Fuzzy's Ironman Tattoo

It was a tattoo that got me into the Ironman in the first place.

Shaun did Ironman Louisville in September of 2010 and got a big M•dot logo tattoo on his right forearm soon after. So for the next two years I saw it every time we went out for a run. In the spring of 2012, Shaun was thinking of doing the Chicago Marathon and asked if I had any interest in attempting a marathon again. “Never!” I said. I was signed up for the Triple at the Chicago Triathlon and that seemed like the apex of what I’d ever accomplish athletically. Running was definitely the weakest of the three tri sports for me, and if I wasn’t ever going to do a marathon, then an Ironman was right out.

And then I finished the Triple and two thoughts tumbled around in the endorphin-haze of my brain: I had just accomplished something less than 100 people out of 10,000 triathletes signed up for. And… Shaun and I train together a lot. I was going to have to stare at that g.d. tattoo of the rest of my life and always know that he had done that thing that I had never even attempted.

A short year of really, really hard work later and I was ready for my own tattoo.

A lot of people (most?) who get an Ironman tattoo get it on the back of their calf. It’s a great place to show it off to other athletes but not have it visible in day-to-day life. But I’ve already crossed the visible-tattoo barrier. And I kind of wanted it front and center in my vision as a reminder that I can set big goals and accomplish them. That’s why I decided to have it face me. I’ll have to start high-fiving people with my left hand so that they can see it oriented properly.

It’s such a simple geometric design that I really wanted to make sure it was done nice and cleanly, so I waited this long because I was waiting for availability from someone really good. Jennifer Trok at Speakeasy Custom Tattoo is in demand for her original, custom work but was kind enough to make time for me and execute this design in an awesome way. Also, she’s a delightful person and I highly recommend her as a pleasant companion for a couple hours of pain.

Fuzzy's Ironman Tattoo

Photo Set on Flickr

We’re happy to announce that you can now sign up for auditions for Season 8 of Impress These Apes, everyone’s favorite live, eight-week, non-elimination talent competition hosted by hyper-intelligent apes from the future. Auditions will be June 3 & 4 with the show on Mondays starting July 7.

If you’re a performer in Chicago—of any sort, not just comedic—you really should audition because it will be the best/hardest nine* weeks of your performing life. When I talk to any of the 56 people who have competed in the show so far, a) the show inevitably comes up and b) there’s always at least one story of intense frustration and one story of incredible triumph and pride. The Apes make you earn your victories, but earn them you will. Erica and I were both contestants before we were producers and judges/hosts of the show, and it remains a seminal experience of our theatrical lives.

If you’re one of the dozens of people who’ve asked over the last year “when are you doing Apes again?”, here you go. And as we say every time, you’ll want to be in this season, because who knows if we’ll ever do it again (those frustrations and triumphs happen on the production side as well).

* We’re doing the live callback thing again this year.

The Chicago lakefront park facilities (i.e. bathrooms) close all winter and they shut off the water fountains so they don’t freeze. Even when the weather starts to warm up and lots of runners start up their spring training, the park doesn’t officially open those things until Memorial Day*, which is still almost two moths away–that’s lots of carrying water bottles and then trying to find somewhere for an emergency pee. So it’s good to know spots to avail yourself of both without going too far off the path.

  • The Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and is just to the west of the lakefront path, across Lake Shore Drive. From the north, take the underpass at Fullerton; from the south take the pedestrian bridge at North (and hey, it’s like hill-work!). There are bathrooms and in several of the buildings (and you can get sink water if necessary)—I usually use the ones in the Big Cat House, which is open 9–5. And another “and hey” is that you get to see cool animals as you run into and out of the zoo.
  • Just north of the zoo on the inner path between Cannon Drive and Diversey Harbor (just south of Diversey) there’s a water fountain that is not a Park District fountain but rather sponsored by CARA and runs year round.

* Some of the water fountains may be turned on early depending on weather and staff availability to do so.

NGPC on WGN and at CIF

Acronym-tastic! Erica and I were on the WGN Morning News yesterday (or, at least, our arms covered in felt and fake fur were—she’s Bessie the cow and I’m Ron the Snake) to prank weatherman Paul Konrad and promote our show this evening at the Chicago Improv Festival. The Noah Ginex Puppet Company performs with Sea Beast Puppet Company and Felt at iO (3541 N Clark) at 8 pm.

Not Very Funny

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On Wednesday, the blog of Chicago running store Fleet Feet posted a notice about an upcoming event:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Our First Tattoo Night!

At Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, we do everything possible to satisfy the needs of our customers. That’s why, after receiving dozens of requests from our regulars, we’re hosting our first annual Tattoo Night! Scheduled for Tuesday, April 1, 2014, customers can come to any one of our three Chicago-area locations and get their own running-related tattoo.

No, we’re not talking about the cute temporary tattoos that wash off after a day or two – we’re offering the chance to display your love for running and fitness forever in ink on your skin!

Each of our stores will have a safe and sanitary station set up in which customers can get their tattoos. Customers will be able to choose from any one of more than 100 designs, or they can work with our tattoo artist to customize their own emblem. A few of the options are below:
Running tattoo examples

“As a regular runner, I’ve been thinking a lot about expressing my passion for running with a permanent tattoo,” said Matt N. “I’m really excited about Fleet Feet Sports’s Tattoo night, and I’m bringing several of my runner friends so we can all get similar marks.”

Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, is just as excited to participate in the event as he is to organize it. He plans to get the store’s logo tattooed on the top of his head.
Fleet Feet Logo
“I’m so proud of the community we’ve built here in Chicago through Fleet Feet Sports, and I thought I’d show my pride by getting a tattoo for the world to see,” Dave said. “My hairline started receding years ago, and I figure I could also make use of the space for a little shameless promotion,” he said with a laugh.

So come join us on Tuesday, April 1, and express your love for running and fitness with your very own permanent tattoo. Imagine all the attention you’ll get once the weather warms up enough to show off your new “ink!”

Written By William Polk

Now, there were a few clues that it might be a joke: the April 1 date of the event (though, traditionally, you don’t publish such things in advance but rather on the date itself) and the lack of a specified start time of the event. And the top-of-the-head logo-tattoo is obviously over the top (pun intended), but is in the ballpark of the sort of humor I’ve seen in real press releases.

Erica, Shaun, and I were talking about whether we might be able to make it over there. It also wasn’t specified, but if it was free or subsidized, I’d definitely get a new running tattoo. Because, I’m a runner and I’m tattooed. And I know just from looking around on the lakefront path and at events, a lot of runners are tattooed as well.

Well, today they added this to the end of the post:

Just be sure to remember…
Gotcha April Fools!
(Everything included above is fictional. There will be no Tattoo Night at any of our locations.)

Now, I don’t want to go as far as to say I’m offended. But I’m for sure miffed. Because to my eyes, other than the top-of-the-head joke, the whole “joke” of this April Fools post seems to be “ha, ha, as if any runner would really get a tattoo!” And that just seems tone deaf to the actual makeup of the Chicago running community.

Now, I get that comedy is hard (seriously, let me tell you about it) and maybe the real lesson is just that businesses should avoid April Fools’ pranks (especially on March 26). But businesses should extra-avoid jokes that make a significant part of their customer base wonder if they’re the ones being made fun of.

Update 1: In conversation around the house, Erica clarified that, just like your parents, she was more disappointed than mad. “I was really looking forward to the tattoo night, and even if we couldn’t make it over, I thought Fleet Feet was really cool for having it. Now I’m disappointed that they’re not and I think they’re really uncool.” I checked over on Fleet Feet’s Facebook page and at least one of the few comments on their post linking to the article there was someone asking a seemingly-legit question about pricing. I think Fleet Feet is disappointing quite a few people.

Update 2: This whole thing prompted Erica to post something she’s been stewing about for a while.

Golden Angel Pancake House

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Golden Angel Pancake House, RIP

One of my favorite poems about Chicago is The Golden Angel Pancake House by Campbell McGrath, which says, amongst so many other wonderful words,

… then there’s one
at which I never ate though it looked absolutely
irreplaceable, the Golden Angel Pancake House,
which is a poem by Rilke I’ve never read
though I’ve used its restroom, seen its dim
celestial figures like alien life-forms
in a goldfish bowl, tasted its lonely nectar
in every stack of silver dollar buttermilk flapjacks,
though the food, for all I know, is unutterably
awful, …

I, like, Campbell, never ate there, but treasured the Golden Angel Pancake House every time I passed by it on Lincoln Avenue. Treasured it for the poem, but also for its old-school Chicago-ness. And it’s part of the (imaginary) Chicago Golden Diners Club.

I went with friends today to the closing weekend of Homegrown Cafe (formerly Chalkboard) a delightful modern diner across the street from the Golden Angel and saw that it was no more. Now all of us will never eat there.

Charles "Peanut" Tillman 5K

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Fuzzy and Charles

I like football, but I’m not the hugest fan, and the team of record in the Gerdes household is the New Orleans Saints, per Erica’s Southern upbringing. But that said, I live in Chicago and it’s hard not to be a Bears fan just by osmosis. And I am a fan of running, worthy charities, and great nicknames. So just a few weeks ago I saw that there was going to be a Charles “Peanut” Tillman 5K, benefitting his Cornerstone Foundation, which promotes organ donation and helps in-need Chicago children and their families, and signed up right away.

I’ve had a cold most of the week, and the wind today was pretty brutal, so I was glad that this was the second race in a row that’s had its basecamp inside the United Club at Solider Field. I got a ride down to the race with Kristen and right when we walked in the door from the parking lot, there was Mr. Tillman, signing things and posing for photos. I got my race bib signed:


Shaun is working at a higher level of training than I, at the moment, even when I’m not recovering from a cold, so he had run down to the race and joined us as we headed to the starting line. Stepping out of Soldier Field, the wind hit us in the face from the north and we knew that the second half of the race was going to be hard going. I’ve been pretty good about keeping my training up all winter, but this last week or two with the combination of the continuing cold outside, my work schedule, and then this illness, I haven’t been outside at all—just a swim and couple turns on the bike trainer. So, despite the shock of the wind, it was actually nice to get out and stretch the legs a little with a few hundred other runners.

Peanut was there at the finish line, greeting all the returning runners and so I bugged him for another photo. You can tell that we are now the best of friends.

Fuzzy and Charles

Official results:

Time: 33:40.05
Pace: 10:51
Place: 244 / 448
Place in Age Group (M40-44): 12 / 16
Place in Sex: 132 / 207

Update: More Photos