For as many social situations there are, there are probably equal or more than the number of unwritten rules, or exceptions to those rules. The locker room is one such “social” situation. I use quotes because, really? Is the locker room social? I mean, one of the unwritten rules is, Thine Mouth Shalt Remain Silent And Not Initiate Conversation With Another Dood When He Is Neked.
Others would follow along that same vein. Thou Shalt Not Stare At Another Dood’s Junk. Thou Shalt Not Bend Over And Put Your Nether Region In Another Dood’s Face. Thou Shalt Never Sit On A Bench Neked Without A Towel Under Your Rump. You know, common neked guy courtesy. And then there’s some like, Thine Body Shalt Be Dry Before Entering The Changing Area, or Thou shalt Be Patient When Other Doods Are Blocking Access To Your Locker, and alternately, Thou Shalt Hurry The Eff Up When Thou Art Blocking Access To Some Other Dood’s Locker.
But then there are the unwritten rules that have unwritten exceptions or unwritten allowed violation.
Like peeing in the shower. The unwritten rule is, Thou Shalt Not Pee In The Gym Shower. But, we all do it. I mean, sometimes you walk into the shower, start to lather and realize, “Oh! There’s no stopping this!” And there just isn’t time to rinse and make beeline for the head. Plus, you’d have to dry off so you don’t drip your way all the way there and back. It just happens. But, even though we all do it, there is still the unwritten rule to deal with. We’ll go to lengths to try and hit the drain out of common courtesy, and we’ll do our best to hide the fact that we’re peeing by letting the water run off our member in a way to hide the stream. God forbid you’re dehydrated and the stream is dark enough to give you away! But, usually we’re able to mask it and avoid being the Pee Pariah of the gym and having to shamefully make that drive across town to the other gym where they HAVEN’T caught you peeing in the shower…yet.
And over the years we perfect the process, and peeing in the shower becomes a common thing, and we think nothing of the violation, masking our streams with savant like skill.
Until the day you forget you had a massive meal of asparagus the night before…
A few years back I suffered a tough injury after a milestone race that resulted in me dropping off the face of the ultrarunning and athlete blogging scene. For near two years after that injury, I continued to wrestle with nagging physical problems and the larger issue of losing my identity. I was a runner, but I was no longer a runner. The psychological impact of that whole process was real and very hard to deal with. Not only did I feel like I’d lost a part of my identity, but I also felt like I had lost my community. I was no longer a part of those cherished long runs. I was no longer part of the pre-dawn ritual of headlamp trail running. I was no longer a part of my social circle. And, when I stopped blogging about training, racing, and just outdoor adventures in general, I felt like I’d lost my internet athlete community as well. Again, those are tough things to process and inevitably left me feeling quite alone.
Fast forward to this past year and I entered into a new stage in my life, one that included being a single father, walking through the ugly world of divorce, the loss of family support, and the loss of my final social circle: the church. Essentially, I ended up feeling quite alone. I had my son and my new partner and that was what remained of my community. It was at that point that members of my athletic community began to come out of the woodwork and offer support. This time, it wasn’t virtual cheering or live blogging of races that I was receiving, but instead it was personal encouragement without strings attached and without judgment. One after another, they began checking in on me, reaffirming the relationships and reminding me of my value to them. They re-established my community. They resurfaced as my peeps. They re-filled my mug of awesome.
The thing I realized about this community was that with them, I had always been myself. Out on the trails, I didn’t wear a mask. During a race, I didn’t wear a mask. When I was killing myself on a track workout, I didn’t wear a mask. These people saw ME. And I was real with this community. It started out as a community of people with a common interest, but by being an honest human being with them, letting them be part of my success and failure, they became more than just community, they became my tribe. And when shit hit the fan, it was that tribe that survived the test of fire and was left standing. Not my neighbors. Not my church. Not my family.
So I compare my community of athletes with those other communities that I have lost and I recognize that my lack of personal honesty with them is why they didn’t survive. Maybe those communities should not have been ones I should have invested in in the first place, but that’s a moot point now. But I do see it is a two way street, you MUST invest in the community and be real with them or find out in the long run that it was a superficial community at best.
So, to my community of athletes, those of you who I spent countless hours with on the trails, those of you who I raced with, those of you who supported me in person and virtually, those of you who I have met in person and those who are still just a person behind a wall of electrons, thank you. Thank you for being my people and for being there when I needed you most.
And, to those of you lacking a community, invest yourself. Your REAL self. Without that honesty in your life, you’ll find yourself, after a trial by fire, burnt.
I grew up in a household where watching TV was the exception rather than the norm. If I remember correctly, each of us kids [myself, Bananafishbonehead and the Kurd] could pick one show a week to watch and then we had a family hour of TV on the weekend. If there were special programs [like the Star Wars Ewok Adventure, V, or The Day After] then those were treated as exceptions. One thing that my sisters and I did to entertain ourselves was play card and board games. Risk, Monopoly, Mille Bornes to name a few. I fondly remember being able to dominate at most games and throwing the biggest hissy fit when, with overwhelming strategy and troops, the dice failed me roll after roll after roll and Bananafishbonehead’s meager forces held off the Huns, resulting in a thrown board and army pieces scattered around the living room. Ah, I love board games.
I had the opportunity to pick up Thunderclap from school on Tuesday and spend the afternoon with he and Tammy. I had been toying with the idea of picking up some board or card games for Thunderclap, and a fond memory I had of playing Dungeon! as a pre-teen had me googling to see if it was still available. Turns out it was re-released last year with a new board, cards and all new graphics. A quick call to a local Barnes & Noble let us know that a short hop, skip, and a jump away awaited incredible adventure, monster slaying, and untold riches. Now, I’m not a big D&D geek, but I played my share of TSR games as a youth and there were many hours on ship while on deployment in the Marines where we would pass the time in one sort of campaign or another. That said, I have often thought about how fun it would be to actually DM a game for Thunderclap and I do look forward to that day. But for now, this was a good gateway experience to test the waters.
Thunderclap was all atwitter as we drove home from the store and kept asking over and over if we could battle a dragon.
“I don’t know, but I hope so, buddy!”
I think I said that same phrase in response to the same question near a half dozen times on the 10 minute ride. Once home, we boned up on the rules, unpacked and set everything up and with both of us deciding to be dwarf clerics [he the male, I the female], we started our adventure. Immediately he was into it. Eager for each turn, each new opportunity to battle some monster, and eager see what treasure they would drop. His excitement and anticipation, not only for his turn, but for mine as well, was great to witness. Each new creature had him running into the other room to show Tammy what we were up against.
“Tammy, I’m fighting an OWL BEAR!”
“Look at this KOBOLD!”
“Isn’t this GREEN SLIME gross?!?”
The game progressed at a fun pace for quite a while, but before long, Thunderclap took the leap and jumped down into level 6. Now, in the context of this game, a cleric should not be hanging out in the hardest levels on the board. The creatures are mostly un-beatable and I can imagine a young player like Thunderclap becoming quite frustrated if each turn required him to run away and resulted in lost turns and lost treasure. But something wonderful happened on his first foray down into the depths of the dungeon that hooked him on the game and adventure gaming in general. He encountered a black dragon.
“Daddy, what does the monster card say?”
“You have to fight a black dragon, buddy.”
“A DRAGON?!? Is it really a DRAGON?!? Tammy! Tammy! I have to fight a BLACK DRAGON!”
“Hey, buddy, what number do you have to roll to beat it?”
“Oh, a twelve. That is going to be hard, won’t it daddy?”
“Yup, buddy. It doesn’t look good. Better blow on the dice for good luck.”
And with that, Thunderclap rolled, yes, you guessed it, a twelve. The joy and excitement at defeating a BLACK DRAGON could be heard throughout the land. And thus, a gamer was born.
Since then, each day has been filled with questions of when we can play the game again and nary a request to watch the tube. In addition, we ended up in a game store that happened to be going out of business and picked up Munchkin Cthulhu at discount and spent most of last weekend playing hand after hand after hand. I might have created a monster, but at least he’s a monster that is learning to read, use strategy, use basic math, stay focused for hours on end, and most importantly spend lots of quality time throwing ichor at daddy.
Over the years I have identified as a runner and despite my foray into other sports, running is where I return for my core exercise. This is not because it is convenient, it is not because it is cheap, it is not because it is comfortable, it is because running is what I love.
A few years ago, I wrote about a 50 mile race that I ran on the PCT. This race was a life changing experience for me as it was the turning point of recognizing that I run because I love it. It was also the race that broke me for almost two years, crippling my identity as a runner as well as crippling my ability to run. That experience, the two years of running doldrums, fighting my body, finding my identity, yearning for the health to get back out on the trails, those were learning years.
I learned that a love of running isn’t something that you just pick up and do. That love has to be nurtured, it has to be cherished, it has to be cultivated, it can never be taken for granted. And in return? I receive all the love that running can give back to me. I can soak in sunrise as I fly down a piece of singletrack. I can revel in the strength and focus it takes to summit a challenging climb. I can gush about the zone I found in the midst of a long run. I can be inspired by the train of thought during a track work-out. I can solve nagging problems as I meander through oak groves. I can celebrate amazing vistas and the awe inspiring playground we call this world. I can feel stress melt away as the miles pass beneath my feet. That is the love that running gives to me. But only if I love running back.
It’s funny, also, how our sports are interesting parallels for our lives. Sometimes shakabuku wakes us up to what is crippling us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Sometimes we realize that to really have love in our lives, we have to work hard for the things we cherish. Sometimes we reap the amazing rewards of completely committing to love. Sometimes that love can completely eclipse and put to shame the love we have for our sports.
And sometimes, just sometimes, you end up with the gold medal.
Time to gird yourself for the events on the calendar. Time to gather with friends. Time to celebrate. Time to shave your legs.
The cycling season has begun. With races like Tour of Qatar and Tour of the Mediterranean under our collective belts and Tour of Oman underway, it is time to start thinking about spring classics and grand tours. It is time to hop back on the trainer and ride along while watching www.cyclingfans.com and the Sufferfest. But more importantly it is time to keep tabs on all our favorite cyclist and the stats of our favorite races. I mean, c’mon, you don’t want to be left out of the cool kids watercooler group, do you?
So, I’ve begun collecting a list of approved iPhone apps for teams and races. I haven’t had the time to go through each of these in detail, but as I do I’ll pop back in here and add a blurb about their usefulness. And, as new teams and races release apps, I’ll add them as well. Am I missing something? Just holler and I’ll add it.
BMC Racing Team – Netco Sports
The app is easy to use, provides decent information and gives quick access to current race stats and news. I give Marco Pinotti five stars for the best ears in the Peloton.
Omega Pharma – Quick-Step – The Application Store
Again, another easy to use app with a main wall focusing on recent team news. The team section is easy to navigate with a quick swipe setup to scroll through the team. Competitions are still showing 2012 dates. Light on features and detail and only two stars for showing Tommy Boonen without a smile. Play to your strengths, Omega!
RadioShack Leopard Trek – Explose
This app is pretty. Easy to use and lots of detail not only on races and news, but loads more information on the riders, as well. Calendar is up to date, and there is even a “Surprises” section that should at some point contain surprises. Five stars for the depth of info on the riders.
Team Sky Cycling – BSkyB
Same level of info as the Omega app, with little to show on the riders but the standard news and calendar. Nothing too special about this app, but I’ll give it a three stars for a pretty picture of Bernie.
Giro d’Italia – RCS Digital SpA
This app gets me giddy for the pink jersey. News, stage detail, classifications, teams, photos, video, live commentary! Data galore! Five stars for a well executed app and for the volume of info.