Rising to the challenge



A man with no goal is a rudderless ship, subject to the whims of fickle Neptune's fathomless fancies…


No, wait, that's not right. (Well, it is right, but it's not going to get me to the point I want to make. Lemme start over.)


A man with no goal is a ship safe at port. He hath access to all he might need, but knoweth not how strong the stuff of his sails may be.


Stand by for actual example intended to double as allegory in 3… 2… 1:


Years ago almost everything I ate was bland. There was no garlic in my life. No curries. No peppers. It was, in part, a result of the company I kept but, in truth, I didn't even really aspire to spicy.


I had dabbled before and felt the heady rush of the flavorful fire. But mostly I played it safe. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, and I wasn't willing to risk the cost.


I won't go into what made my tastes change, but they did. And suddenly spicy sounded pretty damned good. Some peppers here, some salsa there. Shake a little Tabasco on that, wouldja? I bounced around, trying this and that, but eventually I had to admit I was getting nowhere. I decided I needed to test myself – to stretch my boundaries. I needed a plan. I needed a goal.


Now, let's be honest, spicy food goals are limited in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Thankfully, there is BW3. I set my sights on the Blazin' Challenge.


Blazin Challenge


This was a worthy goal. It scared me (though I certainly wasn't going to let anyone know). There was going to be nothing comfortable about this zone.


Here's the thing you need to know about the Blazin' Challenge: The spiciness of the Blazin' sauce is no higher than third on your list of worries.


Problem number one is the temperature of the wings. See, the waitress brings your wings straight out from the kitchen, accompanied by a Wing Nazi. The Wing Nazi is equipped with a stopwatch. And when she hits that button, your six minutes start. Those wings are hot. That's problem number one.


Problem number two is more of a timed-release problem that I won't go into in this venue.


And yes, the Blazin' sauce is problem number three. It's pretty darned hot. And they slather a whole lot more of it onto your Blazin' Challenge order than they do when you place a regular ol' lunchtime order for a dozen Blazin' wings.


It made me sweat. It made me drool. It cut loose viscous strands of runny snot that issued forth from my nostrils in just about the least attractive way possible. But I did it. I did it in about four and a half minutes. I set the highest goal I could imagine and did what I needed to do to reach that goal.


That's what we should do more of, don't you think? I'm not very good at challenging myself, but I do pretty well at facing up to challenges when they're put before me. Corinne's awesome like that. She has a bold-but-delicate way of challenging me to try new things. To reach farther. To do something bigger and better. (No, she hasn't gotten me to write a book yet. But she'll never stop trying. Guess it's a goal of hers!)




Play and win valuable prizes!


Corinne and I are playing another of our little games. (No, this one does NOT involve a Catholic school girl costume. I'm NEVER putting that thing on again.)


Here's the way this one's going to work: Corinne's going to give me random topics and I'm going to have two days to work that topic into a blog post. So today it might be nihilism. Friday it might be purple unicorns. I don't know what she's going to give me.


And, originally, I thought I'd just keep it quiet to see if I could weave these random topics into posts that make sense out of context.


But then I thought, what the hell – let's make a game out of it!


Check out the stuff I post, starting with yesterday's Mud Run post and ending when I tell you I'm done. (Except this one. Ignore this one. Well, don't IGNORE this one, because I'm trying to tell you something here. But don't waste a whole lot of time searching for a hidden topic or theme in this post.)


If you think you've figured out my assigned topic for a post, go ahead and comment on it. If you're right…um…I'll give you some kind of valuable prize [to be determined]. Could be a $5 iTunes gift card (but probably not), could be a 50 cent coupon on Hot Pockets, could be an autographed picture of Brady Borkoski dressed as Burt Reynolds. Whatever. The joy comes in winning, you greedy little monkeys.


That being said, go back and check out yesterday's post, then keep an eye on what's coming next. (To get you started – and I hope I'm not making this too obvious – yesterday's headline was a clue.)


Have fun!


Skoog




She’s my little rock and roll


 



On Saturday, Corinne and I did the MS Mud Run – Twin Cities. (Tell me again, exactly which city is Dresser, Wisconsin's twin?) It was a fantastically kick-ass time, with a ton of great stories to tell. For shorthand versions of some of those, see below.* The thing I want to talk about though is the positively equalizing effect of thick, full-coverage mud.


We live in a world wracked with body image issues and flagging self esteem. Fortunately, what was true in Akron in 1938 is just as true today. Everyone looks great when they're covered head-to-toe in mud. There's something undeniably sexy about a woman willing to sabotage her manicure to support MS research.


Slathered on, monochromatic mud, obtained in the charitable pursuit of a goal, just does something that highlighted streaks and smoky eye-shadow never could.


Complete mud immersion therapy can balance out imagined flaws. Insecure a-cup girls? I'm going to guess you could pack on at least a cup size worth of muck after crawling through 6+ miles of it. And c-cup girls? Oh, who the hell am I kidding? You all looked great right from the start.


I want to be perfectly clear that my point isn't anything lurid or crude. Seriously. (I climbed a lot of steep hills on Saturday with my face mere feet away from Rachel's or Jodi's ass [or Justin's ass, too, I suppose]. And, since both Isaac and Chad could swiftly and easily beat me senseless [as, I suppose, could both Corinne and Reba], I want the record straight that my mind was always exactly where it belonged – on the searing pain in my left calf and the jabbing rocks in my right boot.


I'm talking about the pure, wholesome beauty that every person possesses when glistening in the glorious filth of human kindness. And that's straight-up hot.


 


*Shorthand versions of Mud Run stories


• We signed up two teams. My Curmudgeons ran in the competitive-coed-teams-of-five division. Corinne's Angels With Dirty Faces ran in the DGAP division. (Don't Give a Poop. No, seriously. That's what they call it.)

• After much shuffling and more who's in / who's out than an MLB all-star game, the rosters that lined up to face the starting gun were:


Curmudgeons
    • Justin Gauerke
    • Jodi Rohe
    • Rachel Watkins
    • Rachel's fellow-phy-ed-teacher buddy, Mark (a.k.a., Grambo)
    • Me
Angels With Dirty Faces
    • The always angelic Corinne
    • Corinne's sister, Annette (who must have some angel in her, genetically speaking, given Corinne's angelic status)
    • The must-be-angelic-because-everyone-seems-to-like-her Gina Nacey
    • Honorary angel and much better sport than he gets credit for, Eric Nacey

• Gina had a plane to catch that evening, but she wanted to get all the way to the end of that course, just to jump off the tower into the 7-foot "mud pool".


So she and Eric sprinted off from the beginning (they ended up running a faster time than our competitive team) and left Corinne and Annette to spend some quality bonding time that they don't get much of. I think that was really cool. There's a gap in age between Corinne and Annette. I'm not going to get into how big a gap it is, but suffice it to say that Corinne's Barbie clothes were out of style by the time they got handed down to Annette. This was one of very few times that they've gotten to spend a few hours together without kids or spouses or anyone, just working together toward a goal. Worth the price of admission, right there.


• No one got seriously hurt. That's a legitimate concern here. I'm not sure how we managed to get 9 of us through that course with nothing more than some truly nasty looking blisters. I think I was the most wounded of anyone and my greatest injury occurred when I pulled a muscle making the always-dangerous parking lot run from the gas station to the ATM before we even left Sartell.


• Chad Gertken has the patience of a saint. He showed up with us, waited through the Angels' wave, then continued waiting while the Curmudgeons ran, and never complained at all. Not even an eye roll. Chad – and I say this in the most reverent tone possible – you are the consummate bag bitch.


• Sure, just about everyone enjoyed the post-race beer. But how many racers were as dedicated to their hops as Justin and I were with our pre-race beer? Suck on that, spaghetti feed.


 


 




  • Corinne annette gina

  • Gina and corinne

  • Mud brain

  • Pre race


Pre race



 


 




“Nenikékamen”


And with that single utterance to the people of Athens, "We have won," Pheidippides collapsed and died from exhaustion.


Or so the story goes.


Ol' Pheidippides and I; we're kindred spirits now. Sure, he ran his from the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens after fighting all day in full armor while I ran mine through the streets of Fargo (and Moorhead, don't forget Moorhead) after sleeping in the back of my truck. But basically it's pretty much the same deal. And it's kind of a big deal.


I'm a "marathon runner" now. I love that I can say that. And I love that I'll always be able to say that, even if I never choose to do this again.


Race results
Brace yourself, this is going to be another long one. I'll try and break it down with some subheads so you can just pick what (if anything) interests you!


Lodging


Races like these are trouble. But without logistical support, they'd be even more trouble. And no one is more supportive than Corinne. She's awesome.


There were 23,000 people signed up to run in Fargo this weekend (bunch of different races) and it seemed like every one of them except me remembered to book a hotel room. Fortunately my wife was able to find a space at what was either a former KOA or a former beet farm (or both).  Crappy road


So Friday night I wedged my Expedition between a rusty fire ring and an anemic maple sapling and we were home for the night. 


Truck camping


Training


My training was, again, less than it should have been. (I've got to stop doing that.) I did the Earth Day Half Marathon last month. I did a 10-mile run a couple weeks ago and an 8-miler the week after that. This past Monday I ran to work, so there's 9. Beyond that, I woke up and did 10k a couple of mornings here and there. Last year at Earth Day I ran the 20-miler. That's the longest I'd ever run. So once I reached that point in the race I knew I'd be in uncharted territory. And I was.


Nutrition


On Friday night, after we got into town and picked up my packet, we figured we'd better get something to eat. We stopped at an unassuming little sports bar called Labby's. If you're ever in Fargo I suggest you do your best to avoid it. Since it took approximately an hour to get my cowboy burger, I was logistically forced to have a second beer.


In the morning I was better. I had a banana and a Clif bar to go along with my can of Diet Coke.


Running


I've heard it said that a marathon is really two races. There's a 20 mile race…and then there's that last 6.2. Believe that. It's absolutely true.


The race had pace runners (which is a totally fantastic concept). I found the 4-hour goal time guy (that's 9:10 minute miles, in case you're wondering) and just hung with him.


Six miles? Feeling really good and almost exactly on pace. The halfway point? Still feeling pretty good, all things considered. After that came the 14-, 15- and 16-mile marks. Joints starting to get a little worn down – primarily my hips. By the time I hit 17 miles, I was beginning to realize that I wasn't going to make it the whole way with my pace runner. But realizing that and giving in to it are two different things. So I hung on gamely. He'd start getting some separation from me…and I'd reel him back in.


We went on that way until the 20-mile mark. After that, as the yards between us started to grow, I knew there was no comeback left in me. At that point it became a game of goal revision.


My 4-hour goal was bounding up the street, out of my reach. I needed to come up with a new goal quickly because, if I didn't, my brain was going to start playing with the idea that maybe "finishing a marathon" is a noble goal.


The problem with that is that "finishing a marathon" was never in doubt. I was absolutely going to cross that finish line. No question. So, out on that course, that meant that accepting "finishing a marathon" as my goal was the same as "giving up." I had tried my damndest for my 4-hour goal – and, for 20 miles, I'd been right there. But that wasn't going to happen. So what was going to happen?


I started with "RUN an entire marathon."


That sounded good, but I knew that still left me with a lot of wiggle room. So I eventually modified it to, "run the whole thing, and finish without getting caught by the 4:15 group."


That worked. I did it. I know it wasn't pretty. I could tell by some of the poignantly sympathetic looks I started getting from spectators along those last couple of miles. A few hundred yards from the finish, they had a camera that played video on a big screen alongside the road and also on the jumbo screen inside the Fargodome (so spectators could watch and prepare for when their special someones were about to come in) and I saw myself onscreen there. So I know it was ugly at the end.


But I did it.


Injuries


I was pretty worried about chafing. For that reason, I diligently lubed up my crotch and my nipples. Mission accomplished there. No problem. I forgot, however, to lube up my armpits. I'd never really had any problem with armpit chafing. That was a mistake. I'm pretty raw.


Other than that, not too much to report. Most of my toes are a little blistered, but nothing painful or traumatic. My right pinky toe is fairly bruised up, but no biggie. My wrist was a little bloody from my watch rubbing on it. Whatever.


Afterwards


I've never felt closer to passing out after a race than I did in Fargo. It didn't help that the finishing chute went on forever and then, when you did get out of the chute, you had to fight your way through the crowd and up two flights of stairs to get out of the building. So Corinne took me by the hand and guided me as I wobbled along the trek toward a door and a soft patch of grass right outside that door. I collapsed in a heap there and waited while Corinne ran to get the truck and pick me up so we could leave. I didn't even wait around to get my official time. Marathon finish


It didn't seem to matter at the time. I'd done what I came to do. I had the shirt. I had the medal… And I had my wife to do the driving on the way home. I was a happy, tired guy.




Driven… To the brink of insanity


IMG_0032


Last week at church they showed a video clip of the guy from whom I ripped off the title of my blog. His name's Mark Gungor. And his premise is basically that men's and women's brains are just constructed differently.


Funny and accurate. We're constructed differently. It's not good or bad. It just is.


Don't believe it? Try planning a bike ride.


 


MEN


Eric: We should do that Tuesday Night Time Trial next week.


Me: Next Tuesday I'm supposed to go out to dinner with Erin. But the chances are really good that she's going to blow me off. If she does, let's do it!


Eric: When do they start? 5:30 or 6?


Me: 5:30.


Eric: Okay.


Me: Cool.


 


WOMEN


Me: Corinne and Paulette were going to go for a ride tonight, but Corinne wasn't feeling well, so they bagged it.


Eric: Yeah, I heard about that. I made the mistake of asking Gina if she was going along.


Me: What happened?


Eric: She said, "I wasn't invited." She's a little bit hurt.


Me: Corinne was just the opposite. She kept asking me, "Why is Paulette asking ME to go for a ride?"


Eric: What did you tell her?


Me: I said, "For starters, there's the distinct possibility that she enjoys your company, since you two are FRIENDS. But, beyond that, didn't you just tell me two days ago about the conversation you and Paulette had about how great it would be if there was a women's group ride that just went out to ride at a nice, slow, casual pace?"


Eric: Oh, THAT's why they didn't invite Gina.


Me: Right. So Corinne says, "So is Paulette saying I'm slow?" I said, "No, she's saying perhaps you might like to go for a no-pressure, slow ride." And she says, "That means she thinks I'm slow." I said, "But you DO want to go for a nice, no-pressure, slow ride." She says, "I know that. But she didn't have to call me slow. I think she just called me fat, too. And why didn't she invite Gina or Rebecca?" And here's where I made my big mistake.


Eric: Uh oh.


Me: I said, "Because they ride faster. There's nothing good or bad about it – they just do it more often." And she says, "You just called me slow and fat, too."


Eric: Careful.


Me: And I said, "No I didn't. Look, you like to go out and just pedal around casually. Rebecca is more driven to ride races."


Eric: You dumb shit.


Me: So she says, "What? I'm not driven? I do X, Y and Z at work…" And I tried to correct myself…


Eric: But it was too late.


Me: I said, "Of course you're driven at work. You're amazing. You're a rock star. But I'm talking about riding bikes here," And she says, "No we're not, we're talking about whether or not I'm driven." And I tried to point out that you can't be driven in all possible directions simultaneously. There's no such thing as universal drive.


Eric: How'd that go?


Me: We ended up discussing the definition for the word "driven" and I admitted that I was completely and profoundly wrong and had chosen the absolute wrong word.


Eric: Nice try. So are they going to go for a ride or what?


Me: I think so. Someday. They haven't set a date yet.




I’m not buying it yet


Twins beer
 
Okay bandwagon jumpers, I'm not buying it yet. Liriano's no-hitter could be the spark that ignites this team. And then they follow it up with another win this afternoon? Still, I'm not buying it yet.


In fact, I'm going to have a beer tonight. (No special occasion. I just happen to like beer.) But I won't be drinking it out of a Twins pint glass.


That's right. I'm announcing right here – for all the interweb to see – that I am hereby taking my Twins pint glasses out of the freezer and putting them up on the highest shelf. I'm removing them from the starting rotation.


They shall not touch another hoppy drop until the Twins go on a winning streak. I'm not asking for much here. I'm realistic about this team's short-term prospects even if I can't get excited about two games. (Two games does NOT count as a "win streak".) Just give me a three-game win streak. One little win on Thursday at Fenway and I'll fill you back full of foamy happiness, Twins glasses.


See what kind of influence you have with the boys. Rally cap and I are about shot.