I'll be the first to admit that I'm superstitious. As an ice hockey goalie for more than 17 years, I suppose it comes with the territory. I used to take painstaking care to dress a certain way (there were good luck socks, and good luck ties, good luck t-shirts), put my pads on in a certain order (left-to-right), even the route I took to the rink or the boxers I wore to bed...it all mattered. In fact the cosmic order of the universe depended on it.
I like to think that since I stopped playing hockey, the superstitions have disappeared, but be careful not to step in the bullshit. There was a time at work I wouldn't change pens or the background on my computer because I was in the zone when it came to writing assignments...every word that dripped from that pen or onto that screen was gold, Jerry, gold!
In the NHL playoffs, it's a long standing tradition for players to grow playoff beards. Players come to resemble Scandinavian Norse Myth-men, or maybe more appropriately, Canadian lumberjacks. Some are good (thank you, Lanny MacDonald -right), some are bad (see Sidney Crosby's wispy-stache).
After battling a summer's-worth of frustration due to a recurring IT band injury, I started getting nervous that I wouldn't be ready for this weekend's Army Ten-Miler. That is until my friend and I took a hiking/camping trip out to Utah and Arizona. We piled on 51 miles of hiking and more than 2,000 miles on the car. Through it all, each morning, like Adam Banks in D-2: The Mighty Ducks,"I woke up, and the pain was gone." There was also no showering, which meant, no shaving. Thus, a beard was born.
And so, I submit to you what one of my co-workers has dubbed, "the Good Karma beard." I'm three weeks strong into this thick, coarse - and dare I say distinguished - ritual. It's been met with mixed reactions. Generally, any dudes who lay eyes on it are all for it. Is it admiration in their eyes or is that jealousy? I offer the following exchange from the elevator today, "I love that beard, man." "Thanks. It dies on Sunday night." "That is so sad to hear. Every time I tell my wife I'm going to grow a beard, she says, 'No, you're not.' Grow it for all of us." Indeed, it has taken on William Wallace proportions.
And the ladies? Well, there are two types of women in this world, those in favor of the beard and those who are not. From, "Hey, the beard is back!" to "Oh...I see the beard is back." How can such similar sentences carry such different messages. There is no middle ground with women and facial hair. Check out this Runner's World forum, spawned after one simple question, "Should I grow my beard back?"
Of course, many runners have sported the beard. Look no further than U.S. Olympic marathoner Brian Sell - he's extra bad ass because he shaves things into it. Pre didn't have the beard but he did rock a killer 70s mustache -- I think I was born in the wrong decade but that's a different blog post. There's even a group called Bearded Runners Unite, you can't make this shit up.
The real question is, "Is it working?" Of course it's working. Not only did I put in a 35 mile week two weeks ago, but I went long two weekends in a row. And the topper? How about a 32:41 five mile tempo run this evening, BY ACCIDENT? I, or should I say the beard, suddenly channeled Dathan Ritzenheim. Ladies and gentlemen, the defense rests.
I haven't told my beard yet that its time is limited, t-minus five days and counting. I prefer to let it carry on and continue to work it's good karma until after race day. Only then will I reflect on the good times we've had together. This beard has seen the Grand Canyon, L.A., been stroked in ponderous times and tugged at in stressful times. But on Sunday, as the saying goes, "If you love something, you must let it go..." And when I look down in the sink to see what's left, that may just be a single tear in my eye, shed for the good karma this beard has brought me. It shall always live on. A moment of silence please before you click on.