Category Archives: OCR Gear

Fat Boy Big Wall, Juvenile Offender

One not-terribly-interesting change that I’ve experienced since moving to Ohio involves recycling.

In Chicago, recycling bins were always pretty readily accessible, even though the buildings where I lived didn’t always provide them. Here, they are less so.

However, there is a recycling center that’s not too inconvenient: It’s basically down the street from the good grocery store (there’s another one that’s very close to where I live, but it’s a bit sketchy, and it makes pretty clear that produce is not its jam) so I’m in the area at least once a week.

I went there for the first time last weekend, and it went… well…

It’s the weather’s fault, really. I decided to walk there, rather than bike, because it had been raining all morning and wet roads will get you nicely moist, even if it’s not raining.

There is an attendant at the recycling center, and going there on foot really, really, really messed with his head.

He was obviously suspicious when I came in. That really kicked up when I was finished dropping off my stuff, which is slightly my fault. I had another errand to run, which was across the street from the grocery store. So instead of walking out the typical entrance and exit, I tried to go through the back of the recycling center. I didn’t, as there was both a rather rusty fence blocking the path (which could have been jumped) and a more-significant-than-I-realized highway with no good crossing, except the main one that I already knew about (which led me to turn back.)

This unauthorized exploration was simply too much for the attendant, and he had to confront me.

I explained my slight awkwardness, that I was new in the area and had never been there and wanted to see if it was possible to cut across to the bank (which was my other errand, even though I neglected to mention it earlier. My apologies).

“You can’t go through that way,” he informed me quite needlessly.

“I see that now,” I said.

“You just get out of jail?” he demanded.

Wait, what?

One more bit of local geography you’ll need to fully understand the story: Across the street from the recycling center in the other direction from the bank is the local juvenile detention center.

So, the attendant was very confident that I just gotten out of there. No, not “gotten out of there.” The tone of voice which which he asked if I had just gotten out of jail suggested he thought that I had escaped, and that he was about to score himself a bounty.

Because the first thing a 41-year-old does upon escaping from juvie is take some recycling in.

(Also, to keep it OCR related: I happened to be wearing a Spartan finisher t-shirt from last year’s Citi Field sprint at the time. Perhaps those are as readily available at juvenile hall as they are at Citi Field, which raises some questions about Mets fans that I’m sure Phillies fans would be happy to exploit, if they knew how to read.)

I assured him that I was not actually a criminal, but he wasn’t going to give up on his opportunity for Justice™ that easily. “Then why are you on foot?”

“Because I walked here” was my fairly obvious response. Looking back, I think his inquiry was more high-minded and philosophical—as in, “Why didn’t you drive?” As in, “driving is the only possible way to move between two points.”

Which suggests pretty strongly that, despite working at a recycling center, he hadn’t quite considered the implications of his work in the broader environmentalist context.

He demanded to know where I had walked from. I told him, and he informed me that it wasn’t possible to do so. I reminded him about the off-road trail that brought me nearly halfway, and the ample sidewalks on the other half of the trip.

The attendant did not believe me. But he also wasn’t accustomed to having someone respond to him as if they were saying logical things. It threw him, and he couldn’t come up with any more lines of inquisition, and I was free to go. I mean, that’s what he was thinking, even though we both knew that he had no authority to hold me there, and I was only staying around because it amused me. He didn’t say anything to me, but just sort of shook his head and backed away murmuring about how confusing the whole situation was.

I hope he’s happy… he single-handedly put another junior felon back on the streets






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I’m Lucky I Don’t Have Fashion Sense

While on Facebook recently, I unwisely clicked through to a clickbaity article, albeit from a reputable source, about the “11 items that no fit guy should be without“—i.e., the clothes you absolutely positively must be wearing at the gym so you don’t look like a noubche. (That’s a combination of a knob, a noob, and a douche. It’s the worst thing a human can be without voting for Trump.)

"Stylish" T-shirt

But what makes it stylish? Is it the horizontal lines? Or the vertical lines? Maybe the black band around the inside of the neck that nobody will see? Or the retro TV test-pattern pattern?

It’s a valuable list. And not just because it tells you that you need a T-shirt, and one that’s apparently stylish. No, it’s valuable in a more literal way. $900.88—that’s the cost of these 11 items.

Of course, the editors of Esquire showed restraint. They didn’t include a technical warm-up jacket in their list of 11 items, because as they humbly declared, “Call us old fashioned, but you don’t necessarily need a technical warm-up jacket to go to the gym.” So instead they replaced it with the “great” looks of a gray hoodie. ($44.99).

Fortunately this restraint didn’t carry through to the lower body, because one of the essentials is tailored sweatpants. After all, “Tailored track pants are as important on men’s runways as they are in the weight room.” So you’d better have them!

Also, what’s the difference between tailored pants and just normal pants, and is tailoring something that normally happens to sweatpants?

Anyhow, if you have $900 to burn—well, you’re out of luck, because all this stuff costs $900 and 88 cents, so if you don’t also have the 88 cents, you’re doomed to a life of noubchebaggery. On the other hand, being a noubchebag means that you can just go to the gym and workout without having to worry too much about whether you’re wearing the right T-shirt, so maybe it’s not so bad.

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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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Now Shorts are Complicated

Once again, I find myself outwitted by modern fitness gear.

Last time it was water bottles. This time: pants.

I bought a new pair of workout shorts today. I’ll admit that I didn’t put a lot of thought or attention into the purchase. In general, I don’t feel like shorts have a huge amount of impact on my workout, so I got cheap ones and didn’t really look at them too closely beforehand, apart from checking the size.

So when I got to the gym today, I discovered that they weren’t just shorts. There were shorts inside the shorts. You can sort of see what I mean—or maybe just get your rocks off—in these pervy up-short photos I took:

The outside of the shorts

Here are the shorts from the outside. And a bit of a flash of leg.

Shorts under shorts.

And here are the shorts under the shorts, with roughly the same flash of leg. Sexy!

I don’t know exactly how to describe it better than that, except that maybe there was something vaguely compression-shorty sewed into the pants at the top, but not connected at the bottom.

So, what’s the issue?

Well, I know that you’re not supposed to wear underwear under compression shorts. But what are the rules for wearing underwear under vaguely compression-shortish things sewed into other shorts? Are there even rules for this situation? I don’t know.

I wound up keeping my underwear on—I didn’t even really realize the inner pants’ existence until they were mostly on, and by then it was way too late. You can’t take off shorts once they’re on. I think I heard that on TV once.

So I worked out with the potentially superfluous underpants. Did it chafe? No, not really. It definitely bunched, although I’m not sure if that’s the influence of the under-under pants or just a flaw in the design of the attached underpants. And you don’t even want to think about the air flow situation. I mean, does junk even breathe? Because if so, mine suffocated. If it doesn’t, I guess it was okay. I guess we can’t know for sure until something gets impregnated by me.

I guess the lesson here is that underpants can be a surprisingly dangerous garment. I fully expect Donald Trump to start demanding that we bomb Fruit of the Loom immediately.

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How Fitness Has (and Hasn’t) Changed Me

I’ve been pondering for a while What It All Means—Life, the Universe, your Preferred Flavor of Pie, and all sorts of other SEO-friendly terms—before applying that to my OCR experience, and fitness in general. I’m dating this back about four years, when I got serious about working out—or at least, when I started going to my gym, which made working out a thing that I did regularly. (There may well be a difference: While I do genuinely enjoy working out, I often don’t enjoy it while in the midst of a workout, and it’s entirely possible that had I not discovered how well the group fitness approach works for me that I wouldn’t have stuck with it, the way I hadn’t stuck with it for all the rest of my life.)

So how have I changed, or not? Well…

  1. I’m in better shape. At least, by any objective measure I am. Unfortunately, by my brain I’m exactly as fat and weak and incapable as I always was. I’m weirdly number obsessed in part because I know how much my brain lies to me.
  2. Don't make me get nonviolent on your ass T-shirt

    Also this T-shirt, although I probably would have bought it anyhow—a friend designed it. (It’s available on Zazzle! –

    I now own stuff. I don’t think it’s crazy excessive—owning gear to me is a means rather than an end—but I am amassing something of a collection. There’s a few different types of shoes (running, cross-training, OCR shoes with traction, and climbing), the compression shirt and shorts for muddy races, the chalk bag for climbing, the boxing gloves and wraps for the once-weekly boxing class, and the foam roller that I really don’t like all that much. That’s only a short paragraph’s worth. And there’s only one piece of each (except for the boxing wraps—I bought two, thinking that each package only had one hand’s worth, rather than two). So it’s not Hoarders-type stuff. Still, it’s not something I would have expected.

  3. I tolerate running’s existence. In fact, I frequently do it intentionally. I like that I’m able do it a bit, although I don’t necessarily enjoy the act. I definitely never would have done so beforehand.
  4. I’m more judgmental. Not in the sense of, “Hey, look at that really slow runner! Look at how pathetic that is!” because that’s really assholish and also (as noted above) I still am that really slow runner. But there are some things that I do judge. Like, a few weeks ago I saw a fellow in the park. There is a pull-up bar set-up, with four different bars at different heights arranged in a box shape. He wasn’t using them for pull-ups, though; instead, he was on top of the bars, doing decline push-ups with his feet on one bar and hands on the bar opposite. So he wasn’t in terrible shape to be able to get up there. But his form was just so terrible—back arched like half a McDonald’s sign, with his navel below the low bar (and that’s while his arms were straight). So I don’t think he was really trying to work out; he’d have done way better just doing decline push-ups on a park bench. He was trying to look cool. And I deem him to have failed. The OCR world has a lot of social media equivalent of this kind of thing, which is why I’m not as active on those kind of groups as I’d like to be.
  5. I periodically get groped. Not by strangers—that would be absurd and creepy—but by friends—which is still absurd and creepy. But I do have some noticeable chest muscle, at least to the touch, and that’s the part that they’re groping, so I guess it’s meant well. Right?
  6. I know, in an informed way, that I’m not going to be a personal trainer. To explain: there are several people who go to my gym who have decided to get certified and become trainers themselves. (That speaks well to the quality of the gym, which is something that I do need to write about at some point.) I’ve considered it myself. The trouble is, I’d never be better than an adequate trainer. After getting the necessary preparation, I’d probably be fine at the the making-up-workouts part, and the anatomy part, and things like that. But I’d be disastrous at the more psychological elements of the job. I mean, I have a hard time even saying things like “Good Job” to people after a hard workout—it always sounds sarcastic to me, even though I mean it in the nice way. Encouraging people professionally? Yikes!
  7. I’m not really happier, although I’m also not unhappier in the way that I should be. How do I explain that? Well… I’ve heard (from no less an authority than Stephen Fry on QI, even) that it’s possible that the best medicine for depression is a workout. My experience is a bit more nuanced than that, though—more like, working out regularly takes a bit of the edge off of some of my problems, making things maybe 10% more manageable. That’s definitely not nothing—when you’re accustomed to having a 100-pound Rottweiler stuck to your shoulders, you will get more done when it’s replaced by a 90-pound Bernese Mountain Dog. But it isn’t a panacea. Meanwhile: several years ago (2009, to be exact), I lost—let’s just say, a lot in my life. Much more than I realized I had, in fact. And much of it has been extremely hard, and demoralizing, to replace or recover. So I’ve not been in a great state. Fitness and OCR hasn’t fully replaced all of that. I’m not complaining—they shouldn’t, and frankly they’ve done way more good than I had any right to expect. But there’s a bigger drag factor holding me down than there was. Enjoying my workouts probably… well, I shudder to think what would happen without them.
  8. To end on a lighter note: sometimes I run without my shirt on. Only around my neighborhood, where I’m pretty much anonymous, and not anywhere where it might get documented, because—see the middle part of point 1 above. But I do enjoy the feeling of not chafing.

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How My OCR Gear Worked

In preparation for the Indianapolis Sprint, I upgraded my gear from “the T-shirt and shorts I wear every day” to “stuff that might not suck.”

While I’m not qualified to review gear, I can share my experiences with how it all worked, now that I’ve washed them all (several times, including once in Lake Michigan, which brought the presence of police, but no action on their part). So how did it all work? Well…

Salomon Speedcross 3, post-cleaningMy shoes were the Salomon Speedcross 3. The good news is, the grip was excellent. I slipped a bit on the extreme mud, but given that the hills were basically liquid, that is forgivable. I seemed to be far more surely footed than other people who were running. I don’t think I fell more than once or twice, and those were both at the end when I was pretty thoroughly exhausted and dehydrated and underfed and not in a good state. Also, as promised, they drained well—the water flowed out of them pretty easily.

The bad news: The shoelaces. These shoes don’t have normal bunny ears round the tree laces you tie—they’ve got this little plastic doohickey that lets you pull the laces tight, and then the whole thing goes into a little plastic pocket in the shoe. Unfortunately, while I was out on the course I got some rocks in my shoes, and it got bad enough that I pulled to the side to remove them.

When I did that, I found that the little plastic doohickey had completely clogged up. I wound up kind of wriggling my foot out of the shoe to try to loosen the laces with the shoe off my foot. It eventually worked, but it was not easy. It took several washes before the laces became free-flowing (sort of) again.

Also that little flap that should be connected to the tongue ripped off during the race. That didn’t have any impact on performance, but it’s a bit worrying.

Socks, post race, with new socks for comparison

It’s hard to see in the photo, but the used socks (right) are significantly dingier than the new ones on the left.

I can’t say that I really noticed any impact from the REI store-brand moisture-wicking socks. Washing them, however, was notably unsuccessful. I mean, look at that dinge! Which is after a pair of washings by hand in water, and a machine wash.

Compression top
This was pretty successful, I think. It didn’t seem particularly heavy while I was running. There’s really not much to say about it.

Compression shorts
I chose the 3/4 length, which may not have been the right idea. They were pretty successful for most of the race, but by the end, they were starting to sag, whether from the mud or all the sliding. Happily, though, the sliding didn’t wear a hole in the ass, which I was definitely concerned about.

Also of note, these shorts did clean up good. When I took them off, the insides were absolutely filthy. (From mud, not poo.) It took a while, but after three washings, the inner liner is just about as white as it was originally.

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An OCR Gear Shopping Spree

I’m doing my first outdoor Spartan in “Indianapolis” (actually a good hour outside Indianapolis, but it’s close enough for jazz, glitter bombs, and the toilet of someone you don’t like) in two days. I’ve done one (as of the drafting of this post) or two (as of its posting) Stadium Sprints, but for those I just wore normal gym clothes and running shoes. But for the outdoor, in-the-mud kind of runs, I’d like to learn from prior mistakes.

See, at last year’s Warrior Dash, I wore standard first-timer apparel: cotton shirt, cotton shorts, and ancient shoes with no treads that I was ready to throw away. You can probably guess the results: I was slipping all over place, except for the places that were so treacherous that I had to sit down and slide down the muddy hill. Also, after the first mud puddle, I was basically running the race with my shorts around my knees. That may be an acceptable uniform for the shrubbery behind a rest area in Alabama, but it’s a bit of a party foul on a farm in Channahon, Illinois.

As a result, I’ve been acquiring some gear to try to prevent that from happening again. Now, one of the ways in which I’m weird is that I’m not enjoying the process of buying gear at all. It’s actually really stressful. I don’t know much about the gear, so I’m going online to research stuff. The trouble is, I do know about publishing, having ground 15 years worth of magazine sausage, so I also know that just because someone writes about something doesn’t mean that they know anything about it. I mean, I’ve paid my rent with non-existent expertise in caffeine, furniture-building, and modern library architecture, so it’s hard not to realize that most of what I read is probably bullshit.

The trouble is, this likely bullshit is the only information I have, so ultimately I tried to average it out and condense the recommendations down into something manageable. I ultimately decided to splurge on a compression shirt, compression shorts, shoes, and wicking socks.

The latter two, surprisingly, were easiest. I went to REI, not out of any particular brand loyalty but because my brother and sister-in-law gave me a gift certificate there for my birthday. (Their thought was that I would use it on climbing gear, as indoor bouldering is a hobby I’ve taken up this year link, but as I haven’t required any gear beyond the bit that I’ve already gotten, I feel like this is an acceptable alternative.) The saleswoman in the shoe department was familiar with the OCR concept and had some recommendations.

New OCR shoes and socks

My new shoes and socks. Also part of why I got them? Weird laces that don’t need to be tied.

I tried a few on and picked the Salomon Speedcross 3s, because they felt good and because they were familiar from enough online gear reviews that I can hope that all of those reviews weren’t bullshit in exactly the same way. I didn’t go for the Smartwool socks that I’d seen a bunch of recommendations for; instead I opted for the significantly cheaper store-brand ones that have moisture wicking powers. I hope that doesn’t turn around to bite me in the ass of the blisters on my heel. (That metaphor holds together, right? If it doesn’t, I think I’m going to try to turn “ass of the heel” into a new term for blisters. It’ll be a thing.)

Compression gear was a bit tougher. An UnderArmor store recently opened near my gym, so I went there. But finding a shirt was surprisingly challenging. In normal clothes, I’m kind of on the XL-XXL cusp. But speaking of sausage, when I tried an XL compression top, that’s precisely how I looked.

The store also didn’t have any clear distinction between long- and short-sleeve tops, so wading through the piles to find the short-sleeves also took some time. And once I figured that out, they didn’t seem to have any short-sleeve XXLs apart from superhero or military-themed prints, neither of which I really wanted. I’m pretty indifferent to the Spidermen and Supermen and Green Lanterns of the world (although when the Green Lantern movie came out I went to see it with a friend, and we were worried about getting tickets so we paid extra to book them on Fandango, and then we got there and there was one other person in the theater, and the movie was terrible, so I’m opposed to Green Lantern) and I’ve got some issues appropriating military prints (which is the tip of an iceberg made of open cans of worms). A salesman did help me, though, and eventually we did find one solid-color short-sleeve XXL compression shirt.

Very stupidly, I didn’t bother to try that one on in the store. When I got it home, I did, and saw an obvious problem: The shirt is white happened to be white. I mean, I saw the issue with taking a white shirt on a muddy course in the store—I just didn’t care much. But when I tried it on, I realized that the white shirt was completely see-through. I looked like I had a tiny woman in a black bikini strapped to my chest.

And then, there’s the shorts. I should have trusted my instincts about how underwear-y they looked. As it turns out—and this tidbit of information didn’t emerge in my original searching for recommendations—there are compression shorts that are shorts and compression shorts that are underwear.

I’m not necessarily not going to wear those. They’re bigger than, say, the Speedos that I wore, bulging with pride, in my swimming days. But I can’t help this nagging feeling that it might be nice to wear actual shorts as shorts. The good news is, the compression gear is unsoiled and unharmed and the store permits returns. Unfortunately, that will have to happen next week (when I drafted this post) or today (when I’m actually posting it), which isn’t a week/day when I have a lot of time to spare.

If all else fails, I’ll just run the Indy course with my shorts around my ankles again. It might not be fast, but at least it will spice up the race photos.


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