King Kong ain’t got shit on me

Obviously, today was Training Day, hence the title. (For those of you who haven’t seen Training Day and were expecting a post about Godzilla’s evident superiority to King Kong, let me redirect your attention elsewhere. SPOILER: King Kong wins, which is a bag of bullshit, since Godzilla has fucking atomic breath. What’s Kong got? A weakness for blondes. But I digress).

With the marathon just three weeks away, I had decided that today would be my longest run, and that the next three weeks would be about tapering and making sure my body is as healthy as possible on race day. I had hoped for good weather, and the forecast originally called for only afternoon showers, so I was optimistic that I could get in an early run and stay dry.

No such luck, of course. I was running by 8:30a but the rain had started before I even opened my eyes. Given my circumstances, I didn’t really have the luxury of rescheduling, so it was time to nut up or shut up. I did my ~20 miles (~32 KM) and got rained on for about ~19.5 of them (all distances are approximate). All things considered, the rain wasn’t too much of a factor (most of my route is fairly well-covered by trees), and the cool conditions kept me from sweating excessively, always a plus. Still hoping for clear skies on November 19th, but we roll with the punches, no?

I did my ~20 in a timed 2:55, which (if my distances are at all accurate) works out to around 8:45 per mile. That includes a three-minute pit stop around mile 14 at the aid station AKA backpack for some water, IBs, and a quick-hitter of IcyHot. If I can maintain that pace for the full 26.2, I’ll be thrilled, but it should be noted that my last three miles were more like 9:35 per mile, so I slowed down considerably at the end. Still, that’s about 75% of a marathon right there, so I’m feeling very confident that injury is the only thing that will keep me from reaching my goal-time of sub-4:00.

With that in mind, let’s break down the areas of concern ESPN-style, from least worrisome to most worrisome.

3) Knees

On both my race-type runs (~16.5 miles and ~20 miles), my knees have started to bark at around mile 15. I’m frankly not that worried about this because it isn’t a muscle-related issue, it’s a pain-threshold issue, at least as far as finishing is concerned. I’ve also made the calculated decision not to take ibuprofen before my runs so that I can see how my body is responding (though as I mentioned, I did take some towards the end of today’s piece). I think if I dope up pre-race there’s a good chance I can mitigate the issue.

2) Hamstrings

Seems like the bane of every athlete at some point. Unless you’re some mountain-dwelling, lotus-sitting, tantric-sex-having yogi, it’s hard to get these puppies adequately loose. So far during my runs, the cardio has never been a problem–at an 8:45 pace, I’m doing all aerobic exercise, and since I never approach my anaerobic threshold, I’m never out of breath at any point during the run–but muscle fatigue is an issue. My hamstrings tighten up around the 13 mile mark (hence the IcyHot), but even with the help of my old standby, it’s hard to really get loose once you get really tight (frisbee players used to coping with a mid-day bye before a big afternoon game will recognize this feeling). In the practice runs, this hasn’t shut me down, but to compensate I have to shorten my stride considerably, so that the hammy doesn’t have as far to go with each step. Then I’m stuck trying to increase my RPMs to offset the shorter stride in order to maintain the same pace. So far, it hasn’t worked out so well, as evidenced by my slow finishes to both runs. But I’m hoping that better preparation–including better stretching, better hydration, and a pornographic slather of pre-race IcyHot–will keep me loose enough to smell the finish line.

1) Nipples

What’s up with your nips, bro?

This shit is not cool, yo.

I thought this shit was an old wives tale. Chafed nipples? Whatever. Just made up to scare children, like anal fissures. Or if it does happen, it happens to other people, NOT ME.

Just in case you can’t tell from the photo, those red spots are where my nipples used to be, until they were abraded completely off my chest between miles 9 and 13. This shit is so, so NOT cool. He leakin! Not only is this crazy uncomfortable (although after awhile you stop noticing it), but it leaves you looking like Dracula’s wet nurse at the end of your run. I mean, I’m trying to get a sweet picture of me crossing the finish line, so that I can frame that shit and brag on facebook about how fast I am. You know what ruins a nice victory pic? When people think you spent the last 26.2 miles breastfeeding The Count. Obviously, the surest solution to this problem is to run shirtless, but since it may be too cold for that, I’ll be experimenting frantically with various balms and ointments over the coming weeks. Or at least wearing a black shirt on race day.

And, to all the people out there walking around with blissfully soft and occasionally erect nipples, let my pain serve as a warning. THIS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. One day, you’re out in the world, minding your own business–maybe you’re buying a papaya at a fruit stand or pretending to text someone to avoid being accosted by the neighborhood derelict–and somebody taps you on the shoulder, and you spin around ready to make a new friend, and your new friend says, “Bro, what’s up with your nips?” Or, worse still, you’re chatting up the cute chick in the “It’s not easy being green” t-shirt who just walked into the Mission District Muppet Bar you’ve been “working” at (just till things pick up!), and you think things are going really well because you both like The National, but she excuses herself abruptly, so you go into the back room to apply your makeup and see the red blotches on your normally pristine Swedish Chef apron. IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU AND PROBABLY WILL.

This November, I’d like you all to join me in celebrating Nipple Awareness Month. Together, we can make a brighter, healthier future for our children’s nipples!

From the bowels of hell

For awhile now, I’ve been planning to do a two-part post on the best and worst things about living in Japan. Originally, I was going to save this for my Worst of Japan list, but circumstances over the last two days have forced my hand. Best and Worst lists are still forthcoming–just consider this the preamble.

(Note: If you have a weak stomach, I recommend waiting until after lunch to read this).

As you’ll eventually see in my Best of Japan list, there are lots and lots of advantages to living in Japan. One of the disadvantages, in my case, is that I do not have a flush toilet in my home. Now, this really isn’t that big a deal. I’ve shit in many an outhouse and latrine before, not to mention the occasional pit and/or lacrosse field. I’m not a nervous pooper. But, like most Americans, I’ve always had a flush toilet in my home. So when I found out I was going to be sans plumbing, I thought, oh well, just remember to keep the lid down.

In most ways, the privy toilet looks and feels just like a regular bowl. And it’s actually misleading to call it non-flushing, since it does have a flush that releases water. It’s just that when the waste disappears, it disappears only about a meter down, where it collects in a sewage tank. My initial fear was that I was going to drop something important in there by accident. Ever had your keys fall out of your pocket and into the toilet before? Not like this you haven’t. I make a point to unload my pants before I start to unload my ass, just in case.

Sewage tanks are inconvenient because they obviously need to be emptied. I chatted with my predecessor–the previous occupant of the apartment–about how often he had the tank cleared, and he said every three to six months. Now, I’m not angling for a poop off, but I topped that fucker off in 11 weeks. Granted, I am something of a legend in my own mind when it comes to pooping. In my younger and more vulnerable years, I clogged toilets with such regularity that I began to unburden myself in public restrooms whenever possible, since they tend to have a stronger flushing mechanism than many residential models. If I was coming to your house, it was Word to Ya Mother, because she better put a plunger next to the toilet just in case, WHAT WHAT. Thankfully, I now recognize the need for less TP and multiple flushes, so while I’m still incurring surcharges on my heavy freight, I don’t need to blaze the Drano as often as I once did.

Anyway, I brought her to brim in just under three months, and I have to admit, the last week or so was terrifying. You first start to suspect that space is at a premium when you stop hearing the splash from below. It’s just a clench followed by eerie silence and a sinking feeling that something ain’t quite right. But that’s just the beginning. Pretty soon, you see It start to creep out of the darkness of the tank, beginning to climb towards you up the one meter shaft. At that point, every poop is nerve-racking, because until you get up to check after the fact, you don’t really know how much space you have to work with. And especially at night, when the lighting is poor and you can’t see more than a foot of pipe clearly. You just hope that you don’t crown the bastard before its too late.

Of course, I did get around to calling for someone to come around and empty my tank. That is to say, my supervisor called, since my trifling Japanese is ill-suited to such an important task. (This wasn’t as awkward a conversation as I thought it would be). Apparently, they can come and clean it out while you’re at work, which is very convenient. Except that when I came home from work, ready to drop trow and excited to have some breathing room, I opened the lid to find It smiling cruelly up at me, unchanged. The next day, I told my supervisor about my increasingly dire situation, and she called the sanitation people again. Apparently, she told me, they came and removed 250 liters (~66 gallons) worth of waste (is that a lot for three months? I assume so but I really have no idea. Presumably a lot of it was water). But–I know what I saw. That turtle-headed fucker was waiting for me at home. It can smell my fear. I can smell It. The situation is increasingly dire, I said.

She told me to try dumping water on It. So, when I got home, I went straight to work. If water can carve the Grand Canyon, it can surely clear a pathway through my nightmare, right? But no. It was resilient. It wanted to taste the porcelain mere inches away. It would not be denied. I finally reached the conclusion (that you, of course, being infinitely wiser and better proportioned, reached far more quickly, during just the course of this story) that I had probably waited a little bit too long to call for sanitation backup. The 250 liters were removed from the bottom of the tank, but by allowing It to begin ascending the shaft, I brought adhesiveness and suction into play. Unlike the 250 liters at the bottom, this tenacious liter-and-a-half had not succumb to gravity.

Running out of options and patience, I took up arms, in this case my broom. In an effort to salvage dignity in an undignified situation, I jury-rigged a ziplock bag over the broom handle, using a rubber band to secure it in place (because, aside from unclogging toilets, I use this broom as a broom, from time to time). Then, resolute, I jammed the handle down the shaft, into It’s heart. It cried out, a squishy, squelchy cry, like a rubber boot pulled rudely from a puddle of mud. I stabbed at it a few more times. The slapdash ziplock-and-rubber-band condom-of-sorts got summarily stuck in It. My broom got summarily poopy. At first, the condom-of-sorts seemed to strengthen It, but soon It gave way, falling into the relative darkness a meter down.

Of course, despite the many videos and demonstrations forced upon me during 7th grade health class, I hadn’t proven very able with the condom-of-sorts, and the broom handle looked like a prop from Amateur Colonoscopy Night at the free clinic. After a thorough cleaning involving six ounces of dish soap, two sponges, twenty squares of toilet paper, and nine q-tips (for those hard to reach poop stains!), the broom is currently in overnight quarantine on the porch outside.

As for me, I learned a valuable lesson: be vigilant when it comes to emptying your sewage tank. Also, don’t try to save water by flushing conservatively. It isn’t worth it.

Ironically, my scatological adventures continue tomorrow. I am scheduled for my mandatory health check in the morning and they have requested that I provide not one but two poop swatches. They even gave me little plastic sample cases and foreigner-friendly picture instructions. A regular How To Collect Your Poop Swatch travel kit! (Fetishist Display Kit sold separately).

In search of lost time

I have a lot of alone time around here. Some of it I spend reading, some running, some doing errands. Some of it I spend just marveling at how I manage to pass for a functioning adult. Mind you, none of what I do in this respect is remarkable in the least, except to me. I wake up on time, go to work, pay my bills, buy and cook my food, wash and iron my clothes, go to bed at a reasonable hour (usually). If I had to sum it up, I’d say that, for several years, I’ve been in complete charge of pretty much everything in my life.

So, and I’d put the figure right around 75 percent of the time, I TCOB like a boss, and there seem to be few discernible differences between me and an actual adult. Then there are nights like tonight when it becomes fundamentally clear that I am not a for-real, bread-winnin, down-settlin, pants-wearin, nightly-news-watchin a-dult. (Sometimes I do wear pants). Tonight I came home from work feeling awfully good about myself, with all my prep work for tomorrow and the next day done. And I decided that since it was a little cloudy out maybe I’d take the day off from training and just relax. And I thought about cleaning the apartment, but it was already fairly clean. And I thought about reading but didn’t feel like it. And I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t start making dinner.

What I did was decide that, since I was just relaxing and taking it easy, I might as well indulge myself in the most decadent way I know how: by turning on my computer and cranking up a little Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword. After breathless minutes vacillating between choices–Mongolian Keshiks can dominate the early turns, but the Dutch East Indiaman affords an edge when it comes to colonization–I elected to play with the Ottomans (Suleiman, of course, not Mehmed II. Expansive/Organized? Get that weak shit out of here, Mehmed. You come Imperialistic/Philosophical to the hole or you don’t come at all).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of unwinding, and who’s to say whether reading the paper and drinking Pinot noir is really more sophisticated than eating Calbee brand Brown Sugar cereal and logjammin’ Horse Archers down Gandhi’s underfed, overconfident gullet? The problem is when the unwinding winds up taking three-and-half hours because, dammit, if you don’t finish construction of the Taj Mahal now you’ll have to pay the builders overtime… let’s just wait for Magellan to finish his trading expedition to Samarkand… what the hell, Hammurabi? Thought we was boys, now here you go, trying to leverage your monopoly on iron into a trade surplus… I see what you’re doin there, Churchill, but I ain’t signin no unequal treaties–that shit might work during the Opium Wars, but it ain’t gonna fly here, not on my watch… And suddenly it’s 9:45 and you haven’t made dinner or ironed your pants or taken a shower, but you HAVE established three cities of Legendary Status en route to a definitive Cultural Victory without the benefit of any help from those assholes Byzantines whose ham-fisted spies are forever getting apprehended trying to poison the water supply in our major metropolitan reservoirs. Douchers.

Sufficed to say, I’m not actually an adult. I just play one between the hours of 8:15a and 4:30p.