Normally when I travel I like to have an adventure or two – but my biggest adventure this trip may have been to a mall at the other end of town, where I learned the art of book binding for free from some very cute Thai art students. (I bought 10 bookbinding kits to bring home and to share at a meetup sometime in the near adventure. I hope my crafty mom friends think that sounds fun!)

On the other hand Songbae and Joss have had some real adventures.

Have you heard of the Hash Run Harriers?

None of us had.

Songbae had heard only that they were a running club that liked to drink afterwards and his running buddy in San Francisco had recommended he look up a club when he got to Bangkok. Apparently, she had done it in Uganda, and recommended it as a way to keep running while abroad.
So he looked one up in Bangkok and invited Joss along. They left here around 5pm on a Monday to take a taxi to some godforsaken meeting place an hour outside of Bangkok. It sounded interesting.

After a number of garbled phone conversations, (“THIS IS INSANE! I CAN’T EXPLAIN! THIS IS INSANE!) they came home stumbling blind drunk at about 2 am in the morning. Sue and I were up. Not quite as toasted as they were. But buzzed and knitting probably, because that’s what we’ve done for fun a few times when the babies have gone to bed.

What the hell, right?
So, according to Songbae and Joss:

They showed up to the meeting spot late and there was nobody there, except two overweight white guys smoking cigarettes. Songbae and Joss leapt out of the car and asked if they knew anything about the hash run. Between slow puffs, the guys casually pointed down a road and said they would not have a problem catching up. They said, “Follow the paper.”

With no understanding of what the guys meant, Songbae and Joss started running. They were after all, there to run. They did wonder briefly who those guys were: If they knew about the run, why weren’t they running? And what the hell does it mean to “follow the paper”???

They got to an T-intersection: to the left was a dirt road leading into the jungle and to the right the pavement continued. Naturally, they continued on to the right. Twenty minutes went by. They had seen no other runners.

Songbae was beat. It was hot (it’s always hot here) and since they had turned right whenever there had been an intersection, they were now nearly back to where the taxi had dropped them off in a golf club parking lot. Songbae and Joss agreed to turn back and call it quits when suddenly
they saw two other runners up ahead. They sprinted up and joined them. Sure enough it was a group of hash harrier runners.
Relieved, Songbae and Joss fell in with them.

To discover that that the group was following a path that had been marked earlier by intermittent piles of shredded paper. And strangely the run seemed to have no logic at all; in fact, it seemed entirely insane and it was not easy to follow the paper.

These small piles of paper would sometimes end in an “X” pile at which point, one runner in the group would shout out, “FAN OUT! FAN OUT!” because an “X” meant that the trail could go in ANY direction and the runners had work together to find the next pile. It got stranger still.

Sometimes the paper trail went through jungle and the runners were leaping over roots and clawing tree branches out of their faces. Other times they were bursting out onto town streets or running through private backyards or running alongside rice paddies. One time they ran through the middle of a Buddhist temple (a “wat”) and another time they had to crawl over BARBED WIRE (Joss came home with the marks to prove it).

Sometimes the trail just dead-ended and was discovered to be a false trail, at which point the group had to backtrack until they found the trail again.

This was clearly no typical jog through Golden Gate Park, but rather some psychopathic bootcamp survival game. CLEARLY.

Songbae and Joss stuck with it for 1 1/2 hours.

Until there was no more paper to be found or until it got too dark. There the story gets muddled. In any case, they tramped back to the golf club parking lot, where they proceeded to guzzle and guzzle alike with the other runners with beer that had been stashed in the trunk of the cars. A tailgate party of sorts.

It gets stranger still.
Did you see the last movie Tom Cruise made with his first wife, Nicole Kidman: Eyes Wide Shut? What Songbae and Joss described about the next bit sounded something bizarre like that, but frat house-style. (You can take a minute here and check it out on wikipedia – the guy in charge is called a “kennel grandmaster” or “religious advisor” and the management of a has group is generally referred to as “MisManagement.”  Are you getting creeped out? Be forewarned: the next section contains a description of the misuse of a dildo.)

Perhaps a comparison to Eyes Wide Shut is a stretch. There was no sex involved, just sex toys.

In any case, the guy who seemed in charge starting clapping his hands and shouting out, “Let’s get started!” and people started to circle up around the barker and a small table filled with glasses of beer.  Something like toasts started. The leader would begin a toast, usually filled with foul language and inappropriate epithets and the group would end by singing some kind of theme song. The person thusly toasted would then come up and chug a beer.

From there, all the new people were invited forward. I imagine that they might have been hesitant.  After being asked a couple of yelled questions from the audience, seemingly innocent questions, like “Where are you from?!” and answering “San Francisco,” the inevitable happened. Songbae and Joss were dubbed  “The Gay Twins of San Francisco.” Fortunately this was not an official naming, as there is a ceremony for official names (and keep in mind that if you complain about a name you are likely to be renamed something even more offensive), but “The Gay Twins of San Francisco” it was for the rest of the night (and for the rest of the vacation!)

This went on, getting more raucous and politically incorrect, until they got to the the Prick of the Week Award. At this point in the story, every time Songbae tells this story, he says with a deep sigh, “I am SO GLAD we didn’t get Prick of the Week.”


He says that people were randomly nominated for the Prick of the Week Award and that if your name was called you had to go up and join the other nominees at the center of the circle.

Again, he says, “I am SO GLAD we didn’t win.”

After a few choice things were said about each nominee, then the votes were cast via clapping, hooting, and hollering, when the leader held his hand over the nominees’ head. The Gay Twins of San Francisco got a lot of applause. In fact, so much so that the leader called for a tie-breaker. Mind you, the last time Songbae was in this position, winning by mob appeal, he was in a dancing contest on a cruise ship – and he went home with the first place trophy!

The Gay Twins of San Francisco lost by a decibel of a handclap.

The winner of the Prick of the Week Award had the dubious honor of strapping a dildo on over his forehead, another one, this one with buttocks, around his waist, and then chugging a beer in a glass that looked suspiciously like it was ALSO in the shape of a dildo while the crowd chanted and sang the hasher’s theme song. (I can’t really imagine how that song would go…)


Bella gets extra credit for sharing a newspaper or magazine article with her biology class – extra extra credit if she makes a power point presentation. So, I showed her how to pull together a little power point and it turned out okay! I’m posting it here, because she did it on carbohydrates and long-distance running and I learned a thing or two: how much to eat, what kinds of carbs to eat and when.
Carbs and Running
(Plus, I’m sick and chilling on the sofa listlessly watching the email exchange among my husband’s family deciding not to buy Christmas gifts this year for each other – except for the kids.)

Blogging overload. Yesterday was a little too much time on the computer thinks I. My blogger’s forearm is acting up and I’m feeling verrry spacey.

I got a comment today on my post, “How to pick a Good Running Shoe,” from somebody named Alyssa at newbalancetampa. My finger was just about to bam! hit the spam button, when I decided to be responsible about spam-calling, and check her out first. Turns out that “alyssa” maintains a bone fide blog for the New Balance store in Tampa … and it’s not half bad! In fact, she’s doing exactly what I might be doing sometime in the near future. Gulp. It’s like saying I’m going to be a great telephone marketer – you know, add human-ness to a corporate entity.

In any case, I will post a link to her blog here, simply because she posts about where one can donate used running shoes. But if on principle you don’t want to visit her blog site, I will also post her two links:

Donate used running shoes to kids in Africa through shoes4africa (you can mail the shoes directly).

Or go through this Boulder, Colorado-based charity called One World Running.
One World Running is actually a Blogger blog documenting kids from different cross-country teams donating used sneaks. Pretty sweet.

I think we have at least five used pairs kicking around in the garage at this very moment.

I went to a “mandatory” parent meeting for cross-country this week. Just before I left the house, Bella called out to me, “Coach says to bring your checkbook!”

Checkbook indeed. A couple hundred dollars later…

I don’t want to grumble too much, because I know how much time and energy a public school coach/teacher puts into her team, and she isn’t getting any of the money we’re forking over. Bella is training very seriously two hours a day, five days a week, and then competing on Saturdays. I fully appreciate the coach’s efforts.

The coach did share some interesting running tips. For instance, she swears by ice baths. She says that after every major running event or even an intense workout, she takes an ice bath. She enthusiastically championed ice baths for relieving all stiffness and muscle pain.

For an ice bath you fill your bathtub with six inches of cold water and then dump in one bag of ice from the grocery store (probably 7 pounds?).

Then get in the tub.

Coach says that she likes to wear her bathing suit bottoms and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood on, to help retain body heat in the rest of her body. That’s right, lower your body into the tub.

And sit there for 15-20 minutes.

Let me know how it goes.

Bella ran her first track meet today: 3 miles in 27 minutes. Yesterday she officially made the cross country team by running 4 miles in 29 miles. She’s taking this all very seriously – coach said no greasy food or dairy the night before the race – so she abstained from the hamburgers on the grill (although she did have a few bites of Ben and Jerry’s) and went to bed early.

We had to get her to school this morning by 6:30 am – on a Saturday!

Rough – but turned into a good time for Chad and I to do a nice 9-mile run along Wood Canyon Trail. Heard coyotes – saw one too.

Call me a sucker if you want, but after four trips to the shoe store and hundreds of dollars later, I’m a believer. No more will I ever think I have enough know-how to just walk into a Famous Footwear and pick out the most comfortable running shoe in the $80 range. Ever since Bella, Chad, and I bought our new running shoes last weekend, old prickly ailments like blisters, ankle aches, and twinge-y calf muscles have disappeared.

I hate to say this, but apparently the trick to getting a good running shoe is to go to running shoe store, where the sales clerk is a runner. In the county of product consumption hyper-specialization (need a memory foam pet bed in the shape of a velvet sofa? come on down!) I am trying not to become a picky southern cali consumer freak, but there it is.

In a recent post, I listed the only three approved stores at which Bella can buy her running shoes. All three are very close to where I live, but just by the name, I would have chosen A Snail’s Pace to visit first. Didn’t happen that way, though, because Bella’s friend Dawkins needed shoes the last time she was in town, and Runner’s World seemed easiest to find. Bella accompanied Dawkins and was impressed by heat-detection monitor that assesses the way you stand, the treadmill with a video feed of your feet running, and the somewhat geeky, but knowledgeable sales clerk, Rob. Dawkins also walked out of there with not just running shoes, but insoles, synthetic wicking socks, a massage roller, and $20 VIP card, which then allows you to buy everything else for 10% off.

So, the next day I went back with Bella. No Rob. Just another poor sales clerk, who was trying to help everybody in the store by himself. He got Bella on the heat-monitor and treadmill – we even got as far as trying on shoes, but Bella was sullen and uncooperative. She wanted Rob! and nobody else would do! Fine. I wasn’t about to spend $100 on shoes that she didn’t feel great about, and it’s true, the dude was stressing and overwhelmed. We decided to come back another time.

But on the way home, I thought we’d swing by the Snail’s Pace – a locally-owned shop managed by runners just sounded good. The Snail’s Pace didn’t have any computers, but they did have excellent sales clerks. John started Bella out in a “try-out” shoe – just a plain old pair of Brooks, and then he had her run down the sidewalk outside to assess her running stride. He pronounced her “neutral,” and Bella caught my eye with a meaningful look: the guy at Runner’s World had said Bella needed a “stability” shoe. John, explained to us that basically, 70-80% of runners need a stability shoe because they pronate when they run, or more simply said, they land on the outside edge of their foot and roll slightly inwards as they land. A stability shoe has differing amounts of stiffer, usually gray, foam under the arch, which prevents the inward roll. The ultimate goal is for the foot to land lightly on the heel and roll forward and toe off, without rolling to either side. If the soles of your shoes wear unevenly, you may need a stability shoe.

In any case, John started bringing shoes out for Bella to try on. He would put a different shoe on each foot and have her run in them both. Then he would eliminate them by asking questions about arch pressure and comfort. Finally, she ended with a pair of Saucony Triumphs. I was ready to buy, but then Bella did that thing with her eyes, begging me to pleee-ase wait and see Rob at Runner’s World, and I cracked.

Despite the fact, that Bella would have to run for three more days in the blister shoes, she was willing to do it to wait for Rob at Runner’s World, so wait we did. Bella called several days in a row until Rob was there. And true, he was very knowledgeable, pulling out a flexible foot skeleton and having Bella do balance exercises… And it was gratifying to see Bella’s feet on the heat-monitor and video cam…and Rob also said that Bella needed a neutral shoe – one that just has soft cushioning throughout. He also recommended insoles ($26) and synthetic wicking socks ($22), but having been traumatized by the sight of Bella’s grotesque and ever-growing blisters, I just waved my hand towards the cashier, sure, just get ’em. So much for scoffing at Dawkins’ moms lack of willpower – we walked out of there with a VIP card too.

Bella’s feet recovered beautifully.

And then of course I felt that Chad and I needed new running sneaks as well, but I had a dilemma: go back to a store that Chad would hate, but where I had a 10% discount or go directly to The Snail’s Pace?

We did both. We went to Runner’s World and let Rob analyze my feet. I needed a stability shoe and ended up with a Asics Kayano. I had been running with Asics for the last four years, but always with a neutral shoe. I ran with the Kayanos just once, and voila, the pain in my left arch was gone. I could literally feel the firm wedge under my arch preventing me from rolling inward.

Then, because Chad didn’t like all the glitz, we headed over to Snail’s Pace and Chad got a pair of stability shoes also: New Balance 858. His strange shin pain also disappeared after just one run in his new shoes. Granted, we all paid a pretty penny for high-performance shoes, so they might all feel good – but I think there is something to this “stabilty” and “neutral” shoe business.

And, I might as well admit, I got a second pair of running shoes for Bella. All three sales clerks told me the same thing: it takes about 40 hours for the foam in running shoe to completely decompress and regain its original shape – if you alternate between two pairs of shoes (one pair lasts 400 miles) then both pairs will last longer.

I really am a sucker!

My poor kid has blisters the size of two thumbnails, one on the arch of each foot. She also has smaller blisters on her third toe of each foot.

We leave the house every morning at 5:45 am, and I wake Bella up at 5:15; it feels like we use the bulk of that half hour rigging bandaids, paper tape, and mole skin on her feet. Then to make things worse, last night Bella said the dead skin was falling off one of her bigger blisters, so she pulled it completely off. Mistake. It started bleeding, and I administered Neo-sporin and put on a BIG neon-colored Nexcare Active Strip (She didn’t want me to use these band-aids; she’s saving them?!? Until what, until a toe falls off?) She went to bed whimpering.

This morning, her foot felt better, and the large blister on her other foot looked largely healed. I suggested we put on large active strip on that one as well, but she didn’t want to “waste a band-aid,” so we left it alone. We taped up the rest. Well, I hate to say told you so, but after practice she came limping to the car; the “healed” blister had returned, as pus-filled and large as ever. Poor, poor kid.

I’m wondering if I did Bella a disservice by letting her pick a pair of adidas running shoes. I’ve always worn asics or new balance – but I swear, Bella said that the adidas were the most comfortable. But I’ve always known adidas for tennis, maybe they make terrible running shoes? In any case, we have know been informed that all future running shoes must be approved by the coach – and best if purchased from one of the three following stores:

1. A Snail’s Pace Running Shop (24741 Alicia Pkwy; Mon-Fri: 10-7; Sat: 10-6; Sun: 12-5 (949) 707-1460; Honali Plaza, behind Car Wash) – stores in Fountain Valley, Laguna Hills, Brea, and Pasadena. The one closest to us is on Alicia, just south of the 5.

2. Fleet Feet (32411 Golden Lantern Suite H; Laguna Niguel, CA 92677; (949) 488-3356; Next to Pier 1 Imports) – a national chain (but always locally-owned) of general fitness supplies. There is one in Laguna Niguel, just next to the Laguna Hills Mall in the Oakbrook strip mall.

3. RoadRunner Sports – also a national chain. 40% off last year’s models until August 26, 2007!

Bella also has to keep a daily running log, in which she documents not only how far she’s run and where, but how she feels, and everything she’s eaten that day. This coach is hardcore. At least she runs with the girls, and her assistant coach bikes along at the back. My coaches never ran (or swam) with the team.

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