Friday, February 29, 2008

Running Vacation February ‘08

While I’m sitting on my butt on a Friday night watching live internet coverage of the Bonita New Zealand Ironman and looking for Bob-O, I thought I’d type some drivel about what I did on my winter vacation. Incidentally, as I type, Iron Bob just finished biking after 6 hours and 19 minutes and change. In drizzly rain, which is not what he wanted, but at least he made it to T2. And now as he runs a frickin’ marathon, I’ll continue to tap at the keyboard, waiting for still more snow to hit the northeast tonight. And hear ‘Come On Eileen’ for the 73rd time on the live feed.

Anyway, this post’s title is misleading, it wasn’t really a ‘running vacation’ I went on. Actually, it was a vacation with some running thrown into it. And a little swimming that wasn’t much to write home about, but you know I will.

So I headed down to Palm Beach, and that was peachy. As I mentioned before, the weather was mostly rainy with scattered sun that arrived right about when you gave up expecting any nice weather at the end of the day. So I was at the mercy of the typical hotel gym with rickety Cybex machines and an evil treadmill that had a 20-second lag between the time you pressed the ‘increase speed’ button and it actually happening. The first time I got on the treadmill I inadvertently increased the speed to a 6:20 mile; now maybe I can do that on dry land, but not on some George Jetson-inspired Curse-of-J.W. -Marriott treadmill. So after nearly flying off the back end, I managed to get the speed down a bit and continue yet another mind-numbing run in another windowless room in another chain hotel, a room with more mirrors than the Playboy Mansion.

Well, there’s not much to say about Palm Beach other than it helps to be white, elderly and have lots of money to live there. Oh, and I already discussed the weather, that’s perfectly OK. I was informed at one point that there’s a new ordinance banning male runners from running shirtless (not so sure about female runners), which doesn’t get me hot and bothered, but makes me glad I don’t live there year-round. I don’t care one way or another about that law, but if it hits 90 degrees and 90% humidity on a July day I’d like the option to remove that one piece of clothing to avoid death by chafing.

Oh, I forgot to complain about the flight down to FL. Three hours with the screamingest toddler ever conceived, in the seat behind me. It was so bad the mother was apologizing to the entire passenger list every five minutes. And of course, the child belonged to one of the most dysfunctional couples ever to come out of Long Island, who argued loudly with each other in an unbelievably ‘fuggedaboutit’-inflected accent about how best to shut the kid up. I thought to myself: if they were my parents, I’d be screaming, too.

So I earnestly prayed to every deity I could think of before the eight hour flight to São Paulo that it would not be another hellish experience. The cards are always stacked against you (rude people, obese people who can’t fit in the seats and spill over into yours, uncontrollable kids, surly airline employees, non-existent legroom, surgery/mealtime), but surprisingly, and happily, the trip turned out OK. Thank you, Ahura Mazda.

Brazil’s Atlantic coast is so far east that it’s two hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, believe it or not, so the noon departure meant landing at 10PM local time. And to start things off on a freaky note, as soon as I got to the hotel in downtown São Paulo, it was under a lunar eclipse.

All the guide books tell you Brazil is dangerous, in a benign sort of way; so keep all doors locked, don’t show anyone a laptop, keep your jewelry at home, copy your passport, AND get a tetanus and/or yellow fever shot. Well, I didn’t have time to get my shots, but I was ready for any potential man-made crime. I’ll just let you know now that I would not become the victim of any crime other than getting a frightening eyeful of thong abuse later at the beach.

Well, more later, including Brazil fun facts, and why Rio is runner heaven (except for the heat). Gotta listen to ‘Come On Eileen’ again, and make sure Iron Bob gets through that final 42K distance.

(Update: the deities heard my prayers again, no more Dexy's Midnight Runners on the live feed from NZ. NOW it's Nelly F. and Timba and Gwen as the winners come through... oh well)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back Home

Got back late yesterday from a long trip; lots, and I mean LOTS more on that later. So I’ve been missing out on races and other folks’ races, and obsessing about marathons/triathlons and general training in the place the Lenape Indians once called Manna-hata, or ‘Island of Many Hills’. Really? I hadn’t noticed.

Glad to be home, though I understand snow hit here and the rest of the Northeast last Friday. Sorry to gloat, but I was in warm Florida, at least for the first part of the trip. Even though it rained most of the time, it was still between 60 and 80 degrees. I just missed the state’s power outage yesterday on my way back, by the way.

The other destination was, well, three times hotter than FL. Of all places, I, Cranky ended up in South America’s summer season… and Brazil. Never been, had the opportunity, and took it. Just remember the worst, coldest temperatures you’ve experienced this winter, and go to the damp heat equivalent at the other end of the thermometer and that’s what I experienced for a few days, on the lower half of the planet at that. Jesus, Joseph and Mary, holla at your boy… it was HOT. I wish old JC had been around to turn water into Gatorade, let me tell you.

So pictures and crap are coming soon. No races, I just did training runs among the thousands and thousands of people who run in Rio. Who would’ve thought Brazil would have so many runners? Who run mid-day in sweltering heat? People crazy down there. But at least they’re running.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Checking In

So I sit here typing on some Playskool keyboard in a Marriott in Palm Beach, FL. You'd think the weather would be wonderful, but of course, it's raining off and on all day. I'll probably return to NYC the same shade of off-white as I was when I left.

By the way, Florida is like many other vacation spots, a buffet on just about every corner. What is it with bread pudding down here? It's on every frickin' menu.

So today I ran (alone, who runs in Palm Beach?) in the rain, which was OK considering it was 65 degrees. But I'm hoping my clothes dry out before I have to take a hair dryer to them.

So that's all I got for now. Its all so very, very interesting. I'll hit one of the three hotel faux-fitness club treadmills later, and will have to push off the walkers who spend hours on them getting up to their daily 1.5 mile quota.

More from Margaritaville, or whatever you call this place, later...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Race Report: Cherry Tree 10-Miler

Made it over to the borough of Brooklyn this morning for a 10-mile race, three loops of Prospect Park. The weather was clear and sunny, but it sure was cold. Anyway, without going on and on about anything not worth discussing, I did it, along with a few hundred other folks (some doing a three-person relay), and survived pretty well despite the sneaky hills. In the end I managed to finish a little over 1:07:20, and had I known that was going to be just 5 seconds off a 6-year-old PR I’d have really pushed my ass a little faster across the finish line. It was nice to finish reasonably well in a race and still feel OK, especially after a week of feeling tired and bored with the whole swim/bike/run routine I’ve been slogging through. As for that, I’ve come to the realization that maybe I should start splitting up my workouts (as in two a day) instead of doing everything in the morning and getting wiped out after two hours. The ‘swimming’ I’m doing (quotes intentional) alone tires me out before I get to weight training and biking and running. I’m hoping that approaching warmer weather will help me get over all that a little bit, ‘cause I hate late-day workouts.

Sometime later I’ll tell this week's fun story about dropping a swim flipper in the 17 foot deep end of my pool, and being unable to retrieve it from the bottom by myself, asking for help and causing an international incident among the minimum-wage kids managing said pool. Soon enough, a fine young lady in my lane helped me out and got the flipper while the kids went on to make doodles on their clipboards. If it happens again, I may have to start using the age card (“I’m old, I didn’t know what I was doing!”) several decades before I have a right to.

The other news is that I’m going out of town tomorrow, way out of town, for a week or so, and won’t be back until the end of the month. I won’t go into details now, but I PROMISE you I will have some goofball story to relate at some point. Oh, I’m not going anywhere to do a race or something, either. So folks, in the meantime, stay warm, hang in there, because at least the days are getting longer...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day

Amy Winehouse - Love Is A Losing Game

Amy Winehouse - Love Is A Losing Game (Kardinal Beats Remix)

Pictured above: ‘All You Need is Love’, by Damien Hirst
butterflies (yes, they're real) and household gloss paint on canvas
84 1/4 x 84 1/4 in.; 214 x 214 cm.
Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000
Up for auction at Sotheby’s New York, tonight.

Update, 2/15: The painting pictured sold for $2.42 million. Glad it was a charity auction!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Crazy Town, U.S.A.

I know I’m not saying anything original, but this town is nuts. Sometimes good nuts, sometimes bad nuts. But nuts. Three good reasons, as if you need them:

1. This afternoon, after a particularly tiring ‘this sucks because my heart’s not in it’ swim/gym workout/spinning session, I headed home and cleaned up for a visit to the auction house down the block. Every year they have an auction entitled ‘Dogs in Art’, paintings and sculptures and whatever they can sell with a dog-related theme. It’s timed for the same week as the Westminster Dog Show going on now. Most of the artwork is cute and sentimental and not for me, but I wanted to see the star of the show, an original of the campy ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ by the original artist, C. M. Coolidge. That’s it pictured above.

The bidding started at $48,000. It soon passed $100,000. And in the end, it reached $160,000, somebody bidding over the phone got it. With the auction house fee, that’s $200,000, plus tax. I told you this city has lost its mind.

2. A friend of mine sent me a link to this video. It’s overly staged, but I like the concept. The main floor of Grand Central is always jammed with people walking scattershot, it reminds me of molecules hitting each other in some atomic reactor. I’m glad somebody was nutty enough to stop it for a few minutes.

3. And finally, below is a link to an article I came across at The New York Times. Some Brooklyn residents are up in arms because their local bars are banning them from bringing in their kids and strollers while they get sloshed. Maybe I’m just an old guy and not the one to ask, but when I was a kid I don’t seem to remember my parents wanting to drag me into bars to watch them drink. I don’t begrudge people from wanting to have a little fun, but honestly, don’t push your kids onto the rides at Amy Winehouse Land. The Baby Stroller Fascists (yes, always a new rock band name in every post) in my neighborhood already have my number, so I better keep quiet, or I’ll end up with a decapitated, bloody ‘My Little Pony’ head under my bedsheets.

The New York Times: Look Who’s Getting Rolled Out of the Bar

Monday, February 11, 2008

Race Report: Bronx Half Marathon

Well, I did it. It was cold. Next!

I was just going to post that, but you know me, I can’t shut up sometimes. Sometimes? Yes, I even know what you’re going to say before you say it. It’s like we’re married, or something.

WELL. Sunday morning I met up with running pals Susie and Denise for a quick ride to a race in the Midwest, a.k.a. The Bronx. It was originally named after a family who lived there named the Broncks, I’m not making that up. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and bring in a family named the Funckes. Which means today we’d have a borough known as The Funx. And you probably thought I’d write something else.

I’m not hating on The Bronx, but for a little while yesterday I was hating on the NYC subway system, which is always easy to do on the weekends. Due to track maintenance (somebody spilled an espresso latte with skim milk on the track, or something), we had to switch trains at 125th St. and join hundreds of anxious runners waiting on the platform to get to the damn race. So at 7:15 we’re standing there, knowing that the race starts at 8 and it would be nice to check bags and go to the bathroom before the race, etc. The train finally came and we made it by then, but my running friends (and many more) found themselves still in port-a-john lines as the starting gun went off. And I was even late, since I had to hit baggage check, too. Oh well, it gave me a chance to see the walkers at the end of the pack, who are usually nicer than the get-out-of-my-way speed freaks wearing headphones up front.

So off I went, weaving and passing and trying not to be one of those assholes running over innocent people, and I wasn’t. The weather forecast was dire, temperatures were due to drop at 10AM, and then the high winds would kick in. Every TV weather forecaster in the tri-state area had predicted end-of-the-world style cold for Sunday, and since it was still a balmy 40 degrees, we were all dying because we were overdressed for arctic temperatures that hadn’t yet arrived.

And then the winds kicked in before 9 o’clock, providing the type of gale force that makes you feel like your moving forward in slow-motion. I swear, it felt like my legs were getting pushed to the side every time I was mid-air. Since the route had a little bit of out-and-back to it, I was comforted knowing the headwind would become a tailwind, but no such luck. Thus the middle finger of fate struck again.

About three miles in I knew it was not National PR Day, and I decided to just keep a reasonable pace and not embarrass myself. So I did, and finished the damn thing. I was three minutes slower than the half I ran two weeks ago, but I’m over it already. The weather did get just a tad colder as predicted, so I got home (after changing trains again, thank you very much) and stayed there and watched the Hammy Awards later.

Speaking of, can we take Alicia Keys, John Legend, and John Mayer and put them on some reality C-list celebrity show and vote them off before they have a chance to open their mouths? Honestly, those camera whores would probably show up to play a Denny’s, all for a $10 buffalo wing gift certificate, f’Chrissakes. And I’m surprised Kanye’s ego could get squeezed into that auditorium, he’s out of control; these people actually make you want to root for Amy Winehouse, and that’s saying something. And while I’m being catty, I think Beyoncé needs to join me on some spinning workouts, her legs are bigger than Godzilla’s.

Now that that’s over, I can get back to discussing myself. Today….


From being mean and sarcastic, no. But from EXERCISE, yes. Normally, I would’ve packed up the gym bag and hit the pool. But I’m still nursing a big old blister caused by the blue flippers I wear while playing junior aquaman amongst the little old ladies (who, incidentally, can kick my ass) in the water. But more importantly, my legs, and quads in particular, are just beat-down tired after a killer spinning workout and then a tempo run and then a wind tunnel half marathon, all in three days. I just didn’t have it in me this morning, and it was time to give my legs a day off for the first time since Christmas. Maybe it was eyeballing Beyoncé’s hams of steel on the HD plasma screen that made me decide on a one-day vacation, since hers seem to get LOTS of vacations. Anyway, today I just sit here and type and eat potato chips straight out of the bag. Nice.

Rest is important, people!

Friday, February 8, 2008

iPod Update 26, Friday Again

If anyone’s checked here lately, there hasn’t been much going on. No post-Super Bowl wrap-ups, no race reports, no snarky comments about somebody else’s bad running habits.

I’ll post more as soon as two things begin to happen: I get a little less busy and start to enjoy training my ass off. It’s swimming/biking/running and running more every day, and often about two hours plus of all that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (other days have slacker workouts of just an hour and a half). And then a long run or race on the weekend, and now I’m tired just thinking about it, much less writing about it.

So bottom line, no news is good news, it’s just mid-winter fatigue. However, I will make a couple of points that might not be considered news by those who also train their asses off.

Swimming – I have progressed, if you may call it that, from pre-school to kindergarten. And I no longer thrash like a school of piranhas, I just gasp for air at all the wrong times. My comfort level is much higher, though, and I’m making it to the pool three times a week. I’m trying. Anyway, as soon as I get the breathing part down, I’ll feel much better. And stop trying to swim like I’m running, which is way too fast under the circumstances.

Biking – I’m doing 2-3 hour-long spinning workouts a week, and my quads would like to say hello to all of you and ask you to please tell Cranky to stop all this crap. Also, the lake of sweat I generate around the bike is getting embarrassing, but once again, at least I’m trying. And I went to a seminar and workshop on getting the right bike fit, and although I learned a lot, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll probably have to sell my now-old car just to afford a reasonably good tri-bike with all the fixins. I’m half-joking about that, which implies I’m half-serious, and you guessed it, that part’s not funny.

Running – In preparation for Boston, I’m doing two tempo runs a week on the dreaded treadmill, in addition to the usual ‘easy’ runs, whatever the hell they are. The weather hasn’t been bad here, it’s just I can’t keep an exact tempo pace outdoors, and then I feel like I’m slacking or something. So (today) I start out with two miles easy, followed by four sets of one mile at tempo pace (for me, 6:48) with one-minute rests in between. I had another three miles at tempo pace on the schedule today, but I was still tired from yesterday’s session at Lake Spinning, and had to just keep it at four. Plus, more than an hour on the treadmill makes me quietly insane. As opposed to loudly insane, which describes half the population of New York City.

Add to all this the Bronx Half Marathon this Sunday, and I’m ready for Athletes Anonymous. I bet they serve Gatorade and bagels and gel at THOSE meetings. No coffee and cake? I’d be outta there.

The other day I read about an alarming statistic: 30% of the population of Mississippi is obese. While that’s indeed alarming, whenever I am experiencing self-doubt (as in halfway down the 25-meter pool lane), I compile a brief list of all the folks who probably couldn’t do what I’m doing right then. So that includes a third of Mississippi, half the tourists at Epcot Center right now, and let’s just throw in Britney, too.

More later…

Brit and The O’Jays – Backstab Me One More Time

Go Home Productions… Great Mash-Ups, Cranky-Approved…

Friday, February 1, 2008

iPod Friday 25: Dance Like It’s 1989

So the Super Bowl is Sunday. And Super Tuesday arrives a couple of days later. Some media folks are calling our national primary day ‘Super Duper Tuesday’. Gee whiz, that sounds important!

Paraphrasing something someone once said, ‘we deserve the government we get’.

Getting back to the four hours of marketing on Sunday evening, I have no favorite team, though it would be nice for the hometown to come out on top. Mr. Manning and Mr. Brady seem like nice enough fellows, the type of goofy jocks who sat a couple of rows behind you in 8th grade study hall. Mr. Plaxico Burruss fascinates me only because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone named Plaxico. Not trying to be mean, but Plaxico sounds like a multinational corporation that sells petroleum-based mouthwash. Anyway, he’s been in the news over the last few days for predicting a rather low-scoring Giants win on Sunday.

And another thing… about New York City sports fans... when their team wins they don’t jump in the car and ride up and down the streets, maniacally honking and screaming like they do in places like Philly. It’s nice to win, but not nice to lose a parking space in New York City. Here, team spirit has its limits, and I like that.

I’m not sure who’s performing at half time, but do I know that Ms. Paula Abdul is threatening to ‘sing’ at some point. Since Miss J. Jackson debuted a single (ahem, cough) once at the Super Bowl, ex-Jackson choreographer Paula will be on her best behavior. And as a way of getting us in the mood, here’s HER new single:

Paula Abdul – Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow

And now an open letter to P.A.:

Dear Ms. Abdul,

Just heard your single. And you know what? It’s not 1989 anymore.

All the Best,

The People of Earth.