So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Simplify, Simplify 2.0

Never been a parent, so school years' end doesn't make me emotional.  Nor nostalgic.  I was excited to complete high school and leave my small town and the b.s. which went along with it.  College graduation two decades later was my sense of accomplishment, relief and joy of seeing my father after a six-year break.  And some sorrow, as my training focus became more for personal fitness than collegiate excellence.

However, one of my co-workers is graduating two daughters; the eldest daughter of one of my dear running friends also makes the leap into college this month.  Bring on the Baz Luhrman "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" moment.

If someone were to throw me upon a rostrum, cap and gown-clad, what advice would I give to a class of high school - or college - graduates?

Perhaps it would all boil down to one sentence:  We have an abundance of information but a lack a sense of history.

We scribble down personal best times for races, maintain training logbooks and focus on the minutiae of our sport.  However, we seem to have lost the ability to balance a checking register or know when we've missed a payment.  In this increasingly-cashless, increasingly-paperless, electronic payment-driven society we're at the mercy of a customer service representative (talk to a communications provider and you know those three words are mutually-exclusive) who's more likely to hang up on you than provide a paper record of your bill payments.

It's easy to lay this indictment at the feet of the millennial or the generation who raised us, but have you ever been challenged by the need to write a new list of accomplishments for a performance appraisal, rather than cut and paste and change a few numbers here and there?  Or felt the need to update your resume as part of a job search...or a dip of the toe in the market?  Some managers are good at documentation, but most don't know exactly what their subordinates' do.  And if you don't have a supervisor who cares about your career you're pretty well doomed.

My wife was distraught over her first appraisal since a 16-year teaching career and 10 years of business ownership.  When she read the job expectations my first reaction was to ask when she fell short of the standard.  Neither she, nor her supervisor, could show any expectation met or left wanting.  If you don't know what's expected of you you're probably going to do everything that isn't.

Technology is great.  The Saturday afternoon debate, followed by a trip to the public library reference section, has been replaced by "the Google."  As long as you can type with two fingers you've got the world's knowledge, information, disinformation, and propaganda at your disposal.

Pavlov was kind of right.  That little bell on the phone rings and the owner salivates.  Unless the job requires unfettered access to a smart phone or digital device, leave it in the car, the jacket or the purse.  I guess one of my pet peeves - especially if I'm at a dining or drinking establishment - is when I see the servers or beer-pullers checking their phones every fifteen minutes. What you're doing probably isn't a lot of fun, but that's why someone is handing you money every so often.

When it comes to life and running the dictum "less is more" isn't a bad one to follow.  A friend mentioned the other day he was suffering from numb pinky fingers.  The medical professional diagnosed it as cubital tunnel syndrome.  Not too common, but caused possibly by having the elbow bent at an acute angle for a long period of time.  Like the angle it takes to hold a cellular telephone to ones' ear.  But if you've seen runners carrying phones or music players in elastic and hook-and-loop armbands most of them keep their arm crooked at an angle which betrays some concern about the device's safety.  Wrist-worn fitness trackers, running watches and distance-measuring devices are getting lighter and more-reliable.  Thus, I'll keep the phone in a pouch for those moments when I see something really neat (which demands a picture) or really dangerous (demanding a call to the cops).

In closing, I'll borrow shamelessly from the American renaissance man, Henry David Thoreau.  He wrote in 1854, "Our life is frittered away in detail...simplify, simplify."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

But...Naked?

Once upon a time, there was a small apartment in a lower income neighborhood into which a running enthusiast moved a few years back.  He was accustomed to going for runs wearing little more than a pair of nylon running shorts and a smile...of course, that was when he lived in a more-metropolitan area and drove to areas where he could run without going by residences. 

On his first runs through the neighborhood he received catcalls from the local ladies.  He thought little of it, asking himself the rhetorical question "have they never previously seen a half-naked man?"  He continued to run sans running top, t-shirt or shirt of any kind until the weather turned cold.  At that point he realized his apartment was, like himself, less-suitable for cold temperatures.  He then found a new place to live and new routes to run, places where it seemed that going topless was more-acceptable, at least for guys.

As he grew older and experienced setbacks in his battle with the middle-age spread, it became apparent to him that his slightly-expanding torso could be offensive to women, children and small animals.  He then decided, "I will cease to run without a shirt for the time being."

"First of all, my heart rate monitor strap, while functional and beneficial at this point in my training, makes me look rather geeky."

"Second, it does not seem fair that I, a middle-aged male, can traipse about public places with my pectorals exposed.  If a woman of the female persuasion were to do the same they would most likely be apprehended and forced to provide some financial or penal penance for their outrage to modesty."

As time progressed, he began to understand the rationale behind attire rules which were instituted by large sporting organizations, humorously referred to by some as the "no-nipple rule."  It wasn't necessarily that these organizations wanted to limit self-expression or kill joy, more the point that they wanted to make their particular sport more acceptable to the general public.  Sure, "wardrobe malfunctions" make for great television, but it's difficult to sell half-dressed persons to potential sponsors.  Of course, there are populations who aren't going to accept any sort of "middle ground," this family, for example...

I think the local constabulary, like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, could easily figure out what "is" is.  If it's going to get you busted in town it's probably not good out there.  Sometimes, a sensitivity to the local populace will help matters a great deal.  Then again, the reverse side of the argument could also be said: Don't stand out in the front yard gawking during those times of the weekend when the runners are going to come by.  As far as I know the First Amendment still stands.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Four Legs

I'm slowly picking at the white hairs all over my black jeans this morning.  While I (unproductively) occupy my time in between office crises I began to think about the source of my decoration...my companion of the last eleven years.

And no, I am not talking about my loving bride.  This time I speak of my dog, and about dogs in general.

I've written in the past about how dogs make really good coaches - that "joy of the activity for the activity's sake," "rest when your body says so" attitude.  I have friends with terriers and retrievers who rave about their benefit as training partners - I have a retired greyhound, emphasis on "retired."  If it isn't a walk around the park it isn't happening.  And that's all right, because I get the occasional sprint workout when Majic Rubin sees that his "mother" has come home from a day at the office.  But when it comes to running, if there's one failing the domesticated canine possesses - albeit one which they should not be held to account for - they don't spectate worth a darn.

Sometimes we human companions forget that.  While cruising through the local social media after my race last Saturday this post caught my attention...

"Ummmm, I apologize to the runners who got tangled with my dog this morning. (My husband) brought her out by the park to cheer everybody on and apparently she broke loose from her collar when I ran by to run with me. When she realized that was going to take too much work she casually ran back toward the runners. I know. Annoying. I'm sorry."

It's difficult to reason with an animal which possesses such a strong devotion to the human or humans it has chosen that it will free itself from the security and safety of the curb and other family members to join another member of the pack.  Add to this devotion the pack and perhaps the hunting/pursuit instinct and it's a no-win situation for the human being.  I did chuckle at the situation for two other reasons, though.

First, the canine co-owner just happens to be the proprietor of a running store, has produced one or more races and run in many.  Yep, not this family's "first rodeo."

Second, the hound realized that racing along with one of its human family for the next eight kilometers or so was going to be too much work.  Yes, the comfort of the grassy lot and a bowl of water was more irresistible.

I'm not necessarily going to say I think having dogs on a course is a bad idea, cruel or stupid.  I wouldn't do it, having learned from hard experience with my mother's German Shorthaired Pointer.  A few friends of mine have dogs with the stamina and endurance to trot ten kilometers at a clip which rivals my own, traversing wet, sloppy and mud-strewn hash trails with great relish.  A little knowledge of the hound doesn't hurt.

Most races, and the providers who insure them consider the domesticated canine as more of a risk to joint, limb and integument than a co-participant.  Unless the event is billed as dog-friendly (I've encountered a few which have made me want to go home and cuddle up with my d-a-w-g out of guilt.) then the animal/s in question will be lumped in with the constellation of items not allowed by the race director, to include bicycles, skateboards, baby joggers, roller skates or roller blades...and personal music players.  A runner or walker might think it a cute thing to have "Snowball" taking up the rear of the pack with them, but it's something which makes those personal injury lawyers salivate like one of Pavlov's subjects. 

This is not necessarily a diatribe against taking the furry kid to the local 5K run as much as it is a word of advice.  Fido is more likely to have the strength of a three-year-old child on steroids and the desire to collect as much information around them rivaling the National Security Agency.