Friday, May 27, 2011

Nothing Gets Between Me and My Vibrams

Nothing Gets Between Me and My Vibrams
Martin Bodek

I have now run over 150 miles in my Vibrams. I love them. They I and are now as one. This is the during of a beautiful relationship.
I’m asked about them a lot, and have given Cliffs Notes versions of my full response that follows (namely, the headings of each paragraph). So if you’re curious about what I think about them – because apparently my opinion matters to you – please read on:

1) They’re not for everybody – We earthlings are not all built the same. Oh sure, we generally are derived from the same genetic soup, but we’re different in our nuances in many ways. As for those five-toed things we shod in leather and rubber and plastic and fabric, well, we have flat feet, we have wide feet, we have flipper snogger slog feet. Pardon my Seussian tangent, but you get my drift. These things are for some, not all.

2) But they’re worth a try – I mean c’mon, aren’t you curious? I sure was! They’re worth a try just to see if all the anecdotal theories about their injury-preventive properties are based in reality or not. They’re worth it just for the fascinating experience of trying them on. They’re worth it because it’s an entirely different running experience. So give them a whirl – because they’re worth it.

3) You have to break them in slowly – Before purchasing the footware, I researched the experiences of other VFF-shod runners and found much talk of injury, nearly all related to running practical ultramarathons right out of the box. Dial it back people! I refused to make such an error. I purchased them one week after the NYC Marathon, wore them around the house for a week, rested, walked around the block a few times, rested, ran a quarter mile, rested, then a mile, rested, then more, and slightly more and I’ve avoided injury entirely. Follow my example instead of the example of lunatics. Easy does it and you’ll reap the rewards.

4) They’re not for cold weather – Because your toes are encased in separate chambers, they can’t rely on each other for warmth, and you can barely wiggle your toes. This makes for a disastrous situation in seriously cold weather. I tried the Injinji socks, but I find they bite into the webbing between my toes. So I wear Nike Frees (a slightly lower rung on the barefoot running ladder) when it’s terribly cold and wear my VFFs the rest of the time.

5) Your physique will change – I’ve been running for 16 years and have always been pleased with the appearance of my calves. Suddenly though, my calves have exploded. I’ve added a half inch to their size in just a few months. You practically feel them exploding if you run properly on the balls of your feet, which by the way, takes pressure off of every body part from the knees up. Unsightly black toenails are a thing of the past. Also fascinating are the calluses that are forming on the bottom of my feet. I should have taken before and after pictures. During and after won’t do, I’m afraid. I have the feet of a firewalker!

6) People will stare at your feet – You know how people stare at their BlackBerrys while allegedly having a face-to-face conversation with you? That’s what this will be like. I now have a clue what women feel like when people stare at their chests when attempting to have a conversation, which they’re apparently having so they can stare at their chests from close range. You might find yourself having a conversation with a fellow runner about your Vibrams and if asked to identify you in a lineup, will fail miserably.

So there you have it. Six distinct points. One for each toe. Um, I think my math is off a bit, but then again, so am I for loving these things so much. Hey, you might too.
In just 81 days, Martin will be running the JRunners Relay Race - in his Vibrams - to benefit the Ohr Meir foundation. Please assist him with meeting his fundraising obligations:

Friday, May 20, 2011

JRunners Genesis

JRunners Genesis
Martin Bodek

In the beginning, there were just a few of us. There was me, and my dad, and Yossi Pancer and Ariel Kohane. There were a handful of other clustered groups of tribemembers scattered about the five boroughs whom we encountered on occasion at races, and thirty or so of us would meet annually at the New York City Marathon Minyan.

And we loved running, and partook of the races on the NYRR calendar, and ran our marathons and piled up big numbers and fast numbers, but our little club never grew beyond the few of us. It was a bit lonely out there on the roads, surrounded by fellow runners with whom we parted ways after races.

Oh sure, occasionally someone would say “shalom” and wish us Happy New Year before Rosh Hashana. We’d wear our yarmulkas like beacons but we were like lighthouses in the fog, unheeded, unseen and ignored.

We kept on though, piling up the numbers, 16 marathons for Ariel,15 for me, 9 for Yossi, 5 for my dad. Hundreds upon hundreds of local races in total, but no matter how much we ran together, we really ran alone, and waited for the day our friends would catch on, and join us. We would run together, dine together, partake together in each other’s lives and enjoy the fine bread of brotherhood.

The day came in the form of a flyer: a 125-mile 30-leg relay race from Brooklyn to the Catskills. A club called JRunners. There’d be music, there’d be food, there’d be camaraderie, there’d be adventure and excitement. They were running to raise funds for a friend stricken with ALS. They were looking for a few good men.

And before I could take my eyes off the flyer, the e-mails started pouring in from the people in my life who knew I’d been at this for a while and knew I’d be interested.

And before I could finish processing all these e-mails, I received a call from Matt Katz – one of the three founders of this nascent club – and before I hung up the phone, I was sold, I was running this thing.

There was a pre-race expo soon after in Brooklyn - the home I’d left for greener pastures - in the building where I worked more than a decade and a half before, and the floodgates of old friends opened up, and poured forth like a might stream. There was Martin Maltz, and Chesky Rand and Aaron Rosenfeld and dozens of others I had not placed my eyes upon in years and years and years. I was enveloped, I was back home, it was a reunion that nearly brought me to tears, but I held back; there’s no crying in running.

And the race was afoot a week later.

And we ran through the stifling humidity and the encompassing darkness and the rising sun and the pounding rain and the hot, hot heat of the day.

But neither sleeplessness nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

We finished amongst a flurry of palpable energy, as all of Brooklyn and its environs had turned out to cheer the runners on at the finish line.

Yet I was not there, having bailed after my last leg to return to Brooklyn in time to attend a friend’s wedding. So exhausted was I from my journey that I literally fell asleep in my soup, and smiled when I did so, knowing that I would return next year to experience that finish line that people talked about for months and months and months.

A week after the race, we gathered together for an appreciation event. The captains of each team told their amazing stories and held their audience in rapture. I learned that many fellow runners had run 7, 8, 9, 10 marathons, but all in the past two or three years! I praised G-d that I and Ariel and Yossi and my dad were not yet too old to enjoy this renaissance. In a short time, my total number of races run would no longer stand out in the crowd, but instead I would just be one in a collective, running with my band of brothers, breaking bread with them, rejoicing with them, enjoying life with them, gathering with 140 of them at the JRunners-revitalized International NYC Marathon Minyan.

And JRunners put on a 5k race in December of that year, and I partook, and I enjoyed. And JRunners put on a 5k race in the following April, and I partook, and I reveled. And JRunners has more races coming up, and the second relay races looms mightily in the approaching distance, and I will partake of this wonderfulness, and I will run with my brethren.

For we have climbed highest mountain, we have run through the fields, and we finally found what we were looking for.

For I see every thing that JRunners has made, and, behold, it is very good. And it was evening and it was morning, a new era.
Martin would be grateful if you sponsored his upcoming JRunners relay run benefiting the Ohr Meir Foundation:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Their Big Fat English Wedding

Their Big Fat English Wedding
Martin Bodek

It is often wisely advised that if you do not wish to listen to the ranting of a specific radio personality, switch the dial. If you’re not interested in the opinion of a particular newspaper journalist, turn the page. If you don’t want to watch the day’s news, turn off the TV and fall asleep with a good book on your chest.

Every once in a while though, a particular news item becomes so loud, and coverage becomes so pervasive, that there is no dial to turn, no newspaper page to riffle, no news station to flip in order to hide from it and partake in something else - anything else.

The Royal Wedding was one such event. There existed not a remote enough place on Earth, not an oasis sufficiently far afield, not an isolated patch of land where the incessant news of this did not reach. People stranded on deserted islands got the message in a bottle, jungle dwellers had The Royal Tune sung to them by birds of paradise, Bear Grylls himself got it in skywriting while filming an episode of Man vs. Wild in the Mars outback.

As for me, I tried to hide from it by listening to music on the radio, but it seemed every commercial break was preceded and followed by Royal Gossip. I tried to watch some TV, any TV, that I thought wouldn’t bother covering it, but the information was practically fixed in a permanent news scroll stuck at the bottom of the screen on every show. I tried escaping to the sports pages in my paper, but there it was, in the betting section. Who would cry the first tear? What color would the queen’s hat be? You’ve got to be kidding me.

What nauseated me though, was the patently absurd level of detail. It’s one thing to comment on what it means to the people of England, how Princess Diana’s absence affects matters, how work stopped in the English empire for maximum attention to the event. This is legitimate news coverage.

Not legitimate were some details I accidentally listened to while trying to switch radio stations to escape from this news: Oh really? Kate hasn't yet perfected The Royal Wave? Oh, poor baby. And she has to go to classes to learn The Royal Lilt? You must be joking. Kiss your husband awkwardly so we can all move on.

When I launched CNN’s website to look for information on another matter, I had to scroll past 3,482 sickeningly inane Royal Materials before I could get to legitimate news. Fourth from the top was this nugget: ”Wedding Dress Mystery Solved.” There was a mystery about her dress that needed solving? Really? Just call Scooby Doo and the gang and they'll take care of it.

To me, the part that’s fascinating is the mundane experiences of everyday life that Princess Kate will never again have to endure. She will never wait for the electicity bill to arrive, then complain to her husband that he hasn’t called in the numbers like he’s supposed to so the utility can get an accurate reading. The only difficult thing she’ll endure as far as raising her children will be actually giving birth to them. The rest she’ll farm out to the help. If they grow up to be brats, so what? They’re royalty! So ha! And she has no use for a last name! This is all interesting to me.

If you ask me, I think all this coverage is because Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine Elizabeth Neé Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness of Carrickfergus, wife of His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Neé Mountbatten-Windsor, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus is smoking hot; the hottest Brit not named Amanda Holden; way hotter than desperately-in-need-of-a-sandwich Posh Spice – the first woman on earth to lose ten pounds every time she has a child; certainly she has the best set of teeth in the United Kingdom.

I’ll tell you though, the one bit of news I found terribly amusing were the guffaw-inducing hats sported by some of the wedding guests. I hear Her Royal Weirdness Lady Gaga Neé Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Duchess of New York, Countess of Glam, Baroness of The Meatpacking Dress District fired her publicist on the spot for not co-opting the look first.

That’s news to me. I was born this way.

Martin is the author of “Bush II, Book I,” available on

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Coworker Died in My Arms

There are people in this world who witness death on a recurring basis. These would perhaps be soldiers in the battlefield or hospital staff. There are those who encounter it on an occasional basis. These would probably be firemen and policemen. Finally, there are those who almost never come face to face with human demise, but eventually, over the course of a long lifetime, inevitably will. This would be you and me.

But no matter how frequently or infrequently one experiences the parting of a human soul from its host, the first time must rattle us in profound and memorable ways.

On May 11, 2011 it was the first time for me. Yes, I had once been asked - during a visit to my late grandmother in the hospital - to hurry to a room where a man was expiring, so that I could join with ten men in a quorum to say the proper prayers for a soul departing to heaven. At that point however, the gentleman's fate was sealed and the lines long gone flat, and the machinations of the hospital staff a mere formality.

This time however, it was a man - a coworker, a friend - in his vitality, who went from his normal, cheerful, everyday, working self to lifelessness in a matter of minutes, right before my eyes, and right in my very arms.

This is what happened:

We work in the technology field. Our office space is divided into cubicles. We're in a basement with piping that makes odd sounds every once in a while. So odd, that some customers on the phone sometimes comment on it.

I thought I heard the sound again, but it was a bit different this time. So different it caught my attention. The pipes were making a strange choking sound. Choking sound? What are the pipes doing making a choking sound? Should I report this to Facilities? No wait, that sounds like a person choking!

I got up out of my seat to see if everything was alright with anyone present. Two cubicles over, my coworker was on the ground. He was on his stomach. He was seizing. I had witnessed a seizure before. I knew what I had to do. I ran over to him and rolled him onto his side as the seizures continued. I grabbed at his tongue and jaw to keep his airway open. I tried to calm him and jostle him awake.

One other colleague was in a nearby space. I asked him to call a nurse and call 911. He did just that as I continued to keep the airway open and keep our friend on his side. He was of considerable size, so I had to hold on to him to keep him sideways. I didn't want to violently shove him to a wall for stabilization.

Suddenly things changed. I had felt something of a pulse before, but it was now gone. I couldn't find it. His jaw clenched, he wet himself, his face and fingers started turning blue, his eyes opened and his irises blew all the way to the corneas. There was no more inhalation or choking or seizing or movement or anything. All I could feel was one steady, slowly, softly exhaling breath, and then there was nothing.

This was not good. This was not good at all. I understood that the seizure was not something to worry about now. Everything had stopped. I had to start compressions. I pushed him onto his back and began.

The head nurse appeared. She placed an oxygen mask over his mouth, continued compressions. More nursing staff came. A Code Blue was called. We moved him to a more open area. My colleague who had placed the calls performed some compressions, then starting cutting at our coworker's shirt. I was so desperate to DO something that I practically shoved him aside, grabbed the shirt, and yanked it apart with one stroke. More nurses came. They opened the airway, they bagged him, they brought the electronic defibrillator, they compressed and compressed and compressed and got nothing in return.

The paramedics arrived fifteen minutes into the ordeal. They continued where the nurses left off, pumping the bag, compressing, trying to get a line in. This proved difficult because of his heft and the EMTs practically drilled holes into him to get the line in. Blood streamed from his shin and wrist.

I stepped back to give them room and called my supervisor to apprise him of what was going on. My right hand was shaking so badly I couldn't grip the receiver.

They took our friend away, twenty minutes after I heard the sounds that began the nightmare.

Dozens of people were in our office space, which seats only seven people. All of them were stunned. They all left mournfully, defeated and saddened.

Those of us who witnessed everything stayed behind and placed calls to our supervisors providing them with all the detail. Through some cosmic accident, it fell to me to explain to our coworker's wife exactly what happened. I tried to be as minimally graphic as possible, but I couldn't think straight. I think I rambled. I was not prepared for this. I did my best. She seemed to be calmer than I was.

After this conversation, I called my supervisor. I told him I need to take the rest of the day off. I needed to see my wife and to cling to her.

En route to seeing her, our CIO arranged a conference call for the IT staff. I dialed in on my cell. He confirmed that our friend was gone and thanked me and my colleague and everyone present for their efforts. I was just grateful that I had the presence of mind to know what I needed to do and to do it. My only panic moment was when I delivered the information to the wife, nay, widow, but I think I did okay in that regard.

My wife came out to meet me. I talked it all out with her. It put me in a centered place. We traveled home together and I hugged my children dearly when we came home.

Once they were asleep I set about writing this piece. Writing is my therapy. I feel better by a few more degrees. They'll be offering counseling at my workplace, and I'll take advantage of it. I'm not a stubborn man, and I'm not sure or unsure if I've endured anything in the realm of PTSD.

I did what I could under the circumstances, so I don't blame myself for that. I think I do blame myself a little bit for not motivating my friend to get himself in shape. I do so for many other friends, why didn't I do so with him? I may have failed him in this regard.

So the moral for me is to continue living my healthy life and doing my best to motivate others to do the same. The moral for you is to take good care of yourself. I think we'd all prefer to shuffle off this mortal coil in our sleep at a time when we've been old and full of days, rather than at the young age of 54, leaving twin fifteen year old girls behind.

They'll miss him terribly, and we, his coworkers, will miss him profoundly and I will miss him inestimably. He was a good man and he was too young when he left us. Rest in peace, my friend.