Running to Soft Rock

imagesI’ve started running again.  It is predictably unpleasant.

I know some people like running.  Some get a “runner’s high.”  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that.  Mostly I just imagine people who run long distances are already high on something…

Some people put a lot of thought into their running.  They have special shoes, special shorts, and a special playlist to keep them motivated.  It usually takes me so long to get up the energy to actually go run that everything else about it is an afterthought.  I wear mesh shorts. I wear my neon green Nike shoes (and socks if I remember them in my gym bag).  And I put Pandora on my iPhone.

This last week when I walked into the cardio room, I set my eyes on the treadmill without anyone nearby.  If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I kind of sweat (read: sweat cascades down my arms and chest like Queensland Falls).  The movement of my arms makes the sweat fling off my elbows.  I think it’s gross and it’s my sweat.  I try not to run near people.

But, of course, the moment I step onto the treadmill, the dude who still wears friendship bracelets gets on the treadmill next to me.

Note: he was wearing the friendship bracelet on his ankle.  I am unclear how far down the friendship totem pole you have to be to get the handmade bracelet you made for your friend relegated to the foot, but I digress…

Anyway, I had no other option, so it was going to be me and Friendship Bracelet running in tandem tonight.

I set my iPhone to play my “Classic Rock” Pandora channel.  I love it.  CCR, KISS, the Stones, Hendrix.  They all danced in my ears for the first mile.

Well, sort of.  It always takes a minute or two for my iPhone to find the signal in the gerbil cage that is the cardio room at the gym.  So they danced for about 3/4 of a mile.  That first quarter the only thing that danced was my hand waiving the phone in the air trying to get a signal like I was helping to land a plane.

I looked over at Friendship Bracelet to see if he was paying attention to my waving, but thankfully he was engrossed in untangling his earbuds.  This was the second time I pitied him (the first was for wearing that bracelet)…nothing tangles quite like earbuds.  It’s hard enough to run, but try running while doing a puzzle.  That’s what those first few moments of starting the treadmill before the earbuds are untangled are like.  It’s like Sudoku for your fingers.

Anyway, Classic Rock comes on, I’m jamming, I’m sweating, all is well.

But see, when I get to running I also get to being bored.  Which is generally my biggest issue with running: it’s boring.

So, at about the first mile, I take my phone and go to my Pandora station options.  I won’t be going for George Winston.  I won’t be going for Lady Gaga, either…though that station is always tempting. No; we’re going to test ourselves tonight.

I boldly turn to my “Soft Rock” station.

I know what you’re thinking.  “You have a Soft Rock station on Pandora?”  Frankly, yes.  I have an eclectic taste in music.  And I happen to have a knack for memorizing lyrics. I also tend to like things that are schmaltzy…because I think that’s funny.  And because I like touching things that aren’t too cutesy.  I don’t care for those motivational kitten posters, but that McDonald’s add at Christmastime where Ronald convinces the young kid not to run away from home?  Man…there’s a story there…

See?  Yeah, that’s me.  In that sense I fit the demographic box for the Soft Rock/Easy Listening audience.

I do not fit the Soft Rock/Easy Listening demographic in the sense that I am not my mother.

So at mile 1.3 I start my journey with the sounds of Bertie Higgins and Key Largo, smiling my butt off as I mouth (a little too dramatically) “Here’s lookin’ at you kid…”  And in that moment I didn’t feel my wobbly legs or my taxed lungs, but was whisked away to Key Largo where I nestled my toes in the sand and breathed the easy, salty air of tropical Florida.

And then I recall doing air drums. Lots of air drums. To Dan Seals and John Ford Coley’s I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.  If you listen to that song (and you should…watch the video for the mustaches alone…) you’ll notice that there aren’t a whole lot of drums.  But the ones that are there…oh the ones that are there…they deserve air drums.  Friendship Bracelet didn’t seem to care.

And I don’t remember which artist was next or how many songs later it happened, but at about mile two old-school Michael Bolton came on.  I’m talking mullet-in-the-back-nothing-on-top-button-up-shirt-with-a-bejeweled-stud-instead-of-a-tie Bolton.  And he started asking this question about how people can be lovers if they can’t be friends.  And I think it’s a really good question.  And although I know he means it as a hypothetical, I think it deserves an answer.  And for about four minutes my mind wandered through the relationship woes of a couple who can’t start over because the fighting never ends.

A fascinating psychological journey through the heart and soul of love.

And I know there were others in the mix, but I want to take you to the end of this run right now because blog posts should be less and not more, and the ending is really the apogee of the post.

Because all of a sudden Rod Stewart’s Forever Young came on. The unplugged version.

And I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, there was a version that was plugged in?”

Yes. The original.  No more questions.

Anyway, we’re waiting on baby number two and have this great little 21 month old at home who cracks me up every day and as Stewart’s words fall like a benediction upon my ears all I can think of is my little guy with cornsilk hair who will not be forever young and this new little one about to be born.

And I know we hit three miles because the treadmill stopped (why ever run more than three miles?).  But that’s the only way I knew we hit that mile marker because by this point I was openly weeping while running and couldn’t even see the treadmill dashboard anymore.

I didn’t wait around for Friendship Bracelet to grab me a tissue.  I wiped off my machine and ran like Napoleon Dynamite to the lockerroom.

And may you, dear reader, be dignified and true and remain ever young.

And may you also never dare to listen to Soft Rock while running.  It’s not worth the (emotional) pain.


“The Days When T-Shirts Said Something” or “When I Tried to Do a Sudoku While Jogging”

I have lots of t-shirts with phrases and sayings on them.

I have one that says, “Sermonator.”  I like that one.images

I used to have one that said “Super Student.” That one was awesome.  It made my campus pastor laugh when I went up for communion.

Sometimes the truth is really funny.

And I have one from my college days that says, “Don’t You Wish You Were Me?”  It glows in the dark.  I bought it 20lbs and 20,000 hair follicles ago, but I still wear it to work out at the gym.

It used to be funny.  Now it’s ironic.

They don’t make many of those t-shirts anymore.  Sigh…I pine for the days when a t-shirt said something about a person.

Anyway, I was wearing this last shirt to the gym tonight, and in my right hand I had yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) Redeye paper, the free paper here in Chicago with all the news that’s fit to be printed in a free paper.

I like the Redeye…but I like it mostly for its Sudoku.

I’m not a Sudoko wiz.  In fact, I’d call my Sudoku skills as “above average,” with my number skills falling somewhere between an 8th grade mathelete and Stephen Hawkings.  But I can usually tackle the Wednesday Sudoku with little problem.  It’s a “medium” in difficulty.

And so I came up with the brilliant idea to do the Sudoku while jogging on the treadmill.  I did this for two reasons.  A) my biggest stumbling block when it comes to running/jogging is boredom.  God, it’s boring.  Ugh. Boring, boring, boring.  Runner’s high?  Nope.  Jogger’s boredom. B) Because running is boring, I need a goal to get me through.  Past goals include, “Run until Cops is over.”  Another goal, “Get through half the Scissor Sisters album, and then you can stop.”

Tonight’s goal: do the medium Sudoku from Wednesday’s Redeye.

I started up the ‘mill.  5.5. Easy, easy jog.

It wasn’t until about 30 seconds in that I figured out this was the dumbest idea ever.  First of all, it was really hard to read the blocks.  I don’t run with my glasses on (sweat streaks), and I don’t wear contacts (can’t touch my eyeballs), so I had to squint really hard to see the blocks.

Secondly, have you ever tried to write numbers in blocks while jogging?  Not easy, my friend.  Not easy.

So I lowered that level down to a “brisk walk,” where I could hold the Sudoku up to my face and work on it.

That’s when I started hearing the high-pitched squeaking noise coming from my treadmill.  I thought to myself, “Awesome.  I chose the squeaky treadmill that everyone else avoided and hates, and I’m going to annoy the hell out of all of these people…”

And then I realized that the treadmill only squeaked if you neared an edge.  And then context clues led me to conclude that the treadmill is designed to do this to tell the user, “Hey, get your eyes off of the Sudoku, you’re about to fall off!”

Apparently I was walking much slower than the speed given.

So I adjusted and started filling in the blanks, and I was doing a pretty good job (except my 7’s began looking like 4’s, causing some momentary confusion).

And then the sweat started.  It started dripping on my paper.  And the ink started to run.  And here I was, 32 minutes into my jog/brisk walk Sudoku challenge with about half the boxes filled in, and my hard work began to suffer terribly because my body started flinging juice everywhere.

So I started filling in boxes; guessing at answers.  And before I knew it, two fours appeared in the same line and, blamo, challenge met.

Subconsciously I self-sabotaged my Sudoku challenge to stop the embarrassment; I know this to be true.  Between the squeaking, squinting, odd gait, feverish sweating, and intermittent vocalizations of “Ahhh” and “No…” that just come from me when doing math problems, my true self had had enough, ramped up the sweat, and called the question.

As I was wiping down the machine, my failed Sudoku in hand, another jogger passed by, looked at my shirt, and just said, “Nope.”

It took me a minute, as he stared at my face, and then at my chest, and back at my face.  “Nope.”

He walked away.

Inside I said quietly, “Me neither, buddy, me neither.”

And then I balled up the Sudoku and tossed it to the trashcan.

And I missed.


Why I Want My Kid to Play Hockey

My son is 10 months old.Hockey-Stick-and-Puck-Photographic-Print-C11950881

We’re starting to think about his first birthday party, but not because it’s going to be a huge blow-out. Let’s be honest, any peers he has won’t even remember the thing so, why bother, right?

No. A small affair.

But there is something that we want to make memorable, not just for us, but for him: the cake.

Why? Because we’ll undoubtedly take a picture of him next to the cake and force him to look at it on every birthday for the rest of his life.  And when we show him that picture, we want him to recognize that this moment was the moment when it happened: he decided to play hockey.

Well, technically we decided for him, but whatev…

So his cake will be a Blackhawk sweater.  Chocolate body, vanilla sleeves. I can’t wait.

See, this is the thing, I’m a big fan of just three sports: hockey, football, and baseball.

But if I’m honest with myself (and I always try to be), baseball is only really fun to watch if you’re at the stadium.  A professional stadium.  Oh, sure, I’ll have the Cubs on at home when I can’t make the game.  But I’m always reading or folding laundry or making dinner or anything but actually watching much of the game.

Because baseball is often like slow death to watch.

So, baseball is out.  I don’t want to sit on metal bleachers in the blazing sun to watch a kid hit a ball off a tee and run into the outfield because he’s confused about where the bases are.

And football?  Well, I love football. Love. It. But I don’t want him to play football.  His head isn’t even fully fused yet! And am I going to, in a few years, risk unfusing it?

No ma’am.

So, football is out.

And that leaves hockey.  And I love hockey.  I love watching hockey.  I love cheering to hockey.  I love trying to figure out exactly what “icing” means as an infraction (because, really, who the hell knows?).

I love hockey.

“But he might lose his teeth!” you say.  Listen, we can replace teeth. Perhaps it’d even be a benefit to replace some teeth at some point. Easy maintenance.

But we can’t replace his brain.  Hence why hockey is preferable to football.

Another added benefit: I’ve never played hockey.  If I’ve never played it, there’s no expectation that I’ll be any good at it.  There’s no expectation that I’ll have to show him how to play…we’ll leave that to the professionals.

I’ve played baseball and football.  I’m terrible. TERRIBLE!

I was that kid out in right right roving right field who was picking dandelions, bored out of his mind.  When we were told we couldn’t taunt the other team, I really had no other role.  I played right field for a reason.  You know how many balls came to right field in little league?

Zero. None.

Unless you got that errant roller, and then it was just a matter of running to the ball already on the ground. I had zero talent.

And football?  I played fine for a kid who wasn’t big or fast or coordinated.  Which means I stunk.  I loved playing, I just stunk. I was great on the sidelines…which made me realize I should just join the band because at least they got to do something during the game.

So I did.  I figured trading one uniform for another isn’t so hard.  Plus, band headgear was so much easier to wear…

What’s that?  Basketball?  Why isn’t basketball on the list?

To be honest, basketball doesn’t do it for me.  I played that more than any other sport and I made one basket in four years of playing.

That’s a quarter of a basket per year, if you’re keeping track. Which is about as often as I got to actually play, anyway.

The only thing I was good at in basketball was fouling.  Which is why my parents stuck me in karate class.

I was good at karate. He can do that, too, if he wants.  But karate isn’t that fun to watch.

And really, it’s all about me.

So, hockey it is.  Now lace up while your mom and I grab a seat in this temperature controlled rink.

Two Main Things I Learned about the Dude I Ran Next To Last Night (and One Thing I Learned About His Friend)

I went on a short run last night.index

It was short because I haven’t been running much.  Needless to say, my elbows sweated a lot last night.

The treadmill I chose had no one running to my left, but did have someone on it to my right.  I usually try to go for the totally open treads, but this was the best I could do at 5:30pm on a Tuesday.

As I got on the ‘mill and was about to put my headphones in, I heard the guy next to me start talking to the person on his right.  It was at that point that I knew I wouldn’t be putting my headphones in; this was going to be entertaining.

So, I learned two main things about the man next to me last night (along with one thing about his friend).

Let’s start with his friend.

I learned last night that his friend is his “dog.”  I know this because he constantly called him that.  I wouldn’t have thought this strange, actually, except that the man he kept calling his “dog” was an overweight, late-sixties, white guy.  Not the person I’d stereotypically consider someone would address as “dog.”

But, there it is; he was this other guy’s “dog.”

The first thing I learned about the guy running next to me is that he originally came for Puerto Rico.  Born, raised, still has family there.

When he goes back home to Puerto Rico he stays at his brother’s house.  His brother lives near the beach (which, since PR is an island, is not as impressive as the man wanted it to sound).

He also weighs 158 lbs.  I know this because he was telling his dog how he had just weighed himself.  Actually, he made it into a game that was fun for almost no one.

“Guess how much I weigh, dog.” (Silence)  “No, guess.”

His dog was reluctant to guess.  Guys, by and large, don’t like this game.  It’s not that we don’t want to get it wrong or are afraid of offending, it’s mostly that we just don’t care.  The relative mass of the person next to me is only important if I’m trying to orbit them.

His dog didn’t answer, so he offered an unprompted response. \

“158 lbs, dog.  Pretty good.  I mean, I was wearing my shorts and shoes when I weighed, so I’m probably about 10 pounds less than that, you know what I’m saying?”

Well, perhaps if he had jumped in the pool and then weighed himself that would be kind of true, but his mesh shorts and running shoes weren’t adding multiple pounds to his weight.  This, though, is where I learned the second thing about our friend: he is extremely concerned that the people he talks to are not clear on the exact meaning of his words.

I know this because he followed up every statement with, “You know what I’m saying?”

Another example from the conversation, “I lose weight when I go to Puerto Rico, you know what I’m saying dog?”

My response would have been, “Well, on the surface I think I do, but since you followed it up with a phrase inquiring if I need clarification I’m afraid I might.  Can you present your statement in a different way that might help me understand?”

His dog’s response was silence.

So he followed up again with more information about his island weight loss secret.

“It’s ’cause it’s effing hot down there, you know dog?  I’m standing for the bus, I’m sweating.  I’m shopping at the market, I’m sweating.  Puerto Rico is effing hot, you know what I’m saying, dog?”

Because of my basic grasp of world geography, I did know what he was saying.  PR’s proximity to the equator makes it’ effing hot.

“And it’s ’cause I run 17 miles on the sand, dog, you know what I’m saying?  17 miles.”

I tried to run on the sand once and quickly changed my mind and went for a swim.  If we were meant to run on sand they’d make running tracks out of loose sand.  We’re not meant to run on sand.

Or run in general.

It was at this point that I looked over at his treadmill and saw that he had gone 3.4 miles and looked like he might pass out soon.  Perhaps he hadn’t been to PR in a while as his 17 mile sand regiment didn’t seem to be helping him on the treadmill.

Finally his friend spoke up, “Sand running is hard.”

“You said it, dog, you know what I mean? This running sucks, too, dog.  You know?”

And then, silence.

Yes.  Yes I do.


Why If I were a Rower I’d be a Coxswain and My Hand Smells Like “Old Dude”

Was at the gym this past Monday.theperfumespot_2270_591010

Ran for a bit.  Did that obnoxious stair climber for a bit.

…I hate the stair climber with a passion that rivals my love for peanut butter.  And I love me some peanut butter.  Hence why I have to use the stair climber.

Anyway, I suddenly get the bright idea to go and use the single rowing machine in the whole place.  It’s tucked at the end of some treadmills directly below the TV that only shows Fox News.

I sit down and begin to strap my feet into the harnesses and assess my position.

Those foot harnesses, B-T-W, are from designs straight out of the movie Saw.  I mean, getting my feet in them was hard.  But to get them out I thought I was going to need a hacksaw.  The heel bone’s connected to the ankle bone, but the ankle bone almost became dislodged from the leg bone as I tried to wriggle my leg outta that torture trap.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’m uncertain about how to row successfully.  Is it with the legs?  The arms?  The back?

I’m sure I appeared as if I was trying to start a lawnmower sitting down as I did it.  And that little seat didn’t seem to ever be in sync with the pulley system there.  It was as if I was either too heavy for the seat and it kept getting stuck, or I just suck.

Probably the latter.

But whether or not I sucked at it, I could definitely feel that my body did not like this workout one bit.  Legs begin to strain.  I felt muscles on the sides of my ribs that haven’t been used in a long time (read: ever). And after running and stair climbing, I was sweating like a dog.

And that was only after 7 minutes.

Yes, I lasted 7 minutes of rowing before I began contemplating hopping off the machine.  It truly is a terrible, terrible machine.

I eeked out my 10 minutes on it, and after unhinging my ankles from my legs, removed my carcass from the squatty rower of death. For a machine so low to the ground it certainly causes a lot of damage to your ego.

As I got up to grab the complimentary “wet nap of health” that will prevent other people from mixing my sweat with theirs, I noticed that someone was waiting in line behind the machine to use it when I was through.  Yeah…someone watched me and then voluntarily took my place.

Truly, if I joined the rowing team, I’d sign up to be the coxswain.

And upon hearing that I was too tall and big to be the coxswain, I’d join the drinking team that supported the rowing team from the stands.

Once in the locker room I stopped just inside the door to fill up my water bottle.  I had finished it off between the rowing machine and the door, and hoped to finish off another bottle between the door and the locker.

I was half way through filling when all of a sudden I heard a crash from the end of one of the locker rows.

I knew exactly what it was.

Some old dude (said with much respect to my older readers…dad) had dropped his cologne on the hard tile and it had shattered into a million pieces.

So, quick question for all of you out there.  What happens when the economy size English Leather cologne breaks and fills the men’s locker room with its pungent fragrance?

You guessed it. Vomiting ensues.

No, seriously.  It was the smelliest smell I’ve ever smelled.

Being the nice dude that I am I first, in no uncertain terms, demanded that old dude put on his flip flops before taking another step.  Because if there’s one thing I wasn’t doing it was digging glass out of old-dude-in-his-boxer’s feet.

Then I began picking up the big shards.  And as I did, I covered my little paws in English Leather.  I mean, my hand stunk to high heaven.  And sure enough I cut myself on one of those shards, which made me imagine that my blood now smelled like English Leather and I would sweat English Leather for days and I would be “that guy” even more than I already am “that guy” in so many other ways…

Nightmare city.

As I picked up the big shards, the old dude went and grabbed the stock of paper towels and began mopping up the aromatic liquid.  As it plopped into the trash can I resolved myself to give it at least a full 48 hours before I returned.  That whole place was going to stink for a while.

And that smell?  I still smell it.  It’s like it’s stuck in my nasal cavity and making a home up there.  The hand that did the dirty work still has traces on it.  It’s radioactive, I tell you.  My nose’s Geiger counter still clicks whenever I rub my eyes.

So, we all learned some lessons today.  First: rowing blows.  If you can’t be a coxswain just stick to land sports.

Secondly: English Leather should not come in economy size bottles, should not be brought into locker rooms, and should be investigated for toxicity.

I mean, I get that old dudes have to have a smell that is just theirs.  But can’t tobacco and peppermint do?

Things I Observed Today at the Gym (and Responses)

I went back to the gym.

Wear this thing if you like passing out quickly.

Here is a short list of things I observed:

-A sweaty dude smelling his armpits after he got off the treadmill.  His face indicated that they were, in fact, gross.

-A dude in the locker room smelling his socks after a workout.  It remains to be seen if he will reuse those socks…but I’m hoping not.

-A dude in the sauna wearing socks.  You read that correctly.  In the sauna.  See, unless you’re wearing a whole “sauna suit” there is no good reason to have socks on.  Because it just stinks up the place.

-There was a skinny dude trying to take off skinny jeans, and I would liken it to watching a sausage un-case itself.  It took a lot of effort, and for some reason I could not look away.  Fascinating.

-I saw a woman try to drink from her open-mouthed water bottle while running.  This does not work.  She ended up sloshing water all over herself…but, to her credit, she kept running as if she meant to do that, even as she continued to cough and choke.

-Half of the TV’s at the Y were on late-night cop/investigator serials.  The other half were on Fox News.  A conundrum occurred in my mind as I pondered whether to watch the made-up drama or the cop/investigator serials.

Here is a short list of things I thought (in order of response to each observation):



-“You can do it, dude!  Try a shoe-horn around your bent knee…”

-“Nice effort.”


Ah, Monday’s at the Y…you never disappoint, sometimes.

I’ve Got the Protein Shakes

Protein shakes taste terrible.

They do; there’s no two-ways about it.

I didn’t realize what a craze this whole protein shake thing was until just this past week.  It seems with the New Year everyone has decided to introduce vomit shakes into their diet plans, and they all walk around the gym shaking those stupid special-made thermoses whose contents comes in colors that can best be described as “unappetizing.”

First off, I’m suspicious of any powder that turns into a drink unless it is accompanied by a fat red guy and comes in flavors like “Ecto-Cooler.”  Kool-aid is the only acceptable powder drink.  Game, set, match.  No more games.

Secondly, though, you know you have to be suspicious of this stuff when the special thermoses that come with the shakes have a filter on the spout, and sometimes include an “agitator” in the body to break up chunks.

Yes, that’s right, the filter and agitator prevent you from drinking chunks.

Now, call me stupid, but I’m pretty sure the only liquid I know that should have chunks is commonly called “soup,” and you normally don’t drink that from a thermos.  And if you do drink it from a thermos, it had better be a Campbell’s thermos with two round, snot-nosed kids on the front assuring you that it is “Mmmm-mmmm good.”

And that stuff in your thermos, that protein shake?  It is not “Mmmm-mmmm good.”  That is, of course, unless “mmmm-mmmm” is now considered a vomit noise.

And don’t even try to tell me what “flavor” it is.  Protein shakes only come in one flavor: dumpy.  Sure, it can be cherry-dumpy, or banana-dumpy, or even the chunky chocolate-dumpy.  But it’s all dumpy.

Please tell me how they come up with these flavors.  Because it’s all relative.  I mean, relative to a real strawberry, a strawberry protein shake tastes like dog crap.  And relative to dog crap, I imagine it’d taste like crap from a dog who ate strawberries a few days ago.  Sure, when compared to dirt a banana flavored protein shake might taste more like banana…but that does my stomach no good.  Especially when my stomach is already mad at me for the insane amount of time I spent planking.  In fact, I think I spend more time planking now, just so I can delay the inevitable vomit I’ll have to swallow in making one of those drinks.

Really, you should be suspicious of any drink whose container eventually smells like old feet after so many uses, even when you’ve washed it regularly.  That means something is off.

I was getting my water (water, cause it’s healthy) out of my locker when the guy next to me opened up his hell-holder (thermos) to release the most putrid smell I’ve ever smelled as he poured powder in the bottom.

“What flavor is that?” I asked in between gags.

“Dreamsicle,” he responded.  He was sitting down, obviously nauseated by the smell of his own concoction.

The only thing that smell made me dream about was diarrhea.  And I’m sure that dream became a reality for that poor young man with the stinky thermos.

Suffice to say, I will not be jumping on the protein shake bandwagon.  Thinking about it gives me the shakes.

I’ll stick with water, thank you.  And eggnog when it’s in season.


…and beer, any season.

“Insanity” or “How I Became Accustomed To the Thought of Puking in Public”

We’ve started something completely stupid at my church.  We’re doing the Insanity program together.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of working out with my pastor seems ridiculous.  And yet, these people ask me to show up.  I wish they wouldn’t.   I wish they wouldn’t because I have a secret that I don’t want them to find out: working out often makes me puke.

It’s true.  There’s no way around it.

My first experience with puking after working out happened in 7th grade.  I mistakenly joined the track team at my elementary school.  I think my elementary school now has a more legitimate track team.  Back then, though, joining the track team meant we stayed after school to run around the parking lot a few times, measuring out distances using trees, rocks, and parking lot lines as markers.

Hence why my “200 meter dash” didn’t go so well at competition.  Turns out I’d only been running about 50 meters due to our poor marking system…

My first 50 were really fast, though.

Anyway, one day we got the awesome idea to actually go to a track to practice before a race.  Which meant that the lanes were pre-marked, and there would be no mistake.

I remember our “coach” (a well-meaning, but unqualified parent) setting us up on the starting lines.

“Go!” he yelled.  And off I went.  50 meters.  And I stopped, huffing and puffing.

“No, no, no!  Keep running!” he yelled.  And so I ran hard…another 50 meters.

“No!  Run until I tell you to stop.”  And so I did, with my floppy Zach Morisson haircut getting in my eyes.

I ran and ran and ran for what seemed like forever.  And then it happened.  I stopped on the track, leaned over, and tossed everything in my stomach out onto lane 4.

When I raised my head, my mouth still dripping with “bologna and mustard: revisited,” the coach was looking at me with an expression that clearly said, “You, sir, are a moron.”

And I felt like it.

Ever since then, I’ve had this fear of working out hardcore in public.

But, I’ll do most anything for ministry.  And this working out is certainly that.  We have people from outside the church coming in to hear Shaun T yell at them.  So I figured I’d better show up, at least for the first one.

The evening started out as a series of bad decisions.

The first bad decision is that we decided to host the aerobic exercise on our top floor.  It’s a large space with a TV.  It’s also the hottest room in the church, minus the three inches just below our boiler.  I was sweating by the time I ascended the stairs.

The second bad decision we had was starting with the “fit test.”  Yes, I know that is how you start the Insanity workout.  It’s actually supposed to make you feel better about yourself because you do such a crappy job the first go-through that all you can do is get better.

That being said, the “fit-test” should be called, “let’s-just-prove-how-slovenly-you-actually-are.”

Because it does.

So there we are, about 12 of us, packed into that upper room, sweating our brains out, and the announcement comes from our fearless leader Brian, “If you have to throw up, the bathrooms are to the back and right.”

Everyone laughed.  I did not. It was a distinct possibility.

Critter then, in his infinite grace, offered to hold the garbage can in front of people so that they could continue working out while puking.  I think he was joking, but I mentally logged that as an option should it come to that.

Brian pressed “start” so that the real sweating could begin.  We had all been given tally sheets so that we could record how many reps of the given exercises Shaun T forced upon us.  Suffice to say that tallying my numbers wouldn’t involve counting on toes.

There were high knee jumps, “heisman’s” (which pretty much cemented the fact that I will never play football with any skill), and these abysmal exercises called “jumping-jack pushups.”  I was, without a doubt, terrible at all of them and spent much of the time lying face-first on the floor trying to breathe.

The format of the program involves doing a given workout as fast as you can for one minute, and then taking a minute break in-between.  After the second exercise rep, people started to drop off.  One person ran to the bathroom and totally missed exercise routine three.  Another person joined me in just lying on the ground.  We didn’t speak.  All we did was breathe laboriously.

And then it happened.  We had a puker.

She ran to the bathroom with lightening speed.  No one bothered to look her direction.  We all knew what was coming.  Or, should I say, “coming up.”  Being someone prone to nurturing (and wanting an excuse to stop exercising), I knocked on the bathroom door.  She was lying on the floor with that “cookies are coming” look.  Here’s how the exchange went:

Me: “Are you going to you puke?”

Her: “Yes.”

She was right.

I went out to tell her fiance, and he had a concerned look on his face, but kept doing the “kick-backs” that Shaun T was forcing upon him.  I guess he was right to keep going.  I mean, he can’t really do anything about her puking.  And she had short hair, so there was no need to hold it back.

And at that moment we lost another one to the men’s room.

It was then that I looked around to see the hot, tired, sweaty people in that room and thought to myself, “This is what makes community.”  And it’s true.  Going through a painful experience with others builds community.  In fact, every church should run a “muscle ministry.”  It will help with comfortability.  Because nothing says “comfortable” like being able to chuck your dinner in front of other people and not be ridiculed.

And that’s when I knew I could keep working out here.  I could puke in front of these people, even as their pastor, and they wouldn’t care.  A tear would have come to my eye at that thought if it wasn’t already being sweat out of my armpit.

We finished the routine, and believe it or not, I did not hurl (although, deep inside, I wanted to…just to have an excuse to lie down).  And I didn’t do too badly, either.  I mean, I’m not fit like Shaun T or the muscle-laden punks he had working out with him (note: the woman on that show lies when she says the number of reps she does…it is not humanly possible to do that many reps).

But I’ll be there on Wednesday to do it all again.  To some it might be insane.  But nope, it’s just Insanity.

“10 Miles of Hell” or “Nope, the First Title Says It All”

I signed up for the 10 miler again this year.  I think I must have been on heavy medication.

Last time when I signed up I did it on a whim.  The weekend of the race my family was in town.  As I was out with my brother and father grabbing some beer for dinner, I said out loud, “Maybe I shouldn’t run it…I haven’t really trained.”  My brother and father, always the supportive types, nodded in agreement (or maybe they were just in agreement over what kind of beer we were going to buy…I can never tell if they really hear me talk).

So, I come home with a case of beer and say to Rhonda, “I don’t think I’m going to run in the morning.”

Notable Note: when explaining to your wife that you’re refusing intense physical exercise because you are afraid that you haven’t trained enough, do not do it with a 12 pack of Sam Adams in your hand.

Write that down…you’re welcome.

The look that came over her face is difficult to describe.  The closest descriptor I can come up with is “angeratred.”  It was as if anger and hatred had procreated and out burst this little devil of an emotion that demanded you sleep on the couch with all the lights on while Tool blasted in your ear buds.

Suffice to say, I ran the next morning.  Waking up a 4am to drink coffee (apparently runners do this) and eat a banana (they also do this), I pinned my number to my shirt, stretched my “hammies” and walked to the train line.

And had a great time.  I ran like the wind!  I felt great, had tons of energy, and even jumped over the finish line.  Oh, and Gatorade never tastes so good as it does when it has the finger tips of adolescent children dangling in it just before you grab it out of their hands at the hydration stations…

I signed up again this year.  And I trained.

And it sucked.

We woke up extra early, chipper and cheery.  As I stepped out of bed I noticed something: my heels weren’t cooperating with the rest of my body.  I was walking like I had a bum wheel.  And this, plus the fact that the day before I pulled my back while trying to turn on our Super Nintendo (vintage baby), made me rethink this whole “Let’s run 10 miles just for fun,” thing.

Side-note: to heal my back, I drew a bath.  It was about 5pm.  I got in, grabbed a beer, was soaking away when a “raprapraprap” came from the front door.

I couldn’t move quickly so I slowly got out of the tub, all the while the “rapraprapraprap”  continued as if the knocker somehow thought I didn’t take them seriously.

I grabbed my robe, slung it on, grabbed the beer, and went for my glasses.  Although, the only ones I could find were my prescription sunglasses…

I sling open the door, and there is the maintenance man of the building.  Apparently our tub leaks.  And I stared him down with a beer in one hand, my robe on, sunglasses (at 6pm) with the bath running.


It was like I was either auditioning for a reality slot on “Basketball Wives” or I’m just not well put together.  You decide which it was.

Anyway, so my heels and back are hurting.  I fight through the pain though (because I’m a “champ”…at least my 7th grade basketball coach called me that…once…after my only basket of the season), and I pin on my number.

Ready. To. Go.

The Soldier Field 10 Miler is fun.  You cross the finish line on the 50 yard mark while people are in the stands cheering.  It is exciting.  It’s too bad that, by the end of the race, the only thing you want to do is get out of there as quickly as possible.

Actually, I imagine that’s how the Bears feel after a lot of their games…

So we get on the train, get downtown, round the museum campus drive and arrive at our starting corral.  That’s when I look up and notice the sky is green.

Not grey; green.

Now, I’ve lived in Ohio.  I know what a green sky means.  It means “grab the cat, swallow mom’s earrings, and hide in the basement.”

But, we couldn’t do that because they had us in the huge corrals.  We were in corral 12 to be exact…with 11 corrals ahead of us.  And I began to picture what would happen if a tornado did sweep through at that very moment.  The scene where the cow goes flying by twice in Twister came to mind…only the majority of us were wearing the yellow “10 Miler” shirts for that year, so instead of cows flying everywhere it would be streaks of yellow, like a dandelion massacre during the mowing of the lawn.

The national anthem brought me back to reality.  That and the fact that my heels hurt.

After about 30 minutes of standing in that corral pretending to stretch (overrated), we finally get going.  Rhonda always brings her digital watch (with the gross velcro strap that smells like it may have just come from a sewer treatment facility), and so we hit the “start” button on the stop watch as we begin to pick up speed out from the starting line.

And then we stop.  We have to.  Because some yahoos in corral 12 think that the “10 Miler” is actually a “10 mile stroll” and you have to run around them for the first mile.

Notable Note: don’t sign up for the Soldier Field 10 Miler if you can’t run through mile 1.  K?

Anyway, we pass through the tunnel at McCormick Place, suffering through some woman slinging a cowbell on the sidelines “cheering” us on.  Frankly, I wanted to jog over to her, snatch the cowbell, and throw it in Lake Michigan.  Thanks for the “support,” lady.  We already were standing in corrals for forty minutes, you dingin’ that cowbell doesn’t make me feel like any more of an athlete…just more like a cow.

Down goes mile 2, and we head up the onramp to cross over to Lake Shore Drive.  That onramp, by the way, is a 2.0 on the incline level of a treadmill.  Trust me.  It felt familiar.

At mile 3 my heels really start to bother me.  The only thing that kept me going was chuckling at the people who ran off into the woods off of Lake Shore Drive to use the bathroom.  Really?  You can’t run 3 miles without taking a leak?  But I guess body functions like that are just a non-issue on a long run.  When you look around and think to yourself, as the teacher did at the beginning of the seminal movie Dazed and Confused, “Some of you aren’t going to make it,” I guess the least you can do is let them go to the bathroom with minimal embarrassment.

Miles 4 and 5 were terrible.  You head down LSD and make a nice little turnaround at 51st street.  At the turn around a guy with a mic was trying to entertain the runners, but really all he was doing was confusing us all.  C’mon man, either sing the song or don’t…but don’t mock me by doing the “running man” while tossing me a thumbs-up.

The other guy with the bullhorn kept saying, “If you’re having difficulty, please find a person with a vest.”  But if you’re having difficulty by mile 5, chances are your vision is blurry and everyone is wearing a vest.

Side-note: speaking of vests, we saw some of the coolest full chest/back tattoos on this run that we’ve ever seen.  Seriously.  Apparently wings and koi fish are way in.  What I wish was not as “in” was short-shorts on dudes who shouldn’t wear short-shorts.  Ok, back to the story.

Heading North now on the Lakefront Path, you begin to notice how beautiful Lake Michigan is.  And you begin to dream that, perhaps, no one will care if you jumped in for a swim and abandoned this whole “race” thing.  And the weird burning sensation in your thighs just eggs on those fantasies.

It was at this point that we walked through a water station.  I drank a cup of water.  I swallowed a bug.  Bring it.

Moving back into the race of runners, I notice this guy walking on the side of the trail.  But I had seen him before.  An older gentleman with an odd gait, I had seen him walking back at mile 3.5.  But wait, if I saw him walking back there, how did he catch up with me?

And then I saw it.  This dude took off like a bottle rocket, weaving in and out of slow runners in a full on sprint.  I would catch up with him again at mile 8 (or as I called it when I passed by it, “8 Mile”…and then sang Eminem for a quarter mile).  His 10 miler experience was more of a “sprint and saunter.”

Actually, I’d sign up for a “sprint and saunter.”  That sounds more my pace.

The only thing that got me through mile 7 was the big JT.  Justin Timberlake, that is.  I tell you what, that kid sings music that is good to run to.  “It feels like somethin’s heatin’ up, can I leave wichu’? started flying from my mouth before I realized what I was saying.  I’m sure that was unfortunate for the runners beside me.  When you’re running long distance, polite talk doesn’t include discussions about what is “heatin’ up”.  That’s why you put Vaseline under your pits.

By mile 8 (8 Mile) though, my heels were seriously killing me.  I thought about packing it in and walking.  But then I remembered my mantra, “You paid for this…”  That usually makes me finish something.

I pulled it out from somewhere.  Rhonda set the pace, I just followed her lead.  At mile 9 she thought she’d be all sorts of awesome and speed up.  That was a mistake on her part, and I thought about gently tripping her to make that mistake known.

But she resumed a good speed and we sailed on past McCormick and began the home stretch.

As you round the back way through the tunnel at Soldier Field, you suddenly remember that tunnels are dark.  And that the pavement there is uneven.  And that you’re wearing sunglasses (those very glasses that made you look super slick to the maintenance people).  And then you get these wonderful thoughts about twisting an ankle, therefore putting your running career on hold for the foreseeable future.  By mile 9.75, I’m darn near delusional, trying to figure out legit ways to throw this thing.

And then you see the green turf, and the finish line, and you realize that you’re coming out of the side entrance and that you don’t really have to run the whole field.  And that they have a medal waiting for you.

And by the time all those realizations have crossed your slow brain (speaking from experience here), you’re already across and someone is shoving a water bottle into your shaking hands.  10 miles of hell conquered.

They then give you fiber-packed granola, not taking into consideration that you have to take the train half-way across town again before you’ll hit a decent bathroom. But, alas, it was worth it.

My heels still hurt, and the procession at church on Sunday was a bit like Frankenstein taking up the end, but it’s good to stretch yourself, even if you don’t really stretch before a race.

A good takeaway from this whole thing, though: that’s the last time I train for a 10 miler.  I did so much better going in cold.

“I Wish Alchemy was Real” or “Fat Squash”

We did situps.  A lot of them.

I hate situps.

Knees in the air, hands behind the head.  Crunch. Crunch.  With each movement I just imagined the fat cells that surround my middle experiencing their version of an earthquake.

A little fat-cell family going, “What the hell is going on?  Get under the solarplexius!  We must find something stable to get under!”

And with each roll of the spine and scrunch of the fat, my mind plays tricks on me.  “Yes,” my brain says. “This is working!  You’re turning those fat cells into muscle!  Muscle that will bulge and look like your hiding soda cans under your shirt!  This will work!”

Ugh.  If only alchemy were real…

And I totally get that those fat cells will just be fat cells.  That the only way I’m going to get rid of them is through cardio and eating better/less.  But, man, don’t you sometimes wish for some magic!

I also know that my “core” is getting stronger by doing situps.  By the way, what is the “core?”  I think it’s an imaginary place in the middle of your body that fitness gurus like to point to in order to make you believe that something is actually supporting and keeping up this bag of bones we call a body.

It’s all alchemy.

And we delude ourselves into believing all sorts of things like this.  I remember in high school I was shopping at the mall (“shopping” in the sense that I was going from store to store with a dollar fifty in my pocket).  At Hot Topic I ran into a guy I knew from my acclaimed school, Fred T. Foard.  For the purpose of this story let’s call him Larry (his real name was Josh).  We got to chatting, and Larry mentioned that he was a vampire out of the blue.

Yeah, you read that correctly, a vampire.

Not wanting to seem like a judgmental dork, I said, “Oh, what kind?”

I naively thought that perhaps, like wolves, there were different kinds of vampires.  Apparently there are!

“Psychic,” he said.  “A psychic vampire?” I responded.  “Do you suck my thoughts?”

“Sort of.  I actually just feed off of people’s energy.”

“Cool,” I said.  But I didn’t really think it was cool. The only other person that fed off of people’s energy as far as I could tell was my sophomore year English teacher.  I’d walk into that classroom and immediately feel like less of a person…

I had to think of a way to escape, but in Hot Topic they don’t make finding the exit easy.  You have to get past the leather wrist bands and, unless you’re careful, you’ll poke an eye out on the spike-studded collars on sale for $20.  I couldn’t lose him, especially if he was a vampire.  I’d just have to be honest.

“I’m going to leave,” I said being wary of his eyes.  After all, I was a teenager…I didn’t have much energy to spare.

“OK,” he responded.  “See you later.”

Ominous, right?  And I swear as I walked out of Hot Topic, he we bleeding my energy dry.  I had to go to Panda Wok for some orange chicken just to perk up…

But in reality, the guy was weird.  And not truthful.  He didn’t suck my energy, he just made me believe he was (although, who can tell with teenagers?).  And while on the one hand I appreciate a reason to eat orange chicken, I don’t like being lied to.  And even if he wasn’t lying, I don’t like my energy being used as a mid-day snack.

But who can tell?!  He could have been sucking my energy; I was a teen!  They have no energy.

In that same way, I’m suspicious of my “core.”

So, unless I see some six packs showing up soon as opposed to this keg I have right now, I’m going to be suspicious of my core.

Man I wish alchemy was real!  I just feel like I’m doing is squashing fat…

But, I’m running the 10 miler tomorrow.  So…there’s that…