Hunting the Snarky

Runners in particular are fond of snarky slogans, and I enjoy collecting them. So I’m interrupting my regular program of highly informative, thought-providing, and possibly world-changing posts to show you all some entertaining T-shirts and signs from my recent races and training runs. After all, it’s hard to come up with highly informative, thought-providing, and possibly world-changing posts all the time. And maybe one day I’ll actually write one.

Until then, here you go. Enjoy!

RBTW - If Found Please Drag

RBTW - Run Now Wine Later

RBTW - Beware of Fast Women

For this one, see the sign near the lower right corner. (Click on the photo to get a larger image if needed.)
Sign - Free Idiot Test

Shirt - In Case of Zombies

Shirt - Trample the Weak

Yeah, don’t we all?
Napkin - I Want It All

Up next: Adventures in night running.

Rabbit in the Vineyard

I CHARGED DOWN THE FINAL STRAIGHTAWAY toward the “Mile 3″ sign, hearing nothing but my own heavy breathing. Behind me, somewhere, were close to 800 other runners. Ahead was one lone runner – and the pace bike. My mind was flashing between two thoughts: Keep going – just hold it together a little longer – and, What the *&%! am I doing in second place???

The answer, near as I can tell, is either that wine drinkers don’t run particularly fast, or that the fast ones didn’t get up early enough to run a morning race.

Last Saturday’s Running Between the Vines race was the second in the Running Fit “Thirsty 3″ series. The first, the Hightail to Ale in May, brought nearly 4,000 runners to Detroit’s Atwater Brewery to run a 5K along the Riverwalk (and a line at least that long to get a post-race beer). Saturday’s race at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards just outside Jackson split 1,400 runners between a 5K and a half marathon, with wine and food tasting afterward – an event aimed at a more refined and sedate type of runner.

Okay, never mind.

Okay, never mind what I just said.

A long wait for parking was the only glitch in an otherwise perfect day and well-run event. The half marathon started on time at 7:30 a.m., despite many runners still parking or standing in the porta-john lines. No harm done, as it was chip timed, but I was grateful I’d chosen the 8:00 5K and had a half hour to get loose.

God + wine: a classic pairing.

God + wine: a classic pairing.

Having completed a triathlon just three days before, I left my “hard run” vs. “fun run” decision to the last minute. Then I thought what the hell and worked my way to the front of the line. “Go, rabbits,” someone said laconically as the horn sounded and we sprinted into the first turn. Wine drinker, obviously.

RBTW - Run Now Wine LaterOur route went through a restricted neighborhood which opened its gates for us. Tall and solid gates, not some half-assed toll booth lever. Wine drinkers are apparently perceived as upright and trustworthy, although judging from the paucity of spectators, not worthy of much attention.

I was in the lead group, but I fully expected people – lots of them – to overtake me. Instead, incredibly, I was overtaking others. Before long I was in fourth place. Then third. At the one-mile mark I passed the next guy. I was in second place, and the pace bike and front runner were clearly visible ahead. I’ve had top 10 finishes in trail races, but never in a road race. This was something entirely new – and unbelievable.

As I ran through the water station at the halfway mark I heard voices and footsteps behind me, but taking a page from Satchel, I didn’t look back. The Mile 2 marker came and went. I was holding second but not gaining on the leader, who remained about 20 seconds ahead.

I had a decision to make. Should I go balls out and try to catch him? Would I ever have a better chance to win a race? But if I did, I might crash and burn, spoiling what promised to be my best-ever finishing position.

Coincidentally, I later came across this New Yorker article about Alberto Salazar, a world-class runner in the 1980s, and his ability to push through pain and exhaustion to win races. The author (Malcolm Gladwell – yes, him) recounts his own “balls out” moment as a runner, and concludes he is not like Alberto Salazar – it was not worth it to him. Unknowingly, I’d reached the same conclusion. Second place would be good enough.

Down the final stretch and back into the vineyard. The finish line appeared, and I surged through it. Second overall! The third place finisher was only six seconds behind. I wonder what his thoughts had been regarding me?

Vines Finish - 0007

And the crowd goes wild! Er…the one guy watching tips his glass at me.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my time of 20:38 would have been buried way down the list at the Hightail to Ale 5K, where the top 5 finish times were under 18 minutes. But that’s what races are like. It isn’t the fastest runner who wins, it’s the fastest runner who shows up that day.

The post-race wine and food tasting was surprisingly good. Even though I don’t drink much wine, I liked their Pinot Grigio so much I bought a bottle. I’d won a nice wine bottle carrier and needed something to fill it, didn’t I?

Here's what the people really came for.

Here’s what the people really came for.

The final in the “Thirsty 3″ series, the Scrumpy Skedaddle, is Oct. 5. I wonder how cider drinkers compare to beer and wine drinkers in a 5K. I’ll be sure to let you know.

And let's not forget Run Woodstock - less than 3 weeks away!

And let’s not forget Run Woodstock – less than 3 weeks away!

Super-worthy Causes, and Super Offers For My Readers

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME – I’M FEELING GENEROUS!

One of the great things about running is its power to bring lots of people together for a good cause. Running events routinely donate at least part of their proceeds to one or more charities. Not only is money raised for people in need, the participants engage in a fun and healthy activity instead of sitting in some stuffy ballroom eating rubber chicken, or on their couches eating – well, I don’t even wanna go there.

One great cause from 2013 - the Boston Unity Run in Brighton.

One great cause from 2013 – the Boston Unity Run in Brighton. Huge turnout, lots of money raised, and tons of positive vibes.

One such event I will be part of next week is the Crim Festival of Races, where the city of Flint surrenders its downtown to thousands of runners for a day. Proceeds support the Crim Fitness Foundation, which offers programs on fitness and nutrition for kids and adults. Some of the best runners in the world come to the Crim, and the PR Fitness club fills up an entire bus and more each year.

Last year's PR Fitness team photo at the Crim.

PR Fitness at last year’s Crim.

But right now I want to do more than just tell you stuff – let’s act! I have special offers for my readers that I hope some of you will take advantage of. Without further ado, here they are.

Update: Running for Water – Rick Matz and Team World Vision

Team World Vision - 2In this guest post by fellow blogger Rick Matz, he told us of his plan to support Team World Vision by running a half marathon this fall, even though he isn’t a runner. According to the World Health Organization, over 3 million people die each year from diseases related to poor sanitation. Saving lives by providing access to clean water is what Team World Vision is all about.

Rick is trying to raise a total of $1,310 (get it?) and, frankly, he could use a boost to help him along. So here’s my offer. If any of my readers feels inspired to toss a few bucks his way, please email me after you donate (jeff@runbikethrow.net) and I will match it. Double the power! Click here for the direct link to his page.

And speaking of power…

Get Your Super On

Dress up as your favorite superhero and run!

The Super RunThe Super Run has races all over the country, and it’s coming to Ann Arbor on September 6. It’s a very reasonably priced 1K or 5K, fun for all ages. You also get a superhero cape, “I’m Super” temporary tattoo, and awareness bracelet with registration!

The Super Run supports charities like adoption and foster care, World Animal Awareness Society, and the Children’s Hospitals National Foundation. See their web page for more details.

If you’d like to be a part of this race, you can get a 2-for-1 deal! Sign up for an adult registration and email me the confirmation code, and I will send you a code for a free second registration! Supply is limited for this one, so it’s first come, first served until they’re gone.

And here is a coupon code for 20% off at www.superflykids.com where you or your kids can make your own custom superhero gear. It’s SUPERRUNFAN.

So there you go, and I hope some of you will feel inspired to support one or both of these very worthy causes. But if not, I hope you’ll keep in mind how fortunate the great majority of us in this country are, and consider supporting those who could use some help. And why not do something for yourself while you’re at it? Sign up for an event near you!  If you’re not a runner, most races offer a walking option. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel.

Next up: a recap of my three-triathlon experience this summer, and a 5K romp in a vineyard. No, not a beer mile. But we’ll see what wild and crazy stuff might happen.

Dressed for Success: Red Carpet Run Recap

LADIES, I HAVE NO IDEA WHY you spend so much time and money shopping for clothes and making yourselves up. I can put together an outfit in just a few minutes, with clothes I already own, then run a 5K in them – and win a Best Dressed award!

What’s my secret? Let me set the scene here…

Red Carpet Run - Lining up 2

“GO! GO!” Randy called. I looked myself over one last time. Tuxedo jacket in place. Bow tie straight. Carnation presented just so. Perrier water bottle strapped to my belt. Good to go! And I and three hundred of the best-dressed runners you’ll ever see jogged elegantly down the red carpet, over the starting line, and into West Bloomfield for an eye-popping 5K.

Red Carpet Run outfits - 6

Lots more where this came from! See below, if you dare.

I’ve run a lot of races this year. Some, like the Super 5K, were about pure speed. Some, like the Dances with Dirt ultramarathons, are about endurance. Wednesday’s Red Carpet Run was all about the look.

Now you might think creating the perfect look for this premier event would take weeks of perusing the pages of GQ, a visit to a world-class hair stylist, manicure, and the services of the finest tailors in the area. Not so much. I got home last Tuesday from our annual vacation up north, opened my closet door, and said to myself, “What am I going to wear tomorrow night?”

Poking around in the dark neglected corner where my suits are, I came across my old tuxedo – from high school no less – but in good condition and reasonably dust-free. And the jacket still fit (more or less)! A white button-down collar shirt and black bow tie took care of above the waist. Below I wore shorts and my newest running shoes, although I bowed to fashion and put on over-the-calf dress socks.

Then just a couple of accoutrements to pull the look together. I bought a bouquet and took a carnation from it for a boutonnière. (The rest went to my lovely wife, naturally.) I steamed the label off a bottle of Perrier and put it on a smaller green plastic bottle, then attached it to my SpiBelt with electrical tape. Put on the shades and my Garmin, and the outfit was complete!

Stylin it at the Red Carpet Run

So did everyone have to go to the lengths I did? Well, no. Actually, the RCR dress code, if you can call it that, is very fast and loose. Just about anything goes – and just about anything went. I will let some photos here tell the tale.

Very nice, very nice...

Very nice, very nice…

I hope that's not the next Paris Hilton in the jogger.

I hope that’s not the next Paris Hilton in the jogger.

Then there's, as my daughter puts it - "Cannot. Unsee."

If this one unsettles you, perhaps you should move on right now to the next blog on your list.

I warned you! Actually, I told him he was either a very brave man, or in need of some serious augmentation.

I warned you! Actually, I told him he was either a very brave man, or someone in need of some additional surgery.

The run itself (yes, I really did run a 5K in a tux) was mainly through a residential neighborhood. We got some spectators in lawn chairs cheering us on, and I’m sure we got quite a few stares from the rush hour traffic on Maple Road. Would have been fun to have some paparazzi around, though. And as for my time? Do you recall me saying it was all about the look?

GS - Red Carpet Run - Finish Line

I’d like to see George Clooney look this good after a 5K.

Even the post-race spread was stylish. Fresh grapes and berries, fancy crackers and cheese (including Brie, bien sûr), and even flutes of champagne.

No bagels or bananas to be found!

Not a bagel or banana to be found!

And then came the award presentations. In addition to recognizing the top finishers, there were awards for the best dressed man and woman. The judge was Doug Kurtis, winner of many marathons and the world record holder for most marathons under 2:20. He approached me as I was walking around after the race. “Stick around,” he said. “I think you’re going to win.” And I did!

Me with the Best Dressed woman. Black was definitely the name of the game tonight!

Me with the Best Dressed woman. Black was definitely the name of the game tonight!

So an outfit I put together in 15 minutes with a couple of cheap gags won me some nice extra swag, and even an interview from Michigan Runner. See, that’s all it takes!

I have to go now. My wife is throwing things at me. I had no idea she was so envious of my fashion sense.

Next up: my final triathlon next Wednesday. Back to focusing on performance – no style points there.

Signs of the Apocalypse

I’M GIVING YOU FAIR WARNING.

During my wonderful vacation up north last week, I took some photos that suggest something “revelationary” is brewing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. No fire and brimstone or geese flying backwards, just a collection of little signs that cumulatively suggest – dare I say it – an omen. I haven’t been this worried about my spiritual health since the Harmonic Convergence, whenever that was.

This whole thing has me so shook up I took today off from training. (Okay, Saturday’s half marathon followed by a ten-mile recovery run yesterday also contributed.) While none of what you’re about to see is directly related to my training, I saw them all while running or cycling, so that’s good enough for me.

Here is the evidence. Decide for yourself.

Sign - Church of Christ - Beulah

This is in the lovely town of Beulah (otherwise known for The Cherry Hut) following a round-trip bike ride to Frankfort. Okay, a cute motto but otherwise unremarkable, right? But then I came across this while running the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail into Glen Arbor:

The small sign reads, "Sorry - No Room at the Inn".

The small sign reads, “Sorry – No Room at the Inn”.

I checked, but there have been no reports of a bright star overhead or three rich guys on camels. Yet.

Still skeptical? On the other side of Glen Arbor is this:

Sign - Wine at Gas Pump - Glen Arbor

Was there just an overabundant grape harvest? Or did Jesus just pass through?

Bemused, bothered, and bewildered, I stumbled into the Blue Caribou Cafe in Beulah after Sunday’s recovery run. After yet another ownership change, they finally saw the light and installed an espresso machine. And here was one more sign:

The sign reads, "Everyone should believe in something. I believe I'll have another coffee."

The sign reads, “Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another cup.” Sorry for the image quality. I believe I must have had too many.

So there you have it. Coincidence? The paranoid fantasy of this ultrarunner’s overheated brain? Or is someone out there trying to tell me something? Say, for instance, about my upcoming weekend at Run Woodstock?

Holding the Banner

Thus saith the Lord: TIE DYE IS AN ABOMINATION! And don’t even get Me started on those “Natural Runs”!!!

I’ll do my best to keep you all posted. And if New Jerusalem does descend and land upon me, I just hope they have a good running trail.

Swimming in Proverbial Soup

I COULDN’T FINISH THE SWIM CLASS. One hour into the 90-minute workout, I pulled myself out of the pool and told the instructors I could not continue. I was exhausted and my legs were cramping so badly I could no longer kick.

It was a Sunday morning in April, week one of a 10-week masters-coached swim class to help me train for my summer triathlons. I knew I was in trouble when I could not go more than 50 yards without stopping, and the other students were warming up with 100-yard intervals. I can run for hours, but swimming worked my body in an entirely different way. The half-mile (880 yards) swim needed by June was going to require a lot of work.

I pondered what to do for the next week. Should I stop going to the class and swim by myself? Should I hire a coach and get some private lessons? Or, since I’d paid a handsome price for the class, should I just “suck it up” and struggle through the remaining sessions?

Uh, Mr. Race Director? Are these things triathlon legal?

I wonder…Uh, Mr. Race Director? Are these things triathlon legal?

I thought of the classic English proverb:

If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Was my “thing worth doing” the end goal of completing a triathlon? Or was it rather the training that made the goal possible? If the class would make me a better swimmer in the end, I should continue with it. But given where I was at the time, could I get the most out of the class? It didn’t seem likely.

And if “doing well” meant becoming a strong swimmer, I’d need a lot of coaching and time in the pool, taking time away from running and cycling. Perhaps if I “went at it” by myself, I could improve enough to get by. And that brought to mind this related saying from Tom West:

Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.

In the early 1980s, West was the project leader for Data General’s next-generation minicomputer. He believed if they waited for the perfect design and technology, they’d never finish it. So they went with the best they had, making compromises along the way, but ended with a product that outperformed their main competitor.

My former Aikido instructor had a related take: “If you never fail a test,” he said, “you probably aren’t testing enough.” If your training and conditioning was so good that passing would be easy, it wouldn’t be a real “test” of your limits and capabilities. That seemed to argue for “sucking it up,” going back to the class, and doing my best.

At Kent Lake, "not doing well" the best I can.

At Kent Lake, “not doing well” the best I can.

Or did it? If you test too quickly in Aikido, you won’t absorb the training well enough to understand what you’re doing. Without a solid foundation in the basics, you are ‘building upon sand,” as both Sensei and the Bible put it. That suggested I work on the fundamentals before jumping in with the more advanced swimmers.

Perhaps All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten has the answer:

If something’s not worth doing, it’s worth not doing well.

In running, the cardinal rule is “listen to your body” and adjust your training if you’re tired or injured. Do what you can and don’t make your situation worse. In Aikido, we are told that if you are hurt and can only watch, then watch with focus and energy. You may not be “doing” but you are still learning.

Watching a demonstration with focus and energy. Lest you think this is easy, I suggest you try sitting like this for a while.

Watching a demonstration with focus and energy. Lest you think this is easy, I suggest you try sitting like this for a while.

Could I just watch the swim class, pick up tips, and use them to help train on my own? That seemed awkward. And how could I tell what good form was and was not? I’ve practiced Aikido techniques enough to be able to learn something from just watching, but I couldn’t think of a way  to “not swim” and benefit from it.

And, finally, this from Ayn Rand:

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”

I’d gone to the swim class the day after running an all-out half marathon. So my poor performance might not have reflected my actual capability. Nevertheless, it was obvious that swimming myself to exhaustion wasn’t going to get me there. Sorry, Ayn.

So which of these did I end up following the most closely? None entirely, but a little of each of the first three.

Pterodactyl Triathlon, July

Pterodactyl Triathlon, July

I chose to train on my own, at my own pace. I also watched some videos, and used a swimming coach a few times to observe my form and suggest improvements. By the end of May I was swimming 800 meters (slightly over a half mile) without stopping, and while I’m still a slow swimmer, I completed the June and July triathlons without trouble.

As for the class, I did not return. Catching up was unlikely, and my racing schedule meant there would be more “day after” sessions, too. So my single class turned out to be an expensive one. As I learned just how much work I had to do, however, it was worth it to me.

Much improvement remains, but I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances. And to me that’s “doing it” well enough.

Ban Anna? No, Just the Wafers

SOMEONE PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME. Where in the U.S. Constitution does it require that any dessert involving bananas must include vanilla wafers?

Bananas do not usually get too ripe at the RBT house, as we all prefer them before they get brown and spotty. And I eat one for breakfast just about every day, especially before a morning run or race. But things have been a bit nuts around here recently, and so it was that I found five rapidly aging bananas in the kitchen this weekend.

MORE: Read about why bananas are considered by many to be a perfect food for runners

My standard approach is to make banana bread, but I wanted to try something new. Plus I needed a dessert for our D&D session. So I looked around for a banana pudding-style cake recipe in our cookbooks at home and on the Internet. What I found did not impress me.

The mac-and-cheese of mass market cookies.

The mac-and-cheese of mass market cookies. Source: Wikipedia.

The generic recipes (like Kraft Foods) called for instant banana pudding mix, or instant vanilla pudding with sliced bananas. Several promising leads to “Southern Banana Pudding” were nothing more than the instant stuff with a little bourbon added. A couple non-instant recipes were full of sugar and fat, but called for only a single banana – pretty odd for recipes with “banana” in their titles. And every recipe – I mean every recipe – called for a layer, crust, or topping of those d*mn wafers. Mmmm…vanilla-scented sawdust.

I checked supposedly upscale sites like Food Network and Martha Stewart. I consulted The Cake Mix Doctor, with which my wife has produced some real winners like her carrot cake and chocolate chip cake. Wafers, wafers everywhere. In desperation I began checking vegan recipes, which called for – wait for it! – vegan vanilla wafers. Arrgh!!!

How could i serve a Bohemian recipe to such a refined group of jolly fellows?

How could I serve a Bohemian cake to such a refined group of jolly fellows?

Finally I came across a recipe thankfully omitting the wafers. And it called for three ripe bananas. I upped that to four and made a few other tweaks. Here is the result. I used a caramel drizzle in place of the cream cheese frosting, to lower the fat and better taste the bananas. This was a hit.

Wafer-less Banana Cake

RBT’s Un-Wafer Banana Cake

Dry ingredients: 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients. Beat the egg and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, coconut oil, bananas, and milk. Fold in the dry ingredients until moistened. Pour into a cake pan (I used a Bundt pan for a little more elegance) and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cake is done when cake tester comes out clean. Turn out of pan and cool on rack. The cake should still be very moist inside.

When cool, drizzle with your favorite caramel sauce (here’s the one I made) and top with powdered sugar.

Enjoy with whipped cream, ice cream, whipped coconut cream (or all of them), and fruit.

Yes, it is.

Why yes, it is.