Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Glorified Ignorance

One of the common criticisms of triathlons is that anyone can do them, they’re merely the demonstration of peoples’ ability to get good at exercising, or as I’ve heard it put so elegantly once before: “Triathlons are nothing but glorified exercise.”

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, including me, and here it is: For those who think triathlons are nothing more than a form of ‘glorified exercise’, you have a huge case of glorified ignorance.

Michael Phelps, sorry, my man, but we’re going to revoke all of your gold medals and merely give you a sticker and a hug. You’re not one of the greatest Olympians of all-time, you’re just a ‘good exerciser.’ Lance Armstrong, instead of calling you a 7-time Tour de France Champion, we’ll just call you one of the best exercisers who ever lived.

OK, but in all seriousness, doesn’t it seem ridiculous to trivialize something like triathlons? Would you say soccer is merely getting good at kicking a ball? How about football is only becoming skilled at pushing people around? This concept of over-simplifying endurance sports isn’t fair, but I think I know where the criticism comes from. It comes from two angles…

First, would be the notion that anyone can do them. I can’t dispute this fact. Yes, anyone can do them. With the proper training and drive, and of course barring any extreme medical conditions, the overwhelming majority of the population could complete a triathlon. However, my rebuttal to that would be that that exact same population can also play soccer, baseball, volleyball, football or hockey. But are any of these less of a sport because of it? As a matter of fact, I’d take it a step further, and say that one random group of people, ceteris paribus, would have a harder time completing a triathlon, than playing an aforementioned sport, primarily because of the swimming component.

Like most things in life, there is a wide spectrum of skill levels. I could go out right now and join a co-ed recreational ice hockey league and play hockey, no question about it. I’d be horrible, but I could play. Then on the other side, you have the elite of the NHL – with quite a wide range of skills in between, no? Similarly, I could join a baseball league. Again, I wouldn’t be good, but I could play. Then you’ve got professionals in the MLB.

And finally, someone right now, right this very second, could do the bare minimum of training and make it through a sprint-distance triathlon. But then there are the elite professionals who complete full Iron Man Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run) in around eight hours time, this means usually holding around a 6 minute-mile pace for a marathon, after the previous two disciplines.

My point is that OK, anyone can do a triathlon, but so what? Anyone can play basketball, but does that make it less legitimate?

Secondly (and far easier to identify) would be the concept of pride around the endurance sports arena. Most of everyone who’s done an endurance sport race (marathon, half marathon, triathlon, duathlon, etc.) has an enormous sense of pride after accomplishing it. I suppose to some, this is annoying, especially when coupled with their belief that anyone can do it. “Those 13.1, 26.2, 70.3, 140.6 and USAT stickers can get so old!” I can understand this. I can understand what a random person who doesn’t truly get what encompasses a triathlon is thinking: people are bragging about something that anyone can do. But my response would be: until you’ve done one, you have not a clue in the world. There is a sense of pride, in completing events that few have completed, there’s an emotional impact of joy from crossing a finish line, having worked hard to get to that point. This pride is something you simply can’t understand unless you try it for yourself.

Go ahead, I dare you. Plus, anyone can do it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Favorite Movie Scenes

I had an interesting conversation the other night with some friends about all-time favorite movies. There was a wide variety of nominations that sparked an idea for a post: a few of my favorite movie scenes. While there are many more I could add to this list, I decided to go with three.

Steel Magnolias: Funeral Scene

I don’t have kids, nor am I a woman, but Sally Field does a pretty amazing job of making me feel like a mother in this scene. After the end of the funeral of her daughter (Julia Roberts) Sally Field lets loose. Pretty amazing acting that gives some insight into what parents feel upon the death of a child. The scene also highlights one of the greatest feelings in the world: laughter through tears. Stick with this clip for six minutes, I implore you. And please forgive the Spanish the subtitles.

Any Given Sunday: Locker Room Scene

Despite mixed reviews on the movie as a whole, this “Inches” speech is one of the greatest speeches in any movie, period. You can extract so much from such a short four minutes… and if this doesn’t give you goose bumps, I don’t know what will.

Schindler’s List: Ending Scene

After three hours of holocaust brutality, the most emotional scene occurs when Oscar Schindler is fleeing. He had purchased 1,100 Jews from Nazi Germans to work at his factory which ultimately saved their lives. At the end, the 1,100 “Schindler Jews” present him with a gift, a ring, with the words inscribed: for whoever saves one life, saves the world entire. Schindler then becomes overcome with emotion and guilt about the idea that he could have ‘done more.’

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Depreciating value of standing ovations

Last night I went to see “Shrek” The Musical, and despite an incredibly mediocre performance, the audience gave the cast and orchestra a standing ovation during the curtain call. The value of “Standing O’s” is depreciating at an exponential rate. What used to be something rare and hardly given is now being handed out like candy anywhere there’s a stage or podium. It’s happening everywhere: politics, sporting events and performing arts. According to Wikipedia, standing ovations derive from when military personnel in Ancient Rome would return from battle, having exceeded expectations with a triumphant victory, spectators would stand to acknowledge their accomplishments. “Shrek” was not a triumphant performance. Politicians’ speeches nowadays could hardly ever be defined as “triumphant.” Yet we stand, every…single…time. Wikipedia also notes that these standing O’s occur when approximately 1/5 of the audience stands up, and then a domino effect occurs: other audience members feel compelled to stand as well. Compelled, also known as not wanting to be the one jerk that can’t get up onto his or her feet. Out of sheer principle I stayed seated for the majority of the ovation last night, until the guilt took over (or “I’m a believer” started playing). I think the root of the problem related to the devaluation in standing ovations comes from the 1/5 fraction standing first. It’s a certain personality that stands first… the kind that wants to think: “I started this movement – this movement of humans standing at the end of this crappy performance.” And until that 1/5 stops, standing ovations simply won’t be worth what they once were.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Observations on a run this morning

Here are a couple of observations I made while on my run this morning:

Climate can make or break you

Notice anything interesting when comparing these two runs?

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:58
Mile 1: 7:21
Mile 2: 7:24
Mile 3: 8:01
Mile 4: 8:39
Average pace: 7:56
Average heart rate: 173bpm
Time of run: 4:48p
Temperature of run: 100+

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:20
Mile 1: 8:04
Mile 2: 7:53
Mile 3: 7:57
Mile 4: 7:24
Average pace: 7:50
Average heart rate: 154bpm
Time of run: 7:42a
Temperature of run: 74

Pretty obvious, I know. But I find it fascinating to actually see this written out: The weather can make such a dramatic difference in performance. Here I am, running identical distances, on the same streets, in almost the same time and pace, yet the run in the 100+ degree heat requires my heart to work 13% harder. That’s 20 beats per minute (bpm) more. And that is a significant difference you can feel. It’s the difference between being able to chat while running, and barely being able to suck enough oxygen down in order to sustain your pace. It’s the difference between finishing feeling miserable and fatigued, and feeling energized and ready to go.

Some people are mean

My average heart rate for my run this morning could have been lower, had it not spiked when a driver made me upset. Here’s what happened. I had a green light, a cross walk and a lit-up walking figure that gave me right-of-way (not to mention the fact that I’m a human being – aka: pedestrian) at an intersection. I glanced over my left shoulder to see if traffic was coming, and there was a car that was on its way to turn right. He began to slow down, as did I, it was safe, so I proceeded to cross. Everything was fine… until he slammed on his horn. Wait. What? Seriously? The driver was going 6mph when he was making the turn, and slams on his horn at someone who had the right-of-way? How about a little bit of patience (coming from the guy who has vented at least 1, 2, 3 times about traffic, yes) or some common sense, decency, [insert word to describe normal person here], etc.? Perhaps he didn't see me. Right. That's what I figured when I turned around and he had his fist up in the air at me --- I couldn't make out a middle finger through the Dodge Neon tinted windows.

So by power of deduction, or process of elimination, it’s safe to assume this guy was not a runner, not a cyclist, not patient, and not a good driver. I wonder: had I been a mother with her child, would he have honked? What about kids crossing, as could have well undoubtedly been the case considering he was 30 paces from a school zone. You know, everyone once in a while I come across these people, I’m just glad it doesn’t happen often. My uncle has said that he anticipates dying from getting hit by a car while running or biking. I laughed it off when he first said it, but now I think I understand.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cell phones

A short post on this topic isn’t nearly enough. One would have to devote an entire blog (with multiple posts a day) to the subject of cell phones to even come close to scratching the surface. Two observations set this post into motion.

First: Keane Concert
A female in front of me at the House of Blues for a Keane concert a few weeks ago recorded the majority of the show on her iPhone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think technology is awesome; the ability to record life on such a tiny device, and have the picture quality so stunning is pretty amazing. But she didn’t see the show! She watched something that was literally 30 feet in front of her live, through the screen of a smart phone. How ‘smart’ could that really be? You’ve got this great band, in a great venue, playing great music with great acoustics, and you experience the entire thing staring at your hand-held device. I suppose the thought is that the ability to watch and re-watch the show on her phone, computer or wherever is greater than the experience of being there live, and in the moment.

Second: Grocery Store
Last night I was waiting to check out of the self-service check-out area when I saw what could be described as a phenomenon. This dude was on his cell phone, chatting away with someone, taking an incredible amount of time to scan his items. It was laughable watching this guy fumble his frozen pizza, wave a cooked chicken over the scanner a solid eight or nine times, attempt to bag groceries with one hand, all while having a great conversation on the phone. It would have been purely funny had there not been a long line waiting to check-out, but given the guy’s oblivion to other people waiting, it was more frustrating than anything.

We spend so much time on our phones – waiting for a movie to start, waiting for the elevator, while in class and at the gym. I see scores of people walk out of my office at 5:30p, having been on a computer all day long, with their heads completely down, looking at nothing but their phone. I’m in the same boat. It’s like an addiction, our phones, to be constantly checking them… it’s almost refreshing when our phones die. Although I’m sure it’s rare for most, a dead phone is a relief on occasion – no texting, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook,… no nothing. Just you and your thoughts. Kind of nice for a change.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My first triathlon: lessons learned

A couple of weeks ago I completed my first triathlon. It was in Marble Falls, TX just northwest of Austin in the Hill Country. The distance was in between a ‘Sprint’ and an ‘Olympic’: 1000m open-water swim, 23 mile bike ride followed by a 4.4 mile run. A good friend of mine along with his buddy from school did it with me, which made the experience that much better. After the race my uncle, an experienced triathlete who has been my unofficial coach throughout my training, asked me the most important question he could have asked: “Did you enjoy yourself?” He didn’t ask what time I got, how my legs felt, how T1 went, he asked if I liked it. Answer: I absolutely loved it.

Endurance sports races are like college exams, no matter how much you prepare you have a tendency to always feel like you could have done more. Looking back I would have made some changes in my training and pre-race preparation, but ultimately I needed that experience to tell me what works and what doesn’t. Here are some lessons learned from my first triathlon.

1. Chlorinated lap pool does not equal open water lake.

Without a doubt the hardest part about the race was the swim. Leading up to the event I was easily able to swim in a pool 1000m straight without stopping. Key phrase: “in a pool.” Typically it takes me around 20 minutes, give or take, to finish that distance without being winded or physically tired. Unfortunately this was not the case for the swim in Marble Falls. For starters, you’re surrounded by tons of other people swimming. You’re not protected in your own swim lane, so instead, you’re getting kicked, punched and climbed on by other racers. Also, Texas lake water also isn’t the freshest. You can’t see anything, except five inches of murky greenness in front of you. This means you’ve got to do what they call ‘sighting’ – where you lift your head every X stroke to make sure you’re on the right course. Lastly, the adrenaline from the gun going off and beginning the race is hard to sustain. Your heart is pounding, so your breathing expedites, which is not what you want when an inexperienced swimmer like myself is about to swim over a half-mile.

All of these things: crowded mess of swimmers + poor visibility + adrenaline, made for one difficult start to this race. I never got in my rhythm, never settled in on my breathing. It was a constant struggle the entire time, despite my fitness and preparation. Lesson learned. Going forward, I’ll be practicing in open water… no doubt about it.

2. Don’t underestimate the course.

The Marble Falls triathlon website has a tagline that reads: “Marble Falls Tri – The one with the hills!” I knew this place was in “Hill Country” but shook off the idea that the hills were going to be that bad. Wow. Was I wrong. My buddies and I drove the bike course the day before the race, and I actually think that’s why I didn’t swim well. My heart started pumping when I saw these hills, not when I got in the water. Rolling, very steep hills provided for something I wasn’t used to, training predominantly in very-flat Dallas. I felt good during the bike, but not as good as I could have had I trained more on hills.

3. There will always be someone faster... and older.

I’ve done a couple of marathons before, so initially I thought these distances would be a piece of cake. I figured hell, if I can run over 26 miles, these distances shouldn’t be bad at all. I’ll be the first to admit that I was na├»ve. What a humbling experience it is to see 55-year-old women fly by you on the bike going up a hill. How gravitating it can be to see the leaders of the race virtually finish the bike when you’re just starting. And wow, how much this race made me appreciate (as much as I can fathom) the accomplishment of those who have completed an Ironman.

For those that don’t know, an Ironman logs 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and then, after all of that, they run a marathon, or 26.2 miles. So, take my swim, 0.63 mile, and almost quadruple it. Take my bike, 23 miles, and multiply it by about five. And then take my run, 4.4 miles and multiply it by six. There you have it.

…some day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Recovery: thoughts on Eminem's new album

“...I’ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly
And all those who looked down on me I’m tearin’ down your balcony…”

- Eminem, ‘Not Afraid’ (Recovery 2010)

I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on rap. But now that I’ve had Eminem’s new album “Recovery” for a few weeks, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been able to digest the material and form an opinion on the album. Here’s my two cents.

He’s still the same old dude, using language that makes you cringe even when you’re the only one in your car listening. Some of it is seemingly unnecessary, if not all of it, some would argue. He’s not a rapper who produces CD’s you’d want to burn for your Mom or even an “open” Dad who dabbles with Slim Thug from time to time. Avid rap gurus can’t help but shake their heads when they hear some of the crude, insane and often downright disgusting lines that Eminem drops.

Having said that, the album is absolutely brilliant. He has an ability to bend words, inject humor and metaphors, use alliteration to no end, and come up with puns that make you go: “Wait, can you rewind that?” He also gets sentimental and really lays it all out there. There are no secrets with this guy. He talks about his drug addiction, his failed relationships in life, not to mention some of his own work being sub-par, on numerous occasions throughout this album he trashes his last one (Relapse 2009). Even if some, okay – fine, even if many of the words he uses are classified as ‘potty-mouth’, his cleverness, wit and sheer rap talent prevails and trumps any cuss word he might use. It’s not music you dance to, and it’s not music you’d put in your headphones while reading a book. I’d venture to assume that this album is most definitely not for everyone, but for those that truly appreciate genius in this music genre, go get the CD.

If you're not sure about getting the entire album, allow me to suggest some individual songs to download:
  • On Fire -- raw free-style, very "Old School Eminem"
  • Not Afraid -- in a sense, a very inspirational song, great lyrics and a good work-out song
  • No Love -- features Lil Wayne, arguably one of the best rappers in the industry
  • Love the Way You Lie -- features Rihanna, currently getting radio play

Monday, July 12, 2010

Soccer Revelation

While watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup yesterday I had a realization about the sport of soccer. Some of you may be thinking: “What, that it’s boring?” – and no, that’s not what I’m going to say. Although I could talk about poor officiating, the need for instant-replay, goal line monitoring, or a need to curb players’ dramatized post-foul nonsense, I’m not. I’m going to talk about something else.

In yesterday’s final match of Netherlands against Spain, there were 28 (NED) + 19 (ESP) fouls committed, for a total of 47. There were also 11 combined yellow cards with one expulsion due to a second caution – aka a ‘red card.’ So after all of that: 47 fouls, 11 yellow cards and one red, over the course of 116 minutes, the score was still only 1-0. What’s my point? Glad you asked.

In the NFL, if a player commits a foul, the entire team is penalized with either a loss of yardage and/or a loss of a down. In some instances the penalty yields drastic results, pass interference or a personal foul to name a couple. In hockey, if a player commits a penalty, the other team is awarded a power play, where the penalized team is required to play with one player short for an extended period of time. Although fouls are rare in baseball, the outcome can be devastating when the pitcher balks, or a player runs outside of the baseline. In the NBA, players can foul-out and be removed from the game. Individual fouls often give the other team automatic free-throws, where points are essentially a given.

In soccer, however, unless a penalty is committed against an attacking player inside the penalty area, or just outside of the penalty area, not much comes as a result. A set piece in the defending or middle thirds will hardly ever yield positive results for the awarded team. Fouls are a dime a dozen in soccer and players know this and commit at-will knowing that the consequences aren’t dire. I know the rules – or should I say “Laws” – of the game will not change, but I think it’s an interesting concept to examine. The less-drastic outcomes of fouls in a sport really play into the culture, or vibe as a whole. I’d like to see a study, holding everything else constant, sport-over-sport, on if the degree of negative consequence from committing a foul significantly changes the behavior of players in the sport.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There’s not enough time in the day

An up-and-coming triathlon I’ve registered for mandates I find time for biking, running and swimming. I work from approximately 8:30a until 5:30p. I’m reading Born to Run, a book I really want to finish in the near-future. I like to meet up with my friends for a beverage at least once a week. I like to watch some TV shows. I like to play tennis. I like to keep up with current events, attend church and hang out with my family. I like to keep my apartment tidy and my laundry clean. I like to watch my favorite sports teams compete. I like to cook in, as well as go out for dinner. I like to get at least seven hours of sleep. I like to blog.

I used to poke fun at the folks on the elliptical at the gym who managed to listen to music, read a magazine, watch ESPN and hop on their cell phone sporadically – all while getting their exercise. It’s not really something I make fun of anymore, considering I feel their pain.

There’s simply not enough time in the day to get everything done we need to get done, let alone want to get done. It’s tough, there are limitations. We obviously have priorities, and in turn, need to be organized and stick to a schedule if we want to fit in even half of the things on our to-do lists. There’s also this concept of still maintaining spontaneity in life, and ditching your original plan from time to time for random events that can yield so much happiness. I’m getting better and better about finding this perfect sense of balance, but I’m still not there.

How about you?

Friday, June 4, 2010

My first fire drill at work

After almost 10 months of working at the same building, we finally had a fire drill this morning. Of course they chose the beginning of June which in Texas means virtually always triple-digit heat. Anyway, here are three observations I made during the event:

1. My goodness, people are out of shape. The amount of bitching and moaning I heard about walking down [God forbid] a few flights of stairs was absolutely mind-boggling. When the drill was over, I can’t tell you how congested the elevators were to get back up to the 5th and 6th floors. And I’m annoyed to report that 60% (maybe 64%) of the congestion came from folks riding the elevator from the Floor 1, to Floor 2. Come on.

2. There’s a general sense of ‘expected dismissal’ when a fire drill occurs. Here’s what I mean. In elementary, middle and high school there was this notion – this artificial expectation – that everyone was supposed to be allowed to go home once the building had been evacuated. “OK, they’ve forced us out of the building, now we shouldn’t have to have class anymore. They’ve pretended that we’re all about to burn to death – that’s subject for mental duress and deserves a free ticket out of here!” A decade later, for some of us scores, not much has changed. I heard at least a half-dozen comments of ‘OK, time go home!’ or ‘This means we’re done for the day, right?’.

3. Walk, don’t run, to the nearest exit. Yea, OK. Nice simulation, guys. The place has become a scorching inferno, people are screaming and flames are raging, meanwhile we’re casually grabbing our lap tops, coffee and bags before leisurely strolling to an exit. Are you kidding me? In a legitimate crisis, I’d revert to natural human instincts and Marion Barber my ass out of a crowd. I’d take the closest chair, bash out a window and jump.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Business jargon bleeds over to the real world

A lot has changed since I graduated over a year ago. I’ve been at three different companies, two as an intern, and my first full-time job since leaving school. I could produce quite a list of all the things that have transpired over the year, but I’ll save that for another post. This post has more to do with one observation I’ve made since joining the workforce.

Most, if not all, of my friends who graduated in May of 2009 now have full-time jobs. The positions span a wide variety of industries, sectors and departments, but one common denominator holds true: they’re all entry-level. Being entry-level has many implications, not the least of them being what this post is about: we’ve all acquired and adopted a new language.
The day-to-day business jargon that can get border-line ridiculous is now bleeding over into our every-day lives. Here’s what I mean:

Was: “I’ll send him another e-mail to ask him again.”
Now is: “I’ll shoot him a note to follow-up/circle-back/touch-base/tie-off.”

Was: “What do you mean, dude?”
Now is: “Can you add some color to that?” or “Can you provide some context for clarification?”

Was: “We just don’t see eye-to-eye.”Now is: “We’re not in sync/on the same page/singing the same tune.”

Was: “Peace out.”
Now is: “Kind regards.”

The list goes on.

I’ve noticed that business-related terminology like ‘efficiency’ and ‘productivity’ are now in more of our day-to-day conversations. I catch myself adding “-ize” to the end of words, creating terms that don’t actually exist. Operationalize is not English. All this 3-syllable diction is now permanently embedded in our vocabulary: effective, productive, efficient, proficient, transparent, concurrent, in tangent, blah-blah-blah, blee-blee-blee, bloo-bloo-bloo

Before you know it I’ll be ‘having a 1-on-1’ with a friend at happy hour in order to ‘touch base’ on an ‘action item’ that needs ‘following-up’ in ‘order to ensure alignment.’ AKA: Meeting a buddy for a drink to talk about that thing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The [New] Dad Toll

Growing up, when my family went out to dinner, my sister and I hardly ever ordered dessert. The server always asked the scripted question, “Would you guys care for any dessert?” and 99 times out of 100 the answer would be NO. However, that one time we would get dessert, that ‘rare treat’ if you will, my Dad would always insist he wasn’t up for any – he was “too full” he’d say. Yea right. As soon as the dish was brought out, my dad would always perform what he called The Dad Toll – which entails taking a [giant, perfectly-crafted] bite of our dessert. It was painful to watch. The dude that just said he didn’t want any just chomped down 1/6th of it, in one, fell swoop.

Now that we’re older, not much has changed. When we go out to eat as a family, it’s still very rare that we’ll order dessert, and when we do, my dad will still say he’s too full, but proceed to hack away at our dessert anyway. But now that my sister is of legal drinking age, the Dad Toll takes a new form: foo-foo alcoholic beverages. Since he’s buying, it’s safe to say that any blueberry pomegranate martini will be sampled by my Dad. As will a Shirley Temple, Pina Colada, or any other exotic-girlie-like drink.

Now that the whole family is of legal age, the average dinner tab has gone up, which I know makes my dad cringe. But I think the new and improved Dad Toll will help curb any discomfort with the bill, and undoubtedly take the edge off.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All or Nothing

In my generation, “Generation Y” or the “Millennials” as we’re sometimes called, it’s all or nothing. Abercrombie and Fitch prints this concept on Indonesian-manufactured t-shirts marked up 1,500% but they read: “Go hard, or go home” (these shirts are in stores next to the ones that describe how hot your mom is).

But seriously. Moderation hardly exists, if it even exists at all, among people my age. If one has the desire to lose some weight, do they scale down the fried food, and up the cardio? Not a chance. They revert to a zero-carb diet (literally, zero carbohydrates), pull two-a-day’s in the gym, and hastily spend an arm and a leg on supplements. They’ll go two weeks of this full-on ambush of the body, until they get burnt out and they’re back at Wendy’s ordering a No. 6 plain and dry.

Drinking may be the worst place where this mentality exists among younger folks. God forbid a casual beer or glass of wine with dinner – no, no, no! – bust out the beer funnel, shot glasses and bag of wine, or don’t have a sip of alcohol at all. Drink ‘til you puke, or don’t drink at all, right?

On the flip side, this mentality can work to our benefit. It’s part of the reason why we are and will be such a successful generation. Consistently raising the bar on things like career advancement, public policy, academics – or heck, even beer-chugging velocity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three of my favorite things about running

For the past few months I’ve been training for my second full marathon, which is in Oklahoma City this coming Sunday. The training – as you can imagine – involves numerous long-distance runs. And after quite a few of them, I’ve learned that I really enjoy certain aspects of running. Here are some, just to name a few:

1. “The Runner Nod”

For those of you who have done any type of jogging not on a treadmill, you may know what I’m talking about without me even having to explain this, shall we say “phenomenon.” There’s a certain type of kinship among runners – a bond, if you will, symbolic of a universal understanding of running. Many times you can see it coming from a mile away, as a runner in the distance heading your direction gets closer and closer. As you pass someone on a trail, sidewalk, street or track, you’ll notice the runner nod. The on-coming runner and you make eye-contact for a brief moment, and a slight dip of the chin to bring the top of the head forward occurs – the running nod. You don’t always smile, or wave, or say anything at all – you just simply nod your head, as if to say: “Hey man, I know what you’re going through, because I’m going through it now too. Keep it up.” And as weird as it sounds, that nod from your fellow runner gives you some sort of boost to get through the next mile, few minutes or up the next hill…

2. The Uplifting Song

From my simple random samples I’ve visually collected and stored throughout the course of my runs, I’d be willing to place a bet that around 75% of runners attest to using an MP3 player. I undoubtedly use my iPod. It gives me motivation and passes time when I’ve mentally checked out. Every once in a while a certain song will come on at a particular point in the run, usually when I’m hitting a valley and struggling to keep my legs moving. But once this song comes on, the natural reaction is to smile, crank up the volume, and up your tempo. This uplifting song can come from any artist of any genre, and it’s never planned, but happens on the course of a natural basis. For that four minutes of your run, you feel like you could go forever, at whatever pace you want – the adrenaline provides for quite the buzz.

3. The Finish

Many marathon sites will give you points on the 26.2 mile course that are “must-see’s” – areas that spectators would find pretty neat. Perhaps it’s a landmark the course wraps around, a historic area of town the route goes through, or perhaps a pivotal point as far as mileage is concerned: the 13.1 split, the 40K split, the start, and of course – the finish. On any run you do, particularly longer distances, there’s nothing like the finish. Many times if you’re running outdoors your finish line is very unofficial and most definitely unattractive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my arms up after finishing a 15 mile haul, using a fire hydrant or bush as my finishing marker. But in your mind, it’s as if you’re the first to cross the finish at the Boston with thousands of people cheering. No matter how many hours your run was, no matter the distance, the high you get from finishing always surpasses the physical pain you may have. There’s truly nothing else like it in the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An amazing night, to say the least

Last Thursday night may have been one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was most likely Mike Modano’s last game in front of a home crowd as a Dallas Star. The 39-year-old has spent 17 years in this city, and has done more for the sport in the south than you could possibly imagine. He is the best U.S. born player of all time, holds virtually every record imaginable for the Stars’, is a Stanley Cup Champion and is quite possibly the greatest ambassador to hockey in this region of the country.

Bob Sturm from The Ticket put it well: “Think about it. We all feel like Dallas is the exception to the rule when it comes to the NHL in the sun belt. In many of the cities, it has only been an unqualified success in years where those teams win the Stanley Cup. But in Dallas, the Stars have generally been well supported and followed. I submit to you that is a result of the instant magnetic force that Mike Modano and some of his friends had on the city.”

I grew up watching Modano as a kid – so Thursday night was emotional. Call me a sucker for sports tears, but his last home game was so incredibly poetic you had to have been a robot to not choke up. About six minutes left in the third period the stadium TV screen showed him sitting on the bench with a caption just below it reading one of his many records as an NHL player. The fans began cheering, and then came the standing ovation. Cheers got louder and louder, as the applause was building on itself. Tim Cowlishaw from the Morning News describes this scene in great detail:

“Mike Modano looked up at the scoreboard and fought back the tears as he had done earlier in the night. This time he lost the battle. As the crowd continued to cheer in what was probably Modano's final game in Dallas, Modano bowed his head and put his gloves to his face. Players for both teams stood in the faceoff circle and tapped their sticks on the ice. The delay continued, and when Modano raised his head, tears were streaming down his cheeks as he lifted his glove to wave to the crowd.”

That was it. His final salute. The game was meaningless, the Stars and the Anaheim Ducks are not playoff-bound, so that was pretty much it – or so I thought.

A minute or so later Anaheim scores to go up 2-1 in the game, which was an incredible bummer. The arena went from an emotional high to almost complete (and somewhat awkward) silence, as if the oxygen was sucked out of the building in seconds. But then, with less than two minutes to play in regulation, after the long emotional delay just minutes prior, Modano’s line was back on the ice, and who else would score the tying goal other than the man himself. I couldn’t believe it. Even in my poor seats I knew it was #9 who scored when the puck went in the net, the arena absolutely erupted.

Time goes by and the game progresses to a shoot out (of course). We miss our first shot when Brad Richards fails to convert. Marty Turco holds strong and makes a save against Anaheim’s first shooter. Mike Modano’s up next, and with insane velocity is able to wrist a shot in over Anaheim’s goalie – banging the puck off the pipe and into the net. So Modano-esque. So brilliant. Turco, again, holds strong. Jere Lehtinen is the final Dallas shooter, a goal would mean a Stars’ victory and a perfect ending to this game, and to Mike, Marty and Jere’s careers as Stars. Lehtinen scores, Stars win!

I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe what I had witnessed. Again, the game was essentially meaningless, but so incredibly meaningful at the same time. Absolutely perfect – what a way to end the night, and such an important player’s career. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

After the game I was talking with some folks about exactly that – how we could not imagine a better game, or a better evening, until someone walked into the restaurant we were at.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

1/2 of US doesn't pay fed income tax

I mean I think the title of this article says it all: “Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax.” I implore you to read the article – written by the Associated Press, posted on Yahoo Finance – it’s startling, to say the least. For those that are too lazy, I’ll copy and paste some highlights:
  • About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009.
  • The federal income tax is the government's largest source of revenue, raising more than $900 billion -- or a little less than half of all government receipts.
  • The top 10 percent have paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.
  • The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

I understand that the majority of those who are paying no federal income taxes (or, in some cases are actually making a profit) are lower income families, I get it, and in many situations their circumstances are absolutely absurd – fighting to keep a job and support their families. But I still don’t understand how anyone could consider this fair, for 10% of the nation to pay for 75% of what the government spends. Listen, I get the economics, I get the 80/20 rule, I get the incredibly skewed income distribution in this country, but I still can’t help but wonder how on earth this seems okay.

It comes down to a fundamental disagreement I have with this whole philosophy, I just don’t see how it’s right, regardless of how wealthy this 10% may be – it’s their money, period. The article goes on to say “Obama has pushed tax cuts for low- and middle-income families and tax increases for the wealthy, arguing that wealthier taxpayers fared well in the past decade, so it's time to pay up.” Oh, now it’s time to pay up? As if $0.35 of every $1.00 they make isn’t already enough. That’s insane. Who is he, or anyone, to decide what’s enough?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Uptown A-holes

So I just got done running around Dallas, did a light jog around what are known running areas: the Katy Trail and near Beverly in Highland Park. In the three or so minutes that I’m not in one of these two areas, I almost get hit by two different cars. Calm down, Dallas. I know, I know… how can you say that, Mr. “Road Rage Ranter”? Listen, there’s a complete difference between idiots on the interstate highway, and people’s driving behavior around pedestrians. Sometimes I love the area I live in. Uptown is a trendy, hip, young and fun part of Dallas. But every once in a while I start to wonder where that Texan “Southern Hospitality” is. Not that any type of hospitality should equal yielding to human beings while driving a vehicle. That should be a given no matter if you’re hospitable or from the South.

So, to the valet guy that was more concerned about delivering a car faster for a better tip than my safety, or the mother on the cell phone who acted so incredibly put out for having to (God forbid) brake for a pedestrian crossing the cross walk when the sign read “walk”… here’s to you.

Popcorn Premium

According to this article from the AP, an Israeli lawmaker is pushing to pass a law that would limit prices of popcorn and other snacks sold at movie theaters. “We have to put an end to this. The public should not have to mortgage their houses for a soft drink and a snack,” he said.

I love this. Prices of movie snacks are absolutely insane, let alone the price of the ticket to see the film in the first place. You go on a date, get a couple of sodas, a popcorn, you’re looking at easily dropping around $40. As compared with the bargains of rentals, microwaveable popcorn and store-bought candy, it’s amazing to think people pay for what they do. (Cough, cough… STARBUCKS!)

Now, I know nothing of trends in movie snack sales, but I’d assume theaters would undoubtedly lower their prices if they weren’t selling– so my guess is they’re doing just fine. People are more than willing to pay a premium for that delicious popcorn and ridiculously large soda. It makes no business sense to lower a price and shrink your margins when you don’t have to. It all boils down to behavioral economics, and the satisfaction one gets from that buttery bag of popcorn.

As much as I empathize with the Israeli lawmaker, prices – at least in my opinion – will just continue to go up, if anything. More on coughing, Starbucks and behavioral economics later.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Southwest's Kevin Smith debacle

Have you guys seen this? It’s been all over the news – a PR disaster for Southwest Airlines, a brilliant PR scheme for Kevin Smith, director of the up-and-coming “Cop Out” with Bruce Willis, famous for his Silent Bob character. Evidently Kevin Smith was asked to get off a Southwest flight because he was too large. If you have four minutes, click the link and watch the video. It’s a debate (if you can even call it that) between a chubby woman representing the “National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance” and a skinny lady representing the “National Action Against Obesity.”

Kevin Smith has been throwing fits about his ejection from the flight for being too fat, although he had initially bought two seats for a later flight (he flew – or tried to fly, should I say – standby on the one which he was removed from). He said his two-seat purchase was because he preferred not to sit next to passengers. Bull. It’s because he’s fat – so fat, that he’s broken a toilet seat recently and has apparently admitted to his weight getting out of control. Plus, if it really bothered him that much to sit next to passengers, he shouldn’t fly first-come, first-serve Southwest Airlines on a nearly sold-out flight. Give me a break.

Whether or not it’s a PR stunt, the issue is still relevant and interesting to examine. Should an airline cater to the obese? One woman in the debate calls it discrimination not to, while the other says it would be forcing the public to subsidize poor eating/lifestyle habits. Apparently the two women seated next to Smith were asked if they felt encroached upon or interfered with, and replied with “no.” Is it just me, or does that seem like quite the unconvincing “no”? To say yes is awkward, especially if you know the guy is a Hollywood bigshot. But aside from airline policy I think the idea stands firm: if you have trouble fitting into an airline seat, perhaps it’s time to get on the treadmill.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I have just a few brief thoughts on this Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad. For those of you that haven’t succumbed to the buzz about this topic, here’s a link to a USA Today article that ran today. It’s concise, and gives you the low-down on what’s going on.

Why do so many people object to this TV spot running during the Super Bowl? I honestly don’t get it. First and foremost, no one has seen it – I just want to be clear: not a single person, except the creators of this ad, has even seen it! There’s this huge debate about something that none of us have even seen! Speculation is swirling about the spot including the topic of abortion. Focus on the Family, the organization sponsoring it, would obviously be anti-abortion, (or is it: “pro-life” or “anti-women’s rights” as some are now calling it?) but who cares? If you’re upset about a sensitive issue running on TV, get over it. Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech is what the United States, like it or not, stands for. What about the garbage that’s all over cable television that exposes younger generations to premarital sex, drugs, prostitution, adultery and so on and so forth? What about political/controversial ads that run outside of the Super Bowl commercial line-up? Is it so much different what actual time that this spot is aired? If the sponsoring organizations can afford a $2.5 million time slot, so be it – just cover your ears, close your eyes! And honestly, is a 30-second TV spot going to change the public opinion on such a serious and deeply-rooted moral debate? If it does, you obviously didn’t have much of an investment into that topic of discussion in the first place. The women’s’ advocacy groups that are screaming out against this are making it sound like this organization who’s running the ad are a bunch women-hating-morons that don’t deserve to be heard, and in doing so, are creating even more interest in the commercial than if they ignored it and left it alone.

Bottom line: who cares, CBS is making bank.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking back at 2009...

I’ve often times struggled with an outlook on how to view life going by so fast. The days sometimes individually crawl, but next thing I know, I’m waking up and an entire week has gone by – weeks add up to months, months to years. As depressing as this may sound, there’s a certain element about getting older that I find incredibly depressing. Maybe it’s because no matter what your particular faith may be about God and afterlife, the indisputable fact is that this is your life, on this planet, in your body – and you only get one. “Can you believe it’s the New Year already?” so many people have asked. Every single holiday season my answer has been: no, I absolutely can’t – how is it possible that life is moving so quickly? I’ve had that response every time… except this year. This year I took some time to actually reflect upon the past year and all that my life entailed.

This go-around, for the first time ever, I find myself wondering how it’s only been one year.

This past year I…

- Worked as a marketing intern at a major airline
- Commenced my final semester as an undergraduate student
- Graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business
- Went on a week-long Spring Break trip with almost 50 people from my school
- Began an internship at a casual dining conglomerate
- Moved in with my parents, and then moved out again on my complete own
- Was hired on full-time for my first-ever salaried position
- Traveled to different places
- Completed my first-ever full Marathon in a little over four hours
- Got in a car wreck
- Discovered one of my new favorite bands
- Won a Men's Singles and Doubles tennis league
- Saw countless movies, concerts and sporting events

And the list goes on. When I think back at all of these things, and so much more, it makes me smile, not only because of how blessed I’ve been in my life, but that it was truly a year to remember. And if I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s been that I want every subsequent one to be just as great, if not better.