Monday, June 29, 2009

Wedgie: Junior Jock?

I’ve been trying to figure out when I became a spaz at athletics. I have many traumatic memories of 4th grade gym class so I know it was before then. But I recently uncovered some evidence that suggests at one point I might have become a jock.

Every year, my elementary school held the “Byram Junior Olympics” and I found some old ribbons I won in second grade. Since I am always one to snatch victory from the hands of defeat, I have to think about what these ribbons actually mean. For starters, I don’t know if we competed against kids in our own class (meaning 24 kids, half of which were boys so that would be a pool of 12) or amongst our entire grade (of 100 kids, 50 boys, let’s say 30 showed up.) It’s hard to tell if these are meaningful ribbons, or if they tried to give out ribbons to as many kids as possible. (This was back in the mid-seventies, before the “don’t you dare hurt my little snowflake’s feelings” mentality set in, so I assume we competed against our entire grade.)

One of the First Place ribbons was for a relay race. As far as I know I could have been the slowest one on the team and the rest of them just carried me. I certainly didn’t drag them down, but I can’t really claim it as a personal victory.

The Second Place ribbon was for the Obstacle Course. I remember having to crawl through small tunnels and whatnot, which gave the advantage to the small scrawny kids. I’ll take it.

The Third Place ribbon was for the Long Jump. My father “trained” me by having me practice jumping at home. Most families have a wall where they mark off the height of growing children; we had a wood floor that marked my farthest jumps. I guess it paid off, because I did get a ribbon out of it.

I was no Bruce Jenner, but 3 ribbons is still not too shabby. Who knows... had I started playing sports in 3rd grade maybe I’d be doing Kona this year and not the lame Wisconsin course (I kid, I kid).

But perhaps the most telling sign of my future was my other ribbon; I won First Place in the poster contest. I suppose my destiny as an Athletic Supporter was written long, long ago.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Griffith Park (ing lot)

I do most of my runs in Griffith Park. I prefer running on the horse trails rather than the roads for several reasons: The packed dirt is softer than pavement and is easier on the knees. The trails are more level side-to-side than the roads - easier on the hips. And I don't have to worry about cars on the horse trail. Or so I thought.

I was finishing up a long run when I saw a white jeep/minvan pull out from the left on to the trail about 200 feet ahead. I thought this was odd, since to my left was a chain-link fence, 20 feet of "woods", and a freeway. It took me longer than it should have to realize "hey, he just crashed off the freeway."

I ran up to the driver and asked if he was OK. There was glass everywhere, and although he was a bit bloody the cuts turned out to be minor. He said he was fine but asked if I could open the door for him from the outside. There was no door handle. The entire driver's side of the car had been crushed in about 6-inches and the handle was sheared off. He had to get out the passenger side.

I guess what happened is that this guy was rear-ended by another car, which must have been going pretty fast considering that the entire front end of that car turned into an accordion. Car number two ran off the freeway, sideswiped a tree (destroying the driver's side) and crashed through the fence on to the horse trail.

Driver number one had some possible minor whiplash but no serious injuries.

I went back later and took a picture of the location. You might think "sure is lucky that he was able to drive through that clearing." But he actually created the clearing when his car plowed through the brush. He WAS lucky that he only sideswiped the tree in the center of the picture rather than hit it head on.Lesson learned: for safety's sake, stay off the trails and run in the middle of the road instead. It's safer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wedgie Labs: Trislide

We have a new feature on the blog: Wedgie Labs. Here I’ll be trying out some new products and letting you know the REAL story behind them. Those so-called “experts” in the magazines won’t give you the kind of real-world information you’re looking for; Wedgie will.

Bicycle John's, our local bike/tri shop, gave me some "Trislide" to try out. It's basically spray-on chafing-prevention. It's probably best used when you're wearing a wetsuit; I haven't started my open-water training yet so I can't give it a complete review but I have been using it on runs and rides so I can give some initial impressions.

The first thing you need to know about Trislide is that it can be COLD. Shake up the can, give yourself a little spray and it will wake you up pretty quickly. It’s a little tricky to get a nice even coating on your skin so you’ll probably want to use your hands to rub it around a bit. This means you’ll wind up with no-stick hands so don't be surprised if you keep dropping your keys afterwards.

I really wanted to put this stuff to the test, so I pulled out the ultimate chafing weapon: I have an old tri-jersey that never fit me right. It’s sleeveless, tight, the collar and arm openings are stiff... it’s just all-around uncomfortable. If anything was going to chafe me, this thing would. No testing is valid unless you can make some sort of comparison, so I lubed up the left side of my body with my usual Body Glide and used Trislide on the right, and went out for an hour run.

I think a picture speaks a thousand words: see that mark on the bodyglide side? That's not a shadow, that's the start of an actual blister. You wouldn't think that a one-hour run could cause any chafing, especially WITH Body Glide but like I said, this was no ordinary jersey. It really is that bad. The Trislide side was fine. Truthfully, had I put on extra coats of Body Glide I'm sure I would have been OK. But in this routine test, the Trislide won.

On long bike rides, I usually use Chamois Butt'R Cream under my shorts but I've switched to the Trislide. The Trislide has an odd but important advantage: The Butt'r Cream is very thick, and for those of us who don't shave our legs year-round it can be a little uncomfortable rubbing it on to the skin. The Trislide goes on much easier and seems to give the same amount of protection. Unfortunately, Trislide does NOT make the hills any easier to climb.

You can apply Body Glide to your skin while already wearing a jersey by rolling it on, something you can't do with an Aerosol can. So for shorter runs, I still prefer Body Glide (assuming I'm wearing a jersey that actually fits me.) But for long runs (multi-hour), it's probably worth it to take the extra time with the Trislide for the added protection. And for biking, I prefer it over the Butt'r Cream. I still don't know how well it works with a wetsuit, but once the ocean temperature goes up just a few more degrees I'll give it a try.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Frak Wisconsin's hills

There are many verbal Pavlovian responses in the english language. For example, if I say "knock knock", you say _________. If I say "Conjunction Junction", you say _________. If I say "Wonder Twin powers", you say _________. (And if you youngens' don't know what to say, why don't you just go Goodle it on the Intarwebs and stay off my lawn!)

I've discovered a new reflex response: when I say "I'm doing Ironman Wisconsin", people say "oh... those hills are bad." I don't like this response. When I told people "I'm doing Coeur d'Alene", they'd say "oh, that's a beautiful course" or "wow, you're going to love it." I'm just tired of hearing about the Wisconsin hills.

Yes, Wisconsin has rolling hills with twice as much climbing as Coeur d'Alene (but only 1/2 the altitude gain.) I get it. That's why we train hills. You might as well tell me "you're doing Wisconsin? That's a long bike ride." Yes. We know.

And here's the other thing: as far as Ironman courses go, WISCONSIN ISN'T HILLY! I'm sorry, but it isn't. Lake Placid has hills. Canada has hills. Lanzarote has... I don't even want to THINK about what they have there. I want to be perfectly clear that I am in no way disrespecting the course or underestimating it. I understand that the bike will be more difficult than Coeur d'Alene, and I will train accordingly. I just don't understand this compulsion people have to mention the Wisconsin hills, when they don't do it for other races which are clearly far more difficult.

So if you run into me and I tell you I'm doing Ironman Wisconsin, you don't need to tell me about the hills. I've heard about them. You can warn me about the bad weather (yeah, I know already) or the choppy swim (yeah, I know already) or maybe you can just say "you're gonna have a great time!" and leave it at that.