An ode to something, not exactly a summer's day…

This post is in honor of next week’s Boston Marathon, its participants, and all the runners and triathletes who will be going long at some point this year. All the training, dieting, and obsessing will someday come to an end, the race will be over, and you will have either proudly completed your goals or pathetically fallen short. For many, the goal may be just to finish, collect the finisher’s medal, and sign up for the next adventure. For others, there may be a time goal, a place goal, or to beat a long-time rival. For all, a common goal will be to avoid injury, to soak in and enjoy the experience, and to not actually gain weight during training.

There are so many things to look forward to when you sign up and then train for a long distance event — the peak fitness, the surprising speed, the leanness and lost weight, the massive appetite, and the tanlines. There are also some drawbacks – the lack of free time and social life (so really, what’s it like to stay up after 10:00 on a Friday night?), the constant soreness and fatigue, the massive appetite, the lack of focus at work and that occasional social outing with non-triathlon or running friends (if any of us have any of those left), and the shrinking bank account, but of course the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Today, we’re going to talk about one thing that often gets left out of lengthy and self-congratulatory race reports or overly-complex training articles and plans. Even though we’re not planning for it, some of us may proudly consider it as much a badge of honor as a finisher’s medal or a PR. Others will be disgusted and try to hide this hideous thing from the adoring public, even as they spout on and on about the final 10k or their nutritional mishaps of their race.

This thing, this yin and/or yang, this Red state and/or Blue state  of endurance sport can only be…

 Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Just a little longer…

The excitement’s palpable, right?

Here it comes…


Black and missing toenails

Now, I myself have had my fair share of post-race black and then fallen toenails. They’re uncomfortable for a few days, and certainly unsightly, but they’re also a badge of honor much like a winning fighter’s black eye (or missing earlobe) after he’s won a world title and a few million bucks. Usually, after a long-distance race, the last thing you’re thinking about is your toes. Your shredded legs or empty tummy are usually your first and foremost concern, but for some their biggest priority may be telling the thirteen closest people the thirteen completely valid reasons for not PRing by thirteen minutes, even though their training and race execution was completely dead-on.

After a race, you probably won’t really notice the small but expanding purplish spots on your toes as the rest of your body will be screaming much more loudly than your toes. It won’t be till the next day that you’ll look down while slowly trying to put on your new pair of IM branded socks and flip-flops that you’ll see your toenails turning a darker shade. A few days later, they’ll be completely black. Some people may try to hide them, along with the burns on their necks caused by poor lubricant usage in wetsuit application (sorry…). Sure, they don’t look great, but why not showcase them, and use them as another excuse to “meekly” prattle on about your latest accomplishment? After all, some or your friends,coworkers, and relatives may not recognize the crisp, shiny new finisher’s medal or t-shirt you’re still wearing a week later. Sometimes, the black toenails may even look better, so wear those open-toe shoes or sandals with pride, or use the opportunity to take up barefoot running — everywhere.

Eventually, the nails will start to loosen and then peel away from the beds of your toes. One day (for me, it’s usually during my thrashing from one end of the pool to the other) the nail will fall off. My left big toenail is always the one to go, so it’s pretty hard to miss. When it finally falls off, I like to keep mine and glue it to my framed, glossy 8 x 12 finish line photo — another memento of my oh-so momentous (read: mediocre) accomplishment. So hold on to those toenails, much cheaper than an IM pendant.

Good luck to everyone who’ll be racing in Boston on Monday, whether you’re running the marathon or the 5k. Also, good luck to everyone who’ll be streaming live coverage of the race while at work – don’t get caught.

Look out for next week’s Boston race recap — it’ll be epic, or mostly imagined.


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