Yet Another Poop Story

Hey. So, I’ve already tried and failed a few times at writing something descriptive about the runner’s trots and constipation. Well, as often happens, I was digging through my folder of written stuff and discovered a nearly complete essay I’d written sometime in the past about this very topic. So I’ve edited it a little and am publishing just the first segment. It’s a little long, but I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Right now I am probably in extreme discomfort. It starts with a specific heaviness. Obsession with this heaviness was determined by a major voice in the medical community to be irrational and perverse. The logic of this disembodied yet trusted voice goes something like: anyone who doesn’t want to feel sodden and bloated and then concocts methods of their own to solve the way they feel has an unnatural obsession or at least obsessive tendencies. Never mind that voice, this heaviness plagues me. Maybe on some level the psychological component overwhelms the objective reality of the situation.  Perhaps this nameless pretentious medical voice has a point. You know, like I feel grosser than I look or seem or whatever. Slowly though, this heaviness crept up on me until one day I realized I had not had a bowel movement in almost a week. It didn’t shock me that first time, I simply raised myself from the gelatinous oozing position I held during my office job and moseyed over to the break room for a cup of sinfully bad office coffee. Does this need elaboration? Coffee makes poop. There, elaborated.  And so I expected before I went for a run and workout that night (to counter-act all the sitting and foreclosing – the latter having its very own personal psychological component to be sure) that the waste would leave me and I could run. Instead, my mouth filled with ashy saliva. The world reeked of sinfully bad digested coffee, a chemical solution so devastatingly awful as to deserve its own mini-essay on how bad tastes and ashy saliva can ruin anyone’s day.

For months prior, ever since I got on this exercising and imitating our homo sapiens benefactors bent1, I would have a cup of strong coffee or double espresso, go to Russian class, walk to the gym, change clothes and take a dump, then go for a run. Seized from this reality by the confines of wage labor, my body struggled to rehabilitate.

The first time I noticed something was drastically wrong occurred on a evening after the situation I’ve just described (about four lines above). Feeling particularly heavy and bloated, hating myself even as I went down into a stretch, possibly tweaked on unspent late afternoon caffeine energy, mounting the treadmill as ever before, an odd event happened. No variables stood out on this night: not the speed, not the distance, not the temperature or my level of pre-run fatigue. However, around 2.68 miles of a 3.1 mile run my body started to sound DefCon1, Sci-Fi alien escaped on derelict spacecraft alarm bells. I ripped constant farts and time began to slow down. Not because of embarrassment, farting on the treadmill comes naturally, and gyms reek in general2. A steady tirade of bodily complaints shot arrows at my brain. Bloat set in immediately. Flop sweat struck despite the blasting overhead fans and generally chilly composure of my gym. After all the farts were out, I shit. Not in my pants, not on the treadmill. No diaper needed. But, I just shit everything into my colon – the body’s unloading dock. Everything just jumped into my colon all at once and I panicked. You might think this makes no sense right now. But look, imagine that feeling you get after your Morning Joe and banana sliced onto bowl of bullshit flakes. You know? Where you stand up and pretty much mentally shout “uh oh” as everything descends into the exit airlock and begins slamming on the escape pod in that chased by lizard-spider alien existential terror? Now imagine that mid-run, say a 7:30 min/mi. where your legs are sort of flailing and the bouncing you do since you have pretty decent running form just sort of exacerbates the whole crowd of alien-chased somethings slamming on the air-lock exit.

Now, since I am on a treadmill in the gym, I just get off the machine, walk over to the bathroom where, I don’t even remember now, maybe I had a normal case of the trots where I completely emptied out. I think, instead, I had a half-trot. I shit and never felt empty. A continued presence held out, an insurgent force lodging somewhere in there shaking middle fingers and tossing bricks and rubble from the mysterious recesses of my colon. Afterwards, during my workout, still farting hot, embarrassingly pungent reek and nearly doubled-over in bloat and cramp. Despite having just shat. That’s the killer folks. Despite having just gone through that whole block of text up there, still feeling… well, the same.

Perhaps we should define some terms. Or maybe just the two terms I need to deal with. The trots and constipation. You might think you know what constipation is, but I bet its some faggoty notion you’ve got post-anniversary dinner at The Melting Pot or subbing too much Pei Wei (or god help you, Strip Mall Chinese hole-in-the-wall fare) during the week for missed lunches. That’s like asking a desiccated post-chemo human husk to sympathize with the melanoma scar on your left nostril. These are apples and appaloosas.

The trots, so far as I know, only happen to runners. Cyclists luckily sit in such a way that their herniated gooch gets stuffed back up into their sphincter. As I understand it, erectile dysfunction plagues your professional grade cyclist. Sheryl Crow’s not-withstanding. Swimmers express to me another concern. It has to do with the odd gravity and alignment of core muscles from planar low-G movement. Basically, swimmers swear: “Never trust a fart.” A great rule for all places and times, really. Especially for yours truly, what with poor lipid digestive performance in the first place. Make of that what you will. However, this does not apply to running. Trust farts while running. Trust them or I promise, you’ll build up such a balloon of hatred in your gut as to wish you’d never been born. And as I understand it, clenching down on these natural refugees can cause serious sphincter damage, like permanent butt-hole trauma. This may become anecdotally apparent as we continue.

Imagine, please, what your digestive tract looks like. Basically, I mean work your way from your sphincter to your anus to your colon. Get that image in your head. Now that you can at least picture the highway I am talking about, I can start to discuss the trots.

So far as I can tell, the trots come from inefficient cleanout before a run. Let me first make perfectly clear that humans are runners. Homo Cursor could more aptly define our species. Sure, we’ve got big old brains, but because of our big brains and excellent stamina we effectively mapped out detailed hunting plans to chase down proto-antelope 100k years ago. Yes, chase. That’s right, antelope. Those things you see pissing off cheetahs all the time with the hopping and getting away because the sprinter tires out? We’ll we’d just putz along at our stately 7 min/mi, but nowhere near the 40 m.p.h. of an antelope. Anyways, so with the trots. It seems like a poor biological choice. Or maybe a side effect of our sedentary work style, high cortisol levels, poor overall diet. Take your pick.

So it would seem the ability to either not shit during a run or shit before you need to run sits pretty high on the biologically imperative chart of evolution. I’ve already described what the trots look or feel like above in my (I think pretty awesome) description of a stranded spacecraft full of astronauts in existential terror running for the exit-lock to the escape pod. A less comic definition goes something like this, running diarrhea. I know attaching adjectives or any type of modifier to “diarrhea” seems unnecessarily cruel. As if cramping and liquid shits weren’t bad enough. I’ll save myself the trouble and just let you play Ad-Libs. Find an Adj/Mod for “______ diarrhea”. I’m sure they’re all terrifying.

When I am talking about the trots, I am talking about running diarrhea. Diarrhea from running.

Now the kicker comes from having to define another term for everyone. Constipation. As I said above, there’s a type of constipation I am not talking about. That kind is for pussies. This constipation causes the type of bad-thinking that leading doctors all suggest stems from an unnatural obsession with poop, or counting your poop, or taking inventory after a poop like pretty much every male American on the planet does. You know what I’m talking about. Just try not to look in the bowl before a flush. I dare you.

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1) You know, where sitting down for 8 hours a day doesn’t factor in to the equation at all.
1a) For some reason this seems iconoclastic or irreligious. I am not decrying capital or labor or anything like that. I’m just saying, a lot of people would benefit a whole lot by taking off the loafers and walking barefoot in a park for an hour or two, letting the grass and soil tickle and caress the soles of your feet. Remind yourself that there’s something outside the concrete and pungent reek of burning diesel fuel and constant hum of desperate air conditioning units.

2) The really fucked up smells in gyms are the overly perfumed females jumping on the treadmill or stationary cycle next to you to putz out a few dozen minutes at doze-off speeds while they text or read women’s magazines full of empowering articles and lists of (e.g.) the top ten slanderous accusations to make to your man to drive him just wild enough to fuck your brains out but not quite yet resent you.

Worse yet, the Out of India stench typhoon of garlic and cumin. Worse still, the greased back-hair machismos in musky cologne, in the gym. In the gym guys. God damnit. Don’t get really gussied up for the gym like you’re on the prowl for hot female action. You look and smell like a combination of the nightmares of an overly ambitious fragrance retailer on the floor of some J.C. Penney’s from Hell.

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Constipation, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Trots

This is your existence. In this text lies a tale about the day-to-day, the blasé, the baseline reality. Your reality. Every second fleshed out from the candid scourge of incontinence.  Every waking moment, from the bowl of cardboard-flavored Grownup Brand cereal to the cup of Sleepytime tea, these moments, each and every one of them, are yours.

Five days worth of food rests like a flatulent belt around your hip bones and intestines.  Like a fanny pack of black, stagnant hatred hugging and spackling your insides.  This hidden, amorphous child kicks and screams and oozes.

Let’s do some math here.  Three burritos equivalent in mass to – for examples sake – a Moe’s burrito. Five cups of yogurt topped with granola and fruit. Two packets of oatmeal. Five frozen entrees for lunch (for example, vegetarian lasagna or black bean enchilada with rice and veggies, etc.). A bowl of tortellini with sauce. A bowl of ice cream with fruit and nuts. Countless cups of coffee and tea.  You will carry these foods, pregnant for an unknown term.  Though, your body efficiently filters these vittles down to only an additional five pounds and occasionally a golf ball’s mass excretes itself past the stress-induced Jericho’s Wall of your sphincter. Tight, like a shoelace knot that only loosens with a pen or needle.

No one wants this Black Gift[1].  Over the course of these five days,  you will gain five pounds. At one time, almost a distant memory now, you fit nicely and felt like a human feels. There was no unnecessary baggage or bouncing baby playing around in there. And yet at the end, your gut will distend outward, bloated into a representation of early pregnancy. Well, maybe the bulge isn’t really there, but standing in front of the mirror, hating your bowels, it seems to protrude angrily, shaking a spiteful middle finger in your face.

Entirely your choice. Those words flicker like a bad B-movie monologue. As you stand there, curled on the toilet or glaring at your gut as it yields absolutely nothing, those words are your only comfort. Everything that’s happened is entirely your choice. Each ounce catalogued and consciously selected. The impaction, the Jericho’s Wall, you are powerless to remove them, but maybe – just maybe – that’s because you unknowingly hold the key to the gates. They materialized from something within you. Both from a profound sense of panic, your heart thumping out a science fiction space station alarm from just behind the wrinkled flesh of your forehead. From stress, overwhelming stress. Cortisol uncontrollably vacillating because no magic force will come and change anything. It’s entirely up to you; entirely your choice. And these words whisper from nowhere.  Defiant. A reminder of just who  invited this black guest and all his baggage into the citadel of your body.[2]

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A Story About Poop and God

This is a story about poop.  All the horrible things that happen when you don’t poop.  And the terrible places you’ll visit when you don’t poop for long enough that your bi-weekly movement is undistinguishable from passing a very upset badger through that same orifice.

I scheduled my gastroenterologist appointment at the Florida Medical Center on Bruce B. Downs, just a hop and skip from my apartment.  The waiting room was spacious, open, comfortable – dare I say, well ventilated?  I expected constipated farts, high-tech concavity-type ventilation systems.*  Not so.  Though, there was an ancient wraith of a woman being fireman carried past me as I left.  I can only imagine her destination was a very thorough extraction chamber.

I set into filling out the mandatory paperwork, noticeably filling out nearly every check under the digestive systems section (as opposed to heart, brain, skin, etc.).

Constipation? Yup.

Gassy? Is there any other feeling?

Diarrhea? Only when I eat.

Hemorrhoids? His name is Victor, he’s my butt knuckle.

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