Man Boobs

man-boobs.jpg

Man Boobs

You love my manly lumps

My hump, my hump, my hump

I’m 44.

According to Google, I have a few months left before I officially enter Middle Age. And yet, I feel, at once, both older and younger than my years. Younger because I act like I’m twelve, often. Just ask my wife. It’s not uncommon for my two daughters and I to engage in a full house over-the-top pillow fight, instigated by me. But our pillow fights are not the type that live in the hormonal dreams of teenage boys. Our pillow fights are with smaller pillows, including throw pillows, or plush balls, and our home becomes a virtual battle field. We hide. We crawl. We strategize. And we throw hard. Yeah, maybe we’ve broken a few picture frames, and random misc. No, my wife does not approve. But dammit, we have fun and I’ll take the fall for those casualties. You can also ask my best friend’s wife. We’ve been friends since we were 11. We still get into slapping fight.

But I’ve also had enough hard life experience to feel, sometimes, much older than my years. I’ve been vulnerably naked before enough doctors and have discussed the inner and outer workings of my digestive system to know what “undignified” really means. While I’m nowhere near the point of immodesty that permits the old men in the gym locker room who walk around with their 80 year old scrotums sweeping the floor and unabashedly blow dry “downstairs,” I don’t get dressed behind a towel the way I once did. And I’ve seen enough loss in my life, personally and through different stages of my professional life, that I feel as if the pain I have been exposed to is enough to last 3 lifetimes. But if I had to choose a stage in life, I would pick the stage and age I currently find myself. I would choose today. Every year, every stage has its own challenges. While I certainly have worries, problems, and stress, the important things in my life are all in place and I feel fortunate to be where I am at this moment despite the crap.

As I age, I find myself with new body challenges as a runner. They don’t embarrass me the way they once did. I’ve never written about my nipples before, but sitting here on the train at 6:20 AM heading towards Downtown Chicago on my morning commute, that’s what I’m thinking about. But let me back up.

I’ve run 4 marathons over the years. Well, actually 5. I have run, in this order, the Chicago Marathon, the New York Marathon, the New Jersey Marathon, the Wineglass Marathon, and I completed Ironman Wisconsin, so I sorta’, kinda’ consider that a marathon as well because I went the distance. I’m not fast. I’m not slow. I’m somewhere in the middle. The Wineglass Marathon was my fastest at 3:28, and I was hoping to train myself for a Boston qualification. But between injuries and a few years spent competing in triathlons and returning to my roots in competitive cycling, it never happened. But I’ll write more about that in future posts.

If you want a beautiful, small town, fall foliage marathon on the East Coast, I highly recommend the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY. Yes, Corning, as in Corning Glass, hence the name “Wineglass.” At the time I was training for a 3:30 finish and I was thrilled to make and break my goal. This was a number of years ago already, but it was at the Wineglass Marathon that something changed for me. It was the first time my nipples chaffed. I mean really, really chaffed.

I don’t recall what I was wearing when I met my wife 24 years ago, or even on our first date. I think maybe that’s why men get to wear basically the same thing at most weddings. Our brains are not programmed that way. But then, why do I remember that I was wearing a white singlet with a single diagonal black stripe across the chest at the Wineglass Marathon an uncertain number of years ago? Maybe it’s because it was the last time in my life I could pull off a singlet. Maybe it’s because by the end of the race I had two prominent streaks of blood emerging from where my nipples used to be. Let’s just say, I didn’t buy the race photos from that race. And I’m not sure I ever wore a white running shirt again.

Here’s the thing. That was a transitional moment for this runner’s delicate teats. From that day forward, the composition of my little man boobs was forever changed. Even a short run, say just 4 or 5 miles, can cause noticeable discomfort to the surface of my MAN-mories. I’ve since become an inventor in Body Glide and every other variation of anti-friction body goo.

I have been addicted to lip balm since sixth grade. Seriously, I call it an addiction. I always have a backup close by. If I cannot locate my ChapStick when my smooth, supple lips demand its sweet relief, I get panicky. When I consider new running apparel, I always make sure there’s an option for securely storing a ChapStick while on the run. Occasionally, if I am at lunch or dinner with my mother, she’ll ask to borrow my ChapStick . See, I don’t need a lot. Just a quick, single pass. I can apply it subtly, all with a single hand, including removing and holding the cap. My mother goes around and around like you’d expect a toddler to do with her mother’s stolen lipstick. It is with the same reckless abandon that I apply a think protective layer of petroleum to my nipples before each and every run. I’m fairly certain that my shirt doesn’t come within a full inch of my nipples by the time I’m done. And yet, it only helps marginally protect my nipples from being torn half off my body by even the softest of running shirts.

I am planning my official entry into the world of ultra running this season. My plan, for the moment at least, is to run an early June 50K, and another in early September as a final long training run before an October 50-miler. I am not sure my nipples will remain attached to my body by Thanksgiving. It can happen. I refuse to wear those stupid nipple guards. I see guys at starting lines with those giant booby helmets protruding from their shifts and I judge them silently. After all, if you’re old enough to remember Andre Agassi’s commercials, image is everything.

Dear extended running family, I come to you, I beseech you, I supplicate before you upon my apolitical knee, guide me to protect my teats. What ideas have you to get me through my first season of training and racing ultras? Seriously, I’ll take your ideas into consideration, but prefer creativity and humor. What do ya got for me?