Monday, September 26, 2011

New Shorts

The first run in a new pair of shorts is like a first date.

I picked up a sweet pair of Nike Dry-Fit, high-cut (of course), bright-ass yellow shorts a few weeks ago at a summer gear blow-out.

Much like a phone number on a napkin, they sat on my dresser, waiting for the right moment. Eh, who am I kidding... waiting for me to summon up the courage.

Thing is, I'm way too particular about my shorts to throw on a new pair just because I can. I need to be in the right mood. I need to be ready to take a chance.

A misfitting pair of shorts can rub you wrong, or bind you up, or just not look as good as you thought. (Sounds a lot every online dating experience I've ever heard about.)

The shorts and I were out over lunch today and got along swimmingly. I'm confident it's the first of many.

Good running,

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Know what happens when wet skin rubs against more skin, for an hour or so?

No, not that! Seriously, is that all you think about?

The other thing that happens when wet skin... yes, that one... chafing.

Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ portable grate raised on a tripod, used for heating foods that require gentle cooking, away from the heat of direct flames.

Really? That's what you think we're talking about? Rubbing wet skin creates a buffet warmer? Um... no, that's a chafing dish. What keeps you from wandering into traffic?

Chafing: noun \ˈchā-fiŋ-\ wicked abrasion of the skin, especially painful, and often first noticed, in the shower and usually accompanied by an involuntary scream of agony and/or profanity. Caused primarily by running long distances while carrying a bit too much weight, and by carrying weight we don't mean bags of kitty litter, we mean you're skin is too full of stuff, making it rub against the skin across the way. - Webster's 73rd edition*

Runners chafe primarily in 3 areas. Here they are in order of prevalence:
  1. Inner thighs - That paints a lovely picture, doesn't it? Two thighs rubbing against each other... Oh boy! Yeah, well just wait...
  2. Between one's butt cheeks - See? A little worse, isn't it?
  3. Inner arm and just below one's armpits - You were kinda scared that this one was going to be really gross, weren't you.
Armpit chafing is less prevalent. It's usually caused by a lot of arm swings and a lot of sweat on a really long run. Chubby arms will make it worse, but skinny arms are almost as susceptible.

Inner thigh chafing is pretty much always caused by having a little extra thigh meat down there. When you swing your legs back and forth, that extra meat can't help but bump into each other. Introduce a little sweat into the equation and you've got the makings of Frictionpalooza.

An easy way to avoid Frictionpulooza is to corral those rogue thighs inside appropriately high-tensile Lycra shorts or tights. Properly contained, they can't rub. Problem solved. Kinda.

The squeezing nature of Lycra can be used for good and evil. What confines thighs will also squeeze cheeks, leading to skintastrophy #2 (unfortunate number for this one). That's not to say that #2 can't occur all on it's own, but cramming your trunk into an elastic vice is going to make it way more likely.

So what are chafing sufferers to do? Choose between smoldering thighs or a crack flame-up? Just accept that for a day after a long run we'll have to hold your arms out to your sides in the classic "Look Mommy, I'm an airplane" pose?

"They called my row. Will someone please pickup my purse?"

No, of course not.

The solution to chafing, and so many more of life's unpleasantries, is lubrication. No not Vaseline. That goop stains clothes and doesn't last very long. Plus, application goes something like this...

No one wants to see this.

The best way, in my educated opinion**, to avoid turning your skin against itself is BodyGlide.** Yeah, I know it sounds like it might be something kinda, you know, dirty... but I assure you, it's not. It comes in a tube just like a stick deodorant.

And you apply it just like one too, right on the hot spot. But, remember to apply it BEFORE your run. A couple swipes on each inner thigh, or above and below your pits, or, you know, right there in the crack of dawn, and you'll avoid that big surprise/scream of agony in the shower. And you won't spend the day walking around like this...

"No. No. Don't touch me! I ran 20 this morning and I'm chafed like a baboon's butt."
- Nicole Richie

Good running,

*Not actually in dictionary, not that way at least.
**I'm a fan of BodyGlide because it has worked well for me for years. No money, no sponsorship, not even any free BodyGlide, though I would gladly accept all of these and man I'd whore myself out like you wouldn't believe.
***BodyGlide also works well preventing the dreaded bloody nipple syndrome, and hotspots on your feet from running shoe friction.

Images from here and here and here and here and here and here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Worse Than Slow

Time flies like an arrow.*

We either get older, or we die. Thinking about it that way makes getting older not quite so bad.

What I'm struggling with is the idea that older means slower, and by slower, I mean not running as fast, not more feeble minded, though I can see where you were going with that.

When I was in high school, I was fast. But everyone's fast in high school. All of those muscles and tendons are still under warranty. In college, I was really fast, and strong. I didn't look it, but hidden under the math major clothes and bad haircut was some pretty serious giddy-up. But this was track stuff. Not really much place for it after graduation.

After college I stopped running all together. Got a job. Got married. Got fat.

I started distance running a few years later. I started from the bottom. I'd never run more than 2 miles at one time in my life, and hadn't run a step in years. As the years ticked off, I steadily improved. Eventually, I got to be pretty decent at it. I'd race, a lot, and usually finished toward the front, just a place or two away from an age-group award. I was fairly fast, fairly strong, and fairly thin.

Then I got divorced. My running's never really been the same since.

It's not the divorce's fault. Not really. But I don't think it's a coincidence that my running was at it's best when my marriage was at its worst. That's not to say that running ruined my marriage, either. In fact, it probably prolonged it.

About two years after my divorce, my good friend and former running buddy Dave**, after listening to me complain about my prolonged running slump, said "Maybe you aren't running as much now because you don't have to."

Of course, he was right. Dave's pretty much always right.

At the time, running was an escape. It gave me the chance to leave an uncomfortable situation behind me, physically and mentally, even if just for an hour or two. It was also a distraction. Rather than dealing with the unpleasantness in my home life, I spent hours on long runs, training plans, and race preparations. And it was a release. Running hard, pushing my body beyond its limits, vented stress and anxiety in the form of sweat and heat.

You can only escape and distract and release for so long. Reality catches up with you. An acquaintance of mine ran to the point of multiple stress fractures in her feet before admitting to herself that her marriage had to end. For me it was a freak misstep that fractured a bone in my foot. Three months without running left me without escape, distraction, or release. I was defenseless. I had no choice but to face my life. It was painful and unpleasant and awful. It was also necessary.

That was 10 years ago. Today, I'm older. And slower. And happier. And she's happier, too.

I'd really like to be fast again. But if I have to choose between running 6:30s and living an unhappy life, or 8:30s and the life I have today, it's an easy choice. I'm going to keep working on getting stronger and faster, but if you're looking for me, you'd probably want to look somewhere toward the middle of the pack.

Good running,

*Fruit flies like a banana.
** Dave's given up running for yoga and a life with functioning knees.

Image from here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More Fountains

Need to catch up on my recent fountain adventures.

Carmel "Art and Design District" - July 16th

I've been in this one before, Day 107 of the streak to be precise. But this dip was required payment, up front, to get my youngest to take his own little dip (not pictured, but trust me, it's great video).

King's Island... I know! - August 7th

This is a big one, folks. And not easy to pull off. The good folks at King's Island take their fountain pretty seriously and they don't care much for people who choose to defile it. But I found a lower than average area of fencing and made it in and out before anyone became too outraged. My shorts were soaked, though. It's much deeper than it looks. (BTW, the pink floating things aren't flowers, they're pink floating Snoopie's that one can drop in the fountain if one makes a donation to a breast cancer foundation. They didn't seem to mind sharing the fountain with me... much.)

Indianapolis - Canal Plaza East - August 27th

Indianapolis - Canal Plaza West

It's not too often that you get two big-ass fountains a couple hundred feet apart. And even more rare is relatively easy access to the top of one of those big-ass fountains...

The top bowl of Canal Plaza West  - August 27th

And that brings us to today. The youngest and I were walking to the farmer's market and decided to explore a bit. We wondered around Carmel's City Center and came to a big open plaza. The boy said, "Uh oh, Dad. There's a fountain. You gonna get in it?" He's turning into a bit of a fountain guy himself. I couldn't let the boy down, now could I...

Atop parking garage at Carmel City Center. - September 10

Since they're still laying bricks for the plaza, I feel pretty same claiming "First!"

I highly recommend jumping into fountains. The less planned the better. When you see one, don't think about it, just take off your shoes, roll up your jeans, and step in.*

Sure, you're probably breaking someone's rule, but you're not going to hurt anyone or damage anything. Rules that serve only to keep us from enjoying the whimsy of life are meant to be flaunted.

And it you can get a picture of it, send it to me and I'll post it.

Come on, it's fun!

Good running,

*Remember my rules of fountain defamation:
1) Don't get into a fountain you if can't see the bottom.
2) Touch the water with your hand before you get in to make sure it isn't going to electrocute you.
3) Be careful not to step on any lights or wires, also to avoid electrocution.
Oh, and if you're asked to get out, or not get in, politely comply. The dude's only doing his job, enforcing a pointless rule.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Long Runs Suck

They sit on your training schedule like tombstones, all lined up, each a little more ominous than the next. To be trained for your race, you have to do them. And they know it.

For a week they sit there staring at you with that look of contempt. "You don't seriously think you can beat me, right?"

And it works. You haven't run that far in months, maybe ever. And how long is it going to take? What?! I have things to do! Whoa... I need to get up when? Those numbers aren't even on my clock! Too often, the long run wins without a fight.

If you do make it out, the first miles seem to take days, and are only a tiny fraction of what you have to cover. You start to do the math: "I already feel like a pound of crap. I'm only 10% done. By the time I'm finished I'm going to feel like 10 pounds of crap." You're not even sure what that means, but it definitely not encouraging.

And then you hit it.

Every long run presents you with a reason to quit. A perfectly understandable, reasonable, explainable, not your fault reason to turn your ass around and go home, or better yet, call a cab.

Here was mine...

The route I'd carefully planned included a bridge with a perfectly safe pedestrian path that I've run across a couple hundred times. But I haven't run that far in quite a while.

As I approached the bridge not quite 3 pounds of crap into my run, I realized that it was way under construction, as in there really wasn't a bridge left on the pedestrian path side anymore, which I knew from having driven over it a different couple hundred times but had forgotten. You don't really notice the presence or absence or sidewalks when your driving.

The construction erased the perfectly safe pedestrian path. What bridge there was left was 100% assigned to cars. Just on the other side of those concrete barriers were speeding cars driven by texting teenagers,  husbands heading out to drink beer and drive an electric cart around a big yard for 4 hours under the guise of "playing golf", and some really pissed off wives with errands to run who were screaming to their friends and/or sisters through their cell phones about how their husbands are not help at all. That's just my best guess, but still, not a good place to run.

The dog looked up at me, wondering why the hell we were still here. "Surely that idiot isn't thinking I'm going across this."

This was the moment when I could have turned back. The dog was all for it. No one would have said a thing. No one except the long run, whispering "I knew you didn't have it in you."

Being a long distance runner is as much about defeating those voices inside your head as it is beating a rival, or a time goal, or a distance. It's about pushing yourself when you really don't want to. And more, it's wanting to be challenged just so you can prove to yourself that you can do it.

Looking closely, with the eyes of someone looking for a solution, not an excuse, I saw that the construction left a lip of about 15 inches of concrete, right up against the barriers, littered with rusted loose nails, that seemed to go all the way across. We took it slow. Stepped carefully. And when we reached the other side safely, we flipped the long run, and the bridge, a righteous bird, and pressed on.

The rest of the run was actually enjoyable. My pace picked up. I felt better, stronger. Once over that bridge I knew I was going to get it done.

That's the feeling we're looking for when we head out for a long run.

Good running,