Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How to slow down your easy runs

Runners often search for strategies for keeping the pace easy om recovery days, a practice even experienced runners have difficulty maintaining thanks to the two-edged blade of high motivation and competitiveness.

Here's one that's close to 50 percent effective: Run without underwear in shorts that have no built-in liner. The reason this is not 100 percent effective is that 50 percent of runners, give or take, are women. I suppose a comparable strategy for women would be to run with a very badly worn-out jogbra or no bra at all, but for a multitude of unrelated reasons I cannot endorse this idea.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Annual freak-out

This seems like a good time for the annual reminder that the first few races of any cross country season are practically irrelevant, especially at the high-school level, and that apparently subpar efforts do not signify a lack of fitness or preparedness (excepting obvious cases, e.g., your kid doesn't train at all and decides to run the first race in scuba flippers). Feel free to point out a running idol who performs nearly as well in early September as he or she does ten or twelve weeks later; I'll be happy to add this to my database of such athletes, which is currently empty.

This is sort of a corollary to the "times don't matter" in cross country. Yes, they matter to a small extent between races on the same course, but that's it. Despite winning the Meet of Champs my senior year, my high-school team suffered significantly from having a coach who never shut up about heart rates and paces. The kids who ran well that November were the ones who couldn't do, or didn't give a shit about, math. I wasn't one of them.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A mostly satisfactory race, and the value of being self-defeating

Abstract

37:53 for 10K in Fort Collins this morning, the best of the scattering of results I've had since coming back to this game for real in 2017 after spending a decade-plus in general ugliness peppered by occasional false comebacks. Second in the nonexistent 45-49 age group in a race that had around 6,000 entrants. (I won my actual division, M48, by over two minutes, but that's slicing the pie into unnecessarily small chunks.)

I am lurching in the direction of respectability thanks entirely to Kathy Butler's workouts and overall encouragement, and the special blend of people in this training group. My attitude is coming around as well, and only I can ultimately rehab that. But I ran well in spite of leaving lots of room for improvement in pacing and intensity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Elite-level motivation: It's not (quite) what you think

Last week, I did a very hard but rewarding 45-minute structured fartlek workout here in Boulder, elevation 5,300’ (give or take). My coach, a two-time Olympian and extraordinarily warm and generous human being named Kathy Butler, has a way of setting up workouts that look fairly modest on paper but turn out to be gut-busters in the execution. This one, however, looked brutal even on paper.

When we were warming up, one or two of my mates were assessing the paved loop we’d be doing the workout on, a circuit of roughly 6K on the east side of town. This loop is about as flat as it gets, but you wouldn’t have known it from some of the clucking and banter. Probably the strongest athlete in the bunch was lamenting turning into a 200-meter-long “hill” halfway through the loop that would barely have been detectable using surveyor’s tools. Another was concerned about the wind being in our faces in the second half of the circuit; this wind didn’t even qualify as a zephyr, and if anything was welcome because of the warm-ish morning. Someone else grumbled, “I don’t even know if I can #*()& do this,” although no reason was given.

Although I have been a serious runner for over 30 years, this habit is not what landed me in Boulder, at least not directly. A lot of people do, however, specifically move here for the running – the “vibe” as much as the physical environment. I routinely see Olympians and national record-holders on the local roads and trails as well as in the coffee shops. There are, in other words, a lot of extremely dedicated distance runners within immediate reach.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sports drinks and Boulder

Boulder's sugary beverage tax, which took effect on July 1, 2017, is misguided. Stupid, actually. Not necessarily the entire concept, but the blunt-force way in which it was applied.

First, I'll disclose that I never, ever buy sweetened beverages. Ever. That way, on the extremely rare occasions I do buy these products, I can project both righteousness and detachment when I complain about pertinent policies.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Not enough heart...

...beats.

I went a dozen miles north to Longmont on Saturday to run a 2M race, the stepchild event of the Sunrise Stampede 10K. I did this primarily to get a read on my honest capabilities over 5,000 meters at sea level. The 5K was never close to my favorite distance back when it was legitimate for races to issue me official entries, but it's a convenient and revealing fitness test.

I decided that if I can't break 17:00 by the end of this year or record a defensibly comparable time at a different distance, I'm not going to race anymore. The sense of futility in lumbering along in ungainly fashion at dismal paces, and having this be red-lining, is mortifying, and it will only get worse if I keep staining events with my ridiculous presence.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Toni Reavis must hate Chicago

This might be the most spectacularly short-sighted sports blog entry I've ever seen from an experienced observer. The core idea is not on the level of absurdity of, say, a Space Force, but it's grim. I'm treating it as 95 percent joke and 5 percent serious despite the pleas of its author, longtime running commentator Toni Reavis, to at least entertain the potential upsides.

Reavis is arguing that instead of putting together the loaded field they did, the Chicago organizers should have set it up so that the only two runners with a chance to win are Galen Rupp and Mo Farah. Why? Because no one who plans to watch cares about anyone else in the race, including "admittedly fast but anonymous extras who do nothing but steal the spotlight from the one thing that might get average people to stop and pay attention." Reavis presumably thinks that everyone in the audience who matters would be watching from either the U.S. or Britain.

Leave aside the absolute hilarity of the Chicago Marathon being willing to just ditch its entire elite men's elite field, and thereby cease being a World Marathon Major overnight, so that two guys -- who probably wouldn't agree to the scheme anyway -- could duke it out for two hours, sans competition. (Or don't leave it aside, since I wouldn't have brought it up at all if that's what I wanted you to do and am merely employing a standard rhetorical device here.) This is just a calamity of a parody of a good idea, something Donald Trump Jr. might say when high on bath salts if he knew anything about distance running.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Responsible summer long runs

You may be familiar with the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” It’s wisdom based on the sound idea that mixing up your day-to-day experiences helps keep life interesting. For example, don’t be like me and listen to the same six songs on your MP3 player for about 2,000 consecutive miles’ worth of running. (Hey, they’re great songs.)

Runners like variety because running itself — or so it’s often said — is not all that exciting. Doing runs, especially long runs, in new territory is a fine way to make the miles roll by faster (or seem to) while seeing neighborhoods and environments you don’t get to see often.

The problem with the “variety” theme is that it doesn’t often fit the needs of summer marathon training. If you have a 20-miler on your schedule, which you expect will take close to three hours, and the forecast calls for 85 degrees with 90 percent humidity by 9 a.m., then the last thing you really want to do is meet a group of people to run a single long loop with no assurance you’ll be able to get anything into your body along the way besides a few gulps of H2O from a park water fountain and whatever gels you can carry.

When I got serious about marathon training in the mid- to late 1990s, I became a strong believer in the power of marathon-pace long runs, which at the time were curiously underutilized among faster runners, at least in the U.S. I wound up writing an article for Running Times about these. Back then, GPS watches were a few years into the future, so finding accurately measured road routes was a far greater challenge than it is today, when you literally invent an accurate course on the go.

Read the rest at Lowell Running.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Determined to be dedicated

I have a hard time writing in approving tones of my own running these days; I think this is mainly because my life no longer revolves around episodic but crippling futility and mayhem, so a part of my mind that's all too accustomed to personal cynicism continues to revel in the idea of keeping the dissatisfaction-train chugging along somehow. Since running offers an excellent platform for falling well short of objective goals (fortunately at little true cost, if you're just an aging road hog and in no position to let down an entire high-school or NCAA team), I find myself waxing scornful about the revival of a hobby that, in all honesty, I'm actually enjoying quite a bit. For the first time in many years, running, like a lot of my good habits, isn't something I am prepared to abandon anytime soon, even if my times are still fairly gruesome. So I can at least admit that I had a nice end to the last week: Three "quality" efforts in four days, ending Sunday. And this is despite my back, which I tweaked over a week ago, not yet being 100 percent (while also not seeming to limit my running).

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Banged up

In the past couple of days, I've gotten banged up.

On Sunday afternoon, the landlord was doing some minor landscaping work in the back yard, wanting to get this done before he leaves for Southeast Asia for a spell. Normally his son comes over and helps with that, but his son was unavailable, so I was recruited to assist. I had to move a few decent-sized slabs of rock, and thought I had escaped this without incident until a few hours later, when merely sitting up in bed was enough to case something sudden and  unpleasant to happen on the right side of my lower back.

It wasn't agonizing, and I slept fine, but getting out of bed the next morning was unexpectedly rough. I quickly learned that sitting for any length of time make walking quite difficult for the first 20 to 30 seconds. Yet I didn't notice the slightest thing wrong after I'd been walking walking around for a few minutes. Two full days later, I've concluded that it's some kind of minor muscle strain that seems to be abating for the most part. I ran about five easy miles last night with no issues...