Luckily, I found this: http://188.8.131.52/pigwad/tutorials/scripts/
Looks like some of the folks at ESRI got together with the USGS a designed a plug-in that will let you, among other things, calculate geodesic distances from projected data. It uses the parameters specified by your projection to unproject the data into geographic coordinates and then calculates the geodesic distance on the fly. Since it uses the semi-major and semi-minor radii that you specify in your projection, the distortion should be minimized. This tool is definitely a time saver, as it does the reprojection for you only on the data you are calculating, and enables you to keep your whole project in projected space.