Five-Second Rule? How about the Five-Year Rule??

ImageMy Facebook feed this morning delivered up a post by Outside Magazine, citing a New York Daily News article, that reported on a recent study from researchers at Ashton University in the UK.  The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon point?  It turns out the amount of time a morsel of food spends on the ground bears a direct correlation to whether you should pick up the morsel and eat it.  Interesting study.  Interesting conclusion.  Good to know. 

I think the researchers set their sights too low, however.  They apparently stopped the clock at 30 seconds of floor contact.  I think they should have measured the bacteria count after a number of years, forget about seconds.  And the hypothesis tested should be the point after which the discarded or forgotten or newly-discovered morsel will kill the prospective eater. 

That sweet photo of the pudgy-toed toddler and upside down ice cream cone in the photo above, smartly deployed by Outside Magazine courtesy of Getty Images?  That’s nothin’.  I don’t know any parent who hasn’t dealt with that kind of pedestrian incident, walking down a dark, gum-spot covered sidewalk, not even breaking stride.  The sand or topsoil or even minute shards of glass just make the ice cream treat all the more unique.  Kidding about the glass shards.  I think.

I’m more interested in whether the energy gel I recently ate will make me drop dead while mashing it up in my mouth, or maybe give me gangrene of the belly in a few hours or days. 

You see, in a pinch, I will eat just about anything.  This is the case mostly due to the fact that I’ve been burning (a slow burn, mind you) through running shoes, bike seats, and swim goggles for 15 or 16 years now.  Upon leaving private law practice, I took up representing some professional endurance athletes, helping them with sponsorship and such.  And soon thereafter, I bought a local marathon.  That meant that I had access to storage lockers full of Zone Perfect bars, PowerBar gels, Clifbars, Clif Shots, Accelerade, Sport Beanz, Endurox, and bags and bottles full of dozens of products I simply can’t bring back to mind all these years later.  All this stuff basically fueled my mediocre competitive triathlon “career” as an age grouper.  For longer than my kids have been alive.

And it’s all gone.  The piles of boxes are long gone.

Except for the occasional bar or gel or bean or powder in a Ziploc bag that I’ll scrape from the bottom of a backpack I’ve unearthed in the back of a closet.  Or scooped out of my older son’s bedside table drawer, chocked full of goodies from when the drawer belonged to me.  Or stuffed into the pocket of a jacket I haven’t worn for years. 

Example. I used to love the “green apple” gels that PowerBar made.  I had a ton of those from, oh, maybe 2001.  As I recall, they had some sort of caffeine or similar ingredient in there.  I made the mistake of leaving a few unopened packs on a shelf in my garage after a long bike ride around the 2001 time frame.  A day or two later, I discovered that some mice had themselves discovered that they too enjoyed the green apple gels.  The telltale nibble marks, the speck-sized mouse poop scattered about.  There is no warning label on the gel packets regarding proper consumption amounts for vermin, or that the gel is not intended for vermin.  But I can tell you there should be. 

A section of the garage was practically ripped apart by that mouse or mice all hopped up on the green apple gel.  The evidence of the mouse or mice activity suggested that the critters leapt with super-human (super-vermin?) powers, accessing high spaces and walls in a way that was just not normal. That little bastard or those little bastards pretty much destroyed the last of those green apple PowerGels.  And I think they paid the ultimate price, most likely.  Tweaked out after a few hours of their caffeine-addled manic behavior, simply expiring in a little heap in one hole or another somewhere.  Spent.

Serves them right.  And fortunately, they didn’t find all of my green apple gel stash.

I found one of these wonder gels just the other day, in a red and grey Timbuk2 messenger bag that saw regular circulation years ago as Max’s diaper bag.  Max is now 12.  I spied in a weird little pocket the gold-tinted packet, the green apple graphic, and I couldn’t resist.  Mostly, I was pressed for time, trying to squeeze in a compressed bike ride with a neighborhood buddy who was equally squeezed for time. I ripped the foil with my teeth, squeezed the paste (yes, it would no longer be accurate to call the texture “gel”) onto my tongue, and flattened out the packet to ensure that I got everything out.  My reptilian brain was screaming “NO EAT! NO EAT!” throughout this entire fifteen second episode, mind you.  I ignored it.

The ride was fine.  I suffered no ill effects from the gel, at least not yet.  And the really green apple paste served its purpose, as far as I can tell.  But my sample size was small.  The study was neither double-blind nor peer-reviewed.  So of limited scientific value.

So, to you researchers at Ashton University:  Thank you for the information.  But for your next study, may I suggest that you put away the stopwatch, and pull out the calendar?  Ideally a calendar that shows 10 or more years “at a glance”?  I may have another green apple gel or two around here somewhere, if you need something to test….

Thanks for reading.


Get It Wherever and Whenever You Can.


I am Super Dad.  This is the view that Super Dad took in whilst squeezing in an hour-long trail run before one of his son’s lacrosse games yesterday afternoon.   Can’t you hear the angels singing in the background?  The welcome scent of the pungent, local flora approaching springtime bloom?  Crystal mental clarity, all the senses running on all cylinders?  One with nature? I am Super Dad.

Plfft.  Hardly. 

A more realistic depiction of what squeezing training sessions into a busy schedule actually looks like would be a photo of a car trunk in which someone or something appears to be living.  Mismatched socks, the heels rubbed thin or missing in at least one.  A beach towel wide and long enough to give me cover for a tasteful change into shorts to run in.  Never mind if it’s a towel stretching Lightning McQueen’s toothy grin across my behind.  While standing in the parking lot, hopping on one leg, trying desperately to avoid attracting unwanted attention from other parents or children nearby.  “Mommy, what is that man doing??”  “Tommy, don’t look at him, DON’T LOOK AT HIM!”  And never mind if I grabbed the wrong towel from the linen closet at home, in a rush.  I can make do with a bath towel if need be.  It just means that I’ll need to clutch the corners at my hip with a vice grip, barely avoiding violating at least one local ordinance regarding public indecency.  And I’m not above using one of the dog’s pink, purple, or lime towels for this gaudy exercise in modesty, no matter how much dog hair and dog slobber resides on the towel.  

I’ve fallen in love with a new kind of shoe, too, and I think I’ve finally managed to find the perfect pair.  That also means that I wear the shoes every day, and for every run.  I’m told I should rotate shoes as a farmer rotate crops.  I refuse to let these shoes air out, to lie fallow.  The scent of long-expired roadkill emanating from the soles is a small price to pay for comfort.  My family doesn’t have any positives to associate with this particular negative since they don’t run in these fantastic shoes.  They associate the fantastic shoes only with a not-so-fantastic scent.  Collateral damage.  Super Dad has to get his run in, wherever and whenever he can. 

I know I’m pushing my luck with that last Super Dad reference, now that I’ve planted in your mind the image of the man in the parking lot clutching the Lightning McQueen towel at his waist and hopping around madly, the full length of his porcelain-white thigh flashing the nice families and perhaps scarring the younger children for life. 

I have my first triathlon in about ten years coming up, and my body is ten years older than it was then.  So I have to squeeze in these training sessions wherever and whenever I can. Hence the hopping  and flashing yesterday afternoon.

I had envisioned an hour-long romp in the rolling trails I spied on a crest overlooking my son Max’s lacrosse field in Terra Linda.  I had just enough time to dole myself out some meaningful punishment up there, I calculated.  I found a challenging loop marked off in one of the half-dozen running or hiking or biking apps cluttering one of my iPhone folders.  I’d managed to change into my running gear without incident.  Then I looked down now and saw that I’d hopped my way into a pair of bright, royal blue shorts.  The most ridiculous pair I own, handed to me with a smirk by my brother-in-law a year ago who used to work at Reebok.  I am reminded why this particular pair was given to him as a “sample.”  Because no one in their right mind would buy and wear these shorts in public.  But at this point, I’m in too deep and my remaining window until game time is running out.   

So I run. 

Easy at first, stumbling on a curb or two as I try to navigate my way to the trail head marked on the iPhone app with a green circle.  Of course it’s a bad idea to run while burying your face in your iPhone, trying to focus on the triangle GPS tells the app is where you are and trying to figure out if your triangle is getting closer or farther away from where the trail head begins.  I somehow find my way to the trail head, feeling pretty damn good about myself, despite the shorts. 

Within 90 seconds, however, my legs are cement, my back is hunched over, and my loud breathing is all I can hear.  It’s a little bit desolate up here, so the usual thought about keeling over from a massive coronary on the trail darts into my mind.  But I resolve not to stop running (never mind that this pace probably doesn’t qualify as “running.”)  Thinking on my feet (literally), I start zig-zagging up the ridiculously steep trail.  Somehow this allows my heart and lungs to keep working rather reduce me to a cursing full stop.  The trail is narrow, so my zigs are probably only two or three steps to the right before I zag the same number the other direction.  This must look ridiculous, but fortunately I’m all alone up here.

Except for the friendly Park Ranger woman marching down from just above me on the trail.  I say “friendly” because she had a big smile on her face as we made eye contact.  I say “eye contact” because the drool and inaudible “hellpooffft” I managed in response to her “hello” fell far short of any other kind of normal human interaction.  And now I’m beginning to think that her smile wasn’t really a sign of being friendly, but instead amusement at seeing this guy shuffling serpentine up the hill, with ridiculous bright blue shorts on.  But I’m in too deep, and can’t get caught up in that kind of thinking.  I have to get this in wherever and whenever I can. 

My imagined hour-long jaunt through these magical hills was cut short.  I couldn’t bear the taste of all that acid in my mouth any longer, and I was concerned that I’d be sore for a week if I kept following the seductive bends of this particular trail system.  So I cut it short, peg-legging my way back down the steep trail on quivering quads, and I made it back to the field in time for the game.  

I mean, just in time for the game.  As in, the referee’s whistle blew before I expected, robbing me of the 60 seconds I needed to change back into different, more appropriate shorts.  Super Dad does not miss a second of his kids’ games, however.  And a touch of self-consciousness, brought on by the game’s other spectators pointing and giggling at the sweaty guy in the royal blue shorts?  Collateral damage.  I have to get it wherever and whenever I can.

Thanks for reading.