Thursday, March 31, 2011

Zuul and the Supermoon

Did you hear about the Supermoon?

Yes, it was beautiful to behold the full moon when it was at its closest to Earth. But in retrospect, I wondered if there was more going on than just a lovely celestial spectacle. Despite the scientific arguments to the contrary, I think the Supermoon made us crazy.

I'll start with the hair crimping.

Yes, I busted out the crimper again. The 80s Movie Anthem Singalong at Alamo Drafthouse was on my calendar for several weeks. So was a 20-mile run, but I didn't notice that they occupied the same day until, well, that day. And I did not realize this convergence of these events coincided with the full moon's super duper closeness to us Earthlings, either.

Again, in retrospect, I should have. And not just because that day brought out such crazy extremes in me: both the exhausted remains of Post-20-Mile-Shannon, and the insane, crimped, dancing on stage to Huey Louis & The News Shannon.

No, I should have known that there was something strange going on when I began to resemble Zuul earlier on in the week. Not Sigourney Weaver Zuul.

This Zuul:

Do you ever experience that feeling? You know, where your evil twin is in control? I usually believe that it's due to lack of sleep or poor eating or dehydration. Yes, really, I think the biological basics get out of whack & render us unable to cope with the most basic of daily tasks. We cease to function properly.

Zuul takes over.

It's like suddenly being in the back seat of the Shannonmobile. I can see that I'm not the driver at all anymore, and I'm not really pleased with the route we're taking. Or the direction. But I remain helpless & just watch our collision course, knowing I'll have plenty of cleanup work when I return to driving again.

Still, there had to be more at play last week. People all over the place were going nuts. Relationships were on the rocks. Coworkers were mad at each other. Horn usage in traffic was up by at least 50%.

Brendon says my eyes get very dark when I am not the driver of the Shannonmobile. Later on, when I feel normal again, he says they look green & feels comfortable enough to laugh with me about...before.

Ha ha ha, wasn't it so funny the way I tried to make lightning bolts come out of my eyeballs at you while I screamed about _______?

(insert any useless, pointless, not-worth-screaming-about item here: the way strangers look at you, the way people pluralize everything by adding 's to words, the way your coworker laughs, leaving the seat up, putting inside-out shirts in the hamper, the ineptitude of the checkers at our HEB, etc)

Usually the Good Shannon hollers from the backseat that things are not going well. So I go to bed earlier, drink more water, have tea instead of coffee, and things go back to normal. Murderous rage is off the table; I take things in stride and can hear the birds chirping again.

Not this time. I believe there was more at play this time. That's why it took 20 miles of running and then a really strange evening of dancing around in neon spandex with both friends and total strangers.

The next day, I was back in the driver's seat. And every single muscle felt the pain of what I had done. Mystery bruises showed up; did we take chairs to the stage as dance props when Flashdance came on the screen? I had to go to Allie Borsch's Better Pain Scale to rate what I was feeling.

I think I was at her #4. My crimped hair and bruised legs limped to the coffee shop for a wake-up. There I walked through cigarette smoke, sat in crumbs, and listened to pretentious hipster music. All things that would have made me livid when I was possessed.

But Zuul had left the building. I was happy. I sipped some coffee and smiled at babies and reminisced about the night before. The Supermoon was gone, and there was no Zuul, only Shannon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Simple Explanation

When we first moved in, I thought the garbage men hated us.

It was particularly unsettling, because I in turn was extra happy about their presence. Having lived the previous decade in places where trash was escorted to dumpsters for disposal, I relished the thought of putting all our refuse neatly in a bin at the street for curbside pickup. How modern and luxurious!

I loved them. So their obvious hatred of our household really hurt my feelings.

How did I know they hated us? I inferred. I gathered evidence and heeded the signs. Basically, they left us one article of trash every week, and I could only interpret this as a very clear, "You suck."

I thought maybe their dislike was due to the amount of trash we produced in those first few weeks. Between wedding gifts and moving boxes, we were putting a lot of wrapping and packing stuff at the street. When I came to collect our garbage can in the morning, I'd find one little leftover. Every single time.

A piece of plastic in the bottom of the can. One little box. A discarded bag. Without fail, I was greeted with a piece of rejected waste every Friday morning, and it gnawed away at my homeowner self-confidence like nothing else.

What was I doing wrong? How had I incurred the wrath of the sanitary waste committee? I obsessed over the situation week after week.

Until the morning I was out walking while the trash was being collected. Intimidated by their presence anyway (did they recognize me? Did they know who I was??) I walked a little more quickly. They rumbled past me, and then I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. 

A mechanized arm reached out from the garbage truck, picked up the next trash can, and proceeded to dump the contents into the truck. 

My trash service is robotic.

Aghast, amazed, stunned, I stood frozen in my tracks, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. When on earth did this marvel of technology develop? Go go gadget trash collection! I began to count the number of years since I had lived in a place where trash is collected, and I conceded that such a technological development could indeed have taken place.

But did others know about this? I glanced around to see if anyone else was watching this fantastic production. Nope. That lady continued to rake her leaves. That car at the stop sign had long since continued on its way. This was no modern marvel.

Not to anyone, in fact, not even children. I looked at trash trucks online when I got home (yes I did), and saw that this mechanical arm is the norm. 

It's so commonplace that it's on children's toys.

Amazed, I stared out the window and snapped photos. You realize what this means? The trash guys don't hate me. They're not being catty when they leave me little leftovers from my own trash. They aren't doing it at all!

It's just a by-product of that mechanical arm; if something doesn't fall out of the can, it simply remains in the can!

I made up this huge situation and filled it with anger and guilt and drama, and it was all explained away with one robot trash-collecting arm. I laughed at myself and resolved to apply this to life more often. 

Quit reading into things so much. If you pick up on some undercurrent of negative feelings among people, chances are you're making it up and it can all just be traced back to a robot trash-dumping arm. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Best-Kept Secret

If I'd have known that Town Lake was going to be providing me with running snacks, I probably wouldn't have bought those secret-pocket running shorts the real runners seem to love so much.

I classify them as "real" because I have not yet joined their ranks. I am an impostor. A poser. Perhaps even a ringer, because while I don't look like it at all, I can officially run 20 miles.

Oh yeah, that's right. Twenty miles this morning on Town Lake, and I went home in my own car (not an ambulance). And I am an impostor/poser/ringer because no one would ever guess that I were capable of such a thing by just looking at me:

yeah...I don't hear the Rocky theme playing when I see this person either
The real runners are lean, lithe, with either cool haircuts or gorgeous bouncing ponytails. They zoom past me on the lake trails, sometimes inspiring me with their speed. But mostly they intimidate me.

You can even tell who they are in public. Runners just look different. Were they born that way & happily fell into their life role at some point? Or has running made them look the way they do?

I hope for the latter, because I think it would be cool for someone to ask me if I not respond with an eyebrow to the hairline when I explain that I'm prepping for a marathon (I'm not trying to boast; I have to tell people. Otherwise everyone thinks I'm pregnant when I don't drink and go to bed at 7:30pm.)

But people do not ask me if I run. It is my body's best-kept secret. The Shannon who runs is stored somewhere deep inside the Shannon who enjoys beer and chocolate, and beer/choco Shannon wins in the struggle to control what shows up on the outside. My butt stands as testament.

CLEARLY a model for Title 9 and not my actual midsection. I just want you to see the shorts.
Which is kinda why I think it's so great that my secret-pocket shorts allow me to store snacks in a pocket right above my butt. There it is perfectly concealed; what's one more Larabar stored among that which has been created by so many other delicious snacks? Some ladies stopped me on the trail to ask me where I got my shorts, and in a rush of adrenaline I shouted, "TITLE NINE, THEY'RE AWESOME, THEY HAVE POCKETS EVERYWHERE...I HAVE A GRANOLA BAR IN HERE!"

They quickly scurried away. I'm sure I was just a vision of sleek athleticism there at mile 16 and it was too much for them to handle. Or maybe they were hurrying to the store to get their own awesome shorts. I didn't care. I was kinda delirious at that point.

My dear, sweet friend.

Because while I was still only at mile 16, I was at Advil #3. So I was feeling pretty...interesting.

Not that I like the fact that little pills are helping me to achieve my goal, but after the horrifying knee pain I began to experience 3 weeks ago, I'm willing to do what it takes to make this marathon happen.

What it really takes is just a little bit of confidence. In the shoe store, that is. I showed up at RunTex to get my second pair of shoes, and this frighteningly harsh Russian lady approached me. She commanded that I take off my shoes, determined that I had a low arch, and put me in a pair of Brooks. It felt like there were little bubbles under my feet in the place where normal folks have an arch.

Moronically, I still bought them and proceeded to run in them for a week. After that, I became best friends with ice and Ibuprofen. I tried to swim and cycle and pretend like I would still be able to do the marathon, but I was pretty sure I was just going to die.

Brendon stepped in to end my melodramatic self-pity and just told me to return the shoes and stretch some more. So I forced the evil shoes back on the shoe store (um, a different location where nobody scared me) and bought a pair of even more gigantic flat-footed-folks shoes, which I got nice and dirty today.

Look at all that space in the toe box...perfect for long alien toes!

What I had a hard time with today was the snack issue. See, real runners say you have to eat every 90 minutes or so when doing a long run. They also say you should drink Gatorade. While I know it tastes good, I just don't want to drink something that is the same color as my workout shirt. That just can't really be healthy.

And the snack thing? I wonder if that is just for real runners who have nothing on their bodies to burn. I'm carrying around what we might call a nice amount of excess & wouldn't really mind if my body chose to consume it to get to the end. Plus it's really really hard to eat while running.

I did bite into the Larabar at mile 17, just because I was scared of what would happen if I didn't. But like I said before, Town Lake provided us with snacks back at daybreak...with a million f-ing little gnats.

And what I don't understand is why they weren't bothering the real runners. They were all over my eyes and nose and mouth, so I ran miles 3-7 waving my arms around my face like I was on fire. I must have swallowed enough to make up a Larabar or two. Which is probably why I never got hungry.

I did start to fantasize about pink lemonade. I mentally took back everything nasty I've ever thought about Gatorade too. I wanted a tall, cold, sweet drink. With artificial ingredients. Mmm. I wanted donuts and Country Time and waffles. The healthy crap I've been eating was very very far from my mind.

Shannon, eat us! Don't give in to Yellow #5. It's us and gnats that will make you look like a runner!

And then it was over. I almost stopped someone in the parking lot to tell them that I had did it, because I was quite giddy. But it's SXSW this week in Austin, and all the cool hip people that were gathering were just happy to fight over my coveted parking spot. So I drove home to stretch and feel victorious.

V with your feet is for Victory

It really was gratifying to lay on the ground and gaze up at my worn-out feet. The dust ring where my socks had been looked like stripes I had somehow earned.

I wasn't even mad at all the laundry and mess I'd left around the house. Just...happy and exhausted. And almost unable to get up from my mat. That Advil #3 was wearing off. I crawled into the shower before its effects were so diluted that I'd have to call the Fire Department to wash my hair for me.

That might be a good fantasy...if you're not smelly and dusty and unable to control most of your muscles.

The big thing here is that now I know I won't have to get Brendon to help me cheat at the marathon in a few weeks. Oh yes, we talked about it. He offered to drive me from the start to the end if I didn't think I could do it...that way I could still save face with my sweet and supportive family/friends.

But I'm okay. They say if you can run 20, you can run 26.2. I'm going to believe They.

I believe They. Even if I feel like this after 20 miles.

And after my breakfast of gnats and choked-down Larabar, the most delicious thing in the world sounded like...salt. And bananas.

So I answered that craving with salty bananas. No, I didn't consume crazy runner food or drinks with electrolytes. Remember, I am a poser. I may be a runner, but it's my best-kept secret.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Running, Riding, and Little Powdered Donuts

Brendon's face was like that of a 5-year-old with a new toy. Huddled in the car, parked in the lot of the local high school, we anxiously awaited the start of our motorcycle licensing class.

I crunched into an apple. He was eating little powdered donuts.

Motorcycles and powdered sugar? Can there be such a combination of pleasure for one man? 

I eyed the donuts. Of course I wanted them, but I stuck with the apple and peanuts.

Why? Because I know myself.

While Brendon is content to have 2, maybe 3 of those sweet little snow-white breakfast bombs, I am not. I want all of them. Yes, the whole box. The only way to prevent a disgusting feeding frenzy is to choose to have zero donuts.

It's zero or twenty, and vary rarely is there middle ground.

Lately I'm beginning to wonder if I am like this with more than just little powdered donuts.

But back to the moto class. After about an hour of lesson, we actually got to get on the bikes and ride them. I and one other dude taking the course had never had the pleasure of sitting on a moving motorcycle, so we got high fives from everyone after our first little putter across the parking lot.

Brendon used to have a bike, so this was all a breeze for Stud Muffin.

But first I had to put the fear of God in our instructor.

This was right after I just about hurled myself across several parking spaces by grabbing at the brake--just like he had instructed us not to. Like, a hundred times he had instructed us not to. He looked at me and talked to me about the bike, and from his eyes I could see that it dawned on him just how confused and inexperienced and incapable I was.

For the next 20 minutes, there was no one in the class but me. He let everyone else putter back and forth and stood right by my bike, babysitting me like the ticking brake-grabbing time bomb I was. 

The clouds gathered ominously overhead, I stalled the bike out a few dozen times, and our teacher patiently repeated himself a few dozen more. My frustration mounted, the weather turned even blacker, and I considered leaving the class.

Even the sweet old man on his moped was faring better than I.

My 15 layers of clothes were bulky and making me feel even more uncomfortable and incompetent. Especially as the hot girl in our class zoomed by with ease, her fitted leather jacket and cool helmet showing off her sexy tangle of long hair. I didn't even try to be happy for her for having such great abs.

In that moment, I hated her, and I hated the rest of the class. Even the sweet old man. I hated the weather, the instructor, and the bike. I hated little powdered donuts, and I really really really hated that I was terrible at riding a motorcycle. 

I suffered and brooded through the next few exercises. I could not look my husband in the eye for the shame. I focused as hard as I could, and managed to get worse at what I was doing.

My mood must have touched the clouds, because suddenly it began to rain. First just a few drips, and then full-on rain with thunder and wind. The instructor kept us riding, and I struggled to see through my wet and fogging glasses. We were all shivering and soaked within a few minutes.

Suddenly I could ride. I opened up the throttle a little more, and I could feel how the clutch worked to get me there, and I shifted gears and accelerated through the turn and rode with ease through the icy rain and wind.

Oh sweet sweetness, IT FELT SO GOOD! I smiled through chattering teeth and through the next few exercises. My bike purred beneath me and obliged my every command.

Then the clouds broke, the sun came out, and I think the angels sang. My bike stalled a few more times, but only when I caught myself focusing too hard on what I was doing.

Roh-roh, I feel a lesson coming on. How old will I have to get before this quits happening?

The little powdered donuts. The bike. Could...could my all-or-nothing tendencies be...bad?

Sure, it may mean that when I want to clean the bathroom, the grout gets scrubbed with a toothbrush and the baseboards get wiped down.

But it also means that when I train for a marathon, I run so much I have to paint my toenails a dark red to conceal the sad purple tinge I earn from pounding that damn pavement.

I know, wahhh wahhh. Life is sooo hard when your toenails are ugly.

People who smoke, people who need alcohol (like to wash down their morning eggs kind of need), these are the people who get labeled as addicts. But when I look at the box of donuts and their 10 kinds of maltodextrins and partially hydrogenated ewok oil, when I look at my poor toes, I get that creepy feeling like maybe there are more addicts out there than we think.

I handed out beer at the Austin Marathon a couple of weeks ago. Mile 20 was down the street from my house, and I heard it was good karma to provide fizzy beverages to the runners.

Good Karma? Bah. The next week I spent with my knee elevated, compressed, and covered in ice. Occasionally I lit a candle (Catholic upbringing, couldn't help it). Running was too painful to even consider.

Still, I developed withdrawal symptoms and obsessed over whether I'd ever be able to so much as jog again.

Karma, shmarma. Cross-training was what I lacked. And a good sense of moderation.

So while a lot of the world gives stuff up for Lent, I'm endeavoring to find a middle ground. I wish all the smokers and drinkers and occasional eaters of brownies the best of luck with their 40 days of cold turkey (except on Fridays, ha ha).

Looks like my prescription is:

-Ride a motorcycle, and don't think too much.

-Eat only 1 or 2 donuts, and don't think too much. (Well, maybe not the ones with pantyhose and yellow #5 in the ingredients.)

-Run--sometimes. Don't think too much.