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 authorand 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

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: