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!