Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grease Monkey

Note to those who are not native English speakers: A grease monkey is a slang term for a mechanic, usually an auto mechanic. 

When I run on warm days, I feel like a real grease monkey. It has nothing to do with being a mechanic, though back in the mid-'80s I learned how to change the oil, tires, and spark plugs on my car. I also learned about cars from interpreting auto mechanics classes at the community college where I worked. But for long distance runners the term "grease monkey" takes on a whole new meaning.

Summer running means chafing where my clothing combined with sweat rubs against my skin. The best way to prevent chafing is good old-fashioned Vaseline. It goes on my toes to prevent blisters. Then a generous amount goes under the arms, under the sports bra, and on the inner thighs. Because I'm not slimy enough from the Vaseline, on goes a layer of sunscreen. When I do my long runs, I'm out in the sun for enough time to get a good burn if I forgo the sunscreen because I'm fair-skinned. After the work of getting all greased up, it's time to run.

After a short bit of running the sweat comes. I tend to start sweating very early in my runs. I read somewhere that early sweating is a good thing. It means that your body knows to start its cooling process almost right away because it knows it's in for a good workout. I'm going with the theory that early sweat equates to good fitness. We all need our delusions, right?

So I'm basically a combination of sweat, Vaseline, and sunscreen when I'm out on a long run. As time goes by on the run, I feel like the Vaseline and sunscreen are melting everywhere. Even though I feel like a real "grease monkey," it's better than having raw, chafed skin or a bad sunburn. I've had chafed skin on long runs and it can really be painful. When I do my long training runs, I always seem to get bitten at least once by an insect. I'm sure they're attracted to the smell of sweat or sunscreen (or both). I would think that the way I smell three-quarters of the way through a two-hour training run would be an excellent bug repellent. But no, I feel like the bugs swarm around me like dirt does to Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons. That's when I realize that flies and other bugs eat poop, so a sweaty, stinky runner is probably a big treat for them.  Cows are especially attracted to sweat, or specifically, the salt film on my skin from sweating. I have been licked by a cow many a time when stopping to open a cow gate.

By the end of a two-hour plus training run, I feel like a pile of melted butter with salt residue. I'm covered with Vaseline, sweat, sunscreen, salt, and sometimes even cow slobber. My legs are tired and I don't exactly smell like a bouquet of flowers. But as Mom always said, that's why there is soap and water. After a good shower all of the grease gets washed away and I'm back to just feeling good about accomplishing another long run and milestone in training for the Munich Marathon this October.

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