Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No gifts

The last few weeks of my life have been a celebration of the idea that getting something, or giving someone else something that they don't deserve, especially when competition is involved, is just an icky, yucky, disrespectful abomination of everything decent people stand for and should be avoided at all costs.  There have been a series of events where I've had the opportunity to observe and celebrate this concept, but we'll start with the big one. 

Krispy Kreme Challenge West 2012
I won KKCW 2011 in dominant fashion.  It was an exciting victory for me.  The yog was respectable and the donuts just slid right down.  The future seemed so bright! I figured with some eating technique work I could shave another 1+ minute off the eating split, and if I was in peaking OTCY shape, probably yog 30+ seconds faster too.  I basically decided that this event would be my legacy in life.  I thought of all the small competitions that a single person simply dominates.  The club tennis championship from my youth that some guy won 14 times, Bill McDermott owning the Catalina Marathon for decades, Matt Carpenter unbeatable at the Pikes Peak Marathon for the last 20 years, etc...  Well, the Krispy Kreme Challenge West would be MINE.  Notice to all challengers; To be the man, you've gotta beat the man.  Woo!  So on to the race.

Last year's tutu was left at home in favor of a traditional Indian Diwali outfit, but I did break out the Prince style mullet wig again.  We showed up bright and early and I surveyed the small group of competitors warming up.  There were a few fit looking characters, but the main competition was Patrick Sweeney, the famed barefoot, vegan, aspiring alcoholic and owner of several oddball yogging titles and records.  Conspicuously missing from his trophy collection however is a KKCW championship plaque, having been denied last year by yours truly.  He had returned this year looking fit, focused, and ready for redemption.  We lined up and off we went.  I felt like shit.  A small group surged out and quickly gapped me, but they quickly came back and before the 1 mile turn around I had taken the lead.  After the turnaround, we got hit with a vicious headwind that just about stopped me in my tracks.  Ugh.  The very baggy Diwali outfit didn't help me much, but overall my lack of fitness and power just got exposed by the conditions.  Sweeney overtook me and I had no ability to respond.  I got into the eating area about 10-15 seconds behind. 

Last year's magic eating performance was not to be repeated.  The donuts got into my mouth and had no intention of sliding down my throat.  I had visions of repeating my long forgotten shameful performance of 2 years ago when I took 19 minutes to eat all of the donuts.  Trying to win this event, an event which is so blatantly obviously retarded in concept, seemed even more stupid while I was in the middle of it.  But two things allowed me to push away the negative thoughts.  First, I was secure in the knowledge that at some point I would hate myself for not forcing through the discomfort.  Yeah this was dumb, but I had known this for a while and still decided it was important to try to win, so no matter what I'm thinking and feeling now, I needed to trust my former idiot thoughts.  Secondly, the competition.  Mr Sweeney had made the trip from Manhattan Beach and taken a one day reprieve from vegan living to claim this title, and claim it from me.  Not providing legitimate competition in the face of such sacrifice would be terribly disrespectful and basically unconscionable.  So I forced them down.  Stuff stuff stuff more donuts.  Force swallow.  Gag.  Cover my mouth with my hands to prevent any regurgitation, and repeat the process again.  I got out of the eating tent first.

My legs were still dead for the second part of the run, but it was a little better being mentally prepared for the headwind on the 2nd mile.  After the turnaround, I kept track of the competition and was a little relieved when I saw Sweeney running by that I figured the gap was large enough that even if he ran a sub 4 minute mile on the way back he couldn't catch me.  I tried to keep a decent turnover into the headwind to still put in a respectable finishing time, waved to the throngs of adoring fans, crossed the finish line and puked.  A lot.  I knew at that point that I was done with this competition forever.  So fucking stupid.  I have since reconsidered.  To be the man, you've gotta beat the man.  Woo! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Walking Dead

I watch Walking Dead.  I know it's based on a comic but I haven't read it at all and have no idea how closely the show follows the plot line of the comic.  Anyway, the first season started off well enough.  I mean really, how can you go wrong with a zombie show?  Lots of thrilling violent confrontations and escapes and more gore than ever seen before on network television.  Sweet.  Then came the second season.  What a downer.  The plot slows to a halt, never getting anywhere because of an endless series of mini side crises and internal group conflicts, the longterm end goal/ survival plan is still completely up in the air, and there's not a single truly interesting or likeable character on the show.  Nevertheless, I was in too deep, so I've been tuning in to season 3, and I've really enjoyed it!  Where they've gone with it really justifies the tedious nature of season 2.  Frustrated as all hell in getting through the last season, I now find the show to be an excellent exploration of the fundamental nature of humanity, how we relate to eachother and choose to organize ourselves to maximize our chances of survival, and the struggle to find meaning in it all.  The longterm battle for existence in the face of the zombie apocalypse actually makes a great backdrop for this study.  Sure there are a lot of Lord of the Flies parallels, but the ubiquitous zombie threat really does add another dimension.   I can't remember ever watching a show or movie where I've had such disregard for the individual characters but been so fascinated by the evolution of the group as a whole. 

While I don't necessarily agree with the show's assessment of humanity, here's what we've learned so far:
-In the early days of post-apocalyptic living, many will attempt to cling to the higher ideals of civilized living.  They'll go out of their way to help strangers, and put themselves and the larger group at risk to protect individual lives under the principle that you do not leave people behind.  Some level of acknowledgment and respect will remain for individual property rights, and groups will experiment with democratic decision making. 
-As time passes and lives are lost, the higher ideals are shed.  People become more calculating and economical about the sacrifices that can be made for individuals.  Democratic decision making leads to gridlock and endangers everyone.  The alpha males battle for control.
-The groups that emerge as long term survivors are characterized by a single, dominant, authoritarian leader.  A new fierce tribalism emerges, characterized by tremendous distrust for any survivors outside of the group and a severely diminished respect for the lives and property of outsiders.  Rather than leveraging the talents of others to build a stronger, more sustainable group, the tendency is towards violence and scavenging of precious remaining supplies. 
-While most survivors come to accept the absolutely authority of the group leader as essential to their survival, there is the very rare outsider who seeks to neither rule nor be ruled and is content to rely fully on their own competence and abilities to continue to hack out an existence.  Go Michonne!  Libertarian to the end!  The groups have difficulty understanding how to deal with such a person, and they're definitely seen as threats. 

So there you have it.  As the season 3 episodes have gone along, I've greatly enjoyed noting the parallels between Rick's group at the prison and the Governor's at Woodbury.  I continue to wonder, are these common characteristics of the surviving groups really the foundation of any organized society?  Are the rest of our modern civilized principles just a facade, just lipstick on a pig?  Furthermore, as the characters struggle with their own desires to continue on, maintain relationships or bring children into the world, by not addressing any real longterm goal, the show instead asks us, hey, what really is the point of all of this?  It's just a question of severity of the situation, but really not so different for any of us when it really comes down to it. 

Anyway, it appears the show may be taking a turn, ramping up the plot developments with some exciting confrontations straight ahead, but I really hope they continue to explore some of these prominent themes.  It's been fun. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekend Shit Shows

Shit show.  What a wonderful phrase. Undoubtedly one of my favorite in the English language.  The most popular definition in the urban dictionary is:

A description of an event or situation which is characterized by an ridiculously inordinate amount of frenetic activity. Disorganization and chaos to an absurd degree. Often associated with extreme ineptitude/incompetence and or sudden and unexpected failure.

Several other definitions seem to demand drunken debauchery and related behavior in order to render a series of activites a shit show.  Hm.  I guess.  I suppose everyone is entitled to their own definition, but that is never the way I thought of it and certainly not why I fell in love with the phrase.  The image that has always popped into my mind is of a late 19th century type traveling circus, where you could pay a penny to access a tent where some freak of nature would drop a horse sized dump right in front of you.  To me, anything in modern day life that elicits a similar reaction to what you would have felt sitting in that tent is a bonafide shit show. 

According to the urban dictionary, my behavior two weekends prior would probably more aptly fit the traditional definition of a shit show.  Making the trip up to Sonoma wine country to attend an old Taipei friend's wedding, I arrived on Friday to the rehearsal dinner relieved to be done with the 500something mile drive, giddy to be free of parenting responsibilities for a long weekend, and just generally cheerful to see an assortment of old friends, most of whom I had seen extremely sparingly or not at all for the last 17 years.  Accordingly, I drank like an overeager 14 year old whose parents are out of town, fearlessly mixing wine, tequila, whiskey and 9% beer.  Becky had similar inclinations but smartly destroyed herself within the first two hours and made it back to the hotel while I lingered.  I got a ride to an after party at some palatial estate my friends were renting that was tucked back somewhere amongst the winding roads and endless vineyards outside of Healdsburg.  When I inevitably found myself violently ill but sufficiently refreshed by an undetermined amount of time spent face down in the front yard, I decided that the optimal play was to wander off into the darkness, using the GPS on my smart phone to guide me what I estimated to be 6-10 miles back to the hotel.  After making it barely beyond the front gate, I looked at my phone to see the battery at 2% for just a moment before the screen went dark.  Fuck it.  I took my best directional guess and began running, dress shirt, jeans and dress shoes.  I'll never know for sure, but I believe I held a damned respectable pace for those miles.  Nevertheless, after a while I decided to explore the hitchhiking option, so every few minutes when a vehicle would pass I'd do my best to indicate my need for help.  Wouldn't you know, after only 20 or so passing vehicles and a few more miles, a nice guy decided to stop for me.  Turns out I was in fact going the right direction and was less than 2 miles from the hotel!  Becky was apparently worried about me.  Why, I don't know.  I'm a big boy.  Things are under control.  And in case anyone ever stumbles upon this blog, you're obviously wondering, so yes, I had to blow the guy.  But I was getting tired, and the terrain was getting hilly.  Those last 2 miles would have been tough. 

This past weekend however better fit my personal definition of a shit show.  That was what I was originally going to write about, but now I'm over it.  So I'll save that for tomorrow or whenever I get around to it. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I am in terrible shape

It's amazing how being in horrible shape can just kind of creep up on you.  I yog without a watch or GPS, so every now and then when doing a workout, after a repeat I ask someone, "hey, what was our time on that one?"  Invariably, I hear the answer and think, hmm, really?  It sure felt a lot faster than that!  Oh well.  GPSes aren't that accurate anyway. That mile repeat was probably 30 meters long.  And I shouldn't be killing myself in these workouts anyway.  I'm saving it for race day (even though I have no plans to race)!  Then, when I randomly find myself toeing the line at some OTCY and stink it up, I convince myself that I was holding back, sore, untapered and not ready to race there was no way I was going to put it all out there.  Then finally, there's an OTCY where I show up, put in a real effort, dig in mentally and work hard through the pain, push myself to the point of near blackout over the last 1/2 mile, then look up at the finish clock and see that my yogging has regressed about 3 years.  That's truly an awesome experience.  The satisfaction of knowing that I put in a real effort and didn't puss out coupled with the cold, hard reality that I'm terrible (even more than I thought I was) and that my best stinks.  The basic satisfaction of the good effort usually dominates for about 20 minutes before the stench of my horribleness starts taking over and overwhelms my senses over the next few days.  But, if I can resist the urge to make some obvious changes to the lifestyle habits that have brought me to this point, and instead decide to make the transition from regular drinker to borderline alcoholic and glutton, then the horribleness stops being a temporary situation and takes on a firm, permanent presence.  That's what I did and this is where I am. 

I look forward to defending my Krispy Kreme West title this Saturday.  Then look out Turkey Trot and Honolulu!  Racing season bitches!