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

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: