My Virtual 5K (I didn't vomit...)

At 11:20 AM on Saturday, I set out to run the Wee Little Virtual 5K. I started out at a good pace, but pretty quickly things went south.

Stupidly, I had played badminton the night before. I was hoping for just a light sweat, nothing too intense, but my competitive nature makes it hard for me to just play for fun. I pushed a bit too hard, and eventually I lunged for drop shot at the net and felt my left knee twinge. Not too bad, just a moment of pain, but I didn't take the hint - I finished the game. And about 5 more after that.

The next morning, it felt a bit tight but I was ready to get moving, so I decided that I didn't need any ibuprofen. I was ok for the first mile or so, but shortly after that I started getting a little jolt of pain behind my kneecap with every stride. I figured it would lessen if I slacked the pace a bit, so I eased up and it did feel a little better.

Thinking I was in the clear, I began to check my watch against landmarks on the course and try to guess my finish time. At that point, a 35:00 was still possible, and I was hopeful.

It was about the halfway point that the wind started to pick up. It was actually quite pleasant in terms of temperature, but the cooling breeze also carried with it death, in the form of pollen.

My allergies only last about a month each summer, but they are acute and brutal. On several occasions, friends and loved ones who have witnessed me having a full blown allergy attack have offered to take me to the emergency room. My eyes turn red, tear up, and eventually one of them usually swells shut. I get hives on my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and my throat starts to swell up, making it hard to breathe. My sinuses start to pound, and in one instance, I got a nose bleed from both nostrils simultaneously... Oh yeah, it's a good time, let me tell ya.

Of course, that's only if I go outside without any meds on board. On Saturday, I had taken a Zyrtec at about 8:45 AM, so I only had a minor attack. By the two mile mark I was sneezing, sniffling, my eyes were burning, and my throat felt like someone stubbed out a cigar in it. I realized that my dreams of a sub 35:00 were fast evaporating, so I decided to gut it out and just try to finish. I struggled on home, clocking in at 36:10.

It wasn't exactly the glorious run I had planned. Oddly enough, that run was last weekend, before whatever I'm allergic to bloomed. I am hoping for a rainy night before my next race, the Firecracker 5K on the 4th of July. (Rain helps cut the pollen in the air.)

I'd like to thank Wee Little Me for sponsoring this great event - I'm not sure I would have finished Couch to 5K without this goal to shoot for.

I'd also like to thank Amy from the Runner's Lounge Community for sending all the participants bracelets that say, "I Am A Runner." I was still feeling kind of bummed about my time today when I sat down to write this race report, but the mail arrived while I was working on it, and there in amongst the bills and credit card offers was my bracelet, like a completion medal. I'm wearing it now, and it's ridiculous how much I'm enjoying it - you'd think I won Boston or something...

The real reason I feel this way is that a running program gives you a concrete feeling of accomplishment - something sorely lacking in our world today.

Whatever it was that made you hate running in your past, let it go - I let go of dozens of bad coaches and mean drill sergeants and skinny assholes who laughed at my pudgy ass to get myself back into running shoes, and I'm glad I did. Check the beginner programs out there; I did Couch to 5K, but there are dozens on the web. Give yourself a chance to accomplish something.


It started out as a crooked tee-shirt.

It was new one too, one that I had never worn. I pulled it over my head, then looked in the mirror. The printing on it was slightly crooked; the left side of the design was a tiny bit lower than the rght. Bummed, I hung it back up and pulled out a different shirt. Once I got it on, I realized that it, too, was slightly crooked. Once I tried on a few more shirts, and found them all canted ever so slightly to the left, it occurred to me that it might be my body, not the shirts.

After standing very still in front of the mirror for a while, I could see a definite difference between my right shoulder and my left shoulder. I'm right handed, so naturally my right side is a bit stronger, but the amount of difference was really surprising to me. I have also noticed differences in my hands, my biceps, and most notably, my forearms. I blame it on racquet sports. Mostly badminton. The lack of a racquet in my off hand is slowly turning me into a human fiddler crab. Soon my left arm will wither and become vestigial, like those bones in the tail of a whale that used to be it's legs.

My right and left forearms are so different that if photographed individually, you might not be able to tell that they belong to the same person. There is this muscle on the outside of my right forearm - let's call it the "badminton backhand muscle" - that appears to be absent on my left arm.

Initially, I was actually left-handed. Back in the late '60s, however, it was in vogue to gently "help" children who began to develop left-handed tendencies by taking the crayon from them and putting it in their right hand. Or gently putting the spoon in their right hand when pudding was served. Or smacking their left hand with a ruler and telling them they can't have any pudding until they "eat correctly". Or (my personal favorite) putting their art smock on them so that the left arm was not in the sleeve, effectively making them one-armed, and then telling them they can't go out to recess until they finish their painting. My all black finger paint compositions were not well received.

Of course, now we know that forcing a child to switch hands can cause all kinds of problems, ranging from stuttering to acidic sarcasm and bitterness. Luckily I was not so affected...

At any rate, that's all spilled tempera at this point. I'm just thinking out loud here, but the way I see it, I have two choices; 1) add more exercises to my training regimen for the left side of my upper body, or 2) embrace my lop-sided freakishness, and try to be like Reggie in "Lady in the Water." Perhaps I could even work my right mitt into something akin to Hellboy's "Right Hand of Doom"...

Ok - that settles it; freak it is. I'm buying a brown trenchcoat and a large caliber handgun.

I Can Haz Kick?

So I officially graduated from the Couch to 5K program today. I ran my third run of week 9 around noon today, and I did 2.76 miles in 30 minutes - a 10:53 pace. I think I should be eligible for graduation gifts of some sort... I've asked the protocol nuns here at the Black Vatican to check on the proper procedure. Do Nike and New Balance have gift registries?

The really surprising thing about today's run wasn't the pace (which was a little bit faster than Monday) but the last 60 seconds. See, when the announcer guy on my iPod says "You have about a minute to go," I am usually struggling to just hang on until he says I can stop. Today however, I actually had enough energy to pick up the pace and run flat out for the last 60 seconds. I finally have reached the point where I have a "kick."

I used to watch runners on TV, usually during the Olympics, suddenly turn on the juice and just fly for the last 200 meters or so. I always thought it would be awesome to have that kind of kick; to pass other runners and snatch victory from their grasping fingers (I have competiton issues, ok?).

In all the years of forced running that I had to do for various sports, however, I was a comfortable back of the pack runner, with no desire to pass the speedier guys up front. I just wanted to finish quickly enough that the coach wouldn't make me do extra push-ups or something. I can honestly say that it NEVER seemed like a good idea to actually push at the end... unless I had some compelling reason to want to vomit when it was over.

Today, for some reason, it seemed like the thing to do. I know there are purists out there who will tell me that if I had enough energy for a kick, I could have been running harder for the whole distance, but screw them - it was awesome to put on that burst of speed and push to the finish. I finished strong, and it felt better than running ever has before. Not throwing up probably contributed to that feeling.

To keep things in prespective, I have to say that I'm still really damn slow. It's not like Adidas is calling for an endorsement deal (and it wouldn't do them any good anyway, I'm loyal to New Balance) but I do feel like a proper athlete again. After logging over 60 miles of running to get to this point, there has been a subtle change in terminology. No longer do I say, "I do some running." Now I say, "I'm a runner." It's a small change, but a significant one to me.

The Virtual 5k is this coming weekend, then I'll be joining Indian Princess and others in the upcoming Firecracker 5K on the 4th of July. I'm sure that the excitement of competition will push me to run a bit harder, but I really hope I have something left for a final kick. I'd like to finish strongly, looking like someone who runs regularly.

And I hope I don't vomit.

Class Clown finally Graduates

I remember when George Carlin's album "Class Clown" was the ultimate hoodlum accessory. If your parents owned a copy, you snuck it out of the cabinet and took it downstairs to the basement when no one was looking. You played it on your portable record player with the volume turned way down, and snickered a quietly as you could. Then you recited the parts you could remember to your friends on the playground, solidifying your bad boy street cred.

At least, that's what I did. I was only 7 or so when "Class Clown" hit the streets, but even at that tender age I knew about it. My step-father was a big fan of stand-up, and I cut my teeth on his collection of Bill Cosby albums. The Cos was funny, but nothing prepared me for the scathing political content and blasphemous profanity of George Carlin. I had never laughed so hard.

He stood on the shoulders of Lenny Bruce, and pushed the envelope to a new, funnier, more honest place. George Carlin didn't invent profanity - he just made us own up to our daily use of it. I, for one, am fucking glad he did. He'll be missed at the Black Vatican.

Let the Torment Begin

As many of you already know, I've lost 50 pounds. That may sound like an accomplishment of sorts, but it's not so much when you start with over a hundred to lose.

If you Google "height and weight chart", the very first hit takes you to a nifty little chart that shows an expected "healthy" weight for a given height (I know that these things are not very accurate and everyone is different, but it's a starting point). I consulted the column for "large frame", because I'm not fat, I just have big bones... made of depleted uranium. If I cheat on my height by a 1/4" and call it 5'11", it says I should weigh between 161 and 184.

To be honest, I don't believe that the lower end of that range applies to me - I don't think that I EVER weighed 161 pounds. I'm pretty sure that when I burst forth from my mother's chest and scuttled into the airducts I weighed at least 175. For the sake of discussion, however, I'll work with those numbers. That means that at my heaviest, I needed to lose between 159 and 136 pounds.

Disgusting. And also not realistic. I will likely never see 180 again, but I do think 220 or 200 is doable. That is why I have issued a papal bull declaring this to be:


I have this grand plan, you see. When my Stats class ends next Thursday, I will have no commitments each day prior to 2pm, for the remainder of the summer. That's from 6/27/08 until 8/25/08; approximately 8 weeks, or exactly 59 days. While I could spend all of those days sleeping in, surfing for pr0n, and beating Mass Effect, I have something else in mind.

I want to see exactly how much I can accomplish in that time. I have goals for weight loss, of course, but also for meditation, running, badminton, kettlebells, handball, squash, and tennis. Those goals vary greatly - from "Run a 10K" to "Stop Sucking" (that one is for tennis). I plan to put together a workout plan that requires me to be up and at it from 9:00 to at least noon every weekday, and then we have our usual schedule of court sports after 5pm each day. I'm also allowing time in there to work on training my birds as well, probably about 30 minutes a day. I am working on charts and graphs to track my progress - weight, heart rate, body measurements, distance, duration, etc. Since I'm a complete internet whore, it will all be posted on my 100 Pounds blog for you to jeer at (hey, any hits are good hits...)

If you are one of the damned who live in Black Vatican City and would like to join me (or just point and laugh) let me know - misery loves company.

(Formal Grecian attire is optional...)

Nothing Lasts Forever

Things seem to be going well for me of late. I'm doing well in school, I have enough money to live, I'm losing weight, I'm getting stronger, and I'm more physically fit than I've been in years.

And yet -

There is loss. I know it's inevitable and part of the process, but I think I'm allowed to acknowledge that it sucks. I'm not posting this in the hopes that any of it will change back, or to spark a revival of the old days - just to give these experiences their due. Expecially since no one talks about it around here...

Some of the tribe has moved away, both physically and emotionally, and I miss them all. A willing diaspora is good, I suppose; it speaks of dissemination and growth. It is, however, depressing for those who remain, and some impending departures and changes which are looming on the horizon make it more so. As I face three or four more semesters here in Laramie, I dread the quiet and the distance I see.

I am trying to see the lesson in all this, and I keep coming back to impermanence. Everything changes, everything passes away. There is nothing for it but to, as Mr. Bowie put it, "Turn and face the strain."

I'll do that, thanks. But at the moment my affections are spread all over the place, and I just feel old and a bit worn thin. This too shall pass, but not today. Not today.

The Crutch - epilogue

Since the instructor gave us a chance to gain three points back, I got a 76.5 out of 80! That's a 95.6% - the first A I have EVER gotten on a Stats test. Even without the regained points I still would have an A, with a 91.8%!

The best part is completely juvenile, but I feel like any facade of maturity this blog ever had was torn away long ago, so I'll share it with you... Next to my score, the instructor wrote, "Very Good!"

Take THAT Mrs. Storch! (Mrs. Storch was the third grade teacher who ridiculed me for not knowing my multiplication tables. I hold her personally responsible as the origin of my math block...).

Mrs. Storch is dead now, I'm sure - she was about 108 when I was in the third grade... which was just after the Civil War... those were hard times in my home town of Burlington, NC... fucking carpetbaggers... "reconstruction" my ass.

At any rate, I am finally shaking off her influence. I do not love stats, but I actually understood the stuff on the test, and today in class, I was able to follow the new material that was presented as well. I may actually get an A in this class...

The Crutch, Part II

Let me begin this by saying I am not a stupid person. I score well on IQ tests, am eligible for admission to Mensa, and have posted very respectable scores on the SAT and GRE. In fact, I'm usually the guy that screws up the curve for everyone else in class.

In statistics, however, I'm the dumb kid. I'm the guy who asks questions that are almost relevant. I hold up progress, and say stupid things like, "Wait - the null hypothesis does what now? And what does sigma stand for?" (Despite my thickness where statistics are concerned, I pride myself on never asking that most annoying of all dumb kid question; "Is this going to be on the test?" Damn, I want to hit that kid... but I digress.)

Where was I? Oh, right - I'm stat disabled. I'm the kid that wears a helmet but is in your class anyway because the administration thought he should "mainstreamed." Out of courtesy, I sit right up front. That way the instructor can see the confused look on my face before I even raise my hand, and the other students can glare at me without having to crane their necks around. I try to stay quiet and not drool too much.

So, as you can imagine, stats is pretty much like a semester-long root canal for me. Carrying that metaphor as far as it will go, test days are those special times when the anesthesia has worn off. Last Friday was one such day.

But Friday was different. On Friday, I was no longer stats disabled. On Friday I became stats handi-capable!

Actually, Friday was just the culmination of a process I began a few weeks ago, when this stats class was ramping up into a never ending gobstopper of shite. I decided that I had to figure out how to use the stats package in my calculator.

Yes - THAT calculator. The Cursed Calculator of Sorrow.

As I mentioned earlier, the manual is less than helpful. The great irony of these machines is that only those who have a very solid grasp of the mathematical principles involved - i.e., not me - can actually use them. The vaguely titled functions hang in the menus like the grapes above Tantalus, while actual understanding of the concepts recedes below me like his pool. (The big rock overhead is my grade in the class, just to round out the image...) But enough Bullfinching - how did I become handi-capable?

I shifted metaphors, moving from one neighborhood in Tartarus to another. I left Tantalus, and went to hang with Sisyphus. Deciphering the TI-83 became my rock, and like the Sisyphus that Camus imagined, I tried to embrace the task. "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." I doubt that even Camus believed that ALL the time, but it was enough to get me by.

Over the course of several weeks and many dozens of Google searches and dead-ends, I discovered enough pages offering TI-83 tutorials that I was able to assemble a set of instructions that actually work for the material I am studying. Why no one has compiled this all in one place is a mystery to me, but I finally found what I needed on about 8 or 9 different sites. Now, with a few strokes of the keys I can give you a binomial probability, create a one variable statistical array, or any of several other perviously time-consuming and onerous tasks regularly required of stats wonks.

Although I don't claim to understand the underlying principles very well, I can get by now. Instead of being a cursed hunk of circuits collecting dust on my bookshelf, the TI-83 has finally become useful. It's a crutch, and I am a one-legged man who is immobilized without it. Together we hobble toward a decent grade.

I like to think that the failed engineer's demons are being put to rest like so many unwanted math thetans. Each successful quiz, every completed homework problem, shakes a few more bad vibes from behind its LCD. Some day soon I'll be done with stats, and I think it will then be clear of all the taint of failure. On that day, I'm sure I'll be tempted to walk up to some kid in the labs and say, "You want this?"

The Crutch, Part I

Like many students taking college level math, I use the trusty TI-83 calculator. It has a nice stats package built right in, but it's not what I'd call user friendly. The inputs it needs to work its demon magic and spit out binomial distributions, factorials, and cumulative probabilities are not prompted - you have to memorize the input format, and enter the correct arguments, separated by commas, for it to work. The instruction manual that comes with the TI-83 explains it all, but in a format so dry that it makes C++ programming guides look like beach reading.

To further complicate matters I never had the manual for the one I have. My TI-83 became mine after it had failed someone else...

I was working in the all-night lab one night about 4 years ago. It was around 4:30 in the morning, and just after midterms. A sleepy looking kid, one of my regulars, came up to me at the lab assistant's desk and said, "You want this?" He was holding out a slightly battered TI-83. I looked up, puzzled, and assumed that he had just found it and was turning it in to our lost and found.

"Sure, I'll put it in the lost and found."

He shook his head. "It's not lost - it's mine."

By then I had already taken it from him, so I paused, holding it awkwardly between us. "What do you... I mean... ok, I'm confused." I set it on the desk.

"I don't need it anymore. I'm changing majors. Engineering kicked my ass." With that, he walked away.

I stared at the thing. Like any good liberal arts major, I eyed the black, brick-like machine in much the same way the Spanish Inquisition viewed astronomical instruments. It was a heretical wizard's engine, and I wanted no part of it. Not only was it a tool intended mostly for minions of the hard sciences, it was also the calculator of a failed student. Despite the late hours he had put into his line of study, he'd been beaten by it. It seemed tainted in some way, like the psychic remnants of his dream of becoming an engineer lingered about it. In truth, it was probably his parents' dream that he become an engineer, but no matter. Someone's dream had broken upon its plastic carapace, and it felt of the grave.

Still, it was an expensive calculator, and I figured the kid would get some sleep, realize what he'd done, and come back for it. I stuck it in the seldom-used front pocket of my backpack, figuring I'd see him in the next few nights and give it back to him.

In that front pocket it sat - for two years. I never saw its former owner again. Freed of his engineering burden, he may have fled the state, for all I know. The calculator stayed there, in fact, until I finally bought a new backpack, and then it was relegated to a shelf in my room. I referred to it as "that kid's calculator" but slowly I came to think of it as the "calculator of failure." It was a doomed calculator, a "+2 calculator of angst" if you will. Like any good cursed magical item, it sat on a shelf collecting dust, awaiting its next victim.

Fast forward to last semester, day one of STATS 2070. The syllabus stated, "a scientific calculator is required." For a moment I dreaded going to the bookstore and getting reamed for about $100, but then I remembered that I had the cursed calculator. I went home, found it, and dusted it off.

[Next Installment: Does a set of new batteries suffice for an exorcism?]

News from FlockHall 2.0

- We are in the testing phases of a new defense system for the grounds of FlockHall 2.0, the headquarters of the local Flock and the location of the Papal Apartments. Our newest plan, "Project Hell Hound" is looking very promising; more details here.

- In other news, Flynn did his first kettlebell workout last night, and he made a fine showing. Of course, when it was over, he was just as wrecked as everyone else who has touched Eunice (Yes, I named her. Don't judge me.) and he sat at his desk and shook for 10 minutes or so, as is now tradition. I worked with Eunice twice today, so the fact that I can type at all is a bit of a miracle. But I am become strong like bull, da?

- I am entering week 8 of the Couch to 5K program tomorrow. It is only a 9 week program, so I am wondering what to do when it is over. I have heard of a program called "One Hour Runner" which works you up to one hour of continuous running. That would head me in the direction of a 10K race, perhaps in the Fall. After that, I'm looking at a half-marathon in March of 2009, then the Denver Marathon in October '09. I'm also considering doing the Disney World marathon in January of 2010. This race is so popular that the 2009 event is already 65% sold out... 7 months in advance. Anyone out there know of a race in your area that the Black Pope should run in? Post a comment or send me an email about it and you might be the lucky recipient of a Papal visit! (If you'd call that luck...)

- My stats class is really crappy. I know, that's not exactly "news" but I just feel better saying it. The hard part is that the instructor is the nicest little Muslim woman I have ever met. She is so very pleasant and cheery as she corrects my retarded attempts at t-tests, binomial probabilities, and the other densities of statistical analysis. She is so nice that I feel extra dumb when I don't do well. Ah, guilt, my old friend... my grandmother would be proud of the strangle hold you have on me.

- I rode the WOB for the first time in quite a while today. I've been walking almost exclusively of late, because I wanted to get as much conditioning for my legs as possible, but I took too long for lunch today and I was doomed to be late for work unless a vehicle was used. It felt good to ride her again, and I was also surprised by how much stronger my legs truly are now. The small hill that leads up from the street onto the back side of campus is hardly noticeable now, and I made it to the computer lab in record time. It is perhaps possible that I am slowly - ever so slowly - becoming fit again.

- A final note - the weather is fucking ridiculous here. We had lows of 30-35 degrees last night. It was barely 45 yesterday at noon, with a 40+mph wind and high humidity so it felt like 25 degrees. It's June. JUNE; and it snowed a little bit yesterday morning.

16kg of Badass

I know my way around a weight room. I know all the basic moves with free weights, and I have been coached enough over the years that I have a very good grasp of what proper form looks like. At one time, I was one of those guys you see in the gym spotting each other, covered in chalk, clapping and yelling "You're looking huge man! Push it! No time for pussin' out now - two more!" (Yeah, I know - everyone hates those guys. I got better eventually...)

So, I don't fear the weights. I roughly know what I can lift in any given exercise, and I know that for most basic exercises 35 pounds is not that much for me.

That was until I met the 16kg kettlebell.

I did my first kettlebell workout today. It was a routine I found on the net - 20 minutes worth of one-armed swings, cleans, jerks, presses, and snatches, all done in a rhythmic way intended to increase core strength and burn fat.

There's no way to put a tough guy spin on this - it kicked my ass. Worse than any of the running I've done lately; worse than any game of handball, or any badminton match. When it was over, my arms were rubbery, and my hands shook for 10 minutes from the exertion. My arms were so burned out and floppy that when I tried to wipe the sweat from my brow, I poked myself in the eye with my thumb. Even now, several hours later, I feel like a wrung out dishrag and I'm having a hard time making my fingers hit the right keys.

The difference is the way the kettlebell is designed and used. The handle is not set in the middle of the weight (like a barbell) so it allows you to swing the kettlebell through an arc and greatly multiply its resistance. This "dynamic loading" allows you to get a lot of benefit from a relatively small amount of weight, and lessens the chance of injury that heavier lifting incurs.

It's easier to see it than to explain it - YouTube to the rescue. I selected this video from the almost 4000 entries you get when you type "kettlebells" into the YouTube search window because it is short, yet gives you a good idea of what the exercises are like.

So, I'll be adding kettlebell to my weekly workout schedule. I'm shooting for 3-4 times per week, but I need to see how sore I am tomorrow; it may take more than one day of rest to recover from this...

Virtual 5K Biography

Ok, so I know I stated that I'd never do another meme on this blog. So this is NOT a meme. This is an "interview..."
Thanks to Wee Little Me for sponsoring the Virtual 5K, and asking all about me.

1. When did you start running?
I started on 4/2/2008, and began the C25K on 4/28/08.

2.Did you follow a plan (C25K etc.) to get you started running? If so, what plan did you use? If not, how did you go about getting started?

I started out just running until I had to walk, and walking until I could run again. Man did THAT suck! I did a few workouts on the Runner's World Beginner's Program, but then I discovered C25k. Not having to look at my watch constantly to time my intervals was the kind of assistance I needed to really get hooked on running. C25K is the most valuable podcast I've downloaded in... well, maybe ever.

3. Why did you start running?

I used to be a pretty fit guy. I was a jock in high school, and then I was into various martial arts and cycling. Unfortunately, I let myself get really fat when I went back to college, and I needed to lose the 100 pounds or so I gained as a student.

I also started running because I play a lot of court sports (handball, squash, badminton, etc.) and I wanted to play them better. Endurance seemed like a pretty easy thing to improve, so I started running.

4. Now that you are running regularly, what do you find to be the biggest benefits?

Because I live in a communal setting with several other students, my runs are my private time. Two of my housemates are also runners now, but I always go out running alone. It's my time to focus and clear my head.

Another benefit is that adding running to my schedule of badminton, handball, squash and tennis helped me break through a plateau I was stuck at in my weight loss.

Finally, the biggest benefit has been the sense that I am not hopeless where endurance sports are concerned. I never believed that I could run a 5K, much less enjoy it. Once I got those first few C25k runs under my belt, however, I began to believe.

5. What are your future plans for running? Short-term and Long-range.

I think I am going to start using the "One Hour Runner" program after C25K is over. I want to try a 10K in the Fall, and then we'll see where it goes from there. In the long run, I hope to run the Denver Marathon in 2009.

6. What are your personal goals for the Virtual 5K?

Based on my run tonight, the Runner's World Finish Time Calculator has me crossing the line in 37:44. My current times include the walking warm-up and cool-down part of the C25K podcasts, so when I can run the whole distance, I hope to lower my time to around 35:00.

7. Do you have a music “theme song” that you will use for this race?

Not a given song, but my race day playlist will include the Sex Pistols, Green Day, Elvis Costello, Ministry, The Damned, The Cure, Social D, and maybe some Generation X...

By the way, there are several members of the Flock who are also runners; we need to hear about your progress! Flynn? G-Fresh? Regis? WNG?


Yeah, if only it looked like that when we play...

Flynn and I hit the tennis courts this past weekend, and I assure you there were no 200+mph serves or diving forehands. Thankfully, we both left our skin-tight bodysuits at home as well (nobody wants to see that).

As I recall it, I was 10 the last time I set foot on a tennis court, and I got destroyed by a girl in straight sets. This weekend was like a 33 year trip back in time...

The girl in question, Maggie (of Magball fame), is a bonafide tennis player from way back, and she was very kind to us. She was understanding of our lack of control, and she patiently hit gentle forehands to us for about 90 minutes. She is actually attending a tennis clinic this week - I hope she meets some nice people to play with so she doesn't have to suffer all summer with just us as opponents.

Turns out that successfully playing badminton, squash, and racquetball has absolutely nothing to do with playing tennis. My first attempt at a proper forehand went over the 12 foot fence behind my opponent, and my first backhand ended up on the court to our left (the father and daughter playing there were very nice about kicking our balls back to us...). Flynn was nearly as pathetic, and overall we stunk up the place.

It's kind of odd for me - I am not the fittest person in the world, but I am almost unnaturally coordinated. I acquired skills like juggling and riding a unicycle very rapidly, and most racquet sports come to me quite easily, but tennis makes me look like I suffer from some sort of spastic nerve disorder. Naturally, I won't allow my dismal lack of demonstrated aptitude for this game deter me - after all, if you let one (or many) bad experience(s) stop you from trying something again you'd have to give up and be celibate. Am I right, ladies?

No, I will keep on playing once a week for the summer if I can find patient opponents who will tolerate my flailing. Regardless of how badly I play, it is still an opportunity to absorb vitamin D, a nutrient that we residents of Black Vatican City (the Siberia of the Americas) are known to lack. It is also an opportunity for the ladies of the Flock to wear tennis dresses. Just putting that out there.