the troubles

I hope they have health food in Dublin
And strawberry apricot pie
If they don’t have those things in Dublin
We’ll probably die
— the Roches

I was just reading a story in the Fake New York Times about cross-country skiers in the Olympics. It contends skiing isn’t the hardest part. The real challenge is the constant effort to shovel in enough calories to keep going, about 8,000 calories a day.

I can relate to this story. I’m living it.

I’m in the middle of heavy training in the Year of Fleshman running season. This will sound crazy, but I’m running THREE MILES A DAY. No, that’s not a typo. NOT three miles a week, but three miles EVERY DAY. This creates a caloric need that becomes an all-day chore, leaving me time for little but running, working, eating, sleeping and watching endless old MASH episodes. Because there aren’t new MASH episodes. Spoiler alert: The Korean War hasn’t ended by the time the series is over, or in real life, although I increasingly suspect it will end soon in a way Alan Alda wouldn’t have written. Can you imagine if MASH were currently being filmed in the days of the #MeToo movement? Nurse Kelly would have some tales to tell. But I digress.

The morning begins in the morning. I wake up hungry. I’m always so, so hungry. I eat a bowl of oatmeal (an entire half cup, since that all my bowl will hold.) I add some milk-like product and a spoon of sugar. I know I should limit my sugar, but my body is a pot-belly furnace. It demands food. Always more food. So it’s barely 10 a.m., and I’ve already shoveled in 230 calories. Crazy, I know.

I then go to run. It’s an icy day, barely above 60, but I’m a Serious Runner, so I gut it out. The track is empty except for a couple of guys stealing our benches. I don’t need a bench anyhow, because I’m a Serious Runner. I might have mentioned that already. I run a Gumbo 5K, which makes me wish I had gumbo, although I’ve never had it and have no idea what it is. Maybe it’s like chili? I hope real gumbo doesn’t have beans.

One of the enduring images of the long-distance cross-country events is the sight of athletes collapsing at the finish line because they’e run out of fuel, the NYT article notes. I can relate to this because I drag my feet when I run, causing me to trip a lot. Or maybe it’s the lack of calories. But not today. The run is uneventful. Time for More Food.

Like the Olympic cross-country skier, I eat constantly because I must. The body demands calories, dammit, always more calories. I make a cheese sandwich for lunch. Gluten-free bread, Tillamook cheese. My calorie tracker lectures me on my dietary selection. I scoff. You do what you have to do. Bill Rodgers ate cold pizza with mayo on it during his day. I add some mayo just in case. 510 calories.

After all that, there’s barely time to get ready for work. I stuff my backpack full of food for work. An Amy’s organic burrito. Yes, it’s hard to carry all this food to work, but I figure it will be bonus training as I hike with the load from the parking lot to the newspaper.

But as I leave, I realize I’M STILL HUNGRY. I stop for a Hershey bar. With nuts, of course, because you have to be nuts to do this. Another 210 calories.

I edit papers while shoveling down food. The burrito is a ridiculous 240 calories. I try to imagine eating this much if I weren’t in Serious Training Mode. But eating is essential for running at this level.

And so is water. I drink a FULL EIGHT OUNCES of water over the course of the shift. I once toyed with drinking more, but it made me pee, so I figured what’s the point. The NYT article doesn’t address fluid intake, so I figure I’m safe.

“It’s breakfast, training, lunch, rest, eating, training, eating and rest and eating,” said Swedish cross-country skier Daniel Rickardsson. “It’s what we do.”

It’s what I do, too. Unable to face hacking another editorial about Trump’s gun policy, I go home. I watch a MASH episode where they’re burning down the camp, and I realize: DEAR GOD I’M STILL HUNGRY. I eat two slices of gluten-free toast. Another 180 calories. I add butter (did I mention I like margarine?) and don’t figure in the calories, since I’m thinking at this point it really doesn’t matter.

Before I go to bed, I check my total. 1,500 CALORIES. IN ONE DAY.

I realize it’s insane to eat this much. But it’s what you have to do to perform at the elite level I have chosen. I go to sleep, dreaming of more oatmeal and a country where we don’t think it’s OK to kill kids with AR-15s because it might impair the ability of a crazy guy in Montana to build up his arsenal.

I’m looking forward to relaxing and not training so much,” said cross-country skier Martin Moller of Denmark. “And I’ll eat a lot less.” But not yet. We still have miles to go, and calories to burn.

Another day. The cycle continues. Well, actually, running. No cycling. Cyclists are sissies.

I wake up. I’m hungry. Oatmeal awaits. I hope we have strawberry apricot pie …

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the day i realized i will not live to be 100

I have long suspected I will not live to be 100. As a former ultra guy, there is a certain appeal to that number, the holy grail of long runs. My workaround: I’m trying to make it to the metric 100 instead: 62 years old. I’ve got about five months to go, so barring a five stark hamstring mishap or an unfortunate encounter with a self-driving Uber, I just might make it.

But still. In the back on my mind (next to the part wondering whatever happened to the actress who played Patty Duke’s identical cousin), I wonder. 100. Is it possible?

So it was with great interest that I saw the headline “Billy Graham lived to 99 years eating this.” Click bait? Or survival tip? Only one way to find out.

I must preface this by saying I was never a huge Billy Graham fan. When I was a wee lad, Ma made me watch the Billy Graham Crusades on TV with her. These tended to last eight or nine hours and always followed pretty much the same script (spoiler alert: Jesus wins). But still. He lived more than 99 years, falling just a few months short of getting his 100-year belt buckle. What was his secret?

The unfortunate answer was in the USA Today story (disclaimer: I work for USA Today’s owner, so if you buy a USA Today our cat can continue to have Fancy Cat Food thank you very much).

His son, Franklin (Franklin Graham, sadly NOT Franklin the Charlie Brown character), revealed the secret. Beanee Weenees. He ate them “cold out of the can,” Franklin said, a legacy of his time as a farm boy, when he ate the canned delights for lunch.

You would think, “Well, this is great news, Mr. Pants. YOU ate the canned delights for lunch as a farm boy as well. 100 years, here ye cometh verily verily amen.”

Except.

The date was July 13, 2015, a day that will go down in infamy, and then come back up again a couple of hours later. I had this epiphany that eating four cans of Beanee Weenees while running 4 miles, the farm boy equivalent of the Beer Mile, would be a good idea. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

In hindsight, the event’s name — “The National Beans and Franks Day Beanee Weenee 4 mile Run & Hurl” — should have been a tipoff. Sadly, no.

The rules were simple: I ran a mile, ate a can of delicious Beanee Weenees, ran another, ate another, and so on, four times. Let’s just say eating the last can was not pretty. Like Roseanne singing the national anthem before a Padres game not pretty. But I did it. And That. Was. That.

I haven’t eaten Beanee Weenees since, a streak I plan to continue indefinitely. And definitely.

How many years has this dearth of this Farm Boy Magic Cuisine cut off my life already? I guess we’ll never know. What we DO know is that longevity is not worth such a horrible price.

And so my last hope for living to be 100 is gone, unless I figure out a way to short-course it (does life have timing mats at the turnaround?), so it’s back to the 100K. But I guess in life, and in Beanee Weenee 4 mile runs, the only thing that really matters is finishing.

Bye, Mr. Graham. Please tell Ma I said hey. I hope heaven has Beanee Weenees.

And I really, really hope hell doesn’t …

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But the track doesn’t have a hole in the rock

It’s funny. I pay a bazillion dollars to run in a race under the premise that I’ll be pushed to go faster. You can see by the swarm of people around me at the finish line how competitive this thing was.

And then a few days later, running on a totally empty track, I run my fastest 5k (and first legit sub-40) yet in the Year of Fleshman. Gumbo races are the best races.

The moral: I’m charging myself $40 for today’s run. Plus handling fee, of course.

Knee feels fine. Gotta be the gray shoes …

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life in the big city

I lived in a small town for six years. Although living 4 miles from work was great, the lack of big-name live music was a major setback. I love music.

So it’s great to be back in the Big City, where we attract all the big names. But even by our standards, this concert is amazing.

I once saw the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Kris Kristopherson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings) in concert and figured I’d never see a better quartet on one stage. But Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis together comes close. Sure, tickets apparently cost a million dollars, but totally worth it. Except I never really cared for Jerry Lee Lewis or Elvis, I have already seen Johnny Cash and I’m not certain who Carl Perkins is other than that he may have been a running back for the Dallas Cowboys during the Tom Landry years.

Anyhow, it’s good to be back in a place where top-notch music abounds. I can see why the show is booked for more than a month, although I may not be able to attend every show. Blue suede running shoes here we come.

I hope Tom Landry is there …

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the sky is gray, the sand is gray, and the ocean is gray

It started out innocently enough.

My left knee was bumming a little bit. Nothing serious, just that nagging can’t move it without intense icepick thing. The easy solution: New shoes.

For runners, new shoes are the equivalent of rebooting the computer. It may or may not work, but it’s easier than coming up with an actual solution.

I had ordered two pairs of shoes a while back, and they’ve been sitting in the hallway patiently waiting their turn, the Nick Foles of zapato nuevos. I had never opened the box till today. No idea what color they were.

And then I found out.

They’re gray. Gray New Balance. Uh oh.

My mind flashed back to the old days. Gray New Balances were a thing for a certain group of runners. Mostly rich guys who didn’t mind spending $150 or so (roughly $16,000 when translated to 2018 equivalent) for heavy shoes. You probably had to be there.

The Holy Trinity. Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Willie Nelson. What did they have in common? They all wore those gray New Balance. And now they’re all dead. A Bad Sign.

I opened the second box, hoping for a Festivus miracle, but of course it’s mid-February so it’s a bit late for a list of grievances. They were gray as well. “I feel right at home In this stunning monochrome Alone in my way,” the prophet Ani said. But I’ve never seen her in gray New Balance. She’s still alive.

And so I went out with the new shoes. I walked a mile in hopes things would loosen up. They did not.

No big deal, I guess. It’s been a long time since I’ve had problems. And it’s only one leg; the other one’s fine. Half-full glass, you know.

I’m sure things will be fine. Just a goofy little ouch. Maybe injuries are a good thing. Means you’re training.

Mostly, I need to get past that feeling of being the old guy in gray New Balance. Youthful elitism dies hard.

I just hope I don’t join the Holy Trinity in dying as well. Maybe I can get Mo to spray paint them.

On the track again, I can’t wait to get on the track again …

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swan dive

falling is fun 
right up until you hit the sidewalk 
— the prophet ani

Longtime readers will recall I started margarine a little less than nine years ago. It was just a low-key diary sort of thing, a chronicle of my running and life with Mo and observations of the demise of journalism and the Chocolate Frosty. Mostly, I write because writing is what I do. It’s not really important if anyone reads it.

I’m a shy person. I don’t do well in real life. I can’t make eye contact and on a good day can muster only the faintest of awkward sideways hugs. But the blog is my own little world. I can laugh and cry and tell secrets and write in iambic pentameter. I’m not sure what iambic pentameter is, but if I have the hankering, this is the place.

Over the years, I wondered what it would be like if people actually read what I wrote. I ventured onto social media and a joint where runners can post their blogs. More people were suckered in, I suppose. But what’s the point?

I increasingly realize that social media is evil. Facebook and Twitter don’t have our best interests at heart. They are devised to suck you into a dark hole as a way of making money and manipulating our minds. Which I suppose is good for them, but for the rest of us not so much.

And at the running blog site, I was just forcing people to read. What the hell is this, I could sense the community musing. That’s the thing about places like that. People aren’t reading because they want to; they’re reading because you’ve trapped them.

When I mentioned they could always find me here, there was much resistance. Too much work. Don’t have time to call up individual blogs.

And I realized: Maybe that’s a good thing.

Do I want to be part of a community with a billion people? Why would a card-carrying antisocial (the card is actually an Amazon gift certificate, but you get the idea) want to be part of a club that contains a billion people? Do I want an audience of people who can’t be bothered to make two clicks to a blog site?

When I first started margarine nine years ago, I had maybe five readers. Nine years of hilarity, heart-wrenching honesty and brilliant insights later, I have  maybe five readers. And that’s perfect.

If you’re here, it’s because you want to be. Or you got suckered in by a google search. Or maybe you really DO like margarine and feel tricked by the relative dearth of butter-related musings. Sorry.

Do I miss the peeps on Facebook and Twitter? Sure. Do I miss the constant political bombardment and manipulative efforts to drag me further into addiction? Not at all.

 I’ve built my own empire out of car tires and chicken wire, the prophet ani said. I get that. It’s just a little empire stashed in an obscure part of the World Wide Webbiness, but it’s mine. After nine years, margarine is only at half capacity. So I figure I’ll run out of heart before I run out of space. This seems like a fine place to finish off the Third Act.
Because it doesn’t much matter if people read. Mostly, I write because writing is what I do. I might have said that already. If you want to find me, you know where I am.
But please. No hugs.
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running with dogs

Chinese New Year is way better than Dick Clark New Year.

Today was the Chinese New Year 5K. It’s the 18th year they’ve had it in the same spot. I ran it a few times many years ago, except I remember it being much faster. Oh, well.

It’s the Year of the Dog, which meant there were a lot of four-footed competitors. The first canine finisher got a three-day stay at a doggy spa, so the competition was intense.

It’s impossible to take a race too seriously when you’re surrounded by pooches in costumes. Best overheard conversation:

woman: Your dog’s shirt is so cute! Where did you get it?

other woman: Taiwan.

first woman: Oh.

Life is a never-ending series of disappointments.

It was a fun course, along the canal next to the botanical gardens with the surreal rock formations of Papago Park.

The guy who won ran 15 and change as a shakedown for tomorrow’s marathon. He passed me on the course as he was running his second 5k as a cooldown. I sort of hate him.

I know it’s just a fun run blah blah blah, but the course measured 2.9 miles on my Garmin, which I informally confirmed by listening to peeps gush about setting PRs. Oh, well. What can you expect for 35 bucks? Big medals  I’m starting to hate big medals.

As a workaround, I continued through the chutes and ran to the 3.1 mile mark on the Garmin. 41:02, the fastest race so far in the Year of Fleshman, so I’m happy with it. I’m officially ignoring official finish times in favor of the Garmin, so at least I’ll be consistent with times.

Coming through the chutes, we got fortune cookies. Mine said: “Change is happening in your life, so go with the flow.” I have no idea what this means. Likely a Thoreau quote.

Mostly, it was much fun. Seeing so many dogs running for the Year of the Dog made me profoundly sad I wasn’t here for the Year of the Monkey race. That must have been a sight.

Maybe the elusive sub-40 lies ahead. Just go with the flow …

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