Got My Swagger Back

For Christmas this year Mrs. B made me a running playlist on Spotify, which I finally had the opportunity to try last week when it was seven degrees and I had speedwork on the schedule. The logic being:

1. I only listen to music when I run on the treadmill, never outside
2. If it’s less than 20 degrees out, speedwork moves indoors to the treadmill – that’s the temperature under which my times suffer just enough to make me cranky and ruin the entire day

The details of the workout aren’t as important as the playlist, which is sassy and includes everything from Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes to Britney and Beyonce. The real gem, however, is Swagga, by Excision and Datsik, which, if you’ve never heard it, sounds like Megatron having a root canal. It mechanizes your soul and incapacitates the glob of brain that would otherwise be consumed with the stress of seeing 10.0 in the mph display on the treadmill.

The first time it came on I accidently hooked the headphone cord with my elbow and dislodged my phone from the treadmill’s accessory cup, sending the phone tumbling to my feet and swaggering right off the belt. It shot into the elliptical behind me, making a sound like a fragile smartphone falling out of an airplane and colliding with an elliptical. Neither my phone nor the ellipticaller watching me run were harmed. I chalk that up to swagger magic.

Since my PR at Rehoboth, I really feel like I’m firing on all cylinders. Before my surgery when I would start to tire in a race, on the track or during a tempo, I would fade and there was nothing I could do about it. But in the last couple months I’ve found that I’ve got another gear – if I want to run faster, I just try harder. I guess that’s what healthy tendons do for you. Add to that a fistful of swagger, and you’ve got something to build on.

It was 23 degrees this morning so I was outside on the track for headlamp speedwork. The details of the workout aren’t as important as my attire which, I noticed as I got back into the light of the living, matched exquisitely.

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I hadn’t planned it at all; I just put on whatever was on top. But this is just the kind of thing that happens once you get your swagger back.

Mrs B. noticed as well, though she used “matchy matchy” instead of “exquisite” and added that the picture wasn’t nearly “matchy matchy” enough. Her correction:

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The point to all of this is: watch out Ocean Drive Marathon. (Can you believe that’s the point?)

Have a good weekend, guys.

Drexel MBA Students Need Not Apply

Mrs. B was out buying me a pair of work shoes this afternoon, as she’s wont to do, and brought home some for me to try on including a pair the clerk specifically recommended. “Perfect for a casual Friday,” he assured her. “These are great, very versatile. I’ll go grab a pair from the back – eight and a half, right?”

She was making dinner when I took them out of the box, laced them up and slipped them on.

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Hmm.

“The guy at the store said they’d be great for a casual day,” Mrs. B shouted in from the kitchen. “He was really nice; a business major at Drexel, I think. He really seemed to know his stuff.”

I don’t know. They were great, no argument there, but maybe just not for me?

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I shifted my weight around and thought about it.  I wasn’t so sure they were perfect for a casual Friday.  I walked into the family room and back again.  I wasn’t so sure they were good for any day, to be honest.

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I went into the kitchen and said to Mrs. B, “I don’t think they’re right for me. Maybe the cut is wrong? The right one feels great, but the right one feels a little funny. Plus, it’s a half size too big.”

Either there’s a Size 9 shoe box at Banana Republic with two left shoes in it, or a two left footed man with a right left foot a half size bigger than his left left foot who is about to enjoy the most comfortable casual Friday he’s ever known.

Bacon: Adventurer, Pioneer, Citizen

The coffee machines at work can do all kinds of magical things, like make espresso, hot chocolate, mochas, etc. I’ve only ever had black coffee, though, because that’s what I drink and I’m regimented and boring. I’m also a little scared that I’d find something else that I like and then wind up drinking like seven hot chocolates a day and then I’d be the one who has to tell the admin that the coffee machine is out of chocolate potion, or whatever, and then she’d be like, “Are you the one who’s using up all the chocolate potion?” and then I’d be like, “No, gosh no; I just wanted to try it. It’s my first time.” and then I’d smile and there’d be chocolate between my teeth and she’d scowl at me and I’d wish I’d never brought it up, but what I’d really wish is that I was holding a cup of hot chocolate, which the machine clearly offers; it just needs a little more potion, so why don’t you drop what you’re doing and just refill the machine? I mean, it’s your job, right?!

So: black coffee. It isn’t even that good. I get a little sad when I drink it.

I recently found out that our lease on the machines is almost up and will not be renewed. “What’s going to happen to the machines?” I asked. Nobody knows. But they won’t stay here. In the spirit of investigative blogging, and to broaden my horizons, I decided to try each of the different selections before they’re gone. Then, to broaden my horizons even broader, I’d go out for a run after each one and see what happens.

This is one of the fancy coffee machines:

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And this is what it can do:

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We’ve got two of them.

Black Coffee

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I love good coffee. At home on a Saturday morning, I’ll spend 10 minutes making myself the perfect cup of coffee. I keep my coffee beans in an airtight, space-age container and then grind them, by hand, moments before brewing. I spend more time making the coffee and cleaning up than I do drinking it.

Like I said, this coffee isn’t great. But it’s not the worst I’ve ever had and it’s what I’ve got to work with.

Run
I drink enough coffee that there’s always at least a little jiggling around in my blood. So this just felt like a normal run, which is to say: it was baconelevent in every way.

Espresso

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The best thing about Puerto Rico is that when you order a black coffee, your waiter, after eyeing you blankly for a moment, will walk away and return a few minutes later with an entire mug of espresso. Mrs. B and I were there a couple of years ago and spent our time alternating between moments of vacation perfection and maddening stress; there was no middle ground. It was gorgeous, but neither of us speaks a word of Spanish, there were no road signs anywhere and more than once we saw a dog on the roof of a house. The entire time I had enough caffeine in my body to give a pony a heart attack.

Run
A couple miles in, I passed a middle-aged man walking the opposite way with a boom box. He was holding it at his side, like a briefcase. As I got closer, I noticed that it was the real deal – silver, AM/FM radio, cassette player – and that it was playing Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” He was nearly strutting and well on his way to rocking out. I closed my eyyyyyyyyyes and I slipped awaaaaaay! I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. He ignored me.

“No Sugar Tonight” on the way back, by The Guess Who. He was owning it.

Cappuccino

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Up to this point I had no idea what a cappuccino was or what one tasted like, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to look like that. Anyway, I still have no idea what it is but it tastes like weak, foamy coffee and, if your office is quiet enough, sounds like Pop Rocks. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when it jostled around my insides during a run.

Run
I saw a bald eagle! What a patriotic cappuccino! I was running on the Chester Valley Trail and it flew over my head from behind and then turned off into a wooded area. It couldn’t have been more than 100 feet off the ground and it was HUGE, easily big enough to swoop down, pick up a dog and carry it into space. Holy cow. I’d never seen a bald eagle before.

Café Mocha

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This was actually pretty good! I’ve been working thirty feet from this coffee machine for 4 years and I’m just trying this now? In a week I’m back to a communal pot of weak coffee. What was that movie with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro? Awakenings? Remember Awakenings? Dammit.

Run
I was out for an easy 6 and it was a beautiful afternoon. I realized a couple of miles in that I was going to have to pee before I got back to the office, so I found a secluded spot and went behind a tree in the woods. By woods I mean parking lot, and by tree I mean dumpster. By dumpster I mean van. It was a turquoise Ford Windstar.

Decaf

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This was the hardest button for me to press. Decaf coffee is a perversion of nature; it shouldn’t exist. And it’s sneaky, too, because it looks just like real coffee. I know what you’re going to ask, and yes, I drank it. Yes, it was stupid. There’s no point to decaf coffee; it’s like brushing your teeth without toothpaste or having sex with a condom. (I’m kidding, it’s just a joke. Safe sex rocks, you guys. Stay in school.)

Run
Just took a nap in my car.

Hot Chocolate

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This wasn’t bad. A little gritty. The potion tastes like sand.

Run
There were four or five turkey vultures picking at a raccoon in the big field in front of Immaculata College. Lovely.

French Vanilla

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I had no idea what to expect, but this was delicious. Very frothy. Is it coffee? A latte? It tastes like whipped up, hot vanilla milk. Which is fine by me!

Run
I spent most of this run thinking about what it would be like to own a boat. Like a little speedboat. I was figuring out how to make it work and then remembered the phrase “boat shoes” which killed it for me.

Hot Water

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Booooring. I don’t know how people drink this.

Run
Fittingly, this run was unimaginably dull. It could only have been more boring if it had been longer.

 

Yesterday was the last day; the machines are gone. I’ll probably never see a bald eagle or that turquoise Windstar again.

Do You Need a Wheelchair, Or Can You Walk?

I’m usually pretty choosy when it comes to hospitals. I like them to be shiny and heavy, with free parking and good roast beef. I like tall doors and uncluttered hallways, high baseboards and crown molding. It’s important that if I were to suddenly find myself on the ceiling, I could still navigate the corridors with little difficulty. I prefer a floor plan that’s closer to “labyrinth” than “well thought out.” In the spirit of coziness.

After being diagnosed with more than one, but fewer than several, sports hernias, my running doctor recommended two surgeons. The first surgeon specializes in this kind of thing, does the sports hernia surgeries for all the famous athletes and only accepts cash. The second surgeon accepts insurance, and… No, no, that’s enough. I’ll take that guy.

In choosing a surgeon, I implicitly chose a hospital as well: Pennsylvania Hospital. Subjectivities like heft and neatness were difficult to ascertain from the internet, but my due diligence did uncover the following:

1. Pennsylvania Hospital was the first hospital in the United States and was founded by Benjamin Franklin
2. Parts of the movie Rocky II, starring Sylvester Stallone, were filmed on the Pennsylvania Hospital campus in 1978
3. It is nicknamed “Pennsy”

Pennsy?? For real? Barf. I began counting my cash, but then saw this: “On September 2, 1751, Mathias Koplin donated the first pot of gold for the new hospital.” Never mind! Ben Franklin, Rocky II, a pot of gold!?! I’m in.*

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There’s Nothing Wrong with Any of This

It’s amazing how quickly things can get out of hand.

It’s not really important how I got to this point. I will say that this whole debacle started with a metatarsal-crunching trail race, after which my Morton’s Neuroma and I decided never to run in my Pearl Izumi Peak IIs again. That, combined with my unfounded assumption that every one of my local running stores stocks a woefully limited selection of trail shoes was the seed from which this fiasco blossomed.

Add to that the fact that all of the road shoes in my rotation simultaneously had over 400 miles on them, and you get what Shooter McGavin might gravely declare “The Perfect Storm.”

On Sunday I had twelve brand new pairs of shoes in my house, all from Running Warehouse, which, and I can’t stress this enough, offers free returns.

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Some are replacement trail shoe candidates, some are road shoe replacements, and some are replacements for those replacements that suddenly went on sale, like a day after I placed the first order.

It was a lot of shoes.

When you have twelve pairs of new shoes in your house, it can go to your head. A normal person might get a little giddy. A madman might

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…use them as a blanket.

You really can’t do something like this with more than twelve pairs of brand new shoes. When you take the twenty-fourth shoe out of the box and lie down under it, you definitely have a sense of “enough is enough, you lunatic.” Look, it’s a lot of shoes. (Is anyone even arguing with me?)

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The Asics reminded me of Darth Maul, which is neither here nor there.

When you feel the firm, comforting weight of twenty-four brand new shoes spread across the entirety of your body, you’re bound to have thoughts that would never, ever cross the mid of an individual lying beneath a lesser number of shoes. It’s a mind-bending experience. You’ll want to line up the shoes. Maybe they’ll line up all by themselves! Maybe they’ll march right into your daughter’s room like waddly penguins.

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My God, have you ever seen anything so heartbreakingly adorable?

Once something like this is happening on the floor of your house, there’s no sense in fighting the inertia. You know where this is going.

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Boom.

(Look, have any of you ever slept beneath so many spotless laces and fabulous colors before coming up with a similarly magical idea? Exactly, so shut up.)

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Shhh.

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How, indeed.

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Before you report this blog or, heaven forbid, call the police, I just want to say: Let he who has never read a shoe book to twenty-four shoes cast the first stone.