II who told JoBeth Williams ‘You’re gonna die!’. There’s nothing like getting news that drops your core body temperature by five degrees.


Having completed around 600 miles worth of marathons and ultras, and 0 miles of triathlons, you can guess where I’m usually at on all this, but I still have big respect for those who can swim, bike, run, and throw up breakfast on cue. Since I’m always looking for a tortured, goofy and perhaps, sly metaphor for blog issues du jour, I kept thinking about how one pursuit/one sport could compete with three damn sports at one time. And taking a turn to the goofy, I quickly remembered a battle between two favorites from my larval stage: Godzilla and Ghidrah. Yes, he’s getting ready to compare a man in a rubber suit fighting a three-headed rubber dragon hanging by fishing line, to a marathon versus a triathlon. A tortured metaphor for torturous experiences.
So like our pal Godzilla (or Gojira as he’s known in Tokyo), the marathon is the monster (race) many of us end up ‘enjoying’ sooner or later. And Ghidrah’s three heads, like the three sports you triathletes embrace, is destructive and over-the-top in pain and ‘what was I thinking’-ness. By movie’s end, Godzilla always bitchslapped Ghidrah around cardboard suburbs, so that’s where the metaphor ends... I think.

So is the marathon ‘better’? Are marathoners more attuned to running, and better athletes because they are more focused on doing one sport better rather than three at one event? But are triathaloners better athletes because they’re less prone to injury? Did you notice that the word ‘trathaloner’ contains the word ‘loner’? Looks like I’ll be asking more questions today than answering them. You’re welcome.

Well, I don’t know the answers to all that, but I gotta say that you’re going to see many more participants in marathons than triathlons, which may mean… just running 26.2 miles is relatively easier (a no-brainer when compared to the endless Ironman. Whoops, did I just mention having no brain and an Ironman in the same sentence? OK, OK, I’ll give it a rest). Easier may not mean better, though, and I imagine the triathlete would agree with that. So if personal challenge is your game, the triathlon is the way. Then again, why not just add another event? Push yourself to the edge with another sport, why don’t you? Scrapbooking, anyone?

And are triathletes just bicyclists who decided to tack on swimming and running? What’s the motivation? At least a marathon has ONE finish line, you’ve got 2 plus a final, final one you can crawl across and collapse on. I ain’t lyin’, I once watched the typically sentimental highlights of the NYC Triathlon on TV on a Sunday afternoon and saw the winner go across the finish line, hug his girlfriend, turn his head, open his mouth wide, and jettison every Gatorade and gel product he’d ingested over the last ten years. To be honest, it made me feel kind of glad to see that the super-fit could be so mortal.

Well, I haven’t answered much here beyond discussing cross-training as a way to lessen running injuries. And somehow tying the ‘-Thon War’ concept into 40 year-old Japanese monster movies. But I do know we’re probably doing it all for the same reasons, and I guess some soul-searching is in order. The divide may not be so great, after all, and when you get down to it, why put your body through that much stress? Something tells me the real question and answer session arrives on race day, starting around 3 miles before the finish line.

Friday, July 6, 2007

iPod Friday 11

As an intro to this Friday’s musical offering, here’s a cranky submittal from an old running pal (see 5 Squirrels) from a while ago, she and I ran the Big Sur Marathon several years back, laughing most of the way. Take it away, M:

"Hey you! Yeah, you! With your left testicle flapping in the breeze next to me. There's a reason why they stopped making micro shorts in the 70's. And it's because when I'm packed like a sardine in a high school gym waiting to make the 2 mile trek to the starting line of some fifty dollar road race I don't want to look up from pinning on my number and find myself staring right into your biznazz... (or biz"nads" as the case may be...).”

So yes, some people don’t know when to let go of those fishnet shorts they got at the Montreal ’76 Olympics. Well, ‘some people’ generally means ‘old guy/running veteran/vaseline abuser’, but I’ve seen quite a few ‘international’ runners wearing not-so-hot pants or wispy outfits in races, too. Well, most Americans go for a lamentably baggy look, so maybe there’s a silver lining to that sad fashion trend.

Ran a 20-miler once with another running friend, and we kept getting passed by some guy with his pants hiked so high it was like a mall visit to Das Wiener Haus of Crack. As the girls at the galleria would say, ‘like, gross!’ We just HAD to pass this guy, and we finally did in the last mile, and in the end we congratulated ourselves for days.

So if you’re reading this, you’re probably not an offender, but you know exactly what I mean. Anyway folks, I know it’s hot, and less is better, but not always.

Hearing this tune (link below) recently got me thinking about this delicate topic. Used to listen to Siouxsie in the day, and this one has the usual faux-serious funny lyrics (‘flacid ego in your hand’) and an arrangement that can only be filed under ‘schizoid marching band’. Siouxsie is one of a long line of love-them-or hate-them screamers from Yoko to Nina to Björk today… so enjoy this little creepshow, and when running (and well, generally) remember to please cover up your stuff, there are children around.

Siouxsie & The Banshees – Peek-a-boo! (Banana Hammock Mix).

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Venti Name Game

Whether or not you like Starbucks, you have to admit the word ‘ubiquitous’ seems to be the best adjective to describe the world’s greatest caffeine pusher. While the chick in front of me always orders a ‘venti latte with skim milk, shot of espresso, extra whipped cream and room for Splenda’ that requires seventeen button strikes by a distracted, clock-watching barista… I won’t go on about that. Rather, I’ll just continue to let my inner voice say ‘get a life and order a goddamn black coffee, Miss Hilton’, and let the eyes roll where they may.

So what this happens to do with running I’ll mention now. On a few overly-hot long weekend runs I’ve been known to give myself a Pavlovian treat afterwards. If you’ve ever done a mid-summer 20-miler, you know the need for a little coolness when you’re done, so sometimes I take a mortgage out on the house and buy a coffee frappachino. Mmm… liquid ice cream. Of course, yak blood would be tasty if you’re thirsty enough, but there’s something about a 180-calorie tall frappachino that is heavenly on a 90-plus degree day.

So when I finish my order, they ask me to give my name. Being a guarded New Yorker, the first response is ‘What’s it to ya?’, but I know the coffee drinks will be mixed up by even more distracted coffee elves behind the Hummer espresso machine, so I relent. I guess a take-a-number system is too complicated for these customers, and judging by the after-school special behind me, I’m not surprised. But I don’t want to give them my name, because what if some Lechter wannabe nearby ordering a Chianti Frappachino finds that out, then finds me on the internet, locates me on Google Maps, and then finds me running in the ‘10K for Polyps’, finally grabbing me as a snack at the 5 mile marker? It’s too late then to tell him my quads are not that tasty after all. All because I had to give Starbucks my name, or else no Frappachino.

So grudgingly, I give my name and… but wait! I don’t have to give my real name! As Peter Lorre used to say, ‘you eediot’ (Ren said that, too, for you younger folks) and I mentally slap my forehead. So it’s time to scramble and think of some alias that won’t cause suspicion, but also won’t get deleted from the short-term memory files before the damn frap is showing up on that little round counter at the end.

So here’s the ‘game’ part for you runners/triathletes/satan’s helpers. Instead of giving the first goofy name/phrase that pops into your head (my first few: General Peter Pace; Xaviera Hollander; Grünewald Altarpiece), give ‘em something running-related. Some ideas:

Marathon Diaper
General Marcus Gluteus Maximus
Mike Rofiber
Pasta Party!
Fu-King A. Tundreds
Brooks Adrenaline
Smokia Bitchez
Pearl Izumi
Dick Sportingoods
Gil Kayano
Nike Bightsabigwon
Point E. Sportsbraw
Fast Twitch!
...and of course, an old favorite… Heave Prefontaine.

So mix it up a little with your local barista after that long run, and yell out a name no one will forget. See if they even look up! You’ll have the joy of hearing your coffee alias spoken aloud as your drink is delivered in Starbucks location #38,016… you know, the one across from the Starbucks.