Saturday, September 22, 2007

Proper T-Shirt Etiquette

For Endurance Planet Podcast Version, click here.

I haven't posted this for a while. I gave it an update:

In the running and triathlete community the wearing of race T-Shirts has become a sign of accomplishment and fashion. Choosing just the right T-Shirt for that special occasion can be a daunting and difficult task. The following guidelines have been compiled (in fun), to help the responsible T-shirt wearer avoid potential embarrassment and/or elevate their perceived status in their athletic community.

This list was formed from using various tri and runners' submissions, and then acquired, edited, exfoliated, and added to by me. You can send any suggestions of yours to me. If they are semi-coherent and not too offensive, I might add them. But then again, I might not.

Note: This is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek review of the sometimes superstitious regard runners and triathletes have for their finisher shirts. My personal view: I don't care if you wear your shirts wrapped around your head in an ever-expanding please, no nasty-grams back to me on back-channel e-mail. Have fun.

T-Shirt Etiquette Guidelines:
1. A shirt cannot be worn unless the wearer has participated in the event. There is an exception, though: "significant others" and volunteers are exempt.

2. Any race tee, less than a marathon distance, shouldn’t be worn to an ultramarathon event. This goes double for the wearing of sprint-tri shirts to Ironman and Half-Ironman events. It simply doesn’t represent a high enough "cool factor " and sends a red flag regarding your rookiness. It's like taking a knife to a gunfight. It's probably best just to wear a generic name-brand athletic shirt, and go hide in a corner until race time.

3. When you are returning to a race in which you have previously finished, then wear the shirt from the first year you completed the race. Don’t short-change yourself by wearing the shirt from the year before. It doesn’t adequately display the feat of accomplishment or the consummate veteran status that you are due.

4. Never wear a race event shirt for the (same) race you are about to do. Only rookies do this. It displays a total lack of integrity and might put the bad-heebee-jeebee-mojo on you for the race. Wearing a T-shirt of the race, while currently running said race, is discouraged. It’s like being at work and constantly announcing "I’m at work". Besides, you wont have the correct post-race shirt then...unless you like to wear sweaty, pitted-out clothes on a regular basis. If you do, then go back to the swamp, Gomer.

5. Never wear a shirt from a run that you did not finish. To wear a race shirt is to say "I finished it". Exceptions: see guideline #1.

6. A DNF’er may wear a race shirt if... the letters DNF are boldly written on the shirt in question (using a fat Sharpie or a Marks-A-Lot).

7. During a race, the wearing of shirt from a previously completed year is acceptable. Wear the oldest T-shirt you have from that race (see guideline #3). This is probably a good practice because you now have no excuse to drop out since you’ve done it before.

8. If possible, runners should buy significant others T-shirts which can be worn without regard to running the race. (see guide #1). Keep in mind, they support your "running Jones" more than you think. They also have ways of punishing you that you can't even imagine. Or maybe you can.

9. Volunteers have full T-shirt rights and all privileges pertaining thereto. So there. Remember, you can always volunteer for a race and get a shirt. I encourage this as your civil duty to be a member of the running community. Races don't happen without volunteers, folks.

10. No souvenir shirts: therefore, friends or anyone else not associated with the race may not wear a race shirt. If your mom thinks that your Boston shirt is lovely, tell her to QUALIFY for Boston herself, & send in her application early for next year, so she can earn her own shirt. A downside to this: she still has plenty of time to write you out of her will between her training runs for the big race. Note that your mom CAN wear your finisher's shirt under one of these 4 conditions- 1) you still live with your mother; 2) she funded your trip to the race; 3) she recently bailed you out of the slammer; or 4) All of the above. There is an exception to this guideline: (refer to # 1...If you are a "non-traditional family," and your mom actually is your Significant Other).

11. Always wear the race shirt of your last race at the current race’s pre-race briefing. The more recent the race, the better. This is a good conversation starter. However, avoid the tendency to explain how that it was a training run for this, and this is just a training run for the next, etc. It just sounds like your rationalizing mediocre performances. Sometimes it’s best to live in the here and now.

12. Your t-shirt should be kept clean, but dried blood stains are okay, especially if it is a trail race or a particularly tough event. If you're an ultrarunner, you can even leave in mud and grass stains, (and porcupine quills). Not washing-out the skunk scent is pushing the macho thing a bit too far, though.

13. Never wear a T-shirt that vastly out-classes the event you're running. It’s like taking a gun to a knife fight. Or like unleashing an atomic bomb among aboriginal natives. You get the idea.

14. Also: never wear a blatantly prestigious T-shirt downtown or at the mall among non-running ilk. People will just think you have a big head, which you do. You'll also get stupid questions, like, "how long was that marathon?" If it's a shirt to a 50 or 100-miler, they'll think it's a shirt for a cycling event or just think you're totally nuts, which (of course), you probably are.

15. Never, ever, borrow a race finisher's shirt from another runner to wear to an event that you didn't run. If you do, remember that in Dante's Inferno, he wrote about a special Hell for characters such as you; right between Tax Collectors and Lawyers.

16. The Bad Ben Guideline: All children or grandchildren of mine can wear hand-me-down race finisher's shirts for races that I've run in. When they are asked, "did you run in that 100-mile trail race?" They can proudly respond, "no, but my daddy (or grandad) did." If your progeny has put-up with you being an ultrarunner, they have said rights too. If you have completed an Ironman, your kids also have the same rights. They've put up with a lot of crap (or outright neglect) over the years, and deserve to wear them.
17. The Bryner Guideline: Never wear a shirt that has more sponsors listed on it than people that ran in the event. (Are you listening, race directors?) A shirt with too many sponsorship logos on it is just plain ugly. If you're a race director, and have scored that many sponsors, how about sharing the wealth? Just give me a call at 555-6565, and ask for "Bad Ben." By the way, you can let ANYONE wear this ugly shirt; non-finishers and distant relatives, alike. If you respect your friends, kids, spouse or mother, though, you won't let any of them wear it. It would serve well as bedding in your kid's gerbil cage.

18. Never wear a shirt that has any sponsors on it that you don't agree with. For instance, if you're a Vegan, you shouldn't wear a shirt that proudly advertises "Omaha Steaks" on it. If you wear this shirt, the "Karma Gremlins" will catch-up with you . I swear that's why I fell and broke my nose in my last 50-mile trail run, or why I had plantar fascitis for most of '99. I never should have ran in the 1998 "Fantastic 4-Miler." Why would they enlist a sponsor from an North Korean land-mine manufacturer, anyway?

19. The Spencer Guideline: If an event is cancelled at the last minute, but the event shirts were already given out, you can't wear the shirt unless you actually ran the race on that day. This means you will have to run your own unsupported event, through snow storms, hurricanes, or whatever lame excuse the Race Organizers came up with for cancelling said event. If you still want to wear the shirt, you have to mark it with a sharpie, "I didn't run this lousy event, and I'm all the better for it, thank you," across the front of it.

20. This next one is a big one, and has something to do with the need for more good taste and asthetics in this sometimes ugly world. Never wear a shirt that is so old, thin, and threadbare that you can see the color of your nipples or chest hair through it. This seems to be just a "guy thing," especially and old-codger-runner-guy thing. Here's the test guys: if you're too scared to machine-wash your 1978 Tab Ten-Miler shirt for fear of it wafting down the drain as meer subatomic particles, then it's probably too transparent to wear in public. If you can (still) remember your great performance at that particular day and you want to save it for posterity, PLEASE have it framed so that you can keep it on the wall of your den or your "I love me" room, and (at least) out of public view. Better yet, have it sewn into a quilt. You can then sit on your couch and read back-copies of Runner's World, cuddled up with your "runner's binky," with a glass of warm milk.

21. By the way, if you don't know what terms like DNF, volunteer, or Significant Other are, then you shouldn't wear any race shirt until you know what they mean, and you shouldn’t have any meaningful relationships, either. You should probably become a hermit and/or New Age "Tantric" runner, sitting at home in the lotus position performing virtual marathons in your mind, while sniffing used GU packets, incense, and patchouli.

T-shirts must be used sensitively. Worn responsibly, they can help expand one's consciousness and immerse you in a great conversation with your running brethren. Worn stupidly, they can cause fright, horror, vacant stares, sprained ankles, and general social unrest. Don't be a "T-shirt Terrorist." Follow proper T-shirt etiquette to do your part for world peace.
Happy trails,

Bad Ben

Monday, September 17, 2007

Running While Traveling

Trying to find a place to run while traveling all over the country (or world) is not as bad as you'd think, and researching for said "place to run" at your new destination can be a lot of fun, with a little help.

First and foremost, there's a lot of information about running on the web. Sorting through all of that can be a pain. My favorite way to look for running groups, trails, or safe areas to run in other cities is to find the local running clubs, first.

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is a good place to start. Their page with "member clubs" link you up with running clubs' web sites in many cities throughout the U.S. From these web sites, you can find potential club group runs, and hook up with other runners. Sometimes maps of the group running routes are posted, so that if you're there on a day that they aren't running, you can still find a good running route.

Run the Planet dot com is another great resource. On this site, you can find personal favorite running routes, trails and parks to run in, in almost any city in the world. There are also comments by local runners about local running areas. Keep in mind that this information may not be updated frequently, if at all.

USA Track and Field (USATF), has a site called "America's Running Routes," with mapped and measured GPS-produced running routes submitted by local runners. This searchable database is pretty cool, but it's "information overload." It has so many people's GPS information from running actual races, etcetera, that it's not worth a lot for finding a safe running route for a "normal" training run. I find that all other GPS-based sites are similarly flawed, with too many routes and not enough pertinent information for an out-of-towner to quickly find a safe and fun training run.

There is still no substitute for finding a club or group to run with, when you're out of town. Yep, actually reaching out for human contact or informational exchange works best. If you can't find a club or running group through the RRCA or other means, a good ol' Google search can work wonders, if you know how to seach. For instance, if I were to search for a running group in the Kansas City area, I would input "kansas city+running group" to do a simple search. This search netted me over 2 million hits, but on the first page, I got these primary hits: the Kansas City Track Club, the Running Network's "Club List" of Kansas Running Clubs, my "Trail Nerds" site, Kansas City Express women's running Club, Cool Running's Regional list, and many others.

For many smaller towns that don't have RRCA member clubs, you may always have to resort to a Google search. Remember to try a Google "blog search" or a "Yahoo group site" search, with the same information. This can yield quick results and can get you contacts within a local running group, immediately.

For my last trip to Spokane, Washington, I looked at the Bloomsday Roadrunner's Club schedule, to find a group run. The Saturday run was a wash...nobody was there (because of another event going on), but for my Sunday long run, I showed up at the "normal place" at Spokane Falls Community College and met two nice guys that showed up, also. They were even willing to run on off-pavement trails with me. It made the miles fly by, and it was a lot more fun. I also learned a few things about the local "goings-on" that I wouldn't have, if I'd just run on my own.
Driving into Spokane from the West. I love this first glimpse of the city.

When I'm out of the country or in a really interesting U.S. city for sightseeing, or sometimes just for fun, I like to do something completely different, though. I'll get up really early, and venture out by running in my immediate hotel neighborhood, and check out the "feel" of my new surroundings. I also do this in towns that don't have a running club or group. It's kind of cool, because you get to see things that many of the locals don't even see, or they just overlook or take for granted.

For instance, when I'm in Spokane, I run on unpaved trails within the city that are rarely used by the locals. (This was true when I lived there, too). This Summer, I ran on some awesome routes, and met some interesting folks, while I was out and about.
Urban Trails in Spokane.

If you're stuck in a "scary" part of a strange big city, and still want to run outside, I've got a solution. If it's the weekend, keep in mind that all of the "nasty business" goes on during certain hours. Yes, crime has a timeclock! Magically, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., city streets will be devoid of all "thug-types" (or any troublemakers), as they sleep-off their night of depravity. The only folks you'll see at that time in the morning are normal, honest "working stiffs," city workers, cops, and restaurant delivery folks. You'll have the proverbial "keys to the city" for your run.

You should still have an idea of where you're at, and carry a cell phone. It's always a good idea to carry your driver's license, your medical insurance card, and $40 in cash, also. The cash can get you out of trouble; (it's not just good for potential cab fare). If you are ever held-up in a mugging, forty bucks can save your life. I've been told by folks experienced with this bit of nastiness, that it's just about the perfect amount to have if some goon, (read: drug addict), wants to hold you at gunpoint to fund their next fix. Less money than that or carrying just a credit card, might get you killed. More money than that can be bad, too. Good things to know.

Enough of worrying about scary stuff. When you travel, go exploring. Meet some interesting people and enjoy your surroundings to the fullest. It's what makes running such a fun sport when traveling; it's accessibilty to the interesting "non-car" places, the scenery, action, and smells, and you can either be a daring loner or a social butterfly.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

More recent travel photos:
Driving into Seattle's downtown from the airport (from the south) on 509/99. This cityscape view is so much more dramatic than the I-5 view. Take the road less traveled!

Seattle Running Company, on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Notice the Trail Nerds sticker on the pole. Now, who could have stuck that there??? A bunch of Savages in this town!

Capitol Hill area "Gomi Chic" in Seattle.

My Favorite coffee cafe in Seattle, Caffe Vita. "It's the best, Jerry...the best."

Having a beer at my buddys' place, Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill in Seattle. REALLY GOOD BREWS and decent food!

2007CCC 017
A cute Barista at Pioneer Coffee Roasting Company, Cle Elum, Washington.
I may be old and married, but I ain't dead.

Manito Park, Spokane.

Running through the Manito Park Rose Garden, Spokane.

Dolly's Cafe, Spokane. This Greasy Spoon has been around a while.

Saturday's coffee stop...Spokane.

The Spokane Mayor and his cronies discuss political plans at coffee.

This guy scares me. (Frank's Diner).