Monthly Archives: July 2014

Morton’s Fork

I’ll start today’s post by quoting the immortal words of Yogi Berra: “If you come to a fork in the road… take it.”  Yogi also said, “If you don’t know where you’re going you might wind up someplace else.” In addition he’s quoted as saying, “I never said most of the things I said.” A wise man indeed and one who knew how to, ahem, cover all his bases.

According to my buddy Herb, the cartoon fella stuck on the trail above might be described as having a direct, up close and personal experience of Rule number 1. Herb used to use this turn of phrase around me and it took hearing it more than a few times before I thought to ask him, “What is Rule number 1?”.

“Rule number 1 is”, he explained, “you can’t win.”

Now Herb is not generally a gloom and doom kinda guy — far from it, he’s usually pretty dang chipper and cheery. So I repeated, “you can’t win?” “Sure”, he said, “just when you think things are going your way, WHAM, something blows it away.” I’m not sure if he really believes that but if he does I don’t think I want to know about Rule number 2.

In other news, It’s still sticky and warm here in San Diego, but again, in the immortal words of Yogi “the Bard” Berra: “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

Hit the Dusty Trail

Today’s cartoon may not make sense to you unless you’ve been involved with ice sports like hockey or skating. Ask anyone from the upper Midwest what a Zamboni is and they’ll tell you it’s a machine that resurfaces ice rinks. When I was growing up if a rink had it in its budget it would hire someone to drive a Zamboni on the ice to keep it up to snuff. While the machine was on the ice everybody else would leave so the operator could do their job unobstructed. The whole process usually only took a few minutes and it was a welcome break or a fun-wrecking bummer depending on your outlook at the time.

Gee, what would happen if you had a trail resurfacing machine… with, of course, a loose cannon psycho behind the wheel? Welcome to my world. I wonder if we could crowdsource some funding to manufacture them? I’ll set about coming up with the appropriate plans if I get enough interest.

I won’t hold my breath.

Running With The Devil

August begins on Friday but we’re already enjoying its patented hellish high humidity here in San Diego. Now I know I’ve got no reason to complain. Anyone who’s ever been to the deep south in the summer would think what we’ve got here is air-conditioned comfort compared to what they suffer, but hey, we’re weather wimps. We expect nice weather year round and always seem caught off guard when it isn’t picture perfect.

This past Sunday me and the missus ran in an atypical San Diego summer thunderstorm. My Midwest sensibilities dictated that we wait out the storm but we started our run anyway, just as the storm began (kids, don’t try this at home). Despite our idiocy we reveled in the soggy wonders of a rare drought slackening storm — even though some of the teeth-rattling thunderclaps seemed way too loud and much too close for comfort.

Many years ago I used to work out of the Grant Hotel downtown. One hot and muggy summer day I was walking down the sidewalk and looked up to see a woman clad in a stocking cap, gloves and rain suit running down Broadway. I thought, “what a nutbag.” Turns out the woman was Sue Krenn, an area runner who went on to run a low 2:30’s marathon and get third place at the Boston marathon. She was doing heat training and it apparently paid off. Her coach was a physiology-geek-genius named Hal Goforth who also happened to be a pretty damn good marathoner.

The next year I asked Hal to coach me and soon found myself out doing heat training in garb similar to Sue’s. Now who was the nutbag? I wore the heat training get up twice a week on my long runs (a 14-15 miler on Wed. and a 22 miler on Sun.). It was not pleasant training but it did make me tougher. As it turned out I did NOT get third place at Boston but I did lower my time by a few minutes setting a PR on a day hot enough to get a sunburn. So all in all it turned out fine except it kind of lowered my body’s thermostat. After doing the training I got cold much more easily. It took years and some deep tissue body work to get back to normal. So now other than my obvious heat-induced drain bamage I’m right as rain.

So if you’re going to attempt heat training treat it like you’re playing with fire. Common sense will help but do your research and above all listen to your body. As always your mileage may vary.

The Big Orv

Way back when, when I moved from Minnesota to San Diego I some how magnetized to former Minnesotans and Wisconsinites. I guess I was attracted to them because they had my kind of sensibilities and wacky sense of humor — so I felt at home with them. They became my friends. One of my best friends was/is a guy named Rick. Rick had a million stories (or maybe he only had one story and I heard it a million times) and would tell them with great flourish and exaggeration at the slightest opportunity.

This is one of his stories.*

When Rick was going to college he lived in Madison, Wisconsin. He worked in a donut shop. Rick’s boss’s name was Orv. One evening business was slow and the boss was gone so Rick and his fellow employees decided to create a culinary masterpiece. They gathered together all the old disgusting scrap pieces of donut pastry they could find and wadded it up into a huge donut-like conglomeration. They then eased it into the fry vat and cooked the crap out of it.

The hunk of dough sucked up a huge amount of grease and was so big that despite their best efforts the abomination was only half-cooked when they managed to wrestle it from the vat. Next they injected its carcass with all manner of dough-nutty fillings. When they’d filled it to a weeping, oozing sodden mass their work was done so naturally they christened it the Big Orv. Fortunately at closing time someone remembered to chuck the monstrosity into the dumpster behind the store. They’d had their fun and Orv would never be the wiser.

The next day as Rick was walking to work he looked through the window of the bike store next to the donut shop. To his amazement, there, on a table, was the salvaged half-eaten hulk of Big Orv being devoured by the bike store’s employees.

I’m not sure Orv ever did find out about it… but thanks to Rick, most of the rest of the world has.

* Special thanks to Herb for fact checking this story.

Running Gimmicks

Who hasn’t fallen for some training gimmick? I’d be a wealthy man if I hadn’t blown so much hard-earned jingle on various gimcracks that promised amazing gains. Just walk past almost any garage sale and take a  peek at the treadmills, ab machines, dumbells and stretch cords, etc., on display. Don’t get me wrong, many of these devices are marvelous for air drying your laundry.

I’m not sure what the thinking is when we buy this stuff. The psychology might go something like this: “If I buy this thing I’ll get the promised results.” So far so good (in many cases) but there’s one little problem. You still have to do the work, workout, practice or whatever. Plus you have to do it consistently over the long haul. It has to become a habit to get where you want. There’s something called commitment in this equation somewhere. I’m not sure most of us are up to it.

I remember that back in the day there was a cheap newsprint ad by a bodybuilder named Charles Atlas who offered to make you into a new man (sorry ladies, it’s what the ad said). All you needed to do was send him a buck or two and he’d send you a booklet explaining his muscle-building method with no gadgets. He said all you needed to do was invest 15 minutes a day to get “husky.” I had a friend who joked about writing a fictitious letter to Charles which would say, “Dear Mr. Atlas, Here’s your money. Please send muscles.”

Ah, if it were only that easy. Anyway, as I wrote yesterday we’re getting rid of some old, underused junk here on the home front. Some of that stuff is old exercise equipment. It feels good to be rid of it. Besides now we have more space available for the next new gimmick.

Wish you were here

I seem to recall a joke about a shipwrecked Irishman on a desert isle that finds a lamp. He rubbed it and out popped a genie who tells him he’s to be granted three wishes. So the Irishman thinks a bit and announces he’d like a bottomless bottle of Guinness. Poof, the bottle appears and the delighted Irishman starts swigging away. After a while the genie gets impatient and asks, “what would you like for your other two wishes?” The Irishman replies, “I believe I’ll have two more of those Guinness.”

Hence the inspiration for today’s cartoon.

Of course it’s not a direct cloning of the original — I’d have to have the islander ask for three pair of shoes that never wear out — but you get the picture.

I’m also reminded that a lot of things I wished for a decade ago or several decades ago now don’t interest me in the least. We’ve been on a bit of a cleaning jag around here of late and it’s astounding how much stuff in the house and garage we never actually use. It’s now clutter and taking up space. Much of it has been given away and there’s still more to plow through. All of it came through the door at one point or another because we somehow convinced ourselves (or good salespeople did) that we needed the junk.

If you’ve watched Tiny House Nation on TV you’ve seen how much stuff people (sometimes entire families) get rid of and do without when they move from their large homes into houses with less than 500 square feet! It’s truly inspirational and sets the bar pretty high for simplifying one’s lifestyle. It might just be on the bucket list.

Oops, was that another wish?

What are the Oz?

No real text adjunct today other than to say that today’s cartoon reminds me that I’ve gotten lost a few times while out in the wild. Those were the days before everyone had a personal GPS. I still don’t have one. One of the most ironic signs I’ve ever read was one posted near a canyon where I run. It read “Lost, GPS.” That’s probably why I don’t have one, I’d lose it too.

Happy trails to all!

Buddy Blast

Trail running buddies make everything better. I’ve spent many hours with my old friends, Rick, Herb and Terry plying the fire roads and trails in Mission Trails park here in San Diego. We’ve never found any weaponry* but we have had a few weird experiences and have seen some strange things. Like the time when Terry was out on a run on a ridge-top fire trail and came across a man singing and dancing atop a piece of road grading equipment. The man was naked.

Another time Rick and I were out on a long Sunday run early one Summer morning and crested a hill to find ourselves running through a bivouacked platoon of sleepy-eyed marines. Only one or two saw us and, probably thinking we were hallucinations, just let us roll on through their encampment.

Probably the best part of running buddies is the laughter. I’ve been on runs when someone said something funny that hit so hard and fast that my knees buckled before I realized I was gasping from their humorous blows. It’s usually the innocent comment that kills.

One of the best instances I can recall is the time when I’d moved away to Northern California and hadn’t seen my friends Rick and Herb for a while. I was back visiting in San Diego and we’d agreed to meet at Black Mountain for a run. Rick and Herb were already there when I arrived and as I parked I noticed Herb (who had admittedly put on a little weight) was wearing blue lycra shorts — we’d all always worn non-clingy nylon shorts. I exited the car and walked toward them saying, “Herb, when did you start wearing lycra?” He quipped, “Since I bought stock in the Vaseline company.” I was instantly rolling on the dirty ground… the victim of my visual brain circuitry completing the picture and commanding my knees to crumble. I hadn’t taken one running step but was reduced to a sobbing heap of hilarity.

These were the moments we lived for… to comedically bludgeon someone so badly that they lost bodily control. This was a dangerous group to be around when eating and (especially) drinking. An innocent joke could turn someone’s ill-timed gulp of Pepsi into an involuntary eruption of carbonated spew. Many a night I’d leave a dinner or party with my jaw’s laughing muscles sorer than my legs had ever been.

So if you have running buddies cherish them. If you don’t have any go find some… funny ones if you’re lucky. You’ll remember the times with them a lot more fondly than you’ll remember any “times” you’ve run.

*Note: We DO tend to stay on the trails though because portions of the park used to be a Marine Corps and (later) Navy base and there have been some pretty severe consequences for people who’ve stumbled across old ordnance — even though most of the stuff is of WWII vintage it can still be deadly.

Who Wants Pie?

No matter how you slice it, my buddy Herb loves pie. I don’t mean to say he likes pie… a lot. No, he LOVES pie. He loves dessert in general but he adores pie in particular. It could be rhubarb, cherry, apple (in its many guises), chocolate cream, mud, etc.,… I think you get the picture. As a matter of fact about the only kind of pie he probably — and this is only “probably” — wouldn’t eat is cow. Yeah, cow pie is most likely not gonna happen.

Herb once put on a Nightmare race (see previous post) where all the finishers got chocolate cream pies. Not a slice mind you. A whole pie. Did I mention there was no entry fee to this race? The tab for the sugary velvety smooth chocolatey confection perfection came right out of Herb’s pocket. I secretly believe he only did this thinking he’d get any unclaimed pies for himself. Whatever the reason you gotta give him some love for his sharing the wealth and introducing vast hordes of hungry runners to the wonders of this dessert’s glommy gooey goodness.

Herb’s dessert devouring prowess is legendary. Back in the 1980’s I took a mid-winter cross-country road trip back to the Midwest with my friends Lynn and Rick. We stopped in Madison, WI and went out to supper (hey, this is the Midwest) with Herb and Rick’s brother Dave, who lived in Madison. At supper/dinner we stuffed ourselves to the gills on salad, pepsi and pizza. Little did I know that according to Herb these constituted only three out of the four major food groups.

The fourth, of course, was dessert. This particular night pie was not on offer so we sought solace by visiting a local supermarket on our way back to Dave’s place. Lynn had gone to visit friends so it was just us guys. We strolled down the grocer’s aisle of frozen dairy delights and each selected our own half gallon of Breyer’s ice cream. Until I actually saw it I thought Breyer’s didn’t really exist. It was something akin to Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Breyer’s was spoken of in hushed tones of reverence and awe and at that time was unavailable in San Diego so I was keen to indulge in it’s foresworn multitudinous wonders.

We made our way back to Dave’s and retired to his living room, spoon and open container in hand. A contest was announced, to see who could finish their dessert first. Someone, I forget who, yelled “go” and we started shoveling. Feeing the effects of our recent feast I made it about two minutes before I hit my wall. Rick and Dave were soon to follow. But not Herb. Not only did he finish his ice cream but he was generously offering aid to anyone who couldn’t also eat their weight in marvelous milky magnificence.

It was on that night that I learned that this was not a man to be trifled with. He’d earned my respect and that’s one of a whole host of reasons he’s being mocked honored in this post.

I love ya man.