A Friendly Guide to the NYC Half Marathon

Even though I won’t be running the NYC Half Marathon this year, I’m a three-time finisher, so It’s my obligation to share my race secrets with the special few that NYRR has allowed into this year’s race.  They include a) A collection of the worlds best professional runners, b) Thousands of international runners, and c) Ten New Yorkers who were selected through a Hunger Games style lottery.

Good luck to you.  Here are some last minute pointers:

Carb loading rules.

Sure, trained professionals like my run coach friends, Meghan and Jessica at Hot Bird Running, may scold you when you eat 20,000 calories of spaghetti and meatballs mere hours before a race.  But who are you going to listen to?  A couple of certified run coaches who dedicated their lives to making you healthier and happier or the guy who draws funny stick figure pictures?

Exactly.  Go nuts, kids!

A stick figure eating spaghetti to carbo load for a half marathon cartoon by rob pollakThe Starting Line.

It’s chaos.  Seriously.  If you are planning to meet people at your starting corral, you may want to rethink that plan.  Every year, the set up has been different.  With last year being the worst because each stable area had its own set of bathrooms.  In theory this sounds amazing, but in practice, it meant that people waited in line for an hour while people already in the corral could cut the line.

This is also where I do my pre-race nerve-vomiting.

Cartoon by Rob Pollak about the bathroom line at the NYC half marathon

The course.  If you run Central Park often, you know what you’re in for.  If you’re an out of towner running the race for the first time, here’s a quick breakdown of the course.

Course Map:

A course map cartoon for the NYC Half Marathon - Cartoon by Rob Pollak

Miles 1-6 are in Central Park.  They changed the course slightly from when I ran it.  From the looks of the new map, the start will be slightly down hill until about the Mile 1 marker.  Then you will embark on “cat hill,” the first of many grueling tortures you will endure.  This hill is particularly awful because it’s a huge hill, then you get to the top, the road briefly flattens and then starts climbing again.  You will vomit.  It’s also about where your nipples will start to bleed.  Welcome to NYC!

Mile 2 will be awesome.  Look to your left for a sort of view of the Central Park reservoir.  If you ever get the chance to run around the reservoir, take it.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to berate parents pushing strollers and people on bikes, neither of which are allowed on the path.  Actually, I’m not sure if strollers are allowed or not.  If they are, apologies to that nice family that I called the C word for pushing a double wide stroller when I was sweating past them.  Yeah, that’s right.  I called them communists.

Mile 3 will be the worst part of the race, at least since Mile 2 and until you get to mile 4-13.  Mile 3 will be a combination of a big sweeping downhill around the northeast corner of the park.  That will flatten out and you will climb straight up a mountain in the back northwest corner.  You may notice that many people start to walk at this point.  Don’t be one of those people.  Listen to the volunteer standing there telling you to “stay inside the cones” and encouraging you that you’re almost to the top of the hill.

Pro Tip:  All of the lampposts in the park are labeled with the street number.  If you look at the bottom of the post, there will be a number that starts with two digits, like 90-01.  That means you’re at 90th street.  I have no idea what the 01 means.  Let’s just agree it means you’re number 1 to me.  Every twenty blocks is approximately 1 mile.  If you really start to struggle, count left foot strikes between posts.  Usually there are 10-20 strikes between posts.  I struggle a lot.

The light posts have information about streets on them in central park running cartoon by rob pollak

Mile 4 is the rolling hills of the west side of the park.  It’s terrible.  Every time you get a little break with a down hill, you head right back up a little uphill.  Look for my sister around mile 4.  She is nice.

During mile 5 and 6, you’ll be thinking, “get me the hell out of the park.”  Try not to start running faster.  You may get out of the park faster, but then you’re going to hate yourself by mile 9.

Mile 6-7:  The best part of the race!  You finally will hit the mean streets of Manhattan.  The road opens up and you can spread out and get away from that sweaty beast (me) who has been breathing down your neck for the last hour.  Lots of people will line the streets.  You’ll see huge buildings.  Your GPS watch will freak out and lose its signal and suddenly you’ll think that you’re running a 4:11 pace.  Enjoy the ride here because things are about to get pretty bad.

Mile 7-9.  At mile 7, you’ll turn right onto 42nd street.  The Big Apple, baby!  Riding high from seventh avenue, you are literally on top of the world at this moment.  You may think to yourself, “I can do anything!  This is so easy!  I’m a machine.”  Enjoy that feeling because as you turn right onto 42nd, you’re about to get blasted with a gale force wind coming off the Hudson River.

And as you amble over towards the West Side Highway, notice that they haven’t cut off traffic coming in the opposite direction.  So you’ll be inches away from angry New Yorkers smogging their cars in your face.  They will stare at you and berate you for making their drive take twice as long.  I know because before I ever ran the race, I once missed a tee time in NJ because I got redirected by those stupid runners.

Once you’re all the way west, they make you head back uptown for one block, which feels like you have to backtrack.  Also, the people disappear for this stretch of the race and it starts to become hard.  The Highway is exactly as it sounds:  Flat, boring, and trafficy.  Prepare for long stretches that are exactly the same.  Bring your ipod so you can suffer through this stretch with the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.  That’s how I managed.

Literally nothing changes for miles 8-12.  Except if I wake up in time, I’ll be on Murray street around Mile 11.5/12.  That’s where I live.  If you see me, say hi.

After Mile 12, the race goes underground into the Battery Park Underpass.  It’s dark and it echoes.  Someone will yell something stupid when you’re under there.  Don’t be that guy.

When you come out of the tunnel, you’re basically done.  Except you’re at the furthest point from everything else in New York.  So figure out a way to get home.  Last year, I ended up having to walk about 2.5 miles back to my apartment because I was a bad planner.  Don’t be a bad planner.

I guess, congratulations.  You’re a half marathoner.

Celebrate by eating enough calories of ice cream and bagels to negate any positive benefits of months of training.

The Final Word on Mayonnaise.

I fucking loathe you, mayonnaise. Just look at you. You repulse me. The way you can’t decide if you want to be yellow-y white or white-y yellow. That schloop noise you make when you’re suctioned out of your ugly container and the Thwlap of your fatness against a plastic bowl.

The way you congeal white, doughy wonder bread to muted pink bologna. Nothing that does that should exist in the world. Oh, and your egg salad. How dare you? Where do you get the nerve to call yourself a “salad?” Salad is clean, refreshing, crisp, beautiful, and healthy. But you mayonnaise, you’re just slippery, fat, unclean, and appalling. Just look at yourself. Seriously, take one second off from fattening the world and look in the mirror. Now imagine your most beautiful form. What did you come up with? Something like this?

is grossI mean, ew. I couldn’t come up with a less appetizing looking food if the only ingredients I had were ketchup and diarrhea. And that picture is the internet trying to make you and your egg salad look the best. Congratulations, that’s the best you’ll ever look. I may not be beautiful, but at least I can go to the gym and work on it. Yet, I can’t stop staring at your enormous gobs of yoke and white mushed together with clumps of mayonnaise.

I don’t even have to smell the egg-y cold fatness emanating from the plastic “jar” of Hellman’s to feel the vomit gurgle up through the lower regions of my esophagus. There it hangs, waiting for my brain to remind it that I’m just looking at a picture so that the vomit retreats. But it remains wary, waiting to eject should the egg salad attack my digestive system.

But it’s not the egg salad that bothers me the most. I know that egg salad is mayonnaise. I’ve learned that “aioli” is just a trick word you use to make yourself seem more exotic. I’ve discovered that spinach artichoke dip should really be called “choke on a tub of mayonnaise dip.”

It’s the way you infiltrate other seemingly normal foods that infuriates me the most. Take honey mustard for instance. What a nice name for a food. What a beautiful combination of sweet and spicy, of brown and yellowish brown, of condiment and dessert. Honey-mustard is almost un-fuck-up-able. Well, did you know that many delis add mayonnaise to this sweet concoction? I bet you didn’t because you’re a disgusting mayonnaise whore. But I did. Because I am a mayonnaise sleuth who can feel that slimy oil/eggyoke concoction sliding down my throat and settling into a lump on the pit of my stomach, where it sits, constantly reminding me that the world is out to get me.

Sure, I know what you’ll say, mayonnaise. You and your defenders will tell me that I should just chill out and deal with you. That I should wipe you off with a napkin, and my meal will be good as new. But we both know that doesn’t work. Because you’re more powerful than napkins or paper towels. Yes, I’ve used a Bounty quicker picker upper to remove poisonous poisons from the floor of my important. The kind that come with warnings that “one must wear gloves to avoid this poison burning through your skin and eviscerating your intestines.” But I wiped them right up with a little flick of the wrist. But you mayonnaise, you somehow turn paper towel into a translucent film of ick and wind up on my fingers where your remnants remain for days.

So fuck you mayonnaise. I hate your face.

Fuck you mayo - A cartoon by Rob Pollak

 

 

35 Life Lessons I Learned before Turning 35

Life Lessons by Rob Pollak

1. There’s no cure for a hangover, but good Lo Mein comes damn close.

A drawing by Rob Pollak - How to cure a hangover:  Lo Mein

2. There are three things that are always worth the money: International travel, excellent food, and Blu Rays.

3. When you make a list of thirty-five things, don’t number the items until you’ve finished the whole list. That way, when you’re editing your list and realize number three is stupid, you don’t have to make up some ridiculous lesson to avoid renumbering the whole thing.

4. No matter how much your parents annoy you, piss you off, yell at you, or tell you that you need to wait before hitting your driver (even though the group in front of you is 400 yards away), they do it because they love you and want the best for you. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true. Take a step back to see things from their perspective. It may help you appreciate why they do all that annoying shit.

5. When you get good service, tip more than expected. The few extra dollars won’t kill you and will mean a lot to the person who provided the excellent service.

6. Stop being scared. If there’s something you want to do but aren’t doing because you’re scared, suck it up and do it. The only things in life to truly fear are (a) stepping in dog shit, and (b) asking the one question that makes a public speaker take back the claim that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

7. When you find a blog you like (like this one) go out of your way to tell the person (genius) that writes it (me) how great (best thing in the entire world) it is. Share the content with your closest friends (the whole world). You may think you’re being stalkerish (you probably are) by reading something that you think isn’t aimed at you (it probably wasn’t). But if someone took the time to create something and put it on the web, it’s because that person is an attention whore (and he will be happy to hear from you regardless of his initial intent). And attention whores crave lots of attention (from anyone). To be helpful, I drafted a template for you in case you decide to follow my advice:

Dear [ROB],
I know we last spoke at Hebrew camp in 1991, but I have been enjoying your blog since we reconnected when you spammed my facebook page. I especially liked your post about when lawyers can go home. You have an excellent command of logic and the handwriting of an armless nine-year-old blind child. I wish there were more people like you in the world. You also look trimmer than you did when you were 13. Well done! How did you manage to trick a beautiful intelligent woman into marrying you? I never would have expected that from you. I remember a time when you refused to play on the skins team in a shirts vs skins basketball game. Boy were you fat. I wish you well in the future. Here’s a few dollars. Buy yourself something nice. I learned about the importance of tipping from your blog.
Love,
[Mom]

8. Don’t believe anything the Mayans say. They keep predicting the end of the world, but they never get it right. I wish they would just go away already.

9. Anything that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do together is funny. Women are funny. Deal with it old men. Here’s my favorite:

10. Three things that are never worth it: (a) Holding grudges, (b) extended warranties, and (c) super-sizing your meal.

11. Nothing good ever comes from drinking a beverage with an ä in its name.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

12. Don’t be scared to request the vacation time you’re entitled to at work. Other people will tell you the “right way to go about vacation time.” Those people are assholes. If you’re in a job that doesn’t let you go on vacation, that job is stupid and you’ll burn yourself out. Vacation refreshes you to go back and do a good job. At least for the first 3-4 hours after it ends. Then you need another vacation on the books so you have something to look forward to.

13. Coleslaw is disgusting. Mistrust anyone who likes it. Unless it’s vinegar-based and atop a pulled pork sandwich. Then it’s majestic.

14. Be wary of anyone who likes some combination of the following teams: Lakers, Cowboys, Yankees, and Notre Dame.

15. Stop hating the foods you’ve hated since you were a kid. You might surprise yourself and find out that brussel sprouts are really good now. Most restaurants put bacon in them.

16. After two weeks of pure torture, exercise becomes amazing. If you don’t exercise now, commit for two weeks. Suck it up. Force yourself to do it. Whatever it takes. If at the end of two weeks, you don’t feel the pull to keep it up, then you can stop. But after one day of stopping, at least try to force yourself to do another two weeks. Keep repeating this until you realize how amazing you feel. If you don’t feel amazing after three tries, then stop eating all that fast food, idiot.

17. If you want to be a news anchor, realize that you have to spend years and years reporting from the coastline during natural disasters. Ask yourself: is it worth it?

18. Never set out to make a list of 35 things without thinking it through first. Thirty five is a lot. Even more than you think. By the time you get half way, you’ll probably regret your decision.

19. Have you ever seen a piece of fruit the color of a Maraschino cherry? That’s why you shouldn’t eat them.

20. Have you ever eaten a Maraschino cherry? They’re amazing. Sometimes just trust your instincts even though you know the consequences.

The Maraschino Cherry - Life Lessons by Rob Pollak

21. The Cosby Show holds up better than Seinfeld.

22. Proofread everything on more time than you think you have too.

23. If you do anything because you want other people to think you’re cool, stop doing that thing. That makes you a poser. Do things because you like to do them. That makes you interesting and awesome.

24. Trust your own taste in music, movies, and beer. Even though people will make fun of you for liking 4 non blondes, you still know What’s Up.

25. Resist the urge to Google the answer to every question. Yes, there is an objective answer to the question on Google, but sometimes it’s more fun to just see how it plays out. I know this because I always Google, and everyone hates me.

26. Say “yes” to pretty much any request, especially when it’s something easy like seeing a movie, attending a wedding, or supporting a friend. Your friends will appreciate you, your life experience will increase, and your comfort zone will continue to expand.

27. Make a prank call at least once a year.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

27a.  If you are the recipient of a prank call, laugh it off. No one likes the guy who thinks he’s above a little humor:

28. If a particular food gives you diarrhea, don’t ever eat that food again. No matter how good it tastes (the food, not the diarrhea).

29. Always give directions to those who ask or who look like they might need directions. If you have a few extra minutes, walk them to the destination and pretend you’re a college tour guide.

30. Try meditation. I thought it was stupid for the longest time. It can do amazing things if you give it a chance. If you think it’s stupid, you probably don’t know what it is. It can have nothing to do with religion or spirituality if that’s what you’re scared of.

31. People older than you don’t have it all figured out. They may speak with authority, but they mostly make it up just like you do. Most of them are full of shit. That said, listen to their advice. There’s a lot of wisdom in that shit.

32. The following things are fake: (a) emails from Nigerian princes, (b) the four hour work week, (c) Lance Armstrong, and (d) those funny autocorrects you read about on the internet.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

33. Ignore the instructions on everything except crazy glue, hot sauce, and power tools.

34. If you can run three miles, you can run six miles. You may not think you can, and it may be painful and miserable, but you can 100 percent do it.

35. No matter how wise it seems, don’t trust any advice you get from the Internet.

(Note – This also appears on Elephant Journal.  If you made it all the way down here, you might as well click this link and then follow me on Facebook!)

Please Don’t Kill Yourself When You Read This

Recently, a few people have found my blog by searching for “Can I kill myself?” At first, I assumed this was in reaction to reading my blog. But it wasn’t. Apparently I had some quite harsh things to say about Les Miserables and they may have lead some deeply hurt individuals to my blog.

First of all, let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way:

1) I know nothing about suicide prevention. If you are really suicidal, please please please immediately go and find someone to talk to. (Then when you’re better, please come back and click a lot of links on my page and laugh and comment about all my jokes)

2) Don’t see Les Mis. Seriously.

3) If stick figure drawings have anything to do with your suicidal thoughts, definitely do not scroll down or anywhere else on this site.

Great, now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, here are some things I’d like you to know:

1) It gets better

The original it gets better campaign may not be directed at you. But that doesn’t matter, it’s still a great message. Someone said it to me just the other day. And only because I was getting old. And it was even while I was feeling really good about myself. So it momentarily made me think that I had been complaining too much. Which I had. But mostly because that’s what I do.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Psychologists from a university that I’m about to make up confirmed that it gets better and summarized it in this chart:

A drawing by Rob Pollak Charting Happiness by Age

(Source: University of Ticonderoga Dept. of Psychology and Neuroses)

2) I care about you. A lot.

If you ever need someone to talk to, just let me know (and then sign up for my facebook page). I respond to every comment there, so I would do the same for you. Click “like” and I’ll drive you to school every day. What the hell do I care?

A drawing by Rob Pollak

Many other people care about you as well. It might not feel like it when you’re moping around the house. But trust me, they’re out there. Probably closer than you think:

A drawing by Rob Pollak
A drawing by Rob Pollak

3) You’re beautiful

I’m not going to insult you by drawing a stick figure of you looking beautiful. Not because I’m nice, but because I tried and, well, here, see for yourself:

A drawing by Rob Pollak

Full disclosure – I drew the picture after I wrote that last paragraph. That’s beauty right there. And if I can fall in love with a stick figure (I don’t even like blondes) then you can find someone too. So if that’s what your sad about, just know that this poor girl found love. You may have to try internet dating, but there’s not even a stigma attached to that anymore.

4) Les Mis isn’t really that bad.

I mean it’s bad, but not “I don’t want to be on the same earth as it” bad. Like, Anne Hathaway is pretty good, I guess. And Hugh Jackman is alright (at least until he puts on the fat suit). But you should probably go outside during the times when Borat’s on screen.

5) I have to go now

This list is not meant to be exhaustive It’s just that I have to go. I’ll be back. So if you get freaked out, text me or something. I really want you to stick around.

I love you. Seriously.

The 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow

The 9 rules every yoga teacher should follow by Rob Pollak - Tips for yoga teachers and instructors

Nine simple things that every yoga teacher can do to make class a little bit more awesome.

Rule 1: Pay Attention to me!

Most yoga teachers really like yoga and also happen to be very good at it. These traits, however, do not mean that I’m taking your class to watch you be awesome. If that’s what I was seeking, I’d flip on your youtube channel. Please don’t forget the real, live, disgustingly sweaty people right there behind you. So, goddamnit, pay attention to us!

The best teachers strike a balance between showing off their mad skills and watching students struggle to get the little things right. They use their strength and ability to demonstrate or highlight certain aspects of a pose rather than to show off a one-handed side crow headstand that they’ve been working on in their Super-level 8 goddess class.

If I leave class thinking, “Wow, that teacher was sooo good at yoga,” then something went horribly wrong. I should walk by the treadmills on my way out of the gym thinking, “Wow, I am freaking awesome at yoga. Suck it, runners!”

A Yoga drawing by rob pollak - 9 rules every yoga teacher should follow

Rule 2: Introduce yourself to your students:

Loyal readers of mine will remember that I’m working on introducing myself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce yourself to me first.

All it takes is a one second conversation in which the teacher comes over and says, “Hey, I’m [insert hippie name]. Have you done yoga before? Any questions? Namaste, bro.” Boom – Instant openness and camaraderie.

However, since we’re preaching mindfulness here, just remember to be mindful of your junk:

Rules every yoga teacher should follow - Rule 2 Introduce yourself.  Tips for yoga teachers by Rob Pollak

3. Ignore Anything You Weren’t Supposed to See.

Look, things happen in yoga classes. Like the time I saw the entire left ball of the guy practicing next to me. Or how every time I jump from a standing fold into a push up, my shirt flies up a little bit, exposing the lower portion of my back (aka the upper portion of my ass). Look, I realize that the teacher is going to see everything that’s going on down there. Maybe he or she will even give it a once or twice over to size me up. Totally cool. There’s just no need to draw attention to the fact that I’ve got a little hair down there. Or that my love handles make twisting poses slightly more difficult.

How about we just agree to keep a few things between us?

In other words, maybe the moment my naked back and partially naked ass are exposed is not the best time for you to do that adjustment. You know the one. It’s when you grab my hips and pull them back or rest your hand on the sweaty small of my back and push with all your might. Yeah, save that for my first down dog. Just before the sweating starts.

I suspect we’ll both be happy with that agreement.

Tips for yoga teachers - Ignore anything you shouldn't see - a drawing by Rob Pollak

4. If you’re gonna Om, Om loudly.

At first, I admittedly did not like chanting “om.” Now, I can tolerate it. Maybe sometimes it’s kind of nice. Oh whatever. You caught me. I like it. So what. This isn’t the place for judgment.

Listen up, teachers: If you’re going to start with an Om, then do so with gusto-mmmm. Trust me, the class will follow your lead. But if you are timid and mousy with your om, then guess what? Your class will be quiet and timid and self-conscious when they holla’ back.

Also — and this is admittedly quite selfish of me — I’m 100 percent tone-deaf, so if you say it loud and say it proud, then I can join in without others noticing that I am the discordant MF’er ruining spiritual bliss.

Tips for yoga teachers - don't acknowledge tone deaf people during Om.  A drawing by Rob Pollak

5. Remember my name and use it.

We’ve already agreed that introductions are key. Well, that’s the easy part. The hard part is remembering those names and then using them throughout class. A deftly timed “Nice job, Bikram,” or “Sweet crow, Baba,” or “Pull your hips back, Tara” really pulls those people into the class.

But surprisingly, even when the teacher refers to someone else by name, I find that I try harder.

I’m all, “I want that too.” “Hey look at me!” “Don’t you think my crow is good?” “I’m trying so hard over here, you guys!”

Even a “whoa, looking a little sweaty, Rob” wins me over. Or, if you want to ignore rule 3, I’ll even take an “I can see a little bit of your ass crack, Rob. Pull up your pants, you disgusting slob.”

Tips for yoga teachers - Remember my name and I'm yours forever - a drawing by Rob Pollak

6. Go easy on the Rumi, okay?

Oh wow, you studied at an Ashram in India! And then you memorized all of Rumi’s quotes? You don’t say! That’s amazing!!! Sincerely.

But you know who doesn’t even know what an Ashram is? Guess who never took English 101 in college and doesn’t understand “quotes”? Oh yeah, that’s right! This guy.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on Rumi altogether. What it means is that you should feel free to explain things to me. Even the stuff that seem painfully obvious. Because when you say a quote and then say, “well that speaks for itself,” what I’m thinking is “No. That doesn’t speak for itself. I hate this stupid class. I don’t get it. Wah wah wah poor me.”

While I’m thinking that, I’m sitting there nodding my head pretending to look like I have the slightest clue what you’re saying. Then I start thinking, “Damn, I bet she smoked a tonnnnn of a pot in college. That’s so hot.”

Tips for yoga instructors - keep the lessons simple, especially the rumi. A drawing by Rob Pollak

7. Come On, Speak English.

For the first three months I practiced yoga, I mistakenly thought every Sanskrit word meant Savasana. For any non-yoga people reading this, Savasana is a made up word that literally translates to “lie on the floor while thinking about everything you were supposed to do today but didn’t.”

Yoga teachers of America, you know how to fix that problem? Just speak English. We all understand English (except the Latvian woman who sometimes comes to that Vinyasa flow class on Wednesdays), so everyone will be on the same page when you say “Do crow.”

An added benefit: You may avoid that tattoo in Sanskrit. The one you think means, “Peaceful Warrior” but actually means, “judgmental douchebag” Oops!

Tip number 7 for yoga teachers, sanskrit cartoon by rob pollak

8. Be Considerate of Your Diverse Class When Giving Instructions.

So what if your class is usually all hot limber women? I’m here now, and I’d like to feel welcome, too! In order to make everyone feel at home, yoga teachers should give instructions that are mindful of the entirety of the class, not its largest component.

So no more “put this block under your bra strap,” or “you should feel a good stretch in your vagina.”

The bra strap is not an okay reference point - Rules for yoga teachers - a drawing by Rob Pollak

9. Make Class Fun!

This goes without saying, but if I’m having fun, I’m not thinking about how much I hate the teacher for all of the horrible painful things she’s making me do. So make it fun.

One incredibly easy way to make yoga more fun is by sharing this post with everyone you’ve ever met. And then following this blog at www.robpollak.com or on facebook.

The nine rules for yoga teachers - rule 9 make class fun - a drawing by Rob Pollak

(Selfish note:  This also appears at Elephant Journal:  Click the link so they will give me money)