Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slow Joe, the Marathon Man

I was watching the Olympics, and it got me thinking about my own athletic prowess. And then, after that daydream ended, I thought about my actual athletic achievements. Such as they were.

My first attempt at organized athletics came when I tried out for the 7th grade basketball team. I thought I had a pretty good chance of making the team. I was fairly tall, and...well, that was about my best qualification. 

When it came time for the actual tryout, I had a rude awakening. When the coach had us run "killers" (from end line to foul line and back, then to half court and back, then far foul line and back, and finally to the other end line and back) I finished second to last, just barely ahead of the fat kid. (And everyone else was moving on to the next drill before the two of us finished.) I was not athletic. And I didn't make it past the first cut.

There's a reason they call me "Slow Joe from Arimo."

When 9th grade rolled around, I thought I'd try out for the football team. Unfortunately, tryouts started two weeks before school did, and I did not know this. But, in a way, it was a good thing I missed tryouts, because that's when I learned about the cross country team. Desperate for runners, the cross country coach (also the high school basketball coach) asked the few who weren't on the football team if they would be interested in running. I was.

I was definitely the tortoise from the tortoise and the hare. At basketball tryouts they needed fast rabbits, but for the three-mile cross country course, the slow and steady turtle could win the race. Not that I actually won any races. But, I did finish 10th in the Junior Varsity district finals, which, for me, was pretty good. Maybe, by the time I was a senior I could be good at this.

But then the cross country team was dropped after my freshman year due to budget concerns and lack of interest.

That left the track team my only option for athletic achievement in high school. My old joke about being on the track team went like this:

Me: I'm on the track team.
Other person: Oh, really? What do you run?
Me: Slow.

The longer the race, the more I could hide my lack of speed. But, the longest events at track were the mile and two-mile races. I was too slow to be any good at them. And that was the extent of my athletic career.

Until ten years ago. That's when I thought it would be a good idea to try to run a marathon.

At the time, I was pushing 36 years of age. I had just gotten on an exercising kick. I lost about 40 pounds and was working out regularly on an elliptical trainer. I went to visit some friends, and they were going to run a 5K race that day. I figured I was in the best shape I had been in since high school, so I told them I would run with them. After all, 5K is just a little more than three miles, and with all the work I'd been doing on the elliptical, that shouldn't be a problem at all.

I quickly learned that there is a big difference between working out on an elliptical and actually running. But, I did manage to finish the race. My friend then told me he was planning on running a marathon in September. (The 5K run happened in March.) I decided, what the heck, I'd run the marathon with him.

So, over the next several months, I ran to train for the marathon. I would usually run five miles at a time, and I would do this about three times a week. (I later learned that to actually train for an actual marathon, this was not nearly enough.)

And then, it was time for the marathon. The marathon my friend (Daren) and I chose to run in was the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan, Utah. The race starts 13 miles up a country road, so we parked in the city and they took us by bus to where the race was to start.

It was a bit surreal before the race started, because all I can remember are buses and port-a-potties. There were the dozens of school buses that brought all the participants to the starting area, and then there were about 40 port-a-potties. And each of those port-a-potties had a line of about twenty people waiting to get into them. It's not something I would have thought of beforehand, but when you have over 1100 people who are about to run for over 26 miles, all of those people are going to want to go to the bathroom right before the race.

I had never seen so many port-a-potties at the same time. And there weren't nearly enough of them.

The race started, and I didn't feel very good. I was even more slower and sluggish than normal. Finally, about three miles into the race, I was able to get into a bit of a groove. Daren ran with me. It was his second marathon, and even though he could have easily gone at a faster pace, he chose to stay with me at my pace to keep me company.

It's a good thing he did. When I got to about mile 17, my body was done. I was ready to quit. But, Daren stayed with me. He kept telling me, "Let's just walk to the next mile marker, and then you can decide if you want to keep going." And, when we reached that mile marker, he would talk me in to walking to the next one. Finally, when we got to mile 20, I knew I had come too far to give up, and that I was going to finish the race.

At that point, 60 year old women were passing me, and 8 year old kids were passing me. I didn't care as long as I reached the finish line.

That's me on the right, looking like someone who has ran 18 miles and doesn't care to run any more.

But then, it became a race against time. At six hours they take down all the barricades and such off of the roads and most of the marathon volunteers leave their posts. So, we had to push it to get to the finish line before the six hour cutoff.

I finally managed to cross the finish line five hours, forty-two minutes, and thirty-two seconds from when I started. I finished in 1,078th place (out of 1,130 finishers.) 633 men finished ahead of me, and 444 women finished ahead of me (many of them over the age of 60.) But, I don't care because I finished.

That's me on the left, bolting across the finish line in record time! (A record for me, anyway.)

I can now and forever say that I ran a marathon! (Okay, I ran and walked a marathon.) Regardless of how I did it, I did do it. The results are on the internet and everything! (And the internet is forever.)

Here I am with Daren after receiving our "finisher's medal." (I'm the red-faced one who looks like he might die. Daren is the smiling one who looks like he's ready to go for another jog.)
After finishing my marathon, I thought that maybe in a few years I'd try it again. But do better. Ten years have since gone by, and I now realize that it's never going to happen. I'm too old. (Yes, I know that people older than 46 run marathons all the time. Believe me I know, because I saw all those 60 year old women pass me on the course.) But, my feet are too wooggity at this point. And I'm too fat. And my knees get creaky climbing up a flight of stairs.

So, no more marathons for me. I'm officially through showing off my athletic prowess. (Except on the basketball court. I'm still holding out hope that some NBA team is in need of an old, slow, fat guy who can shoot 18% from the three-point line.)(On a good day.)(If nobody is guarding me.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tubby Time for Tough Guys

I like to take long soaks in the bathtub. This does not make me less of a man. Really, it doesn't. Tough guys can take tubby time, too.

When my wife's sister heard that I like to take baths, she made fun of me, called me a "girl," and compared me to Chandler Bing, the character from the show Friends. (For the record, I'm not quite like Chandler Bing. I'm more like a cross between Chandler Bing and Ned Flanders.) (Hi-duhlee-ho, neighbor-eeno!)

She then quoted from the Friends episode where Chandler discovers he really likes to take bubble baths. (My sister-in-law has a Friends quote for every occasion, sort of like I used to have a M*A*S*H* quote for every occasion. It's kind of a generational thing.)

I guess that's the image that comes to mind when you hear a guy likes to take baths: Chandler Bing soaking in a bubble bath, desperately clinging to his manhood in the form of a toy boat.

Yes, that's me as a baby, taking a bath.
(I am very grateful for the strategically placed red donut!)

But, that's not how I take baths. I haven't taken a bubble bath since I was a kid. The only bubbles in my bath are from the jetted tub and/or the periodic farts. And, I don't have any toy boats. (Although maybe I should get one.) My baths are therapeutic.

Liking to bathe is a relatively new phenomenon for me. When I was single, I hardly ever took a bath. (For the record, I did shower every day.) (Well, at least every day that I ventured out of my Fortress of Solitude to face the real world.) About the only time I ever soaked back then was when I was battling kidney stones. (And when you are battling kidney stones, you'll try anything to take the edge off.)

Shortly after I got married, I switched jobs to the one I currently have. For reasons known only to a crazed architect (who I'd like to punch in the face), the offices are up a long flight of 34 stairs. I have to go up and down these stairs more than a dozen times a day. Truck drivers seeing me on the stairs will often say, "These stairs must keep you in shape." I point to my gut and reply, "You'd think so, but no. All they do is beat the heck out of my knees." And that's the truth.

I'd been at the job for three or four months, and my knees were killing me. Then, serendipity helped me out. For the six-month anniversary of our wedding, The Wife and I went back to the bed and breakfast where we spent our wedding night. (We don't celebrate our six-month anniversaries anymore now that we're no longer in the "shappy" phase of the relationship. [Shappy=sappy+happy] In fact, our six-month anniversary just passed a few days ago without either of us noticing. Still, we had a good evening doing the things we like to do these days: watching a couple of episodes of Castle and hope-hope-hoping that the kids actually go to sleep and stay asleep.)

Anyway, one of the amenities of our room (along with a really cool Scooby-Doo-ish "hidden" wall door!) was a two-person jetted tub. We liked and enjoyed the tub.

I was back at work the next day. As I walked up the stairs I noticed that my knees didn't hurt anymore! It was the Miracle of the Jetted Tub!

At first, I wondered how a little soak in hot bath could help my knees so much, but then I remembered the television crime dramas that I grew up watching in the 1970s. Shows like MacMillan & Wife, Barnaby Jones, and Charlie's Angels would occasionally have a plot that involved murder and intrigue inside the rough and tumble world of professional football. These episodes would usually showcase real-life tough guy football players as guest stars. Tough guys like Joe Namath. (Wait. He was known for wearing panty hose and fur coats. Not a tough guy.) Tough guys like Rosie Greer. (Wait. He was known for his love of needlepoint, not the activity of a tough guy.) Tough guys like Deacon Jones and Ben Davidson. (Okay, now these are a couple of real tough guys who would head-slap their own mothers if it meant they could get to the quarterback.)

These shows would invariably show a locker room scene in which, after a rough game or practice, one of the tough guys would be soaking in a hot tub. These tubs were called "whirlpools" or "spas," and no one questioned the toughness of the guys soaking in them. It wasn't girly, it was therapeutic.

So, after that, every two or three weeks (or whenever my knees demanded it) I would take a soak in the tub. It was easy to find time to do this before we had kids. Even after The Girl came along I could synchronize my tub time with her naps, putting the baby monitor near the tub so I could listen for her.

A few months later, when we moved from a condo to our house, the large jetted tub in the master suite was a definite selling point. I guess we could have looked for a house with a hot tub on the back deck. It's interesting how different the perception of me would be if my soaks were in a hot tub on the deck instead of a jetted tub in the bathroom:

     Bathroom tub=girly man
     Hot tub on deck=horndog

But, I don't want a hot tub on the deck, at least not now. There are three reasons: 1) I can't afford to put a hot tub on the deck. 2) While the kids are little, there would be safety concerns about a hot tub. And c) in a few years, when the kids are teenagers, I wouldn't want it to attract the horndogs and the hoochie-mamas.
I would love to have one of these at the house, but I'm afraid it would attract the horndogs and the hoochie-mamas.

So, we don't have a hot tub, just the jetted tub in the bathroom. Unfortunately, now that we have the two kids it is becoming more and more difficult to find the time to take my therapeutic soaks. "Nap time" is often more of an abstract concept than an actual reality. Also, The Girl has learned to move stealthily enough that I can't always hear her in the baby monitor. Plus, both kids have mastered the art of doorknob operation. (Things were so much easier when they couldn't open doors!) Any time I try to bathe now, I'm always on edge. And my knees are suffering for it.

Last week I finally had a perfect opportunity for a good bath. The kids were down for naps, and were both actually sleeping! The Wife was home, working on some schoolwork, and said she would take care of them if they woke up. So, I drew a bath. [Rant Alert: "Drew a bath?" What kind of stupid expression is that? What, do I suddenly have to become an artist to be able to get water in the tub? That may be the dumbest phrase I have ever heard! End rant]

I got in the tub, filled it with water, and started to soak. I had the bedroom door closed, but the door from the bathroom to the bedroom open to keep some air circulating. I had just started to relax when I heard it. "MMROWULLL!" I had shut the cat in the bedroom. "MMROWULLL!" She wanted out. When our cat "talks," she sounds like someone is putting a fork through her foot. (This confuses The Boy, our 2-year-old. He is learning from books that cats say "meow," but his real-world experience is that they say "MMROWULLL!")

Instead of a nice, relaxing bath, I got to spend the next ten minutes listening to our caterwauling cat.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get another uninterrupted soak. Maybe there is some way I could make it into the NFL so I can use their "whirlpools" and "spas." I can be a tough guy. (I wonder if they'll let me bring my toy boat.)