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, 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.