Monday, September 20, 2010

The dorkiness of the long distance runner

—   For the love of god, they are not starting the boys and the girls race at the same time, are they? This is not going to look good, not one bit.

Long, long before I made my exercise bones as the dude at the walking track giving the head nod to the old-timers with canes, I was a high school runner of some modest, very, incredibly modest ability. Which means I could handle practice runs of varying lengths without much of a struggle and during races I could somehow manage to not embarrass myself by crossing in the middle-back of the pack.

Being the open-minded liberal guy I was, starting the boys and girls races at the same time wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. Sure, chances are some really fast girls would have finished ahead of me, but I could live with that as long as I could have crossed the finish line with a respectable contingent of similarly anorexic looking comrades.

But during the last race of my senior year, I knew damn well that me starting the same time of the girls was going to result in me finishing hand in hand with a gaggle of pint-sized ninth grade girls slowly shuffling along in their Hello Kitty sneakers.

Which means it is time for a flashback. I know, I know, I’m already in the fall of 1987, but I still need to flashback a month or two before that. To the slightly earlier fall of 1987. Hold on tight and try not to get motion sickness.

That’s when I suffered my one and only sports injury. I was running the loop behind the high school when I planted my ankle conveniently inside a tree stump as I turned my entire body, with the exception of my ankle and foot that were stuck in the tree stump.

It kinda hurt. I sat on the ground and watched my ankle assume the color, shape, and size of something in the eggplant family. Perhaps an eggplant. Several of my teammates ran by and asked if I was okay. I told them I was fine as long as I wanted to spend a pleasant fall day sitting under a tree behind the high school and didn’t need to walk anywhere. I asked them to let the coach know what happened, just for kicks. I sat under the tree. I waited for someone to give me a hand. No hand was forthcoming. I hobbled back to the high school on my eggplant ankle. Went to the hospital where the general consensus was that I had a sprained ankle which could prevent me from running for a while.

After a week or two, when the size of my ankle shrank to the size of pretty much your garden variety, noneggplant ankle, I started practicing again. During my first race back, I discovered that my normal moderate, not attracting any undue attention pace was replaced by a much slower, I’m making everyone wait in the bus while I finish the race type of pace.

Which brings me back to the final race of my senior year. Where I would be leaving the starting line at the same time as a bunch of 14-year-old girls wearing pink pom pom running socks. And the older girls who would have probably beaten me even on my best day.

Gun goes off, the first couple hundred yards is good, because I am using my typical race “strategy” …

Unfortunately though, for my three years on the cross country, I had just about the most asinine race strategy in the history of running. During practice runs where no one bothered to time me, I could keep up a healthy pace for six or seven miles, run side by side with the best runners on the team, and not feel like someone had taken a sledgehammer to my guts by the end of the race. Somehow, all this attention to pacing and stamina went out the window on race day. I’d hear the gun go off and automatically think I was a ‘roided up Ben Johnson trying to run the 100-yard dash in under seven seconds. I may have had the best 50-yard cross country splits in the history of MHS, head bobbing legs flying through the air as I took the early lead. By the 100-yard mark, I was neck and neck with the best runners, by the 200-yard mark, I was in the middle of the park, by the quarter-mile mark, I was usually doubled over in pain clutching my stomach as all but the most ploddingly of the plodders passed me by. After that, I would be able to pull myself together enough to get back in the race, actually pass a plodder or two, and find me back towards the back of a pack of skinny guys who at least looked like they were runners.

So, the big race, I sprint out and, much to my amazement, having a bum ankle does not improve the “Running like a drunken asshole from the police” cross country strategy. Within a quarter mile, I am doubled over in pain, clutching my stock with the added bonus of having a throbbing ankle and I am eating the dust kicked up by a half-dozen pairs of Hello Kitty pop pom socks.

I right myself enough to get going into a nice slow jog groove, cursing my ankle, cursing the damn stomach cramps I had never figured out how to avoid. (Which I know realize I may have been able to at least partly avoid had any of the coaches bothered to mention that — Hey, you might want to drink water and not coke from the soda machine before a race, staying hydrated could help you.)

Somehow, I finished the race not quite in last place. Despite having gotten off course and charging through the decorative hedges at the entrance of whatever high school we happened to be racing at that day and not on the official cross country course. At this point, the bus had been running for a while and the officials were probably just happy to have me off the course.

And so ended my glorious high school athletic career.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Random particle blogcelerator

I have the alarm set early so I can head out to the track tomorrow morning. Just so you all don't think I'm getting all Roger Bannister four-minute mile on you, I am heading to my town's local walking track. Seemed prudent not to get too carried away with this running thing too quickly. Well, running might be too strong a word, seeing as I have mostly been walking the track with the occasional jogging lap thrown in for fun, usually ending up with me clomping around like a slow, drunken Clydesdale.

The benefit of hanging out at the walking track at 630 am is that it makes me seem relatively spry and athletic compared to my fellow workout fanatics. It helps that I am the youngest person on the track by a good 30 years. And that I don't have a cane. In all fairness, my third of a mile splits have totally blown away cane man's time.

I'm also pretty sure the regulars are suspicious of my newfangled Ipod technology. Just so I don't raise any hackles tomorrow morning, I may have to leave it at home and bring my AM transistor radio. But God bless the old timers, at least they are exercising, which is more than I've been doing until last week.Hopefully my knees will hold up and I can graduate to the running track. And I'll be damned if the guy in the Rascal laps me again.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Daily affirmation, inspiration, or some such crap like that

Inspiration is a wonderful thing, you never know when it will hit you. Only problem is, the bastard doesn't like to waste a lot of your time. For me it's writing, for some of you it might be making music, cooking, painting, turning over a new chapter in your life, and for all of that and more, 'tis a great thing when inspiration strikes and we make the most of it.

The only problem is, we may only be inspired in our pursuits once a week, month, year, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of the rest of the time involves sitting on our asses eating potato chips waiting for that magic moment. But you know what, there is a little secret that can help get those inspirational juices flowing, ready to strike down out of the heavens (or evolve over time if you prefer a Darwinian world view). Are you listening Oprah. A Secret! I expect to be on your coach by November at the latest.

Well, the only problem with this secret for finding inspiration is that you might not like it. I know I sure as hell don't like it. It's called working, schlepping, plugging away, putting in the hours when you would rather be sitting on the couch eating potato chips, and good goddamn, I love me some potato chips, especially when you throw a container of french onion dip next to them.

You see, I really, really didn't want to write today. I was thinking I might have something more interesting to say tomorrow. Maybe my license plate will fall off again, maybe I will need to have my blood drawn, you know, the truly inspirational stuff. But just because something that MINDBLOWINGLY exciting might happen tomorrow, it does mean that I shouldn't put in the time today. Too often for me, putting something off for a day leads to two days to a week to a month, to a, well, you get the picture, I feel I may not be alone in this particular quirk.Nothing worthwhile in this life comes easy, comes for free, blah blah blah.

Back soon with more inspirational uplifting crap. (Oprah, send me a message to my inbox, we can work out the details.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Reformed glue sniffers and words you shouldn't say, even in an overgrown field with old cars

Camped out at a volkswagen show once, somewhere in a field. Somewhere far enough away that it seemed worthwhile to stay overnight, but not so far that we left the confines of Northern New England. Don't really remember, think it may have been Vermont, or Western Mass. 

I believe Randy had the late 70s bus for this trip, which Spencer also joined us on. Mainly, I remember Spencer being there only because he wanted to prevent any misfortunate use of the word "snatch" at the Volkswagen show, which, if I have failed to mention it yet, was a bunch of old volkswagens parked in an overgrown field someplace in New England where less people live than I am used to. Where was I? Oh, that's right, before we got to the designated overgrown field, we were hanging out in a parking lot, which is much like a field, only with slightly less overgrown grass and slightly more pavement, and we were playing hackey sack. (Don't judge, it was the early 90s, kids did it, even good kids. Or something.)  Apparently, somewhere along the way, Spencer made a good catch, or as I referred to it, snatch, of the hackey sack, which, although etymologically correct, also denotes a certain female body party. He went off on a five-minute harangue about how I should not say that certain word during the show or I would get slapped in the face. It was duly noted.

Now, before we got to the overgrown field, I was picturing something a little more camplike, with lots of people, fires, maybe some cookouts. Turns out it was about a dozen people drinking beer in a field and sleeping in their cars and vans. No, sorry, make that 11 people drinking and one crazy middle-aged guy who kept talking about how all the kids in his town were sniffing glue. For some reason, he thought me, Randy, and Spencer were very interested in how these kids in town were polluting their bodies with the glue sniffing. Polluting their bodies behind the hardware store, polluting their bodies outside the sub shop, sniffing glue in the convenience store parking lot. The longer this guy talked to us, the more I was convinced he had sniffed a lot of glue. Reformed glue sniffers are always the worst.

Eventually, the reformed glue sniffer left us alone to pollute our bodies with our beer, which is normally a good thing. Except when you are sleeping in the back seat of a VW bus and are convinced you have to get up to pee every five minutes. Which means either trying to hold it and not sleeping, or trying to sneak out of the bus quietly and not wake everyone up to take care of business in the wilderness. I don't think I slept for more than two hours that night as I faced that moral urinary challenge.

Which means I may have been too tired to enjoy the actual volkswagen show the next day. Which, if I haven't mentioned it yet, consisted of a bunch of old Volkswagens in a slightly overgrown field somewhere that was most likely still in New England.

Friday, September 03, 2010

He's leaving home

There is a certain bittersweetness when your friends move when you are older. When I was younger, I didn't seem as big of a deal when I lost touch with friends or when they moved cross country.

When I was 22, my best friend moved to Oregon, minimally to go to college, and, well, 18 years later, he's still there. At the time, I'm sure I was a little melancholy about his leaving, but it seemed like he could be back any day. When you are young, there is nothing but days ahead and chances to see everyone gathered happily back together once again. And this was in the days before the wide use of e-mail, before Facebook and instant messaging and video calls and a million ways for the world to stay in touch from South Middleboro to the top of Mount Everest. Irregardless, I was lucky that my friend who moved to Oregon was an accomplished letter writer (and may be now the last person to send handwritten letters stuffed in envelopes affixed with stamps through the US postal system). And he came home to visit often enough that its likely I stayed in touch with him much better than I did with many people who still lived much closer to me.All these years later, we see each other once or twice a year if we're lucky, we use all the fancy techy doodads to communicate as much as we can, and it feels as natural a friendship as it ever did, despite the distance.

But about a month ago, a close friend of mine took off on a cross country trip of indeterminate length and destination. Even though I had gone almost 15 years without seeing this friend, over the past year or two we've become pretty close, once again, thanks in part to the wonders of technology, and more importantly through seeing him on a regular basis. But his departure seemed to hit me a little harder than my best friend's leaving had nearly 20 years before. And this is with knowing that with all the IMs and FBs I would still be in touch with him much more than I could have ever imagined being in touch with my friend who left decades earlier.

As we get older, the impermanence of time becomes more of a reality. I'm still expecting to be around for a very long time, but there is a realization that what can be lost might not come back, or if it does, it could be years, or even decades away. Just as youth brings promise, age brings reflection.

Been a while

In all fairness, I did have the 2c4s thing going on the Facebook, which has only been withering on the vine for a month or two.

The big treat of coming back to blogger today was deleting about 100 spam comments. While I've been gone, EC certainly grew in popularity with those promoting lesbian gambling penis growth sites. Considered going back to comment moderation, but I think I will try to fill in the box with the nonsense phrases route for a while, see if that works.

Will probably link this to the ol' facebook. So far, this may be the most uninteresting post to ever mention lesbians and penis enhancement. I apologize. Hopefully back soon with more better stuff.