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 author, 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

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.

One of my Central Mass Striders friends has a son who's a freshman at a D-I school and was an accomplished miler and 800-meter runner in high school. He's had a solid year overall but struggled at times with the overall workload -- as a prep he never went over 40 in a week and his coach naturally emphasized more speed. That led me to provide her a copy of this 2008 interview with New Hampshire's best middle-distance runner ever, Russell Brown, who is now retired and living happily in New York. Russell struggled when he first got to Stanford simply because the volume of the training, while not absurd, was beyond his reach because he'd gotten by on talent and a different sort of work at Hanover High School.

The point of this, though, or one of them, is that in a period of a little less than four years ending in 2008, I did 25 interviews for the now-defunct New York Road Runners professional-running sites fast-women dot com and mensracing dot com. It was fun and paid well by the standards of the "industry." I was somewhat bummed when the NYRR discontinued these interviews, but really bummed that they didn't just archive the existing ones somewhere on their main site. In order to link to these from my personal page, I had to go through the Wayback Machine to retrieve the relevant URLs, and finished this task this afternoon. Just my non-problematic "problem" of the day. (The whole thing is kind of reminiscent of the Trump administration having the climate-change information scrubbed from the EPA and NASA sites, but without the ideological motivation and systematic middle finger to the people who produced the content.)

Anyway, of the 22 athletes I interviewed (Pfitz and Ed Eyestone were retired and I was speaking with them as coaches), I think that Abdi, Ritz, and Shannon are the only three still active (at least as professionals), and I am not even sure about Ritz at this point. Nine-plus is a long time in the world of high-intensity training and racing. Interestingly, Ritz (whom I interviewed twice) and Abdi were among the earliest subjects.

The other point to mentioning my CMS friend's kid's minor woes is that despite being old as fuck, I'm going through a version of the same thing. I came back from six months, almost to the day, of no running at all and started up on Dec. 1 of last year. As much as I like to think I should be further along than I am to reaching whatever my pinnacle at this age proves to me, that is not realistic. Last year at this time I was in somewhat similar shape and wound up giving up at the beginning of June and thought I was actually okay with that. I wasn't.

This time around, I'm waiting to see what happens. I'm trying to remember that the guidelines I confidently spout when talking about other people apply to slower older guys as much as they do to young bucks to whom 40 miles in a week is a lot. For me, 70 is now a lot. Mentally it's easy, but I cannot take the workload for granted no matter how slowly I run those miles. 10 miles a day is nowhere close to what I was doing as a moderately successful local yokel, but my legs are a little more tender these days and in my late thirties and into mu middle forties I abused the hell out of myself fairly regularly in both obvious and subtle ways.

More important than whatever shitty times I managed to rack up in the rest of 2017, running keeps me engaged in the world. Most of my work these days involves researching and formatting documents that are somewhere between boring and downright banal, but this week I had an astronomy project that felt nothing like work at all, followed by a genetic review that I would have done for free. Exercising makes me more nimble at these things. But remaining a runner also keeps me in contact with a lot of people I might otherwise not see or check in with as often. It makes me a better advisor, I think, to the people whose training I am largely engineering. Hell, even getting to give my local burro an apple and a pat on the face now again is good reason to get out there. In the meantime, we'll see where I am in the fall after doing a deft evasion of last year's midstream throwing in of the towel.

Good things are going on overall, as evidenced by my willingness to be so expansive in an uncharacteristically mild way. Sometimes just showing up for life makes a huge difference.


  1. A lot of miles and no injury report. Great! Your training reminds me of Casey Moulton's training back in his day. Maybe it's that New Hampshire section of the state? His brother incorporated more speed in his workouts. Same results for both of them, basically, I guess.

  2. You don't know what old is ;-)
    But anyway, like I say to people who ask me while I used to be to race, now it's just for life"
    Steve, 65 and a runner for 42 years...