Saturday, April 30, 2011

I did it.

I'm more than a little exhausted, so let me cut straight to the chase: I finished the half marathon in 2:42:25, which beat the goal I set for myself. I'll have pictures and more in-depth discussion tomorrow, but right now, I just want to sleep. But, as is my particular idiom, let me hit you with some random facts from the day before I go:

  • Arriving at the half marathon was a truly surreal moment. I don't get nervous often, but I was blown away by the size of the race and the fact that I was actually there. Three months ago, the idea would have been too far fetched for me to dream of. But it actually happened.
  • I made my share of rookie mistakes today, but nothing was too crippling. All in all, I figure it might have cost me five minutes total. I'm very pleased by that. Nobody's perfect, but it's always great to limit your mistakes.
  • The one downside to the corral system of racing is that the slower people, more likely to be destroyed by the heat, have to run during the hotter part of the day. The only solution to this problem is to construct a weather control machine.
  • I tried no less than four methods of electrolyte replenishment today (Gatorade, Shot Bloks, Gu Packets, and straight up Electrolyte Tablets). Tentative Ranking: 1. Shot Bloks 2. Gatorade 3. Gu Packets 4. Electrolyte Tablets.
  • The finisher's medal for the half marathon is simply incredible. It actually feels like a trophy rather than a door prize.
  • I didn't even notice the hilly sections of the race until the very last part. While I hated it, I have to admit, the merciless hill training really worked.
  • I was surprised by how many people just walked the last three miles of the half marathon. I understand that is the point where exhaustion sets in and you just want to stop running. But when you were so close to the end , you just can't give up. That's what Cool Runnings teaches us. When your bobsled crashes, you get out and carry it across the finish line with the rest of the band of Jamaican misfits.
  • True Story: Just as I was beginning the last hill, my iPod shuffled to the Rocky Theme (Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti). Best. Shuffle. Ever.
  • Most importantly, there was never any point during the race where I thought I couldn't finish.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blogathon Day Five: Double Check

Two Brooks Ghost 3 Running Shoes: Check
Two Underamor Running Socks: Check
Track Shorts: Check
Blue Running Shirt: Check
Special Kids Singlet: Check
Two 10 oz bottles of Gatorade & Water Harness: Check
Four Shot Blok Electrolyte Cubes: Check
Three Electrolyte Tablets: Check
One Zone Bar: Check
Eight Fig Newtons: Check
Vaseline: Check
Race Number: Check
Timing Card: Check
Sunglasses: Check
Finisher's Medal: Pending

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blogathon Day Four: Get Settled In

Thanks to the most recent wave of donations, it looks like the blogathon will go on for another 6 days, bringing it to a total of 12 days in a row. For frame of reference, even if another penny is never raised for Special Kids, I will have blogged as much by mid-May as I did in all of 2010. Hurray charity! So everyone should get settled in, these daily updates will continue for a while.

The big event tonight was I carboloaded for the first time. Well, intentionally anyways. It turns out that I'm a natural at eating a bunch of Italian food. I also got my yellow Team ASK Jersey. I still can't believe the day is almost here.

Oh and there was a small NFL Draft today, but who cares about that? I know I don't. At least, I don't care about it as much as I normally care about sports (i.e. fanatically intense devotion which borders on zealotry). This is largely because the Draft isn't sports, it's kindergarten. No matter how big a mistake a team makes at the draft, Mel Kiper Jr. et al will still talk about how it's the best possible move the team could make. Think I exaggerate? Behold, Kiper's spin on JaMarcus Russell:

"Within three years, he could be one of the Top Five quarterbacks in the NFL." Or he could be a flabby codeine-addict who is widely considered to be the worst pick of the past ten years. Really, I can see how closely those two are related. And this is done for every pick all night long. Who needs competition? After all, if the team had fun making their pick, does it matter who wins? Well, it turns out it doesn't because the announcer's booth declares that every team is a winner anyways. And then they say it's now snack time. Animal crackers and juice boxes are distributed to all. If everyone cleans up their mess, they might even get to play kickball at recess.

What I'm trying to say is that the new CBA had better include a provision for ESPN providing the crowd with juice boxes and animal crackers. And maybe a few kickballs. Don't go half way on this kindergarten thing, guys.

P.S. They could probably get Peyton Manning to endorse the juice boxes and animal crackers. After all, small children are about the only demographic Manning hasn't made commercials for.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blogathon Day Three: Heart of Glass

Today, I had my heart broken by a selfish, reckless person and I don't know if I can ever forgive that person for what happened.

By heart, I mean "driver side window". Sorry, if that first sentence was a bit misleading. But tell me, what is the driver side window if not the heart of the drive-through industry? And can you really blame me for incorporating an awesome song by Blondie in the title? But I digress.

Hastily taken before the next wave of storms.
 This morning, when I went to run a package by the post office, I found the Huntersaurus Rex (yes, I've named my car) was wounded. The heart or "driver side window" was obliterated. As you can see from the picture, there is nothing left to the window. You may know that auto glass is called tempered glass and is treated with a variety of chemicals during its manufacture to make it more durable. It also makes it shatter into a billion pieces when broken. Here's a view of when I opened my car door:

So I might need to lay down a towel or something...

Now, I had no idea what did this. My first thought was it was the storm that completely screwed up Toots and wreaked havoc on the entire Southeast today. But if it was just the wind, it didn't break the rear window at all. Then I thought it might have been a thief, except that nothing valuable (or worthless, for that matter) was taken. However, I didn't have time to play detective because the second of many storm waves was rolling in quickly. Typically, the best approach would be to cover the window with a big black trash bag and duct tape. Unfortunately, I had neither of those and no way to get them quickly. So I scrambled to find smaller white trash bags and packing tape. By this point, it had begun raining. So I had to fumble with the roll of packing tape and to try to attach to separate bags to a slick steel surface. It was not my most graceful moment. Fortunately, I jury rigged a truly hideous set up that would keep 95% of the rain out of my car for upwards of an hour. I had figured that the most likely cause was a small piece of debris (like a pebble) had crashed into my driver side window and then the 50 MPH winds took care of the rest.

I was content with that explanation until I went to recover my Nalgene bottle from the car (broken glass is no excuse for poor hydration). It seems that the Nalgene was not the only bottle in my car. When I opened my passenger door, I noticed an empty 40 oz bottle of Natural Light on the floor. Now, those of you who know me know that 40 ounces is more beer than I have drunk in my life, cumulatively (unlike running, I doubt that will change). 
Exhibit A: the messed up label

Now, it is possible that the 40 was a piece of debris that broke my window and no person was responsible. However, it is a well known fact that bottles are not designed for their aerodynamic shape. I'm no The-Guys-From-Mythbusters, but it seems like you'd need a ton of lift in order to get a beer bottle high enough to reach the window. Seems much more likely that it would shatter against the side of the car. Likewise, I doubt that the person who did this was doing it out of some personal vendetta. Mostly because the people who have sworn vendettas against me would not let me get off this easily (only one broken window and no hidden explosives? If this really was you, Vladimir Putin, you've gotten sloppy). Odds are that it was just some drunk (based on how empty the 40 was) being a selfish, short-sighted idiot (a well known side effect of drinking). 

But did you really have to aim for the window, random passing drunk? I mean, if you wanted to see glass shatter, you could just have thrown the bottle against a brick wall. The bottle's made of glass too, you know.

P.S. I originally intended for this post to be under 300 words long. Apparently, once I get started talking, I do not stop.

P.P.S. I don't think that last note surprised anyone who has ever had a conversation with me in a group setting.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blogathon Day Two: Top Five Things I Learned from Half Marathon Training

Tomorrow, I'm going to try updating before the 11th hour. But, the 11th hour still counts as today and I'm a man of my word. So, just a reminder that if you want to blogathon to keep going, please donate to Special Kids. Let's keep the blogathon moving by bringing back everyone's favorite new series: the Top Five!

As you may have guessed by reading the subject, I'm going to be discussing the Top Five things I learned while training for this Saturday's race. Unfortunately, it's 11:40 as I write this. So I'll actually have to be succinct.

5. Never ever, ever order soda at a restaurant. For starters, it's well over two dollars for a soda at most restaurants these days so you're better off saving your money. But, on topic, hydration is essential for any sort of distance running. While getting a Nalgene water bottle has been a big help, I've found it's just as useful to order water instead of soda when I eat out. Not only am I drinking healthier and cutting out a major cause of calories, but it also prevents you from collapsing into a sweaty heap in the middle of your run. Mind you, you'll still be sweaty, but at least you won't be a heap.

4. Purple Diet Gatorade tastes exactly like Grape Koolaid. In the words of the Kool Aid Man, "OH YEAH!".

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blogathon Day One: And I Would Walk 500 More

We are underway for the 2011 Blogathon. For every ten dollars that you donate to Special Kids, I will make a new update on consecutive days. And there are a variety of other hilarious and humiliating things you can make me do while benefiting charity! Right now, the Blogathon is at Six Days long and counting.  Any donation you can make will be greatly appreciated. If I were more clever, I would design some type of banner to signify this event. But I digress. The Blogathon is spontaneously clever rather than clever in its strong planning and solid design.

Now, onto the main event. I figured I'd talk a while about how training went and how the good people at Team ASK were absolutely essential to my success. As I mentioned last time, running was not so much a hobby for me as it was my archenemy. I'd try taking it up from time to time, but it'd always end the same way: about three quarters of a mile of intense effort, followed by a quarter mile of seriously reevaluating my decision. In the months before signing up for the half marathon, I had taken up biking and loved it. While I was wrong about how much it helped, my skill at biking did a lot to convince me to try running. However, I'll talk about my motivations for running the half marathon another time.

My first Saturday run with Team ASK was a glorious, well intentioned disaster. I had gotten an awesome track suit at Belk's for under $20. It pays to wait until mid-February to get your winter apparel. I had my newish Nikes and had a lot of biking under my belt. I was convinced I would tear up the four mile run that my coach, Margaret Clark, had scheduled for that Saturday morning. I couldn't have been more wrong. As always, I got through the first three quarter miles just fine. And then the fourth quarter rolled around and I remembered just why every other attempt at running failed miserably. Typically, this would be where I started walking the rest of the way and declare it a moral victory. Fortunately, Margaret would have none of that. And this is where the insight started to roll in. Rather than just tell me to suck it up or run harder, Margaret gave me the first of three great pieces of advice that day: try running two minutes then walking one minute.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Would Walk 500 Miles

My loyal (and, by definition, incredibly patient) readers know that I usually write about big events or other broad topics and that I generally don’t bother with the minutiae of my day to day life. One could argue that that defeats the purpose of a blog to begin with, but I say, “let awesome things be.” However, today I’m going to mix things up and talk about a major undertaking I’ve been working on for the past two and a half months. I have been training to run the Music City Half marathon with a lot of help from the good people of Team ASK (but more on them later).

Now, I’m usually the first to admit to being awesome but I’ve always been distinctly terrible at running. For me, the mile run in gym class always more closely resembled the Bataan Death March than Chariots of Fire. Even throughout college, I’d try to take up a treadmill every so often, but I’d always quit after around 15 minutes or so. The half marathon was about 11.1 miles longer than I had ever run in one go. So why did I agree to run one? First and foremost, I did it to get into better shape. It’s not that I ever looked particularly bad, but I was never happy with my shape either. Earlier in the year, my doctor had recommended I try running a half marathon and I routinely dismissed it as nigh on impossible. So part of my motivation was to spite Past Hunter. But an even bigger factor was that it would never be less difficult to train for and run a half marathon than it would right now. I’d get the bulk of my training done before the brutal heat of the six month Tennessee summer set in so I wouldn’t have to join a gym. And I wasn’t going to be busy with work or school. Unfortunately, I had always subscribed to the Barney Stinson philosophy of running a marathon (“First Step: Start running. There is no second step.”) and it had always let me down. I needed to find someone to train me.

Enter Team ASK. I could not have asked for a better group to train with than Team ASK (Athletes for Special Kids). They are a free marathon (and other long distances) training group based in Murfreesboro. It met my budget, was easy to reach, and would give me someone to be accountable to when running. And that is to say nothing of all the great advice and guidance my coaches, Sharon Perry and Margaret Clark, provided. But that’s a topic for another time. The only condition was that I help raise money for their charity, Special Kids. Fortunately, that’s no burden because Special Kids is a truly remarkable organization. They are a Christian group that focuses on the medical and rehabilitative care of children with special needs. To that end, they put a day care inside the same building as all the physical, occupational, and speech therapy a child needs. It means that children can get the care they need even if their parents can’t spend all day ferrying them from therapist to therapist. Better yet, Special Kids doesn’t turn children away because of money. They provide hope for children who would otherwise get lost in the shuffle of charities for more high profile diseases. So I got free training in exchange for helping children receive medical attention. I’d call that a good deal.

My child partner, Quinton.

Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with running that I have not dedicated as much time as I should to fundraising. But I am a man of my word so I turn to you, loyal readers, for help. This site lets you donate money to Special Kids and help me reach my fundraising goal. It is tax deductible and now is a great time to get a jump start on next year’s refund. However, I believe that you should be getting as good a deal as I have. Which is why I’m proud to announce the English Muffin Power Hour Charity Extravaganza!

Any donations of any size during the Extravaganza is welcome. For every $10 that gets raised in total, I will update the blog daily. That means if we raise $100, that’s ten consecutive days of hilarious digressions, Top 5 Lists, and all the other features I write but never update. If we reach the fundraising goal, it will be a solid 70 days of consecutive updates.

But wait! It gets better. If you donate $20, I will write about whatever subject you want me to, in addition to getting two consecutive days of blog updates. If you donate $30, I will write you a song. I haven’t posted any of them here, but the people who have heard them have described my lyrics as “legendary.” If you donate $50, I will sing that song and upload the results to YouTube. For those of you who have never heard me sing, you should know that offer is a guarantee of  internet humiliation for me. For just half a Benjamin (or a full Ulysses), you can embarrass me anywhere there is internet access.

So please, give generously, both for the children in need and the abject hilarity/humiliation you can subject me to.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Top Five Sandwich Shoppes in Murfreesboro. Or, SUCK IT SUBWAY!

So far, today has been crazy productive and I've decided to extend that productivity to the blogosphere via osmosis. I also want to continue my favorite hobby: starting up new features on the blog and then never doing them again! So today's feature will be The Top Five or the Most Common Non-Pornographic Thing on the Internet.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a blight spreading across Murfreesboro. And no, it's not the awesome Blight from Dragon Age that involves lots of swords and fireballs and epic quests across the land. This is a scourge of sub-par sub sandwiches. I speak of the rise of Subway. In the past three months, no less than four new Subways have opened. How does this keep happening? I understand that part of the problem is that there is a cultural stigma around eating at home in Murfreesboro and, to avoid the shame, most families eat out all the time. How else can you explain the hundreds of restaurants all over? But even then, you'd think the sheer level of competition would discourage Subway from multiplying like vermin. Whatever the case, here are five sandwich shops that are substantially better than Subway in almost every way (save for numerical advantage and geographic convenience).

The sandwich shoppes are evaluated on the five most important properties of sandwichology, according the the Luncheon Institute of Hunteria. Each category will be ranked on a scale of 1-5, because I have a theme going, with five being the most awesome and 1 being the most anti-awesome:

1. Deliciousness- The sheer quality of the sandwich
2. Speed- How quickly the sandwich is made
3. Price- Or how many hours you have to work for your sandwich
4. Deliciosity- This is the product of deliciousness times price times velocity then divided by pi (for dessert)
5. Coke- The availability of Coca-Cola products or, barring that, a delicious fruit punch.

Incidentally, this also is my list for Best Cheesesteaks in Murfreesboro too. It's probably coincidence.

5. Penn Station

Penn Station has one of the best sandwiches in Murfreesboro. If it didn't, it wouldn't be on this list (unless this whole thing is meant to be ironic). But by that, I mean it is bigger and tastier than almost every other sandwich on the list. The problem is it's also substantially more expensive than every other sandwich on the list and your sub won't be done in a timely fashion. Then the drink situation is a complete disaster. Not only is it not a Coke place, it also lacks even the most basic delicious fruit punch.

Deliciousness: 5
Speed: 2
Price: 2
Deliciosity: 6.36
Coke: 1

Total: 16.36

4. Newk's

Located in the Avenue Shopping Center, Newk's is a cafe that can't decide whether it wants to be formal or casual, so it does both. While its sandwiches aren't as big as Penn Station, they have much more variety due to their delicious soups and salads. Like a strong offensive line in football is to a quarterback, a strong soup can make a good sandwich great and a great sandwich legendary. As an added perk, the half sandwich & coup of soup combo is cheaper than a regular sized sandwich at Penn Station. The drinks, however, are a mixed hat. While it is a Coke place with Dr Pepper (which is full credit), it suffers when it comes to sizing. You have two choices for a cup: ridiculously tiny water cup (~6 oz) or more soda than any human should drink in one sitting (~32 oz). On the bright side, service is surprisingly quick.

Deliciousness: 4
Speed: 3
Price: 4
Deliciosity: 15.28
Coke: 4

Total: 30.28