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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Training, week of May 15 through May 21

58 panache-free miles, no more or no less of an embarrassment than last week from the standpoint of the 100,000 or so steps a week I refer to inappropriately as "training." We had some genuinely wintry weather on Thursday and Friday that included some decent-sized hailstones in my 'hood, but by Saturday afternoon it was in the 70s.

A seemingly disproportionate number of my friends and associates have been struggling lately. Some of them brought it entirely on themselves and deserve no better than what they are getting; others are blameless, the victims of unreliable bodies and less-than-ideal life circumstances

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gaughan shatters N.H. 3200m record; crickets cheer enthusiastically

I've been a consistent follower of New Hampshire track and field and cross-country since graduating from Concord High School in 1988. This has clearly become easier over the years with the creation and expansion of the World Wide Web, with two of my go-to running sites among the countless in my bookmarks being Lancer Timing and the MileSplit network.

Last Friday, a junior from Exeter High School named Jacqueline Gaughan went into the 3,200-meter run at the Loucks Games in White Plains, N.Y. already holding the outdoor state record in the event; last June, her second-place 10:24.27 at the New England Championship earned her that distinction. Also, in March, she ran 10:24.32 for two full miles to place seventh at the New Balance National Indoor Championships in New York City, a time equivalent to about 10:20.7 for the metric distance.

Whatever Gaughan's "true" fastest 3,200-meter time was going into the Loucks Games, she obliterated it, running 10:05.71 to place second to sophomore Kelsey Chmiel of perennial national powerhouse Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Chmiel's 9:59.62 and Gaughan's time were good for 3rd and 5th in the nation this spring.

"There's never a reason to pay for running plans"

So says a familiar bastion of virtually nonexistent -- yet somehow still deteriorating -- integrity. (Please click on that link if you're not familiar with the person I'm writing about or why I do it. Lize's post describes what is perhaps the apotheosis of this years-long and only slowly ebbing mess.)

Ever the merry prankster, Kim Duclos decided to take a training plan she asked me for in 2013 -- which she repeatedly promised to pay for and didn't, as detailed below -- and modify the dates on it before posting a link to it on Facebook. This was during the height of an aggressive and quite insane campaign that ultimately wound up with the two of us in a courtroom, during which it apparently somehow escaped her that the judge told her, in so many stern words, "Ma'am, please stop lying and wasting everyone's time. Leave this guy alone, and try to behave like you belong in the world." Of course, Kim hasn't stopped lying and hasn't left me alone, and has also decided to focus her yammering even more exquisitely on Lize, perhaps believing her to be a weaker adversary than me, or something. Dumb move.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How distance running gets media attention in the United States, in brief

1. A well-known running proponent dies during a run.
2. Terrorists' bombs go off at a major race.
3. A celebrity wobbles through a marathon at any pace.
4. A politician lies about his running exploits (and arguably remains consistent if nothing else).
5. Some combination of these.

This morning brought an example of #5, when U.S. Senator Thomas Tillis collapsed during a 3-mile race in D.C. (yes, a Wednesday-morning race) and was hospitalized. It looks like he'll be okay.

This underscores why it's not likely that U.S.A. Track & Field, an organization that simply cannot be abused or mocked too harshly, will ever be moved to up its game from the sub-basement level.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Training, week of May 8 through May 14: unimpressive junk on display

An additional 63 miles' worth of barely aerobic garbage, all in the name of more amusingly passing the time between the present and my eventual last stinking breath. That's my rationale now: I'm practically embarrassed to even admit here what I'm up to every Sunday or Monday, but I'd be a fount of even worse banality were I not running.

As the graphic reveals, this was series of short, stubby, pathetically shriveled runs, especially in the beginning of the week when rainy weather contributed to that shrinkage. I rallied somewhat later in the week, and on Sunday afternoon I had some pleasant accelerations at a sexy pace, but the week as a whole failed to swell into anything resembling a proud, throbbing effort. Well, the last part is arguable; I seem to be sore more often than not now -- the new addition to the soreness pile involves my right knee, although it's nothing debilitating yet -- despite doing everything I can account for (diet, sleep, avoiding toxic chemicals. general life satisfaction) the "right" way, if you consider the act of running itself to be a right thing. And that is always debatable.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Young Runners at the Top: Get your discounted copy here

I realize that virtually no one orders books by mail anymore, and that the tiny number of Americans who still read them either buy them online or visit an actual store. Nevertheless, this flyer offers a 30% discount of you choose to purchase a hardcover copy of Young Runners at the Top, which has a scheduled release date of June 17, directly from the publisher.

The least expensive way to read the book at this point, short of stealing my, Lize or Brad's laptop or thumb drives, is to get an electronic copy through this link at Google Play. 

In the meantime, the three of us and Rowman & Littlefield's publicist are working to set up the usual events locally and beyond -- a book signing and discussion, radio interviews (Lize has long been extensively involved in local radio as both an interviewer and interview subject, so this is not a hypothetical), podcasts, and to-be-determined ventures and misadventures.

All of us are busy with various other things and we don't plan to get rich from this book, but the initial push gives all of us a chance to interface with the running public. This was actually the most enjoyable aspect of being the editor of Run Strong, actually, so even if I remain cynical about ever running respectable races again, I can still glad-hand, hobnob, mingle, and blather about the sport with the best of them.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Training, week of May 1 through May 7

I could safely leave this post and others like it blank with the exception of the customary embedded image file from Garmin Connect with no loss of meaningful information. Or I could just omit the image and type in a two-digit number followed by "miles" (in this case 65). At this point, the only reason I am bothering with these weekly updates is because I like to think I haven't plateaued already in terms of fitness or motivation but am merely in a slump and managing it somewhat honorably (more on this below).

Some people on the downside of their lifetime motivational arc, or perhaps just starting to climb the upside of the same arc in earnest, keep running blogs that feature training reports primarily because they believe that this helps keep them accountable, even when they know few people are reading. I appreciate this impulse, but I've also seen it fail far more often than I've seen it succeed in the absence of other, more organic reasons to train or at least run consistently. What I am engaged in now is some purgatory-style hybrid of running and training, and my inability to escape the repetitively dolorous tone of these Sunday-night or Monday-morning shitposts is consistent with this.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Not to give anything away, but...

A summary of my running these days:

M - Sore, but able to move in a more or less straight line. Pictures of donkeys and horses.

Tu -- Felt great and springy (although sore) but was running slower than I thought I was. Pictures of a 1924 Dodge Dart driving 60 mph with no engine.

W -- Felt shitty and draggy (sore and tired) yet ran the same pace as yesterday. Pictures of dead farm animals.

Th -- Almost not sore. First honest attempt at hydrating with somethng besides coffee all week. Pictures of dead serpents.

F -- Speed day! Same as the other four days except more daydreaming about PRs from the Clinton and Bush administrations. Pictures of the Flatirons. Legs hurt.

Sa -- Went a little and farther than usual because of two new MP3 mixes of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (for a total of 38). Stopped to examine some constellations and other astronimical phenomena and quietly explain the particulars to nonexistent people, all while being sore.

Su -- 40 percent of the week's mileage in two irritably executed runs, making about 70 for the week and setting things up nicely for a repeat of same.

Kipchoge's 2:00:25: broadening the gender gap

Kipchoge winning the 2016 Olympic Marathon (Getty Images)
After Eliud Kipchoge's 2:00:25 in Italy this morning, the gap between the fastest and second-fastest marathons ever run under any conditions now stands at 2 minutes, 32 seconds -- 2:00:25 vs. 2:02:57, the latter being Dennis Kimetto's WR from Berlin in 2014. (Yes, it was not a world record and I don't think it ought to be -- you can read all about the various reasons for this on the Internet, and have already done so unless you just awakened from a coma and found yourself, of all places, here.)
That is a greater difference than on the women's side, an uncharactersitic finding in athletics, where female outliers are the norm and male outlies the exception. This would have been true even without Mary Keitany's 2:17:01 two weeks ago in London -- and without, surprisingly, the existence of Paula Radcliffe at all.

Keitany's effort took her to witihin 1:36 of Radcliffe's mark, lowering the gap between Radcliffe's WR and the second-fastest mark -- Radcliffe's own 2:17:18 from 2002 -- by 17 seconds.

 One has to go back 34 years to see a fastest-to-second-fastest interval longer than 2:32 on the women's side. In the 1983 Boston Marathon, Joan Benoit ran 2:22:43 after running the first half in 1:08:34 to break the WR Grete Waitz had set in London the day before (2:25:28) by 2:45. Benoit's record would fall two years later to Ingrid Kristiansen (2:21:06 in London). That year at Boston, 84 men broke 2:20:00, 76 of them Americans (and this was pre-prize money). 29th place, which is what I got in 2001 with a 2:24:17, was 2:15:xx or 2:16:xx. 2:24:17 would have been well outside the top 150, aybe out of the top 200 (I can't find deep results online). A favorable wind explains much of this, but not most of it, and the reasons for the involution of B-level American men's marathon running constitute a different discussion entirely.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Training, week of April 24 through April 30

54 miles, 20 of them on the final day. I kind of needed something significant at this point, and my first 20-mile day in years is it. I had  couple of travel days and shitty weather to contend with all week long, but these wouldn't have been real impediments to doing more than I did had I possessed the motivation I had a decade ago; they merely underscored the low threshold I now have for allowing myself to be jostled off track.

I experienced a lot of sadness this week thanks to events outside my sphere of influence. I will say that were I not a runner, I would not have have been privy to these things and therefore would not have experienced the honest emotion that comes with difficulty, and also were I not a runner I wouldn't have dealt with the turmoil and mild disillusionment at all gracefully.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass, April

241 miles. I still haven't missed a day of running in 2017 and therefore have a streak of 120 + whatever number of days I had in a row at the end of December, I think about 15.

Despite getting into a couple of races and tying for the win in one of them (that, only because my buddy held back) it was a disappointing month overall. I knew my ides about where I would be by this point in the year were not realistic, but that didn't keep me from latching onto them and nourishing them nicely into a big bush of expectations I fell far short of.

My annual four-week spring trip back to New England was a good time, as always. Just not for purposes of the subject of this blog specifically.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Doubles, motivation and game theory

I've learned something curious, but surely not unique, about my own psychological approach to running over the years: When I'm planning to run twice on a given day and my motivation isn't at its highest -- and right now I'm as excited about "training" as I am to perform a D-i-Y vasectomy -- I actually have to avoid making the first run *too* substantial or risk skipping the second altogether thanks to later deciding, "Eh, this morning's effort was plenty, I'm not really working toward anything concrete." That is, I have to purposefully slack out of the gate in order to be more assured of a maximally productive day overall.
It can really be boiled down to an application of game theory in which the contestants are not different people or organizations but competing aspects my my own mind. The scheme these days looks something like this:
* If my first run is 3 miles, there is a 90 percent chance I'll head out a second time.
* 4, 75%.
* 5, 67%.
* 6, 55%.
* 7, 45%.
* 8, 33%.
* 9, 25%.
* 10, 10%.
Obviously these are ballpark estimates and the scheme doesn't account for things like improving or worsening weather over the course of the day, etc.
If any of this represents a mental problem, it's not one relating to my running itself, but to the fact that I actually sat down typed these things out and posted them publicly.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Training, April 17 through April 23

Another week at sea level, another week of not taking advantage of the chance to get in some meaningful training work. 55 miles, most of it jogging. I guess I'm just tapering now, for some far-off event, like a fall marathon, or a track race when I'm 50, or for the funeral I refuse to have held in my dubious honor.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Training, April 10 through April 16

Easily the least inspired running week I have had in some time. I'm at sea level and in theory could be taking advantage of that to do some less-depressing workouts, but this week I was just tired, increasingly so as the week went on despite running less and less.

The real focus is on my friend and host Arthur's effort at tomorrow's Boston Marathon, not that this should have detracted from my own running. At this point I'll take the fact that I am not injured and still haven't missed a day in 2017.

I may race this week. That is all.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Understated aspects of realistic goals

First, the obvious stuff: Having goals in life -- beyond the obvious in-the-moment basics like "I must obtain food today" and "I'd like to get out of this terrible rainstorm now" -- is great. I would even say setting and pursuing challenging goals is necessary for happiness in life, with the nature of these depending on your intellectual constitution. If you are born into a family without much money, aren't especially gifted academically, and don't grow up in a situation lending itself to opportunities for professional advancement, then having kids, earning a steady income, and creating a safe place for them to grow up and thrive is often a challenging, unrelenting and noble goal. Things like "I'd like to finish a marathon" or "I'd really like to see Europe someday" are simply not on the radar screens of a good many Americans.

Running goals are almost invariably selfish goals. This isn't central to the point I intend to make within the next 4,000 words, but it's always worth noting. Sure, it's possible to yoke your running aspirations to worthy causes, but chasing a personal best in a road or track race is the epitome of luxury time, and falling short and getting worked up about it is the epitome of a first-world problem.
Psychosocial considerations aside, though, running goals are great because they typically involve a concrete, objective time, place, or distance, making them very easy to evaluate in terms attainment  ("Did I finish?" "Did I break three hours?"). In most cases it's also easy to tell whether your goal makes any sense. If you're 15 and just started running a couple of months ago and notch a 1600 on the track in 5:38, saying "I'd like to break 4:30 before I finish high school" is realistic. Even "Maybe I have a shot at a sub-4:00 mile someday" shouldn't be off the table. On the other hand, if you are 40, have been running five miles a day for ten years or so, and have yet to break 20:00 for 5K, deciding that you suddenly want to run 17:00 before you get too old is probably not realistic.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Best post-Boston Marathon article ever: The year I drank my way to a 2:28:28

This article, which ran in N.H.'s largest newspaper, Manchester Union Leader. in April 2002, is really a fantastic piece of work. Background: I was a mess going into this, having stubbornly overtrained and with no runs longer than three miles at faster than 5:40 pace, making running slightly faster than this in the marathon a comparative triumph.

Beck, Miller best in NH field
After sweating out the forecast, NH runners enjoy mild day
Union Leader

BOSTON — Kevin Beck admitted he had overworked himself preparing for the Boston Marathon.

“I got a little bit fried this spring,” the Concord, N.H., resident said. “I strained myself silly for the best of intentions1. I was doing 140 miles a week for 10 weeks.”

Coming from a runner whose intensity level is second to none amongst New Hampshire runners, Beck’s confession was hardly surprising. Nor was his finish in yesterday’s 106th edition of the Boston Marathon. For the second straight year, Beck was the first Granite Stater across the finish line, this time under cool and cloudy conditions for most of the way, until the sun dared to creep out near his finish.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Training, April 3 though April 9

57 miles in lame singles. My newest hobby seems to be cutting back unnecessarily for races and then not running them very hard anyway. This week's more-or-less spur-of-the-moment 5K was a glorified fun run an hour down the road from where I'm encamped for a couple of weeks with friends, most of them furry.

It was a step in the right direction, I guess, compared to last week's especially uninspired effort. One my my hosts and best friends, Arthur, "needed" a race of some sort before the Boston Marathon on the 17th after last Saturday's USATF-New England Grand Prix 15K was canceled due to snow, so we wound up at in Shrewsbury, Mass. today. You know it's not a very tough crowd when the race director encourages people to do jumping jacks five minutes before the start and three-fourths of the people gathered start doing them. I want to see this happen at the Olympic Trials Marathon some day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Training, March 27 though April 2: Coxsmacked edition

As good as it is to be back in my hometown of Concord, N.H, not much about this week was good from the standpoint of focused perambulation. My top priority to this point -- whether I've admitted it to myself or not -- has obviously been piling on easy-to-moderate miles, day after day, for the sake of exploring the countryside and fondling donkeys and maintaining what passes for a state of fine mental health, rather than upping the ante and preparing myself to, you know, race. Sure, I've semi-regularly ejaculated declarations of goals onto this blog, and as I demonstrated today, I can at least haul myself to a sanctioned event and pay for a bib and go through the motions of completing it, looking only somewhat like a hapless dingbat in the process. But this, alas, is more out of a partially rekindled habit than a genuine desire to compete again.

Therefore, no legitimate reason exists for me to cut back on my workload in anticipation of a formal timed jogging event.

But I feel obligated to participate in that part of the charade as well, so I "rested" for a 5K that was supposed to be yesterday (Saturday) but was postponed by the management on Thursday afternoon to today (Sunday) thanks to a forecast involving serious snowfall. My rest wasn't especially restful, though. I didn't run much this week (five easy miles a day for the first four days of the week, then eight on Friday and four yesterday) but had to do a disproportionate amount of my work in the beginning of the week because Wednesday and Thursday were effectively shot thanks to preparing to travel and actually traveling.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ciao, March 2017

316 miles this month, in the "...out with a whimper" style of 28 miles in the last five days. I thought I was racing a 5K tomorrow, so I rested in preparation for what's going to be ugly regardless, but I learned yesterday while I was 36,000 feet off the ground that the race is actually on Sunday -- it was postponed because of snow.

So in the end, I averaged 10.2 miles a day for the month, and stand at 955.5 for the year. I still haven't missed a day of running in 2017, and while I have no idea what my personal best in that realm might be since I have never been a "streaker," I know I have never gone a full year without missing a day. I sincerely hope this (mot missing any days) doesn't turn out to be my consolation goal for the year. I know that I'm not yet in what I regard as racing shape despite a lot of positive signs since the dawn of 2017, so whatever happens in the next few weeks isn't critical from a results standpoint. But if I am not enjoying a certain competitive standing by early autumn I may be tempted to do what a lot of washed-up old former half-decent runners do and hide out in ultras so I can have competitive aims without doing any real training. (I'm not saying serious ultrarunners don't train like hell -- I know they certainly do -- only that I have never relished the idea of getting better at a running genre solely through endless jogging and slogging up hills.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Training, March 20 through March 26

Greatest "accomplishment" this week: no doubles. As a result, despite running "only" 70 miles, I averaged at least 10 miles per run over the course of an entire week since...well, since Jesus was waving a rattle around, I think.

Today I did a fartlek workout disguised as interval training, or perhaps it was the other way around. This wound up being 2 x 0.5M, 4 x 0.25M and 2 x 0.125M in around 2:42, 77, and 37, all with a rest jog of 0.25M in about 10:00 pace. This is about all the indication I'll get that I might be ready to run in the mid-16s for 5K in mid-April. I will never be happy to be happy to run 16-anything for a flat road 5K even if I'm doing it when I'm 97, because to me the age-group shit is just one more form of handicapping and little more, with age-group competition an offer of booby prizes. That doesn't mean it can't be fun to race other wrinklyfuckers, but that's all it's going to amount to.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Training, March 13 through March 19

The week in a nutshell: 85 more miles, only one broken promise that I can think of (concerning running, anyway), and some nice weather to offset the miserable late-winter crap hurled at my place of origin (New England), where I will be in less than two weeks.

I have done almost all of my running in recent months by myself. Here's a training-solo trick I wouldn't get away with if I were on a team or part of a group: setting out to run X repeats of a given distance, reaching a total of X/2 of them, and justifying ending the workout because I was running far faster than I planned or even thought possible. I bet I have done this at least a dozen times in my life as a well-fortified jogger.

Today, I was hoping to hit 8 x 440 yd in about 77-78 with 220-yd jogs in 1:30; I haven't done quarters in a long time, so this was just a decent guess regarding my capabilities. But after getting through four of them in ~72, with each slightly faster than the last -- 73.1, 72.1, 71,8, 70.3 -- I decided enough was enough. (Actually, when you think about it, there is never an instance of "enough" that doesn't translate precisely to "enough." It is what it is.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Training, March 6 though March 12

70 miles in 12 runs, as ludicrous as that combination looks and probably is. I can't post the pointless but customary screen shot from Garmin Connect because the site's being uncooperative. But it was a good week.

Most people who've been doing this running thing seriously for a while are familiar with experiencing a fitness or performance breakthrough that takes place despite no real attention to honest rest. You keep hammering out mileage on the higher side of what is tolerable or advisable for you, and eventually you're either forced to the sidelines by physical malaise or you simply adjust and find yourself able to run a given pace for a longer period of time with relative ease.

The idea of being able to run faster thanks to resting rather than being fitter is also nothing new. If you spend three months averaging 10 miles a day prepping for a marathon and then do half of that for a couple of weeks before the race itself, you will almost certainly perform better in the marathon than you would have without the two easier weeks, but no sane physiologist on the planet would attribute this to a bona fide fitness improvement accrued during those 14 days; clearly, rest is vital.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The perfect (lack of a) storm, part two

Yesterday, I tried to begin answering the question, "What elements create the ideal training situation for a serious distance runner?" I stated a few obvious facts, chief among them the idea different people thrive in different environments. But I also suggested, without exploring the idea further, that a lot of runners wind up in what proves to be the optimal training and racing set-up without planning it. I'll now shore up this claim with some real and hypothetical examples.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The perfect (lack of a) storm, part one

What sets people up to train for optimal distance-running performance? How much of this has to do with external factors (e.g., altitude, overall weather, people with whom to train) and how much relates to internal variables (e.g.,  typical mood, life "balance," job contentment, sleep habits)?

Obviously, the mix of elements leading to "ideal" training is different for different runners. That said, I'll emphasize three points here that I believe can be generalized to almost everyone, at least two of which are counterintuitive:

1. Conscious efforts to create ideal training conditions don't work especially well.
2. The things you might think would be very helpful at the elite level may not be.
3. Most people's window in this area is quite narrow, at least for unusually fast runners.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Training, Feb. 27 through March 5

87 miles in 13 runs. On Tuesday I took to a treadmill and gathered some mostly meaningless data that allowed me to figure out what my heart rate is at various faster paces (meaning, faster than I go on everyday runs unless it's by design). For example, if I run 11 MPH (5:27 pace) for three minutes, I'm at about 171, meaning that at that at sea level I could in theory click along at about 5:20 pace for maybe 10 or even 15 minutes before summarily keeling over. But I can't believe how much sheer turnover is required just to move at this velocity for any length of time.

I need to race soon, even if it turns out to be a bomb of a race, in the bad sense of bomb. At least I'll have something interesting to write about if that happens. I'm becoming exceptionally bored with this blogging enterprise because at this point it's the same shit week after week -- I ran a bunch, I might start doing workouts someday, but this week I got tired so I just acted more or less like an amped-up version of a fitness jogger. Which is precisely what I am, but for all manner of reasons I'll take it. But as it is my days are plenty full of generating words -- some for pay, some to waste time on social media that could be better spent in a dozen ways, some to communicate with friends and clients. I really want to spend about a week looking slack-jawed at whatever tickles my fancy om Netflix, which these days is another attempt to work my way through all six seasons of Lost one more time.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Runners are "needy," "addicted," and "fussy," and online coaching is a "hustle"...according to a self-described online running coach

Today, one of my friends found this interesting article from August 2012. It appears on a site called "Budgets are Sexy," generously labeled a "personal-finance blog" by its creator, one "J. Money." As you can read for yourself, the article's author describes how she, allegedly a professional runner and CNA working on a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, supposedly makes money on the side by coaching other runners, a task she describes as banal yet somehow rewarding.

I am not going to deconstruct this entire eye-popping slag heap of obvious falsehoods, brazen internal contradictions, and all-around weirdness -- yet. But I do want to point out a few things:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

See ya, February 2017

323 miles this month, with a longest single run of 14 miles. That's an average of a shade over 11.5 miles a day and brings me to 639.5 miles for the first 59 days of 2017 (10.84 per day).

I have yet to miss a day of running this year. I have also yet to get sick, injured, drunk, or lazy, so this makes perfect sense.

What's really remarkable is how shy of my highest February total ever I fell -- 289 miles. Fifteen years ago I racked up 612 miles for the month, which, while not precisely ill-advised, was not the wisest thing I ever did. 2002 was also the only year in which I averaged over 100 miles a week for a calendar year, and the only one in which I finished three marathons.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Training, Feb. 20 through Feb. 26

80 miles in 10 runs. I think that's actually the fewest number of runs I've done in a single week, regardless of mileage, in the past several months. As backward as it may seem to some, when I am coming back from a layoff, I tend to do a lot of shorter runs while building from lower to higher mileage as this seems to allow for easier recovery. Once I get to about 70 or 80 a week and stabilize there, I taper off the number of double days from maybe five or six to about three.

This is the first time I've made consecutive "training week" posts -- until now I've managed to insert some token whimsical jabber in between, but this week was busier than usual, and I've been plenty busy in my everyday life. I got to make a couple of multi-hour road trips to parts of Colorado I had never seen and squeezed in some running there, but otherwise I worked a lot, helped some friends with some computer-software-related issues that made me look like an expert in the eyes of these complete neophytes, edited some documents for a friend who's taking an online class with a semi-literate professor, and...wait, this is a running blog, right?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training, Feb. 13 through Feb. 19

This one had all of the excitement of last week, except that it was a cut-back week in which I didn't even feign doing a workout (with some justification), so the executive summary really says it all: 75 miles in 10 runs, just punching the clock and if nothing else feeling like I'm now at a point where I can count on feeling genuinely good throughout the course of a 10-mile run and far better at the end than in the first 10 minutes.

I had a minor scare after Friday's second run, when my left ankle -- the one I fractured on a trail in New Hampshire in the summer of 2012 and intermittently hampered my training for the better part of three-plus years -- seemed to be acting up. I went through the usual paranoia of trying to tell whether it was that pain or just a new, unrelated twingy pain; the sort of thing I wouldn't have even worried about had there been no precedent with that particular joint.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A boxcar of despair

I was almost halfway into a ten-mile run yesterday afternoon, about to start a challenging section of the workout, when I saw a dead cat in the roadside ditch.
I wandered down to take a look. Why, I don't exactly know. I don't know whose it was. There was no apparent trauma. It was a dark-but-not-quite black creature, lying on its right side and facing away from the road. It didn't look to me as if it had died peacefully -- its eyes were cracked open and its lips were slightly bared in what could have been a mortal snarl -- but to me this is never the case anyway. Most death is peaceful only in the inevitable aftermath. Life is a struggle to the end.
The cat lay among a bunch of broken eggshells and other detritus. I don't think these had anything to do with the cat's death, but my mind immediately began assembling scenarios around this possibility: Someone didn't like the cat stealing eggs from a local chicken coop, so he poisoned a few and left them for the unsuspecting animal to eat. Or maybe someone poisoned it just for the spite of it, one of the local pissants.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Training, Feb. 6 through Feb. 12

90 miles in 12 runs, and somehow reached this total despite only four days exceeding 10 miles. 

These were impressively homogeneous miles, too. Only about three of them stood out for being unusually quick, and they weren't connected together.

On Friday I decided to "try" eight 220-yard (1/8-mile) whatevers (pickups? Sprints? Waddles?) on the two-mile road loop I've painted into furlong-long segments. I did these in an average of ~34.0 (33, 33, 36, 34, 33, 33, 36, 33) and took a 220-yard stumbling jog in between at a pace most mollusks would scoff at. It was windy, but this was actually welcome because it was also close to 80 degrees. I also learned that this loop, which I plan to use for longer reps and tempo runs once someone hypnotizes me into having some resolve, rolls a little more than I realized. The wind and elevation changes are reflected nicely in my 220-yard times, as my effort was more consistent than it appears at a glance. On a track this same workout might have been 8 x 200m in an average 33-low, which is fine with me.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Shrugging at the superb, marveling at the mundane

In September 1996, in a meet in Rieti, Italy, a 20-year-old (or so) Kenyan man named Daniel Komen broke Nourredine Morceli's two-year old world record in the 3,000 meters by an apocalyptic 4.43 seconds, running 7:20.67. He was pulled through about 1,950 meters by pacesetter and compatriot John  Kosgei -- who was supposed to lead for at least 2,000 meters, but Komen simply went around him on the straightaway leading to that mark -- and after clocking 4:53.18 at five laps became a lone and spectral figure over the final kilometer.

None of his 400m splits was slower than 59.91 seconds, and he averaged 58.76 seconds per lap for the race. No one has come within 2.42 seconds of his record since (Hicham El Guerrouj ran 7:23.09 in 1998). No one has come within 8.5 seconds of it in the past five years. Every once-in-a-generation talent who has taken a shot at the record -- El G, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele -- has come up dismally short.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Not all hecklers are created equal

About 15 years ago, I was running in my hometown of Concord, New Hampshire at rush hour on a sidewalk fronting one of the busiest streets in the city, and heard someone yell, "HEY, FAGGOT!" from a passing vehicle. It was a booming epithet, rising impressively far above the cacophony of the traffic zipping up and down North State Street past Blossom Hill Cemetery.

I turned, expecting to see a pickup truck covered with Trump stickers and loaded with rural folk, but instead it was a shiny black late-model SUV, and the yeller was a guy in a dress shirt and tie. He was leaning out the window and grinning at me from behind large sunglasses (think Tom Cruise in Risky Business) and there were two little girls in the back seat, one gawping and me and the other at her father, or kidnapper, or whoever the driver was.

I was not offended in the least, because I was too busy being astounded. What kind of world was I living in if I couldn't even accurately stereotype people who yelled old-school slurs at joggers?

This guy was clearly either someone who worked in a professional office setting or a Mormon. What next, some lecherous guy in a tux gets himself elected president on a tide of proudly misogynistic public statements?

Now, I am still thinking that this might have been someone I knew from high school expecting me to recognize him, but I never determined whether this was the case, and the story is better if it actually wasn't.

Choosing coaching clients wisely

I found this bit of wisdom online recently:

"Do your research and choose a coach with a proper education, experience, or certification. Find somebody who leads by example when it comes to living well in health, career, relationships, and general outlook on life."

All of this makes perfect sense. Some online coaches are simply longtime studious runners -- some fast, some not -- turned advisors; others come at the game from the information (e.g., advanced degrees in exercise physiology, kinesiology and so on) or certification (e.g., the courses USA Track and Field offers) side; and still others are current or former elites looking to stay involved in the sport and make some cash at the same time. Some, of course, bring some combination of these things to the table.

But it's a two-way street. If you're an online coach and get more requests than you can realistically handle, how do you vet these requests?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Training, Jan. 30 through Feb. 5

75 miles in eleven runs, most of them pleasant enough. This was my fourth straight week of 70 or more miles, although there was nothing remarkable about it other than its adding to the aforementioned streak.

I'm discovering some things about training in my late forties that don't thrill me, but do make a great deal of sense. And these issues certainly should compute, given that I've confidently told many other people how strongly the relevant principles apply to every runner over 40 and even been paid by running magazines to discuss them, in large part using portions of my anatomy not designed to be instrumental in carrying on conversations.

One is that I can't run 13 miles at a meaningful pace and expect to feel bouncy the next day. Part of this, I'm sure, is the result of simply not being as fit as I can expect to be in another couple of months, not merely aerobically but in terms of the pounding my legs can gracefully absorb. I keep having to remind myself that 13 miles is no longer below my daily average for the past two, three, or six months and that if I exceed, say, 90 minutes in a given run, I need to allow myself 48 hours before trying anything quick.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

University of Colorado threesome turns in historic performance

Yesterday, in the University of Colorado open held at the school's new indoor track facility, Buffs Ben Saarel, Joe Klecker and Zach Perrin went 4:01.49, 4:01.72 and 4:02.27 to sweep the first three spots in the mile.

Owing to the combination of Colorado notoriety as a longtime mecca of elite running and the state never having hosted a sub-four mile on a track, this feat invites a lot of context and speculation, even if its was not (yet) noted even on the CU Buffs own Web site beyond the basic info about times and places. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Later, January 2017

316.5 miles. I averaged a little over 10 miles a day this month -- 10.2, to be as exact as I or anyone needs to be -- and that hasn't happened in a long time (a phrase I find myself using a lot lately, mostly in reference to something to do with running that's good or at least unbad).

My longest run was 16.5 miles, my shortest was 3.0 (if I run at all I always go at least 3).

Importantly, I was not aerobically exercising for at least 22 hours of every single day save one, unless you count walking, which I don't, unless I get tired or am trying to eat a large sandwich containing multiple types of meat. This means that I am sitting on my ass over 90 percent of he time, so I have a lot of work to do.

Also, just to prove a pointless point, I did a one-mile road pickup in 5:45 today, my first sub-six mile in...since....OK, it was unusual. And it didn't kill me, and my first 440 was 1:32 and it was only then that I decided I needed to break 6:00, with the strains of Naked Eyes insisting that at as a result of influences beyond my control it would be difficult for me to forget what I was doing. And I didn't.

Thanks for reading this far, you masochists.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Training, Jan. 23 through Jan. 29

This week was supposed to be a cut-back week. Technically it was, but I believe I demonstrated perfectly how to go about such a thing in a mindless way. I ran 22 miles in the first three days, but then in my determination to reach 70 in all I logged 38 in the next three and was -- shocker! -- tired. I wound up with just over 70, giving me a four-week average of 72.

Still, on Sunday I did about two miles' worth of 200s, 300s and 400s on the road, managing about 5:00 to 5:20 pace for these. My heart rate was no higher than I would expect of someone who could run under 18:00 for 5K at altitude right now, but my legs were telling me this will be off the table for at least a few more weeks.

It's funny how it's possible to use the same piece of information in opposite ways and still assess both of those ways as rational. Late in the week, when I was flagging a little, I told myself that I'm not training for anything specific (a white lie, but forget that part) so I could take it even easier than I planned to. But I also told myself that because I'm not training for anything in particular (not entirely true, but that's of no consequence) I might as well keep hammering away out of sheer spiteful defiance of fatigue.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How can Americans beat the East Africans? (An unawaited follow-up)

Over six years ago, inspired by roughly two decades of banal chatter about the best Americans being unable to beat the best East Africans in the marathon, I wrote an article for Running Times that said, in so many words, "Look, striving for excellence is noble and all, but this isn't a winnable battle, any more than Indonesia aiming to rule the world in basketball would be."

In fact, the lede was "buried" in the title, "The Myth of Obligatory Success." I wrote that America being rich and powerful and free and full of opportunities and so on in no way guaranteed that its athletes could be the best at everything through sheer effort backed by technological savvy and ruthless financing.

I offered some numbers to make a case anyone could have easily made:
Ryan Hall, whose 2:06:17 two years ago makes him by far the fastest U.S.-born man in history, ranks on the all-time list behind a Japanese, a Brazilian, three Moroccan-born runners (one of whom is American record-holder Khalid Khannouchi) and two dozen athletes from either Kenya or Ethiopia. No human being besides Hall who has drawn his first breath on the technologically and materially wealthy North American continent has run under 2:08, but there are Kenyan men no one has ever heard of who have done so. The story on the women’s side is more varied but, from the American standpoint, even more dismal. Of the two U.S. women inside the 100 fastest ever, one is long retired from elite competition and the other probably finished with fast marathons. Besides Joan Samuelson and Deena Kastor, only Kara Goucher has broken 2:26 in an era in which the world record is over 10 minutes faster and 2:20–2:23 is typically required to win a top-tier annual 26.2-miler.
So what's happened since November 2010?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Training, Jan. 16 through Jan. 22

80.5 miles in eleven runs, including a couple of nice bookends -- 16.5 on Monday and 12 today. (That 16.5-miler might be the longest single run I have ever done on a Monday; I kind of doubt it, but what I don't doubt at all is that if I were Dave Dunham, I would know the answer immediately. DD, who has now won at least one race in each of the past 39 years, can tell you stuff like his six longest runs on any given date. Accountants doubling as runners are very dangerous.) One thing I can state with assurance is that I have not run more than 80 miles in a single Earth week in years, a lot of years, good years. Great years! I think the most recent time was in 1923. I can't remember for sure, but at the time I owned a Dodge Dart that could go up to 145 miles an hour but had a real problem with oversteering. My grandmother was also a general in the Confederate Army. Sad! #FactsAreNowRelative

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How I've matured as a runner

About 13 1/2 years ago, I experienced the second of two serious injuries during my meaningful running "career," which ended in 2005. I hurt my hip on the steep downhill of a nasty race called he Bridge of Flowers 10K, and I was out of commission for about three weeks at a point when I had only a couple of months to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the first and last time ever.

When I was back in action, I did a few repeats of a loop in a cemetery in Roanoke, Virginia. These took me about 3:10, so I guessed that the loop was very close to a kilometer long. I then availed myself of a measuring wheel to verify this...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quick yet intimidatingly sophisticated thoughts on those calculoconverters

You have surely noticed that there are a number of online calculators and charts out there for estimating your capabilities at a given race distance based on your times at other distances. This one happens to be my favorite, this one is sound too, and this one seems to be the one a plurality, or maybe even a majority, of runners swear by. There are numerous others.

Years ago, I started referring to these gizmos and tables as "calculoconverters" in an effort to lightly disparage them or at least discourage people's rigid adherence to them. Maybe my effort was too light, because a number of people on the forums I haunted started using this neologism while making it clear they still placed supreme value on the output of the tools it describes.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A brief PSA concerning comments

First, I obviously get very few of them. Yet virtually every time I publish a post here and link it to Facebook, a lively discussion ensues -- on Facebook. That site has messed up a lot of things for a lot of people, and one of those things is killing the essence of blogging in countless ways. I could offer a lot of reasons why I would rather see comments here than on my Facebook page, but I already know it would be pointless. At least people are reading this stuff.

Second, I am supposed to get an e-mail notification every time someone comments so I can review it and manually publish it (thanks to spammers and one potentially disruptive human freak-show out there, I cannot, alas, just allow comments to appear here as people post them). This doesn't always happen, so Double and Joe S, sorry for the delay in getting your comments, which I appreciated, posted.

Training, Jan. 9 through Jan. 15

The basics: 13 runs, 71.4 total miles, longest run of 8.7 miles, no real sustained intensity but some "honest" stretches of at least 15 to 30 minutes hovering at or just below 7:00 pace.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The fallacy of striking distance

I came up with title of this post during my run this afternoon. As cool as I think it sounds, it does not represent a formal logical fallacy, but it does pinpoint a common and sometimes grave error in reasoning.

People have proposed all sorts of explanations for the longstanding habit of a lot of poor and struggling Americans to vote for people whose policy ideas and demonstrable personal histories establish, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that the last thing these politicians care about is the well-being of poor people. The apparent nadir of this, for now, is that the man who is now the president-elect of the United States spent over a year on the campaign trail promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation that has been a literal lifesaver for a great many people in rural, working class or just plain impoverished America. Indeed, there is and long has been a strong inverse correlation between voting for candidates who preach "personal responsibility" and having one's life largely subsidized by the government. Two months ago, Trump won 15 the top 20 states in terms of the value of their ACA, or "Obamacare," subsidies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ruing the loss of the gap

By the time I left high school, while I was far from a superstar runner, I had managed to rack up two runner-up finishes and a third at state-championship-level meets, run 9:43 a couple of times for 3,200 meters, and record a 15:57 in a certified 5K road race two weeks before I graduated.

My first-ever race of any sort, run in September 1984 as a scared-shitless ninth-grader on the Concord High home course at White Park, was a 21:06 5K. By the end of the season I ran 19:31 on the same course, and the next spring I broke the Rundlett Junior High School record with a 4:55 or 4:56 1,600 meters. (There's a funny story about that record that I will defer telling, probably forever, because it's not really that funny.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Training, Jan. 2 through Jan. 8

This week I got in about 65 miles in eleven runs. I say "about" because I don't like to know exactly how far I'm running unless I am doing a formal workout, so I usually just get an estimate by dividing the number of minutes I've run by 7.5 if I think I am on the slightly faster side and 8 if I think I am slacking, even though every time I do check my pace over a segment of known distance it tends to be no slower than 7:15 and more often closer to or even below 7:00 (I assume I speed up when I'm doing this self-monitoring despite knowing that this is a natural tendency). Regardless, I am probably underestimating my mileage slightly.

 The weather was generally okay for this part of Colorado in January, although toward the middle of the week it did get bitch-ass cold for a couple of days and dumped snow on us. I took refuge indoors when this happened, which I always do reluctantly because I would almost always rather be outside even when it's foul because of the time dilation that occurs while running inside.

 As the year progresses, I don't expect to do a lot more volume than this -- I'll probably level off at about 80 come spring. I do expect to start adding some harder running in about a month.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hey now, you're not quite an all-star

Lately I've noticed the existence of running bloggers who offer "athletic resumes" that are heavy on stuff like "Very active on social media" and "yoga aficionado" but light on actual running accomplishments. They are usually well above average, but nowhere close to making a competitive impact on a national or even regional level.
As an inveterate and unapologetic wise-ass, I am tempted see this as tantamount to all-stars in a city men's softball league listing their home-run and RBI totals on their LinkedIn profiles, or equivalent to someone who once made the high-school state finals in the 400-meter individual medley introducing himself as "Attorney and elite swimmer Joe McWannabe." In other words, as the clueless blather of people who fail to understand what it really means to be a standout at something.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

One of many absolutely brilliant, can't-fail, one-of-a-kind training schemes (Part II)

Yesterday, in Part I, I wrote a bunch of mostly superfluous stuff about my journey into online coaching and what I think I solid training plan for distance runners should include. Today I will break down the basic plan and explain some of the reasoning behind its main features.

Below is the general scheme, including only the essentials -- while I give people totals to shoot for on the four weekly recovery days if they want for, I usually suggest that people decide for themselves what to run on those days to reach the prescribed weekly mileage total. I work primarily with marathon runners, but this 21-day cycle, which runners wind up doing about four to six times in a marathon build-up, is applicable to 5K and 10K runners with some judicious adjustments.

A brief, noncontributory interlude about running with music

This morning, my watch screwed up (I was tempted to say "I messed up with the buttons because my fingers were cold," but come on, that would be admitting to user error and those gizmos have minds of their own) and so when I was about half an hour into my run, I glanced down to see that I had been running for roughly 2.38 seconds, with the numbers frozen. I hadn't looked at the time when I headed out and didn't know what it has been in within even 10 minutes. I was screwed.

Or not! Music to the rescue. Because I knew precisely what songs I had listened to, I was able to add the duration of these together and figure out how long I had been out.

So, don't knock us recreational dingbats who insist on obliterating one of our senses while exercising. (For what it's worth, I didn't see a single moving vehicle and usually don't when I head into the neighborhood I explored today.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

One of many absolutely brilliant, can't-fail, one-of-a-kind training schemes (Part I)

I don't really think of myself as a coach, but I am all but forced call myself that on the Internet for purposes of interested people. People interested in running, I mean.

Coaching, to me, requires having face time with athletes, or at least some Skype time and having been a literal coach of high-school runners -- one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, as it happens -- I consider myself more of an advisor or guide in the context of my online dealings.

Semantics aside,  I "officially" became an Internet coach in 2003. I was asked for advice from someone I had known from message boards and had met at the Boston Marathon that year, a runner who had been shelling out $300 a month (!) to a local guy and wanted a switch in chasing an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time. I happily agreed, although I didn't accept any money because that possibility felt weird (and often still does). But things worked out so that I was able to be present to see her gain entry into Trials by a comfortable margin (I also set a personal record for the half myself that morning; I don't count it as a PR owing to the 260' net drop, but I do consider it a contributor to all-around great day).

Monday, January 2, 2017

Young Runners at the Top available for pre-ordering

I mentioned yesterday that Young Runners at the Top, a book by Brad Hudson, Lize Brittin and myself that has nothing to do with endurance athletes precociously living in a penthouse suite, will be published in June. I just learned that it is available for pre-ordering in several online places:

  • The publisher's own Web site.
  • Amazon
  • Books-a-Million,
  • Target, where everyone goes for literature about fitness.
  • Saxo, a Danish vendor (that's not someone who sells breakfast treats, it's a sales outfit based in Denmark).
  • Sanmin, a Taiwanese bookseller.
  • eci, based in Norway.
  • Fishpond, a Kiwi outfit (that's not a uniform for a bird, it's a...forget it).
If you have no luck at any of these, that's either en extraordinarily good sign or a very bad one. If you have any questions about the content, just ask one of us. 

Whither the faster local guys?

Jim Johnson sent me a rather incredulous e-mail today (something he does all the time, being an easily confused man who recognizes me as an oracle, a beacon of wisdom in an ignorance- and misinformation-choked world) noting the 1984 results of a race called the Salem Screen 5-Miler. This October event was held in Salem, N.H., a small city on I-93 on the N.H.-Mass. border, for only a few years, but it drew some amazing talent, all of it from the immediate region.

 Anyway--and I hate starting paragraphs with the word "anyway" and overusing the em dash--Jim, who looks like he should star in a prime-time soap opera named after a California zip code, was looking at Bob Hodge's Web site (originally assembled by yours falsely) and noted that Bob, who was third in the 1979 Boston Marathon, finished fourth in the '84 Salem Screen race in a time of 23:01. He asked me, only somewhat rhetorically, "What the f*ck happened to running?"

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wherein a familiar rascal brags about panning a book she never read

This showed up on Twitter yesterday.

If you've read this blog anytime in the past eight months or so or follow me on Facebook, you know exactly who Kimberly Duclos, the source of this tweet, is and what she's about.

Young Runners at the Top to be published in June

Young Runners at the Top, the combined brainchild of Lize Brittin, Brad Hudson and myself, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in June. For a look inside, look inside.

I didn't write my own author blurb for the site; I merely supplied background information and they handled the rest. That's why at first, when I saw that I am someone who "gives talks across the country," I was fully prepared to deny it. But it's actually sort of true, as long as you think of the country as ending roughly where it did in about 1790. I have talked to Boy Scouts in Concord, New Hampshire about the value of exercise, to a cadre of novice women marathoners in West Palm Beach, Florida at Sonja Friend-Uhl's fitness studio, at the pre-race dinner at the Space Coast Marathon in Melbourne, Florida (fortunately offering my "wisdom" and "experience" before rather than after Bill Rodgers did), at the monthly meeting of the Utica Road Runners, Well, I've talked to other people too, often at great length, but I'm focusing here on people and groups who have actually asked me to do this, which is far more rare than my unsolicited soliloquies.

I did not actually know until today that the book will be published in hardcover. That is basically unheard of for a trade running book. Maybe it's because of the scratch-and-sniff pictures we opted to include, I dunno.

Interestingly, the publisher's page allows people to add the book to Goodreads and review it without, obviously, having read it. There is something of a very recent precedent for this, however, and fortuitously it involves one of the other authors of YouRATT, as I'm affectionately calling it. Because I hate to pollute a positive blog post with an all-too-familiar flavor of toxicity, I have reserved the rest of that story for a separate post.

Brief thoughts on ketogenic diets

I know that there are established health benefits to a ketogenic diet for some people. But keep in mind that eating nothing at all quickly leads to ketosis. So really, "Keto diet" is a term analogous to "Suffo breathing" (as in suffocation) or "Hypovolemic hydration." The Mayo Clinic lists these as the most common health effects of suddenly going on a very-low-carb diet: