So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Can That Be Lying In My Drawer? Running Shirts

Suzanne has a couple of bags sitting in the corner of the bedroom; she intends to leave them for pick up by the local thrift store. Guess that means I can finally abandon the fleeting hope of fitting into two or three pairs of walking shorts I've had tucked away for the past four or five years.

I liked those shorts, but I guess there was little to no chance of getting back into them. Not without a crowbar. I'm not going to blame it on the difficult-to-prove fact cotton can shrink over the course of ten years. I'm also not going to blame it on the easier-to-prove fact I'm close to the beginning of a middle-age spread. Not as close as I was last year, but still close.

It's all right. I've got a lot of shirts which should have NEVER come through the front door of my home lurking in my closet. There are a dozen ties which will be out the door faster than you can say "Jimmy Buffett."

Most of all, I have more t-shirts than any one man should EVER have.

I'm not ridding myself of the technical fiber running shirts, nor the ones I earned while running college cross-country. Those shirts still fit me like a champ.

I'm parting ways with the two dozen cotton t-shirts which lay at the bottom of my bottom dresser drawer, the ones from races way past. Which got me to thinking about shirts.

A friend from the local running community once said on a Wednesday evening run the factors he considered necessary for a perfect race: An accurate course. Plenty of beer. Accurate timing and scoring. A good shirt.

Like Socrates, asking the question of what particular quality or qualities makes a shirt good is not going to make you friends with race directors. The vast majority of races where we live either have what I consider to be great or poor shirts. I prefer to judge a shirt on these qualities:

Wearability. This particular quality places some shirts on a very fast track to the donation bag. Long-sleeved "windshirts" and cotton "wife-beater" tank tops are at the bottom of the wearability spectrum. Solid or near-solid-colored short-sleeved (or sleeveless) shirts...even if they're dark...are better, in my humble opinion. And, why do I rarely if ever see a race shirt in a heather gray or a tan? From the race director's view, white is less expensive to buy and less expensive to screenprint. Please. I beg you. Less beer; better shirts. Trust me...I'll be happy.

While I'm on the "anti-white-shirt" rant, don't want anyone to think I'm not patriotic, but shirts for events around Independence Day loaded with American flags, red, white and blue, fireworks, firecrackers, and the like are absolutely NOT wearable. Except on the Fourth of July. Let's start to use a little bit of artistic imagination.

Artwork. How many times have you gone to a race and seen the same artwork recycled from year to year? One particular race has variants of the club's mascot; in their defense, the past three or four years they have seen fit to commission very good artists. But if you do a race over the course of a few years there's only so many ways you can tweak a logo.

There's a race I've run a couple of times in which the awards are what I've heard described by local runners as "shirt-on-a-stick." Yes, it's the race shirt mounted on a wood-frame, much like a canvas. To the event's credit, the artwork is a take on one of those gorgeous Gulf Coast sunsets. However, if I'm running well "enough" I'll have the art on the wall, which means I won't consider wearing the art on my chest. Ah, but it's a white, cotton "wife-beater" so I guess that's a moot point. To the donation bag.

Advertising. Who sponsored this race? In so many words: who paid for this shirt? The location and size of the logos can push the decision of whether the shirt gets to stick around for a few years. One of the first races I ever worked, a college cross-country program fundraiser, was sponsored by a law firm. The printer conveniently forgot to print the firm's name, so we had to send the shirts back for a re-printing. We made the printer pay penance for the crime by printing the law firm's name and information on the sleeve, nice and high.

Some of the local runs seem to have a thing against either too many sponsors - or too many sponsor logos perhaps - on their event shirts. I'm not certain as to particular reasons, except for perhaps aesthetics...or economics.

Speaking of printer screw-ups, the shirt for the local 5K prediction run, one of the largest in the country, had the word "STAFF" conveniently placed on the back about three years ago. What possessed the printer to do that, I'll never know. Perhaps it was due to a communications breakdown. But it's one of those things which makes people hang on to shirts.

Value. Suzanne and I are most likely to hang on to a shirt, regardless of how badly it was designed or how cheaply it was produced, if it came from a race we did as part of a business trip, or an RRCA convention, perhaps a personal best...or personal worst...are hung on to a little bit longer than others. In fact, many of them are neatly folded and tucked away in a closet which I don't go near, save for right before Thanksgiving and right after New Years'. There are a couple of windshirts and rain parkas in the mix, so the shirt type doesn't matter too much.

The race shirt, especially the really good race shirt, is an inexpensive and enduring method of event advertising. Good shirts stay around and draw the attention of runners. Bad shirts draw the grease from bicycle chains and the dirt from automobile hubcaps. Both have a value, but to different communities.

Think about your favorite race shirt. What makes it special? Why is it still in your drawer?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Validate Yourself

'I am extraordinary, if you'd ever get to know me; I am extraordinary, I'm just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho...' - "Extraordinary," Liz Phair (2003)

"I'm starting to really enjoy life," said the young woman. "Last week was the first time I walked out of the gym while it was still daylight. I walked my dogs twice."

I sat listening to the conversation while nibbling on a pulled pork sandwich and swatting at a dozen gnats. The three of us had just finished working a sprint triathlon, the official debrief was completed. For me, it was a time to sit back and quietly learn more about officiating, especially about personal interaction with other officials and athletes once the race is through.

The young woman, in her real life, works as a personal trainer. Even the most emotionally-ignorant person like me can tell she has that intense 'take no bull' kind of attitude. Type A, all the way. She recently stepped back from a managerial position which kept her off the workout floor and away from the things she seems to enjoy the most about a career in the fitness profession.

My friend and mentor, Jay, definitely knows the lay of the terrain. He has, over the course of many years, moved up the food chain, from working as a personal trainer, to operating a small exercise and fitness center, to running the athletic and fitness program for the base where I work. Not surprisingly, he described in brief the factorial increases which come along with grasping each succeding rung up the corporate ladder: responsibility, accountability, boring meetings, and - regrettably - time spent doing things you would prefer to have done by someone else.

"But as you get older, there is the need to learn management. You can't stay in a career for 20 years, into your mid-40s, and still be out on the floor showing guys how to lift a weight a certain way."

He continued, "On the other side of the coin, you bring in young folks to begin their career and they really don't know everything there is to know about working with people one-to-one. They might have taken the class or read the book, and passed the test, but they haven't proven themselves yet. I tend to push them toward doing endurance events, such as long-distance triathlons, marathons, stuff like that, as a method of validating themselves to their clients."

I thought a great deal about Jay's validation comment as I drove home. As a coach my methods are validated by not only by the athletes I coach but also by myself. I have a piece written by Ethan Barron, a college track and cross-country head coach, tacked up above my desk. He talks not only about the need for a coach to be a reliable role model with regards to dedication, loyalty, work ethic and healthy lifestyle choices, but also about striving for ones' best as a definition of success.

How many times have you heard family members talk about you? The last time Suzanne and I visited my family, my sister joked, "...someone please remind the runners to get back on time so we're not late for..." There would be no financial hardship in my house if I had a dollar for every time I had a relative say, " make me feel like I should go out and do..." It validates, to a degree, the success of what we do in our lives. We aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we're somewhere on the path.

Some folks, on the other hand, like to have a little more concrete evidence to validate why they run. I guess that's why people run races. It can't be necessarily because we have a love for technical fiber shirts, or we want to justify drinking a beer at 9:00 in the morning. And the hard numbers, the black and white on that results sheet can tell us how well we did - both in training and in performance - compared to our fellow runners and the varying sample population from the rest of the world who decided to show up that day. Training can also be validated by other numbers: They can be the physiological markers which are positively affected by our lifestyle. They can be the increase or decrease in measure of distance, of time, bodily habitus, and of consistency. There's nothing like the sight of a calendar with filled spaces.

So, maybe we run to prove ourselves. Maybe we run to prove to ourselves. And there are probably times we run in spite of ourselves. But most of all I believe we do it to validate ourselves.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Irrational Thoughts?

'Sometimes I think it's a shame when I get feelin' better when I'm feelin' no pain.' - "Sundown," Gordon Lightfoot (1974)

Just because a person has coached athletes for a few years, has learned from hard experience what not to do, and struggles on a regular basis to clearly communicate those lessons to people who ask questions of them does not necessarily mean they have achieved an immunity to the disorder I like to call "abject stupidity."

Somehow I managed to survive a brief exposure to this disorder on my way to my "real" job this morning.

I started to think about training for a marathon.

Those who follow my rambling, sometimes cryptic missives know marathon training nearly turned me into "once a runner" approximately six months ago. It wasn't necessarily marathon training which was the primary cause of my achilles injury as much as a failure to deal with an under-healed achilles tendonitis issue which plagued me for three or four years.

I'm not certain what made me start to think about the marathon. Could it be because the evenings and the early morning hours have become a little more cool? Perhaps the slow approach of autumn and the need to review the training plan of one of my athletes was a subtle hint. Maybe, just maybe, it was that set of 400s we ran during last night's workout.

I wasn't the one spanking the group, though. Jim took Deena and myself to the woodshed most of the workout. He was kind enough to let us out after the third set. But it was nice to float up along Jim's shoulder on the back stretch of the last 400 and be in that middle ground between floating - where you feel the spring in the toe-off - and the feel when you know there's no "extra gear" available.

So a little bit of the speed is returning; 15 seconds a mile here, 20 seconds a mile there. But I must remind myself, like Taco Bell differs from Mexican food, there is a vast difference between being "healthy" and being "fit;" being "able to run" and being "able to race." I am most certainly not out of the woods yet. But I am beginning to see glimpses of the glade.

Injured runners often take too little time off from training, don't allow the body enough time to gradually ramp back up to the level of training they were at when they injured themselves, and don't stay in touch with how their body is feeling during the ramp-up. Fail to exercise caution and restraint when increasing distance, duration, intensity, and especially when races are added, and those "small" injuries which are usually remedied with a weeks' worth of rest or cross-training can transform into "major" issues which drastically affect the overall quality of life.

Feeling no pain is not necessarily the same as feeling better. It is, however, the first step on the road to recovery.

As for this ol' coach, we're almost ready for 5,000-meter road races, and not much more. In the meantime, there's a couple of flat late-autumn and early-spring marathons I'll continue to consider; the operating word is "consider."

I'm not that stupid. Yet.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Another Red Dress weekend in New Orleans. Another trip, the fourth, away from the hound and house. You can naturally expect when you visit the Crescent City in a month which does NOT have an "R" somewhere in it that the weather conditions are going to be very hot and very humid. This being the fourth time I had a fairly well laid-out plan of action. Or so I thought.

I had a very good idea of the packet pick-up/expo location, having gone that general direction during Jackson Day a couple of years back. However, the last thing I wanted to do was hoof it ten kilometers in 90-plus-degree way.

I then thought, 'this is not a problem. I can drive to the fairgrounds and back.' A very reasonable plan until I saw the parking arrangements our lodging providers instituted. We could pay 20 bucks-a-day for the privilege to park near our room, but not only was it not a certain thing we would have a parking spot should we remove our vehicle, but if double or triple parking was the order of the day we would have to leave our keys with the hotel staff in order to move the car.

We figured we would have sufficient time to meet our friends, take a taxi to packet pick-up, then do the pre-festivities. Of course, our planning operated on the assumption we could and would get our registration-related goodies in an efficient manner.

Oh, it is to laugh; we're talking hashers, Coach Mike.

So, the pre-festivities went right out the window with the bath-water. Ah, but that lost opportunity removed a potential obstacle to getting up at before the crack of dawn to run with the 5:20 Club. Rather than drink Natural Light or other hasher fare, Suzanne and I decided to take a taxi back to one of our favorite dining/imbibing establishments and introduce our friends Charley and Sheila to some area-brewed and locally-cooked goodness.

I made a command decision at dinner that I would miss out on 5:20; get up at 5, get a brief workout inside the fitness center, clean up and have (continental, which continent we were not yet certain...) breakfast in the lobby. To wake the next morning at 5 was no problem. On my way to the fitness center I decided to walk past where my car was parked.

If you grew up collecting Hot Wheels or Matchbox die-cast cars, storing them in those plastic-divided cases, you probably remember eventually having more cars than storage slots. Ah, but it was never a problem; we would gently wedge a row of cars perpendicularly between the two outer rows.

That's what it looked like in the parking garage. If I had been in a rush to get to, say, the airport, it would have taken a solid 20 minutes to get the cars which had been multiple-parked...just to get to where my car was. While frustrating, I looked at the situation as one which reinforced my need to NOT drive during the weekend. I know how to use a taxi, walk, or the RTA.

The weekend was filled with surprises which challenged previously-ingrained patterns of doing things. After the first thirty seconds of grousing we quickly adapted, made command decisions and marched smartly forward into the fog.

How many times have we done the same routine over and over? My parents know by now the easiest evening to contact me is Monday or Friday; we're always doing some track workout on Tuesday or Thursday, long-ish runs on Wednesday or Sunday, a road trip or a race on Saturday. After a while not only do I start asking myself the "what am I going to assign tonight?" question, but my athletes start chanting the last set before I get it out of my mouth.

Gosh, have I become THAT pattern-based?

I know it takes as little as 21 days of doing something...especially an unhealthy thing...before the behavior becomes a habit. I'm not saying we need to break up our routines for the sake of breaking routines. But the "ho-hum, another darned (blank) workout" feeling should probably be a subtle hint.

As a coach, I have a little less wiggle space than the average self-coached runner; run a few unscheduled hill repeats or a road run here and there as long as the athletes are fit enough to adapt to the sudden change. Otherwise, it's change up the intensities on the non-track nights for me.

A little variation in terrain, intensity, duration, time of day, or even running partner/s can help stave off the "ho-hum." And it's less drastic than running in a red dress.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is Running Cheaper Than Therapy?

After I posted the question about whether stress helps runners, my friend Scott replied with a dictum I had seen on more than my share of road race expo t-shirts and paraphenalia. He said:

"Running is less expensive than a therapist, and you do get some exercise."

Which, naturally, got me to thinking.

I ran the numbers, once upon a time, to talk about how inexpensive running is as a sport, comparing it to the most common youth/team sports of soccer, baseball and softball. Naturally, I do realize when we begin to compare youth and adult sports, as well as the differences between team and individual ones, we end up (improperly) comparing apples to oranges.

So, let's talk about running versus therapy in terms of first-order (direct) financial cost, as well as time and potential side effects. I'll try to be as strenuous in providing equal sides of the argument, but since I'm a running kind of guy the bias toward running is almost a given.

First, here are the assumptions under which I calculated the cost of running for one year:
A schedule with one rest day per week, and three days of no running for unforeseen circumstances like illness, minor injuries, and the like, means the "typical" recreational runner will run a little more than 300 days per year...310, to be exact. If each day's run lasts 60 minutes at an 8-minute-per-mile pace, the total number of miles adds up to 1625 for the year.

Race Entries: $70 - If anyone has read my "from 20-minutes a day-to-marathon" sequence, the assumption is for limited racing; 5,000-meter races only, after 38 weeks of training. I assumed three-to-four races (one a month) during those weeks, at $20 per race. This doesn't count pre-race coffees or post-race beers.

Equipment: $476 - The assumptions here are based on a male runner and the most basic components to protect one's self from physical and legal harm. Guys who feel no need to wear a shirt on a run can subtract anywhere from $45-60, depending on whether the race promoter/s have a "no shirt" entry option. Good quality running shoes will last approximately 500 miles, and cost on the average $100 a pair; figure the purchase of anywhere from three-to-four pairs during the course of a year. Depending on whether you need to be at the cutting edge of running fashion or if you just want to keep your nether regions covered, a pair of running shorts can be found for as little as $15; I've considered three pairs to be the absolute minimum number...once you've run in a salt-scratchy pair of running shorts you realize the more pairs a guy has, the better. Three or four technical fiber t-shirts (Cotton, while much more expensive, weighs a ton when soaked with sweat and also holds all that nasty heat in. My advice is to avoid at all costs.) can be bought for as little as 15 bucks apiece. When you start running races later in that first year I recommend learning which races give out technical fiber shirts...there's a sign the race director loves their participants. After a few years it's all you'll be wearing, unless you go to a hash run. Good acrylic running socks, six pairs each, finish off the attire. Expect to pay in the $10-12 range for a good pair. The really good ones will last up to ten years and save your feet from needless beating.

So, if you decide to undergo psychotherapy rather than running, how much are you going to pay? If you visit a therapist once a week for a year you can expect to pay almost 10 times as much as you would invest in running gear ALONE; closer to 12 times if your health insurance doesn't cover the shrink. Add another $2500 if the therapist decides you need an antidepressant.

The cost of therapy alone is enough to make me depressed.

The litany of potential side-effects of any of the varieties of antidepressant drugs - agitation, blurred vision, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, emotional numbness, headaches, heart attack, hepatitis, hypertensive reactions, lack of motivation, loss of "drive," nausea, physical dependency, seizures, skin rash, stroke, tremors, weight gain or loss, withdrawal syndrome, etc. - is enough to make me get out on the road if not stay out there. I like what little, er, "drive" I have, thank you very much.

So, even if I don't count the fleeting, slightly-nebulous description of "runners' high," a state of which I can only claim to have been in on four occasions in two decades, the risks of addiction to running far outweigh those of more expensive drugs. I don't have to worry about the FDA when I'm out on the road getting a few miles in with my wife, my friends, or my dog. Even if I don't develop any more neurons by running, Scott is is a whole lot cheaper than therapy.

As long as it doesn't lead to triathlon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Running Mad - Does Stress Help Runners?

Consider me a modern-day "Martin," travel-and-adventure companion of Candide in Voltaire's short story of the same name.

I'm the anchor-like balance to my wife's "best of all possible worlds" point of view. We balance each other quite well, and have done so over the past eight-and-a-half years. My bad days normally coincide with her positive moods; the moments Suzanne feels like ripping out the hearts of her adversaries like an Aztec priestess are balanced by my 'karma happens; they'll receive their just reward soon enough' attitude.

Fortunately for the world around us, both Bowens are rarely in a cranky mood. But when those days come, it's usually the perfect timing for a workout.

I had banged my head against the desk all day yesterday, and suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous commuter misadventure. What is it about idiots who want to whip around you, just so they can sit in front of you at the intersection? 'Oh, goody, you get a cookie for making it to the stoplight first. Now you can sit there as long as I do, jerk.'

I came through the front door to see my loving bride seated at her computer, running gear on. No greeting, save for "I really need to hit the treadmill today."

Funny, but that's exactly how I felt.

Minutes later, we walked the half-mile to our neighborhood gym, which gave Suzanne the opportunity to vent about the major topics of the day. When she mentioned she had eight telephone calls interrupt her labors I had to admit a small twinge of guilt; I was responsible for 25-percent of them. Well, the calls seemed pretty darn important at the time.

Once we got to the gym, we attacked the treadmills; taking no prisoners, giving no quarter, leaving nothing behind but sweat.

Returning home didn't mean the end. We immediately leashed my sister-in-law's terrier and our greyhound and took them for a walk. We took no doo-doo from them, either, pun intended. It wasn't until some time close(r) to 7:30 when we finally relaxed enough to sit down for dinner.

Suzanne has told me she enjoys working out or racing while she's angry. One of her best half-marathon performances - or one of her best performances in a half-marathon, I cannot rightly recall - came after a younger woman made a wise crack about her age at the bottom of a hill. She put on a surge which amazed the course worker at the to the top of the hill, coasting through the remainder of the course under a full head of steam. Suzanne, nor the course workers, recalled seeing the younger woman nearby for the remainder of the race.

On the other hand, I consider anger or other emotions a fuel good only for very short-term endeavors. All those chemicals which contribute to the classic fight-or-flight response may light off the afterburners, but they also cause a few less-than-positive consequences:

First, the breathing becomes more shallow. I'm not so certain about you, but I have enough difficulties keeping enough air in my lungs during the course of a 5,000-meter road race. So, stressing out doesn't work so well for me cardiovascular-wise.

Second, the muscles are tensed up in order to either kick, swing, pummel, bludgeon or withstand a kicking, swinging, pummelling or bludgeoning. Tense muscles are inefficient muscles...we do speed training to learn how to run at speed in as relaxed a manner as possible, not in as tight a manner as possible.

Third, the brain tends to think less critically. It's one of the unintended consequences of all that nice adrenaline, epinephrine, cortisol, cholesterol, glucose...and the many other chemicals pumped into our bloodstream by our endocrine system. Anyone who has ever been in a life-or-death situation will say they probably were thinking of little else but how to get to the nearest egress. And thinking, serious status checking, is crucial for road racing...especially when the race distance moves from 5k to 10k, from 10k to 21k, and so on. Lapses in thought can cost seconds and minutes.

So, remember that running ought to be the release from the stress of the day, not an extension of the stressors.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sock It To Me - The Right Foot Cover For The Job

A sharp, almost burning pain shot up from my heel near the end of my Monday early-morning run. My first response was one near the level of worry, of "ooh, that's not good at all." Fortunately I was about three-tenths of a mile away blocks from my house. I immediately slowed down to a walk, just to see if the pain would subside.

There was good news and bad news.

The bad news was that the heel pain continued. The good news was the pain was localized at the point where my heel rubbed against the cuff of my training shoe. Why? When I pulled off my shoe a dime-size spot of mesh appeared at the heel of my ten-year-old "favorite pair" of running socks. Right at the cuff. That was the reason for the pain.

There's nothing evil about parting ways with a ten-year-old pair of running socks. It's hard to grow into love with a new - read the word "different" here - piece of clothing, especially if you've grown accustomed to a particular style, cut or material. In this case, the socks were knit wool(-blend) crew style. My friend Scott heard immediately questioned my sanity. Yes, Scott, wearing wool socks in Florida is probably a sign I'm a little mad.

Running socks have come a very long way from the cotton crew socks I used when I started running with regularity in the early 1990s. Definitely far from the up-to-your-calf cotton tube socks I wore in high school.

Naturally, space prohibits from discussing every possible type of sock available. However, if there are sock manufacturers willing to let me road test their wares I won't hesitate to talk a little more about them.

The most popular running socks fall into three different categories: thin, padded and specialty.

Thin socks which come to my mind are made by companies like SockGuy, SaveOurSoles, LN, Gizmo and Air-E-Ator. When Suzanne and I go to an out-of-town race, we'll pick up a matching pair, just to remind our friends we're married. I love these socks for a number of reasons:

First, they work well for a multitude of situations. I can wear them with a pair of dressy shoes; nothing drives my co-workers up the wall like seeing me in a meeting wearing a pair of black socks with a beer mug embroidered on the medial (inner) and lateral (outer) cuffs.
Second, when I do triathlons the thinner socks protect my feet from the seams and edges of my bike shoes and help me to slide into my run shoes very quickly.
Third, I can wear them with a snug pair of cushioned running shoes or racing flats...depending on the distance, or as an inner pair with a low cuff padded sock for a longer distance race.
Last, the multitude of sock colors and embroidery designs - colleges, military services, wise comments, and so on - let me expose my personality on the road.

When it comes to padded socks Thor-Lo comes to mind reflexively. I've varied between the low-cut crew 12 and what Thor-Lo calls the Run-12 and the Run-14, depending on the time of year and availability in the running specialty stores. Thor-Lo knits their socks in three different varieties of thread: CoolMax, Wool, and Acrylic, and in thin or padded styles. I love the padded style, and can never seem to have enough pairs. I've also worn the Ironman-branded sock, which is an acrylic blend, and a little less-padded than the Thor-Los. The Ironman-branded socks, made by Wigwam, are my first choce for longer-distance race days, usually covered up with a SockGuy-type sock.

I received a pair of WrightSocks as part of a grab bag shipment a few years ago. What made those socks special was the fact they had two layers rather than one, which kept my tender(ized) foot and ankle flesh from rubbing against the internal seams of my shoes. Nice socks, but unfortunately, I suffered from the curse of any guy who launders...the favorite socks always lose one member of the pair, after which they - the single sock which remains - are only good for making dog toys.

Why is it the good socks always lose one of the pair, and the bad socks never get lost?

Let's return to the topic of rubbing and the outcomes which result from skin rubbing against seam - blisters -and skin rubbing against skin - blisters, chafing, callouses. I've had calloused skin between my fourth and fifth toes for a long time, which occasionally I'm able to trim down. My wife, noticing this issue, asked whether a pair of socks with split toes would help the problem. I used to look at the Injinji socks as another one of those strange marathoner aberration-slash-fad things; my marathoning alumna used to wear them for every run and swore by their benefits. With "barefoot" running and the Vibram-type split-toed shoe-like devices suddenly appearing on the foot of every bandwagon rider the Injinji socks would make for a great sock inside a pair.

Think about it, barefoot-runners. If you're wearing a "shoe" with no sock, eventually it is going to stink to high heaven UNLESS you have some sort of sock or fabric in there to soak up all that sweat. Naturally, split toed "shoes" would require the use of split toed socks.

So, Suzanne decided to grab me a pair of Injinji socks (rainbow colored!) which I could wear with sandals or while running. After the first five minutes of 'wow, this feels a little bit strange, this feeling of cloth between my toes' feeling, I have to admit they were very comfortable. Even for long runs.

Naturally, there's no "one size fits all" solution for the right pair of socks. Much like running shoes, the right sock for the runner is a match -sometimes made in heaven, sometimes a little farther "south" - between shoe and foot; a blend of personal preference, "checkbook resiliency, and foot type.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Very Scary Place

'My head's a very scary place; don't want to walk it alone...'
Christopher Cross, "I Know You Well' (1998)

In the past I've focused on advice and counsel which can be passed to a larger, more general public, especially since a sports editor asked whether he could borrow one or two of my posts.

Weekly exposure in a large-city newspaper leads to a number of outcomes: You end up with new 'friends.' You also gain new 'detractors.' Both are necessary to the aspiring writer. There's nothing like seeing your weak points exposed by a person who wants to "make points" in the public spectrum - they provide an unpaid (but not unappreciated) editorial function in the feedback loop. You go back and think a little more critically about the next topic; you read the first draft a little more critically. You make certain there's more "muscle" than fat. The editor has less material to polish, change or tweak.

This post is (most likely) not going to be sent up the line. Here is where I temporarily revert to that often self-abusive "make-you-go-blind-if-you-keep-writing-like-this" type of writing which to many appears to be the sustenance of bloggers. I feel a need to talk about a "very scary place" I briefly visited this past weekend. Some details will be trimmed to save friends and loved ones from needless exposure.

I like beer. However, I would not say I have a drinking problem. More often than not I am the person who sees the proverbial "line drawn in the sand," over which I dare not step for fear of ruining my personal, financial, or professional well-being. I will have anywhere from zero-to-three beers a day during the work week. There is the rare - perhaps two or three times a year - occasion when I will dance at the line and mock the Fates, after which I go back to my comfortable bed and sleep for a few hours. When I awaken, I chuckle at my good fortune, grab a cup of coffee and march smartly.

This weekend I have to admit I stepped over the line. It wasn't a big step, but it was a step. In the 25-plus years since I drunkenly stumbled out of a bar in my hometown and inflicted $600 worth of damage on my brand-new pick-up truck, I think I can say I've "stepped over the line" perhaps three times. For me, this involves or has involved drinking (probably in this most recent case) the equivalent of a 12-pack of American beer and climbing into or onto a motorized vehicle.
I've seen other people (try to) do this. In a far worse state of inebriation. With facial trauma from the outmanned tag-team match against gravity and disequilibrium that state of drunkenness so stealthily arranged. I've seen a few really good, and graphic examples of why not to drink to that state. Of course, when we are having a great time we don't quite think about those consequences.

I definitely thought about the potential consequences - financial, judicial, professional, medical, and so forth - once we returned (safely) home. The next morning's run turned into a long walk and chat with my wife. She now understands why I prefer to not drink as much as the next party animal. And naturally, my body decided to let me feel the lowest level of the potential consequences through the remainder of the day. A headache would have been acceptable. But stomach taught me a lesson.

Small, 12-ounce opaque drinking cups are your friend. Large, transparent 21-ounce beer mugs are your friend, too...but for a brief period of time. Having the courage to say "I think I've had enough," or to ask whether someone (sober AND of legal driving age) can make certain you get home safely might not make the hangover, headache or gastrointestinal distress any less intense, but it might be much less expensive for you. And the ones who run with - or love - you.