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, June 25, 2017

Training, week of June 19 through June 25 (Speaking-in-code edition)


I ran 54 miles this week in nine runs. I did one "workout" -- 1 x 400m and 8 x 200m -- on the track Saturday, and also farted with some faster running on the same track on Sunday. This is a fairly new track in Boulder, and it amazes me that more people aren't out there on warm and cloudless weekend afternoons like the two we just enjoyed. And I still haven't missed a day of running in 2017.

But this "training" I'm doing is really more what most people would simply call "cardio." I'm not sure whether this nomenclature shift means that I'm downgrading my physical activity from "jogging" or whether it's a slight promotion. More likely it's just a lateral move somewhere within the lowest echelons of the quasi-athletic command structure.

Fuck that for now, though; I don't blog much outside of these weekly updates, and since I rarely have anything interesting to say about my training, I am going to start loading the weeklies with stuff that might be marginally more entertaining.

So, a "tune" from the '80s:

Mortal apathy

I believe that a period existed when my race times were very close to the times I would have run had my life literally depended on it.

Now, I don't think I could get to within 5 percent of my physical potential n anything longer than an 800-meter race even if my life did depend on it.

I often stand in such evil judgment of my own running -- when it comes to trying to do it capably, anyway -- that I often think it would be better to pay the ultimate price for half-assing it than face up to how slow I'm going to be for the rest of my life.

As much as I am enjoying running as a whole at the moment for all sorts of reasons, unless I can get past this serious hurdle (and I'm confident that I can, and that I know the path this will require), I shouldn't waste my money on entry fees anymore. I have enough damn T-shirts as it is.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Goldilocks syndrome: the ersatz overachiever vs. the accomplished layabout

Picture a couple of guys in their mid- to late 20s with marathon bests of 2:17:00

One of them has run 13:20 and 28:30 on the track and 1:04:30 for a half-marathon. He does about 70 miles a week with occasional trips upward of 80 and never exceeds 20 miles in training because long runs, in his view, are "hella boring." He works part-time at a gym and is considering becoming a personal trainer, while his longtime girlfriend is a quasi-socialite and grad student who brings enough family dough to the arrangement to keep the couple more than comfortable.

The other runner entered college with a best 3200-meter time barely under 10:00. By the time he graduated summa cum laude from a D-III university, he'd managed to parlay being the team workhorse into running 30:15 for 10,000 meters and place in the top 15 at cross-country nationals. Having moved on to law school and reached his third year there, he's finding a way to log 120- to 140-mile weeks with hard, regular workouts that would make this guy proud. He managed to get his 10K time down to 29:33 about a month before popping his 2:17:00, and has never run under 1:06:00 for a half.

Training, week of June 12 through June 18

Garmin Connect has modified its interface. That makes things look a little different here. But Garmin hasn't changed its essential functionality and flaws, and correspondingly, neither have I.

66 miles in eight runs, escapades even more monotonic (but no more monotonous) than in preceding weeks, because now the gnats are out and I'm taking refuge from them by running smallish loops in aga boneyard, one of the few nearby. It's dry in there and the bugs aren't as inclined to circle around with me, although stopping to take a leak is fraught with hazards because it doesn't take the insects long to pinpoint my location from wherever the fuckers are hiding. Even when I'm moving, deerflies and horseflies and donkeyflies all other types of flies named after quadruped mammals are still able to execute tactical incursions, diving in and ripping off chunks of flesh seemingly on the go. They have a penchant for landing right on that part of my shoulder blades I can't reach with a swat without risking some kind of muscle pull. I take savage pleasure in killing them, and if I could I would waterboard the hell out of all of them first and jabber at them in a very stern tone to describe just what they might have done to prolong their pointless lives for a few days. Perhaps in response to this distinctly non-Buddhist attitude, I renewed my $19 monthly donation to the ASPCA this week. If I learn that any of the money that organization collects goes to rescuing carnivorous bugs (which is all of them, I assume) then I will not only cancel my donation but arrange for the members of the board to be waterboarded and swatted as well.

Where was I? Oh. I'm gonna do some quarters this week. I feel good in spite of the very warm weather, mayne because of the ferrous sulfate pills I've been eating in lieu of actually training harder. I'm actually excited about the fact that I will continue to gain fitness for a while yet doing just what I'm doing and little more, even if that doesn't make me any faster. And that makes little sense, but if you're still reading at this point, that's on you to ponder.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Training, week of June 5 through June 11

This week, I ran 61 miles. More important, the bugs emerged in earnest, it got really hot toward the end of the week, and I was again content to just punch the clock on my runs. I visited the track once but didn't really do enough faster running to call what I did a workout, so no details of that adventure will be given here.

I'm appreciating the fact that excuses I used to think made a vague sort of sense to less dedicated runners make exquisite sense to me now. Over the winter, when it was cold and windy (but virtually never as extreme as it got in New Hampshire during some of my best running years), I'd go out in such weather, but wouldn't do anything hard even though once I was warmed up it wouldn't have mattered. Now that it's pushed well into the 90s, I'm actually happy to have an excuse to go easy, even though if I cared to I could wait until nightfall to drop in a tempo or some intervals.

I therefore remain in a perpetual stand-off between finding it adequate to just be running 60+ miles a week and believing that this is taking the low road.

I'm going to have to jump into some more races before I can really train seriously because this alone will provide a needed fitness stimulus. This inverts the usual, practical performance-oriented model but is not unheard of.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Train(ing) wrecks

Most people study other runners' training logs primarily to learn specific workouts and overall patterns they can apply to their own training or to the training of people they advise. At least they say they do, anyway. A less typical -- but not unheard of, even if most people won't admit to doing it -- reason is to keep tabs on a rival.

I myself like to look at training logs for the sheer wreckage some of them proudly reveal, with their creators usually being the last ones to know the reality of the stories they tell the world. I'm not alone in this tendency. It's classic schadenfreude.

Specifically,  I follow logs characterized by total obliviousness and by rampant denial.

Training, week of May 29 through June 4

Nothing much to say here that I haven't already said. The important day was Monday and now that the glow of having competed somewhat honorably has worn of -- and been replaced by my first cold since last November -- I'm realizing how shitty and slow my Bolder Boulder race was. It's nothing but a cold, annoying fact that I can either brood over or take as a sign that the stepping stones between the me of last December and respectability are placed a little farther apart than I realized, and deal with that by continuing to train and race and see what happens.

I don't think I will be racing again until next month, if that. Maybe on the track at one of the Boulder Road Runners All-Gomers' Meets on the first and third Thursdays of the summer months (I went and watched the one the other night, where George Zack put in quite a respectable performance) or maybe at one of the downtown mainstay summertime events I'm too lazy to link to or even name.

While I've been bitching about not being able to run faster, my girlfriend is recovering from her tenth foot surgery, this one perhaps overdue in the sense it's likely to be definitive but also wisely deferred for a couple of years because it was fairly radical. So I've tried to be especially cognizant of how lucky I am to be able to even run in a straight line without any sort of pain. The fact that I can pooh-pooh a 60-mile race with a pretty serious race at the beginning and a head cold for the last half of it means...well, whatever you want, I guess. We live in a post-factual world, so anything goes.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Age, altitude, and frantic mental masturbation

Now that I'm undeniably back in the racing game after a decade away, during which time I became old and moved to Boulder, I have the option, or the obligation, to mess around with mathematical tools that allow me to estimate how fast I might be running on sea-level courses comparable to the ones I tackle here, and to gauge how my efforts stack up against younger versions of myself.

The only data point I have so far is last Monday's Bolder Boulder 10K. I ran it in 38:31.

False dichotomies, and what keeps people running

Human minds are prone to slotting things into binary or otherwise discrete categories when this is not warranted by reality. It's an understandable that we prefer to see things as either this or that, or in terms of A, B or C, with overlaps between the items in question nominally ruled out whenever possible.

This is fine if we want know if the temperature going to be above freezing, or whether I scored the necessary 60 or more points out of 100 to pass my most recent theology exam. But in the real world, a lot of matters we typically frame in binary terms for ease of analyzing them actually occur along a continuum (a common one is "red state" vs. "blue state," and a fun one is "flaccid" vs. "erect"; I won't go into that one in detail, but most penis-owners and phallologists will tell you that plenty of intermediate states exist). And the same sort of thinking can cause problems in everyday discourse when things we envision -- often without consciously trying -- as mutually exclusive can actually occur in concert.

The Nike Oregon Project has been under intense scrutiny for a couple of years now owing to suspected doping violations. On message boards, a lot of people are quick to point out that the head coach, Alberto Salazar, is famed for operating in the "gray area" of legality -- for example, by having athletes take thyroid medications they don't need to rev up their metabolisms and messing around with megadoses of Vitamin D. What surprises me is that a lot of people see Salazar admitting to these practices (and only then under duress) as de facto evidence that he the NOP aren't actually breaking any rules. That is, if he's in the "gray area," he must not be punching past it.

This is wildly illogical for a number of reasons, but the NOP isn't the topic here. It's the question, "What is your main reason for running?"

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thanks for putting up with me, May

In with a whimper, out with a whisper, or whatever the saying is. 261 miles, virtually all of it at an easy aerobic pace. I came back from Massachusetts in late April convinced that the idea of racing well was either unattainable or not worth whatever effort it would take, and my running last month reflected this. Even if I were certain I didn't want to hack around with watered-down age-group aims, I would still run every day because it's a nice escape from the bullshit of daily life, hones my creativity and mental acuity for the stuff I often have to whip up on short notice, gets me into the sun and the air, forms the basis of my version of a social life...basically for all the reasons any recreational runner laces them up. My performance at the Bolder Boulder was just good enough so that I feel grudgingly motivated to create a sequel, like a director who makes a film he thinks sucks but grosses just enough at the box office and gets solid enough critical reviews to compel him to take a stab at extending the franchise. This means training for another three-plus months until I mosey back east, although I might show up at some of the twice-a-month all-gomers track meets at Potts Field. 1,457.5 miles on the year with zero missed days.