Monthly Archives: April 2016

Why, No, I Don’t Photograph Well

As we all know, the real OCR starts when the photos have been published and you have to start hunting through the bajilliobytes of data to find ones of you. Citi Field’s have been posted, and there are a lot of me. Not, strictly speaking, good ones, but that’s more on me and my ugly, non-posing face than anyone else.

This year it was easier to find mine than usual. The bib number search worked—not perfectly, but enough to provide some useful information. But also, I wisely decided to not wear black, and instead chose my bright red Excalibourbon shirt and my Extremely Blue Shorts. Anyhow, they should be good for a laugh. In order of amusement-inducingness, from low to high, are:

cargo1

Meh. Me on the cargo net. Next to my brother, who I didn’t realize was next to me. It’s pretty much all business, with an appropriate amount of effort being shown and a mild quantity of action. Easy to share with your aunt; way less memorable than my sarcastic 1980s aerobics instructor look from last year.

gsandbag2

Fun fact: This is one of the few times I’ve actually seen a photographer on the course. They’ve obviously been out there; I just don’t notice things like that. Anyhow, for some reason I decided to switch the sandbag to the other shoulder, and I noticed the photographer while I was doing it, and I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s going to make for a terrible picture,” and I was right.

gsteps1

This one’s really not interesting for me (although the facial expression does make me look like a complete wanker). But if you can look at the guy next to me without singing “A-aaa-aaaaaah!” and preparing to fight the Night Man, well, I don’t want to know you.

gauntletblurred

The motherload. And yes, I blurred the woman in front of me’s face to protect her privacy. It looks exactly like we just finished up having mommy-daddy times inside the Gladiator Gauntlet. Which probably has happened at some point, so think about that next time you’re running a stadium race.

This one does raise an interesting ethical question: It’s really not hard for me to find the other person in this image. I almost feel like I should make contact with her to say, hey, I’m really sorry—I’m the really creepy-looking guy behind you and I promise to never contact you again and please don’t let this make you lose faith in all humanity. Is that a reasonable thing to do or should I just let her recover as she will?

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Working Out A Mile In Another Man’s Shoes

There was a special event today at my gym. Well, marketing thingy. I don’t know. But people from Nike were there, and there were a couple of workouts that were open to sign up for to do with the new Nike Free shoes.

We didn’t, obviously, get a pair (or two—more about that later) of free shoes. We just got to use a pair (or two) of communal shoes. Sort of the bowling alley model of footwear distribution.

But I’m already getting ahead of myself, because the first thing I got when I arrived was a wristband, so I was like, “Yeah! I can drink all night without having to show my ID!”

Ah, but this was not to be a drunk workout. (My gym never institutes that, no matter how many times I ask for it. Something about liability, and healthy examples, and get out before I punch you.) The wristbands were simply to divide us into groups. The workout was roughly my gym’s standard Warrior class—a circuit training workout that’s generally done in two parts. Normally we all stick together or, if the class is big enough, we’ll split into two organically. Since it was at capacity, though, it was probably easier to just assign everyone a place to start.

Due, presumably, to the different models of shoes in the Free line (which, I’m fairly certain, aren’t free), the workout was a bit more segregated than usual. One part was heavily running focused, and the other “training” (a more general strength-based workout). I had a blue band, signifying I would be starting in the run section.

So, I got my first set of shoes, the ones apparently designed for running, which either happened to be blue to match the bands, or it was all a coincidence. (Probably the latter, since the women’s shoes were a different color.) While waiting for the workout to start, Nike’s photographer was meandering, photographing. He passed me several times and, well, declined to take a photo. In fact, the last time, I swear I saw him look at me and just shake his head in depression at the delusion that anything might induce him to waste a couple megabytes on me.

Which, on the one hand, I get—I’m probably not the target demographic or image for Nike. But on the other hand, it’s foot modeling. I could totally be a foot model, given how much I look like a foot. Plus, I’ve been told on many occasions that my calves are my good side, and this is pretty much the one time when that could be of any use to anyone.

(Should I start being offended? It’s sort of like, “Hey! Literally the only part of you that’s worthwhile is your legs. But not the whole leg, only the bottom half. And only the back half of the bottom half of your leg. And, if we’re honest, it’s really only the top half of the back half of the bottom half of your leg that has any merit whatsoever. The rest, we’ll just save in the deep freezer in case a horde of zombies attacks and we need something to make them think, ‘Wow! Look at how ugly that is! I should go eat brains somewhere else!'”)

But alas, my big break into foot modeling failed to materialize. But I can tell you about the shoes.

Of course, I’m uniquely unqualified to do so. I’m on the record as not caring too much about gear. I have no idea what makes a “good” running or workout shoe. I’ve found models that work for me and I stick with them. (New Balance, if you care, and you shouldn’t.)

Also, my feet aren’t terribly normal. I wear 12 wide, and they didn’t have wide sizes. I don’t even know if they make them in wide sizes. So a good fit wasn’t likely.

Also, I was in a slightly pissy mood anyhow. It started yesterday, when I took a yoga class, which made me angry because yoga is supposed to bring inner peace but all it really does is make you hate how unflexible you are and hurt because you’re trying to stretch and it hurts and why didn’t I go to the yoga class where you can swear all you want? Then, I had a couple bits of job-hunting anxiety. And then, a small amount of drama in a freelance gig that caused some last-minute schedule adjustments. Nothing real serious, but I wasn’t in the mood to like shoes just because a multinational company asked me to.

So keep all that in mind and take everything with a grain of salt when I tell you how much I hated these shoes. I mean, I have never hated shoes so much, apart from possibly my size 10 (ladies) purple chunky wedges. (I was in a show that needed someone to play Barbara Bush, and I was the only one with a mind beautiful enough for the job.)

Purple wedge heel shoes

My Barbara Bush shoes (with an actual shoe for comparison). At least the matching dress was comfortable.

Owing to the lack of wide sizes, I decided to go up a half a size in the running shoes. That didn’t help—they were waaaaay too long but still really tight. The tightness may have been a feature—there was a short presentation about the shoes before the workout, but all I remember is that they were designed to be “socklike” and the bottoms have this weird multi-hinged thing that looks like it will all fall apart if you step on it hard enough. (Although I did exactly that and it didn’t fall apart, so point to the shoes on that one!) Anyhow, the sides and tops were this sort of stretchy mesh thing, so it was probably intended to be tight to the (actual) sock.

The notable thought I had about those shoes were that, shortly into the workout, my feet felt waterlogged. Not really heavy—more like they do after you’ve been running in the rain and you finally get to take your shoes off and your feat are pale and bloated. That feeling did pass, so I can’t say for sure if it’s a real thing or my general moodiness that caused it.

After the first half, we switched shoes (Be sure to tip your shoe deodorizers, folks!) and headed downstairs. Now the training shoes, I don’t feel like I need to put too many disclaimers on. I definitely hated these suckers.

Since I had about 2 inches of toe room in the 12 and a halfs of the running shoes (one of the Nike guys—for some reason, they referred to themselves with the title of ekiN, as if that was a career path to aspire to—even commented how big they were on me), I went back down to size 12s in the “training” shoes. This would prove to be unwise, as my toes would eventually reach all the way to the end of the shoe. When I took off my socks after the workout, I discovered—maybe not a full-on blister, but at least a bubble on the ends of a couple toes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself again, because just getting the bloody things on was a struggle. In addition to being a shocking amount shorter for half a size—seriously, at this rate, a size six would literally be no shoe at all—it was narrow for my feet. And, most of all, there was this really tight collar at the top of the shoe that I think was supposed to have some purpose, although I don’t remember it, but I do know that that made it really hard for me to put the shoe on. Like, a full minute of squeezing and tugging and stretching. Per shoe.

The thing is, once we got into the workout, the heel (or above it) was the part that really hurt. The shoe was digging into the back of my foot, and there is definite rawness there now.

At least the photographer was back for that part, and I know he got some shots of me this time—doing burpee/jumps onto a big tire, and also rowing. I made some of my most aggressive (or probably ridiculous) row faces. In my defense, I was sprinting.

So hopefully, I will have the honor of being a foot model after all. And especially, the honor of modeling shoes I hate.

 

 

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OCR Report: 2016 Spartan Citi Field Sprint

So, I was in New York over the weekend to visit my brother and sister-in-law and nephews, and to run in the Spartan Citi Field Sprint with my brother.

Spartan Citi Field 2016 swag

Swag from the Citi Field 2016 Race, including: shirt (with sleeve folded in a probably futile effort to juxtapose the prominent U.S. flag with the less-prominent “Made in China” designation); finisher medal; and picture frame (given to me as a birthday present and decorated by my nephews and I. The photo is the one that came with—you can tell because I’m not in black-and-white in real life.)

It was my first race of the year, and given that I haven’t been real happy with my training and (especially) diet thus far, it’s not shocking that the race was a mixed bag. In fact, a mixed bag is probably better than I should have expected. So without more intro, here is:

The good

It’s not surprising, but the race was overall well-organized and well-put-on. I’ve never had any significant logistical issues during Spartan races, and this was no exception—parking was fine, getting in was a snap, no major logjams on any of the obstacles, and so on. I feel bad about not writing more about those things, since they’re a major part of what makes an experience satisfactory or not, but since there weren’t problems there’s not much to say.

For myself, I’m getting better at the cargo net. Last year, it gave me—not difficulties, but definite tummy-rumblings at the height, which weren’t soothed by the knowledge that I was perfectly safe. This year, I’m happy to report having no real fear on it and no real trepidation approaching it, so that at least is something I have gotten over.

Speaking of getting over, I made it over all three of the walls (2 6-foot and one 8-f00t) without the aid of other people. I did use the support brackets, which may not be strictly tournament legal, but I have never been able to manage the 8-footer even with that before.

One excellent change that Spartan made to the race this year was that the Stupid Wheely Thingy that You Velcro to Your Feet But That the Velcro Never Stuck Long Enough To Work obstacle that was “used” in Milwaukee’s Miller Field Sprint in 2014 and was present at Citi Field last year but looked like it had been discontinued due to defectiveness before I arrived appears to have been completely retired. In its place was a sort of platform on wheels—you put your feet on the platform and wheelbarrow yourself a certain distance. It’s a good core challenge and a good task. I wish the platforms had been slightly bigger, just because my feet are ginormous and it was tough to get them both on. I get the reasoning—wider feet would make the task slightly easier—but as long as I recognize the irrationality of my complaints I feel that making them is an acceptable behavior.

More life-related: I really like seeing my nephews. They’re exhausting, but energizing—a good reminder of why I want to be better.

The Bad

I was pretty angry at myself on several of the obstacles. The rope climb I went nowhere on, even though this was the first race with a dry rope after learning how to actually climb a rope. But even though the rope was almost the first obstacle, it was also very thin and pretty slick. My S-hook didn’t clamp at all, so the whole rope climb didn’t work at all. (The rope I learned to climb on is manila, which has more texture.)

The monkey bars were also frustrating. This was the first time I touched them when I had any hope of completing them—they had been closed due to some sort of safety concern or injury at Citi Field last year, and at last year’s Chicago Super I was coated in slick mud and had no energy at all so I dropped of immediately. My gym has a lengthy set of monkey bars, and I’ve gotten fairly competent at them, but I’ve never tried the up-and-down ones that Spartan uses. And… I made some progress but slipped off a bit less than half way. I’m pretty sure that’s more an issue that I need a few tries to get comfortable with something than because I couldn’t do it—after my burpees, I went back and tried again and got about 3/4 of the way before slipping off. (There wasn’t a huge lineup, and it was about 4:30 by then, so I don’t feel like I broke anyone’s timed run.) I’m not sure how best to deal with this issue—it takes a while for me to feel comfortable enough on a thingy that’s at the edge of my ability to successfully do it, but there are very limited opportunities to actually be on those thingies before I have to do them. A conundrum.

The only complaint that I would make about the course itself was that the weaving through the stadium seats got to be a bit perpetual by the end. The last round, in particular, just felt like a thing we had to do—there were only a few stairs at a time, and then we’d go over a section, but since they’re in the seating you can’t really run fast, and since it’s basically horizontal it’s not a great challenge. It was just sort of there.

The silly

I’m hoping that my brother and I won the smallest team award. In order to be assured of running at the same time, we formed a team, and there were just the two of us on it. I suppose maybe somebody had an Official Spartan Team of 1, but that seems to be gilding the anti-social lily. So eat your heart out, Spartan 4-0.

Being with my brother often seems to turn things a bit lavatorial. I’m happy to report that there was no repeat of last year’s Massive Fart of Doom (and, in fact, the winds have finally carried the aroma away). But we did prepare for it. At least, we went to the gas station beforehand. (And the gas pump kindly played videos reviewing recent film releases for us. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have gone to see Batman vs. Spiderman if I had known that pump 3 only gave it 1 and a half stars.)

Before entering the stadium, both my brother and I availed ourselves of the port-a-potty facilities outside. While waiting for my brother, I heard from another in the bank of stalls terrible, deep booming and grunting and straining and screaming, like it was Elvis or my dad when he wants to make sure that everybody knows he’s on the toilet. After a bit of this, the sound-maker emerged—a perfectly fit, average to somewhat smaller than average sized woman. So congratulations to her.

 

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The Linguistic Variations of “Aroo”

The big exciting news of the day is dictionary-related, as it so often is. Joe De Sena has released a video promoting a change.org petition to have “aroo” added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Now, I could pass for a grammarian; I’ve worked in publishing for too long and been in far too many style book meetings (in which a group of editors sit around debating how a given publication will handle potentially tricky words or phrases that don’t necessarily have a “correct” way to be handled. Style books are Good Things, but the meetings to create them are an interminable series of discussions that each begin with “this will probably never come up” and end in “well, I just think it looks better that way.”) and, despite the appearances engendered by the perpetuality of this sentence, I know my way around a clause. So I’ve decided to give the “aroo” endeavor a hand.

Not by signing the petition, obviously, because, yeargh. But I figured that, if “aroo” does enter the dictionary*, it would be handy to have a list of its linguistic variants handy. And who better to produce that than me?

OK, maybe a few people. But they aren’t available right now, and I am. If you don’t want it, well, go find what you do want. Here’s the list:

Arod: To be disqualified from a Spartan Race for using performance enhancing drugs. “He podiumed, but it was no surprise that he got aroded because his urine sample was orange with green polka dots.”

Aroid: The performance enhancing drugs that will get you aroded.

Arooed: Past tense of “aroo.”

Arooey-ooey: Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred greeting when an obstacle course racer answers the telephone. Largely archaic, except among hipsters.

Arooga: The sound made by an alarm on a British spaceship when something gets Spartanly fucked up.

Arooing: The act of shouting “aroo.”

Aroink: a portmanteau of aroo and boink; the act of engaging in sexual activities with an obstacle course racer. Typically vulgar and used to describe activities that will not lead to the exchange of phone numbers or actual names.

Aroom: The form of “aroo” used when the aroo has a direct object; e.g., “To whom are we arooming?” Often used incorrectly when the user is a pretentious git.

Aroomba: An automated spartan vacuum cleaning robot popular in the mid-2000s. No one seems to have one any more.

Arooooo: A variant of “aroo” used for emphasis. Certain writers will add a number of additional “o”s to the end of “aroo” proportionally to the amount they wish to intensify the phrase. These are generally the same people who believe that adding twelve exclamation points to the end of a sentence is the only possible way to show a reader that something is exciting; they should generally be avoided at all costs.

Aroos: Plural of “aroo.”

Aroot: Common proper name derived from the sentient tree that ran a Spartan Race one time, or that Reno stripper so inspired by his tale that she adopted his name, dance moves, and subterranean root structure.

Arootch: The act of vomiting from exhaustion while shouting “aroo.” Some variant of Rule 34 demands that there are probably people out there who will make arootching their goal.

Arooth: An archaic form of “aroo” popularized in Shakespeare’s Atlasball and Cleopatra.

Lilly Von Schtupp

Awoow-oo-oo-oo-oow.

Awoow: Variant of “aroo” as pronounced by Barbara Walters or Lilly von Schtupp.

I’m an individual, dammit!: A perfectly acceptable response to a shout of “Aroo.” As OCR Drinking Game Rules state, doing so will require all listeners to take two drinks. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you open a beer tent before shouting this phrase.


*Well, a dictionary. I mean, Merriam-Webster ain’t the OED. It ain’t even Random House.


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Adventures in Cookery

With that headline, apparently British Greg has taken over the site, but that’s okay. One of my goals for the year was to cook more new things, and I’ve got a couple of recipifications (is that an okay noun for “single acts of cooking”?) to report on.

First is beef and sweet potato stir-fry from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. My report on this one is kind of short and sweet, because it worked really well and tasted good, which is great but it doesn’t make a super-exciting write-up. Although it’s sort of indirectly responsible for the interestingness of the next recipe. This one calls for apple butter as part of a marinade, which is both more and less difficult to come by than you would think. Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to have it, which I found weird—I’d have expected about 12 different varieties of fruit butters that I’d never heard of, but they only had fig. So I tried Whole Foods, which also didn’t seem to have it. But then Jewel, the local big-box supermarket, had it in giant 47-serving jars. Seriously, how am I going to eat 46 more servings of apple butter? Can you spread it on a baked potato?

Apple butter

If Cardamom Watch hadn’t turned out so stupid, I’d be doing a Cardamom Watch with Apple Butter.

The second new recipe—also successful was chili from dry beans from Dessert Before Dinner. It tasted good, but making it… well.

During the Great Apple Butter Diversion to Whole Foods of 2016, I also had my eye out for dry beans, as Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to have all the varieties the recipe called for. In this endeavor, Whole Foods was successful, as they not only had the beans, they had them in bulk dispensers. So, in theory, I could take just the amounts required (ranging from half a cup to 2 cups) and not have any left over. Brilliant! Leftover ingredients can be tricky to use up when you live alone, and even though I’m pretty sure beans last a long time, I only know that in my head and not my heart. Plus, the sweet siren song of those mechanisms where you push a lever and beans just fall into a bag was calling me. Plus, writing a number on a twist tie? Oh, yeah…

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any way to measure the volume of beans I was dumping into the bags better than my eyeballs, and my eyeballs, as it turns out, aren’t terribly accurate. So, when I got home and started filling the crock pot, I really filled the crock pot. Like, up to the rim, ran out of space for the cumin filled the crock pot. (Okay, I actually ran out of space for the corn, but “ran out of space for the cumin” is a much better-turned phrase, so I’ll go with it.)

Someone with wisdom may have stopped what they were doing at this point, but I decided to go ahead and turn the crock pot on. But as beans get wet, they get bigger. So in a few hours, the chili resembled the birth of the curry monster from the “DNA” episode of Red Dwarf (at 22:25 of the following video).

(Was there a similar scene in Ghostbusters? I feel like there should have been, but I don’t recall one.)

Anyhow, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—the chili had grown enough to push the lid up a bit, but nothing exploded, and there were certainly no curry monsters coming out. And it cooked just fine, although at the end I wound up transferring it to a giant pot so I could add and  heat the corn through. The only real problem is that it made a huge amount—probably 10 bowls’ worth. I hope it freezes okay, because I did done that.

Hmm. 10 bowls’ worth. Of course, that’s coming from me, and we’ve already established that I can’t estimate volume well. I smell more sitcom-style hijinx!

(Why, yes, you are now humming the Full House theme to yourself. Thank goodness that got remade. Without it, how would we know Dave Coulier is still alive until Alanis Morissette writes another song about him?)

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I Wanna Punch Like Elena Kagan

I just finished reading The Notorious RBG, and one of the passages that most struck me was this:

Notorious RBG

Okay, I recognize that it’s a bit weird to focus on a passage about Elena Kagan’s workout routine in a book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s far from the only section I found interesting (I quite liked much of it, and in ways that I didn’t expect), but it’s the most interesting bit that’s relevant to the subject of this site, so there you go.

The reason for my intriguery is that boxing is something I do. It’s not my main workout thing, certainly, but it’s a weekly session I really enjoy. And now… I really want to incorporate the Kagan Combination.

Unfortunately, the book didn’t specify what the Kagan Combination is, and I couldn’t find it online either. I’ve asked the authors at the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr, but as of yet no answer. Hopefully, soon. Because I want to fight like a Supreme Court justice.

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Goal Update: A Dark Month

March sucked for me. The black dog latched onto my neck for most of the month and things were just generally unpleasant.

The sort-of good news to come out of that is that I think I rode things out OK. I mean, not OK, three weeks being stuck is three weeks being stuck, but I don’t think I went too far backwards. For example, some specific goal highlights:

Weight: No loss this month, but surprisingly no gain. That’s largely because the last week or so I’ve been coming out of the funk, but I’ll take it.

Rowing: My 500 meters in 1:30 goal was not my top priority when I set it earlier this year—my gym has rowers that we use a fair amount, but they’re generally one part of a bigger class. Then, lo and behold, it introduced a dedicated rowing class at a time that works well for me taught by an instructor who really knows his stuff (not that any of the instructors there don’t) and whose style fits what I need really well. Anyhow, one day 500 meter sprints were on the docket, and I did one in 1:32.6, about 4 seconds faster than my previous best. My hunch is that there’s a bit more speed in me—I wasn’t entirely fresh for that sprint and I went out a bit too fast, so 1:30 might actually be feasible.

Creation: The bad news is, the streak ended at 77 days. The good news is, it ended because I got Dad’s Little Book of Rage to a draft stage. As in, I’ve got people looking at it to give me their thoughts. So I can forgive a bit of pause, although while that’s happening, I need to start on other projects. Even though I’ll have to pause them to incorporate my readers’ notes. But that’s okay. I’ve got several candidates—Wormhole Village is the one that I think is going to be my main focus, although we’ll have to see how that goes. I mean, I like the idea, but execution is always a lot more important.

Running: I don’t have a specific goal for running, but my training seems to be going better than it was at this point last year. Weather hasn’t been great so I’ve run fewer times than I should have, but my last run was 6K in 32:09, which, while a bit slower than my race pace, is a fast pace for me for training.

Handstands: I’m still not there yet, but people who watch me try handstands are annoyed by how close I am, so that’s something. Being upside down still gets me a bit panicky.

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