Ridiculously photogenic track

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I run in a damn fine looking spot. Leg was starting to feel like it was going to cramp, but never quite made it there. I’m taking this as a sign I’m doing something right.

Shin status: early malfunction warning signs.
Shirt of the day: Venture Bros: “my glorious leader went to the Calamity Conference and only got his best henchman this lousy t-shirt”

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… That Worked?

As it turns out, the Reservoir track is just shy of 1.61 miles. I know this, because that’s how far I ran in 20 minutes (a 13.something minute pace), and it took me past the point where I started running. 

Yes, I’m being intentionally nonchalant about the fact that I completed the full 20 minute run, about which I was apprehensive earlier.

Image

 

Then again, RunDouble was pretty confident I could make it, as was one of my readers (thanks again!).

I didn’t entirely doubt myself, but I was a little worried. I have proven my preconceptions wrong on more than a few occasions. However, 20 minutes, I am relatively sure, is the longest continuous running I’ve ever done (did I mention was/am out of shape?). I have cut my run short before, which I kind of regretted–deep down, I believe that was my biggest concern: disappointing myself.

That was also the thought that kept me going. That, and the converse: how great will it be when you finish? How awesome will it feel?

Turns out, it feels pretty great. Not to gloat or anything, but I’m kind of awesome. 

 

Shin Status: 1 part run-achy, 1-part dog-smashy (visiting my family, one of our dogs whacked it into a door frame. Ow)
Shirt of the day: ‘Rainy Day,’ from ShirtPunch.com

It’s a little hard to describe, and I can’t find a picture. So! Extended Description:Two people in what looks to my eyes like a old French cartoon style, under a raincloud and umbrellas look down, in horror, at a third whose umbrella is crushed and he’s unconscious. Above them, Lakitu (of Mario Bros. fame) floats with her spiny eggs, one of which lies near the unconscious man. 

Following-Up

Slightly crazy week, slightly long day ahead of me. Have to pack the 20-minute run into my day. 

Mostly updating because I never talked about Wednesday’s run, which featured two 8-minute runs separated by a 5-minute walk. Surprised and pleased, as I have been in the past, that I was able to finish the run. Started with a stretch, stayed slow as I could be, and managed to power through–was even a little surprised when my count on the second run was off, and I was finished faster than I expected to be. 

 

Today the last day of C25k Week 5. That’s the 20-minute run aforementioned. That is making me a little nervous.

 

Shin Status: Apprehensive.
Shirt of the (Wednes)day: “Sorry, Glenn, the only Beck I listen to has two turntables and a microphone.”

My Game Face

While walking home from yesterday’s run, I passed a girl heading toward the reservoir. She was running downhill on Commonwealth Avenue, on the hill before my apartment. Her face was twisted in a grimace of pain and disgust, which I am quite certain is not the look she was going for. 

This got me wondering: what expression does my face bear while running? 

What I like to think is a face of serene determination: teeth gritted, the corners of my mouth even, eyes slightly narrowed with focus. 

The reality, I’m sure, is more along the lines of derangement: lips drying out and slowly falling from a slight smile to that same grimace, sweat beading on my forehead, eyes squinting out the sun as my glasses slide slowly down the bridge of my nose–thanks in no small way to the combination of the aforementioned sweat and the up-and-down movement from my run.

When I see other runners on the track, some of them have the expression I’m aiming for, so perhaps I’m mistaken. 

Mostly I hope that, when a passing runner smiles at me, I succeed in returning that pleasantry, rather than glowering at them with unintended, pain-inspired ire. 

 

Shin Status: Yesterday was a lot of running. Today was a lot of walking. 
T-Shirt of the Day: “It came out of nowhere”–the TARDIS crashing into the Back to the Future Delorean. 

Why Am I Doing This?

I made the mistake of looking ahead on the Week 5 program for C25k. Next Friday, it’s a 20-minute run. That’s the entire program. 5 minutes to warm up, 5 to cool down, and 20 straight running. I am intimidated. But, I’ll likely draw on my pig-headed determination to see me through it.

The question I’m setting out to answer today is: why am I writing about this experience

There are a few reasons. The first is, knowing there is an audience will keep me honest. It does also keep me writing, something I love to do. 

Mostly, however, I want to prove to both myself, and to other people, that it isn’t that hard to do. 

“I am not a runner,” I have said in the past.

I have never really considered myself to be one. I used to get winded running to catch the T. I seldom played sports, and dropped out of soccer when I was quite young. I am not what one might call “athletic.” Yet, I can do this. It is not beyond my physical capabilities, as I had previously assumed. I have been rethinking that, among other things

Hitting the track, in my head, was also an expensive proposition. I hear of $150+ shoes, and see people heading out in expensive name-brand clothing. When the notion of running first entered my mind, the cost seemed prohibitive; I didn’t want to shell out money for a hobby I would never really get into.

If I was going to run, I wanted to do it inexpensively, and I wanted to do it at my own pace. I didn’t know where to start, didn’t really think it was something I could do, and expected to give up after a couple of weeks. 

Instead, I have  just completed week 4 of the C25k program. 

Here’s what I’ve spent so far. 

Running Shoes – Champions C9: $29.99 at Target
Gym Shorts – Champions C9: $9.99 at Target
Athletic Socks – Hanes 6 pack: $10.99
Running App – RunDouble C25k: $1.59 on the App Store
Running Track – Chestnut Hill Reservoir: Free

My initial investment was $42 and change. 

Running Armband – TuneBelt: $17.95 on Amazon
Insoles – Dr. Scholls Athletic: $24.99 at CVS

Another cost of $40.

Recently, I went back to Target, and picked up a new pair of pants and shorts. One for the impending winter of Boston, and one so I have an extra pair to wash (also it was on sale). 

Running Shorts – Champions C9, (with a black go-faster stripe): $8.04 at Target (on clearance)
Running Pants – Champions C9: $16.99

All told, less than $25. 

Meaning that for about $107, I got myself through the first half of a C25k program, and am still going strong. Less than the cost of a pair of expensive running shoes. Although, your mileage may vary. 

If I can do this, I truly believe other people can. That’s why I’m writing.

 

Shin Status: It’s been a long week…
T-Shirt of the Day: Box art for Activision’s Pitfall!, an old Atari 2600 game.

Neutralman: Episode One – Neutral Man vs. a House Fire

Neutralman: Episode One - Neutral Man vs. a House Fire

Recently rediscovered this old “series” of comics I wrote while working at the Northeastern University bookstore.

My colleagues and I discovered a ring with a white cross on a red field, similar to that of the Swiss flag. While it most likely came from a SwissGear backpack, we chose to believe it was a magic ring of power that would grant the wearer superhuman neutrality. Thus, Neutralman was born!

Runemployment

“31-Mississippi, 32-Mississippi, 33-Mississippi…”

I’ll give up after this cute girl runs past, I think to myself. Just a few more steps, and then we can stop.

She runs past. I keep running. This is the last five-minute interval, day two of the C25k Week 4 program I’m on. This is the one that kicked my ass earlier in the week. If Monday is any indication, should I slow down, I’ll be slowed for at least 30 seconds before I get my act back together and run some more.

“36-Mississippi, 37-Mississippi, 39-Mississippi…”

Keep going. We’re more than halfway there. We can give up at the four-minute mark.

I swallow a few seconds as a bug flies perilously near my mouth, which is inhaling and exhaling mechanically. I lose my count, but choose a rough estimate number and keep counting. 

Today is the first day of my unemployment. I was laid off from my previous job, which was work-from-home for the most part. The main difference in my running is that, instead of finishing my work and going for a jog, I built a coffee table and puttered around the house before heading out. So far, I’m not complaining. 

The job situation provides a few seconds of distraction, as I start thinking about the two retail opportunities I have open to me at the moment. I debate putting a few more emails out after I get home and shower. Somehow, I’m thinking of this all while still counting the seconds to myself. 

“59-Mississippi, 60-Mississippi, 1-Mississippi.”

I finish that 60-second-ish count, and start another. The counting isn’t accurate, but it’s keeping part of my mind occupied, and not thinking about the burning in my legs, or the aching in my shins. Or how much I just want to stop. However, I have figured that I really want to go for it. 

Revenge. The second 5-minute interval kicked my ass last time, and this time it’s going down.

I have been counting semi-aloud; each second half-whispered on my inhale and exhale. I notice several passing runners looking at me, and start to feel self-conscious. I spend a lot of time talking to myself when in the confines of my own home, and usually feel a little exposed when I start doing it in public. 

“52-Mississippi, 53-Mississippi, 54-Missisipp–“

Bzzzt. Bzzt.” My phone interjects, “Slow to an easy pace to cool down.”

I turn on my heel, and start back toward the exit; I ran past it about 90-seconds into the interval. As I’m walking back on myself, a group of 8 or 9 children pass me, running ahead of an adult. I start to wonder if my sudden heel-turn looks the way I intended it: I have run exactly as far as I need to, and will go no further. Here is where I drop the mic, but have fun.

 

On the walk back to my apartment, I stop to greet a dog who’s giving his handler a run for her money, and start thinking about what the point of this blog actually is. More on that later. 

 

Shin Status: Surprisingly okay. Better than on Monday, even.
T-Shirt of the Day: New England Webcomics Weekend 2 (from the time I volunteered at the second Webcomics Weekend in Easthampton, MA).

The Unsure Runner’s First Retraction

“Whose brilliant idea was it to build the Reservoir so far away from my house?”

I am trudging home after attempting C25k Week 4, Day 1. I was not as good as I could have been. The last running interval was, well, not continuous. In my defense, 5 minutes is a long time to do anything continuously. I’m not kicking myself–in part, because I feel like a military academy–I can genuinely say I gave it my best effort. I managed to make the other three running intervals without too much incident, and ran for the majority of the last one. Today is the first day that running sucked. 

“Why am I doing this to myself?”

The counting was helping, to a point. Counting out the seconds, roughly, that I had run gave me something to think about while my legs filled slowly with an ache. It was a brief distraction, and is probably what got me through the first 5-minute interval. 

I felt good about making it through that one. 

According to the stats, which I managed to catch after the first 5-minute interval, I had run 0.49 miles in that time. I am pretty confident that is the farthest I have ever run at one time.

When the voice in my head told me I was halfway through the run, I was further around the reservoir than I any time in the past I have received that message. I looked, and knew I was going to have to make at least part of a second loop around the reservoir. 

The final interval, with a couple of walking breaks, clocked in at .47 miles. I think I was running slower to begin with, but also definitely slowed down. Still, that .02 of a mile doesn’t sound too terrible in the grand scheme of things. 

I’m not officially retracting anything (that made for a catchy title), but I do kind of want to take back some of the things I’ve said about running to date. It hasn’t sucked so far, probably because the “easing myself into it” portion is over. With the honeymoon past, it’s starting to get serious. We are no longer cuddling and making popcorn for each other, running and I are starting to get into fights about day-to-day living, and getting frustrated by each others’ foibles and idiosyncrasies. 

I’m not walking away–or limping, to be more accurate. I’m not giving up yet, but I am starting to feel like I should have stayed home. It’s now up to my pig-headed determination to keep me running through the rest of the C25k program; I said I’d do it, now I’m going to finish it. Next run, I’m going to make both 5-minute intervals. 

 

Which, I guess, brings me back to the sentiment with which I opened this blog: It’s a lovely day to do something awful to yourself

 

Shin status: ERROR. FILE NOT FOUND. ABORT/RETRY/FAIL?
Shirt of the Day: Long-sleeved, solid grey over Patch.com (my soon-to-be former employer).

The Hipster Inside Me: Or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the first album.

Hello. My name is Grahame, and, well, I drink PBR.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil, “He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

When speaking to a friend several months ago, I asked, “does anyone actually know any hipsters?”

The questions was charged with a certain degree of an ulterior motive; I was beginning to doubt their existence. We analyzed the list of our most hipster friends, but could only find rumor and urban legend. We knew people who displayed traits, but managed to have the condition largely under control.

Reggie Watts posits in his autobiographical song “My History Thus Far,” that people who identify as hipsters are trying to create an insular social group that doesn’t want to be infiltrated, although they are creating facsimiles of themselves and as a result infiltrating themselves.

Even on a recent, brief trip to Brooklyn, I wasn’t able to spot the elusive hipster in his natural habitat. We have all seen the photos: blurry scans of polaroids, a well-maintained moustache and an ironic–i.e., regrettable–tattoo. However, there I was in their natural home, and I was unable to locate one.

“Allston is kind of the younger brother of Williamsburg,” I remarked to traveling companions, attempting to disparage a place I’d heard so much about. “People hang out with Allston, in hopes that their brother will show up, but they never do and they’re stuck with.

Fact is, I was enjoying Williamsburg. I didn’t feel at home there, but it felt within my comfort level. Unlike certain parts of the City which I’d found overwhelming, it felt more down-to-earth. The food was good, there were bars open past 2 a.m. (an impossibility in my city to the north). I observed people passing by, and certainly saw some peculiarly-dressed folk, but remember getting the sense that I was seeing them out of context. Everyone seemed to be going somewhere they would eventually fit in, but no one from the Tumblr which had so excellently catalogued the rise of the subculture’s oddities.

In the months since the trip, I think I began to realize where the hipster went. I began to suspect that the creature we so feared and reviled was actually among us.

On one hand, I, like many, have spent plenty of time reading the LATFH Tumblr. I have dismissed bands as “too hispter for their own good” (yes, you, Fun.). I have avoided–and expressed disdain for–my city’s most “hipster” neighborhood, and the subset of people who ironically wear clothing and call it home. I tried to put distance between myself and the infamous hipster.

Then i took a long look at myself, as i prepared to go out to a club rated the 15th douchiest in Boston. As I prepared to feel out of place, and to mock my fellow patrons without mercy, it hit me: i was too hipster for the venue. The truth is, I certainly have some of the tendencies of that subset. I like bands you almost never catch on the radio; in fact, I actively seek music from independent labels, and get titled off when I catch a song I like on threw same airwaves as Justin Bieber. I wear Converse, and T-shirts with obscure pop-culture references. I was too lazy to get out to some of the recent elections (although I told people I voted). I don’t have a fixed-gear, but have been rebuilding an old bike with some friends. While convenience is a factor, I have bought groceries from the co-op across the street more recently than I have been to a major supermarket. And yes, I quite enjoy an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Because of this, I am starting to lose faith in the existence of the Hipster. Every social group has people like myself in them–non-conformists, people with a good sense of that they hate, people with an odd sense of humor. In the history of mankind, countless human beings have made decisions–be it in life, love or fashion–that make their closest friends roll their eyes behind their backs. Sure, we even know people with “hipster tendencies,” but we’re willing to make excuses for them. ‘They aren’t a “full-blown” hipster.’ ‘They are really down to earth.’ ‘He’s kind of a hipster, but not so bad you’d notice.’

My suspicion is this: the hipster itself is a gestalt entity. we created a monster from spare parts and anecdotes, and left him to patrol the outskirts of our social borders. It is a strawman amalgam of the worst kinds of people you hear about at parties, the non-conformists that have taken things a bit too far, the people who are have gotten so far out of touch with the definition of irony that they wear it as a badge of honor, the people so in love with their own opinions they can’t listen to a contrary one. No one person is guilty of the whole list of crimes, but the whole species is lumped together and dismissed. We now keep this image around to remind us where the boundaries lie–we need these Icarus figures to show us where the sun is.

Who is the Dr. Frankenstein behind this creation? We are. Each time we spread the myth along, we passed on the worst pieces of our social groups. We incorporated our friends’ irritating habits, so that we can dismiss those parts as a larger problem, and not an actual eccentricity of our friends. The hipster is our social scapegoat.

It is time to own that. It’s time to take responsibility for the worst parts of ourselves, acknowledge that Vampire Weekend’s first album had an energy that their later two efforts haven’t quite captured, and team up against the true threat: Bros.

[Update: One comic writer has posited an excellent addition to this: Dustin Glick’s Theory of Hipster Relativity. Definitely worth checking it out. 5:55 p.m., Oct 14]

Echolocation

Posted to the wrong blog again. Whoops.

Out of My Head

I have become a schizophrenic. I run when the voice in my head tells me to run; I stop when it tells me to walk. 

“Start running now.” 

The voice is a mechanical female–who sounds suspiciously like the GPS app with which I get into regular battles–the narrator from the RunDouble app (yes, it’s probably the same voice). I kick into a higher pace, and look down the track, trying to spot the bench I estimate I will pass, marking the of this interval. 

I’m usually wrong; the estimate is short by several feet. 

Between tracks on the album selected for my run, I hear the crunch of gravelly footfalls behind me. I keep looking over my shoulder, trying to figure out who’s following me, and whether I need to shift over to let a more experienced–i.e., faster–runner zip past me. 

There’s no one behind me. I’m hearing my own…

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