Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mail bag!

You know how some well-established magazines and websites sometimes publish letters from their readers? Well, I don’t get very many of those, so I’m going to milk this one for all it’s worth and make an entire blog post out of it. I would love to say that I’m going to make this a regular thing, but if the past is any indication of the future (and in this case, I think it is), I won’t get another fan letter for at least nine months. And once every nine months can hardly be considered a regular thing, unless you are the Duggar family.

I recently received an email from a gentleman by the name of John Hofacre, The message began with him telling me that he had stumbled upon my blog because its title is similar to that of his website: The Running Joke Cartoon.

Clearly, this man had good taste, so I felt compelled to read on. Also, I’m a total sucker for praise of any kind, and I wanted to see what else he had to say about me.

Turns out, John is an age-graded regional class runner, which with some help from The Google I determined to mean that compared to other old guys, he’s pretty freakin’ fast. This piqued my interest because I decided a while ago that since I have probably reached my peak as a regular runner, I should start focusing on my career at the master’s level. I figure that if I am able to maintain the speed and fitness that I currently have, I will be a top-ranked athlete by the time I’m 40. So watch out, master’s running scene—in 15 years I am going to rock your world!

So anyway, since John and I both enjoy poking fun at the sport of long-distance running, and since we both have goals of beating other old people, I started to develop a sense of camaraderie with him.

Further down in the email, he said something along the lines of, “You really should check out my book, The Running Joke Cartoon Book. I’m pretty sure it will be the second-best thing you’ve ever read, after your own blog of course.” (OK, so maybe that’s not exactly what he said, but remember, I’m paraphrasing.)

At this point, I was extremely intrigued and decided to follow the links to his work that he had provided for me. And it was good stuff. I mean, really good stuff. It was like he took things that I could spend an entire blog post blabbering on about and made them into one small, simple, colorful, laugh-out-loud package.

In fact, it kind of made me jealous. I once spent an entire afternoon sketching the stick-figure chicken for my title art (see top of page), and John has the kind of genuine artistic talent that I, tragically, was born without. (Other talents I tragically was born without include but are not limited to: gardening, baking, getting off of ski lifts, playing stringed instruments and singing songs other than “Fergalicious,” which I can karaoke the crap out of.)

You can check out some samples from John’s book on his website. You can also “Like” his Facebook page to see new cartoons as he posts them. One of my favorites is a cartoon showing an alien spacecraft hovering over a pack of runners. The top caption reads: “Buzz 'em again if you want, but I still say it’s not intelligent life.” Ha!

The other really cool thing about John’s book is that all of the proceeds support an endowed scholarship honoring his sister, Susan, who died of cancer in 2005. So if you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for your best running buddy, it’s pretty much a win-win purchase.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to put the ‘man’ back in ‘marathon’

Let’s face it: compared to testosterone-fueled contact sports like football, ice hockey and Jujitsu, long-distance running just isn’t that manly.

As a man, it’s one thing to idolize famous athletes who look like this:

Photo courtesy of

But anyone with a pair of testicles is going to have a hard time explaining why their hero looks like an adolescent girl with a bad haircut:

Photo courtesy of Marcio Jose Sanchez/

Look, a community 10K is never going to be as effortlessly macho as a backyard game of pigskin on a crisp fall day. That’s why Brett Favre—not Galen Rupp—is the poster boy for Wrangler jeans. And that’s why Brett Favre—not Galen Rupp—had the audacity to text photos of his junk to a woman who looks like this:

Photo courtesy of

But you don’t have to be a retired NFL star in grass-stained Five Star Premium Denim to exude masculinity and win the approval of your fellow XYs. You just have to follow a few simple rules to avoid coming off as a bird-legged sissy in short-shorts.

1. Have facial hair. Nothing says, “I own a power drill” like a little bit of mug-scruff. But beware—too much of a good thing will leave you looking more hobo (i.e. Tom Hanks in Castaway) than hunky (i.e. Brad Pitt in Moneyball).

2. Either wear sleeves, or don’t. Manly men do not slip removable spandex tubes over their forearms in case it’s a bit chilly (or a bit balmy) on the course. Sensitivity to temperature fluctuations is a known side effect of estrogen, which is why arm sleeves—like half-tights and battery-powered mini fans—should be reserved for female use only.

3. Listen to classic rock. Before you head to the starting line, make sure your iPod is loaded up with AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. When the dude to your right asks what you’re jamming to, your answer should not be, “One Direction.”

4. Wear black. Johnny Cash was just kidding when he said he’d love to wear a rainbow everyday. At least half of your outfit should be black or gray. If you want to rock a lime green shirt, go for it. You just couldn’t resist those bright blue shorts on the clearance rack at Sports Authority? Fine. But please, for the love of all that is holy, do not wear them together. Because when you look like this:

Photo courtesy of

Other guys see this:

Photo courtesy of

5. Win. A man does not engage in a competitive activity—be it a sport, a video game or a checkers match with Granny—simply to participate. He does it to destroy his opponent and thus prove his superiority to the rest of the male race. If that means vomiting blood for 20 minutes after out-kicking a slightly overweight teenager in a homestretch sprint for 41st place in the local Turkey Trot, so be it. Bloody oatmeal barf is a small price to pay for the preservation of your masculinity.   

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


For the past three months or so, I have suffered from a nagging pain in my right hip. It’s not quite a stabbing pain, but more like a dull burn that increases in intensity following strenuous physical activity.

According to Web MD, the pain is most likely the result of (a) bursitis, (b) tendonitis or (c) cancer.

I have spent several weeks implementing the treatment regimens suggested for conditions (a) and (b). And since we all know that Web MD is controlled by avaricious medical professionals who want to scare you into scheduling a CAT scan by listing cancer as a possible diagnosis for every symptom from a cloudy toenail to a chronic eye-twitch, I think it’s safe to take condition (c) off the proverbial table.

Still, the pain persists. Therefore, I am convinced that my problem stems from a cause beyond the realm of modern medical science. With careful thought and consideration, I amassed an impressive list of possibilities. Here are some of my top hypotheses, presented using scaled anatomical diagrams:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One night stand

Most hotels nowadays have some sort of fitness facility. They range in size from “a rickety treadmill and two partially inflated exercise balls” to “a handful of various cardio machines and a set of mismatched free weights” to “a miniature health club with several machines, a spa and a trainer named Rick.”

For the past couple of months, I have been staying at a hotel with an above-average exercise room. There are no deep-tissue massages available post-workout, but as far as I can tell, all of the equipment was manufactured sometime in the last decade. There are three treadmills, two elliptical machines, a recumbent bike, a set of weights and medicine balls, and a rack of clean sweat towels (bonus!).

I’m staying in the middle of a very urban area, which means there aren’t many outdoor running options. (Unless your idea of a workout involves dodging the unsavory characters lurking in city bus stops.) As such, I have become somewhat of an early morning fixture in the hotel gym.

It’s not a bad place to get in a workout, especially if, like most hotel guests, you’re only in town for a couple of nights. The problem for extended-stayers like myself is that everyone else walks through the door knowing that they are probably not going to see you—or anyone else in there—ever again.

It’s kind of like going out in a city where nobody knows you—for one night, you can act like a total ass without having to worry about showing up in your boss’s Facebook feed the next morning. In a hotel gym, you can act like a total ass without having to worry about running into the stranger on the other treadmill at next week’s kickboxing orientation.

Once gym etiquette goes out the window, it’s total anarchy. In this dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself kind of atmosphere, you better snag the equipment you want the moment you see it open.

The way to do this, apparently, is to wipe your sweaty head with a fresh towel and then drape said towel over the piece(s) of equipment you wish to use later. That way, you can hop on the treadmill for another 30 minutes knowing that the 25-pound dumbbells will be waiting for you whenever you’re ready.

While you’re at it, it’s probably a good idea to reserve one of the two benches in the room using another rag soaked in your own perspiration—you know, just in case someone else is thinking about using it sometime in the next half-hour.

Oh, and heaven forbid that you screw up your circuit due to lack of floor space for your burpees. You should definitely go ahead and dibs some real estate using a stretching mat topped with—you guessed it—another damp sweat towel.

When you see another guest circling around “your” bench with a confused look on her face, it’s best to just stare straight ahead and pretend not to notice. She’ll go away eventually. And if she doesn’t, you can always play dumb. (“Oh, oops! I didn’t mean to leave that towel there. Silly me!”)

If she calls you a jerk and storms off, who cares? You’re checking out in 45 minutes, and you don’t plan on returning anytime soon.

Before you leave, though, you should stop by the front desk and lick every apple in the dish of complimentary fruit—just in case your plans change and you end up coming back later.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Run for the money

A couple of weeks ago, I was half-heartedly listening to a recap of college football scores while giving my toenails their last coat of polish before fall. I say “half-heartedly” because the level of artistry that goes into masking the grotesqueness of my feet requires a high degree of concentration.

When they started talking about ridiculous blowouts, my ears perked up and my foot flinched. In an instant, my impeccable paint job was ruined by an errant streak of Midnight Sapphire on my big toe. Why? Because there is one part of college football that has always fascinated me: money games.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon, the simplest and least tasteful explanation can be delivered in a single word—prostitution.

Early in the season, powerhouse schools like to schedule an easy game or two to dust off the cobwebs, build confidence and impress their home crowds with a dominating win. To do this, they seek out smaller, lesser-known teams and pay them to get their asses kicked.

Small colleges usually have small athletic budgets, which makes this sort of deal extremely lucrative for them. Most don’t think twice about pimping out their football teams for 3, 4, even $500,000—or more. Then they put the players on a nice charter plane—compliments the opposing team, of course—and pray that they all come back alive and with the majority of their limbs (and cognitive function) intact.

The result? Scores like “North Carolina-62, Elon-0,” “Florida State-55, Savannah State-0,” and “TCU-56, Grambling State-0.”

In some cases, it’s almost sad. I feel for the guys on the losing side of the scoreboard. I don’t care where you play—if you’re a college athlete, you are a competitive person. And competitive people hate losing.

If it were up to them personally, I’m sure there are some morally grounded players out there who would refuse to lose for cash. Back in my days as a legit athlete, I probably would have agreed with them. But now that I’m just a lowly has-been, I would be willing to bend my ethical standards under the right conditions.

So that got me to thinking—what if they developed a similar system in the world of competitive distance running? I mean, think about it: when people watch world-class distance runners race other world-class distance runners, there is really no way of grasping just how fast they are moving. It doesn’t help that they all look like they’re out on a leisurely joggy-jog when, in fact, they are splitting sub-60s.

But if you threw in a race where world-class distance runners raced middle-of-the-road distance runners—former Big Sky Conference Championship bronze medalists, for example—the audience would be able to see just how good these Olympians really are.

Take Kara Goucher, for example—America’s Sweetheart of distance running. High school cross-country runners idolize her. They probably cheered her on during last month’s Olympic marathon. She finished just a hair over 2:26—a time that most men, even really good ones, could only dream of achieving—which was good for 11th place.

Except that in America’s eyes, 11th place is not good. It’s not good at all. In fact, you probably already forgot that Kara Goucher even participated in the Olympic marathon.

Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., we like winners—the bigger and more embarrassing the margin of victory, the better. The way I see it, there is only one way for Kara to avenge that 11th place disaster (besides winning gold in Rio, which probably won’t happen if Ethiopia still exists in 2016): winning a race by a laughably obscene margin.

That’s where I (or some other washed-up has-been) would come in. I could be the Grambling State to her TCU. I could sort of, but not really, compete with her and make her look really, really good. I could get her fans all fired up and give her a solid foundation of confidence for the rest of the season. All I would ask for in return would be a small* percentage of her race winnings.

So Kara, once you realize how incredibly genius this idea is, drop me a line. My inbox—and your comeback—awaits.

*Less than a majority** share.
**Between 1 and 49 percent.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Liar, liar, spandex shorts on fire

Fifty percent of runners admit to occasionally fudging their PRs, and the other half are liars.

Actually, I guess that makes all of us liars. Which is why it should come as no surprise that my opening sentence was, in fact, a lie. I totally pulled that statistic out of Sarah Palin’s brain thin air.

Some might argue that lying is simply part of human nature. When was the last time you made an honest statement about your weight? What about your age? Your salary? Average number of drinks per week? The number of fun-size Milky Ways you’ve eaten today?

But seriously, how many times have you rounded down a race time when someone asks you how you did? I remember the day I finally broke 2:14 in the 800 meters for the first time. Well, technically I didn’t break 2:14. I ran an altitude-adjusted 2:13.98. But that didn’t stop me from telling anyone who would listen that my PR was 2:13.

I ran my first half-marathon a couple of months ago. My real time? 1:28:34. But that didn’t account for water stops. Or my infamous Porta-Potty fiasco. Or time lost on turns. So really, my time was closer to 1:28. And if you adjust for heat and altitude…

I’ve learned that all Facebook statuses relating to run/race times must be taken with a grain of salt. I’m sorry, but when you claim to have run three miles in 17 minutes when I know for a fact that you gave birth two months ago, I’m going to call bullshit.

When I see you at a local 10K three weeks later, a teeny-tiny-intsy-weentsy-itty-bitty part of me will wonder whether your claim was legit, and I will momentarily fret over the possibility of being beaten by someone who, mere weeks ago, was carrying a full-grown human infant inside of her body.

Then I will beat you by four minutes and feel good about it. Later, I will feel guilty and stupid for celebrating my victory. (Although the real victory is that I can celebrate with a post-race beer without having to worry about it tainting my breast milk.)

The bottom line is that numbers are a slippery slope. But there are certain people in this world who aren’t afraid of testing that slope, even if it means collecting a few mud stains along the way. And those people are politicians.

Political figures are always up for a good lie. I think it’s their way of gauging the intelligence of their constituents. Some lies are vague and inconsequential. Nobody seems to care when politicians vow to “do the right thing,” or “fix the system in Washington,” or “create new jobs.” We all know that these guys, if elected, won’t make much headway on any of these promises.

Instead, they will probably father illegitimate children, misappropriate campaign funds or have extramarital relationships with White House interns. And then they will lie about it.

So, by way of deductive reasoning, if runners are liars and politicians are liars, then politicians who run must be ultra-super-duper-mega-liars.

When vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan claimed that he had run a “two-hour and fifty-something” marathon in a recent radio interview, runners everywhere perked up their ears with great interest. And skepticism.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know why Ryan’s statement raised so many eyebrows: because running a sub-three-hour marathon is hard. I mean, I barely dipped below 1:30* in my half-marathon, and I’m a pretty good runner**.

Unfortunately for Ryan, confirming the falsity of his marathon time was even easier than confirming the paternity of the Schwarzenegger housekeeper’s son. If Ryan really were a sub-three-hour marathoner, he probably would have been aware of a little thing called race results.

Why he thought he could get away with it is beyond me. Contrary to popular belief, runners are interested in lots of things besides running—including presidential elections. It didn’t take long for the government watchdogs at Runner’s World to call shenanigans on Ryan’s claim. All they had to do was dig up some old race results.

What really gets me is the degree to which Ryan exaggerated his time. Knocking off a minute or two is one thing. I could even forgive rounding to the nearest five minutes. But misstating your PR by more than an hour? That’s just plain dumb!

Ryan’s only saving grace is that (1) most Americans don’t give a hoot about marathon times, and (2) his lie has been overshadowed by even more egregious fabrications, such as Rep. Todd Aiken’s imaginative take on the female reproductive system.

Ryan might lose a few supporters in the running population. He might even inspire a new vocabulary word in the running jargon handbook. (“You ran a 19-minute 5K last weekend? You’ve got to be Pauling me.”)

But, for most voters, Ryan’s stretch of the truth probably won’t be the deciding factor when they cast their ballots in November.

* Has been confirmed by documented evidence.
**Questionable at best.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Born to be shod

After years of resisting, I finally gave in and read Born to Run by Chris McDougall.

I say “gave in” because I definitely didn’t want to read it. My mom practically made me. Every time I talked to her, she would mention it.

“Oh, you have to read it,” she would say. “You just have to. It’s soooooo interesting, and he’s such a good writer. I think every runner should read it. Really, they should. Blah, blah, blah…”

I kept telling her no, I wasn’t interested in reading about some weird old dude who lived with a tribe of secretive Indians in the Mexican wilderness. I had much better things to do. Like shred old bank documents. Or alphabetize my spice cabinet.

In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the book other than its reputation as the catalyst of the minimalist running craze—which is exactly why I refused to read it.

By now, most of you are aware of my aversion to minimalism. It just seems ridiculous to me that anyone would choose a structureless, cushionless, laceless rubber foot glove—or worse, no footwear at all—over a shoe that was scientifically engineered specifically for running.

It seems even more ridiculous that anyone would completely abandon the footwear they have been running in their whole life as the result of one stupid little book. And yet, people all over the country have done just that—all because of Chris McDougall and his “Bible of Minimalism.”

My mom finally managed to pawn her copy off on me. It went straight to the bottom of the stack of reading material on my nightstand—beneath even the four-month-old issues of Us Weekly that had been passed down from my grandma, to my aunt, to my cousin, to my other cousin, to my mom and then to me. (Hey, I’m not going to pay for that crap. But I will read it. Don’t judge me.)

Eventually, my stash of fine literature shrank down to reveal the novel that I had somehow grown to despise without reading a single line. I sighed and picked it up.

Ok, McDougall. I thought. Let’s see what you’ve got.

My mom was right about one thing—he’s a fantastic writer. So fantastic, in fact, that I almost got sucked right into believing that I could run hundreds of miles in leather sandals eating nothing but corn mush.

The guy definitely did his research, and the science he presented was pretty dang convincing. All that stuff about Achilles tendons and glute muscles and heat regulation? Genius! He was clearly on to something. Maybe humans really did evolve as the greatest distance runners on Earth.

But any goofball with a journalism degree knows that it’s easy to prove a point when you include only the facts that back it up. (Or just make up your own, right Dan Rather?) The difficulty lies in constructing a balanced story that takes all sides into account.

So here’s the deal, McDougall: I buy your argument that we evolved as runners. But I think a more balanced approach to this argument would have at least mentioned the fact that our habitats have changed — and diversified — substantially since the dawn of humankind.

I mean, I hate to be that loud, politically incorrect friend who makes everyone else uncomfortable, but have you ever noticed how much you don’t look like a Tarahumara Indian? Or a Kenyan? Or a Kalahari Bushman?

Maybe some people are born with all of the equipment they need to run for hours on end, but they probably don’t have ancestors who rode horses and ate inbred livestock.

What I’m trying to say is, humans might be born to run, but we are born to run unequally. And some of us are born to run in gel soles.

To put it in perspective, I have created the following series of charts displaying the changes in human lifestyles over time, both for the Tarahumara Indians (a.k.a. “The Running People”) and Caucasians (a.k.a. “The Lazy Assholes”).

1,000-10,000+ years ago

Means of traveling short distances

Old horses
Means of traveling long distances

Trusty steeds
Means of food acquisition

Wild plants and game
Wheat, beans, goat

200-500 years ago

Means of traveling short distances

Means of traveling long distances

Wagons, locomotives
Means of food acquisition
Markets, taverns

Wild plants and game
Bread, cheese, pig

Present day

Means of traveling short distances

Segways, Vespas
Means of traveling long distances

Airplanes, automobiles
Means of food acquisition
Walmart, Golden Corral

Wild plants and game
Corn syrup, animal byproduct, Red Dye No. 40

Look, I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take a rocket anthropologist to see that the evolutionary selection factors for the Tarahumara Indians were significantly different from those that affected your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather from Canterbury. (By the way, American Anthropologist, if you’re interested in publishing this research, I’d be willing to entertain a proposal. We’ll be in touch.)

No rubber footwear—or lack thereof—is going to make you any less biomechanically inferior to The Running People.

So, despite Chris McDougall’s best attempt to make me a foot-glove convert, I remain firmly committed to my belief that white people need shoes. And dance lessons.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Half the distance, twice the pain

I know you are all dying to know how I did in my half-marathon debut this past Sunday. To make things interesting, I’m going to try out a nonlinear approach to my race report, à la Quentin Tarantino:

As I slumped down in the bathtub, awkwardly wedged between the top-right and bottom-left corners, I honestly wondered whether I would ever stand up again—not just because I was soaking my cramping muscles in hot bathwater when a bucket of ice would have been much more appropriate, but because I was pretty sure my internal organs were shutting down one by one.

OK, now let me explain how I got there.

When my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I was 100-percent convinced that it was going to be a glorious day. I wasn’t even tired. I skipped down the stairs like it was perfectly normal to be getting up in the middle of the night. I put on a pot of coffee and popped a piece of bread into the toaster. As I sat in the dark kitchen, sipping my morning caffeine and munching on peanut butter toast, I visualized my race plan one last time.

In my mind’s eye, I saw myself starting out at an easy, relaxed pace—maybe finding somebody to chat up for a few miles before really getting after it. Around the 8 or 9-mile mark, I would suck down a GU pack and chase it with a few sips of water—all without breaking stride, of course. Then I would kick it into high gear, passing people left and right all the way to the finish line.

The thing about life, of course, is that it rarely goes according to plan. For example, I didn’t plan on driving away from the house without my GU packs and subsequently wasting precious minutes turning around to retrieve them. I didn’t plan on getting caught in a bottleneck traffic jam on the way to the starting line. And I definitely didn’t plan on waiting in line for 25 minutes to use a Porta Potty before pushing my way through thousands of people to arrive at the starting line exactly 5 seconds before the gun went off.

I also didn’t plan on running the first two miles in a long-sleeved pullover. But there was no time to ditch my warm-up top before the start of the race, so I just sucked it up—actually, more like sweated it up—until I saw my parents a couple of miles down the road.

Despite all of my pre-race snafus, I was actually doing pretty well. I hit the first mile in 6:45, right on pace. I got a little excited the second mile and sped up to a 6:30, but I was feeling great, so I wasn’t too worried.

Even with the 6 a.m. start, the air was warm and I had a nice sweat going. Based on my extensive knowledge of sweat rates—thanks Runner’s World!—I decided it would be a good idea to hydrate sooner rather than later. At about the 5-mile mark, I grabbed a cup of water and gulped it down like a champ, refusing to slow down or stop.

About a half-mile later, my stomach rejected that water. Emphatically. I slowed down to about 8-minute mile pace and clenched. Hard.

All I could think about was that food poisoning scene in Bridesmaids. (“It’s happening! It happened.”)

I was terrified of re-creating my own real-life version of that scene right there in the middle of the race, which is why I resolved to make a beeline for the first Porta-Potty I spotted. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long.

There was a portable facility at the aid station right before the 6-mile mark. There was also a team of high school football players handing out water and Gatorade. I have never seen so many 16-year-old boys with perfect hair and skin, and I mean that in the least-creepy way possible. I tilted my head downward in an effort to hide the shame and embarrassment in my eyes as I pushed past the group of Justin Bieber clones, swung open the bathroom door and stepped inside to take care of business.

Even though I tried to be quick, I know I lost at least a minute in that stupid plastic outhouse. But I emerged feeling refreshed and 10 pounds lighter.

That feeling lasted for approximately two minutes. Then I was back to feeling like crap, even though I no longer had to take one.

As I plodded along, I noticed that someone in front of me was wearing a T-shirt with the following phrase printed on the back: "Half the distance, twice the fun!"

If I'd had any strength to spare, I would have lifted my middle finger to that shirt. Instead, I grunted and shook out my arms.

By the 9-mile mark, I knew I was on the verge of hitting the biggest wall in the history of walls. When I came up on the next aid station, I tore open the GU pack I had been carrying in my sports bra because I didn’t have enough time to properly secure it in my waistband before my hasty start. (Luckily, my ample cleavage provided the perfect hiding place for my little mid-race energy boost. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. I’m pretty sure it looked like I had some kind of boob deformity.)

I slowed down to power-walking speed, downed my GU with a few sips of water, and tried to settle back into a decent pace. About a mile down the road, the GU finally kicked in, which made running suck slightly less.

I continued on in a daze. By this time, I was running completely alone—a stark contrast to my visions of passing a continuous stream of tired runners as I chased the lead female pack to the tape.

I could barely make out the form of the next woman. She was at least a minute ahead of me, and although I gained on her a little during the final miles, my cramping calves let me know that passing her was out of the question.

By the time I reached the final stretch of road, my form had deteriorated into an awkward loping motion that probably made me look like I was experiencing gravity for the first time ever.

Then I crossed the line, and…it was over. At least, the running part was over.

I felt sick almost immediately. I went directly to the bathroom, where I camped out for about 20 minutes. As The Worst Stomachache of My Life Besides the Stomachache I Got After Eating Seafood at Applebee’s set in, I limped back to my family and told them there was no way I was sticking around for awards. I needed to go home. Now.

And that, my friends, brings us back to the opening scene—which is actually the closing scene. Clever, right?

Obviously, I made it out of the bathtub alive. I split the rest of the day between my bed and my couch. I swore to myself that I would never, ever run another half marathon ever again. Ever.

Then I looked at the results and saw my time—1:28:34. It was a good time, and I was happy with it—mostly. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I could have done better. Which is why I know that eventually, I will do another one. And probably another one after that. And maybe even—gasp!—a full marathon.

But next time, I’ll remember to stuff some Pepto Bismol in my bra, too.

Friday, June 29, 2012

This, not That

Five months into my half-marathon training, I have come to a terrible conclusion: I’m turning into That Lady.

You know the lady I’m talking about—we’ve all seen her, or her male counterpart, That Guy.

They’re the way-too-serious recreational runners who cruise down the local river trail dressed in head-to-toe tech gear: compression socks, arm sleeves, moisture-wicking visors, GPS watches, hydration belts, Breathe Right strips.

In college, my teammates and I used to make fun of them. Of course, most of us were too poor to afford any sort of gear to supplement the oversized sweats and T-shirts we were issued at the beginning of the season. But come on, nothing makes you more legit than running a Division I college cross-country workout in a grey cotton T-shirt that was made for the world’s fattest cross-country runner.

So anyway, now that I have a real-ish job, I have been able to add to my gear arsenal. When someone suggested that I try GU in order to combat the “ugh” feeling that I experience at around mile eight of my long runs, I went to the store and bought a whole bunch of GU packs.

And just like that, I became That Lady who stuffs GU packs in her shorts before long runs.

The only problem was that ingesting the GU mid-run caused an unfavorable reaction in my GI tract. My first thought was, “Shit—did I check the expiration date on that mayonnaise?”

Turns out, Best Foods had nothing to do with my mishap. I had completely overlooked the fact that GU is supposed to be consumed with water. Otherwise, you don’t digest it properly. Rookie mistake.

Soon, I was That Lady who stuffs GU packs in her shorts and plans her runs around designated water stops. I even considered planting water bottles along my routes.

Maybe you’ve been there, too. If you’ve ever Googled “Public water fountains in [insert your town here],” then you most likely have played the role of That Lady or That Guy at some point in your life.

Right around the time when I was researching algebraic equations that could help me determine the water and GU intake intervals that would maximize my energy levels, I realized that I had gone too far.

When I started training for this stupid race, the goal simply was to finish. Once I got a couple of long runs under my belt and realized that I was definitely capable of finishing 13.1 miles, the goal was to crack the top 10.

By the time I was crunching numbers like a tax accountant with a meth problem, I was determined to win at all costs.

The thing is, I’m the kind of person who can drive herself insane over the most minute details of a race—stuff that has nothing to do with fitness or preparation.

The 800 meters was bad enough. During my warm-up routine, my mind was usually consumed by a continuous stream of ridiculous worries. Should I wear tights or not? Is my ponytail too high? Do I have a visible panty line? Is Dancing With the Stars on tonight?

And that’s only for a two-lap race. Multiply it by, oh, 26, and you can see why I so vehemently resist becoming That Lady. My obsessive personality can’t handle That Lady.

Therefore, I’ve decided that I shall henceforth be known as This Lady. This Lady eats GU whenever she feels like eating GU. This Lady doesn’t give a rip about VPL. And This Lady is going to kick some serious ass next weekend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If the shoe fits

Those who know me best probably are aware that when it comes to money, I err on the side of thrifty—which is really just a polite way of saying that I’m kind of cheap.

But just because I’m careful with my money doesn’t mean I don’t splurge every now and then, especially on something important. Like, on a scale of George Costanza to MC Hammer, I’d say that I fall somewhere right around Matt Lauer.

Matt would never squander his millions on a lavish mansion and a 40-person entourage, but I bet those suave suits and ties he dons on TV each morning don’t come from Men’s Wearhouse. (By the way, that’s not a typo—they really spell warehouse that way. So clever!)

Well, I’m no hot-in-an-older-and-more-professionally-distinguished-sort-of-way morning news anchor, so when it comes to work attire, my Old Navy slacks will do just fine. Running shoes, on the other hand, are something I’m willing to drop some dollars on.

My favorite shoe model—Asics Cumulus—usually runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 at my local running store. It’s not cheap, and each time I hand over my debit card to purchase a new pair, I die a little inside. But even though I know I could find them cheaper online, I take comfort in the fact that I’m supporting a local business that in turn supports the local running community. The warm fuzzies are almost enough to stop my left eye from twitching when I read my bank statement.

The other day, however, I was faced with a serious moral dilemma, and in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I failed whatever character test the universe was trying to impose on me.

You see, I have to be in a wedding next week, and since I’m pretty sure the bride would not appreciate me ruining the photographs from the most important day of her life with a pair of unsightly Dansko sandals, I am in need of a proper pair of dress shoes.

Knowing that I probably will never wear these shoes again, I set out to buy the most comfortable, inexpensive-but-not-cheap-looking pair of heels I could find. Turns out, this task was virtually impossible because (a) “comfortable heels” is an oxymoron, (b) my foot is too fat to fit into dainty lady-shoes and (c) the bridesmaid dresses are fuchsia, and seriously, what color shoes are you supposed to wear with a fuchsia dress at a summer wedding?

By the time I walked into Famous Footwear, I was at the end of my rope. I thought shoes would be the least of my worries at this wedding. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to keep myself from sweating so there won’t be a host of nasty splotches all over my fuchsia dress.

After perusing the regular aisles and coming up empty-handed, I marched back to my favorite section of the store: the clearance rack. And there they were on the top shelf, like a shining beacon of light in a dark sea of hideous, out-of-season footwear: a pair of Asics Cumulus, in my size, for $80.

At first, I was convinced that it was a trick. I had always thought of Famous Footwear as the kind of place that sold Skechers Shape-Ups—and let’s face it, you just don’t go looking for a pair of real athletic shoes at a place that sells Skechers Shape-Ups. You just don’t.

I reached out and touched the box, half-expecting it to vaporize or turn into a pair of glute-toning shoes that Kim Kardashian promotes but would never be caught dead in outside of a contractually obligated appearance. Neither occurred. Still skeptical about their authenticity, I slipped them on and did a quick jog down the aisle. Yep, they were definitely the real thing.

My lips curled into a slightly evil grin of victory. As I walked up to the cash register, my chest puffed out in pride, I really felt like I was sticking it to the man. After I signed my name on the receipt, however, I felt a pang of guilt. Because in reality, I wasn’t sticking it to the man—I was sticking it to the local economy. And that made me feel like an asshole.

Fortunately, the small, liberal, corporate-America-hating part of me was quickly overpowered by the larger, bargain-loving, George Costanza part of me.

In fact, in the spirit of my George Costanza tendencies, I might just wear a pair of Timberlands to the wedding.   

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lap of luxury

Last week, I had the great fortune of staying at a luxury resort on someone else’s dime. What I saved in dollars and cents, however, was negated by what I paid in pride and dignity.

Here’s the thing: different people have different definitions of “luxury.” Some might consider a lobby full of art galleries, designer stores and five-star restaurants to be “luxurious.”

I, on the other hand, feel that “luxury” implies that all possible needs and desires of each customer have been preemptively identified and addressed. This is why they sell $150 golf shirts 10 feet from the front desk; they anticipated the business executive who checks in and immediately realizes that he has forgotten to pack the proper attire for his afternoon “meeting” on the links. This is also why $5 bottles of Evian water have been strategically placed just steps inside of each hotel room; they anticipated that I would be thirsty after hauling all of my crap through the “luxury” lobby and up to the 12th floor. (Luckily, I anticipated that everything would be marked up 500% at the resort, which is why I brought my own bottle of water.)

So anyway, you would think they would have anticipated that some guests might have reason to make a discreet entrance through a strategically placed side door, thus bypassing all of the ritzy mumbo jumbo going on in the lobby. Maybe they had a late night at the floating bar. Maybe they passed out on the beach and would rather not take a walk of shame past a five-star restaurant with sand in their hair and the faint smell of expensive liquor emanating from their pores.

Or maybe—just maybe—they are returning from a muddy five-mile lap around the park in warm, humid conditions. Maybe they sweated profusely while running said lap, and as a result collected several freshly killed insect specimens on their forehead. Maybe they would rather not walk though a pretentious “luxury” lobby in sweat-drenched clothes, with a gnat graveyard on their face and fresh mud splatters on their legs.

Trust me, I did my best to avoid the inevitable humiliation that comes with sporting a sweat-soaked T-shirt in a room full of rich people. I knew that there had to be an ultra-secret door for ultra-famous celebrities who didn’t want to cause a scene each time they arrived at the hotel.

Plus, there are plenty of celebrities who work out (or at least attempt to). I mean, come on—Oprah ran a marathon for Christ’s sake. Do you think Ms. Winfrey would have to drag herself through the lobby with a sweaty butt and a buggy forehead after going for a jog with her personal training entourage (and Gayle)? I don’t think so.

Oprah would be whisked away through some special entrance as soon as she arrived, and no one would see or hear from her again until she had been de-bugged and made-up by her 10-person glamour squad.

With few options to choose from, I went with the obvious plan: pretending that I was European royalty.

I looked around nervously, trying to form a look of expectation—mixed with a tiny bit of impatience—on my face. In my mind, my facial expression said, Hel-loooo! Where are my special resort henchman? I need to be escorted to my room immediately. I cannot walk through those doors like a normal person, because I am not a normal person. I’m...uh...the princess of Liechtenstein!

In reality, I probably just looked lost and stupid, like I was thinking, Hmmm…maybe I was staying at some other really huge resort that looks exactly like this one. If only I knew how to read!

Once I realized that the whole faux-fame thing probably wasn’t going to pan out, I jumped right into Plan B: pretending that I was on the hotel staff.

I saw some workers going in and out of what appeared to be a door for maintenance staff. I decided that there had to be some kind of hidden network of hallways for hotel employees so they wouldn’t be traipsing through the luxury lobby all day long. The problem was that I needed what appeared to be an employee-only keycard to unlock the door. I knew I had neither the courage nor the sleight of hand to pull off a successful key heist.

Instead, I slowly moved closer to the door with the intent of slipping in unnoticed the next time it swung open. But of course, I forgot that I’m not smooth enough to pull off a feat like that either. Somewhere between awkwardly bumping into one of the valet guys and narrowly avoiding a door-to-face collision, I realized that I was just going to have to suck it up and speed-walk through a crowd of millionaires, pretending that I didn’t have a beachball-sized sweat splotch on my back.

With as much pride as I could muster, I marched through the revolving glass door, past the concierge desk, past the fancy art gallery with the snooty attendant, past the shop with the annoyingly perfect piles of folded golf shirts, past the posh cocktail lounge where all of the trophy wives were sipping on $17 appletinis.

By the time I arrived at the elevators, I was certain that most of the resort patrons were pointing and whispering about how disgusting I looked. I pressed my sweaty index finger on the “up” button repeatedly. I swear I stood there longer than it took Oprah to run that marathon.

When I finally got back to my room, I closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief. I was pretty sure I couldn’t show my face downstairs for the rest of the night. Fortunately, they anticipated that, which is why there was a room service menu conveniently placed next to the phone.

Oh, to live in the lap of luxury! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


If you thought your biggest social media concern was deciding whether to accept your mom’s Facebook friend request, think again. Being careless with your privacy settings could lead to sharing your status updates with not only your mom, but everyone else in the world (and their mom) too. Even worse, you could end up becoming a subject of ridicule on this blog (see below).

Thanks to, Internet users all over the world can search thousands of Facebook profiles for whatever keywords they wish. The results are often quite hilarious. It’s the cyber equivalent of spending an afternoon unabashedly staring at strangers at Walmart/a water park/a Willie Nelson concert. If you enjoy the rush of hilarity that comes with watching obese people negotiate inner tubes, you’ll eat up the jaw-dropping, for-eff's-sake status updates found on Openbook.

Recently, I logged on to Openbook and tried plugging a few running-related words and phrases into the search engine. Here are some of the top results (I have graciously blacked out the names of my subjects in order to protect the guilty/stupid):

I kind of have to agree with Xavier’s reasoning. People who run and speak Castilian Spanish are generally very gifted medical professionals.

No one. And it sounds like you might be having some pacing issues, Robyn.

This is a prime example of why the vast majority of dieting attempts fail. Honestly, I blame the Big Mac for being so juicy and satisfying. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum…

She would, but Junior up there already ate it. Speaking of being judgmental…

I’ve heard cross-country runners described as “awkward,” “dorky,” and “sexually undesirable,” but “asshole” is definitely a new one. Thanks, Kevin. You have broadened my insult horizons.

 And I won't talk about what I call our next lucky subject...

Thanks for the clarification, Chel. I never would have guessed that cross country is not up your alley.

Referring to your middle school years as your athletic glory days? Jeez, at this rate you'll be a member of the washed-up townie club before you even graduate from high school. 

The minimalist movement has spread to MIDDLE SCHOOLERS?!? For the love of Vibram, this fad must be stopped!

 The only epic failure here is your blatant disrespect for the English language.

Seriously, did the government cut funding for spelling instruction or something?

This poor girl never had a chance. Just look at the way her parents decided to spell her name.

What, you couldn’t get a hold of anyone on your hand phone?

I know, right? Collarbones are so dumb. What, like providing structure for the skeletal frame of the entire upper body is important? Give me a break (pun intended).

What is going on at track practice these days?

At least everyone did not have poop all over their face and hands.

Complaining about the weather is an overarching theme of most track meets. It is always either too hot:

Or too cold:

OK, I have to comment on this one. This is a prime example of why sentence construction is so important, Destiny. According to your statement, Boomer and Gage got struck by lightening after they competed. Also, your Toddlers and Tiaras profile picture is totally creepy.

Sometimes, the weather is so extreme that meets have to be called off—much to the excitement of people like this lady:

By the way, is not an actual website. I checked.

And finally, my favorite track-related post: