T.I.L.T. #138 – And the Winner Is . . .

T.I.L.T. #138 — And the Winner Is . . .

Hello, sports fans from around the world. This week I’m happy to report that Mr. and Mrs. Tortoise successfully completed their first 5K running race last weekend. Both of us managed to run the whole time without stopping or walking, so in that sense we were both winners.

On the other hand we were both in last place in our respective categories, but we really didn’t care since we’re not pros looking for sponsors.

A fun addition to the race was that we were joined by an old friend of Mrs. Tortoise, a very athletic and competitive person, who we will call Miss Hare. We trained for ten weeks and were happy to just to finish in whatever place we might be. Miss Hare did not train at all, but bolted to second place in her category since she simply cannot bear to lose. She originally planned to hang back with us, but once the race got going, and people started passing her, there was just no holding her back.

And that was the most interesting part of the experience: the transformation of the generally solo act of running, into the communal act of racing. Not focusing on how I am running per se, but how I am running compared to other people.

The beginning of the race was in a way the most challenging. About 150 people poised in a mob wearing all sorts of brightly colored, high-tech fabric outfits, and fancy watches and quantifying gadgets of all kinds, eagerly awaiting the shot from the starting pistol. Ok, there wasn’t a gun, but rather a strange-looking, large wooden clapper contraption that seemed more like something you’d use for a radio theater sound effect. But it had the desired effect — bang! And they’re off!

At first the race is actually slow for the majority of the mass of runners because only the runners in front can actually start running right away. Those of us in the back of the pack, where we cleverly placed ourselves to reduce the risk of getting run over, started by walking, then slowly jogging, and then bit by bit as the crowd starts to spread out you begin running at your own pace, trying not to step on the person in front of you who might be a step slower while not getting stepped on from behind at the same time. You also start to maneuver left and right, trying to find your lane at your speed, passing some, being passed by others.

I felt sort like a lemming or a cow must feel, running along pulled by the herd mentality, dumbly ready to go over the cliff in a rush if one would happen to appear. Luckily we’re in north Germany where the land is relatively flat and there are no cliffs.

The first kilometer or so was about sorting out the crowd and finding your rhythm and pace, then the adrenalin kicked in via some ancient fight or flight mentality from running with the others, and I ran faster then I actually wanted to. I passed a few people feeling excited, but within the next kilometer they passed me again, leaving me in the dust, so I relaxed and told myself to just focus on steadily running my own race: to just be the tortoise I am. The goal was to finish and run the whole race, not win.

This was particularly challenging since despite our best efforts and preparations, we brilliantly drank too much the night before the race. This was a stupid thing to do of course, but it was Mrs. Tortoise’s birthday, and well, what’s another bottle or two or three of celebratory champagne the night before the big race?

Ha, ha, ha. It was like running in a desert without water. The dehydration kicked in as soon as we started running. We’d done our best early in the morning to compensate by loading up on a big breakfast of calorific Eggs Benedict and lots of water and juice, but race day had perfect sunny weather beating down on us and, well, champagne quickly felt like damn pain, so let’s hope we learned a lesson!

As I loped along, trying to ignore my parched throat and pounding head and feet, and seeing where I fit compared to the other runners, I discovered a natural comparative or perhaps judgmental nature creep into my thinking. I was in a pack of a random collection of people from different categories, specifically, runners from different age and gender classifications. Old ladies, old men, some kids, a couple of middle-aged slow pokes like me. I kept looking at them and thinking, “Certainly I can run faster than that little old lady with the limp?” Or, “That little kid can’t beat me.”

Again, ha, ha, ha. As the race wore on, the pack thinned and thinned and the little old lady with a limp and the little kid left me far behind.

Then there were some super runners who seemed from another planet. There I was, huffing and puffing along, trying to gain a step on the grandma in my sights, when a pack of top runners came galloping by. They too had a spread of age groups, the only commonality being their unbelievable fitness and speed — whoosh, and they were gone in no time!

That’s when I realized to call the motion I was doing ‘running’ was rather a stretch of the word. I was jogging at best. Those people were running, knees high, legs pumping fast – it was a sight to behold. Clearly they’d been doing this for years, but it was fun to be out there with them, thinking that maybe, just maybe if I keep it up, I too might some day be able to run like that. I’m happy to say that the man who won the 5K was also from the same middle-aged category as myself, so maybe there is hope for me yet.

Of course he ran the race in just over 16 minutes where I took 31 minutes — double the his time — so I doubt I’ll ever get to that level, but, hey, you never know. Maybe if I just hadn’t been hungover, I could have kept up with him!

Yeah, right.

The biggest lesson of the race came at the end. I was tired, pushing myself to try and sprint the last hundred meters. I’d made it, yes, success in my sights, and in my excitement I decided to make a dramatic finish and stomped and leaned forward and my last step across the finish line as if it were a record-setting photo finish.

Ha, ha, ha. All I managed to do was over-extend my knee joint and pull a muscle — on the last step of the race! Genius. Mrs. Tortoise who was only a bit behind me sailed in gracefully, making no such silly mistake. Well, I’m recovering well enough, so it should heal by the next race.

Yes, in the euphoria of our post-hungover-birthday-race success we immediately signed up for the next 5K race in a few weeks. I guess we really are runners now.

T.I.L.T #137 – WANNA RACE

T.I.L.T. #137 — Wanna Race?

Tomorrow is race day, ladies and gentleman. Time for the 30th Vegesacker City Lauf through the heart of the pedestrian zone and along the riverfront where I live. For those of you who don’t speak German, Lauf does not mean a loaf of bread or to be lazy around the house — it means a race, a running race to be exact. And for the first time in my life, tomorrow I’ll be joining the crowd not on the sidelines but actually competing in the race itself as a runner in the 5K category.

Ok, competing is perhaps a stretch since my goal is simply to finish without keeling over. Of course if I do, luckily it’s only around the corner from my house so I should at least be able to crawl home. No, I’m basically competing with myself which really is the whole point of running. Then again, sporty wifey has also entered the race with me and there is a bit of natural competition between us of who will beat who.

We’re very excited because nether of us have ever done such a thing. It’ll be kind of a race between Mr. and Mrs. Tortoise. As I wrote in my Fitbit My Butt post several weeks ago, we got the idea to try and get in shape by running and using an app called from Couch to 5K. For the last nine weeks a virtual trainer called Sergeant Block has been motivating us along and telling us when to run and walk and ‘keep moving’!

As silly as it sounds, it worked amazingly well. Wifey finished the program yesterday. Having never been a runner in her life she was scared at first for the idea of even running more than a minute or two consecutively. Now she can run for thirty minutes at a stretch and keeps getting faster. Maybe she’s also motivated now that she’s discovered a whole new world of running fashion and accessories to be coveted — another reason to go shopping and now she can zip around the mall faster thane ever and never get tired. Hmmm. This may have been a huge mistake.

Anyway, I have one more session to go which I will actually do at the race itself — this last week was hard for me since I lost a week of training due to flu. I was actually not sure if I’d be able to recover in time to do the race which was a sad thought since the goal of running in the race has kept me focused and made me get out there and run come rain or shine, week in, week out. Besides, I want Sergeant Block to be proud of me. Hoo-yeah!

The thing that interests me now is to experience what it is like to run with lots of other runners at the same time. What is essentially a solo activity where I enjoy meditating and relaxing my mind as the scenery floats by, will suddenly be a herd of fellow runners trying to see who is the fastest in the pack. Will I run faster, carried along by the wave of communal energy channeling its way through the tight course, like a river runs faster through a mountain pass than in the wide curving bends of the flatlands? Or will I be stressed, thinking too much about running, pushing myself too hard to run at the right pace for me because some instinct in me does not want to be the slowest.

I have a particular fear of this ever since way back in high school, when I was the definitive fat kid, I was the slowest and always last. The cool, cruel kids nicknamed me ‘Slow-Mo’ because even the fattest girl in the class could outrun me. Maybe that sounds sexist, but it was humiliating for a newly pubescent teenage dude. I actually still have some flashback nightmares once in  while, where I’m trying to run and for some reason I’m stuck in slow motion, forever unable to move fast despite all my efforts, horrified at my own pathetic physical prowess. Maybe next time I have this nightmare, Sergeant Block will shout at me, “Come on, Private Slow-Mo, is yo ass made of molasses!”

Why my sub-conscious still broods about this is beyond me. I’ve come a long way since then, ever relearning in my own way the victories that only slowness, patience, and endurance can bring. As much as I might admire the athleticism of the hares of the world, flying by in their speedy pursuit of carrots of all kinds, I really do prefer to think that step by slow step my journey will take me where I want to go at a pace that will make it all the more satisfying. Maybe every tortoise has some sort of hare-envy complex, but likely the reverse is true is well. I mean, who wants to be fast all the time? OK, maybe Sergeant Block, but hey, he’s not exactly human!

So wish us luck tomorrow, sports fans around the world, as we put our old fears aside and stride by stride, strive do real a goal we’ve never reached before: the finish line of a running race. I would say, may the best tortoise win, but as far as I can tell wifey and I are both winners just for getting out there and trying.

Then again, the day of the big race just happens to be sporty wifey’s birthday. So maybe, just maybe I should let her win. I wonder what Sergeant Block would do. He’d probably just sing, something like . . .

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy hirthday Sporty Wifey, happy birthday to you!

Keep moving!

Hoo-yeah!

T.I.L.T. #136 – Flashback: One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve got a terrible cold, and a fever the last couple of day days, so no new T.I.L.T. this week. I’m really sorry. But I wish you a happy orthodox Easter, and to make up for it I’m giving you one of my best-of-T.I.L.T.s, a T.I.L.T. flashback from 2007. Hope you enjoy it – One Size Does Not Fit All.

. . .  my patently popular paternal-half and I decided to have some father and son bonding time by having a boys’ day out: we went white-water river rafting. The river was the Rio Grande where not only the rapids are big, but so are the customers . . .

There we were, all loaded up in a van with three French ladies and a nice young local couple obviously in love, thinking we were all ready to go on our rapid adventure with Los Rios River Runners, when up waddled one of the most obese men you never wanted to see in a pair of swim trunks . . .

He huffed and he puffed and he climbed his way in . . . The shocks squeaked and the springs sprang, and the young couple squeezed themselves together to make room for the man now taking up more than his fair share of the van.

I thought to myself, “This man is going to perch on the edge of a raft?” My mind tried to get around the sheer physics of the prospect . . . I mean, if you were to take, say, a Frisbee, turn it over, put a few eggs in it, and float it on some water, what do you think is going to happen when you add a bowling ball?

And then I thought, “God, I hope he’s not in my raft . . .”

When will I ever learn to stop thinking such things?

Well, after we got up river and unloaded the van and extracted the squashed young couple, I noticed that our guides were preparing two large rafts and a smaller one-man craft called a ‘Fun-Yak’. A Fun-Yak is like a kayak, except it’s more fun. Maybe this is because unlike a kayak it’s inflatable and much less likely to capsize . . . if you’re not a bowling ball of course.

I was very relieved to see the super-sized man, who, for legal reasons, I will simply refer to as “Moby”, hovering over the Fun-Yak salivating with anticipation . . . Yes! Not in my raft after all! Whew!

I could only imagine what that poor Fun-Yak was thinking . . . “I hate sumo wrestling!”

Before we could proceed on our merry way down the river, we received the safety lecture from our funner-than-fun-yak guide, Super Sophia a.k.a. Grand Master of the Rio Grande.

The safety lecture basically consists of three rules:

  1. Stay in the raft.
  2. Stay in the raft.
  3. Stay in the raft.

Complicated, isn’t it?

Maybe airlines ought to adopt this style of safety lecture:

“In case of emergency, get out of the plane, get OUT of the PLANE, GET OUT OF THE PLANE!!!”

Hey, that would get my attention.

Anyway. After the all-important safety lecture, we put on our all-important life vests. And, well, apparently one size does not fit all . . .

Poor Moby, he tried on this one and that one and, well, they were all the same size: way too small.

Super Sophia, not batting an eye and with a constant smile, went over to him like a mother hen to a lost chick, loosened all the straps as far as they would go and managed to get him buckled into his life-saving device. Unfortunately, this life-saving device almost killed Moby as he scrunched down onto his whimpering Fun-Yak. See, when Moby sat down, his already bigger-than-Buddha belly bulged out even more, pushing his life vest upwards into his throat and up to his eyes, essentially strangling him. He flailed about trying to undo the vest at the neck but his arms were also pushed up and stuck out like a stuffed bear, so he could barely reach his neck – gasp!

Super Sophia back to the rescue: she pulled down the vest, adjusted it again so he could breathe, and we set off . . .

The French ladies were in the raft with the other guide named “Stay-In-The-Raft-Or-You’re-Dead” Ed, whilst the young couple, my father and I were happily rafting with Super Sophia. The reason we were rafting so happily is because Super Sophia kept singing a catchy tune which goes like this: “We are happy with rafting, happy with rafting, happy with rafting . . .”

I have the sneaking suspicion it was written by the same person who wrote the safety lecture . . . hmmm.

Meanwhile, back in Melville-land, Moby was anything but happy with Fun-Yaking . . . He was being strangled again, and couldn’t see, and what was worse, he couldn’t keep his legs in the raft, because quote, “the bottom of the boat keeps pushing my ass out!”

The fact that his ass was probably pushing out the bottom of the boat never seemed to cross his mind. According to Moby, the equipment was “poorly designed”.

Right . . .

Well, at the first set of somewhat challenging rapids, the Fun-Yak finally had some fun of its own and yacked up Moby to the Rio Grande – I swear the river seemed to rise . . .

Anyway, Super Sophia to the rescue again!

She was the epitome of patience and never lost her sense of good-will helping Moby to try and have a good time. But she was also a Pro and told him that she couldn’t let him go down the rest of the river in the Fun-Yak because it would simply be too dangerous. And so before I could say Holy Rio Grande, Fatman, the young couple were switched over to join the French ladies and, yup, my father and I got Moby . . .

And this was after lunch where Moby had added two giant sandwiches into his giant load . . .

Yeah, the horror, the horror . . . !

You know, I don’t want to come off sounding like I have something against people who are – how can I put this politely? – gravitationally challenged? I was super-sized myself for most of my youth. I actually had a lot of empathy for poor Moby when he couldn’t get his life vest to close because I’ve had my own embarrassing clothing disasters. I’ve blown the ass out of more than one pair of pants, thank you very much.

But what really got me about Moby was that he blamed his difficulties on everything but himself. And what was really surprising was that he claimed to have been Fun-Yaking and rafting all over the States and knew everything about every river. Which made absolutely no sense because he couldn’t even figure out how to get into the raft when he joined our crew. It’s not complicated. You sit on the side, you lift your leg over and . . . oh right, that’s where it got complicated for Moby: lifting his leg. He tried this and promptly fell over into the raft spread-eagle, flailing like an upside-down tortoise.

This time it took more than just Super Sophia to save him and we helped get him into a somewhat upright position so we could set off again . . .

Suddenly our carefree adventure seemed earnest as I was sure my bowling ball theory would soon send us to certain doom. We rode the rocky rapids, my father and I paddling our little hearts out, Moby clinging to the raft for dear life, all the while passing other rafts stranded on rocks and upturned Fun-Yaks left and right. And amazingly, Super Sophia proved that with superior skill, yes, you can float a bowling ball on a Frisbee and not lose any eggs – miraculous!

At the end of the trip there was a slow, lazy part of the river where we could get out of the raft and swim alongside. I did this and was dreamily floating along like a baby until the tsunami . . .

Yes, suddenly there was Moby floating alongside me, his belly riding higher above the water than his life vest. And the whole thing seemed really ironic to me. Does a man of Moby’s stature actually need a life vest? Seems to me like he had one built in? Hmmm.

Anyway, thanks to Super Sophia, we successfully survived the day. We were definitely “happy with rafting” because we had managed to “stay in the boat”. Moby even said he had learned a “thing or two”. He didn’t elaborate what that was but I can only hope it had something to do with physics . . .

T.I.L.T. #135 — Good Gay Freedom Friday!

I’m sitting at home today enjoying my religious freedom. Specifically, it’s Good Friday and a public holiday so I’m free to do anything I like. Except of course to go to work. Or be loud. Or socialize. Or wear bright colors. Or listen to music. Or engage in marital relations. The list goes on and on of what I shouldn’t do on Good Friday which makes me wonder just what all the recent talk about religious freedom in places like Arkansas and Indiana is really all about!

I’m not a Christian though, so I guess I’m free to do anything I want today. Except perhaps to turn gay, get married, and take a honeymoon trip to Indiana to get some pizza to celebrate because that might upset someone else’s version of freedom to not like my version of freedom.

Boy, this is complex. I wonder what Jesus would do in a situation like that?

Imagine it, Jesus is sitting there in a little pizzeria in Indiana, enjoying a delicious slice of bacon-lovers pizza, sipping a glass of ice-water-he-turned-to-wine-cooler. He doesn’t really care for the restaurant per se, the air-conditioning makes him freeze in his tunic and sandals, and a big gold cross on the wall kind of freaks him out. But the owner seems like she’s a nice enough Christian, and there’s something about their bacon he just can’t resist, so he pops in once in a while to carbo-load before going on one of his long walks in the desert to talk to his Old Man.

The door swings open and two nice-looking ladies walk in smiling, holding hands, cooing at each other. The owner of the place is also a nice-looking lady, but she looks at them cautiously as she asks them how she can help them. They tell her they’re getting married this year since Indiana made same-sex marriage legal last year, and they always dreamed of having a bacon-pizza-bonanza-themed wedding party. They heard that this place was the best in town so they wanted to check it out.

The owner’s face turns ash-white and she looks away from them as crosses herself. She starts slipping ‘Reserved’ signs onto the tables as she tells them politely that she can’t help them. The smiles on the couple’s faces fade into weary and disappointed frowns as they ask why. The owner stops, looks them in the eye and says it’s because of her religion. An awkward silence falls for a moment until the only man eating in the place clears his throat. They all look over at him, a kind of hippy-looking guy wearing some sort of dress.  He looks at them, emanating some sort of mysterious, serene charisma, and says . . . ?

Fill in the blank. What do you think Jesus would say?
Would he tell the gay couple they were going to burn in hellfire for breaking some of the rules of the old testament? Then again, the temple priests said Jesus broke some old rules too when he did his healing jobs on the Sabbath and fell in love with bacon. Or would Jesus tell the owner she should love her neighbor and do to others as she wants them to do to her as is taught in the Gospels?

I’ve actually read the whole Bible from cover to cover. Given the impression I had from others and the media influences before I read it, I thought it would be full of anti-gay sentiment. In fact, it’s hardly mentioned at all. There are only a few references in the old testament (seven to be exact) saying homosexuality is a sin, but it’s never mentioned in the new testament. Compared to all the hundreds of references about the sins of money, and much worse more and much more frequently the  evils of being a woman, I really wonder what all the fuss is about if someone is gay or not. It’s mentioned even less than the sins of eating bacon. Hmmm.

I guess the real question is not what would Jesus say, but what would you say? It basically boils down to whether you think a person can discriminate against another person in a public place based on their private beliefs. Maybe I hate ladies who wear loud shoes since I find them incredibly annoying when they’re walking behind me on a street, but does that mean I won’t help them when they come to me as a customer in a place where I work?

I remember many cafes when I was growing up that had signs stating, ‘no shoes, no shirt, no service’. Was that legal? If so, can I just make any sign I want to, say like ‘no high heels, no headscarves, no help’?

It’s Good Friday today and millions of Christians around the world are taking a day of rest to respect Jesus’s sacrifice for man’s sins. I respect that. There are also millions of homosexuals around the world who are also respecting and observing Good Friday. There are also millions of non-christian and anti-baconites of all kinds practicing their own beliefs on Fridays. Why should one group have any more freedom than the other group to do as they like as long as they don’t harm the other group?

That’s the golden rule found in all walks of life and all religions as far as I know. In addition to the Bible, I’ve read the Qur’an, the Tao, the I-Ching, and I’m now working my way through the Book of Mormon. The main message is always the same: love one another and love life.

Ok, enough preaching from me on this Good Friday. I’m going to spend my day off doing some spring cleaning. My talented wife is going to the theater to audition to be in a play. Does that makes us sinners on Good Friday? Not in my book, and I hope you respect that.

I wish you all a happy Friday wherever you are believing and doing whatever makes you happy.