Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eight crazy things that happened at my Turkey Trot

In honor of this year’s rare convergence of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah—which, as every child raised in the Mountain West learned courtesy of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song,” lasts eight crazy nights—I have structured this Thanksgiving blog post around this sacred Jewish number. Think of it as a literary menorah. L’chaim!

1.) I won a pie. And in the process, I became enlightened to the immense motivational power of this hallowed circular pastry. Titles, medals, trophies, scholarship dollars—none of these even remotely compare to pie’s exceptional energizing quality. Every time I caught a glimpse of someone in front of me who could potentially stand in the way of me and my soft, buttery, flaky specimen of baked excellence, this was my thought process: She looks like she could be in my age group. Okay, her calves have wrinkles and she clearly reads every issue of AARP The Magazine cover-to-cover, but there is freaking pie on the line, and I’m not taking any chances. What if she’s like the female Benjamin Button? Beatrice Button, prepare to eat my dust. Then, a few minutes later: Hmmm...that’s either a 12-year-old boy with exquisite bone structure or Keira Knightley’s American doppelganger. Either way, I will not gamble with androgyny. Time to surge.

So worth it. 

2.) I embarrassed myself while receiving said pie. Usually, when the time comes for me to accept an award, I am able to reign in my excitement enough to create a façade of maturity and sportsmanship. But when the award is pie, I completely lose my shit. (Which, I’m told, makes other race participants uncomfortable. Whatever.)

Actual video footage of me when they announced that I had won a pie. (Source: i.minus.com)

3.) A dude in rubber foot-gloves beat me. Perhaps my only regret of the entire day was failing to out-sprint the foot-shaped-flipper-wearing asshole I spotted in front of me near the end of the race. But alas, with my pie secured, I simply did not give enough of a hoot to rally my fast-twitch muscles (or what’s left of them) for a kick-driven statement against minimalism.

4.) I was nearly outrun by a “13-year-old” girl. (The quotation marks indicate my doubt of said girl’s given age.) Why the suspicion? For one, I refuse to believe that my athletic prowess is comparable to that of a middle schooler—a high-schooler, sure, but definitely not someone who just got the official go-ahead from the Motion Picture Association of America to watch Dumb and Dumber.

http://singleladad.blogspot.com photo jeff_daniels2.gif
The wrong kind of turkey trots. (Source: photobucket.com) 

But more than that, a recent workplace step-counting contest tainted my trust in the competitive integrity of my fellow humans. Just as one can attach a pedometer to a Fido’s collar for a few hours to pad one’s weekly step totals, one can enter oneself in a less competitive age division in order to increase one’s chances of securing a pie. (Believe me, my running partner and I spent considerable time contemplating whether we could pass for a couple of 45-year-olds.)

5.) I ran a 5K “PR.” (The quotation marks indicate my doubt of the race course’s advertised distance.) As much as I would like to believe that I ran a community Turkey Trot faster than any of my collegiate 5Ks, I am a realist. Pie may be an incredible motivator (see item 1), but it’s not powerful enough to revert my body back to a level of fitness I will never again achieve.

6.) During the race, I burned a number of calories that represented a mere fraction of what I would later consume, but I nevertheless justified my consumption of said calories with the completion of said race. Like a dieter who hits up Dairy Queen for a “reward” after 25 minutes on the elliptical—I broke a sweat, which means I had to have burned at least, like 5,000 calories, right? One large Snickers Blizzard with extra chocolate, please!—I reasoned that my 5K effort would cancel out all the gluttonous activity on the docket for the rest of the day.

Source: quickmeme.com 

7.) I solved all my problems—save for the one above—courtesy of the problem-solving station. Yes, this is actually a thing, which begs the question: Where was it during that whole congressional standoff fiasco?

We got 99 problems, but lack of pie ain't one. 

8.) I inadvertently shed my amateur status by offering my official endorsement of a commercial product. After the race, an Aquaphor rep offered my friends and me some free product samples on one condition: she had to take a photo of us holding them. So yeah, now that my celebrity is being used to market healing ointment, I am, by definition, a professional athlete. Eat your heart out, Mary Cain.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Medal head

Over the past few weeks, I have made a concerted effort to spread my wings and step outside of my comfort zone—my “comfort zone” being Netflix and microwave cooking for one (although let’s be honest: that’s a good-ass Friday night right there). So, when the opportunity to participate in a big 10K race presented itself, I nudged—nay, forced—myself to accept.

Everything about the race itself was awesome: fast course, decent competition, ideal temperature, adequate number of water stops. It was the post-race process that puzzled me.

Because even though the finish-line chute basically dumped my fellow competitors and me directly into the post-race expo—where apparel booths, nutrition stations, and Jazzercise (yes, it’s still a thing) dancers could keep us occupied for hours—there was NO AWARDS CEREMONY. I repeat: NO AWARDS CEREMONY.

In my opinion, this represented a huge oversight on the part of the race organizers. Why? Well, I’m not exactly proud to admit it, but my years as a competitive high school and collegiate runner conditioned me to crave the 30 seconds of fame and affirmation that a medal ceremony provides. Somehow, the high that accompanies the ritual of having a medal placed around my neck is enough to magically offset the horrible agony I put myself through to earn said medal—thus validating my efforts and keeping me coming back for more. So, while Lady Gaga and I might not see eye to eye on a lot of things—one of them being acceptable uses for top sirloin—we’ve got one thing in common: we both live for the applause.

Without the promise of such a high, however, I had no motivation whatsoever to linger alongside the hordes of sweaty people milling around the expo. Plus, the lack of public recognition made the whole experience a bit anticlimactic. I busted my ass to finish fourth overall for women—and second in my age group, thank you very much—but all the stragglers out there still huffing and puffing away as I cooled down would never know that. So, after I caught my breath and drank my complimentary bottle of water, I jogged back to my car and left.

Fast forward to a few days ago when I went to collect my mail. Underneath mountains of grocery store flyers and a few promising Papa John’s coupons, there was a small padded envelope. The return address was a P.O. Box for the Phoenix 10K. My eyes widened as a brief rush of excitement flooded my body. I tore into the envelope with a zest I have not exhibited since receiving my last high school report card.

As I pulled my second-place medal from the mangled mess of bubble wrap, I smiled with great satisfaction. Holding that medal made me feel good. Really good. And then, as quickly as it had come, that good feeling disappeared. Because about 15 seconds after I extracted the medal from its packaging, I realized that it was completely and utterly useless.

Now look, medals might not be my award of choice, but I enjoy them as much as the next obsessively competitive narcissist. The problem is, there’s an unwritten rule in the running community that one can only wear one’s race medal on the day of the corresponding event. Thus, the value of any medal hinges on timely receipt.

With this epiphany, I suddenly felt very angry. Why—WHY—would they send me this NOW? Was this the race director’s idea of cruel joke?

WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS?!?!? I lamented aloud, shaking my medal at the sky.

When I returned to my apartment, I carelessly tossed that stupid, worthless hunk of metal on the kitchen table. I just can’t deal with this right now, I thought. I have too many other things to worry about, and Wheel of Fortune is about to start.

And there the medal stayed, taunting me day after day with its hokey logo and its crumpled neck ribbon. I grew to despise—even loathe—it. Why didn’t they just send me a gift certificate, or a water bottle, or a nice pair of socks? I would have even settled for a couple of GU packets.

Finally, unable to endure the torment for another waking second, I resolved to take action. Based on my rudimentary understanding of human psychology—garnered from my introductory college psych course, the Jodi Arias trial, and Shutter Island—I concluded that in order to let go of my debilitating resentment of this object, I had to live out the experience—or more precisely, the missing experience—that it symbolized.

Obviously, there was only one way to accomplish this, and even though I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, I knew it had to be done. So, I put on my race outfit, pinned my number to the front of my top, did my hair and makeup (hey, it’s a re-creation—I’m allowed to take certain creative liberties), and placed the medal around my neck.

Then I did something that, under normal circumstances, I would never, ever, ever, ever, never, ever consider doing: I pulled out my iPhone and started snapping selfies with reckless abandon. (For those of you who aren’t hip to Millennial lingo, selfies are basically self-portraits taken with smartphones. And according to this article, they are “pretty much the most embarrassing photos you could ever take, and everyone thinks lesser of you because of them.”)

With that in mind, here is the product of my digital catharsis (Note: I hold the Phoenix 10K 100% responsible for what you are about to see):

Cue standing ovation:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Train wreck

Well, after nearly two years of successfully averting the need to purchase a gym membership through my hodge-podge patronage of hotel gyms, apartment gyms, and kitchen table gyms, I finally caved. In a moment of weakness, I signed my name on a dotted line and agreed to pay $30 a month to get sweaty with a bunch of dudes in bro tanks. (By the way, I am seriously disturbed by what I like to call the Bro Tank Invasion. It’s sort of like the British invasion, except instead of everyone jamming to the Beatles, everyone is wearing ridiculous sleeveless garments that were designed for the express purpose of making the wearer look like a total douchewad.)

Anyway, as part of my new membership, the gym offered—and by offered, I mean aggressively forced upon me—one free personal training session. I tried, multiple times, to politely decline said offer. I even canceled the first appointment I made in hopes that I might quietly fall through the freebie-gym-session cracks, never to resurface again. Instead, the receptionist just went ahead and rescheduled me for another day and time.

So alas, aside from pulling a full-on no-show—which is a total dick move, because even greasy, over-juiced personal trainers have important things to do and important schedules to keep to (otherwise, how would they have time for gym, tan, and laundry?)—I was not going to get out of this thing.

With my fate sealed, I tried to keep an open mind. I really, really tried. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my complimentary workout was going to be a total disaster. Call it women’s intuition, call it five years of following Division I strength training programs—any way you slice it, I just couldn’t drum up the naivety necessary to respect personal trainers as real experts in exercise science.

When I arrived at the gym, I noticed a sign at the front desk advertising an upcoming educational workshop where you could earn a personal training certificate in just three days for only $399! So, while I spent my collegiate career following lifting plans carefully designed by professionals who’d spent years studying the intricacies of human kinesiology, I was about to entrust my health and wellbeing to some guy who attended a three-day seminar. Fantastic.

When I met my trainer—let’s call him Miguel—I could not help but notice that he was approximately 17 ½ years old. I also could not help but notice the not-so-subtly placed body fat percentage caliper directly in front of the chair where he invited me to take a seat. Clearly he knew that I, like all women, came to the gym in search of a cheaper, less invasive alternative to liposuction. (Cue eye roll.)

I was eager to get right into it—and, ahem, get it over with—but Miguel wanted to go all the way through the standard initial evaluation he’d probably learned about mere days prior. First, we talked about goals. What follows is a rough transcript of our conversation.

Miguel: So, Brooke, I see you signed up just a couple of weeks ago. What spurred you to join our gym? What are your goals for yourself?

Me: Well, uh, I signed up because the equipment in the workout room at my new apartment complex appears to be missing some very important components and also there are signs all over the place that say, “Use at Your Own Risk.” So, despite being a known and unabashed cheap-ass, I could not justify risking serious injury in the name of saving a few bucks. As for goals—well, mostly just maintenance and injury prevention. I’m a distance runner, so I’m not looking to get huge or anything.

Miguel: Hmmm, OK, OK. [Stalls as he fumbles for what to say next, as this scenario did not come up during the role play portion of the seminar.] So…you, uh, aren’t looking to like, lose five pounds, or gain five pounds, or anything like that?

Me: [Raising one eyebrow for 15 silent, uncomfortable seconds.] No.

Miguel: Right. I mean, I didn’t think you did. Or that you needed to. OK, well, let me tell you a little bit about what we do here at El-Lame Fitness.

Miguel proceeded to explain the philosophy behind the traditional Monday-Wednesday-Friday lifting schedule and to give me a short lesson in delayed-onset muscle soreness. At various points throughout his lecture, he stopped and—using a vaguely condescending tone of voice—posed questions to help frame his spiel. These included things like, “Now Brooke, can you tell me why our muscles feel sore after we work out?” Or: “Brooke, do you know why rest days are so important?” And even: “Can you guess what you need to eat to help your muscles repair and rebuild after a hard lift?”

Then, just to drive home his extremely important point about muscle recovery, he supplied a hand-drawn illustration, which I’ve reproduced below. (Side note: he had obviously practiced producing this figure several times, as he was able to draw it upside down with ease. I found this slightly more impressive than those waiters at Macaroni Grill who sign their names upside down on the paper tablecloth.)

When lesson time was finally over, he asked me what cycle I wanted to do that day: push, pull, or legs. (FYI: push and pull are both arm-exclusive workouts.) I told him I’m not really into the specific-muscle-group-on-a-specific-day thing, and I gently suggested we do something more circuit-like.

Now look, I know my sales experience is minimal (I’m still trying to get over the fact that I was the lowest-selling member of Brownie Troop #4408 during the 1996 Girl Scout Cookie season), but I always thought the first rule of sales was to give the customer what the customer wants.

So, if you’re trying to sell me on purchasing additional training sessions, maybe it would be a good idea to adjust the workout to suit my preferences rather than forcing me into a program I am clearly not interested in following. In my mind, this would be akin to telling a waiter you’re vegan and then furiously clenching your teeth as he launched into a longwinded sales pitch for the succulent bacon-wrapped filet mignon.

But there was no changing Miguel’s mind. There was no time for circuits during the three-day seminar, and that meant I had a decision to make. I reluctantly chose “push.” And push I did. Naturally, my arms were fatigued about three minutes into the workout. I begged Miguel to let me do some squats or lunges or calf raises or anything that involved the muscles below my waist. But he was ruthless. Finally, when I could barely lift my arm for a half-hearted fist-bump, Miguel announced that I would be ending the workout with push-ups.

“Are you effing kidding me right now?” I protested.

“Nope. Drop and give me ten.” He demanded.

I dropped all right. I dropped straight to the floor when my arms gave out beneath me on my first rep.

“Get down on your knees if you have to,” Miguel suggested.

At that point, angry annoyance gave way to full-on rage. In my world, girl push-ups are a form of public humiliation. I would sooner pick a wedgie while knowingly walking in front of Brad Pitt than voluntarily complete a girl push-up in the middle of a crowded gym. But Miguel made me do it, and now I am scarred for life. (Literally. The friction from the carpet on the floor tore open the skin on my knees and there’s a pretty good chance I contracted staph.) 

When I finally rose to my feet, blood trickling from my carpet-burned knees and daggers shooting from my eyes, Miguel knew he'd lost the sale. In fact, he didn't even ask me if I'd like to purchase a personal training package—probably the smartest thing he'd done all day. 

And now, just because, here's the movie clip where I am pretty sure Miguel learned his sales skills:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hit and run

Just for fun, I’m going to veer from the usual and start this post off with something a little bit different: a poll. Ready? OK, here goes:

Have you ever witnessed a motor vehicle accident?

Note: When I first wrote this, I was under the assumption that I could embed an actual poll question— with results computation and everything—into the body of this post. However, I am apparently too technologically inept to crack the code (pun intended) on Internet polls, which I find slightly worrisome considering that I work in digital media. Hopefully I did not list “Internet poll administration” as a skill on my resume. I must make a note to confirm that. Anyway, I’m too committed to this intro to revise it now, so let’s just think of this as a rhetorical poll. But feel free to write down your answer or say it out loud or even leave it as a comment.

My follow-up question to that inquiry would be: Have you ever witnessed a motor vehicle accident 4.8 miles into a 5-mile run in 100-degree heat? What’s that? You haven’t? I didn’t think so. I win. (Yes, in my ultra-competitive world, you can win at polls.)

I had been running for approximately 35 minutes when it happened. As you might imagine, I was extremely sweaty and even more extremely thirsty. I only had another two blocks to go when I approached the last intersection before my apartment. The light was green and the walk sign was illuminated, so I picked up the pace to make sure I got through the crosswalk before the light changed. (Remember, I was sweaty, thirsty, and definitely in no mood to stop for an entire light cycle.)

Just as I was about to step into the street, I noticed that there was a vehicle in the left turn lane. It was creeping into the oncoming lane of traffic, and I wasn’t entirely certain that the driver saw me. So, despite being in a fire-ass hurry to get across the street—and I say that in a completely non-figurative sense, because it was 100 degrees out and my ass was quite literally on fire—I jolted to a stop to let the driver execute her turn.

Just as I came to a halt, she saw me and slammed on her brakes—at which point a car in the oncoming lane zoomed through the light and smacked right into her driver’s side headlight, smashing it to smithereens and sending a confetti of automotive shrapnel flying through the air. I drew my sweat-covered hands to my sweat-covered face and gasped.

Here is what went through my head in the first few seconds after the wreck:

  1. Holy shit!
  2. I hope no one is hurt.
  3. What do I do?
At that point, another witness to the accident pulled up to the sidewalk next to me and got out of his car.

“Did you see it too?” he asked.

I nodded, still in shock. He then sprung into action, checking to make sure both drivers were OK and offering to help in any way he could. I just stood there like a dumb-dumb.

In my defense, I was incredibly dehydrated and a little light-headed. I noticed goosebumps forming on my arms and legs—a sure sign of heat stress. Still, despite clearly being in the early stages of heat exhaustion, I knew I had to stick around to give a statement because I’m a good citizen and it was the right thing to do. On a more selfish note, I knew this story was going to make for a super entertaining blog post.

By the time we had established that no one was injured, my dizziness had subsided and I started to get my wits about me. My mind raced with thoughts, questions, and concerns—many of them slightly inappropriate in the context of the situation at hand. Here are the highlights:

  1. Are those firemen ever going to offer me some water? (They did not.)
  2. Oh my god, I ran through two giant gnat swarms and I probably have insect carcasses plastered all over my disgusting, sweaty face.
  3. What if I have to give a statement to the police? What if they send a really good-looking cop and he’s totally grossed out by my disgusting dead-bug face? What if I smell? (At this point, I performed a discreet armpit check and discovered that I only smelled a little.)
The cop who did show up was not only inexcusably late to the scene (it took him about 40 minutes to get there), but also inexcusably dickish. As he took the left-turner’s statement, she indicated that she couldn’t recall all of the details and that he should probably ask me about it because I had the whole thing recorded in my memory in perfect slow motion. We’re talking iPhone 5s-quality.

So, I launched into a very animated, incredibly accurate account of what had occurred, and this cop—who, by the way, looked like the goddamn missing link in human evolution—put up his hand and cut me off mid-sentence with, “We’ll get to you. Let her finish talking.”

I wish with all my heart that I had come up with a clever retort right on the spot—something like, “OK, right after I let you finish evolving, Officer Cro-Magnon!”—but instead, I simply raised my insect-dotted eyebrows and shot him the most disapproving glare I could muster. I cannot be sure if he saw said glare; it is possible that his field of vision was obscured by his frighteningly prominent brow line.

After talking to both drivers, he retired to his air-conditioned cruiser to spend 20 additional minutes entering the information into his computer. We continued to stand in the hot sun. He did not seem the least bit concerned about this.

Then, much to our relief, an angelic Mexican woman who lived in the apartment complex immediately adjacent to the scene of the accident yelled down to us from her balcony: “Would you like some water?”

“Yes! Please! Por favor!” we shouted from below.

She proceeded to drop several ice-cold bottles of water into our hands, thus restoring my faith in humanity.

Around this time, the driver of the other vehicle struck up a friendly conversation with me. As we talked, I took stock of his nice teeth and his toned, muscular physique. He was very attractive and very personable. When he asked me for my phone number “for insurance purposes,” I briefly fantasized that he actually intended to use it “for cocktail invitation purposes.” Later, after returning home and discovering the true gravity of my dead bug situation, it became indubitably clear that he would do nothing more with my digits than pass them along to his Allstate agent.

When Deputy D-bag finally emerged from his climate-controlled environment, he half-heartedly asked for my “version of events.” Was this guy serious? What I was about to describe was not my “version” of what happened—it was what fucking happened! What in Tim Tebow's name would I gain from distorting the truth? Furthermore, I had just spent the last hour of my life standing on a street corner in a sweaty sports bra while making small talk with total strangers and completely sabotaging my weeks-long effort to even out my tan lines in preparation for an upcoming wedding.

I gritted my teeth and somehow managed to keep my composure. I gave him a detailed play-by-play, speaking slowly and using small words so as not to confuse him. And then, thankfully, I was dismissed to return home—which meant recruiting my stiff, electrolyte-depleted muscles to plow through another quarter-mile.

Still, despite the inconvenience, I took pride in my good citizenry. Don’t worry, I won’t let my heroic exploits go to my head—although I might wear a cape for a couple of days.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to increase your training motivation in one easy step

Let’s face it: finding the motivation to hit the road can be a tall order for even the most dedicated runners—especially when they are forced to choose between a grueling training session and a leisurely social engagement. Are you going to tell me that Paula Radcliffe has never been tempted to ditch a mile repeats in favor of getting bloody right bladdered with her best mates? Bollocks!

But, as any experienced dieter will tell you, the best way to stay on track with a plan is to eliminate the temptation to stray from it. If there is no Nutella in the cupboard, there is no chance that you will spoon-shovel the entire jar of said Nutella into that vacuum of self-control you call a mouth, thus completely sabotaging the four ounces of lean protein and steamed vegetables you just choked down.

Similarly, if you eliminate the opportunity to go out, you will significantly reduce your chances of abandoning a run to barhop with your pals. And the best way to do that—the titular “one easy step,” if you will—is to completely isolate yourself from anyone with whom you have friendly relations. If you live upwards of 30 minutes away from your nearest friend, you’ll be much less likely to give into the urge to get your party on, which in turn makes you much more likely to resort to filling your free time with a nice, long run instead.  

Like, let’s say—hypothetically, of course—that a casual Internet search for nearby live music shows reveals that the “valley’s best Tom Petty cover band” will be playing at a bar less than two blocks away from your apartment—tonight! This piques your interest because Tom Petty—one of the greatest classic rock musicians of the last quarter century—is one of your favorite musical artists of all time, and the next best thing to seeing Tom Petty live and in concert is seeing the valley’s best Tom Petty cover band live and in concert.

However, further research on the concert venue—in the form of several exceptionally eloquent Yelp reviews—yields a slightly unsettling consensus: it’s a “total dive biker bar.” Unsure of what to do, you again turn to the Internet for advice because hey, you’re a blogger, and you know what you’re talking about at least 40 percent of the time. So there has to be someone out there with some insightful advice on the subject of young women frequenting drinking establishments alone. You enter the query “can women go out to bars alone” into the Google search field and hit enter. Upon perusing the results, you make the shocking discovery that when a woman goes into a bar alone, she’s sometimes assumed to be—get ready for this—a prostitute!   

And just like that, your dreams of rocking along to “Won’t Back Down” are dead in the proverbial water because—ironically—when it comes to prostitution (or even the semblance of prostitution), you will back down. On the plus side—there’s always a silver lining, folks!—once the option of going out is wiped off the table, running becomes a viable form of evening entertainment. More than viable, actually. As illustrated by the charts below, it is in fact the preferred choice.



Plus, depending on the intensity level of your workout, the end result could be very similar to what you might experience after a night of heavy drinking. You’ll feel tired, dehydrated, dizzy, and possibly even a bit nauseous. The only difference is that you won’t wake up with a hangover the next morning (yep, there’s that silver lining again!).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to get owned in a 5K

Are you tired of always crossing the finish line first? Does the thought of winning another gold medal/blue ribbon/gift card/souvenir mug/pair of men’s running socks make you want to light your racing flats on fire and scratch out the Prefontaine quote you so meticulously stenciled above your headboard? Do you need a swift reality check to cool your ego and crush that ridiculous pipe dream of “going pro?” If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then you need to lose a race by an embarrassingly large margin—and fast! Based on my own experience racing a 5K in my hometown last weekend, I compiled the following step-by-step guide for running your way to a fantastically disappointing runner-up finish. Now, get out there and lose like a winner!

1. Train exclusively:
  • on flat concrete paths
  • at low elevation
  • in temperatures above 100 degrees (that way, you’ll never go faster than 7-minute mile pace) 

2. Choose a race course that:
  • is mainly dirt/gravel
  • features lots of hills
  • is located in a cool mountain climate

3. To promote maximum muscle tightness, select an event at least 1,000 miles away, book your flight for the night before, and put in a full eight-hour workday before boarding the plane.

4. When selecting your seat assignment, make sure you are surrounded by a half dozen screaming children whose parents are most likely deaf from years of auditory abuse—at least judging from their disinterest in controlling the volume of their unruly spawn.

5. Do not sleep.

6. To increase the chances of a major flight delay, travel as late in the day as possible.

7. Sit on the tarmac for two hours while engineers troubleshoot a “mechanical problem.” Let your paranoid inner voice convince you that this is code for “imminent engine failure,” thus signaling your adrenal gland to release of a healthy dose of cortisol into your blood stream.

8. Avoid using that tiny, despicable excuse for a lavatory by staying as dehydrated as possible.

9. During your layover, find the greasiest, most flavorless chicken sandwich you’ve ever spent $15 on. Eat all of it.

10. Arrive at your destination well after midnight. Do not go to bed until 2 a.m.

11. Toss and turn for five hours. Wake up unrefreshed and unprepared to compete.

12. Arrive at the race site 15 minutes before the scheduled start, allowing yourself just enough time to register, do three ominously laborious warm-up strides, and seriously regret your decision to show up.

13. Gasp and heave pathetically as you strain to keep up with the teenage girl who is kicking your ass.

14. Ignore the resulting chest pains.

15. Lumber across the finish line nearly 45 seconds after the first-place finisher. Wave awkwardly when the race emcee announces you as a “former star.”

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Sweactrum

As the old saying goes, you never know what you can do until you have to—like satisfy your urgent craving for Lucky Charms by using back-of-the-fridge milk that smells vaguely of old flip-flops. Or hold your pee in traffic for 45 minutes because some d-bag got up that morning and decided he was Ryan Gosling in Drive (and found out the hard way that he is not). Or even abstain from using Facebook Mobile for six whole days because your little brother exhausted the entire monthly data allotment watching YouTube videos in a non-WiFi zone (which you cannot complain about for fear of reminding your parents that you’re still on the family phone plan despite being an employed, fully grown adult).

Anyway, there was a time when I would have sooner purchased a ticket for Grown Ups 2 than attempted to run in 100-plus-degree heat. Then I became a Phoenician.

Now, as we approach the dog days of monsoon season—who knew it rained in the flippin’ desert!?!?!—I have been forced to exercise in what are surely the hottest, muggiest, stickiest, most ass-slickening conditions in the entire first-world. Seriously—when I step outside, I feel like I’m stepping into the butt crack of that naked fat guy in the locker room at LA Fitness. (To clarify, I have never actually seen this man, but I have heard stories. Lots of stories.)

In pushing the boundaries of my temperature tolerance, I have become very in-tune with my sweat glands and the various environmental stimuli that trigger them. I also have come to appreciate the nuanced stages of perspiration—collectively, the Sweactrum—which I have detailed below for your education and entertainment:

The Dainty Dew: This is that elusive glow that seems only to exist in Lululemon ads, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and Beyoncé. For me, it occurs during the 2.7 seconds between turning the door handle and crossing the threshold into the outdoors.

The Glamorous Glisten: This is really just Dainty Dew intensified, perhaps with the addition of a tiny patch of chest sweat: Nike ads, Flashdance, and Ke$ha.

The Beaded T-Zone: Eventually—or, if you are me, almost immediately—those sexy flecks of shimmer will coalesce into discernible sweat droplets. At first, these adorable beads of moisture will concentrate around your nose and forehead areas. But like a fictional amoeba-esque alien, they are bound to expand and wreak havoc on other regions of your face and body. Basically, you are rural Pennsylvania and your sweat is the Blob. (Because I just watched a documentary on frivolous lawsuits, I feel compelled to mention that this metaphorical movie reference is for dramatic purposes only. Please do not spray your face with a fire extinguisher and then attempt to sue me for it.)

The Crying Forehead: Now those cute little droplets have morphed into full-on face tears, carving dozens of miniature salt-water rivers across the length of your facial plane. In entering this stage, you’ll likely feel a faint sense of camaraderie with Joan Rivers, whose tear ducts are actually located in her temples. And forget about drying your sweaty mug with bottom of your shirt—the absorbency factor of that thin layer of fabric simply isn’t going to cut it. In fact, short of sticking a maxi pad to your forehead in some sort of deranged ad concept for Always, your sweat flow cannot and will not be stopped.

The Ink Blot Bra: Sorry, ladies, but even if you have the most breathable sports bra in the universe, it won’t save you from the impending doom of boob sweat*. Right around the time your chest starts to look like a Rorschach test, you’ll be cursing your decision to wear any color but black. 

The Bug Face: If you’re like me, this phase dominates the majority of your warm-weather runs. You inadvertently bring the gnat species one step closer to extinction each time you penetrate one of their annoyingly invisible swarms.

The Bug Neck: This extension of the Bug Face stage occurs as you continue to produce even more sweat, eventually dislodging the carcasses of the dead insects on your cheeks and forehead and carrying them to a soggy mass grave in the saucer-like divot where your neck meets your clavicle.

The Below-the-Belt: Did you really think I was going to get through the rest of this post without another reference to butt sweat**? Look, I don’t mean to be crude, but butt sweat is just a fact of life.

The Salty Soak: At this point, you might as well do a full-body plunge into a pool of pure human perspiration, because you’re totally drenched in it anyway. On the plus side, since all of your clothes are now approximately four shades darker, it’s almost like you’re wearing a whole new outfit!

*a.k.a. “Swoob”
**a.k.a. “Swass”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

S#@! old people say

Seniors say the darndest things. (No, it’s not a Bill Cosby-hosted television show featuring old peoples’ hilariously cute responses to random interview questions—although it totally should be. I think we can all agree that TLC is in desperate need of some fresh content. They’ve kind of overdone it on the whole freaks-and-train-wrecks-reality-TV front.)

I’m no Bill Cosby, but even in the absence of quick wit and colorful cable-knits, I seem to be a magnet for comical commentary from the 65-plus crowd—especially when I’m running. Well, comical to me, anyway. I’m sure some of these episodes fall into the “you kinda had to be there” category. But hey, this is my blog. I was there, and it’s not my fault that you weren’t. (Not that I want you stalking me or anything. That would be creepy and would likely result in you taking a pepper spray shot to the face.)

Anyway, in an effort to give you the most complete picture possible, I have prefaced each laughable one-liner with a few contextual details that should make you feel more like you were there, even though—again—it’s not my fault that you weren’t.

The time: Early morning (we’re talking pre-6 a.m.—prime senior-spotting time)
The place: Immaculately landscaped walking path in the middle of a bustling 55-plus community.
The character: An 80-year-old, 5’4” man in red swish-swish shorts, a striped polo shirt, and a khaki fishing hat.
The comment: “Are you sure you belong in this neighborhood?”
The response: Taken by surprise and unable to formulate a verbal response before leaving Gilligan’s Island in the dust, my running buddy and I instead burst into a weirdly synchronized nervous giggle and left it at that.

The time: Later that same morning.
The place: Residential road named for some Indian* tribe.
The character: A remarkably fit 60-year-old woman in Jackie-O sunglasses and a Jane Fonda leotard.
The comment: “It’s so good to see some young blood out here!”
The response: My 6-in-the-morning brain isn’t really capable of producing anything more expressive than a classic Echo Response (e.g., “Good morning to you, too!” or “What a beautiful day, indeed!” or “Yes, there are dead gnats all over my face!”). But that wasn’t really an option in this case. My friend and I talked over each other in an clumsy but good-intentioned answer that came out as something like, “We also you think awesome fit great exercise leotard!”

The time: Mere minutes after above incident.
The place: Main boulevard in the same neighborhood.
The character: A very tan, very enthusiastic 70-year-old man in a white Toyota RAV4.
The comment: “Hey! Stop! Stop! Come back!”
The response: My friend and I were split on this one. I—being the product of an upbringing with inordinate exposure to Dateline and Nancy Grace (courtesy of my mother)—did not acknowledge the motorist, instead picking up my pace and scanning the roadway for emergency escape routes. She, on the other hand, sauntered right up to the open passenger side window like a child who had just been offered candy and a puppy. Feeling slightly responsible for her safety, I backtracked to the open window, arriving just in time to hear our senior stalker proudly proclaim that he has run every day for the past 35 years. He then congratulated us for not being fat like everyone else in our generation. I politely thanked him for this “compliment” and ushered my friend away from the vehicle before he invited us into the back seat to check out his “race medal collection.”  

The time: Early evening (another prime senior-spotting time—post-four-o’clock-supper but pre-double-gin-and-tonic-nightcap).
The place: Shaded walking path.
The character: A tall, slightly overweight man in plaid cotton shorts, long tube socks, and black sneakers. At his side: an energetic, impeccably groomed wire-haired fox terrier.
The comment: “What high school are you with?”
The response: Five seconds of awkward silence followed by five seconds of awkward laughter. Unsure of whether we should be flattered or offended, my friend and I fumbled for a witty comeback. We were nearly out of earshot when I finally chimed in with: “Oh, we’re out of high school.” She quickly added: “Yeah, we’re out of college!” Of course I am totally kicking myself now, as it would have been huh-larious if we’d advised him to get his eyes checked because we were actually a couple of retired widows.

The time: Early evening.
The place: Wide, well-maintained public sidewalk.
The character: Friendly elderly gentleman on a recumbent bike.
The comment: “You’re going ten miles an hour!”
The response: “LIAR!” (OK, I didn’t really say that, but it was obvious that he was either Canadian or Confused—Canadian if his speedometer was actually in kilometers per hour, and Confused if he simply forgot how to do numbers in the midst of a brief “senior moment.”) In reality, though, we politely moved to the edge of the path, let him pass, thanked him for the rate of motion estimate, and quietly debunked said estimate based on the fact that it was over 100 degrees outside and there was no way in hell—literally, because I’m pretty sure Dante’s first circle of hell is actually Phoenix, Arizona—that we were churning out six-minute miles.

The time: Later that evening.
The place: Drinking fountain on the border of the local golf course.
The character: Doc from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (minus brass buckle belt, add fanny pack).
The comment: “I’ve got a bar of soap if you want it.”
The response: To put this comment into context, imagine two sweaty, panting, half-clothed runners (us) splashing cold water all over our heads, faces, shoulders, necks, chests, and arms. I mean, we might as well have climbed into the basin of this drinking fountain—and probably would have had we not been concerned about compromising its structural integrity. Anyway, we were so surprised by the sharp-witted humor of our white-haired onlooker that we froze mid-bath, looked at each other with raised eyebrows and pursed lips as we warded off a bout of hysterical laughter, and muttered something about how nice and cool the water was. Once we were a safe distance away, we let loose all of our pent-up giggles and, after we’d caught our breath, decided there was a strong possibility that Mr. Magoo was actually serious about the soap because heck, you never know what old people are carrying around in those giant waist pouches with their IHOP coupons and their jars of Cetaphil.

Well, that’s it for this week’s edition of Seniors Say the Darndest Things. Join me next time when I delve into sexting, thong underwear, and other inappropriate topics of conversation for retirees having boozy dinners at family pizza restaurants.     

 Zippity boop bappity bop.

*Should this be Native American? I can never keep up on what’s PC these days.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Daddy-daughter running diaries

Not long after I published my mushy Mother’s Day post, a good friend—and loyal blog reader—of mine pointed out that I sure as heck better write something equally sappy to commemorate Father’s Day. Of course, I was already planning to do so because (a) my dad is awesome and deserves mad props for his awesomeness, and (b) writing this blog post was much cheaper than buying and mailing a card. (Thanks for teaching me how to budget, Dad!)

My dad and I chillin' like movie stars in SoCal (Brad Pitt is taking the picture).

My dad and I share much more than just our good financial sense. From him, I inherited my charming foot deformity, my taste for anchovies and green olives, and, perhaps most notably, my insatiable desire to win at everything. As a pro football coach, he pretty much has to be competitive. And although he always emphasized sportsmanship and humility above all else, my dad definitely nurtured my innate competitive drive throughout my childhood—whether I was vying for the lead in the local children’s theatre production of Oklahoma! or a spot on the middle school math team. So, despite being raised in the age of participatory trophies and no-score youth basketball games, I developed a competitive spirit so strong that to this day, I can’t even get through a friendly game of Scattergories without a little smack-talk.

And even though cross-country was a bit outside of his wheelhouse, my dad fully immersed himself in the world of distance running to support my passion for it. If that’s not the definition of great parenting, then I don’t know what is. Here’s the “run”down (see what I did there?) of our most memorable father-daughter running moments:

A Daddy-Daughter Jog Down Memory Lane

1996 (summer) – I enter my first 5K road race. My parents also enter the race. After leaving my mom in the dust, my dad and I set out on a joint mission to conquer the eight-to-ten-year-old female age division. By the midway point, I am whining and complaining so much, you’d think it was an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Knowing full well that my drama queen antics are all for show, my dad risks a CPS investigation as he basically drags me through the final mile. Just as he predicts, my tears magically disappear when I see the huge throng of spectators gathered around the finish. I sprint across the line, win my age group, and receive my first-ever gold medal. From that moment on, I am in love with running.

1996 (fall) – My dad lets me race his offensive linemen in practice drills in hopes that they might be motivated by the threat of getting beat by a third-grade girl. I am oddly satisfied by my repeated victories over a group of 300-pound men.

2002 – It is the morning of my very first high school cross-country meet and I am a nervous wreck. It also happens to be school picture day, and in the midst of dealing with a Stage-5 Hair Crisis—trust me, curlers never work the way you want them to—I almost forget to pack my race bag. When I finally get to school, I make the horrifying discovery that in my rush to get out the door, I forgot to bring a sports bra. I immediately go to the office to call home. My dad answers the phone. My face burns red with embarrassment as I explain my predicament in panicked whispers. Ten minutes later, my dad shows up at school with the necessary equipment wrapped discreetly in a plastic bag.

2004 – My dad is coaching in Europe, and my family and I visit him over spring break. I am right in the thick of training for my sophomore track season. Because he does not want me to get kidnapped by a group of Euro-thugs in a Taken-type scenario—although, for the record, Liam Neeson ain’t got nothin’ on my dad—he insists on accompanying me on all of my training runs. He enacts the rule that I must stay within his sight at all times, so I end up doing a lot of back-and-forth running. This seemed overprotective and annoying at the time, but in hindsight was actually very loving and sweet.

2005 – For the second year in a row, my dad spends hundreds of dollars to take me to California so I can compete in the Footlocker West Regional Cross Country Championships. My race performance is mediocre at best, but he knows I gave it my all and offers lots of congratulatory praise nonetheless. Afterwards, he tries to ease my disappointment by devising a completely skewed, wholly inaccurate mathematical calculation proving that I am actually one of the top 50 high school runners in the United States. Also, he buys me a Tommy’s chiliburger.

2007 – It’s my freshman indoor track season at the University of Montana. I’m set to run the 800 meters in a meet at the University of Idaho, which happens to be in the middle of butt-effing nowhere. My dad doesn’t even think twice about making the five-hour trip to Hick Town, USA, to watch me run for two whole minutes. In his rush to get there in time for the race, he neglects to fuel up and runs out of gas midway through the drive. Without a moment’s hesitation, he gets out of the car, and—dressed in jeans and a leather jacket—begins jogging down the interstate toward the next exit. A nice young man takes pity on him and gives him a ride to the closest gas station. He makes it to the track just in time for the 800. A local sports writer is so impressed by this story that he later pens an entire column about it.

2010 (spring) – I’m set to run the 800 in one of the most competitive track meets of my college career: the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational. The meet takes place in Los Angeles—my dad’s old stompin’ grounds. I’m pretty sure my coach has fudged my entry time so I can run in the fast heat. To get myself in the psychological state necessary to compete against women with thighs the size of my torso, I repeatedly tell myself that (a) I am a badass and (b) as such, I can definitely keep up with these chicks and their massive quads. Once I hear my split at the 200-meter mark—27 seconds, the fastest I have ever run 200 meters, period—I realize that my plan is effed. I blow up hard core at 500 meters and finish dead last. My dad commends me for taking a risk and tells me it’s good experience to race against such a competitive field. Also, he buys me a Tommy’s chiliburger.   

2010 (fall) – It’s my senior cross-country season at UM, and we’re on our way to one of the biggest meets of the season: NCAA Pre-Nationals. For some odd reason known only to the NCAA and possibly Dr. Phil, the Division I cross-country championship course was built in the boondocks of western Indiana and is only accessible by a series of windy backwoods two-laners. My dad has traveled all the way to the Hoosier State to watch me compete. I have no idea how to direct him to the course, so I suggest that he follow the team van. He is staying at a hotel a few miles up the road from ours and plans to jump on the freeway as we approach his exit. Despite my moronically vague descriptions of our location—“Um, we’re, like, on this road that is next to, like, another road...oh, and the roads have lines on them!”—my dad somehow manages to perfectly time his freeway entrance, sliding right in behind the team vehicle in the legendary maneuver that forever will be known as “The Merge.”

2013 – I’m now a full-blown has-been, and I’m running in my latest community road race—a 10K in Polson, Montana. When I pick up my race packet, I find out that the 10K course is actually just two loops of the 5K route. I also find out that there are approximately six people registered for the longer distance, half of whom are men over the age of 50. After the starting gun—er, whistle—goes off, I am running alone within seconds. To help me deal with this double-whammy of monotony (repetitive course + no competition), my dad drives the car alongside me at various points throughout the race. He and my mom cheer just as enthusiastically as they would if I were pulling ahead of Kara Goucher in the Olympic Trials.

So Dad, thanks for always being there to cheer me on no matter what. I can always count on your congratulations, encouragement, and support—whether I win a major award or just a participatory trophy (although for the record, I hate participatory trophies and think they are slowly destroying America). Love you! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

One for the birds

I love baby animals. And if you don’t, well then, you’re a heartless asshole.

That being said, I realize that not everyone cares about baby animals as intensely as I do. Some people prefer to focus their attention on other, similarly important things like war and disease and human starvation.

Perhaps you tear up when you see one of those Christian Children’s Fund commercials—as well you should, because they are very, very sad. But nothing tugs at my heart strings more than those Sarah McLachlan animal cruelty commercials, which I cannot bear to watch for fear of developing a serious drinking problem. Whenever one comes on, I instinctively close my eyes, cover my ears, and sputter out sentence fragments like a Tourette’s patient until I can locate the remote and change the channel.

Now that you have a bit of context, I’ll get on with my story. It all started a few days ago when my friend Kim and I headed out for a run on a particularly breezy afternoon. The sidewalk was covered with windblown leaves, fallen branches, gum wrappers, flimsy Dairy Queen napkins, Taylor Swift concert tickets, and other worthless bits of debris.

As we turned onto the main road, I caught a scurrying blip in the far left corner of my peripheral vision. Upon closer examination, I realized that it had tiny legs. And a tiny beak. And tiny wings. I gasped in horror as my brain caught up to my eyes. It was a baby bird—an itsy-bitsy panic-stricken ball of fluff trying desperately to jump over the curb so he could make his way back to the tree from which he had fallen.

He was obviously too young to be out of the nest, and my heart broke as I watched him fail—over and over again—to scale the towering curb. Every few steps, his tiny bird feet lost their footing, sending him crashing into a precious little heap of yellow fuzz. It was the most pitiful thing you could ever watch—besides, I’m told, The Hangover Part III.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that all of his efforts were in vain—that he would never be able to climb the tree and rejoin his little bird brothers and little bird sisters in their happy little bird home. (Also, I don’t speak bird.)

I stared pleadingly at Kim. The look of distress in her eyes matched my own. What could we do? If we left him to fend for himself, he would die—either from starvation or by the heavy paw of a feline predator. If we tried to rescue him, he would die. (Anyone who’s anyone knows that a mama bird will reject any offspring tainted by human scent!)

We paused for several moments and debated what to do.

“What should we dooooooo?!?” I whined.

“I don’t know, what do you think we should do?!?” Kim squealed back.

“I asked you first!” I retorted.

“Ooooohhh…look at him—he so cute!” She said.

“We can’t just leave him—he’ll starve or get eaten!” I wailed.

“I know, but what can we do?” Kim replied. “If we touch him, his parents will smell us on him and reject him anyway.”

“Well, we could put him in a box and raise him ourselves,” I reasoned.

“But what would we feed him?” she asked.

“Well, we could, like, chew up worms and spoon-feed it to him with tweezers,” I suggested.

I could tell from the disgusted look on Kim’s face that she was not down with my worm-mash idea. In fact, she probably thought I was a huge freak for even saying it out loud.

At this point, I knew I had to put a lid on the conversation before I word-vomited any more repulsive comments. I lamented the poor bird’s fate one last time before restarting my watch and resuming the run. I felt a pang of guilt, like I’d just witnessed a pedestrian hit-and-run and was now fleeing the scene of the accident as the victim lay in the street, bleeding profusely and clutching a broken femur.

I tried not to let on, but the truth was that for the remainder of the run, my mind was consumed by the memory of that poor baby bird. The look of sheer terror in his beady little eyes haunted my every thought. But there really wasn’t anything I could have done, right? RIGHT???

As much as I wanted to believe my own words of consolation, I could not shake the feeling that I was, in some yet-to-be-identified way, a miserable failure. There was only one way to settle this—to free my mind of its guilt-wrought shackles: consulting The Google.

The all-knowing power of The Google never ceases to amaze me. I am especially mystified by its crazy-accurate psychic powers. Like, I can type the word “If,” and it will autocomplete the exact question I was thinking: “If I had 7,856 nickels, how much money would that be?” (Answer: $392.80)

So, I brought up The Google and began typing “Can I,” and of course “touch a baby bird” popped right up in the search field. (I wish I could marry you, Google. You just get me.)

I hit enter, picked the most legit-looking search result, and cupped my hand over my mouth in disbelief as my worst fears were confirmed.

To put it lightly, whoever told you that mama birds will reject their human-scented babies—your mother, your babysitter, your kindergarten teacher, that guy Steve from Blue’s Clues—was a dirty liar. Because guess what? It’s A MYTH! The Internet SAID SO!

I probably would have spent a lot more time being upset and angry about this revelation had it not occurred as a result of stumbling upon the coolest fun-fact website of all time. And thanks to my adult-onset ADD, the whole baby bird fiasco quickly faded into the annals of history as I clicked my way through a series of incredibly-entertaining-but-ultimately-useless trivia items. Well, useless to a normal person anyway. As a rambling blogger with adult-onset ADD and a horribly disjointed writing structure, I know just how to use them—as my concluding paragraph!

So, here you go: Chickens have earlobes. Chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs, whereas chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs. In an average NFL football game there are only about 12 minutes of actual play time. Nine-banded armadillos always give birth to identical quadruplets. Cashews are related to poison ivy. “Pepsi-Cola” is an anagram for “Episcopal,” which some people believe the drink was named after. “Britney Spears” is an anagram for “Presbyterians,” which no one believes she was named after. The end.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Running “Mom”eries

Back in my competitive running days, I did a lot of post-race interviews of both the formal (i.e., newspaper reporter) and informal (i.e., curious spectator) variety. The question I received most frequently—besides, “Really? There weren’t any other sports you could do?” and “Um, is that a dead bug stuck to your forehead?”—was, “So, how did you get into distance running in the first place?”

The short, gracious response: My mom.

The longer, less endearing answer: I used to watch my mom run when I was a kid, and I somehow developed an unshakeable inner resolve to beat her at it.

My mom hustling like a mofo in a half-marathon a few years back.

Either way, the bottom line is that without the inspiration I gleaned from watching my mother log lap after lap at the local college track all those years ago, I never would have discovered the sport I have come to love so much. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to present a timeline of running-related milestones I’ve shared with my mother throughout the years. Thanks for always being there, Mom. Even though I can beat you now, you’ll always be a winner in my book.

My Mommy-and-Me Timeline of Running Memories

1994 – I see my mom running laps at the local track and decide that I will stop at nothing to beat her, even if it means wearing out the heel lights in my pink L.A. Gear high tops.

1996 – I enter my first 5K road race. My mom enters the race for moral support. I show my gratitude by totally crushing her. Mission accomplished.

1999 – I run the timed mile in my sixth-grade P.E. class despite having a pounding migraine. After nearly passing out, I call my mom to pick me up early from school. Thirty seconds after we get home, I projectile vomit all over her immaculately clean bathroom floor. She rubs my back and tells me it’s OK.

2000 – I get stuck in a Porta-Potty at the middle school cross-country championships. In my panic to free myself from this poo-scented prison, I cut my hand on the jagged, negligence-suit-waiting-to-happen corner of the metal latch. I bleed profusely, miss the race, and cry like Tony Romo all the way to the emergency room. My mom hugs me and tells me not to worry—there will be plenty of other races.

2004: My mom gets sixth place in her age division at the Governor’s Cup 10K. This gives her legit bragging rights for the next eight years, at which time she discovers that her name is still on the list of the top ten fastest milers of all time at her high school (which is actually pretty badass).

2005 – My mom takes me to Spokane so I can run in a really big cross-country meet that my school won’t pay to send me to. I am driving and forget to check the fuel gauge before we ascend a huge mountain pass. The gas light comes on mid-climb, and my mom nearly has a heart attack as we coast on fumes to the first gas station at the bottom of the hill. She refrains from scolding me until after the race because she doesn’t want it to affect my performance.

2006 – State track is in Butte, Mont., a city known first for its giant toxic water hole and second for its Yukon-esque climate. But I’m an optimist, and as such, I pack like it’s going to be 75 and sunny. When we get there, it’s 30 degrees and snowing sideways. My mom rushes to a nearby sporting goods store to buy me a long-sleeve Under Armour shirt. Even though I know I am a huge idiot, she does not call me stupid. Instead, she lets it go and focuses all her energy into cheering me on. I win three state titles.

2007 – I’m about to make my college track debut in the 800 meters, and my mom has driven two hours to watch me run two laps. I trip and fall 150 meters into the race and get last place by several seconds. My mom hugs me and tells me I did great. It’s a boldfaced lie, but it makes me feel better anyway.

2012 – Even though I am now a full-fledged has-been, my mom continues traveling around the state to watch me compete in fun runs. She and my dad take me out to dinner the night before the local St. Patrick’s Day race. I order a carafe of house wine that I would estimate as one step below Franzia in quality, if that is even possible. The next morning, my mom wakes up with a terrible headache and is unable to make it to the race. Still, she manages to cheer for me through my kitchen window since the racecourse passes right by my apartment. She does not blame me, or my poor wine judgment, for her troubles.

2013 – My mom continues to read my silly running blog religiously and always has something nice to say about each entry. So, it’s about time one of my entries had something nice to say about her. Thanks for everything, Mom. You're the best. Much love.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Seniority rules

If there is one thing I learned from growing up in a neighborhood teeming with senior citizens, it’s that there’s really not much that separates me from the 65-plus crowd—you know, aside from roughly five decades and vastly disparate degrees of colon function. In fact, I would go so far as to admit that I am basically an outgoing septuagenarian trapped in the body of a 25-year-old woman. How did I arrive at this seemingly ridiculous conclusion? I think this list sums it all up:

Things I Enjoy that I’m Pretty Sure Old People Also Really Like

1. Crossword puzzles
2. Neil Diamond
3. Wheel of Fortune
4. Small fluffy dogs
5. One-speed bicycles with cute little baskets in the front
6. Licorice
7. Tonic-based cocktails

At various points throughout my life, I have made a conscious effort to remove myself from my comfort zone—i.e., the retirement scene—in order to engage socially with a more age-appropriate group of people. Though I have been moderately successful in this pursuit, I feel like the universe is constantly rerouting me back to my true destiny—a destiny of bingo tournaments, weekend trips to the dollar store, and date nights at Cracker Barrel. Case in point: professional opportunities recently brought me to the the West Valley of the greater Phoenix area—a.k.a. Senior Central.

Not that I mind. In fact, I think many of my peers would feel the same way if they just gave old people a shot. If you’re a runner, one of the best ways to experience the joys of interacting with the hip retiree crowd is to take a nice run through an area frequented by AARP cardholders (Florida, Arizona, and the five-mile radius surrounding any Golden Corral restaurant are all great places to start).

To reap the full benefits of exercising among the elderly, however, one must first understand the subtle cultural differences that accompany the generational gap. Remember, old people have been alive for a long, long time. They’ve been through a lot of shit. They are tired. They have spent years catering to the needs of others—hard-ass bosses, nagging spouses, ungrateful children, annoying relatives—and now, all they want to do is go for a goddamn walk in their goddamn Crocs and tube socks in goddamn peace. And the last thing they want is to have that peace disturbed by perky jogging whippersnappers like you.

On the other hand, seeing you run often sparks in them a pleasant nostalgia—a brief flashback to a time of youthful energy and stamina. A time when they, too, wore shoes with laces on them. The key is harnessing that sentimentality for your own motivational purposes. There is nothing more inspiring than a “Looking great!” or a “Way to go!” or even a “You know, I used to be able to do that too!” spoken through the soft, wrinkly lips of a kindly senior.

It’s not always easy. Old people are finicky, and eliciting favorable reactions from them can be a bit tricky. So, to help you maximize the benefit of your foray into geezer territory, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of things to watch out for. Please read carefully. Then go out and make some new old friends.

1. Fanny packs – The fashion powers that be have done a pretty good job of providing the aging population with convenient alternatives to cumbersome wardrobe items—elastic waistbands eliminate the need for belts, Velcro eliminates the need for shoelaces, and Pajama Jeans eliminate the need to ever change pants. Fanny packs also were designed with convenience in mind, and seniors have embraced the ease and comfort of hands-free, on-the-go storage. But when old people take their eyes off the road to rummage around their waist pouches in search of Carmex, prescription medications, or sugar-free cinnamon discs, they put everyone in their immediate vicinity at risk—especially on a narrow walking path. The movement of a distracted fanny packer is unpredictable, and that creates a dangerous hazard for anyone in his or her immediate vicinity. Approach with extreme caution.

2. Unruly Shih Tzus – Retirees are known for having a borderline unhealthy obsession with their small pets. In their eyes, Mitzy and Mr. Snugglepaws can do no wrong, least of all when they are sprinting, unleashed and with teeth exposed, toward an innocent, unsuspecting runner such as yourself. And if said runner inadvertently pins a fuzzy tail to the sidewalk as she attempts to sidestep said bounding yappers, who is at fault? Certainly not Mr. Snugglepaws. On the other hand, old people absolutely love it when you fawn over their fur babies. So if you find yourself approaching—or being approached by—a miniature canine, take a moment to compliment the pooch (“Cute dog!”) or even bend down and give him a little pat on the head.

3. Really dark sunglasses – When it comes to ocular UV protection, senior citizens don’t fuck around. They will not trust their precious retinas to anything less than NASA-grade tinted eye shields. Armed with the darkest lenses available in the retail market, these people could stare directly at the sun for 45 minutes straight without so much as batting an eyelash—literally. While it’s great that they take their eye health so seriously, it makes it really difficult for approaching runners to determine whether they are (a) paying attention to oncoming foot traffic, (b) visually impaired, or (c) sleepwalking. So if you come up on an old person rocking some Ray Charles shades, your best—and safest—bet is to swing wide, avoid direct contact, and offer a friendly wave from afar.

4. Motorized personal mobility devices – Sure, Old Man Jenkins lost his driver’s license last year after he “mixed up” the meanings of green and red traffic lights, but that didn’t stop him from purchasing a souped-up power wheelchair that goes from 0 to 35 mph in three seconds flat. Now he’s tearing up the sidewalks in your neighborhood on the daily, plowing through any obstacles—overgrown shrubbery, children’s toys, decorative garden gnomes—that stand in his way. And you better believe that list includes inattentive distance runners. So when you see him burning rubber down the cul-de-sac like he’s Jeff Gordon in about 45 years, steer clear.

5. Cell phones – You thought you were doing Nana a favor when you bought her one of those nifty Jitterbug phones. The oversized buttons, the simple menu, the louder-than-normal speaker—on paper, it seemed like the perfect solution to the communication needs of elderly women everywhere! Problem is, Nana is becoming quite the little texter. And when she’s more focused on emoticons and TTYLs than the road ahead, her chances of colliding with fellow pedestrians increase substantially. A senior citizen with a cell phone is nothing to LOL about; in fact, when you see one, I’d suggest that you GTFO of the way ASAP.