Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Time No Stress

So, as you may have noticed, I have been a bit preoccupied and unable to get over to blogland for updating everyone on my fabulous workouts and the amazing excitement of my daily life. This moving thing is rough. And I haven't even moved yet. I've just been trying to find a place to live before I have to drive all the way there and look around in person because, well, its a ways away and exhausting just driving there and back. I'd considered driving out, renting a motel room, and then taking however long it requires to find a place to live, then driving back. But it was suggested to me that I could just as easily rent a place at an extended stay motel, that is one with a kitchen and fully furnished room, and take whatever time I need to look for a permanent place on my lunch hour after starting the new job. Until I find it, I have a room with everything I need and don't have to move furniture and sign a lease just yet.

The main problem with this plan is that the extended stay place costs more than an apartment. A lot more. But it doesn't involve signing a lease, so there's that.

Writing this just reminded me that I need to call tomorrow and reserve my room before the big winter storm hits and either I find myself without power, or they do, and then I can't get through to anyone and don't have a room.

I don't mean to bore you with this. I know that telling you that I'm stressed and dealing with moving and then just leave it at that. But the fact is, I haven't had much time for working out or doing a meme or commenting on the world around me because of this.

Anyway, I plan to go to the gym tomorrow and try running the  ... I hate even saying the word ... treadmill ... ugh, now I feel like rinsing my mouth out with Listerine, except I'm allergic to alcohol so I have to be careful with Listerine even. Wow, this just sucks. Anyway, enough about things that suck. Tomorrow I need to try to take a run. And if I manage to tolerate the mind numbing boredom of the treadmill then I could do some weights afterwards. Yeah, I know, why not do the weights BEFORE a long, boring run? Well, I haven't done any free weights in months and I'm not sure how my shoulders are going to do. I'd like to make absolutely sure I'm fully warmed up. And then, probably, I'm just going to do bench presses. I don't know. I don't have a plan for the weights. That's another reason to run first. I haven't lifted in so long that I don't even have a workout in mind just yet. For running I don't need a plan. A treadmill doesn't involve much planning. I can either plan to run a fast pace and see how far it takes me before I crap out, or I can plan to run a set distance and try to run a pace that will assure me I can do that. That's not too complicated. Although now that I've said this I realize I haven't decided yet which one I plan to do.

Monday, December 2, 2013

College Football: Auburn vs Alabama

The Iron Bowl 2013

I was in Alabama on the day of the Auburn/Alabama Iron Bowl football game Saturday after Thanksgiving. I hadn't expected to be. I hadn't made any plans for the game because I thought I'd be back at my house in Tennessee watching from there. Finding myself in Alabama during the game, naturally I wanted to watch with a lot of other football fans. I didn't know what to do so I posted on Facebook "I'm in town and I'm looking for people to watch the game with. Anyone?"

A girl I went to high school with, named Lisa, responded that she was throwing together an impromptu football party and I could come if I wanted to.

Just to give a little background, at this point in time Alabama was ranked number 1 in the nation, fully anticipating playing in and winning the SEC championship game, and then going on to play in the BCS national championship, and hopefully win it again. They'd won it a lot in the last few years, so it seemed like a reasonable expectation. Auburn, meanwhile, was coming off a horrifically bad last season and wasn't expected to do much this season. Surprisingly, and with the help of shocking losses by Baylor and Oregon, they found themselves ranked at number 4 in the nation. No one expected that. So this game, this Iron Bowl, was more than just your usual Alabama/Auburn rivalry. This was the number 1 team playing against the number 4 team and had serious implications for every team in the nation. If Alabama wins, Auburn is knocked back in the rankings and other teams behind Auburn will move up. If Auburn wins, Alabama is out and Ohio State moves to number 1, Florida State moves to number 2, and the BCS championship game will have an entirely different look than anyone had expected.

At 2:30 I showed up at Lisa's house wearing my bright orange Auburn Football shirt, not sure who might be in the house that I would know. Someone I didn't recognize answered the door and let me in. It was a beautiful house in a great neighborhood, for whatever that's worth. It has nothing to do with football, I know.

Iron Bowl Party

I walked into the very nice, large, open kitchen and put down my bag of chips, a 2 liter bottle of Coke and some dip. The kitchen was open to the den and there was a big 50 inch flat screen TV mounted above the fireplace with the game on. It had already started. A fire was going in the fireplace. Every seat was filled so I stood up against the bar and just watched. Looking around the room I didn't recognize a single soul. And more than that, I slowly began to realize that I was the only person wearing orange and blue. The entire rest of the house appeared to be filled with Crimson Tide fans all dressed in their jerseys, screaming in support of the University of Alabama.

Lost in a Sea of Alabama Fans

Eventually I spotted Lisa. She was on the opposite side of the room, dressed in a classy "Roll Tide" outfit head-to-toe, and wrapped in the arms of her boyfriend Michael. I wasn't sure if I should cross in front of all the Alabama fans to greet her while she was engaged with her boyfriend or just wait until a better time, so I continued to stand there awkwardly leaning against the bar, looking up at the game which I fully expected my team was going to lose. The score was 0-0. I hadn't missed much. And I was relieved that we weren't already behind in the score.

It remained 0-0 for a long time. To be fair, it shouldn't have. On their very first drive, Alabama attempted a 44-yard field goal, but it was ugly and went wide. The Alabama kicker looked awkward as he approached the ball and something about his kick was ugly. The sea of Alabama fans in the room groaned at what should haven been the go-ahead score. After that Auburn did nothing on their drive and had to punt. Alabama then did nothing and had to punt. But the punt was blocked. Auburn took advantage of the good field position resulting from blocking the punt and drove for a touchdown. So in the first quarter it was 7-0 Auburn. After that Alabama did nothing and had to punt. Then Auburn did nothing and had to punt. End of first quarter.

I'm sorry I was sitting on your coat

Meanwhile, I had moved to a stool at the bar a little closer to the TV. A remarkably beautiful girl with long brown hair and huge brown eyes had left her coat on the stool, but she was now sitting on an L-shaped couch next to her boyfriend, so I sat on the stool where she had been. From that seat I could see more of the house, including through a doorway connecting the kitchen to the dining room where 2 lonely Auburn fans were standing, quietly cheering for their team. They spotted my orange shirt and we both smiled and waved. We were 3 orange fans in a sea of 20 or more screaming, shouting, highly intense crimson fans. Behind me I heard delayed screaming. I looked around and saw though another doorway, a den filled with younger people watching the game on another TV. But they were connected to a regular antenna while we were on cable so their signal was slightly behind the TV I was watching. It made for a weird effect whenever something happened and they screamed 2 seconds after we did all game long.

The second quarter started with Alabama still in possession and still driving. They kept the ball seemingly forever. Auburn helped them by jumping offsides for a penalty that kept the drive alive. In fact, it was 11 plays to start the 2nd quarter before Alabama finally scored a touchdown. Now the game was tied at 7-7. Of course, all the Alabama fans surrounding me were screaming and cheering. I wasn't saying much. I was just grateful that it wasn't 14-0 Alabama.

Coach Saban

Auburn has a brand new coach, some guy who last year was coaching high school football. At least, that's what the Alabama fans told me. Alabama, meanwhile, has the great Nick Saban, the man with the plan every single week. The odds of Auburn winning this game didn't seem high to me, and that is why I didn't have high hopes. I don't want to sound as if I'm just a really poor Auburn fan. But having grown up in Alabama I am more accustomed to Auburn losing than winning. As a result, I'm accustomed to the consequences of being an Auburn fan in a state filled with Alabama fans right after we lose to them. Some years they are nice about it. Some years they are vicious and downright obnoxious. Since I didn't think we were going to win this game I tried to keep my cheering for Auburn's successes calm and quiet.

Now Auburn had the ball, following the Alabama touchdown. 4 plays in and Mr Dropped Pass and Dropped Kickoff Return, Tre Mason, was stripped of the football and Alabama recovered it with great field position. OK, here we go. This is what I was expecting.

Boom-Boom-Boom Touchdown Alabama. It was as easy as that. Now Alabama is up 14-7 and I'm looking over Auburn's offense trying to figure out if there is anyone they can  rely on to catch the ball when it reaches their hands. Tre Mason, number 21, was not inspiring any confidence in me, but I noticed this other guy, number 14, seemed to be a great runner and gain a lot of yards for Auburn. Maybe they should just give the ball to him and let number 21 block or something? That's when I realized that  number 14 was their quarterback. So the entire Auburn offense is one guy? Awesome. This is not good.

Auburn now receives the kickoff. They did nothing and had to punt. Alabama has the ball. They go 87 yards and score ANOTHER damn touchdown. Now it's 21-7 Alabama and things are starting to look ugly for Auburn. And for Auburn fans.

On the next drive, Auburn's Mr-Drop-Ball, Tre Mason, almost single-handedly moves them all the way downfield, running the ball on all but one play, before he finally ran it into the endzone for an Auburn touchdown. So now it's 21-14 Alabama's favor.

Alabama received the ball and struggled for the rest of the quarter to move, but got nowhere. The quarter ended with Alabama still on their own end of the field.

At halftime I got up and went to greet the other Auburn fans. It was a man and a woman. She graduated from Auburn and has a daughter there now. He was an LSU graduate and only came cheering for Auburn because of his desire as an LSU fan to see Alabama lose. When asked if I went to Auburn I had to admit that I hadn't and neither had anyone in my family. It was hard to explain how I became an Auburn fan. My family moved to Alabama from Texas many years before I was born. They were told that they MUST CHOOSE a side, and so someone, somewhere chose Auburn. I was raised in an Auburn household where no one ever went to Auburn. It hadn't seemed weird at the time, but it does now. We talked a bit, happy to have found support on the lonely Auburn side of things.

Next I talked with a few Alabama fans. One super enthusiastic and vocal Alabama fan named Danny greeted me. Danny was remarkable in that he remembered the names of every single person he met at this party. And he proved it by naming us all. Even as he listed our names and pointed at who was who, I still couldn't keep up with all the names. I didn't even catch the name of the beautiful brunette whose coat was hanging on my chair. Normally I'd at least remember her name if no others simply because she was so striking. I suspect that Danny is either in management somewhere, or sales. He's very outgoing. And also very fit. In fact, I had begun to notice that everyone there was very fit. There wasn't a fat roll in the place. Lisa, my hostess, had at some point been a personal trainer or something along those lines. And it seemed that all of her friends were about as fit as she is. To be fair, some were young, like in their early 20s, current-Alabama-student young. But I was having trouble telling who was the college student and who was their parents due to how fit everyone was.

Super Fit People

And then there was me, not so fit and looking rather sad in my bright orange Auburn shirt. I felt like maybe I needed to suck in my gut or something. But I couldn't hold it like that for an entire football game, so I didn't bother.

At this point a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl walked in. She went straight past me over to Lisa and began talking. I didn't catch her name, but she struck me because she looked so much like a friend of mine in Vancouver. And then she struck me again because she was wearing tights, or maybe yoga pants, and I tried not to stare, but holy cow! Anyway, she was very beautiful.

Yoga Pants are Hard to Ignore

Finally Lisa herself came over and talked to me. Lisa has a movie star face and when she smiles it just gets even better. When she smiles she looks strikingly similar to Jessica Biel, moreso than anyone I have ever met before. And of course I tell her so because I'm creepy like that. Sometimes I don't even call her Lisa, I call her Jessica, and thank God she laughs or else I'd just be a creepy weirdo who is overly impressed with this girl's smiling movie star face.

Lisa Looks Like Jessica

At some point the blonde girl who had just come in said something about being at the Iron Bowl game last year. Because she was an Alabama cheerleader! Holy mother of God, I was REALLY surrounded by the elite of Alabama fan fanatics, even an Alabama cheerleader. And there I was, having trouble explaining to the only other Auburn fans in the place why I was an Auburn fan, while simultaneously trying not to stare at the butt of the Alabama cheerleader. And then, at some point, it came out that I had been a cheerleader in college, too. I cheered during my freshman year at the University of Alabama .... in Huntsville, which is not at all the same school or even affiliated with the University of Alabama, and so not the same thing. It did not impress Miss Yoga Pants Cheerleader. Mercifully halftime ended and the game started up again. No more talk about who was a cheerleader, which for a beautiful 22-year-old girl is impressive and for some older guy is significantly less so. I am unaware of any porn or sexual fetishes that involve male cheerleaders. Generally once a male cheerleader leaves cheerleading he never mentions it again because no one cares.

Serious Bama Fan

So, third quarter and Auburn received the kick-off to start the show. 9 plays later Auburn scored a touchdown and tied the game 21-21. At this point I noticed the Alabama fans yelling at the female Auburn fan I had just met to stop going outside and smoking. She began singing the Auburn fight song. Apparently she had noticed that every time she went outside to smoke, Auburn scored or else Alabama didn't score. And the Alabama fans in the room had noticed it, too.

This will mean something later because she started going outside to smoke a LOT.

After the Auburn score, Alabama couldn't move the ball at all. Not even  1 yard. 3 plays and they had to punt with no gains. Auburn ran 8 plays, but had to punt. Alabama then moved the ball all the way down the field, stalled at the Auburn 11 yard line, and had to kick a field goal. But once again, their kicker looked awkward as he approached the ball and kicked it ugly and wide. It was another miss!

Alabama fans in the room went nuts. They could be ahead by 6 points, but he had missed twice and so the game was tied still. And this was the fourth quarter, when everything mattered most of all as time began to run short. And a certain someone had just stepped outside to smoke right before the field goal try, by the way.

Auburn drove the ball just across midfield, but stalled and had to punt. They managed to down the punt on the 1 foot line, pinning Alabama as deep in their own territory as is possible. At this point, Miss Auburn Smoker came back inside. As soon as she stepped in again, Alabama's quarterback lobbed a pass deep downfield to his favorite wide receiver, who ran it all the way down for a touchdown. Auburn fans were in shock. It was now 28-21 Alabama's favor with 10 minutes left in the entire game.

Auburn is running out of time

Auburn's ball. They couldn't do anything. Alabama's ball. They couldn't do anything. Auburn - nothing. Alabama got the ball back and drove down the field. They stalled and had to attempt a field goal. But it was BLOCKED with less than 3 minutes left in the game.

For the next 2 minutes of the game, Miss Auburn Smoker went outside and just smoked like a freight train, never coming back inside again for fear that she might jinx Auburn and help Alabama.

Auburn began driving down the field. In the next 2 minutes Auburn managed to ride the momentum of the blocked field goal and move all the way down to Alabama's 39 yard line. And then they threw a pass which was run in for a very important touchdown.

There was only 32 seconds left and the game was now TIED!

Alabama received the kickoff and ran it back to the 29 yard line, which is pretty good field position to start off at. Surprisingly, with so little time left, Alabama tried a pass which was incomplete and then ran the ball twice, burning a lot of time off the clock. On the final running play their running back had to sprint for the sidelines to get out of bounds in order to stop the clock before time ran out. At first the refs looked at the clock and saw that it showed 0:00 and called it over, end of regulation play and on to an overtime quarter. But Alabama's coach argued that the player touched his foot out of bounds with 1 second left on the clock. Instant replay showed that he was right, and 1 second was put back on the clock.

Rather than line up for a Hail Mary desperation pass, Alabama brought out their long-distance field goal kicker and had him attempt a 57 yard field goal. Even by pro standards it was a long attempt. And this was at Jordan Hare Stadium, which is an outdoor stadium, not some insulated, breezeless dome.

The Alabama fans in the room began screaming at Miss Auburn Smoker to GET BACK IN HERE! She was pressed against the glass shaking her head 'no' and watching with stress-filled eyes. Alabama's kicker lined up, took measured steps to his left and motioned for the ball to be snapped. Auburn placed one man down in the endzone just in case the kick fell short and he had a chance to catch the ball and try to run it back. It's legal to run back a missed field goal so long as the ball is caught before it touches or goes out of bounds, but it rarely happens.

The ball was snapped. The kicker nailed it up into the air. It looked high enough. It looked straight and long enough. But then it began to drift to the side a little. And then it fell just short. The Auburn receiver caught it and stood there for a second. It seemed the game was going into overtime. Alabama fans were groaning. And then the Auburn  receiver began to sprint out of the endzone, Auburn players racing to block in front of him as best they could. He ran straight to his left, right to the sideline, even teetering a bit at the edge of the field as if he was in danger of losing his balance and falling out of bounds. Alabama had their biggest, strongest linemen out on the field to make sure their long-distance kicker had the protection he needed for a long, lower than normal kick. But the big guys weren't as fast as the usual special teams unit. Auburn players made a wall of blockers along the side of  the field and left room for their receiver to sprint by behind them as they held off the Alabama players. We all sat there watching this without much reaction, waiting for the lone Alabama player to reach past his blocker and shove the receiver out of bounds. He was sprinting along a tightrope, after all, and wouldn't take much to knock out of bounds.

Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!

But  no one ever broke through. The Auburn receiver, with 0 seconds left on the clock, ran all the way down the field to the far endzone and scored the final touchdown of the game. Auburn won 34-28, not even bothering to kick the extra point because it didn't matter. Alabama fans were crushed. Danny was talking about how he felt sure the receiver had stepped out. We all sort of waited to see if there was a review of the run that showed him stepping out. But none of the camera angles shown in the many replays ever gave us anything that appeared he stepped out. Miss Auburn Smoker came bounding inside again, cheering at the top of her lungs. I looked at her and asked "What the hell were you smoking out there?! How did you do that?" She just laughed.

And then something odd happened. Several Alabama fans came and shook my hand and said, "Good game." I was stunned. When I played sports we shook hands and said "good game" after the game was over, but the fans never did that. I had never been to any game where I, as a fan, shook hands with the fans of the other team and said "good game." I suppose the Alabama fans were so into this game that it felt as if they had played it themselves. And they were very disappointed. I just shook hands and said "good game" in return, but I didn't say much else. I was in shock. I had no expectation that Auburn would win. It was just assumed that Alabama was going  to win this game, then win the SEC Championship game, then go on to the BCS Championship to see if they could win the national title. Now it was all wiped out.

Alabama is today ranked number 4. Auburn only moves up 1 spot to number 3, which does not qualify them for the BCS Championship, so even if they win the SEC Championship it doesn't mean a whole lot. It's kind  of a weird victory because it means neither team gets to play for the championship and some non-SEC team is going to be the national champion. Even Auburn fans would prefer that Alabama be the national champs over anyone outside of their conference, like Ohio State for example. Ah well, life is filled with surprises.

The Thrill of Victory

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tough Decisions

Life is filled with decisions. A lot of them are tough to make. This is one of those times.

I have an opportunity. I can't decide how I feel about this, whether it is a good move for me or a dead-end.  I don't know if anyone can answer that for me, though. Actually I have 2 opportunities, to be honest. One of them I have this little bad feeling about. Everything looks shiny and good and yet something that was said stuck  with me and made me think if I can find another one I should let this one go.

I have an opportunity to move to Nashville. Do you ever watch that TV show about Nashville with the cheerleader from "Heroes" sleeping around and  her mother sleeping around and everyone sleeping around and sometimes there's singing? Yeah, well I have an opportunity to move there, not to be on that show or anything.

It would be a major ordeal to do this. I have a house where I am now. And the housing market here is really, really bad. And my significant other has a job here and they greatly value her at this job. But for her to describe her value to a new company in Nashville would be difficult. She's very nervous about that.

So, if I do this it means finding an apartment, moving into it in 2 weeks time, and living a very sparse bachelor's existence for an indefinite period of time with a LOT of traveling to really wear me out week in and week out and possibly kill me if some lunatic in an 18-wheeler beheads me with a sudden lane change (this happens A LOT on the interstate I'll be traveling most often.) It's a rough drive and it'll be every week, twice.

Then again, its Nashville. And Nashville is a nice place. Everyone who lives in Nashville loves Nashville. And what would that be like, to live in a place that everyone living there loves?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


OK, I know everyone and their brother, sister, mother and neighbor are blogging this, but that doesn't mean I can't also blog it.

TODAY IS 11/12/13!!!

This is the last fun numerically consecutive date we'll have for a very long time. Let's have a party!!!

Speaking of parties, remember when I blogged about my doctor putting me on testosterone patches? Well guess what? I quickly turned allergic to them. And then, one night at a party, I had a massive reaction to something I ate or drank at the party. I didn't know what, specifically, so I went on with me life as if everything was fine.

My allergy to the patches got worse, meanwhile, until finally my shoulder swelled up like a grapefruit where the patch was and I told my doctor I could not wear these anymore because I am definitely allergic.

Later, wearing no patch at all, I went to a friends house. He gave me a vodka and cranberry juice to drink. It was good and he gave me another.

That night, just like last time, I had a severe reaction. My whole body turned red. I itched like mad. I loaded up on antihistamines, but it only helped a little. This went on for several days.

My friend  had been burning incense. At the party where I had reacted the first time, I had been around people smoking. I wondered if I reacted to their smoke. I wondered if I reacted to my friend's incense.

But the main active ingredient in the testosterone patches is "Alcohol USP" and that has nothing to do with smoke of any kind. It has to do with pure grain alcohol.

I appear to have developed a severe allergy to alcohol. In all likelihood I reacted to the beer at the first party. We were at a brewery, after all. And I likely reacted to the vodka at the friend's house.

Think of what this mean, no beer and no vodka and even swabbing me with alcohol to clean a wound or give me a shot is potentially a problem!

UGH!!! OMG FML!!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Third Warrior Dash part 2

Stupid ridiculous hills!

I have never been beaten by a hill or mountain in any race or running course. Or at least I hadn't until last weekend's Warrior Dash. You wouldn't think it would bother me so much, but it does.

I started looking on the internet to see if there are any other races in the same location that the Warrior Dash was held this year, the same hills with or without obstacles. Falling from one of the obstacles didn't bother me nearly as much as simply failing to run all the way up the first steep hill did. I can go to the gym and train to make sure I don't fall from that obstacle again next year. But that hill, all those hills, they all beat me. They were enormous and steeper than anything I have ever even had the opportunity to run up.

That's when I found, not what I was looking for but something revealing in a different way.

People do race up and down those hills. But they don't do it in the usual way. They don't do it the way I was trying to do it.

The only time anyone runs up and down those hills is ....

on horseback.

Get off me, I'm dying here!

The entire area is a horse facility, complete with horses you can rent and ride all over those hills if you want to. You can walk them or run them up the hills if you think the horse can take it. And more power to you.

But you can't run them on foot. Not unless you fall off your horse and he runs off and leaves you.

It's a small consolation, I know. There are other courses with hills no doubt just as steep. And there are people who have run up them. A friend in Australia who used to blog, named Unique_Stephen, used to harass me about the fact that he has conquered more of the United States than I have. And  he doesn't even live here. He has run up mountains on the East coast of America and mountains on the West coast. He's climbed them, too. And fallen from them, breaking his body on the rocks at the bottom and nearly dying.

So anyway, unless the Warrior Dash uses that same location next year, I may never get another chance to try to beat those killer hills. But I could find others just as bad if I look hard enough.

So I'm looking.

Cause that really bugged me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Third Annual Warrior Dash

It came time to go online and register for the Warrior Dash again this year, for my third time. I typed in the URL and attempted to log in only to be told that my login and password weren't right. No matter what login or password I used, it would not let me in. I assumed they'd lost my info and attempted to reregister. It said there already was an account connected to my email address. This told me that my login and password weren't the problem. Their website was hosed. I waited a week or two and tried again. No luck. So I emailed them. They responded and were absolutely no help. Eventually I created a new fake login and used that to register. This will all come back to mean something later.

Saturday, bright and early, I climbed into a 4-wheel drive and headed to Pulaski, Tennessee for my noon start time. I got there in plenty of time for my race, only to hit a long, loooooong line of cars trying to get into the park where the race was being held. One lane in, and one lane of wet, muddy people trying to get out. This one-lane-in took over an hour, I kid you not.

By the time I reached the loosely defined 'parking area' it was already noon. I parked on the side of a hill behind a Toyota pickup truck and started the looong walk to the race area. As I was walking with a zillion other runners who were also late for their race, a particularly stupid, agitated little fat woman literally backed into me with her Honda. By this I mean she HIT me with her car as I was walking by. She turned and started screaming at me, as if it were my fault that she just backed straight into a group of runners that included me, hitting only me with the back of her car, and then yelled at ME. I won't type here what I said to her in response because I've worked too hard to keep this blog relatively clean, but I will say that the words I used still can't be said on broadcast television or radio despite the extreme loosening of decency rules in recent years.

I got to the race area as fast as I could and got in line to pick up my race packet. You have to have a number in order to run. When I got to the front of the line and gave them my name and birth date and they couldn't find my packet. "Are you sure you registered," the woman asked.

"Are you kidding me? Yes, I'm SURE I registered. They already billed my credit card so that's about as registered as it gets," I responded slightly impatiently, like a man who had just sat through a line of cars for over an hour and then got hit by a stupid woman in a Honda who tried to cuss at me for her stupidity.

"Sorry, you'll have to go to the information booth," she replied, pointing to her right as if that meant much. I looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a million different booths. I started walking in that direction. Eventually I found a tent marked 'Information' and went up to the girl sitting there. "Hey, I registered and they can't find  my race packet. They sent me here." She said basically the same crap to me that the first woman said about was I sure I registered and blah blah. Finally she reached in a box, pulled out a generic race packet, asked my t-shirt size and handed it all to me.  As I started walking across the field to the starting line I became aware that  I felt weak and shaky. I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I hadn't slept much the night before. I had to drive for 3 1/2 hours to get here. And now my body felt totally out-of-gas. And also, a woman in a Honda hit me before the race. Awesome.

I lined up with a group of runners at 12:45 pm. There were 2 lines of runners. A guy with a megaphone was talking to everyone, pumping the runners up. Finally he said "runners for 12 and 12:30 on the left. One o'clock runners on the right."

OK, what?

So, apparently things were more than a tiny bit chaotic this year with the Warrior Dash. Everyone set to run at noon had missed their race. 12:30 too. Or so it seemed. We were all starting at 1 pm. As I stood in line for 15 minutes hopping up and down like an African tribesman minus the spear, trying to warm up my problematic calves, I had a chance to look off in the distance and see a part of the race course. A stream of racers were making their way up a steep mountainside. And by 'steep' I mean HOLY CRAP.

The race started with a burst of gas-powered flames atop the starting line and a guy yelling into a megaphone while a live band behind us blasted Ozzie Osbourne's Crazy Train.

I crossed the starting line, made a hard left turn and then basically fell down the side of a mountain. The ground dropped off and most of us were sprinting down the mountain in a panicked run that consisted of trying not to fall down and face-slide for a half mile. There was no control. It was just free-fall with flailing feet, rocks, tall weeds, and a bunch of people already walking right from the start.

That always baffles me. Why enter a race like this if you have absolutely no intention of running at all? And why, if they know they aren't going to run, don't they get in the back of the starting group and walk without blocking everyone else? Something tells me those particular "warriors" drive the same way that they 'run,' selfishly blocking everyone else when they could easily avoid it. But enough about that. I was falling down a mountain while dodging walkers and trying not to trip.

Eventually I reached the bottom. My knees buckled and nearly hit me in the face and I suddenly wasn't falling anymore. Right turn and the course went uphill. As far down as we had just fallen we now had to run back up again over another hill that was so tall I couldn't even see the top.

I'm the guy who loves hills. I'm the guy who long ago set my personal record and has since decided that I'm never going to duplicate that, so I challenge myself by taking on steep hills just to see if I can beat them. I go looking for hills to run in an area almost totally devoid of hills. I run towards hills other runners go away from.

Halfway up this ungodly steep mountainside I realized I wasn't going to be able to keep going. I couldn't even see the top of this incline after running for what seemed like an eternity straight up. My lungs were stretching to their limit. I had no energy and absolutely no strength in my legs. But never before in my life had I stopped to walk up a hill in a race. Until this one.

Looking around me as I shamefully walked within the first half mile of the race I noticed that no one was passing me. Not a single person ran by when I stopped. In fact, no one was running at all.

No one except for The Incredible Hulk. A big guy dressed as The Hulk had already run past, reached the top, and then turned around to find his wife. She wasn't in sight, so he ran all the way back down again to find her. That is a seriously dedicated husband!

After that hill, and having no gas in my tank to start with, I never really felt good again. I reached the top and started jogging again, but it wasn't easy. Shortly after the top of the mountainside I reached the first obstacle. This was unusual. In the past we ran a full mile before the first obstacle. But this time it was right away.

I don't remember the order of the obstacles. Mostly I remember that every step of this race was either up the steepest hills I had ever seen or down them. There were obstacles in between. I'll try to post photos of them.

I walked more during this Warrior Dash than any of the previous ones I've done. And then I fell on one of the walls I was leaping over, nearly landing on a part of my body that won't recover. That convinced me that with all the mud and water covering me I was going to have to slow down and be more careful if I was going to finish the race at all.

During the last mile of the race I came to an obstacle they stole from American Ninja competition which they called "Hangtime." It's like the old "monkey bars" from school, except the bars you hang onto are spaced too far apart to reach and there are 2 rows, one lower and one higher. If you can reach up and grab the higher ones and use them to help you get between the lower ones then you do fine. Or if you can swing like a monkey and never slow down between lower bars, keeping a steady momentum going, you'll make it. By this point  in the race I had no energy at all for reaching up and grabbing the higher bars. But when I tried to keep my momentum going between lower bars I found that I didn't have quite enough energy for that,  either. So I ended up stopping on each bar, hanging for a minute, and then swinging forward to grab the next one. Things were going fine until suddenly I found myself flat on my back under about 4 feet of water at the bottom of the obstacle. Apparently I fell in pretty spectacular fashion.

This worked out well because earlier on an obstacle involving lots and lots of mud I had taken a face-dive into the mud and covered myself from head-to-toe in it. Now I was semi-clean again. Bonus!

After the hangtime obstacle they had a photographer perched in a chair taking everyone's photos to sell to us later. I wasn't looking or feeling very photogenic, but nevertheless I tried to run in as photogenic a manner as I could and look excited. I felt like a wet beanbag chair and I most likely looked like it, too. I haven't seen the photo yet. Since they lost my registration info and gave me a random race number I'm betting I won't ever see any of the race photos involving me. What do you think?

At the end I lept over 2 rows of flaming logs. It was damned hot, too. Then came the mud pit. I had just fallen into water and cleaned mud off me. This seemed somehow wrong to have to get back into the mud again. But there was no way to finish the race without it, so I jumped in and crawled through the mud, underneath the barbed wires, until I reached the end. I climbed out and ran as fast as I could across the finish line. I don't know why I sprint for the finish line every single year. I have yet to see a time clock telling me what my time was, or a posting on the Warrior Dash website listing my name and race time. I have no record of any of my times that I can recall. I guess its just habit from all the other, more sedate, races that I have run.

When it was over I felt like I had really done something. What a freakin' monster of a race! Those giant mountainsides! The water obstacles! Holy cow, this was hard!

Then I read Alana's blog post about the Tough Mudder up in Colorado where she lives and competes. After that, I didn't feel like I had accomplished much at all. 12 miles of obstacles! Mountainsides that make Tennessee look flat by comparison. Ice water! Snow! Electric shocks!

I gotta get in better shape somehow.

Alana's race
Alana's accomplishments make me feel like a girl. And then I remember that Alana is a girl. And then I remember that on the last mile, from out of nowhere, this teenage blonde girl who looked EXACTLY like Barbie blew past me and a group of guys and disappeared up ahead. Olympic Sprinter Barbie dropped into the middle of our race and blew by like the wind. I have no idea where she came from or where she went.

Two days after the race my feet are shredded and my legs feel broken, as if I'd done massive sets of power squats or something. I'm limping around like a cripple. And the way I ran, or rather mostly walked, I practically am a cripple. Bah!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall is Here

My last run was Friday, right after work. It was uneventful, meaning no snakes, bobcats, mystery beasts or skunks. I finished my run, stretched and then jumped into the shower. I don't know what happened in that shower, but while I was in there my right knee suddenly screamed in pain at me and then buckled. I've been limping ever since. I went for a walk yesterday and it did OK, but it's hurt even so. I just don't get this. I didn't hurt it while running. I didn't hurt it while stretching. I don't know where this came from. Maybe I used a bad soap?

I have a neighbor with an old green Ford F150 pickup for sale. I'd really like to buy it. I have a pickup, but it's a Japanese mini-truck and has given me enough problems in recent years that I'd like to get rid of it. When I need a truck I usually need a full-sized truck and have to make do with my mini-truck. But for several things, such as pulling a trailer, the mini-truck just can't do it.

My stupid cat, as opposed to my other cat, got herself locked out of the house last night. All three of us were coming into the house at around 10 pm. It was pitch black outside and both cats came running in a panic when I pulled up. I opened the garage and started going inside. My intelligent, albeit stubborn, cat came right along with me. But the stupid cat just disappeared. nearly 4 hours later, as I was heading to bed, suddenly appeared at the front door, swimming on the long rectangular window along the hinge-side of the front door. I never let her in the front door because I want  both cats to always come in the back. But she's stupid. Even when I open the front storm door for her, she'll try to ram her head through the hinges to get in, as if she just needs to push harder and the door while open in reverse. It's been a long time since the first time she did this and she still hasn't figured out that it doesn't work. As I said, she's dumb. So I left her outside overnight and went to bed. This morning she was SO excited to see me and be let inside that she laid down on my feet and licked my toes. Dumb cat, but cute. Lucky for her because if she wasn't cute she'd probably be dead already.

And now another meme:

Fall/Autumn Meme 

First of all, is autumn your favorite season? Why or why not?
The only thing I like about Fall is football. I can't think of anything else about it that I particularly care for. It's bronchitis season, so I guess there's that, if you're into that sort of thing. Lots of allergies and infections and lung problems and drinking medicinal shots of Jager or Jack Daniels to clear out the nastiness. Sure it's a valid excuse to drink the hard stuff, but it's less fun when you're drinking it because you actually need to.

Is it ‘autumn’ or ‘fall’, to you?
Fall.  Autumn is a girl's name, a girl I know who works as a stripper.

What kind of weather does your area get during this season? 
It gets dark sooner and rains a lot during this time of year. The temperature cools off to a nice, less broiling level. Sometimes its actually really nice outside. This is a good time of year to go outside and play some backyard football because it's not too hot or too cold to be outside. But the rain is an ever-present threat.

Were you born in an autumn month? No, dead winter. I was a snow season baby and have the allergies to prove it.

Do you pay attention to any ‘fall fashions’?
I'm not terribly fashionable, but I definitely switch to long sleeves and a light jacket as the temperatures cool off.

Which leaf color is your favorite? 
Whatever color is still attached to the tree and doesn't require me to rake it. I guess that'd be brown because the oak trees seem to hang onto a lot of their leaves all winter long, and that suits me fine.

Is it still fun to rake the leaves and jump in piles of them? 
Wow, my dad used to make raking the leaves a royal pain. He'd get my brother and me out there at 7 am, while my disco queen sister sat up in her room with the door closed and locked and she'd get up at 2 pm to practice her disco dancing, and he'd have us raking the entire 3/4 acre lot all weekend long. If we jumped in it he'd go bonkers so we never did that. If we asked why our sister wasn't raking, too, he'd make some lame excuse and brush us off. There was nothing, and I mean nothing, fun about it.

When can you really tell that it’s autumn? 
When they announce her name and she comes out and gets on the pole and ... oh, you mean fall? I can tell its fall right now because it's gray outside and raining and I'm watching football.

Do you enjoy carving pumpkins? 
I do enjoy it, but I'm not as talented at it as I'd hoped I'd be. Plus, I have no kids so each year that I grow older it seems increasingly to remind me that I'm childless and I hate the way that feels.

Do you eat the pumpkin seeds? If so, do you put any kind of flavoring on it?
One year, my significant other tried to bake them and make some salted pumpkin seeds for us to eat. I have to say, it was less than spectacular and I hope we don't do it again this year.

Are you planning to go to a pumpkin patch this year? 
We haven't ever gone to a pumpkin patch. We do corn mazes, though, and probably will again this year.

Which was your favorite Halloween costume to wear? 
One  Halloween I wore a very expensive ghoul mask, long black robes and some tall boots that made me look like a giant. I scared the living crap out of a lot of people and thoroughly enjoyed it. That was my favorite, but that mask has long since turned hard and brittle and probably dissolved into dust.

Are you planning to go trick-or-treating? Why or why not?
I have no children, as I said, and people generally frown upon adults showing up at their door in costumes demanding candy. The past few years no one has gone trick-or-treating in my neighborhood at all. Everyone takes their kids to big church gatherings where  they do some kind of trunk-or-treat thing, going car-to-car or something. I guess in this age of sex offender registries and helicopter parents, not to mention rampant paranoia, parents feel safer taking their kids to these events rather than doing like my parents and just turning the kids loose to go door-to-door on their own.

Are there any county fairs or festivals held nearby during this time?
Yes, tons of them. I mean, not county fairs, but festivals with various names and themes, all intended for parents who are afraid their kids will get nabbed if they trick-or-treat the old fashioned way. I wonder if things are truly more dangerous today than in years past of if we are simply encouraged by budget-driven politicians and law enforcement agencies to think things are worse? Or perhaps the paranoia is simply an unintended consequence of the internet and maps showing where every registered sex offender in the world lives?

What is your favorite dessert for this time of year? 
People eat different  desserts at different times of the year? Uh ... giant  hot chocolate, perhaps? Hot brownie with ice cream? One  of those, probably.

Is your Thanksgiving Day in October or November, if you even celebrate it? 
Is there such a thing as an October Thanksgiving? Is this in some other country or something? I only know of the one and it is in November. Why would I not celebrate it?

If you do celebrate it, where do you usually have Thanksgiving dinner? 
We used to celebrate it at my mom and dad's house, but after Dad died Mom seemed to be increasingly stressed by it, so my niece volunteered to host it. Since then it has fallen to her every single year to handle it for the entire family. I sure hope she doesn't get tired of it, because if she stops we don't really have anywhere else to go. And if not for Thanksgiving and Christmas our family might never all get together and see each other. For us, these celebrations are important to keeping the family in contact with one another.

Do you remember any crafts you used to do that were autumn-themed? 
I used to draw my own calendars every month for several years, so I had several that were Fall-themed. As I said, Autumn is a stripper I know, so I never did any stripper-themed crafts.

Are any of your favorite bands doing a fall tour this year? 
I heard that  Foreigner is coming to a city near me this month, but other than that I haven't heard of anything along those lines going on.

Which new TV show are you looking forward to this season?  
I'm glad my favorite old shows are back, especially "Community," but among the new shows I think I've missed several of them. I saw and liked "Trophy Wife." I missed Michael J Fox's debut show, but I heard it was funny. I saw the premiere of "The Crazy Ones" and I haven't decided if I like it yet or not. I like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robin Williams could potentially be a winner on this show. It's just too early to tell. I haven't watched as many new shows as most people probably have. I hate that they've moved several shows I like, such as "The Neighbors" and "Suburgatory." I'm a big believer in leaving a successful show alone and not moving it to a different night. Too bad the networks don't see it my way. I lose track of more shows this way.

How does autumn typically make you feel? 
The gray skies and rainy days combined with Dallas Cowboys' losing seasons make me depressed.

What color do you always associate with autumn? 
She used to wear a lot of red.

Is there a song that always reminds you of this season? 
You know, I thought about this question for a long time and never could come up with an answer, so I guess the answer is "No."

Do you have any seasonal traditions? 
I thought we dealt with this question already. We have a seasonal tradition of going to my niece's house and celebrating with her and her husband and all their kids. Sometimes her husband's father shows up and wants to argue about college football, but he can't find anyone to argue with because none of us follow it that closely or care enough to fight about it.

Do you spend a lot of time outside during this time of the year? 
Yes, summers here are too hot and humid to enjoy being outside, so when things cool down a little like they do every Fall we go outside a lot more.

How can you tell that fall is over?  
Last year the difference between Fall and Winter wasn't'  very noticeable, but this year the Winter is expected to be very cold, so I imagine we'll know because it is freakin' cold outside.

What is a typical autumn outfit that you wear?
I don't wear any of Autumn's outfits. That'd make me a cross-dresser and I'm not into that.

Describe a perfect autumn day:  
I don't really know what Autumn does all day. I guess she gets up around noon and then goes shopping for stripper shoes? I don't know.

Do you hate it when stores start promoting Christmas early? 
I hate it when stores want to sell me a ton of crap relating to Christmas, but refuse to acknowledge that is IS Christmas they're talking about. If you want to sell me Christmas crap you'd better call it Christmas crap and not "holiday" crap or I'll shop elsewhere.

What is your favorite thing about this season?
I used to enjoy all the football games, but since the Cowboys have been crap the past 10 years or so I haven't really enjoyed it as much. I guess that's why I started watching other teams and a lot more college ball. Beyond that, not having any kids, it's hard to celebrate the Fall much because it gets dark so soon that by the time I get home from work it's dark out. Weekends are all about working on cars or the yard or cleaning the house. Wow, thinking about this is depressing me and it hasn't even happened yet. And as if to drive my point home, it is currently gray and raining outside, and the Cowboys just blew a nice lead and lost to a not-very-impressive San Diego Chargers team in the fourth quarter. What a rotten end to my weekend. Now I get to look forward to a stressful week at work. Yay Fall!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wet Streets at Sundown

The sun was already going down even as I was putting on my running gear. I was either going to have to run faster or shorten the distance. Or run in the dark with all the wildlife.

I speed-walked as fast as I could down my street trying to force my legs to warm up faster than usual. It had rained earlier today, right before I got home from the looks of things. I couldn't wait for a solid warm-up, so when I got near the bottom of my own street I broke into a healthy jog.

My breathing wasn't under control, by any means. I wasn't ready to run. I was huffing and puffing. But my pace was good compared to my last 2 runs so I kept going. It was getting dark quickly. I had pepper spray in one pocket and a flashlight in the other. If necessary I was prepared to run with one in each hand.

1 mile down the road I was in my own world, just cruising along, feeling OK, if not particularly fast or strong. The storm had dropped a lot of tree branches and crap all along the road. I was stepping over them without really noticing. And then suddenly I noticed one of the branches turning around to look at me. And I was right on top of it at this point.

"Huh, that branch is turning around and looking at me," I thought to myself in a mental fog. My mind was a million miles away at this point. But it was rapidly returning to where I was.

The 'branch' was no more than a foot in front of me and I was running towards it. In a split second I was looking down at a long, brown 'branch' with dark diamonds all along it that apparently had a head and eyes and was now looking at me with mild curiosity. I was of course looking back at it with equal curiosity and perhaps a little alarm.

I suddenly found myself putting a little extra spring in my step as I leaped over it and started moving past it. By this point I had mentally returned to the present and was fully aware that a 3-4 foot long snake was directly beneath me and turning around to face me.

That stick is looking at me!

I had a good pace going and I had fully intended to stick to it, but I suddenly felt the urge to speed up. And that is exactly what I did. Not only that, but I was looking backwards to see what the snake was doing the entire time I was running away from it until I was over a hill and out of sight of the snake. Sorry Coach, I know you told us to never look back because it slows us down, but I figured I had compensated by speeding up with the extra adrenaline that was suddenly pulsing through my veins. And besides, this is the first time I ever encountered a big snake like this directly underneath my feet while running before. If necessary, I'll get a note from my mother, but I think this one is excusable.

I live out in the country. I encounter all kinds of things while running. It's really dangerous for me to run after dark and it was getting darker by the second at this point. I don't know snakes. I know that a snake with diamonds on it and a rattle on its tail is a rattlesnake and a big black snake with a flared back is a cobra, but beyond that I have no clue. I only know what I saw there in a brief instant as the sun was fading and the pavement was steaming from the rain.

The problem with my running route is that it partially repeats, which is to say, I have to turn around and return the way I came, covering the same ground. And that means when I pass something like  this, unless it decides not to be there when I get back, it will be waiting for me.

On my return run you can rest assured I was wide awake and looking intently at every stick and leaf and log along that road. I  looked and looked until, once again, the snake and I were reunited. Apparently the asphalt was warm. He must have liked it there. He was crossing the road, but he was in no hurry at all. He was now on the opposite side of the street, which coincidentally was once again the side of the road I was on. Yay!

So I crossed the street and gave the snake a wide berth. He turned to watch me pass, just like before. I kept my eye on him the entire time, just like before. And my pace was quickened. Wah-la! Instant motivation!

The problem with this snake speeding up my pace was that I was at that point in my course running uphill. And I was really running at about the right pace for my currently physical condition. When I sped up after leaping around the snake the first time I felt a slight twinge in my ever-problematic calf. It wasn't an injury. It was just the old injury reminding me that I had better be more careful if I wanted to finish this run and not end up missing the Warrior Dash in 2 weeks because of my calf. Despite the snake, my calf was continuously on my mind from that moment on. Well, my calf and the snake were on my mind. Let's be fair, I didn't just forget the snake because my calf was on the edge of injury. But if you are an athlete then I'm sure you know what it feels like to have a bodypart that is right on the verge of injury and warning you. It's unnerving.

By the time I reached the long, dark stretch of my route it was pretty dark outside. And there I was looking everywhere for snakes in the road. So I pulled my flashlight out of my pocket and ran with it on until I reached the end of my run, down at the bottom of my own street. Even walking up the street on my own block, with houses on both sides of me, I was totally focused on objects in the road in case any of them turned to look at me.

When I got home I immediately stretched. This past weekend I saw an NFL trainer working on an injured running back. He had something very familiar that he was using on the pulled leg muscle of the football player. It was The Stick, of which I just happen to have one. Having seen that and knowing  that my calf injury is just dying to make a comeback I pulled out my Stick and worked the hell out of my legs from ankle to hip. Then I took the advice of some of you here on The Blog and pulled out my trusty tennis ball. I worked my arches and then got down on the floor and worked the crap out of my calves.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2nd Run, er, Limping Jog

My legs are unbelievably stiff and sore from my little jog on Tuesday. Was it Tuesday? I can barely keep up with the days this week. Despite my ridiculously stiff muscles I still went out for a short run after work today.

The sun was already going down when I headed out. My legs were creaking along like the Tin Man without his oil can. I walked for a quarter mile before I decided to try to 'force' my legs to loosen up by breaking into a jog. It was the most awkward looking jog anybody ever saw. My legs wouldn't move and I looked like I was dragging them along with me as I motored down the road. After a bit of that I stopped and tried to shake out my muscles. That was just painful. Nothing shook out except pain.

It was pretty obvious at this point that my run tonight was going to be a difficult one more focused on not injuring anything than much else. I had actually been thinking about trying to do a little fartlek workout since I was so short on sunshine, but once the reality of my uber stiff muscles became undeniable I knew that was out. Maybe next time?

The run was unremarkable. I did maybe 2 miles and it was darker when I headed down the final stretch for home than it had been on Tuesday. I wouldn't have had time for a longer run even if I'd wanted it.

As I tried to speed up my strides on the final stretch to my imaginary finish line, passing down the long dark stretch of 2-lane road shaded on both sides by enormous trees, something ran out into the road ahead of me. This was the exact stretch of road where all my neighbors keep seeing the bobcats. Believe me, that was on my mind as I looked ahead and saw the big, furry shape looking at me from the center of the road. I strained my eyes to try to make out what it was. Hmm, if it's a bobcat it isn't a full-grown one. Too big to be a housecat or a skunk. Maybe a coyote? Young bobcat? Big raccoon?

He didn't look at me for long before he turned and ran on across the road and into the woods on the other side from where he came. Someone should paint a crosswalk for wildlife there on the pavement with all the animals we have crossing there.

I kept running, but I suddenly felt more motivated than before to pick up the pace. I was wheezing as I 'sprinted' past where the mystery animal crossed the road, but instead of dropping into a pace and trying to control my breathing I found myself looking behind me and speeding up. A bobcat will circle around and come up behind you if it wants to jump on you. Or at least I think they will. I'm no expert. But in my imagination that's exactly what it was doing. I was pathetic and gimpy, but at this point I was moving the fastest that I had all night long.


I went up over the 'hill' where  I had petered out so pathetically on Tuesday and kept going. I was going to puke at any moment if I continued my bobcat fartleking so, having cleared the dark section of tree-shaded road and reached the populated neighborhood section again, I stopped and walked, wheezing and pouring sweat, still looking behind me. But now I was right on top of  the skunk family I had seen the previous run, so I was looking backwards for bobcats and looking forward again for skunks. I was looking like a sweaty, wheezy, paranoid drug addled lunatic. I'm sure my neighbors were thrilled to see this site coming towards their houses.

As I turned and speed-walked up my own street I passed an elderly neighbor man. He looked at me and the sweat pouring off of my body and said "do a lap for me, OK?"  I told him I'd turn around and go do that very thing in a second. Then I went home and collapsed into the shower. Maybe I'll do his lap on Saturday.