By Vernon Felton
Duct tape. Nipples. Duct tape. Nipples.
There's no getting around it, I'm going to have to duct tape my nipples.
This is everything I hate about running boiled down into one red, swollen and angry moment.
Before I resumed running, I had no idea that you could even get "runner’s nipple", which is a condition with several handles, including "red eleven", "raver’s nipple", "big Q’s", "red nipple", "stingers", "weightlifter’s nipple", "gardener’s nipple", and "nipple chafe".
Gardener's nipple? Seriously? When you start to suffer from the same conditions that plague retired grandmothers, you have to take stock of your life.
Here I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror and my nipples look…pissed. As ailments go, it could be worse. It's not like I even use the things (thank you weird quirk of evolutionary fate), but it'd be nice if they'd stop leaving bloodstains on my favorite shirts. It's a conversation stopper.
THE ONLY ROAD I HAVE EVER KNOWN
So, I'm running again. Not in any serious, six-percent body fat, Boston marathon way, but seriously enough that I am now researching the right kind of pastie—something tasteful, of course. Anything with tassles is going to clash with my short-shorts.
But why am I even running when I have a bike? That's the real question and it's a question I ask myself every time I find myself limping along a trail and I spot what would be a nice flowy section were I surfing it on two wheels. It's hard to find that flow when I am desperately hobbling and stumbling along the trail like an 80-year old, blind woman who’s being chased by a pack of wolves.
Running does not come easy to me. The first 15-minute section is invariably a herky-jerky parade of grunts and rolled ankles. And, at the expense of sounding like a complete pansy, it's fuckin' hard. Like any cyclist worth their masochistic salt, I'm a fan of getting out there and suffering, but cycling provides you with these little moments of grace that make it alright; you set those pedals horizontal and pump through a rolling section and the previous thirty minutes of suffering is magically erased. Every second that I spend running, by contrast, is a reminder that my lungs are on fire, my legs are weak and my joints aren't what they used to be. Every inch is a struggle.
I HATE MY TO-DO LIST
Running, however, fits into my schedule. Ten years ago I would've scoffed at that sentence the way you are probably scoffing at it right now. Back then, I didn't have to fit riding into my schedule. My schedule was riding. The rest of my life was what needed fitting in. All-day rides? Sure. On a weekend? Of course. On a weekday? Yup. I just had to manage a couple deadlines, brew a batch of beer and squeeze in my girlfriend's birthday once a year. My to-do list wasn't exactly overflowing.
I still ride now. There are even periods where I get out four or five days a week. But there are times, like this past month, when everything just goes to hell. The deadlines are running right on top of one another, the freelance projects are perking up and the kids have brought home Ebola. Again. On days like these, the all-day ride is a faint memory and getting a pass to escape for a two-hour ride requires a pardon from the governor.
So, what do you do when you have an hour of free time? Lately, I've been spending that hour with a pair of muddy running shoes. Why? An hour on a bike just feels like failure. An hour in those waffle-soled shoes feels like…well, it feels like pain, but it feels like productive pain. In other words, I may not have had a great time doing it, but I got something done. I remembered why I like riding my bike so much. I will pick up the kids from school on time…this time. For today, that'll have to do.
Rrrrrip. I tear off a chunk of duct tape and slap it on my chest.
Rrrrip. I do it again.
This is gonna hurt.