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”