Monday, May 23, 2011

What I Learned While Bodymarking

As most people know, the thing that first piqued my interest about triathlon was body marking. Something about being in a sport extreme enough that your race number had to written in big, black numerals on your arms and legs (and your age on your calf so you can scope out your age group competition on the run) was just compelling. Even the words "body marking" send a shiver down my spine. So, this Sunday at the Tucson Triathlon, I actually got to wield the pen myself for the first time, and mark up some bodies. This experience taught me a number of things...

#1 being: If I were single and looking (or if you are), I think body marking is an excellent way to go shopping. First of all, I'll state the obvious, which is that not only are most triathletes in pretty good shape, but also, you get to get up close and personal without it really being personal. At this triathlon, we had to write the race number on both upper arms and just above both knees, and also the person's age on the back calf. Triathletes, for the most part, seem to be pretty cool with having total strangers manhandle their bodies. Not only that, but most people are either nervous or excited about the race, so they are really pleased to see someone smiling at them and being friendly, especially if that person expresses an interest in whatever pre-race thoughts or anxieties are flitting through the triathlete's head. I would think it would be perfectly possible and possibly even acceptable to engage in some light flirting. Not that I did this, but you could!

#2: It's equally hard to write on extremely flabby untoned limbs and extremely cut limbs. 70-year-old skin is so yielding that it's hard to make straight lines with the pen. But on the other hand, those huge guys who spend too much time in the gym and have softball-sized arm muscles make it just as difficult. YOU try writing a big 3-digit number on the upper arm of a body-builder and have it come out straight!

#3: People with too much ink -- also hard to write on. I love tattoos, but from now on I have to remember that very big forearm tattoos are probably not a good idea if I want to stick with triathlon.

#4: The hardest people of all to write on: those who have just put on sunscreen and/or lotion. I feel bad for that one girl who had just slathered herself with so much sunscreen I could still see it, all white and goopy, all over her arms and legs. It took me several minutes and two different pens to get a (barely) legible number on her. If you're going to put it on -- and of course you should -- let it dry before coming to body marking!

#5: I don't feel so old anymore. I have no idea what the average age of triathletes is, but I do know that I only marked a handful of people younger than me. There were so many people in their 40's, 50's, and even older that it made me feel young at 35. (Much like being a patient at the Southwest Blind Rehab Center can make a 70-year-old feel young.)

#6: I never want to do what this one woman did: she said, "Sorry about my cellulite" as I was marking her. Didn't she realize that that would make me feel awkward? I can't very well say, "Oh, you don't have any cellulite," when she very obviously did. I said something along the lines of, "Oh no, ha ha," while wishing she had professionally not mentioned it and I would have professionally pretended not to see it.

#7: The whole experience made me wish that I was participating in the triathlon instead of just body marking people. I can't wait for the Firecracker Triathlon in July!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"I HATE TRAIL RUNNING!" Says the Person Who is Running the Pikes Peak Marathon in 3 Short Months

I just returned from a running of the Phoneline Trail, and cannot stop thinking about 1) how much I hate trail runs, and 2) how badly I suck at them.

1) I hate them. Oh, there are so many reasons why I hate them! Here are a few:

*Having to worry about finishing before the sun sets. (I know I could get a head lamp, but I also hate wearing those.)
*Rocks in the trail. Especially when running at sunset or sunrise, the rocks throw all kinds of crazy shadows that make it hard to tell where the actual rocks are. The one way to know for sure is to find them with your toe. That happened probably 10 times on my way down Phoneline. Amazingly, it never resulted in a fall. Not yet, anyway.
*On the same topic, rocks in the trail -- I am like the princess in the story of the princess and the pea. If I land even slightly on a pointy rock, even a pebble, I feel it in the bottom of my foot. I have a secret belief that every rock I step on is going to cause a stress fracture.
*Desert wildlife. I didn't see any snakes today, but it is a matter of time if I continue to run on desert trails in the summer. And snakes are not my only concern. I'm also afraid of mountain lions. There have been quite a few sightings of them recently, especially on Douglas Springs where that girl has seen one THREE TIMES in the same place -- Mile 2.5, you know, about exactly the same place I was running ALONE last week before I knew about the mountain lions.
*Carrying my own fuel. That really stinks! Not that I am doing that right now -- I don't have my new Camelbak yet. (Trail runners -- any suggestions on choosing one? I have no idea what I'm doing.) This means I can't carry any fuel, which also sucks. Not like I can't do 10 miles without water -- I did today, and it wasn't unbearable -- but I sure could have used a nice cold drink at the turnaround.

2) I suck at them. I mean, really. I am not a super-fast runner, but I did manage to qualify for Boston. I should really be able to manage better than 10:00 miles. Actually I don't think I even ran a single mile under 10:00 pace. (And we won't mention the one mile I "ran" that was 15:something. Oh wait, I guess I did just mention it.) I think Tom G. could beat me on that trail WHILE CARRYING LOGAN! I know you are supposed to go slower on trails. But like 3:00 or more slower per mile? I don't think so. It's not like I was going easy, either. I was gasping for breath the whole time -- uphill and down. Avoiding those rocks takes so much energy. I will walk any section that has too many rocks so that I don't trip. I am deathly afraid of tripping, especially on trails like this one where if I tripped the right (really, the wrong) way I would just go tumbling off the edge and down into Sabino Canyon far, far below.
Also, when I run trails, my already awkward gait gets worse. I have sort of an egg-beater run, where I start kicking my ankles with the opposite feet when I get tired. Well, on the trail I managed to kick my KNEES with the opposite feet, not just once but many times. I mean, I would not have thought that that was even possible, anatomically! But I guess it is, because I did it! Thank God no one was watching -- it was just me up there by myself, just hanging out there like mountain lion bait.

I did run into Tom, Dallas, and Mike at the bottom, in the parking lot at 7:00. They were just heading up Phoneline. God, I am so glad they saw me in the parking lot, when I was legitimately finished, and not a mile up the trail where I had been walking -- yes, walking -- dispiritedly back towards the car.

I am really kicking myself for registering for this marathon and sentencing myself to a summer of trail running. What was I thinking?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bike Commuting -- Why Aren't YOU Doing It?

Seriously, I think bike commuting is one of the best things I've ever done. Here are the reasons why:

*It saves gas. As everyone else despairs watching gas prices go higher and higher, I am cheering them and hope they go higher yet! Yes, I know this will bring up the cost of everyhing else too, but I really don't know what else will get Americans out of their SUV's and into alternative-fuel vehicles or mass transit. Since I started bike commuting for real, I have managed to get my gas consumption down to one tank per month. So even if a full tank used to cost $25 and now it costs $40, if I used to have to fill my tank up every week and now I have to fill it up every month, I'm still saving money. ($60 a month, give or take.)

*It burns calories. BIG numbers of calories! My commute is 12.5 miles each way, so that's 25 miles per day. On the rare occasion that I can't get up the energy for another workout after work, it's not the worst thing in the world because I've already burned so many calories on the bike alone. This, along with eating sensibly (not starving myself like I did last time I lost weight) is letting me lose weight easily at about 1-2 lbs per week. It's great watching fat get sucked away from my stomach and watching my thighs turn from flab into muscle!

*It gets me to work in a good mood. I get to look at beautiful sunrises every morning, the endorphins get going, my metabolism gets a kick-start for the day, the weather is spectacularly perfect (cool -- for now) when I ride, and I get to feel superior to all those people driving alone in their cars for the 5 or 6 or however many miles they drive to work.

*It is less stressful than driving. I hate my commute in the car -- all those stop lights, backed-up traffic, etc. On the bike I can monitor the traffic lights from half a mile away and adjust my speed accordingly so I practically never have to stop at a light. It feels great to cruise up past a quarter-mile of stopped cars and then casually roll through the intersection as soon as the light changes. I can beat the bus up both Broadway and 22nd in the afternoon, not just sometimes but ALL of the time.

I really can't think of many downsides. There really isn't ever a time I don't want to ride. I guess one downside would be that I either have to ride to work in my work clothes or else carry extra clothes to change into when I get there. For now I ride in the same pants I wear to work, usually jeans, and bring a fresh shirt in my backpack. It works for now but when it gets hotter I will probably have to switch to shorts.

Another disadvantage is that it takes more planning to get to the store. I can stop if I just need one or two things, but I can't do my grocery shopping on the way home like I used to. On the other hand, that keeps me from buying unnecessary crap I don't need. Or at least not buying it so often.

I really think many people in Tucson could be riding to work if they wanted to. I know that I would consider anything up to about 15 miles away to be bike commutable. Beyond that it would start getting tough, but most of us honestly don't live that far away from work. "But doesn't it get you all sweaty?" people ask. Well... yes. But it's not anything that some paper towels and water, deoderant, fresh clothes, and, of course, putting your hair back can't fix. (Particularly for me, since I work outside. Trust me, in the summer by 10:00 a.m. there is no difference in smell between a mobility instructor who biked to work and one who drove in an air-conditioned car.) Besides, I really don't care if I arrive a little sweaty -- I am proud of being a bike commuter and not contributing to America's foreign oil dependency problem or the high costs of health care brought on by the American obesity problem.

One more thing -- I have started seeing more bike commuters as gas gets more and more expensive, but I have to ask, why are they all male? I don't think I have ever seen a female cyclist in the mornings, as in, not EVER! I so hope it's not because of the hair-getting-messed-up thing. Please tell me that's not it!