Former 2:24 marathoner hoping to parlay a life overhaul at age 45 into competitive ├ęclat • Magazine writer, book editor 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, May 25, 2016

My subprime qualification for the A wave of the Bolder Boulder 10K (and 2.32 digressions)

It's hard to be a runner living in Boulder and find ways not to enter the Bolder Boulder 10K, unless you're me and straddle the line between being a lazy jogger and someone with equally lazy hopes of returning to serious competition.

I've been present for three runnings of the event. In 2011, I watched some of the earlier waves -- there are about 100 of them and they go from fastest to slowest, with the earliest start at about 6:50 a.m. and the latest at at 9:25 a.m., with the pros taking off at 11:15 a.m. -- from about the one-mile mark. In 2014 I watched from various points along the course, catching sight of the men's and women's leaders this time. Last year I was close to the finish when the pros churned up the last ugly hill on Folsom Street and onto Stadium Drive.

This year, having been fairly consistent with, if not ambitious about, my "training" since midwinter, and experiencing many missed days thanks not only to laziness but to work commitments (another dubious feather in my slacking-cap; I used to regularly put in 90- to 100-mile weeks while working over 40 hours) I decided to give it a participatory go. But I didn't want to do it unless I could get into the A wave. Qualifying for the individual waves takes many forms, and since I have developed a late-onset allergy to actually racing, I decided the least painful way to go about this would be to run two miles on a treadmill at 10.6 MPH (5:39.6 pace) at the seasonal Bolder Boulder Store near 28th Street and Arapahoe. The powers-that-be equate this with a sub-38:00 10K.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ten ways to fail as a collegiate runner

In the two-plus years I competed in college, I barely improved from high school, when I ran 9:43 for 3200m and a 15:57 road 5K. My two most noteworthy races were an 8:55.2 indoor 3000m as a freshman at BU and a 26:48 8K at Bryant College in Rhode Island as a sophomore. I've started to pinpoint some of the possible reasons for my athletic stagnation:
1. I didn't sleep enough, my nutrition was erratic, and I drank like character in a Judd Apatow movie. This was par for the course on the surface, but I was significantly worse than most.
2. Our team did very little volume. 10-milers were considered noteworthy.
3. Our program included very little intensity. A sample "hard" workout: 16 x 400m in 75 with a slow 200 jog; 6 x 600 on a golf course at roughly 5:00 pace.
4. We were never given goals, as a team or as individuals, either before individual races or at the beginning of the season. The purpose of a given workout was never explained.
5. There was no discernible plan to our training within a competitive season. It was very much as if the coach made up our workouts shortly before telling us what they were, which is almost certainly what he in fact did.
6. We were not given any out-of-season training guidelines, other than the suggestion not to sit on our asses all summer.
7. Our coach gave us the silent treatment on the long van rides home after meets where we had raced poorly, which meant that we almost always rode home in silence, save for the barely concealed sniggering of a few of the guys secretly drinking and cutting up in the back. At the time we all just laughed at these displays of sulking, but in retrospect they were not precisely representative of a solid coach-athlete relationship.
8. It was really fucking cold a lot of the time. Training inside meant training on a concrete 176-yard piece-of-shit track that had been around since the Coolidge administration and was condemned by the NCAA after my freshman year.
9. We had very low standards of excellence. Anyone who sniffed 4:00-flat for 1500m 15:00-flat for 5K was regarded as a phenom. We were males, by the way.
10. The positive energy I brought to every practice, race and team meeting went roundly underappreciated, leaving me and numerous others disillusioned, unmotivated, and prone to blaming others for our failures.
I've left out a few things, but that's probably as comprehensive as any such list needs to be.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Not one for the ages: a strangely short-sighted NY Times effort

Gina Kolata has written a piece for the New York Times about a cold, recently unearthed fact: Runners slow down as they get older. This is arguably not her least praiseworthy effort for the Times just this spring alone, given what came one week later, but in any event, this bright journalist and passionate writer manages to again portray a science or health issue as something other than what it actually is.

In case you're feeling too lazy to follow a link, I will summarize the Times article in one sentence: A Yale economist and runner has produced a mathematical formula, translated into an online tool, that predicts exactly how much runners can be expected to slow with increasing age, and even more helpfully, how fast they would have run when they were younger if only they had tried.

I'm not quarreling so much with what Kolata writes in this piece as with the apparent knowledge gaps that allowed her to go forward with the story to begin with. She's been writing about endurance activities for a very long time, for a well-respected newspaper, and so I would expect her to be more thorough about doing her homework.