Pansy Pandemic

Posted: February 12, 2011 in In Transition, Run, Training
Tags: , ,
  • Long Run (click to see stats & route)
  • 24.93k (2:21:43)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 156 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 175 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:41 /km
  • Max. Pace = 4:34 /km
  • Calories = 2375
  • Temp = -3º (-11º wind chill)

While out having my ass kicked today (thanks, Coach!), I was contemplating again on the state of the universe and everything in it – as I do – including how things have changed from when I was a child.  I don’t mean physically or mentally, but just over all conditioning-wise.  Here I am, out pounding the country roads on long runs to Hell and back, and I have little else to focus on other than finding the next available tire track to hopefully find some solid footing in, and the gentle swooshing of my coaches running tights just up ahead.  You know what I seldom see – kids.  Of course, it’s the middle of February but, still, doesn’t anyone make snowmen anymore?  But come to think of it, I don’t see many kids out playing in the spring or summer much either.  Instead I see the flicker of television screens in front rooms and the faint reflections of Grand Auto Theft on the window pane.  Why is that?  In my humble opinion, video games have certainly paved the way for a significant weakening of man’s stranglehold over the “Evolution of the Species”.  My fear then is that we are all slowly evolving into a race of whiney zoo plankton.  Yes, it was one of those bitter, grumpy runs.

Wind swept banks along Metler Rd.

I bet that if kids today were to travel back in time to when I was youngster, entering a playground would be like walking into certain death considering they’ve been pretty well wussied since their time of birth.  There was none of this sissy plastic-molded playground equipment with the smooth, multi-colored, gentle angles and the nice non-toxic spongy mulch to prevent possible scrapes and bruising. Oh no!  We had cold monkey bars anchored in cement which only came in unforgiving metallic gray. It was not much different had we been playing in a scrap yard. The surrounding walls, chain-link fences were spray-painted with the daily gossip about the major significant events which affected our fragile neighborhood social ecosystem; like the classic ‘who-blew-who-where’, and the ever concerning ‘who-had-the-latest-affliction-of-Cooties’.  The playground apparatuses themselves were definitely more foreboding when I was a kid, and playing on them was about as safe as playing ‘Paddy Cake’ with Edward Scissorhands. In my childhood, climbing into the Jungle Gym was like willingly entering a medieval torture chamber. On the slides, you would be inflicted with third degree burns if ever you had the temerity to slide down in shorts on a hot summer’s day, and you would more than likely have to be admitted into a burn clinic for skin grafts afterwards. And how about the well-thought out physics behind the ingeniously designed Round-a-bout, or “Barf-mobile”?  Place kids on a single free-spinning axis point, and have them hold on for dear life as they are spun at mach 3 speeds until the massive build-up of inertia hurtles their lifeless bodies at incredible velocities so that they end up as splattered red stains against the school wall across the street. Remember the wooden swing sets that we used to try and launch ourselves into orbit without ending up with splinters lodged in our ass the size of hockey sticks?  Good times indeed.

Lonely powerline towers along Maple Rd.

We were harder as kids back then and even though we had things tougher we just roughed it out and shook off the bumps, stitches, and broken collarbones and returned to the playground, business as usual; perfect Ironman conditioning if you ask me.  Nothing breeds a ‘Can do’ attitude like playing Shinny with frostbite late into the evening on a cold February night.  Little did I know then that this was the ideal mental toughness conditioning for all these long, cold runs I find myself engaging in now nearly 30 years later.  Some kids today would probably get pneumonia just from keeping the refrigerator door open too long while selecting their preferred flavor of Juice Box.  Remember drinking straight from the garden hose without fear of contracting a deadly strain of Eccoli?  Bottled water was only to drink if absolutely necessary in a crisis situation, like seventh-inning stretches and nuclear holocausts, and nobody gave two fig newtons about proper hydration.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, iPhones, iPods, iPads, Blackberries, Wii’s or any video games at all that didn’t have joysticks the size of gear shifts.  We didn’t have 99 channels to choose from on our cable television sets, or DVD’s, TIVO, surround sound, personal laptops, or Internet chat rooms for that matter. We actually had to go out and find our own perverts to take us out for ice cream.  We would spend hours building Go-carts out of old plumbing parts and then rode down the largest hill we could find at the speed of light like we were trying to reenter the earth’s orbit. Brakes were for sissies! We preferred to use trees and parked cars to stop our momentum.  We punched and kicked and bit one another as part of the natural establishing of the neighborhood pecking order. We just took our lumps and immediately jumped in line behind the Alpha bully to get in our own licks on the next victim.  Gee, that almost sounds like the opening scrum of swimmers at the start of any triathlon, doesn’t it?

Sun breaking out along Metler Rd.

Little League had tryouts and not everybody made the cuts. Those who didn’t make the team had to learn to deal with the humiliating shame and disappointment. And forget all that “everybody is a winner” horseshit. Losers were mocked and ridiculed mercilessly by the victors until they either got better or got left behind altogether. Being a water boy was never cool unless you just liked to be hung from clothes hooks by your underwear.  As a result, this generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors, ever.  It has also produced some of the best Ironmen that history has even seen including Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Greg Welch, Paula Newby-Fraser, Natascha Badmann and most recently Craig Alexander, and Chrissie Wellington just to name but a few.  We have developed better and more efficient Immune Systems to protect us. Those who have survived these old school tribulations do not fear germs or infestations. We could digest pure Bubonic Plague and still manage to make it into work in the morning. Young adults nowadays who have had it easy inevitably have to place themselves in quarantine each time someone sneezes within 15ft.

“This road goes on forever”… (Metler Rd.)

Perhaps this is why triathlon these days seems to be predominantly populated with these particular, middle-aged Gen-Xer’s, including myself.  I trust and hope that there are more future Ironmen out there that I’m not seeing, perhaps with casts or other activity-relating injuries; honing their young bodies to be tough and able withstand extreme demands made of it beyond returning the latest Harry Potter DVD to the video store.  If I should ever be a parent (God help that child), I am going to make a point of forcing my child outside to play, exercise and be active as often as possible, and not to come home until they’ve broken or seriously damaged something.  Call it ‘tough love’, or think of it as ‘survival of the fittest’, either way, they will be healthy and active.

Now, to be fair, there are two young athletes that have just started working out with our Masters Swim group, and for whom I’m sure, are the sole bastions of hope for today’s youth.  I enjoy watching these two improve and get faster almost weekly, even if I do shake my fist at them from time to time (in my head, of course) for my having to work just a little extra harder to keep ahead…barely.  Be that as it may, I’m also looking forward to seeing these two in upcoming events this spring and being able to witness them get faster, stronger, and better as the summer progresses and even into next year.  Hopefully, they stick with and not revert back to the world of Tomb Raider.  Besides, it gives me, personally, something else to strive for to boot.  I mean, shit, if this old, stoner hippy guy can keep up with two teen aged speed demons weighing in at about 180 lbs between the two of them (soaking wet), I guess I can’t be doing all that bad, can I?

  1. Lindsay says:

    I love “Pansy Pandemic”! I totally agree and think that on a regular basis. My child (and if we’re lucky enough, children) will be the ones who watch an hour on tv a day and spend the rest of the day outside. If it’s cold, put warm cloths on! Raining?? Raincoat…or even better, build a fort!! Thanks Ter….love it!

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