Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Intentional facemask

In honor of the 2011 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which were recently broadcast on ESPN2 in the middle of the night, I have put together a little activity for your workday-diversion pleasure. (Just in case you get sick of playing Farmville.)

Based on the popular children's book series found in pediatrician waiting rooms across the country, this game pays homage to America's up-and-coming golden child of distance racing. I call it "Where's Galen?"

Now that it is abundantly clear that Mr. Rupp's creepy facemask was no one-time fix, I figure we better get used to picking him (and his new disguise) out of a crowd. Gone are the days when race spectators could identify the formidable U of O track product by looking for his signature Breathe Right nasal strip.

The strip has been replaced by a full nose-and-mouth shield that could easily be mistaken for any of several mug covers. This exercise is intended to help you learn to distinguish Rupp's "asthma mask" from a sampling of look-alikes. Good luck.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Inspiration part II: my nasal brainchild

So there I was, pounding out a seemingly endless treadmill workout with the world’s most fetid breather outputting a constant stream of hot, nasty stink approximately three feet to my left.

I tried in vain to distract myself from the foul odor I was forced to absorb with each inhalation. First, I cranked up the volume of my iPod and scrolled through my playlist in search of a tune that could carry me away from my miserable reality, if only for a few fleeting moments.

Somehow, listening to Kelly Clarkson belt out the lyrics, “Since you been gooonnnnnnnneee, I can breathe for the first time, I’m so moving ooonnnnnnnnn, yeaheeeeeeeyeahhhh,” just wasn’t as motivating as usual. (Come on, admit it—you love working out to Kelly Clarkson too.)

Using more force and energy than necessary, I dramatically ripped my headphone cord out of my iPod and shoved it into the plug-in for the built-in TV. My overly animated display of frustration did not affect my malodorous neighbor in the slightest. He was much too focused on an old episode of Gunsmoke that he had probably seen 26 times since it originally aired in 1964.

I furiously flipped through the channels in search of a program so fascinating that I would completely forget where I was and what I was smelling. You know, something like Cheaters or Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

I started with my old standby, the E! Channel: commercial. So I switched to my second favorite, TLC: commercial.

Growing increasingly angry and annoyed, I quickly moved through my list of choice cable networks: Food, Style, ESPN, Animal Planet—even The Weather Channel. And guess what I saw? Commercial, commercial, NASCAR, commercial, commercial.

Well, since rednecks wrecking cars—ahem, sorry, I mean “motor sports”—doesn’t really do it for me, I was forced to watch several minutes of television advertising.

I was in a very cynical mood, so every product I saw on the screen looked like the dumbest thing ever invented. I found myself thinking things like, “Tires? Who the crap buys tires? L-A-M-E!”

Then came an ad for a new DirecTV feature that allows viewers to pause their television programming in one room and resume watching it in a totally different room on a totally different TV. This service seemed to me, at first, totally ridiculous.

But as I rotated my head from Mr. Halitosis on my left, to the rows of empty treadmills on my right, to the partially completed distance on the display screen in front of me, I was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea for a more practical application of DirecTV technology.

What if I could pause my workout on my treadmill and resume running on a machine located several (dozen) feet away from Limburger-Cheese-Breath? I could call it DirecTM and market it to gyms and cardio equipment manufacturers all around the world! I could become a multi-jabillionaire and never have to work out next to anyone ever again because I’d have enough money to build my own private gym and stock it with as many treadmills as I wanted! And it would probably make me taller and tanner with less unwanted hair!

OK, sometimes my fantasies get out of hand when I’m suffering from the effects of excess oxygen consumption. But come on, look me dead in the eye and tell me you’ve never been in a situation where this might come in handy.

That’s what I thought. Contact me when you’re ready to invest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Exhalation inspiration

There’s nothing worse than a cold, rainy Memorial Day weekend.

Scratch that—there’s nothing worse than running on a treadmill on a cold, rainy Memorial Day weekend.

Wait, it gets worse—there’s nothing worse than being stuck next to an old guy with bad breath while running on a treadmill on a cold, rainy Memorial Day weekend.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been there at one time or another. But just in case you’ve somehow avoided this treadmill rite of passage, take a moment to imagine yourself in the following scenario:

You’ve just passed the halfway mark on a grueling five-mile pace-progression run.

Your breathing is growing increasingly labored as you struggle to convince yourself that hey, it isn’t so bad. At least you pretty much have the joint to yourself, since everyone else is out trying to light their barbecues in the rain.

But then…dun, dun, duuunnnnnn…in walks the old dude with the most severe case of halitosis known to man. He has his pick of machines. He could literally have his own row if he so desired. But guess which one he chooses? Oh yeah, that’s right: the one directly to your left.

To make matters worse, he is positioned approximately halfway between you and the wall fan you have cranked up to maximum speed, so whatever disgusting odor comes out of his face is blown directly into yours.

You are flooded with feelings of utter frustration and helplessness as you think, “Dear Lord, why me?”

You wince as he repetitively presses the “speed up” button, finally settling on a rate of 4 mph—a blistering pace for a 65-year-old in jeans with an elastic waistband.

It’s only a matter of time before he’s sucking air—and then blowing it back out, infused with an odor that can only be described as a mixture of coffee, taco seasoning and moth balls.

And so, on that fateful Memorial Day weekend, as I desperately tried to invent a new breathing pattern that did not involve the use of my nose (an attempt which, by the way, failed miserably), the old wheels started a-turnin’ and the old light bulb started a-blinkin’. I had an idea.

More on my stroke of brilliance in my next post. Sorry, I know the suspense is killing you, but you’ll just have to wait.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Buyer's remorse

If you’ve ever been shopping in a supermarket, I know you’ve made at least one impulse purchase in your lifetime. My usual weaknesses generally fall under one of two categories: chocolate and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

This weekend, however, I expanded my repertoire of rash commercial transactions. On Saturday morning, I impulse-bought 10 kilometers.

Actually, to be more accurate, I impulsively agreed to register for a Saturday morning 10K race while (slightly) under the influence of a Friday evening microbrew.

As you might recall, I have never raced a 10K. In fact, six miles is on the far-right side of my normal training distance bell curve. One might even consider it an “outlier.” (That one was for my high school Algebra II teacher, who always insisted that math would eventually come in handy in my everyday life. It took eight years, but there you go, Mr. Hammond.)

What made my decision all the more surprising (and stupid) was the fact that I was fully aware of what this particular 10K race entailed: a roughly one-mile climb up a mountain trail just minutes into the race.

I know that many runners wouldn’t bat an eye at such a course. But I am not ashamed to admit that I am not that hard core. I don’t like dirt. I’m not a fan of rocks. And mile-long hills? Not really my style.

Remember, I’m an 800 runner. (Sorry…a retired 800 runner. I’d probably have to be a few microbrews in the hole before I’d agree to run one of those again.) The point is that I am naturally drawn to flat, hard, predictable running surfaces. Cement, asphalt and rubber are some of my all-time favorites.

Suffice is to say that Saturday’s race pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone. I showed up hoping to see at least one—just one—person at the starting line that I knew, for a fact, I could beat. But unlike my last racing endeavor, there were no old men in kilts, no middle-aged women in sparkly green tutus.

My heart pounded, and I started to feel a terrible twisting sensation in the pit of my stomach as panic set in. Suddenly, I felt athletically inferior to every Vibram-shod, GU-carrying, tech-fabric-wearing competitor in my immediate vicinity. That included the nine-year-old kid in the Transformers t-shirt and the eighty-year-old man in denim cutoffs.

I hung out near the front of the pack at the starting line, careful to allow any runners wearing singlets and/or racing flats to get ahead of me. I knew those people meant business, and I did not want to be the defenseless target of mid-race F-bombs when they had to go off-roading to pass me on the single-track trail.

I started out conservatively. My plan was to treat the mountain climb as an extended warm-up. You know, the kind of warm-up where you traverse several steep switchbacks while testing the structural integrity of your Achilles tendons.

Well, that plan fell apart about halfway up the incline, when I was forced to choose between walking and rupturing a calf muscle. During my walk period(s), I came up with a new plan that involved sucking it up and finishing while maintaining a safe and prudent pace.

On my way down the hill (and by hill, I mean nearly vertical and borderline-unnavigable mountain face) I made a quick assessment of whether I had a realistic shot at a come-from-behind victory.

In the distance, I could barely make out the form of a runner sporting a pink tank top and a bobbing ponytail. Using the basic rules of logic, I narrowed the possibilities down to two scenarios: I was either getting my butt kicked by some kind of badass-renegade runner lady or a dude who was incredibly comfortable with his sexuality.

I crossed the finish line and limped to the end of the chute, where I handed my tag to a race volunteer. (At least, I’m pretty sure I did. Apparently there was no record of me finishing, although I’m pretty sure the unrelenting pain in my back, thighs, glutes and feet provides sufficient proof that I did not imagine the whole thing.)

Then I sat down. Once my legs had stopped twitching involuntarily, I started stretching and massaging my calves. Even though the race had been, for the most part, pure hell, I was glad I made myself do it.

I finished (or at least I'm claiming to have finished) third overall for women, which according to my calculations, makes me 1/3 badass-renegade. (There you go, kids. Another practical application for math.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The long and short of it

When I was in the dressing room at TJ Maxx the other day, I had a moment.

It wasn’t my usual kind—being reminded, in the unforgiving bright light and full-length mirror, of the eerily transparent quality of my skin. No, this was a brand-new feeling. A realization. An epiphany, if you will.

I was trying on running shorts—a generally innocuous shopping activity. Looking for new workout clothes is usually a refreshing change to the old seriously-don’t-they-make-jeans-designed-to-fit-an-actual-human-form routine.

But I haven’t shopped specifically for gym attire in quite some time, and as I pulled pair after pair of running shorts off of their hangers, slipped them on, and assessed their fashion quality by turning (several times) in front of the mirror, it suddenly hit me: Somewhere over the course of my nascent has-been career, I adopted the style preferences of an old-lady runner.

In high school, you had to roll your waistband at least three times if you wanted to hang out with the cool kids at track practice. That is, your shorts couldn’t cover more than 75 percent of your butt cheeks.

In college, it was all about the spandex. There was, like, some sort of unspoken belief that spandex actually made you faster—something about muscle compression and aerodynamics, I suppose. But really, all it ever did was crawl up your crack.

I used to consider big, poofy, swishy shorts to be part of a category of workout fashion that should not be found in the closet of any woman under the age of 45.

And yet there I was in a pair of loose, mid-thigh-length shorts—in bubblegum pink, no less—and I actually…liked them. I liked them so much, in fact, that I bought them.

I ran in them for the first time a few days ago, and all I could think for the entire 40 minutes was, “Why the crud have I been wasting so much time dealing with wedgies and inner-thigh chafage when I could have been wearing a slightly more ugly but way less uncomfortable garment like this?”

So yeah, I like my pink old-lady shorts. Maybe I’ll even spring for a purple crushed velour sweat suit. Maybe.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rebrand times three

Like Batman Forever and The Lion King 1 1/2, the third installment of my intermittent product rebranding segment is unquestionably the best. Also, I have become a full-fledged Photoshop addict. I find the repetitive clicks and swipes to be quite soothing, especially when executed while sipping on a nice glass of red wine. (My time-management skills have improved greatly since I started my grown-up job.)