Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dig: Running the Chicago Marathon

Lots of training (18 weeks' worth) came to an exciting (it was exciting to ME, at least) conclusion this past Sunday in downtown Chicago: I ran a marathon. I set a few different goals for myself but the hardest one was probably my time goal of 4:20 - that's four and a third hours of running - and, what do you know if my actual time wasn't 4:20:47! I'm cutting myself some slack on the 47 seconds and calling it a win. My first goal was to just finish. That was going to be pretty much a given. Unless I blew out a knee or a spleen or something, I was going to get myself across the finish line. My second goal was to run the whole thing and not take any walking breaks. I allowed myself to walk through a few of the water stations so I'm saying that goal was achieved also. And then I met the whole time thing so all in all a pretty good day.

I won't bore you with too many details about the actual run. This blog o' mine ain't about summing up my physical feats of strength (insert comment about my limited physical feats of strength here). These electrons are about things that I dig, hate and don't get and I'm here to tell you that there were a few of each on this particular 42 degree day. So, the over-riding theme is a big Dig (pardon the reference to the super-duper construction project in Boston) but let's review a little, shall we?

Don't Get: How do those Kenyans do it?! Good God, the winner ran a pace of 4:51 per mile. I was happy with my 9:56. I can't run one mile in under 5 minutes, let alone 26.2 of said miles! Unbelievable! I might move to Kenya so I can run faster.
Dig: The spectators. They were huge for me. Supposedly, there were a million of them. There were plenty of times when I needed to be distracted so I didn't focus on my misery so I just people-watched which was almost as good as my recent airport-people-watching activities. Saw lots of dogs, signs, pseudo-runners, people holding signs, my wife and the occasional sign. Gave high-fives to a boat-load of perfect strangers and every time I slapped some skin (or glove, since it was so chilly), it pumped me up to run faster. Saw Elvis and any time you see Elvis, you know it's going to be a good day! (Ironically, I was in Chicago on 8/16/77. Do you know where you were when you heard that the King died?)
Hate: Chafing. But I've already covered that in a previous post. Let's just keep moving along since you really don't want to know about where I chafed. I'm happy to report, though, that a couple of well-placed band-aids did their job!
Dig: Gutting out the last 6 miles or so. I Started to fade but I just kept pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down. I told myself that all I had to do was run to that No Parking sign and back that I had done so many times in training. Forget the 20 that I had already done. Just run to the sign and back. The definition of "sucking it up".
Hate: That feeling of almost-puke that I got for about 24 hours before the race. You know that feeling? Like if you caught a whiff of the inside of a dumpster at the wrong time, you might just lose it? I can't tell you how many times I had to grit my teeth and go to my Happy Place during the day prior to the race.
Dig: Only peeing in an alley once. Bonus! It was just that little nervous pee, anyway. Otherwise, I had a pretty good balance of fluids going out and fluids coming in.
Don't Get: People who do this on a regular basis. For me, this whole thing was less about running than it was about me setting a goal and achieving it. I haven't decided yet if this will be a one-off or if I'll be one of those people who runs marathons. For now, I'm a guy who ran a marathon. Big difference - and not just the letter "s". For a "Dig" within a "Don't Get", though, I dig that other people don't get how I could do this. Here's a little tip from an experienced marathon runner on how to run a marathon: Run 1 mile. Repeat 26.2 times. It ain't that hard to understand and it's as much in your melon as it is in your legs. I guess it's kind of like me thinking the people who do the Ironman triathlon are freaks. Let your Freak Flag fly, I say!
Hate: All the pre- and post-race shenanigans. It was really distracting (in a bad way) to have to worry about getting to the race on time, meeting with my wife, checking out of the hotel, etc. Us small-town boys don't know nothin' about them there taxi-cabs and those boys with the funny accents who drive them.
Dig: A sign that said "No Namby Pamby Bullshit". Amen to that, my brother! That's what I'm talking about! As a matter of fact, that's what I said to the guy holding the sign. That sign carried me for at least 0.37 miles.

So there you have it. A pretty good Sunday morning for this 39 year-old. I'm reluctant to say that it wasn't as hard as I was expecting, but I felt pretty good at the finish line - and even for the 26.2 miles prior to the finish line. Any of those freak-ish triathletes would be planning their next marathon to better their times but I'm just going to bask in the glow for a while. If you need me, I'll be over here in the glow.

For all the race details, go to www.chicagomarathon.com. Check out runner number 39362. I'm the good-looking one in the yellow hat.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Get: Models

For those of you that know me, my confusion over the entire fashion industry probably comes as no surprise. You might give me credit for having a full grasp of the whole khaki pants and polo shirts scene but not too much beyond that. My wife tries with me but I seem to get stuck in a bit of a routine and can't quite get out of the rut. She would say that about a lot of things about me and occasionaly I humor her by wearing the funky clothes that she buys for me. Mind you, "funky" in this situation might mean a shirt with stripes instead of just plain. I don't think I look awful, but you wouldn't mistake me for a GQ cover model. Yeah, less like GQ magazine and more like "White Bread" magazine. I'm confused enough over clothes, but my real confusion comes when the models hit the runway.

Imagine my brain-lock when I watch America's Next Top Model. We've already discussed my general dis-like for Tyra Banks and a lot of that stems from how seriously she takes herself and the fashion industry. When she critiques the models, she goes into full model mode and shows them just how it should be done. She points out that they should look like this instead of that. And I'm here to tell you, I just don't see a difference between the before and the after!

One of the things I don't get is how so many of the models look pretty un-hot until these pictures appear out of nowhere. After hours and hours in the makeup chair and just as much time spent using Photoshop, the next thing you know Janet Reno is some babe whose poster is in every high school boy's gym locker! And then you feel all gross when you've been digging her look only to find out that it's Janet (Am I a Man or a Woman?) Reno. High school boys are pretty screwed up in the first place and I personally don't think it's fair to mess with their heads (or other parts of their bodies) like that. I know some cute chicks. I see them at work or wherever and they look good. No Photoshop and I'm assuming something less than one hour spent on makeup. And so when I see what the Tyra wannabes look like prior to their transformations, my little brain just doesn't know how to process that info. Should my cute friends run off to Milan or Paris or New York to become models? Yes, I think they should.

So I've mentioned make-up. I don't get make-up. I get that chicks usually look better after applying some make-up but I don't know what happens between "looking rough" and "hot piece of ass". Maybe I don't get make-up because beyond freshening up the deoderant, I can get ready to go out for an evening in about a minute and a half. Unless I have to change socks which puts me at the two minute mark but other than that, I'm pretty low maintenance. Again, some of you might be saying that perhaps I should do a little more "maintaining" but perhaps you should shut up! My wife is not high maintenance by a long shot and yet it's a whole process for her to put her make-up on. Eyes, cheecks, lips, more eyes, a little more on the cheek, start over on the lips, different color for the eyes but just the lashes this time, touch up the lips, etc. etc. etc. While she is transforming herself, I'm usually sitting on my arse waiting until she announces that she is done and then I do my deoderant thing and we're good to go. And, of course, the whole time I'm thinking that she looked pretty good to start with.

One could argue that make-up actually makes your skin worse. If you're trying to cover up a zit, does it make sense to do so with something that further clogs your pores? Other people (people who would no doubt bug me) would say that the only reason that women put on make-up at all is because they are just trying to please men and it's the only way to get ahead in a male-dominated society. To that, I would say "Shut up. And do something about that zit."

And who doesn't just love to hear a model complain about how hard it is to do a photoshoot at 5am and how cold they were wearing just a bikini while sitting under a waterfall? Yeah, the guys in the coal mine have a lot of sympathy for you, sister! I can just hear them:

Coalminer #1: "This coal minin' is some hard work."
Coalminer #2: "Yep. Dirty, smelly, dark, low pay, specter of death hanging over my head all the time. Tough stuff."
CM #1: "'Course, this ain't nothin' compared to what Miss July goes through."
CM #2: "You got that right, brother. I hear she worked 4 hours just to get that one shot of her on the yacht sipping champagne. Her diamond ring kept messing up the f-stop."
CM #1: "Yeah, I would have been a model but I just don't want to work that hard."
CM#2: "You got that right, brother. Hey, why is the canary dead?"

Do those pictures have to be taken in Tahiti? Would the schlubs who buy the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue know the difference between a public beach on Lake Erie and some private lagoon on Bora Bora? As long as the photographer waits until the houseboat is out of the frame, I'm guessing that the schlubs wouldn't notice as long as it doesn't cover up the chick's cleavage.

And what's up with that walk and those dead-looking eyes? The key word in this whole discussion is "model". As in "I want to model myself after you." And yet I rarely see someone walking from one conference room to the next here in Dilbert-land doing that goofy walk with that look that says "I'm just here for my looks which, oddly, aren't that great until I get all made up." For that matter, with some of those girls tipping the scales at a cool 90 pounds and no curves, they look more like junior high boys instead of hot babes. Don't tell Mark Foley or he'll send some inappropriate text messages!

Certainly, I'm plenty stymied about some of the goofy get-ups that the chicks wear during couture week but I'm willing to write that off as more of a one-time event than a regular occurence. But what I really don't get is how the cute chick at Barnes and Noble (who walks perfectly normally) isn't on the runway and the chick who looks more like the kid who had the locker next to me in Junior High is up there doing that goofy walk looking at me with dead eyes.