Thursday, January 24, 2013

18 Degrees

So behind my parents house there used to a two car garage that belonged to the property that we shared a driveway with. It was a pretty simple cinder block structure with a basic wooden roof. It was torn down a number of years ago, but not before it served me and my neighborhood gang of friends in a variety of capacities.

On any given day this garage could serve as a wall for wall ball, the frame for a soccer goal, a hiding place from parents, and on at least a few occasions, a roof for my friend Steve to fall through. But in addition to all of these usages, the garage also aided in a somewhat bizarre, and altogether controversial manner. You see, back then, my friends and I went through a bit of a problem. An addiction if you will to a candy known as Mega Warheads.

For those of you who don't know, Mega Warheads were (are?) a small hard candy that came in two main varieties, either incredibly sour, or intensely hot. And much like the way narcotics get their hooks into an addict, these little candies got their hooks into us. Cause as many of us can relate, the more candies you sucked on, the more raw your mouth became, which only intensified the already potent flavor.

But somewhere along the way, Jeff, the oldest among us devised a strategy for beating the burn or pain of the candy. Though never proven, he claimed that if you sprinted as hard as you could around the garage after popping a Mega Warhead, the discomfort was lessened, eventually giving way to the sweetness of the candy.

Now, I'm not ashamed to admit, that not only did I try this a great many times, I still to this day, believe in the healing properties of sprinting around that garage.

So needless to say, with all of these 8 and 9 year olds running around this structure, eventually a path was cleared out. A thin path that ran around the cinder blocks with only one small detour. Cause you see, behind this garage two medium sized tree trunks had grown almost touching the wall of the garage. The two trees stood maybe a foot apart, providing a small amount of privacy if you stood between them in just the right way. Mainly this became a place to pee if you didn't have time to run inside (in other words every day).

But it also provided a hiding place for one of the bigger kids to leap out of, scaring the crap out of an unsuspecting kid running by. I can still recall the feeling of flying around that corner just as one of the older boys would jump out from between the trees, sending my heart into my throat, and my body into a nearby bush.

And much like that boy used to appear out of nowhere to knock me flat on my ass, winter has arrived in the Northeast.

And since the thermometer read 18 degrees the last time I went for a run, I've decided to list the 18 things I've learned during this cold spell.

1.) There's nothing quite a bittersweet as knowing you've bought the last available pair of your favorite running shoe.

2.) Being able to tell the truth takes a while to get right.

3.) The worst part isn't when your legs go numb... it's when they stop being numb.

4.) If I leave my groceries outside in my trunk are they going to freeze...? No seriously, I'm actually asking.

5.) You know in cartoons when a character's legs spin in the air but they don't go anywhere... yeah, if you want to know what that feels like try running to the top of the hill at 38th and Spruce on a windy day.

6.) The distance between your front door and the sidewalk sometimes seems longer than the miles you have to do once you get out there.

7.) I look stupid in hats... okay, I already knew that.

8.) Wearing shorts in temperatures below freezing doesn't make you hardcore... it makes you an idiot.

9.) Few things are as important and yet underrated, as a friend who is good at listening.

10.) You've officially become an adult when you have to explain to a kid "Life's not fair".

11.) Few things are as fruitless as trying to stop your goggles from fogging up.

12.) The heat makes you forget the cold, until the cold makes you forget the heat.

13.) Fajitas are always a good choice.

14.) Of all the qualities I never thought I'd want in a girlfriend, having one that knows your sandwich order is surprisingly close to the top.

15.) Gloves are always the first line in the defense to falter.

16.) Wearing a winter coat makes it so much harder to find your keys.

17.) I know I'm not perfect, but I forget you never asked me to be in the first place.

18.) The greatest lesson we can learn from the weather, is that it can always change tomorrow.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

5 Lessons From Cold/Flu Season

It's like a chorus.

One, that much like Mrs. Skahill's 7th grade choir circa 1997, will surely make your ears hurt.

It's the music that fills up a coffee shop, train car, or office floor. It's the bass drum of coughs, the sounds of sniffles, and the intermittent accompaniment of pill bottles popping, and tissue plucking.

It's cold and flu season.

Five words that make you picture commercials of sub-par actors feigning discomfort then miraculous relief, and little green creatures living inside your body. Tis the season, with all the sights and sounds that come with it.

But here at Running as I see it, we like to take such events and give them a second look, to see if their orthodoxy can offer us as runners, something else. So with that, we give you...

The Top Five Things Runner's Can Learn From Cold and Flu Season

1.) Contagions

So the Bubonic Plague was spread by rats, the Ebola virus by monkeys, and if you are a fan of bad movies they are spread by zombies, terrorists, or in some cases, Gwenyth Paltrow. But in either respect, in certain cases the best way to stay healthy is to avoid sick people.

The same can be said for runners, whether for our own mental sanity, or pure promixity.

You have to be able to surround yourself with people who will keep you healthy and sane. And just like people who are coughing or sneezing, you should avoid the people who will cause you harm. Avoid the people who will encourage you to run faster or further than you should, and above all, the people who will make you feel less then.

But what about those times when we can't?

Because, just like our nurses, and school teachers, sometimes you can't avoid these people. The trick in these cases, will be to limit your contact.

So next time you are at the start of a race, and there is some jackass who decides they can't handle the congestion and begins to wildly weave in and out of people... stay away from him.

You might not catch a cold, but you might catch an elbow.

2.) Rest

Rest, it's as easy as that... or is it? 

3.) Take Your Vitamins

I'm going to say two words, and you will be flooded with sense memory.

Flintstones Vitamins.

Flintstones Vitamins are so popular, and have become such a staple of childhood that they are still sold today, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure they don't even show the cartoon on TV anymore. Just think, the Vitamins have out paced the Cartoons popularity. That would be like if they still sold Ecto-Cooler today, even though Ghostbusters has been off the air for a decade.... (And if you don't know what Ecto-Cooler is... well I can't help you.).

But, anyway, when it comes to staying healthy sometimes a good offense is better than a good defense.

The same is true with running.

Take care of yourself. Eat right. Sleep enough. Etc.

Don't spend five hours on Saturday moving out of your apartment, stay up until 3am that night then wake up and try and run 20 miles...

But I don't know anyone who has tried that.

4.) Blow Your Nose

You know that guy that you watched run by during a marathon, the one with spit all over the side of his cheek... yeah... don't be that guy.


5.) Flu Shot

So I was having this debate with a woman I work with. We were going back and forth discussing the "flu shot", the pros and cons. Each of us, for our own reasons, had decided against the flu shot. We cited various things, her feelings about it's effectiveness and potential side effects, and my general unease with doctors.

We talked for a little while before I came to my eventual feelings about being sick.

That it's okay.

That being sick, though very unpleasant, is not the end of the world. That it's okay not to feel well.

And I think maybe, above all us, this is the true lesson for runners, or for anyone really.

Cause somewhere along way someone lied to me, lied to all of us, when they told us that it wasn't okay to feel pain, or discomfort. That there was a solution or fix to every ounce of unhappiness that you might feel, a pill, a prayer, a purchase.

The truth, I've learned, or at least I think I've learned, is that it's not that simple. That pain, while unpleasant, may be the most important component for comfort. As one can hardly have respect for one without the other. 

Cause as it seems to me, discomfort is not the enemy of feeling good, it's the precursor.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

316 Miles to Boston

It's one of those things for my generation. One of those things we can't imagine living without. Things like the remote control, Whole Foods and that yellow line when we are watching football that alerts us to where the first down marker is.

But in addition to each of these is another thing, a thing that seems to clearly divide our generation with the greatest precision. 

Maps.

Since the age of the internet, and GPS, maps, or in this case, directions have fallen within this divide.

Gone are the days of large atlas books, and fold up maps that you can never seem to get back into their original fold. Gone is the need to plan such routes before hand, tracing the streets and highways with a pencil to your destination.

We all can relate.

You're visiting an unfamiliar area about to depart for a grocery store, a gas station, or perhaps another destination entirely. You are about to leave when your host begins to give you directions. They name landmarks and street names, point and attempt to have you picture something unclear. You nod patiently, attempting to convey you're best "I'm listening" face, all the while you are thinking "I'm just gonna GPS on my phone".

Ours in the generation that is never lost.... as long as we have our smart phones.

(Dig deeper into that one if you like.)

No, it seems that I really only get "lost" when traveling to those places that I've been before, places I think I know well, only not as well as I thought.

Which brings me to the City of Boston.

To the City of Boston, and a trip planned for one Monday in April.

A 26.2 mile trip from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in downtown Boston. A location that my phone tells me is 316 miles away from where I sit right now.

And though my phone gives me pretty straight forward, and seemingly simple directions for how to drive to Copley Square, the real directions for how to get there seem to be more complicated.

Even though, or possibly as a result of the fact that, I've been there before.

Cause here's the thing, if you had asked me this time last year how to get ready for Boston, you would have needed a chair and a snack, cause I would have had a lot to say. I had plans, and splits, hills and track workouts all laid out.

And I followed them.

I followed them perfectly.

I followed them right up until the point where I hurt my shin and couldn't run anymore.

And suddenly the plan I made to get me to my final destination left me stranded by the road. (Literally)

Which reminded me of a line my friend once told me that I'll paraphrase for you now...

If you are giving yourself directions, then you are taking directions from an asshole.

So these were the thoughts bouncing through my head a week or so ago when I went out for the first run of my training for Boston. Cause it seems that even after all these years, that during the first mile of a training plan, I still can't help but dream about the last one.

But it's possible that these lessons about directions are self evident. It's possible that this one of those lessons that everyone was taught, that I never learned.

But that's where I am today. Sitting here thinking about what I know, and what I don't when it comes to directions. Cause what once seemed quite clear to me now doesn't seem so easy to define. Cause as I sit here thinking about training for Boston, I'm not worried about how hard I will run the plan, but how hard I will stick to the plan.

Cause it seems that the fastest trip between two points doesn't necessarily make it the best. It seems that taking the direction is more important than giving it. And maybe, most importantly, the best way to avoid getting lost, isn't the ask for directions when you've lost your way, but rather before you even get in the car.

So, anyone know how to get to Boston?

Cause it seems as though the fastest

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Wintery Mix

So today was our first day back at school, as it was for many other people, returning to work. And on my drive in the retreating early morning darkness from Philadelphia out into the suburbs where I work, I began to notice something was different. As I made my way further west, and slipped onto the smaller suburban side streets, I detected something that I hadn't seen much of this year.

Snow.

And as the day progressed, and talk between co-workers centered around how our time was spent during this winter vacation, the recurring theme of weather seemed to come up time and time again. It was laid in the discussion of travel, and sidewalk shoveling, downed branches, and picturesque Christmas backdrops. Most of which sounded great, and would have been a subject I was sure to piggy back on, except for one thing.

I had no idea what they were talking about.

You see, it seems that even though we all live reasonably close to each other, we ended up on either side of that weather line you hear discussed so often on local news. That line between snow and rain.

Ours was not a picturesque snow fall, it was a biting blend of freezing rain, and that cold that seems to live inside your bones.

It was, as the TV weathermen describe, a "wintery mix".

So here now, is a wintery mix of another sort, a collection of thoughts for the New Year.

- Do we really need parades anymore? I mean, you can literally watch a movie in 3-D in your living room. I know they were probably really cool in the 20's when waving to things that moved on wheels was impressive, but seriously, can we really say that anymore? I feel like one day we are going to have to explain what parades were to our grand kids. "No Junior, we used stand on the sidewalk, and people would walk by, and we'd wave to them and they'd wave back. Then there were these other things called floats, and people would stand on those and wave, and we'd wave back. It was the tits!"

- Resolutions seem more about new days, then new years.

- If you can't think of what your New Year's resolution for 2013 should be, it sounds like you had a pretty good 2012.

- I'm okay with being rich, or being weird, but I never want to be rich and weird.

- I'd like to take this time to thank Hamilton Beach Brands Inc., for their incredibly stealth approach to shipping, you can imagine how surprised my Mom was to open her Christmas gift.





-  Obstacle courses seem like a very underrated way of deciding things.

- Knowing the person the want to be, is sometimes less important than knowing how to become that person.

- When in doubt, I ask myself one question... What would my girlfriends mother do?

- Someone one day will have to explain how making new memories somehow makes the old ones that much sweeter.

- Next year, I'm going to make Christmas cookies and gift them out in August when people might actually eat them. It's a Christmas tragedy how many cookies get left uneaten, and I'm going to lead to charge to fix it.

- Be honest, no question makes you feel like more of a fat ass than when the waitress asks you "are you done with that?", then points the empty plate in front of you.

- It's hard to tell the truth, if you can't admit it to yourself.

- The greatest tragedy of the rise in cell phones, is the death of prank calls.

- If missing/stolen cell phones were a sign of the apocalypse, I'd be locked in a cellar with canned goods and a shotgun. Shit is reaching epidemic levels lately.

- It takes the same amount of steps to start a race as it does to finish.

- The best part of tripping over the next step, is when you realize you didn't trip over the last one again.

- Running through the dark makes you appreciate the light...

- Can you honestly say there is a limit to what you would pay for movie theater popcorn?

- Jenny McCarthy and Ryan Seacrest hosted a New Year's Eve Special... I blame Obama.

- Next year, started yesterday... I'm not sure if that's deep or obvious.

And

- My resolution this year is not to try harder to be successful, but to try to be successful at trying harder.